Friday, October 16, 2009

A World Without Water Halts...

"In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind to even his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference."--Rachel Carson

A few weeks ago, a town nearby us, Toccoa, experienced some heavy rainfall and storms, which led to most of the water supply being contaminated or cut off from the town's residents for a few days. The local grocery stores ran out of bottled water, businesses and schools closed down, and people had to migrate to friend's houses in neighboring towns to take showers, use a toilet that flushed, and get some clean drinking water. The old saying is true. Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone. Since we are fortunate Americans, this loss of water was mostly a temporary inconvenience. But for those few days, seeing people experience what life without access to clean water is like--namely our world coming to a screeching halt--left quite an impression on me.

A couple of weeks later, I attended Rob Bell's speaking tour, Drops Like Stars (which will be the topic of a future post), where something very exciting was introduced to me. He informed his listeners to a unique non-profit organization called Charity Water . The founder, JahSun, a former entertainment networker, got bored with the life of luxury and frivolity. So, he decided to dedicate his life to improving the quality of lives of the "least of these" around the world. The brilliance of this organization is that 100 percent of donations go the ground work of providing clean water for the poorest people in the world. All overhead costs are funded through separate donations, mostly from the immensely wealthy entertainers he befriended in his former life. The JahSun has decided to use his "celebrity capital" to raise awareness to this issue and implement solid solutions. The second stroke of genius comes from how EASY they've made it donate to their efforts. They struck up a deal with all the major cell phone companies, in which all donaters have to do is text the word "WATER" to 20222. They will receive a text asking if they wish to have ten dollars added to their next cell phone bill and the donater just has to text back the word "Yes." It's that simple. Every 500 donations of 10 bucks ensures an entire village with long term access to clean water. This is such a small amount and such an easy way to help meet the vital basic need of access to clean water. Between all our blogs and facebook friends, if we all pitch in, we can collectively give entire villages clean water. So donate and pass it on!

Water Charity is a nonprofit corporation, directed toward improving the human rights and dignity of individuals throughout the world by providing them with resources that impact upon their health and wellbeing. With all donations applied to projects in the field, we have become one of the highest-ranked water charities delivering global services.

Water Charity at Lake Titikaka Water Charity implements practical solutions to provide safe water, effective sanitation, and meaningful health education to those in need.

Water Charity, in concert with key partners, surveys the needs, drafts the plans, assembles the resources, implements and manages the projects, and evaluates the results.

We plan for the long term and intermediate future, implement in the present, and react in the short term to crisis situations.

Our core group contains people with decades of experience in engineering, community development, construction, education, and public health. Led by Jacqueline Chan, Dr.P.H., Averill Strasser, and JahSun, we have completed many water and sanitation projects throughout the world in the past year, all on schedule and within budget.

"To donate $10 Dollars, simply text the word "Water" to 20222. When you receive the confirmation text asking if you want to have $10 dollars added to your next cell phone bill, text back the word "Yes." And you're done!"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sometimes It's Easier to Worship at a U2 Concert Than At Church....

At least for me, it is. Last week, I got to see my all-time favorite band, U2, live in concert for the very first time. About halfway through the show I realized I was talking to God and worshipping in a way that I rarely experience at church services. I wondered why this was. I started thinking about the U2 lyrics that mean the most to me, that really speak to my soul and then some of the lyrics to the most popular worship songs. It hit me. A lot of U2's lyrics are words that I actually CAN say to God, whereas a lot of worship lyrics are words that I WANT to be able to say to God. While most worship songs are true, they sometimes feel dishonest.

Let me explain.

When we sing the words to
"I Could Sing of Your Love Forever," a popular worship song, it doesn't so much express what I want to say to God, but what I want to want to say. I want to want to sing of His love forever, but if I am being honest, I really want to sing about it for ten minutes and then I want to hang out with my husband/son/friends, eat a sandwich, read a book, watch some TV, take a nap and so forth. Or consider some of the lyrics to "Better is One Day:"

One thing I ask
And I would seek
To see Your beauty
To find you in the place
Your Glory dwells

OK. Yes, I think the deepest part of me longs for this (or wants to long for this), but it's not the ONE thing I ask, or even ask the most. I am often asking for God to fix my problems, to calm my fears, to provide financially, for health, long life, the well-being of my loved ones, a lasting marriage, deeper friendships, forgiveness for the retarded things I do on a daily basis, etc.

Or how about the lyrics "I will delight in the law of the Lord, I will meditate day and night.."

Again, I want to want this. But if I am being honest, I don't delight in the law of Lord very often, especially if we are talking OT law, since I don't "get" a lot of it, let alone delight in it. And my humanness doesn't much delight in loving my neighbor as myself (because that requires quite a bit of sacrifice), loving my enemies, esteeming others higher than myself, telling the truth, denying myself, or the call to be humble, forgiving, generous, gracious, compassionate, and kind. And I certainly don't want to meditate on such things day and night, though I want to want it.

The disconnect also has something to do with the language of many worship songs. The language and imagery tends to be so far removed from our everyday vernacular (whether it be true or not) renders some songs difficult to mean, imagine, or fully grasp (Think of phrases like blessed be your name, let your glory manifest, I lift your name on high...) But mostly, it's the emphasis on rejoicing, faith, certainty, and triumph while virtually abandoning the reality of doubt, struggle, pain, sorrow, and failure. Both are important to worship and our experience with God. So emphasizing the warm, fuzzy part of faith while ignoring the complex, difficult parts creates a feeling of hollow, surface-y, and incomplete worship for an "easy" faith that does not accurately reflect the overall human experience of faith in God and the very "uneasy" process of dying to oneself and wrestling with the mysteries of God.

This is where U2, for me, captures this duality in graspable, meaningful language. I can proclaim my unwavering faith while admitting I haven't "arrived" in "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." I can pledge my whole being to God and His guidance in "Yahweh," while at the same time expressing how difficult the process is and how far I am from it. I can vent my frustrations while still giving way to trust in God through "Peace on Earth," "Crumbs From Your Table," and "Where the Streets Have No Name." I can commit to persevering with God though there are struggles, disappointments, and hurt through "Walk On." I can marvel at the wonder of the Holy Spirit through "Mysterious Ways." I can adore the many facets of God's greatest gift through "Grace." I could go on. But the main point is that all these songs find their hope, peace, faith, and rejoicing in God, while remaining in the context of the muck and mire of our messy, complicated human existence. And just maybe it means more to God to say the things we can say versus saying what we "should" say.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of worship songs that I love, deeply love, but I often feel there is something missing from the ENTIRETY of our musical worship experience, whether it be the over-spiritualized language that is so far removed from how we actually speak and think, the lack of creativity to tell the story of God or express our devotion to God in new ways, or the lack of holistic expressions between joy and sorrow, faith and doubt, found and seeking, wonder and wondering, victory and failure, and surrender and struggle. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from U2 to enrich our musical expressions of worship.