A #Memphis Cultural Adventure

Memphis is like a patchwork quilt, tightly threaded together by streets, highways, and history. In learning about different cultures, we visited a place that served Senegalese food and spoke Wolof, a dialect in Senegal, Africa. A Yemen restaurant called, The Queen of Sheba, served large discs of bread and homemade hummus. The dishes were ordered and shared among our group while in the background Arabic conversations hummed. Next door to the Queen of Sheba was a Middle Eastern market called, Jerusalem market. You can find the best homemade baklava served by a smiling young man.

Driving along the streets, you pass through hipster towns that open to project housing to mansions to old homes in quiet, tree-lined streets. Sidewalks reach out and trip you from tree roots growing beneath the cement. The historic town is like a shoe broken in and creased in the right places. Old and new buildings sit side-by-side in harmony, like a quilt with its different fabric squares.

Bluff City Coffee sits in downtown Memphis near the Civil Rights Museum and the Blues Hall of Fame, and I learned the difference between graffiti art and graffiti. Graffiti art give brightness and color to old walls and sagging fences. Graffiti just defaces, adding nothing to the town. Graffiti art reminds the town to love each other as we walk this human experience together. But human relationships are complex. Old wounds continue to bleed. Monuments and museums remind us of our mistakes to teach us something new today.

  • Take time to sit and converse over catfish sandwiches at the Germantown Commissary. Don’t park at the Methodist Church. Even after hours, the signs say, “Church parking only.” You’ll have to drive around the block a few times to find a place to park your car.
  • Don’t go too fast. Life doesn’t wait for you to make a decision, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush through the day. Driving in Memphis has been compared to a third world country. I think it’s comparable to Nascar, too. Everything is fast and reckless. Off ramps come quickly and you have to pay attention or you won’t be able to make that turn. It’s okay to slow down and take in the scenery. Pay attention to new opportunities to show Christ’s love.
  • Eat pie. Muddy’s Café sits atop of a low hill. It has outdoor seating and it is adorable. The cakes and pies are fantastic. The plugs are few though. Be patient. You can plug in your phone and enjoy a slice of heaven while you wait for the next thing to do on your list. But don’t put your dirty plate on someone else’s table. Be considerate of others around you. If you practice consideration and other-thinking, your heart will be lighter.
  • Rosa Parks stood for something. Her bus is at the National Civil Rights Museum. She didn’t opt for violence, but sat in her seat, refusing to go to the back. Caste systems and classes exist in our world. Don’t sit in the back. You are valued. Jesus shed His blood for you. No matter how people treat you, remember who you are in Christ. Experiences will change you. Make wise choices.
  • A job is only as mundane as you make it to be. The tour guide on the Ferry made us laugh with his anecdotal stories about the Mississippi River as we cruised through a rain storm. Work so people can tell you love your job. When you love your job, you bring joy to your customers and to your co-workers.
  • Listen to people. You may learn something. As I sat in my host’s living room, I couldn’t believe I was here. I couldn’t believe people listened to me. I listened to them. They had much to offer to our group. They take risks.
  • Listen to people and learn something. You are never too young or too old or too educated.

Facebook is great for reviewing a trip. I read my statuses and felt sad leaving a patchwork town that welcomed me with its diversity and comfort. In the airport, I knew home wasn’t a place. Home is where my husband lives and where God brings us next. Hold loosely to material goods and tightly to people. Don’t be a consumer.

Are You Cross-Cultural? #Music #Christian

He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed. – Daniel 7:14

Worshiping in a different language is beautiful. I did not understand the words, but I understood who I was worshiping in that service. In my lifetime, I have worshiped in an American Latino church and in a Central America (Honduras) church. Both experiences taught me that the verse above is accurate. But there’s another culture we tend to ignore–each other’s tastes of how we worship in the American church. 

Bring up carpet color or music style in any church in America and you will get an argument, even a debate. You are tampering with holy ground so to speak. If we are truly accepting of different countries worshiping our God in their heart language, then we should not worry about what music is playing. It should not bother us that one person sings hymns while another one is contemporary. With over 300,000 churches in America, all one needs to do is drive down the street to find the service that fits their cultural tastes. The traditional, blended, and contemporary kind of services are a culture of its own. Each service has a different way of speaking into a different kind of generation. I call it a heart language, though heart language is mostly used with international workers when explaining a worship of God in other countries.

For instance, a tribe of people I read about in the Perspectives course once heard western style music and thought that was heresy. Their tribal music was discordant and (I’m sorry to say) awful, but to them this music was a holy way to worship a holy God. International workers worship with them even if the music isn’t to their tastes. As Christians yearning to be one church, we should mimic how international workers worship and serve in foreign countries, patiently and lovingly standing with our brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of our music preferences. After all, we go to church to worship and fellowship together. Why should we let something like music divide us?

It’s interesting to note in a book I recently read called, A Wind in The House of Islam, how Muslims do not generally accept teachings from people outside their Muslim community. This is why some indigenous believers use shadow pastors to mentor them as they reach out to their people with the Gospel. Western churches in the area fearful of repercussions were said in the book to turn away seekers from the Muslim communities. This caused many Muslim-background followers of Christ to form their own house churches. In thinking about the trending topic of Millennials and how to reach them, the church simply needs to find common ground, mentor millennials, and/or shadow pastor a millennial to send out and start a church made just for their tastes of music and culture if a church is unable to adapt. Another fascinating highlight from the history of people who reach out to unbelievers globally is how the most successful church plants in foreign fields were those who adapted to the culture and used it to share the Gospel. They tossed aside their unsuccessful western approach and acclimated to the culture.

So, when I think of multi-cultural approaches to sharing the Gospel in an American sense, I see churches in the culture and language of the people group they represent, including music and teaching styles that are in English. As a church, if we claim we are multi-cultural and embrace the worldwide spread of the Gospel in its different formats and styles, why do we find it so hard to accept people who are different from us in our own American culture? Why aren’t we more intentional in our approaches, deliberately putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations for the love of our neighbor? Even if I don’t understand the language, I deliberately use a Bible version (youversion.com) in that language and use this opportunity to immerse myself in another culture for the purpose of understanding and love.

And while it’s painful, I also sit in more traditional services on occasion so I can be with new and old friends, because that is their heart language of worship. Many of them have positively influenced me as a new believer.

How do you worship? And do you serve cross-culturally as defined in this blog post? What is your favorite music and why? 


5 Ways to Start Conversations Post Election

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

The last seven years, especially these last two years, politics has become far less important to me than the relationships I want to foster. People on my newsfeed have expressed weariness over the anger, the riots, the hate, and all politics in general. Politics has its place, but we need to recall why we are on social media and how to start a meaningful conversation.

Here are some helpful conversation starters:

  1. “How are you?”
  2. Meaningfully comment on someone’s status and pursue that thread of conversation.
  3. Share posts that edify and help someone be a better believer.
  4. Follow up on a prayer request in text, private message, email, or on social media.
  5. Think about some of your political posts. Are you demonizing an entire people group without understanding the dynamics of that group? Would those posts hinder other Christians from compassionately reaching that group because of that group’s impression of us from your public post? Ask a missionary about the people groups he or she serves. Post accordingly and with discernment.

The more I grow as a Christian, the more I understand that I don’t have a full understanding of situations, right and left political “news” have agendas, and situations are complex. Life doesn’t fit in neat boxes, and I must be a believer first and an American last. Listen first and speak last must be my new way of life.

Can I encourage you to think about what you post?

• Is it necessary?
• Is it true?
• Does it help us?
• Does it divide unnecessarily?
• Lastly, as a Christian, are you acting in the best interest of your audience?

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories

I’ve gotten into watching foreign films and television shows through Netflix. It helps me get immersed into culture. Like Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, I hear the language and see the English subtitles. I watch as this Japanese television show reveal the interpersonal stories (ficitonal) and relationships. It gives me some idea of what its like in their country.

But I can’t judge a culture by its television. Some countries judge America by our television shows and movies. What is different about the reality of America to what is portrayed in American television and movies?

  • Not all of us jump into affairs after committing to someone else.
  • People who are committed to each other do get married.
  • We can’t afford to be jet setting to different parts of the world on a whim.
  • It’s nice when the man comes in and saves us sometimes.
  • Not all women resent old fashioned behavior.
  • Superheroes don’t always wear spandex tights and bright red capes. Our superheroes are quieter. Sometimes, they wear combat gear.

Tokyo Stories is a cross between Seinfeld and Cheers. It is more explicit than American television at times, but it makes me laugh because it can be quite goofy. My favorite episode so far is the one with the single lady who knits sweaters for every guy she “likes.” It isn’t until one guy repairs one of her sweaters that another guy’s girlfriend destroyed that she realizes her true love was the one who loved her gifts of love and wasn’t even on her radar.

She became desperate to be in love that she even knitted sweaters for men who didn’t even know she liked them. She runs away after the Midnight Diner owner points out how this one fellow repaired the sweater himself, learning how to knit (which was a painful process), just to show her his love. At the end of the show, they are together and he is wearing all of her knitted gifts.

Some themes are universal, like love. If you love someone, you do things for them that are unpleasant. You are always thinking of them. You even learn to knit.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)

About the Show: 

From humble origins on late-night television in 2009 in Japan, this sincere half-hour series grew into a sensation across Asia. Now the rest of the world can get a taste of the phenomenon as Netflix ­presents Midnight Diner – Tokyo Stories, with 10 new episodes available from Friday, October 21. READ MORE

Refugees: A Deadline Approaches

Did you know that tea is big in the Middle East? Deals are brokered around tea. Community is formed around tea. On Wednesday, I nearly emptied my china cabinet into three boxes and sent two sets of dishes and tea sets down to Phoenix for my friend’s ministry of helping refugees get acclimated in the United States through Desert Springs Community Church.

And they need YOUR help! Two families are coming in this month. Below is the link for what they still need. I will continue to include in my newsletters and social media future needs for missionary friends serving with refugees. With the United States being the third largest country in the world of unreached people groups, isn’t it time we started paying attention to what’s in our back yard? CNN stated that the United States will have 110,000 refugees by 2017.

I kept a couple tea things for future ministry opportunities. One never knows when helping refugees or ministering to international students may come my way. These days, I take my tea in mugs and drink mostly coffee. In America, our deals are brokered at Starbucks and conversations and community happen around coffee houses. This gives us some common ground, doesn’t it? 

God gives generously inspiring us to give. Most of us probably have things we don’t really use anymore that would bring a family joy who have come from nothing and have lost everything. This verse during my devotions felt appropriate: 

Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone—and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it. – Hebrews 12:14 CEB

Please pray for this family and this missionary’s refugee ministry. You can read more about it here. Attached is a PDF of all the refugee agencies around the United States. Pray about how you can reach a people group in your area.

3 Ways to Hinder Jihad

A Review of My Son, The Jihad, a Netflix Movie

Lessons we can learn from this movie:

  • When Thomas couldn’t keep a job, the extreme group gave him economic security.
  • When Thomas wanted to belong, but felt on the outside, the extreme group gave him a sense of belonging.
  • When Thomas’ girlfriend broke up with him, the extreme group gave him comfort.

His father and mother divorced, leaving Thomas broken on the inside. He got into trouble, couldn’t keep a job, and his mom, Sally, tried to reach him, and was kept at a distance. The movie described the home of Sally and Thomas as “non-religious.”

Sally mentioned God once in a while, but was she a believer? The movie was helpful in understanding why and how someone becomes radicalized. Then, a tweet on one of my other sites made me sad.

Seemingly focused only on the political angle of the refugee issue, someone’s tweet stripped the humanity away from the situation. While not related to the movie, it made me think of those three things that attracted Thomas to the terrorist group in the United Kingdom:

  • Economic Security.
  • A Sense of Belonging.
  • Comfort.

How we can fill those needs as a compassionate people? What would it look like to love a difficult person? Granted, we can only help so much, but what would radical prayer look like? What if we put our faith wholly in God and pray fervently for the lost? What if we grieved for the lost like a mother her son; even if that lost person was different than us?

So let’s go over these points again:

  • Economic Security.
    • Help them discover job skills.
      Help them with job applications.
    • Mentor them to keep a job.
    • Suggest volunteering to acquire job skills.
    • Teach them English so they can keep a job.
  • A Sense of Belonging.
    • Thomas’ father left him at a crucial time. A father figure is very important and does affect a child’s development.
    • The father figure in a person’s family affects their outlook on who God is.
    • Be understanding of someone’s background.
    • Learn to listen.
    • Be a mentor or someone else will.
    • Let that person into your inner circle.
    • Learn about their culture.
    • Learn how to build cultural bridges.
  • Comfort
    • Very simply, the gift of giving of your time.
    • Saying nothing and listening.
    • Withholding judgment sometimes.
    • Being gentle.

The refugee situation and radical Islam are complex situations, and like you, I am learning, too, what it means to minister to the unreached, the unloved, the peoples on the move, and the unchurched. We must really examine why someone like Thomas could become a terrorist and how refugees are a target for terror; sometimes, even a scapegoat.

Pray as I:

  • Learn more about “Peoples on the Move.” According to CNN, there will be 110,000 refugees by 2017.
  • Stay on top of the latest news on this.
  • Raise support so I can do this full time and reach people like Thomas who needs a friend.
  • Develop as a missionary.
  • Grow in the Word.

42: A Reminder For This Generation

42-movie-poster_0342, the story of legendary Hall of Fame baseball player, Jackie Robinson, still lingers with me after all time. Even now I can’t get what Robinson went through out of my mind.

Imagine the intensity of cultivated hate passed from generation to generation. The small boy in the Whites Only section of the ball park mimicked his father’s actions when his father yelled disparaging comments at Robinson. Branch Rickey insisted Robinson turn the other cheek. Biblical references were not overdone and Rickey’s line calling Jackie, “…a living sermon,” is so true. That’s what Jackie Robinson was to thousands–a living sermon.

42 is a lesson in how to deal with difficulty. Fighting can be honorable, but times exist when your silence can speak louder than your words or actions. In Jackie’s case, the black man would have been dishonored had Jackie fought, though Jackie had every right to speak up. Jackie’s show of courage in his silence inspired me. His silence under the most cruel situations  emotionally changed people’s minds and opened many doors for other black people to get into baseball. But will this lost generation see the movie?

My husband and I spoke about the culture and how most of this generation is more apt to see movies that glorify sex and violence and not 42 which grounds us in a better message–how to make a difference, stand for something without violence or disrespect, and exercise forgiveness.

Just recently, a man cut someone off and the affronted person gunned the engine to show how upset that made him. In San Diego, people would rather run you down than let you merge. Offending someone in gangland would get you shot. Protests in most cases are messy and violent and this is what this generation observes and mimics.

So it’s no wonder the man with the fast cars and many weapons wins over a legendary baseball player who stood up for blacks everywhere without using words or violence. 42 garnered 27.5 million in the first night compared to a movie like Fast and Furious which took in, “$86.2 million at 3,644 locations over the weekend (2011),” ultimately breaking box office records with a total of $165 million in 2011.

42 is a movie with humor and heroics. It’s intense and powerful, lacking the usual liberal political agenda. This five-star movie caused me to want to read Jackie Robinson’s life story and it will stay with me a long time.

Imagine living the sermon of Christ and turning the other cheek when the world expects a different reaction. Have you ever turned the other cheek, lived the sermon, and what kind of fruit did that bring?

“…a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;” Ecclesiastes 3:7

India: A Life Sacrificed

Little Arun had been kidnapped by treasure hunters and given as a sacrifice to their gods in the hope of unearthing riches. Unbearable pain pierced Tilaka’s mothering heart when she discovered what had happened to her precious son. Grief stole her ability to think clearly, and she became labeled as a mentally challenged woman by those in her community. READ MORE

How Can We Tell Better Stories?

My biggest stumbling block are anger-based or accusation-driven blog posts pointing fingers or treating people like they are crazy or fearful for wanting to protect their own neighbors, jobs, etc from a large influx of refugees or immigrants. Instead, we should be finding some kind of solution between closing the borders (isolating ourselves) or laying out a welcome mat. The refugees are here and, according to some of the numbers I have seen since becoming a WorldVenture missionary appointee, they have been coming here for some years now. So my question is: How can we tell better stories to persuade rather than treat insensitively any invalid or valid concerns?

The UN Refugee Agency posted this story about a Syrian Refugee:

Miraculously, the disabled boat washed up on the Greek island of Lesvos. Everyone survived, thanks to the swimmers. But now they had even lost the shoes on their feet. The sisters set off on the Western Balkan route for Germany where they hoped to be able to rebuild their lives. Yusra could not have guessed then that she would soon be preparing for another journey, under very different circumstances. The dream she has nurtured for more than a decade may soon come true. This summer, she hopes to travel to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, as part of a team representing millions of refugees fleeing war and persecution throughout the world. (FROM HERE)

What struck me about the post was its non-political nature. It told a story. It didn’t point out who was doing it wrong or right. When I watched a video about the Syrian refugees from David Platt, the boy planted face down on the beach with the waters rushing around him made me want to cry. While, as writers, we need to be careful not to use story as manipulation, we also need to point out the reality of our situation to encourage those being called to GO and serve those needs.

So, as writers, let’s write better stories. Maybe God is calling you to Sports ministry?