May The Force Be With You!

Star Wars… it’s the name of Joseph’s new fish, the kind of valentine cards and decorations we’ve chosen this year, the game we play. Light-sabers, ships, and plots to overthrow the Dark Side abound at our house. We have even taken to referencing each other as “young Jedi” or “master.” We have completely succumbed to the epic battle created by George Lucas… a battle that began when I was a child, that has been waging for decades, that garnered further following in the early 2000’s with the release of the first three movies in the series, and that has now taken over Legos, certain cartoon stations, and is about to be released in 3D. The battle between the use of the Force for good and the Dark Side is archetypal and resonates with our very souls.
A couple of days ago, the kids and I spent the afternoon watching episode three… a.k.a. the one where Anakin Skywalker turns away from his Jedi training, embraces the Dark Side, becomes a Sith Lord, and is henceforth known as Darth Vader. It has been the missing puzzle piece for me… the one movie in the six series extravaganza that I have missed seeing. While watching, I was struck by a conversation between Chancellor Palpatine and Anakin. Anakin describes the Jedi as using the Force for the good of others, selflessly, while the Sith use the Force for their own gain, turning inward and seeking their own expansion of power. The Sith rely on the passions of their emotions to strengthen their powers while the Jedi master their emotions, instead becoming deeply attuned to the Force and those around them. This conversation was precluded by a conversation between Yoda and Anakin. Anakin is distressed about the idea of losing Padme, his wife, and goes to Yoda to discover what, if anything, can be done to prevent her death. Yoda explains to him that one must be careful of one’s emotions, that fear of losing a loved one is a form of ownership, a form of greed, and therefore a slippery slope toward the Dark Side. Yoda instead explains in his backward way that one should rejoice when a loved one passes into oneness with the Force.
I think my ears perked up here because of experiences I’ve had this past week. Last Monday night, I was so moved by a friend’s testimony that I cried the whole way home from church for the pain she had been through and for the release she was finding through Christ. On Saturday, I learned that the 5 year old boy for whom we’d been praying for the past 18 months had succumbed to his battle with cancer. Reading his mother’s blog Sunday morning was emotionally gut-wrenching. Her faith in God, her surety that Logan was healed and in Heaven, her testimony that the Devil had been assaulting Logan for long enough and God had been with them through all of this and had now pulled the final, battle-ending, strategic move left me in awe and in emotional tatters. Throughout my life, I’ve been a crier. As a young child, I couldn’t watch “Little House on the Prairie” without being moved to tears by something in the show. This overactive water works display on my part is a mixture of curse (it’s so embarrassing sometimes) and blessing because I think I get what people feel. My friend and fellow Compassion Tea-er, Wendy Bjurstrom, just shared with me a definition of compassion she learned from Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church. According to this definition, the way I feel for others is compassion. Compassion, so goes the definition, is hurting so much for another that you will do anything to help them.
Compassion is the Jedi way. It’s the ability to look past self at the needs and concerns of another and to act accordingly. There is no “me” in compassion. It makes me think of two women I have yet to meet and yet for whom I have the utmost respect. Sister Marta is a Polish nun who is running the Chalabesa Mission Hospital in Zambia and Dawn Faith Leppan founded the 1000 Hills Community Helpers Clinic in South Africa. Both women work tirelessly to treat the medical and nutritional needs of those around them… often handicapped by a lack of supplies or water or staff or electricity or medicines. The stories they share of treating over 240 patients one day or of orphaned children discovered huddled in a hut without food or blankets or relatives or of rushing to save a life and then lacking the right equipment and medicines to do so are heart-wrenching. But they don’t give up. Dawn faithfully serves over 1500 people a day through her kitchen, operates a day care and school for over 250 children, manages a medical clinic that serves an average of 200 people per day, and provides classes in English, parenting, and even self-esteem. Sister Marta coordinates with Mission Medic Air to provide the medical care for people 10 to 20 kilometers away, often has to organize bucket brigades to supply water to her clinic, and keeps the clinic open even in the dark to help those who have walked a full day to find medical care. Tirelessly, compassionately, selflessly.
I read their emails and newsletters and agonize over the pain hidden inside, over the desperate pleas to not be forgotten and to be aided in any way possible. It makes me yearn to rush to their aid. But you know, for now, God has given me a different purpose. And the best way I can help is to support Compassion Tea. My monthly membership provides, on a monthly basis, medical supplies, medicines, staff support to these women and their operations. Each cup of tea I drink is a medicine for a child striken with malaria or a mother suffering from HIV/AIDS or a father trying to provide even while crippled by a broken bone not set properly. It has taken me several days to write this blog… and consequently I have consumed several pots of tea. Can you imagine the aid I have single-handedly supplied! And because Compassion Tea is so delicious, it feels like a luxury to aid in this way. But the basis behind Compassion Tea is the same as what drives Sister Marta and Ms. Leppan… because the founders of Compassion Tea felt and feel so profoundly the hurt of others they are willing to do anything to help. Tirelessly, compassionately, selflessly.
If only a light-saber would help.

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