Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thoughts from a Coffee Shop

For months, since I came home from a wonderful summer, I've struggled and fought against the mundane.. The feeling of being pressed down while the breath in my lungs keeps lifting me upward... It was a rough semester, but that was my fault. The funny thing about college is that you also have to work a lot to pay for it, and that leaves no time for anything else. I guess I'm pretty self motivated because I went at it hard, wanting to accomplish something, and it seemed to make sense. If I'm not working hard at something, I feel like I'm wasting the days I have here on this earth.. But now as my 20th birthday is less than two weeks away, I realize that with all my ambition, wanting to push forward, forward, forward every day, I've neglected my spirit, and time that should have been spent enjoying life and enjoying people. I want to slow down and laugh more, like I was able to do last summer :)
On Monday I'm leaving for Portland, where I will be meeting the people at Lahash International and going through a bit of training before I board a plane for Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on Thursday. These days I'm clinging to the mundane things that have plagued me.. That doesn't make sense, but it is familiar and it is safe. That's the baby in me.. 
But it's a choice we have, I think.. to make our lives comfortable and familiar, or to step out and allow yourself to be carried by the will of God.. As William Shedd said..  "A Ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships are for." I know the things he has put in my heart, that's why I'm going to Africa. I always knew I would.
I'm going so that I can learn. Because I can read thousands of books and learn every fact, but nothing will ever teach me as much as stepping into the lives of people who live there, and doing life alongside them. You'll never know as much about how a program is run until you learn from the people who run it. If this is the direction of my future, then the things I learn on this trip are so very important. I'm going with questions that can be answered best on that side of the world.
I'm going that I may use my time, my hands, and my heart for the purposes God has for me and His world. I won't go off rambling about the history of Africa and why things are the way they are in so many parts of the world, (maybe some other time) but I will say this - it's an immense injustice and I feel a great, passionate responsibility in this area. We cannot see and then turn our hearts away just because it is too overwhelming. I've been overwhelmed by Africa for years, and that's a burden I am willing and responsible to carry. God will never give our hearts more than they can handle. If you know me well, you know that it is a big part of who I am.
So.. if I can use my smiles and laughter to make a child who has lost everything happy, even for a few hours.. If I can come alongside someone who has become sick because of forces they can't control.. If I can do anything to help those who are working hard for these people, then that is why I'm going.
Is it scary? Yeah. I've been putting it out of my mind lately, because this is probably the most scary thing I've ever done. I like to find encouragement in other peoples words. Dan Haseltine, front man in Jars of Clay, whose Blood:Water Mission works to bring clean water to communities in Africa said this:

"I was quickly reminded that it is both a matter of choice, and a
matter of where God has placed me in the history of the world.   It
will always be tempting to slide away from the pressing stories of
injustice, suffering and devastation that crowd our minds, and seize
our hearts.   For those of us who have been given the curse of choice
in this area,  it will always be a hard decision...the one to press
inward, even as we sense that we just can not take anymore of the
We simply can't do that.   We can not shrug our
shoulders,  not walk away.  There is no where to go that frees
us from the turns and developments in our own story.   And there will
never be a peace if we pull a Jonah, and run the other way.   To run,
is to lie to ourselves about what we know to be true.   Our story is
not our own.   Just as Mother Theresa so wonderfully illuminated, "
IF we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong
to each other."  We can try to usher in a willful forgetfulness, as a means to
breathe a little more easily,  but it will not end in peace.
This is why I choose to keep moving inward, this is why we all walk
closer to the flame. As we consider this week, this next year, the
next decade... we are hopeful that God is orchestrating something
brilliant.... find hope, and
courage to walk with shoulders left un-shrugged and crisis kept
unabandoned.  Peace to you.
- Dan Haseltine

Friday, January 22, 2010

Announcing.. The New CD!

Over the past month or so, David and I have taken the time to finally put together and record a cd! The motivation behind it was to raise support for this trip, so I guess it's kind of important to get it out there before I go.

This is something I wrote for the insert:
"This cd was pieced together in the free moments of day-to-day life. In the midst of school semesters, holidays, new jobs, and preparation for a trip to Africa. It was home-made, and just as flawed as our human attempts to bring love and beauty, hope and peace to a broken world. There is only One who is able to bring about perfect restoration and justice, and it is to Him first and foremost that this work is dedicated to. These songs don't belong to us. We borrowed words and melodies that we hoped would inspire movement in your hearts and lives. We have a tremendous opportunity to bring hope to our world. Don't let it pass you by."

It doesn't have a name yet, but here's what it looks like..

If you'd like one, please let me, David, or Michael know via Facebook, Email, Phone, in person, orrrr just leave a comment on here ;)


Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't Put it out of Your Mind

If you're reading this, you're probably interested in finding out how things are going as I am going about day-to-day preparing for this trip. Honestly, if I were to write about that, right now, it would be about how frustrated I am about having to put forth so much money for something only intended for good.. I do feel a little frustrated right now. I do want to tell you about my intentions and motivations for going.. about my hopes for the future, but that will come later. Right now, I want to call your attention not to my life, not even to Africa, but to a little island country, south of Florida.

Many of you are probably aware that this past Tuesday, January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the small country of Haiti, completely leveling most of Port Au Prince, and many surrounding cities. The death toll is enormous for a country if its size - up to hundreds of thousands. Those who have survived are coming out of shock to realize that anything they once had is now completely. Gone.  Many are injured, have lost family members and friends, their homes are now turned to rubble, and now have no access to food or clean water.
The relief teams who are beginning to arrive are finding unrest as these people are desperate for the basic means of survival. Eighty percent of Haiti's population already lived below the poverty line before this catastrophe, and it is unimaginable how it will be able to recover.
A few minutes ago, I heard a reporter on the radio give an update about the situation, and after a brief mention of the peoples' situation, she focused on a group of 8 college students from Florida who were in Haiti to study at the time, but were completely unaffected by the quake. Please always be reminded that the lives of Americans are no more previous than any other human on this earth.
There have been television preachers who have already proclaimed that this tragedy is God's judgement on this country. This saddens me.. God didn't call His people to judge, but to love mercy and act justly, to provide for a brother or sister in need.
The world is hearing about this great tragedy in Haiti, and not only asking questions about what is being done to help, but also WHO is doing it. As followers of Jesus, we are the hands and feet He uses in this world to do His work, to show mercy, love, and justice through our lives.

Psalm 113:7: 
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.
I will admit that every time I see the images of the wreckage in a headline, it makes my stomach turn, so I try to put it out of my head. But this type of attitude is not acceptable. We all have something to give. Our lives are so full.

So, if you're planning on going to the movies this weekend, consider renting from RedBox instead, and using the money to provide emergency relief.
Use a blog or facebook to share your thoughts and encourage friends to love, pray, and provide emergency aid.
Also, importantly, pray for the situation. Pray for individuals, pray for the government of Haiti, pray that Christians will stand up and be the Hands and Feet in the midst of disaster.
If you'd like to send money, here are some of the organizations who are on the ground right now:

Why does our response matter to God? To name a few..

Joshua 1:14-15
... You are to help your brothers until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you ....

1 Samuel 2:7-8
The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.

Psalm 72:12-14
For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.

Psalm 82:3-4
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 140:12
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

Psalm 145:14-18
The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Psalm 146:7-9
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked

Proverbs 31:8-9
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Isaiah 1:17
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 58:6-11
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 
"The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Zechariah 7:9-10
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'"

However you choose to respond, don't put it out of your mind. Don't turn your back. Our lives are so full. Pour some out on a world that is broken and let it fill your heart.