Archive for May, 2011

Sympathetic World

We all have the innate ability to relate to others, to attempt to feel what they feel. If the people around us are feeling pain, we try to understand and provide them with some type of relief. Or do we?

In the natural sense of empathy, we ought to see others suffering, have a sense of understanding from our own personal sufferings, and be driven to act; however, our society has been continuously propelled down a technology driven, individualistic path that has allowed us to separate ourselves from these pains. In all reality, our culture has moved more from the ability to show empathy and compassion for others to one of simply sympathy alone. We sit back and think “how sad” instead of trying to actually understand the sufferings the other person may be experiencing.

In the same way, we have become desensitized to the tragedies that are occurring around the world. All you have to do is log on to any news website, and the headlines are full of the recent tragedies occurring both here in the United States and across the world. The problem is that we see these headlines so often that we can simply scan right past them without a second thought. On the other side of this, some of the greatest amount of aid people receive after such events like the tornados and flooding that have devastated the Midwest and South this Spring is right after due to the high amount of news coverage. However, the news goes on and as a culture we move on to whatever the next big headline is at that time. Often forgetting the ongoing needs of the people we were “helping” before.

I don’t sit here proclaiming that I have it all figured out. I sit here recognizing my own faults in this manner, my ability to ignore the needs of my neighbors. We are some of the richest people on this planet. But how many times have you watched the special on the suffering of a group of people and thought, “oh, someone else will give.” I know I have. While we aren’t going to be compelled to act and to give in every circumstance, acting ignorant or innocent is not an answer.

Time and time again in the Bible there are teachings and stories about the need to provide for our neighbors. From the basic laws set out in the first books about the Year of Jubilee and forgiveness of debt every 7 years to the repetitive words of caring for the least of these in Christ’s parables, the Bible teaches us that we are to care for others. God sent his one and only son to suffer alongside us, to understand our pains, and to walk in our shoes. God showed compassion on us and he suffered himself to take care of the mess we made, and through all of this he continues to provide for us. So if we were created in God’s image shouldn’t we share these same ideals?

We were created as creatures who love, who desire relationships with others. The problem is that we enclose ourselves with relationships that feel comfortable and that fit the norm. We struggle to step outside of these boundaries and get to know those “other” people. Christ didn’t come and sit around talking and eating with just the disciples, he went out and sat and ate with the beggars, the tax-collectors, the prostitutes, and the cast-offs. He made other people uncomfortable because of his unending love for others, and that alone should speak to us.

Our neighbors are calling; the question is if we’re willing to answer.

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Thank You

Over the past week I have been reminded multiple times of the amazing support God can provide, especially when you are not expecting it. Several posts ago, I discussed my current frustrations about support raising for Mission Year. Since that time God has answered prayers and provided us with many blessings.

This past weekend Josh and I hosted a fundraising dinner in Columbus titled, “LOVE GOD. FEED PEOPLE.” We had an excellent time hosting a full table of 10 people. The night went extremely well, provided us with an increase in funds, and allowed us to connect with new people who are wanting to support and pray for us during this next year. While preparing for the dinner Friday and Saturday was exhausting, hearing everyone applaud my husband for his amazing cooking couldn’t have made me prouder.

On top of the encouragement Josh and I felt after the incident with the gentleman at the North Market, I received an email from a good friend of mom’s that I have read multiple times since then. She shared her story of leaving a long career to enter full-time ministry. I first read this email Saturday afternoon as we were doing prep work for the dinner. I made Josh step away from the kitchen for a moment to sit down and read the email, and afterwards, we both sat there looking at each other, realizing that this was the comfort and encouragement we needed.

God never once promised that this path was going to be an easy one. Christ left us with very simple commands to love God with our entire beings and to love everyone around us, no matter what. Over and over again he taught of providing for the least among us, the most vulnerable. (Check out Matthew 25: 31-46)

So I continue on this path with the knowledge that God has lead me here and He knows what he is doing. I have faith and follow God, although I may not know where the next step may take me. A continuous conversations that Josh and I keep having is that we would rather live a life absent of regrets then sitting around 10, 20, or 30 years from now wishing we had done more. Many people have asked us when we are going to settle down, buy a house, and have kids, and the simple answer we provide is “whenever God says it’s time.” So we continue on together, knowing we are following God, and no matter those times we feel weary and discouraged, we know there are those of you out there who are continuously praying for us. And we say thank you.

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Love God. Feed People.

Sitting on the steps of a public market here in Columbus called North Market was a gentleman that multiple people had walked by saying, “No, Sorry.” Josh and I walked along getting ready to leave after shopping for the fundraising dinner we have tomorrow night and while walking by this gentleman who asked a very simple question, “Could I have some food?” When we chose to actually stop and talk, he continued to tell us that he just got out of prison several months ago, had kids at home, and he didn’t want to disappoint them by coming home with no food. Josh and I instantly looked at each other and knew we couldn’t continue walking. When we perked interest in what this man was saying, he kept on repeating “I don’t want your money, I just want some food.”

Josh and I didn’t have to say anything to each other and we both replied, “What do you want to eat?” He instantly had a surprised face and said “anything”. We found a barbeque place that had smelled good to us the entire time we had been shopping around and bought the largest individual meal option they had, walked out, and handed him a bag with 3 full containers. The gentleman looked at the bag, looked at us, looked back, and kept repeating “are you serious!?” Josh simply stated, “God blessed”, and we walked off. We didn’t care if his story was true or not, we just knew we couldn’t keep on walking.

What broke my heart the most was that this guy had been so surprised that we would actually be willing to stop and talk with him and actually get him food. When we were about to walk back in to get him some food, he had looked at me and said “sorry mam, I don’t mean to prolong your trip.” No person should have to apologize for asking for food.

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells a parable of the Good Samaritan where multiple people passed by without helping a man that had been attacked and robbed. Finally a Samaritan stopped to help this Jewish man. At the end of the story, Jesus leaves a simple command do “go and do likewise.”

This has been and always will be one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Compared to other parables that Jesus has to provide long explanations for the disciples and the crowd, he provides a very simple and concise direction. There is no question in what he meant. We are to care for those around us, when they are down we are to not only pick them up but make sure they are okay and get them any help needed. We are to care for those we don’t know, we don’t like, as well as our loved ones because they are all our neighbors.

So maybe it’s ironic or maybe it is plainly just appropriate that in preparing for our fundraising dinner titled “Love God. Feed People.” God provided us with that very opportunity.

To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that. ~ Saint Teresa of Avila

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“Being Wrong”

There is a sense of excitement when you realize you are right. When there is a tough question being asked, there is that delight when you answer the question correctly, especially when no one else gets it right. Many people have the desire to prove why they are right. Now this may not be bad all the time, no one is perfect and we are all wrong at some point. The problem is if we are willing to admit that we are wrong.

I recently listened to a talk by Kathryn Schulz at the 2011 TED conference. She recently published a book called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. She is a self-proclaimed “wrongologist” and has studied this topic for the past five years. In the introduction to her book she discusses the innate desire to be right…

“On the whole, though, and notwithstanding these lapses and qualms, our indiscriminate enjoyment of being right is matched by an almost equally indiscriminate feeling that we are right. At times, this feeling spills into the foreground, as when we argue or evangelize, make predictions or place bets. Often, though, it is just psychological backdrop. Most of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything: about our political and intellectual convictions, our religious and moral beliefs, our assessment of other people, our memories, our grasp of facts. As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient.”

At the TED conference she was talking to an audience full of innovators, policy makers, CEOs and CFOs, and activists. An audience she states is full of people who are perfectionists and over-achievers. Schulz focuses on the fact that we cannot plan out everything and not every decision made will end well. The world will constantly surprise use.

Recently I wrote a blog about the desire to control life and plan everything out; I think the need to be right fits in too. In the same way it is tough to deal when things don’t go as planned, it is doesn’t feel good to be wrong. I grew up in an academic setting that taught that our school was better than the others. I went to a college, specifically a nursing program that constantly reminded us that we were one of the best programs in the state. It’s hard to ignore and not internalize the sense of rightness, the idea that my education and life experiences were better so I know better.

However, since emerging from these settings, I have learned more in the times I have been wrong than in the times I was right. I have learned to ask more questions, to listen to what others are saying, and that everyone has had their own life experiences that matter. I have learned that God doesn’t believe in inflating egos but in taking away everyone’s egos so we’re all equal and that He is more than willing to teach you a lesson and humble you.

As Benjamin Franklin once said,

“Perhaps the history of the errors of mankind, all things considered, is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries. Truth is uniform and narrow; it constantly exists, and does not seem to require so much an active energy, as a passive aptitude of soul in order to encounter it. But error is endlessly diversified; it has no reality, but is the pure and simple creation of the mind that invents it. In this field, the soul has room enough to expand herself, to display all her boundless faculties, and all her beautiful and interesting extravagancies and absurdities.”

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Red-haired, Freckled Love

At a recent family gathering the discussion of what love really is came up. Now mind you this entire conversation was spurred from the pouting of my 14 year old cousin over her older crush, well I guess former now, who had kissed another girl at prom the night before. When she was asked what love is, her simple reply was “not this!” As she went off her older brother proclaimed that it was okay because she would be onto another boy by next week, which was quickly followed by several of us stating that we did not miss those times. One of my cousins stated but love was so simple then.

When I look back at myself at that age, love did seem so simple and perfect. You could fall in and out of love so quickly and never feel the effect. You might be upset for a day or two but then you swiftly moved on. Love was built around the moments of the first guy you held hands with or the first boy you kissed. Journals were filled with “Mr. and Mrs. So and So.” Love was straightforward and unfussy. There was that desire to act all grown up and be “in love”, but all at the same time the strong desire to be outside playing games in the summer dusk, watching cartoons on a Saturday morning, and anticipation for the next trip to see grandma.

One thing I have learned is that love can be simple, perfect, straightforward, and unfussy; however, love can be so much more than this. It can be frustrating, messy, and complicated. Love is rarely the Disney fairy tale story so many of us grew up watching.

Josh and I have been married for a little over a year now, and I cannot count the number of people who have asked us how married life is treating us. At first I would make simple comments like “it’s great” or “its fine.” Then a married family member asked me this question, listened to my response, and asked “it’s hard isn’t it?” At this point, Josh and I had been married 6 months, and it hit me how right she was. What I loved most in that conversation was that she followed this comment with she wouldn’t trade hers for anything. To me that is love.

I recently watched this video from an amazing collection of stories being collected across the country by an organization called StoryCorps. To me this is love:

Love is full of compromising not because you have to but because you want to. It is full of reminders that you are not perfect, nor is your spouse, and that both of you have habits that need worked on. Like I get easily annoyed when clothes don’t make it down the hall to the dirty laundry hamper, or when Josh gets annoyed when I don’t wash out my oatmeal or cereal bowels in the morning. Love is realizing that those things really don’t matter, what does are the moments where you are laughing with each other and don’t know why. Love is wanting the best for the person at all times. Love is that willingness to kiss the other person good-bye in the morning, even when they have horrible morning breath. Love is full of little spats, long discussions, and the willingness to say you’re sorry at the end.

Love is no longer something I am willing to let go of and move on from. It is no longer something, it is someone. It is the red-haired, freckled guy sitting in the other room. The one who asked me a simple question just over 2 years ago that will forever have the same answer, “Yes.”

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Frustrations of Support Raising

When did it become not okay to follow your dreams? I know challenging the status quo has always been a change that makes many people feel uncomfortable, but when it is your life, who is society to decide what your personal status quo is? So many times I have heard from people and read in articles and books that you should just settle young and pursue your dreams later. My husband and I made a very carefully thought out decision to follow our dreams now while we are young because we don’t want to continue being unhappy with where and what we are doing. We have both felt for a long time a pull and tug at our heart by God for something more.

Over the past several months my husband and I have constantly come to face with the reality that our decision to quite our full time jobs, move to Atlanta, and volunteer for a year (aka make NO MONEY) really makes some people uncomfortable. We have both been in multiple conversations where we are sitting there feeling like we have to defend our decision and show proof that yes we actually did think this through. Some of the distention has come from family and friends who are unemployed and cannot find work, college friends who have yet to find a consistent full time job, and people in less than ideal full time jobs because they cannot find anything else. While others simply feel we are being reckless and immature.

Several months back we were sitting down with someone we viewed as a mentor, and who was a leader of a ministry we were involved with, and after a very lengthy conversation the understanding between all of us was that this mentor thought we were being irresponsible and selfish in the decision we had already made. I will be straight forward, hearing that really hurt especially because I felt that we didn’t get a chance to even share how we had thought everything through and the planning and preparation we were working on. By this time we had already heard a lot of initial distention from a couple very boisterous family members and friends. My husband would agree, that we walked away from this meeting discouraged, thinking did we not hear God correctly when we decided to volunteer with Mission Year. What hurt even more, was the ministry we knew this mentor through had become a community for us here in Cleveland, and we now felt very uncomfortable being involved and attending events.

I will also be honest, it hurts to watch people spend a lot of money eating out all the time, traveling on constant weekend get-a-way’s, and discussing their recent shopping trips, yet when we sit down and try and talk with them about what we are doing, why, and if they would be interested in supporting us they simply go, “I just don’t have the funds for that right now.” I am more than willing to understand if you really don’t have the funds and are strapped for money across the board, and at that point, your simple prayers are all we ask for, but at the same time even $5 can make a difference.

It hurts to know that people close to us have chosen not to listen and really learn about what we are doing because they just don’t agree with our decisions. It is hard to sit through gatherings of family or friends knowing a handful of people there really don’t want to talk with you because they don’t want you to bring up, in our viewpoint, this exciting endeavor. It is extremely upsetting to be told by several ministries/churches that they simply cannot help us because while our missions/volunteer work sounds amazing it just doesn’t meet their requirements for outreach support because we are not moving overseas.

I do not intend to write this blog as a means of invoking guilt. I want everyone to make their own opinion; however, when voicing your opinion in any situation please remember to actually sit down and listen to the other parties view point. So if you find yourself sitting there sharing your opinion with someone, it is not considered a conversation if you only let them respond with yes/no and minimal word answers because they need a chance to fully share as well. I want to be honest with my frustrations over the past several months as my husband and I have prepared for our time with Mission Year. And I send out a huge thank you to the family, friends, and church support we have gotten, be it finically or spiritually.

To those who are reading this and feel hurt or uncomfortable by what I may have said, I want you to try and place yourself in our position. It is extremely hurtful and discouraging to hear this distention over and over again with no chance to explain ourselves. So I ask you, if you are stilling willing to read on, to read the next section that explains our reasoning.

We met while working for a Christian camp that served adult and children with mental and physical disabilities during the summer of 2007. On top of the typical things that draw you to another person, we learned quickly that we both have a huge passion for serving others (hence Josh is a social worker and I am a nurse). When we got engaged in the Spring of 2009, the discussion came up on how this would play out in our marriage, and at this time we had no clue but knew we would have to figure that out.

We started praying about the idea of doing missions/volunteer work in March of 2010. We learned about Mission Year’s married program in July of 2010, and at that point we started focusing our prayers on if this was where God wanted us to be. In September of 2010, we learned from Mission Year that we could do an early application in October and find out before Thanksgiving. Through a lot of discussion and prayer, we decided to apply and put it all in God’s hands at that point. The Monday before Thanksgiving we were notified that we had been accepted, and in December of 2010 we began spreading the word and working on raising support. We have to raise $24,000 to cover our living expenses while we are in Atlanta – this covers housing, food, and any travel.

The program is from September 2011 to July 2012. During this year of service, Josh will actually being getting credit hours towards his Masters in Urban Studies – Community Development through Eastern University in Philadelphia, which he will pursue full time after we are done. Josh has made the decision that he doesn’t want to have a lifelong career in social work; however, in both social work and related fields he wishes to pursue, many organizations place you as the first to be let go in times of funding shortages when you don’t have your masters.

Where we will live and what we will do after the program remains up in the air, and we are both perfectly okay with it because we know and trust that God has control over it all. And for those of you wondering, finically we are completely okay to do this. We have no debt outside our college loans, and the few things we cannot defer during this year we will continue to make payments on with money we have saved up over the past several months. Also, Mission Year provides us with basic health insurance as well.

If you have further questions or want to know more. Please simply contact me and I am more than willing to discuss this all further.

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Justifying Osama bin Laden’s Death

Late Sunday night it was announced that Osama bin Laden, the founder of the jihadist organization al-Qaeda, had been killed. He was most known for planning and organizing the attacks on the United States on 9/11. At this time former President Bush made it known that he would hunt Osama bin Laden down, bringing him in dead or alive. This task got passed onto his predecessor President Barak Obama, who when he took office made a point of making it known he would carry through with this and refocus tactics on Afghanistan.

Last night President Obama announced, “Justice has been done.” And at this time, across the country, celebration irrupted outside the White House, in the streets of major cities, and on college campuses across the country. The online community exploded with status updates and tweets of pro-America chants and celebratory comments of Osama bin Laden’s death.

When I awoke this morning to the headlines stating Osama bin Laden’s death, I began to question the claims of justice being done, celebrations of a man’s death, and need to chant “USA, USA” on my Facebook wall. I verbalized my questioning to my husband, who then looked at me and posed two simple questions, “Do you feel safer? Do you feel that justice was done?” I sat there and realized that no I didn’t feel safer in any means nor did I feel justified in any means in celebrating the death of this man. As we sat there discussing this, we both realized that we would rather be viewed as un-patriotic then renounce our morals and beliefs, our Christian foundation.

Nowhere in the Bible does it teach us to celebrate in the death of a man, even if he is our enemy.

“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall and do not let your heart be gland when they stumble” ~Proberbs 24:17

“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?” ~ Ezekiel 18:23

Didn’t Jesus Christ teach us to love all people even our enemies? Didn’t he teach us that we should not judge others and seek justice when we ourselves are sinners? (Take a look at Matthew 7:1-6)

The Vatican’s statement on the affair is:

“Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions to this end,” Father Lombardi said. “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred,” the spokesman said.

So I end with this quote by author Mitch Albom,

“Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harms we do, we do to ourselves.”

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