An important book for our generation

OverratedJust finished my friend Eugene Cho’s new book, Overrated: Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?, and I’m so thankful for his words. Notably:

I fear that we might be more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world.

I fear that we might be more enamored with the idea of changing the world and are neglecting to allow ourselves to be changed.

I fear that we have an unrealistic and glamorous perception of what it means to follow Christ and what it means to pursue justice. In truth, we have not taken the time to count the costs of following Jesus.

I fear that we might be tempted to compartmentalize the action of changing the world rather than seeing it as a key part of our discipleship journey that will impact the whole of our lives.

I fear that we’re asking God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us. And in fact, it may be possible that we are the mountains that need to be moved.

It’s a confession that is his–and mine too, and he articulates the challenge that a lot of people in our generation face, that doing the work of justice is much more difficult and challenging than supporting the idea of justice.

That’s one of the reasons I’m excited that Eugene will be coming through DC next week. The District Church will be hosting an event for him, where he’ll be sharing from his book, having a Q&A session, and then signing books.

Space is limited (and people have been signing up real quick!) so get more details and RSVP here.

Eugene Cho

You can follow Eugene on:

It’s the crucified Jesus who is Lord

But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him — our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

Cross silhouetteJesus is the Lord, but it’s the crucified Jesus who is Lord–precisely because it’s his crucifixion that has won the victory over all the other powers that think of themselves as in charge of the world. But that means that his followers, charged with implementing his victory in the world, will themselves have to do so by the same method. One of the most striking things about some of (what we normally see as) the later material in the New Testament is the constant theme of suffering, suffering not as something merely to be bravely borne for Jesus’s sake, but as something that is mysteriously taken up into the redemptive suffering of Jesus himself. He won his victory through suffering; his followers win theirs through sharing in his.

The Spirit and suffering. Great joy and great cost. Those who follow Jesus and claim him (and proclaim him) as Lord learn both of them. It’s as simple as that.

– N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus, 205

9 signs you may be at your limit

I came across this list a couple months ago, when a friend mentioned it in his sermon, and I was hooked. Convicted. Guilty as charged.

It made me realize that I had allowed myself to slide back into a life of ‘productive’ busyness, where I tended to react to things rather than thoughtfully respond, and so I began to  rebuild some healthy structures and rhythms back into my life.

It’s written specifically for folks in ministry but I think it applies just as much to others.

From Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership (104-105):

  1. Irritability or hypersensitivity. Things that wouldn’t normally bother us (such as a child’s mistake, another driver cutting us off in traffic or a coworker’s irritating habit) put us over the edge. We may or may not express our rage outwardly, but inwardly we are aware of reactions that are all out of proportion to the event itself.
  2. Restlessness. During waking hours we might be aware of a vague sense that something is not quite right or an even stronger feeling of wanting to bolt from our life. When it is time to rest, we might find ourselves unable to settle down and sit quietly or fall asleep. Because we are overstimulated, our sleep may be broken, marred by too much mental activity or disturbing dreams.
  3. Compulsive overworking. “Overwork is this decade’s cocaine, the problem without a name,” says Bryan Robinson, who has written widely about the phenomenon and estimates that as many as 25 percent of Americans have this addiction. “Workaholism is an obsessive-compulsive disorder,” he writes, “that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work — to the exclusion of most other life activities.” This compulsive behavior can also manifest itself in a frenetic quality to our work. We might find that we are unable to stop or slow down even when that would be appropriate — like at night after dinner or on vacation. A compulsive leader is one who — for some reason that he or she cannot quite name — has no boundaries on work, checks e-mail late into the evening, and is unable to unplug completely to go on vacation, to enter into solitude or to spend uninterrupted time with family.
  4. Emotional numbness. When we are pushing our limit, we may notice that we can’t feel anything — good or bad. It takes energy to experience and process a full range of human emotion. When we are “at capacity” we literally do not have the energy to engage the full range of human experience, including our emotions. In addition, we might be afraid that if we did stop and experience our emotions we would be overwhelmed, and who has time for that?
  5. Escapist behaviors. When we do have a break in the action, we might notice that increasingly we are succumbing to escapist behaviors (such as compulsive eating, drinking or other substance abuse, spending, television, pornography, surfing the Internet) and don’t have the energy to choose activities that are life-giving (such as exercising, going for a walk or bike ride, connect meaningfully with friends and family, enjoying a hobby or interest like playing an instrument, cooking, painting, drawing, writing poetry, playing sports, working with our hands, reading a good book). This becomes a vicious cycle, because escapist behaviors actually drain energy from us — energy that we could use to make life-giving choices — and then we just get more and more lethargic.
  6. Disconnected from our identity and calling. More and more we find ourselves going through the motions of doing ministry but disconnected from a true sense of who we are and what God is calling us to do. Increasingly, we find that we are at the mercy of other people’s expectations and our own inner compulsions because we lack an internal plumb line against which to measure these demands.
  7. Not able to attend to human needs. We don’t have time to take care of basic human needs such as exercise, eating right, sleeping enough, going to the doctor, having that minor (or major) surgery we need. Even such simple things as getting the car washed, picking up the dry cleaning or staying organized seem impossible to accomplish, indicating that we’re pushing the limits of being human. We may also notice that our most important relationships (family and friends) are routinely being short-changed.
  8. Hoarding energy. When we are running on empty, we can have the inner experience of always feeling threatened, as though exposing ourselves to additional people or situations would drain the last of our energy or the energy we are trying to conserve for what we think is important. We might actually become overly self-protective and even reclusive in our attempts to hoard the few resources we do have. In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz call this defense spending.
  9. Slippage in our spiritual practices. Practices that are normally life-giving (solitude and silence, prayer, personal reflection on Scripture, journaling, self-examination, caring for the body) become burdensome, and we don’t have energy for them even though we know they are good for us. We might even find that we are so accustomed to using God and Scripture for ministry purposes that we no longer know how to be with God for ourselves personally. We know that there are things we need to attend to in God’s presence, but we truly do not have the energy or the will. Over time, this becomes a symptom and also a source of our depletion.

She writes later (111, emphasis added):

When we refuse to live within limits, we are refusing to live with a basic reality of human existence. There is a finiteness to what I can do in this body. There is a finiteness to how many relationships I can engage in meaningfully at one time. There is a finiteness to time — how many hours there are in a day, how many days there are in a week and how much can be done in those blocks of time. There is a finiteness to my energy. There comes a time when I am tired. There comes a time when I am sick. There comes a time when I am injured. There are times when I am reminded that I am human — a finite being living in the presence of an infinite God. God is the infinite one. God is the one who can be all things to all people. God is the one who can be in all places at once. God is the one who never sleeps. I am not.

Our unwillingness to live within limits — both personally and in community — is one of the deepest sources of depletion and eventual burnout.

If this resonates with you — as it did/does with me — it might be time to make a change or two.

God is not in any particular hurry …

God is not in any particular hurry to get us to the Promised Land. He is much more concerned about the transforming work he is doing in us to prepare for greater responsibilities of freedom living.

– Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, 94

Ending poverty, ending violence

Locust Effect bannerMost people don’t live under the shelter of the law, but far from the law’s protection.

– United Nations


About seven years ago, I first learned about the horrors of human trafficking one Sunday at Ecclesia Hollywood.

Nearly 30 million people are currently enslaved.

About six years ago, I first read International Justice Mission President Gary Haugen’s book Good News About Injustice, and learned of the phenomenal work his organization is doing to combat modern day slavery and systemic oppression.

4 billion people are unprotected by the law … in
fear of everyday violence like rape, forced labor, and police abuse.

About five years ago, I first interned with Oasis USA, another anti-trafficking organization, and got even more educated about the issues, even more exposed to the brutality of bonded labor and sex trafficking.

For women ages 15-44, the odds of experiencing physical harm or death due to gender-based violence is greater than cancer, motor accidents, war, and malaria combined.

About four years ago, I moved to DC to work at Sojourners, an poverty-focused advocacy organization; I immersed myself in issues of justice and poverty, including systemic injustice and trafficking, and along the way, made a lot of friends who work(ed) at IJM.

Metro Cebu in the Philippines saw a 79% reduction in the availability of children for commercial sex after 4 years of IJM and local law enforcement partnering together.

Every year, I’ve learned something new, either about the brutal realities of injustice that plague people all over the world or about the tremendous work that is going on every day to bring light into dark places.

Gary Haugen’s new book, The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, is out today, and it’s a good one, delving deeper than just quick fixes or band-aids, and challenging us both with the reality of how interconnected poverty and violence are and with the opportunity to change things for the better not just on an individual level but on the systemic level.

My old boss Jim Wallis likes to use the analogy of rescuing babies from a river. If you keep seeing babies floating down the river and you keep jumping in to save them, at some point you need to head upstream and stop whoever’s throwing them in!

This is the work of justice: not just rescuing those who are currently living under threat of poverty and the violence that accompanies it but also making sure that others never have to experience that life.

So what can we do? Awareness is the first step; action is the necessary second. Donors and development institutions can help by supporting the work of building professional and accountable police, and modern, functioning prosecutors, courts, and child welfare agencies.

  1. Awareness – Buy the book. Read it. Encourage others to understand the problem by doing the same. Check out the website.
  2. Spread the word – Tell your mom, your professor, and your barista. The global conversation needs your voice.
  3. Tell world leaders – Ask the world’s leaders to make this a priority. Start by signing the petition to the UN.
  4. DonateGive to help stop violence by donating to IJM’s life-changing work.

In short, I highly recommend Gary’s book and I strongly encourage you to go buy it.

Locust Effect badgeBONUS: If you buy your copy of The Locust Effect THIS WEEK, a generous friend of International Justice Mission will give $20 to IJM for every copy sold to help fight violence against the poor. What’s more, all the proceeds of the book’s sales will go toward the same cause.

Get educated. Get the book. Get involved.

Please.