Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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I’m Buying HOPE, JOY and PEACE This Holiday Season

This is a repost of a blog I did last year about this time because it’s a message that still resonates strongly with me, and I hope it will with you too. May your holiday shopping be full of hope and happiness for all.

 


 

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A few months ago I read Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma. I wasn’t expecting the book that it turned out to be, but it was still very good. It sort of turned out to be a Bible study on justice. I would definitely recommend it, and not just for those passionate about the issue like me, but even for the mildly curious. I learned a lot and will be marinating on it for a long time to come.

There were a few things mentioned in the book that stuck with me, but none more than what I wanted to share with you now. Did you know that it costs approximately $21 billion to get clean, safe drinking water to everyone in the world? If you weren’t aware, almost 1 in 7 of the world’s population doesn’t have access to this most basic need. $21 billion. I know, right, it sounds like a lot—like a whole lot! It sounds like scratching our heads and calling summits and raising money and finally reconciling ourselves to the fact that $21 billion is impossible to find in a world drowning in debt. Sometimes it sounds like giving up.

And then I found out…

The National Retail Federation estimates that over $600 BILLION will be spent in November and December this year. I’m sorry, what? That’s just this season. When I think about it, that makes me sick. In fact, the contrast in those two numbers has literally haunted me since I’ve read the book.

I think about people I know that rush around trying to buy gifts, any kind of gifts, for the people on their Christmas list. Mostly those are close family and friends, but usually there’s at least one obligatory gift on there as well. I think of gifts that aren’t bought out of need, but out of courtesy. I think of the stress so many people feel when it comes to the holidays. It seems to be more about putting anything under the tree that caring about what it is, as long as you’ve checked that box.

Something. Has. To. Change.

I love the holidays. I love the chill in the air, and the warm drinks. I love watching Christmas movies. I love decorating my apartment. I love seeing twinkle lights go up everywhere. And I love buying gifts. Gift giving is one of my love languages. It makes me happy to see the look on people’s face when I give them a gift. In fact, the anticipation of seeing their faces when I give them the gift makes me happy! I have always tried very hard, whether it’s a birthday or Christmas, to find the perfect gift that will make the recipient smile. It’s a challenge that I relish.

And, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it. But the last few years, ever since pursing justice myself and learning more about supply chain and slave labor, I’ve tried to challenge myself in a new way. I try very hard to find not only gifts of meaning, but gifts that do good or do not perpetuate slave labor. I’m also an environmentalist, so I try to cut down on packaging and reuse when possible. So, really, I thought I could pat myself on the back from up on my high horse—until I read those statistics.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to do more. I can’t completely give up gift-giving, because I love it so much, but there is more I can do. For one thing, I can help educate you. What if we all started buying differently? What if we started contributing more and consuming less? What if we took a hard look at the real difference between shopping and giving? What if the presents had real meaning, not just for the recipient you know, but those who created it or will benefit from the purchase? What if?

Here is an awesome video by Advent Conspiracy to help illustrate. In fact, they have a lot of great personal and church resources to help you explore this idea. I’m looking forward to reading their book this season.

As I said, I don’t have this all figured out, but I’m trying. I want to contribute, not just consume. I want buy better and think better and live better. And even more, I want that for everyone else. I want it for you, and those you know, and those around the world who don’t have clean water or adequate shelter or who live in fear. We all share this world.

The holidays are a season of hope. Hope, joy, peace—we see those words written on everything this time of year from cards to commercials. What if they weren’t just platitudes? What if we added those to our Christmas list? What if, when we started buying gifts, we kept those three words in mind? Will the things we buy this season promote hope or joy or peace? If not, then let’s not buy them. Find a better alternative. I bet there’s one out there.

Here are a few places to help you get started:

Purchasing on Amazon? Use Amazon Smile

Purchase with Purpose

Free2Work

Not For Sale Store

Better World Shopper

Greater Good

Free to Shop

World Vision Gift Catalog

Fair Trade USA

Ten Thousand Villages

Charity Water

Kiva

Living Water International

International Justice Mission Gift Catalog

Notes From a Thoughtful Life

The Good Shopping Guide

Ethical Consumer

 

There are so many more, though, so keep looking! And if you need to go the department store route, you could even institute your own TOMS-esque one for one model. For example, if you give someone a shirt, donate one as well. Challenge each other to be better, think creatively and give more.

Give gifts that tell stories, and write yourself a new one in the process.

______________________________________

And here’s a great article from the TODAY Show about families who try to put more meaning into gifts and the holidays.

Here is another from LearnVest, a money budgeting site if you’re looking for a more frugal point-of-view.

One more from journalist/activist, Nick Kristoff, whom I greatly admire.

 

DID I MISS YOUR FAVORITE RESOURCE? PLEASE ADD IT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION! I’D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT IT.

 

(Note: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

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The Justice Conference: Highlights

Justice Conference logoTwo weeks ago I headed to LA for The Justice Conference. Any excuse to head to SoCal is a good one, but this event on social justice issues was extra special to me, and at the top of my vacation list this year. So, it made for a great trip!

I posted my Pre-Conference Highlights last week, and now I’ll move on to the main event, held at the beautiful Orpheum Theater. It was a really great day, full of fantastic information, inspiring speakers and like-minded camaraderie.

 

Ken Wytsma, President of Kilns College and Founder of The Justice Conference

  • When everyone speaks in a prophetic time, we can’t hear the prophetic voice.
  • Remember the poor with deep respect.

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Donald Miller, Founder of Storyline Conference, speaker and author

  • It’s hard not to filter your theology through advertising, which says you’re lacking something.
  • Jesus wants us to experience a deep sense of meaning, not necessarily to be comfortable and happy.
  • God is in the business of redeeming hard things.

 

Nicole Baker Fulgham, founder and President of The Expectations Project

  • Education is a pathway out of poverty.
  • Educated creates engaged citizens.
  • Education gives kids purpose.

 

Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Director of Equal Justice Initiative

  • 1. We need to commit ourselves to proximity. We must get close to those we want to serve. It will show you things you’ll never otherwise see.
  • 2. Change the narrative. Behind every un-truth, there is a narrative saying it must be this way.
  • 3. Be hopeful to create justice. Sometimes it’s easier to be faithful than hopeful.
  • 4. We have to choose to be uncomfortable.
  • I do what I do because I’m broken too. God is there for the broken. I understand the broken because I am one. God’s grace and mercy fills the broken places.
  • We will not achieve justice with just the thoughts in our minds.

 

Lynne Hybels, Author of Nice Girls Don’t Change the World

Sami Awad, Executive Director of Holy Land Trust

Marcel Serubungo, Church Mobilization at World Relief Org

  • There is nothing that works in the Congo but the local church.
  • What makes our work different? Jesus.
  • You achieve greater results through love.
  • You can’t give away what you don’t have.
  • Don’t try to do something. Do something.

 

Justin Dillon, Founder/CEO of Made in a Free World

  • Justice is it’s own art form.
  • Embrace your vulnerability.
  • The world doesn’t need more information, it needs an invitation.
  • Make a world you want to live in.
  • Strive toward the better version of yourself.
  • We’re “shoulding” all over everyone. Stop the should and do.
  • Don’t think problems, think solutions.

 

Rich Sterns, President of World Vision

Jim Wallis, President and Founder of Sojourners

Noel Castellanos, CEO of CCDA

  • Our faith is connected to the issue of injustice.
  • Immigration reform may be the next Civil Rights movement.

 

Eugene Cho, Founder of One Day’s Wages, Lead Pastor of Quest Church

  • John 1, Woman at the Well
  • What we do isn’t in isolation. We are representatives of the Kingdom of God.
  • Justice must also do us, not just us doing justice. Otherwise, we just commercialize and commoditize it.
  • People aren’t projects; they are equals.
  • We must learn from those we serve. Place yourself in their narrative to catch a glimpse of who they are.

 

Stephen Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief

  • Your calling begins with a complaint. There is something you can’t stand for anymore.
  • Our faith will live by justice.
  • We need another reformation. God’s reformation is done through His people.
  • Reformation: a recovery of Truth from the periphery with sacrificial love.
  • What we consider the edges, God considers the center.

 

Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (and wife)

  • We cannot romanticize the work of justice.
  • 1 Kings 19 (Fire down from heaven)
  • Too many times we think justice work is calling fire down from heaven. But the reality is much more mundane that than. There are small, daily jobs to do.
  • Motivation matters. Check yourself.
  • To stay grounded, stay connected to people.
  • We must fight giants: ego, exhaustion and emotional toxicity.
  • Too often we think justice is talking AT people. Our justice work has become disembodied. It should be incarnational and not third-party.

 

Bernice King, American Baptist Minister and World-Renowned Speaker, Daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Conflict is a weapon of growth.
  • True peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice. – MLK
  • Never forget God is on the side of justice. Start there and keep it in sight.
  • God made from one brotherhood all nations.
  • MLK’s strategy of nonviolence will always work because it’s based on Jesus.
  • Courageous people are nonviolent.
  • Nonviolence shouldn’t seek to defeat people, only injustice.

 

Bethany Hoang, Director of the Institute for Biblical Justice for International Justice Mission

  • Justice begins in the heart of God.
  • We must stop and pray. We are often too busy or in a rush to action to do it, but it will best equip us.

 

N.T. Wright, Professor at University of St. Andrews, Retired Bishop of Durham, UK, Author

  • Justice is what love looks like.
  • We need discernment because when we think we’ve got justice down, we become arrogant. (Tower of Babel)

 

Lynne Hybels, Author of Nice Girls Don’t Change the World

  • Ask, “What is mine to do?” and let God help you figure it out. Otherwise you may be overwhelmed by all the causes and issues that need us.
  • God will empower you to do what is yours.
  • God created all the beauty in this world. Fight for it and help it flourish.

 

That’s all I got! Hope you enjoyed my notes. Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to attend The Justice Conference again next year. It’s a great event, and I recommend going!


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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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Shopping vs. Giving

136159002A few months ago I read Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma. I wasn’t expecting the book that it turned out to be, but it was still very good. It sort of turned out to be a Bible study on justice. I would definitely recommend it, and not just for those passionate about the issue like me, but even for the mildly curious. I learned a lot and will be marinating on it for a long time to come.

There were a few things mentioned in the book that stuck with me, but none more than what I wanted to share with you now. Did you know that it costs approximately $21 billion to get clean, safe drinking water to everyone in the world? If you weren’t aware, almost 1 in 7 of the world’s population doesn’t have access to this most basic need. $21 billion. I know, right, it sounds like a lot—like a whole lot! It sounds like scratching our heads and calling summits and raising money and finally reconciling ourselves to the fact that $21 billion is impossible to find in a world drowning in debt. Sometimes it sounds like giving up.

And then I found out…

The National Retail Federation estimates that over $600 BILLION will be spent in November and December this year. I’m sorry, what? That’s just this season. When I think about it, that makes me sick. In fact, the contrast in those two numbers has literally haunted me since I’ve read the book.

I think about people I know that rush around trying to buy gifts, any kind of gifts, for the people on their Christmas list. Mostly those are close family and friends, but usually there’s at least one obligatory gift on there as well. I think of gifts that aren’t bought out of need, but out of courtesy. I think of the stress so many people feel when it comes to the holidays. It seems to be more about putting anything under the tree that caring about what it is, as long as you’ve checked that box.

Something. Has. To. Change.

I love the holidays. I love the chill in the air, and the warm drinks. I love watching Christmas movies. I love decorating my apartment. I love seeing twinkle lights go up everywhere. And I love buying gifts. Gift giving is one of my love languages. It makes me happy to see the look on people’s face when I give them a gift. In fact, the anticipation of seeing their faces when I give them the gift makes me happy! I have always tried very hard, whether it’s a birthday or Christmas, to find the perfect gift that will make the recipient smile. It’s a challenge that I relish.

And, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it. But the last few years, ever since pursing justice myself and learning more about supply chain and slave labor, I’ve tried to challenge myself in a new way. I try very hard to find not only gifts of meaning, but gifts that do good or do not perpetuate slave labor. I’m also an environmentalist, so I try to cut down on packaging and reuse when possible. So, really, I thought I could pat myself on the back from up on my high horse—until I read those statistics.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to do more. I can’t completely give up gift-giving, because I love it so much, but there is more I can do. For one thing, I can help educate you. What if we all started buying differently? What if we started contributing more and consuming less? What if we took a hard look at the real difference between shopping and giving? What if the presents had real meaning, not just for the recipient you know, but those who created it or will benefit from the purchase? What if?

Here is an awesome video by Advent Conspiracy to help illustrate. In fact, they have a lot of great personal and church resources to help you explore this idea. I’m looking forward to reading their book this season.

As I said, I don’t have this all figured out, but I’m trying. I want to contribute, not just consume. I want buy better and think better and live better. And even more, I want that for everyone else. I want it for you, and those you know, and those around the world who don’t have clean water or adequate shelter or who live in fear. We all share this world.

The holidays are a season of hope. Hope, joy, peace—we see those words written on everything this time of year from cards to commercials. What if they weren’t just platitudes? What if we added those to our Christmas list? What if, when we started buying gifts, we kept those three words in mind? Will the things we buy this season promote hope or joy or peace? If not, then let’s not buy them. Find a better alternative. I bet there’s one out there.

Here are a few places to help you get started:

Purchase with Purpose

Free2Work

Not For Sale Store

Better World Shopper

Greater Good

Free to Shop

World Vision Gift Catalog

Fair Trade USA

Ten Thousand Villages

Charity Water

Kiva

Living Water International

International Justice Mission Gift Catalog

There are so many more, though, so keep looking! And if you need to go the department store route, you could even institute your own TOMS-esque one for one model. For example, if you give someone a shirt, donate one as well. Challenge each other to be better, think creatively and give more.

Give gifts that tell stories, and write yourself a new one in the process.

______________________________________

And here’s a great article from the TODAY Show about families who try to put more meaning into gifts and the holidays.

Here is another from LearnVest, a money budgeting site if you’re looking for a more frugal point-of-view.

One more from journalist/activist, Nick Kristoff, whom I greatly admire.


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Dear Sponsor Child

my sponsor child, Tumaini

my sponsor child, Tumaini

Dear Tumaini,

It’s hard to believe, but this week you become a teenager! I hope that your day is filled with joy, health and much celebration.

When I began sponsoring you just over three years ago, I must admit, I was a little nervous. I thought I would be better at sponsoring a girl because I was one, once upon a time. I knew girls around the world were treated terribly in some countries, and I wanted to help ensure the life of a girl in one of those places would be better. So, you were a bit of a surprise to me, a mystery.

I roamed through the store trying to figure out what gift to send you as an introduction to myself. What did I know of 10 year-old boys? Better yet, what do I know of 13 year-old boys! I’ve never stopped roaming the aisles puzzled by what I could send that would make you smile. I hope my meager offerings make you laugh, or at least tell you how crazy we Americans really are. But I know that anything I send in those padded little envelopes doesn’t compare to the one gift I provide that matters above all else: hope. I am humbled by that thought. I am proud knowing that my small, monthly donation could help not only change your future, but give you one.

I am so very happy to see new photos of you thriving in your community. I love that your favorite school subject is math, when my math is terrible. I’m excited that your even able to stay in school, be well-fed, help your family with chores and stay healthy. I know these are not guarantees in your part of the world. They are things I take for granted, but you help remind me that is not the case everywhere.

As you grow, I also keep coming back to one thought: I want you to be a man who treats everyone, especially women, with compassion. I pray that because I am a woman sponsoring you, you will grow to have a different view of women than many other men in Africa. I think this is a privilege I did not recognize at first. Though I am very distant from your part of the world, I have a hand in shaping your views. I can help show you what kindness looks like. I can give you a glimpse into my faith as you are developing your own. I can provide needed assistance to your family and community not just because I am able, but because it is my honor.

I have other wishes and dreams for you, though I’m not entirely sure I should:

I want you to be filled with a sense of justice.

I want you to remain healthy.

I want your family and those you love to be spared from suffering and disease.

I want you to grow up, and have options in life.

I want you to know true joy.

I want you to finish school.

I want you to be generous to others.

I want you to have a deep faith, knowing that God’s promises are meant for you too.

Most of all, though, I want you to have your own wishes and dreams. And those come from having hope.

As you turn 13 this week, I am praying for you. (I hope the package I sent you reaches you in time, but if not, you can celebrate then. I’m a pro at dragging my birthday out, so enjoy it!) Turning 13 is a big deal here in America, and I would imagine it is there in Kenya as well. I hope you are showered with affection from your friends and family. I want it to be a day you’ll remember. Know that I am thinking of you, miles away and what feels like worlds apart. I hope we are able to meet in person one day, but if not, I’m happy knowing we both celebrated your thirteenth birthday in our own way.

Happy birthday, Tumaini!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I sponsor Tumaini through World Vision. After comparing a couple of different websites, I felt it was the best option for me because the monthly donations benefit not only the child, but the family and community. Of course, I wanted to give a child a better future, but I think that is best accomplished by supporting the entire system. Second, I am interested in their other programs like disaster relief, micro finance, clean water, education, and more, all through the lens of faith. So, it also made my giving more simple. I have been happy with my sponsorship and other one-time gifts on issues like those mentioned, and would recommend World Vision to anyone. They have a very holistic approach, which I appreciate. If you are interested in sponsoring, though, please think about it carefully and make sure you are in a financial position to do so for an extended period of time.