Category Archives: Perspective

Go Ye (DOP #6 2015)

This particular meme really angers me.  Every time I see it.   I find it quite offensive.  Forgive me for including it in this post.

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So let me briefly break down why it makes me want to start a shouting match with the people I see sharing it.  Please bear with me.

In the top photo, we see rattlesnakes.  In the bottom photo we see people.  I think it is fair to say that the poster is comparing the refugees to snakes.  The poster then implies that just like that pile of rattlesnakes, refugees could kill us if they choose to attack.  The ultimate argument being made is that the refugees should not be allowed into “our homeland” because they might hurt us, and we have no idea how to tell good apart from bad.

Yes.  You are right meme creator, some of the people “fleeing” are really “infiltrating” our borders.  I can not argue with that.  In fact this post bothered me for quite a while because of it’s seemingly unassailable logic.  Obviously since we can’t tell good people from bad people we shouldn’t let ANY people inside of our borders.   It is just too dangerous.  Thank goodness we don’t have people who already live here who occasionally blow things up, or shooting up a school.  If we had anyone like that here we would have to kick everyone out of the United States.

Oh wait…it turns out people get killed by violence everyday in the United States.  It also turns out that most of the daily violence isn’t caused by people born somewhere else.

So I agree.  Since we can’t tell good people from bad people, it is no longer safe to stay here in the United States.   If we are good people, we should all leave to go somewhere else.   I guess you could call us refugees and we could start looking for a country that will take us in where we can be safe.

Here’s an idea.

What if we all went to Syria?  If all the bad guys are leaving to come over here, I bet we would be safe in Syria!  We all know there really isn’t anything dangerous happening there to justify the departure of the “refugees”.

The sarcasm pouring through my fingers is starting to make me nauseous.  So I’ll have to stop.

If we are comparing people to dangerous snakes, we can’t just give the citizens of the United States a pass because “we know them” and they are “good for it”.  We have to consider each other just as dangerous as anyone else.  Most of us will not murder anyone this year (unless you hold yourself to the the standards of Jesus found in Matthew 5:21-22…then we are all guilty) but some citizens of the United States WILL murder someone this year.   By the logic of the meme, we can’t trust anyone because we can’t trust everyone.

Now, if we consider the religion of the refugees, maybe we can make things a bit more clear.  Perhaps we could narrow down who is safe and who isn’t?  There seem to be verses in the Quran that condone violence against those who do not believe in the way Allah puts forth through his prophet Muhammad.  I haven’t personally read them (and I know perhaps only 2 people who personally have)  but I think it is probably possible to make a factual argument that Islam according to the Quran is not the most peaceful religion in the world.  Neither is Judaism for that matter (but I digress).

What people who post memes like the ones above are really saying is that because many of these refugees are Muslims, we can expect many of them to be dangerous to us, a “christian nation”.   I don’t deny that many people commit murder in the name of Islam.  There are also people who commit murder in the name of upholding the ten commandments (Here’s looking at you LRA).  Many of those in the IRA during “The Troubles” were at least loosely connected to Roman Catholicism.  Violence and religion are well acquainted.
I would like to leave us all with some of the words of Jesus found in Mark 16.

15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

We could be missing the greatest chance in our generation to reach the lost for Jesus.  They want to come to our doorstep.  They want to escape the violence they are finding around them.  Will we be willing to share the gospel?
Here…I fixed it.

fixed it

Little Sleepy Steps (DOP #2 2015)

Well…I got off work today at 11:56pm after leaving for work at 7am this morning.  SO…I apologize for this being just a bit late.  Frankly I am exhausted, it has been a long day of work, and I didn’t get a ton of sleep last night.  I’ll be up again at 6 to do it all over again tomorrow.

My feet hurt, my back is tired, and I can barely type straight (yeah…turns out that’s a thing…).  I thought about just posting a video and calling it a night.   I could snuggle up into my bed and drift away in just a moment.  My pillow is seductively whispering my name from just over my right shoulder, promising rest, promising comfort.  I’ll find my way there soon, but I recognize that part of this commitment to exploring peace involves giving up a bit of the comfort I have.

It is such a small sacrifice to make, seemingly meaningless really.

It is easy to point at someone like Mother Theresa who worked tirelessly to serve others and say “I’ll never be able to do as much as her”.  The truth is that the sum of her life of service is made up of tiny little decisions to pursue peace for herself and others.

I know that it is cliche to say, but even with very small steps, you can still go a long way.

So this is my small step for the night.  With just a little under 300 words, I encourage you to take your own small steps towards peace, by sacrificing a small amount of your own comfort.

Now off I go to lay down my head, a few minutes later than I wish, but with my task for the day done.

Fear (DOP #1 2015)

It is December, and I have again undertaken the challenge of focusing on Peace, and writing something about it each day during the Christmas season.  For the next 25 days I’ll do everything in my power to post a daily reflection of my thoughts.  Perhaps more importantly however, 5 other fabulous people are joining me in my quest!  You won’t find their posts on my site, so head on over to Facebook and like the 25 days for Peace page (we are considering a website to collect the posts with as well…more on that later).  While you are here, I wanted to say thanks for stopping by, and I really do appreciate you taking the time to read (and maybe even subscribe to) my thoughts.  I’d love to hear what you are thinking as well, so leave a comment below and I’ll get it approved as soon as I can! Merry Christmas, and I hope you find peace in this season.    


I keep reading posts on Facebook that say things like “all Muslims are bad” or “all refugees are terrorists”.  I have seen people post similar statements about Democrats and Republicans, those who are Pro-Life and those who are Pro-Choice, and even about police officers and other public servants.  Everyone seems to have a group of people they don’t like, or that they feel can’t be trusted.  Everyone has someone they fear.

I used to be afraid of loud noises, like fireworks or airplanes flying by at airshows.  The loud noises filled me with fear.

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In skimming the Wikipedia article about fear, I notice that there are lots of little sub-categories and niches that fear falls into.  There are irrational fears, learned fears, taught fears, and phobias, to name just a few.  The article discusses them in depth (far deeper than I chose to go) and mentions possible causes for each.  When you ask google the definition of fear, it describes fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Wikipedia points out (and I agree) that all fear is not bad. The learned fear of pain is what keeps us from touching things we know will burn us.  We know that falling from something 10 feet can hurt us, so we are cautious at great heights.  A person who can not swim, is often afraid of falling into the water.  We justly fear things we know will cause us harm, whether emotionally or physically.  In many cases we are kept alive by fear, it is an essential emotion!

In some situations fear is not a benefit to us, but is rather a hindrance to us.  If I am afraid of rejection I may not be willing to take important calculated risks at my job, or in my personal life, If I am afraid of the people around me, I won’t ask for help when I need it.  If I am afraid of failing at a task I want to pursue, I may never start the task in the first place.  This kind of fear is difficult for us to ignore, because it is an emotions based fear, and emotions can be fickle things.   We often do not have the ability to predict emotional outcomes, so our fear can be justified to ourselves.

When we are afraid, when we are full of fear, we need to seek peace.

I don’t mean a simple “lets hold hands and sing Kumbaya” kind of peace, but a real inner peace.  Wikipedia describes inner peace below:

“Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy homeostasis and the opposite of being stressed or anxious. Peace of mind is generally associated with bliss and happiness. ”

Wikipedia article on Peace

Peace can drive out fear.  We often find peace going hand in hand with knowledge and understanding.  When we understand fireworks (and are expecting them) we are not afraid of the loud noises but can enjoy them for what they are.  By learning that the noise of a firework is part of how the beauty is created, I chose to accept the noise because of the beauty.   A person who learns to swim may find that they have little reason to fear the water anymore.  Knowledge can drive out fear, understanding can bring peace.

How many times do we fear a religion, refugees, and people who are of a different race, simply because we do not know them, we do not understand them?  Maybe we do not have enough knowledge to correctly judge between people who are a threat, and people who are threatened.  Perhaps we lack the understanding of the reality of racism in this country, since we have never personally experienced it.

I am not saying that we should blindly risk everything for everyone, but I am saying that we should make an effort to confront our fears by making an effort to understand them.

What if we started with pursuing knowledge and understanding first?  Wouldn’t we know more precisely what we SHOULD fear, and take steps to solve the problems we understand to be there?   Wouldn’t we find ourselves at peace more often than we do now?

Learn about the things that scare you.

Try to understand them.

Give peace a chance.

1 Million

Late Saturday night, something happened that I have been working towards off and on for quite a while. It happened quietly, with very little fanfare, and it could have easily escaped even my notice. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t even that important, but to me it has been an interesting reminder of what lies ahead for me.

I moved to Fort Wayne a little more than a month ago, and after a summer of hotel rooms and long drives back and forth to and from Hicksville, it has been a tremendous relief to have a 5 minute morning commute instead of the hour I had been spending. So far I really love being on my own, with no one to worry about but myself. I have been eating less fast food, and even have found time to read in the evenings again.

I don't miss the early morning drives, but the sunrises were pretty special.

I don’t miss the early morning drives, but the sunrises were pretty special.

One of the reasons I thought I would love it so much is because I would finally have some free time to spend on projects that have been sitting on the back burner. At any given time I have at least 15 different things I want to do. There are fun projects like learning to play the piano, finishing the cello I am repairing, learning to play the cello, filming an artsy project, filming some funny videos with some friends, and reading several book series.

There are also more serious projects I want to work on, like the resurrection of my political website, or preparing for the second year of 25 days of peace. I have a series of fictional blogs I want to write, and hours upon hours of video to edit for NGO’S in Haiti and Nicaragua. I have even started a movie script that needs to be finished.

I have so many side projects and aspirations that I keep lists of my favorite ideas in my phone. Obstensibly so I can remember to work on them when I have time. The notes app I use has ideas scattered all over it, ranging from 3 word phrases to fully developed outlines. Quite possible the most important note in the app is my list of life goals.

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I don’t remember if I have ever let anyone see the whole list, but I am highly confident that I have set the bar unbelievably high. A few of the items I am willing to mention include finishing a 100 mile race, and taking a photograph that changes the world. There are other goals on the list that are even more outlandish, ones that seem even less possible than the ones I mentioned above. Some will take years of slow but steady progress, while others will take 3-4 months of sustained and uninterrupted effort.

The problem is that since I have moved to Fort Wayne, I find myself comfortable. As I think about my list of goals I shake my head with incredulity that any one of them could be accomplished in my lifetime, that any of my goals are realistic. As I sit in my recliner, eating an entire frozen pizza by myself while reading some excellent science fiction, I find that my interest in changing the world wanes. The sense of freedom and independence is overwhelmingly enjoyable. I find that I am happy being simple and comfortable. My affairs are my own, and all I ask is to be left to them in peace. I think I am beginning to understand why people are able to just ignore the problems of the world. It is because we have found ourselves to be comfortable, and it is quite pleasant. If it isn’t happening to me right here and right now, it is so easy to ignore.

Late on Saturday night, something remarkable happened. One of my life goals was completed! In fact, it was the very first goal on my list.

For some reason I thought that having a video online with 1 million views was important. That happened Saturday night. For the first time ever, I get to mark an item off of my list! In fact, it happened with very little effort on my part. I simply edited the video, and waited. Once it was posted the hard work was already finished.

LifeGoals

As I reflect on who I was when I started my list, I question why I chose the things I did. Some of the goals are still something I am passionate about, while others have faded in importance. As I consider the work that lies ahead, I find I am afraid to start it, worried that the effort required may leave me empty in the end, or that I may find the completion of a certain goal is meaningless, as the completion of this goal certainly was. I worry that I will find myself comfortable, and unwilling to do the hard work that is going to be required of me to reach all of my “life goals”.

So tonight as I celebrate the removal of one impossible goal from my collection of impossible goals, I have decided to replace it with another, even more impossible to accomplish. I do so because I do not want to be comfortable. I’ve decided that I want to die with many items marked off of my life goal list as done, but I don’t want to die with an empty list. I’ll use every bit of living I’ve been given.

My new goal?

I wish to be known as a peacemaker.

A goal I will pursue at the cost of comfort.

I begin the pursuit now.


Check out the video that has now crossed 1.6 million views here.  

To Be Used

There is some prerequisite reading for this post, if you haven’t already read Bipolar, you should do that first.  


In the heat of a moment, it is easy to forget or even completely miss important details, and sometimes the things that we do remember seem so pointless in relation to the broader story.  It has been exactly a month since I found myself in the back of a pickup truck with 4 other people hurtling down the road towards a Haitian hospital.  The little boy who lay on his back between us wasn’t breathing well on his own, and each pump of the bag ventilator was critical to keeping his oxygen levels up and giving him a chance to survive the trip to Bernard Mevs in Port-au-Prince.

I remember pausing at the water cooler before the truck left, and struggling with myself to calm down.  I remember the elation I felt when Webert arrived just as Denzly was placed in the back of the truck.  I remember taking my watch off and offering it to the medical team as if I was buying a place in the truck with it.  I remember the brief discussion at the hospital about whether we should put down the tailgate or just lift Denzly over the side.  I remember how I felt when I learned that the rest of the team had skipped dinner, waiting until we returned to eat.

Each person at Tytoo that day probably has their own memories of those hours of uncertainty.  Some of those memories will seem so random that they only have meaning for the person remembering it.  Some of the moments will gradually be lost to the haze of time, while others will remain sharp and clear for years.  As I reflect on that day, it is easy to see the small details of my role, but in focusing on those details, I find that I am prone to missing the larger story.

In my foolishness and the immaturity of my knowledge, I presented the events of that day as starting with a truck pulling into Tytoo.  I know better now, and I would like to tell you the rest of the story, including the news I received just this Saturday.

Allie has been in Haiti for roughly 2 years, and in some ways, she is where this story starts.  When we arrived in Haiti we shared our ride to Tytoo with Denzly, who we picked up at the hospital.  Allie had been approached by one of the boys relatives and was shown a picture of Denzlys crazy rash, because of her role at Tytoo, Allie has developed a reputation for being someone you go to when you need help.  Allie had arranged for Hillary to take the boy and his mother to the hospital for some tests.  Hillary is a Canadian paramedic, and is the coordinator for medical teams who visit Tytoo.  She had arrived in Haiti just a few days before us, and would be leaving with us at the end of our trip.

On Thursday we went to Denzly’s home, hoping to try some anti-fungal medicine on his rash since the antibiotics he had been taking hadn’t yielded any obvious results.  We pulled up in front of his home to find that he had been taken to a “church service” by his mother, who hoped he would be healed spiritually.  We piled back into the truck, and went back to Tytoo, hoping to try again the next evening.  In light of what happened the next day, it really felt like a missed opportunity.

When the fateful Friday night arrived, Hillary was already at Bernard Mevs with Annalisa, a child at Tytoo Gardens who has brittle bone disease.  On Friday morning, I had watched as Hillary loaded Annalisa into the Kia, a mid sized white truck owned by Tytoo.  She had broken her femur while turning over in bed during the night.   In fact, Annalisa would stay at the hospital all day waiting for a cast that was promised in two hours, but would never be applied.  She would have to return on Saturday for her bright blue cast.

Annalisa on Friday morning, bravely awaiting her trip to the hospital.

Annalisa on Friday morning, bravely awaiting her trip to the hospital.

Hillary was with Annalisa all day while they waited at the hospital, meaning that when Denzly arrived at our gate that evening, the person most experienced with transporting a child in distress was not with us.  Since they had taken the Kia to Port-au-Prince, when Denzly arrived, we didn’t have a fast and safe vehicle to take him to the hospital.  It would be at least 45 minutes before the truck could get back to Tytoo, far too long to wait.

Further compounding the situation was the fact that Kori, Jen, and Troy hadn’t had any time in the small onsite clinic.  They hadn’t been able to familiarize themselves with the equipment, or where it could be found. This lead to some frantic searching as they looked for equipment they weren’t even sure the clinic had.  The nearest ambulance was without a driver, and the nearest hospital wasn’t going to be able to handle a child in Denzly’s condition.

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It was as if our hands had been tied by threads of unexpected circumstance.  Each strand entangling us to paralyze our efforts.

It was only during the week that followed that Friday night that I learned the full scope of what had happened.

In our debriefing time one evening, I remarked to the group that I wouldn’t have even been in
the truck if Hillary had been with us instead of at the hospital that day.  There was barely room for me as it was, and with a 4th medical person in the back of the truck, I would have had nowhere to cling as we sped down the road.  While I hadn’t served a valuable purpose in the truck, I knew that this story would be powerful, and I remarked that I was glad it had worked out for me to go along.  Hillary agreed, but then continued the story.

She proceeded to say that if she hadn’t been at the hospital all day, they may not have even let Denzly in!  She said that when a Haitian hospital is presented with something they are unfamiliar with, aren’t sure they can help with, or even if they are just too busy, they may turn you away at the gate, forcing you to look elsewhere.  When we arrived, there were already 2 gunshot wounds in the E.R. and no one was available to begin care right away.  Hillary quietly finished by saying that if she hadn’t been there, we probably would have been turned away.

Before we left for the hospital that night, I ran back to the room to grab every penny I had with me.  I wanted to be prepared to pay for whatever needed paid for to ensure Denzly could be seen by the hospital.  By North American standards, I didn’t have much with me, and I knew that I needed to pay my extra baggage fees on the way home, but weighed against a life, I knew which choice I would be compelled to make if the moment came.   It would cripple me financially until the end of the trip, but what choice would I have?

One of the people in the front of the truck that night was Kayla, her husband Webert was the driver, and the truck belonged to them.  Kayla works with Touch of Hope Haiti, and in the last year she had done a lot of fundraising so she could set up what she called “The Lazarus Fund”.  When Hillary came out of the door and started talking through the details of paying for Denzly’s care, I was standing next to Kayla.  It quickly became apparent that even if I gave everything I had, it wouldn’t be enough.  As I was still working up the courage to mention the stash of cash I had brought, without batting an eye Kayla that they would take care of it.  She said that the reason this fund existed was for exactly this sort of situation, and that she was so glad that she had been able to raise enough to take care of this boy without thinking twice.  Would Kayla have been with us if the Kia had been at Tytoo when Denzly arrived?

Kayla awaits the news...

Kayla awaits the news…

As I put aside my own memories of the event, I start to see the larger story unfolding.

The threads of circumstance that seemed to bind us, were perfectly placed to free us.

From a broken leg and a long hospital wait, to open seats and visiting medical teams, each moment of the weeks leading up to that moment on Friday night was completely outside of the ability of any one human to control.  It was as if each unexpected circumstance was a thread on an unseen loom, skillfully woven together with a precision unmatched by human hands.  Each moment a seemingly insignificant strand, easily snapped, but together forming a picture that no one could have expected.  It is in this larger picture that I find myself able to say this.

It is good to be used by God.

Each moment was ordained by God.  I didn’t see it right away, but the more I reflect on that night, the more clear it becomes to me.  I could say that we were remarkably lucky, but that would be denying God’s presence in each moment.  God was able to use us to do his will because he was able to place us where we were needed.  Our role in the events takes a backseat to the elaborate weaving done by God to ensure all would go according to his plan.

In fact, God continues to weave these threads even now.

The “church service” Denzly was taken to on Thursday night was most likely a voodoo ceremony intended to heal Denzly.  What we originally believed to have been a rash, we now believe may have actually been a chemical burn caused by a voodoo “curse”.  When Denzly’s mother removed him from the hospital against medical advice, she neglected the provided medicine in favor of voodoo “tea”.  Her anger at us for interfering with the care provided by the witch doctor was palpable.  As we neared the end of my time in Haiti, we almost felt defeated by the situation.

Before I left, Allie and I stopped at Denzly’s home to check on him.   I didn’t expect a warm welcome, but Allie was determined to see him.  As we walked up to the house, we could see Denzly standing outside, a frozen juice pouch in hand.  He didn’t acknowledge us as red juice dripped from his deformed lips to the dirt beneath his feet.  I shudder to say it, but he was truly like a zombie, it was as if he wasn’t actually there.  His family gathered around and began talking with Allie as I began to fear that while we had saved his body, the lack of oxygen had left his mind impaired, unable to rejoin the world he had left behind.

Denzly before he went back to the hospital.

Denzly before he went back to the hospital.

Allie managed to cut through the dark clouds that had formed in my brain as she said that his heart was beating really fast.  She kept feeling his stomach and his chest, while I looked stupidly at her and asked her to count the beats.  After a few more moments of discussion she asked me to feel his heart beat.  I hesitated, not knowing what I could do, but eventually I reached out my hand to feel his heartbeat.

It was too fast to count.

When Allie told the mother to take Denzly to Tytoo’s clinic yet again, I expected resistance.  Instead, the mother quickly agreed.  Once at Tytoo they made arrangements with the mother to return to the hospital, and this time to stay until Denzly was better.  She accepted the conditions and Denzly returned to the hospital.  I don’t know that I expected Denzly to survive.  I could only hope that God had chosen to weave together this story so that Denzly and his family could know the healing power of Christ over voodoo.

I left the next morning, and Allie left the day after.  It would be nearly 2 weeks before I would learn what happened to Denzly.

Denzly

In all our time with Denzly, I had never seen him smile.

 


If you are interested in donating to The Lazarus Fund, please contact Kayla by going to her website.  She will be able to tell you the most pressing needs, and how to donate if you are interested.