Friday, November 9, 2012

Regarding the election

Mr. Barack Obama will have four more years of the privilege of being President of the United States. Whether you are disappointed or elated (or somewhere in between), be thankful that in this democratic republic, we have the opportunity to choose our representatives and leaders; many in the world do not have that privilege. Refrain from castigating or insulting those who hold beliefs different than your own; they are neither ignorant, nor stupid, nor fools, and though you may question their judgement, they have reasons for believing and voting as they do, just like you. If you are a Christian, fulfill your responsibility to pray for the leadership of your state and your country; pray for wise, Godly counsel to surround the President and for the Lord to turn his heart towards Himself. Remember that the Lord is sovereign. Finally, whatever your religious or political beliefs, there are hungry who need feeding, naked who need clothing, hurting who need healing, and homeless who need housing. Reach out to those in need, and show kindness to your fellow being. Always.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

up late

I should be in bed right now, but as usual I am not!  Just a quick note to ask you to pray for my Granny, who's been in the hospital at UNC-Chapel Hill the last week.  They still have not exactly pinpointed what has been going on, but they're looking at an autoimmune disorder as the probably cause.  I'm going to spend the day with her tomorrow.

This may be my shortest blog ever.  :-D

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jesus died for Joseph Kony

All the chatter about "Stop Kony" and "Stop at nothing" the last couple days and reading various opinions and blogs and thoughts has got me thinking about issues of mercy and grace and compassion. Reading this post this morning was convicting. In all my hesitation about the idea of "going after" Kony using the same methods that have been tried before, I failed to see the most
important issue.

Jesus died for Joseph Kony.

When you think about that and really start to chew on it, it's mind-blowing--but at the same time, it isn't, if you know the Lord. When villains such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin and Moammar Ghaddafi died, I was sad. I wasn't sad that they were no longer present in body and able to cause harm to people; I was sad that they had died, in all likelihood, without knowledge of the Savior who loved them--in all their wickedness--enough to die for them. Last year I spent a good bit of time working towards forgiving someone who'd caused great harm to someone I loved; the realization that Jesus died for this individual I despised was a huge part of learning to forgive.

Jesus died for Joseph Kony.

Joseph Kony was created by God. God knows every whorl and line of his fingerprints. God knows every thought, however good or vile, that enters into his head. God knows exactly how many hairs are on that head. And God loves him dearly, even as Kony's actions clearly break God's heart. Joseph Kony has perpetrated unspeakable acts in the name of the Lord, and I am sure this makes Him angry. But God still loves him.

Jesus died for Joseph Kony.

Every atrocity, every hurt, every rape and murder and kidnap and theft that Joseph Kony is responsible for was covered by the blood of Jesus on the cross. If Joseph Kony seeks it, he will receive the same forgiveness extended to each individual on this earth because Jesus died for him. Just like he died for us.

Jesus died for Joseph Kony.

I can't believe that I missed the most important issue, the piece that should've been at the very root of everything I said and thought and wrote about the matter. As one whose life is surrendered to the One who gives life, my first thought should have been, "Forgiveness. Reconciliation." So thank you, Michele Perry, for reminding me what's most important.

Jesus died for Joseph Kony.

What right have I, whose life has never been directly touched by the man, and as one forgiven by the Savior, to hold on to any sort of anger or unforgiveness toward the man? Do I still want to see justice done? Sure, but more than earthly justice I want heavenly justice; I want Joseph Kony to know that if he chooses to receive the forgiveness extended to him by the cross, he is justified, and his sins are as they never were. We also need to remember that justice is not the same as revenge. Justice in the eyes of the Africans--in the eyes of those directly affected by the man and his actions--might look very different than what we Westerners think it should.

Perhaps this seems to make light of the pain the man has caused; that is certainly not my intent. But if the very individuals whose lives were turned upside down by the man can forgive him, surely so can we. I've still got a long way to go in the forgiveness department--part of me still would like to see violence done to him just as he's done it to so many. But my task as follower of the Lord Jesus Christ is to forgive this man, remembering that in spite of all he's done...

Jesus died for Joseph Kony.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

KONY 2012

Joseph Kony. A man whose name has long been distasteful to me. A man whose actions have destroyed and re-routed thousands of lives. A man whose time has come.

Or has it?

Invisible Children released a video a few days ago called KONY 2012. I finally had a chance to watch it tonight and my feelings are as mixed as they were before I watched it. If you haven't seen it, it is on Youtube and Vimeo. The gist of it is that Invisible Children feels that after two decades of wreaking havoc across Africa, Joseph Kony's time has come. They advocate the use of U.S. military technology and advice to the Ugandan army in order to capture Kony and bring him to justice. I have some concerns about this. One is that Kony's army is built by the capture, arming, and brainwashing of children. Some of them have grown up in the army, and life under Joseph Kony is all they know. If these children have been brainwashed and are victims of Stockholm Syndrome, who's to say they will let him go easily? Who's to say they will allow him to be captured? If they have come to love him and look at him as their father, their leader, their priest (in its early days, at least, the Lord Resistance Army's original leader Alice said she was receiving guidance from the Lord/Holy Spirit), then what makes anyone think that they aren't willing to die to save him? How many will give up their lives and fight to the death to prevent his capture?

I also have questions about the use of the army. If the Ugandan army is like many African armies, they are not much better than the LRA! Many armies perform the same looting, raping, pillaging, and (in some cases) the capture of children for use as soldiers during war time (I am specifically thinking of the army in Sierra Leone during its civil war for this example) for which we heap condemnation upon the LRA! Is the use of one corrupt and violent army to stop another corrupt and violent army really the best way to go about things? Is this really our only option? Or is this one of those "necessary evils," (a concept which I fully grasp and just as fully detest), one of those vile paradoxes foisted upon us by nature of living in a broken and sinful world?

I do question some of the statements made in the video, such as the claim that "Ninety-nine percent of the world has never heard of" Joseph Kony. Really? I'm betting the number of people just in Africa who've heard of him is greater than one percent of the world's population (for the record, I despise sensationalistic journalism no matter what it's for or against, so I'm not picking on them exclusively; anyone who makes an unsubstantiated, outrageous claim like this will get it from me. I should also note that I greatly appreciate Invisible Children's efforts to raise awareness and bring attention and notoriety to Joseph Kony, the LRA, and their actions). The thing is, the reason governments haven't been involved before now is because it has not been a "big" or "important" enough issue for them to allocate finite resources to deal with it. The world ignored Rwanda when it cried for help in 1994; an estimated 800,000 people paid with their lives in the span of a couple of months. Joseph Kony has been destroying lives for a quarter-century, and in that time, according to the video, 30,000 children have been affected.

Nearly that many children, under the age of five, die each day from preventable, poverty-related causes. Twenty-three thousand is the estimate (I'd have to check, but I believe that statistic is attributed to UNICEF). Each. Day.

Do I think Joseph Kony needs to be brought to justice? YES. Absolutely, unequivocally, unreservedly YES. Anyone who's heard me speak on this issue knows my passionate desire to see him brought to justice. But he is a madman, and he has had a long time to cultivate and perfect his methods and tactics, and finding him, let alone bringing him to justice, will not be easy. And I submit to you that without God, it will be impossible.

To the Christians, I ask this: did you pray before you reposted that video? Did you pray when or after you watched it? Did you stop to think critically about it (actually that question is for all people), to consider whether violent means are the best way to bring a violent man down? I understand that sometimes violence is the only way, in this fallen world. I am, after all, a product of a military state and a staunch supporter of our service members. But to bring this man to justice could result in the needless deaths of many more people, many of them children or captured as children and raised in the army (an upbringing absolutely no child should ever experience).

Furthermore, (and this was a point raised by a friend of mine) what will we do with the soldiers in his liberated army? I'm sure some, perhaps many, will need to be brought to justice for their own part in the crimes committed by the army, for the role they played in disrupting and destroying the lives of others. But what of the children? Repatriating a child soldier is not a simple process. They have been taught to hate, to kill, to consider human life expendable. Read "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier in the Sierra Leone civil war, to see what I mean about repatriation. To bring these children to a point where they are able to reintegrate into society will take resources: counselors and healthcare workers and other aid workers with immense patience and a willingness to work a potentially dangerous job, intense training and discipline and re-programming (which sounds like a dirty word except it will be necessary to undo, as much as possible, the programming they received in the LRA). Eventually there would be a need for schools and teachers to teach them. Many of these children may have no family to return to, and if they do, it's possible their families will reject them for their actions (especially if they killed other family members) and in all of these cases, the children will need families of some sort--perhaps homes with an "auntie" or orphanages or some such thing. I don't know. I have no experience and too little knowledge in these matters to be able to say with any certainty what the best course of action will be.

Perhaps using violence to bring about the end of a violent, cruel, and wicked man really is the only way it will happen. Perhaps there is no other recourse. Perhaps. But this man has been here for a quarter century and all previous efforts to stop him have failed and resulted in violent retaliation on more innocent people and what will we do if our efforts again fail? What if the failure of these attempts results in the worst retaliation yet, because the "mighty" United States dared to get involved in an "African affair?"

If combining the advice and technology of the U.S. military with the might of the Ugandan army is our best course of action and is, in fact, the best way to bring about the fall of Joseph Kony, I still believe that there is a high risk of failure unless these efforts are covered in prayer. If we have not yet succeeded in this endeavor, a few new pieces of equipment are not likely to change that. But God can.

I see this as more than just a physical war; I believe it is, at its very heart, a spiritual one. Look at the roots of the LRA! A woman named Alice, claiming visions or mandates or what-have-you from the Lord, telling her soldiers that smearing oil on their chests will make them invincible to bullets! Either the woman was crazy, or she was in fact seeing visions--but not from God. Perhaps she was both crazy AND seeing visions from whatever spiritual power was speaking to her. And if this army has been fueled for nearly three decades (perhaps longer; I'm not sure) by demonic forces, no amount of human-fueled effort will ever prevail!

So I challenge this: if you want to see Joseph Kony brought to justice and the Lord's Resistance Army brought to its timely end, if you are a Christian and believe God has the power to move mightily in the supernatural to bring about change in the natural, then you need to pray! Reposting videos, wearing trendy bracelets (and we're Americans; we love our trends!), and plastering your city with posters and buttons and lawn signs will do no good if you don't pray! Pray for justice; pray for liberty for the captives; pray for the peace of Africa! If we could get a worldwide movement of Christians praying for this--really, truly praying intercessory prayers and crying out to God for justice to be done--then I have no doubt that we WILL see Joseph Kony fall. We WILL see justice delivered. We WILL see peace in Africa. We will see children again have the chance to be children; we will see people no longer having to fear for their lives and those of their loved ones; we will see change come to beautiful Africa.

Please, for the love of all Africa's children, please, please pray. I exhort you, brethren, to pray!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

He makes all things new

Spring is easily my favorite time of year (though it has some serious competition from the fall--changing leaves, crisp air, the scent of wood smoke, and hot apple cider? Come on! You can't beat that!). I love the days that get successively warmer, the birds returning to sing songs of their winter journeys, the sun that seems a little bit brighter each day, and best of all, the emergence of new life! From adorable baby animals to blossoms on the trees to little seedlings poking up to say hello, the wonder of creation coming alive after the dark cold of winter never ceases to leave me in awe.

This year we have had an exceptionally mild winter. I don't remember ever having a winter so free of cold, ice, snow, and freezing rain--as a matter of fact, I think we've had some combination of those every winter for the last several years. This winter has barely seen temperatures barely dip below freezing (which does have me slightly concerned about the mosquito population this summer. They may finally succeed in carrying me off to be their blood sacrifice. Or whatever). As a result, spring is coming early this year! Tulip trees have been blossoming for a couple of weeks, and a couple days ago I spotted trees with tiny, delicate pink blossoms. Oh, and our daffodils have already been peeping at the sun for days!

All of this has me very excited because, for the first time, I am going to make a serious effort at planting a garden. Since I will likely be moving before the end of the growing season, said garden will be in containers. I bought some little violas back in January and yesterday repotted two of them into a window box. And promptly (pre-emptively?) planted radish seeds all down the middle (the violas are at each end). I've never had radishes, so I don't even know whether or not I like them! So I decided to buy a packed of mixed seeds, and I am anxiously awaiting the appearance of little green leaves. Checking the window box at least twice today (it's out on the back deck). Even though I just planted them yesterday and know good and well that nothing has sprouted yet. What can I say? I'm excited! Sometimes I wonder, does God ever get anxious/nervous/excited when He's planted something in us and is just waiting for it to show the first signs of bearing fruit? I am sure I will be much worse when, say, the first green tomatoes and peppers appear. Does He ever get more anxious/nervous/excited when He knows we're growing and ripening and maturing, getting ever closer to who He wants us to be, to being even more like Him?

I placed orders yesterday from two different seed companies (though the seeds I needed to start already I bought on Ebay last week and promptly sent--on accident--to Texas! Always change your Paypal address BEFORE you pay!) and I am super-excitedly-awaiting their arrival. I had the hardest time deciding what varieties--and what vegetables!--I wanted to try as a first time pseudo-serious gardener, even though I was limiting my selection to dwarf and small-plant varieties (to make them easier to move if such a thing happens during the growing season). Maybe I am a little crazy for undertaking this when I know I will be moving, but I am learning to be less concerned about these (relatively safe) risks. If a cautious little turtle refuses to ever come out of its shell, it's not going to see or experience or know very much at all. I refuse to be a little scared turtle keeping my head stuck in my shell. Well, not all the time, at least. Although I think I got the risk-taking department covered somewhat when I packed up my car and moved to Texas last year. Anyway. Mixing up my dirt yesterday, the potting soil and compost and vermiculite and coconut coir was the most glorious feeling, just thinking that something so unassuming and plain and made up of dead things and decomposed things and stuff that would have otherwise been trash (like the coconut hulls used in coco coir) will very soon nourish little seedlings into bigger seedlings into plants that will burst forth in bloom and produce little fruits that will ripen and become big fruits that will feed my family and me. It always amazes me how there is no waste in God's economy.

Spring, spring, spring! I love spring! The time when we celebrate new life and say goodbye to winter and sing, "Hallelujah! He is risen!" May we let it remind us how He takes the ashes of our lives, the dark and broken things, and remakes and reshapes them and gives them life anew.
What has He planted in you? What is just waiting to burst forth, to grow, to give new life and nourishment to others?

What miracles has He done in you?