For a number of years, a group of friends and I celebrated a Christian Sedar meal in honor of Passover. It was such a special time, and I think about it every Easter. There were many highlights in being a part of that local church and ministry, and this was certainly one of them. A friend in the group grew up in Israel, and therefore, had a lot of knowledge and practice in participating in a Sedar meal, so he shared that with us.
If you aren’t familiar, Sedar is a meal that marks the beginning of Passover. The feast, which lasts several hours, tells the story of the Israelites journey out of Egypt toward freedom. It’s filled with narration, participation, imagery, and a lot of symbolism because the elements of the meal represent various portions of the text. It’s typically a multi-generational meal, in order to relay the story to children in a meaningful way, and a wonderful opportunity to give their faith more context.
Christians, however, know that the story doesn’t end there. So the Messianic version continues through to the sacrifice of Jesus. You can read the script and learn more about it on this website.
Perhaps my favorite part of the ritual came with the “Signing Dayenu,” when you are asked to give thanks and celebrate the salvation Jesus provides. “Dayenu” means “it would’ve been enough for us.”
The version we used was longer than this one, but essentially, it continued building on all the things that were done for us, and repeating how each would’ve been enough. And then you shout it out at the end.
Unfortunately, many of us, myself included, fall into the trap of always wanting more than we have. Sometimes we focus on what is lacking, rather than what has already been given. This refrain is one that reminds me of my abundance, and I truly want to remember that each of my blessings would’ve been enough. And yet, He continues to give.
It’s Good Friday. We’re finishing up Holy Week with the culmination of the death and resurrection of Jesus. If the story had stopped with Friday’s crucifixion, it would’ve been enough. But, we are eternally grateful that it did not. Jesus was raised, and our salvation was made complete. And that was certainly enough.
Yet each day begins again, and we receive more love, more grace, and more purpose. He continues to amaze us.
Enjoy this weekend. Remember its purpose. Celebrate.
And on those days when you get caught up in the notion that you need more _________, repeat to yourself, “It would’ve been enough.”
I’ve been back from India for almost two weeks. Still jet-lagged, I know I’m still processing everything. And likely will be for quite a while since it was a lot to take in. But as I recount the journey to people, I find myself saying a few of the same things over and over again. So, I wanted to share them here with you.
—Those were the nicest people I’ve ever met. If you compare stories with pretty much anyone who’s been to a third-world country, you’ll hear them make a similar statement. While we often make trips to these countries in an effort to help, through humanitarian or mission-minded efforts, make no mistake—there is a lot we can certainly learn from the people that live there. It is a common denominator that people who have little seem to have so much in the way of joy and happiness. That is something I hope that will stay fresh in my heart. I’ve made a big effort over the last few years to get rid of things I don’t need, but there is more to do. And I have a renewed energy.
I swear, though, the people of India, and Kolkata in particular, could give anyone a lesson in hospitality. They were so kind and generous, though they have little. Hospitality is core to their culture. Whether it was in smiles, or chai, or a meal or asking for directions or pretty much anything else, everyone we encountered made us feel welcome. And in talking to natives, its not just that we were Western visitors. It’s just in their nature. And it was humbling to witness.
—It’s easy to see how easy people can be taken advantage of. I keep telling people the best word I have to explain Kolkata is “post-apocalyptic.” It honestly looks like some major catastrophe happened there, yet people managed to live through it somehow. It is a shadow of its former glory, with the beautiful bones of colonial buildings peeking out behind crumbling buildings. Honestly, it’s like people are living in one big slum, or city dump. Trash and smog and pollution everywhere. It’s kind of horrifying.
And with so many people in such bleak conditions, literally people of all ages on every major street, you can get a sense of the ease in which exploitation occurs. According to the Global Slavery Index, there are more slaves in India than anywhere else in the world. This was actually one main reason I wanted to make the trip. I wanted to understand that better. Most of these slaves are through forced or chattel labor, but as prostitution is legal, sex slaves are in high number as well. And desperation often trumps good choices. In fact, choices are in limited supply for many.
—Cycles are hard to break. Poverty, abuse, exploitation. You see them everywhere you go, and in an up-close and personal way. Yes, they certainly exist in the US, but not to this degree and not in such a blatant way.
There were multiple times I was reminded on the trip that I can’t save anyone. I can offer help, but the choices are (and must be) their own. And they must decide that they want something different. Sometimes, sadly, it’s just easier or more familiar to continue the cycle. There were several people I desperately wanted more out of life for, but until they are ready to change, things will remain the same. Unfortunately, that can mean for generations. I think that is a defining factor in this country, undoubtedly in large part from the horrible caste system that perpetuated for so long, telling people they had a certain lot in life that couldn’t be risen above.
—There are some things I can’t yet reconcile, and maybe never will. I didn’t know this before going, but the fathers are the primary caregivers. Everywhere you’d see dads walking with their kids, holding their kids, grooming their kids, etc. But, of course, it’s also a patriarchal society that still doesn’t value women much.
So, I have a hard time with understanding how men can be the loving father of a baby and then young girl, and then see her relegated to a second-class citizen. It is another disgusting cycle. Of course, this isn’t 100% of the time. There are, as always, exceptions. In too many situations, however, girls may end up as child brides or in arranged marriages, bought or sold, given up because she is a girl and another mouth to feed, or just treated as less. Sometimes, as noted above, it is due to the lack of choices I think, but mostly, I believe it is just a culture shift that desperately needs to happen.
—These people need Jesus. Over two weeks, I probably saw maybe half a dozen references to Christianity. This includes organizations, churches or even depictions of the cross. That was a stark change from growing up in the Bible Belt or South for sure.
I believe in some ways, there is a strong sense of morality in India. I think this is due to the overwhelming Hindu and Muslim influence. How else could they be so kind and hospitable? A moral compass guides them there, I think. They really are such wonderful people. And for Hinduism, in particular, they are often trying to work on characteristics they feel they need to be stronger in, like generosity or bravery or compassion, etc.
But after reflecting on many of the things outlined above, and trying to wrap my mind around them and the many other contradictions I experienced, I think Jesus is the missing link. Now, here me loud and clear when I say that Christians aren’t perfect and don’t have it all together. I’m not talking about Christians. I’m talking about Jesus. Though made in God’s image, we can often be very poor representations. We each have our laundry list of sins and transgressions. But Jesus is perfect. He is the culmination of grace and mercy and sacrifice and love, and by striving for those things, we strive for a better world. Maybe there would be less slavery and more freedom. Maybe there would be less discrimination and more dignity. I honestly believe there would be.
I have three friends who are making plans to move to India as missionaries, and now I see the enormous task ahead of them. But I believe Jesus is bigger, and will do great things in them because they are willing and He is able.
The past few months I’ve been reading my favorite part of the Bible, Exodus through Joshua. I am slightly obsessed with the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt, to their wandering in the wilderness and then long-awaited entrance into the Promised Land. It’s been quite a comfort to me over the years, as I draw so many parallels to my own life. I am following a reading plan, but I find myself skipping days just to intentionally draw out my time with these books. I sort of drink them in, dragging through the Introductions, skimming through all the footnotes, and re-reading certain sections. It may seem strange, as most Christians are drawn to the New Testament with Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s great work. Maybe I’m just old school. 😉
In fact, a couple of young Jehovah’s Witness boys knocked on my door last summer, and tried to talk to me about Jesus. I told them I was a Christian and followed Jesus. I’m sure people use all sort of methods to cut the conversation short, including that one. But they persisted a bit, asking me my favorite book of the Bible. I don’t know if they were testing my resolve or just curious, but when I told them Exodus, they didn’t really know what to do next. They stood there for a minute and then said goodbye. True story.
But it’s true. I think it probably is my favorite book. Moses is my hero. He’s flawed and he’s perfect. I began reading that portion of the Bible during one of the hardest periods of my life, and I kept thinking of how much I was like the Israelites, quick to complain and in need of guidance. I found myself on a similar journey of both wondering and wandering, and completely dependent on the Lord for guidance and provision.
“When Pharoah finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13: 17-18a NLT)
There are so many ways God shows His love for me daily. But it was a revelation when I read that passage and really let it sink in. At that point in my life, and every time I’ve read it since, I realized how frustrated I can get with my own wondering.
I wonder when my time will come.
I wonder when my circumstance will change.
I wonder what’s next.
I wonder why someone has it better than me.
I wonder when it’ll get easier.
I wonder. I wonder. I wonder.
And in the process, I wander.
It is a clear demonstration of God’s patience and unfailing love for Him to lead me the roundabout way. It takes time. It takes sacrifice. It takes forgiveness—lots of forgiveness. And, knowing myself, I probably wouldn’t handle the shortest route all that well. I need time to be molded and shaped, as much as I love to jump in with both feet. So, once again, I realize that His timing is perfect despite my ability to see it at work most of the time.
When I stop to reflect and see how much I’ve changed over the years, I still feel sometimes that I am in the infant stages of development. I still see how far I have to go. I think, “Yes, exactly, how can I be ready for that? I’m not yet who I need to be.” And realistically, I know that will always be the case. I hope I never stop growing and learning. But it’s those times that put the wondering in perspective.
“The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and He provided light at night with a pillar of fire.” (Exodus 13: 21)
Goodness knows I wish I had a pillar. And I’ll admit to praying for neon signs. I’m just afraid sometimes I might miss the whisper. But that’s because I can sometimes forget that I do indeed have a pillar: Jesus. He is my guidepost. He is my light in the darkness. He goes ahead of me. I may not be able to speak face-to-face with Him, as Moses did with God, but His Word clearly communicates His character. As I wander, I have the time to discern His will. And I feel His love, through His people and the Bible.
We all have at least one Egypt. I have a bunch of them myself. I have those places and things that I’ve allowed to enslave me, despite the fact that I am a captive who has been set free. Some of them are a daily battle, some were left on the battlefield a long time ago. Some are yet to come. But I am not alone. I am never alone. He has promised to take this journey with me.
This Easter, as many others do, I reflect on Jesus and what He’s done for me. Every day I have the opportunity to open up the gifts of grace, mercy, love and salvation. They are my manna. They are what God provides to sustain me in my wandering. But there are some days that I feel more like a kid hunting for Easter eggs, not sure where to look but overjoyed in the discovery. And honestly, I’m thankful for both. One is ever-present and one is a genuine delight. Luckily, Jesus is so much more than one thing.
Right now, I’m in Deuteronomy, Moses’ last hurrah. He’s speaking to a new generation of Israelites, because the older died in the desert. So, he has to remind them of where they came from, tell them about where they’re going, and explain to them their lasting covenant with God. It reminds me of Easter. This weekend, from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday, communicates all three of those things. The person of Jesus, the Son of God, is the culmination of those things.
And despite who He is and what He’s already done, He’s still willing to lead me the roundabout way. I matter. Little ol’ me. He saved the world. He saved generations. And He saves me daily.
I need to remember that what Easter symbolizes can’t be confined to a day, or even a weekend. It’s a life-long journey. And it’s my privilege.
So, if you’re looking for me, I’m taking the long way around. I wonder where it’ll take me next.
Wow, ok. It’s already the end of 2013. How can days move so slowly, but years move so quickly? Today I had one of those moments where I tried to remember back to my teens, looking ahead to what I thought life would be like in the year 2013. I don’t remember exactly what I pictured for myself at this time, but I can tell you it’s not what I’m living. It’s funny how that happens. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just different. In many ways, I’m a different person than I was in my teens, so how could I have predicted correctly?
The even funnier thing is that I’m not 100% the person I was 11 months and 18 days ago when I began this year. I, like you, am an ever-evolving being. And I kinda dig that. It’s fits well with the side of me that likes to learn.
Travel back with me, if you will, to January 11th when I launched my theme for the year—SIMPLIFY. Oh, what a day—full of excitement and hope and possibility! It was a good day.
So, now, on December 18th, what do I make of the past 11 plus months? Progress.
I will brag on myself that this was probably the best job I’ve done at keeping my theme in front of me. I had books and discussions and reminders galore. This theme was not going to pass me by! Or maybe after five or six years, I’m just starting to get the hang of things. 😉
I definitely made some improvements.
I got rid of quite a bit of stuff. Unfortunately, new items also made it home as well. But the new did not outweigh the old. For clothes, it has really helped me want to get rid of things when I see the faces they will go to and know how much it will help them.
I got off some email lists. I went mostly vegan a couple of months ago, though, so I signed up for a bunch of new ones. I need to get off a few of those because, let’s face it, Pinterest is mostly a wish list and not a to-do list for me. But I have not missed any of the lists I removed myself from.
I paid down some debt, and will meet my personal goal by the end of the year. It ain’t over, but it’s less, and that matters.
I started volunteering in my church’s children’s ministry so I could meet some more people since I’ve been sick so much and unable to join a missional community.
I wanted to continue my writing, and this blog has mostly served that purpose. I’ve come close to meeting my goal of writing something every week.
I STILL deal with mono everyday. It’s been over a year and a half now. The truth is, it’s quite a bear to rebuild your immune system. I’ve seen a lot of improvement, but it’s not over yet. That is definitely a goal for 2014. It has really hindered a lot of things, but again, there has been some change for the better.
Despite paying down debt, I have to get a new (to me) car next year. Unforeseen and unfortunate. But I’m trying to be smart about it.
I started out strong with my eMeals and Bible reading plan, but got behind on both and switched to other things. I am renewing my commitments here for 2014.
So, that’s it. That is my 2013 in a nutshell. Did I SIMPLIFY? Yes, I believe I did. I made progress. I lived this year with intention. I gave more of myself in many ways. And, yes, I did a little hell-gate prevailing along the way, I’m proud to say.
But I still have almost two weeks left, and I intend to finish well. Or maybe well-er. 😉
At least once every four years, I wish I could seek asylum somewhere else. I wish I could skip campaign season and vote from afar.
I really can’t stand politics. So much fighting, slander and backbiting–from all sides. Tell me what you believe, not how bad the other guy is! I’ve seen some really nice people (both Christian and non) say some pretty horrible things when it’s under the guise of a political opinion, as if that makes it ok. Many people simply change when they start talking politics and, frankly, it scares me. So I tend to stay away. I have only a few people that I’ll discuss politics with because they can be calm and objective. Those last two adjectives are key, and rare. Half of those conversations are just me pumping my friend, Raechel, for information because she’s in law school and a walking political dictionary.
My friend, Daron, has always said of me that I don’t “play the game” and what he means by that is politics. I’ve never liked politics when it comes to relationships or the workplace or church. I frankly don’t see the point. So I simply don’t participate. I try to be me wherever I am, go figure. That’s hard enough, so anything else just seems like too much work.
Don’t read the above and hear me say not to vote, or participate in the process or do research. I think you should do all of those things. I think they are important because they move society forward. I’m simply saying I don’t like it. But in reality, I don’t have to. It’s not my system, just one I’m a part of. And I am extremely thankful for those who fought for the right for me to do so, therefore I don’t want to take it for granted. I’m not taking it for granted, but I’m not hugging it either. Kinda like when you say you don’t like someone but you love them because Jesus does. 😉
As with many aspects of my life, I just don’t feel I fit into politics. I don’t consider myself a Republican or a Democrat (or an Independent, though I am quite independent). I don’t think that if you’re conservative, you must be a Republican. I don’t think if you’re an environmentalist, you must be a Democrat. I personally feel we are all a little too complicated to fit into on column on a ballot. I try to find who most lines up with my beliefs, thoughts and opinions, and I go from there. (Side bar: if you are unsure who to vote for but want to take those ideas into account, check out www.ISideWith.com. I totally wish they had local and state on here, too.)
With the election season coming up, I ask you to remember only two things before and after November 6.
1. If you are a Christian, please choose what kind of Christian you will be. Will you be the kind of Christian who only checks the box, and then says and does whatever they want regardless? Or will you be the kind of Christian Christ asks us to be? I think all the Christians I know would say the latter. If that’s the case, please remember you are called to pray for your elected officials and obey them. Sure, you can be disappointed that your guy/gal lost if that’s the case, but that doesn’t give you free license to bash and forward hateful emails about the winner. Unity is not uniformity. You can disagree with the person, but you are still called to pray for them and obey them. Make the best of the situation and quit giving the rest of us who are trying a bad name. If more people prayed for their leaders, who knows what would happen? Your leader may just surprise you. And if not, hey, you get the chance to vote him/her out later. But the point is, be the Christian described in the Bible. The other person is not the devil incarnate (most likely).
2. Christian or not, I’ll share with you a little story from Rob Lowe’s autobiography. Fascinating, by the way. There are a lot of jaw-dropping stories in his book, but one of the things I loved most was when Rob described his visits to the White House. The cast of The West Wing was invited several times to visit the White House over it’s AMAZING seven seasons. He says that he visited under two different administrations, a Republican and a Democratic. And he said that he was struck by the fact that, when it all came down to it, these were guys who were fathers and just doing what they thought was right. It didn’t mean he liked everything they did. But he truly believed that these men were handling a very hard job the best they could, and were simply acting according to what they thought was the right thing to do. I loved that. So simple, yet so profound. We have terms like armchair quarterback (yes, I do know a few sports terms) and backseat driver, but I probably hear more commentary about what people think they’d do as President than anything else. Ignorance, in my opinion. I mean, come on, this is the most powerful person IN THE WORLD. You know what most of us would do in that position? We’d be in the fetal under the desk in the Oval Office praying for our four years to pass. It’s hard work. That’s why hardly anyone runs. When push comes to shove, 99.9% of us don’t want that job–nor should we have it. So, let’s cut these people some slack. You don’t have to agree. You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m not taking that from you. But let’s be careful how we act on that opposition. These are just people who made it to a big-time public decision-making level who, in their heart, are just trying to do the right thing.
If your guy/gal loses, the world will not end on November 6. And if your guy/gal wins, it’s not a time to gloat. Remember, we still have like a whole month after that according to the Myans, so let’s make it good. In all seriousness, though, be a good citizen. We all live here.
Do you research. Participate in the process. Vote.
Just remember to give some grace. Plenty has been given to you.