Thursday, September 29, 2011

God has an Idea

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend an uplifting and encouraging event hosted by Girls on the Run of Lancaster.  The featured speaker was Molly Barker, founder of GOTR.  It was a fun time of reflection, as many of us relayed stories of how our involvement as coaches in the program has been life-changing, and particularly how the girl participants have been inspirational to us.

Molly ended with the story that I've included below.  I've thought about it several times over the last few weeks.  While I can't quite pinpoint why this story is so meaningful to me, I think that her telling of the story gave me a lot of hope.  Her words resonated with something inside of me, reminding me of the sacred truth that God has carefully and intentionally created each of us with a specific purpose.  And reminding me of the intimacy that we share with our Creator.

Source: Molly Barker's Blog - Wandering Through Nothingness -  Day 12 -  February 19, 2011

Several years ago, I was walking with a young girl in our program.  It was the last day of our Girls on the Run experience together. Her name is Madeline.  She must have been about 9 years old at the time of our conversation.
“How is it Madeline, that you and I ended up together?” I asked.  ”What’s that all about?”
Madeline paused for only a second or two and then responded with the confidence of a person much older (and wiser) than her years would suggest.
“Well, you see it’s like this,” she said.  ”God has an idea…but he has a problem!  He needs to get the idea down to earth.  So what he does…is wrap a body around the idea so it can be sent here to be born.  Now the ideas inside are all really great and all really big and sometimes they are so big, it might take lots of bodies to come together to get the really big idea out.
And that is, of course, how you get your gifts and talents.  They are God’s tools to help you get the idea from inside of your body out…before your body dies.”
This is, without question, the most profound explanation, I’ve heard for the connection between our human and spiritual selves.  I believe Madeline nailed it!

More Creative Solutions for Drinking Water Woes

The following are a couple of recent New York Times articles featuring innovative solutions for drinking water problems:

LifeStraw Saves Those Without Access to Clean Drinking Water  and

Folding Saris to Filter Cholera-Contaminated Water

What other simple and affordable solutions are out there?  Which ones are culturally acceptable and will work long-term?

Thinking Differently

It's always inspiring to hear about a new technology that has the possibility of making safe water accessible to more people.  Here Michael Pritchard describes his Lifesaver bottle.  I think what I appreciate most about his talk is his urging to think differently about the world's water problems and how to solve them.  We typically think of conventional fixes.  Sometimes, we need to look intently at the problem, study the culture, consider the costs, and summon some creativity.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Church Sign Wisdom

"No one has ever become poor by giving." 

This is the message on the sign of our neighborhood Catholic church.  I have to admit that more often than taking advice from these signs, I join in conversations where friends are poking fun at them.  But today, the message is familiar.

Last fall, when I was raising money for World Vision, I started a blog post about this same quote, which is found in Anne Frank's book, The Diary of a Young Girl.  As I remember, I failed to complete last fall's post because, even in the midst of fundraising for an excellent cause, I had moments of feeling uncomfortable as I continued to ask others to give.  I think some of my discomfort stemmed from my own struggles with giving - I struggle with giving because I'm human and I can be indecisive, stingy, and selfish.  But I keep receiving invitations to give, whether they be emails or letters from wonderful friends and non-profits doing life-transforming work, or a question from a stranger walking by my house.  Often, the invitation initiates conflict inside of me: the knowing that I need to make decisions that will involve sacrifices fights hard against the walls of self-protection that I've so carefully constructed.

And so it's a stretch for me to reach out and ask others to give.  After all, I don't want to be the cause of someone else's discomfort.  But Anne Frank's quote quiets my fears.  It reminds me that in requesting help on behalf of others, or even for myself, I can be offering someone else a life-giving invitation. I am asking you to take a risk, to open up your hands and let go of your time or money or freedom so that someone else may receive a gift that only you can give.  The resulting connection to someone or something outside of yourself is something richer and more wonderful than what you'd get with your money.  I can't recall a time when I felt that I was worse off after giving.

I'm not asserting that you should say yes whenever asked; it's good to think through a decision's consequences and to have boundaries.  But I want to encourage you to consider today's opportunities.

Do you think Anne Frank's message is true?  Can you think of an instance when your life was made different due to a decision to give?  If you have a painful giving story, can you think of something good that came from it?  Do you have a favorite church sign quote that you can share?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Surprised by Joy

If you've seen me over the last few weeks, you may notice that I'm looking a little tired.  One reason that I'm sleepy is that I've been up late watching Universal Sports' coverage of the 2011 Track and Field World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.  I LOVE watching sports, especially running races.  In fact, I think that I enjoy spectating at least as much as I enjoy participating.  I'm usually OK with watching a race once and then moving on.  But I have to admit that there's one race from this year's championships that I keep coming back to: it's the womens' 1500m race.  For those who didn't see it, I'll spare you the suspense - an American named Jenny Barringer Simpson won the race.  But for me, it's not so much about who won, but how she won, and her response after winning.  Check it out (Jenny's in navy blue): 

The race positioning changes an amazing number of times during the 4-minute test.  For much of the event, Jenny is closer to the back than the front.  But this doesn't seem to get to her: with 200 meters to go, she makes her move, and manages, somehow, to summon strength, winning strength, and powers her way to the front.  Her race smarts and confidence are clearly inspiring.  But I have to tell you that what I love most of all is her response after she crosses the line - it's written all over her face - first disbelief...then relief... then Joy.

Have you had this kind of response, or felt this kind of joy, at some point during your life?  Have you worked hard toward a goal, even one that seemed unattainable, and accomplished it?  Have you faced something you weren't sure you could conquer and come out victorious on the other side?  Or maybe you experienced joy welling up inside of you after learning something that changes everything.  Maybe your "race" was a lot longer than 4 minutes; in fact, maybe you're in the middle of your race right now.

If you've had a moment like Jenny's, I'd love to hear all about it!