Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: aid

Guest Post – News from i117

Hello friends!

It’s that time of year again–no, not Halloween. Widow’s Christmas Party!

In all the busyness of life it’s easy to forget about the hardships of people on the other side of the world. All the little things that make life in Canada comfortable and ‘safe’ tend to clutter up our attention. It is hard to keep the poor in mind when our hands are so full with work and school and kids and Halloween parties and whatever else we fill our lives with. Our goodies distract us.

Our widow friends have started to ask if the gathering is on for this year. I want to say ‘yes!’ And I want you to be a part of that ‘yes!’

With $600 we could throw a great party for these marginalized people of Sindh. Like each year, we will feed them, give them gifts of much-needed supplies and clothing, and share the love of Jesus. It’s a small sum of money that can be turned into a huge sum of love.

If you’d like to take part, go to i117’s Paypal site. Or message me through Facebook or e-mail.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, … For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
– Matthew 25:34-35

Getting Things Done

I’m a busy dude.

But only because I want to be, so that’s nice.

Talk to me sometime.  You’ll discover that I’m full of energy.  I’m motivated.  Ambitious.  I want to get stuff done.  And I want to do it well.  The things I do, I want to be the best at them.

I’m a husband and a father, and I feel threatened by folks who seem to pull those jobs off better than I do.

I’m a writer, and I get chills of joy when I read a published book that’s worse than what I’m writing and chills of agony when I read something that I know is better than what I can do.

I’m a preacher and there’s nothing better than seeing a crowd of people inspired to love more.

I’m a student and I want to write essays that make the professor smack his forehead and say, “Wow, I never looked at it in that way before!”

I’m a friend, and I love everyone I know and want them all to know it and feel empowered through their friendships with me.

I want to excel at all these things, and I don’t really think it’s unreasonable.  But, wow, sometimes I just tank out.

I’ve never been the most organized person.  I leave things to the last minute and I get emotionally crushed under the knowledge of all the things I’m trying to pull off.  It’s not that I have too many things on my plate.  It’s just that I’m not so good at organizing my plate.  Stuff keeps falling off and I keep making messes all over the table.  My writing suffers, I lose touch with friends, I miss important family things.

All this is to ask, how do you do it?  How you you keep yourself on track with all the life-roles you want to excel at?  How do you organize your time?  How do you organize your emotional and mental energy?  How do you keep the things you love from falling through the cracks?

Tell me, people of the interwebs.  What solutions help you to get the things done that you want to get done?

An Open Letter to the Makers of The Lorax

     Dear folks who made The Lorax,

     Thanks.

     Seriously, thanks.

     As I walked my son out from the cinema, he started talking. He said how sad it was that the boy lived in a place where a few people were rich and happy while the rest of the world was dead and grey. He thought it was stupid that everyone listened to the rich man and blindly bought his bottles of air. He asked me if something like that could ever happen in the real world.

     “It is happening, Joe,” I said.

     That made him sad. He asked how he could fix it. I asked him what the boy did in the movie.

     “He planted the tree, even when the boss told him not to,” Joe said.

     It led to a great talk about how we can be responsible for the planet and the resources we have. It led to a great series of questions that most kids don’t get to deal with.

     “What should you do when someone in charge tells you to do something that you think is evil or wrong?” I asked.

     “Don’t listen.”

     “What do you do if I tell you to do something wrong?”

     He paused. “I’m not going to listen to you.”

     That’s my boy.

     So thank you, folks who made The Lorax. Thank you for showing the dark future my son will inherit unless my generation starts caring and making changes. Thank you for encouraging my son to care. And thank you, most of all, for fostering a holy rebellious spirit in his heart. He’ll need it.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

The Nameless Crowd

     I recently gave a talk about global economics and Christianity. It’s a pretty simple topic to go on, really. All you need to do is show how mind-bogglingly screwed up the distribution of wealth and resources is, then point to the bucketful of prophets and apostles who say that if we aren’t fixing it we’re working against God’s will. I’ve given talks like this a few times in different churches.

     But something slapped me in the face this time.

     I was reading up on the story Jesus told about Dives and Lazarus. You’ve heard the story. Lazarus was a beggar who lived outside of Dives’ house. He was destitute, homeless and covered in painful sores. Dogs used to lick them. The he died. Jesus says that after he died he got carried by angels to a nice place. Then Dives died. His place wasn’t nearly so nice. Jesus suggests guilt on Dives because of Lazarus. Not necessarily because it was Dives who caused Lazarus’ destitution, but because he didn’t give a damn.

     The neatest thing, though, is that Dives didn’t really have a name. If you read the story itself, it just calls him ‘The Rich Man’. Dives is just Latin for rich man. Meanwhile the dying beggar, covered in disease, is called Lazarus. Jesus gives this character the name of one of his best buddies.

     The wealthy, influential and, likely, well-admired hard-working dude is nameless. He’s a nobody. A stat on a page. Just the rich guy.

     The beggar, dying in the streets, ignored and forgotten in his suffering, has a name. A beloved name. A name that people like Jesus care about. Suddenly, in the midst of his horrible circumstance, Jesus gives that character dignity, while subtly taking it away from the one we would have thought was important.

     If you’re reading this blog, I’d wager that you are rich. At least in the top ten percent of wage-earners in the world. And since you have the Internet, you probably know about the suffering that goes on in the world, just like the unnamed rich man did. He did nothing about it, and lost his dignity and importance.

The rich man was guilty because he ignored the poor man’s plight, did nothing about his destitution, failed to use his affluence to relieve the poor man’s need, and acquiesced in a situation of gross economic inequality which had dehumanized Lazarus and which he could have remedied. The pariah dogs who licked the poor man’s wounds showed more compassion towards him that the rich man. Dives went to hell not because he had exploited Lazarus, but because of his scandalous indifference and apathy.
– John Stott – Issues Facing Christians Today

Thich Nhat Hanh on Generosity

When you hammer a nail into a board and accidentally strike your finger, you take care of it immediately. The right hand never says to the left hand, “I am doing charitable work for you.” It just does whatever it can to help – giving first aid, compassion, and concern. In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, the practice of dana is like this. We do whatever we can to benefit others without seeing ourselves as helpers and the others as the helped. This is the spirit of non-self.

– Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

New Testament Gathering Principles

    Dr. Zaius, you silly orangutan.

Three monkeys

     I preach sometimes. I grew up in a nifty restorationist denomination that was formed in an attempt to get back to ‘New Testament Gathering Principles’. The founders figured that the organized church had drifted pretty far from the pattern of being Christ’s body that he had originally laid down. Sounds good, eh?

     I decided to preach on New Testament gathering principles last week. If you drop by in one of the churches from my denomination there’s a chance you’ll hear a sermon with this title. It’s pretty popular. I can’t count how many of them I heard growing up. Usually they’re about how we need to say ‘assembly’ instead of ‘church’ or how women aren’t allowed to talk or lead or go around without doilies on their head. I wanted to get a bit closer to the core in my sermon, though. Here’s some gathering principles I shared:

  • Famous for Love – John 13:34-35; 15:12. A quick Google search shows that the top four adjectives for describing evangelicals are ‘Insane,’ ‘Crazy,’ ‘Dangerous,’ and ‘Scary.’ Jesus said that people would know we were with him if we were famous for love.
  • Devoted to the Apostle’s Teaching – Acts 2:42. What did they teach? The same stuff that Jesus taught. Love. More love. Lots of love. The kind of love that leads you to die for strangers and enemies. Devoted to that.
  • Community – Acts 2:44-46; 4:32. No, not the wildly funny TV show. Living with such a sense of unity that we share everything we have. No private property. Like having a wildly big family. Most churches are clubs that meet on Sunday. The pattern was a community of people who lived and loved together all the time.
  • Productive, Risky Social Action – Acts 4:34. People quote Jesus in saying that the poor will always be with us as an excuse not to help eliminate poverty. It’s a good thing Jesus is still alive, otherwise I think he’d be turning over in his grave to hear such talk. The first followers eliminated poverty amongst their circles. It was risky, but it worked. Good pattern.
  • Making Disciples – Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:47. Not converts. Jesus never tried to get the Samaritan woman to convert to Judaism. His call was never convert. It was follow. Repent. Walk. Move. He didn’t come so that our theological statements could be more logically consistent than a Muslim’s. He came to reproduce.

     My people left the Anglican church because their leaders were more concerned with robes and ceremonies than they were with the things that Jesus said. I hope that we can always be moving in a restorationist direction, or else we’ll find ourselves, like Dr. Zaius, pushing truth away because it comes in a different box than we’re used to

Flooding in Pakistan

The flooding in Sindh seems to be the worst I’ve ever seen it. Crops are dying. Houses are losing their foundations and falling. Diseases like malaria and typhoid are going to be spreading rampant very soon. The whole province is in pain. My mother-in-law’s house is flooded up to knee-level. They rarely have electricity.

I have been slowly building my mother-in-law a house to retire in. It’s on an elevated place and is, apparently, less damaged. I’ve been working on it for three years and it’s almost livable now. Just a few hundred more dollars and it’ll be ready. We’re hoping we can manage soon because the house they are in now is in a depression, so it’s getting hit harder than most places.

So, praying friends, pray for Sindh and for my family. In the West we don’t realize how dangerous these floods can be. The biggest danger is never drowning. It’s the failing crops, the wildly spreading diseases, the damage to the houses. When we were living in Pakistan 300 houses collapsed in my mother-in-law’s town. And this year, apparently, it’s worse. The people need help. So I ask, pray and, if you can, send some help. We’re trying to get them into their new house so this won’t be a problem and we’d also like to help with many of our other friends who live in the rural villages. If you can help, please let us know and we can give you details.

Matt

Crazy Horse

Jesus was having dinner one day when he decided to rip up some of the religious and political practices of his hosts. When a lawyer who was watching mentioned that his talk was kinda insulting. Jesus turned to him, then, and started laying into him and his kind, blaming him for the murders of all the ancient prophets.

Seems a bit unfair, eh? I mean, how did this lawyer have anything to do with the deaths of prophets hundreds of years ago? It sounds kinda like how some bands charge us western folks for the murder of the Natives and all the various crimes of our forefathers. Unreasonable, eh?

Or maybe not. Jesus seemed to suggest that the lawyer was guilty of those murders because he was living in a way that denied the message of the prophets. He was looking at their messages in a scholastic, unfeeling way. A way that denied the life in the message, and only accepted the words. In a similar situation, he would not have acted much differently from his ancestors.

And what about me and the modern Christians I represent? Some modern media charges me with the murder of Crazy Horse. Legit?

  • I buy things from stores that oppress their workers oversea.
  • I see extreme poverty, have excess of food, and do not alleviate.
  • I care little for floods and earthquakes in Asia, but I was glued to the TV for the minor quake in Canada.
  • I care more whether or not two men can marry than I do about the 50,000 people who died of hunger yesterday.

How can I deny it?

The way I live shows no remorse.
For the day, the day we killed Crazy Horse.