Listen to the Hurting {ii}: how now shall we suffer?


Rothko-untitled-2Yesterday I wrote about how our offense and struggle with evil and suffering in the world is often detached from the feelings and words of those that actually endure much of it. I said that intense Suffering doesn’t seem to produce an extinguishing of faith to those that experience it.

People have often said that the deep suffering and injustice of the world is one thing that led them to Atheism or skepticism, but this seems to be more the case for those that observe and think about the idea of suffering, more than enduring it themselves. Yes, there are stories of those that lose their faith in the midst of their suffering, but they really are so few and far between.

This is one of the main themes of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. The most powerful argument for Atheism I’ve ever read is in the famous “Grand Inquisitor” chapter. After reading it, I was so deeply shaken for a few weeks after. And it was written by a Christian.

One of the central themes of the book is that Atheism is an absolutely logical and reasonable system, but not one that can be consistently lived out. When observing the world and its injustice intellectually and from a top-down perspective, Atheism is probably more easily sensible than Christianity. But, as the book goes on to show, no matter the philosophical veracity of Atheism, no one can truly live real, actual human life as a fully-consistent Atheist and flourish as a human, in human relationships, and in human society.

Even if people think about suffering Atheistically, people usually live in the midst of it religiously.
Continue reading

Listen to the Hurting {i}: why Suffering is a silly reason to be an Atheist


Adolph Gottlieb-rolling

Update: Part 2 is up.

In the religious circles I walk in, I hear about injustice and suffering quite a bit. Theology friends constantly muse about how to view these things in light of biblical revelation. Atheist and skeptic friends constantly point to these things as the inherent illogical inconsistencies that undermine religious faith.

And caught in the middle are many, many more friends, who live their lives trying to navigate their jobs, families, and relationships the best they can–all while these questions haunt them in their quieter moments or right before they sleep. Unlike the other two groups above, they don’t feel like they have answers. And this can lead to periods of doubt, insecurity, and frustration.

For every group, though, questions abound in these conversations. Oftentimes, they have a religious flavor. Why does this stuff happen? How does this relate to the goodness of God? What does it mean for the reality of God? How is God just when this stuff is real? Why does God seem absent?

And yet…

These are almost never the questions I hear from the people actually going through the suffering.
Continue reading

Trickle-Up Resurrection (Guatemala Lessons)


Rothko-easterMy church is currently in a series called “Resurrection Stories” in which we’re going through each of the non-Jesus stories of resurrections (or “resuscitations”—whatever) found in the Bible. It is, after all, still Easter.

A few weeks ago, as we were talking about Elisha raising the Shunnamite’s son, our pastor pointed out that most of these resurrection stories seem to center more on the people around the dead person than the dead person themselves. And so, in a sense, these resurrections are more for the people affected by death than the one dead; the ones that “receive” the true resurrection power are mostly those around the resurrected one.

Further, as he pointed out, most all of these people that “receive” the truest benefits of these resurrections are women—the most alienated and disempowered group throughout world history.
Continue reading

From Above: What’s better than Tom’s shoes? I’ll show you.


otto-shoes-guatemala

WordPress’s Photo Challenge theme for this week is “From Above

I have been very proud, up to this point, of not having ever posted an Instagram picture of my feet. I don’t know where that trend came from, but I’ve bucked it for so long. Until yesterday.

That’s when I received the above shoes in the mail.

No, those are not Tom’s, the shoe company famous for its idea of giving away one pair of shoes to a child in a developing country for every pair that is purchased.

Instead, they are Otto’s.

Continue reading

Biggest Guatemala Take-Away: No More Murse. [casual fri]


paul-murse-collage

Murse (n.): 1. a purse carried by a man. 2. used to describe a male handbag, or man-purse.

I’ve been a big fan of messenger bags, ever since college (my chiropractor can confirm this). From early on, these bags became known as my man-purses, or “murses”. After starting my new job, I decided to get a more “economical” bag off Ebay that ended up being a little more purse than man (see “before” picture above).

And then I went to Guatemala.
Continue reading

So, how was Guatemala? I finally have an answer for you.


la-limonada-hands-guatemalaHow was your trip?”

This has been the question I’ve been receiving more than any other this past week and a half, since returning from my trip to Guamtemala with Lemonade International to see their work in the community of La Limonada.

And yet, I have had no answer.

Nearly every person who’s asked the question has been someone I love, who loves me, and gets me. They know that I can’t even articulate a simple answer to a casual “How ya doin’?” thrown my way. And so I’ve felt grace and understanding as I haven’t been able to answer.

At a wedding this weekend, in an attempt at capturing in one word the seemingly contradictory dimensions of my experience in Guatemala, I blurted out the word “paradoxitous”. Yes, I was trying to be funny.

Continue reading

Change: God is Real [Guatemala, Day 4] [photo sermon]


church-philly-bw-cross-market-east

For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Change“. I thought I’d take this chance to begin processing my time in Guatemala with Lemonade International.

* * * * *

I don’t struggle with the plurality of beliefs about God. If there is a God, I am quite confident (as arrogant as it may sound) that Christianity is the proper understanding of Him.

Rather, my struggle is with the sense that God is there at all. Many of the posts on this blog have dealt with my open acknowledgment of my “inner atheist” (as I’ve called him several times), and how I’ve tried to deal with him.

I don’t know that I need to expound on this too much, as I’m confident many of the readers here get this already, but just in case: this doubt is not intellectual; it is existential. I often miss that abstract sense and “feeling” of God’s existence. Continue reading

“Strong like Lemonade….and sweet.” [Guatemala, Day 3]


LemonadeInternationalB-25

Tonight is my last night in Guatemala. By the time this is posted and most of you read this, I will be on a plane (or, more likely, waiting in an airport), on my way back home.

The past couple of posts this week have been a little intense. The way I received and processed those first few days was definitely through the filter of brokenness and pain. And this was definitely appropriate. There were so many stories of poverty, violence, abuse, economic exploitation, injustice, paedophilia, and rape that I simply could not tell.

We have to see the need for hope before we can feel its presence.
Continue reading

As We Lay Dying [Guatemala, Day 2]


guatemala-cemetery-dump-cross

Since God’s children share in flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise partook of the same things

Today began with a meeting of the microenterprise crew–the staff and several of the women who have benefited from small loans to help start small businesses in the area.

Lemonade International is insistent that this is merely a solution to help some of those that are gifted in this way. Lemonade International partakes of the flesh and blood of these people, weak as they are, and sees how they can serve them as individuals with individuals needs.

I leave encouraged. Continue reading

Chasing Grace [Guatemala, Day 1]


la-limonada-door-1

Last night. She sat in the corner of the bed-couch in the corner of the room. One leg tucked under the other, face still red from the laughter she has both given and received over dinner. In one turn, though, the tone becomes serious as a question rises above the crowd, asking for her story. The story that has brought us here.

A nurse to burn victims, Tita began making home visits to a severely injured gang member, not knowing that her feet were walking upon the holy ground of poverty, violence, and death.

She eventually realized that she was in the neighborhood of La Limonada, nestled in the valley of the shadow of Guatemala City, considered a trash heap by those outside; both the people and the items are considered its waste.

And yet she continued going. And serving. And loving. Continue reading

Why I’m in Guatemala: Meet Lemonade International


La-limonada-lemonade-international-guatemala

Yesterday, I touched down to begin my week in Guatemala on a blogger’s trip with Lemonade International, a non-profit development organization doing work in a particular called La Limonada.

This community of La Limonada is the largest slum community in Central America. After the 36-year-long Guatemalan Civil War began (due to an American coup to overthrow their leader), many, many children and women lost their fathers and husbands to fighting, leaving this huge community of hurting people. Many, many of the refugees ended up in La Limonada.

This community is a 1-mile long stretch that is a half-mile wide and straddles a ravine. 60,000 to 100,000 people live there. It is considered a “red zone” by Guatemala, meaning that deliveries, police, and most outsiders in general don’t go in there. In the boundaries of the “zones” of Guatemala City, La Limonada is between two different zones–it doesn’t even have a place in the official boundaries of the city.

It’s literally been abandoned and marginalized by the very nation in which it resides.
Continue reading

Guatemala Bloggers Trip: Meet Scott Bennett


scott-bennett-lemonade-internationalIn preparation for our Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala in April, Lemonade International is spending each week leading up to the trip profiling each of the bloggers that will be participating. Recently, they profiled our official trip photographer Scott Bennett.

Scott calls himself a “humanitarian photographer”. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking (accompanied by an eye-roll) “Everybody’s a photographer now”. And yes, some of us like to think we have an eye for this stuff (MySpace profile shots and Instagram pictures excluded), but Scott is different on many levels.

First, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to open up his blog and his online portfolio page and not see any pictures with filters and major edits done to them. Like a true photo artist, he seems to consider the camera and the subject as his primary tools of his craft, not Photoshop. If he uses it, he uses it as any artist uses any aid: he doesn’t so you can’t tell.

Secondly, any real photographer can tell you that there is far more to truly beautiful and meaningful photo art than mere “composition” or simply “capturing an image.” There has to be movement, narrative, and/or dimensionality.
Continue reading

Death & Dignity: what’s the point?


philly-life-wall

Next week I head to Guatemala for the Lemonade International Blogger’s Trip. Having been introduced to this organization, I’ve been following their blog closely, trying to get to know them more and more.

A couple of days ago, they posted about a tragic loss. A member of their school, Herber Giovanni Sandoval, died a couple of days ago at the age of 17. In the conclusion of their post, they said this:

“We are especially grateful to the youth group at Lifepointe Church in Raleigh, NC for sponsoring him while he was still attending the Limón Academy.”

I immediately had the image of the youth group kids or sunday school class at that church who probably spent years following the story of Herber. I wondered how they would feel and respond to this news. How would the leaders help them process this? Would it impact the kids at all or would they be too removed from it?
Continue reading

Guatemala Bloggers Trip: Meet…Me.


paul-wine-flowersIn preparation for our Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala in April, Lemonade International is spending each week leading up to the trip profiling each of the bloggers that will be participating. This past week, they profiled me.

In it you can find out if Bring it On is my favorite movie, what my connection to Billy Ray Cyrus is, how I got connected to this trip, and how I would describe the content and audience of this blog.

Tell me if you think I’m  wrong.

All next week, I’ll begin blogging about my own preparations for the trip. I’ll be writing about readying myself spiritually, emotionally, and practically, as well as sharing with you all the Guatemalan history that sets the context for the work Lemonade International does.

Hopefully, by the time I leave next Sunday, we will all feel like we’ve prepared well for the trip ahead.

Thank you all again for reading this blog and giving me the chance to do a trip like this. Also be sure to bookmark this page on my blog to follow my blogger’s trip to Guatemala!

Click the banner below for more info in the trip. lemonade-guatemala-2 BloggersDate

Guatemala Bloggers Trip: Meet Dana Byers


dana-byers-guatemala

In preparation for our Blogger’s Trip to Guatemala in April, Lemonade International is spending each week leading up to the trip profiling each of the bloggers that will be participating. Recently, they profiled Dana Byers.

I don’t know Dana personally, but she’s got quite the resume. As the President of BlueDoor.tv, she helps train and support pastors all over the world begin online-based ministry and community (she even wrote a book about it!). She’s the Community Pastor for the online church branch of LifeChurch.tv. That means that she doesn’t simply theorize about this stuff all day, but she actually lives it out and puts into practice the new methods of ministry she helps others develop.
Continue reading