Friday, October 22, 2010

a poem

fields turn from green to brown
as the torch bearer slowly
wanders through the trees
one by one, each set a-flame;
mother nature’s arsonry.
a gasp of breath: the world’s on fire
[and we smile for a time]
til the flames subside;
the falling leaves, fading embers
and with the last is left a skeleton of ash,
an empty tree: the soul’s sadness.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

screaming into the wind, perhaps

I have been mulling over this and moving between rage and sadness. Who does this Jones guy think he is? What is he trying to accomplish? Why are the Muslims to inclined to violent retaliation? Why is the whole world involved in this?

I could sit here and go and on and on with every complaint, side, and argument. But that’s pointless.

The majority of my sadness (and yes, anger) comes out my perspective as a Christian in this situation, and how I feel that the tenets of our own faith have been ignored.

I think there are two main problems causing all this ruckus, and one simple solution:

1. Christians thinking it’s okay to burn Qurans.

This is– or should be– obvious. It’s not okay for Christians to burn Qurans.

Where is the love in this act? What’s the point? If you burned every book that opposed the Christian faith or was “full of lies” you’d have an eternal inferno. And have we ever read the Quran? In what ways is it so offensive that burning it is somehow a sensible solution?

It’s their holy book. And Muslims have faith that it is true, just as we have faith that our holy book, The Bible, is true. Both religions believe they are right.

Targeting the religion of the country from which the September 11th terrorists came is in the same vein of the Muslims who want to destroy the whole of America because of one church who burns their religious book. Both sides are WRONG.

Which leads me to the second problem:

2. Muslims threatening violence because of Quran burning (and our response to it)

The threat of violence in return for such an act is simply adding fuel to an even bigger fire. Hate begets hate, and it is an endless cycle. It is wrong for the Muslims to be retaliating in such a way, but that can’t drive our response as Christians.

Herein lies the proverbial comment “well people burn bibles all the time and no one says anything”. True, but why? Are Christians doormats? Has the “liberal media” polluted our minds and hatched a devious plan to ignore all bible burning related news items and brainwash the American public?

It doesn’t matter, the real issue is that Christians are not supposed to retaliate. We are told we will face trouble, be persecuted, hated, rejected (Matthew 24:9). It’s all there, we aren’t left in mystery as to what will happen to us in this life if we follow Christ.

We are to pray for those who persecute us, not bomb the heck out of them, not destroy them, not even to seek justice on our own behalf. (Luke 6:27-36)

That is the difference.

So in looking to a solution, we shouldn’t pursue the idea that because Christians don’t get justice we shouldn’t cater to the Muslims, nor that we are weak for backing down in fear.

The solution lies simply in the fact that if Christians are truly followers of Christ, we must obey Him by loving others, and doing unto them as we would have them do to us, no matter how much we are hated.

If we don’t want people to burn our bibles, we shouldn’t burn theirs.

But they still will.

And no, it isn’t “fair”, but Jesus never promised it would be. In fact, He warned us that it wouldn’t be.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

So, really... who cares! Burn all the Bibles you want, you can’t shake our faith! Our God has already conquered.

Everyone just needs to take a deep breath, back up and open our eyes to the eternal picture. As Christians our hope is in Christ, and that in the end, He will bring justice.

But until then, our calling is love.

So please, Mr. Jones, put your matches away.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

grand theft auto: the sequel

who would have thought there'd be a sequel? isn't once enough? i had my suspicions, recognizing that i still live in lawrence, a city of safety, wealth and overly sympathetic cops who are definitely NOT corrupt, oh no...

but my greatest fear of a repeat offense were realized this morning when i proudly left the house on time for my dentist appointment. this time there was no shock, i just stood there going "NONONONONONONONONO". probably out loud. too bad my neighbors don't sit on their front porches drinking coffee in the morning. they would be provided with endless amounts of entertainment from my goings-on alone.

yes this time was different. instead of being dumbfounded and almost amused, i was genuinely pissed. AGAIN?! seriously?! though it's somehow believable, anticipated possibly but definitely not something that should be a reality.

and i can't help but feel that it's by no fault of my own. i didn't spring the cash for an alarm yet (because i have all this money burning a hole in my pocket but... now i'll just spend it on another deductible!) and it's not like they sell clubs at the grocery store (which is the only place i have time to shop at). maybe i am too forgiving of human nature, or was too hopeful that lawrence's finest had done their job and secured justice. well, i was wrong. fool me once, shame on you... fool me twice... shame on me?

yesterday was a bad day. by normal standards. workload is overwhelming, software non-compliant, the doctor's office proved a comedy of errors (deserving of it's own blog entirely) and then my computer went on the fritz and is now in a "coma". when relaying all of this to my roommate she said "wow, sarah, your life really sucks". to which i was taken aback- my life doesn't suck. i really can't complain esp after watching videos about the horrors of sex trafficking... but her point was that a lot of crap happens to me a lot of the time. which i acknowledged but shrugged off with a "whatever".

today, i conceded to her opinion. yeah, this sucks. today sucks. but you know what. it's not my life that sucks, it's just all the crap that happens to me that sucks. but i think it's good for me. i think i have a healthier perspective on life.

life is tough. bad things happen. ALL THE TIME. to most people. and you know what, the bad things that happen to me pale in comparison to cancer patients, slum-dwellers in third world countries, women who are abused all over the world... the list could go on...

and there's nothing i can do but keep on living and do my best to help those who have it worse off. i am blessed to have people who do care about me, who will lend me their car for the whole day... i really have nothing to complain about (i've also been through the whole range of emotions from swears to tears today so i've gotten it out of my system).

and if you are one of those people where things just magically work out for you, or if you feel like you lack excitement... or even if you feel like your life sucks, do something for someone who you know is worse off. lend a car-theft victim your car, donate to a place like Love146 or sponsor a child in the slums of Africa, be there for your friends who are in a bad relationship, LISTEN to those around you and let their problems trump your own. even if you have a crummy day, chances are, someone around you is having a crummier one. be mindful of that.

i am learning that over and over again. yeah my day sucks but how's yours? what do you need? hopefully, if we all do our part someone will take care of me so i can take care of whoever "you" are.

Friday, March 06, 2009

with a full heart...

i have made a major life decision (yikes!)

i will be attending trinity evangelical divinity school in chicago this fall. while i don't know the end, the means will be an mdiv degree.

some of you may known i've had a desire to go to seminary or that i feel a constant thirst for change... the culmination of these two factors woke me up every morning with the same thought: i want to go to seminary. and i want to go somewhere new.

i sent away for info from the east, west and in-between. the west coast... how exciting! however... after visiting trinity over the holidays and finding it quite enticing, i deliberated, prayed, and eventually succumbed to practicality and the achings of my heart to not only be at an excellent school, but closer to my family (now what will they bug me about??)

the gradual peace and confidence that God has given me to do this was long awaited but now consumes me. i am excited and totally freaked out. while i grew up in chicago, i have lived in boston for almost 9 years.

9 beautiful years including college, epic ocean moments, the red sox winning the world series, life-long friendships and a church home.

so it is with a heavy heart that i say goodbye. goodbye to a place that i fell in love with, have had a relationship, and will now leave for a city only known in childhood. goodbye to the dearest of friends, the best of co-workers and a network of people who have supported and loved me.

but it is with a full heart that i welcome a new opportunity to learn, to stretch my comfort zone even within a familiar place, and that i embrace the love of a family i have so dearly missed. while chicago is not portland, seattle or san francisco, it is a chance at something new, something different and now something i am truly enthusiastic about.

so, come august: my dear east coast friends, i will be blowing you kisses through the tears; and my dear family and soon-to-be chicago friends, i look forward to undeniably good times ahead.

and Big G... thanks for the invitation and for giving me the heart to say yes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

grand theft auto

no, not the video game. this is the real thing.

friday morning i nonchalantly left the house- coffee in hand- and was stopped short at the sight of an empty driveway. I wish there had been a camera to capture the look on my face. where was my car? it took me a few minutes to run through the list of possibilities- some wild- before i concluded that it had to be stolen. i do live in lawrence where such an incident is highly likely. but to me? in disbelief i went inside to do what all people do when their cars get stolen: call the [highly sympathetic] police.

now this was great. behold, my conversation with the lawrence's finest:
me: "hi, i'd like to report a stolen vehicle"
highly sympathetic woman: "oh you have to fill that report out in person"
me: "i don't have a car!"
highly sympathetic woman: "well, take a cab"

daaaannnggggg... they are serious over there. so luckily i got a ride to the station, which is a portrait of efficiency and cleanliness. the highly sympathetic officer helping me acted like i was reporting a stolen tube of lipstick.

one thing i did get was a little perspective. there was a woman in line with me who didn't speak a word of english, and had to have another walk-in translate that she needed a restraining order b/c someone was trying to murder her. the reaction she got from the highly sympathetic police officers was as if she was trying to get a restraining order b/c her teddy bear was trying to strangle her in the night.

i just got my car stolen...

surprisingly, the whole fiasco was more entertaining than traumatizing for me. who steals a crummy honda from a driveway in possibly the nicest neighborhood in lawrence? joke was on them really. i gave up hope of ever seeing sexy sadie again (yes, i named my car and yes, it's after the beatles song). which is fine except that new cars, even new used cars, cost money.

it was in shock and awe that i received a call from a highly sympathetic police office later friday evening reported that they had indeed recovered my "vehicle". they told me which towing company to call. i called. the well-spoken gentleman on the other end proceeded to tell me that my car was not there and to call the police back and tell them they were crazy. right. so while i was on the phone with the police somehow all the geniuses involved figured out my car was indeed at this fine establishment. i called back to find out when i could come see my car and the thick massachusetts accent replied "well you'd better come when it's light out". yikes! what did that mean?

saturday i go to the tow lot to find the damage far better than expected. all they took was the rear bumper and the tail lights, they tore apart the inside as if i had something of value (ha!) and made off with my phone charger and, of all things, my bible.

basically, these people are idiots. that's all they took? my scratched up, hanging on by a thread bumper, my cheap-o phone charger (not my expensive ipod paraphernalia) and my beat-up bible. at least they took the bible, and you know, i honestly hope to meet them in heaven b/c of it. (and i hope the first passage they turn to is Exodus 20:15)

so... i am grateful seeing as it could have been worse. no one was hurt, my car can be fixed, and sadie and i will be reunited once again.

my only moment of disappointment was upon reading the police report which stated "no arrest made". what?! they didn't stake out my car? no snipers were involved? whatEVER.

for now i have a rental (which smells like someone killed a pack of cigarettes and them fester and rot in a puddle of water). life could be worse. no one is trying to murder me.

THIS JUST IN: as i was writing this insurance guy #3 called me to inform me he just checked out my car, but i can't get it fixed yet b/c the police haven't released the vehicle.

why is that, you might ask? well, turns out lawrence's finest are indeed highly sympathetic and are, in fact, fingerprinting my car! wow, who knew they actually "cared"? (maybe seeing as there is a giant hand print on the passenger window, they saw the potential for a smooth investigation...)

well, we'll see how this all turns out... in the meantime, those criminals better be doing some serious reading...

Friday, January 30, 2009

an honest look at compassion

"Compassion is the virtue of being moved to action by the sight of suffering" [oliver o'donovan]

there is such a strange conundrum when it comes to the issue of compassion. it comes from our nature to judge the appropriateness of need.

For example, no one can argue that children living in the slums of Africa deserve compassion. However, what about the unstable woman of wealthy Andover who calls the church in desperate need of money b/c she blew it all on nose jobs, gambling and possibly drugs? a woman who has never known "need" and who is in the position she's in only b/c of her own poor choices? Does she deserve compassion, and if so can we say that it is the same compassion deserved by the African child who has never known anything but utter poverty, hunger and need?

i personally struggle with this. my heart aches for the poorest of the poor in Africa. i sponsor a child, i've been on a mission trip to Kenya and would go on a million more. but when it comes to a woman who has been irresponsible with her means, i am not as easily "moved to action". of course, i listen to her as she goes on and on, i promise to connect her to a pastor and to help her in any way we can, but my level of sympathy is very low. she questions the presence of God and His provision and it is so hard for me not to tell her to wake up and get a grip. she calls her situation "dire" and i want to yell in her ear that she can't even begin to know what "dire" actually is.

what i did tell her was that God does provide, but not in the way we always expect. He won't dump money in your lap but He might give you the opportunity to take an odd job here and there. after saying this, my mind immediately went back to the poor person in Africa who may not even have that chance. is it ok for them to question God's provision under their circumstances? How does God provide for the impoverished? does He?

and i digress...

there is so much that is hard to digest. when you mention volunteering at a local soup kitchen you hear a story from someone who works in that town and says that the people there get plenty of funding and government assistance but they squander it, and therefore her claim is that they are not truly needy.

when i was recently in arizona, we drove through a lot of indian reservation land. there was sadness b/c of all the run-down trailer homes, but raised eyebrows at the amount of nice cars outside them. we heard from several locals that the native americans on the reservations no longer work, but depend on checks from the government and the casinos. they receive a free car from the government at age 16, and are eligible to receive multiple replacements. most are alcoholics. i found myself torn between being upset and disappointed that they could live like that, abandoning the work ethic of their earlier generations who would farm that land– and frustration with the root of the problem, which our government started in the first place.

how do we deal with two-faced issues like these? how do i deal with the people that come in the church asking for money and food- and they drive away in a nicer car than i have, or they come back a different day with a different story and you know they are lying to you? i have to admit my first reaction is anger. how can they be so selfish and lazy and lie to a church just to get a couple bucks?

the only thing i can come back to is Jesus. what did He say about this? He said: "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'(from Matthew 25)

when have i been "moved to action"? am i willing to help anyone, so matter what the circumstance?

clearly, i've failed at that. or i have helped, but with a sour attitude.

there's been a few incidents when i've heard the holy spirit tell me to do something compassionate for a random stranger. most of those times, i refused to act on it. it was in those moments that i missed Jesus.

i refused to help Jesus.

out of all of those times, i can't really remember all the ones where i did obey His voice, i am only haunted by the times i didn't.

compassion is an everyday opportunity. the real dilemma is not if we agree with the reasons that make a person "needy", or trust their motives, or have the audacity to think we can decide if they are deserving of our compassion (as i am guilty of), but rather how we are going to act towards them in a way that is Christ-like, as if they are Christ himself.

the truth is we are all needy- we all need Jesus and that is the greatest thing we can share. without Him, we are all destitute, and our situation is indeed "dire".

Sunday, January 25, 2009

inspiration at the opera

an unexpected occurrence, indeed. not for lack of beautiful music, of course, but opera plots are reputably wild and obscure.

today's performace of haydn's orfeo was unstaged, consisting simply of orchestra and voice. this arrangement could easily have allowed a divorce from plot if one did not follow the translated text. at times they seemed indifferent, perhaps– the plot acting as a vehicle for the musical composition. I personally believe in this instance the simplicity allowed the beauty of the music and the voices to dominate the performance, rather than theatrics or plot.

however, i made a discovery. i was ambivalent to the plot itself, but it was the words which aroused my inspiration. first of all, italian is a language dear to my heart given my experience in italy, and when sung by this caliber of voices it channels the divine. secondly, a fact so often overlooked is that these composers were also poets. haydn was indeed a poet with carefully crafted and delightfully descriptive lyrics. his sensitivity to the consequences of love rings true.

here are the excerpts i enjoyed the most:

Thought is concerned with objective;
every desire stems from them.

We are governed by our affections,
and yet claim to be free.
So a bird will spread its wings
and think that it can fly,
when the unfortunate beast is tied
by its foot, all unknowingly.


...

One can love even in old age
when the hearts are those of lovers.

True love never alters
when it rules the heart.

...

Closed are the beautiful
eyes full of lovelight;
their splendor
now gleams among the stars.

...

One who lives but does not hope
for love and love's delight–
it would be better to be dead
than living thus.

The sense are sharper,
the joys more intense,
of one whose days are spent
in the arms of love.

...

Hope is nothing but a siren song

...

Constancy you ask of me?
Ah, before the constancy
and ardor of my loving heart desert me,
the stars will be snuffed out,
the sun turn to ice,
shadows radiate light, the sky turn dark!
The beauty that set my heart on fire
has made my heart invincible.


perhaps it was the romance of attending "the opera", or the magnificent quality of music... but my belief in love resurfaced. my numbness to the idea of ever being able to know that feeling again– or even want it– melted away. not completely, for i have not yet found it. but i believe in it again.

thank you, joseph haydn, for writing this masterpiece of music and poetry and for waiting 60 years to have it performed. it was worth it... for all of us.