I’ve decided to allow myself to write some of my own reflections and contemplations of late. So, if you are looking for updates this blog post may not be what you are looking for (but you can scroll to the last bulleted list with the heading updates: ) However, rather than merely giving you updates of life events here in Tanzania, I would like to take an opportunity to write some of my own personal thoughts down. Therefore take the following reflections with that in mind- they are my own personal reflections spurred by current events, some discussions with friends home and here, and also a sermon I gave (in Swahili :) this morning. (They do not necessarily reflect the school I work for or the ELCA or Synod-).
This morning I was asked to give the Muhubiri or message at our daily morning chapel service. The weekly heading is Imani iletayo ushindi = Faith will give us victory... (Roughly translated-)_. My reading came from Micah: -7:7-10. Reading these verses I decided to take some different angles on the reading - the more blatant connection to me seemed to be that although Micah is writing at a time of trial in his life, he continues to have faith in God. Verse 7 discusses how Micah will continue to watch wait for the Lord and he knows God will hear him. However, another point I wanted to make was Micah’s discussion about his enemies. I didn’t so much want to touch on the wrath that would befall on his enemies.... rather Micah’s assertion that God is our judge.
I feel as a person of faith, part of having faith is allowing God to do His job, and not try to do it for Him. Therefore, as Micah asserts God is our judge, which means two things to me...
First, we as the imperfect human beings we are, have to have faith that God will grant us His righteousness, which comes through grace (Acts 3:21-24). We have to trust God to judge us. A scary thought perhaps, but my own personal theology of God is not that he wants to gloat over us (as Micah depicts his enemies do) rather if we truly repent and ask God for his grace we will be forgiven and (verse 9) “He (God) will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness.”
The second thing, which is really where I want to give my emphasis in this reflection, is that God is our one judge, so we can all put down our gavels. Micah puts the trial of his enemies into God’s hands. A verse that gave this point even more clarity is Romans 14:4- “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
Despite your religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, race, occupation whatever else you want to put in the blank... I do NOT feel we are not called to be judges- (hence being judgmental) here on earth. However, truly as of late in our world I see more and more judges coming into the works, in such a destructive and distressing way.
As the presidential election nears in the United States people really like to pick up their gavels and tote them wherever they go. Turn on a T.V. for all of 15 minutes and you are bound to see some political advertisement filling your heads with negative thoughts towards the “other”...being the political party you won’t be voting for come election day. Go on facebook and see numerous harsh, insensitive words in debates between various ‘friends’.
Perhaps those of you who are educators can also lend your observations. Have you observed your students and perhaps even staff enjoying talking about the other students (and or staff)? Did you see what so and so did the other week, or what she wore?! Hmmm... Unfortunately it is the truth and it happens all over the world- in different ways sometimes yes, but we live in societies that encourage us to judge others. As Morrie Schwartz said “The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.” I hope we can stop buying this judgmental culture so many are being raised in. (I am by no means saying I am guilt-free in passing judgment either! It is an easy thing to fall into.)
Another place we can just as easily find judgment is in the church itself, good old church politics. Yes, church politics (the perfect dinner conversation I’d say!). No one can say honestly church politics do not exist. Look at the way various Christian churches are continually dividing and splitting into different churches or even just caught in numerous arguments based of various things such as gender, sexual orientation or which creeds should be said at Sunday services. Certainly focusing so much on these issues takes way from the true meaning of a church... and takes away from spreading the love and grace of God.
I was discussing this with a friend and he asked me if this means I feel we should not have court systems, or some kind of international responsibility to put a stop to injustice. For those of you who know me, you know this is anything but true. I am very passionate about international justice and the fight against human injustice. So am I a big hypocrite? Maybe... I would like to think not, but chose what you may.... let me explain further...
You see I would like to assert a difference between justice and judgment. Of course I feel people who have committed injustices need to be brought to justice here on earth. However, I think there is a difference between bringing that person to justice and judging that person for the mistakes they have made. THIS is the real kicker- and the really hard thing to do (which is why many of us fail at it time and time again.) Of course there are people in this world who have committed major atrocities and it is more than easy to judge these people personally. But I think this is where we need to leave God to His work.
Whether you are Christian, Agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, White, Black, Purple, Green, Male, Female, American, Tanzanian, Chinese, Straight, Gay, Human, Alien .... hopefully you catch my drift... I hope we can all agree that passing judgment on others for their own personal individual ways of life does us no good. Others have judged us all at least once in our lives for various personal things, and we all know how horrible that can feel.
Judging others can have serious ramifications as well. Take for instance when ONE person recently chose to make a video passing judgment on a major world religion. That ONE person chose to spread a message not of love and acceptance but of hate and rejection. The ramifications of which extended throughout the world with violence, animosity and turmoil. We have to remember our actions, the way we treat others who may not be exactly like us- have serious ramifications whether it be the way in which you negatively impact an individual life, or your actions/ words have ramifications worldwide... (You truly can)... Perhaps we should remember the phrase so often told to young children... If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Spread peace not turmoil, spread love not hate, accept others for who they are, not who you want them to be- after all if we were all the same, life would be quite boring. No, I’m not saying it’s easy- but does that mean we shouldn’t try to do the right thing?
Amani, Umoja, na Upendo- Peace, Unity and Love- From Tanzania-
“You love those who don’t love you. You love those you don’t like. You love those whose ways are distasteful to you. You love every man because God loves him.” Martin Luther King Jr.
“All humans are humans. There are no humans more human than the others.” Romeo Dallaire (UN Chief Commander in Rwanda during the genocide)
A few updates on Tanzanian life-:
1. I woke up to army ants all over in my house at 6am on Saturday morning! I evacuated for a full day until they eventually left. Not so fun! 2. The heat has been dreadful, I almost constantly feel like I am going to sweat or bake to death... the rain came a little yesterday (I’ve never been so happy for rain..) so, here’s to hoping it will stay for a while and help water the crops that have now been planted... they need it badly!
3. We have three weeks left of teaching and a couple weeks of exams and then the students will have their graduation ceremony. It’s been a bit of a crazy realization that come January a new year starts and the students that have been here with me since the beginning won’t all be returning for the next year... strange.
4. An owl showed up at my house last night and fought with the puppies until I stepped in and retreated deciding I don’t need to get clawed by an owl in a place where quality healthcare is well.. not close by... So... eventually I stooped to barking at the owl myself and it flew off.... Everyone I have told this story to has laughed profusely especially my gardener Nyawena who could not stop... so hopefully it brings you some joy too.