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More Fridge Magnets

May 9, 2012

Occasionally I open a book and from the very first page excitedly sense that I am on the brink of a great discovery.  It may sound like foolishness to some, but I do not seek out these books; rather they seek me out.  And they always arrive at the precise moment at which I am ready to hear what they have to say to me.  One may couch this in language that reflects any number of ways of thinking, but I experience this as God, holding me a little tighter, delivering to me what I need to relax a little more in His Fatherly embrace.

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In the Acknowledgments for his book How (Not) to Speak of God, Peter Rollins wrote:

Books are authored by countless people and credited to only one.  They each represent kingdoms of thought built on the toil of others that gratify the tiny tyrant who chained the disparate ideas together. 

How true this is.  When I write, I do not set a new banquet.  I just rearrange the chairs so that my guests might have a new perspective.   The words of the writer of Ecclesiastes hold true:  “There is nothing new under the sun.”

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I say a resounding “Amen!” to Brian McLaren, who in his forward to the same book wrote:

To me, nothing (or almost nothing) is more elevating and challenging, yet more humbling and overwhelming, than setting the mind to think about God, to think about thinking and speaking about God.

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Rollins also writes:

That which we cannot speak of is the one thing about whom and to whom we must never stop speaking.

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I have noticed some changes in my thinking that warranted a bit of exploration.

The Bible calls us to repentance.  The meaning of that word has been muddied by its translation from the Greek word metanoia (changing one’s mind) to the English word repentance, which has its roots in the Latin word penitentia which denotes penitence as sorrow, and  penance, a punishment, usually imposed by church authority, in token of penitence for sin.  The two ideas are very far apart.

To my understanding, in Christian terms, repentance suggests looking again at what we believe, questioning it, and ideally, changing our minds to be more conformed to the mind of Christ.  To do so is to shake up our world, and that is what Jesus came to do.

Jesus did not come to change what people believed.  Rather, He came to transform the whole manner in which we hold those beliefs, to change not what we think, but how we think.  “You have heard it said…. But I tell you….”  In one sense, nothing changes.  In another, everything changes.

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The Hebrew word yada, translated “know”, is quite different in its meaning to the Greek word, epiginosko, also translated “know”.  The former very clearly emphasizes the relational, the intimate, the latter the intellectual.  I seek to move from the Greek concept (although not to abandon it) toward the Hebrew concept of knowing.

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Do you have a constant temptation to conflate God with what you want?  I often catch myself making my own desires God’s desires.  By telling myself God sanctions my desires I get a double payoff.  Not only do I get to have what I want, I get to feel righteous at the same time.  In reality, I am putting myself in the place of God.  That is idolatry.  It’s insidious.

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If you were ask me today, “What is the problem in Haiti?” I would tell you it is, in my opinion, the lack of compassion.  People do not seem to care about one another.  In the context of healthcare, this translates into a cold, clinical attitude among doctors and nurses.  There seems to be no human connection.  At our nursing school it is my stated goal to impress upon our students the importance of compassion.  That task is overwhelming, but I know in my Father’s eyes, it is not so important that I succeed; what matters is that I will try.

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I love quotes.  I also love an eloquent turn of a phrase.  This, I think, combines the two.

Jesus Christ, the condescension of divinity, and the exaltation of humanity.

— Phillips Brooks

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I just had a long conversation with Dr. Felix.  He came to me in despair.  The classrooms are hot.  Our teachers are having trouble teaching.  Our students are having trouble concentrating.  They frequently come to the office to complain about the heat.  Dr. Felix told me he does not want to go to the classrooms because he has no answers.  He appealed to the students to each give a little bit of money so some solution to the heat could be found.  But the reality of Haiti stuck home again.  Most of our students have given all they have to come to the school; they have nothing left.

We talked about solutions.  Every apparent solution involves power.  Even to operate some fans we need electricity.  Only the administration building has a power source, and that consists of only a small battery and charger system.  I find it embarrassing to have our teachers and students find me comfortable with a large fan.  Soon after I arrived today, one of our students asked it she could sit in front of it to dry her face.  There have been days when we ran out of power, so I am familiar what it is like to be without it.

Connecting to EDH, the Haitian electrical utility, would be expensive.  Everyone I know who is on the system complains about erratic billing and exorbitant charges.  It is vulnerable to “power pirates” who tie into lines past the meter and whose usage shows up on your bill.  There would be no way to effectively shut down the system at times when we were not in physical possession of the school.  Others use it during the day and on weekends.

We could purchase a generator, but for our needs it would have to be large, and therefor expensive.   Operating a generator is expensive; the price of gas in Haiti is just as high as it is in Canada.  Only expensive generators are quiet.  We would need a secure building to put it in to prevent the theft of fuel and the generator itself.

In my opinion, the best solution is solar, but it is also the most expensive.  Operational costs are minimal but startup costs are huge.  The other issue that comes to mind is that we are renting.  For a large solar panel installation to be secure, it must be somewhat permanent.

At this point we are at a loss.  Even the most modest solution would require money we simply don’t have.  I have appealed to everyone I know how to over the last months to no avail.  Dr. Felix confirmed my assessment that no one here would be willing to help; Haitians just don’t care.

As we sat together, we talked about what we are trying to do, and our discouragement at not being able to reach our goals.  We talked about our faith being the only thing that sustains us, knowing that in all things, Jesus does not ask for success, only that we try.  We agreed that the only thing we can do is continue to pray.

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