Archive for April, 2011

Controlling Doubt

I have a problem, one with control. I am the person that sits there and makes endless to do list’s just so I can get the joy of checking off the items that have been completed. I like to have days off planned and scheduled out with specific tasks. I constantly find myself sitting and thinking and planning out my future and what I will be doing when. I am the person that persistently asks “Why?” to everything because I need to know, even when it is pointless or meaningless facts (just ask my husband, he loves it J). I am usually a fairly calm person and take things as they come, but the moments I lose my cool are usually related to losing control over the situation and realizing that I don’t know how to adapt to the changes or don’t see how to.

One thing I have learned over the years is that with all my planning, scheduling, and fight to keep control is that this doesn’t work with God. He is on his own timeline, He will always have the final say, and He may not always want to answer my questions of “Why?” And many times God has and will continue to throw me for a loop and change the direction I think He is taking me.

So if I know that God has the control of my life why do I continue on attempting to plan out everything? Is it really a control issue or does it stem from someplace deeper? Where does my worry of losing control come from?

Over and over throughout the Bible, God taught His people not to worry because He would provide. After God had delivered the Israelites from the Pharaoh, they found themselves out in the desert without access to adequate food and water. Moses cried out to God, and He provided them with a spring of water. God also provided them with just enough manna for each day. Even though God promised to continue to provide, some still collected more than they needed and they would wake the next day to find the manna full of maggots (see Exodus 15 and 16).

When I look at this story, I can find myself easily relating to the Israelites that collected more than their share just in case. How many times has my mind been full of thoughts of “what if God doesn’t come through?” So maybe my control issues really stem from the fear that one day God will stop providing for me.  Not once has this ever happened, and God has continuously promised to always provide. So maybe I am more afraid of the doubt I hold at times deep within that I choose to try and take control of the situation so I don’t have to face this doubt.

A recent quote I read states:

“We need not exert ourselves and try to force ourselves to believe, or try to chase doubt out of our hearts. Both are just as useless. It beings to dawn on us that we can bring everything to Jesus, no matter how difficult it is; and we need not be frightened away by our doubts or our weak faith, but only tell Jesus how weak our faith is. We have let Jesus into our hearts. And He will fulfill our hearts’ desires.”

 ~ O. Hallesby

As a result I sit here being honest, I DOUBT AT TIMES. I find comfort in the fact that God recognizes and still continues to provide. God probably sits back laughing and rolling His eyes at me due to some of my planning antics, but I find comfort in that too. I enjoy having a God who accepts me for who I am, faults and all, and is still willing to use me. So maybe it’s only fitting that for a long time now my life verse has been:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~ Matthew 6:34

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World Malaria Day

Today is recognized as World Malaria Day, which can be known as a celebration for what has been done in the fight against malaria, a day of remembrance for the lives lost to this preventable disease, and day of calling to do more.

“About 3.3 billion people – half the world’s population – are at risk of malaria, which is endemic in 106 countries. In 2009 there were an estimated 225 million cases and some 800,000 people died, the vast majority of them children in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Malaria costs Africa an estimated US$ 12 billion every year in lost GDP, even though it could be controlled for a fraction of that sum.” ~ The Global Fund: Fighting Malaria

This calling is close to my heart due to firsthand experience in seeing the devastation Malaria can cause. During the summer of 2008, I spent 5 weeks in The Gambia, which is a small country on the coast of West Africa. The entire population of Gambia is at high risk for malaria at all times of the year because of the country’s warm and wet climate. On top of this the United Nations Development Program considers The Gambia one of the Least Developed Countries in the world. The largest struggle the country faces when fighting malaria is insufficient resources and funding.

The primary purpose of my trip was academic, with the focus to learn about how the healthcare system worked and specific focus on Malaria treatment and prevention. I spent time meeting with Ministry of Health officials, heads of NGO’s, healthcare workers, and community health volunteers. During this time, I also spent time volunteering in local clinics throughout the capital Banjul. I was able to see how the various policies for Malaria treatment and prevention were configured from the national and international perspective and how and if they were carried through to the actual population. The largest dilemma I noticed was that while the government worked to hand out preventative measures, such as long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLNs), they only had enough resources for the most vulnerable population – pregnant women and children under 5. For the rest of the population most could not afford the supplies.

[Gambia fact sheet on Malaria from WHO]

The most effective way of preventing Malaria infection is distributing LLNs. Not only are they cost effective, LLNs provide proper protection to people while they are sleeping, which is when the most transmissions occur. Indoor residual spraying of insecticides on the indoor surfaces and roofs of all houses provides protection by killing mosquitoes that enter and rest on the treated surfaces.

So what can you do?

The most effective way is to raise awareness and provide funding to organizations that are providing Malaria prevention and treatment supplies to at risk populations.

Nothing But Nets

Malaria No More

Africa Fighting Malaria

Here is a list of organizations that are involved with this fight: Roll Back Malaria

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Easter Reflections

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, the renewal of life and new beginnings. We rejoice in the fulfillment of prophecy and scripture. We find joy in the knowledge that Christ took the utmost punishment for our wrong-doings and conquered them all. And while these are all things that we should always remember and celebrate at all times of the year, Easter provides us the chance to especially focus on these facts that we can all to easily forget.

This Lenten period for me has been a time of reflection, growth, praise, and patience as I have worked to focus my time on God and His role in my life. This time of introspection on how I am living out God to those around me, while trying to do so at the same time, has opened me up to new thoughts, ways of living, and relationships with others. Through the times of reflection I have become reacquainted with the value of daily time with God. I have always known the worth of having and making the room in my schedule for time with God; however, the problem has always been implementing this and sticking to the plan. Starting this blog has really allowed me to stay committed to my time with God, which is quite odd to say.

So my prayers go out to all today as each person celebrates Easter in their own way, Easter Bunny and all. I pray that each person find meaning in today and what it represents. I pray that people take the challenge Christ left us with in The Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20) to go out amongst the world sharing His love. I pray that each person learns of the unending grace and mercy of a God who never stops loving us no matter what.

Opening the door to dine with Him.
Traveling to Earth to let us in.
Laying down His glory crown of old.
Setting up the wedding feast foretold.

Oh, we can’t contain our love.
We turn it up loud.

We love You, Jesus!
For so many reasons.
For death and life and freedom.
Even now, we love you.

What manner of love is this that You would say
your sin is Mine, I’ll take it to the grave. (then rising).
Death oh, death where is your sting today?
Death is swallowed up in victory.

We love You, Jesus!
For so many reasons.
For death and life and freedom.
Even now, we love you.
We love You, Jesus!
In and out of seasons.
In valleys and on top of mountains.
Even now, can we sing.

We love you Jesus.
Jesus.

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Old Testament Justice

Through my experiences in church I have noticed that many people seem to stray away from the Old Testament. A common message I hear from fellow believers is the view point that the Old Testament God is terrifying, fear provoking, and violent, and the New Testament God is full of love and compassion. Yes the Old Testament has stories of entire cities being destroyed, wars between nations, and punishment of evildoers, but between these passages are laws, stories, messages, and prayers of love.

Many comments I hear are centered on the word justice. The idea of justice in the Old Testament doesn’t need to be associated the concept of divine retribution and punishment. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word mishpat means “justice” and “its various forms occurs more than two hundred times . . . Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably . . .[it] means more than just the punishment of wrongdoing. It also means to give people their rights” (Generous Justice by Timothy Keller, p. 3).

Scattered throughout the entire Old Testament are passages filled with God caring for the vulnerable, seeking love for all people, and calling us, His people, to follow after Him. And they are centered upon the word justice.

“Do not deny justice to your people in their lawsuits.” ~Exodus 23:6

“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” ~Leviticus 19:15

“Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow. Then all people shall say, ‘Amen!’” ~Deuteronomy 27:19

“I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” ~Psalms 140:12

“The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” ~Ezekiel 22:29

“And what does the Lord require of you, but do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~Micah 6:8

These are simply snippets of many more passages within just the Old Testament. You cannot read these passages and not feel a calling to justice. In the book Generous Justice by Timothy Keller (which I am currently working through), he provides the explanation that, “Nevertheless, if you are trying to live a life in accordance with the Bible, the concept and call to justice are inescapable. We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creation of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God” (18).

God is calling each one of us to life of justice, a life filled with out pouring love to all people and where all people are treated with equality and rightly. Nowhere in the Old or New Testament does God call us to life of justice that means judging others and seeking retribution in His name. God was love then, He is love now, and He will continue to be eternally. We are simply called to follow after him, fulfilling his justice onto the world.

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Rise in Food Prices

With food prices, we are at a real tipping point.  Food prices are 36 percent above the levels of a year ago and remain close to the 2008 peak.  Already 44 million people have fallen into poverty since June of last year.  If the Food Price Index rises by just another 10 percent, we estimate another 10 million people will fall into extreme poverty – that is where people live on less than $1.25 a day.  And a 30 percent increase would add 34 million more people to the world’s poor, who number 1.2 billion.

We can do something about this.

~ World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick

There is a worldwide food crisis that is affecting not only the poorest countries but the US as well. Many of the riots that are occurring across the globe, especially in Northern Africa and the Middle East, have been rooted in the issues of access to food. On top of this the continuing rise in oil prices increase the funds needed to simply transport the food.

Here are some resources for you to learn more:

One Campaign

World Bank

“Food price rises pushing millions into extreme poverty, World Bank warns”

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Finding A Voice

I would rather make people feel uncomfortable and get in trouble for speaking out than sitting back and never letting my voice be heard. Apathy is no longer an option. Giving up and saying no one cares and no one is listening doesn’t exist anymore. In our technological age, news travels fast, so when injustice occurs, I feel compelled to speak out.

Growing up I was usually quite timid about what I thought. I would become very involved and passionate about specific causes, but I was terrified about being the person who would stand up and speak out. While attending Xavier University for my undergrad, I began to find my voice. Through a student group and research fellowship I was a part of my junior year, I took a stand on the genocide in Darfur by leading events, bringing in speakers, and collaborating with organizations throughout the city. On top of all of this, Xavier is a Jesuit institution, so at the core of the school are principles of finding the intrinsic value in all while engaging and promoting the issues of peace and justice.

Since my time at Xavier and my beginning preparations for me and my husband’s move to Georgia to volunteer, I have felt strengthened in making my voice heard. This blogging experience has been a huge instrument for that.

Through continued experiences, encounters, frustrations, and times of joy, I have learned that choosing to act voiceless is not what I am called to do. I don’t claim to have all the answers or be perfect. I try my best to make sure all my facts are straight before speaking out, and if you disagree then let me know because I’m more than willing to listen. I just ask that in the same way I do my research that you take the time to check your facts.

Ignorance is longer an option when the rich continue to become wealthier and the poor are driven further into poverty, when people are killed daily in acts of war, when people across the globe continuously go to bed hungry, when people are dying daily from preventable diseases, when slavery exists, when children are forced into grueling work conditions, when unjust laws are passed.

We are all called by Our Father to different causes. Christ was more than willing to make people feel uncomfortable, especially if it meant challenging them to change their ways. At the beginning of His ministry, Christ returned to his home synagogue in Nazareth, and when handed to scroll of Isaiah, Christ read a very specific passage that caused him to be driven out of town….

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” ~Isaiah 61:1-2/ Luke 4:18-19

So I challenge you to find your voice. As Shane Claiborne says, “Welcome to the revolution of little people, guerrilla peacemakers, and dancing prophets, the revolution that loves and laughs. The revolution begins inside each of us, and through little acts of love, it will take over the world. Let us begin to be Christians again.”

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First Love

In the beginning of the book of Revelation there are seven letters from Christ, which are believed to be a preview of the downward course of the church and/or letters to existing churches. In the letter to the Church in Ephesus it is written, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (2:4).

The Church in Ephesus began with great zealousness. In the book of Acts, there is a story of seven sons of a Jewish priest who went to drive an evil spirit out of a man. The spirit answered that it knew who Jesus and Paul were but questioned who they were. The man then proceeded to have enough strength to beat up all seven of them. The people of Ephesus response was that “they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor” (19:17). People confessed their sins, and those who practiced sorcery gathered their scrolls and burned them publicly. “In this way the word of the lord spread widely and grew in power” (19:20). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he commends them for their love and faith in Christ (1:15).

The time Revelation was written, the Church in Ephesus was being led by a second-generation of believers who had lost the zeal for God. They had lost their “first love.” This letter calls to them to come back to where they started, to the excitement they once held.

This message rings true for many churches and believers today. You start off extremely excited about this everlasting love that you’ve discovered that you want everyone to know, and then slowly the excitement seems to die off. The community becomes more internally focused on day to day items that need to be accomplished to keep everything running. Outreach opportunities become scheduled events that occur at the church. Service is equated with day, weekend, or week long “mission” opportunities. The first love created a thrilling and exhilarating environment that has become stagnant and static.

To be the Church Christ has called us to be we must look outside our walls, beyond our comfort zones. We must return to the love that saved us. We must live, laugh, and love amongst those we serve.

Danish pastor Kaj Munk once said:

“What is therefore, our task today? Shall I answer: ‘Faith, hope, and love?’ That sounds beautiful. But I would say – courage. No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth. Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature . . . we lack a holy rage – the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth . . . a holy rage about the things that are wrong in the world.”

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Dream for Today: Federal Budget Debate

Activist and minister Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the infamous speech “I have a Dream” while on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. The speech occurred during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was a defining moment in the Civil Rights Movement. His moving words spoke to the hearts of thousands of people and they still ring true today.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” . . .

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” . . .

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Although almost 48 years have passed since Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this speech, we continue to exist in a broken world where discrimination, poverty, and violence occur, which were some of the crucial evils of the world that he worked to fight. Daily we see headlines filled with the continuous violence in the Middle East, which the United States effortlessly contributes to. We hear countless stories of people in distant countries going to bed hungry and forgetting that there are people who live right around us who face the very same issues. We see and encounter continuous instances of injustice, discrimination, and racism towards groups of people, such as the continued to debates that have broken out over Islam.

We are faced with a government who is willing to propose billions of dollars in cuts to programs that directly support those who need it the most. A government willing to discriminate against the poor and cut funding to programs like HUD, the Community Development Fund, WIC, community health centers, mental health services Peace Corps, Ameri Corps, and US funding to the UN, USAID, and PEPFAR. However, the Defense Department will receive a $5 billion increase from its 2010 budget. (Here is a great article that reviews the cuts proposed from the late night Friday deal with links to the original text)

Martin Luther King, Jr. taught that there is the possibility of equality, peace, and justice. We cannot sit back and doing nothing, but we must become active and involved. We must use our voices, share our dreams, and fight together for what is right. We must hope for the day when we all live in community together.

Our voices can still be heard. The House doesn’t vote until Thursday, and the Senate votes on Friday. Contact your Representatives and let them know how you feel.

 

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When the Saints by Sara Groves

For this post I leave you simply with a great and challenging song by Sara Groves. The video posted has no images because I think it is important to listen to this song and reflect. Enjoy!

Lord I have a heavy burden

It’s all I’ve seen and know

But your word is like a fire and I cannot let it go

When I’m weary and overwrought

With so many battles left unfought

I see Paul and Silas in the prison yard

I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

And when the Saints go marching in

I want to be one of them

Lords it’s all I can’t carry and I cannot leave behind

So I think of those before me who’ve lived a faithful life

When I’m weary and overwrought

With so many battles left unfought

I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharaoh’s court

I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

And when the saints go marching in

I want to be one of them.

When I’m weary and overwrought

With so many battles left unfought

I see the long quite walk along the Underground Railroad

I see Harriet awakening to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary and the angry spear

I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights

I see the sisters standing by that dying mans side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor

I see the man with a passion come and kicking down the door

I see the man of sorrow and his long troubled road

I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

When the saints go marching in

I want to be one of them.

When the saints go marching in

I want to be one of them

I want to be one of them

Oh, I want to be one of them

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The Lazarus Effect and Fighting HIV/AIDS

History will judge us on how we respond to the AIDS emergency in Africa….whether we stood around with watering cans and watched while a whole continent burst into flames….or not. ~ Bono

The ONE campaign initiated an event titled “Lazarus Sunday” for today. The goal was to bring the story of the Lazarus Effect, which is a documentary made to show the transformative effects that anti-retroviral drugs can have on people with AIDS, to congregations across the United States. The term “Lazarus Effect” comes from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus of Bethany from the dead in John 11:1-45, and the idea that life can happen again.

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV and nearly 30 million people have died of HIV-related causes. In 2009, 5.2 million people in low- and middle-income countries had access to antiretroviral treatment, up from 700,000 in 2004. There are 10 million people still in need of treatment who do not have access. However, for about 40 cents a day, two anti-retroviral (ARV) pills can transform the life of someone living with AIDS in as few as 40 days. As one of largest donors of the Global Fund, the United States directly supports and provides ARV treatment for more than 3.2 million men, women, and children.

I had the chance to see the devastation of what the AIDS epidemic has done, especially to sub-Saharan Africa. I spent the summer of 2006 in Namibia, in Southern Africa, traveling and teaching about treatment and prevention measures for HIV/AIDS.  Since that time, I have made a point to stay informed and involved with raising awareness and getting others engaged, and as a Christian, I have a further calling to care for my brothers and sisters in Christ.

HIV/AIDS is not only a problem of those that live overseas; it is a disease that affects those living in our very own cities. There are 1.5 million people living in North America with HIV, 70,000 new infections in 2009, and 26,000 AIDS-related deaths.

Christ called us to action, to care for the least among us, so take the time and learn how much of an impact you can make.

Here are several websites where you can learn more about HIV/AIDS and get involved:

The Global Fund: Fighting AIDS

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS

One Campaign

Partners in Health: HIV/AIDS project

 

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