Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Sharing Jesus in 1,500 Languages

I made a new friend on Wednesday when an old friend came to town, and a group of us got together for lunch. My new friend works for CRU, Campus Crusade for Christ. She and I got to chatting, and mentioned the app above.

I’d heard of The Jesus Film, which debuted in 1979, but I had no idea it was still in use. And, actually, she told me that it was still being actively promoted and had resulted in millions of people coming to know Jesus since that time.

One of the coolest things about the project, she told me, was the app.

She gave me a tour of the app in just a few minutes time, and yes, it’s pretty cool. In it, you can watch the film, and also a number of other video series, including a lead up to Easter. Even more extraordinary, with a few clicks, you can watch the app content in almost 1,500 languages!

The app has over 30 short and feature length films, which touch on a variety of topics. And CRU has a goal of reaching over 5 billion people by 2025! This app will definitely help do that.

I thought the ability to watch the app in that many languages makes it pretty remarkable, and I wanted to share it.

Maybe you need it. Maybe you know someone who needs it. Or maybe you work with a church, ministries or missionaries who could utilize this powerful tool.

We’re on the heels of Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And this is, in my opinion, more good news to celebrate.

Be blessed, and share the blessing.

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India: Initial Thoughts

Kolkata Scenes

Kolkata Scenes

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.

 

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Curious about why I went to India? Read here.


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Wondering in the Wilderness This Easter

454435323The 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.


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Resurrection

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I’ve been thinking about an Easter post all week. What would I say? What point would I make? How do I stress it enough? It’s sort of the Christian Super Bowl so I wanted to give it the weight it deserves.

Honestly, in the end, it just came down to the fact that anything I say would pale in comparison with the text in the Bible. Those of us that grew up in the church easily become dull to Scripture, sadly, because it’s nothing new and it can be repetitive week after week. Like everything else, we can desensitize ourselves to its glory. Living text can become black and white (and red) words on a page. And though those are certainly phases and spiritual plateaus we are sure to experience, I would urge you to see something new this week. I would encourage you to look at it with fresh eyes. I would challenge you to wait in anticipation of God to speak new truths into your life. It’s the Good News. And it’s ALWAYS going to be the Good News. Find something good to hold on to. Dig in until excitement takes hold. Remind yourself that though much emphasis is often given to the cross, and deservedly so, that’s not the end of the story. There was a third day. And the third day is miraculous. It was, and is, freedom. And freedom, friends, is good indeed.

Free someone else with the power of this Good News. None of us deserves it, but that is certainly the point.

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John 20:1-31 (NLT version)

THE RESURRECTION

“Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Purpose of the Book

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.”