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Archive for January, 2009

On Being Weak
Tim shares three reasons that Christians ought to be honest about their weaknesses, and reasons that we should “let the church be the church, functioning just as God intends it,” as we face an uncertain economic future.

Children Are Not a Burden on the Economy
“Seeking to cut down on the number of children born in order to ‘cut costs’ and help the economic stimulus makes things more important than people. The economy exists for people. You do not sacrifice people for things.”
An excellent dissertation on why Nancy Pelosi’s reasoning is foolish cold calculated faulty.

Being Pro-Life in a Culture of Death
What does being pro-life truly mean? “Christian churches must, as our Lord’s brother James commanded us, care for the widows and orphans in their distress. This means that God calls Christian families to adopt unwanted children. It means also that Christian families and churches are to shelter unwed mothers and pregnant women who find themselves in a time of crisis.”

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Pain

This was part of today’s entry in Streams in the Desert:

The dark brown soil is turned
By the sharp-pointed plow;
And I’ve a lesson learned.

My life is but a field,
Stretched out beneath God’s sky,
Some harvest rich to yield.

Where grows the golden grain?
Where faith? Where sympathy?
In a furrow cut by pain.

— Maltbie D. Babcock

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Only in New York

I received this from my mother via e-mail. Fortunately for me, I don’t drink much soda. Right? *snort* Like it’ll stop there.

> > By JOHN GRAY
> >
> > So let me get this straight. The governor closes down the ice skating rink
> > at the Empire State Plaza because we can’t afford it – ice skating, an
> > activity which provides free exercise to children of all ages. Then, like 10
> > minutes later, he announces that we are all too fat and he needs to punish us with
> > an obesity tax.
> >
> > Does this make sense to you? I doubt the governor reads my insignificant
> > little column but here’s a thought: Let’s take all the fat kids out of
> > school for one hour a week, bring them to the governor’s mansion in Albany and
> > they can beat the dirt out of those $20,000 carpets they bought him.
> >
> > Do you have any idea how many calories you burn whacking a rug with a
> > stick? Me neither, but it must be at least 10 or 20.
> >
> > Welcome to 2009, the “year of the tax” in New York state.
> > The state’s in trouble and we all need to help by digging a little deeper
> > when we purchase all those little things that make life tolerable. Things
> > like Pepsi.
> >
> > So what happens now? So what is the governor’s hope here? That people will
> > switch to diet soda? Is that really better for them?
> >
> > I can get a half-dozen nutritionists on the phone right now who will tell
> > you different.
> >
> > Did you notice something else, boys and girls? It wasn’t called the
> > “soda20tax.” It’s called the obesity tax. Don’t fool yourself into
> > thinking that’s an accident. A “soda tax” implies this starts and ends with soda.
> > An “obesity tax” tells me there is more to come. And why shouldn’t there be,
> > if you use the governor’s logic?
> >
> > Tax sugary soda and the kids drink less, right? Well, if we really want to
> > cut down on bad eating, let’s really sink our teeth into this problem.
> > Let’s tax cookies, potato chips, lollypops and candy of all kinds. Like that?
> > I’m just getting started. Those shakes at McDonald’s are high in calories, so
> > let’s tax extra for them.
> >
> > I have nothing against French fries, but no child under 16 should eat more
> > than a small portion. You want to go for the medium or large size fries,
> > pay an extra 50-cent tax.

> > Any fitness trainer will tell you diet is only part of the equation.
> > What about all those people at the mall taking the escalator instead of
> > walking the stairs? Let’s be a leader and launch the nation’s first
> > escalator/elevator tax. I think a nickel should do it..
> >
> > I also noticed that when people buy books and newspapers, they tend to sit
> > and read them. How about the reading tax? Caught sitting under a tree
> > enjoying the latest Grisham novel? That’ll be a dime, my friend.
> >
> > What happened to us? This country was forged and founded by independent t
> > railblazers who took responsibility for their lives, family and country.
> >
> > Somehow, we wake up 200 years later and our government leaders treat us
> > like we’re incapable of tying our own shoes – which is perhaps a challenge for
> > people who can’t bend over their gut. We need Mommy and Daddy to impose
> > laws to make us live the life they think we should.
> >
> > I have three kids, and none of them drink soda. Why? Because their mom and
> > I got them drinking juice and water before they could walk. Now they have no
> > interest in soda. It’s called parenting. And, frankly, if my neighbor
> > wants his kid to drink Coke and eat Cheetos all day, that’s his business. We
> > shouldn’t be taxing him into a better diet.
> >
> > I wouldn’t be so angry about it if I didn’t hear state leaders telling us
> > this is about our health. It’s not. It’s about money. You got it, they
> > need it and by God they are going to find a way to get it from you.
> >
> > I don’t want to hear another politician whine about how terrible it is
> > that the youngest, sharpest minds finish college and then bolt from this state.
> > This is why. This is exactly the thing that makes anywhere but here look
> > better. That and the lousy winters.
> >
> > At least you can go ice skating at the plaza.
> >
> > Oh, wait. Never mind.
> >
> > John Gray is a news anchor on WXAA-Fox TV 23.

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In His Hand

“Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name.”
– I Chronicles 29:10b-13

As I watch the inauguration preparations… part of me is growing increasingly nervous, and part of me is actually… excited? I have not spoken directly with any other Christians who are actually excited about facing a new administration, one where we could face greater strictures on our freedoms not only as citizens, but also persecutions as Christians. But reading the passage above this morning only services to remind me that, yes, God is in control. He is head over all. It is in hand hand to make great and give strength.

It is with times of trial that He tests His people, and through that we see a greater awakening of those who truly are His disciples, for in times like those, being a lukewarm fence-sitter is out of the question. You’re either dedicated, one of His, willing to stand in the fire, or… you’re not. Not to say that we do not falter – look at Peter, who denied Christ three times in the face of the turbulent unknown – yet God was still able to use that in Peter’s life, and take him forward as a powerful force in the early church.

What do the days ahead hold?

I don’t know.

But I do know that whatever those days hold… there is Someone far greater who holds the days themselves.

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Breaking the Ice

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I am hoping that my posts here will increase over time, due in part to the fact that I am planning on a “Facebook fast” for the next few weeks, and in part to the fact that the online course I’m taking this semester starts up this week, and I’ll probably be doing more writing than I have been for a while.

The course I am taking this semester is online via Empire State College’s distance learning program. It is a Human Services course entitled “Community Organization”, and I’m looking forward to learning about the diversity amongst myself and the nineteen other students. I thought I would copy the first assignment over to this blog because, well… writing it was an exercise in remembering how to put my passion and mission into words. It caused me to go back to the mission statement I wrote while I was at the Ranch and revisit exactly what was driving me, and why I care about what I care about. Students are supposed to comment on each other’s essays, but mine has yet to garner a response. Oops? 😉 I’ll list the assignment first, and then the essay, that way you can see what it’s all about. Feel free to comment; I’m always up for hearty discussion.

Assignment

Prepare a 3 to 6 page essay that addresses the following questions:

  1. Your name and current geographic location.
  2. Your educational and career goals and where this course fits into them.
  3. A brief description of your past experiences, especially any that may be relevant to community organizing. Do not be shy… even seemingly “ordinary” organizing activities like coordinating a sports league or a community clean-up “count” as community organizing.
  4. A description of the knowledge and skills you bring to the class.
  5. What you hope to learn in community organizing by the end of the course.
  6. What you hope to have practiced in community organizing by the end of the course.
  7. A brief description of the community where you live or the community you would like to have as a target of our work together.
  8. A dream that you wish you could see fulfilled in your community.

Submit your answers in a three to five page essay in this discussion section.

As your fellow students begin to participate, read their submissions and comment on them.

Be sure to begin to break the ice by noting any common interests or concerns that you share with others. Use this discussion space as a place to identify common interests and as a place to ask questions of your fellow classmates and the teacher.

Hello.

My name is Hannah, and I live in [my county, which doesn’t need to be publicized on my blog!] here in New York. I am twenty years old, and this is my first course through ESC. I’d like to start off by saying that I have a slight tendency to be verbose. In other words, I ramble easily. Because of this, I will try to stick closely to the assignment outline in topic, but when it comes to length, it’s wait and see. My hand-written rough draft was nine pages double-spaced.

When it comes to stating my education goals, I must admit that I find it to be difficult. Why? Because for me, education is not just a classroom; it’s not just a textbook. Education requires personal responsibility. Personal responsibility, in turn, requires hard work, and hard work can be done just about anywhere, whether it is in a classroom, on the job, or simply in daily experiences.

So, if I had to label my educational goals, I suppose it would be as follows: to learn anything that will serve to assist and deepen my faith and subsequent passion. What is my passion? To contend for those that our culture has cast aside, and educate others of their intrinsic value and worth. It might sound like an idealistic mouthful, but as we’ll see later in the essay, I’ve learned that having a mission that drives you will take you farther than no mission at all.

This, of course, has necessarily led me to the question of my career goals. I look at this not as a career, but as a necessary outflow of my passion. For me personally, this includes such things as therapeutic riding, sustainable agriculture, and family. Due to time and space constraints, I will not address these fully in this essay, but I would love to hear from anyone who would like to discuss them further in another forum.

When it comes to past experiences, I’m not quite sure where to start. During the start of my junior year of high school, I was blessed with the opportunity to see my parents help organize a home school organization with other parents that would serve as a basis for several sports teams. This process resulted as a combination of both their decision to home school me for my final two years of high school, and the closing of the private school that I had attended, which had also served as an “umbrella school” for many local home schooling families. Through this, I was able to learn leadership skills as I participated in a variety of sports, which eventually resulted in assisting my father for a season as he coached the girls’ basketball team.

Also upon graduation, I went from being on the “substitute” list at a specials-needs integrated preschool to being a one-to-one aide for three different children by the time I finished working there in August 2007. It was during this time that I discovered a love for those with special needs, as I watched their zeal for life and found myself wondering how society could ever view them as a burden.

In August 2007, I went with the missions team from my church to assist a pastor in Calgary, Alberta. During this time we helped him with outreach to his surrounding community, as well as joined him in his attempt to locate a more permanent facility for the church rather than his family’s house.

After that, in September 2007, I began an apprenticeship at Miracle Mountain Ranch, in Spring Creek, PA. Through their Camp Apprenticeship Ministry Program (CAMP), I was able to take courses in topics such as Counseling, Biblical Studies, and Camp Programming, while also participating in horsemanship classes and rotating through work detail in all areas of the ranch. The apprenticeship culminated with a practicum in administration of the summer camp under the supervision of the full-time camp staff. My part in this was to head up the myriad of volunteers that came through the landscaping department.

So, what did I learn from all that? The choice to home school taught me to not be afraid of change, and to be willing to get my hands dirty when I wanted to learn something. Working for ten months straight with a child on the autism spectrum taught me to think on my feet, and to truly enjoy the little moments in life, because those are the ones that matter. Taking a missions trip to downtown Calgary taught me to not be afraid of getting involved even in the face of possible rejection.

My year as an apprentice taught me too many things for me to list them all, but when it comes down to what might help me the most in this course, I would have to point toward three things. First, that I should always move forward with a purpose and mission in mind, no matter how small. Second, that projects do not always follow the timetable you had in mind. Last of all, that proper delegation is very important, most especially when you’d rather be digging in the dirt next to them than be running the project.

Dreams? Well, just yesterday I spoke with a very successful local entrepreneur about the very topic of entrepreneurship. One thing that he told me it all boiled down to was vision. Without vision, he told me, you have no end goal, no direction. Without vision, you will not earnestly seek to go over and around the obstacles that you will inevitably face. What he said rings true with me even further because I also see it within my faith, when I read in the book of Proverbs1 that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” In essence, I need these dreams, I need that vision.

What does that look like for me? It looks like a community that embraces the concept of localized, sustainable agriculture, that encourages accountability and neighborly outreach. It looks like a facility with a therapeutic riding program that reaches out to those that society views as burdensome or broken, the disabled and abused. Lastly, it looks like one day raising a family that can impact the world with visions of their own, visions that I cannot even imagine.

So, what am I hoping to learn from this course? I hope to learn more about the various forms in which community organization and outreach can be carried out. Also, how to assess a community’s true needs rather than looking strictly through the lens of my hopes and dreams. Above and beyond that, I hope to better learn how to impassion, motivate, and mobilize others when it comes to the things that I myself am passionate about.

One of the staff members at the ranch once challenged us with a quote that I believe brings clarity to what I hope to do. He told us that John Wesley (1703-1791) once said, “Catch on fire with enthusiasm, and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

I don’t just want to catch on fire.

I want to catch others on fire.

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