Saturday, December 13, 2003

Well, it looks like all systems are "Go" for the Liberia trip.

As I said to Rafiki this evening, the only One who can stop me is God. With that in mind, feeling a distinct impression of divine timing, I am planning to take this trip in July. There is nothing standing in my way, and I believe that God has said yes.

I've also registered for a TESOL course which I hope to work through in record time. Then I have some rather large decisions to make, but I will leave those for the right time. I'm tired of stressing about things before they're issues.

In fact I've pretty much committed myself to not worrying about anything until the new year, whereupon there will will be much to be considered and worked on and applied for and organized..... letters to be written, shots to be taken, money to be raised, never mind a fairly extensive TESOL certification to study through, overseas job options to investigate, finances to get ahold of, a website to build, people to call....

If there's anything I know I need to immediately begin working at improving..... discipline and time management. Not tonight mind you. Tonight is a veg night. Movie, nuked pizza, couch, pillow, teddy bear. Perfect.
With ten minutes left in the day, I wandered around the back of the buildings and found that the trail down to the river was little more than a snow covered space amongst bare trees. I slid and skidded my way down the embankment, around the corner.

My rock is covered with snow, so I settle down on my haunches, hugging my knees to my chin and rocking slowly. The water used to lap up against the rock, now it's frozen 10 feet down the bank. The river is a clean white highway through a dirty city.

In the serenity of the approaching evening I close my eyes for a moment, desperately seeking a place of peace. Slowly my spinning mind settles down, stops, and I'm in that place, the place that I so seldom take the time to visit. The place where I can hear God.

"I don't want....... this." What do I mean? I don't know...... mediocrity? Godless plans? Struggling for a survival I should be trusting for? I'm not a prophet and I'm not strong..... I can't know what my life is supposed to be and I don't know if I can pull it off. I keep trying to work it all out.... but I can never see it. I suppose if I could, I wouldn't need God, and He can't let that happen......

What do I want? So many things, so much less than I have and yet so much more. I want to know that I am living out my purpose each day. I want to feel confident that the course I'm following is a result of my love for God and not my self-serving ambitions.

As my legs began to fall asleep I stood up, and as I did, I felt unusually tall. I looked down at the jagged stumps of drowned trees peeking out of the bank below me, the snow covered rocks, my feet way down at the ends of my legs..... it seemed a long way down at that point, but as I looked south, to where the sky was turning pink in the sunset, and then north, to where the highway crossed the river, I suddenly felt very very small.

Indeed, I recieved a revelation of my vast puniness on this gigantic globe jam packed with humans and suddenly the fears and concerns that have been nagging me seemed to push me down into the rock I was standing on until I was just a tiny tiny speck peering out of wide eyes at a world both beautiful and terrible.

Sometimes life terrifies me. Everything about it. A comfortable but meaningless life terrifies me. A meaningful but torturous life terrifies me. Years and years of this same bullshit circling me like a perverse buzzard just waiting to pluck my eyes out, scream in my ears and leave for dead in a nursing home...... and I have no control, I never will, no one does, no say in whether I live or die, and though I fight all my life for what I think is right, the sheer magnitude of the world and everything on it will always find me standing still and small on a riverbank somewhere wondering what the hell I'm doing, and why, and how I hope to ever become more than I am without my hand placed firmly in His?

There is no life aside from Him, yet He seeks my death. It's all too big, and I'm far too small. There's just too much that I want, too much that I don't understand.

I cried there on the riverbank, tears freezing on my face. But I wasn't cold, and I felt better. All of a sudden it felt okay to be a speck, it felt free. How is it possible, I asked myself, that though I can't carry the world, I have taken it on my shoulders and then blamed myself for not fixing it? I can't even blame anyone for that, I did it myself, out of some misplaced arrogance, and then I stressed myself out about it, and now here I am, yet again, laying down burdens that don't belong to me.

God, after all, is BIG. Let Him handle it. And let Him handle me. He knows where I'm going, even when I don't.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I was looking for a challenge and discovered the Sahel, a dry region south of the Sahara desert which has fallen victim to severe desertification.

National Geographic quoted some so-called expert as saying "The Sahel will never be green again."

So now I'm thinking about reclaiming the desert. I think I've got it all worked out, but just to be humble I thought I'd ask if any of you have any brilliant ideas before I take my plan of action to the UN.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I've been on a reading blitz as of late, on the topic of Africa.

A broad topic?? You have no idea. The countries I've been reading up on.... Somalia, Sudan, Malawi, Zambia, Liberia, Chad, Namibia, and Ethiopia, a few of which share borders. About 10 different terrorist groups.... the only that I can remember offhand is SWAPO, and I remember that almost every other group has the term "Liberation" in it. They all want to be liberated from each other by raping and plundering rival tribes.

I've been poring over a pile of National Geographic magazines (some of them as much as 20 years old) in a desperate bid to understand the source of war and poverty in Africa. Granted, it's too big. But I'm still gonna try.

I've run out of National Geographics so now I'm narrowing my focus to two countries that are of particular interest to me. Liberia and Chad. One of my sponsor children, Memadji, lives in Chad, and since I'm hoping to go to Liberia I think it would be wise to be informed of the political/military climate.

Lot's of interesting tidbits of information. It's good to learn. It feels good in the brain.

I recieved a letter from one of my sponsor children, the first letter from Memadji. She writes in french, and has better penmanship than the supervisor who translated her letter. I'm looking forward to writing to her.

I want to use this opportunity to once again plug Child Sponsorship, and what a wonderful time of year to begin sponsoring.... Sick of commercialized Christmas? Wish there was a way you could somehow squeeze some meaning out of our greed driven existence?

You probably spend at least $33 every month on things you don't need. The money I spend on my sponsor children is an investment..... Not only in food, medication, and education for two families, but also in the relationships I develop with these children. Few things fill me with joy the way a letter from Chad or Romania does. I love the pictures Florin draws, I carry pictures of them in my wallet.

If I achieve nothing in my life, if I die tomorrow, I will die with the love of a 14 year old boy and a 10 year old girl. That is a far more valuable thing than any retailer can sell me.

Think about it. I bet you could manage it with little sacrifice, but to one family and one child in particular, it means the difference between poverty, disease, death and heartache, and an opportunity at a solid education, sufficient food and a future.

Seriously. 33 bucks. Never has $33 carried so much value.

World Vision Child Sponsorship

Sunday, December 07, 2003

One moment in righteous fury, blazing with universal authority, delegating and punishing and ruling with awesome power..... the next, sitting and drawing pictures in the dirt, dealing out forgiveness and mercy to the dregs of society, covered in dust and draped with an old dirty garment, a silly grin on His weathered face.

When my pastor recommended that we (the congregation) close our eyes and take 30 seconds to ponder the fullness of God, I very quickly got his point. The God that I love and serve is far too complex for my feeble mind. He's full of impossible paradoxes and yet.... He's not.

God is too big.

The phrase reminds me of the first conversation I ever had with Rafiki. I was seventeen, and we were on a bus on the way home from teen camp at Strawberry Lake, Minnesota. I was listening to her rant to some kids about how God is just so BIG. She just went on, with little explanation, about how big God is and her face became so animated as she said "BIG" that I found myself laughing at her, and I remember thinking how strange it was that such a simple, childlike truth could seem so profound.

The memory of Rafiki holding out her hands saying "He's just so BIG" will forever bring a smile to my face, and whenever I find myself doubting His wisdom and fearing for my life, I remember what may be one of the most influential truths in my life.

He's bigger. Bigger than money. Bigger than my parents. Bigger than George Bush or Osama Bin Laden or Adolf Hitler (all of whom are drinking imported beer and playing poker, even as I write this) Bigger than all of the things that haunt my sleep and pursue my mind and bigger than all of my questions and all of yours too.

The teach you all sorts of cool stories in Sunday School, but I had to wait till I was 17 before someone finally explained to me the Bigness of God.

Oh wait, I just remembered a song from my childhood.....

"....My God is so BIG.... so strong and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do...."
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