Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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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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Justice Conference: Pre-Conference Highlights

photoLast week I attended The Justice Conference in Los Angeles. It was my first time attending this conference, and I was super excited. I’ve attended a lot of conferences, but this was really my first big one on social justice issues, which is such a huge part of my heart. The speakers did not disappoint. Really good stuff. I wanted to share some of my favorite thoughts with you. Hopefully they’ll inspire you as well, as you pursue the work of justice.

 

Innovation and Creativity in the Church

Ken Wytsma, Founder of The Justice Conference and author of Pursing Justice

Charles Lee, author of Great Idea, Now What and founder of Ideation Camp

Jeremy Courtney, Preemptive Love Coalition Co-Founder

  • Innovation is problem-solving. Creativity is how you get there.
  • The idea you start with is rarely the idea you end with.
  • Sometimes you just push through the work even if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Ideas are impotent without action.
  • Talking about something tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually doing something.
  • Get out of your own circles to get new ideas.
  • Being in the right place at the right time is most important. (Be present)
  • Unplug and reflect regularly.
  • “We need to be a tangible expression of good to the world.” – Charles Lee
  • We make time for things we value.
  • How do we make time? 1. Prioritize. 2. Let others participate. 3. Incremental execution. 4. Resist the urge to listen to irrational voice. 5. Take your own advice. 6. We veil our laziness with too many meetings and coffees; just get moving. 7. Be prepared to fail gloriously.

 

Justice and The Gospel

Ken Wystma, Founder of The Justice Conference and author of Pursing Justice

  • The gospel and justice aren’t two separate conversations.
  • Justice and “good works” aren’t the same thing.
  • The dictionary defines justice as: a right relationship with God, self, others and creation.
  • Justice structures a society. Justice and righteousness used to be synonyms, but justice has taken on new meaning.
  • Truth corresponds to what is. Justice corresponds to what ought to be.
  • Restorative Justice tries to bring things back to alignment. Helping put things back into alignment is part of being a Christian. It is tied to our flourishing.
  • Justice becomes a theological necessity. We learn about God through justice.
  • Jesus’ coming was Restorative Justice. That’s the Gospel.
  • Restorative Justice is a means to the end—the relationship.
  • We can’t understand the Gospel without justice.
  • It’s not Jesus or justice. It’s both. They are the same.
  • Jesus IS the justice of God come down to earth.
    • Justice is a defining characteristic of Jesus.
    • There has never been a time when you had Jesus and not justice.

 

Justice and Consumerism

Hans Tokke, Eastern University

  • The essence of America is the economy. It’s the freedom to shop. People want to keep the money in their pockets and use it how they see fit. It is rooted in individualism. 70% of economy in the buying and selling of goods.
  • The most important shift in suburban society with washing machine. It went from 8 hours to 4 hours of cleaning clothes from start to finish. Advertising soon followed with wants versus needs.
  • Paradox of Choice – a book that demonstrates when we have an over abundance of choice, we don’t even choose. We are overwhelmed.
  • Biblical concept of benevolence (Mark 14:7) ,”The poor you will always have with you,and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”
  • How do we treat the widow, orphan or sojourner? That answer is a reflection of a society.
  • Us vs. Them. The way you treat your budgets are a reflection of your values.
  • A lot of people will not be with you. They will support you at a distance.
  • Is caring for the poor an add-on to your life or part of who you are?

 

Unfinished: The Pursuit of Justice Around the World

World Vision Panel: Rich Sterns, Mae Cannon and Romanita Hairston

  • Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
  • “There are many things that can only been seen by the eyes of those who have cried.” – Oscar Romero
  • Jesus didn’t tie up everything with a bow when he left. He gave us the Great Commission.
  • The Great Commission and the Greatest Command pretty much sum up our mission. Jesus hasn’t come back because the mission isn’t finished.
  • 40% of the world hasn’t heard the Gospel.
  • 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line in the US.
  • NGOs and governments’s are mostly caring for the justice efforts. The Church needs to step up to the plate. There are 340K churches in the US.
  • Think not about programs but people.
  • To decide how you feel about immigration, meet an immigrant. To decide how you feel about Title 1 schools, meet families and teachers there. Don’t just stand at a distance or take the word of someone else, even the news.
  • “Talk to me about Jesus because you love me; not because you need me.” – Jewish lady in Israel
  • Palestinians see Americans as people who make weapons against them.
  • Palestinian Christians wish US Christians would remember them. They exist.
  • Lead with love. It’s attractive.
  • Church should be a verb as well.
  • Our solution is often in the places that we don’t go, or are hard for us to go. Be in the difficult places. We are challenged there, and forced to ask ourselves hard questions.
  • Justice is the job of the church.

 

Putting Flesh to Your Vision

Eugene Cho, Founder of Quest Church and charity One Day’s Wages

  • Nehemiah 1
  • God is still speaking to the world today. Do we have the discipline and courage to hear and obey?
  • Everyone has a theology. Our theology informs and drives our calling.
  • 1. Shut Up and Pray. Our culture elevates acting quickly. Jesus withdraws, even at the height of His popularity, when He needed to. Nehemiah did this for several months, probably 4-6 months. We tend to speak and act from an emotional response only.
  • 2. Ask the Hard Questions. Have people who can do this and be trusted. Do this for yourself. We sometimes are tempted to start things for the wrong motivation. We tend to elevate entrepreneurs. Check your motivation.
  • 3. Get Smart. You need to be committed to being an expert in your calling. Your emotional conviction can’t be enough. Intelligence isn’t the antithesis of faith.
  • 4. Discern Your Passion, Mission and Vision. Passion is important, but not everything. Your Mission asks WHAT do you want to accomplish. Your Vision asks HOW do you want to accomplish your mission.
  • 5. Identify Who’s On Your Team. God never speaks His vision in isolation. Get excited about the prospect of who you might work with. Collaboration should be your best friend. You need a support network for the hard times.
  • 6. Have a Strategic Plan. Strategy is not the enemy of faith. If it has value to you, do the work. Be flexible because your plans will change.
  • 7. Funding. Social capital is your greatest resource.

 

So, that was the Pre-Conference. Pretty awesome, huh? Stay tuned for notes from the main event!


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2013 As An Abolitionist

photoIt was a big year to be an abolitionist. I really wish I’d been ready for it! There were milestones and celebrations and remembrances—some worldwide, some national and some just for me. Over and over, I was given opportunities to honor the work that has been done, rejoice in the part I’ve played, and prepare for the fight still ahead.

Here’s a look back:

  • 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation
  • 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address
  • 50th anniversary of the March on Washington
  • 50th anniversary of the death of JFK
  • Passing of Nelson Mandela
  • Got more involved with Not For Sale Georgia.
  • Took Out of Darkness training, and began volunteering for Solomon House.
  • Attended Lobby Day.
  • I heard Jason Russell speak for the first time.
  • I heard Mary Francis Bowley speak for the first time.
  • I heard Rebecca Stevens and John Richmond speak, both new to me.
  • Gave $25 to Kiva to help lift someone out of poverty, a factor in those at risk for slavery.
  • Saw Lincoln in the theater
  • Release of the movie, The Butler
  • Release of the movie, 12 Years a Slave
  • I read a lot of great books on the movement.

Overall, it was a good year to be an abolitionist. I feel really confirmed in playing a role to end slavery.

Looking forward to see what 2014 has in store.