Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Too many men?

In the United States, and amongst my single girl friends there is a clear problem - not enough men. There have been many articles written about this, making it a fact that there are more Christian women than Christian men.

However, in China this is not the case. Thanks to the short-sighted macho plan of the Chinese government, by 2020 there will be 24 Million Chinese men without a spouse. Why? Because there will not be enough Chinese women.

Read the irony here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Youth, Stress and Reality

Came across an interesting article recently about the high levels of stress and mental health issues youth are facing. The article follows a study that dates back to 1938 and follows trends of mental health of youth throughout the years. Trends show a significant increase in youth with depression and hypomania, amongst other illnesses.

Although people are still researching and speculating about WHY so many youth are feeling so bad that they have to take medication to enjoy a blessed living day, even as they are young and healthy, there seem to be some clear indicators of what could drive a young person to become so bewildered.

Working with youth, and being a youth yet still myself, I see a clear trend of multiple layers of unrealistic pressures put on youth. This especially becomes real as youth near graduation and are considering their post high school options.

The article quotes it very well:

"The unrealistic feelings that are ingrained in us from a young age — that we need to have massive amounts of money to be considered a success — not only lead us to a higher likelihood of feeling inadequate, anxious or depressed, but also make us think that the only value in getting an education is to make a lot of money, which is the wrong way to look at it," says Slater, an international studies major who plans to go to graduate school overseas.

I think these pressures and measures of "success" impress very confusing values on youth. It is impossible for EVERYONE to go to college and be guaranteed a high paying job. Does chasing money make people happier? From what I've heard, there doesn't seem to ever be enough money once you're on that train.

So what is success then? Why do people go to college and why should we encourage youth to go to college?

I have some clear thoughts based on my personal experience, but what are schools, parents, and the society at large encouraging youth to do? What values do we pass down?

Values will always be passed down, whether they are clear or muddy. The muddier the values are, the more anxiety that creates. Being stuck in American vs. Slavic values has created its own herd of anxieties for myself - but thankfully I had the compass of my faith in Christ, which created clarity in my identity. I cannot imagine the effects of not having a sense of clarity or an anchor in life amidst the rushing tide of chaos which is life.

As adults, perhaps it is our responsiblity to clearly figure out what our values are. That might be a messy and challenging journey. Nevertheless, discover those values and clearly pass them down to the youth. Share why these values make sense and WHY you believe in them. I fear too many adults are passing values they are not even thinking about. Values that may or may not have sensical meaning and function in the real world.

Regardless, I am looking forward to see where the discussion about youth and the increasing rates of depression and anxiety our world is facing. I am hopeful that discussions will lead to action, which will lead to fruit.

What are your thoughts? After reading the article and this post, I encourage you to post your thoughts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Man in the Mirror

For all of MJ's weirdness, he had some great music. I especially love this song and its message:

As Ghandi's popular phrase says, "Be the change." Contemplating and discussing change on sociopolitcal, structural or spiritual levels is all fun and dandy, but the real difference comes when we stand up and take action ourselves. As he sings, "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Uncle? NOOOO!

Younger brothers, especially when they are 8, can bring the most laughter and humor into ones life.

Today I had the joy of hanging out with my brothers and catching up on what they've been up to. They have all changed so much over the years, learning new things and developing their interests, and coming up with new questions to ask me.

My youngest has lately been asking me more personal question. Here is how our conversation unfolded:

We were sitting on the bed watching Eddie do something on the computer, when Daniel asked:

"Elena, when are you going to have a baby?"

I reply, "Someday. Why do you ask?"

"I want you to have a baby," he stated.


"So I can be the baby-sitter of the baby and play with him," Daniel said with a huge grin on his face. "I can help take care of him and teach him new things."

I smiled and said, "You know, if I have a baby, you are going to be the baby's uncle."

"Uncle?!" His eyes got big. "NOOOOO!"

"If I have a baby, and you are my brother then an uncle is what you will be."

"NOOOOO! NOOOO! NOOOOO!" He panicked. "I don't want to be an uncle. I am just a kid. I just want to be the baby-sitter."

At that point, Eddie joined the conversation and told Daniel that he'd have to get a mustache if he was going to be the uncle. Of course that frightened him even more.

It was priceless. Over and over, at the sound of the word "uncle" he got quite hysterical. David says its because he enjoys being a kid, and the thought of uncle represents an adult role. I suppose "baby-sitter" is one step higher than being the youngest kid in the family, which he is now.

Nevertheless, if anything, I am looking forward to the look on his face when him being an uncle become a reality. Perhaps he will outgrow the fear by then...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book Report: Faith Under Fire

Since October, I have been on a reading spree. Ironically or planned, I'm not sure, but all three of the books that I have read in the past few months have been under the similar theme of Christian life and faith under complicated environmental situations. In other worlds, these books depicted the real life of Christians living under oppressive governments and places where Christianity was considered a threat and menace to society. These stories came full circle as in the midst of reading, David and I had the privilege to share a meal with man who has lived under such circumstances.

God's Smuggler, written by Brother Andrew tells of his unique conversion and call to be a missionary to the former Soviet Union. After being a unique kid in his village, he decided to leave the comfort of complacent society and visit fellow believers living under the Iron Curtain. He first visited Poland and could not be stopped from raising funds and bringing hundreds, if not thousands, of Bibles to these hurting countries. He not only shares his experience as a Bible smuggler, but he also shares the struggles of the church oppressed by the communist government. His visits to these nations not only provided needed literature, but also brought hope and encouragement to believers who, in their nation, were only exposed to the death of the Church. It is also interesting seeing how the devil uses the government to disenfranchise the church in a subversive way. Even tough his story takes place in a different time and place, the methods used by the enemy are still very poignant and relevant to life in comfortable and free America.

The next read was Total Abandon by Gary Witherall. Gary and his wife Bonnie decided to go live and love their neighbors in Lebanon during the height of the Middle East terrors (as we American's knew it to be). The moved to Lebanon and became part of the people there - serving at a local medical clinic and sharing the love of Christ to their neighbors. Gary recalls the relationships and passion that was put into Lebanon. Then, one morning, a few months after September 11th, Gary wakes up to a horrifying voicemail. He rushes to the medical clinic where his wife worked and saw his bride laying lifeless. Bonnie was murdered in the place she loved most. In midst of this terror, Gary chose to forgive and love instead of hate. This book is not only about the love Gary and Bonnie shared with Lebanon, but even more so about the love that transformed this dark situation into hope and restoration. Gary's testimony not only shows the beauty in the power of forgiveness towards others and what effect it has on them, but even more so about the healing power of forgiveness within oneself.

Finally, I read Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. This book was mailed by the Voice of the Martyrs, which Richard founded. If the previous books were intense, this one is even more so. Richard writes about his experience spent in prison for his faith in the former Soviet Union. He witnessed many miracles and makes it clear that the underground church, and even more so, believers in prison, experience the most beautiful fellowship and manifestation of faith that we, in our comfortable pew seats will never. I believe it. He tells of his accounts and also shares experiences of fellow believers in the area. He also makes it clear that the events of the book are not over - they are very real and are continuing today in many Asian communist nations.

I believe it and it was confirmed.

In December, David met our new neighbor, who happened to be a refugee from Burma. This man was living evidence of the situation believers find themselves in across the world. For proclaiming his faith, he spent 5 years in prison. He was able to share his experience with David and I, and later at a Thanksgiving with my family. His experience definitely puts our comfortable American life to shame. Despite being beaten and abused for years on end, this man remains strong in his faith. He isn't bothered or interested in various denominational differences that we so frequently debate and fill our minds with. For him, the beauty is that wherever he went he was able to encounter other believers. To him a believer isn't one denomination or another. In his mind, if you believe in Christ, you are Christian.

Such simplicity, as our neighbor and the many people of the books I previously read have is beautiful. It is a shame to worry about whether or not Adam and Eve had belly buttons when there are believers who are risking their very life as they gather in the middle of the night with their brethren to pray. Sometimes they can sing, but most likely they will get arrested before the song is over.

These books and conversations, have definitely left me thinking. Our faith is precious, and it is not guaranteed to come this easy.

For further chewing, I recommend watching Francis Chan's recent sermon:

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