Mothers Wonder if Any of it Sticks

Posted by on Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

We took them to an unsafe country. It was just after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Hunter was 15, Hampton 13 and Madison was 11 (picture above). We took them to Yei Sudan (which is now South Sudan). No running water. No electricity. No comfort. No roof on the house. Not easy. But my kids loved it. We took our kids because we wanted them to see a global God – not just a  wealthy, white suburban God – but a God who cares deeply for the whole world, especially the poor and marginalized. Our prayer? That they would “catch” God’s heart and make it their own. Then teenage years came and went- I wasn’t sure any of that exposure matter. You know how that happens? You work so hard to instill certain things in your kids and as they grow older you wonder if any of it stuck? Shortly after our trip in 2005 Steve founded Water is Basic (empowering locals in South Sudan in the fight for clean water.) For the next seven years -while my kids were in junior high, high school and college – their dad traveled to Africa serving the poor and marginalized. I wondered if they noticed. Now Water is Basic is one of the most successful water companies in South Sudan – over 500 wells – thousands and thousands of kids, moms and dads kept alive because of clean water. My kids never saw any of it. It’s 2014 –  all our kids are in their early twenties. Steve and I felt like it was time – time for them to go back – they needed to go back, to be reminded, to be re-exposed. Every parents decides how they will spend their money – private school, college, cars, clothing, vacations – we all make decisions. For us, taking our kids would be a huge financial investment – but that’s just how we saw it – an investment. Not one that would produce monetary dividends but dividends none the less – in their heart, mind and soul. Our hope – the re-exposure would remind them of their responsibility to give their lives to those in need. We took Hunter and his girlfriend last November. (Yes, girlfriend. I’ve often thought geeh, once our kids get married we will have to bring their spouses – after all they will benefit from knowing where and how their partners heart developed for the marginalized.) It wasn’t his first time back since 2005 – he had gone again in 2006  to work on a documentary about women’s empowerment and again when he was 17 to build internet cafes in Rwanda and Uganda but it was time...

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What’s Your Angst?

Posted by on Thursday, Aug 14, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

What’s your angst?  aNG(k)st,äNG(k)st/ noun a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general. Angst. We all have one. This thing we can’t quite quiet in us. It can be a negative thing or a positive one – either way it nags us. I’ve been reading Ronald Rolheisers’ book, Sacred Fire – something he said accurately communicates mine. He writes: Jesus’ human  origins lie in Judaism, and he stood and taught within their prophetic tradition of charity and justice. Hundreds of years before his birth, the great Jewish prophets had already coined this mantra: ” The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land; and the quality of justice in the land will be judged by how the weakest and most vulnerable groups in society (‘widows, orphans, and strangers’) fared while you are alive.” … Jesus’ invitation that his disciples be both charitable and just is commonly misunderstood, or perhaps more accurately stated, is under-understood. How so? What Jesus asks of us here is not just that we be generous of heart and give in charity to the poor, though he does ask for that. He asks for more. Charity, as we know, can sometimes operate independently of justice, especially of social justice. Jesus does not just ask us to give in charity to the poor, he also asks us to work at correcting all the social, political, and economic structures that disadvantage the poor and help keep them poor. Charity seeks to give directly to the poor so as to help alleviate their poverty; Justice seeks to correct the structures that help create that poverty. And Jesus asks us to do both. (Rolheiser, 49.)  My angst is: Do I care enough to live radically enough to fight the structures that disadvantage the poor and help keep them poor? If so, then how shall that look? I think Jesus’ life, words and call was to do so… but sometimes I struggle with the cost and the application. There lies my angst. What’s...

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Just Charitable

Posted by on Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins!      Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.  ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.  “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. (Isaiah 58:1-10 NLT) I’ve noodled on the above Isaiah passage on and off for several years. I thought I understood. I didn’t. It’s just now hitting me that God is calling us to be both charitable and just. (Something I fear I fail sorely at.) Consider what you read in Isaiah in light of what Rolheiser says in his book, Sacred Fire.  Jesus’ invitation that his disciples be both charitable and just is commonly misunderstood or, perhaps more accurately stated, is under – understood. How so? What Jesus asks of us here is not just that we be generous of heart and give in charity to the poor, though he does ask for that. He asks for more....

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I Need to Lay Down In Order For Others To Live

Posted by on Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development USAID, spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. I can’t remember all he said of but one thing he said stuck. He said, “We have the capacity to eradicate extreme poverty in the world.” He defined extreme poverty as those who live on less than $1.25 a day. Immediately my mind drifted to something Jesus said in Luke 6:20. Jesus was introducing his disciples to a new ethic; new way things would work in his Kingdom society. Looking at his disciples, he said: Blessed are you who are poor, or yours is the kingdom of God. In the original Greek the word blessed can be translated honor or honorable. In other words, you could read the text like this: God honors the poor. We don’t live in a shame-based culture so it’s hard for us to grasp what Jesus did when he said these words. Jesus lived in a time when life was dictated by shame and honor. Honor was a big deal and no one would think God honors the poor. Jesus said God honors the poor – later he said, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” (Hear Jesus speak to their idea of honor and shame.) In the original Greek the word blessed can be translated honor or honorable. In other words, you could read the text like this: God honors the poor. We don’t live in a shame-based culture so it’s hard for us to grasp what Jesus did when he said these words. Jesus lived in a time when life was dictated by shame and honor. Honor was a big deal and no one would think God honors the poor. Jesus said God honors the poor – later he said, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” (Hear Jesus speak to their idea of honor and shame.) I used to think, mostly because it suited me best, that when Jesus said, “God honors the poor,” he meant (s) the poor in spirit. I guess poor is spirit is easier for me to swallow then monetary poverty because one speaks to my time the other speaks to my money (lifestyle). In Matthew’s Gospel the emphasis on the word poor is poor in spirit  (whew) but in Luke’s Gospel poor refers to those who are without monetarily resources. (Ugh) In Luke’s Gospel poor means those who live on less than $1.25 a day. Poor meant (s) those who struggled to eek out an every day existence. Daily food intake is based on the ability to work that day. Anything...

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Their Father and The Poor

Posted by on Thursday, Jun 20, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

My husband Steve raised his kids in the faith. Not the kind of faith most of us might think of. Yes, church and tithing and being kind, but more than that. Steve insisted they engage with how the “other half lives.” He took them to other countries where it wasn’t always safe to travel. We were in Yeti Sudan before the peace treaty and we traveled to northern Uganda where rebels reigned. We listened to our Christian brothers and sisters tell stories of rape, murder, and disease. During one conversation, a woman turned in anger and asked, “Where was the American Church?” Later that evening as we looked out over the African landscape my youngest, Madison asked, “Mom, where were we?” But Steve didn’t only expose them to those things far away. For several years he’s mentored a young boy in west Dallas. He’s cared for his schooling and family needs. Most of us American Christians are not in proximity with poor people. We are not in relationship with poor people. Our kids don’t have play dates with poor kids and they aren’t in church with poor people. It’s got to make us ask, “How does our social location impact our interpretation of Scripture and, therefore, how we live for Christ?” I’ve always heard people quote Jesus as saying, “The poor will always be with us.” (Mark 14:7) But recently I’ve been challenged to reconsider my understanding of the text. Jesus is in Bethany, at the home of Simon the Leper. There is a woman there who wants to worship Jesus by anointing him with oil, but the disciples say it’s money wasted, since it could be used for the poor. And Jesus response, and I paraphrase, “You will always be with the poor. I mean, you’re my disciples. You know who we hang out with, who we spend time with. Look who we are with tonight. You will always be with the poor.” Meaning you will always have a chance to be generous and do justice so don’t begrudge her this act of worship. Don’t be so politically correct because you will have many chances to be among the poor. But what happens when the disciples are no longer with the poor, when they are far away from the poor? Perhaps they have a whole other context and they use this text to say in effect, “The poor will always be with us. There’s nothing we can do about the poor so don’t feel so bad about it.” I’ve been pondering how our social location influences the way we see things. We’ve got debates raging in our country and churches on issues such as health care, immigration, homosexuality,...

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