Poem: Swagatam, Chicago

swagatam

Image source

Swagatam Chicago

Namaste.

A spare room, bare bulb,

spicy curry: dama bat.

Smiles, laughs,

languages collide

between the Bhutanese,

the Korean, and me.

A stuffed monkey,

an English book.

This is how it feels–

America, new to them

and me.

Swagatam, Chicago

I wrote this poem in 2011 after a semester of visiting a Bhutanese refugee family in Rogers Park, Illinois. They had lived (grown up, married, and had a child) in a Nepalese refugee camp for about fifteen years before being granted refugee status by the States.

As a college student, I hadn’t thought much about the experience of coming to the US for the first time, but this family, whose names I never wrote down but whose faces are burned into my mind, changed how I looked at our world.

I’ve lost contact with the family but I hold onto the memories of this Hindu Bhutanese family (three generations in a one-bedroom apartment) and the smiles on their faces and hope in their eyes.

I weep for the refugees being turned away at airports, immigrants being told they can’t come to this land of freedom, and permanent residents being questioned about their nationality or citizenship.

Refugees are seeking a better life; let’s welcome them. Regardless of the country/religion/background they come from, let us be swagatam, tarḥāb, welcome.

Translation guide for Hindi:

Swagatam: welcome

Namaste: hello

Dama bat: thank you

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Featured Page: EndTheStigma

UPDATED 1/4/17: There has been some confusion about the End the Sigma page – I am not the creator, but after I published this blog, I was accepted as part of the Facebook and Twitter moderation team. Please direct any questions about the End the Stigma badges to the Facebook page!

A new Facebook page has been born, and already its effects are felt around the Facebook community. End The Stigma is a Facebook page created on January 1 and has rocketed to over 9000 likes in three days (as of this writing) and continues to climb through shares, comments, and likes on its beautiful images.

It means what it says: the goal of the page is to end the social stigma surrounding invisible illnesses, particularly mental diseases and neuro-divergent disorders, by creating and sharing square “badges” with the hashtags #endthestigma and #youarenotalone. Also included are #1in5 (referencing that one in five people will be diagnosed with a mental disorder at some point in their life).

According to the first post on Instagram, the founder Kat was inspired by Carrie Fisher and her mental health advocacy.

 15802334_1098960576899865_8281182295172317184_n

Hello, I am Kat. I personally have struggled with my mental health for many years. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I received my first official diagnoses, #bipolar 1 with traits of BPD. Almost 10 years later I still have frequent struggles in maintaining my mental health. When @carriefisherofficial passed, I was heartbroken. Leia was my childhood hero, and Carrie’s outspokenness about her own struggles with Bipolar made her my adult hero as well. I decided it was my turn to step up, and make any increase I could in mental health advocacy. I never imagined that my small post on Facebook would grow by thousands. You are all strong, and you are all brave. Thank you for being a part of #endingthestigma #endthestigma #mentalhealthawareness #1in5 #youarenotalone #endthestigmabadges

A photo posted by End The Stigma Official (@endthestigmabadges) on Jan 2, 2017 at 5:20pm PST

After a terrible 2016 for mental illnesses (politics, shootings, stabbings, and court cases all vilified or laughed at people with mental disorders), we need this. We need to stand up all around our family and friends and declare that mental hospitals aren’t fodder for Halloween scares, that not everyone who is depressed is a school shooter, that PTSD happens a lot to veterans but can happen to rape victims, crime victims, and after other traumatic events too.

Let’s start off 2017 by showing our scars in the most vunerable way possible – by broadcasting it on social media and having brave conversations with families, friends, and strangers.

You can find my personal story on the End The Stigma page along with my 8-badge image and an older photo of me.

endthestigma-me

OTL Takes Indy – Recap

From left to right: @orangelikejazz, @philadowlphia, @jenniekerns, @nrulason, @taymabelitini, @maggiehjohnson (not pictured: @a_twarek)

From left to right: @orangelikejazz, @philadowlphia, @jenniekerns, @nrulason, @taymabelitini, @maggiehjohnson (not pictured: @a_twarek)

Yesterday I was privileged to be a part of a lunch/gathering of seven women from around the Midwest in an amazing day of friendship, laughter, and grace. I left the meetup feeling that I was overflowing with love, both of these women I had just spent time with and of the presence of God that permeated every space we occupied.

The first thing you must know is that we all participate in the online community Overcome The Lie and we live within a 6-hour radius of Indianapolis, Indiana. The idea started as a lunch, but it really became so much more – there was food, to be sure, but also sharing and bonding and lots of selfies.

The second thing you must also know is that the dress code of wearing a dress for the meetup was totally inspired by the amazing summer-like Indianapolis forecast and it snow-balled with fervor. (Pun intended – it was almost 80 degrees in April!)

And lastly, you must also know that we started to use our own hashtag leading up to, during, and now after the event: #OTLtakesIndy, on Twitter and Instagram.

On the schedule for Saturday was a mini-sleepover at Maggie’s house, a relaxing morning of muffins and bagels, a Chipotle trip for lunch, a walk around Monument Circle, baking oatmeal-cranraisin cookies, and reflecting on where Christ has brought us from to where he has brought us to over the course of our individual journeys.

If it sounds like a lot for 24 hours, I can assure you that it was, but it never felt overwhelming or forced. (Maybe this is just my extroversion coming out, but you can ask the others their perspective too.)

It felt like community – because it was.

I find it a little amazing that only 3 of us had met in person before this weekend, and we all parted for home as close friends like we had known each other for years. This is a testament to how social media is changing the way we learn about each other and form relationships but also serves as proof that being in the same room is a catalyst for growth. We exchanged phone numbers, posted selfies, ate more food than our stomachs could handle, and laughed all the calories away with some down-right crazy shenanigans. Above all, I felt the glue of Jesus drawing us together in a powerful way that transcended our personal struggles, situations, and schedules to offer us holistic spiritual nourishment while we “did ministry” together and to each other.

Quotes and conversations fill my mind covering scary pasts and current fears, difficult roads and spiritual highs, favorite TV shows and making meal stone-soup style. Moments of teaching from Maggie about feminism, all-around wonder at God’s creation and the imagination of man, learning where God is leading us next – these are the nuggets of friendship I will cherish.

Thoughts on thoughts, community, and friendship while on Monument Square.

Thoughts on thoughts, community, and friendship while on Monument Square.

So what’s the point of this ramble about my amazing weekend?

I’ve been ruminating on this since I left.

And this is it: God can use social media to build his church, but it’s still through the interactions with each other, online or offline, that we feel his presence move through us – the people. Online or offline, God is moving in our hearts and lives to bring us closer to him. Sometimes he does that by bonding over loving burritos or in wearing dresses – but sometimes he works in 140-character messages of hope, grace, and love.

There really isn’t much more to say but there is something I want to know from you:

If you could meet one internet friend and spend an entire day with them, who would it be, what would you do, and what would you say to them?

Follow us on Twitter: @orangelikejazz, @philadowlphia, @jenniekerns, @nrulason, @taymabelitini, @maggiehjohnson@a_twarek) or join the community at @overcomethelie

The Ransom Is Paid

The Ransom is Paid: The Story of Your Life // orangelikejazz

We hear the word “ransom” and probably think of one of the following definitions:

  • A person who is kidnapped and held against their will for an exorbitant price;
  • A Christian concept that involves Jesus dying and raising himself from the dead mostly sung about in that one song around Christmas time when we celebrate his birthday and overlook his sacrifice.

How did we ever divorce these two definitions from each other?

When Scripture says the ransom is paid and we are free from the bondage of slavery, it’s not talking about a frou-frou and cerebral concept that we’re free from this thing we didn’t even know was a problem. It’s certainly not as visceral as a kidnapping and a ransom, a la the movie Taken (and its sequel we do not speak of). It’s not the same as the traumatic experiences that an actual kidnapping and ransom would be (I feel very strongly about this issues, so I am not making light of anxiety or PTSD).

It’s not as simple as a ransom to be paid or else you die.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

You were already dead in your sin and held captive by your sin nature.

Read that again and again until you feel the weight of that statement.

There is no amount of money you could pay, fame you can achieve, or plan you can devise to get out of that fact. None.

Let’s read a story.

Once upon a time, there was a dad and a son. They were happy, perfect, and in harmony with each other.

They decided to make a world – a perfect world, where they could create and enjoy the creation. They filled it with creatures of all types – leafy things that grew tall, and little bugs that crawled, and big fish that were gentle, and birds that sang. It was wonderful.

They decided to share their joy with another creation, this time one that looked like themselves. They made two of them and were close friends – the two like-things had a relationship as tight as the father and the son. The father and son gave these like-things eternal life in peace, but also the ability of choice – a choice to follow their example by following a single rule, or to be held captive by pain and suffering and this thing they had never experienced called Sin.

One day, the rule was broken.

The created beings were instantly kidnapped by this thing called Sin because the rule meant that Sin could do that. The like-things still knew the father and the son but it wasn’t the same as before the rule was broken – now they were prisoners to another thing with no way out and with a ransom so high they could never get enough to satisfy Sin.

The creations perpetuated themselves into a strong family. They were still held prisoner, but coping as best they could away from the father and the son.

Eventually, the two like-things died real, physical deaths and Sin still held their children captive because the ransom hadn’t been paid.

Time passed. Promises were made, and broken, by the next generation, and the next, and the next. The only way to fix the broken rule was for the ransom to be paid for all of them, all at once.

The only person who could pay it was the father, and the cost was the giving up of the son to this thing called Sin. The father knew this would be a sad day, but also that this was the only way to pay the ransom to Sin once and for all his Creation.

The son knew this too.

So the son went into the world he had made – he had to become very small – and he became a like-thing, the best and most perfect like-thing that ever was. And just as was needed, in the prime of his life among the like-things, he paid the ransom by offering himself to Sin as payment for the freedom of all of the like-things forever, before and after all time.

In that moment when the like-things became free, the relationship between the father and the son broke like it did when the like-things had broken the rule, but infinitely more painful. It was so painful that it killed the son – or paying the ransom killed the son, no one really understands that part.

The story has a happy ending – the son was brought back to life because Sin couldn’t hold him prisoner like it did the like-things – but the story also isn’t over yet.

Anyone who believes this story – really believes it – has their ransom paid. This means that the eternal life from the beginning of Creation brings life to the dead, and the ransom that could never be accomplished alone is counted for them.

This is the story. This is your life.

So let’s stop thinking about Christ ransoming us like he did us a favor. He did so much more, and at the highest price anyone could pay.

How will Christ’s payment of the ransom you could never pay change you? How does the freedom you are offered change how you interact with others? How is God calling you to respond today? Tell us, tell God, tell someone because this story must be told.

101 Ways to Jump-Start Your Faith

Apathy // Demotivator, Inc.

Dry spells.

Auto-pilot.

Spiritual deserts.

There are times in all our lives where we feel like God isn’t really around. Usually it’s because we’re too busy, too stressed, too depressed, or too blind to see.

How did we get here?

And more important, how do we reconnect with God our Father when it seems like we’re all alone?

Here are 101 ways to jump-start your faith or combat spiritual apathy in your life and for others around you. There are 10 categories, but please do not try to do them all – and don’t get burned out. This is a list of joys and rejuvenation, not a checklist.

101

Learn
1. Read a Psalm
2. Listen to a sermon
3. Subscribe and listen to a Christian podcast
4. Check out a commentary on a biblical book from your library and read it
5. Read a blog post about struggle and faith
6. Ask a mentor or Christian friend for a recommendation
7. Research a topic you are not theologically knowledgeable about
8. Sign up for a topical Bible devotional
9. Read a biography of a missionary or church leader
10. Look up and read your church’s doctrinal statement

Reflect
11. Try a one-day fast from the top reason you don’t spend time with God
12. List the blessings in your life right now
13. Remember a difficult time in your life and what helped you cope the most
14. Use your life story to write a poem
15. Re-read a journal entry from a past journal
16. Write down a list of your top three excuses for not spending time with God
17. Read a short book of the Bible in one sitting
18. Write out your testimony of how God has changed your life
19. List 100 small glimpses of joy or large acts of wonder
20. Begin a sermon notebook
21. Go for a walk in nature and observe that everything is made by God
22. Contemplate undeserved grace and unlimited forgiveness

Pray
23. Pray for the desire to know God more deeply
24. Bring your current concerns to God
25. Pray for wisdom, understanding, faith, or all of the above
26. Ask a friend for their biggest prayer requests
27. Begin a prayer journal to write down pray requests for you and others
28. Pray for the politicians in your city and state regardless of their policies
29. Read a Psalm that speaks to your situation and pray it out loud to God as though you wrote it
30. Pray for an upcoming mission trip and the members
31. Ask God to bless each meal before you begin eating

Petition
32. Petition God for healing in someone’s life
33. Ask for direction in your life
34. Pray for guidance and strength
35. Recognize what you are uncertain about and petition for a resolution with any outcome
36. Look up and pray for a country where Christians are persecuted
37. Pray for a family member who is unsaved
38. End each prayer request with “…or do something better”
39. Find a silent place and pray for what you need in that moment
40. Pray for a friend who is struggling
41. Think of your worst enemy and pray for God to change their lives for the better

Worship
42. Close your eyes and pray the words of a song
43. Listen to an instrumental version of a worship song
44. Hum an old hymn
45. Belt out all the words you can remember to your favorite worship song
46. Play a worship song
47. Be silent in corporate worship and let the words of the song resonate in your heart
48. Write a letter of praise to God
49. Burn a CD or create a playlist of worship songs for your car
50. Look up a local Christian radio station
51. Write a song
52. Learn basic sign language to worship songs

Community
53. Call a friend or family member to ask for and give encouragement
54. Find a local church
55. Reach out to a pastor or elder for prayer
56. Research a Christian therapist or counselor for help with daily life and faith
57. Join a Bible study or small group
58. Have coffee with a mentor
59. Ask friends or family to pray for you and your faith journey
60. Invite an older couple or person you respect to have dinner with you
61. Find an accountability partner
62. Host an informal potluck for church friends with a focus on intentionally building friendships

Confess
63. Pray for God to come into and radically change your life
64. Apologize to someone that has wronged you whether they realize it or not
65. Let go of anger and resentment
66. Write down recent sins and cross them out with a marker as you confess each and are forgiven
67. Confess times when you have sinned by omission or inaction
68. Speak your biggest struggles out loud
69. Forgive yourself for sins that God has already forgiven
70. Pray for forgiveness
71. Admit to someone else that you have wronged them even if it was not intentional

Serve
72. Buy a gift card and keep it in your car for the next homeless person you see on a corner
73. Get involved in a church ministry
74. Take a cart back to the store for a senior citizen or a mom with children
75. Volunteer for an upcoming ministry event
76. Gather your spare change in a jar for missions
77. Cook a meal for a family or friend in need and listen to their story as you eat
78. Tithe 10% of your monthly income to your local church
79. Begin setting an additional part of your income to world missions and evangelism
80. Offer to babysit for a couple who can’t afford to hire a babysitter

Disciple
81. Reach out to an old friend you have lost contact with
82. Volunteer with a non-religious organization to meet unbelievers
83. Write an old-fashioned letter to a family member
84. Be willing to admit if you need to be mentored while you mentor others
85. List all the lessons you feel God has recently taught or is teaching you
86. Pray for clarity and insight when an opportunity arises for a spiritual conversation
87. Text someone to say you are praying for them
88. Befriend a coworker
89. Ask a friend to go out for coffee to catch up to open the door to spiritual dialogue
90. Write an encouraging note to someone who is an inspiration to you
91. Pray for God to show you who around you needs prayer

Meditate
Does the word meditation scare you? Read this for more about what I mean.
92. Sit in silence and focus on God’s omnipotent presence
93. Re-read a favorite verse and memorize it
94. Write out a verse using mixed media and hang it somewhere in your house
95. Repeat the same phrase over and over again for several minutes together
96. Set alarms on your phone with Bible verses to encourage you throughout the day
97. Write out a prayer
98. Research a word (such as “faith”) in the original Biblical language and let its full meaning sink in to your soul
99. Write a verse on your bathroom mirror with soap or erasable marker
100. Recite a rosary or other repetitive-based prayer for inner contemplation
101. Brainstorm your own list of ideas for combating spiritual apathy

Many of these topics were inspired by John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted and many other bible studies, mentors, books, and resources that I have encountered. Please feel free to add your own and share the list with someone you know.

The After-Burn: A Lesson in Shame and Victim Mentality

TARDIS // Copyright BBC

Image copyright the BBC

Never has the desire for time travel been so strong as it was two weeks ago.

***Below is a detailed description of my recent injury. If you do not feel comfortable reading, I completely understand – just skip to the next image.

I was cleaning my kitchen, putting away food, and decided to tackle the simmering chicken broth in my crockpot instead of leaving it until morning. I drained it, leaving out all the chicken bones and poured the healthy, delicious broth into a container and put the lid on. The lid didn’t feel tight enough so I pushed on it to get more air out, or something equality idiotic. The lid gave way, followed by my fist and arm. I displaced about half of the broth all over my kitchen.

(The kitchen was in better shape than I was.)

A trip to the ER, two follow-up appointments, and ten days later, the resulting first- and second-degree burns almost to my elbow are beginning to heal, in a very painful way.

The Time Machine, 1960

Image copyright Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

That’s enough to make me want time travel.

Or at least a fast-forward button.

Some days are easier than others. Work is a struggle when you type all day with a hand injury – my dad can testify to this as well with his own adventures (that’s a story for another time). Typing was difficult at best, but I’m pretty good at the one-handed typing thing and I can use a mouse pretty handily with my non-dominant hand too.

The hardest part is the self-esteem bubble bursting.

This whole situation is my own fault. Whether or not it was a bad set of conditions or just a dumb accident, I don’t have anyone to blame but me for what happened.

But there’s a difference between accepting blame and wallowing in shame.

So here’s the lesson I’ve had to learn the past few weeks…all over again. Shame is natural, but it’s not there to breathe it in and hide in it like it’s your favorite cubbie hole.

This is what happens when you live in shame and let it define you:

You become a person that can’t see the light of day that so bright it’s blinding you. Instead, you have a glimpse of a cloud and it shuts down your day. One thought about how you could have done something else to avoid these feelings and you fall into a never-ending pit of despair – at the drop of a hat. You live under a rock, in a hole, behind the curtain, and shut out any hope of ever being “you” again. Shame tells you you’re worthless and stupid and can’t do anything right. It tells you you’re wrong to feel happy. Shame makes you feel dirty, hopeless, and alone. It makes you feel like there is no way out of its grasp and you’ll never be able to move past it.

To all of those emotions running through your head and those that are settling into your heart, I say: me too.

Me Too! // Brené Brown // @minestronesoul

So let’s do something about it.

Reach out to someone – a family member, a friend, a pastor or caregiver, or even me. Chances are they’ve been through something similar, even if it’s nothing like what you’re going through, and just talking it out with a listening ear will help you move from shame into owning your pain and growing because of it.

If you want to talk about what you’re going through, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Waiting for the Morning [a #SheSharesTruth post]

There are few things I love more than building community, sharing struggles, and learning about the Scriptures.

Today’s post is inspired by and a part of the #SheSharesTruth blog linkup.

She Shares Truth

Repetition is always there to remind you of something, repetition draws our attention to it, and repetition wants to show you something important.

Do you know where I’m headed yet?

Psalm 130:6 has some very obvious repetition:

I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

There is so much in these words. Israel was waiting for God to show himself, more than the watchmen on the tower wait for the morning to rise and for their work to be over, for the enemy to be fended off for one more night, or for the Lord to reappear in the deep shadows in all his glory.

The watchman is not the only repetition here. Look at Psalm 130 a little closer with me.

Psalm 130

A song of ascents.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

We no longer need to wait for our Lord and Savior because he has already come back to relieve us from our watching, our waiting, and from our sins.

And yet…

We still resonate with these words.

We feel the burden of the watcher. We know the biding of time. We understand the need for hope, for rescue, and for grace.

Psalm 130 could be summarized like this: We cry for mercy. We know we cannot stand before you, but we want to serve you. We hope in the Lord’s coming presence, for his redemption of our sins.

The words of the Psalmist bring us more peace than that summary ever could. Trust in his goodness. Believe in his mercy. Hope for his redeeming work on the cross – Israel waited for his return like the watchman for the morning, and we know it came in his darkest hour, validated by his resurrection.

Read this truth:

With the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.

Psalm 130: 7

Now go live that.

Petition for Meditation

Meditation // Google N-Gram //

Meditation has a bad rap in Christian circles more often than not. We think of Buddhists, orange robes, and sitting in the lotus position, but there is a lot more to the word than these initial thoughts.

Just look at Google’s graph above of how frequently the word “meditation” has been used (or not used) since the year 1600.

In the Christian church, we’ve definitely strayed away from this word “meditate” because of what we think other people mean. We prefer to say that we should memorize Scripture. To that response, I present the next graph:

Meditate vs. Memorize // Google N-Grams

That little red line is the frequency of the word memorize over the same time period as the blue line, meditate. The little word that couldn’t is now gaining speed with its predecessor.

But the words mean the same thing, right? We’re just differentiating our recitation of Scripture from the rest of the world, so that’s okay.

Or maybe it’s not.

Maybe we should go back to meditating on God’s word, not just memorizing it.

Hear me out.

mem·o·rize, verb1. commit to memory; learn by heart.

med·i·tate, verb 1. think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.

 

As much as we want to say and believe memorizing Scripture is enough, it really isn’t the same as meditating.

It wouldn’t take long to assemble a list of super-fast Bible-drill Sunday School kids who aren’t on fire about their faith a decade later. (There are some sticky tangents here I’ll cover some other day.)

Suffice it to say that memorizing some Bible verses isn’t going to make a believer out of you.

Let’s take a new tactic: let’s teach people how to meditate.

Let’s teach kids the hard stories. Let’s encourage them to ask questions and not give them pat answers. Let’s struggle with our lives and faith by beginning to really think about what we’re thinking and reading in the Holy Book.

I’m not suggesting a life-long devotion to memorizing the entire Bible, but neither am I discouraging it. Meditating goes beyond stuffing Scripture in your head.

It means it lives and breathes and speaks to you as you think about each verse, each word, and each thought. It means knowing your Bible – not just what the words are and where to find them, but really what it means and why you should care.

I suppose you could relabel this a “Petition for Biblical Literacy” but that doesn’t grab attention. Literacy means reading. Meditation requires attention and focus.

So let’s start somewhere. Let’s start in the Psalms.

I will meditate // The Living Way at http://sgilmore215.blogspot.com/

Read a Psalm – any Psalm will do. I’ve put an image above and a poster below so you don’t have an excuse.

Write it down. Print it out. Think about it.

What did the Psalmist think? What are they conveying? How does this help you today?

Psalm 25:16-18 // orangelikejazz.wordpress.com

If you want Scripture to permeate your life, see more Scripture posters on this page.

One Thousand Tweets

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

One of the beautiful side effects of cutting TV from my life for 40 days is that I actually allow myself the time and space to read.

Last week’s snow day was a perfect example of what can happen if I simply step aside from my life as it is, and allow my life to be what I need it to be.

When I first received the book as a gift more than a year ago, I read the first chapter or so of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, but this week I sat down and read it. I couldn’t stop, and honestly didn’t want to either.

Ann’s story of tragedy and the redeeming power of being thankful is contagious in this book.

While I haven’t finished it yet, I mulled many times this week over her words and digest the idea of eucharisteo more fully.

Overcome The Lie

At the same time, I have been using Twitter more often to keep up with the Overcome The Lie community. It has taken me close to three years on Twitter to find a niche that is engaged plus genuine new friends that are both uplifting and amazing.

As a result of this surge in using Twitter, I’m finally creeping up on the 1000th tweet mark.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

So in addition to the OTL 40-day Challenge reading the daily messages about God as our Father, fasting from TV, spending time in prayer, and finishing up some languishing projects, I’m going to begin tweeting my way to 1000 everyday gifts.

I’ll be using a pretty simple system: using the hashtag #1000joys and a number, I’m accepting the One Thousand Gifts dare to “Live Fully Right Where You Are” and will tweet it for you to read or not, as you choose.

Every week or so, I’ll do a round-up post of the newest ones with a full listing after I’ve hit 1000.

It’s a small step to getting my life more aligned with joy, peace, and patience – several of the places I struggle in. I’m trying to not only think about, but live out, this giving of thanks:

Charis. Grace.

Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

Chara. Joy.

One Thousand Gifts, page 33

If you want to join me, start your own list of 1000joys on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media. I’d love to hear about it on Twitter, in an emailor comment below!

Questions We Ask, Things We Need

The Business Plan

“What is your measure of success?”

“How do you feel fulfilled?”

“What is your goal in life?”

We seem to live by these questions. They form our plans, our future, and our identities.

The first questions we ask new people are about jobs, marriage, kids…we try to find common ground with new people, but we also want to know how much further on the ladder they are than we are in that moment.

We ask people these questions and we hold our breath, waiting to see how we compare – how similar they are to us, how far above us, or how much lower.

We could shift this thinking and say we just need to ask what they believe. That’s what we do well in the modern-day Evangelical church – we classify, categorize, compare, and criticize others so we know how to interact with them.

Sometimes, we even ask the questions and pretend like we don’t care that they are on the opposite end of the spiritual gifts spectrum, or that you were raised overseas, or that you don’t raise your hands in worship.

Comedian Tim Hawkings' Handbook of Official Worship Signals

But that still makes us wrong. Why?

Because we still asked the questions, and then acted like the answer didn’t matter.

I Need...Jesus // LaraCasey.com

But it does matter.

Just not in the ways we think it matters.

Let’s begin by thinking not about how people may or may not be similar to us. Let’s ask the question with their spiritual future in mind. The answer to those standard rote questions do matter.

The answers tell us what part of life this person may be in, and it gives us an opportunity to ask how to serve them. It lets us step aside and let God whisper in our ear how to love them. How to give them Jesus.

Because that’s what they really need.

We don’t need to know if someone is married or single, straight or gay, homeless or wealth, feminist or biblical literalist, works-based or faith-based. We don’t need to know if they agree with your vote for president, or prioritize environment over equal rights, or even if they love Jesus.

We need to know that they are a sinner in need of grace, because that’s what Calvary is about.

Let’s stop asking to categorize. Stop asking to stigmatize. Stop asking so we can fix their sins.

Let’s ask so we can serve them. So we can love them. So we can give them Jesus regardless of what they believe, or how they worship, or what they look like.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic – please share your ideas and practical strategies for living out this kind of love-centered, Christ-offering love to everyone we meet on social media or in a comment below!