Monday, December 31, 2012

life thoughts.

Deep thoughts these days. Pondering the horrific events that brought our year to a close in a school not so far away... thinking--as we all do--why? And how do you ever get to that place? There are all the outcries of "this is what should have been done"... "this is what should be done"... "this is what really happened". Often, I hesitate to lend my voice to the multitude--fearing that giving attention to such atrocity might encourage other troubled youngsters longing for fame to try something similar.

I don't have the answers. The reasons, or the solutions. I just began thinking of some huge differences between children growing up here in the US and children growing up in many other countries around the world. Thinking about how many of we American adults grew up in comfy circumstances, watching Disney movies that told us that there was no one in the world as special as us. That if we wished for something hard enough, we could have it. That there was nothing we could not be. That we deserved to be happy. We deserved to have whatever we wanted because we were that special. We heard that message in varying degrees from many sources. Perhaps our parents re-inforced it with us. Maybe we never had to do chores around the house, because our parents said we were the princesses and princes and our job was to just be a kid. Maybe we never had to pay for the things we got, because our parents felt that was the way to show love. It could have been that we excelled easily, we felt only praise and encouragement as we performed or did athletics as small children. "If you don't like it, if it doesn't make you feel good, we will find something that does!"

It seems that a large portion of us feel that things should be fair. Things should make sense. There shouldn't be suffering. It shouldn't be hard. We deserve comfort. We deserve what we want. We deserve to be famous--brimming with confidence and purpose.

I contrast that with other societies. Other societies that perhaps live, as a many-membered family in a one-room, dirt-floored home. Where--if the children have the luxury of going to school--probably will only go until they are old enough to be of service to the family. Where, from the age they could walk, they knew how much things "cost". Perhaps water had to be hauled by buckets, waited for in hours-long lines. Perhaps small portions of food took hours of work to attain--and when attained, had to be shared among too many mouths. Working, suffering, injustice, sickness, death, scarcity-- these things are as common as breathing to large portions of the worlds population from a very early age. Yet, amongst what we would see as horrible life-conditions, I often see faces calm with acceptance. Bright and genuine smiles that bring sparkles to the eyes.

People, sometimes I think we suffer too little. We have too much time on our hands. Recently, as I hear people saying, "I just need to find my purpose in life"... "What is my great calling??" (and, believe me... I have said those very words)... my mind immediately takes me to images of a man in India, pulling his rickshaw in the oppressive heat, the pouring rain. Hard, hard, thankless work day in, day out. Living in a one-room shack, jammed into an over-populated slum. But, his take on his life? He is very happy. He loves that his shack has a tarp on it... and he says that the open end of his shack brings in a "beautiful breeze". He says he has the greatest neighbors and his son's smile at the end of the day is what he lives for.

The point being--I don't think many the people who, from sunup to sundown, are just working to stay alive are falling into depression as the wonder what is the great calling they have on their life. They don't have that luxury.

I do think we need to live with purpose. I also know what that purpose is-- knowing God! Being known by Him. After that, I think it is learning to walk with Him, and to LOVE what He has given us, where He has us.

I also think we need to accept--maybe expect--suffering. Sickness. Death. Injustice. I think we need to be proactive in loving and sheltering our kids--but also in making sure they know that life is hard. Things don't make sense a lot of the time. There will be more things that are unfair than they can count.

We need to make sure we know that God does have individual plans for our lives. But, that those plans fit inside His bigger, universal plan. We are only a piece in His puzzle. We aren't on this earth to become famous, have everything we ever wanted or even make the world make sense. We are here to know God and love Him. To love people. To walk in humility.

Oh, how little we know humility! Humility: Head bowed, hands open. Humility: Acceptance. Humility: I've been wrong more times than I've been right. Humility: It isn't about how it affects me, how it makes me look, how it makes me feel. Humility: All I am for all He is. Humility: Everything I have I have been given. Humility: Abundance or scarcity--I am content.

I am grateful to live in a country where, oftentimes, all we need is a little willpower and elbow grease to attain our goals and get ahead in life. I also am becoming aware of just how detrimental it is to make a child feel that they are the center of the universe, that they are all-capable and in-fallible. The damage we do when we don't allow our children to experience hard work, understand suffering, see pain. How hard it is, then, for us to truly bow our heads to the Almighty when He begins to mold our life as He chooses. How much longer the road to maturity and usefulness can become.

As I seek to be inside of God's will for my life, I am also learning to rest in the fact that life is often daily. That--as long as I am close to Him--it is okay. I am learning that, perhaps, the thing that would please God most is that I am overflowing with joy in the exact situation, the exact portion, the exact place, He has me at this very moment.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

december's passage

Focusing on "light" this month! The passage is actually a series of many different verses... references listed at the end.

"God said, 'Let there be light'. And there was light. God showed His people where to go with a cloud in the daytime and a tower of fire in the nighttime so that they always knew which way to go. God is the creator of light and every gift that comes from Him is good and perfect. God is light and there is no darkness or changing in Him. I won't be afraid, because God is my light and my salvation. I don't need the sun or the moon--God will be my everlasting light and glory. God is the fountain of life and light. God commanded the light to shine out of darkness. God turns on the light. He shines in the darkness. 
The Bible is a light. The Bible shows me where to go and makes me wise.  
God showed us His light when He gave us Jesus. Stand up and shine! Jesus, our light, has come! The people sitting in the dark can now see light because of Jesus! Jesus is the light of the world. If I follow Jesus, I will never walk in darkness because I will have the light of life. I must walk in God's light, that way I will be clean from all wrong. 
I am a light in the world. I will not hide my light but I will let my light shine so that everyone can see the light of God in me."

(References: Gen. 3:3; Ex. 13:21; James 1:17; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 18:28; Psalm 119:105; Psalm 36:9; Is. 60:19; 2 Cor. 4:6; Is. 60:1; Is. 9:2; John 8:12; 1 John 1:7; Matt. 5:14)

This passage is a bit more abstract for the kids, but they do a good job repeating back the phrases to us... and I think the fact that "God is light!" stays very clearly in their minds. :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

looking for a good movie??

So, I have never written about a movie I have liked on this blog... so, I guess these 2 movies I'm about to tell you about must be really, really good! ;) And... they are!

Around this time of year, you hear so much talk of striving to find the balance between celebrating and consuming, between sharing love and becoming greedy and dissatisfied. How to not be sucked into the grinding machine of "I want it now" and "It's never enough".

Enter these 2 movies! I'd never heard of them before, but found them on Netflix--and the rest is history. I must say these are definitely movies for adults to view, not children.

The first one is called "Which Way Home".  

 Here's its "official description":

As the United States continues to build a wall between itself and Mexico, Which Way Home shows the personal side of immigration through the eyes of children who face harrowing dangers with enormous courage and resourcefulness as they endeavor to make it to the United States.
The film follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call "The Beast." Director Rebecca Cammisa tracks the stories of children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year-old Hondurans who are desperately trying to reach their families in Minnesota, and Jose, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran who has been abandoned by smugglers and ends up alone in a Mexican detention center, and focuses on Kevin, a canny, streetwise 14-year-old Honduran, whose mother hopes that he will reach New York City and send money back to his family. These are stories of hope and courage, disappointment and sorrow.
They are the ones you never hear about – the invisible ones.
 Wow. This video pulled Rey and I in from the first images...and didn't let us go until the end. I felt like we were seeing Mexico's intestines, since we watched the train on its route all the way from the southern Mexico/Guatemala border and up to the Texas border. The camera crew is so unobtrusive. You feel like you are just another passenger on the train, a visitor in the home. The filming is raw and real. It brought back memories of many places and people we ourselves know. At one point, I was all-out sobbing. So heart-wrenching.

I feel that this film also perhaps brings another understanding to the whole issue of illegal immigration. It is a touchy subject in almost any crowd--but seeing what these people are coming from, their stories, at least helps us see a little bit more of their world.

As the video ended and the screen turned black, Rey and I sat back in silence. Rey finally said, "" Truly. After watching the nothingness these people survived on, our drinking water felt cleaner, colder. Our house felt too big, luxurious. The amount of clothing we own ridiculous. I love it when that happens! We must know how truly rich we are to practice contentment--and appreciation.

The second movie goes by the interesting title of "HAPPY".

Again, the official description:

"HAPPY takes us on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real life stories of people from around the world and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion."

Ok, 2 things:
1. Watch this movie
2. If you ever see an opening for the housing showed in Denmark, call me. I wanna go.

So interesting! Exploring what, scientifically, really seems to make people happy. The main finding here (sorry if this is a spoiler) is that community is everything. Having a close-knit group of family and/or friends in your life. They showed many examples of this--and it stood out to me how often our American culture does not encourage that kind of community. We can tend to be somewhat isolated from each other, with very thick boundary lines between "yours" and "mine". We can try to compete with each other, hide things from each other, be better than the other. In other cultures, it seems there is more of a fluidity there between families. Using what each family has to help the other, compliment the other. Seeing everyone as part of a whole entity, as opposed to everyone being their own entity.

While that way of living is definitely more "messy", I do see it as being more healthy and want to move more towards that way of thinking, living. Which is interesting, because as Rey and I are taking the classes to become licensed as foster parents--we are finding out that we are really going to have to practice that. To see ourselves as not the "it" for the child, but as a link in the chain of their life. Possibly even serving as mentors and encouragers to the birth parents--as opposed to their competition. "I can do this better than you..." I think we are going to really learn about true love in these upcoming months. Loving just to love, for nothing in return. Learning to encourage the good in someone as opposed to writing them off for their failings. Realizing that we are called to love even after being disappointed... because He does. Allowing things to get messy, be unpredictable. Letting our hearts feel just a tiniest portion of the pain that the Creator feels as He sees His creation subject to the choices and whims of sinful people. Being grown together, even if only for a season. Letting Him show us how to "lay down our lives" for our brothers and sisters.