Archive for January, 2011

Two Monkeys Uncle

About two and a half years ago, my sister married her highschool sweet-heart and they headed out the middle of nowhere (aka: Minot, ND).  On the day of their wedding, my younger brother helped to decorate the get-away / escape car, painting “Honk for Nephews!!” on the passenger side window.  (funny side story:  They didn’t take this car onto the honey moon, instead, my brother drove it back to the house after the reception dinner.  He got honked at.)

For the past two years, they have lived happily on their own, buying a house, moving off base and enjoying the simple life of being in the Air Force (easy compared to the life my sister led before that with our dad in the Army). 

(side note:  you can read their adventures by clicking Kat and Matts Blog under the blogroll or by clicking here)

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call telling me that I was soon to be an Uncle, come September.  This was exciting enough.  About a week or two later, while working with the Community Action Project of Tulsa, Inc. doing intake surveys for Tax Preparation, I get an excited voice mail saying “Sean!  Call me back!!”

Before I call my sister back that night, I check my e-mail to find one saying “Yup, its twins!!” 

After a couple of days worth of phone tag, I was finally able to congratulate her.  Her side of the story can be found here.

So, I’m gona be an Uncle for twins.  A first for the Kerr family, as far as I know.  Now, I get to plan on how to spoil these two little ragamuffins!

Congrats!

God Bless and PEACE

The Faith of the Barbarian

Throughout the last semester of my senior year I wrestled with revealing what it ment to live as a Barbarian.  I was trying to paint something that could only be viewed through the actions of an individual.  While there may not be a difference in the way we look, when we live out the Barbarian Faith others can tell a difference in the way we live our lives. 

In response to my previous post, a good friend responded with the following quote from G. K. Chesterton:

There have been many symptoms of cynicism and decay in our modern civilisation. But of all the signs of modern feebleness, of lack of grasp on morals as they actually must be, there has been none quite so silly of so dangerous as this: that the philosophers of to-day have started to divide loving from fighting and to put them into opposite camps. There could be no worse sign than that a man, even Nietzsche, can be found to say that we should go in for fighting instead of loving. There can be no worse sign than that a man, even Tolstoi, can be found to tell us that we should go in for loving instead of fighting. The two things imply each other; they implied each other in the old romance and in the old religion, which were the two permanent things of humanity. You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it. You cannot fight without something to fight for. To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all; it is lust. It may be an airy, philosophical, and disinterested lust; it may be, so to speak, a virgin lust; but it is lust, because it is wholly self-indulgent and invites no attack. On the other hand, fighting for a thing without loving it is not even fighting; it can only be called a kind of horse-play that is occasionally fatal. Wherever human nature is human and unspoilt by any special sophistry, there exists this natural kinship between war and wooing, and that natural kinship is called romance. It comes upon a man especially in the great hour of youth; and every man who has ever been young at all has felt, if only for a moment, this ultimate and poetic paradox. He knows that loving the world is the same thing as fighting the world. It was at the very moment when he offered to like everybody he also offered to hit everybody.

As I sought out what it ment to have the faith of a barbarian, I found two distinct things that made Barbarians different from the rest of the world.  First was the willingness to love unconditionally.  To embrace the family, the faith and the community with a love that can only come from the Father.  Second was the willingness to battle tooth and nail for these same things.  Two aspects of the same fundamental passion. 

Without one, you do not have the other. 

Living out the Faith of the Barbarian requires us to fight for love and at the same time love the fight.  We live our lives in a battleground.  Our lives reveal the internal struggle of the soul.  We fight because we were born to love, and love we must. 

The Lover and the Warrior.  One in the same. 

We fight for our faith because the power of love that flows from it.  Love is our strength and because of this great love, we have the passion to fight for what we believe in our selves and in those that surround us.  We fight because the Spirit of the Lord, the ultimate source of Love, came upon us and stirred our spirits.  We will fight to defend this love in our own lives and in others. 

One can paint images that reflect the aspects of the barbarian, but until these two sides can be seen through the actions of men and women in our lives we will not fully know their passion and power. 

Our Faith as followers of Christ calls us to be Barbarians.  Will you take up this call and learn what it is to live?

God Bess and PEACE

Faith and the Warriors Spirit

There is something to be said about the spiritual warrior, one who engages the powers of darkness in their own life and in the lives around them with prayer and the strength of their faith in Jesus Christ, their savior and king.  They face down both their own fears and the demons that have a hold on their own lives, then turn in victory and battle the demons that inhabit the world around them.  They cannot sit back and allow the Kingdom of Hell to advance any farther.  They are warriors who fight with love, mercy and prayer.

Growing up as an Army Brat, I was surrounded by soldiers and warriors who fought a different type of war.  Their battles can be seen throughout the world.  They take up weapons that can kill in an instant.  They train untill they are in peak physical condition.  They are respected and honored, but at the same time scrutinized, criticized and insulted through words, actions and indifference. 

Over the years I have become fascinated with what it means to be a warrior, spiritually and physically.  But as I have dived deeper into my faith, I find myself asking difficult questions.  How do we keep honoring those who fight and die when our faith calls me to respect life and to love even my enemies?  Our faith calls us to peace, but why do we arm ourselves with weapons, with a fighting spirit, and with the training in martial arts?  How do we reconcile the warrior inside each of us with God? 

I believe that God has called each of us to become warriors, barbarians in our faith.  He has called us to love unconditionally and to fight for our faith with everything that we have.  He has called us to die for him. 

I am a protector.  While in Spain over spring break my sophomore year of college with a group of fellow art students from Anderson University, I was given the nickname “Mother Hen” because I kept track of where everyone was throughout the week.  Here in my team with AmeriCorps NCCC we were given the task of assigning a single word to each person to describe them.  I was given “Defender.” 

While our faith calls us to love and peace, I feel that at times each of us must decide to enter into the fray of life.  There will be times that action is required, when love is shown through putting oneself into harms way, sacrificing ourselves to save another. 

The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.  I train my body, mind and soul so that when the time comes I will have the courage and strength to fulfill my faith by living out the ultimate sacrifice. 

God calls us to be spiritual and physical warriors.  He has called us to live out our faith and battle the powers of darkness each and every day through the way that we pray, live and reveal our faith to those around the world.  We not only defend others from the spiritual forces of darkness but from physical and emotional harm as well.  God has called us to both.

Take up your swords, the Word, and engage in the battle that surrounds you.

God Bless and PEACE

Watching The World Burn

All around us fires burn into the night.  We live in a world where passion has destroyed what love was ment to be and where to many bridges lay in ashes.  We live with the flames in our hearts, minds and soul.  Smoke drifts over our past as the flames dance around our feet.

In life, not all flames are metaphors, some of them will and do burn across our paths.  Just a few short days ago, I completed the training to become a Type II Wildland Fire Fighter through the El Paso County Sherffs Department.  Under the watchful eyes of experienced members of the crew, 19 of us from AmeriCorps NCCC completed S-130 (Firefighter Training), S-190 (Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior) and L-180 (Human Factors on the Fireline). 

We learned about the wildland fire fighting world.  We were taught the parts of a fire, behaviors of fire, terms used in the combating of a wildland fire.  We now understand how topography (the lay of the land), weather and fuels affect the way a fire behaves, burns and runs its course.  We saw what was needed to fight a fire, from Nomex to hard hats, tools to equipment in an average fire pack.  We were told what to expect, how to prepare and then given the opportunity to experience building fireline and maintaining our tools.

This class taught us more than what to expect on a fire, but how to become a part of a team, a cohesive unit built for a purpose and becoming something more than what each individual can do on their own.  We learned how to communicate and how to watch out for the safety of everyone around us. 

Each of us can take something from this class and apply it to life.  While fire burns through our grasslands, forests and over our mountains, not all flames cause physical harm.  Fires burn each and every day, from anger to love, words to actions.  We take risks, have planned escape routes and safety zones, but sometimes we still get burned. 

To survive in the fire world (as a firefighter) one must rely on their team.  In life, sometimes we cannot make it on our own.  Most of the time, life works out this way.  No matter how good we are at watching out for situations, sometimes we find ourselves in situations over our heads.  Many times we don’t even notice until it’s too late.  That’s where others come in. 

On a fire line, there is always a lookout, someone who is constantly watching the fire, their crew and the surrounding area.  One never fights a fire alone, but relies on each and every member of the crew around him, from the man working on each side of him to the squad boss who directs him to where he is to go, to the crew boss and the Incident Commander who is in control of the fire to the other squads and crews that are working to control the same fire from a different angle.  We each need to be surrounded by family and friends, mentors and teachers, for we need others to watch out for us, just as we watch out for others. 

Every Wildland Firefighter knows that the safest place to be in a fire is the pure black, where nothing is left to burn.  We all need to take a lesson and learn a little from the men and women who put everything on the line to save the forests from turning to ash;  Don’t add fuel to the fire, but let the flames burn away everything that will carry them and then, once the flames have gone from the area, find a way to put them out.  Don’t try attacking them head on without an anchor point, find solid ground and then try to save your world from burning around you. 

God Bless and PEACE

The Beauty in Death

Two years ago I traveled to Pallisa, Uganda with the group Akia-Ashianut to work with the doctors and nurses of the Agule Community Health Center.  I learned a lot about life in those four short weeks living among the people of the community.  It was there that I first felt the heartbeat of God, living through the people of the land.  It was there that I learned to dance, to move to the rhythm of God.  It was on those grounds that I felt the touch of Malaria, as well as the healing hands of others.  It was there that I experienced death and learned how to live. 

There are moments in life that one never forgets.  These images are burned into our minds, and will be until the day we die.  These are moments in which we learn to embrace or run away from until they eventually consume everything we are. 

In the beginning of our second week at the clinic, I was in the Doctors office helping to screen patients with Matt and John, the  P.A. from Uganda who worked at the clinic.  I dont remember if anyone else was there when the little girl was brought in by her parents.  Her mother collapsed to the ground and the father didn’t make eye contact as Matt and John checked her over.  We knew something was wrong. 

And there before my eyes, she passed away.  Malaria. 

I couldnt understand how God could take a life away that was so young.  She was months old, barely into life when death took her.  I was angry and hurt.  And for a long time, I struggled to understand the will of God. 

There was nothing I could do as I watched Matt give her the dignity in death, covering and wrapping her in a shroud.  I stood there, paralyzed as the mothers cries of pain echoed throughout the clinic, piercing my soul.  I can still feel the hallowed eyes of the father as his gaze drifted, lost in a sea of pain. 

These things still haunt my sleep.  I still hear that cry piercing my dreams. 

I began to understand when I began to accept what happened.  I processed it, asking God for guidance.  I found that life and death are ways that God brings us towards him.  He teaches those around us, though these moments of pain and suffering, to come to him and find strength. 

I shed tears that night, and many nights that followed, but I now see the beauty in it.  Death is a gateway to something greater.  As we pass from life to death, we learn how to live to the fullest.  I found that physical death led me to spiritual life.  It took me seeing the suffering of the world to open my eyes to the glory of God that was hidden deep within the heart. 

I still find myself asking God why.  Why did he choose me to be witness to this event?  Was there another way?  God knew and knows that we have just enough strength to turn towards him and rely on his strength.  When things happen, when death is revealed, we find ourselves naturally asking why, when we should be asking Him what he is trying to teach us. 

Looking back on Uganda, I find that God was trying to show me so much about life, death and his will in both, but I was too caught up in the questions.  God has a plan.  He gives us joy, shows us sorrow and teaches us what it means to live and die. 

It was the experiences in Uganda that put me toe-to-toe with my faith.  It was death that has taught me the most about living, suffering that revealed joy, and the darkest nights that broke into the brightest daylight. 

God Bless and PEACE

Catch 22

Here in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) we get to do some pretty crazy and amazing things.  From helping out and mentoring kids at Boys and Girls Clubs to trail building throughout various State Parks, camping in and around the Grand Canyon and on top of mountains to learning how to do taxes, fight wildfires and live together in community. 

As I am an alternate for Sun Unit’s Fire Management Team, I get the privilege of going with the Fire Units Fire Management Team to participate in the training.  In the unfortunate event that someone on one of the Fire Management teams gets injured, I may be called to take their place.  I get the training so that if this were to happen, I know what to do. 

Although this is exciting and an adventure, I am caught in a sort of Catch 22.  For the next week and a half, I will be away from my team and placed with another, from a whole nother unit.  I will miss the road trip from Denver out to Tulsa, OK, social interactions and team building with my team, and the initial days and training for our project for the next two months. 

Even before we depart in our separate ways, I can feel the internal struggle of managing my time with my team and the requirements that being an alternate comes with.  Already, I know that I will miss being with my team throughout the these coming days. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am honored to be able to do this, but I believe that it will be a hard transition to come back to my team after having missed so much between training for taxes and the social aspect of team building. 

To throw another spin into the situation, my team, Sun 7, will be working and living alongside another team, Fire 3, for the next two months.  We still don’t fully know the housing situation, whether or not the teams will be mixed or separated.  We don’t know how the teams will interact with one another, nor do we know the work ethic of our partnering team members. 

Sometimes, all we can do is go with the flow.  Yes, we can worry all we want, but that won’t change anything. 

I knew that accepting the position of alternate would cause me to miss the first week and a half of our second round of projects.  I just didn’t realize how much I would miss my own team, the individual members, the Team Leader, the experience. 

In situations like this, you win and loose either way.  I could have backed out of the alternate position.  I would be with my team, but I would miss the opportunity to learn how to fight and manage wildfires.  Although I will miss being with my team, these are outweighed by the change to learn from this current training. 

Tomorrow morning, as my team departs for Tulsa, I will head off to train with the Fire Management Team for the next week and a half.  I am sure that God will teach me a lot about trusting in him, serving others and leadership.  I am honored to be part of this adventure, no matter what the cost. 

God Bless and PEACE

Identity in a Nalgene

While working with Houston Parks and Recreation doing non-native invasive species removal  at Kieth Weiss Park I came across a sight that drew both my eye and my camera.  Sitting on a bench beside the path was a row of Nalgenes and water bottles, each one left by one of my team members in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) as we headed back to work after a short break.  Immediately, I could tell which water bottle belonged to which member of my team, Sun 7.  Each one had its own personality, style and character just like the unique and diverse personalities of each individual team member. 

Like each one of the water bottles on that bench, each and every single one of us, whether we are serving in NCCC or not, are different.  Here in the AmeriCorps NCCC program, we come from many different states, from different backgrounds, from different experiences, but we have all come here to serve.  We all have the same purpose.

At the beginning of our journey with NCCC, each of us received a Nalgene with the AmeriCorps ‘A’ plastered on the side.  Many of us have decorated them, covering them with stickers.  They have become scratched and marked.  We have made them our own.  In the past two and a half months these simple water bottles have become reflections of who we are.  They have become extensions of our own personalities. 

Some of us, like myself, have plastered stickers to their sides, revealing to those we serve and serve alongside our passions and inspirations.  Some of these stickers have begun to peel, decay and fall apart from all the stress that we have put them through. 

Others have simply marked theirs or know theirs from the marks, scuffs, scratches and damage that covers their surface.  Others have tied pieces of ribbon, thread, bandanas or road race tags to the loop that connects the cap.  Still others have replaced their black cap with one of another color, put in splash guards or replaced theirs all together due to loss, damage or need for more water. 

These containers reveal who we are as individuals.  Just by looking at what people choose (or not choose) to put on their Nalgene reveals whether or not they are outspoken, reserved, eccentric, artistic, quiet, passionate and/or extroverted or introverted. 

No matter how someone chooses to reveal themselves, we cannot treat them like a book cover.  We must come to know one another on a deeper level to truly understand who they are and why they reveal certain things about themselves. 

Although we can tell a lot about a person by the way the outside looks, be it a water bottle, their car, or the way they dress, people are more complex than a simple container.  It’s what’s inside that counts.  And with a Nalgene, it’s usually just water. 

God Bless and PEACE