What’s Better?

In Bangledesh today, I met a group of floating sexworkers, in contrast to the brothel sexworkers I visited yesterday. Sometimes I think it’s human nature to quantify or qualify bad, worse & worst. So we think that one kind or quantity of suffering is worse than another. I’m not sure that I think this entirely accurate. Suffering hurts, full stop.

Can we find it in our hearts to express compassion regardless of who is suffering or how much is being suffered?

I hugged each woman that I met this afternoon deeply & wholly, feeling that I wanted more love to pour through me for them.  None of these experiences are easy to process but the worst thing for me that could happen would be to ignore my feelings & disregard the eyes with whom I met with deep affection & connection.

Lets love well.

Out of the Box

Jesus had dinner with the not so upstanding crowd & not everyone was thinking that was such a good thing. Indeed, Jesus was not just a little out of the box. This morning I read in Matthew 9:10-11 that Jesus dined with shady characters & the righteous crowd was pretty ticked off about his choices for social interactions.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting some very amazing women & their children in the largest brothel in Bangledesh. While some people may think that I should spend my time in better neighborhoods, when I follow & love Jesus well, I often find myself in these kinds of neighborhoods & loving people for who they are, regardless of what they do for a living.
It’s not so bad to be out of the box 🙂

How to Live?

I’ve just spent several hours walking through the largest brothel in Bangladesh & had the privilege of talking with some very incredible women. I’m struggling to process these hours & conversations. Listening to each woman & looking in her eyes let’s me genuinely love the person sitting in front of me. We desperately need to throw out our stereotypes of people & interact on the basic level of human to human.
It seems to me that we cloak & insulate ourselves in our professions, education, hobbies, etc, all the while neglecting to interact on basic human levels.
I could tell you stories of sex workers that could probably evoke strong reactions. But let’s be careful not to create chasms of disconnection rather than cultivating genuine love on a very basic & daily level.
As I walked through the maze of alleyways, I kept hearing this question: Am I loving well?
I hope I bring this question home with me for my daily conversations & interactions. I hope this question defines my mindset & outlook.

Thawing the Ice in Hot Bangladesh

When I visit foreign countries, I love getting to be with the regular people in their daily living. Because of this, sometimes I find myself in situations where I can get some strange looks.
For example, I just crossed a massive river here in Bangledesh & on the ferry, I was a novelty. I had the distinct impression that they don’t see loads of Western women traveling through more remote Bangledesh. Of course a person can be unsettled by the staring eyes, foreign faces, language barrier, cultural differences & the loads of other contrasts that could create barriers & hindrances for connecting.
But I’ve found that a genuine smile & warm countenance universally melt icy stares & cold shoulders.
Let’s be committed to regulating the temperature in our interactions by remaining congenial & warm!

a Touch of Heaven!

I’m super EXCITED to be back in Bangladesh for the 2nd time this year!! Not only do I love the people here, but I also LOVE getting to work with a wide diversity of people! My team for this trip consists of an American, Irish, Khmer & Bengali – a wide assortment of cultures, mindsets & abilities! Thankfully, all of them are very patient with me & eager for our grand adventure! We’re opening nightcare here very soon & very eager to provide a shelter with nurture & protection for the babies & toddlers of sex workers, while their moms work.
Last time I was here, they let me know that 7/10 babies & toddlers are on the bed with their mom as she works. So I’m very humbled & honored to provide a shelter to protect & look after these lovely babies!
Saving Moses is expanding nightcare this year & Bangledesh is on our immediate horizon!
I’ll keep you posted over the next few days!

Emily – no bats in the closet at the TD, this time ,)

Stay Informed

We live in a world that is inundated with information. It’s super easy to find out all kinds of information, so sometimes we can drown in such an abundance. But there’s some information that needs to stay in our thoughts everyday! These things include:

  • You are loved by God, deeply & wholly
  • You can’t increase nor decrease God’s love for you
  • The more you love sincerely, the more fully love can be experienced.
  • Genuine love & fear are incompatible

Genuine Jesus!

I’ve been watching a trend across our nation pertaining to churches & marketing. There’s no shortage of articles or content being generated about the decline in church attendance across the generations as well as a significant concern related to the seeming increase of moral depravity. Consequently, we have loads of marketing strategies to reach a younger demographic, become more appealing in our doctrine with more trendy & hip music, along with clothing adjustments & scheduling conveniences. I think all of these things are great, with one MAJOR interjection (or interruption):

JESUS

In my brief years on this planet, I’ve come to see that genuine Jesus is nothing but altogether irresistible, full stop. Indeed, the original marketing plan that God has laid out for us is in John 12:32, where Jesus says, “If I be lifted up, I’ll will draw all men unto Me.”
In our efforts to attract people to Jesus, let’s never make it ever about anything more than genuine Jesus!

Sunny Side Up!

My dad always ordered his eggs over easy & I remember hearing waitresses say to him, “Sunny Side Up!” As a kid, I didn’t understand what they meant, but later learned that this phrase was kind of a synonym for over easy. Now whenever I hear, “sunny side”, everything inside me smiles & I feel warm all over. Maybe this is because I remember my dad sharing his breakfast with me or maybe because the sunny side feels friendly, inviting & open!
I’ve been thinking about this sunny side thing lately because of some plants I’m attempting to keep alive. Even yesterday, I moved a tomatoe plant out of the shade & into the sun – to keep it on the sunny side 🙂
This is pretty cheesy, but we also have to keep ourselves on the “Sonny” side in our thoughts, conversations & decisions for each day. Following Jesus, God’s Son, means that we actively chose to stay on the “Sonny side” of life, sharing encouragement, hope & genuine love with the dark world around us. Indeed, let’s stay bright by letting God’s Son shine through us!

Object, Project or Person?

How we treat people reflects what we think about them on the inside.  So if we treat the barista like an extension of the espresso machine, then we’re thinking of them in terms of an object rather than a living human.  This happens alot when we get in transactional modes of interaction & neglect to see the person with whom we’re interacting.

When we try to change someone:  correcting their attitudes, challenging their political opinions, getting them closer to Jesus, making them “better”;  let’s be careful that we’re not treating them like a “project“.  The exceptions to this concern can be the parent, teacher or mentor roles, all of which are most affective when we perceive the recipient of our input as a human & not merely a project.

I think what made Jesus so entirely irresistable by the masses of humanity, when He walked on the earth, is that He interacted with everyone with authenticity, genuine love and sincere interest.  He engaged with each individual as a person, not as a project nor object.  This is what happens when we interact with others from the place of genuine love rather than manipulation, achievement or domination.  Let’s allow our lives to remain in genuine love so that our interactions with others resound with redemption & reconciliation!

 

Do You Want Resurrection?

Here’s the truth: I’m selfish, impatient, insensitive, unforgiving, unkind, irreverent, apathetic & heaps more ugly things. While I don’t want to behave in these ways, nonetheless, the bad that I don’t want to do is what I often wind up doing. And the good that I want to do, I don’t often do. I want to live in resurrection & not my deplorable humanity. So what’s the answer?
The answer to living in resurrection is to be crucified with Christ – Galatians 2:20. Indeed, there were two men crucified with Christ. One man mocked Jesus with the rest of the bystanders & one man recognized Jesus for who He is, the sinless Son of God.
So on this Good Friday, I chose to join Jesus on the cross, crucifying my flesh so that Jesus resurrected life can flow through my daily living. When I live the crucified life, then I’m unselfish, patient, sensitive, forgiving, kind, reverent & ultimately, genuine love is my default nature! Anyone care to join me in the crucified life so Jesus’ resurrection can live through us?

Enjoying Contrasts

I have a child who enjoys classical music & rap. For me, these contrasts don’t match up too well, but to each his own.

I also made an interesting blueberry pie a few days ago where the recipe called for goat cheese & chopped almonds / more contrasts. The pie was like a party in my mouth because of the complementing contrasts: tangy goat cheese & sweet blueberries as well as crunchy almonds & soft blueberries. These contrasts were super pleasant although not something I’d usually consider.

That’s the interesting thing with contrasts: we don’t normally put contrasts together because they often seem to compete rather than blend & complement. But alas, this is how much of following Jesus seems to play out.
For example:

  • Jesus applauded Peter for acknowledging Him as the Son of God but He rebuked Peter for shooting off his mouth;
  • Jesus demonstrates genuine love in the face of abhorrent & brutal humanity;
  • we are to each celebrate our unique gifts & talents while blending them into the Body of Christ for mutual benefit

Navigating contrasts for spiritual growth requires us to pay attention to the Holy Spirit & remain steady in our commitment to genuinely love 🙂

Truth Or Love??

Maybe I’m the only person to struggle with his, but I find it challenging to be truthful & sincerely loving at the same time. For me, this is a tricky balance because I find it easier to be loving & less truthful or more truthful but less loving.
In Proverbs 3:3, it says that we should keep both love & truth around our neck & written on the tablets of our heart. In this verse, we don’t get to pick one over the other, love over truth or truth over love. Instead, we are to blend them together as they connect our head to our body (as a necklace) & permanently inscribed on our hearts to inform our core values & define our actions, conversations & outlook.
With the Holy Spirit helping us, let’s blend love & truth throughout our daily living!

Going Opposite

Being rebellious usually gets the thumbs down reaction from the Christian crowd. We tend to find those verses that talk about being respectful, obedient & compliant & there are heaps of Bible verses to support this mindset.

However, being a person who finds herself sometimes at odds with many societal norms, let me highlight some ways that Jesus went the opposite of the culture & society of His day.

  • Unexpected: Jesus didn’t cater to what people expected from Him. Consider in His first miracle that He told His mom to “chill out” (my slang for “Woman, My time is not yet come”)
  • Forgiveness: when all the religious leaders of His day wanted Jesus to condemn the woman caught in adultery, Jesus forgave her & the intolerance / judgment evaporated
  • Genuine Love: one of my favorite quotes from Jesus: “He who has been forgiven much, loves much; but he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
  • Miracles: Jesus defied conventional thinking by frequently doing miracles: multiplying food, cleansing lepers, restoring promiscuous women, healing the unclean & driving out demonic forces, just to name a few.

If we are followers of Jesus, then we must go the opposite of our flesh, religious intolerance, demonic influences & cultural trends. Most of all, let’s personify genuine love because of the Holy Spirit working in our mindsets, conversations & actions!

Change the Harvest

Last week I had a blinding flash of the obvious: we reap what we sow.

The brilliant part of this wisdom is that we often reap in fields that are different from where we sow. But no matter where we reap, the principle remains the same – we reap what we sow.
So what do you want? If you want something different than your current results perhaps it’s time to consider the seeds that you’re sowing. If you’re planting gossip, strife, belittling, condescension & insecurity, don’t be surprised when those show up in your life.
On the other hand, planting encouragement, stability, patience & other good seeds produce a harvest after its kind, across a wide array of fields!
Let’s be sure we are planting the seeds that we want to harvest!

The Best

I like getting better, growing & improving. When I was growing up, we had a trampoline & for a season, I was thoroughly committed to getting really good on the trampoline, with various tricks & flips. The principle remains true for me to this day, with always trying to get better. But alas, the Holy Spirit spoke with me to pause on my improvement plan because of this principle: God’s ways & thoughts can’t be improved.
So we would be wise to chase God’s plans, ways & thoughts because they are the BEST!!! Isaiah 55:8-9 🙂

Love on Valentines Day

This picture is the word “love” in 9 different languages. It took me awhile to practice the one in Mandarin & I think I kind of botched the Arabic one. But the idea remains the same regardless of the script or language.
Valentines Day is often attributed to expressing romantic love, but genuine love is WAY MORE than romance. Genuine love is grounded in the reality that God is love & nothing we do or don’t do will change Who God is, full stop. God will never stop loving you because God will never stop existing.
So let’s not only celebrate that God loves us, but let’s allow that opulent & lavish love God gives us to overflow through us today!

Changing Plans

I changed my plans for today at the last minute. I was going to go snowboarding, but decided that there are more pressing needs at home than my snowboarding interests.
In 1Samuel 13, Saul changed his plans as well. He & Samuel made a plan to make a sacrifice together but he got scared & offered the sacrifice without Samuel. This was a major downfall for Saul & Samuel explained shortly after Saul’s fearful decision, that God had sought out a different leader for Israel, a man after His heart (1San 13:14).
Saul changed the plan he had made with Samuel because he was afraid of his enemy, the Philistines, & saw the Israelite’ support of his leadership rapidly eroding.
While I’m a massive advocate of flexible planning, I’m growing to appreciate the importance of keeping God’s goals as unchanging piers to anchor my soul, regardless of my environs, feelings or selfish preferences.
God’s goals always related to genuine love & connecting humanity to God’s heart in deep intimacy. Let’s be sure that we keep God’s plans more central to our choices rather than our selfish interests, including my snowboarding plans 🙂

Can Gory Be Glory?

In many ways, gory seems to be the antonym of glory and I don’t commonly associate these words together besides the rhyming sound they make.  But there’s a stark and startling place where these words converge into one place and that would be Jesus when He was crucified.

If you saw the movie by Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ”, it showed with disturbing clarity the gory nature of Jesus’ death on the cross.  I’ll never forget how deeply moved I was to the core of my soul when I saw this movie the first time.  As I watched, I found myself repeatedly thinking, “please stop, that’s enough!”  And at the end of the movie, I was entirely unraveled because I couldn’t escape the reality that Jesus endured this excrutiating experience entirely on the pure motivation of genuine love, full stop.

Jesus was glorified in the gory mess of human suffering, sin and sacrifice.  And this continues to give me the assurance that Jesus can redeem human gore and transform it into divine glory, a truth that we would be wise to ponder throughout this weekend 🙂

When Control Is Good

“Control” is a loaded word.  It can evoke a visceral reaction in various individuals, in negative or positive ways.  And as Americans, we cherish our freedom sometimes to the point of demonizing any form of control.  We don’t want people to infringe on our rights, we want to speak freely without consequences and we want to the freedom to make decisions often without the complementary responsibilities.

If we are followers of Jesus, however, there’s an alarming verse that recently arrested my attention: 2Cor 5:14a, “For the love of Christ controls us, . . . ”  When I read this, I tried to find some wiggle room in the Greek for the word “control”.  But alas, I had no luck.  I’m supposed to be controlled by Jesus’ love.

So if we identify as a follower of Jesus, this means that His love:

  • influences my conversations to make them edifying rather than snarky
  • priorities my resources to be less selfish & to consider others
  • applauds those random acts of kindness that run contrary to my fleshy instincts
  • filters my thoughts & emotions to remove unforgivness, judgment, condescension, etc

Let’s allow Jesus’ love to be the controlling & defining essential in our lives!

Love to Understand

“What’s wrong with her?” I was recently walking through the largest brothel in Bangledesh & noticed a lady sitting on a bench & she was crying. I immediately sat next to her & put my arm around her, feeling her sadness pouring out of her. Some people with me asked her in the Bengali language what was wrong & there was a brief dialogue where she said why she was crying in seemingly few words. I continued to hold this young lady, absorbing her pain & she began to cry heaps more.

She was crying because she was homesick for her parents who live in a different district & she had been working in this brothel for more than a year.

I could continue explaining more & more details of her life to help you, my reader, understand why she was crying.
But let’s be careful that we don’t qualify our love on understanding first. Indeed, I sincerely don’t think we begin to understand until we decide first to love.

If you truly want to begin understanding someone, decide that you will love them & you’ll find that you begin to understand them more & more!