what is the what

almost finished with the book What is the What by Dave Eggers, the story of a Sudanese Lost Boy named Valentino Achak Deng.

i'm captivated by the story. it helps remind me of the reality of life on this planet; that is, life on this planet is not glamorous or remotely safe, secure, comfortable for many. while we worry about what to wear, or what brand of toothpaste will get our teeth the whitest, there are people wondering whether there will be a meal today or whether their fellow traveling companion will get eaten by a lion. seriously. we need perspective.

as i've read the story another thing stands out...the dates, years he describes. when i read stories like this of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes; when i read about genocide; when i read about families separated and teenage boys taking on the role of "burial team" for a refugee camp; i think to myself, "wow, the world was different back then; back when people weren't civilized." but then i see the date and it grabs me: 1994. this happened in the early 90s, and continues today.

just like when i saw Hotel Rwanda for the first time and realized, this happened during my lifetime. where was i? where were we? as people were slaughtered in Africa, where were we? as people waste away in refugee camps, where are we?


health care II

not to belabor the point, but Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog has been hosting some great discussions on health care reform.

one commenter, Scott Lyons, recently posted this response on whether health care should be a "right" for all Americans [you can read full post and comments here]:

That being said some of our arguments make no sense for us as Christians. For instance, (1) We need to look for other means or look to other institutions to provide health care reform or assistance for those who need it. Why are we discussing this only now that the government is seeking to solve the problem? The bottom line is that most Christians don't want the government telling them they need to be righteous - forcing them to be righteous. I figure, if you ain't already righteous, someone's gotta help you. And if you already is, shouldn't be a problem for you to be giving the money to those who need it (if you got it). Catholic social teaching couples subsidiarity with solidarity. And a good central government's subsidiary function is to step in and assist when other institutions or local governments are insufficient. And the American health care system is insufficient.

(2) Some people do not deserve care because of bad personal choices. This line of thinking turns away from the essence of God's mercy. Compassion is not merely for the innocent - indeed, mercy and compassion are divine when they are directed toward those who don't deserve it. This Theology of Desert is typical in conservative circles, but it's the theology of the unmerciful servant and not of Christ. Showing mercy and compassion ought not to hinge on the good decision-making history of the recipients. The man shown mercy by the King (in Christ's parable of the unmerciful servant) was in debt because of his choices. We are debtors because of our choices and are continually shown mercy, but we cannot show mercy to an overweight person who continues to overeat? Or a smoker who is slowly, consciously killing himself? This is disheartening. So what if the system is abused by some. Isn't it better to be used than to be unmerciful?

(3) People from all over the world come to America for top-notch health care. This only tells us that we have top-notch health care for those who can afford it.

As to the secondary question about raising taxes or not to pay for it. This is the crux of the argument for many of us, I suppose. Not, What is the right thing for me to do? But, What is it going to cost me? I am not suggesting that money and taxation are unimportant. But it shouldn't be a counter-argument to the provision of health care for those who need it, especially when we can "afford" unjust wars and trillion dollar bail-outs.



will you be my friend?

facebook, myspace, twitter, etc.
i'm beginning to learn something about myself through using these online social networking tools...I WANT PEOPLE TO LIKE ME. in fact, i want lots of people to like me. i want to know that people care about what i think and what i do and what i ate yesterday and what i'm about to do and why i'm going to do it.

it's an astounding, mind-blowing truth i've discovered - we all want people to like us!

while i think being like is a worthy endeavor, i'm discovering it can't be the end gain. to what lengths will we go to be liked? what will we do to ensure people like us? what will we suppress, hide, or lie about so that others won't notice our blemishes?

i am a conflict avoider. there. i admitted it. i hate conflict and would rather see others be happy or get their way so that they'll continue liking me. there are times, if i'm honest, that i'd rather be liked than be honest with someone. i'd rather maintain our perceived friendly relationship that speak harsh words. the crazy thing is - they are usually not harsh words! somehow i've told myself they might possibly be perceived as being harsh, critical, or judgmental. so i suppress these words in order to be liked.

through this discovery i'm finding we have a deficit in the area of vulnerability in our society. when we all look out for ourselves and make sure people like us, we don't allow ourselves or others to be real. we protect, suppress, and even lie. in the end, the potential consequences are scarier than telling the truth!

so who's with me? who wants to begin by confessing everything and getting vulnerable! just kidding! please don't spill your gets via facebook or blogs. but honestly, let's get honest. let's get real with each other people. i promise, i'll still be your friend. but will you still be mine?


health care...here goes nothin'

dare i mention health care? dare i bring it up? dare i ask tough questions about health care in a time where all sorts of crazy myths, propaganda, talking points, etc are flooding the internet?


i feel as though i have to. and here's why. my sister is diabetic. she has been since age 2. she cannot get affordable health care because of this "pre-existing condition." in fact, she had to have her insulin pump removed because she could no longer afford it once she finished school and came off my mom's health coverage. i guess it sucks to be her. she should have been more careful at age 2 and not got diabetes. now she has to pay for her poor lifestyle choices and unfortunate genes.

that may seem crass and unfair, but it's pretty much the way our current system works. at least she is employed and can afford her insulin without going into debt. why can't she get affordable health care? simple. she costs too much for private insurers to carry. she is too expensive. they won't make as much money. if you don't think that's fair or i'm misinformed, then why can't she find affordable health care?

so you don't like what's being proposed by the current administration. you fear SOCIALISM, EUTHANASIA, RATIONING, ____________ [insert other fear-mongering buzz words]. please, if you don't like what's being proposed, come up with a better plan. something needs to change. we have to learn from the global economy; learn from those who are trying universal systems and create our own.

why do i care about this issue? it affects my sister. it affects the poor. it is clear that God cares deeply about the poor and so should we. how we treat the poor is an excellent reflection of the success of our society. so how are we doing?

finally, my biggest concern - will anyone, including myself, do anything about any of this? i'm talking to people on both sides of the political aisle. will we do anything? will we have civil discourse? will we admit the system is flawed and be intelligent and compassionate enough to fix it? do we care enough about those without access to affordable health care? do we care enough to do anything? OR, will those of us with excellent health insurance sit back and say, "i don't want to pay for them."



attended a great discussion group today on the topic of evangelism with other area Covenant pastors. wow! amazing things happening and so much more to be done...

what did i walk away with?

tough questions. tough reflections. some thoughts...

[old question] when you die will you go to heaven?
[new question] when you die will you be remembered?

do we [pastors] have authentic, growing relationships with Christ SO THAT others can have authentic, growing relationships with Christ?
if so, do we bother to tell anyone?

overarching questions: what is the role of evangelism in the church today? that is, what does evangelism look like? what are the roadblocks/challenges? what are the successes? who does evangelism? how many church activities are outward focused vs. inward focused? do we tell others how we came to Christ? how much of our church budgets are focused on local outreach/mission? what events/programs are we doing that are outreach focused?

and finally, how do we appropriately celebrate and affirm those things we are already doing? that is, how can we do those things in which we already excel better or with more frequency?