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.