Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"I Have This Thing In My Gut"

By Suanne Camfield

I have this thing in my gut.

And, call me crazy, but for a long time, I swear it was taunting me.

Now, as the youngest of four, I readily acknowledge that I carry some baggage—baggage filled with twisted perceptions and unsolicited insecurities—when it comes to voices that taunt. As a child it came in many different forms, all of which left me feeling an inch too short, a step too slow, a few undeveloped brain cells behind. I was the pest who tried to keep up, the small frenetic footsteps that raced to be in the room only to be met by the slam of the door and the click of the lock.

Go ahead—roll your eyes, for this is the rite of passage which bonds “youngests” throughout time. I know, I really do, but knowing hasn’t left me unscarred. No matter how many birthdays I celebrate, no matter how many of life’s milestones I slip under my belt, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m the tagalong, the annoying little kid who’s not to be seen or heard.

And now I’m a writer and a speaker. Baggage compounded with irony.

So, it makes sense then, that this thing in my gut—this churning, burning, indescribable thing that compels me to use my gifts—would echo the voices I’ve believed most of my life. Only there’s no Thanksgiving dinner filled with convivial banter and back-slapping memories to reassure me that I am, in fact, loved. There’s just a dark, pernicious voice whose growing ego finds satisfaction in exploiting the chinks in my armor.

You’re not smart enough.
You’re not good enough.
You are not wanted here.
Go somewhere else.
And for crying out loud, shut up.
Slam. Click. Lock.

One sleepless night, I was wrestling with the voice. It was loud and belligerent and all I could think of was how it felt like the giant Philistine was yelling in my ear. And then I remembered. I remembered the story of another youngest. A runt of a boy who had seven brothers. A boy whose age and inexperience rendered him useless. A boy who was told to mind his own business. A boy who was almost forgotten. A boy who was used to having doors slammed in his face. A boy the voice mocked.

Yet he was the one.

And then it hit me with one abrupt slap. I couldn’t believe I had fallen for it. You see, I had forgotten the end of the story. I forgot that the boy doesn’t heed the voice. I forgot that the giant’s head gets served up on a platter. I forgot that the boy wins. The voice had it all wrong. And so did I. I had mistakenly thought that the thing in my gut and the voice that taunted were one in the same, when in reality, the voice hates the thing.

I’d guess that some of you have a thing in your gut too. An untamable force that compels you to be who God created you to be and to do that which he has gifted you to do. An indescribable passion to mark the eternity of the lives you brush. A thing that is, at its core, the power of God living in each one of us. Okay, more than that. It’s God himself. he is the thing in your gut.

And the voice? I’m pretty sure you’ve figured that out by now.

Look, I don’t know what baggage you carry. I don’t know what voice makes you toss and turn in the middle of the night. I don’t know what lies the ugly Philistine is whispering in your ear, but when you can’t get it out of your head, try taking a line from David’s script: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty…This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head” (1 Samuel 17:45-46).

Slam. Click. Lock.

Then declare victory in the Name of the Lord God Almighty.

Suanne Camfield is a freelance writer, retreat speaker, and well-received teacher who lives in the Chicago area with her family.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ancoro Imparo

By Carla Foote
Director of Communications, MOPS International and FullFill™ Advisor
Visit Carla’s Bio

Ancoro Imparo

Michaelango said that at age 87.

If your Latin is a little rusty, this means, “I’m still learning.”

As I dropped my daughter off to college this fall, I was struck by how often I heard the deans, professors and administrators talk about their goal of inspiring lifelong learners. That the classroom “information” aspect of college was not the main emphasis. If the students nurtured a love of learning, a commitment to be engaged in their community and took personal responsibility for growing and developing, then their experience at college would be of value.

They also reminded us all that with the rapid pace of change, many of the issues of our day didn’t even exist when previous generations went off to college. So information becomes quickly outdated, but the ability to learn and grow will serve us throughout our lives.

I was inspired by the academic environment and the exhortation to keep learning. Even though my own college experience is several decades behind me, I considered ways that I could keep fresh and growing at every stage of my life. Here are a couple of ideas that I am trying to implement this year. Perhaps you will think of a few different ones that apply to you, so you can still be a lifelong learner.

Ways to keep learning:

  • Be intentional about reading or listening to viewpoints that I don’t necessarily agree with. While I have a certain economic, political and theological bent, it is good for me to know that other viewpoints exist. I need to keep listening even to those that sound out of tune to me, because otherwise I am in danger of becoming narrow or arrogant in my thinking.

  • Try some new technologies. The generational divide in technology adaptation is pronounced. I don’t want to try new technologies just to appear young or cool (because that would be a failure), but I do want to be able to embrace new technological avenues of communication so I can participate in the conversation.

  • Re-read some classics (or re-watch classic movies). The way I experienced certain influential books or movies in my teens and twenties might be very different from the lens I look through now that I’m fifty. Because I am bringing a different set of life experiences to the content, my whole perspective might be fresh and reveal new insight.

    How are you going to “Ancoro Imparo” – still learn … whether you are 20, 50 or 87?

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Who Am I To Make a Difference?" Part 2

By Shayne Moore

“I don’t think I ever want to travel to Africa,” my friend says while blowing into the foam on her cappuccino.

“Why not?” I ask, adding, “It is a big time commitment and airfare isn’t cheap, that’s for sure. “ Jackie and I are sitting on our local Starbucks’ taking a little friend-time in our busy full-time mother schedule.

“No, that’s not it. I just don’t think I could handle seeing all the suffering. When my husband goes on mission trips he always comes home so sad, disturbed even. It really affects him.”

“When you travel like that there are sometimes difficult things to come to terms with, but you also get to see the people and the land and appreciate cultures different from your own.” I try to meet her in the middle.

“Still. I just don’t want to see it, the suffering. It’s like that movie, Slumdog Millionaire, I just can’t watch that kind of stuff. I have no desire to see it.”

On my journey into waking up to the global realities of extreme poverty, pandemics of HIV and AIDS and malaria, and the mistreatment of women and girls worldwide, these kinds of conversations cause me to pause.

Why are we so hesitant to look into the pain and suffering of others? Why do we want so desperately to avoid their stories? Is it because these situations are hopeless? Do we feel they are far away and there is nothing we can do? I mean, we’re just ordinary Americans. Who are we to make a difference? Are we afraid we will be too disturbed? That seeing and experiencing and entering in to another’s real life of staggering poverty, abuse and disease will throw off our emotional and spiritual comfort?

I have come to believe we are supposed to be disturbed. We are supposed to be unsettled by their stories.

And I have come to believe that being disturbed by the global situation of poverty and disease is not the same as having no hope. In fact, so much has changed on the international scene when it comes to the fight against these things. There is much hope! It can end well.

In 2000, leaders from 189 countries signed on to the Millennium Development Goals (MDS’s), a set of eight ambitious targets designed to significantly reduce global poverty and disease by 2015. Today it is not just churches, mission organizations and thoughtful individuals in the fight against poverty, disease and universal education (especially for girls). Today governments all across the world understand something needs to be done.
With the world getting smaller thanks to the internet and 24 hours news on our TV’s, phones and computers our generation is the first generation in the history of the world to be so educated and informed about global situations. We are also the first generation to have the capacity to be connected to people so far away from us geographically. We are the first generation of people with such immediate access to one another’s stories.
Today we can join with world leaders and make our voices count. We can express that we are disturbed and we think things need to change. As a friend of mine says, “As women, we need to get thick skin yet keep our tender hearts, and be a voice for the voiceless.”
As I woke up to the global realities around me, I understood deeply that my story connects to the stories of suffering women and families worldwide. They are real people, in a real place, in real need. I found ways to connect with them and I believe we all can find that point of connection. Whether it be through your church, your favorite organization, or through advocacy. We all can make a difference.

Shayne Moore is an author, blogger, speaker, activist and mama of three. Look for her forthcoming book entitled Global Soccer Mom; One Woman’s Journey into Social Justice. Follow Shayne on twitter @TheologyMama.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Who Am I To Make a Difference?" Part 1

By Shayne Moore
Visit Shayne's Bio

My average day involves throwing on my go-to pair of jeans and quickly pulling my hair up in a pony tail. My time revolves around my three children’s school schedule, sports practices and instrument lessons. You can find me hollering at the kids to gather their sports gear as I hastily transfer a load of laundry, leaving clothes unfolded on the table. It is my job to make sure everyone has clean clothes, food to eat, and is at their respective practices on time.
In short, I’m a soccer mom. Despite my best efforts, I am leaving an enormous carbon footprint as I live out my life in the suburbs. With my babies grown it seems I now spend most of my time in the car shuttling kiddos from one activity to the next. I help with homework, supervise computer sessions, and consider it pure joy when I have time to visit with a friend.
However, as with most women who find this is what the structure of their lives looks like, there is much more to me than that. To be honest, after about a decade of being a stay-at-home mom, I found a deep dissatisfaction lurking inside me. I started to want more.

About five years ago Bono, the lead singer of the rock band U2, came through my town on the Heart of America tour educating churches and faith communities about global AIDS and extreme poverty. While it was undoubtedly Bono’s star power that drew me in that night, it was the presentations by the World Health Organization on the ravishing effects of extreme poverty and the future projections of the spread of HIV and AIDS which changed the trajectory of my life.

The next day I was sobered and even angered. Today, these issues have been pushed to the front, but when I heard Bono and The Heart of America tour it was the first time I had heard the extent of the AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. I could not help but wonder why aren’t we hearing about this every night on the news? Why aren’t our pastors talking about it every Sunday from the pulpit? After hearing the sobering realities of extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS, particularly the effect on women and children something happened to me.

While standing at the sink doing the breakfast dishes I woke up from my suburbia stupor. I woke up to realities that every three seconds a child dies from extreme poverty and that today one billion people live on less than two dollars a day. I woke up to the realities of gender-based violence against women and girls, that women and girls are marginalized and exploited in situations of extreme poverty. And I woke up to the reality that I can make a difference and I started educating myself and others.

My journey into understanding global social justice started in my own community, in my own kitchen. This journey has taken me to Africa and Honduras and to international G8 Summits. I have met high-profile people like Bono and George Clooney and I even filmed a commercial with Julia Roberts. On my journey I got involved with local grassroots advocacy groups, with my church, with large humanitarian organizations like World Vision, and I joined ONE. http://www.one.org/

My learning curve was huge and I was embarrassed at my ignorance on many of the global issues. Yet I decided to jump in despite feeling overwhelmed. I am not a policy expert nor do I ever expect to be one, but by jumping in exactly where I was I entered the conversation.

I believe today women are thoughtful and deeply concerned about issues of extreme poverty and preventable disease. The millions of AIDS orphans, and the children who needlessly die from lack of clean water and from malaria, tug at every woman’s heart. I also believe in today’s world with 24 hour news on our TV’s, computers and phones it can feel as if we have a front row seat to the world’s problems but do not know how to connect and get involved in a meaningful way.

I say, start right where you are. In your town, in your church, in your circle of friends. Maybe in addition to going to that umpteenth Bible study on that book you know by heart, or instead of going to a book club for a book you didn’t even like, gather with your friends once a month. Educate each other on the issues and decide together where and how you wish to get involved and make a difference for another woman somewhere and her family.

Can you envision with me a new kind of feminist movement? A modern Woman’s Movement made up of ordinary women being a voice for women and families worldwide in need.

Shayne Moore is an author, blogger, speaker, activist and mama of three. Look for her forthcoming book entitled Global Soccer Mom; One Woman’s Journey into Social Justice. Follow Shayne on twitter @TheologyMama.