Christmas Politickle

Those who know me know that I am not really too into politics.  Usually.

That is to say, I do like comparing politics with the Bible. Typically this is just a messy hobby, kinda like how I assume painting abstract art would be. In fact, I often just use politics for my own activist agenda, and then don’t care. I might as well be slapping mustard and ketchup onto the governmental canvas, adding my minuscule sway just in case it makes the painting look better. Most of the time, though, I only get annoyed by things I don’t like on each side of the red-and-blue political spectrum. This frustration is similar to how football players generally get annoyed when they think they see a good play hidden within a Jackson Pollock painting (but then get angered because it’s not really there). Why is it not there, you may ask? I assume it is because Pollock did not really care about football. At least not enough to hide secret cool football game-moves inside of his paintings. I guess I should do a little research to back that last statement up, but if you are so interested (or know a Red Skins player who is) feel free to get back to me with any notable findings.

My point is that I think politics are annoying and interesting at the same time. And that it is hard to justify religious beliefs in politics, even though in reality that is the foundation of all politics: Values. And, if you don’t know, values come from worldviews, which are pretty much a mash-up of cultures and religions, blah, blah, blah. And luckily, I can back that statement up because I studied it for years in college (I know you were concerned).

Therefore, I find it fun to make fun of politics (in fun). So with that said, I share this Merry Christmas politickle-me-laughing clip with you. Even so, I do have to say that Colbert’s last couple sentences in this were pretty much exceptionally thought-provoking, if not totally right-on. Note: No disrespect is intended towards my more right (double-meaning?) republican friends or for Baby Jesus by re-posting this (whom actually isn’t a baby anymore).

 
Because WordPress won’t let me embed the video- CLICK HERE – to listen to Stephen Colbert’s “Democrats Don’t Get Christmas.”

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.

Blog Action Day: Delicious Water

So I started to workout. Most of the people I know laugh when I say that. Not only do I know next to nothing about sports, I am chronically bad at anything exercise related. I am one of those people who run like I am a girl and throw like a baby. A baby girl. You should see my daughter run. Poor child; she inherited my DNA. Regardless, I am trying to exercise and I am not failing miserably just yet. I keep telling myself just one more minute, and after that one more minute. After awhile I have completed my thirty minutes while gulping down water. Then, I consider doing it again the next day (although usually don’t). And I know the days when I workout can add up like 1+1+1+1+1 . . . until I will have exercised all throughout this autumn, resulting in health and hydration.

I say hydration because I get thirsty.  With feet flailing around as I bounce up and down on the elliptical, or while my heart is pounding faster than my toes can twinkle on the pavement- wouldn’t you get parched, as I do? I feel famished. For water. Which I means I am thirsty. Do you feel hungry when you are thirsty, too?  I remedy this by walking over to my refrigerator, overflowing my glass with ice-cold water as I am distracted, making a puddlely mess on the floor for my toddling son to slip on.  Or if I am not home, I can stick a crisp George Washington in a machine, which then pops out a fresh bottle of water. I pull of the top, twist, snap, and drink deeply from the bliss of agua deliciosa while I consider the fact I used the idiom “George Washington” to refer to a dollar bill for the first time in my life.

It’s somewhat sad then, that a good part of the world experiences thirst and/or only has unclean water. That “part of the world” suffers from sicknesses and diseases found in the nasty water they have, which countless deaths are caused daily by. Some kids can’t go to school because they have to walk to the water source to fetch water. In fact, typically burdened with the responsibility, women’s whole lives are controlled by the time, distance, and weight of water. Think sitting in traffic to get milk for your upset toddler is bad? War and conflicts are also aggravated by the need for clean water. Oh, and here is another largely quoted fact anyone who is anyone  in the global water biz will let you know: “Contaminated water and poor sanitation are factors in 80 percent of all disease in the developing world.” It’s crazy to realize how influential clean water is- it’s one of those things we just don’t get what its like to be without until we’ve experienced it.

There are two specific ways you can help, right now. One is clicking on this post, Delicious Water: Charities about organizations whom you can donate to for clean water. I hope you know that it costs only $1 to give one year’s worth of water to an individual in a developing country (which is the “that part of the world” I mentioned earlier). And, if you partner with other people who give one miserly little dollar, it becomes 1+1+1+1+1+ . . .  Numbers do something. They add up. Last year, raised only by my friends, we came to just shy of $600 for my birthday.  That gave water to 29 people for 20 years. I have no doubt they will appreciate it. As will those whom you give water to.

The second thing you can do is to sign a petition like this one, for the MDG water goals (read about what that is, and what is going on with it in WaterAid’s recent report) I know, petitions seem stupid. But honestly, they are not. Okay, maybe sometimes they are stupid. But, they aren’t asking you to sell your identity by signing them. And numbers do something. They add up: 1+1+1+1+1+1 . . . can quickly become five million voices which someone will pay attention too. I am serious. You know the “Darfur Crisis” which everyone has at least hear of in the U.S.? Yep, that was a complete grassroots movement. It was weird people like me forcing normal people like you to sign petitions until some people heard about it in the media who made the government focus in on it. Not enough has been done about it, but still, at least people know about Darfur. And it is a lot easier for the average joe to buy water for someone than it is for them to stop a genocide. Have I made my point? Sign the water petition already! Otherwise I might start talking about how I get thirsty when I exercise again, and we all know it goes downhill from there.

Lastly, but importantly, spread this. Watch the cool clip on the following link, reminding us why water is so important for us to talk about. if you are a blogger, join in on the Blog Action Day. Or if you don’t blog, Facebook about water. Or tweet about it. Or tell a friend at dinner that they can give you a George Washington right there on the spot which you will donate with your paypal account. Then after that you can come and exercise with me.

Delicious Water: Charities

So, your gonna give some water, aren’t you! Good for you! Consider this your one stop-and-shop for clean water. Unless I forgot some charities. Which I have. After all, you can’t expect me to know every charity and organization there is out there! So I will just give you a few, all of which are not going to steal your money, and rather use if for good.

This link, to charity:water briefly gives more information on the importance of water, which you might not know (unless you read my post Blog Action Day: Delicious Water). Just so you know, I really like charity:water. This might have to do with the fact that 100% of their profits go to water, or maybe its because the guy who started it was just a passionate young person who was also born in September, just like me. Which matters, of course.

Project H2O is another organization worth considering donating to. They give 100% of their donations away,which is one of the ways they are similar to charity:water of NYC. I’m guessing it is because Project H20 is from Georgia, without the rich and famous promoting it, which is why this organization hasn’t had the same explosive growth charity:water has had. Project H2O is more like a grassroots movement, which I feel like I can connect and empathize with.  I am just another average person trying to do big things, like those who staff it are. They also have a strong partnership with a church, and are looking for more ways to partner with others.

Another great organization is Living Water International. They can’t give 100% of their funds, but they are still awarded four stars by Charity Navigators. Notably, their water initiatives are done in the name of Jesus. I know this makes a lot of Christian’s happy, including myself. Jesus said in Matthew 10:42 to give a cup of water in His name. One can argue that this only means one’s motive should be for Jesus, or that one actually should write “Jesus” with a black Sharpe on a bottles of water you pass out.  Regardless, giving to an organization such as Living Water International might be the best place for you to donate in order to avoid any moral dilemmas which might paralyze you from giving.

Blood:Water Mission is also another cool charity which also has some great ideas on how to help, such as the classic summer lemonade stand, where each dollar goes towards clean drinking water.

Also, I probably should mention WaterAid as its probably the biggest organization for this type of thing, working with the UN, governments and all that jazz. It is also awarded four stars with Charity Navigators.

These charities have very effective, considerate, and sustainable  practices. Which means giving to them does not just throw money down a bottomless well by building these wells. These wells actually transform communities and save lives. They are magic wells.

If you are looking specifically for other Christian organizations which do other things, besides just focusing on water,  World Vision, Gospel for Asia, and Gospel Revival Ministries are some other options.

If there is some water-giving organization you love, please post them in the comments section and why you love them. Thanks!