Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Under Control

Last week I had strep throat and was stuck at home all week on antibiotics. I missed out on at least three jobs, which was a bit frustrating, and now I'm trying to get back into a routine. Luckily, tomorrow will be my third job for the week.

Things are progressing with our plans for Rwanda. We were officially accepted with EFM (Evangelical Friends Mission) yesterday. We're waiting for the final budget, which should be done sometime in the next week, but the numbers we've seen so far, even for a three month trip, are looking like we have a lot of work to do! It's a little intimidating, and scary, but I'm learning what I think just about anyone does who has to raise financial support: God's got this one under control and I just need to trust.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thoughts on Not Being a Patriot

I grew up in a family very involved in the military. My sister was in the Oregon National Guard, my brother is currently in the navy. I have cousins in the army, and a history of family members in all branches of the military.

I grew up with the idea that this has been their patriotic duty, and I want to clarify, right now, that I absolutely respect and appreciate each and every one of them and their own personal decision to fight for our country.

My own journey, however, has brought me to a different place. I'm not sure when I started to really question war as an entity, but it's been happening for some time. During college I studied history and therefore wars. I remember having discussions with Michael about war, and it was truly the first time I'd really heard a pacifist point of view. I could appreciate it, but I really felt like there were times when war was required, especially from studying the historical events leading to many wars. And now I find myself saying what Michael was saying to me only a few short years ago, that we think war is necessary because it's in our frame of reference, it's all we know how to do to handle problems.

I'm not sure if I'm a "pacifist." I probably am but haven't quite come to terms with that label. And to clarify, being a pacifist does not mean you don't take action, or that you are passive. It means you are not using violence to achieve your means.

Pacifist or not, I no longer think war is justified. Ever. (For more on the Just War Theory and Just Peace Theory click here.) I don't believe a Just War Theory exists. War is never just. I don't believe Jesus would have us fight in any war. Yes, there was some warfare in the Old Testament, but Christ came to change that (see link for Jim's blog at the end of this post that covers some Old Testament war issues).

And here's where the ultra-patriotic Americans will have a problem. A few months ago I had a turning point. I was at a family reunion and an older relative was asking me about my husband and if he'd ever served in the military. I replied no, he hadn't, and probably never would (if there were ever a draft, I think he'd apply as a Conscientious Objector), being a pacifist and all. And my great uncle, having children in the military, said (paraphrase), "Well, I guess we will leave the fighting for our freedom to my children," implying that someone needs to do it.

This is where I've always had a conflict. Again, I appreciate that so many feel this desire to keep our country safe. But I've had a problem over the last few years with the verbiage that is used to describe America as God's country, and the pride that makes us think we are better than every other country in the world. It actually sickens me. But as I thought about this conversation a question or two emerged: Who says America must be kept safe (especially when killing others is the requirement)? Where does it promise in the Bible that we will be safe and live in freedom?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my freedom and can't imagine living in a country where these freedoms don't exist (though I may live in a country like that at some point in my life). But, I don't think it's justifiable to demoralize our enemies in order to feel okay with killing non-Americans that get in our way of staying great. And a close look at the Bible shows that many of God's people lived in captivity of other great nations, and through their suffering God worked in them.

To some, this is blasphemous. Unpatriotic. Crazy and Liberal! But I don't care. Because at the end of the day, I am a citizen of Christ's Kingdom first, then a citizen of this world, and lastly a citizen of America. In that order.

Our friends Jim and Karri (Karri is in the same program with Michael at Eastern) are currently serving in Burundi to fulfill Karri's internship requirement. Jim recently wrote a fantastic post where he is wrestling with some of these same issues of non-violence. Instead of copying the whole post, here is the link to his blog. If you really want to understand where I am getting this idea of non-violence from the Bible, Jim provides a long list of places in the Bible where this is discussed, and also provides some quotes by some of the earliest Christian thinkers in regard to war. I would absolutely love to hear feedback on these passages.

I'll end with one that spoke to me as I read his blog. Why do we think we need to gain the whole world, to conquer and defeat our enemies, for the sake of "Freedom"?

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?” (Mark 8:34-36)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Meaning of "Life"

For those friends and family who are trying to understand some of my views, I found an article that may help you understand me just a little better. This is a link to another blog I read, and this is where you can find the article. The following is from the blog:

The article will be the cover article in November for Sojourners magazine. It’s called “The Meaning of ‘Life.’” For the article the authors interviewed 21 Christians from nine cities around the country, representing 6 ethnicities and aged between 26-66. They were asked about the issues that matter most to them. The key discussion that takes place in this article is that ‘life’ is still a really important issue for Christian Evangelicals and for a majority of the people interviewed here it is being interpreted in far broader than has been typical for those influenced by the Religious Right.

One of the main points includes the idea that being "pro-life" goes far beyond the abortion issue. This is true for me. Though I may disagree with some of Obama's specific stances on abortion, I believe his platform on so many other issues much more closely aligns with my idea of "pro-life." The article also covers war, caring for creation, and social justice issues.

I'd love to hear any thoughts or reactions.

Our latest plans

I haven't posted in a while, but I've had quite a few posts rolling around in my head lately.

With the election drawing close, I have had a few thoughts I've considered posting. I had made a decision recently to stay clear from politics for a while on my blog. I was getting emails and comments from mostly family members who think I've become a "crazy liberal." And maybe I have. It's something I'm increasingly passionate about (not politics itself but the issues). There's something about our two-party system that is divisive and that's when I'd rather stay clear for a while. But stay tuned, I may not be able to stay quiet for long.

For an update, Michael and I are settled back in Oregon. I have begun substituting, though a little more sporadically than we'd like. Michael has had a hard time finding a part-time job in the area. He is keeping busy with his online classes as well as all the paperwork to get things moving for our internship in January.

As of now, we are working towards going to Rwanda in January. Through a series of events Michael began talking with a family in Rwanda about an internship possibility. The Thomas family has begun a development project that will be getting off the ground in December/January, and it will be a great time for Michael to be able to see how things are run in this type of business. We've decided to go for three months. We have to raise support and are in the middle of that process right now. We have a lot of work to get done and at times feel overwhelmed by it all. But, we are excited about this opportunity and are praying that this time in Rwanda will be a time of discernment for us. We are not sure what will be after Rwanda. We're using this time as a "vision trip," in part to see if we may feel called to go back to Rwanda longer term, or to see what other opportunities may arise there or elsewhere during our time there.

I will try to post regular updates about this process. We are excited about it all and trust that the Lord is guiding us in this direction for now.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mitch Thomas

This week I found out that a friend from Spokane passed away. I spent my elementary and middle school days growing up in Mead, Washington, and we moved to Oregon right before I began high school. We had started attending a new church and my parents had become official members at Timberview Christian Fellowship. My dad had helped with some of the building of the new church.

We felt welcomed and at home at this new church, and this was largely because of Pastor Matt Thomas and his family. This week one of their sons "graduated to the throne of God," as his family described on the blog they kept. Mitch was diagnosed with Leukemia in May of 2007. He married his sweet wife in the hospital just a couple months ago. If you have a few minutes to read the blog, it's a wonderful testimony of God's love and grace during a difficult time.

My memories of Mitch are few, but it's been a blessing to be reminded of the kind of person he was by the comments on his blog and by all the support him and his family received.

Mitch taught me to snow ski. He was a couple years older than me, so at the time he was a sophomore in high school and I was an eighth grader, which is worlds apart at that age. We went on a youth trip and he spent the entire day with me. I had never skied before, and he was a patient teacher.

I also remember a time when Spokane was hit with a crazy ice storm, and we lost power for over a week. Mitch and his family came over and we played pinochle by candlelight.

My heart aches for the Thomas family. Please pray for them as they are grieving and finding Christ in all this.