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"The Final Great Awakening – An Endtime Revival".: The Circuit Rider vs The Televangelist

“The Final Great Awakening – An Endtime Revival”.: The Circuit Rider vs The Televangelist

On Being Re-wired

Until recently, I resisted the idea that we’re being “re-wired” by new media.

After all, at our core we like to say we humans are all the same. We have the same needs, desires and hopes, though our life experiences are sometimes vastly different.

I was skeptical about the claim that superficial media could actually change the way our brains work. I’m less sure today.

Recently, while doing a search online for articles about social media and their effects on human communities, it occurred to me that the act of searching online is a different way of thinking about research. In contrast to my former visits to brick-and-mortar libraries, I can conduct research differently today than in the ancient past of pre-Internet days.

I was sitting at home, late in the evening, tapping a keyboard to get at various sources, not perusing a card catalogue and shuffling though shelves of hardbound books. The latter sounds almost archaic, in fact.

I found Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus” article and saw that it was expanded into book form and published recently. I read reviews, checked to see if it was on Audible.com or Amazon (available from both) and downloaded it from Audible.

In a matter of minutes, I was listening to the book.

This is only one example of how new media have changed my everyday life. Wherever I am, it is second nature for me to use my iPad or handheld device to check the news, respond to e-mail, share photos and video, get directions, and perform a host of other tasks. Easy access to limitless information has become the norm, and I’m almost always connected.

In retrospect, I concede I am being re-wired. Not knowing enough about how our brains work to make a scientific assessment of whether our neuron pathways are being changed, I’ve concluded that at the very least how I perceive and act upon my perceptions, expectations and access to information has changed how I function in pretty basic ways.

Not only has my method of research changed, so has my ability to check trusted sources online to assess the reliability of information, to secure opinions about the value of books and other information, and to act upon my desires or needs and get instantaneous feedback or gratification.

Until I reflected upon this later, it seemed quite normal. But it’s really quite amazing. I am being re-wired. I did not go to a bookstore and buy the book. I did not consult with a friend face-to-face about its content. I expected I could find it in a digital format and gain access to it immediately. I found it, ordered and downloaded it, and began to listen.

What I have not yet fully assimilated, and may never, is what this says about human interaction, trust, business, education and personal fulfillment. There are layers and layers of questions about human development, behavior and community.

These are the stuff of faith and the faith community. They are not necessarily the ultimate stuff, which is our relationship to God. But they come close.

A friend showed me an iPhone application that displays biblical text on-screen as a narrator reads it. This gets closer to how we relate to Scripture and perhaps how we use such tools for better or worse to relate to God.

So, the issue isn’t only that I’m being re-wired.

As if that weren’t enough, I’m discovering my spiritual practices could also be re-framed by these new media. I’m not afraid of this reality, but I am approaching it less casually than before.

The new media do change us in ways that are not merely superficial. This is a mixed blessing, one that I must continue to assess.

Have you been re-wired? Could new media change how you relate to God? Let me know what you think.

FITCHBURG, Mass. –– Faith United Parish, a congregation of The United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ, teamed up with students from Fitchburg State College to do an “extreme makeover” of nearby Longsjo Middle School. The school now has freshly painted classrooms, an operating theater, and the love of many volunteers. See http://fsc.edu/fitchburgeducationfoundation/ott.html

Hearing the cries for a better life

April 17, 2010

Kamina.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has seen its most basic infrastructure destroyed by ten years of civil war. Roads, schools, hospitals and clinics, nearly every basic piece of infrastructure necessary for life is lacking, compromised, or doesn’t exist.

We discovered this in Lubumbashi when we experienced roads within the city that in the developed world would be considered impassable. And we rediscovered it when we drove from the airbase in ru-ral Kamina into the small town. A strip of asphalt in the center, not wide enough for a vehicle, was all that remained of a paved road that once connected the dilapidated base to the town.

But this lack of essential service doesn’t necessarily mean lack of community, nor lack of enthusiasm for improvement. Perhaps the most dangerous result of resource deprivation is the risk that people begin to believe they don’t matter, or deserve better, because they adapt to being without. It’s the risk to human dignity.

But we experienced a surge of community-wide expressiveness that I’ve never witnessed before in Africa in such a place as Kamina. As she did in Lubumbashi, Yvonne Chaka Chaka called people to come forward to the stage as she sang and danced. And a sea of humanity surged forward. Sitting on the stage, I could not see the end of the mass of people who had come to hear her and to learn about malaria.

But it became clear that they already know malaria’s toll. They wanted nets. And they made that clear. One man held up money to demonstrate that he would pay for a net at that moment.

What this said to me is that the education about malaria has been successful. People in Kamina under-stand what causes it, and they want help to prevent their children and loved ones from contracting it. And it says that people want action. They want change.

Unlike the children in Lubumbashi, this crowd was insistent and assertive. They want nets, and they want them now. I began to be concerned about the mood of the celebratory event. It wasn’t menacing in the least, but we had thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder calling for nets, and we had no nets. An earlier distribution had already been carried out here.

Yvonne managed them well, changed the mood to celebration and hope, and offered words of educa-tion about what can be done even without nets to reduce the risk.

And the community has done significant work already. A canal 15 kilometers long has been dug to drain large areas of standing water to reduce the breeding ground for mosquitoes. Nets have been dis-tributed, not nearly enough for the entire city, but a small fraction at least. And community health workers are accessible, the local hospital is functioning and agriculture development is producing food and generating income.

These are no small accomplishments. And yet blazed into my memory of Kamina is thousands of people crying out for nets. Crying out for the chance to live a better, healthier life.

Where Two or Three Are Gathered Together

Hearing the stories of the UMCOR and IMA executives trapped in the rubble of the Hotel Montana is to hear of conditions so horrifying they are unimaginable. Utter chaos. At times utter hopelessness. And always courage and more courage. Faith and more faith.

It is a profound gift that Jim Gulley and Sarla Chand give us when they tell this story, difficult as it is to hear. We need to know, to grieve and to hope. And they help us.

They help us to fill in the blanks. To understand the darkness and chaos. The silence. The pain. With their help, our heavy hearts can take solace in the strength of the human spirit and the power of faith. Through their words, we imagine the unimaginable – being trapped under tons of rubble in darkness.

Strangely, however, for me it’s harder to imagine singing. But sing they did. “I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got love like an ocean, I’ve got joy like a fountain, in my soul.”

Such strength and faith.

They help us to piece together the fragments of life in the darkness and silence, to assimilate order out of the chaos. Our minds are still troubled and our hearts still heavy, but we find a measure of peace, like a river, in our souls.

They are helping us to shape a narrative for a community of faith. We stand with Jim Gulley, who tells us, like Job of old, he has no answers about why some live and some die, some suffer and others don’t. But some questions have no answer, and there are times when we need each other more than answers.

And these brothers and sisters in Christ comforted each other, told stories and sang. They created community out of chaos. They cared for one another. Offered comfort, encouragement and stories.

We also hear from others like Pam Carter, who was evacuated unharmed on the outside but her heart was torn by leaving a friend who chose to stay. Their separation under such conditions haunts her. But she is tirelessly advocating for Haiti now more than before.

Asked if they will return to the place of their great personal pain, all answer yes. The tasks that brought them together remain unfinished. The work of redressing the inequities of the people of Haiti has not run its course. The challenge of empowering the women, improving the quality of life of the children, partnering with the church in Haiti all lie before us and even more so now. The search for justice and the fruitful life God intends for all will bring them back, and perhaps take them to other places in God’s world as well.

This is the narrative they are helping us to understand. We share a faith of deep conviction about the abiding, loving presence of God in our midst, wherever we find ourselves. And this faith is expressed in practical action that changes the world as we believe God calls us to partner with God for change.

And, for me, most profound of all: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be also.” Even under tons of rubble in the darkness and dust and blood, I am with you.

And if this be true, and I believe it is, then we must be with people wherever they find themselves seeking a fruitful life because that is where God is and that is who we are called to be as followers of Jesus.

God, what a story.

Video
Sarla Chand: “I was their connection to the outside world.”

Sarla Chand: “We at IMA will do all we can to honor Sam and Clint’s legacy.”

Sarla Chand: “Until the very end, they were joyful.”

Jim Gulley: “I want you to tell my family how much I love them.”

Jim Gulley: “We are French firemen. We are here to take you out.”

Jim Gulley: “My last walk with Sam was tragically short.”

Audio
Pam Carter: “Haiti needed us before. Multiply this a hundredfold.”

Related Articles
Haiti quake survivor Chand recalls hotel rescue

Survivor: UMCOR trio kept faith in Haiti ruins

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Don’t Tell me Love Ain’t Worth the Fight

It is a time of darkness and deep sadness. This morning I wrote a personal note to my colleague Sam Dixon telling him of my joy at his rescue. Around noon today as I sat in the newsroom at United Methodist Communications, my colleague David Briggs informed Tim Tanton and me that Sam was dead.

I exhaled loudly, as if I had been kicked in the stomach. Tim suggested we pray together, and we did.

I went to my office and listened to the song that’s the music bed for our television spot playing now. And a line caught in my throat. “Don’t tell me love ain’t worth the fight,” by the band The Congress. http://bit.ly/pE9ap

Sam fought the fight against poverty and disease. He fought against indifference to human suffering and the unequal division of the world’s resources. And I think he would say, “don’t tell me love ain’t worth the fight.” He died fighting the good fight.

I was to be in a meeting with him on Thursday to talk about combating malaria. And we were inviting him to attend our board meeting for strategic planning next month. Now there is this void.

This past week has been a time of emotional highs and lows. And if I’m feeling this at a distance, how much more so must it be for families missing loved ones? They are heavy on my mind. They fight through these days, clinging to hope and seeing reasons for despair.

In times like this when our human vulnerability is so fully exposed, faith means the most to me. We stand in the gathering darkness utterly vulnerable, our pretenses laid bare, our arrogance humbled, our false sense of power brought low and perhaps most significantly, our hopes dashed. In this state, in some miraculous way, we experience God’s grace.

Thomas Merton wrote, “If nothing that can be seen can either be God or represent him to us as he is, then to find God we must pass beyond everything that can be seen and enter into darkness.” In the darkness we find God. A mystery.

Through no action on our part, without justification or reason, it happens. We are encircled by a loving presence that affirms us, strengthens us, assures us and restores our hope. A great cloud of witnesses testifies to us that our vulnerability is not the whole story. There is more. It is the story of God reaching out to us because it is the nature of God to be with us in our darkest time.

The scriptures come alive. Those who wrote the sacred stories experienced life as we do. The passage of centuries does not diminish their authenticity. They knew pain as we know it, stumbled in the darkness as we stumble.

And in darkness they find themselves, even in their vulnerability, powerlessness and grief. “Once you were not a people, now you are God’s people,” one writes. “I will gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise,” another says of God’s promise. And a third says assuringly, “You will not fear the terror of the night.” Yes, they know. They have walked where we have walked. Our humanness is their humanness.

In this I find hope. A connecting thread. A common humanity. “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,” they tell us. “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” A promise and hope.

Don’t tell me love ain’t worth the fight.

“I Am With You”

Over the course of a lifetime, I have come to the conviction that we are closest to God when we are most vulnerable and exposed. When we are at our most human.

The events in Haiti bring this conviction to the top of my mind once again. I see children in the streets unattached to adult family members. I see the wounded, exposed on the sidewalk in front of broken buildings. I hear the stories of relatives in the U.S. yearning for contact with loved ones and instead experiencing the yawning silence of damaged communications systems.

I see workers digging furiously, sometimes with their bare hands, to free trapped people. I see others tending the wounded. I read prayers on social media, as if the world is raising its voice in a chorus of concern.

I see reports of a global response that is being mounted miraculously only hours after the tragedy.

When I am confronting situations like the Haiti earthquake, I hear this conviction as if it is a whisper, “God is here. God is with us. God is in our midst.” I cannot explain it. The logic of faith breaks down in the complexities of human suffering and the struggle to comprehend life and not give victory to death. I hear this whisper and I believe it. It is beyond logic and even beyond reasonable comprehension.

Because it is a conviction deep in the well of my soul, I speak of it carefully and quietly, if at all. Perhaps I think it’s so personal I should not impose it on others, and so deeply held it does not require my simplistic explanation because that would seem defensive. It is a conviction, neither platitude nor argument.

And a promise. “…remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)

We exist in the embrace of God who weeps with us, comforts us, stands with us in the midst of our suffering, feels the emptiness of our silence and holds us in the palm of God’s own hand.

I repeated it last night in conversation with myself and in prayer as I thought of the lives lost, the colleagues and family members not heard from, the homeless, injured, dazed and traumatized.

“The Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands… (Isa. 49:13-16. The Wesley Study Bible)

When you are most vulnerable and exposed. When you are most human, I am with you, always.

When God is Close

Over the course of a lifetime I have come to the conviction that we are closest to God when we are most vulnerable and exposed. When we are at our most human.
The events in Haiti bring this conviction to the top of my mind once again. I see children in the streets unattached to adult family members. I see the wounded, exposed on the sidewalk in front of broken buildings. I hear the stories of relatives in the U.S. yearning for contact with loved ones and instead experiencing the yawning silence of a damaged communications systems.
I see workers digging furiously, sometimes with their bare hands, to free trapped people. I see others tending the wounded. I read prayers on social media, as if the world is raising its voice in a chorus of concern.
I see reports of a global response that is being mounted miraculously only hours after the tragedy.
When I am in situations like the Haiti earthquake I hear this conviction as if it is a whisper, “God is here. God is with us. God is in our midst.” I cannot explain it. The logic of faith breaks down in the complexities of human suffering and the struggle to comprehend life and not give victory to death. I hear this whisper and I believe it. It is beyond logic and even beyond reasonable comprehension.
Because it is a conviction deep in the well of my soul I speak of it carefully and quietly, if at all. Perhaps I think it’s so personal I should not impose it on others, and so deeply held it does not require my simplistic explanation because that would seem defensive. It is a conviction, neither platitude nor argument.
And a promise. “…remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)
God is with us. All of us. We exist in the embrace of God who weeps with us, comforts us, stands with us in the midst of our suffering, feels the emptiness of our silence and holds us in the palm of God’s own hand.
I repeated it last night in conversation with myself and in prayer as I thought of the lives lost, the colleagues and family members not heard from, the homeless, injured, dazed and traumatized.
“The Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands… (Isa. 49:13-16. The Wesley Study Bible)
When you are most vulnerable and exposed. When you are most human, I am with you, always.

United Methodists stand with Haitians

This is the first morning of the Haitian earthquake tragedy and the devastation and loss of life in this impoverished neighbor are yet to be tallied. We know the suffering will be enormous. Material well-being was already lacking and now it will be even worse.

Our prayers and our commitment in the form of material assistance and our hands working with them to assess, relieve and rehabilitate the broken land will be needed into the long-term future.
No sooner had we at United Methodist Communications discussed our goal of providing United Methodists and others with timely, relevant information than this tragedy occurred. We assembled a team to provide coverage and they posted their first story shortly after the earthquake.

As I write early the next morning we are proceeding with relevant coverage. The United Methodist Church and its counterpart in Haiti have a long relationship of working together for the well-being of the people and the strengthening of the church. We are aware of mission teams from the U.S. who were in Haiti at the time of the quake and staff of the General Board of Global Ministries and its United Methodist Committee on Relief were in country for a meeting. And many of us have friends and relatives in the country, some of whom even after the long hours of this first night have not been heard from.

We will continue to develop reporting on the church’s relief, rehabilitation and long-term development efforts in Haiti. We invite you to help in the effort to inform others who are concerned by sending us pertinent information, photos, first person accounts and contacts.

We are on Twitter, Facebook and umc.org in addition to working the telephones. In tragedies such as this, the strength of the connectional system of The United Methodist Church stands out as a remarkably precious asset. Together we cannot only inform each other, but we can join hands with others to ease the great suffering that the Haitian people are certain to experience.

I invite you to follow our on-going coverage on umc.org and to share pertinent information with us so we may pass it along in this network of compassion and concern.
May we all keep the people of Haiti in our prayers.

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