Sometimes The Answer Is No

I like saying yes.
Perhaps that is because I am a pleaser at heart.
I also tend to root for the underdog in most situations.
I think that is why I am still a #mariners fan.

Today I have been hiking through the rural farming district of Tororo Uganda. My purpose here is to locate and assess potential water springs that my organization #planetchanger might protect in order to provide clean water for communities who have none.

My heart and soul long to say yes to every community I visit. As I hike down to the watering hole, women and children are scooping murky water and pouring it into a smattering of jerry-cans that lie around that they will then lug a great distance to their huts and homes.

When they see us arrive, their eyes light up with hope. Perhaps fewer babies will die, maybe fewer community members will get cholera or some of the sickness if we work with them to protect the spring and provide clean water.

I like saying yes.
But, sometimes, I have to say no.

Today, we were climbing down a bouldery hill into an area where people were collecting their water from a dirty spring, but that was all they had access to.

The hike was long and hot, the trail was small and awkward, and the spring site was really large. This would be a hard project for us to complete.

On the way to the spring, I passed by a series of graves. This one gave me a gut punch:

I “really” wanted to say yes to this project. No momma should have to lose a 1 one-year-old baby because of water sickness.

After the assessment was finished, it was clear that this water site would be too large for us to do. The cost would be huge, about 10 times the cost of a normal water project. The road needed to access the water spring was so bad that we could not get the bricks (hard-cores) and materials needed anywhere close to where they needed to be. When you operate on a small budget, sometimes you have to say no.

So, the answer to this one was no.

And that hurt my soul.

I paused as I walked back past the graves. Most of the people buried there we 36-42 years old. Also too young to die. I looked again at the grave of the one-year-old and said, “I’m sorry.”

I argue with God a lot in moments like this.

I wish I had been born into a family with millions, or, I figure God could at least throw me a PowerBall win so I could say yes to more projects that inspire hope and create healthy thriving communities. But I wasn’t, and the PowerBall hasn’t hit for me.

While visiting a potential water project site a young man named John Richard Omsungu said,

“You see our conditions in Africa. We are surviving on God’s nature (natural water supply). We need spring protection for clean water. Please, will you help us with getting clean water? 

While my NGO Planet Changer is small, and although we operate on a small budget, we have accomplished some amazing things that truly humble me.

Since 2011, we have protected approximately 50 springs in rural Uganda, bringing clean water to tens-of-thousands. Communities that are now healthier and have hope. Communities that have come together to help build their water system with our National staff creating sustainable solutions that they are proud of and helped create. That continues to inspire me.

So, I like to say yes.

Today I had to say no to some potential projects.

But, I also said yes to the next round of water systems that we will able to accomplish together with the people who will benefit from their creation.

Thank you for helping me say yes to as many opportunities as possible when you invest in what we do at www.planetchanger.org

Today I heard “thank you-thank you-thank you” from many men and women who we have partnered with to bring clean water to their communities. I tend to find myself saying the same words back to them back in these moments. “Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. We are all one no matter where we are from, and at Planet Changer we know that #waterislife.

Together we are Inspiriting hope!

5 Great Quotes About Community

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I have a love hate relationship with “community.”

As a person who falls a bit more into the introverted side of personality yet works as an ambivert (both intro and extroverted), choosing to connect is not always an easy choice. I recharge best alone, and living and working in a world of people I notice my energy levels deplete pretty fast. The last thing I want is to connect with more people.

However, I have also noticed a tendency towards depression when I choose to isolate too much, and it is actually people (community) that have been the key to re-infusing my energy levels, remind me what is true, and love me as I am…and this is life-giving.

Experiencing real community in a culture that is immersed in rabid individualism is rare and scary but oh so powerful. In community we cultivate our “others-ness” which opens the path of love that is only available when we are authentic, vulnerable and real. This creates a spiritual and emotional connection that is a greenhouse for affection, trust, risk, honesty and love…these things require that we open ourselves up in community, with-and-for-others, resulting in a mutual if not global effect.

Here are five great quotes I came across concerning community today…chew on them…

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
― John DonneNo man is an island 

 

“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”
― Wendell BerryThe Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

 

“A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.”
― Jean VanierCommunity And Growth

“Each of us must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good.  We are a community.  Our individual Fates are linked; our futures intertwined; and if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit together, as the Bible says: “We can move mountains.”
Jimmy Carter

 

“When I am with a group of human beings committed to hanging in there through both the agony and the joy of community, I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon for which there is only one word….”glory.”
M. Scott Peck

Go To Dark Gethsemane

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Good Friday reminds me that darkness must proceed resurrection.

Good Friday reminds me that pain and suffering, the blood sweat and tears of life, are part of the journey, not something to avoid, minimize or deny.

Good Friday reminds me that when life reaches the apex of darkness, the light of dawn is thinly close.

In the Garden of Eden humanity experienced the divine disconnect. There Adam chose self over God’s sovereignty, sin over God’s sufficiency.

It would be another garden where the second Adam, Jesus, would choose differently in order to redeem and heal the brokeness created by the first Adam. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus chose the sovereignty and sufficiency of His Father’s plan over his own safety and sustenance.

This choice transforms the world.

In his book “Life of Christ” Fulton J. Sheen noted:

“As Adam lost the heritage of union with God in a garden, so now Our Blessed Lord ushered in its restoration in a garden. Eden and Gethsemane were the two gardens around which revolved the fate of humanity. In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, Christ took humanity’s sin upon Himself. In Eden, Adam hid himself from God; in Gethsemane, Christ interceded with His Father; in Eden, God sought out Adam in his sin of rebellion; in Gethsemane, the New Adam sought out the Father and His submission and resignation. In Eden, a sword was drawn to prevent entrance into the garden and thus immortalizing of evil; in Gethsemane, the sword would be sheathed.”

In Gethsemane we are faced with the brokeness of our humanity.

The truth is we are more about our own safety than sacrificing it for the flourishing of others.

The truth is we don’t forgive our enemies, we conceive of ways to destroy them.

The truth is we don’t really care about the plight of our neighbor unless it somehow affects us.

The truth is we seldom forgive an offender unless they grovel for it.

The truth is we have rushed, embracing resurrection without dealing with the darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary.

You can’t live out resurrection without first crying in Gethsemane.

There is an old Lutheran Hymn that inches it’s way up into my heart each year during Holy Week, and in particular on Good Friday. It is called Go To Dark Gethsemane. As a resource to help you fully embrace the darkness in order to truly live a life of resurrection, take some time to meditate on this hymn.

Go to Dark Gethsemane
By: James Montgomery

Go to dark Gethsemane,
All who fell the tempter’s power
Your Redeemer’s conflict see.
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his griefs away;
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.

 

Follow to the judgment hall,
View the Lord of life arraigned;
Oh, the wormwood and the gall!
Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
Learn from him to bear the cross.

 

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
There, adoring at his feet,
Mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear him cry;
Learn from Jesus Christ to die.

 

Early hasten to the tomb
Where they laid his breathless clay
All is solitude and gloom.
Who has taken him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes.
Savior, teach us so to rise.

The last line is the call to live resurrectionally…

Savior…teach us so to rise!

Runaway Sheep and Straying Shepherds

Christmas Costume Ideas for (Kids and Teenagers)

Wandering lambs…
Shepherds in bathrobes with belts…
A petrified young Joseph, and a serious Mary holding an ugly baby-doll…
Three wise-men sporting amazing tape-on beards…
Little angels in white chiffon wearing tilted halos…

I love the Children’s productions at church during the Christmas season. You can’t help but smile, and when they go off script, well…that is the best part.

While parents might cringe, to me, this is the purest essence of the story of God’s incarnation. Over the years we have sanitized the story, put it on a Hallmark Card, and in many ways lost the earthiness, and chaos of how God chose to enter the human story.

Kids are honest…
Thoughts come out of their mouths without editing…
The Christmas story is worthy of unedited expression.

If you have never read the book “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” I highly recommend you put it on your holiday reading list. It tells the story of the Herdman family (and we all know a Herdman family or two, it is probably even our own!) and their invasion of a church Christmas pageant. Here is a bit from the book:

The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale — the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating — has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year’s pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

In the Nativity, God enfolds Himself with humanity.

Darkness meets light…
Brutality meets mercy…
Ugliness encounters beauty…

This Christmas, may you be freed from a neat and tidy encounter with God.
This Christmas may you realize that the best way to celebrate the season is with honesty, craziness and abandonment to the unpredictable God who shows up most profoundly in a Christmas pageant where the actors have all lost the script and roll on with whatever it is their soul produces.

God smiles at moments such as these.