Archive for September, 2011

Learning to Fight the Good Fight

For so long, I’ve told guys to grow up and be men.  To take up the sword of truth and the armor of faith, no matter how rusted and dented they may be.  I’ve spoken about how the Christian faith calls each of us to be barbarians, both lover and warrior as one.  But in the last several months, I’ve been learning what it means to fight for something.

There is a great quote that goes something like this:  “Anybody can die for a cause, but it takes a man to live for what they love.” 

We live in a society that frowns at young boys who want to slay dragons and young girls who are waiting on their knight in shining armor to save them.  We tell them that dragons can no longer be killed, that it is safer to live in fear than face what will haunt them the rest of their lives.  We tell them to settle on what is good enough and live in the relative safety of our fears. 

Our society has told us that there are no more fighters or warriors, except for the brave men who are willing to go to war.  We live in a world that tells us that we are perfectly fine where we are and will never grow into the greatness that we saw during our childhood games, where we took up swords against creatures of darkness.  We are told that all the heroes are dead and gone, something of the past. 

There are still knights and fair maidens out there.  I’ve seen them fighting against great odds and joining together in communities across the nation.  They have not lost hope, though they have learned to fight for one another, to live as one spirit. 

I have seen those who live out their faith like barbarians.  These people who have learned to be lovers and warriors of their faith.  They are willing to fight for one another and love each other unconditionally.  They  wield their faith every day and live in the glory of battle, constantly fighting a fight that few are willing to see. 

I’ve learned that no matter how hard you fight, if you are alone or do not have someone to fight for, then you will drown under the weight of our own fears.  If there is no love, then the fighter has nothing to fight for.  And what is love if it is not there to fight for.  It’s a constant circle and balance that each warrior faces. 

I admit, I do not make a good knight.  My armor is bent, broken and covered in rust and my sword is stained, dented and no longer shines as it used to, but I have found something to fight for, to love with every fiber of my being. 

The faith that I live has called me to be a warrior, a barbarian and a knight.  And I am still learning how to fight for the one that I love.

God Bless and PEACE

And We Remember…

Ten years ago, I sat in my 8th grade Georgia History class, working on a group project about Native American cultures of pre-settlement America when Mrs. Black wall called out into the hall.  For us, it seemed like a regular day.  Hundreds of Army Brats from Ft. Stewart mingled with kids from the surrounding area and we shared a respect and honor of knowing those that served, still serve and will serve in military service. 

When Mrs. Black returned to class several minutes later, she informed us that Ft. Stewart, many of ours home, had been put on lockdown because of terrorist attacks in New York City.  We sat there in shock as she turned on the radio and jumped onto the internet. 

After lunch, as I sat in my pre-algerbra class, we were informed that the two towers of the World Trade Center had fallen after getting hit by aircraft, the Pentagon in Arlington, VA had received a direct hit, and a fourth airplane had gone down somewhere in Pennsylvania. 

I had no connection to the World Trace Center, nor did I even know that they existed before those moments.  I did know where the Pentagon sat.  A few years earlier, my father walked those halls on a daily basis.  I toured them.  Walked past the offices.  Saw the structure that was full of symbolism.  Five sides, five stories (above ground), five layers/halls. 

There was talk and rumors that spread throughout the day.  At lunch, we asked one another if Ft. Stewart, the base of the 3rd Infantry Division, was next.  We asked one another how buildings could collapse in the hours after the attack.  We heard people say that the President was killed.  That military bases were under attack.  That some group with a funny name claimed responsibility for these attacks. 

None of us knew and nobody was really telling us. 

As the school day came to an end and we boarded the bus to return home, someone asked how we were supposed to get onto the base if it had been put on lock down.  Before we hit the front gates, we pulled off tot eh side of the road, along side of several other busses that carried other Army Brats from several other schools in the area.  After what seemed like an hour, several police vehicles and MPs (Military Police) approached and escorted us through the gates of Ft. Stewart, Georgia. 

I arrived home to see a sight that I rarly ever saw.  My mother had brought out our small TV and had it on.  I knew then that this was something bad.  And as I did my homework in the other room, I heard voices speaking of terrorist attacks, burning buildings, falling debris and the loss of life.  I worked diligently on math problems and history readings. 

It wasn’t until that night that I saw the images that flashed across the screen.  It is something that, as a nation, we will never forget.  It is the scar that seems to never heal. 

Ten years later, it is still burned into our minds.  It still defines us, drives us. 

It is a day that will live on in infamy, when a handful of men sought to bring our nation to our knees.  We rose up from the ashes united and determined to come together.  We became a unified nation.  And today, we remember the dark that came before the light. 

In honor of all those lives lost, all those who responded, and all those who lost family, friends and loved ones.  May we never forget.

God Bless and PEACE

When a Faith Brings Fear

In a matter of days, our nation will remember a day ten years ago when a group of extremist flew planes into the two the World Trade Center towers, the side of the Pentagon, and brought down another plane in a field.  These attacks brought this nation to its knees.  The largest attack on our nation, killing thousands and scaring the lives of millions. 

Some call these men terrorists.  Others will call them freedom fighters.  No matter what you call them, they inflicted a wound that still seeps and bleeds to this day.  That wound is fear. 

This morning, an article on the front page of the Washington Post caught my eye.  Above it, a photo of a 19-year-old UCLA student wearing a hijab, the traditional headscarf of the Muslim faith.  In the article, it discussed the fragile relationship that the American society has with a faith that has been associated with the attack on our country almost ten years ago.  It points fingers at political figures and systems of government that continue to ignore and oppose those who follow Islam. 

The article also pointed out that, in the days following the attacks of 11 September 2001, when everyone was pointing blame at the Muslim world, George W. Bush stepped barefoot into a mosque to remind us that “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.” 

Yet, as I continued to read the sampling of interviews with Americans about Islam, I wondered if any of us even gave that gesture a glancing notice.  It seems to me like we, as a nation and society, fear anyone who may look like a Muslim or was born of the Middle-Eastern decent.  I am saddened to hear of a woman, a mother harassed by security because of the faith she follows.  I am disheartened to hear that people see a child and wonder if he will grow to be a terrorist. 

While studying contemporary and modern art history in college, my professor told us a story that silenced the entire class.  In the days that followed the attack of Sept. 11th, someone told her that all terrorists were Muslim, that you would never find a Christian blowing up a building.  With that, she turned to him and asked “Then explain the events in Ireland.” 

It wasn’t and will never be just one group of individuals killing people.  In a recent trip to Ireland, I was experience some of the history as I walked down the streets of Derry (or Londonderry depending on who you talked to).  I saw memorial after memorial to those who had been killed by bombs from both sides of the conflict.  Innocent men, women and children killed by both English and Irish, Catholic and Protestant. 

And yet, all these years later, they live side by side in peace.  The border between the Republic of Ireland in the south and Northern Ireland, still loyal to the British crown, once lined with fences and guns, is now just a line on a map, where people can move freely between. 

And I asked how one can forgive after the blood ran into the streets.  When it was your brother who was killed.  Or your child caught in the crossfire.  You never forget, but we learn how to forgive.  You learn to move on and keep living.

I don’t blame the followers of Islam for the attack on our country, no more than I blame the sons of those who brought violence against the civil rights movement years before.  Or the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who watched the youth take to the streets of Ireland. 

The extremists that brought this country to its knees accomplished more than just killing people, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives.  They plunged a knife into our hearts and let in fear.  We reacted, lashed out, and continue to do so to this day.  We walk down the streets in fear because we want to point the finger an entire faith when we should be seeing the individual. 

In the article from the Washington Post, advisors to this country have said that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have used the same rhetoric as street gangs, calling on the feeling of “us versus them” as they recruit followers.  I see the same thinking in the American society, we blame ‘them’ for the attacks.  I read blogs that say vile things about a faith that they do not understand, but only see the extremes of.  I hear people whisper that everyone who follows Islam will kill you in your sleep.  This feeling of “us versus them” is because we created it.

We cannot judge the Islamic faith solely on the acts of several individuals that piloted planes into buildings, sending thousands to their deaths.  Nor can we judge the Christian faith on the bombs that ripped through Ireland, killing indiscrimatley. 

Our country is the melting pot of the world.  We are one family.  This is part of our history.  Now is the time to heal. 

God Bless and PEACE

And God Laughed

We all know the story.  On the first day, God spoke light into existence and separated it from the darkness.  On the second, He separated the waters, creating the sky.  On the third, he gathered the waters, allowing dry ground to appear and flourish.  And it was good.  On the fourth day, God set the sun to rule the day and the moon and stars rule the night.  And He saw that it was good.  On the fifth, He brought forth life to thrive in the waters and sky, blessing them.  Again, it was good.  On the sixth day, God brought forth creatures, each according to its kind.  He created human beings in His own image, male and female he created them.  Blessing them, He gave them dominion over the plants and animals.  On the seventh day, God rested.  (Gen 1:3-4, 7-8, 9, 11-12, 16-18, 20-22, 24, 26-30, 2:2)

On the eighth day, and every day following since the dawn of time, man has made plans.  And each time, God has laughed. 

And somehow, we never truly learn.  After all this time that we have walked alongside of Him, down the roads that he has laid out for us, we seem to forget something about God.  He laughs at our plans.  He is laughing still. 

It’s been several years that I’ve said that I would follow Him wherever He leads, but so many times I’ve tried to tell God where He should lead me.  Each time, He has been there to remind me that His plan is much bigger than anything I ever imagined. 

A year ago, I was preparing to depart the M/V Africa Mercy.  Little did I know what my life had in store for me.  While I knew I was going into AmeriCorps*NCCC, He hadn’t revealed to me how much I would grow, what I would experience, what I would do.  I trusted Him because He put a lamp at my feet and showed me the way. 

I thought God’s path was leading me one way, the way that I wanted to go, but God has had other plans in these past several months.  I feel like I’m back to step one, trying to refind where God wants me to put my next step.  The immediate, day by day struggle of faith. 

I know God is laughing because I can look back and laugh as well.  It’s only been less than a week, but I can see my folly and failure at trusting in His will instead of my own. 

So, to all those who feel that you are at a dead end, look around and ask yourself if you are following God or your own desires.  The result might surprise you. 

God Bless and PEACE