Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 28: Monsters in the Land

"Long sleeves or short sleeves?"
This has not been a question of fashion; this has been a threat intermingled with a terrible choice. Do you want your hand cut off at the wrist or at the elbow?

There are, indeed, monsters in the land. Man's cruelty to his brother has proven boundless over the millennia. The Assyrians were feared and hated for their atrocities, just as surely as Nazi Germany still is today. A man or group of men seek to control their country, funded by control of diamonds or oil or whatever, and those innocent villagers in their way are given the above choice of "fashion". A peasantry is afeared of bathing, simple sanitary bathing, because they might be mistaken as affluent Jews and seized by the Inquisition. Nearly a million countrymen die in a hundred days, slaughtered by friends and neighbors for being of the Tutsi tribe and not the Hutu. A man compels a thousand men, women, and children to drink poisoned koolade because he would rather see them dead than out of his control.

Oh, yes, monsters abound though our history. Terrible monsters, with devil faces and black hearts.

We have no shortage of atrocities to respond to, as the people of God. We cry for those who are hurt, by man and by nature. We rush to help, more often than not - and this is to our credit as the image of Christ. There is no shortage of groups that spearhead efforts to "rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave". International Justice Mission, Compassion International, World Vision; the list goes on. Some are more efficient than others, but they still seek to live as Jesus example and Jesus description or righteousness ("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"). Do not turn from the truth of their need.

But there are other monsters in the land. Monsters whose faces are less like the devil and more like your's and mine. Oh, they don't see themselves as monsters (they rarely do) and so don't paint there faces with evil. Their faces, more often, are painted with indifference. Painted with stony, cynical expressions:
You realize that it's all fake, don't you? I mean, yes, your money goes to help poor people, but the idea that YOUR money is going to this SPECIFIC kid is bogus. Do you really think they refuse to help some kid just because nobody has "chosen" them yet? The letters are written by volunteers and your money goes into a general fund. The photos are just random shots they take in the community, and they make up the names.(A deleted comment from Kat's post on Day 1.)
Eyes are covered with gauze, blinded to all but the brightest, the most terrible, or the greatest disasters. The great monsters, they stand out but are more rare; it is much more common that we are the monsters.

We see the genocides, we see the disasters, and we respond. Living in Houston, it was amazing to see the response when thousands flooded into our city fleeing the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Homes opened, hotels paid for, food and other necessities given. To our credit, that will long stand as our finest hour. But we are not alone when we fail at the more mundane needs. The
man on the street corner. The child alone in this world. The grieving widow, the abandoned spouse. The lonely, the depressed, those broken down by this life. Too often, our mask of indifference blinds us to these people and their needs. We turn inward, concerned with our needs, our problems, our solutions: I am a rock; I am an island! How wrong this is; how foolish and selfish. "A rock feels no pain; an island never cries." But we are the children, the living image, of a loving God.

This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful. For too long, I saw the monster in my own mirror. The monster of apathy, of a careless heart, of a self-focused life and religion. This song (from Sara Groves) was not a turning point in my life, but it was a coalescence of the thoughts and ideas, the stirring of the Spirit, that had been growing inside me. I want to see the imprint of Jehovah, not a monster, when I look in the mirror - or, for that matter, when the world looks at me. I want to add to the beauty of God's creation, as He has intended for me since before the dawn of time.

I am fasting today, as a result of a collaboration that more or less began with a plea:
Please don't look away. Do not dwell in inaction, break the inertia and step into action when God calls you. Both in global and local needs, simple actions or grand, organized or spontaneous, find the place where God has prepared for you to act. Open your hearts in love to the whole of humanity. In this vein, I present two organizations that I fast and pray over today.

Blood:Water MissionNorthwest Assistance Ministries (NAM)
"The human body is 70% water. A 3% loss of water can reduce a person’s ability work by 20%. For your average 60lb school-age child, that amounts to a standard nalgene-bottle full of water. Under exertion, the human body can sweat twice that in an hour. Now imagine sub-Saharan Africa, 90 to 110 degree heat depending on the season and a 2 mile hike to get water... one way. The average size jerry can used to carry water is 5 gallons, which weights a whopping 40lbs. Now imagine that you are a 7-year old girl. And you make this trek 3 times every day." (source)
Did you know that $1 provides one year of clean water for an African? Seriously. $1. Did you know that people living with HIV/AIDS are dependent on clean water to survive? Water-borne pathogens greatly complicate any chance they might have for survival.

Blood:Water Mission is committed to building wells in a way that empowers communities to take control of their own development. Sustainability is key. It does no good if a well is dug but not maintained over time because the people in the community have no connection to its building. It also does no good if sanitation is not maintained. That is why Blood:Water Mission partners with community based organizations, which provide appropriate training that is specific to their communities' needs for clean water and overall health. They also provide sanitation solutions such as latrines where they are needed. They work with the communities to create committees overseeing the use, maintenance and repair of their wells.

Woman at the wellTell you what, instead of strolling up to the coke machine and buying that bottle of cold, fizzy goodness why not walk on by. Take that dollar and give someone else a chance to have a drink of something that won't kill them as surely, if not as quickly, as not drinking at all.
NAM is a local community service organization, and I am sure you have something like it in your area. It is a collaborative effort between some thirty churches in this part of Houston, along with various businesses supporters, which provides just about anything you can name to people who need it. Their programs include
  • monetary assistance (to meet rent, etc.),
  • a food pantry,
  • a resale shop for low-cost clothing,
  • meals on wheels,
  • a children's health clinic that charges on a sliding scale,
  • shelter for the homeless,
  • education and help in finding jobs,
  • counseling, and
  • a shelter for victims of family violence.
They, quite literally, do it all. NAM helped more than 100,000 area residents in need during its last fiscal year, with approximately $.87 of every dollar donated going toward helping people in need. Of the people NAM assisted, 51 percent were children and senior citizens.

NAM is a great organization, that helps so many people in our own back yard. They accept donations in just about any form, and need volunteers about as much as they need money. Look for someone like this in your neck of the woods, and help them help the people around you in need. But don't stop with indirect help; reach out your own hand to the man on the corner and lift him up.

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kddub said...

Those both sound like great organizations, I will have to look up something like NAM in our area. "Thirty churches together", how awesome...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! I will be praying for you today.

marianne said...

Yes, now I need to find something local as well! No more inertia, right?!

erin said...

Fabulous, convicting post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

that was powerful and awesome!! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

"There are, indeed, monsters in the land. Man's cruelty to his brother has proven boundless over the millennia. The Assyrians were feared and hated for their atrocities, just as surely as Nazi Germany still is today. A man or group of men seek to control their country, funded by control of diamonds or oil or whatever, and those innocent villagers in their way are given the above choice of "fashion". A peasantry is afeared of bathing, simple sanitary bathing, because they might be mistaken as affluent Jews and seized by the Inquisition. Nearly a million countrymen die in a hundred days, slaughtered by friends and neighbors for being of the Tutsi tribe and not the Hutu. A man compels a thousand men, women, and children to drink poisoned koolade because he would rather see them dead than out of his control".

All ancient peoples had some sort of cruelty in their rule.I don't understand why most of the westerners take the ancient Assyrians as their sole example of cruelty.Didn't the romans crucify people,didn't the Jews kill each other and others,didn't the egyptians kill.Why is it that always the ancient Assyrians are the ones brought as example?

Even europeans were cruel and killers should we remember the Crusaders as an example of cruelty when they even killed Christians in the Middle East,shall we remember the cruelty of Roman Catholic missionaries and what they did to aboriginal peoples?
Shall we remember what the same Roman Catholic missionaries did to modern day Assyrian Christians when they split their church and practiced methods of intimidation and bribery.

Shall we remember Anglicans who also played their dirty role supporting the British government in killing the Assyrians in their lands in Hakkari-Turky in 1915 and the British with their dirty plots in 1920-1933 in Iraq when they inticed arabs and kurds to massacre Assyrian Christians and then 1945 until today???

Why you all forget all of those and just get stuck on the ancient Assyrians? Well my response to you is this The Lord said:" "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here". Luke 11:32

The ancient Assyrians repented and believed and today's Assyrians were the first to accept the Gospel and preach it till it reached China,India,Soumatra and Japan. The Assyrian missionaries carried a Cross and a Bible with them and they didn't send armies.

Before you use the ancient Assyrians as an example look at other ancient peoples and what they did and open your eyes and be fair.

Discontented Refuge said...

Great post Euph. Praying for you today. And whoever annonymous is that posted about Assyrians should note they were grouped with oh....9 other nations/countries.


euphrony said...

Thanks for your prayers. This has been, in my experience, the easiest fast I have undertaken. That is, in part, because of your support and because there has been definite purpose in the fasting. I have failed in some previous fasts because I only fasted for the sake of doing so, without real reason or motivation. Thanks, Kat, for that motivation. No more inertia holding us back!

NAM is a great organization. In its beginnings, I understand there were some problems from clashes in beliefs. However, today, it actually is not solely a "Christian" organization, but includes Jewish and Baha'I groups, along with hundreds of secular businesses and organizations. The point is to help people as much as possible. An organization does not show Christ, individual people do.

To be fair, my eyes were opened when looking at other ancient peoples. Yes, the Assyrians are a well known example of a people who did cruel things. Even the Israelites were condemned for their cruelty by God, when He spoke of their serving the "detestable god Molech"" with sacrifices of their own children. All cultures have a streak of monstrosity. I also mentioned in the paragraph you quoted the Inquisition, how people were reluctant to bathe because they might be accused of being Jews or Moors and killed by the church, and Jim Jones. We can go on all day filling up the bloggosphere with examples of people who have acted in inhumane ways, but the point when I was writing was give a couple of examples to draw to mind the kind of monster I was talking about and not a lengthy dissertation on the subject.

I obviously hit a raw nerve with that Assyrian reference, and I apologize for any offense. Truly, none was intended, there. I'm curious, though: did you read the rest of the post? If so, what are your thoughts on the full subject?

Discontented Refuge said...

...and Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

happy birthday to you!!

Chaotic Hammer said...

Great job, Euphrony. Enjoyed this post, and I understand and agree.

Praying for you today.

Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

As I reread your blog just now, the words of the person whose comment was deleted stirred up some anger, because of as you said, indifference. When I sponsored a child through compassion a few years ago, I sponsored a child from a country that I used to live in. A language that I used to speak fluently. When I received her letters I didn't need to read the translation, and they were really from her, why would they make up something so personal and intimate as a letter, complete with hand colored drawings? No, it is real. Like you said they aren't all perfect, every organization is made up of imperfect people and problems happen. But... Christ is made perfect in our weaknesses, in our imperfection. Praise the LORD!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!!

euphrony said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone. I wasn't going to say anything about it, but since Amy and Kat spilled the beans . . .

kddub said...

Happy birthday...

The Secret Life of Kat said...

Great post Euphrony. I love the inertia idea. I've always really liked that particular law of physics and it's application to my spiritual life.

euphrony said...

Thanks, Kat. I've long though on the idea of social inertia, but ut has been much more on my mind these last few weeks. The beauty of inirtia is that it works both ways: once in motion, you tend to stay that way. I really think that you have been helping to start a ball rolling, and after 40 days I truly hope that we (as individuals) do not try to stop its motion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. It is always great pleasure to read your posts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for telling people about IJM! I wanted to tell you about a contest IJM is currently in the running for:

Help IJM Win $100,000!

International Justice Mission is in the final round of a competition for $100,000 to support our work, and we need your vote to win!

Every day, from July 9 through August 10, we need as many people as possible to go online to and vote once a day, everyday, for the entire month.

For more information about the work of International Justice Mission go to

Susanne said...

Happy Belated Birthday, Euphrony! I've been out of pocket lately and I just read this post. Wonderful post, by the way. We all have our blinders up too often. I think we're afraid of being sad...afraid that something might really touch our hearts. It's much easier to go through life seeing to our own needs. If Americans thought as much about problems like world hunger 1/2 as much as they thought about who will win the next reality TV show, imagine what we could do!! Thanks for the reminder!

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