Dec 31, 2011

New Year

     On the cusp of a New Year, it is time to stop and reflect for a moment.  At work we have talked about how we never could have predicted what 2011 would bring to World Wide Village and the people of Haiti.  In my personal life, I never could have predicted what 2011 would bring either!

1) As I sit and type this, I am 6 months pregnant with Dahmon's and my first child...a boy whose name will be Drexel (haven't determined a middle name yet, though we have something that might work).  A boy who has everyone very excited even though his presence was just a bit unplanned.  =)  A boy who has already given us a couple of scares through an "interesting" early pregnancy.

2)  My brother has gotten married to a lovely young lady named Serena in a beautiful ceremony in Palmer, Alaska.

3)  We moved...again - this time to Minneapolis, a city that I never thought I would live in.  Next August we will move...again (can you tell I hate moving?  Fifteen years in the same place to moving every year.   yesh.), this time in with Dahmon's parents until we have to move the next year for Dahmon's internship year in seminary.

4) I only have one semester left in a graduate school degree that God definitely plunked me into.  Now, I'd love to plan out what this means for the next 10 years, but it is also my experience that any time we have a 5-year plan figured out, or even a 3-year plan, God brings Dahmon and I into something different than expected (latest example: Drexel).

5)  A bunch of people have come into my life via professional and personal ways that I have been completely honored to know and work with on various levels (at WWV, as a part of my modeling/acting career, church, Antioch, etc).

     A lot of other things have happened, but I can't list them all.  God has been good (though isn't he always?), and I've had a lot of opportunities to see and experience his goodness in a lot of areas (ask me about what's been going on in Haiti).  2012 is going to be another eventful year, especially with Drexel being born in March/April, and it will be interesting.  :)

Dec 27, 2011

Things they don't warn you about....

Pregnancy.  The time of a couple's life that is perhaps the most filled with expectation, wonder, and nervousness.  A time when a new human being is being crafted in the hidden recesses of a woman's body, blood vessels and brain stem being established with no conscious active effort on the woman's part (save, perhaps, not drinking and trying to eat more than two colors in a day).

There are, however, some things they don't warn you about pregnancy until you have joined the expectant-mama club.  (Beware - this post may contain TMI, but that's okay.)  For example...

1) Fuzzy tummy
They warn you about the lush hair and epically awesome fingernails.  What they do not warn you about, however, is that the same hormone that means the hair on one's head becomes very nice also means so does the hair on one's...um...tummy!  So, the reason a woman's hair is awesome during pregnancy is because the hormone that releases hair is diminished, on one's head and one's...tummy!  Seriously, my tum tum looks like a peach.

2) Stuffy nose
Who knows that something about the hormone soup coursing through a gals body during preggo-nancy causes inflammation of the mucus linings?  Not quite sure how that makes sense, but I sound like I've pretty much got a chronic cold.  *achoo*

3) Sore backs
Oh sure, you do hear about the sore backs that a woman has when pregnant, but do you know that can start as soon as 10 weeks (this soreness usually due to hormonal fluctuations)?  My poor back has been sore for a long time, compounded by the fact that I've got some back problems.  HOWEVER, I was not expecting that to start so quickly!  Now I'm at 25 weeks (close to the end of 2nd trimester and big enough that strangers are getting less shy about staring at my belly) and now my back is more sore than before.

4) Baby brain
Now, this is something you may have heard about if someone in your vicinity has been pregnant, or else you may not hear about it until you have joined the Sisterhood of the Expanding Pants.  Seriously - it's like all the blood that had gone to feeding my brain has gravitated elsewhere to grow a baby.  Memory? You should see the sticky notes papering my cube at work.  Thought process?  Give me a sec, and I'll get something figured out.  Maybe two secs.  :)  I thank then Lord that finals this past semester consisted of essays - those I can generally do at home and are open book, a God-send to this preggo who is having a hard time remembering why in the heck I got up to get across the office?


5) Gas!
My poor hubby already grimaces when I eat cheese.  Not that I'm lactose intolerant, but somehow my eating cheese has detrimental affects on bystanders who are not warned that lactose can make my intestinal tract determined to do its best to poke holes in the ozone layer (okay, I'm not that bad).  Being pregnant just makes this worse!

I'm sure there is more...but I can't remember it.  :)  More to come later.......

Dec 18, 2011

Update time!

Alright, I'm horrible at updating this...sorry!!!!!!!

More pics will come later...for now they are stockpiling on my computer.

Quick update:

  • I am done with the semester and Dahmon will be done tomorrow.  My master's degree major project degree focus may have changed, but I still need to flesh that out (basically, I found the book I wanted to write about kids with disabilities in the Church, so now I want to do something else to avoid duplicating efforts). 
  • My head is now 15 inches of hair lighter - went in and got a whole bunch chopped off this afternoon.  Not sure that I like the resulting 'do yet, but we'll see.  =)
  • Drexel is doing well - moving and kicking up a storm.  Though I do find it amusing that Drexel is pretty active until Dahmon is around.  Dahmon is apparently very soothing to our son, as Rex calms down and stops moving around as much when Dahmon is present.  I know who the baby whisperer is between us with this particular child (provided this pattern holds out).  Rex also seems to know when I haven't eaten for awhile, as he will move around and not calm down until I'm full.  =)  I'm starting to feel him kicking up by my bellybutton, and am not terribly fond of his habit of shoving his foot in places and then leaving it there...that starts to hurt after awhile.
  • Drexel is registered at Target, for inquiring minds that want to know.
Ummmmmmm, I think that is it for now.  I'll be posting some of my papers from this past semester once I've gotten grades back.  

More regular posts to follow, hopefully.  =)

Dec 2, 2011

Progression of tummy so far - Currently week 21

Here is a pictographic progression of my tummy so far (yes, this blog is overrun with pregnancy stuff....so is my brain - deal with it):
Week 10

Week 11

Week 12

Week 13

Week 14

Week 15

Week 16

Week 17

Week 18 

Week 19

Week 20

Week 21

Nov 15, 2011

Its a boy!!

Alright, so I suck at updating this lately...and the only reason I have to give is that homework has officially been super crushing in addition to work and everything else.  This blog was the thing that was neglected.  Sorry!

Anyways - we went for an ultrasound today and found out with no uncertainty that we are having a boy!  Little Drexel had his hands up by his head and everything, so it wasn't a mistaken hand/finger in place...this is a boy is a boy is boy.  =)  No ambiguity in that ultrasound discernment...even I could tell before the tech said anything that we are having a boy.

The concerning thing is that they found a weak area where the amniotic sac is attached to the uterus.  From my understanding, the "bag of waters" adheres to the side of the uterus in much the same way as lungs adhere to the side of the chest cavity.  They said there is a little weak spot in Drexel's bag of waters, so they are sending us to get a more detailed ultrasound next week.  Most likely it was caused by the sub-chorionic hemorrhage a little over a week ago, but we'll find out exactly what that means and if it is something we actually need to worry about during the follow-up ultrasound.  The midwife said they also saw a bright spot in Drexel's heart  (forgot what she called it) that can occasionally be the signal of an actual problem, so they'll check that out more in depth during next week's ultrasound as well.  She said usually when they see that spot, it means nothing, but it means something in enough cases that they tell people about it so they are aware there is the potential for a problem.  Prayers would be cool  :)  I'm a bit of a worried Momma, but when I pray about it, it almost seems as though God tells me to spend my prayer energies elsewhere because he's got this one covered.

We are at week 19 - one week from halfway to full-term, but only about 17-18 weeks away from being able to have a safe delivery.  Yeesh that is coming up quickly!  Now that we know sex, I can start working harder to determine daycare options once Drexel is born.  We have some friends who may be willing to help, but I need to check in with everyone and get everything figured out.  " )

Week 19 means Drexel is still swallowing amniotic fluid, but it is turning into meconium, the tar-ish substance that is a baby's first poop.  Processing amniotic fluid through his system helps Drexel get ready to process breastmilk once he is born.  He's approximately 5-6 inches long, the size of a large heirloom tomatoe, and kicking up a storm (believe me - not only did we see it on the monitor today, but I've been feeling his little thumps).

I'm super tired and need to go to bed, so signing off for now.  More later.  :)

Oct 20, 2011

With public influence comes greater responsibility

Okay, so I'm going to start off with a few things we can all agree on:
  • People should know about a topic before they attempt to say anything remotely intelligent on said topic. 
  • People who have an influence on other people should research a topic before they attempt to say anything remotely intelligent on said topic.
  • People who have a wide influence (and know such), who are in the public sphere a lot, who are respected by many have an obligation to research a topic (or at least have assistants do such) before attempting to say anything intelligent on said topic.
  • Basically, people should know what they are talking about before trying to say anything remotely intelligent on a topic, especially if they have an influence on others.
Is there anything terribly controversial about the above words?  If so, contact me and let me know (elnora dot romness at gmail dot com), I would be happy to discuss it.  In fact, feel free to comment on this post and bring up anything you feel I write that may be wrong.  

There is a great deal of ire behind this post, and I will attempt to write it in as constructive a way as possible.  My heart is breaking, and you may see some of this.  But let's get to the matter at hand: Rush Limbaugh pissed me off a few days ago.  I will never respect that man as a reporter, political commentator, or informed citizen ever again.  As a human being worthy of dignity, yes.  As any of the aforementioned things - absolutely not.

Who is Rush Limbaugh?  For those of you who don't know, Limbaugh is a well-known political / world events commentator on major network radio.  He has a show where he interprets daily events in light of his opinion.  Note that his show is opinion based - he is not an objective reporter by any means (and even he would not claim such).  He talks about the day's events in light of his political, religious, and social viewpoints (which, admit it, we all do).  

During the summer of 2006, I was sitting in the living room of my parent's house in California during the summer break between freshman and sophomore years of college.  On the computer, my boyfriend at the time (now husband and papa of my yet unborn child) and I were instant messaging via Google.  I was heartbroken over something in the news and was sharing that with him, and he told me about the Lord's Resistance Army.  Who are they?

The Lord's Resistance Army is a movement in Africa - the Congo, Sudan, and Uganda to be fairly specific - headed by a man named Joseph Kony.  The LRA started in 1987 and has gained momentum ever since.  It is a militant group claiming to be following the will of the Lord in Africa.  Kony is said to be the spokesperson of God and regularly inhabited by the Holy Spirit, at least according to him and his followers.  Kony practices a way of life that includes mysticism and elements of Christianity.

Alright, alright...so what do the LRA and Rush Limbaugh have anything to do in common?  President Obama, that's what.  Recently Obama signed something that authorized the U.S. to mobilize 100 U.S. military trained individuals to "remove from the field" (aka capture and/or kill) the leaders of the LRA.  He says this is in accordance to what he believes is proper action with foreign affairs.  Now, I'm non-violent and rather pacifist.  If someone broke into my house and was stealing my stuff, I'd probably just hand him/her my computer and tell him/her I'm praying for him/her and I hope they find a new way of life.  I do not condone by any measure the use of killing people as a means to end anything.  Let's keep that in mind.

Rush Limbaugh got his knickers in a bunch and on his radio show (click here for a transcript of the broadcast) said that Obama has effectively authorized the mass murder of Christians who are simply practicing their faith and fighting against Muslims in Africa.

Limbaugh was WRONG.

The LRA is about as Christian as Hitler.  Sure, they are called the "Lord's" Resistance Army and their mission statement is something along the lines of removing dictatorship and oppressive powers from their lands.  Whatever. Kony claims to be inhabited with the Holy Spirit and leads his Army to conduct its action in the name of God.  What God?  He claims the God of the Bible.  Oh really?  Let's examine this:
  • The original founder of the movement from which the LRA sprang distanced herself from the current movement after Kony took over, saying the brutality displayed by his army is inhuman.
  • The UN has documented massacres conducted by the LRA in the name of their cause (on average, they massacre several hundred people per month).
  • When the LRA sweeps over a village in one of the aforementioned countries, a few things happen:
    • Children are kidnapped and forced into being child soldiers.  They are brainwashed to practically worship Kony, and are told he can appear and disappear at will.
    • If the children rebel against the LRA soldiers who have captured them, they are physically mutilated, tortured, and/or killed.  Oh, and the parents of these children are often killed.  (For a photo of a young man, abducted by the LRA as a child, who rebelled and suffered consequences, click here.)
    • Women and young girls are kept for LRA soldiers as concubines and sex slaves.
    • Anyone who refuses to join their movement is physically mutilated, tortured, raped, and/or killed.  Here's an example of one of their massacres: Makombo massacre
    • For a great summary of the LRA, click here.
Back to Limbaugh: let's put some of his claims (in red) against facts (in blue).  
  • The LRA is a Christian organization being persecuted by the US for being Christian.
    • While I'm sure religious conspiracy theorists would love to believe this is true, the truth of the matter is that the US is stepping in an attempt to stop a group that has visited murder, rape, child molestation, physical mutilation, displacement, property damage, and other heinous acts upon fellow humans who disagree with them.  If the LRA is a Christian organization, I'm an uncle (I'm a woman, by the way).  
  • Obama is persecuting Christians for practicing their faith and fighting against Muslims.
    • Joseph Kony is leading a group, several thousand bodies strong, interested in intimidation and the gathering of personal power.  They are not practicing Christian faith.  1) God says to worship no one but him.  The children are taught to worship Kony as God on Earth.  2) God is a God of love.  Nothing resembling love of any sort is coming out of the "fruit" of that Army.  3) When his disciple cut the ear off a person who was bringing Jesus out of the garden, Jesus healed the soldier.  4) Nowhere in the Bible is rape condoned.  Nowhere.  Not for any purpose.  5) The Bible tells Christians to avoid mysticism (in fact, Samuel gets rather cranky at Saul for contacting him after Samuel had already died).  Kony and the rest of the LRA conduct practices deeply steeped in mystical elements based on early African religions.
  • There are only 500 soldiers in the LRA, so they are not a huge threat.
    • Couple things wrong with this one - one person harboring malevolence towards a group of people is a huge threat to that group.  The LRA is a huge threat to those in the Sudan, Congo, and Uganda who do not agree with LRA ideology (oh, by the way - they massacre Christians during services in church too.)
    • The UN reports the LRA may be several thousand strong.  Of course the Ugandan government is estimating low on how many people are a part of this - the LRA is a political embarrassment. Limbaugh, is several thousand a bigger threat than 500, or should we just dismiss that "low" number too?  After all, it took less than 100 people to hijack plans and smack them into buildings all over our country. 
Let's get a couple of things straight: I avoid politics like the plague.  If you want to talk to me about the latest bill being run through Congress, or what the Right and Left are fighting about now, you are talking to the absolute wrong person - I don't care.  Those conversations will be countered with me asking what you plan on doing to feed starving kids in Haiti.  Be prepared.

What this post is getting at is the point that Rush Limbaugh, a man who has immense influence amongst many conservatives in the United States (and abroad) made a sweeping generalization about what President Obama is doing.  This sweeping generalization was obviously made with NO research done on the "Christian group" President Obama is supposedly directly attacking.  

Limbaugh apparently later realized his mistake, as he said a little while later in the transcript that apparently the LRA is being accused with heinous crimes and he'd have to do his research.  

RESEARCH A TOPIC BEFORE YOU TRY TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT!!

My prayer is that people will actually do their own research on the LRA before agreeing with Limbaugh's blatantly false, uninformed statements.  The LRA needs to be stopped, and it needed to be stopped twenty years ago when the massacres and mutilations began.  No child should live in fear of having his/her nose cut off if he/she does not worship some man.  In my opinion, Joseph Kony and the commanders of his army need to be gathered up and tried for crimes against humanity.  I fully support President Obama's desire to end this awful movement, whether or not I support the means he has chosen to do so.

Mr. Limbaugh - do your research before you say something blatantly wrong about a topic.  You just made yourself look like a fool.

Oct 9, 2011

Week 14

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Week 14 for Baby.  According to BabyCenter.com:

"This week's big developments: Your baby can now squint, frown, grimace, pee, and possibly suck his thumb! Thanks to brain impulses, his facial muscles are getting a workout as his tiny features form one expression after another. His kidneys are producing urine, which he releases into the amniotic fluid around him — a process he'll keep up until birth. He can grasp, too, and if you're having an ultrasound now, you may even catch him sucking his thumb.     In other news: Your baby's stretching out. From head to bottom, he measures 3 1/2 inches —about the size of a lemon — and he weighs 1 1/2 ounces. His body's growing faster than his head, which now sits upon a more distinct neck. By the end of this week, his arms will have grown to a length that's in proportion to the rest of his body. (His legs still have some lengthening to do.) He's starting to develop an ultra-fine, downy covering of hair, called lanugo, all over his body. Your baby's liver starts making bile this week — a sign that it's doing its job right — and his spleen starts helping in the production of red blood cells. Though you can't feel his tiny punches and kicks yet, your little pugilist's hands and feet (which now measure about 1/2 inch long) are more flexible and active."
Okay, yes - I'll admit that it seems gross that Baby is peeing in his/her own amniotic fluid...mostly because I also know Baby is swallowing it.  Somehow that just seems gross.  On the plus side, there is absolutely no way for that fluid exchanged to NOT be sterile, considering Baby is as close to living a bubble life right now as hopefully s/he will ever have encounter.

Yes, it's unreal that we were all this small at one point.  :)

There are sympathy pregnancy symptoms going around the women in my family: my sister Jenny was having cravings and so has my mom (though I have to admit, green olives on a peanut butter sandwich still sound gross...sorry Mom!).  Funny how that works.  =)

AND - since a) Baby is in second trimester (yay!) and b) everything was confirmed okay after the troublesome events of last week, and c) I found the cord that connects my camera to laptop, here are some pregger pics (keep in mind that since I'm still barely bumping, the time between dinner and the picture being taken can make a noticeable difference in how pregger I look - the best pics of indication are the ones where I am attempting to suck my gut in):

 
Week 10

Week 14


       
                                    
   Week 14

Oct 7, 2011

NEW school in Luly!!


So, I work for a non-profit called World Wide Village - an organization whose mission is to transform lives, empower communities, and love people.  God is the reason we do any of this - it is his love within us that compels us to work in a country that breaks the heart of many humanitarians.  Some wonder why World Wide Village works in Haiti.  Don't we know we'll never be able to save the entire country?  Aren't we cognizant of the fact that people have been working in Haiti for awhile and people are still starving? 

Oh baloney!  God is bigger than all of the so-called "here is why the world thinks you shouldn't work in Haiti"!  Want proof?  Click here!!

Here's the story -- in January 2010 there was a devastating earthquake in Haiti.  The church where school was held in the community of Luly was rendered completely structurally unsound, to the tune of WWV organizers being nervous with people even setting foot in the building.  Locals fashioned walls out of banana leaves and made a temporary shelter for the kids to continue classes.  Banana leaves do not hold up well to elements, and so the shelter pretty much dissolved within a few months -- torrential rains kind of have that affect.

The kids moved back into the structurally unsound building because they had nowhere else to hold class.

God roused World Wide Village into action!  Loving the people of Haiti means we were compelled to HAVE to do something!  We rallied supporters and gathered donations from individuals, companies, churches, etc.  Then Digicel, Haiti's largest cell phone carrier, came alongside the school and funded the rest of construction.  The school was built bigger and better than we expected...what a blessing!

This past Tuesday was the opening ceremony for the brand-new Luly Community School.  Some recognizable faces were in attendance - Miley Cyrus, Haitian President Martelly, Bill and Tani Austin from Starkey Hearing Foundation, as well as Randy and Pat Mortensen and WWV staff on the ground in Haiti.

Just look through the pictures above - I nearly started crying for joy.  ALSO: President Martelly guaranteed free tuition at the school for all students!  Woot woot!

I was at this school when visiting Haiti with WWV in January - it was completely heartbreaking, and the children are amazing, and it is an absolute blessing from God that these kids have a new (safe) school in which to study.  As someone who came from a poor background, I can testify that education is often the key to making a brighter, more stable future.  Praise God that the 304 students who attended on Wednesday are getting that chance!  :)

Now excuse me while I go happy-dance.  :)

Oct 4, 2011

Everything is okay

We went to the doctor yesterday morning.  Never have I been more scared in my life.  I showered as much with my own tears that morning as I did with actual water...all the while praying that God would work His will and help me be okay whatever that meant.

Well, the midwife was able to get me in for an appointment at 9:00am.  I got excused from class for the day by a very understanding professor who basically forbade me from setting foot in her classroom that day (she has three children).  Dahmon was told to "just leave" by his professor, so he met me at the clinic.  When he walked in, sat down next to me, and just held me, I started crying in earnest.  He was my support, and I'm very glad that he can maintain a calm demeanor when I'm freaking out.  =)

Anyways, they got us in and I nearly lept for joy when the midwife was able to find the heartbeat almost immediately (though my fear did not allow me to believe her until I had my hand on my own pulse and verified for myself that it was not my heart that we could hear).  Baby's heart is still going strong.

But what was causing the bleeding?  Turns out that I had something called a subchorionic hemorrhage.  This is basically when a blood vessel below a placenta disconnects or doesn't connect properly.  A pool of blood can form, and uteri do not like blood in them.  Therefore, my uterus was dispelling the blood that had collected due to a broken blood vessel under the placenta.  The ultrasound tech said that sometimes the hemorrhage can cause a miscarriage, depending on how much of the placenta separates from the uterine wall, but in our case we should be fine.  I am, however, ordered to take it easy for the next couple of weeks.  The midwife warned me that there may continue to be some bleeding for up to a week or so, but that these hemorrhages have a habit of healing themselves.

So we learned something now, gained a whole new appreciation of the fragility of life from an angle I don't care to revisit, and got a new picture of Little Bit.  What a lot of growth in 3 weeks!  (See previous post for ultrasound at 11 weeks).

I got tickled because Dahmon commented that Baby wasn't moving.  The technician shushed him, saying that he'd jinx things (she was trying to get measurements that are really hard to get on a moving baby).  Sure enough, our little Dibbun started moving.  Secretly, I was relieved - after a scare like that and almost 24 straight hours of pure adrenaline, Baby moving was the best thing it could have done for Momma's sanity!

Praise the Lord for the blessing of protecting our child during what could have threatened Baby's life!  To God be the glory of the creation of life in the first place, and for being my comfort during the entire ordeal.  We'd contacted a number of friends and had them praying - seriously it was only God and the solidarity of concerned friends that got me mentally through all of this.  Oh, and Dahmon of course.  =)

Oct 2, 2011

Week 13

     A friend kindly reminded me that I haven't updated in awhile, so here goes:  I'm officially over nausea and morning sickness, so that is good.  :)  (yayz!).  Have definitely felt more human over the past week, which I'm sure Dahmon appreciates as he doesn't have to deal with cranky, nauseous wife as much.  Tummy is definitely starting to stick out more, and meals have definitely started getting smaller and more frequent.  I'm not a very big person in the first place, so there aren't a whole lot of options for my shifting organs to go but out as they make room for Baby.

     Today has been a long, scary day.  This morning I was cramping pretty badly while at church...was a tad worried but didn't think much of it because you have to get used to a certain amount of discomfort when pregnant.  The worry, however, started shortly after I got home and began bleeding.  Actual blood.  Not good.  So I told Dahmon what was going on, freaked out and was crying while talking to the nurse.  She said it was 50/50 whether I go in to the ER or not, but given that I was not going into shock and the severity of the things I described to her (which in her mind were not as bad as they were in my mind), she erred on the side of putting me on bedrest for the day.
   
     Daniel threatened to call our parents and tattle on me if he caught me not taking it easy at all today.  Younger brothers, yeesh!  (Secretly I love him caring enough to get bossy sometimes, but don't tell him that.)

     The bleeding and cramping have kept up for much of the day.  I called the nurse hotline back partway through the day because I freaked out again...but she said I basically needed to just take it easy.  If this is a miscarriage in progress, there is nothing that can be done to stop the process.  Given some online research I did this afternoon, about 1 in 4 women experience some bleeding during their pregnancies.  About 50% of those women go on to have healthy pregnancies.  Obviously, I hope to be a part of that 50%, but for now I'm going to be real with ya'll and just state flat out that I'm freaked out.  God calls us to trust in him, but no amount of trust in the Lord guarantees an automatic healing when something ails a loved one, even if that loved one is not born.  Can God heal anything?  Of course.  Does that mean said healing is automatic and to be expected no matter what?  Nope.  My prayer is that God do what he needs to do according to his will and help me be okay with whatever that means.

     So we are beginning week 13 - fingerprints are in place.  Veins and organs would be visible through Baby's skin (which I hope remains invisible to our eyes for the next 27 weeks!) were we to see It.  Body is starting to catch up with its head.  It is about 3 inches long (apparently the size of a medium shrimp).  AND if it is a girl, then its eggs are already formed!

     Please pray that Baby is safe.  I'm a little scared, but trusting the Lord.

     Here's a pictographic representation of Wk 13 baby (I'll start posting actual pregger pics of me once these three things happen: a) Baby is officially in the second trimester, b) we verify that everything is alright after the worrisome events of today, and c) we find the cord that connects camera to computer.  : )

Sep 18, 2011

Week 11

This picture was taken last week at our dating ultrasound (ultrasound designed to figure out how far along Baby is).  Result: at that time we were at 10 weeks.  Now we are at 11.  Baby is due on April 10...though the technician made it clear the doc may adjust that date after seeing all of the pictures, and we all know how much babies cooperate with due dates.  =)

Right now, experts say my baby is about 11 weeks (technically 11 on Tuesday, but I like starting weeks on Sunday and since no one can know for 100% certain when implantation occurred, I'm going to say Sunday works).  Baby is about 1.5 inches long (apparently the size of a fig), tooth buds are appearing, some major bones are beginning to harden (don't worry, I've been drinking whole milk), and is moving all over the place.  Now, I thought I was feeling those movements earlier, but after seeing baby move on the ultrasound it was pretty clear that I was just feeling gas bubbles - Baby couldn't even reach the sides of my uterus well enough for me to feel it yet.


Dahmon and I have been tossing names around, and if we have a boy then the baby will be named Drexel.  Not sure on a girl's name yet...but this one I'm going to be far less straightforward about as we decided on Drexel a loooooooooong time ago, so that one wasn't too hard.  We had decided on a girl's name, but then realized one of Dahmon's relatives has the name we decided on.  Oh well.  =)

This past week I've felt physically awful, and decided to not run the marathon that I was training for.  I just feel too goshdarn poopy/tired.  Right now I'm spending the day in bed due to illness.  Bleh.  Constant stuffiness from allergies developed into an actual cold...not fair!

:)  Off to homework...

Aug 31, 2011

In Alaska!

So my younger brother (separated by 2 years) is getting married tomorrow to a lovely woman named Serena.  Those two adore each other, and are absolutely sickening  adorable by how glued they are to each other when in the same place.  =)  Though we got little warning this wedding was taking place (they decided about three weeks ago to get married tomorrow), I'm not sure Daniel could glow any more if he tried.  Let's just say there is some major twitterpation happening.

The colors of the wedding are purple and black.  Serena's sister Susanna is the maid of honor, while Daniel's friend Wiley is the best man.  Skyla and Cambria, Jenny's (our sister) girls, are the flower girls.  I've been put in charge of making sure Skype on my computer works so that our parents, who were unable to make it here from Arizona on such short notice, will be able to view the ceremony.  Harvey Fiskeau, the pastor of a church that we used to go to when living in Nome, has flown down here to officiate.

The ceremony is being held at Thousand Logs church in Palmer, and the inside of it looks like the inside of a log cabin...very neat.  We hung bows and such the other day, and are returning to the space today to get decorations in place for the reception area downstairs.  Daniel is nervous and giddy, as any groom should be. Hard to believe my little brother is going to be a groom!

Aug 22, 2011

Oy vey...

....wit da poodles already!!

Morning sickness my eye - this is more like "all day, whenever" sickness...and sleep isn't even sacred.  Argh.  Dahmon bought me some wrist bands that have a plastic knob that apply pressure to some pressure points in my wrist that help the nausea go down...thank God!  Healing pressure points are wonderful things.

You know what has me in awe right now?  According to websites, our baby is about the size of a grape (we'll know more when we go in for the ultrasound on the 8th).  I didn't even know it was growing within me until last Monday, and already its little nervous system, circulatory system, and every other system is well under way.  If the one nurse is right and I'm at 9 weeks, then this baby's heart is already beating!  How unreal to imagine that the heart of another is beating within my uterus and one cannot even tell from looking at me yet that I'm even with child.  

It is absolutely mindblowing to think about how God orchestrates a birth.  I don't know how to feed and nourish an in utero child, but God has created my body such that it does exactly what it needs to do exactly when it needs to do it in order for this child to grown and be born healthy.  Its DNA looks completely different than mine, it is a completely different person than me, and yet I get to be a part of its creation.  God allows me to be a part of the creation of one of his precious children - how cool!!

I'm just continually in awe right now about how I don't need to tell my body what to do (wouldn't even know where to begin), but it does exactly what it needs to.  I can't even speak to my child yet, but its cells are doing exactly what they need to in order to create the systems that need to be in place.  Nothing but God and DNA are telling our mutual bodies what to do in order to function together symbiotically.

Okay, I'm ill (being married means sharing germs with your spouse, and Dahmon was super sick last week - my turn) and super tired from being sick and pregnant, and I don't think this post is capturing what I really mean.  Oh well.  Time for a nap.

Aug 17, 2011

We're expecting!!

*deep breath*

On Monday, I peed on a stick and an extra little pink line appeared.  My eyes got big, I went upstairs to the bedroom and showed Dahmon.  Dr's appointment was made for that afternoon, which confirmed - we are expecting our first child in March/April of next year!

The nurses I've been talking to have been disagreeing about how far along the baby is - either 4-6 weeks or 9 weeks.  The only thing for sure is that the baby would be visible to the naked eye at this point, the heart is beating, and I've definitely been feeling some symptoms - though I think since I run a lot the symptoms are lesser than they could have been.  (Note: the nurse said that I can keep running (yay!) so long as I pay attention to my body and the baby and listen when they say slow down.  No more pushing for time).

Parents on both sides are ecstatic.  Angela Fronsoe (friend from college, maid of honor at our wedding) was screaming for a full minute when told.  We've received many well wishes and congrats on Facebook (my status was OVbunEN, Dahmon was much more straightforward and just said that we are pregnant).  We're excited....and terrified!


We're living in a 3 - bedroom house in Minneapolis with Jessy and Alex, two girls we know from school and work respectively.  Our bedroom is basically the entire upstairs of the building, so we'll rearrange furniture so the baby can have one half of the room while we get the other half - for the first year / few months it will be just fine.

Oh baby!

Jun 3, 2011

Moving for a cause

So I run. A lot. Blame a good friend of mine from college--he got me hooked on running and now I'm addicted. Six races total this summer (if you know of a good one in the Twin Cities area, let me know...especially if it is an adventure race):

  1. Hoofin' It For Haiti 5K
  2. Rugged Maniac 5K (obstacle race)
  3. Go Commando 5K (obstacle race)
  4. Warrior Dash 5K (obstacle race)
  5. Minneapolis 13.1 (half marathon)
  6. Twin Cities Marathon

So adventure races are a blast, infinitely more interesting than just running on a track (5K = 10-11 obstacles for all of those mentioned above). Challenging in a different way. :)

When I started running last year, my dear brother--Daniel--asked me "Why? A bear isn't chasing you, and neither am I, so why would you do that?" Well, now he runs too, so there. :) I run because it helps overall health (sleeping, immune system, etc). I run because God gave me legs that move and I'm gonna use them. I run because I'm high-strung and need a way to get my energy out. I run because people donate money to sponsor runners.

Here is the crux of this post: This summer it is my goal to run/spin (at the gym) 300 miles between June 1 and September 1. Yeah yeah yeah, that's a big goal. A friend of mine invited me to a biking challenge of similar length during the summer, but no bike is in this lady's possession. I do have two working legs are, however, and a desire to raise money for the organization that I work for.

As some of you know, I work for an organization called World Wide Village (www.worldwidevillage.org) and we do relief work in Haiti that is focused on providing a hand up, NOT a hand out. Hand outs cultivate a sense of dependency that is just plain unhealthy for a country that is doing its best to get back on its feet. WWV operates under the "teach the person to fish" model, and we focus on projects in the areas of clean food and water, health care, micro-enterprise (by the way, if you want greeting cards, let me know--we have hand-made ones for sale!), housing, and education. WWV is a Christian organization, and it is through the love of God in our hearts and God allowing us to be a part of his plan for Haiti, and the amazing supporters that we have, that we are even able to work in that country in the first place. I was there in January (check out my travel blog here: http://msnoratravels.blogspot.com/) and fell in love with the people and the country.

This summer my running is dedicated to all of the people in Haiti who need someone to come alongside them and stand in solidarity with them. If you would like to sponsor my running at 1 cent, 10 cents, or even 100 cents (or more!) per mile, please please please let me know. More details to follow. For now, I've run 5 miles towards my goal--only 295 left to go!!

I use Runtastic.com to track running (note that right now it says I wasn't active in sports--that's only because I added the run later instead of bringing my phone with me on the run and letting the GPS track me):

Apr 9, 2011

Is foreign aid putting the ethical speck before the plank?

Recently submitted as ethics paper:

Is Foreign Aid Putting the Ethical Speck Before the Plank?
January 2010: a devastating earthquake rocked the small island country of Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of people died from the initial earthquake. Dozens of aftershocks killed more people and traumatized survivors, who were then devastated by cholera outbreaks and a completely crippled governmental infrastructure that made getting food to the hungry nigh impossible. January 2011: I was sent to Haiti by my employers—a 501(c)(3) non-profit that works to “transform impoverished communities” in Haiti[1]—and saw devastating poverty and its effects first-hand. March 2011: a family in Minneapolis lost their home and had to move to a homeless shelter…again—they couldn’t make rent. Tyler[2] was acting out during Bible Study at a ministry I volunteer with and the adult leaders realized he was exceptionally crabby due to hunger. His parents could not afford food. Suddenly I came face to face with extreme poverty and hunger 30 minutes from where I live as I realized Tyler is small for his age from lack of food. This child is within the borders of the U.S.A., and even he is hungry. Extreme poverty exists oceans and blocks away, yet it is an economical fact that the same $100 would either buy a couple weeks worth of groceries for Tyler or alleviate one case of kwashiorkor, the most extreme form of malnutrition, for a Haitian child. The same amount of money donated to aid foreign countries does more good as the U.S. dollar goes much further than on its own soil. Yet it would seem ethical to battle poverty in our own backyard before focusing on the needs of people in foreign countries. Is it more ethical to encourage people to keep aid money local, where it could do good for a few people within our own nation, or to have them send the same money to a foreign country where it will do good for many people?
Jesus makes it exquisitely clear that we are to “love [our] neighbor as [ourselves]” (Mark 12:31, NIV) for “[a]s I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35, NIV). How are we to love our neighbor? One way is to bless them with our excess (i.e. not needed for survival) material and monetary wealth. Martin Luther believed that “[t]he Christian who receives grace from God must then pass it on, and…this is given concrete form in deeds and material goods; serving the neighbor thus cannot consist only in praying…but must take shape in earthly service as well” (Blanchard, 301-302). Perhaps this is why “more focus is given specifically to money than to any other subject in Jesus’ teaching. This should not be surprising, for what we do with money and possessions reveals more about our true identity and our commitments than anything else” (Snodgrass, 137). Yet “[t]he age-old question “Who is my neighbor?” has an ever-changing answer as the world gets smaller” (Blanchard, 304). Jesus seems to apply this qualifier to any human who is not me—so who exactly is this neighbor to whom I am supposed to extend love? Is it the drunken wino on the street behind me who lost his house for the second time? Is it the starving child two towns over who does not know if Mom and Dad are going to be drunk again tonight? Is it the woman who lost her entire family to the 2010 Haiti earthquake? Or the Japanese fisherman whose boat was swept out to sea during the latest tsunami? Or the thousands of children who die every day in Africa because food is a thing of dreams?
This is a question I wrestle with daily. On one hand, there are a number of easily definable benefits for deeds, material goods, and money remaining local. Children like Tyler are helped and afforded food necessary to strengthen their bodies, thereby increasing their ability to concentrate in school, successfully graduate high school, and live full, filled lives. The local economy is strengthened not only because money and resources are staying here, but also because those individuals who are helped have more potential to be contributing members of our society, culture, and country. Not to mention supporting local governmental interests and fixing our own backyard before trying to “help” a different country run programs for their poor. One could argue that in developed countries, aid remaining local is not a matter of life and death. True, developed countries see far fewer starvation and malnutrition victims, and have lower disease and crime rates. Yet for many individuals within these countries, starvation is still a fact. Indeed, “one in eight Americans struggle with the reality of hunger and food insecurity” (Real Stories, 2011). There are poor, diseased, and starving in need of aid in our own backyard—developing countries are just better at making their issues more invisible.
On the other hand, however, the U.S. dollar goes much further in a foreign country and the same amount can help more people. A starving person is a starving person, after all. Does it not make more moral sense to send one’s financial aid to a foreign country where ten people could be helped for the cost of one in the U.S.—a disturbing kind of 10 for 1 deal? Much of what could be said about the person helped locally can also be said about the person helped in a foreign country. Through the efforts of the able and caring, a person may be afforded food necessary to strengthen a body weakened by malnutrition and disease, thereby increasing their ability to participate in their local forms of education and live a full, filled life. The economy local to the person helped would also be supported as that person has a greater potential to contribute to the society, culture, and country. Their local government interests could be supported and their own backyards addressed as they see the need to help others who are now in the same position that is a part of their past. So the same kinds of results are attained in either place—the only real difference is which nation benefits from the resulting good. If we, as Christians, are supposed to live as though we are all under the Kingdom of God and not tied by man-made national lines of separation, what are we supposed to do? Am I supposed to help the child I know, Tyler, or help ten children I do not know and will never meet?
According to Aristotelian and character ethics, people flourish when they have reached their full potential and fulfillment of character. If “human good turns out to be activity of soul exhibiting excellence, and if there is more than one excellence” (e.g. lock makers being excellent lock makers, politicians being excellent politicians, etc) and each person exhibits a different excellence (Aristotle, 120), then we are each to find that which is the fulfillment of the excellence of our soul, thereby fulfilling our character. Okay, but how does that relate to the topic matter at hand? Perhaps the morality of aiding a local person vs. aiding someone in a different country has less to do with how far the money can go and more to do with the focus of one’s calling. From experience working in the field of non-profits focused both locally and abroad, it is exquisitely clear to me that people are called to aid others in particular areas. Some are led to support the building of schools rather than feed a starving child (and vice versa). Others are led to focus on the neighbor just down the street and would be mightily uncomfortable aiding a person in different country (and vice versa). Character ethics would seem to argue that one should aid where one is led/called for that is the fulfillment of that particular character trait within that particular person. Therefore, though Craig and Susie both live in the same developed country, it would be more moral for Craig to aid the wino down his street, for that is his calling, while it would be more moral for Susie to pursue her specific calling and aid orphaned children in Sudan.
Perhaps this is a matter of where one’s ethical duty lies—here Kant and deontological ethics may be able to offer some guidance. If, as Americans are taught from birth, one’s duty is to one’s countrymen, then are we not obligated to help our countrymen first? After all, with them we share common goals, a national identity, culture, etc. The United States military bases its recruiting system on playing to young persons’ sense of duty to their country; could we not do the same to justify our economically aiding those closest to us first? Yet the kind of duty Kant defines is one of “whatever is the right thing to do”—that which you would will everyone in the exact same kind of situation would do as well (MacKinnon, 82). Faced with our problem, is it preferable for everyone everywhere at every time to send their aid money to a foreign country, or is it preferable for everyone everywhere to help people within their own borders? The former of these options would strip developed countries of their ability to aid people their citizens drive past every day as all aid money would go to other nations. The latter would mean each nation were so focused on its own belly button that no one else mattered—certainly this is not what Jesus was talking about. Sorry Kant, but you are just confusing the issue. We do not live in an ideal world.
What about utilitarianism? Here we find a very straightforward answer. If, as Bentham and Mill suggested, “the best choice [is] that which promote[s] the interests of the greater number” (MacKinnon, 53) then obviously we are to send aid money wherever it will do the most good for the most number of people. If our $100 will save one person for two weeks in the United States but will also be enough to save 10 children for two weeks in a foreign country, then the latter outweighs the former and is the preferred choice. Even if the $100 is only enough to save one person in a foreign country for the rest of his or her life, this is still preferred to staying local and only helping one person for two weeks. Yet one must also take into consideration the plausibility of the intended impact. If, for example, someone could take $100 and drive Tyler to the grocery store for groceries, that is preferred to sending $100 to aid a foreign country when one knows the government is corrupt and the money may instead end up in the hands of a corrupt politician. Though it could have helped more people than just one Tyler, it can be hard to argue for the morality of donating aid to a foreign country when one knows a corrupt government is pilfering aid money away from its designation population. Indeed, even Peter Singer, a rather hardline ethicist, says “[t]he lack of certainty that by giving money I could save a life does reduce the wrongness of not giving” (Singer, 165).
The Bible is frustratingly unhelpful when applied to this particular dilemma. As mentioned before, Jesus has a keen interest in helping the poor, but he puts few qualifiers on who should be helped first. Even if one wanted to argue that we should take care of our family—obviously!...right?—one could cite Matthew 12:49-50 when he counts as his family those who fulfill the will of God, not those within his biological relation. We could also consider Luke 14:26 where he says “[i]f anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (NIV). Now, I do not interpret that to mean that Christians are to literally “hate” their family members, but it does support the case that putting luxurious needs of family members above the basic necessity needs of others is absurd. It also seems to support the idea of a global family. Jesus did not say “those who do God’s will who are also citizens of Rome,” but instead includes anyone who does God’s will. It is the same in Matthew 25:31-46 where we are not given qualifications for the sick, hungry, and otherwise needy we are to tend—simply because the conditions exist means they must be tended. So if someone is in need, Biblically they need tending. Given the fact that God’s family is global and that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, NIV), this is not surprising but is also not terribly helpful for answering the present question. Indeed, Christian understandings of virtue do not provide entirely clear ideas about how generous individuals are supposed to, to whom, and under what kinds of circumstances (Ferkiss, 13).
Disagreement amongst philosophical leanings does not let one off the hook for helping in the first place. Not doing anything because one is frozen by trying to figure out which is the best option is not an option. Peter Singer says “allowing someone to die is not intrinsically different from killing someone” in his argument that “people in rich countries are allowing those in poor countries to suffer from absolute poverty, with consequent malnutrition, ill health and death” (Singer, 162). The poor are the poor, there is no changing or getting around this fact. We are not afforded the luxury of ignoring their struggles merely because we cannot figure out whom to help. Singer argues it is natural for us to want to help those close to us, but that denying people in another nation help simply because we would rather prefer to help someone like us is akin to being white and denying African American people help based on the amount of melanin in their skin. After all, “[e]very affluent nation has some relatively poor citizens, but absolute poverty is limited largely to the poor nations” (Singer, 171).
Next time a prospective donor asks why they should give to World Wide Village instead of an organization that works locally, I could go down a litany of what philosophers, pastors, and those in need have said. I could cite statistic after statistic to paint a dismal picture of the devastating poverty facing people within our own borders and across the ocean. I could tell stories of people I have interacted with in both places, and relay how my heart was shattered while in Haiti. But what do I actually think? Are we more morally responsible to use our economical aid locally or send it overseas? I side with Singer in believing that if we are going to be moral human beings and have the capacity to share resources that will mean the difference between luxury for me and survival for someone else, then I am morally obligated to do so both as a human being and as a Christian. Yet I think every individual needs to decide for themselves where their aid shall go, as each individual is called to work with a different set of people. Those who can work in a psychiatric hospital without a problem have a calling to work with a different set of people than a kindergarten teacher (if both of them are filling their calling). If “[t]he task of all believers is to exercise their calling” (Van Til, 122), and if my job is to stay out of the way of people reaching the fulfillment of their character and/or calling, and if I acknowledge that poor are everywhere and it is the moral obligation of the able to help the poor, then when someone asks where they should help, it is my moral obligation to tell them “find where your heart/calling is and funnel your aid in that direction…but do something”.
Extreme poverty is a matter of life and death wherever it is found, whether that be on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, MN or at the cholera house operated by the Real Hope for Haiti Clinic in Cazale, Haiti. Deuteronomy 15:11 says “[t]here will always be poor people in the land” (NIV). People are starving, contracting preventable diseases, and dying everywhere. We are morally obligated to aid the poor everywhere in whatever way and however much we are able, not just in a different country because our dollar will stretch further. Yet it also must be acknowledged that some are called to work locally and some are called to work in foreign lands. Goodness knows there is enough to be done.

Bibliography


Aristotle. (2002). Nicomachaen Ethics. In S. M. Cahn, & P. Markie, Ethics: History, Theory and Contemporary Issues (pp. 116-135). New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
Blanchard, K. (2006). "If you do not do this you are not now a Christian": Martin Luther's Pastoral Teachings on Money. Word & World , 26 (3), 299-309.
Ferkiss, V. C. (1965). Foreign Aid: Moral and Political Aspects. New York, New York: The Council on Religion and International Affairs.
MacKinnon, B. (2009). Ethics: Theory & Contemporary Issues. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Palmer, M. (1991). The Theory of Immanuel Kant. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
Real Stories. (2011). Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Feeding America: http://feedingamerica.org/faces-of-hunger/real-stories.aspx
Singer, P. (1979). Practical Ethics. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Snodgrass, K. (2010). Jesus and Money: No Place to Hide and No Easy Answers. Word & World , 30 (2), 135-143.
Van Til, K. A. (2007). Less Than Two Dollars Per Day: A Christian View of World Poverty. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Ward, B. (1966). The Decade of Development: A Study in Frustration? In Two Views on Aid to Developing Countries (pp. 7-29). Westminster, SWI: Institute of Economic Affairs.
World Wide Village, Inc. (2011, March 15). World Wide Village, Inc. Retrieved March 21, 2011, from www.worldwidevillage.org



[1] Retrieved from www.worldwidevillage.org 21 Mar 2011.
[2] Name changed.

Mar 23, 2011

To love or not to love: It isn't a question.

I recently submitted this as a paper to an ethics class:

Both the Old and New Testaments reflect the sad fact that the poor will always be amongst members of a humanity not in complete rightness with the Creator. Deuteronomy 15:11 states “There will always be poor people in the land…”. John 12:8 depicts Jesus as saying to his disciples “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” Certainly we see the evidence of this truth today—one need only transverse a road in the downtown area of any major city in the world to see examples of the poorest of the poor, those whom society has apparently given up on. On the same street, however, one may also find a church. Given our temporal context, what does Matthew 25:31-46, a classic passage about ministering to the practical needs of the downtrodden, contribute to our understanding of responsibility to the homeless?


The first section of this passage paints a picture of God sitting on his throne, judging between people of “all the nations” (v.22) and separating the sheep from the goats. Those who are put on his right side, the sheep, are invited to accept the inheritance prepared for them, for they fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the prisoners, and tended the sick. They cared for the “least of these” (v.40) and each action is being understood as having been done to God as well. Those who saw the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, and infirmed and did nothing are cast as guilty of having ignored the LORD as if he himself were lying on the side of the road or in prison.

Many people justify their lack of action to end homelessness by saying things like “oh, the homeless could get a job if they really wanted to” or “they are responsible for the consequences of their addictions”. We conveniently forget that the homeless are fully human as well—people whom God sees and loves desperately—and many times life just kicks people in the teeth (for example, the thousands of displaced individuals in Haiti did not choose to have their homes leveled by a catastrophic earthquake). Is it ethical to explain away inaction in this manner? Note that Jesus does not ask how the sick became sick, or the hungry, naked, and thirsty lost the ability to provide for themselves. Nor does he say “visit the people in prison who are there for burglary, but leave the rapists alone”. Rather he says “the sick”, “prisoners”, etc. He does not seem to care how individuals took their place amongst the least of society, just that they are there and are in need of tending. Just because a lack of responsibility on their part may have contributed to where they sleep at night does not remove our responsibility in offering them service and care. (Also note that this passage does not command people to tend to the marginalized (this command can, however, be found elsewhere). Rather, it just provides an example of ‘here is what will happen if you do and here is what will happen if you don’t’.)
It is important to note the kind of care for “the least of these” being discussed in this passage. Jesus does not say “preach at them, but they get to worry about where food is going to come from” or “you should baptize them, but it is their responsibility to get to the doctor.” This passage depicts a Savior who is exquisitely concerned about the practical needs of the people. Preaching the Gospel and baptizing willing participants each have their place, are very good, and indeed can even be seen as commands in particular verses (ex: Mark 16:15-16), but one must attend to practical needs as well. After all, a hungry person is not able to focus on the Good News of the Gospel while their empty stomach is doing cartwheels, or if a fever clouds their thoughts. A prisoner does not care to hear about the love of a distant, not-always-tangible Creator when no one around them seems to care a whit. Abraham Maslow is well-known for his articulation of the human ‘hierarchy of needs’, namely that basic needs (e.g. food, water, shelter, safety) must be met before one can focus on so-called higher needs (e.g. self-actualization, abstract concepts of the world and God). Rare is the individual for whom the order is reversed. Practical needs must be met so the Gospel may be shared and heard in truth.

Notice that this passage also does not say care for the marginalized is reserved only for those who will accept the Gospel, as if we should hold food hostage until the person proclaims faith in the Lord and Savior. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (v. 35-36, NIV). Do you see a conditional phrase in that text? No—the state of being hungry existed and it was tended, same with the states of being thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned. Those who are able to tend these needs are not given license to ignore certain people because they are not pretty, the right age, height, or race, not ideally oriented towards receiving the Gospel, etc. These needs were tended simply because they existed. A similar statement may be made about the following verses:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me” (v. 41-42, NIV).
The aforementioned states of hunger, thirst, etc existed and damning guilt results from the fact that nothing was done. Voltaire once said “every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.” Combining this thought with the passage from Mark would make it seem we are morally required to do that which we can towards those who, for whatever reason under the sun, are unable to tend themselves.

On the other hand, what if this is a passage meant to be taken figuratively? What if Jesus was addressing those who are hungry, thirsty, and naked in spirit, those supernaturally imprisoned by the Devil’s grip on humanity[1]? Reading this passage figuratively does not release the reader from moral obligation. It would still seem we are morally responsible to and for tending to spiritual hunger and imprisonment just as if we were tending the physical needs of a body. If someone is spiritually hungry, feed them with the Word and by the Spirit. Clothe them in the armor of God. Direct them towards the well that will never run dry, the Son who proclaims freedom for prisoners and slaves.

By tending the needs of the marginalized, the sheep interact directly with God as he stands in solidarity with “the least of these”. Yet another implication of this Scripture is that God is often found in unexpected ways amongst those whom we would rather ignore. Trying to find God in the church, or in liturgy and worship, or even in debate has its place, but by interacting directly with the poor, one interacts with the Almighty. God sees the marginalized, relates with them, and has even placed himself within their shoes. A deity became a pauper so that we might experience his love. We reflect love back to God by tending his beloved in whichever way need is presented. Oh boy, we have a lot of work to do!


[1] Given other Scriptural references to being clothed in God’s armor, this reading does not seem entirely out of the question.

Jan 6, 2011

I'm in Haiti!


Okay peoples, I'm in Haiti--check out my travel blog: http://msnoratravels.blogspot.com/