Monday, December 15, 2008

The Package on the Doorstep

It came in a FedEx box left on the doorstep sometime Friday.

After arriving home from a day of subbing, I first checked the mail. No sign of the highly anticipated package. My arms now loaded down with my bags and the hefty stack of mail, I began fishing for my keys and heading for the front door. Then I saw it. A thin, white, FedEx package just the right size for...

Juggling the array of personal possessions and junk mail, I bent to pick-up the box--could this be it? or just a Christmas present from some out of town relative? I flipped the box, nearly losing the stack of mail in the process. Peace Corps. The package was from the Peace Corps. This was it.

I don't remember entering the house. The next thing I remember is ripping open the package, several of the bags still in my hand. I sunk into a chair as a bright blue folder filled to the brim with reading materials and forms spilled out onto the table. The first item was a pamphlet with the words "Your Assignment" printed across the top of it. I skimmed through the first few lines:

Country: Republic of South Africa
Program: Community HIV/AIDS Outreach
Job Title: HIV Outreach Worker
Orientation Dates: February 2, 2009--February 3, 2009
Pre-Service Training (in South Africa): February 4, 2009--March 29, 2009
Dates of Service: March 29, 2009--March 29, 2011

Suddenly everything around me slowed. It was the bit in movies where some overarching truth sets in for the protagonist and everything around the character seems to stop. But there was also a quickening of the Spirit in me, yes...Yes.

After further reading:

I will live and work in the KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga or NorthWest Provinces. During Pre-Service Training, Peace Corps staff will match me with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based upon their knowledge of the organization and their knowledge of my skills and experience. Their is a possiblity of many roles that I will fill with that organization, but in whatever role I will likely be working with youth to educate and create HIV/AIDS awareness. I will not know whether I will be in a rural or urban area until training.

Throughout Pre-Service Training, I will be living with a host family, learning the culture, langauage and history of the region. I will especially be learning how I fit into a place that is still healing from Apartheid. I will also be learning how to build relationships and establish myself in a culture with a very different gender and age dynamic.

The next seven weeks will be precious time with my family, as well as, preparation for my departure. Please be praying for my family as we've all become comfortable with my being back in Lubbock. It has been a little over a year since I began the application process for the Peace Corps, and I think we all began to believe that this day might never come.

As I learn more about my assignment, I will share with you new information and prayer requests. I hope that you will all share in my joy. And thank you for the many, many prayers you have already offered. Peace and blessing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Birth of a Prince

"Some princes are born in palaces, some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope," reads the opening line of TIME's feature article last week on President-Elect Obama and his journey to the White House. Author Nancy Gibbs goes on, "We are the ones we've been waiting for, [Obama] liked to say, but people were waiting for him, waiting for someone to finish what a King began."

Recently I was reading through the feeding of the five thousand in John 6. As I read through a very familiar story, a miracle of loaves and fishes, I was struck by this great throng of men. They followed Jesus because they would make him king. They desired to forcefully take back the kingdom, the birthright of Israel. They believed in Jesus because they had seen signs and wonders. They had seen him heal the sick and feed the many. They craved something to hope in and saw it in Jesus.

But Jesus knew their hearts and knew that this was not the kind of kingdom that the Father had sent him to establish. The Kingdom Christ came to establish would triumphantly enter on the back of the donkey. It would be a conquest that began in a country stable, was claimed in bloodshed and was established through resurrection. The Kingdom Christ came to establish was not of the earthly realm because the earthly realm was simply too small to hold it.

Since first reading them, Nancy Gibb's words have grated on my heart. I have seen the throngs that have followed Obama and been one of their number. I believe him to be a good, intelligent and principled man, and I have great hope that he will be a wise leader for our country. But this prince "born out of imagination, out of scraps of history and hope"--this prince is a man. And to negate the miracle of the virgin birth by equating it with the rise in history of a new president, however capable he may turn out to be, is to cast our pearls before swine, is to bow our heads in worship to a false king.

We who count ourselves among the disciples of Christ must understand and boldly claim our allegiance. For our allegiance is not to a flag or a president. Our allegiance should not be held by the platforms of a specific political party. The gospel we preach is not one of democracy or capitalism. But our allegiance is to the Kingdom of God. Our allegiance is to the one Savior, the Prince of Peace and King of Kings, who offers us much more than scraps of hope. The gospel we preach is the gospel of Kingdom Come.

I believe whole-heartedly that we should offer President-Elect Obama both our support and our prayers. But I believe that our higher calling must be to offer more than scraps of hope to a nation that is so desperately in need of hope and to offer hope and healing to a world that is crying out for something more than the little that our politicians and world leaders have to offer. The crowds once came to Jesus looking for a kingdom even though they did not understand the Kingdom he came to offer. We who now understand that Kingdom, have been welcomed into it and have accepted our place in it, now have the opportunity to advance it in grace, peace, love and hope. My prayer is that we would cast off what hinders us and run with perseverance.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Electioneering

I've spent the past several weeks working for the Lubbock County Elections Office. A variety of odd jobs, but mostly working at the polls for both early voting and Election Day.  I had a great experience. Lubbock County is one of the best counties in the country to vote in and the best county to vote in for people with disabilities. Who knew? Lubbock County.

What I noted most as I assisted voters of all parties, races and backgrounds was the general good will I felt from almost everyone. No matter their candidate or party, there was an undeniable feeling of unity as citizens performed their civic duty. Parents coming in with their 18-year-olds, first-time voters who had just received their citizenship, other first-time voters who had never chosen to exercise their voting privelege, occasional voters, committed voters, voters in their 90s--everyone shared a common good will. And I couldn't help but think that maybe we as American citizens are not as divided as the national media often portrays us to be. And maybe we are not as divided as our Congress presents itself to be.

That gives me hope.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fields of Poppies

In the Wizard of Oz, there is a scene where Dorothy and her traveling companions find themselves in what turns out to be an inebriating field of poppies. We the viewer/reader know that this mysterious field is a trap set by the Wicked Witch of the West, but to Dorothy it's a lovely place for a snooze. Yet Dorothy is on a quest. It's no time for a nap. The Tin Man and the Scarecrow, in their non-drug-induced state, recognize that the field is a distraction. It's distracting Dorothy from her true focus--to get home to Kansas.

But the thing about the field of poppies is that it is so alluring. You've already been on such a long journey, and you truly are very tired. It's beautiful. Why not take a little break? You deserve it, don't you?

Of late, I have found myself nestled deep in that field of poppies. The field was so alluring and dreamland so easy to slip into. But in the last few weeks dreams have become more fitful and restful sleep harder to come by. It has been over four weeks since I received my medical clearance from the Peace Corps. The first few weeks passed with excitement and anticipation, but with each passing day that excitement wanes and discouragement sets in. Not knowing when exactly I am leaving or where exactly I am going, it is hard to keep focused on why I am choosing to go. It is hard to focus on my desire to go, see, touch, learn from and hopefully help those living in extreme poverty. It is hard to focus on the commitment I've made to pursuing social justice. It is hard to have faith in the call that God has given.

Often I find my mind wandering to the jars of clay Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4. Paul says that we are "perplexed but not in despair." Perplexed? Yes, I am perplexed. Sometimes I wonder if I am in despair. But I think that perplexed is a more apt description. Perplexed because I simply don't understand why I don't know the when and the where yet. Perplexed because the whole process has taken over a year now and is still not complete. Perplexed because the long spaces in between the forward movement are very long.

Yet the yellow brick road still wonders on ahead of me, and it is important to keep engaged with God and His Church. The field of poppies has its allurements, but it is the forward path of the brick road that leads to greater hope, truth and fulfillment.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

World MDG Blog Day

As I thought about what I would post for World MDG Blog Day, I came up with many ideas about how to express both the progress we've made and the long way we have yet to go on the Millennium Development Goals--the eight goals agreed to by the United Nations member states designed to improve the quality of life for the developing world.

Then I ran across the following letter originally posted by Micah Challenge from leaders in the Global South to the church in the United States. You can download a copy here. And to find out what you can do to use your voice go to bread.org.

 _____________________________________

 August, 2008

TO THE CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES

As the Church of the Lord in what is known as the "Southern" part of the world, moved by the Holy Spirit to fight for the abundant life that Jesus Christ offers, we address our Christian family in the United States, a Church of the same covenant, faith and love. Grace and Peace to all of our brothers and sisters.

We know your works of love; these works have allowed millions of human beings for many generations in our countries in the South to receive the gospel, the Grace of Jesus Christ and the power of His Salvation. The U.S. church's untiring missionary effort planted in our lands Hope in Him who came to reconcile EVERYTHING.

Nevertheless, the political, social and economic situation in the places where this hope has been announced is increasingly distressing. Millions of people in the global South are dying of hunger, violence and injustice. These situations of poverty and pain are not simply the product of the internal functions of our countries; rather they are the results of the international policies of the governments that wield global power.

Therefore, we have this against you, brothers and sisters, that along with this powerful announcing of the Gospel, the Church from the United States has not also raised its voice in protest against the injustices that powerful governments and institutions are inflicting on the global South - injustices that afflict the lives and ecosystems of millions of people who, centuries after the proclamation of the Gospel, still have not seen the sweat of their brow turned into bread.

The worsening inequality and poverty in the South is alarming. Seven years since the United States and 191 other nations publicly promised to cut extreme global poverty in half by the year 2015 through the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), your country has made only a little progress towards fulfilling its commitments.

The MDGs should stir us to action because they echo the calls of the biblical prophets for justice and equity. Further, they are achievable and measurable markers on the roadmap to end extreme global poverty.

And so we ask you as sisters and brothers, citizens of the wealthiest most powerful nation on earth, to publicly challenge your candidates and political leaders - now and after the elections are over - to lead the world in the struggle to cut global poverty in half by 2015. If you who know the Truth will not speak for us who will?

The Church in the United States has the opportunity today to be faithful to the Hope that it preaches. We urge you to remember that the Hope to which you were called as a messenger demands that you seek first the Kingdom of God and God's justice.

Out of love for us, the global Church, in holiness, use your citizenship responsibly for the benefit of the entire world; it is for this very reason that the Lord poured out His life on the Cross.

All who have ears, let them hear what the Lord says to His Church.

Ndaba Mazabane
President
Association of Evangelicals in Southern Africa

Bishop Gerry Seale
General Secretary/CEO
Evangelical Association of the Caribbean

Dr. Richard Howell
General Secretary
Evangelical Fellowship of India

Rev Moss Ntlha
General Secretary
Evangelical Alliance of South Africa

C. Rene Padilla
President
Kairos (Peru)

Pastor Owen Isaacs
General Secretary
Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana

Bishop Efraim Tendero
President
Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches

Rev Heng Cheng
General Secretary/CEO
Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia

Bishop Paul Mususu
Executive Director/CEO
Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia

Rev Bambang Semedi
General Secretary
Southern Part Sumatera Christian Church

Dr. Reynaldo R. Avante
National Coordinator
Micah Challenge Philippines

Bishop Mano Rumalshah
Bishop
Diocese of Peshawar (Pakistan)

Alfonso Weiland
Co-founder
Paz y Esperanza (Peru)

Erika Izquierdo
Paz y Esperanza (Peru)

Lawrence Tempfwe
National Facilitator
Micah Challenge Zambia

Rev Joe Simfukwe
Principal
Bible College of Central Africa

João Pedro Martins
National Coordinator
Micah Challenge Portugal

Rev Soleman Batti
Chairman
The Toraja Church (Indonesia)

Rev Untung S.K. Wijayaputra
President
The Toraja Mamasa Church (Indonesia)

d'Karlo Pyrba
Director
YABIMA Foundation (Indonesia)

Semuel Takajanji
Director
Kuda Putih Sejahtera Foundation (Indonesia)

Rev Iskandar Saher
Executive Director
Center for the Development of Holistic Ministry (Indonesia)

Gahungu Bunini*
General Secretary
Evangelical Alliance of Rwanda

*Signed on with the names of 16 pastors in the Evangelical Alliance of Rwanda

Bishop Mano Rumalshah
Bishop
Diocese of Peshawar (Pakistan)

Rev Michael Dasey
Rector
Gungahlin Anglican Church (Australia)

Rev Geoffrey Taylor
Director
SoulSupply (Australia)

Rev. Paul Craig
Senior Pastor
Diamond Valley Baptist Church (Australia)

Rev Greg Templeton
Pastor
Sydenham Baptist Church (Australia)

Morris Alex
Pastor
Souls Outreach Church

Captain Robert Casburn
Commanding Officer
The salvation Army Northern Waves Fellowship (Australia)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nothing But Nets

Have $10? Want to spend it on something worthwhile? Check out Rick Reilly on Colbert.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Where's Walt When You Need Him?

Whatever happened to the animated movie?

Yesterday my sister and I took my nephew to see the latest installment of CG animated movies, Fly Me to the Moon. Its box office draw, 3D animation. I can't say that I went with great expectation, but I was hoping for mild entertainment and a few surprises in 3D. Disappointed on both counts.

With many animated movies over recent years, I consistently find myself leaving the theater or shutting off the DVD disappointed. Since the arrival of Toy Story, movie studios have been riding a wave of CG animation. Special effects in live action films are a cheap thrill that come a dime a dozen. And CG animated movies often have weak plots with varying degrees of quality animation. (Notable exceptions for many of the Pixar movies and a few from Dreamworks.)

But the thing I miss most is the magic of an animated movie. I distinctly remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast. It was a fantastical experience that made me go home and imagine for days that I was Belle. There is a magic associated with hand-drawn animation that is lost in the CG world. I miss the experience and the magic. And wonder whether it is really worth it for movie studios to sacrifice that magic and quality for the cheap, reproducible formula of today's animated movie. Somehow I don't think that this was the visioin of Walt Disney or his contemporaries.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Peace Corps Update


I have received my medical and dental qualification for the Peace Corps. I am now awaiting word from the Office of Placement about my assignment. I should here something soon and will let you know.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Taking Issue with the Issues

It's a debate that cannot be avoided--education, abortion, environmentalism, gay marriage, poverty, energy, taxation, war...and a host of others. These are the issues we bring to the table in the political debate. Hot-button words that have specific associations and specific opinions for each person. A candidate's stance on one or many of these issues will dictate how we vote. These issues will be what we campaign for with our representatives on the local, state and national levels. Some will spurn letter writing campaigns and phone calls to congress. Some will gain national note through the media. They are the issues of the day in American politics and society.

Yet, in the debate I am beginning to take issue with the word "issue." I'm wondering if as Christians we should allow ourselves to be narrowed into a particular set of issues. Aren't we called to be a more wholistic people than that?

For instance, the hot-button topic of abortion. A good portion of this country is either passionately for or against abortion. But as a believer, I find that pro-life has to mean a lot more than an anti-abortion stance. Pro-life has to mean that I care about the quality of life a person will have throughout their life not just whether or not they are born. It means that if I am a proponent for adoption that I care about the state of the foster care system. It means that I care that people receive adequate nutrition, have access to health care, and have access to quality education. It also means that I care about decreasing unwanted pregnancies in the first place. And it means that I care about the health of the women who will continue to have abortions illegally if abortion is criminalized.

The wholistic approach is the example that Christ gave us. The woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery. The infighting between the Sadducees and the Pharisees over resurrection. The questions over Caesar's taxes. Christ didn't narrow any of these down to a specific issue but rather opened up the debate to look beyond into a bigger picture--into a redeemed creation.

Neither political party in this country has a hold on the Christian agenda. And it's not because there are not issues out there that we as Christian's should care about, but because Christianity is bigger than an agenda. Being a disciple of Christ means radically following a man who taught the armies that followed him to lay down their swords in order to break bread with one another, breaking bread notibly through the power of a miracle of loaves and fishes. We are called not to create our own political agenda but to live counter-cultural lives that dispel political agenda. We are called to be good stewards of our citizenship not for the sake of our country but for the sake of our Kingdom. When we enter the political realm and express opinion on the issues, we must strive to be wholistic people looking into the hope of a redeemed creation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Girl Effect

In case you missed this blurb on your Google News feed, today is the 88th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote in the United States.

The 88th anniversary is not a very auspicious anniversary; however, the notation reminded me of this video I saw a few months back on "The Girl Effect"--the powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.

To celebrate this anniversary, take a few minutes to watch the video below and think about the impact that women have had on our world, continue to have on it, and will have on it in the future.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Working Out of a Redeemed Imagination

While reading an article on the emerging movement for the elimination of nuclear-weapons in the latest issue of Relevant magazine, I was struck by the following statement:
"We live between two realities that we haven't seen: on the one side, the cross and resurrection; and on the other, the fulfillment of God's Kingdom...that is a redeemed creation. When Christians are faithful to this vision, there is a savor to our salt and a brightness to our light that the world needs badly."
We have heard of and believed in the cross and the resurrection. Now we wait for and hope for the redeemed creation. And it is this redeemed creation that I see when I dream of a world without extreme poverty, a world without hunger, a world without pollution.

Often, I encounter a kind of cynicism and pessimism that says these dreams cannot be achieved. Often, when I start listing off the statistics and tallying the odds, I encounter the same cynicism in myself. Poverty, hunger, global-warming--they seem to be immovable objects. Barriers that cannot be thrown aside no matter how large or how powerful the counterforce.

But when challenged with the idea of a redeemed creation, we can see a world without them because we can foresee the Kingdom of God. We stand in the midst of the good news brought near to us through Jesus Christ and the coming good news of the Kingdom of God and the splendor of the new creation. It is through these eyes that we see immovable objects moved--mountains thrown into the sea. And it is with these eyes that we act. Not to be ourselves savior of humanity and of creation, but instead to be living testimony of the redemptive vision of God.

In view of a redeemed creation, we need a new and redeemed imagination. A redemptive imagination that envisions creative solutions to the world's most pressing problems. A redemptive imagination that promotes freedom and effectively disbands the slave trade and sex-trafficking. A redemptive imagination that disarms and destroys conflicts between peoples and puts an end to genocide. A redemptive imagination that feeds every child and eradicates disease.

A redemptive imagination that knows no limits because it is fueled by a limitless God.

It is the redeemed imagination of Christ that can serve as our guide. Jesus took the tattered pieces of the Jewish nation, pieces of the Law that were meant to bring redemption, and rewove them through the limitless powers of His imagination into the redemptive power of the cross and the resurrection. That same imagination is now offered to us through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. It is intertwined with faith, hope and love. A redeemed imagination that envisions a redeemed creation.

With a redeemed imagination at our fingertips, the redemptive power of the cross and the resurrection behind us, and a redeemed creation before us--we can offer to the world an unmatched savor to our salt and brightness to our light. Both of which are desperately needed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Peace Corps Update

After an intense physical and dental exam, my medical forms were mailed to the Peace Corps on Monday of this week. When I say an intense physical, I mean intense. Six vials of blood for six different tests, an EKG, a few other tests you don't want to know about, full physical, dental x-rays, and full dental exam. All total Monday's mailing was about 20 pages of paperwork.
What's next? Once I have my medical release, I will receive an official invitation. This invitation will provide the much coveted details, i.e. where exactly I will be going and when exactly I will be going.
Nothing unexpected came out in my physcials. I am hopeful this means that I will receive my medical release quickly. I have heard that it can take some time. Obviously, from my opinion sooner is much better than later. I would like to have a month at least to study my host country, learning about its culture and history. I'd also like to have time to gather together any supplies that I will need for my journey. In other words, I want to be as prepared as possible to leave when November roles around. Please be praying that the release will come quickly.
In the mean time, I plan to begin substitute teaching when the new school term begins here. I will be working on applying for a substitute position with the two largest area districts next week. I am also hoping to take a few more weekend trips to visit friends and family. I will let you know as I make those plans.
Thanks for all the prayers and blessings! November draws closer and the anticipation is growing. Hopefully back with a new update soon...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Case for Freedom

During the last week and a half, I had the opportunity of touring several battlefields from both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Relics of history filled the museums and battlefields--cannon, muskets, rifles, bayonets, canteens, uniforms, etc. Each site was marked with ample monuments reflecting who fought where and who died where. With an obviously limited budget, the National Park Service did a fabulous job of presentation and upkeep on these sites.

As I reflected on our drive back to Texas, I began to think about the cause of these momentous wars in the history of the United States. Both boil down to rights and freedom. The colonists fought for the right to be free of heavy tax burdens imposed by the British government. They fought for freedom from tyranny. The Confederate States fought for states' rights--for the right of each state to dictate the laws it would live under outside of the basic guidelines of the Constitution. The Union fought for a united country and the rights of the larger government as a whole. Their fight would also lead to the abolition of slavery.

These reflections on freedom ultimately led me to what Paul said of freedom that "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1). The author of Psalm 119 proclaimed that he walked about in freedom because he had sought out the precepts of God (v45). Isaiah and later Jesus proclaiming prophesy fulfilled said that he had come "to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1). From these passages we infer that true freedom is found in God alone through Christ the fulfillment of the Law. Therefore, I cannot help but think that the freedom that we often fight for, bleed for, is a freedom that is but a dim reflection of the freedom that is offered to us in Christ. It is a freedom found in democracy, in capitalism, in economic security, in education--noble causes for sure but none bring true freedom.

When I think across the centuries of people who have exhibited this kind of freedom, the cases that come most to mind are those of people who by every external sense seem to be in the most bondage. Of Daniel who found freedom to worship despite the threat of death by lion. Of Stephen who proclaimed the true gospel despite the threat of stones and death. Of Paul who continued to boldly proclaim the truth despite numerous near death experiences and imprisonment. Of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who did not loose faith despite the best efforts of his Nazis torturers. Of Martin Luther King who rallied the people for justice and peace despite daily threat on his life and the lives of all those closest to him. These and others like them, exhibited freedom not of this world but freedom found in Christ when pressed into the most dire of circumstances.

I question what freedom that I most often choose to live under. Is it the freedom of religion? Or the freedom of speech? The freedom of a global market? The freedom of upward mobilization? The freedom to vote? The freedom of equality? What freedom do I chose, and is that freedom merely a ghost of the true freedom in Christ that is in turn freely offered to all who believe?

Freedom is a concept that I believe is innate in human nature. We have a deep longing for freedom. We desire to return to that state of freedom that was available to us before sin entered the world. It is this freedom we were created for. That same freedom is now found in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore we should cling to it. Live from it and within it. We now have the opportunity to chose a better freedom.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Simon, Garfunkel and the Mighty Mississippi

New developments since the last post:

I've been cleared as mentally stable and able to serve in the Peace Corps from a psychological standpoint. This is good news. A pleasant sensation of relief and thanksgiving passes over one when one is declared to be mentally stable.

From here we go to the actual medical evaluation. I should be receiving the forms in a few days. Medical evaluation means full physical and a visit to the dentist. The dentist visit I'm looking forward to. I am one of those odd people that actually enjoys going to the dentist. I love that "fresh from the dentist feel." Added bonus is that I will likely be seeing the orthodontist I went to as a child--the man responsible for my straight pearly whites.

In the mean time, my parents and I drove the first leg of a road-trip to the Carolinas today. I've spent very little time on the East Coast and am looking forward to seeing a large part of the country I've never seen before. I'm also already enjoying road-tripping with the parents. Today we drove my grandmother across Texas. Dropped her off in Longview to spend time with friends and family and continued on to Mississippi. The plan is to be in the Carolinas by the end of the day tomorrow.

A few casual observations on road-tripping across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi:
  • Simon and Garfunkel's The Concert in Central Park album makes for great road-tripping.
  • Everyone should make the effort to drive over the Mississipi at least once, if only for the Mark Twain experience.
  • The recent episode of RadioLab (one of my favorite podcasts) Emergence is definitely worth a listen. I listened to it twice today--once on my earphones and then replayed it for my parents.
  • Sunsets when the sun turns a deep shade of orange and the sky lights up in deep shades of pink and purple always improve the scenery.
  • When exercising in a hotel exercise room be sure to pick the machine closest to the air conditioner. Especially important when the AC is turned off when the room is not in use.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Good Patriot

Peter Beinart wrote a challenging article on the true meaning of "patriotism" for this week's TIME magazine. Following the ride of this year's primary season and looking into election season, I can't think of a better topic for Independence Day.

In the article, Beinart neatly narrows down the definition of patriotism in the two opposing camps--conservatives and liberals. Conservatives "tend to believe that loving America today requires loving its past." On the opposing side, "liberals often see it as the promise of a future that redeems the past." He also points out the flaws of both. Conservatives risk becoming elitist and exclusionary forgetting that we are a nation made up of people from many nations. Liberals, however, risk "not being exclusionary enough" and unable to effectively respond when ideals collide with the general welfare of Americans. Beinart concludes by suggesting a move to a new definition of patriotism in which the old definitions work together to create the new. A patriotism that is proud of its past, but not blind to its faults. A patriotism that is critical of its mistakes yet edifying.

I agree with Beinart's conclusion. We have a very rich history full of great moments, great thinkers and great heroes. But we also see in that history frays and flaws, mistakes that we must learn from. I count myself very blessed to be an American. It is a rich heritage to carry, and the freedom that comes with it is invaluable. Both the history and the ideals make up who we are as a nation--one cannot stand without the other.

As I write this, I am reminded of the post that I wrote when I first learned I would be going to Africa. (You can read it here.) I discussed that the Peace Corps was an opportunity for me to be a good steward of the citizenship God has given me--that I can use a great blessing for God's Kingdom. As each day passes and I move another day closer, I believe more fully in the idea of being a good steward of one's citizenship. And I believe that it ties in with the idea of what kind of patriot I choose to be. Do I choose to be a dogmatic patriot, bordering on nationalism and thus devaluing my neighbor in other parts of the world? Or do I choose to be a haphazard patriot, so lackadaisical in my patriotism that I devalue my neighbor next door? I do not believe that either picture accurately portrays what it means to be a good steward of my citizenship. Rather, being a good steward--using the gift of citizenship in such a way as to honor God and further the Gospel--would mean being a patriot seeking out moderation, looking for ways to honor my neighbor across the world and across the street. Godward then nationally and globally.

I challenge you to think about how you can be a good steward of your citizenship. It certainly doesn't have to be joining up with the Peace Corps. There are much smaller ways to be a good steward like voting or writing to your senators and congressmen about the issues that matter most to you. We have so many freedoms and there are so many ways that you can use those freedoms for the Kingdom. I encourage you to be a good steward to what you have been given.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The June Update

The June Recap:

I arrived in Lubbock, TX on May 28th. It was a long trip--my father and I both hauling trailers on our vehicles. The day ended unloading all of my possessions for storage into my grandmother's garage. (Thanks, Dad, for coming to Colorado to help me move. And thanks, Grandmommie, for the storage space.) The next days were spent unpacking all non-storage items and settling back into my parent's place.

Mid-month, I had the great opportunity to travel to Oregon. And even better than being in Oregon was being with Maxwells, Grauls, and Emily. It was great to get to vacation together and incredibly good for my heart. I continue to be amazed at the beautiful relationships God gives me in each place that I live. While in Oregon, it was also great joy to pay a visit to PUMP Sunday morning and get to visit with a ton of other people I love.

Back in Texas, I've sweltered in the heat, spent some great times with my parents, and played a lot with my nephew. This last weekend we took him to Critter Fest at the local science museum--tigers, camels, and water buffalo, oh my!

The Peace Corps Update:

We're still in the waiting game. I currently have a medical hold on my account because I have been treated for an eating disorder in the last three years. This has been a frustrating setback. I am working on getting another recommendation from a local eating disorder specialist. However, this requires getting copies of all of my records from counslers in both Portland and the Springs. The whole process is delaying an already long process and may end up keeping me from going period.

I understand that the Peace Corps does not want to take a chance with relapses. This is wise on their part, but frustrating on my end. Please pray for patience and trust. Pray for God's providence and that if it is His heart for me to go that I will recieve the necessary clearance.

That's the update! Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Make it Fair

Today's scene:

I walk into the coffee shop at my local supermarket. Peet's Coffee--a growing national chain that I was familiar with in Portland. I figured my chances were good for a decent cup of coffee. It should be noted that I am a coffee snob. After being a regular patron of such mom and pop places as Jim and Patty's and Dogtooth Coffee, your average cup of joe does not cut it.

When I approach the counter, both starry-eyed, teenage barisatas ask in tandem, "Can we help you?" I immediately know I am in trouble. These ladies are obviously bored, and I'm certain fairly new to the complex world of coffee. But I pluck up my courage, and plunge ahead.

"Do you have any fair trade coffee brewed?" The girls look at one another with puzzled expressions on their faces. They look back at me. Then they turn around to look at their manager who is cleaning the bar. Catching the girls' puzzled looks, she moves quickly to the seen. "How can we help?"

"Do you have any fair trade coffee?" I repeat.

The manager explains that Peet's does have fair trade coffee, but that they do not carry any. She offers to order it for me. I thanked her and said no. I have heard of one place in town that does carry fair trade coffee. I decided not to purchase anything, but went up the street to Starbucks where I knew about their business practices and how they treat their growers. I also checked the supermarket shelves before leaving. No fair trade there either.

Here's the thing about that little fair trade certified label on your coffee, tea, chocolate, and many other products--that label means that farmers and laborers have the means to lift themselves out of poverty. Fair trade means that farmer groups receive a fair price and fair labor conditions. It means direct trade with the farmer groups. It means community development and environmental stability. Fair trade is a means of social justice for the world's poorest, and it's something that conscientious consumers must begin asking for.

So please consider asking for fair trade the next time you stop in for your morning (or afternoon) coffee. To find out more about fair trade certified products and practices, visit transfairusa.org.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Back in the Lone Star State

Our drive to Texas was completely uneventful. We made it in good time and were able to unload both U-Hauls before nightfall. The past few days have been spent mostly unpacking and settling in to my new/old abode (the parent's house).

This week, I will focus in on the search for a temporary gig to keep me occupied and hopefully help me to put more money into savings before I leave for Africa. I've tossed around several ideas over the past few months of what I might do--not sure if any of them will pan out. I trust that if I'm supposed to find a job while in L-town, then the Lord will provide.

In other news, well, there isn't other news. This post is just a quick update for those who were wondering. Have a glorious Sunday, all!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Colorado Texas Exchange

I'm officially on my way to Texas. My dad and I spent the day packing up our two U-Haul trailers (one for his car and one for mine) with some help from some absolutely wonderful friends. Then we traveled south to spend the night in the Best Western in Pueblo, CO (I'm posting from our hotel room). Tomorrow we'll make the rest of the eight hour drive to Lubbock.

Yesterday, I created one last great memory as a Coloradan. Several friends and I ran the Bolder Boulder as part of a team that Compassion International put together. The Bolder Boulder is the largest 10k run in the United States which meant we shared the roadway with around 50,000 other participants. It was a cold and rainy day, but that didn't put a damper on anyone's spirits and was perfect running weather.



I finished in 73 minutes--not bad for my first 10k and for not training as religiously as I ought to have. I am really glad that I participated in this event with my friends, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I hope to get a few more races under my belt before I leave for Africa. And who knows, maybe I will get to run a few in Africa.



This is the last post from Colorado. The next post will be from Texas. Hope you have enjoyed the last two years of posts from here. I wouldn't exchange them for anything.

Best of luck to you Colorado!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Farewell and Goodnight

I just left my farewell Colorado Springs party. I have to say that I was overwhelmed with the number of people who came. I have been blessed with an amazing group of friends here, and I do truly count each one a blessing. They are beautiful people who I love deeply. I am very sad to leave them, and I will miss them terribly.

Please allow me to indulge and say a few personal goodbyes. If you are not of the Springs, please feel free to skip the remainder of this post and go on about your life. For you who do read through the last bit, please know these are in random order and I apologize already if I miss someone.

______________________________

Megan, I have learned so much by your side both from you and with you. I truly count you as a kindred spirit. You sharpen me in ways that I cannot even begin to express to you. I thank you for each addiction you have encouraged me in, and I look forward to hearing about how God continues to build up the work that He is doing in you.

Stacey, you clung to me like know one in my life has clung to me. No matter how hard I pushed you away, you would not allow me to escape. Your friendship was completely unexpected and became so precious to me. You encourage me. You offer me hope. I have been blessed by your friendship in ways that I have never been blessed by a friendship before.

Emily, you truly are the bravest person I know. You inspire me to greater things. In the moments when life calls for the most courage--including sitting in the chair with the tattoo needle barring down--I would not want any other person at my side. Thank you for inspiring courage within me.

Amber, you were a friend and a confidant when I needed one dearly. The life you have lived, the courage you have shown, and the mother you are inspire me to be a better woman. You challenge me to be a person who doesn't sit by the sidelines, but fights the good fight.

Brian, you sharpen me. Your intellect and your wisdom sharpen me. You encourage me to think deeper than I have before.

James, you remind me to love the Lord and welcome His instruction.

Jenny, you have a beautiful heart for the Lord, and I am thankful for each time that we got to sit and chat.

Korlyn and Sandi, you stood by me though you didn't have to and though I had not always stood by you. You welcomed me as a friend when others were turning their backs on me. I will never forget your kindness.

Brett, you forgave and you befriended me where I was at. I will never forget the grace you have shown me.

Marney, we have walked similar paths during these past two years. It was good to have a friend who could somewhat understand the emotions I was feeling at various times. Thanks for meeting me at IHOP.

To everyone else in the college and career group (past and present), you have blessed me in hundreds and thousands of ways. I am thankful for the life you have shared with me. I will miss games of Ultimate Frisbee, life groups, and Jack's gatherings. Thank you for welcoming me into your midst for this season.

To Kelly, I look forward to continuing our friendship and coming to know you more. I am confident that as our common love for all things British grows our common love for each other will, as well.

To Andrea, you have an amazingly sweet and passionate spirit that has been visible in every interaction I have had with you. Thank you for being such an amazing advocate and thank you for sharing some of your heart with me along the way.

To everyone else in the Colorado Springs ONE group, thank you for caring for the world's poorest. Thank you for offering hope to the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the poor, the AIDS patient, the hungry, and all those marginalized in our world. Never give up in the fight against poverty!

To everyone else, you have blessed my life whether you know it or not. While I can't say a personal thank you to each of you here, please know that I do thank you. I pray that the Lord will bless you and keep. I pray that His face will shine upon you and that you will have peace.

Grace and peace to you all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.

Invisible Children Presents Roseline

Answering the Big Questions

When people hear that I am going to be living in Africa for two years, often the question follows, "But aren't you scared of...?" The ellipsis usually being something along the lines of getting a disease, getting eaten by a wild beast, getting killed by tribal warriors, getting kidnapped getting... I'll let you put in your own thought from here.

(A quick reminder that I do not have my country assignment from the Peace Corps yet; thus, the likelihood of any of the aforementioned scenarios is dependent on where I am placed on the continent. However, you can rest assured that the Peace Corps makes the safety and health of their volunteers a high priority.)

The answer to all ellipsis questions is "no." I'm not scared of "..." At least I haven't been asked a "..." that actually frightens me yet. More often than not it is when I'm in the midst of some mundane task like brushing my teeth, and I think "Will I be able to easily purchase toothpaste?" or "Do they even have Crest in Africa?" Or maybe when doing the laundry I wonder "How hard is it to actually wash your clothes by hand?" Or "Will I have to learn to take cold showers?"

These are the questions and minute fears that hit me when I think about Africa and what it will mean to live there. I don't think about contracting HIV/AIDS. I don't think about getting caught in a fight between warring militias. I don't think about being kidnapped by a warlord. I find these are useless thoughts. These are thoughts that would drive me into fear, and it is faith that is leading me forward. Fear is the opposite of faith. If faith leads me forward, their is no place for fear.

My desire in going is to be a learner. I want to learn about extreme poverty. I want to learn about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I want to learn about conflict and war. I want to learn and come to a clearer understanding of these things and others that affect this part of our world so that I can be a better mouthpiece for those who live everyday of their lives--not merely two years--in these circumstances. I want to be able to walk away from this experience with a deeper understanding and be a stronger advocate for social justice.

Perhaps one thing I do fear is the arrogance and pomp it would take to say yes to an ellipsis question. Whatever the circumstances that I do find myself in, they will be temporary--two years. It will not be temporary for the people I live with, work with, serve with. It is their everyday life--everyday, every year, and for most, all their lives.

Jesus asked, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). This is the question I truly fear. What can I add to even one moment of my life if I live that life entirely in pursuit of my own good? Nothing--"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [Christ] and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:35). This is why I go to Africa. Not because I have something great to offer, but because saving my own life wreaks of a life lost.

So fix my eyes on Jesus. Let Him be the forethought, the afterthought, and the present thought of my every moment. And let the perfect love found in Him and in Our Father in heaven drive out all fear.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A New Familiar Place

In just over a week, I make my return to the Lone Star State (for those of you not up on U.S. State nicknames, that's Texas). It's been four years since I was a Texas resident, and I've had the opportunity to live in two of the most beautiful places in the U.S.--Oregon and Colorado. It will be hard to move back to arid West Texas where the greatest beauty is the sunset and to get beautiful sunsets you have to contend with large amounts of dirt flying through the air (something about the sun's rays reflecting off the dirt particles).

Colorado has been a wonderful place for me, and I am sorry to leave it. God has done a great work in me here--a work of healing and teaching. I've had peace here, and I've developed friendships here that I am certain I will carry with me for many years beyond life in Colorado.

At the same time, I am looking forward to being with my family for the next five months. Who knows when and if I will have the opportunity to live in close proximity with them again. It is good that I have this time to spend with them before officially joining the Peace Corps in November.

I am very hopeful that God who began a good work in me will continue to carry it out over these next months.

To Colorado: thank you for providing an amazing place of rest over the past two years.

To Texas: I look to you with hope of continuing in this journey towards Christ..

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Going Fishing

"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a life time." It would surprise me very much if you have not heard that proverb before. I can't tell you when the first time or the last time I heard it was. I can't tell you where it comes from (though I'm sure I could Google it and find out). But I think it is one of the truest and most important proverbs I have ever heard.

Basic concept: You can offer charity and assist a hungry person. This is a very good thing to do. But the better thing to do would be to take a look at what causes the person's hunger and address that issue. We talk about it in the fight against hunger and poverty. It is one thing to offer charity (a very good thing), but it is a completely different thing to fight against the root causes of hunger and poverty. This fight works to eradicate the problem so that our charity becomes unnecessary.

But this post is not about hunger or poverty. I was thinking about the proverb in the context of current society. I often find that I struggle when I hear people decry the current immorality rampant in our society. I agree that our culture is infested by a plague of immorality whether that be an obsession with sex and pornography, violence, abortion, etc. And I often find myself applauding the efforts of those who combat those vices. But I think we are spending ourselves in giving fish away rather than teaching people to fish.

I believe that the immorality we currently see in society is a symptom of a root cause that goes much deeper than wantonness and impropriety. We as a creation have forgotten our First Love. We have become a self-obsessed people with an insatiable need to consume at fantastical rates to appease that self-obsession. We have forgotten a God that formed us from the dust, loved us intimately, sent His one and only--the very extension of Himself--to live, die, and rise for us. I am concerned for a humanity that fights stem-cell research, terrorism, and other such hot-button issues as if the answers to these issues could bring life and hope to our decaying world. Are we not like the pharisees saying to Jesus here is this woman caught in adultery when we campaign for and against our hot-buttons? Have we not become so focused on the sin that we have forgotten the person, the people whom God loves so deeply?

I do not know what Jesus wrote in the dirt the day the adulterous woman was brought before Him. But I know the message that He is currently scratching out to me: "Love her. Love them. Offer charity and hope, but most importantly show them love. Show people love and teach them to know their First Love again. Save your soliloquies and look to me. Return to me with your whole heart, and I will be Your God."

I truly believe that it is time that we take up the cause of Christ. That we take the Gospel firmly in hand and offer Good News to the world. It is time for us to stop focusing so much of our efforts on handing out fish, and to instead teach our hurting world how to fish. And I believe that means loving the best we can and pointing our whole lives toward Jesus. Letting every answer to every question be Jesus. Encouraging one another to press on towards Jesus. And fighting against the ills of our society not only by attacking its symptoms, but tearing out the root. Only then do I believe that we can know and be able to offer true hope.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Incline

This evening I went with a few friends to climb The Incline. The Incline was once the Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway, a cable car train that, before shutting down in 1990, took people to about 8,600 feet. The trail goes straight up for about one mile with an average grade of 41 degrees. The steepest section is at a grade of 68 degrees.. Half-rotten wood rails pose as stairs up the side of the mountain. A comparison to Jacob's ladder might be appropriate--straight up to heaven.

This is a view of the incline from Highway 24. It's the tiny strip up
the side of Mount Manitou. Pikes Peak is in the background.

This was the first time on The Incline this season. And as my lungs will gladly tell you, the first time is both painful and rewarding. There is a point, usually about half-way up (maybe not even that far) where my mind starts telling me that it can't be done. I must be insane. I'm not in good enough shape to pull this off. The air is too thin up here. I should give in and head back down before I fall back down (don't worry, Mom, it's not that dangerous).

But then another thought begins to take shape in your brain. But I have to do this. I wanted to do this. It's worth it. It can be done. Look at all the other people doing it. I've done it before. I want to stand at the top of the Incline and look down. I want to run down Barr Trail on that final surge of adrenaline. I can do it. I can do it. And you start taking it three steps at a time. One, two, three...one, two, three...three more...one, two, three...and before you know it you are at the top, looking down over the city.

On my refrigerator door I have a piece of paper on which I've written out what it means for my body to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).

  1. my body is both sacrifice and temple and should therefore be treated with appropriate reverence.
  2. the health and well-being of the physical body should be set aside as holy before the Lord.
  3. both physical strength and physical pain serve to bring honor and glory to God.
  4. what I choose to eat or drink should bring glory to God.
  5. what I choose to eat or drink should honor the hands who helped bring it to my table.
These definitions came out of a period in which I was going through a rather intense physical battle. I fought with God on why I was experiencing so much pain and why none of the specialists were coming up with a quick solution. As I battled, I began to look into what scripture said on physical suffering. I began to understand what the body as a "living sacrifice" means--that my body literally does not belong to me but has been given-up willingly and whole-heartedly to the Lord. I began to understand that the ways that I interact with my body--what I eat, what I drink, exercising, not exercising, pain, strength, sleep, lack of sleep--all of these things I did not do to a body that belonged to me but a body that belonged to God. Slowly I began to respond to my body out of the Spirit and not out of my flesh. I began to realize that God could be glorified in my pain by how I reacted to the pain--whether I responded to it with complaint and pity-mongering or with hope and faith in God's healing power and provision.

I can tell you most assuredly that I do not live out that sacrifice everyday. There are many days when I live as if my body belonged totally to me (and some times to a food conglomerate of fast and overly-processed food). But climbing The Incline tonight, I was reminded of what an amazing thing our bodies are. They are capable of amazing feats. We can push our bodies to what our mind believes to be the absolute limit and discover that they are capable of much more. They are amazing creations, and I absolutely believe that a body fully sacrificed to the Lord brings honor both to God and to the person.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I'm Moving to Africa!

Yes, you read that right. I'm moving to Africa. Today I got my nomination for the Peace Corps. Unless something unexpected shows up in my medical checks, I will be moving to Sub-Saharan Africa in November.

I don't have a lot of details yet. I will find out my country placement later. But I've been nominated to work with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) specifically focusing on the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Through all of the emotions and feelings I have gone through today, it has been continually impressed upon me what a blessing it is to be an American citizen. For whatever reason, God saw fit to put me here--in a land where I have so much freedom and ability to participate actively in the very foundations of our country. I've spent much of the last year discovering how to be a good steward of my citizenship--how to use my citizenship to further the kingdom of God and to champion the cause of social justice. I truly believe that this is another opportunity that I have been given to be a good steward of that citizenship. I hope that I can take full advantage of the opportunity.

I have many more thoughts I could share on what it means to be a good steward of our citizenship, but I'll save them for a later post. For this post, I'd like to ask you to join with me in prayer on a few initial things:

  1. Pray that wherever I go and whenever I go that I will be first a good representative of the Kingdom of God and that my life would bear witness to the Gospel at all times.
  2. Pray for an openness of mind and heart to embrace and learn from the culture that I am in.
  3. Pray that there would be no medical barriers to my going.
  4. Pray for my specific country placement. I would really like to go to Uganda since I already have several ties to that country and know a good deal of the country's history and current events.
  5. Pray for my family as it will be a long time and a long distance that separates us. Pray that we would make wonderful memories in the next months to carry with us.

I'm sure that there will be many more prayer requests. Thank you so much for joining with me in these prayers! I believe fully that the Lord will hear and be faithful.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Decadence of Unemployment

As I write to you from Dogtooth--my favorite coffee shop in the Springs--I can't escape the feeling of decadence that consumes one when sitting at a coffee shop on a Monday morning while the rest of the American population commutes to earn the all important dollar. It is the decadence of the unemployed. Other indulging patrons, I notice, are mostly in their late 50s to early 60s (retirees). Maybe one or two full-time moms stopping in after dropping the kids at school. But I am by far the youngest patron, and I hazard a guess the only one in the unemployed ranks who probably shouldn't be in those ranks.

In my arrogance, I often think of the unemployed statistic as the homeless guy who hangs out all day on the bench at Pikes Peak and Tejon. Or the factory-worker who was laid-off because his job was exported overseas. Or the gal who couldn't quite keep up with the technology revolution. But today I make-up a portion of that statistic. I am one of the 7.4 million people in this country listed as unemployed.

Does this frighten me? Yes and no. There is always the terror that I won't find another job or that it will take a significant amount of time for me to find another job. Finances, for better or for worse, contribute to majority of the stress in our lives. I can understand why financial strains are one of the major reasons for divorce in this country. And while I know that I can be a squatter on my parent's couch if absolutely necessary, I've entered that period of life where I would really like to be able to stand on my own two feet--wobbly as they might be.

So then it comes back to how much do I really trust God. The B&N gig was a position that pretty much fell into my lap--a happy coincidence that I fully believe was entirely orchestrated by God. And in the last few months, especially the last month, I am confident that the Lord guided me to the culmination of my B&N employment. So if God gave me the job and God took me out of it, then logical deduction says that God will provide the what that comes next. Of course that's assuming that God is logical--He is, but is not bound by human logic. That also assumes a certain amount of faith on my part.

There are some points about God and life with God to which faith comes naturally for me. For instance, I easily believe in God being divine creator who is still actively involved in creation. The evidence is all around me, and I do not have a scientific brain that feels the need to dissect all of life to either prove or disprove the theory of creation. Not to mention that once you listen to grass farmer Joel Salatin talk about the inner and outer workings of his farm, doubt in a Creator God seems fully implausible. But when Jesus says, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (TNIV, Matthew 6:25,33)--that stretches my faith a little farther than it naturally wants to go.

I think that in quitting my job I was seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. But I'm not so sure that sitting in today's decadence that I am fully believing in the second part of Jesus' statement: and all these things will be given to you as well. I call it decadence because it feels in complete contradiction to what society would label as wisdom. And trusting God to provide as He provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field requires something of me that is higher than what is required of the birds and the lilies. In God's intelligent design of us, He gave you and me a higher consciousness than the rest of His creation. This produces a conundrum of faith. What is required of the birds to believe in God's provision is much less than what is required of us.

But I guess this is what faith is: "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (TNIV, Hebrews 11:1). I know what I hope for, and it is much more than just a new job. I hope for and believe in God's deliverance of our world from the social injustices that plague it. I believe in the new earth that God has promised. I hope for a world fully reconciled to Him. These are things that cause me to come to God with faith and hope. I seek for surety in His promises. And if I sit in my decadence today, I trust that tomorrow I will sit within the well-spring of His provision. And perhaps today I also cry out with the boy's father in Mark 9, "Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Adulthood


Adulthood. What is it really? And when do we arrive there? Is there a day we wake up and say, "Ah, adulthood, I have arrived" or is it something that in revelry of the past we stop and say, "oh, there was adulthood in that moment"?

When I was a child, I thought that being an adult meant being married and having kids. Adults drove cars, worked 9-5 jobs, served at church or in some other volunteer role. They went to kids' soccer games and watched R-rated movies. But those are not the things that define my adulthood if I am one. And honestly, I'm not sure what does define my adulthood. Maybe I'm just a miniature adult, playing at life. I'm still practicing to be an adult as I would practice playing the piano. The scary thing is that I gave up the piano. My overly-stimulated and short-attention-span child brain got bored and I quit. (Something I now regret.) But you can't quit adulthood the way you quit a musical instrument or a new hobby that doesn't quite spark your interest.

I guess the question that I'm asking is what do you do with us twenty-somethings who supposedly are in the realm of adulthood. What do you do with this new group of people who aren't choosing marriage and kids as early as our parents or even our older siblings? What do you do with the squatters, squatting on their parents' couch or a friend's couch? What do you do with our job-hopping, career-hopping, hoping for the next best thing selves? What do you do with brilliant, post-modern minds that can't seem to settle into what is essentially still a modern world?

We are drifting on the edge of a great something--a great unknown. We are emerging into something new that has never existed before. And some days I feel like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause shouting to his parents and the world "You're tearing me apart!" And some days I believe that we are on the forefront of forever altering the way we all look at the world with eyes of justice and hope.

And then some days I wonder what it was to be Jesus. Did He feel an adult from that moment in the temple at ten-years-old? His baptism? The transfiguration? Was there a moment when He said, "This is real and I'm in this thing"? And in my wildest moments--moments of desperation and desire--I fall into Him. I fall into Jesus knowing that the quandary of adulthood is simply that. Adulthood is a quandary made up meaningless nothings without Him and purposeful, meaningful somethings with Him. When I loose myself in the dizzying meanderings of my post-modern, twenty-something mind, then I loose sight of Jesus. And child or adult, He is the stuff that life is made of.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Admitting to Fear

My biggest fear is to be alone--alone in the sense of relationally alone, not in the sense of being by myself. My second biggest fear is failure. It is this second fear that plagues me currently, and the fear of failure often begets the fear of being alone.

I am afraid that I have failed. I have not shared this on my blog or indeed with some of my closest friends because I am afraid they too will think I have failed. How have I failed? Or how have I possibly failed? I quit my job. I am officially sitting with two weeks left of work at the B&N and no job lined up after those two weeks.

Why did I quit my job? I quit on principle. I quit because my integrity and character were being called into question. I quit because of slander and false rumors that defamed my character and in the defamation of me, defamed God. I quit because I had been put in a threatening and borderline abusive position by upper management.

I do not regret quitting my job for these reasons. I believe that I made the best decision--ethically, morally, and spiritually. But now I am without employment, and I fear that means I have failed and moreover means I am a failure.

Fear is a strange thing. It can be the thing that keeps us motionless or the impetus for change. It can be the thing that holds us to weakness or the thing that encourages strength. Paul told Timothy that "God did not give us a spirit of timidity [fear], but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:10). I've got to be honest that the Spirit of God in me may lead to power, love, and self-discipline, but I'm afraid that my fleshly fear may often hinder that. That fear of waking up one day and finding myself completely alone possibly as a result of my failure is a powerful fear. And days come when I know and believe that the spirit of power, love and self-discipline God has anointed me with is so much stronger than the spirit of fear. But there are other days when my fleshly side wins out.

I know that my mother is reading this thinking that I put too much pressure on myself, and I do. Even here I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of really letting you see the deeper well-spring in me, and I am afraid of not doing justice to my current subject matter. I am my best and often my worst critic. And part of me wants to end this post by telling you that I know, trust, and believe in a God who is bigger than my fear and who can and does cast that fear out of me. And I do. But I'm also a messy human. And thank the Lord that He does provide that perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18). And thank the Lord that He so graciously forgives me when I succumb to fear--even the same fear over and over again. So I won't end with a great profession of faith, but rather I'll tell you this: that I'm afraid that I have failed--which I recognize to be a lie--and I am afraid of what the future holds. So when you think on it, say a prayer for me, and hopefully I'll say a prayer for you sometime soon, too.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Devil Came on Horseback

Last Saturday evening, I had the privilege of seeing the documentary The Devil Came on Horseback, a portrayal of the genocide currently occurring in Sudan's Darfur region. I am also in the process of reading Dave Eggers What is the What, a novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng one of the "Lost Boys" victimized by the Sudanese civil war that preceded the current violence. I highly recommend both the film and the book. The story of Sudan is an important story for you to know.

Here's some highlights for you to know:
  • 450,000 are dead
  • 2.5-3 million people are displaced
  • 3.5 million depend on food aid
A little bit more: The Rwandan genocide lasted 100 days. The genocide in Darfur began in 2003, raging for the last five years. The US government declared the conflict in the Darfur region genocide in 2007. According to the Geneva Conference, any nation declaring a conflict to be genocide is required to take action to end the genocide. The US has done nothing past speech-making at the UN since the declaration. The UN itself has passed 27 resolutions, each of which was so watered-down that no action has taken place. China who gets most of its oil from Sudan continues to protect the government and keep any real action from taking place. The current conflict in Chad, Sudan's neighbor, is fueled by the Sudanese government who have aided the rebels in Chad. The conflict began on the day that European Union troops were scheduled to arrive to provide aid and protection for the Sudanese refugees. EU troop deployment has been delayed.

What you can do: Write to your senators and congressmen. Write to the president. Demand that the US move to end the conflict. There is much that we can do without forcing our own troops into further conflict. Become informed and inform others. Make sure that your investments are not in Sudanese oil. If you have connections with the coming Olympics, make sure that the conflict in Darfur is heard about everywhere. The Olympics are a great opportunity to pressure China to stop exporting oil and impose economic sanctions on the Sudanese government. Cut your own use of oil and boycott Shell Oil, the largest producer of oil in Sudan. Do not be afraid or too complacent to take action.

Above all, pray for an end to the conflict. I believe that God cares deeply for the Sudanese refugees, the raiders backed by the Sudanese government, and the officials of that government. We have a God of justice, love, and hope. These are the things that Sudan needs more than anything. Pray. And then pray again.

To learn more, check out the movie website. It's a great resource with links to several organizations involved in the fight to end genocide.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Juno

Last night I went to see Juno with a friend from work. Phenomenal movie. Best movie to come out this year in my humble opinion.

Juno has received flack for the ill-handling of certain social/political issues, i.e. teen pregnancy, adoption, abortion, and women's rights. But if you are looking for a political or social message in this film, then you are watching the wrong flick.


My interpretation: Juno was not intended to provide social commentary on any of the previously mentioned issues. Juno is a story about people. People with messy lives. People who choose to love one another in the midst of the mess.


What struck me as I walked away from the movie was that a person's ability to love despite the mess, in the mess, and sometimes because of the mess is one of the unique and precious traits that is only human. In fact, it's beyond human. This amazing ability to love exemplifies the image of God marked upon us--the image of the God who is love.


We are all very uniquely messy. And by messy, I mean that we all have external situations that cause us heartache or infuriate us, we all have faulty patterns of thinking that keep us in destructive patterns, we all have egocentric tendencies and self-addictions, and we are all hopefully flawed. Often times I grow tired of dealing with my own mess, and more frequently I tire of dealing with others' messy lives. But inevitably, because of God's grace and love that He lavishes on me and my mess, I find that often I still choose to love the messy people. I don't think we need to, nor do I think that it is healthy, to love the mess--but I do think it is essential to love the person surrounded by the mess. It's easy, but it is something that God gave us an innate ability to do.


When I can, I hope that I'll choose to love. I'm hopeful that love will become habit in my life--my first response no matter what the mess is.


"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35