Friday, July 30, 2010

Will a Net Really Save Them? (by Nate)

The Golden Gate Bridge to get a $45 million suicide net?  -- The iconic span attracts dozens who jump to their deaths each year. Officials plan to spend millions to prevent that.
I have an opinion about this.  I was at the notorious life threatening bridge in January.  I was surprised it was a toll bridge.  Cost me 4 dollars just to drive across one way.  I read about its history and construction.  I don’t think it even cost $45M to build! 

We spent a few minutes touring the city by the bay, notorious for other reasons.  When you mention San Francisco what first comes to your mind?  The gold rush?  The 49er’s?  Cable cars?  Hilly streets?  China Town?   All these things have made the city unique, but none would explain why people want to kill themselves at such a rate so as to justify this outlay of public funds for a net.

Will the suicide rate be reduced after the net?  Won’t hopeless, desperate people find some less famous height from which to jump?  Aren’t there a couple other bridges across the bay?  Do you have to climb one of those picturesque towers and jump in order to die on impact?  Why would you jump into water anyway, as there is a chance you could just get wet and busted up?

There is another thing that immediately comes to my mind when I think of San Francisco.  It has to do with values and lifestyles.   I know many right now would say I have become a bigot, hate monger or self-righteous right wing fanatic just to imply that there might be a connection, but I haven’t even said yet what comes to my mind.  If your mind went there – that was your choice – not mine.

Values and lifestyle are really generic labels that could refer to any number of things.  If you value great Chinese food, for instance, and insist on eating massive amounts of it, you may have health problems develop.  They often use a lot of MSG, I hear from my mother-in-law who has a severe reaction. If you value the taste of the food more than the natural consequences of indulging without restraint, your lifestyle will cause some people to judge your actions as inappropriate.

We have a huge overeating problem in America.  San Francisco is no exception.  Dozens of people die from issues related to obesity each year.  Should they put a net up in front of the most famous Chinese restaurant?  Would it do any good?  Will obesity stop being a problem by building the net?

So, if I do not value life any more and chose to end it, is that wrong?   “Suicide is illegal.”  That’s a line from It’s a Wonderful Life, spoken by the guard at the bridge where George Bailey was going to end it all.  Most of us would argue that suicide is wrong.  We make a value judgment based on the impact that certain behaviors have on our society.  The brokenness and hurt caused to others and the utter despair in the heart of a suicidal person cause us to say, “that is just wrong!”

Our ability to pronounce that something is wrong can therefore be easily established apart from any moral or civil code.  Right and wrong clearly exist apart from the holding of any religious or atheistic perspective.  Suicide, when chosen as the appropriate lifestyle of the masses would clearly result in the extinction of the human race.  Even if it is not wrong, it is therefore inappropriate for the furtherance of our species.  If everyone committed suicide there could be no babies born.

Now a thinking person will see several parallels in my thoughts to other value and lifestyle issues which I will still not name in particular.  There is no need to single out one set of value or lifestyle choices from another.  Some are clearly wrong or at least unwise to follow, as the natural result of pursuing them is more quickly fatal.

When I performed my first funeral service for a victim of suicide, I searched a certain ancient book held in high regard by a vast number of people around the world.   Within its pages I uncovered many stories where characters took their own lives.  No net would have saved Samson when he pushed the pillars out from under the roof of the house of his Philistine captors.  Saul, who was the king, a real hero among his people, head and shoulders above the crowd…he came to a point when he valued death more than life and fell on his own sword.   Judas…need I say more?  And that Philippian jailer who was about to kill himself…now there is a story about suicide prevention that ought to be heard.

What if we spent $45M to bring hope to people who are hopeless?  What if we gave them a reason to live when they think death is the best thing?   What if their houses became places of great joy with many reasons to live?   What if instead of throwing their lives away, people had a reason to live and give their lives in service to others for the greater good of all mankind?   Where does such life changing hope come from?

I know a place, a wonderful place; Where accused and condemned
 Find mercy and grace. 
Where the wrongs we have done; And the wrongs done to us;
Were nailed there with him,
There at the cross.
At the Cross, at the Cross
He died for our sins.
At the Cross, at the Cross
He gave us life again.
1993 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing
Words and Music by Randy and Terry Butler

My opinion:  Put a cross, appoint a preacher, and establish a Christ-centered counseling service on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Pass out literature about the value of life.  Use the big net to bring in the crowds of hopeless people to hear about my Jesus.  He gave His life – yes it was suicide for him to go to Jerusalem – in order to give us all hope.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

God is Able...To Get Me Through Another Year of Camp!

It happens each summer...Mt. Zion Youth Camp.  I believe it's been happening since the 1950's, but thankfully I haven't been involved THAT long.  (Just so you know - I wasn't even born yet in the 1950's!) 

Nate first went to help at Mt. Zion about 12 years ago, by showing up in the evening to tell the campfire story.  Immediately, the camp director (who had been directing for nearly 15 years at that point) spotted a potential way to retire from her job.  She wasn't pushy about it; she simply planted a few seeds.

"How would you like to be a cabin leader next year?"  and then the following year, "Are there some other tasks you would like to try?" and the next year, "I really want to turn this camp director job over to someone, and I think next year, you could start taking over." 

And that was that.  Since marriage means "we're in this thing together," then camp directing became a joint venture on our part.  As capable as my husband is of taking charge of dozens of campers, coming up with creative games to keep them all occupied, and telling wonderful campfire stories that entertain as well as challenge the campers...he seriously could not do this camp directing job without me.  I'm not egotistical about it.  Honestly, just about anyone could do MY job, except perhaps my husband.  And so, when each new year rolls around in January, I say, "Honey, we need to schedule a camp planning meeting.  You tell me what date works for you, and I'll take care of the rest."

And so it goes until camp time arrives.  I make the brochures.  I contact the churches and pastors and workers.  I order the T-shirts.  I figure out all the classes and teachers that we'll need, as well as the cabin leaders.  I make lists of things to buy and lists of things to do.  I "suggest" people that he could ask to be worship leaders and camp pastors.   And a week before camp begins, he says, "Okay - I better start figuring out what games we can play next week to go along with the camp theme."

Thus, the baton is now passed to him.  He sorts through all his ideas, packs our vehicles with axes and rope, duct tape and cordless drills...all the things that I never remember to pack for some reason.  After we're at camp, he starts figuring out what I need to do in order to make his games work (this year it was "Lori - we need 3 sets of the Wells Fargo game squares printed off within 5 minutes!" ;-)  He takes charge the minute we hit the campgrounds.  His job kicks into high job dwindles.

It's the way we work, and the way I like it.  I've always been amazed at how God could bring together two such completely different people as Nate and I.  Yet, each year after another season of camp is completed, I'm reminded once again that God knew exactly what He was doing.  Opposites not only attract, they make a great team.