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I hereby promise to blog more on the conference. Patience, grasshopper! I’m hoping tomorrow night (wait, tonight?) I can sit down and transcribe my notes before I need to present something interesting Tuesday night to the social justice guild at church.
Let me also say this: I have amazing friends. Moving to the city last summer was the best thing I could have possibly done, and I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have all the people in my life who are now present there. I am a big believer in making sure people know what a valuable part of your life they are, so take this to heart:
Thank you, friends. You have already changed me more than I could imagine (and not just because I am more nerdy now than I ever thought possible!). I am lucky to know such a caring and funny group of people.
Today’s schedule at the Mobilization to End Poverty (M2EP) was packed full of speakers, congress people, preachers, music, laughter, tears, and love. I took about 20 (small) pages’ worth of notes, and I want to be able to take the time to really process all the things I heard today and post something interesting and cohesive. So I’m going to wait on that. Right now I just want to reflect on the last event of the day, the Koinonia Coffee House that was held for “emerging leaders” attending the conference.
It turns out that I have a huge crush on Donald Miller, who was the speaker at tonight’s Koinonia coffee house (interesting note: apparently “koinonia,” usually translated as “fellowship,” also necessarily implies some impending action). Having read a lot of Miller’s work and his blog posts, I was half expecting him to be somewhat more dry in his speech and in his meeting of the people at the coffee house. To my pleasant surprise, he was kind and sweet, his face soft, and his voice inviting and friendly. He spoke about telling a story with our lives–one that would be interesting to watch if they were movies.
Don told us that a good story involves a “character who wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it.” He also noted, however, that the character’s character must be shown to be good or we don’t care what he gets. He must do good things with a good motivation for us to want the best for him. He told us that there was conflict even before ‘the Fall,’ that Adam–walking in the garden with God Himself–was lonely. Don noted that many people think they must be totally fulfilled by God and aspire to do so before joining in marriage with another human. He laughed as he said he thought that was impossible, that God just isn’t meant to fill our every need, that God doesn’t want to, and won’t, date us. “The #1 way we consume stories,” he said, “is through each other.” Not through movies and television and music and media. We invest in each other and each other’s stories. …It was quite beautiful really.
In the q&a session afterward, one of the women in the crowd shared about feeling like she was bouncing from ministry to ministry and not feeling like that left her being able to make a palpable difference anywhere. Don has this advice: “It’s ok, in your 20s, to feel like you’re practicing. You’re still figuring stuff out.” He went on to tell us how it took him til he was 33 or something to start the mentoring project. That was probably the most encouraging thing I heard all day, pertaining to my own personal situation. It’s ok for me to be practicing and building experience for what it is that’s coming.
I’ve been dreaming about starting a community center in my neighborhood back home. There’s an empty building on Atlantic that I want for it, and there I want to help kids with their homework, and feed them carrot sticks after school. It’s just a dream right now, but right now it seems palpable. Don noted that “it’s in the doing that we are changed. Not in the thinking and planning and dreaming–in the doing.”
Amen. So be it. May God give me the faith to jump.
I’m in Baltimore, waiting for the bus that will take me to the train, that will take me to my best friend’s house, where I’m staying for the conference this week. For those just tuning in, I’m attending the Sojourner’s Mobilization to End Poverty Conference until Wednesday this week. I’ll be hearing some pretty amazing speakers, possibly even including our president.
This morning waiting for my flight, I was reading some of G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (which has taken me far too long to read), and came across this passage:
There is one thing that Christ and all the saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)
Chesterton’s thoughts struck me. Here I am about to embark on a three-day journey learning solely about poverty and how we can stop it, and then this passage comes up. Before the passage, Chesterton notes the idea that perhaps those with greater resources are more fit to govern those lacking. Chesterton then goes on to say that perhaps wealth isn’t what makes us more suited to govern, it just opens us up to a great deal of moral instability.
Hmmm. I do not consider myself a rich person, except in quality of life, but I suppose in the grand scheme of the world, I am a queen. I work quite a bit, but as a result, do not have to worry much about how much money I am spending (although I do stick to a detailed budget!). I can pay my rent, feed myself perhaps too well, enjoy a beer now and then, and even have money left over for such luxuries as tshirts, iPods, and Macbooks. Looking at my own wealth in this way makes me feel guilty. I have been blessed (although I hesitate to use that word – google “open theism”), and all these blessings leave me feeling…helpless.
I guess my big hope for this conference is that I am changed—motivated. I want so badly to be in the forefront shaping this world and giving all I’ve got. I confess that all too often I am held back by insecurities, worries about my own well-being, and selfishness. I am so looking forward to being able to have more information and learn about what it is others are doing in the face of such a problem as the poverty people in our nation and our world are facing.
I hope that you will keep me and the other conference attendees in your prayers. Pray that we are changed, and pray for the leaders of the conference, that they are speaking God’s words.