If You Say You Are Pro-Life

Throughout history there are a few moments that truly changed the course of the world. The invention of the wheel, Pax Romana, and the declaration of the Magna Carta are a few such events.

In 1215, for the first time in history, a governed people demanded and assumed certain rights given to them by God, not the king.

562 years later, following this same logic, the founders of the United States of American declared independence and began a revolution that changed the understanding of government and human rights forever.

Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness. To the founders, these ideals were unalienable – unable to be taken away or removed from the possessor. Most of us would say we support these ideals. We want healthy kids, social mobility, freedom of religion, choice, guns, and speech. Yet far too often, we want freedom when it works for us. We want liberty for us. We want life for us and those we care about.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for unborn lives. We cannot take away the life of a child because it is inconvenient for another person.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for the teen mothers,  mothers addicted to crack,  fathers dealing drugs and their children. We have to act on behalf of kids in foster care. We have to be willing to get messy, dirty, and hurt. Being pro-life means caring for all lives-including the ones we would rather not.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about the 14-year-old girl with an unwanted pregnancy. Should she abort the baby? Should she place her in foster care with a waiting list of over 200 needed families in one county in SC alone? Should she try to raise him herself? Should she go on welfare? What would you do?

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for the immigrant and refugee. We have to welcome the refugees with open arms into our abundance. We have to be willing to lose so others will gain. Our fear cannot overpower our faith.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about black men incarcerated at a rate of 6x greater than white men. We have to fight against a penal system that seeks not justice, but punishment and often assumes guilt, not innocence.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about the child being bullied because he is gay. We must teach our children that to differ in opinion is not an excuse for violence, hatred, or separation. We are to defend those who cannot defend themselves; even when we disagree.

If we say we are pro-life then we must care about the men and women on death row. We cannot decry the killing of a life in one scenario and then celebrate it in another.

If we say we are pro-life then we must care for the weak, the poor, the immigrant, and the orphan. To do so means we will lose. We will lose strength supporting those weaker than us. We will lose money to provide for those poorer than us. We will lose resources to welcome an immigrant with merely the clothes on their back. We will lose sleep caring for children not our own.

If we say we are pro-life then our own lives should reflect our beliefs. In a world of political black and white, we must embrace the gray. Caring for life is never easy. It is most often inconvenient, disruptive, and difficult. There is little tangible reward, great pain and many unknown answers.

Caring for 6 month old twins in foster care is not easy, but it is good.
Bringing a teenage mother into your home is not convenient, but it is right.
Welcoming a refugee into your community is not glamorous, but it is merciful.

If we say we are pro-life then we can’t just yell and protest with friends. We can’t just vote for the guy who promises to make America great again or promises to bring us back to the good ol’ days (spoiler alert: taxes were a lot higher then). We must act in the unseen places; bedrooms at 2am to nurse a hungry child not our own, recovery centers where no instagram filter will make reality look better,  the housing projects alongside rats where the most recent immigrants are eking out life. It won’t be pretty, but it will be right.

 

January Goals: A Review

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My view half way up Table Rock Mountain 

If you’re new here, I confirmed I am, in fact, crazy posted my goals for the year. As someone whose strengths are Achiever and Discipline, I really like goals. Goals keep me focused, motivated, and constantly improving. Of course, there’s also the downside which I wrote about recently.

My goal for January was to pray daily for women living in Muslim contexts in the Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia. I would say I was about 70% successful in praying daily. More than the task itself, this goal refocused my attention and broadened my daily awareness of God’s blessings. I found myself appreciating my freedoms and privilege more regularly, like having enough food in the refrigerator or working heat in the winter.

When I began to pray, I wasn’t really sure where to start. I don’t know any women from these contexts, I’ve never been to the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, nor do I know much beyond my reading of fiction and non-fiction, including news sources. I felt very disconnected initially, my prayers seemed more like a recitation – what I was supposed to pray instead of my heart’s desire.

However, this all changed in week 2. I was challenged to pray the attributes of God in my “regular prayers” and I began to pray these for the women too. All of a sudden, God’s all-powerful, all-good nature became much more meaningful. My prayers gained weight and substance previously lacking. If I could trust God to act powerfully in their life – why should I doubt his power in mine? If God is merciful enough to redeem me, a broken and selfish person, then He is also merciful to ransom their lives too. Instead of feeling distant, contrived, and separated from my own life, my prayers merged into one prayer.

My compassion, concern, and prayers for the women were neither singularly spiritual, nor singularly physical – just like my own life. I do not pray only for my heart or the hearts of my friends and family, but for our physical needs as well. So, too it came to be with these women.

I don’t know what will come from this month. I know I have no power to change the living circumstances, the hearts, or the minds of the women in these areas. I do know, incredibly, God is not only powerful enough, but is already working! My own weakness, in yet another area of life, is an opportunity to showcase God’s power.

My one regret is I did not pray daily. Too often, my prayers centered around myself and immediate needs. I would get distracted in tasks and to-do’s or hyper-focused on my small desires. I crave the strength gleaned from uniting my heart with God’s heart beyond my own microcosm of the Universe.

As far as my other goals for the year are going, I already broke my “only books by dead people rule.” I mistakenly believed Harper Lee had already died and I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I do not regret it at all. This is perhaps one of the most poignant books written and was even more touching because I live in the South and was challenged on my own prejudices and bias in praying for the women in MENA, SEA. If you haven’t read TKAM since high school or within the last 5 year, I would highly recommend it. I’m also reading Plato so I feel like that makes up for it too 😉

In January, I also had my first day of solitude and it was worthwhile. I learned I must tire my body out first, before my mind, heart, soul will be still. Fortunately I went hiking and was able to do both! It was a great way to start the month and I felt a lingering “refreshment hangover” for several days. That’s right. I just compared a spiritual solitude to a hangover.

On the negative, I have not prayed through any of my notecards nor have I really started learning the arabic alphabet. I have downloaded the sheets though, so that counts for something, right?!?!

My goal for the month of February is no personal social media-pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum of importance from praying daily for Muslim women in MENA, SEA, but hey! it may actually be harder. Wish me luck!

America, the Poor Reflection of What Will One Day be Beautiful

Above photos: Fireworks in Allendale, SC

…And a happy 5-days-after-fourth-of-July to you too! I spent the past week in Allendale, SC. If you don’t go to Grace, then you probably haven’t heard of Allendale. What was I doing in this small town, you might ask? Well, I was chillin’ with 60 of my closest middle school friends! duh.

While in Allendale, I had the privilege of attending one of the local churches. Now I grew up a good ol’ southern baptist girl so I’ve sung God Bless America, Navy drinking songs (though I don’t think many people knew they were old drinking songs because we all know those Southern Baptists do not approve of the fermented fruit of the vine!), and celebrated the fourth of July in patriotic style at church. It never really bothered me too much until this year; perhaps because I haven’t thought about it. This year, however, I was increasingly disturbed by the lack of God-focus and overt America-focus in church.

Now, before I continue, I’ll confess that although I enjoy living in America and I recognize that I have been incredibly blessed to experience the freedoms that I do; however, I do not think that America is the greatest nation on earth. In fact, sometimes I think that America is a huge distraction. I’m learning that authority and limitations are a good thing. The more freedom that I have, the more opportunities for me to elevate something, even a good thing, into a god-thing.

Obedience has not often been a pleasant tasting word in my mouth. In fact, though I am the oldest child, I have a much greater propensity for breaking the rules and crossing the line than my younger sister. I did not understand that in wanting unlimited freedom I wanted to be god. Rules and authority are not good because they are ensuring my best interest is at hand, but because they are a reminder that I am not my own. I am not even capable of depending on myself. In fact, I even let myself down. A lot. Talk about depressing.

No, what is really surprising is that with rules and authority come freedom. I am free to thrive because I don’t have to be, do, or strive to accomplish everything. I can fail, epically, and it is OK because I’m not god. The world is not resting on my shoulders. The problems of this world are not mine to fix. Nor can I. The suffocating feeling of being overwhelmed is a not-so-subtle reminder that the world is not mine to fix. Poverty, economic depression, sexuality, you name it, are all going to be perfect one day. Now, the really cool thing and exciting thing is that I get to be a part of it all, within boundaries and under authority – both human and divine. I actually get to be a tiny splinter of a miniscule cog in the whole process. And I’m ecstatic about that!

I guess what I am saying is that my hope is not in me. It is not in my generation or getting back to the good old days. America and democracy are not the answers. Thank goodness. Slavery, abortion, homosexuality, any hot button issue are not the problem – a lack and distortion of worship is. This year, as we reminisce on the fireworks, food, and those who have given their lives to bring us freedom; let’s also remember the future to come – a future under supreme authority, but with perfect freedom.

Alphabet Soup, Kippahs and Microbusiness

I’ve been in DC since Monday morning and I was once again reminded of the energy of a big city. I had experienced this previously, most notably when I lived in Madrid, but there is truly something electric about being in a large city. I love the hustle, bustle and stimulation from people watching. There is certainly never a dull moment.

Now, the real reason I was in DC was for a conference on Microenterprise, or should I say Microbusiness with AEO. The sessions were very informative, but most of all, I loved talking with the people here. The first person I met was oh, I don’t know, the COO of one of Accion‘s regional branches. nbd. I also met representatives from Kiva, Grameen, Intersect Fund, CBA and many other incredible organizations who all support the microbusiness industry in some way.

We learned about a new program Kiva will launch soon, I talked with a somewhat creepy old guy (meaning I couldn’t quite tell if he was just nice or hitting on me, you know how that goes :)) I also met a Jewish man who wears a kippah all the time! I don’t know why this fascinates me, but I guess being raised in the South has limited my exposure to practicing Jews. Sorry Joey, you don’t count any more. In all seriousness, it was fascinating to talk with him. His organization, the Hebrew Free Loan Society has been around since 1892!

I started the conference off with a bang by attending the wrong regional lunch. Apparently the big city was just too much for this Southern gal and I ended up at the Northeast luncheon instead of the Southeast luncheon (though in my defense, they were on opposite sides of the same room). Needless to say, I got a nice chuckle the second I opened my mouth and said: “Hey y’all, I’m Taylor and I’m from South Carolina. I think I’m supposed to be on that side of the room.” Simple southerner, this whole divide yourselves up thing was just a little too complicated.

Twice, I was told that I didn’t sound southern – I think they meant hick, but I just went with it. Twice, I was called a “baby” because I was almost 23 and everyone I was talking with was at least double my age. #winning I was schooled on my lack of knowledge of the alphabet: CBA, CRA, TA, and QXLF are all new acronyms I learned (just kidding on the last one, though I think I’ll start the Quite eXotic Lending Fund just to mess with people). I also had some lovely conversations about SEC football. Go cocks!

Though I am ready to be home (I’m currently writing from the hotel lobby), I am so glad that I came. I have learned so much and met some incredible people who are really shaping the field of microfinance, microlending, microenterprise, microbusiness, you get the picture. If you ever want to know anything about microenterprise, I’m your gal.*

*I apologize for the excessive use of the word gal. I think it is my southern roots rebelling against all these Yankees.

Good Intentions, Pie, and The Hunger Games

I love me some info graphics and educational videos. Some of these will eventually wind up as their own post if they haven’t already. Until then, enjoy!

How a Pastor Fuels Global Missions from Desiring God on Vimeo.


From Poverty Cure: On Global Aid today


From Nasha Lending: Lisa’s story about Marvelous Pies


From The Resurgence – You can read my opinion of The Hunger Games here

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=27096230&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00adef&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

The Chalmers Center from The Chalmers Center on Vimeo.

A Review of The Hunger Games

Over Thanksgiving I had the good fortune of having lots of free time to read, run and hang out with my family and friends. As promised, I am going to provide a personal review of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I am still allowing this blog to evolve as I refine its purpose. As an avid reader, I think I would be remiss to not share my thoughts on at least a few of the books that I read. Now, lest you think that I only read best-selling, non-fiction books, I assure you this is not the case. I love reading. period. However, The Hunger Games lends itself to book review. I even remarked to my Mom, “These books would be so easy to write a paper on!” Nerd, I know, but I think we have already established that fact.

SPOILER ALERT – This post will contain some spoiled content.

The Hunger Games details a futuristic society that is a great, great, great…great grandchild of the United States. At some point in history, the districts, of which there were 13, rebelled against the Capitol only to be brutally squelched. In remembrance of the rebellion, every year each district must send 1 male and 1 female “tribute” between the ages of 12-18 to participate in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a fight to the death between the tributes of each district, 24 in total as district 13 no longer exists, with only 1 winner surviving. Enter, Katniss. The heroine, protagonist and an all around bad you-know-what. Katniss is ultimately the female tribute selected from District 12 to participate in the Hunger Games.

Throughout the novels there is constant tension between the “collective good” of Panem (the nation-state), as determined by the Capitol, and the needs of the residents of each district. The Capitol represents all that is frivolous and fleeting. Their lives are nothing more than eating bon-bons and keeping up with the latest fashions. In contrast, the districts are all suffering to various extents and in many cases are literally starving.

Most of the tension in the novel stems from the collective good vs. the good of the individuals. Through no fault of their own, many of the citizens are suffering at the hands of the few. They are unable to provide for their families and are at the mercy of the decisions of the elite Capitolists. 35.9% of the population of South Carolina is considered “Low-Income Working Families”. What does it say about our society that over 1/3 of the population that has a job still live at 200% below the poverty line. The systems that cause poverty and promote injustice are multi-faceted and have spanned generations. There is no simple fix inside or outside of the government. Yet we see throughout history and in modern day that as the income gap rises (Gini coefficient approaches 1), tensions in society also rise. I am NOT advocating against capitalism or making money. I am challenging that we need to re-asses our values and our systems that are causing injustice. My apologies for that brief interruption. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Katniss is the ultimate survivor; providing for her family after the death of her father, surviving 2 Hunger Games and waging war against the Capitol, beating the odds at whatever she does. She is often confronted with the raw, base instincts of human nature, which are all ugly. There is no truly pure character portrayed, save perhaps Prim, Katniss’ younger sister. All characters fail morally and ethically at some point. It is here that Collins draws her final conclusions about human nature and society.

As the districts topple the Capitol in the hopes to bring about true change for the good of the citizens, the idea is broached as to whether or not to hold a Hunger Games for the children of the Capitol (Capitol children were exempt from previous games). Give them a taste of their own medicine, is the basic argument. The irony is almost too thick to handle. Here is a society that has just endured 75 years of forced murder by and against children yet they almost instantaneously turn around to do the same to another group of people. Katniss and her mentor are left to cast the final votes and surprisingly (to me) they vote yes. I expected Collins to wrap around to a storybook ending, with each character redeeming themselves and society in the end. While this occurs to an extent, the message is clear: at our base, we are all no better than the Capitolists. We would all willingly sacrifice another’s child for our own twisted sense of justice.

I am constantly amazed by the many people who believe at their core, human beings are good. Perhaps I am overly cynical, but the world today screams to me that we are NOT good. In fact, we are the opposite of good. I am glad that Collins did not gloss over this fact. Katniss does not get everything she wants. Her sister dies, she is estranged from her mother, she is torn between 2 people she loves and the memories from her times in the Hunger Games haunt her for the rest of her life. Yet, despite all of this, we feel she has won. The book turns out as it should. Despite the tragedies in her life, the story ends well.