Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Weak, but Strong

I start working at Camp at the end of this week. I have Challenge Course refresher training on either Thursday or Friday, and then Core Staff training during the week of the 4th . Then Staff Training starts on June 11. I'm excited for Camp, but right now I'm feeling pretty exhausted. I've been so busy finishing up stuff at Church and doing family stuff, and I'm in the process of moving. I can't even think about the beginning of the actual weeks of having campers, because right now I'm just focusing on getting through trainings.

During my first summer as a counselor, the Bible study theme was "Weak, but Strong," and it talked about people in the Bible who made mistakes and God still used them. It used one of my favorite Bible verses, 2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" I am relying on this verse, because I won't be able to live up to my responsibilities on my own steam. I am going to be the Staff Chaplain, so I'm really going to need to put a lot of my energy toward supporting and nurturing other people, and I don't want to end up being cranky or irritable. This is a job that I've wanted to do, and that I've felt God preparing me for, and I'm reminded that if I went into it full steam, I would probably be convinced of my own abilities, but might forget that it was God empowering me. Fortunately, God's grace is sufficient enough that in my own weakness, I can see how much God does empower me.

I am praying that this will be one of those times.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7
If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[b] but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Something (Someone) Worth Dying For

This weekend I preached on the Good Shepherd at Jacob's Well. In brainstorming sermon ideas with Pastor Amy, we stumbled upon the idea of being willing to lay down one's life, like the Jesus does for us. It reminded me of a myspace bulletin I noticed last week, in which kids glorified the shootings at Columbine, claiming that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were just standing up for themselves. I was horrified, but mostly because I know that kids identify with being put down until they feel desperate enough to act out in violence. It reminded me that everyone wants to find something worth dying for.

As Christians, we are called to lay down our lives for the Gospel, but most people think of this as meaning dying for an idea or a belief. But the Gospel is the message that God loves us with an unending, unbreakable love, and so dying for the Gospel means being willing to reach out to others in love, whether it is safe or comfortable or not. It means reaching out to people who are lonely and oppressed and unhappy, because when we are not willing to give our lives out of love, others lose their lives out of hate. That could mean reaching out to kids like Eric and Dylan who may have felt that no one cared enough to risk standing up for them. Lonely kids often act out in violence, and even if they don't hurt those around them, they often turn their violence on themselves.

And then there are those people who are oppressed and poverty-stricken, suffering from hunger and violence, and disease. We have plenty of reasons for why we don't do more to help people who are in the middle of war or famine or genocide, but how can we just stand by and let people die? I have recently been writing and talking a lot about the situation in Sudan, and it is still important to keep up that effort. In addition to writing to our goverment and raising awareness, we also need to support relief efforts on the ground. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has relief projects in Darfur, and you can give money directly to that ministry.

I also read an article today in the Washington Post, about an activist who was kidnapped and forced to fight as a child soldier in the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda at the age of 15. This was 11 years ago; the war has been going on for 20 years. 30,000 children have been kidnapped. They children are forced to beat and kill and even rape others. Girls are often given to officers as "wives." Because of this situation, I sponsor a little girl in Uganda through Compassion International. I pray that my beautiful 10 year old friend Annet will never be hurt, but the sad reality is that in villages across Uganda, children are sent to sleep in town centers where there is less chance of being abducted. They are called the "Invisible Children." Some awareness is being raised because of a documentary made by three white kids from San Diego, who went to Africa in search of a story... and found this one.

The bottom line is that God has blessed us with so much, and it just doesn't make sense for us not to reach our to others and share what we have (love, money, food, etc). I love this picture at the top. I used it in church. It is a reminder that although doing the right thing is often hard and even scary, God promises to be a shepherd to us; to lead us and protect us, strengthen us and never abandon us.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

God is Good*

* but maybe we need to break this word down...

Today I took one of those great afternoon naps. I fell asleep praying outside, and when I woke up thoughts were drifting at random through my head, and I was pondering a line of thought, and came to the question that people often ask... "If God is good, why would God send us to Hell?" A doozy of a question.

On this season of Lost, we have found out that The Others, a mysterious group in the jungle steals the children and people they deem to be "good." Of course, their judgements at this point seem to line up with what we know about the characters’ pasts. So how do the Others know that Anna Lucia killed a person, but Locke more or less been a victim in his past?

And what do they mean by "good people?" That word has so many meanings, and I don't think that this is the same kind of good that we claim God to be. There's an interesting pattern in this show... generally if a character seems to resolve its issues, that person is promptly killed off. Is that because only the complex and tortured characters are interesting? Or is it a property of the island? Either way the show focuses on how the characters’ lives have shaped their choices and their feeling about themselves.

And what about Hell? I don't claim to know much about Hell, but I do know that it is a state of being separated from God. So really, who is to say that God sends us to Hell. Its more likely that we go willingly, chasing after the wrong things, or being driven by hurt, fear, greed, anger, etc. On Lost the island is either Heaven or Hell to each character depending whether they have responded to life with hope and faith, or with anger and fear.

If God is good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that God is cuddly and indulgent. But among other things it means that God is just, and also that God cares for us. Whether or not there is a physical Hell, God is seeking to bring us out of our personal Hell. God seeks to help us untangle the past choices and hurts and ghosts, and help us to experience life as it is given to us.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Rally to Stop Genocide Pictures and Video

Video of Barack Obama speaking at the rally.

You had me at hello, Barack.

The rally from where we were standing.

Activists come in all sizes.
Cool sign.

Another cool sign.

Joey Cheek, Olympic Speed Skater

Jabulani, Jabulani Africa!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rally to Stop Genocide

I'm a day behind the rest of the blog-o-sphere, but here goes... Yesterday I went down to the Rally to Stop Genocide, with 1 youth, 3 young adults, and 1 real adult. We drove down to New Carrolton station and took the metro in, which was exciting not only because I missed DC, but because we saw other rally people. By the time we got to Federal Center stop, the trains were full of people going to the rally. They made us wait a minute before they let us off the train, because the station was so packed, and when we got up the escalators, we saw that they had opened the ticket stiles, because of the crowds. The Mall was pretty packed with people, and it was so cool to see such a diverse crowd. The Washington Post estimated that there were between 10,000 and 15,000 people at the rally, and called it "one of the more diverse rallies the capital has seen in years."

It was so awesome to see so many people, especially since so much awareness has been raised in recent months. As I stood at the rally I remembered that about a year ago, a group on campus at UMD was having a moment of silence for the victims in Darfur. I got a flier and knew vaguely that something bad was going on there, and the flier said it was genocide, so I planned to go... and forgot. It didn't get much coverage and I think it was pretty small (although most of the rallies on campus where). Six months ago, I still didn't really know what was going on in Darfur. But over the last few months, the crisis has gotten so much more press. A few months ago, the Million Voices for Darfur campaign had collected about 8,000 postcards and their goal was go get 100,000 by the April 30th rally. At the rally yesterday, they told us that so far 760,000 post cards have been collected.

Among the speakers, my absolute favorite was Barack Obama... I think he got a bigger cheer than the Clooneys. He somehow managed to urge stronger actions, without attacking Bush, and quote the Bible without sounding like he was just doing the Bible thing. I did like George Clooney, though, and his father. There were tons of good speakers, and wish I had taken notes so I could write more about them.

The work is not over by any means, though. I made a Save Darfur t-shirt, and so many people asked me "who's Darfur?" in church. So, I'm going to start writing letters to elected officials, and educating people on the horrors of what is going on.

This problem has to be addressed. To quote one of the speakers: "Enough is Enough."