Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inspired by SPAM

Have you ever sifted frantically through your belongings looking for something you are 99.99% sure you never had? I have.
This past Tuesday afternoon, as I layed out my clothes for Matt Miller's visitation and funeral, I was surrounded by a pile of Sunday best and all I wanted was a SPAM t-shirt (thus insuing the search for a SPAM shirt that I have never owned but thought might appear). Have you ever seen anyone wear a SPAM shirt as proudly or talk so joyfully about SPAM as Matt Miller? I doubt it.

After having no such luck with my wished for wardrobe, I dressed in my black pants and jacket and headed out the door. On the way to the funeral home in Pelham, I reflected on my thoughts of Matt and how he registers pretty high on my "who I respect the most" list.

I have numberous memories of Matt from outings with friends, weddings, Chrysalis weekends and Summer Camp.

Matt was my "go to" guy. As I looked around the funeral home at the hundreds of poeple who had come to hug the family and the hundreds of poeple who came to the church to celebrate his life, I couldn't help but think about how he was the go to guy for so many people and for so many different reasons.

For me, Matt was the go to guy for Summer Camp and Chrysalis questions, ideas and feedback. Others spoke to him about collage, church, hunting, football, relationships and a million other things. With all these people talking and asking, he always kept up the friendship and never left out the needed advise and laughter. Matt never worried about time or what he needed to be doing. He focused on the here and now and whoever he was talking to or helping at the moment.

When I came on board at Sumatanga as the full time Summer Camp Director, Matt knew me and we shared plenty of stories and memories but he had no reason to put as much faith in me as he did. Matt believed in me, shared his belief with the other directors and did nothing but encourage me in a time when I could easily have been cut down or put out. Soon, he became the guy I called when I had any questions about Summer Camp. The curriculum, half of the hiring and my sanity all would have gone out the door for the 2009 camping season without Matt Miller (I suppose I owed him a bit of a salary for all he did).

Matt has been helping me diligently a few times a week to prepare for the 2010 summer and for the Young Adult Chrysalis I will be leading in March. I am missing his input and support desperately. I know that the Lord has blessed me with these opportunities and won't let down but it sure was nice to have an angel on earth to help consult and sooth amidst the madness of ministry.

I am reminded of Matt each time I walk into my office and each time I talk to a camp friend that we have shared a hug or a celebration with. I am honored to live and work at a place where Matt was so influential. I am honored to have known Matt and know that he called me friend.

Matt said I would always be Meagan Gray and forbid me to leave out my original last name off Facebook when I became a Lanier (he was a fan of Evan but didn't like to store changed names to his memory). Matt could jump and scream higher than anyone I've ever met while fencing. Matt loved to sit back at parties and take in everything that was going on while making a commentary to himself. Matt and I shared the unbelievable gift of sweating year round and without control. Matt loved to talk about Alabama football when I obviously wanted to focus on Auburn. Matt was never afraid to take on the hard to answer questions at Chrysalis and was never hesitant about sharing deep parts of himself while preaching and teaching. Matt cared deeply for his friends and accomplished more in 25 years than most people do in 80 simply due to his passion. Matt was the first to admit when someone had a better idea and the last to push his thoughts just for the sake of talking and being right. Matt believed passionately about the message of peace, love and grace (and inspired my facebook and twitter statuses that said the same on January 11th after a long phone call with him). Matt was and always will be an inspiration. Matt has challenged myself and anyone who knew him to be more caring, more passionate and more like Christ.

"I strive to live life different. When I die I want people to say that I had a positive impact on the lives of the people that I came into contact with because I was willing to do things, say things, and give things others only dreamed about, and I want to have have fun while I do it." - Matt Miller

have a look into Matt's life:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hurt for Haiti

I cannot get Haiti off my mind. To be honest, yesterday morning or the night before I couldn't have told you one thing about the earthquake in Haiti. I wasn't trying to be compassionless, but I hadn't turned on the news or ran into anyone to hear what was going on.

Last night, however, Evan and I were up to speed and settled down in front of the TV with a blanket and the remote control. Once we turned on the 24 hour coverage of Haiti on CNN, it wasn't long before the blanket and remote were accompanied by a large amount of toilet tissue to help catch the water works coming from my face.

Have you ever watched something and felt so helpless? I can send money but what I want to do is jump through the TV screen. If I feel this helpless at home and I'm not in the situation, I cannot fathom the helplessness the Haitians are feeling. I am a believer in a God that can do and heal all things. How do you make it through something like that if you aren't?

What got me the most last night was, of course, the live video. I had made it decently through the pictures of the despairing but once the video rolled, the situation came to life and my emotions were overwhelming. At one point, a reporter scanned a small portion of a sidewalk. In this small area, there were several adult corpses piled on top of each other, 10 or so men, woman and children waiting on medical assistance and then one small covered body. This is the image I cannot get out of my head: one small covered body.

With the thousands of people dead and injured and hundreds of pictures shown, why is this the one image that is burned into my mind and paralyzing me? Maybe it was the fact that the body was alone or that it was harsh enough to be covered when the rest of the bodies were left to the open air. Or maybe it was the injured and lost people sitting so closely waiting and wondering if they will be the next one covered by a sheet or left in the street with the growing pile of others. How old was the child that was covered? What life experiences did he or she have while being so small and innocent? Did this child have a chance to know Christ? Was there anyone to tell him or her that they were loved here on Earth but most of all by a Heavenly Father? Who brought them to this sidewalk knowing that there was no hope?

I cannot imagine having to leave a small child there on the sidewalk while my World is crumbling around me. I cannot imagine walking the streets full of lifeless bodies when just 24 hours earlier the same streets were filled with my friends and family going on about their lives.

I heard an interviewer say that the nation was poor but they were proud. Even if they had nothing, most people were proud. How many times are we selfish and ask for more? How many times a day do we think we deserve better? How many times a day are we not simply satisfied with all we have been given and proud of who we are and where we come from? How many times a day do we have choices as to what we eat and what clothes we put on? These people don't have these choices, and if they did, they most likely don't any more.

Let us pray for Haiti. Pray for the lives that were spared that they will become lives that follow Christ and have a hope for their future. Pray that their Voodoo to be found senseless so they know that it is not the answer. Pray that water will arrive, that violence will lesson and that children will have compassion taken on them. Pray for our egos here in America and for the finances to be given (including the amounts that should come from our own pocket books) to help make a difference to these suffering people. Pray that Haiti doesn't quickly set in the back of our minds but that our hearts will continue to be broken for them as they try unfathomably to rebuild what is left of their lives.

We are called to love. I cannot think of a people in need of more love today than those in Haiti.

A Few Facts:
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 78 percent of Haitians live on less than 2 dollars a day. Only 20 percent have access to clean water (on a day when there hasn't been a national tragedy). Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti, but voodoo may be considered the country's national religion.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dreams that Lead

As I do every Monday, this morning I walked into the office and started through my pile of emails (I try to stay away from my gmail account on weekends that turn out to be actual weekends). As usual, most of the emails were simply and excitingly answered about Summer Camp or Chrysalis. There were a few messages that were easily sent to the trash and a few complicated ones that I often leave for the afternoon when my brain is more functional. But this morning, there was one email that really got me thinking and it certainly didn't come from a source that I expected.

For Christmas, Evan and I bought my sister a pair of TOMS Shoes (the "get a pair, give a pair" shoes) and I have ended up on their emailing list. I had a message in my inbox from them and it was almost sent to the trash without a second thought (I figured it was a sales add or one of those emails where they want feedback that I never participate in). But, for some reason, I decided to open the blanket email anyway. The message had nothing to do with their product at all.

The email said, "Where do you see your tomorrow? Most great ideas start small and close to home. What are your ideas of improving yourself, your community, and even our world? No idea is too big or too small. Believe me, you never know where your dreams will lead."

And then I think, boy has the Lord been working in my life and listening to my dreams! If you would have asked me 3 years ago what my goals in my life were I would have said "One day I would love to work full time at Camp Sumatanga and someday marry a Godly man." Then, I would have laughed. I had come up with these plans in the 4th grade and worked towards them since that age but often found them funny and unlikely. Camp Sumatanga has been my safe haven for as long as I can remember and a place that touches thousands of lives each year, why would they hire me? Why would I marry a Godly man at a young age after not exactly having the best score in the dating game? But guess what, here I am. Wow. Life sure is crazy.

This is where I had seen my tomorrow. Of course, there are stressful days (like today for instance) at work when I wonder "what in the World am I doing here" and there are many days in the married life when I ask "what have I gotten myself into." But, the Lord has blessed me with my dreams that started small and close to home. Now what are my ideas of improvement? Now that I am in these shoes, where do I take them?

I see a summer camp program in the need of growth spiritually: grace, hope and love are what it is all about (and often easier to find in the quiet getaway of camp life). I see a marriage, God willing, with many years of learning but a foundation in Christ that could be even deeper. I see people around me that are well versed in both of these areas that I should be taking notes from.

And what about our World? What do I see there? Where will we be when I burn out on summer camp? What will I find in that tomorrow? What do I want for the children of our Nation and those around the World? Is there really a solution to hunger and a way to create peace? Is there really a ministry that I could be used for that would make a difference not just to the lives of kids in Alabama but those who speak a different language or take part in a different culture? I don't know what these dreams are yet nor where they will lead but I do know a God that hears them and makes a path for them if they are in His will. Let the dreaming begin!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Resolution

I cannot think of the last time I made a New Years Resolution.
Was it when I decided I would actually pick up my toys when mom asked or when I said I wouldn't watch as much Eureka's Castle on television in the afternoons?
Either way, I was under the age of 8 so those most likely don't count. I have decided, however, to join in the trend and make a resolution for 2010. I have decided to keep a blog about the simple things of my life.

Over the past few weeks and days,I have been blessed to spend part of the Holidays with Evan's granddad, Papaw (not to be confused with my granddad, PawPaw). We were able to spend time at his house and listen as he told stories about his life and his love for his wife and marriage of 60+ years. Papaw gave me a lot of good advise for marriage and did his best to recap all the ways he shared his love with his wife. Papaw spoke more than once about the two years away from his lovely bride when he was serving in the military over seas. While he was gone, he faithfully wrote love letter after love letter to make sure she knew she was in his thoughts. He told me,"She was on my mind everyday and I am pretty sure I was on hers too." I have no doubt that he is right.

After leaving Papaw's house, I found myself desperately wondering where those letters have ended up? Will they show up down the road and inspire someone who is lost with or without love (you know what I mean, you've seen it in the movies) or have they been thrown away after all these years?

It was beyond inspiring to listen to Papaw tell about his life and love and know that somewhere, some of it was/is written down. It is so interesting to hear about a persons path that once seemed ordinary and now,years down the road, see that it actually was extraordinary. In Papaw's case, it seems to be extraordinary love. I wonder what the case was for my grandparents? I wonder what it will be in my case?

With this pondering, I decided on this blog. Blogging may not be the most practical way to recap our lives down the road (much like the lost letter writing of the past) but I did not want to live this life without some recap and thought on what it means. So here is to 2010 and a New Years Resolution. Here is to hoping that down the road, my silly struggles and blessings will come to be a story to talk about and a life worth sharing.