e pluribus unum

Every single time a piece of American currency passes through our hands, we are touching the phrase, “e pluribus unum”.  Out of many, one. The phrase is on the Great Seal of America. It appears on every passport, coin, and bill. It is included in the seals of the President, Vice President, Congress, and Supreme Court and has been a motto of the United States since 1782. Yet, today, after having a reminder that we are “ONE” in our faces and hands for two hundred and thirty-five years; Jason Kessler lured hate-filled racists from every nook and cranny of this country to Charlottesville, VA under the premise of “uniting the right”. 

The phrase e pluribus unum can be traced back to Roman senator and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero wrote an essay to his son in the year 44 BC titled De Officiis (Of Duties or On Obligations). The essay was Cicero’s attempt to define ideals of public behavior. He includes the following  sentence in the book, with a phrase credited as the origin of “E Pluribus Unum.” Cicero writes, “When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many” (unus fiat ex pluribus).

De Officiis was written forty-four years before the birth of Jesus. Although it was not a Christian book, in 390 it was declared acceptable for use by the Christian Church and it served as a moral guideline throughout the Middle Ages.

Why the history lesson? Because it’s absofrickinlutely ridiculous that two thousand and seventeen years after the birth of Christ, two thousand sixty-one years after Cicero wrote De Officiis, we’re still struggling to love one another. That we still have people gathering over the common bond of hatred.

I’ve made an interesting observation over the past five or six years. Feel free to comment and correct me if I’m wrong. What I’ve seen and experienced is that the majority of people at least make an effort to love their neighbors. However, the hate-filled minority (of all groups) tend to have the loudest voices and the biggest platforms. I know plenty of Christians who love well, but the ones who call themselves Christians and spew hatred are always the ones seen and heard. I know people of other faiths and of no faith. Most of them love others pretty well. I know lots of people that are registered Republicans and lots of people who are registered Democrats. The majority of them do a decent job of loving others. Unfortunately, the nastiest people on either side of the Congressional aisle seem to be the ones with the loudest voices and a media platform.

A year ago I wrote an essay titled “Heal this land.” The month before I shared the Declaration of Independence in its entirety. The month before that I wrote a piece on loving our neighbors. Some time before that I wrote a piece explaining why my voter registration card says, “Independent”.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m fairly certain that the rest of America is just as tired as I am of the loud divisive minority telling us that we need to be afraid of anyone that isn’t exactly like us. Is our nation in crisis? Absolutely. As long as people are dying because other people see them as “less than”, we are without question in crisis. Do we need to live in fear? Absolutely not.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has NOT given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, LOVE, and self-discipline. (emphasis mine)

1 John 2:9-11 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

The people who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend to celebrate hate are NOT Christians! They simply cannot be. If you hate ANYONE, you live in the darkness and you are blinded by that darkness.

Mark 12:30-31  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. No other commandment is greater than these.”

I wrote this over a year ago, but it bears repeating…

Who’s “your neighbor”? It’s the LGBT family with a child on your son’s baseball team. It’s the Muslim family living at the end of your block. It’s the Republican living to your left and the Democrat living to your right. It’s the gun-owner standing in line with you at the grocery store and the journalist on the mat next to you in your yoga class. Every. Single. Human. Being. Is YOUR NEIGHBOR!

LOVE. THEM. ALL.

E Pluribus Fucking Unum

Out of many…. ONE

Unus fiat ex pluribus = When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many.

If you can’t remember that we are ONE, that the entire human race is worthy of being loved, carry a fucking penny in your pocket and read it on occasion.

John Pavlovitz wrote a GREAT post today that pretty much sums up how I feel about the happenings in Charlottesville. That crowd DOES NOT IN ANY WAY REPRESENT ME! What they are doing/have done is HATE. It is RACISM. It is COWARDICE. Why cowardice? Because one of the most courageous things a human can do is to lay down all of their fears and preconceptions and intentionally love people who do not look like them, worship like them, vote like them, or speak the same language as them. 

In these United States, we call ourselves “The Land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE.” It’s time to BE BRAVE, America.

 

Have you found your ‘thing’?

I have.  I’m supposed to gather stones.

In the book of Joshua (in the Bible) the Israelites FINALLY get to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.  In the process of crossing the river, the Lord speaks to Joshua and tells him to have one man from each of the twelve tribes go back and gather a stone.  They are to carry the stone on their shoulder to the place where they stayed the night (in the middle of the riverbed that God had dried out just for them).  The stones were to serve as a reminder that God cut off the flow of the water just so they could walk into the territory that had been promised to them.  Hope I haven’t lost you, but this story is extremely significant to me at the moment. You see….

From 1998-2000 our family lived in a little Korean city called Tongduchon (I’m quite certain I spelled it wrong.)  Those two years opened my eyes to something that I previously had no idea was going on in this great big world. I could not walk one block down the streets of Tongduchon without recognizing that all around me, women were living in slavery.  I began to build relationships with girls from the Philippines who were promised the world by a woman or man who brought them to Korea and held their passports while forcing them into prostitution.  My friends and I did what we could to help the girls make money outside of “the clubs” and we successfully raised money to buy the freedom of a few who were able to return home to their families.  What we did never felt like enough.

While living in Korea we vacationed in Thailand.  If my eyes had not been opened to the sex-trade in Korea, they had no choice but to acknowledge its ugliness in Thailand.  Everywhere we went we saw older white men walking around with young Thai children that they had purchased for their time in the country.  While shopping we would have flyers thrust at us by children with price lists of the sexual acts they were willing to perform.  Thailand was one of my most beautiful and disgusting life experiences all rolled into one package.  At the time I was five months pregnant with Seth and I cried myself to sleep on several occasions over the thought of bringing another life into a world that contained such ugliness.  My heart ached for those children.  Where were their mothers?  I could not imagine anything I could do that would ever be enough.

In the last few months of our time in Korea we noticed a change happening in the business of sexual slavery.  When we first arrived the girls were mostly Filipino.  By the time we left, they were mostly Russian and Eastern European.  It was a very strange phenomena to be in a place where you rarely saw anyone who looked like you and then come across someone who did and not be able to communicate with them.  The Filipino girls always spoke English.  The new girls did not.

A pimp rented out the apartment above us and filled it with seven or eight of these girls.  My heart ached.  I watched them come and go.  I watched the Johns (mostly American soldiers) come and go.  I heard screaming and crying through our ceiling.  I smiled at them and took them cookies and brownies and ached for a conversation.  Once again, I felt overwhelmed.  What could I ever do that would be enough to erase the ugliness of what these girls were experiencing?

Something else happened while we lived in Korea.  Several of our friends adopted children.  A dialogue on the possibility of us adopting in the future began.  A dialogue that eventually led us to the home of the girls who lived on the other side of my ceiling in Korea.  A dialogue that led us to Sofija.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you know it began as a way of documenting our adoption process.  Throughout our adoption journey I never took the time to document all that took place in our lives leading up to the day Sofija found us.  I find it so entertaining that we just knew she was meant to be ours when we learned about her even though we had no clue where in the world she lived.  When we did find out that she was in Serbia we actually had to look at a map to see exactly where that was.  And… it wasn’t until we were in Serbia (hearing the spoken language) that I began to realize that the girls living in slavery in Korea, the girls whose floor was our ceiling, must’ve come from there.

The day we met Sofija we were asked if we planned to prostitute her.  It had never crossed my mind that someone might suspect we had bad intentions for her.  But for the people who loved her in Serbia, such a fate was a very real possibility.  We spent three weeks in Serbia seeing things through gray-cloudy lenses.  The food was great.  The people were beautiful.  The oppression was heavy and real.  There was this feeling I got anytime I was close to the girls living in slavery in Korea.  The air around me would thicken.  It took an extra effort just to walk or breathe or speak.  It was like being under water.  I felt the same thing when I saw the children in Thailand.  For the entire three weeks that we were in Serbia, that feeling never lifted.  I felt the yoke of slavery.

I also felt the disgrace of discrimination.  People looked at us everywhere we went.  Not because we looked different or spoke a different language.  But because we had two children with us who are autistic.  They make noises.  They jump around and rock and spin and flap their arms and tap things and sniff things.  People stared with disgust.  We looked and looked and looked some more, but we never once saw another person in public that had any special needs.  They were hidden.

Last year I returned to Serbia and had the honor of getting to know people who have dedicated their lives to breaking the yokes of slavery and discrimination in Serbia.  I met parents who were forced to choose between keeping their child born with special needs and maintaining relationships with their extended family.  Those same parents have dedicated their lives to educating their children and taking part in changing laws regarding special needs citizens.  And…  God gave me the honor of building relationships with people who have a heart to bring His message to their nation.

Which leads me to gathering stones.

While we were in Korea and Thailand and Serbia, I did often feel like I was under water.  But you know what?  I wasn’t.  I was camped out in the middle of a river bed with the waters held back on every side of me.  I could feel the pressure and the moisture, but it never consumed me.  And now I have an opportunity to gather stones and take them back to that place where God held the waters back.

Those people I met who have a heart to bring God’s message of salvation and hope to Serbia have taken on something BIG.  Have you ever seen the movie Faith Like Potatoes?  If not, watch it on Netflix NOW!  My friends have taken a ‘faith like potatoes’ leap.  They have reserved two venues in Serbia for September 21st and 22nd and they have Nick Vujicic coming to speak.  If you don’t know about Nick, click on his name above and read his story.  He’s AMAZING!  Nick was born with no limbs and he’s proven that we are not defined by what the world says we are.  He’s proven that there is no special need that God cannot use.  He is a bringer of hope.  Oh. Did I mention that his parents are Serbian?  And… we’re gonna see him at Creation Fest in June!

On May 2nd, 2011, I wrote a post called ‘set up’.   Sleep evaded me that night.  My heart was aching for the people of Serbia.  I was there and I could see a lack of hope, a lack of God’s love, in the eyes of people everywhere I went.  It was that night that I begin to beg God for opportunities to bring hope and to bring His love to the people of Serbia.  Even if it’s never enough, I want to end this life saying that I gave it my all.

So… will you help me as I pick up a stone and carry it on my shoulder back to Serbia?

We’ve set up a fundraiser through wepay.  I’m working this week to transform my blog to accept widgets, but for now the link will have to suffice.

I have spent a year questioning why God stopped Paul (repeatedly) from going through Serbia.  Why he made him turn back south from Macedonia and didn’t let him cross the Adriatic Sea to reach Italy will be one of my first ‘Heaven questions’.   Whatever God’s reasoning, I do know that he has provided a voice and a time for Serbia to hear His message.  The voice is Nick Vujicic and the time is this September.

bringing home the venison

For several years my husband has wanted to take our now fourteen year old son on an extended hunting trip.  He’s taken him out on many day trips, but this year they had an opportunity to spend a whole week in search of Bambi‘s papa.

I awoke this morning to the following picture of my handsome son freezing his tush off in the woods of central Pennsylvania.

Genesis 27:3 Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me….

why fast?

Today I have found myself struggling with the fast.  I woke up excited about the idea of getting creative with Daniel fast-friendly football food and then realized that I had to drive my oldest to a Krispy Kreme fundraiser for her high-school crew club.  With no time to dig into the Bible or drop to my knees, I suddenly had two dozen circles of sin sitting on my kitchen counter.  How nicely they would go with a hot cup of coffee….
In a desperate attempt to avoid cooking up some bacon and eggs and making myself a feast, I went to my room and began looking for fasting encouragement.  I’ve read a ton today, but the devotion at the following link gave me the most motivation.

http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/03spiritualjourney/column1.asp?aID=661

Nice to know that I’m not the only sinner around with “hell in my heart”.