"'O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

"He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken."

Jesus sacrificed His life for yours.  Not just so you might have a chance after this life is over, but also so you may truly live now!  Feel free to ask me anything!

Happy Easter, friends.

Tibetan Man with Ghost Money, 2006:

Photo taken July 2006 near the Tibetan border.  On our several-day bus ride into the wild open country of western China, we got a great opportunity to observe some interesting customs.  The man in this photo is holding a stack of brightly colored “ghost money”.

As we approached a 16,500 foot pass in the mountains, it seemed as if the entire bus was buzzing.  My friends and I were unable to pinpoint the source, but slowly we began to realize, as the volume level rose seemingly in sync with the altitude, that most of the passengers were chanting.  I remember the noise being quite cacophonous near the top, and quietly letting a few prayers of my own to the One True God.

At the moment we gained the summit of the road, a long, low, wall of grey stone with a hundred white parapets came into view.  In the center, there was a several-story red building layered with shimmering golden roofs.  About 30 or so ruddy-looking horses were tied to squatty blank canvas tents, and what I presumed were their riders were wandering about, mingling with other pilgrims who were exiting a few four-wheel-drive vehicles.  I only had a moment to take in this sight, as my eyes were drawn back to the interior of the bus with the alarm of all the chanting turning to outright shouting and gleeful tongue-rolling shouts “Aaayyiiiii yiyiyiyiyiyiiii!!!”  The bus patrons had taken to their feet and were tossing handfuls of the colored paper out the window.

After asking a lot of questions of the man in this photo with my friend translating, I began to understand that the paper was "Ghost Money" or "Joss Paper", which printed and sold in a plethora of styles and denominations.  It has no monetary value, but rather is used as currency for the spirit world of which millions who follow the more animistic versions of Buddhism and ancestor worship believe.  I believe the man told us that the temple we had passed contained an immense solid gold statue of Buddha.  Many, many people in this region believe that spirits inhabit a plethora of things, included sacred sites like the temple on the pass, and in hopes of warding off the evil ones or getting those of their ancestors to bring good fortune, purchase the “ghost money” and throw it into the wind or (more frequently) burn it as offerings.

I felt humbled and yet privileged to know of a God above all others who doesn’t need sacrifice (Psalm 50:7-15) because Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 10:11-14).  I am deeply interested in and fondly love experiencing the numerous traditions and beliefs of this rich and ancient culture, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is something (or Someone) behind man’s yearning for the transcendent.  I believe in a God who created all and loves all, and wants to redeem all back to a relationship with Him.

Every time I look back at this photo, and the old man’s grainy, hairy face, his hands clutching his best hope in the world, I wish I had taken the time to share with him the good news that he may never have the opportunity to hear.  My only hope is that the Gospel seed that my friends and I planted deep in the mountains would bear much fruit, and that the labors of my friends serving overseas and those of my native-born brothers and sisters who risk their lives to spread this Truth would see first-hand the results.
 -BRT

Tibetan Man with Ghost Money, 2006:



Photo taken July 2006 near the Tibetan border.  On our several-day bus ride into the wild open country of western China, we got a great opportunity to observe some interesting customs.  The man in this photo is holding a stack of brightly colored “ghost money”.



As we approached a 16,500 foot pass in the mountains, it seemed as if the entire bus was buzzing.  My friends and I were unable to pinpoint the source, but slowly we began to realize, as the volume level rose seemingly in sync with the altitude, that most of the passengers were chanting.  I remember the noise being quite cacophonous near the top, and quietly letting a few prayers of my own to the One True God.



At the moment we gained the summit of the road, a long, low, wall of grey stone with a hundred white parapets came into view.  In the center, there was a several-story red building layered with shimmering golden roofs.  About 30 or so ruddy-looking horses were tied to squatty blank canvas tents, and what I presumed were their riders were wandering about, mingling with other pilgrims who were exiting a few four-wheel-drive vehicles.  I only had a moment to take in this sight, as my eyes were drawn back to the interior of the bus with the alarm of all the chanting turning to outright shouting and gleeful tongue-rolling shouts “Aaayyiiiii yiyiyiyiyiyiiii!!!”  The bus patrons had taken to their feet and were tossing handfuls of the colored paper out the window.



After asking a lot of questions of the man in this photo with my friend translating, I began to understand that the paper was "Ghost Money" or "Joss Paper", which printed and sold in a plethora of styles and denominations.  It has no monetary value, but rather is used as currency for the spirit world of which millions who follow the more animistic versions of Buddhism and ancestor worship believe.  I believe the man told us that the temple we had passed contained an immense solid gold statue of Buddha.  Many, many people in this region believe that spirits inhabit a plethora of things, included sacred sites like the temple on the pass, and in hopes of warding off the evil ones or getting those of their ancestors to bring good fortune, purchase the “ghost money” and throw it into the wind or (more frequently) burn it as offerings.



I felt humbled and yet privileged to know of a God above all others who doesn’t need sacrifice (Psalm 50:7-15) because Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 10:11-14).  I am deeply interested in and fondly love experiencing the numerous traditions and beliefs of this rich and ancient culture, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is something (or Someone) behind man’s yearning for the transcendent.  I believe in a God who created all and loves all, and wants to redeem all back to a relationship with Him.



Every time I look back at this photo, and the old man’s grainy, hairy face, his hands clutching his best hope in the world, I wish I had taken the time to share with him the good news that he may never have the opportunity to hear.  My only hope is that the Gospel seed that my friends and I planted deep in the mountains would bear much fruit, and that the labors of my friends serving overseas and those of my native-born brothers and sisters who risk their lives to spread this Truth would see first-hand the results.



-BRT

Tibetan Landscapes, 2006:

A few days ago, I loaned some of my most prized backpacking gear to a friend who is going on a backpacking mission trip similar in nature to one which I went on immediately after graduating from college.  All weekend I’ve been reminiscing about that amazing, challenging, eye-opening, heart-changing month or so spent travelling the Tibetan Plateau and sharing the Gospel with a people group who had previously never heard of Jesus Christ.

For today, I’m sharing some photos of the incredible scenery of the Tibetan Plateau.  Looking through the dozen rolls of film that I took back in summer of 2006, I see a number of places that I would love to visit again and just have time to explore.  So many places there felt so expansive and lonely, an incredible setting for an amazing culture and way of life.  I love that land, and though I’ve had the opportunity to return and visit more populated areas of that nation, I think my heart will always long to return to those wide open spaces.

Tomorrow I’ll post some photos of the people who inhabit this region.

Foxes and Birds

I, like many outdoors-men and -women went through a period of great love for Henry David Thoreau.  His idealization of simplicity and the spartan lifestyle, desire to live every day to the fullest, and connection with the outdoors communicates on a deep level with those who call wilderness their home.  One of my favorite parts of his defining work, Walden, is where he talks about never getting his "fingers burned by actual possession."

Thoreau relates the following story:
The nearest that I came to actual possession was when I bought the Hollowell place, and had begun to sort my seeds, and collected materials with which to make a wheelbarrow to carry it on or off with; but before the owner gave me a deed of it, his wife — every man has such a wife — changed her mind and wished to keep it, and he offered me ten dollars to release him. Now, to speak the truth, I had but ten cents in the world, and it surpassed my arithmetic to tell, if I was that man who had ten cents, or who had a farm, or ten dollars, or all together. However, I let him keep the ten dollars and the farm too, for I had carried it far enough; or rather, to be generous, I sold him the farm for just what I gave for it, and, as he was not a rich man, made him a present of ten dollars, and still had my ten cents, and seeds, and materials for a wheelbarrow left. I found thus that I had been a rich man without any damage to my poverty.
— Thoreau, Walden (find a free text here)
He seems to say that he became a rich man by not taking advantage of the situation and the other man by refusing the $10 that the man wanted to give him and therefore was generous as a richman giving away what at the time was a very large sum.  Interesting, right?  Furthermore, I like this idea of rich-ness (wealth?) being tied not to procuring large sums of wealth or land, but to kindness and generosity to others, and a good attitude through any situation that comes up in life.

For some reason, it makes me think of one of my favorite bands to follow is a few guys from my alma mater, Grove City College.  They were known under the moniker Like Summer, but have since changed their lineup a bit and operate out of Pittsburgh as Good Night, States.  On Like Summer’s only full studio album, From Arlington Heights, With Love, singer Steve Gretz channels Jesus’ words in Matthew 8:20 in the song “Moving On”:
"Now I get it when you said
I’d have no where to lay my head
You knew the places I hung out
Would burn me from the inside out
Well, all my treasure turned out to be crap
All my bedrooms were deathtraps
There’s just one thing I’m looking for
I can’t stay here any more…
I think Thoreau was on to something.  He might have been missing the key (there have been several times reading his stuff that I’ve wanted to scream the answer from all his searching — see here), but I think he got it that material things in this world are — in the end — unsatisfactory.

Thoughts?