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Monday, April 28, 2014

Namaste

I've always been enchanted by the word "Namaste."  I've heard several descriptions of what it means, but it's my understanding that it's an acknowledgment of divinity in another person. Like, "the God in me greets the God in you."

And I've been thinking a lot lately about Genesis 1:27: "God created mankind in his own image."  Mankind. That means all of us. That means we are all "image-bearers." Every single person you encounter as you walk across this planet bears the image of God.  Wow.

What an honor. God made everything: plants, trees, animals, fish, bugs, rocks. But none of it was created in his image except us. That's amazing. And I think there's a hint in there for how we are supposed to treat each other. Every person I meet bears the image of God. I need to treat them as such. Honor is due, dignity should be preserved; there is God in each of us.

That's why "Namaste" is so appealing to me. It's such a beautiful reminder of how precious each and every person is. That each and every person is important, valued, amazing. Each of us carries a bit of the divine.

I want to live out Namaste. I want everything I do to honor those around me. To honor God, both him directly and the reflection of him I see in others.  This affects how I treat people, how I think about them. If I truly believe every single person bears God's image, it helps me treat others with dignity, not to treat anyone as my enemy. It certainly helps me love them like Jesus loves them.

And I think this is how sparks catch.  We hosted our Stand with Me movie showing last week. It was amazing. I was so humbled by how many people showed up, by how many people left with tears in their eyes and by the stories I heard in the days that followed of conversations people had and how they are choosing to take action.  The God in the people who attended the movie recognized the God in the kids who are being enslaved, in the men and women born into bonded slavery. When we see people in their dignity, we can connect with them. My movie-goers chose to love. Namaste.

But what about those who are different from me? There are the folks that my culture says are "less worthy." How about the working poor? People experiencing homelessness? Drug addicts? Criminals?  If I believe what God has said, that he made all of us in his image doesn't that change the perception? Can we find God in the face of the person holding the sign on the street? Absolutely. My patients at work are often going through detox to get off of life-destroying drugs and alcohol. I can absolutely see God in them sometimes.

And how about those who oppose me? People who tell me I'm wrong - either about God or about the things I write about on this blog? The folks who tell me I must not really love Jesus because I have the wrong ideas about politics.  Yup - God created them in his image too. I can find God in them too. And I am bound to treat them in a way that honors that God in them. It hurts both of us if I don't. It hurts Jesus when I don't.

You know who I've seen God in a lot over the past few years? My dad. He's been fighting cancer for what feels like forever. He's not even sure he believes in God but I sure see God in him. The man's medical history reads like an encyclopedia of everything that can go wrong with the human body (including accidents like having an industrial copier fall on him and push him down the stairs!) yet he faces every obstacle with an amazing positive attitude. He's told we don't know how much longer he has, yet he still does 45 minutes on his elliptical machine, just because he still can.  In the midst of his struggles I see him helping others, I see him working all day long to wrap up loose ends so that my brother and I won't have to deal with stuff after the cancer takes him.  He once signed up for extra testing that will never benefit him, driving an hour and a half into Boston over and over just so that someone else can benefit from research studies. He worked on voice-recognition computer programming after his stroke because he wanted others to be able to make the same progress he did.  He sends "thank you notes" to his entire team of doctors and staff.  Namaste.

Imagine how this world could be different if we truly embraced Namaste. What if we lived in a way that proves we believe Genesis 1:27, that we actually think that every single person we encounter bears the image of God and not only deserves dignity and love but has the capacity to teach us something? I imagine that must be what heaven is like.

Namaste, my friends. I see God in you. It's what makes you amazing, powerful, honorable, dignified. My prayer today is that you will not only see God in those around you, but in yourself. You are an image bearer of the God who created the universe. How incredible.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sad Easter...

Confession: I cried in the middle of the Easter aisle at Walgreens yesterday.

Yup - the lovely spring colors, the sweet bunnies, the beautiful baskets. And I got all teary and had to run out of there.

Why? Because I live in a really screwed up country. Here, just a few short weeks ago, Christians raised up an army of protest against World Vision when they changed their employment policy to include the hiring of gay Christians.  There was an outrage: people pulled their sponsorships, organizations threatened to pull funding.  World Vision had no choice but to cave if they wanted to continue to help children.

My tears weren't because of that, however (at least not yesterday).  I was sad and upset because that same group of folks are going to flock en-mass to stores over the next week and buy up lots of lovely chocolate to put in Easter baskets for their children to celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection. Arguably, the most important holiday in the Christian faith. And those chocolate bunnies? Made from cocoa beans harvested by slaves. Most likely child slaves.

Where is the outrage? Why is the Christian community not up in arms over this? Why aren't we storming the gates at Hershey's telling them we will no longer support their use of child slavery? The companies know about it (you can read more here and find some links).

Y'all. I am wrecked over this. Wrecked.  I can honestly tell you I haven't been able to buy a bar of chocolate that wasn't fair-trade (or responsibly-sourced) in years. I can't do it. I love twix and kit kats. Love 'em. And sometimes I look longingly at them in the checkout aisle. But then I remember where they came from. I can't do it.

If the thought of two women getting married makes you more upset than the thought of children trafficked, stolen from their families, and forced to work hard manual labor day after day SOMETHING IS WRONG. 

I know lots of people don't know. That's why I spread the word.  But you know what? Christians were awfully quick to spread the word about World Vision's decision. Articles were posted, shared, tweeted all over the place. Radio stations talked about it on the air.  I KNOW that some of the folks who were so quick to share that info also know about what's going on with our chocolate.  Why aren't we raising our voices together to bring peace, to fight for the oppressed, to work for the least of these?

Easter is the celebration of life. Jesus said he came to give us life, life to the full, abundantly (John 10:10).  He stepped out of heaven, lived among us, and sacrificed himself to reconcile us back to God. And then as if that wasn't enough, defeated death and rose again.  My life with Jesus is exactly that: abundant, joyful, peaceful, amazing.  How ironic that the Easter celebration of life is one of times of the year when we make our largest chocolate purchases from companies who use child slavery.

Imagine how you put your child to bed the night before Easter. You read a book, make sure they've gotten their teeth brushed, tuck them in, maybe even lie down for a snuggle. You pray together, then you turn on the music, turn on the nightlight. Make sure everything is just so.  Contrast that with the life of the child who had to harvest those cocoa beans: thin blanket (if any), no parents to tuck them in, fresh bruises from a beating from not working hard enough, no books (no education!).  Is this how we want to celebrate Easter?

We can band together - use our voices for good! What if we shared the message about how our purchases for Easter can bring life instead of chains? What if we refuse to indulge in luxuries that require oppression to create?

Before you buy your Easter candy, please check the labels! If it says "Fair-Trade," you are all set! Or look for the words "responsibly-sourced" or "ethically-sourced." If you can't find those, organic chocolate is the next best choice.

Where can you find it? EarthFare is a great place. I got my kiddos some chocolate Easter Bunnies there.  Some grocery stores carry chocolate bars too - look in the candy aisle.  If you can't find anything else, I believe Dove Dark Chocolate (dark only), is sustainably-sourced.

"But that ruins our tradition," I hear you say. "My kids so look forward to their Cadbury Eggs every year" or "that fair-trade stuff doesn't come in cute Easter packaging."  Can you say that out loud to yourself again? When we focus on that stuff, we are saying our preferences are more important than a child's freedom. Make a new tradition. Kids are resilient. Tell your kids that Jesus loves them AND he loves the children who were forced to harvest the chocolate. Heck, tell them the Easter Bunny just realized what he's been doing and he's decided he's only bringing your family fair-trade chocolate. Whatever.  My kids are aware of the child-slavery issue and they've told me that they don't want to eat chocolate made by kids just like them who don't get to go to school or see their parents ever again.  Give your kids a chance to shine!

"But that fair-trade chocolate stuff is so much more expensive." I hear you, too.  But you know what? The other stuff is cheap because it was harvested by kids who were trafficked and aren't being paid. Easter baskets are a luxury. If you have to spend more on the chocolate, buy less chocolate. Or tone down on the other "presents" in the Easter Baskets (when did Easter become Christmas-take-two, by the way?).

Y'all, there are zero good reasons I can come up with for why we would buy regular chocolate this Easter. Please join me and have a sweet, sweet Easter this year!

And... one more plug for the movie we are hosting... want to know more about ways our purchases might be inadvertently supporting slavery or unsustainable work conditions world-wide? And about what we can do about it? Come see Stand with Me with us on April 21st! Tickets must be purchased HERE

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stand with Me

Hiya, folks. I need your help.

You see, there's this little movie. And it's amazing. I want every single person I know on this planet to see it.

Here's the trailer:



#standwithme The Official Trailer. from stillmotion on Vimeo.

Awesome, right?

Did you know there are 30 million people held in the bondage of slavery today? THIRTY MILLION precious, beautiful people. Moms, Dads, Brothers, Sisters, CHILDREN who are slaves. Held in slavery. Right now. This very moment children are being forced to do hard labor all day long. Tears upon tears.

And this movie is the true story of an amazing nine year-old, Vivienne, who learns about all the children in slavery and wants to do something about it. It follows her as she opens her lemonade stand for 365 days in a row to raise enough money to free 500 slaves by donating to organizations that fight child slavery.  It follows the story of the slaves who have been set free, the ones who are still in bondage and it explains how we can use the power of our purchases to not only set them free, but allow for people to be gainfully employed!

All the stuff I've been trying to tell people about purchasing fair trade or responsibly and ethically-sourced products is right here in this beautiful, inspiring, heartbreaking movie.

Stand with Me is powerful. It will change the hearts of those who see it and the changes they make will change the lives of those who are currently enslaved. How incredible is that? How can you not want to be a part of something that amazing?

Two of my dear friends and I decided we wanted everyone we know to see the movie, so we started a Tugg event. I have a movie theater in Greensboro that will show the movie if we pre-sell enough tickets to offset the cost-risk for the theater! Right now, we need to sell 29 more tickets by Monday, April 14th in order to show the movie.

So here's how you can help! I only have one more week to make this happen!
Are you local? Come see the movie on April 21st at 6:30 pm!!! Buy your tickets online and buy an extra one and bring a friend. You will be so glad you did, trust me!
http://www.tugg.com/events/8548

Are you local but busy on Monday, April 21st? But maybe you care about slavery and want to help make an impact to end it.  Buy a ticket and give it to a friend. That's an $11 donation towards making sure this movie happens! Or buy two tickets so two friends can go together and donate $22.  If we don't sell enough tickets, we miss our chance to be a part of this! Or email me (ykljATtriadDOTrrDOTcom) and let me know and I'll try to find someone to give your ticket to.
http://www.tugg.com/events/8548

Are you not local but you get it about how important it is to buy fair-trade or ethically/responsibly-sourced products? You care about ending slavery and want to help spread the message!  You can donate $11 (buy one ticket) to this showing! Be a part of helping us bring this movie to Greensboro! And if you really want to see the movie, please send me an email - I will figure out a way for you to see it!
http://www.tugg.com/events/8548

AND I will have an extra digital copy of the movie in the weeks that follow the screening. I'll enter every email address attached to a ticket purchase into a drawing to WIN your own copy of the movie!! Yay!

**want to host a screening like this in your city? Send me an email and I'll walk you through the Tugg process. The folks at StillMotion (the producers of Stand with Me) are amazingly supportive and will help you, too!