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The Pilgrimage, Turkey, Part Three

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Fri, 07/18/2014 - 02:43
In the afternoon we went first to the spice Bazaar and saw some bizarre spices, and then took a cruise on the Bosphorus for a while. The spice bazaar is part of, or next to the Grand Bazaar, now immortalized in the movie Skyfall for a motorcycle chase across the tiles of the roof of [Read More...]

A Fragile Stone

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 22:12
Our schedule this summer has been quite conducive to reading and studying.   The work schedules and family situations of some of those studying the Bible with us have created unexpected and sometimes...

Road Trip

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 18:33
Road trip! That’s right. As you know, we are spending this summer on our home assignment. We are taking this opportunity to travel to churches and some individuals who support the ministry in Ancona...

July News

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 16:24
As you might have heard from friends or family,  the Family Life Office at AGWM has encouraged us to take an additional (and much needed) medical furlough over the next several months. Our missionary...

Isiro-Wamba

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 12:00
There are two airstrips in Wamba, but in 2007 neither had been maintained. I had to meet with church leaders to get their input. That meant traveling the 66 miles by road, well, sort-of road. The...

Thinking about doing something is not the same as doing something.

Jamie The Very Worst Missionary - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:00

So a couple of weeks ago, we had a well known humanitarian aid organization at our church. They were there to sign people up to run a half marathon with a goal of raising funds to bring clean water to people who desperately need it. I'm supportive of their efforts and their goal, and I can't tell you how much I love seeing my church family extend themselves both physically and financially for the benefit of others. It's pretty cool.  
The two women who joined us from this NGO are obnoxiously obviously passionate about their work, and they weresuper enthusiastic in their encouragement for folks to get on board. A bunch of us went to dinner with them and throughout the evening one of them kept trying to convince me that I NEEDED to run this half-marathon. Apparently, my life would not be complete if I didn't sign up and start training. I admire her passion and loved hearing her tell stories of reluctant runners who signed up and were changed by the experience.  But I am not running this race. I have no intention of signing up, and I'm not gonna pretend "I'll think about it" just to get this chick off my back.
Yes, that's how it is.I tried to let her down gently by explaining that it actually says “NEVER RUN A MARATHON” on my bucket list, but she didn't care. So then I alluded to the fact that I have a minor medical condition which keeps me from running, but she wasn't cluing in, like, at all, and since we were eating with some guys I barely knew I felt like I couldn't just blurt out, “I PEE when I RUN and I need SURGERY to fix it. But thanks for bringing it up...”, so she just kept pushing me to sign up for her cause.
Again. I actually loved this about her. Some people need a little push to do the hard things in life. Some people need some persuading. Some people need to be challenged. I get that. 
But what my marathon loving friend didn't know is that I had only been home from SE Asia for a few days. I was fighting to keep my eyes open from jet lag, I was still swollen and puffy from the 13 hour flight, and I was utterly heartbroken by my brief exposure to human-trafficking and slavery. What she couldn't know was that I was a girl with a cause of my own. So when she started to tell me about how good it feels to do something really difficult, to put yourself out their, to burden yourself for someone else, to sacrifice your time and energy on behalf of justice - as if I was just another spoiled suburbanite who'd never done anything that might break a nail - I only had one thought...
Bitch, please. You don't KNOW me.”
I sat across from her, picking at my burrito bowl and steeping in my own arrogance. I was doing self-righteous circles in my mind around the difficulty of the trip I'd just taken, how I put myself out there all the time, I have a huge burden for the victims of trafficking, and she has know idea how much time and energy I'd given up to go and hear about the work being done in SE Asia; to “tell the story”. I felt myself getting kind of pissed by the lack of recognition, by the silence of my husband, who surely should have spoken up on my behalf, like,  “Whoa now! My wife is practically a social justice HERO. Can't you see how fat her ankles are?! That repulsive bloating is from her selfless trip to rescue sex-slaves in Asia! She doesn't have to run your little race, because she's already doing her part...and also because she pees herself... but mostly because she is already putting herself out there. Did I mention she's A HERO?!
Alas. El Chupacabra was completely silent on the matter.
All I could do was sit there quietly, smiling and nodding like a smug, bloated douchebag, thinking about how awesome I am, and how she was way out of line if she thought she could guilt me into running a half-marathon for poor people with dirty water. Nope. No way. Not gonna happen, lady.
I didn't say anything though. I was content to let my pride swell in an internal dialog. But I lost my delightfully self-absorbed train of thought when I let my guard down for a second to pick cilantro out of my teeth, and that's when God slipped into the conversation in my head. 
He came at me, as He often does, with the tenderness of One who brushes my weak spots with a fingertip, gently pointing out the flaws, and speaking new Truth into my dark heart. There is no audible voice, no booming baritone, just a better understanding, a clearer line of thinking, a soft invitation to release what's broken inside of me and cling to His mercy, instead. God spoke no words to me that night, as I brooded at Chipotle, but what I got from Him in a brief moment of clarity was something like...
Baby Girl, you can hop down from that rickety, homemade pedestal, because really? You haven't done shit yet.                                                                          ~ Relax, I'm paraphrasing
And He was right. I was giving myself a pat on the back for what?! Taking a trip? Flying far away? Sweating for a few days?... I HADN'T EVEN DONE THE WORK YET. I hadn't written the words I intended to write, I hadn't told anyone the stories, I hadn't done my job – but I sure as hell wanted credit for my good intentions.
This is a common and destructive theme in my life. I forget that thinking about doing somethingis not the same as doing something.
This is why my email is overflowing. It's why my bills get paid late. It's why my friends feel neglected for lack of texts, calls, and coffee dates. This is why I don't send birthday cards to my nieces, and it plays a pretty big part in why it took me a full month to put down my thoughts about my trip to Asia (which I promise you'll find here next week).
think about doing it, and then I just... don't.
I think to myself, “I'm going reply to this email and, when I do, this is what I will say.” And somehow in my head that translates into checkmark, done.
I'm going to call my Dad. Check, done.
I'm going to see if this or that friend can have lunch next week. Check, done.
I'm going to pay my phone bill beforeI get a text saying it's overdo. Check, done.
I'm going to buy toilet paper so my kids don't have to wipe their butts with dirty socks and dry leaves. Check.
I am going to write about the incredible things I did, the beautiful people I met, and the life-giving work I saw overseas. Check. Check. Check.
Seriously. If I acted on the things I think about doing half as often as I think about doing them – or even like 1/10 of the time – I would be living a much fuller life. Not busier, but fuller, richer, deeper; My life would be a better outward reflection of my heart. If I actively lived out my intentions, my life would be a greater expression of the Faith, Hope, and Love that I intend to share with those around me.
I believe God wants me to tend more, and intend less.
I once told one of my beautiful sons, who struggles mightily with this same affliction, that he needed to ruthlessly eliminate the phrases “I'm going to” and “I was going to” from his vocabulary, and replace them with, “I am” and “I did”.
True dat, Pablo. Ha! I thought I was so clever... and then I tried it for myself. Turns out? Redirecting a soul-level character flaw is, like, really hard work, you guys. It's been so difficult for me to figure out how to turn my inner intentions into outer actions. (I mean, like, the goodintentions. This world cannot handle a physical manifestation of my bad stuff. I'll just keep those thoughts to myself. And Jesus.  Cause he can deal.) Anyway. My spiritual epiphany at Chipotle was a like fat spotlight over my lack of self-control and my abundance of self-gratification. 
I'm gross.
Now you probably think I'm gonna wrap this up by telling you I relented to that chicks appeals and signed up for the half marathon because I need to put my money where my mouth is, or something like that.
Yeeeeaaah. That's not gonna happen.
NOTrunning a marathon really is on my bucket list. And there's the pee thing. So I will not be participating except to encourage my husband and son as they torture themselves for fun for clean water. 
My point is that whether we're thinking aboutrunning a half-marathon for clean water, or we're thinking aboutwriting a blog post for abolition, or we're thinking aboutscooping mashed potatoes for the hungry, or we're thinking aboutmaking a charitable contribution, our intentions don't matter half as much as our outcomes. Thinking about doing something is not the same as doing something. We should not be satisfied by our own good intentions. 
The world needs more tending and less intending. 
In order to tend, I have to accept that I was never meant to be a cheerleader or a hero, because He put me here to be a servant and a cultivator. He put me here to do the work, to write the words, to say the things, to listen and learn, and even to obey. He put me here to be humble and bow low, to stoop down that others may rise.
He put me here to tend the Earth.
So... I am.

.....       .....       .....
Is there something you've been thinking about doing that you should actually be doing? What did He put you here to do

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 09:29
A post of lists about living on The Shire. The Good Peaceful. Gone are the noises of living in a busy neighborhood. Also being further away from Nakuru equals less trips into the bustling city. More...

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 06:29
A post of lists about living on The Shire. The Good Peaceful. Gone are the noises of living in a busy neighborhood. Also being further away from Nakuru equals less trips into the bustling city. More...

The Pilgrimage: Turkey, Part Two

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 02:28
Hagia Sophia remains one of the most amazing buildings in the world, and in its day it was an unparalleled building in terms of the amount of open domed space without columns in the center of the building. Here it is, with its later minarets still showing, from across the way near the Blue Mosque, [Read More...]

And the Times Got Tougher

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 01:45
I’d love to just copy and paste this whole page, but that probably wouldn’t be kosher, even for Christians.  :) So, here’s a link (same website as my prior post).  I totally enjoyed...

The Times Were Tough

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 01:36
“Researcher David Barrett reports that by the year 300, or nine generations after Christ, the world was 10.4% Christian with 66.4% of believers Non-whites.  The Scriptures had been translated...

School starting

Missionary Blogs - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 16:23
School starts tomorrow. Mixed emotions for the boys here. One said, "The first day is the hardest." He's had a few "first days" and hates new situations. Another hates the uniform. I'm not...

The Pilgrimage: Turkey, Part One

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 02:30
Touring Turkey after touring Israel is like touring Texas after touring Rhode Island. The difference in size, scope, and amount of things to see is enormous. So in Turkey one has to settle for a small sampler, a Whitman’s sampler so to speak, with all kinds of Turkish delights. I suggest you sit back in [Read More...]

Tired of caring.

Jamie The Very Worst Missionary - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 20:01

“Sorry, not today.”
That's what I say to the big guy sitting in a lawn chair in front of Walmart with an American flag and a 52oz soda who is trying to get me to stop and sign something on his clipboard. He wants me to know it's very important and it will only take a minute of my time.
But I keep walking. I don't even make eye contact.
I have no idea what his cause is. I sincerely have no clue why he is sweating through his Nascar button up at 3 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon with some kind of petition in his hand. If I'm leaving Walmart, I assume it has something to do with gun-rights. Target? Voter registration. Trader Joe's? Environmental protection. Taco Bell? Legalizing weed. PetSmart? Euthanasia. Walgreens?...Euthanasia.
Anyway. I honesty don't know and I really don't care.
I've got enough crap to care about on my plate. I'm already aware of too many things to fret over and feel sad for and want to change. On the internet there's a new calamity every day. I can't open my laptop without seeing that I should be enraged about something; immigration, pollution, privilege, persecution, child abuse, animal abuse, drug abuse, wars in other countries, wars “in our own back yard”, the war against poverty, the war on crime, the war on terror. There is a war against obesity, but, also, a war against body shaming. And when there's not a war, there's a battle! Because we're battling depression, malnutrition, gentrification, slavery, racism, agism, ableism, alcoholism....astigmatism.?... Basically, like, all the isms. And all the addictions. Plus, the economy is a real pain in the ass.
Issues! There are just so many issues, and they are all so big and so important and many of them are completely legitimate.
We've all met this guy and his clipboard. That's why I feel bad when someone lunges at me with their clipboard-for-a-cause on my way out to the car, and I kind of, sort of - we're talking ever so slightly - want to take it and fling it across the parking lot like a frisbee. And ,*ahem*,I might consider stabbing them with their clicky pen, too. It's so bad, I know, because I totally get that they're sold out for their cause. I know they want to tell me about something that means something to them. I know they are, in their own way, trying to change the world for the better.
Generally, I applaud that kind of behavior. But I am just so tired of... caring.
I'm tired of caring.
My compassion plate is full. It's overflowing.
I just can't care about all of the brokenness happening around us. There's so much going on, it's overwhelming. It's confusing. It's paralyzing.
The truth is, I've grown so skeptical, so wary of scandal, so observant, and so critical that even when I do start to care about something, I hesitate to get involved. I'm afraid to say the wrong thing, to contribute to the wrong people, I worry that my money will be misappropriated, and I'm fearful of causing harm in an effort to do good. As far as I'm concerned, gone are the days of flippantly signing petitions outside of grocery stores. Sorry, pal, I like your camo hat and your fishing lure vest, but I've gotta do my homework before you get my autograph.*flings clipboard* *eyes pen*.
Caring has become exhausting. With a never ending stream of fundraisers, awareness campaigns, blogger trips, micro loans, monthly sponsorship programs, sustainable businesses, and compassionate clothing in our news feeds, it can be hard to decide where to even start. It's so much easier to just kind of ignore the issues when they aren't right in our faces and go about our daily lives, but, as a culture, we are more engaged in the activities of the world than we have ever been. We are more aware, more informed, and more interested in seeing justice and equality happen on a global scale than ever. But I fear that, as a whole, we are growing tired. I think this constant inundation of giant problems and perceived solutions is leading us into a state of compassion fatigue.
Sadly, it seems like we're becoming desensitized to the relentless, overwhelming needs of our world.
We're getting tired of caring.
….. ….. …...
The first time I met Matt Parker, CEO of The Exodus Road, I told him “I'm not a cause kind of girl.” I wanted him to understand that I would be happy to come and see what they were doing in SE Asia to end trafficking and slavery, and if it was good stuff, I'd be happy to write about it on my blog, but he should know I was not going to take up his cause. I was not going to turn into some crazy abolitionist freak who wears “rescue” t-shirts and awkwardly brings up sex-slavery in the checkout line at Whole Foods. By this time, I'd seen lots of non-profits and lots of good work, and I'd happily passed their info along, but I never felt the need to become anyone's champion and I wasn't about to start. I think I wanted him to know that I cared, but like, not that much.
I was in the throws of compassion fatigue.
From last year, Matt Parker and El Chupacabra
talking about important things that matter.
Obviously.I had only been off the mission field for a year, and I'd spent that year struggling to reconcile the ease of my life in the American suburbs with the poverty and injustice I had become familiar with overseas. So I came into meetings with non-profits, looking for partnership, with a really stupid disclaimer that was like: I'm sure your work is awesome, but your cause cannot be my cause because I don't only care about one thing... I care about a lot of things... a little.
Matt graciously accepted my douchey words of non-commitment and went about the business of teaching me everything he could about The Exodus Road coalition. Over the course of our week together, he kept emphasizing the words “core competency”. In the context of The Exodus Road, this refers to how each member/organization of the coalition specializes in just one area of work. So an aftercare facility doesn't do search and rescue, and a prevention org isn't moonlighting in rehab. Each organization is free to do what they do best – their core competency – and by doing so, they've created a network of skilled, equipped, and prepared workers in the anti-slavery movement. They each care passionately and expertly about only one aspect of the work, but they also work together, streamlining the process and sharing information, with the same end goal. Freedom.
The concept of “core competency” stuck with me.
On the long flight home, I kept thinking about how brilliant that is, and how with so many problems in the world, if we could all just care really deeply about one big thing, but partner in helpful ways with the people who care deeply about the other big things, we could make this a better place to live.
So I gave myself permission to stop caring a little bit about everything I saw and I spent some time figuring out what I felt most passionate about and how I could focus my energy into that one thing and, hopefully, use it to make a difference. I decided to be a girl with a cause.
I'm telling you all of this because.... well... I think you might be tired.
I think you might be sick and tired of hearing about sex-trafficking, or poverty, or malaria deaths, or whatever, and I want you to know that I get it. I totally get it. And I promise not to think you're a dick for wanting to roll your eyes because, OMG, another chick with a cause is mucking up your Facebook feed.
And I'm telling you all of this because... well... if you don't already have a cause, like, if you're not already participating in being the solution to just one of the world's problems, then I want to invite you to make my cause your cause.
Next week, I'm going to share stories from my latest trip, and then I'm going to tell you about ways that you can partner with The Exodus Road, and me, to focus on one cause in one place, and to change the world for the victims of sex-trafficking.
But I'm writing and posting this first, because I want to joyfully release you to love your one thing, ...even if it's not my thing.
Once I felt free to pick my one thing, the apathy I'd begun to feel for all the other things disappeared. What I found was that one cause leads to another. I have a passion for Search and Rescue, but becoming an active participant in the rescue of victims has led me to consider the next precarious steps of those who are entering freedom and how I can consciously participate in their success by using my buying power and my politics on their behalf. It's all connected. We're all connected. So do your thang to make the world better, whatever it may be.
But, seriously. DO SOMETHING.
Do your homework, sign your name, give your money, volunteer your time. Find a cause and fall in love, and give yourself away to it. Don't let compassion fatigue turn you into a Starbucks swilling zombie who only reads People.com "because everything else is just too depressing". 
Do something for someone else.
And come back next week to find out what I'm doing and how you can do it to. 
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What's your thing? Whose world are you changing? (Humble bragging is allowed for once!)

The Orphan Spirit vs The Spirit of Sonship:

Missionary Blogs - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 17:46
Sonship is so important that all creation is presently crying out for the manifestation of the mature sons of God (Rom. 8:19)! The following 11 traits contrast the orphan spirit from the spirit of...

More re-entry shock stories

Missionary Blogs - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 15:30
Where are all the people?  This is both a stress and a joy. A stress, because the Japanese part of us panics when we don't see enough people at an event. In Japan that usually means we've made...

Tuning up for the Worship Seminar

Missionary Blogs - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 15:15
Praise the Lord for how He answers prayers. I began praying more than a year ago for a team to come and help lead a worship seminar this summer.  God answered my prayers!  The first part of...
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