Category Archives: Advocacy/Activism

Something We Can Agree On: From the Aftermath of The Sandy Hook School Shooting

This goes with a complimentary post:

Art of Advocacy: How the Sandy Hook Shooting Can Awaken Us

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After the horrific Sandy Hook Shooting a week ago, where almost thirty people were brutally murdered, I was sent this post written by fiction novelist and analyst, Joel Rosenberg. It doesn’t take long to infer he is a classic right-winged W.A.S.P.  Actually, I agreed overall with what he had written in his post. But I was irked by it too. It seemed so . . . generic.

Indeed, Americans need to be better, different, remade.

Yes, we need our schools to be great (we just differ on how this looks).

We want our politics to be awesome (again, where we are all but unified).

Indeed, we should stop bad people and keep guns from bad people (yes, that includes both concerned sides of the gun debate).

Then, undoubtedly, we really need our families to improve.

Oh, and maybe we shouldn’t let our eight-year-olds whittle their days away playing Assassins Creed.

We need to stop sinning. Pretty sure that is a given.

(On a quick side-note, no pointing fingers! We are all guilty of sinning, so stop saying it is the people who kill their babies’ fault, or God’s wrath on us because some people sleep with whomever- I’m pretty sure self-righteousness, pride, lying, lusting over porn, etc… all qualify as sins too). 

Lastly, it should be obvious that there is evil in our world, even though there is a lot of good stuff in the world too (Look at my rant on this here if you haven’t yet).

To all of this- No kidding!

Not to be mean to or anything, but thanks for stating the obvious, buddy (Rosenberg)! Even so, maybe sometimes someone does need to state the obvious.

Yes, we need help to be transformed, and I believe we should pray. I believe we can only be remade by seeking out the life Jesus promises (for many reasons, feel free to ask why).

But instead of focusing on guns, politics, prayer, schools, religion mixed with politics, views on abortion, video games, military, etc… all which are not agreed on and are hotly being debated in the wake of Sandy Hook, my question revolves more around how we can be practically proactive on something we can agree on.

In case you haven’t read a version of this blog post yet, this is a must read:

I Am Adam Lanzas Mother

After reading this, and pushing aside our initial “What the ______!” reaction, I have no doubt EVERYONE believes we need to help parents and children like these.

Why are Michael and Adam Lanza the way they are? Are they born with crime in their DNA? Are they products of their environment? Do they just have terrible mental illnesses? Could it be more than that? Do they have demonic influences?

I don’t know and this is where we will start differing in our opinions again.

But what I do know is that even if Americans are remade and there is a “revival” in America, that doesn’t guarantee horrific things like the Sandy Hook Shooting will disappear. I don’t think more people being quick-fixed “saved” will change our world, not they have true life-change. Then, if someone prays over a loudspeaker at school, verses just with their friends around a flagpole- that isn’t going to make a school immune to a violent upheaval either.

Why? Because you need less than .0000001 percent of the population to do terrorist-like activities.

But what we can do, proactively, is look around us and start caring for parents who are readily asking for help, like Michael’s mom. If we had relationships with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and actually chose to get uncomfortable enough with them to actually talk about more than the weather, then we might be able to support families who need it.

I am part of an experiment called the Art of Neighboring. One of the challenges is to know families around you so well, you actually know the state of their marriages. Or maybe, in this case, the state of their children.

You see, I need people to help me parent.  I know others need that too, and feel honored when people I know are willing to consider things I have learned.  What if we lived life with people so we could be there for them when they have an out-of-control kid? What if we hosted community parenting classes, advocating for parents when they confess their child scares them? They don’t have to agree with everything we say. It requires a certain vulnerability to have conversations like these, a vulnerability we don’t often embrace.

It goes beyond parenting, but about being there for students, about being there for young adults as they find their way in college, in the world.

Am I so naive to believe that if we are attentive to those around us, if we learned how to have healthy conversations with those in our circles, even if challenging, lives could be spared? Am I so naive to believe that living life with people literally changes the world?

Why yes. I think I am.

Then, the other obvious factor is that another scenario needs to be available rather than just throwing thirteen-year-olders with mental illnesses in jail. I am not sure what that looks like, but it looks like something. Who will raise up to the challenge to make that happen? Who already is making that happen? How can we support their work?

Yes, of course I want the people in our country, heck, in our world, to be spiritually transformed. I think we should seek this, pray for this, and ya, ask God to heal our land. But having real relationships with people around us and coming up with immediate solutions to help families like Michael’s is a practical stepping stone that I think we can all agree on. This might be vague, but it is less generic than “God Save America.” It is better than just arguing about what is wrong; who is wrong.

And, now that I have effectively written a whole blog post on the subject, I must humble myself by saying I need to be more aware of those around me. I have had friends talk with me about their children’s mental illnesses, and I was either skeptical or didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t offer to help them or walk through their unique situation with them, and for that I am sorry.

God, please change me to be aware of and compassionate for those around me. When it happens, help me to have a clue on how to be there for a family walking through these types of situations. Please transform us to care for the Adam Lanza’s of the world and know how to fight the “rulers and authorities of darkness” which the Bible’s Ephesians tells us our real battle is against. And as always, thank you for your love and bigness, even in the midst of suffering like this. You are enough. Amen.

Again, the companion post to this one is found at The Average Advocate, where I typically blog. But as this didn’t really fit the theme of that website, I decided to post it here on my personal blog instead. Be sure to check it out and sign up to receive those posts!

From “Internet Minute of Silence Declared for Sandy Hook Victims” Zoe Fox from Mashable.org

Updates: Websites, Weddings, Work, Writing

Hi! Here are some updates of our life over the last few months.

Most of my blogging time these days goes to http://www.AverageAdvocate.com I have been excited because recently I have had people guest blog (finally)! I need the help, the other opinions/experiences, and the networks which other people have. So this is great. In addition, I was a contributor to the Human Trafficking Daily (a web news site) with my book review on Not For Sale. Score! In case you can’t tell, really getting this going has been important to me. Its the merger between some of my passions and a skill- my little small fish and loaves.

Of course, being mommy is still my main job (I hear this rumor I should expect this for at least the next eighteen years). Avi is now four and Josiah is now two. They are so much easier now, having grown a bit older.  We love them bunches! And it seems anyone else who meets them does too! As of yet, Avi is a drama queen and Josiah is a soft-spoken linguist.  They have had their fill of wedding this summer. My cousin Brett’s wedding in Wisconsin, Josh’s brother Ben’s wedding in New Jersey, and Josh’s dad’s wedding in Tennessee.  Annoyingly, none of these weddings were at a beach! Oh well. But, apparently, we discovered that getting down with sweet dance skills is my kids’ fave thing to do!

I have also been working for my church , J10 Church, as “connections chick” for coming up on a whole year now. I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and hopefully I have been a blessing there too. I wouldn’t say it has been easy at all in any way. But I think the job fits me; I feel content in it. Although I do confess, I also feel like I am about to screw something up at any moment! So, on a positive note, it draws me to God.

Because it is writing related, I can easily share with you the book review posts I randomly write for my friends’ website, Reading Teen. This is total fun and fluff for me. Here are some others posts beyond what I have shared to you before:

This is my most favorite review because I thought it was really funny, the author of the book asked me to write it, and a lot of people liked it 🙂

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/08/cascade-river-of-time-2-by-lisa-t.html

These are some other not-so-thrilling posts:

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/07/waterfall-river-of-time-1-by-lisa-t.html

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/07/choices-by-katrina-l-burchett.html

A buddy and I pretended we were the site’s typical authors, and did an IMM for them. They are on either side of us, coaching us on the books we were supposed to let their readers know about. To us, this was hilarious, but maybe its just because we are all friends. Here you go anyway!

Average Advocate: Website

In case I’ve never mentioned it before, I finally decided a few months ago to create a new website/blog to write about my passion for the world’s hurting. It seemed like that was what God was leading me to do, so that is the direction I started going in. I liked the idea of being able to refine writing about advocacy for important international causes, separately from my personal blog. And now I can still feel comfortable talking about my kids, posting poems, other such stuff on this actual blog.  If you ever read this blog, I hope you will take time to follow my new one as well, as I believe the subjects covered on it are important (and will probably write a lot more on that blog than this). I assume I will occasionally put links on this blog to different posts on the Average Advocate which are more personal to me.

You can find my new blog at www.AverageAdvocate.com. The idea behind it is that most people generally stay away from being active for causes which I believe God calls us to be active in, either because it seems to far-removed or we don’t have enough understanding that it is actually an issue. And if we do, we don’t know how to act. Hopefully this website can take us from being just the average people we are to assisting us to be active advocates. I don’t want to be a crazy activist, but I am willing to be an advocate in my average life. And I think you are too. Hence, maybe this will help us do that.

When you go visit this site, please be aware, there are still a lot of kinks I am working through.  Although I have begun to write there, I still have a lot of construction to do! You can check it out anyway! And if you have experience in blog creation or design, and want to help, let me know. Or if you would like to write for it, that would be great too! Thanks!

World AIDS Day: Kefilwe’s Story

“My momma’s got AIDS” the little girl whispered. It was one of those whispers that is so quiet that it knocks your breath away, like a sonic boom. Her skin was like copper, hardened, darkened, but smoother than silk. She had a pock-mark on the corner of her forehead, near where her coarse, black hair began to embrace her head. I couldn’t help but think that she looked beautiful. Her dirty “Adiddas” shirt had questionable smears on it, which made my stomach turn. Pathetic and beautiful.

“I’ve never met someone with AIDS until now,” I whispered back. She nodded, knowingly. “Neither did I until my daddy got sick. He’s gone. My momma was mad at him when she found out. She told me that he shouldn’t have done it, that it was wrong for him to do that to her. I don’t know what she meant, but I guessed it meant that if you have AIDS it means you’re a bad person.” I listened to her as we bumped our way over the dry, lumpy grass road.  I glanced around to see if I could find my water bottle. I wasn’t used to the feeling of dust continually clinging to my skin. We were driving to a medical compound, which according to my uneducated guess, must be even closer to the Kalahari Desert than we already were. It seemed surreal. I vaguely tried to connect the string of events that got me here, but I quickly gave up doing so. However I got here, I was here. Just for this week. But I was in a different world.

But Kefilwe, my copper-skinned companion, actually probably had known many people with AIDS before her dad.  At least one-fourth of the people in her little African Village were HIV positive, which is actually normal in Botswana (and much of Southern Africa). I shook my head.  I knew Kefilwe’s mom was dying. Maybe if we could get the drugs to her sooner, but she had an advanced case of Tuberculous, as well. I guessed she had less than a month to live. This poor little girl worked so hard. From sunrise, to sunset she would do what little she could to make her mom’s life less miserable. I marveled that my neighbor’s kid back in the States, the same age as Kefilwe, ate Lucky Charms, went to school, Karate, and then after dinner would watch TV, or maybe go outside to catch fireflies.  All the while this girl would be mushing who-knows-what, and then cooking it over a fire for her and her mom to eat. Or maybe she would be fetching water from that stinky mud-hole three miles away to cool off her mom’s forehead. The only reason I actually believed this nonsense, that Kefilwe’s drastically different life was actually real, was because I had watched her live it for a few days now. And she didn’t complain about it. Which must mean that its normal, because if it was my neighbor kid living Kefilwe’s place, there would be hell to hear.

“Do you think only bad people have AIDS?” she questioned. “I don’t think my momma’s bad. She doesn’t look pretty, but she’s not bad. The witch-doctor said that my momma has an evil spirit. But the church-people say that God is punishing her.” My mind wandered. I knew that in Botswana, although a large portion of its people consider themselves Christian, many practice a traditional African religion as well, referred to here as Badimo. Although I considered witch-doctors something of story books, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were not so different in America, practicing multiple beliefs at the same time while only claiming one.

“Kefilwe, have you gone to school?” I asked. Kefilwe just looked at me confused and then turned back to admiringly study the new stuffed polar bear someone with us had given her. I wondered if she even had a clue of what a polar bear was.  Another passenger took advantage of her distraction, leaned over, and proceeded to explain to me that the small school which had serviced Kefilwe’s village shut down five years ago when both the teachers had passed away because of AIDS. The passenger, who worked for Peace Corps, continued by telling me that if a country who was a major world-player, like India, China, or Russia had the same AIDS infection rate as this area in Africa, their economies would also falter. Yet, because of their global influence, it would create a domino effect in the economies of the world.  I looked at the Peace Corp with skepticism. She explained that a huge portion of Africa’s labor force had already succumbed to AIDS, creating gaps all over society and overwhelming barriers to growth. I knew that India already had a high rate of AIDS infection. I had never considered the effect of such a disease on a whole country before, let alone its effect on a continent, or the world at large.

Kefilwe eventually looked up from her polar bear, picking up our conversation again: “My momma says she won’t come back soon, and it will happen just like when my daddy died. She said she will look even skinner, and not talk much before that happens. She told me I don’t have to cry when she won’t let me feed her.” I smiled sadly. It’s not everyday I hear such a young child talk about sickness and death. She will soon be added to the fourteen million children who have been orphaned in Southern Africa because of AIDS. “My momma says I need to get that medicine for myself so I don’t end up like her and daddy. Momma says you have that medicine. She said you could get it for me. She said that the nice people in your village will hear about how we need their help, and they will bring us back the medicine.” And then she looked up at me with such big eyes full of hope.

Kefilwe wasn’t aware that she was already HIV positive. She never had a choice- she was born with it. A little knowledge, basic medical assistance, and access to antiretroviral drugs could have easily kept her from this fate. Instead Kefilwe is a statistic, one of the 400,000 babies born with HIV yearly. But on a positive note, she had made it this far. Half of the children born with HIV don’t even live past age two. I began to wonder about Kefilwe’s future: “Do you have any brothers or sisters, Kefilwe?” “I have a sister who is almost five, and we had a baby brother. He died last year.” I began to panic. Kefilwe was the oldest of two HIV positive girls. Would Kefilwe have someone to take her in, and regularly give her the antiretroviral drugs? Or would she become the head of her household? I shuttered. Kefilwe was six-and-a-half.

As if she knew what I was thinking, Kefilwe scooted across the ripped-seats, shyly grabbed my arm, and began to sing. Her tiny voice was shaky and off-pitch. But as I smiled down at her, she sang beautifully louder. Soon everyone else riding with us either joined with her song, or was grinning at her. We soon arrived at the clinic, and I begin to help the medical workers process their new clients. Because of the antiretroviral drugs (AVRs) we were able to deliver, these individuals would not only survive, but probably would even thrive for years. At least as long as they had access to them.

After helping distributing the AVRs with me, Kefilwe tugged at my pant leg and asked me for a drink. I stooped to her level, took her little hands, and closed that first forty-cent pill within her fingers. I hoped my family would not mind the ramifications of what I was about to say. I took a deep breath, locked Kefilwe eyes with mine and then promised her that it would all be okay, that I would make sure of it.  Kefilwe glanced down at that life-giving pill and then gazed in wonder back at me. She is my hero, even though she looks at me as if I am hers.

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These are the brutal facts of the AIDS pandemic, the doomsday virus that I sometimes call the greatest humanitarian crisis of all time. But once again I want to stress that there is reason for hope. . . Between 2001 and 2005, prevalence rates fell in Botswana from 38.8 to 24.1 percent . . .” (p.150).

Stearns, Richard. 2010. The Hole in Our Gospel.  World Vision, Inc. Thomas Nelson: Nashville.

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This is a fictitious story based on facts. Kefilwe’s story is meant to give an accurate example of the current situation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Soundtracks: Changing the World in Humility

Sometimes I am pretty sure the only reason our lives are so dull is because we don’t have the appropriate music playing in the background constantly. I am convinced my life would be amazing as any Oscar-winning movie if some D.J. in the sky always had a perfect soundtrack going for me.

This evening, I was sitting here feeling slightly melancholy. It was one of those rare days when it hit me that my kids are growing up right before my eyes; the moment is precious and yet it will slip away. I know in my mind that these are the moments I want to remember forever. I am often told how cute my kids are. I remember what it was like before I had kids, finding myself momentarily impressed with the beauty, life, and adorableness of a child I would be watching. But I struggle with the infamous disease all parents seem to battle, just knowing this rather than experiencing it. You see, I wish I could typically feel these sweet moments for my own kids. They are like drops of water that I hold on a leaf, but will soon stream off, rushing into the river with countless other drops. Coldplay, Fix You.

I won’t say I was sad tonight. Just pensive and melancholy. And the amazing Pandora has been creating my soundtrack, playing in the background.  All at once I wanted to capture the moment: my children, this night, this day, the urge to read sacred ancient text, wanting to discover who God is. Mainly just for time to be penetrated in the depth of me. So I heavily drank down my coffee just to feel the warmth spreading to the inside of my body, imagining its heat to be the moment becoming unforgettably one with me. The music in the background seemed appropriate, creating the soundtrack I craved. Album Leaf, Red Eye.

I am still young, beautiful and sharp. I am blessed in my marriage and with my children. I am as rich as can be in every way.  I have a wonderful life. And then often I feel pride. I struggle to believe I am not the end-all, as if I matter so much that the world as a whole would be sad without me. All I can see is things through my own perspective. I guess I know that I will die trying to change the world, and so somehow I begin to think that I am important. David Crowder, Alleluia Sing!

I sat in a room today with other people who are also trying to change the world. It was energizing. If you could feel electric without it hurting, that is what this room full of hopeful world-changers felt like. It was that same feeling you might have gotten the first time as a young teenager when someone told you that you mattered to them. Or that you could be anything you wanted to be, back when you might actually believe them. I then glanced over at one woman, and I realized she just might be feeling the same way I often feel- important in her own right. I then remembered the awkward moments I’ve had with so many other people who have my same interests. Maybe its just that we are so used to no one else caring that we think of ourselves as better, or maybe its just too hard to get on the same page as someone else. Regardless, those focused on one cause or another seem to want to find others like-minded, yet when they do it might be hard to practice humility and work as a team. Florence and the Machine, Between Two Lungs.

And then I remembered I am just one person, whom God is called, amongst the millions. It doesn’t mean that I am not important. It just means that I am an essential part something more important. I am part of a group of people who is God’s own, His instrument of change within this world. Citizen Cope, Let the Drummer Kick.

My pastor mentioned The Beatitudes today, in a message focusing on the teaching of Jesus. When was the last time I read those? God is an Astronaut, Fall From Stars.

The Beatitudes

3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Matthew 5:3-10 NLT

I look at that and I think “There I am!” or “That is so not me!” And yet, although I feel like each verse has a right to be given special attention, especially in light of international or social issues, the one that is speaking the purest to me now is that the humble are blessed. They will inherit the earth. Jesus taught about humility while living an example of humility I can’t even begin to comprehend. Mute Math, Break the Same.

I feel like it is wisdom who speaks, reminding us world changers that in the height (or lows) in our hopes of affecting this world for good, we will make no difference and have no lasting change without humility. Yet, when our pride melts away, the promise is that we will inherit the world. How’s that for being a world changer?  The Kooks, Seaside.

If my life had a soundtrack it would have  music with a strong beat to keep me pushing forward, to make a difference. It would have a lot of happy, busy and excited music. And it would also have music to express my roadblocks and sorrow. But my soundtrack would also have a lot of melancholy music, although not in order to depress. Instead its purpose would be to assist me to stop and think. To remind me of what I have been given, and whom I am in debited to for marvelous love. The music might move me to slide off my bed, humbly curl up on my knees besides it, and ponder how life is just so much bigger than me. It turns out am lucky to have a part in it. Feist, The Water.