keeping up the energy

Wednesday 30 April 2008

Sometimes it’s hard to find the energy to wake up each morning and fight against injustice, and after the events of a day like today, it would be easy to give up and say, “to hell with the world.”  I won’t recount to you my entire day (at least not in this post), but I will share with you one of the unfortunate events of the day: learning that the orphanage sewing workshop, whose story I had been following closely, was last night invaded by soldierswho stole all the materials and equipment, a workshop that was used to earn money for the girls orphanage (read the story tagged above and previous stories).

In a conversation today, the enormity of the horrors of this world were all too clear, and the ease at which one might give up on a positive future were very much apparent.   But near the end of the conversation, I recalled to the group the sixth of Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s Six Principles of Nonviolence: “Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.”  Or to phrase it another why I heard, “the arch of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I certainly feel that I couldn’t be working toward a world full of love, justice, and peace if I didn’t feel that — some day in the future — it was possibility to accomplish these things.  Many might categorize me as naive or unrealistic to think some “utopia” of a world is possible, but I say, “why not?”  There may be some kind of evil or badness is us, but I also know that there is a whole lot of love and humanity in every person out there, and we as a species need to cultivate that love and humanity in those around us.

In a world with so much out there to depress and frustrate us, we are called to avoid apathy and ignorance and to build relationships and work toward peace and justice.  It is our duty to love and to seek out ways that all around us might find that love.  We must work to break down the barriers that separate us and blind us to our commonalities and work to truly find what unites us as a common humanity.


on vocation and discernment

Saturday 26 April 2008

A little while ago I was asked to write a short article for the newsletter of the campus ministry I attended at college. Here is what I wrote:

There are two big words I remember hearing during my time at ULC: vocation and discernment. Pastor Lloyd reminded us all that during our time as students at Northwestern, our vocation was just that – a student at Northwestern. And when it came time for me to leave that place, it was a process of discernment I used to figure out where I would venture next. How could I “decide” where God was calling me? I needn’t worry if I had made the right decision, for I was assured that God would use me wherever I was, whatever I was doing.

I think about both of those words – vocation and discernment – as I approach the fourth anniversary of my graduation from Northwestern. After graduating in 2004, I spent my first two years teaching HS Math in the northern Chicago suburbs. However, I also spent the summer of 2005 and 2006 in Ohio, working as a camp counselor, as I had a few years during college. From there I moved to Milwaukee as a part of Lutheran Volunteer Corps – a year-long program where I lived in intentional community, attempting to live simply and sustainably while exploring spirituality and working toward social justice. My placement was in an “alternative” HS, co-teaching Math to about 100 students who didn’t quite fit into to standard Milwaukee Public Schools. This past August, when my LVC year was over, I moved to Washington, DC to take a position recruiting for LVC, in which I traveled around the Midwest, sharing about LVC at colleges and universities. I was recently hired to remain on staff to continue working with recruitment initiatives until Easter. And after that? – well, who knows!

It’s interesting to think I’ve now spent nearly as much time out of college as I did in college. But am I any closer to finding “my vocation?” A common definition of vocation is that of Frederick Buechner: “The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” And what happens when you throw the idea of discernment into the mix? Mustn’t we allow ourselves time to figure things out?

What I’ve come to believe is two-fold: First, our entire lives are a process of discernment. From the time we can talk, we’re asked something like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Thus begins one process of discernment. As we age, we are constantly discerning the kinds of relationships we want in our lives and if there might be a significant one among them. As I move around and do different “jobs,” I’m continuing to discern where to go and what to do next. And even if I come to a place I’m happy with, I’ll continue to discern whether to stay in that place and position or to maybe do something else.

Which flows into my second realization: Our vocation isn’t some job that’s perfect for us, but truly is, “The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.” In all my different locations and positions, I feel I’ve been filling the hunger of the world around me while finding deep gladness throughout. There might not be one “job” I’m called to for life but instead many positions which fulfill my vocation.

So as I daily discern where God is calling me, I think of my vocation always in light of Micah 6:8b — “Do justice, loves kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

eric (CAS ’04) was a peer minister for three years while at ULC. You can learn more about LVC at www.LutheranVolunteerCorps.org and read eric’s blog @ ericbjorlin.wordpress.com


overconfident much?

Thursday 24 April 2008

The tittle needed an extra parenthentical:
Bush says he’s confident about creation of a Palestinian state (but it’s really overconfidence)

While I won’t get into the argument here of whether or not a Palestinian state is even possible any more, my claim of Bush’s overconfidence is more the fact that he thinks it can be accomplished by the time he leaves office in January.  Really, he should have taken a cue from his own quote: “I’m confident we can achieve the definition of a state.  I’m also confident that it’s going to require hard work.”

The last sentence of the above article really says a lot, too: “The core issues remain the final borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem, disputed Israeli settlements, refugees, water and future relations between the two states.”  But really; that’s nothing that can’t be figured out in 8 or so months now, is it?

Even though I really don’t think it’s possible, it may be the first (and only) time I hope President Bush is actually right about something.

(On second thought, there are many times I’ve HOPED he’s been right, but how many times has that actually happened…?)


in the middle of the night…

Tuesday 22 April 2008

I was up at 4AM last night (I had good reason), and maybe it was the hour or just the time to really do some thinking, but I found myself thinking, “I should run for Congress this fall.”

I was preparing to write my mom an e-mail and ask her if this was viable (logistically, not if she thought it would be a good idea, though it would be a good question, maybe, too), and if so what I would have to do to get my name on the ballot, but instead I found a little bit of time to surf the Internet and find out for myself.  And actually once I found the right combination of words to use in my search engine of choice, I soon arrived at the answer that my name, in fact, could not appear on the ballot.

Even though I met all the basic requirements, according to the Ohio Election Calendar 2008 (because I would certainly be running, at this point, at least, in the Ohio 5th Congressional District), to be considered for one of the “major” parties, i would have had to have had my petition in 60 days prior to the primary, which was held on 4 March, so I had obviously missed that.  Since I did vote in the Democrat primary in Ohio, I am thus currently affiliated with that party, so I couldn’t run as an independent candidate — to run as an independent (and if I run in 2010, I’d maybe go independent in the 5th District), one need only have the paperwork in a day prior to the primary, but that, too, is already passed. — But as history seems to show, a non-Republican seems to fare a bit better in the 5th District when people aren’t voting for president, but this year, you never know.

You’d think that 6 months in advance to get your name on a ballot for elected office would be enough, but I guess that isn’t the case.  I guess I’ll have to table all the slogans and platforms I was dreaming up for another two years or so.  And maybe by that time I might be what they actually call a “viable candidate.”  (I’ll probably at least have hair that doesn’t touch my shoulders at that point, but you never know.)


post 100!

Monday 21 April 2008

It’s official (well, according to the statistics wordpress does for me) — this is published Post #100!  It’s been a fun ride (at least for me) since I published my first blog entry back on my birthday last May, and I hope you’ve enjoyed things as well, too.  Since I’ve done 100 posts since I started, that’s an average of about one post every 3.5 days, or about two a week.  While in general that seems like a pretty good amount of posting, there are some things I have learned about the blogging world.

One is that if you post consistently every day or every few days, people seem to come back each day, but if you go a long spurt without posts, you seem to quickly lose many readers.  Some people seem to subscribe to the blog, meaning they are notified by some source when it is updated, and others just come back every day or so or whenever they think about it to see what they’ve missed.

Also, I’ve learned that reading other blogs and posting comments can bring in more readers (though if you’re not consistent — and if they’re not interested in what you’re writing — they quickly fade away).

But all this comes back to why I started this blog, and that was simply to get out some thoughts that people could read and think about if they wanted to, and if not, oh well.  As any writer, though, I do crave readers, so I’m constantly going between a desire to do things to bring more readers and not feeling pressure to write unless I want to, but even that’s a challenge.

I am a bit disappointed, though, that there aren’t more comments to my posts, which means either my thoughts and words don’t spark anything for the reader (which I desperately hope is not true) or people just aren’t interested or inspired enough to post a comment of affirmation or questioning or disagreement.  So I challenge you to make this blog partly your blog, too, and join me as I endeavor to write another 100, 200, 300, or more blogs in the coming months and  years.

Peace — eric


when religion breeds intolerance

Friday 18 April 2008

Religion is an interesting entity, isn’t it?  I’ve been a “religious person” since I can remember, and I would still consider myself one today, though that title makes me a little uncomfortable because of the many negative connotations it conjures up in so many people.  Many people have been hurt by religion, or probably stated more correctly, the “religious establishment.”  Religion can do many amazing things, as can be seen by some of the work religious entities do in times of crisis, but can also conjure up horrors, as we saw in the Crusades.  One could write books about a variety of issues concerning religion (and many people have — just visit any bookstore), but I want to talk about one issue on my mind today that connects with religion: intolerance.

I’ve had a few interesting conversations about religion this past week with someone I’ve met here in my travels, and the connection of religion to tolerance (or a lack there of) has crept into most of those conversations.  Our first conversation talked about how many religions do overlap in some qualities, like love and peace, but somehow the differences are what we tend to emphasize; and then, unfortunately, the values created out of those differences in some way cause us all to forget about the underlying values of love and peace found when one really looks at religion.

(Note: Instead of doing so for each example, I will iterate here that I believe each of the following religions, as a general rule, holds a value of love, peace, and tolerance, though each example shows that this can sometimes be forgotten about when looking at certain issues.)
A few examples:
The sector of Christianity which says God does not love or accept homosexuals.
The sector of Judaism which advocates for the expulsion of Palestinians from certain lands of the Middle East.
The sector of Islam which seeks a “holy war” against Westernism.

There are many great people in religious institutions and organizations working for peace and justice (CPT and LVC are just two examples), but it’s so easy to look at the bad instead of the overwhelming volume of good that is out there (the media certainly does it).  In general, I believe that religion should teach us how to be tolerant of one another and to seek ways to love and support one another in the struggles that exist for all of us in this world.

I certainly don’t want to be caught up in a “religion” which people associate with intolerance, but I haven’t let that be a reason to drop the “religious” adjective when I describe myself.  Hopefully as people experience who I am and what I stand for, they will realize that I, and maybe most of the religious community itself, believe in a life full of love and respect, hope and justice, for all people, and through connecting with others who share those values, we can truly make a difference.

Peace.


while you’re waiting…

Sunday 13 April 2008

Until I have time to write some of my own thoughts, take a look here:

MPT in Palestine