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Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

600,000.  That is a greater number than the population of Miami, FL.  Imagine every child in Jacksonville, FL starving to death and there was nothing you could do about it.  All the local hospitals are out of medicine, the local Red Cross is out of food. There is no safe passage for resources to be delivered to you and your family. The local law enforcement is not allowing you to leave Jacksonville and imprisoning those who try.

Now imagine not being the front page story in the national news.

Last month over 30,000 children died of starvation while 12 million of their fellow countrymen stumble toward a similar destination. 600,000 children are dying. Families, and these are family centered people, are being divided in half by decisions of which child they will be able to save and which child will die. The people are facing the worst draught in their region in  60 years, but there major enemy is famine.

“Droughts are ‘acts of God’, but famine’s are man made” Bono of the band U2 said in an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN.  It is true that draught has created a major depletion of resources in Somalia, but it is the human element the keeps salvation just out of arms length.  If there was ever a case of evil oppression, this is it.  The unarmed and out resourced citizens have been overrun by extremist, War Lords, and pirates who have created a power center by cutting off outside assistance. It is because of these people that over the past 20 years many countries have pulled back aid and many aid organizations are hesitant to return.

Over the years, it seems, we as a world have become jaded when it comes to areas like the Horn of Africa.  We have heard the stories about the Battle of Mogadishu.  We have seen the results of massive pirating in the region.  We have felt the frustration of aid being stolen and wasted.  A land torn by civil war. K’NAAN, a Somalian artist, has said we have put up a “psychological fence around our heart”. (see attached video for CNN source)

These may be reasons to walk cautiously, but not to turn a blind eye. In the same CNN interview, Bono said, “We’d rather watch people in the high streets of London fighting police officers while children in Somalia are fighting for their life.  People watch the stock values crumble while I think about our own sense of values tumbling.”  Bono doesn’t dismiss the hardships happening in our lives, but he is saying that loosing his house does not compare with the fear and tragedy of loosing his family.

Perhaps it is not just a jaded heart that keeps us from action.  Maybe we are stunned into believing we cannot do anything and bewilldered by the difficult intricacy of it all. To this Bono responds,

“We should not let the complexity of the situation absolve us from the responsibility to act.”

There are things we can do.  There are things within our control.  We can petition our leaders to do what they have promised to do regarding Somalia.  If you have wondered why I have only posted quotes from two musicians, here is the sad answer:  There was nothing to quote from our politicians.  They are spending an exorbitant amount of resources attempting to find a politically favorable solution to a recession born out of our excess while Somalia needs a solution born out of their paucity.

As we urge our world leaders to take action to provide safe passageway for the needed resources, we must be ready to give of ourselves and our resources. Jesus Christ said that the greatest gift we can give our friends is to lay down our lives.  Laying down our lives is not just about dying, but about sacrifice.  Even if we don’t have money to spare this doesn’t mean we have nothing to give.  Pray. Share their story. Lift up their humanity. Lift up your humanity, and face this crisis head on by refusing to ignore it. Light overcomes the darkness and we were made to be light.

What can you do?

Get knowledge. Petition. Give. Share.

Learn about Somalia and the region

Here is a link to the Anderson Cooper/Bono/K’NAAN interview.

Thursday Night watch Anderson Cooper (who is in Mogadishu) give the latest report at 10PM

Petition your leaders from the ONE.ORG site.

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Every once in awhile I ask my daughter to tell me a story.  Her animated style is excellent. Sometimes what she says makes sense and sometimes you get what follows:

Once upon a time there was a little bear and a choo choo train came along and they crashed (insert dramatic ‘oh no’ here) but the Bear became sick and he was trapped in a (wait for it) birdcage and went on a biiiiiig yellow slide and then he crashed (oh no) into an (wait for it) Orange! and he looked into the sky and around and around and around and around he goes.

I loved the story and I felt sorry for the bear and was wondering how big that orange must have been. It is delightful to hear children tell stories.  They take a little from this and that and often add details of things that are right before them.  They are unencumbered with logical flow or endings, the joy is in the telling… but only for so long until they are on to the next thing.

Often times our faith journey’s are very similar to my 3 year old’s story telling skills.  We are enthusiastic about telling our story and we sponge up details from all around us, but too often we don’t know how to put our story together.  Our faith stories and what we believe are often fragmented and random experiences that we hardly take time to process before we move on to the next distraction in our life.

Do you ever think about what you believe?  Do you ever think about how what you believe can add or detract from your life? Perhaps the real question is not what you believe in, but what do you have faith in.

Many people point to Christians and do not see a change in their life.  They see people who profess a belief but live with little faith that what they believe is true. They see Christians tell a story with great animation but with no visible conviction and as people who get distracted by the next shiny object or idea that comes their way.

How we respond to a belief is the difference between conversion and discipleship.  The convert says, “that looks nice, I believe that to be true.  I will claim that as my own”.  It requires nothing of them. They can pick and choose and generally do so by adding things incompatible with their chosen belief. Faith, on the other hand, moves us to a place of commitment. Faith means we act on what we believe. Faith moves us past conversion and into discipleship. Jesus didn’t say “go make converts” he said “go make disciples”.  Faith requires us to think about what we believe and interact with it. Faith leads us beyond the glitz of good animation and into a life of depth and purposeful living.

I love my daughter’s stories and they are appropriate for a 3 year old and randomness works for her.  My faith story, however, I want it to have purpose and depth.  Is your life made up of belief or faith? Is your belief peripheral or essential? Is it just a cute story or does it matter?

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I read an article today in which a person said that we needed the death of Bin Laden to come together as a nation. Now despite my chuckle at this man’s optimism that our nation has “come together”, I was a little bothered that we would “need” the death of anyone to come together.  What does this say about our needs as a human race that we need something violent to bring us together? My concern is that if it is death that brings us together, then how do we cope with life?

The words that have been circulating around the death of Osama Bin Laden vary: relief, pride, closure, joyful, glee, rejoice, revenge, retribution, etc.  There has been a need for closure for the tragedy of 9/11.  Bin Laden needed to be brought in for justice.  With the death of Bin Laden there has been a welling up of emotions in many people.  I have witnessed the struggle between vengeance, retaliation, forgiveness, celebration, and peace. I have seen my Christian brothers and sisters respond well and some not so well. I have questioned my own reactions.  I have concluded that I see no conflict with loving one’s enemy and forgiveness juxtaposed with the outcome of Bin Laden’s life.  Relief in someone’s death is different than celebration. In short, forgiveness and love does not equal blind tolerance to allow someone to continue to harm others and themselves.

Before I write anymore I would also like to add that after reading how the SEALS accomplished this mission I am amazed at their skill and humbled by the burden they carry in all they do and the burden they must carry now.  I am thankful for men and women like them and at the same time wish they weren’t needed.  I think it is good that Osama was found and though I do not mourn his death, I do not rejoice in his dying.

My concern goes deeper than the internal spiritual struggle. My concern is with the emotional response we expose in times like this.  I remember watching the news in 1993 after the disaster that took place in the Battle of Mogadishu, the one depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down, and the bodies of our soldiers being dragged through the streets. I had to wonder this week how close emotionally we are to that kind of scene.  What would have happened if Osama had been dropped alive in the middle of NYC? Our emotions are responding to rage, fear, assumed patriotism, mourning, frustration, etc.  The one thing we are not responding to is the divinity in our humanity.

The question I am faced with is do we really need the death of Osama Bin Laden to have closure, satisfaction, or security. The sad news is that this event really does not change anything permanently.  The end of the crusades did not stop men from misinterpreting scripture for evil purposes. The death of Hitler didn’t stop mad men from desiring the destruction of others not like themselves.  The death of Bin Laden will not stop hatred from infecting the minds of millions. Just like the silence after a murderer was hanged in the public square, we will simply read the news and go home to await another tragedy and hope for a good vengeance story.

Bleek? A little bit much for even my taste.  Reality? I know that a lot of camping and survivalist gear sold quite well in all the camping sections after the news of Osama’s death broke.  Is there good news? You better believe it.  There is a wonderful hymn that has been pulsing through my ears for about two months now, “my hope is built on nothing less that Jesus blood and righteousness”.  I thank God that I am in relationship with Him, especially in times like these.  The reason is that my hope does not rest in the news of this world nor the government, but that it rest completely in Jesus Christ.

We talk about Jesus’ blood and generally we see that blood as his blood that was spilt for our forgiveness and freedom.  But I see it also in his resurrection, bodily and whole, blood and bones.  He is a God who forgives in his death and invites me to participate in his resurrection.  His resurrection means that I have no fear of death for death is not final for me.  If I have no fear in death and my hope is in Christ, then what do I have to fear in life? Why do I have to wait on the demise of another to find satisfaction in me? I don’t.  My identity if found in him and therefore my security is not found in the tragedies of this world.  I do not have to wait for someone to apologize to me, or be brought to justice for something they have done to me in order for me to find peace. In Christ, I have a peace that passes all understanding and therefore can live out a life of peace and hope. This does not mean I live in denial or that I do this easily, but it does mean that I know where the source of true peace comes from and I have never been let down by Him before.

I am troubled by the man’s statement in that article about a nation needing the death of someone to bring us together because it means we are a nation with much to fear, much to loose, and much burden.  When people live out of that kind of burden it becomes difficult to truly live, to truly trust, to be honest with ones self and one another.  I think there is more to this world and this life and that is the reason I am an evangelist.  I do want people to know Christ.  But my agenda is not in moral superiority.  My agenda is not about propagating law.  My evangelism, which means good news, is about just that; good news.  Hope. Identity. Freedom.  Jesus Christ reminds us of our true humanity which is rooted in his divinity.  God is calling us all to be reconciled to him that we may discover who we really are.  He calls out to us and beckons us not to come together in death, but be unified in life, a life he offers freely. The peace and hope I had before and after the death of Bin Laden is the same, for it is not dependent on the ways of men but an everlasting source from the God of love.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated April 4th 1968.  A horrible act that turned a man’s living into martyrdom.  He was a man who had a dream of racial and class equality, a life where men and women were judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.  A dream that did not die but continues to work its way through life.

Dreams and visions are of vital importance in our lives.  To dream means we must recognize the potential of greatness to come.  To dream means that we stand in the presence of a reality we are not satisfied is as yet completed. To dream means we are not satisfied with ourselves enough to sit and rest.  Many people dream, but few of us live lives that reflect the hope we believe will come.

What made Martin Luther King, Jr. the giant we imagine him to be today is not that he was martyred and it is not that he delivered amazing speeches. What made him a force of hope was not only that he believed his dream, but that he also lived that dream before it became a reality.  He respected others before he was respected.  He was honest with others before they were honest with him.  He did this because he must have known that any dream worth living must begin with the character of that dream in the present reality.

Jesus preached that the kingdom of heaven is here now in part and one day it will be completed.  We talk of “one day” living in heaven and what that will be like. But what use is living in heaven standards “one day” if we are not willing to live heaven standards now? Jesus says we can step into the reality of heaven now.  He says it won’t be easy, but he is with us every step of the way.  But don’t you dream of knowing what it would be like to live in the freedom to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, live as light in a world of darkness, and bring a taste of goodness to a world that feeds on bitterness?  What is your dream?  Are you willing to start living it now?

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Acquired Taste

I was eating a bag of “Sweetly Hot BBQ” chips the other day.  When purchased, we thought they were just “sweet”.  Post crunch we reexamined the bag title. The chips were not proportionally hot by any means.  Some where tame and then I would find my tongue and throat abandoning their post and seeking asylum in my nasal cavities.  Sydney, who is like a CIA operative when it comes to finding intel on where snacks are located, discovers the chips and desperately wants one.  Mommy tells her that they are too hot and spicy for her.  Sydney finally gave up on her mission and I was left with the thought of how some tastes need acquiring.

You’ve heard this before, “it’s an acquired taste”.  It is usually said by someone who likes something that the majority of people think is disgusting.  Have you ever thought this through?  What this means is that the first time you taste it you will find it revolting.  So, logically, you try it again and only find it disgusting, then mildly putrid, then tolerably bad, questionably ok, slightly interesting, possibly adequate, maybe good, awesome, to “you’ve got to try this, it’s an acquired taste”.  It’s like watching a fireman light up a cigarette after pulling someone out of a burning building, all the while placing an oxegen mask on the victim and telling them, “Look, we need to put this on you, (puff, puff, inhale) you swallowed a bunch of smoke (exhale) and we don’t won’t you to get sick (big puff hold aaaaand release).”

We have an obsession with image and what we think is “good” for us.  We torture ourselves to please others.  You doubt me?  Skinny Jeans, Waxing, Fraternities.  We abuse our bank accounts in order to buy clothes that we need to abuse our bodies to fit into because we abused our mouths to eat stuff we didn’t originally like.

Then God comes along and says, “try this.”

What is it?

It’s bread and wine.

Will it make me puke?

No. It gives opportunity to live.

Is it an acquired taste?

No. There is nothing to acquire, only taste and see that it is good.

You see, we get to a point in our life that everything that we think is good was acquired through something we initially thought was bad.  Then we thought it was good.  Then we wondered why it didn’t fulfill.  God offers us something good and we become suspicious.  We are told we must surrender and take up our cross and then we say, “aha! I knew there was a catch!”  But the reality is that surrendering isn’t a condition for God to give to us, but a condition for us to receive. If you are holding a porcupine and I want to give you a bandaid, you have to put the rodent down.

With Christ, he simply is offering you life, abundant life, a fulfilled life.  It is not something we have to acquire.  It is something good from the first taste.

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Tombstone Trophies

The clutter of life piles in pillars.  Monuments to my insatiable appetite. They are prophets of emptiness.  These pillars, these statues, these tombstone trophies of perishing reminders that I have not found what I seek. Yet I still listen to their comforting whispers and warning shouts.  Despite the collection of dust that rests on their muzzle, I hear their words as wisdom.  Why else would I spend vast amounts of life being consumed by my consumption?  Why else would I listen to these false prophets; these dogs of desire?

The creeks, cries, and calls of my life no longer sound dissonant.  Their familiarity breeds content.  I rest in denial though I’ve been denied nothing.

Fast. Fasting. Cross. Cross Bearing. Die. Dying.

These are the dissonant words I hear.  An ill struck chord that shakes my teeth. A sound I mistake as out-of-place.  Discovery is disconcerting.  Truth unwavering.  Moving past the rattling in my mouth I hear my weariness.  I hear my weakness.  I hear my salvation.  These new words, these monumental words, these trying words are not dissonant.  They are not new.  An echo through time of symphonic bliss. A river of truth, inviting winds of change, reveal that what I had called comforting whispers before was but a crying baby in a symphony hall.

Fast. Fasting. Cross. Cross Bearing. Die. Dying.

These are not elements of a bleak life.  These are not elements of a suffocating religion.

These are the means of grace in which I am purged of my addictions.                                                                                                                                                              These are the means of grace in which I am cleansed of my consumption.                                                                                                                                                     These are the means of grace in which I find what I am looking for.

It is not death to die, but to Live is Christ.

To Live Is Christ.

to LIVE is CHRIST!

I once denied nothing, yet had nothing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I now deny all, and find what I seek

Life. Overflowing life. Abundant life.

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A Life Saved

There is a show I like to watch from time to time called, “I Shouldn’t Have Survived”.  The show interviews and reenacts dramatic tales of survival.  There are stories of people surviving Bear attacks, mountain climbing tragedies, and open ocean disasters, to name just a few.  They are amazing stories.

This morning I was reading Exodus and the story of Moses and his ride in a basket down the nile, his grown up murder of an Egyptian, and his subsequent flee for his life out of Egypt.  It seemed like the story of Moses has a lot of “I shouldn’t have survived” moments.  I was only in chapter 2.

The stories on that television show are quite extraordinary.  After reading Exodus, I noticed something else.  More than likely the most extraordinary thing that will happen to most of these people is a seriously bad vacation.  Rescue.  Their life rescued has become the narrative of their life.  Rescue is not a bad narrative.  These are tremendous stories, indeed.  But, what happens after?

Only two chapters in and Moses has been rescued twice.  He settled into comfort afterward.  Who could blame him.  Newly married, a fun father-in-law, and a decent job, he’s living the Hebrew dream.  Moses, however, is not defined by rescue, but by mission.  His salvation does not rest with him alone and does not end in complacent rest.  As soon as God delivers him from the frying pan, he sends him to the kettle.

Most people ,when asked what Moses is known for, will say, “delivering the Hebrews from slavery”.  This is true and important, but only a small portion of Exodus deals with the, well, Exodus.  Exodus chronicles the movement of God through Moses leading a people to God, to a promise, to a land, to an identity. Salvation wasn’t the end, it was a means to an end.  Salvation was a pathway to living.  The amazing thing in the history of the Hebrews is not that they were saved from Egypt, but that they became a nation.

What are you becoming?  Is the most significant thing in your life your deliverance or where God is leading you?  Deliverance is crucial, but it is just the beginning.  Don’t be defined by what you were saved from, but live in to what you are saved for; an abundant life of sharing life.

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