The Face of the Movement Has Fallen…Now What? #KONY2012

It’s been communicated to me that when people think of Uganda or Invisible Children, they think of me as being knowledgable. Because of this, I had dinner with a few friends to give thoughts on the “KONY 2012” video as someone that has been following the work of the organization for the past 7 years. Following this, I went to a class to speak on this topic and to answer questions, especially as I had been Trinity’s contact with Invisible Children from Fall 2009 to Spring 2011.

Right before I went up to talk, I saw a post by Invisible Children on Facebook saying:

Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.  – Ben Keesey, CEO, Invisible Children

After reading this, I received a text from a friend saying, “Absolute worst about Jason Russell,” and I thought it made sense with what I had just read. However, upon getting up to the podium I heard someone say something about “he was caught masturbating in public” and I thought it might be a good idea to quickly search his name on Google.

The results made my heart sink, only momentarily though as I knew this wouldn’t really change anything, this would just add another unnecessary hurdle and stone to throw for critics. I briefly addressed it at the beginning as all had been reading about it and as much seemed to be speculation still, it felt safe to not dwell on it for too long.

After speaking of Invisible Children and connecting my own experience with Ugandan children that I had interacted with to show the reality instead of the abstract idea, I had no plans for the night.

As soon as I got in my car, I started to get really frustrated. I couldn’t believe that this guy that had just been seen by over 80,000,000 people as the face for Invisible Children (especially as a husband and a father of two [one of which had just become “famous” with him]) would go and do something this stupid now that, although presumably unintentional, the media’s attention is on him.

I felt that I should say something online as I know that people see me as someone who is “in the know” about Invisible Children, so I posted a link to Donald Miller’s thoughts (as I really liked his approach; Miller’s Post) and I posted this along with it,

Great words. This is really disappointing but it doesn’t change any of what Invisible Children has been standing for. Kony must be stopped. Don’t let the frailty of humanity stop the pursuit of justice for the oppressed. God help us and let our imperfections sober us and remind us that we NEED you.

I don’t think that my own words penetrated my heart enough. Even in posting this, I was still bitter that Jason would do something even remotely close to this and wondered how he could not realize all that he is jeopardizing the credibility of. So, it seemed right to pray.

When I am deeply frustrated by realizing the fallen state of this world, especially in more than one fresh example, I find it hard to use a calm tone or peaceful words in prayer (this is never directed at God, simply voicing frustration and asking for help/wisdom). I went to start to ask what it was that troubled me and I had to keep stopping myself from using the “f-word,” and instead what ended up coming out was, “What the hell was Jason thinking?” to which I quickly clarified, “He probably wasn’t.”

As I know this place of “not thinking,” all too well, I began to think about my own crap (as Donald Miller puts it). I started to think about the positions of leadership that I’ve been in and others that I have almost been in. In thinking about this, I wondered about if I had received a Youth/Worship pastor position that I had applied for, would I still have made some mistakes that I had made that, if they had been found out, would have likely had me removed from my position?

I wanted to say, “no, I would have had control, this kind of thing never would have happened.” But I decided to be honest with myself and before God and I admitted that I probably still would have done wrong in the ways that I had or in others.

Don’t misunderstand this as justifying whatever may have happened in the case that it was not a literal “loss of his mind,” what I am simply getting at is that we really need to look at ourselves before being so critical of others.

I cannot imagine the kind of humiliation, frustration, pain, regret, and shame that Jason (if now of right mind or if not, once he is) must feel about this.

Within that, I know that if I was in that place, being left alone would not help at all. It would further the sense that, “I’ve screwed everything up.” Which, although he has participated (willfully or not) in producing a hurdle for the organization/movement to face, is not the case. Jason needs love, right now, more than ever.

Regardless of whatever happened, Joseph Kony is still “The Worst.” Regardless of whatever happened, Joseph Kony needs to be stopped. Regardless of whatever happened, we cannot slow down.

Imagine if Hitler had not killed himself (or been poisoned, whichever it was) and the main person speaking out against him and leading others to kill him went and did something like this. Would that have meant that Hitler was no longer an issue or all that had been spoken against was rendered invalid? Of course not!

With all of this said, it seems rational to respond in these four ways:

1. Silence

  • Most of the accusations found in various articles seem to have no solid basis and the actual statements concerning what the police found/thought seem very vague and insufficient to talk about
  • If the accusations are true, that doesn’t mean that we need to spread the news or talk about it at all beyond looking at what this means for the cause or how we should react towards him
  • As a principle for the broader whole of the movement, don’t simply watch a 30-minute film, read several recent articles, formulate and assert opinions and then claim to know all there is to know; do real research before saying anything of weight

2. Reflection

  • Think about the mistakes you’ve made on any level (public or private) and think about what would happen if the worst thing you’ve ever done at your worst point was made public at a massive scale
  • The reality of it is, many of us would lose our jobs, our families, and our friends
  • Invisible Children, as an organization, has set a great example for how to respond in their care for Jason and support in his difficult time

3. Love

  • Regardless of his current mental state, Jason has fought tirelessly for the oppressed for about 8 years now
  • Jason is clearly in a difficult place and needs support
  • Kicking him while he is down in the light of what he is now known for and the suffering that he has dedicated his life to trying to eradicate, is disgusting

4. Perseverance

  • Jason’s personal problem being made public, whether a previously existing issue or an unforeseen trouble, does not change anything
  • Joseph Kony must be stopped, and Jason’s shortcoming serves as a reminder that we are all frail and imperfect and not one of us can do this alone; we need to stand together against evil and above all, we need God

My prayers are with Jason and his family. May God meet them in their time of need.

Continue to stand strong in the midst of injustice no matter how the largest proponents of justice may fail. We are human, we are imperfect. I can’t imagine that Satan would be happy about a generation rising up to seek justice and to fight evil. Is it possible that where good begins to grow, evil attempts to choke it before it is able to develop into a real threat? There is evil in this world, and it seems to find us most often when we try to fight it and don’t just allow it to exist. Get up and fight.

Ephesians 6:12 NIV – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

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Ugandan Vision Trip

Two faculty, two staff, two Biblical study graduates, two Christian ministries graduates, two current Graduate students.

Two by two we came.

We entered as strangers, foreigners, but we were accepted as family.

The humility and love shown by the Ugandan people was just breathtaking. They truly understand the concept of accepting a foreigner as a neighbor.

Personally, I had my heart broken, not only for the people of Uganda, but for the country itself.  Now, it may seem confusing that my heart was broken for a place that is so much more spiritually rich than we are and truly joyful, but it is not a matter of my heart being broken spiritually (though not all were strong in that area), but in terms of wealth. Wealth is not important, that seems fair to say to some extent, but in this world, clothes, food, and medicine, all have their costs.  Clothes and food may be produced by those who desire them, but most people are unable to make their own medicine.

One of the most painful things I saw was a little girl with malaria. Now, to most of us who don’t really need to worry about malaria, we know it as a disease from mosquitoes that is easily preventable. However, the disease, when not prevented is deadly and fast-acting. The little girl that we had seen with it was unable to even eat and in turn was unable to take the medicine to help. A huge issue with malaria is that in the countries that it is most prevalent, there is not enough food for those that need the medicine, so they are unable to take the preventative medicine and keep it down (this is the case in Zambia). I am not positive that this is the case in Uganda as it is a very fertile land, but here the case may be lacking funding for the medicine itself or preventative objects such as mosquito nets.

My friend Dan and I talked about the realities that we saw. We talked about how we both had been bothered anytime that we saw a commercial showing starving children in terrible conditions and the commercial asking for money. Dan assumed that they either looked for the worst area around or made it look worse than it really was. I’ve believed that they are simply showing things how they are but I’m not a fan of the guilt tactic. The main issue is that the CHURCH needs to be guilted into helping.

As will be seen in my journal entries below, when we visited a village that Trinity supported in building a well we weren’t thanked for it, but instead God was thanked for using us and for providing the funds for us to be able to help. As rich (whether you consider yourself rich or not, chances are, you are compared to most third world countries) Americans, we have been blessed financially and need to help where we are able. Most of the issues in the other countries are simply due to lack of funding, but we care too much about ourselves or having the latest cars, clothes, electronics, whatever to give our money for those that actually need it to live.

To avoid this turning into a guilt-tripping rant, if you would like to hear more, feel free to talk to me (through preferably not through facebook or texting).

I will end with this (my journals will be below this if you are interested): My heart has been broken for the people and country of Uganda and I plan to return, to what capacity, I have no idea. All I know is that God has more for me to do there or to do in me through being there. Someday, I’ll be there again.

Love,

Carl

 

Journals:

May 15-17

These have been an interesting few days so far. Not necessarily in a bad way though, but as we have yet to even unpack or sleep somewhere other than on an airplane. We flew out of O’Hare at 7:30pm on the 15th, arrived in London at 9am (local time), spent the day in the city and then hopped on our plane to Entebbe. The part that also makes it interesting is the lack of bedding and showers. Since the trip has begun (we are about to be in Entebbe at this point), I have slept approximately 4.5 hours and as the two days leading up to the trip had a total of 10 hours of sleep, I’m a little behind.

London was very fun (as the pictures show), but it may have put us in more of a vacation mindset, but I expect that mindset to be broken fairly quickly. Fish and chips make an awesome meal, but I am excited to try the unfamiliar food in Uganda. I’m not completely clear on the plan, but will update as I know. One last thought for now, in terms of long plane rides, British airlines is so much more comfortable and accommodating than American airlines.

Upon arriving in Entebbe, we packed our stuff aboard our drivers’ (Ronald) van and drove to a guest house in Kampala, to shower and get a tiny bit of rest before taking a six hour ride to Ntungamo. It was not the best or most normal shower, but it sure felt great after not having showered since 6:50am on Sunday. We then drove to Ntungamo, and along the way, we stopped at a restaurant for food and did currency exchanging. It is incredibly hot and humid here during the day.

Finally, after a very long van ride, we arrived at Ntungamo. We met Michael, who works for Living Water, for dinner at a Ugandan buffet. The girls stayed in the connected hotel and the guy went to a different nearby hotel. We had an issue at first with them not having as many rooms as we had booked, but it all worked out. I’m currently laying on a mosquito net protected bed in a single “hotel” room with Ugandan news playing in the background. Well, this is my first night in a bed, so I’d like to read and sleep. Goodnight!

May 18

Today we visited the village of which Trinity funded the construction of a well for clean water through Hands of Hope in conjunction with Living Waters. This was a great experience. The school, church, and community were all very appreciative. The thing that impacted me the most and I really appreciated, was the way that the pastor spoke of what God did. He was thankful that God provided through our funds and fundraising efforts and gave all of the glory to Him. This is how it should be as we are simply agents.

After playing with the kids, seeing the well, and hearing several prominent men in the village speak, we were greeted with song and dance by a group of older women and then a group of younger women from the village. Following this, we were blessed with a meal that, for this kind of community, was a feast that had very much time put into it. We then said goodbyes and made our way back to the hotel that the girls were staying in.

We were going to wash up, as it was very hot out, but our driver left while we debriefed what we had seen and experienced. However, in this, an opportunity arose to play music and dance for a bunch of neighborhood kids playing near the restaurant. Although we didn’t get to shower, this was a great experience.

Michael then arrived and we followed him to his house. He has a very nice house and an awesome family. We then had a great night of food and fellowship with one another.

After this, we went back to our respective hotels and were to get to sleep soon after. However, Dan and I went for a short walk. Near the end, we started an important discussion on what our purpose is on this trip. We decided to get sodas and sit outside of the bar and chat. Upon sitting down, a man (who seemed to have had a little too much to drink) asked if he could play Dan’s guitar. Dan approved and got it. It was hard to tell whether it was due to a lack of skill or due to inebriation, but did not seem to know what he was doing, and then asked us to play songs. Dan started playing “Guardian Angel” by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and a crowd gathered, so I went to fetch the cajon (hand drum).

We played for them many songs, secular and worship, switching off whenever our hands hurt too much from the cajon. Eventually our hands were worn out and our voices gone from the several songs that we sang that were far out of our voice ranges and we finished our “show.”

Dan noticed that they had seemed to somehow sense when we did worship songs, such as “How He Loves,” which doesn’t even contain the name of the Lord or any references to God. When we played them, people left, when we played secular songs, people gathered, despite not knowing any of the songs, worship or secular. This was odd, as we did better on the worship songs.

We decided to talk about this more on the following day as it is late.

May 19

This morning, we went for a walk (others ran, and yet others slept). It was very beautiful to walk up the Ugandan mountain and see wildlife and the terrain. It was a great workout too.

After this, we got back to the girls hotel for breakfast. Dan and I continued our conversation and Dan suggested that we step things up and incorporate telling the Gospel into any time that we play music for people because otherwise we were wasting an opportunity to truly show those watching, love. I agreed and was glad that he said something, as I had felt prompting of the Holy Spirit in respect to this directly following our decision to head to bed.

Following this conversation, kids wanted us to play again. My finger was bruised from the night before and swollen, so I did not participate besides playing “Lord, You Are Good,” though the kids were more interested in singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

We then began our drive back to Kampala. About an hour in, we stopped at Juna Amagara’s ABIDE ministry to visit Matt Kehn. This was an awesome experience as Graham, Dr. Washington and Dr. Moulder had not seen him in several years and I had not seen him in approximately 6 years. His ministry is awesome and is well worth checking out, as they definitely need support. We got to have lunch with him and some of his students that he and another few staff members are discipling, which was an awesome experience to see such men of God and to know that the future of the Church of Uganda IS being equipped.

We then made the long journey back to the guest house in Kampala. During this ride we saw Zebras, Antelope, and were able to stop at the equator as we crossed it. When we got back, we had dinner immediately with Onesimus, the archbishop’s chaplain (personal assistant). it was great to hear about his story and his intense past with life in general, and with the Anglican Church as a current member and a former division of the Church due to mainly misunderstandings. Adam Riddel also joined us for dinner, which was great (both the food and his company). Dan, Jon, and I are rooming together tonight, so I need to go have some pillow talk!

May 20

Dan, Jon, and I stayed up till around 2am local time last night, but it was well worth the conversation and we we able to be awake for the very important events of today. Today has been the most monumental of our dates so far, at least in my eyes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved getting to see what Trinity did with the well project, but I wasn’t really a part of it; I loved getting to see Matt’s ministry, but I’m not a part of it; but this, this is where we begin our vision casting and truly start our mission as spies in another land.

This morning, we traveled with Onesimus to the headquarters of the Church of Uganda. Here, we joined leaders of the faith in this country in worship and devotion (the archbishop was not in attendance, but we were to meet his grace at his place of residence afterwards). I don’t know that I have ever been more attentive in participating in a devotional time. We missed the opening hymn(s), but were there for the unpacking of Isaiah 48:12-22, which was wonderful; and we were also there for the first verse and chorus of “It is Well,” a hymn that is both powerful and beautiful, as most are. After this time, we were introduced and then prayed for.

Directly following, we walked out of his grace’s office door and followed a short path to the archbishop’s palace. We sat at the edges of our seats waiting to meet a man that has done so much in his country and also for the Anglican Church, all for the better. He then entered the room laughing, smiling, and greeting us all. This of course removed the tension, although the respect was still very obviously displayed by our team. He then spoke with us for a bit telling us the history of the Church of Uganda as well as telling us a little bit about his experience as archbishop. Following this, Dr. Washington explained our purpose and Dr. Moulder asked several questions.

We then took pictures and boarded our new transportation, a small bus (more spacious than the van, but as we would find out fairly soon, less comfortable for long rides). After about an hour-long ride, we arrived at Uganda Christian University. We met with the Vice Chancellor, who told us of the history while providing a great meal (though I wish I had recognized that one of the entrees was liver and not goat meat, I would have not had that). He then gave us a tour of the campus. I joked with Dan about after finishing my masters at Trinity, that him and I should pursue doctorates at their graduate school and teach seminary and/or undergraduate level classes at the school. Despite the joking nature of that conversation, that my actually be something that I would like to come to perdition.

After this, we boarded the bus for a four-hour long ride to Mbale with no stops. This was not fun as we had finally gotten hit with a wave of tired but it was warm on the bus (and far too windy with the speed we were going to open the windows) and not very comfortable. I can only hope that someone managed to get pictures of all of the odd positions that I tried to sleep in after being woken from my first nap but the sun, sweating. However, there were positives to this ride…okay, singular, positive. We crossed the Nile River, which is pretty cool.

We arrived at the Bishop of Mbale’s home for dinner after this perilous journey for a great meal not lacking in quantity or quality, including mangoes for dessert. We then were briefed on our plans for e week, but besides reading over it quickly, I missed the explanation due to making tea and coffee for people with Dan and also due to how tired and unfocused I was.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel. I have a very nice large room equipped with a bidet (a nonfunctioning one, sadly). It is nice to have somewhere that we will be staying for more than two nights. I have unpacked all of my luggage, and it feels great.

Dan and I played worship for a bit earlier and I started falling asleep while playing guitar, I should probably go to sleep since I have since unpacked and written this long post.

May 21

This update will be lacking in town names as I do not have the itinerary in my possession, but will do my best to not have anything be lost because of it. (Graham later said this was Jawa)

We first went to a little town that we may partner with to hear about their needs. It was a great community and seems like one that would be great for us to help with as they have so little. World Vision is in this town and I was able to see and make friends with a little boy, whose name escapes me after this long day, who has had his cleft palate restored. This was very impacting for me because I know people very close to me that have supported such efforts and this child looked just like the one from the picture that they have. I also made friends with a little boy, whose name also escapes me, who decided to hold my hand the entire time we were the, rub my arm and hand as well as carry my water bottle for me. I wouldn’t mind being either of these kids’ father because if any children have shown me love, it’s been these two.

Sadly, there was a very devastating thing that I witnessed while in this village. A mother was at the healthcare center in town with her baby who has malaria. Just thinking about it and being able to see how used to things like that that they appear to be, makes my heart hurt. After we left, Dan said that Uganda is growing on him and he may be less joking now, I replied saying that I agreed.

After this, we went to visit another campus of UCU and spent the rest of the day with them including lunch, conversation, visiting another campus, and dinner. The way back from the third campus was the most intense as we got stuck in the mud and it was getting dark. All of the men helped out though and all is well.

May 22

Like the last, this update will be lacking in town names. It’s now Sunday, which means preaching time. I was not one of the four that was going to preach, but still got to!

Becky, Dr. Moulder, and I went to the same village for the first service. We were pretty late as we came to a road that we were supposed to tke, but it was very muddy and we didn’t think we’d makeit, so we took a large detour. The first service was short and sweet because we were there so late, but then we drove to a second town (not knowing we were doing two services). This service was very long, so we must have come in right after it started.

After the service, we went to a room in a nearby building to talk and have tea. After a while, we were just sitting there and watching a movie about Jesus’ life, and then some odd worship music videos. I started falling asleep and had no idea why we were still there. It turned out that they were having food made for us and simply did not communicate that. It was great food. However, we were out there from 9pm (we left at 7:30) and we got back at 5pm. I guess we had a workday on the Sabbath?

We had a bit of time to rest and then at 7pm went to the Vicar of St. Peter’s church in Mbale for dinner, which was great. We ended up having an hourlong conversation about circumcision…which was pretty odd, but fit the topic prior.

May 22

Today was great, all in all. Things didn’t all go my way, but things went well and I found myself actively choosing God in quite a few situations, and that helped a lot. We visited a couple of schools today, which was great, as was visiting a waterfall. However, the big part of today was my realization that I will probably be in Uganda again for some form of missions for some amount of time. However, that’s the amount of clarity that I have on that subject.

I need to get up in 6ish hours and think I lost my camera and am really frustrated with myself about that, so I’m going to go to sleep. Sorry this isn’t more in depth.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

May 23

Visited two high schools (one super poor and one doing alright)

Meeting with the bishop of mbales office

(This was a debriefing meeting, I did not take any real notes about this day or the days after, but if you would like to hear more, feel free to contact me)

Two Ways to Start a Forest Fire

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” – James 3:5-12

I am a firm believer in the notion that actions speak louder than words.

That being said, I think we sometimes use that as an excuse to say whatever we want as long as we are acting the right way.

Brothers and sisters, the topic that I am addressing is not literally one of starting fires, but more metaphorically, our speech. Within this topic, I will not be addressing cursing very deeply as that is not the main conviction that I am receiving from this passage (though an important matter), but instead, my focus will be gossip.

Last semester, a friend asked me for my own definition of gossip. Having not spent much time in though about this matter, I said that it was all about the heart of which the speech was rooted in. Looking back on that I feel as though that was a very naive statement as it is written, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9), which is of course followed by, only God can understand it.

In further thought this year, including a large amount of time spent in Matthew 18:15-20, I have come across a much more biblically-founded definition of gossip, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Something that we have made out to be a way of handling conflict, at least in Christian circles, is called “processing.” The concept behind having someone else give you his/her insights on a conflict that you are facing, itself, is not bad. The issue, however, lies in that a majority of times we include details that are not necessary, such as names or specific elements that do not actually need to be known in order to advise. It is easy to think of it as gossip only if we are just telling someone because we want to, but something as harmless as looking for advice can easily, and mistakenly, become gossip or even slander.

To broadly define these two terms before continuing:
Gossip – true
Slander – false

When we are processing through in our own minds how to handle a situation, we tend to speculate. Speculation, however, is just about as rooted in truth as worry. Worry is anticipating a negative event in the future, which could not happen as we do not know the future. I the same way, we can be incredibly logical in our thought processes, piece all the evidence together in our minds about a situation, and we still might be wrong. This is where slander can come in. When you process with another person and use names, you are putting this possibly false information in his/her head.

Gossip however would be once you already know that the information is definitely true, but as I mentioned earlier, you share information that is not necessary, especially with a party that happens to know the person of which you are in conflict with.

[note: I am primarily talking about conflict at this point, but will tie in a more broad definition of gossip at the end]

Matthew 18:15-20 clearly outlines how we are to handle conflict with a brother or sister:

  1. Go to him or her first.
  2. IF he or she does not receive it, bring in ONE other party.
  3. IF the issue persists, it is then time to bring in the elders of your church.
  4. Finally, if things rebuke will not be received in any sense, then it is time to sever the ties.

I find it fascinating that the context of this scriptural direction is meant for sin issues. A majority of the time that we have our little conflicts that turn into gossip or slander, they are based on relational misunderstanding and not on actual offense that could ruin a community under Christ. How is it then, that we convince ourselves that we can make exceptions to less serious things to spread them around like wildfire?

Gossip is sharing another’s information in any circumstance that is private in nature, unnecessary for the recipient to know, or not your place to share without permission.

Now, is that the most fully inclusive definition that I could possibly come up with? Probably not. But if I have not gotten my point across through what has been written already, I’m not going to get it across through a lofty definition.

Instead, why not spend more time on the do’s than don’t’s?

Go straight to your brother when he has done something to bother you or has sinned against you. It’s alright to talk to a close friend or mentor and explain the situation without names or all the details to see if you are right in the way you feel or not, but honestly, chances are, you would get that from talking to your brother directly as well.

An even better way of deciding what to tell others about people is looking at how the things you want to say will impact the recipient’s view of the subject. In other words, will it lessen his view of the subject or are you bragging on your friend for something awesome that he has done? I think you’re getting my drift.

We live in a culture, even within the church, where a majority of our jokes or comments that relate to humor are at someone’s expense. This is incredibly sad. Think of how many more Christians and those that we come into contact with would feel loved, accepted, valued, happy, and so on, if we just loved those around us and built them up instead of tearing them down.

We are called as a church, to love.

Let’s love people with both our actions and our words.

Instead of starting fires with our mouths, let’s put out the fires that others have started and take part in the process of healing and nurturing the forests to full health again.

Let’s plant some seeds among ashes.

For further scripture in relation to gossip, conflict and attitudes, see:
Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17, Proverbs 10:12, Proverbs 11:12-13, Proverbs 12:16, 23, 1 Timothy 5:13, Ephesians 4:29-32

The Road To Recovery Is Easy…

That title is missing a very important clarifier.

The full sentence should read, “The road to recovery is easy, when you fully trust Him”

Now, the thing about this concept that is confusing is that life is not easy, and as Christians, life will be harder for us than those who live for themselves…so where does the “easy” part come in?

I’m glad you presumably asked.

Although we must pay careful attention to the context of verses (I am referring to the message of Jeremiah 29:11 that is often mistaken as a promise to us from God that was actually intended only for the Exiles in Babylon at that exact time in history), there are verses that give us reassurance that is warranted by the greatness of our God.

To give a few examples:

  • “I will NEVER leave you or forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
  • “and be sure of this: I am always with you, even to the very end of the age.”  – Matthew 28:20b
  • “God never abandons us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:9
  • “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” – Isaiah 43:2

Yes things will be difficult, especially living more for Christ, but the easiness is not in regards to the same concept as the difficulty we will face.

The easiness that I am referring to is the one mentioned in the following statement of Christ, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The easiness that I am referring to is in regards to its counterpart, uneasiness.

When we are living for ourselves though we know that we should be making choices for the furthering of God’s kingdom both in our lives and around us, we are left with an empty feeling of disappointment and regret. However, no matter how difficult it is to live right, when you make decisions to glorify God instead of taking the easy way out, there is a form of contentment and peace that seems to make it clear how much of a better choice it is.

When we truly choose God and put what He wants above what is easy or desirable for us, we find greater contentment than we could ever imagine. This contentment may not always look as we want it to, it does not mean that we will have a huge house or large paycheck, but there is a peace in knowing the God of the universe and serving Him with your whole heart.

Go now and live your life in a way that is glorifying to the One who has brought us redemption and the possibility of peace in this inconsistent, fallen world.

Peace be with you.

Every Single Moment Counts

It’s been far too long since I’ve written on here.

In Bible study two nights ago, we looked at Matthew 7:24-29 (shown below).

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”  And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:24-29 ESV)

And we talked about how the main idea of this passage is that hearing the truth is one thing, but actually choosing to follow it is what we’re called to.  We could go to school our entire lives and hear everything that is said but never apply it to our living, but then what would it’s purpose have been?  Why would we not make use of such great knowledge as that of the Gospel?

However, there had been something on my heart earlier this day as well that seemed to tie in.  I have heard time and again that living for Christ is a daily choice, but the realization that I came to this past Tuesday was that it’s so much more than that.  We have a choice to follow Christ EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of our lives.  Think about it!  Every opportunity we face to do good or bad, to tell the truth or to lie, to continue in our sin or to finally turn from it, every moment is a choice and it needs to be for God.

We have the amazing opportunity to glorify God with our lives, but going to church and living a good life simply isn’t good enough.

The word that I can’t ignore that’s in my head right now is devotion.  When you are wholly devoted to something you will do absolutely anything you can for the purpose of doing right by that cause.  The gospel calls that of all of us, and it calls precedence over every other thing that we devote ourselves to in this life, rightfully so.

Brothers and sisters, join me in the difficult task of choosing Christ every moment.  We can help each other in not being silent when we see something wrong but loving each other and following convictions.  No one likes to be called out…but we need it.

I love you all.

(this image is from the Chicago mission trip I was on a couple weeks ago)

Music is What Brings Us Together

I was in Jamba Juice yesterday with my mom and I noticed something interesting. This little girl was bouncing her knee, this guy in a kilt was bobbing his head and I was tapping my foot. The thing that somehow connected the three of us, being complete strangers in very different places, was a catchy song.

Music is something that transcends friendship, other interests, religion, nationality, gender, and sexuality.

Having just been at Cornerstone Festival I should have noticed this, but I guess the fact that it was a Christian festival seemed to overshadow that music was the gathering factor, it was also a gathering of believers.

I’m not saying that music is the best thing in the world but I guess it’s just interesting to think of what it means and how it connects people.

Sometimes it connects with someone’s story, or it’s their way of escaping from the crap in their lives, or their way to worship God or whoever else they worship, or even their way to just have a good time.

I really like music and I love how it connects people that otherwise would not be in any other way than the fact that we’re human (which rarely seems to matter to anyone).

Visible Children

I am brought to tears right now. Tears of joy.

The last couple days have been very up and down. Thinking that rescue was going to come and then thinking that no one cares.

Today marks a day in history, when the children of the LRA are no longer invisible to US, but the public now knows of something that they have been blind to for the past 23 years.

This is the beginning of something huge. June 22-23rd, [I’d put the name of the event up but the IC website is being bombarded with people :D] but it’s going to be people marching on capitol hill to get the Obama administration to work with other nations to remove Joseph Kony without waging war on the children that we are trying to save.

Watching Bobby, Laren, and Jason on Oprah this morning was so amazing, and to see the 500 that I had just stood with out there yesterday was amazing. This is why you never give up hope. This is what they were holding out for.

Chicago was the last stand, and it was huge like it was supposed to be.

God is good.

The Last Stand

I don’t think any of us (besides maybe the organization itself) went in thinking it would be like this.

It has been 4 days now and there’s still not even a hint of any kind of Rescue.

I am not able to be there now because I have classes and I have blown them off a little too much the past two days and it is a good friend of mine’s birthday tonight, but I would love to go back if it is not done by tomorrow.

120 cities worldwide…Chicago is the only one left.

Mayor Daley doesn’t want the “bad” publicity because of the Olympics, we’ve pissed off the media by bombarding them with phone calls, Oprah has been ripped apart on national television by Scary Spice…are we doing something wrong?

Did we change our focus at some point and change our course of action to be that of an activism group that fights and will not shut up until they’re heard? I thought that this wasn’t our plan.

I am disgusted by Chicago’s disregard and ignorance of our perseverance through weather, disappointment, and regulations.

How long can this last? Will one of the 5 step up and finish this?

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Dick Durbin, and Joe Biden are all in D.C. (Barack’s actually in St. Louis today so maybe he will be it)

What’s Oprah’s excuse? Where’s that huge heart she boasts to have? Where’s her humanitarian side that we know her for? Is it all a facade?

I hope to be there for the end of it, because it will be huge. However, I just want it to be done and the impact to be made that we have hoped for. I really hope Obama will step up and show that he does care and that the voters made the right choice.

Stay strong Chicago.

Paul, The Excitable.

Upon reading the first chapter of Ephesians, I noticed something about Paul’s character. He can be distressed about people falling short, he can be angry at those choosing unrighteous paths, but when people are doing things right and honoring God, he gets extremely excited.

I understand this to an extent. When my dad or one of my friends who I have seen become a Christian does something spiritual, it makes my heart melt and my eyes tear up. However, the way that Paul expresses his excitement makes me somewhat jealous. I don’t feel like jealousy is a bad thing in this case, it’s not wanting something I can’t have, it’s wanting something I should have and I can work towards.

The more I read Paul’s writings, the more respect I gain for him. Paul has become one of my heroes. I feel one thing generally forgotten in reading the Bible is that people like Paul, Matthew, James, Mark, and others, wrote this stuff, it’s not like God just breathed on paper, His word came through His followers. This makes it so much more personal and so much more real for me.

Do Not Be Lacking in Zeal

“Listen, there’s nothing wrong with zeal when you’re zealous for God’s good purpose.” -Galatians 4:18a (the voice)

When we say, “I will support you no matter what you choose to do,” I wonder to what extent we mean that. Are we counting on knowing the person so well that they will do something good, are we slightly guilting them to push them towards what they know is right to do, or are we honestly just saying, whatever is is, I will support you.

I see a danger in this statement if it’s either of the last two. For one, guilt is not a good thing, people have told me it is, and from all I’ve done in my life and how much I’ve changed, guilt has only held me back from growing. When the leper asked Jesus to heal him, did Jesus respond, “first look at all you’ve done against me so that you may see why you are not worthy of being healed”? No. Jesus said, “pick up your mat and walk.”

Where do we get off seeing guilt as a good thing which Jesus does not ever impose it on us. I can understand how if someone is constantly doing something wrong and does not want to fix their problems, then they need a little guilt. But why should someone who feels bad from their past and wants to change, be held in that place and continue to suffer. Set them free.

To the idea of honestly saying whatever it is, I will support you. People say that they like to support people in places that they are passionate, but can there be a danger depending on where that passion lies? I would like to name off a few zealous people: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Kony, Fred Phelps…do I need to continue? Zeal is great, but like Paul says in Galatians, when it’s for God’s good purpose. Don’t misread the idea of zeal to be, catch on fire with something, run, and enjoy it. Rather, stop, drop, and roll if the idea sucks and is not for God, but run with it if it is.

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