22 March 2009

I Believe in the Future

    It doesn't take much to start a revolution. A simple spark can ignite people for something they truly believe in. I think it's finally time we, as a country, recognize and practice Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's quote, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that; the chain reaction of evil must be broken or we will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation."

    I have a good friend named Shelly Burke. She is one of the most caring, loving, kindest individuals that I've ever met. She practices Dr. King's philosophy on a daily basis. Her morals, ethics, and beliefs can be summed up into two simple phrases; 1) the goodness of man, and 2) the greatness of God. She stands behind these beliefs, never wavering, relentlessly immersing herself in goodness, and perpetually creating an atmosphere of love. Shelly not once begs the question, "What do I get in return." She n ever wonders, "How does this help me." Shelly's concern is with helping her fellow man; assisting those around her; loving all of God's children and creatures.

Webster defines light as, "Something that makes things visible or affords illumination." Shelly does just that. She illuminates all the good that surrounds her; she offers her hand, or her heart to those in need. Shelly makes things visible that most people can't see. When people see a broken down spirit that is hopeless and will never be repaired, Shelly sees a lost soul that needs to find its way back on track. Some of my most notable memories of Shelly are on Mission Trips to Mexico. My first mission trip to Mexico was her third. We befriended each other fairly quickly. That's not just because we are a lot alike; she also struck up conversations with me, and played games with me, and went out of her way to make me feel welcome on the mission trip. However, that wasn't what really stood out about her from that mission trip. In Mexico we set up Vacation Bible School (or Escualita Biblica) sites to help share God's word to the kids in Mexico who would have never heard it otherwise. While we were passing out flyers Shelly and a couple of other people met a girl named Altalia. Shelly would later tell it this way. She had a disease, and was either forced to be in bed or in a wheelchair; therefore, she could not go out and play, so she didn't have many friends. However, she was very happy and content with what she had, and who she was, even though an illness threatened to claim her life at any minute. Shelly, being the caring person that she is, broke down and cried for this girl. She didn't only cry for Altalia, she prayed for her, prayed for her well-being, and prayed for God to take care of her. As Americans we have a tendency to do the least we can to get the job done. It is really easy to be nice to someone if you never see them again. However, Shelly's kindness and light do not end at praying for her, they extend far beyond that; the next day Shelly went to the little two-room house that Altalia's family lived in. She took Altalia herself to the VBS site; she pushed and pulled her wheelchair through the mud until they finally arrived. And, of course, when it was over Shelly wheeled Altalia back to her home. This went on the whole week but, by the third day they were able to take the church van to pick up Altalia. Shelly's light defies many 'real-world' expectations. Like Matthew 5:14, 16 says, "You are the light of the world…. Let your light shine, so that [men] may see your good deeds and worship your Father in Heaven." Shelly does that on an everyday, every minute basis. Shelly doesn't lower herself to the 'real-world' or 'modern-day' world expectations of compassion.

Shelly's love for those around her abounds in such a way that she destroys hate, much like Dr. King's quote says. An example of this happened, again, in Mexico. This was my second year to go to Mexico. This year was different than the previous for many reasons. Even though our usual 'leaders' did not opt to come this time, even though we went on a completely different month than any of the nine years prior, even though we had so many fewer people, one thing stayed consistent – Shelly's love. The weeks prior to the trip Shelly was asking if she would get to see Altalia again; however, we were in a different part of the town this year, and she was unable to. Even a year later Shelly didn't forget that girl, and was anxious to meet her again and pray with her, and care for her, like she did the previous year. However, this year Shelly got to meet someone new, someone else whom she could help and pray for. We were located at a church called Iglesia Bautista Principe de Paz, which means Baptist Church Prince of Peace. The day we passed out flyers was rainy and the streets were flooding. The neighborhood wasn't very big, but Shelly managed to pass out all of her flyers even with such a definite language barrier. The second day of VBS Shelly the rain had ceased a little which meant a few more kids had come than the day before, totaling about 20 kids). Shelly was inside playing with the kids and singing along to some of the songs, when she noticed a girl sitting in the corner. Shelly wanted to include everyone, so she went to get the girl and bring her into the crowd. When she got over to the little girl she noticed that it looked like something was wrong with her. Her mom was there and in her eyes she could tell that the mom was saying, 'she's sick, pray for her.' Shelly knelt on the ground right then, took the little girl's and the mother's hand and prayed. As Shelly prayed, the girl's mother prayed with her. And even though two different languages were being spoken, she knew that both prayers were the same. The Bible says that where two or more are gathered in God's name, He will be there. Shelly knew that God was there, transcending the languages and helping the little girl. Even though Shelly couldn't meet Altalia again, she had another experience that she will never forget.

Shelly's love is so raw, that everyone who comes around her can feel it, almost touch it. Like Nelson Mandela once said, "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, it's that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in all. And as we let our own light shine we consciously give other people permission to do the same." Shelly has conquered the fear that Mandela proposes, and she lets her light shine. She is doing her best to break that chain reaction of evil. However, just one person's work will not do it. As this country grows, as the anger inside us grows the chain gets longer faster than Shelly can break the links. She will not stop trying. And we as Americans need to help her. We as humans need to help her. We need to break those links on the chain of evil. We must uphold the moral fabric and ethical integrity that is born inside of every human. We must allow goodness to overwhelm us. We must allow kindness to teem from the very root of our core. We must allow light to manifest itself in us so that even when we have a 'bad day' or a 'stressful time' we still have that light inside to show to the world. Not just in Shelly. Not just in some. In all. We must team up and break the chain reaction of evil. We must change the abyss into which we are currently being plunged. Because of Shelly's light, I believe in everyone. Because of Shelly's love, I believe in the future.

15 March 2009

To err and forgive

How can we live? How can we succeed? How can we truly know life if we don't experience it? But, how can we get the experiences we want without the sin, and guilt? We truly have no other way except through God. And, as everyone learned in Sunday School, Man is seperate from God, by nothing except by sin. Sin is a beast; wild, untamed, and completely common.

The truth is that everyone has at least one thing they want to do; one thing they want to experience; one thing they have always wanted to try, just once. And most people don't end up doing it because they are in fear of sin, as they were taught in sunday. This feeling is absolutley common, and absolutely correct. Our life is filled with choices; choices we must make, and choices in which we must suffer the consequences (regardless of which decision you make). And those consequences make us feel guilt. That guilt can be that we feel guilty for the sin because we chose to succum to temptation, or guilt that we feel because we didn't do it - and we REALLY wanted to.

Sin is natural. Sin is bad. Sin is inevitable. After all, "To err is human, to forgive is divine." You know that saying, 'It will chew you up and spit you out?" This is not completely like sin. Sin will chew you up. But it will not spit you out. Your addiction to the sin will carry you farther than you ever intended to go. Sin will swallow you whole and resist every attempt to have you climb back out. It is your job to fight this sin. You must fight it. It is a never-ending battle; not just for you, but for all of mankind. The only thing that can truly save us is God, through his perpetual mercy.

For all we have, God has given us. However, for all we sin, it gets taken away. Until that one glorious moment in which we accept God, and his forgiveness. From the bowels of sin, from the depths of addiction, from the torture of pain, we must beseech God to forgive us and rise up from the ashes of what once was, as a Phoenix.

We are nothing, we have nothing, we know nothing; unless God is with us, and in us. Sin casts so great a shadow that God cannot be caught in its darkness. He can conquer - and is the only cure - for the blackness that it leaves in its wake.

Pray for forgivness. Ask for His mercy. And beseech God for His protection.

In His name. Pray. Amen.