Saturday, December 25, 2010

Faith is the Root and Works are the Branches

Winterberry Christian Academy helps all students learn this fundamental truth.  Faith is at the core of our very being, faith in God's infinite blessed love which pours out over us and we are safe. Students have learned in other dark places that the world holds little gods of power and terror that capriciously intervene in their daily lives.  Even in a system of rules and laws, rules and laws do not apply to everyone fairly.  Bullies and gangs and authority figures filled with their own petty power play their games and hold students enthralled in webs of fear.  Where is God's love?  Nature is blind and passive yet students are taught to trust Nature.  Where is the abiding sense of safety in Nature?  But with Faith we are safe.  Only when students feel safe can they begin to immediately work, and obey, and advance their lives in the paths God has for them.  Faith is what saves us.  For with faith we begin to believe that this world is made for us and that God has a plan for our lives, God has work for us to do, and we are needed.

WCA where:
Special is "Special."
Free to learn,
My way.
I'm in charge.
I can grow.
I can trust.
I am safe.
I'm a blessing.
I'm needed.
I'm here.
No gangs.
No fear.
Smiles and encouragement.
Love thy neighbor.
I feel connected.
I'm not a shadow on the wall. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Eyewitness: Haiti cholera - 10/25/10

Eyewitness: Haiti cholera

Aid agencies in Haiti are stepping up their efforts to contain the spread of cholera after the first cases were confirmed in the capital, Port-au-Prince. More than 250 people have already died in the north of the country.
Here, aid workers, a visiting film-maker and a local resident describe the situation.

Roseann Dennery, Samaritan's Purse, Cabaret district, 25 October

Photo: Roseann Dennery Roseann and her colleagues are worried cholera is spreading to the south
We've seen reports that the situation is stabilising, but from the information we've gathered, it's difficult to confirm that.
We heard that cases are now starting to appear in the region of Arcahaie, an alarming sign that the infection is making its way south. We gathered around the latest map of the outbreak with heavy hearts.
The most important thing right now is prevention. We are going to markets, to heavily populated areas trying to spread the message. Many of the people we spoke to hadn't even heard of the disease. We explain to them what the symptoms are and how they can make their own hydration solution with sugar, salt and water.
We mobilised a team of nurses to do door-to-door hygiene training, hand out soap, and conduct prevention education. They will also be assessing the amount of sick individuals in four key villages along the river. Today's findings will help structure our response in the coming days in this area. We hope desperately for a diversion to the spreading.
Yesterday our clinic was set up quickly and word got out. People began showing up - mothers carrying their young, husbands walking alongside frail wives. People were vomiting and collapsing. There were weak bodies draped over cots. Our doctors and nurses started several IVs [intravenous drip feeds] in the first 20 minutes.
We picked up a woman on the way who was swaddling her small child, lifelessly draped over her arms. We started dehydration treatment for the child and stayed by their side. We believe he will survive.
Yesterday we set up a water filtration system in the village of Boudette Petit Place and for the first time in days, we heard laughter. For a brief moment, it felt like everything was going to be okay.

Teri Johnson, US film maker, Port-au-Prince, 24 October

Teri Johnson hands out soap Teri Johnson hands out soap
In Port-au-Prince, there are schools that are closing their doors for a few days as they ramp up their sanitary measures.
I'm staying on a compound run by missionaries and they are not allowing their orphans to go to their private schools for at least three days.
I went into a tent village in Petionville where 10,000 people live. Right outside of it is food waste and trash that enormous hogs rummage through.
I have been helping the charity Clean the World distribute soap around the camps. Within inches of where the tents are there is a mix of rubble, dust and dirt, and a combination of food scrap compost, animal faeces, clothes and hogs.
There are no real places to dispose of garbage and waste, and much of it collects on the exterior of the camps and in what used to be drains.

David Darg, Operation Blessing, Saint-Marc, 24 October

Photo: Tony Cece, Operation Blessing International David Darg: "We have been distributing the Lifesaver Jerrycan that filters out viruses and bacteria"
Today we were met with the news that they had confirmed cases of Cholera in Port-au-Prince. We are very concerned, and had already bolstered our water purification activities in the city.
We have been distributing the Lifesaver Jerrycan that can filter out all viruses and bacteria making it safe to drink. In one spot, we got held up behind a truck that was stuck in deep mud.
Our team jumped out and began to help dig when a pickup truck pulled up carrying a man seriously ill with cholera. We eventually managed to free the truck but it was too late: the elderly man had died.

Related stories

We have a chlorine generator at our headquarters which produces liquid chlorine and that has been running around the clock to produce chlorine that is added to cisterns throughout the city.
News of the cholera epidemic has spread like wildfire in the camps and the camp members seem to be well informed that it is essential they only drink purified water and wash their hands regularly.
Tomorrow our team will continue to reach deeper into the flood zone near Saint-Marc and distribute the Lifesaver filters in the hope of preventing any more deaths from this horrific outbreak.

Carel Pedre, Port-au-Prince resident, 23 October

I spent twenty minutes at St Nicholas hospital in Saint-Marc and I saw two people die in front of me.
I saw over 500 people waiting to be treated. People were being treated on the floor. They were lying on boards, towels or just the ground. Babies were too ill to move and they were just lying there. The cholera is affecting everyone - the young, the old, men and women. I saw 20 dead bodies when I was at the hospital.

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Babies were too ill to move and they were just lying there”
End Quote Carel Padre
I went to St Nicholas to see for myself what the conditions are like. I had meant to take pictures but I just couldn't do it. The suffering was too much and I put my camera away.
The hospitals in Port-au-Prince seem more prepared now for cholera to hit the area but the situation is far from under control. Everybody is worried about the disease reaching this dense city where there is a lack of sanitation and nowhere clean to cook or sleep.
This is in my country. It is disgusting the way the people are being treated. I feel ashamed.

David Darg, Operation Blessing, Saint-Marc, 22 October

We received a call from our health partners saying that they had a number of cases of suspected cholera. It hasn't still been confirmed if it is.
We were asked to mobilise water purification systems from the area as they suspect people are contracting the disease from the river - which is the sole source of water for some of the communities. So we went to Saint-Marc and started our visit at the hospital.

Start Quote

The roads were lined with villagers trying to get some water, as word had spread that it was unsafe to drink the river water”
End Quote
The scene was horrific. People were cramped at the courtyard and, since most of the victims suffered diarrhoea, they were defecating there. It was a horrible scene, people were lying there on their own.
Pick-up trucks would arrive every couple of minutes with more patients in stretchers. The medics started plotting a map of where these people were coming from so that they could determine the hot spots of concentration of the disease.
We went to the places where most patients were coming from. It is a very remote area with narrow roads. The roads were lined with villagers trying to get some water, as word had spread that it was unsafe to drink the river water.
We started using our own chlorination system - which can purify 10,000 gallons a day, and were pumping water out of the river and purifying it. We have been pumping non-stop all day.
On our way back to Port-au-Prince we stopped at the hospital again and found it was the same scene as in the morning. Vehicles are still dropping ill people there.

More on This Story

Related stories

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jars of Clay completes 1,000 Wells Project

Jars of Clay completes 1,000 Wells Project
The Associated Press
Friday, December 10, 2010; 6:38 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than 700,000 people in Africa are drinking clean water today thanks to multi-platinum Christian band Jars of Clay.
The group recently met their goal of providing clean water to 1,000 African communities through the organization they founded, Blood:Water Mission, and its 1,000 Wells Project.
They're celebrating the milestone with a benefit concert at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on May 10.
"When we started out, it was kind of a lofty goal," lead singer Dan Haseltine said in a recent interview.
Over five years, they ended up raising nearly $7 million for water and sanitation projects as well as hygiene training, and they made multiple trips to Africa to see the progress firsthand.
What they found is that life with clean, accessible water is much different. Women and children no longer have to walk miles a day to draw water from a dirty source or deal with the stomach aches, skin diseases and diarrhea that comes with it.
Keyboardist Charlie Lowell described one woman who proudly showed off her smooth hands, saying they used to be dry and shriveled, but now she feels like a woman again.
"It is about health, and it is about sanitation and clean water, but just under that there's this human dignity piece," Lowell said.
The band members emphasize that water projects are all led by locals, usually the women, who decide what type of water source their village needs and how to implement it.
To raise money, the band relies largely on creative grass roots efforts.
"It's community driven in the U.S. as much as it's community driven in Africa," Haseltine said.
The band tells people that $1 can provide clean water for an African for a year. Their fans have organized read-a-thons, car washes and prom fashion shows, growing and selling tomatoes and setting up "Lemon:Aid" stands to get donations.
Haseltine even challenged people this Halloween to donate $1 for every Justin Bieber costume they saw.
Efforts like these inspired the song "Small Rebellions," the first track on Jars of Clay's latest album, "The Shelter."
Guitarist Stephen Mason said the album reflects a lot of the journey they've been on with Blood:Water, because it builds upon the idea of community and needing each other.
The band members aren't sure what their next big goal in Africa will be, but there's a feeling they've just scratched the surface.
"We may add a zero to that, make it 10,000 wells or go for another 1,000," said guitarist Stephen Mason. "The challenge with Blood:Water and with Jars is to continue to dream big about what we can do to make the world a better place, and we'll see where that story leads us next."
Tickets for the Well:Done Celebration go on sale Saturday.
Jars of Clay has sold more than 6 million albums, won three Grammys and had 17 No. 1 hits, including their breakout song, "Flood."

WCA's Bread Project Report

Bread Sale Report for  Sunday 12/12/10

19 loaves for sale
15 loaves sold
$86.00 Total ($5.73 average per loaf)

12/5/10            $81.00 (11 loaves sold)
12/12/10         $86.00 (15 loaves sold)
Total to Date  $167.00

D=19, J=31, F=28, Mar=31, A=30, May=31

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.  Ecclesiastes 11:1

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Choices. Choices. Choices.

Choices.  Choices.  Choices.  What are choices?  Do we even see choices when we really have choices? Are we defined by our choices?  Are we the sum total of our choices?  Do "bad" choices make us a "bad" person?  Do "good" choices make us a "good" person?  How are choices made?  Who or what inside us pushes us to make choices?  How can we grow to make better choices?  The first step might be to come to see (recognize) when we are faced with choices?  Once we see we are faced with choices, what should our next step be?  Can we stop and ask ourselves certain "choices" questions before we make the choice?  What do you think about this?  What have you learned from your experiences about the chain of consequences that flow from choices?  Are all the events that flow from the chain of consequences of  bad choices bad?  Are all the events that flow from a chain of consequences of good choices good?

Go to Suspended Voices to read essays written by students suspended for one to ten days.

"Millions of Americans are Good without God" - Signs on Busses in Dallas-Fort Worth - What do you think?"

December 01, 2010


"Millions of Americans are Good without God"

Untitled1 I saw a news report tonight that a group called the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason is sponsoring an advertising campaign where they are putting signs on busses that say "Millions of Americans are Good without God" 
The reporter was interviewing a Fort Worth Pastor who said that he encouraging Christians to boycott the bus line during the holiday season.  I did some research after this and found this quote.
“We are offended byy the anti-God signs and we are very disappointed that The-T Transportation Authority would approve this, especially during the season when Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said Bishop B.E. George, with Ministers Against Crime.
Stay with me on this but I'm a pastor and I'm not offended by the quote at all.  In fact, I am encouraged because I believe that millions of Americans probably think it's absolutely true and I'm glad that they are willing to admit it especially here in the Bible Belt where "Christianity" is linked to culture, the Republican party and the Country Club.
I just don't know how boycotting people who don't believe in God is something that we are taught anywhere in scripture.
I work in a mainline denomination that has really struggled in the past 5 years.  We've lost a couple million members and those who have stayed are struggling with some very tough issues about Biblical interpretation, the role of Jesus and the authority of scripture.
I don't believe that rejecting people who don't believe in God is the right way to go about loving people.
Back in September the Christian community was slammed pretty good by the Pew research study that showed that "Atheists, Agnostics, Mormons and Jews actually scored higher on a religious knowledge survey"  I don't remember the Christian community being so angry at that survey.  We were embarrassed and we should have been but we didn't point a lot of fingers at ourselves.  The spiritual maturity of many Christians in the United States now is not something that I think the "millions of Americans who are Good without God" are looking at and feeling compelled to follow.
So my take on this.  Let's ride the bus.  I'd be way more comfortable getting on the bus with people who don't believe in God and ask questions to find out why they feel that way.  I'd like to ask questions about what that statement means.  I'm guessing that for many of them that what they are not rejecting God so much as they are rejecting the Churches in the United States.  And if we want to boycott anything as Christians let's boycott the churches that are teaching an incredibly skewed version of God that honestly I don't need either.
So if you don't need God I'd love to talk to you. Not to "convert" you or "change" you but to just have a conversation and to share some honest conversation about all of this.  If you want to get on a bus and go for a ride I'm cool with that.

Monday, October 18, 2010

“Of Belief” Bible Class Writing Assignment

Belief is the core of faith.  Read the following quotes.  Choose several quotes that help you explain your understanding of belief. Write an essay titled  “Of Belief” which examines your understanding of belief. 

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

Romans 9:33 As it is written:
  "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
     and a rock that makes them fall,
  and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

Mark 9:23 " 'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

John 6:47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.

1 Peter 2:6 For in Scripture it says:
  "See, I lay a stone in Zion,
     a chosen and precious cornerstone,
  and the one who trusts in him
     will never be put to shame."

Acts 16:31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household."

John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

2 Chronicles 20:20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful."

Isaiah 43:10 "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD,
      "and my servant whom I have chosen,
      so that you may know and believe me
      and understand that I am he.
      Before me no god was formed,
      nor will there be one after me.

1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.
Saint Augustine 

Two Student Essays

Of Belief

      John 20:29 says , “Jesus saith unto him (Thomas) because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed;  blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”  This is a powerful statement. Jesus understands it is easy to have faith in something you have seen, but not as easy if you have not seen.  
      Back when Jesus was alive many people had faith because they saw him  with their own eyes.  We do not have this luxury today.  We see miracles Jesus may have done, but we dismiss these as coincidences.  Still people believe in Jesus without seeing him. It may take a miracle in their lives, but they believe. That must make Jesus so happy. Jesus says, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”  If you want to be truly blessed, do just that.  Every little thing that is good, know and believe that is him at work.  It thrills Jesus when you ask him for something and believe in him just as much as if  he had stood in front of you and promised to help you.  
      Jesus will shower blessings on those who believe in him without him having to prove himself with more blessings than those he had to.  So don’t make Jesus have to prove himself to you.  Jesus has proven himself so many times over the years that there is not even a number to count all the times.
      So just believe in Jesus.  You may never see him in your lifetime, but believing is what true faith is.  If you do believe in him, he will shower you with blessings.  

Of Belief

      The definition of belief is any cognitive content held as true.  The Bible defines belief as hope for things which are not seen but are true and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation.  To have faith is to have confidence in someone or something.  Jesus said that all things are possible for those who believe.  By faith one obtains a remission of sins and eventually can stand in the presence of God.  A lack of faith leads to despair which comes because of iniquity.  The world today is a minefield;  we are constantly assaulted with words and images that challenge our belief. People tend to lose sight of where to begin.  People get caught up in all the struggles and distractions.
      Of modern day - people clutter their lives with pointless things, become more distracted, and lose faith.  They forget that there is a better way for us.  To be set free, they forget that there is more to life than just staying alive.  They crave to fill a void that can only be filled with the Holy Spirit.  So without faith they basically wander without consistency , consuming everything , all without producing sustenance never starving but never quite satisfied.