Adventures AWAKE

A pithy little blog encouraging creative adventures of the Christian spirit

Crisis March 16, 2010

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”

~ Dick Clark, CEO/Merck Manufacturing

Want an adventure? Pray in a new way: With a friend, on your face, in a journal, outside, out loud, using promises of Scripture, in silence, in a song. Here’s a thought: Ask God how. (I’ve been doing that a lot around here, lately). Then, share  your experience — good, bad or indifferent — with someone. It will encourage your prayer life and theirs!

Ephesians 6:13-18 (The Message)     Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

 

The ailing nation of India March 9, 2010

I recently returned from a trip to India with my oldest daughter. Beautiful, exotic country. Amazing developmental potential. Seemingly limitless foreign investment. Archaic social infrastructure. Never have I — as a woman raised in the West — witnessed, imagined or experienced such oppression.

As it is in India, what today are referred to as “slumdogs” — the 250 million subcaste members (meaning sub-human, below the four acknowledged/”legitimate human” castes under the feet of India’s 1.2 billion people) — can not vote. They are Dalits. Translated, their name means “broken underfoot.”  They can not hold property, they can not better themselves. They are frequently enslaved, murdered, beaten and raped. Sadly, it’s not just the stuff of Hollywood. I have heard it compared to the Apartheid movement of South Africa. The difference: In South Africa, the majority blacks could legitimately vote along with their minority white counterparts. Apartheid was overturned. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated…

Today, I received an email which shared excerpts of a letter sent to Nancy Pelosi in 2007 and, again, in 2010 to First Lady Michelle Obama.  Here are some excerpts authored by Dalit women:

We who have signed our names to this letter are the Dalit women of India. We are history’s longest standing oppressed people group, and by all reports the largest number of people categorized as victims of modern-day slavery.
 
We are also known by the demeaning labels “untouchables,” “outcastes,” and most recently “slumdogs.” We have been born “untouchable” according to the hierarchical social system of India, which considers us impure, subhuman, godforsaken, and deserving of our present suffering in this life because of our bad deeds in a past life. In this hierarchy, we are placed below animals. We have been told—and most of us agree—that it would be better if we had never been born.
 
There are 250 million “untouchables” in India today. We are denied education, healthcare, economic opportunity, and basic civil liberties that other citizens in our country enjoy. We are dying from AIDS, malaria, TB, and other diseases that we could prevent with vaccinations and proper care. Few of us own land or our own businesses. Most of us do not have access to clean water and are forbidden to draw water from the wells in our villages. Hundreds of thousands of our children as young as five years old work 12 or more hours a day, six or seven days a week. By the time our children turn eight, they are already slaves in their own minds.
 
Our lives and the lives of our daughters can be among the very hardest in India. We know that the only thing worse than being born a Dalit is to be born a Dalit female. We are raped as girls. We are sold to religious temples as prostitutes as young as age four to be used in sexual acts of worship. Some of us who will live to become widows will choose “sati,” throwing ourselves on our husband’s funeral pyre to spare ourselves a life of begging and starvation on the streets of India.

Let’s hope the letter gets read.

This is not myth. I was there. My daughter was there. Thanks to burgeoning Bollywood and the overflow of outsourcing from developed nations, India could more than afford to take care of their own. But sadly, because the Dalit are not considered “human,” they will never be cared for within this outdated, inane system. And the only thing worse than being a Dalit? Being a Dalit woman or girl. Look into the eyes of a four year-old who has already been dedicated to serve as a temple prostitute and consider the system that would allow it to happen (while it is theoretically outlawed, the state still gets a cut of every holy trick turned in a temple). I even saw a soda sponsorship banner draping the entry into a temple of prostitution we toured. On all levels, it is officially sanctioned trafficking…and it is wrong.

In his book, Truth and Transformation, respected Indian-born activist Vishal Mangalwadi put it best when describing the Western perception of these people based on what was seen in the 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire: ” The film powerfully portrays the evils that dehumanize the “filthy” rich and the powerless poor in India, but it does not even pretend to explain how such evils can rule a democratic country. Neither the film nor its hero has any strategy to fight evil. In fact, the film has no hero. Viewers feel good only because blind luck helps the lead character win millions and his beloved.” The hero wins millions of dollars, but what of the hundreds of millions of other Dalits? His girlfriend is rescued, but what becomes of the girl who is infected with HIV by a man carrying the virus who — in keeping with Hindu tradition — is “allowed” have sex with subcastes in order to maintain the virtue of his betrothed?

During my brief time in India, I routinely witnessed men put before women for all levels of need. We saw a woman beaten for preparing the wrong food for a group of construction workers. Female infanticide is also a regular practice in desperately poor villages. Newborn girls are given a rice cake to choke on or poisoned due to the economic hardship they present their impoverished family. It is hard to believe but even within their own subcaste, Dalit women are considered at the bottom; they are only slightly better-off than Dalit widows, disabled and orphans. Despite the appearance of making a progressive climb, India embodies a sick system, an ailing nation. I believe that if enough external pressure is brought to bear, things can change. But, as with South Africa, it will not happen without pressure…

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world ~ James 1:27

 

Want an adventure? Create change. March 8 was International Women’s Day…but Dalit life continues to go on. For the month of March, celebrate women — your mom, your sister, your daughter — by thinking about this deeply disturbing system. What can you do? Really. What does your faith mean in the midst of all that you know? Contact organizations like International Justice Mission, Operation Mobilization or The Dalit Freedom Network. The system can’t change until brokenness is acknowledged.

 

Inside outside upside down October 29, 2009

Children_IndiaWhen I was a copywriter I was taught basic creative problem solving, early on. One such primary lesson was that in order to capture your target audience, juxtapose two opposites.

“It’s the inside-outside, upside-down Kingdom where you lose to gain and you die to live…”

~ Misty Edwards, Servant of All

The greatest are least, the least are greatest. In the depths of experience and spirit, we serve the greatest who are the least. We serve the Greatest who is the least. I am captured…

 

Want an adventure? Find a way to live today in the inside-outside upside-down Kingdom. (Hint: It will be the opposite of your norm — it will change you).

 

Nothing is really something July 31, 2009

statue_of_liberty needle artNeedle-eye sculpture

 

My friend, Ellen, sent me this link. Talk about individual creativity!

Abraham was promised his descendants would number more than every one in the sea… (Genesis 32:12)

God’s precious thoughts toward each of us outnumber them… (Psalm 139:17-18)

…and this incredibly focused artist, Willard Wigan, sculpts them. Get this: We’re talking about grains of sand!

 

Follow the link above (the one under the picture) and watch the ABC News story of what this talented man has taught himself to do. It is incredible. It is painstaking. And, it is worth a LOT of money because of its uniqueness. (Did you hear the part about painting with a hair plucked from the back of a housefly?) Recounting how he started doing this form of sculpture, Wigan explains how his teachers made him “feel small…like nothing,” so his goal became to prove “that nothing doesn’t exist”.

In watching this footage a few thoughts gnawed at me:

  • How inestimably precious each of us is to God — our Creator. 
  • It is hard to get my brain around Willard’s work let alone God’s! He shapes us on an even more intricate, quantum level — involving body, spirit and experience).
  • How painstakingly He designed every detail of my form and experience. (Rarely do I consider what God is going through as I struggle to be His vision of who he created me to be.)
  • The driving force behind Willard Wigan seems to be a woundedness yet — by sharing from this place — his wounds have created great earthly gain.

I pray Mr. Wigans has embraced his extraordinary value and purpose in the eyes and at the hands of his Creator. What an amazing gift!

 

Want an adventure? Read Psalm 139:14-18. Meditate on God’s perfect plan in your unique design. Looking at your life, how do you notice Him gently scraping and sculpting you? Dwell on the Truth that you are precious, prized and loved with purpose. Bask in that today. You are really something!

 

 

 

Threshold July 13, 2009

sunrise spaceabstract1

At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I had a lousy week last week. Admittedly, I lacked objectivity in my grief over our dog’s death. Not that grieving isn’t necessary…it definitely is! But I’ve been wallowing in it. It seemed the first few days that — just as when Rascal used to find some stinky thing in the yard to roll in — I was languishing in the sadness of losing her; inexplicably drawn to the dung of hopelessness.

I guess there are a lot of things I could feel hopeless about, if I let myself.

Last night, my daughter and I watched Valkyrie — a 2008 movie depicting the final plot to overthrow Hitler 9 weeks before his suicide and the ultimate Allied victory in 1945. What a lot of people don’t know is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer  (German pastor, theologian and activist) was on the periphery of this attempted coup — introduced to the cause of General Beck by his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi.

Exposed to the struggle of black Americans through study of Civil War Negro Spirituals while attending New York’s Union Theological Seminary in 1930, Diethrich brought back a profound sense of human rights with him when he returned to Berlin (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfsO-JhqZak). Ultimately, when he recognized the oppression of the Jews by Hitler’s regime, Bonhoeffer’s decision to “stand in responsibility” against the brutality of the Third Reich seemed reflexive. This decision led to his imprisonment in Buchenwald, Schonberg and finally Flossenburg. All the while, this brave saint ministered to despairing prisoners and wrote chapters of his work, Ethics (which were smuggled out by sympathetic guards).  Despite the gallows that loomed on the horizon did he wallow, I wonder? Not according to witness reports and his own manuscripts. This man had the big picture clearly in focus. The legacy of his underground writings are a testimony of life as a disciple of Jesus — sustaining soul and fellow believers every step of the way.

So, how did I get here from Rascal dying? (For heaven’s sake, this started over a family pet). Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s purpose in grief. Why do I struggle so much when illness strikes, persecution happens, hopes are dashed, people (or pets) die? Why did God design me to feel so deeply this way? My conclusion today is: I need to yearn for reunion. As a part of that, every day is a threshold to cross over as I determine to step toward the One who made it, and toward my ultimate, eternal reunion with Him and those I love. 

I’m stepping over today. In the blink of an eye, we’ll all be there…and you’re gonna love my dog!

 

Want an adventure?  (Another great Bonhoeffer quote. Last words before his hanging: “This is the end – for me the beginning of life.”) What grieves you? Injustice? Loss? Illness? Need? Ask God to show you His purpose in it? On a heavenly level, what does it make you yearn for? Step eagerly over the threshold of this new day purposing to redeem it until…

 

The dogbite of love July 9, 2009

Yesterday, we had to put our dog to sleep. It was all very sudden. Rascal wasn’t old…just sick. Without warning, she woke up Tuesday with no appetite, unable to walk and by Wednesday morning we were told she wouldn’t recover. It sucks.

If you’ve ever had to go through the experience of losing a pet, you know. I find myself wanting to run back and get her — to take back the whole episode and re-work the scenario…as if it were an option. So now as my family and I walk through the house, every little thing seems to be tied to a sweet, funny tear-provoking memory. For instance, every time I head up stairs I expect to have to step over her basking like a lioness mid-staircase. At this point it makes me tear up every time. (Thankfully, her sister from the same litter seems to be handling it much better than the rest of us.) I hate it, but I wouldn’t trade it. That’s what the risk of love does to my heart; it makes the sweet more substantive than the bitter.

Everyone knows that most dogs don’t live past fifteen. Our beautiful, yellow lab was nine. So why set myself up for the heartache? I think because rarely have I felt so loved. Pets really do love unconditionally. And, we received enough of our sweet puppy’s furry cuddles, unsolicited kisses, spontaneous romps and silly antics to warm our hearts through to heaven.

Though in a previous post I equated her to Satan, it was merely for the analogy. Rascal was a saint in dog clothing. When I was at my most ornery, this dog would just look at me in a lovingly puzzled way (OK, maybe it was pity but I prefer loving puzzlement) and wait for it to pass. When I was sad, instead of walking away from the discomfort like some people do, she would move in, nuzzle-up and share my pain. When she would see any of us, without fail the “thump, thump” of her tail wagging would reflexively begin. When she heard the garage door go up, she’d meet me at the doorway wiggling all over with her pink rubber bone in her mouth as if to say, “I’m so excited you are here! You’re my favorite! Let’s play!” Who wouldn’t feel loved?!

Like the bumper sticker says, “I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.” This nails it. Rascal made me better, less harsh, more compassionate. She taught me patience and the grace of love. If we are called to “be Jesus with skin on,”  Rascal was Jesus with fur on. She loved first and without question.

The dogbite of love hurts..but love heals all things.

 

RascalHawaii50

Hula dog

 

Rascal in the chairSneaking a snooze on the furniture    

  

 

 

Rascal 06

 Happy Rascal

 

puppy 002

Cuddly Rascal, last Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want an adventure?  Spend a day paying attention to how the animal(s) in your life — or in your path — reflect the nature of Christ. What can you learn from them?

 

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ~ St. Francis of Assisi

 

 

Rap challenge June 15, 2009

Missions exist because worship doesn’t.
People don’t worship the God who made them.
We’re ambassadors.
Let’s go!

~ Lecrae, from his song “Send Me!” (If you want to hear the whole challenge, visit this link)

 

start-listening-to-rap-1

(Author’s note: Actually, I think I already look like that…and I’m ok with it).

 

Want an adventure? Listen — really listen — to some Christian rap music. Allow yourself to be challenged by the raw and real of what you discover.

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the Lord with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy. For the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth. ~ Psalm 33:1-4