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16 April 2017

Easter Sunday Reminders

"It was love that set this fragile planet rolling
Tilting at our perfect twenty-three
Molecules and men infused with holy
Finding our way around the galaxy
And Paradise has up and flown away for now
But hope still breathes and truth is always true
And just when we think it's almost over
Love has the final move"

Walks over hills and valleys have taught me a bitter fear of light. Time to time, the shadows of the valleys feel comfortable and receiving. The lift of the hill hurts my aching back and feet. The transition into the light pouring in on the slope and rise of the mountain feels more overwhelming than warming. But eventually the shade of the valley becomes too cold. And the loneliness of the valley is unkind. Weak and tired, remembering the warmth of the sun, I look around for my Redeemer. Remember me, Lord. The atrocities and pain all around me seep into my own soul. It’s a familiar part of the shadows. The sorrows that belong to my neighbors are mine as well. And new sorrows seep in as the world attacks in new ways. But Your hope and encouragement are speaking and pulsing in the waves of sound and light that reverberate from your gentle voice calling into the dark, into my dark.
I’m sad, Father. I’m scared, Father. I hurt for my friends. I hurt for my lost world. I hurt for my own lost soul. It is found in You. But I see those waves rocking around me like Peter on the water’s surface, and it is want to overtake me. My loneliness wins. My desire for connection looks for immediacy and intimacy. So I concoct cheap variations of Your love. And it is not false. I know there’s a truth that runs through it. But I am not enough to force my truths to win. I cannot stand firm because I stand on my own.
God, You know me. I know You know me. Inspire me. Refresh me. Hold me. Lead me. I long for connection, God. But the one that loves You most and who can handle me best, without holding me back from all that can be, hasn’t shown his face. I am proud. But still hurting. I am fierce. But I am feeble.
But as much as I hear my own voice pumping and thumping around in my skull, I feel Your pull. Pull me into Your story, Father. Pull me out of my own head and hurt. Please continue to remind me of Your breath in creation and the pulse of Your heart in the midst of all the brokenness.
Give me strength, Father, to pull myself up again. Please do the work in me. I love my voice that You gave me. I love the strength of will and fight in me that is not just in and of myself. But rather a fighter that You bore into my makeup through gift of life and education of circumstance. I don’t sacrifice that girl in me on an altar of appropriation and common acceptance. No, I lift her up to You. Let her keep fighting, God. But not in sadness, desperation, and pain. Rather in the hope of Your light and life. Please, come before me. Prepare the way for my battle lines. Let me know which battles are mine, and which are not. Take over my weakness and wrap it up in Your strength. Let me see my road and not remove my feet from that path.
I see that light trickling down the hill. Let me not shirk away or hide my eyes. Help to adjust my pupils to the incoming waves of Your shine. Inspire me and push me up this hill. I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Climbing up the Southern Rabbinical Steps in Jerusalem, I read aloud Tehillim 121 (Psalm 121) as the Israelite people had done from memory for ages and ages before me. Jerusalem, a city on a hill, reminds me where I look to for help. The Hebrews would recite their songs of ascent while climbing up the steps on their way to the temple. When I had the opportunity to climb these same steps, I wanted to say these same words aloud. It was chilling and inspiring. It gave me a somber ache and an exuberant joy to share the same rite of passage with my Jewish brothers and sisters. And these words give me new life now, as I remember all my God has done for me. I was there. And He is here.

My Help Comes from the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

121 lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

13 October 2013

What Can You Do?

Friends and associates, I have two important occasions coming up THIS SATURDAY that YOU can be a part of as well!

1. On October 19th, I'm planning to run a 5k to combat the evils of human slave trafficking and the sex slave trade. If I get just 10 sponsors to pledge $10, that will make a huge difference! All I need is 10 people to say, "Hey, I can spare $10 in my budget if it makes a difference for one of these poor girls (and young boys) who are facing an unthinkable, daily reality!" Your $10 could have an incalculable effect on the life of someone who desperately needs help. And if you can't spare $10, please keep praying with me for these dear souls whose pain we may never know, but whose Father is one and the same.

2. Also by October 19th, I need to reach my goal of $300 to secure my spot for a trip to Israel next year. If you are moved to donate towards that goal, I cannot tell you what your gift would mean to me. However, I am also eager to earn the blessing of your funding. For very reasonable prices, I can offer a handful of well-being opportunities. That list of opportunities includes: near-professional massages and hot stone therapy, hairstyling and cuts, editorial advice, voice lessons, makeovers, yard-work, house cleaning, tutoring, childcare, and various art projects (note: I currently have a minimum of a four month wait on all art projects, so choosing this option would require patience). If there is something you think I might be able to offer my services for, I would likely love to do so! I have until this Saturday to make it happen. Again, your prayer and encouragement is greatly appreciated, even if you can't financially contribute.

Please contact me via any form of communication you prefer, including this blog.
Twitter: @kadellis

Facebook: Kala Alaeya Danäe Ellis

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13 April 2013

America, This Is Going To Hurt Like Hell

The case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell is one that we all need to recognize and acknowledge.
Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell's Trial Should Be a Front Page Story, Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic.
He illegally performed abortions on babies that were past the legal age limit, "four to five times a week." He abused women viciously--destroying their bodies, over dosing them with dangerous drugs, using broken and unsterilized instruments, giving them venereal diseases, keeping them uniformed, and making racist priorities favoring his white customers. He directly caused the death of at least two known women. After any failed abortion, if a baby had taken his or her first breath, he would practice what he called "snipping." In all reality, he practiced the beheading of live born infants. His records, offices, and hospital were haphazard, dangerous, and unfit. Upon many complaints, reports of malpractice, and tip offs, all authorities and forms of accountability had failed. The Department of Health, the Department of State, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, and the National Abortion Federation all failed to take action immediately to stop the problems going on with Gosnell's operations. His behavior has been widely permitted, ignored, and dismissed since at least 1979, when the Women's Medical Society was first approved to open an abortion clinic.
The bold-faced lie of the abortion facade cannot continue. The idea that abortion is a saving grace for women is a complete farce, a detrimental facade of so-called women's rights. Indeed, the culture of abortion produces the opposite of freedom for women. How many doctors are out there operating under the same pretense and illusion that they can live above the law? How far will the calloused hearts of our corrupt system go to keep from acknowledging the culture of abortion and its effects? What consequences are we willing to pay to continue ignoring the dirty reality of all our meager justifications as a society?
We may not want to know. I know I don't. But constantly shielding our eyes from the realities spawned from the abortion mentality results in the calloused and crooked thinking of someone like Gosnell. This case asks us to recognize the plight of abortion on society. It asks us to recognize that we were devastatingly wrong to give legal parameters for abortion. It asks countless would-be mothers and fathers to admit that they have willingly sacrificed their babies on an altar of convenience. May the shock and disgust we feel towards this man move America to see that the difference between a child who has taken his or her first breath and a "fetus" is just that--a child who has yet to inhale the air of our broken world. Can we please allow this man to be the last level of "rock bottom" that America hits in order to propel forward and beyond this miserable past into a hope-filled, brighter day? A day where the battle for life is no longer wickedly hushed and silenced in our courts, in our media outlets, and in our communities. It's never easy to say you're wrong, but on this scale it's terrifying. I hope the women who have had abortions will have the courage and bravery necessary to seek the truth, recognize exactly what evils have gone on, and find forgiveness and joy. I hope each woman can release their yoke and pick up the new, lighter yoke that comes with grace. The road to defeating abortion will be long and arduous. But if we can use the evil of this man to help us see the truth, then perhaps we can collectively begin that journey. It's going to hurt like hell, America. And perhaps aptly so. So let's get started.
Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell's Trial Should Be a Front Page Story, Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic.
Notable quotes concerning this case from the article above:
"'This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy - and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors,' it states. 'The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels - and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.'"
"On February 18, 2010, the FBI raided the 'Women's Medical Society,' entering its offices about 8:30 p.m. Agents expected to find evidence that it was illegally selling prescription drugs. On entering, they quickly realized something else was amiss. In the grand jury report's telling, 'There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets. All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff.' Authorities had also learned about the patient that died at the facility several months prior."
"Upon further inspection, 'the search team discovered fetal remains haphazardly stored throughout the clinic - in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers.'"
"The unsanitary conditions were just the beginning.
One woman 'was left lying in place for hours after Gosnell tore her cervix and colon while trying, unsuccessfully, to extract the fetus,' the report states. Another patient, 19, 'was held for several hours after Gosnell punctured her uterus. As a result of the delay, she fell into shock from blood loss, and had to undergo a hysterectomy.' A third patient 'went into convulsions during an abortion, fell off the procedure table, and hit her head on the floor. Gosnell wouldn't call an ambulance, and wouldn't let the woman's companion leave the building so that he could call an ambulance.'"
"Said the employee:
'Like if a girl -- the black population was -- African population was big here. So he didn't mind you medicating your African American girls, your Indian girl, but if you had a white girl from the suburbs, oh, you better not medicate her. You better wait until he go in and talk to her first. And one day I said something to him and he was like, that's the way of the world. Huh? And he brushed it off and that was it.'"
"Most employees did as they were told, but one objected:
'Marcella Stanley Choung, who told us that her "training" for anesthesia consisted of a 15-minute description by Gosnell and reading a chart he had posted in a cabinet. She was so uncomfortable medicating patients, she said, that she "didn't sleep at night." She knew that if she made even a small error, "I can kill this lady, and I'm not jail material." One night in 2002, when she found herself alone with 15 patients, she refused Gosnell's directives to medicate them. She made an excuse, went to her car, and drove away, never to return. Choung immediately filed a complaint with the Department of State, but the department never acted on it.'"
"The conclusion drawn at the end of the section is provocative. 'Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that,' it states. 'But we think this was something more. We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.'"
Additional Reading:
Philadelphia abortion clinic horror: Column, Kirsten Powers. USA Today.
Kermit Gosnell: The Alleged Mass-Murderer and the Bored Media, David Weigel. Slate. 

12 February 2013

Guns. Okay, Let's Talk About It.

I was recently shown a graph that depicts the spike of news attention given to the topic of gun control specifically after a traumatic shooting spree. Not long after the matter is messily devoured by every media outlet, this particular graph showed that talk on gun control trailed off to lower and lower degrees after initially hitting higher and higher spikes. The higher the spike in news attention at the start, the lower it would drop off in future months. Interestingly, the person citing this graph was using it to point out their belief in the need to continue addressing the issue. I tend to lean toward the notion that in actuality, the over sensationalized and tainted media outlets were likely adversely affecting the response of the public. The more reporters threw dire, heart-wrenching stories in our faces in hopes to gain viewers and raise conflict, the more the public shut down. Unfortunately, the more attention the news put towards gun control while yet more evil people responded by finding ways to kill despite it all, the more doubtful and wittingly ignorant we have become to the real disease at hand. It seems clear to me that we are putting our focus in the wrong direction when we talk about guns. We are focusing on band aids--band aids that won't even stick--instead of real cures. We are looking for anyone to blame. We are pointing our fingers in every direction to avoid touching on the subjects that really strike a nerve. But I am getting ahead of myself.

With the current push for gun control, I would like to share my overall views in this matter. After having had this conversation recently with an old colleague, I think sharing that discussion may be the best way to get across how I feel exactly. So may you join the conversation with me. The real one. The one we need to be having, not the one we keep falling back on.

"Well, rather than talking about gun reform, which I do believe needs to continue as a meaningful debate, you're right, news outlets blast us with superficial coverage of a story repeatedly. We stop talking about the issue because it's just sizzle and no meat. While I do believe there should be something done about our nation's infatuation with machines designed to kill other people (what else would you need 30 rounds in a rifle for?), I believe the real issue is why is this OUR problem? A lot of people have heard the talking point that Americans have been killed in gun-related violence in the US more than they have in all of the wars we've had put together. And this one is true! We're trying to stem the proliferation of nuclear arms, but we're flooding our streets with weapons of minor destruction and engaging in a civil war of attrition in the name of the 2nd Amendment. The Constitution is a rule of law, not THE law, right? What happened to respect for human life?"

My response: 
"Great points. I think you hit on something that can also show where some of the confusion lies...
First I have to point out that I am not handy with guns or gun knowledge for that matter. I have only used a couple of guns in my life, and I couldn't tell you what types they even were. But I have tried to wrap my head around the situation anyway. If people who do not use guns or have considerable knowledge of them are going to define terms, how can they really decipher if a 30 round rifle is necessarily a tool for murdering people? While I may not be proficient with guns, my handful of army friends, who definitively know their way around a gun, and my friends who are experienced hunters have given me a couple of run downs that have given some clarity on the matter. 

First, as you may or not already know, an assault rifle doesn't work like a machine gun in the fact that it is only semi-automatic and still only shoots one bullet per time the trigger is pulled. It won't shoot any faster than a person can pull the trigger. 

Second, due to cosmetic definitions, not crime associated differences, the comparisons of assault rifles to military rifles are formed. The term "assault" rifle is a loose term at best. The top crime guns are hardly discussed at the level these misleadingly termed "assault" rifles are. Instead many of the guns that are used as tools by experienced and law-abiding gun handlers are being targeted. And really to what avail? The types of petty crimes that have come to define large portions of our own generation and the very streets of our nation's most crime filled cities ought to be just as devastating to our country as any of the crimes that are committed in these sorts of outbreaks. The unfortunate reality is that criminals are never going to pay heed to laws for gun owners. The laws already in place for gun owners are bypassed by criminals.

I am open to new ideas on reforming the way guns are handled. I personally think if we all knew how to handle a gun, accidental deaths would be diminished greatly. But making the many experienced gun owners work harder to attain guns legally, while many non-experienced gun owners who are not opposed to breaking any number of new or old laws, just doesn't seem to touch the problem on any real level.

Like I said at the beginning, I am no expert when it comes to handling guns or gun factoids. But I have had a gun pointed at me. And I can tell you two things. It wasn't by someone who owned the gun legally and it wasn't an "assault" rifle. It was a hand gun. The person who held it also carried other illegal substances. And if he wanted to shoot me, he certainly wasn't far from doing so. Keeping a gun out of his hands isn't something that legislation can handle. It just isn't. With or without the gun, a violent, malicious person will do violent, malicious things. And the same goes for others like him. People with broken lives trying to make up for the brokenness any way they can. Bullies. And what are bullies if not, at some level, victims? They don't get to play the victim, it's just the nature of the beast when you look at the state of things. The foundation is off kilter with our youth. It's been off. And we're not dealing so much with broken laws anymore as we are dealing with very broken people. 

We teach convenience and disrespect. We devalue the standard and limits given to us in our Constitution. We have teachers that don't love what they do, don't love their students, and don't love truth. We have parents that are completely removed from their children's lives. We have every form of media swarming our kids everyday. We have movie heroes depicting violence without cause and living life without justice, while our real heroes fighting wars and standing for justice are diminished as our leaders cut their funds time and time again. And what do they cut their funds for? To put more towards the broken education system filled with the broken teachers! Asking anyone to look at gun control is just a distraction from the real disease of our country. It's a finger of blame to avoid the responsibility we ought to be addressing. We're fighting for an illusion of protection from guns and bad guys, rather than fighting to rebuild the brokenness of our society. 

You mentioned the respect for human life? Well let's really look at that.
The big issue isn't how an individual chooses to kill masses of people, rather the notion of why? If we look at the problem like a disease, we can see that continuously manipulating and converging and altering laws and legislation is only going to tease out the symptoms of this disease. And I use the phrase 'tease out' rather than 'treat' for if we were even looking at something that might 'treat' the symptoms of this disease, then we'd be looking at, at least a little, improvement. But I don't think we are even allowing for that, since the side effects of this sort of 'treatment' end up confounding the issues and also do not keep killers from killing. 

Instead, we need to be looking for a cure for the disease. No amount of gun control really helps in this area of the discussion. And how could it? As simple minded as this may sound, the cure is in parents loving and knowing their children. The cure is in communities uniting to uplift broken homes. The cure is in charitable churches that make welfare a non-issue. The cure is in teachers that pour into lives, not test scores. The cure is everywhere we are not looking. It's everywhere we do not discuss.
So should we talk about gun control some more? I'll be happy to. But only if the real discussion on hearth and home are not being held at bay. Only if we do not continue fooling ourselves that legislative government can save lives. It can't. Even with the best of intentions, the outreaching arms of legislative government will only save lives on paper. And if we continue to turn to government to save lives, then when will parents pick up the gauntlet? When will families guard up the hearts of their loved ones? When will we ever see a real change? The answer is, we won't."

10 February 2013

Beauty from Ashes

I remember how much I loved my baby doll when I was little. Now I wasn't always so careful with her. Sometimes I'd go for months without playing with her. Sometimes I would leave her out for my brother, Spencer, to get a hold of her. But when I was playing pretend with her, she was real to me. She had feelings. I would let her sleep on my pillow, and I'd scoot to the edge of my bed to keep from rolling over on her. I would hold her so carefully in my arms. I named her Ruth after my favorite Bible character. I would tell her I'm sorry for letting Spencer squish her plastic face. I wanted things to be perfect. Yet I knew, even then, that something was wrong. I knew that when I got bored with the game, I'd toss her aside again. I knew that I'd leave her somewhere or that Spencer would draw on her or that she would fall behind the bed, and that I would not be able to stop it all from happening. So I loved her dearly and all-the-more when I played pretend because I knew it was pretend. It wouldn't last.

When I look at life, I feel much of the same bitter sweet ache. I look at my family and my friends. I look at myself and my hopes. It's a crushing thought when you see that everything is broken. It's all broken. None of it is right. Not quite. Sometimes, not at all. I think about the times I'd look at my doll remorsefully, wanting to keep things perfect like how they were in my pretend world--where I'd rock her and imagine silly stories of her playing football when she got older--but knowing that it all just wasn't so.

I want to protect those I love from the evils of this world. Yet I look around and see that not only does it pour in from every electronic screen and speaker, it also comes from the mouths of friends and family. It comes from my very own choices and actions. It comes from our own mothers and fathers. It's devastating. I think, "Oh God, it is not supposed to be like this! It's all gotten so messed up!"
What am I talking about?
The hate that pours in from each association or political group that just cannot allow room for justice or grace.
The people who lie to your face, make you feel some fake version of love, then steal it away right when you chose to believe in it.
The parents who promise their children that forever means forever, then decide like temperamental adolescents to follow paths of destruction.
The children who mock their history and undercut their parents.
The fathers who fail to be fathers, and the mothers who fail to be mothers.
The husbands who fail to be husbands, and the wives who fail to be wives.
The dreams that hover overhead like clouds and, every time you get close, evaporate into a mist.
The sicknesses and diseases that rip through the lives of families and friends like unforeseen natural disasters.
The natural disasters that redefine livelihoods.
The friends that build you up and tear you down.
The people you know best who turn out to be strangers.
The people who kill intentionally with malice at heart.
The people who kill ignorantly with convenience at heart.
The people who let evil live, with both intention and with ignorance!
The lives, all the lives we've lost.
The love that was supposed to be waiting at the other end of hardship.
The stupidity of so-called leaders.
The weakness of so-called followers.
And oh the deceit, frailty, and wickedness that spawns in my own heart.

I look at this broken, starving world aching for truth and love and hope and I cry, "Oh God! It's broken! We've messed it up, God! It's just not supposed to be like this!"

It hurts. And I weep, not just for the burden I carry, but for the burdens I cannot take away from others.

But then, redemption.

His grace covers all. It washes the dirtied hands of criminals. It cleanses the residue upon our tear-stained cheeks. It lifts our heads. It sounds triumphantly in a newborn's laugh. It shakes the earth when a faithful man kisses his wife on her head. It echoes proudly when one man takes care of another man's meal before serving himself. So resplendent is His grace when someone looks to their friend and asks for forgiveness. It rattles the gates of hell when truth is fought for, despite the cost. How good is our God who sustains us?

Weakness taunts us. But God redeems the weak, so that He may be praised. Stupidity trips us up. But God heals the broken after they fall, so they can be better prepared to lead. Loved ones lie to us. But God offers discernment to lead us to the truth, so that we may better know that the truth has been tested and not found wanting. Things fall apart. But God rebuilds you in the ashes of disaster. He strengthens you. He adds new armor to your suit after every weak spot is discovered. He builds you up so that His kingdom can be built up. He builds you up so that true beauty can be brought forth. We are the beauty from the ashes. Always. His grace is sufficient.

Now it's true. Nothing is right. That bitter sweet ache I would get when playing pretend with my baby doll remains with me as I imagine the futures of my youngest siblings or the lot of generations even further down the line. Yet His grace is sufficient. And while we may just be doing what we can to create our own versions of home here on earth, there will be a day when perfection comes and the imperfect will disappear. His grace was poured out, and justice is not far behind. So let us continue to seek truth, both in word and deed. Let us fight for justice, no matter the cost. Let us accept the waves of His mercy, for His grace is enough.