Three weeks after John and I got married, we went on a mission trip with high school students from our church to serve for a week in Washington D.C.
We stayed in a little church in the city, slept on the floor in sleeping bags – girls on one side of the room and boys on the other. One of the days we were there was a Sunday so we worshipped with the small congregation, complete with raised hands and a super-charged sermon.
The students loved every minute of it. All we heard the whole five hour drive home was about how our home church was missing the point and how this new church in D.C. really loved Jesus and knew what praising God was all about.
And I was slightly livid.
Because what I and a handful of leaders knew (but what these kids didn’t know) was that ten minutes before we pulled out of the parking lot of this church to go home, one of the leaders of the church was changing his mind about how much we owed them for staying there, going back on a previously agreed upon amount. He accused us of lying and tried hard to get more money before we left.
Even if he had been the most God-fearing man on the planet, I still wouldn’t have been crazy about the students placing this little church up on a pedestal like they did. But knowing about the corruption of one of the leaders made listening to their talk even more difficult.
That trip was nearly thirteen years ago and I’ve been on a lot of trips since then. Most recently, Uganda.
First, let me say visiting another country for a week hardly counts as a cross-cultural experience.
I had a breath, more like half of one breath of experiencing Uganda. But it was a glimpse into a way of life different from mine and a daily rhythm foreign to mine. I could learn a lot from those I met there.
I know the temptation of elevating another experience or culture over my own simply because it’s different. I don’t recommend that mentality.
But considering how others live in comparison with how we live could be a wise and humble effort – not because any group or culture has figured out how to live right and certainly knowing that every small group, large group, tribe, and nation will have a fair share of shifty and manipulative people.
Still, it’s important to value the good things we see in others without disrespecting our own roots. The easy action is to elevate one and throw out the other. It takes time, commitment and humility to learn, consider, and then thoughtfully integrate. Agreeing that my way isn’t the only way (and sometimes isn’t the best way) is good for me.
My friends Tsh and Kyle have experienced way more than half of one breath outside of this country. They lived for years in Turkey – worked jobs, bought fruit, had babies. They had a true cross-cultural experience as a family and Tsh is sharing about it in her new book, Notes from a Blue Bike.
“We’ll take our rich experiences from life in another culture and redefine them into gifts to open here in the Western world. We would take the beauty of life in a slow, relationship-based culture and mold it into something beatiful and useful in our native culture, where the prevailing mark of a good day is getting a lot done.”
Tsh doesn’t merely recount all the ways her life in Turkey was better than her life here. That list would have made me crazy and slightly defensive. Rather she works hard to answer this question: Can we live effectively in the U.S. without productivity as our primary goal?
I am addicted to measureable productivity. Admittedly less so than in the past, but on days when I get little done, I have to wrestle through my own judgements of myself. I am daily learning how to be committed to my work while at the same time, not elevating it over what is truly my desire: communion with God and one another.
Unfortunately for my productive self, the results of communion remains maddeningly un-measurable.
But the value of communion is spectacularly immeasurable.
This is what I hold on to.
Tsh reminds me of the choices I have in my own life to live with intention now. I don’t have to move to a different country to experience the benefit of a slower pace of living and I don’t have to discount my life here as less-than or wrong. Rather I learn what I can from others and uncover ways to weave in what matters most. We can find our own blue bikes to ride right where we are.
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I couldn’t help myself, y’all. I had to Waterlogue Tsh and her book. (!!)
Tsh is a mama, a writer, and a friend of mine. She wrote Notes From a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World and is the creator of The Art of Simple. You can also find her in a quiet corner of the internet on her own personal site aptly named Tsh Oxenreider.
Whenever I need to reevaluate what my family values most, I turn to her work. After reading this book, I felt like I had gone on a trip with Tsh as my guide–not to a foreign land, but a trip into the land of possiblity for all the important areas of my life. I deeply appreciate her kind and honest perspective on living with intention, especially her thoughts on money, schooling, and love.
And that is what I wrote in my endorsement in the front of the book. I put my name on this one. It’s a keeper for sure.