Sunday, April 29, 2012

Older, I mean, Wiser

Who is ready for a happy post!? Wooo! Me!!

Just a few hours ago I was standing by the "lunch" section at Trader Joe's trying to make a very important decision. As I stood there for a good three minutes trying to decided which salad(s) I should buy, a nice old man was standing next to me attempting to do the very same thing with sushi. We were both there for quite a while, taking our time with the decision as if it would actually make a significant difference in our lives, when finally he turned to me and commented on the dangers of shopping when you are hungry. I agreed and we laughed and it was a pleasant moment. In fact, a lot of people were pleasant in the grocery stores today. It made me have hope for our world. . .or maybe we were all just happy to be fed.

At any rate, my oh so deep conversation with sushi man made me realize how little interaction I have with , dare I say, older people in my California life. At Fuller "old" is your classmate in their thirties. All the time I am with young people, which of course can be super fun, but sometimes I miss interacting with people of different generations. For instance, let me shout out to my Christ's Church ladies and gents. It is always such a joy to converse with (eeek the word!)....shall I say, the wiser generations, and to cross the generational divide with hugs and sequined sweaters. I feel like being around other generations makes me feel loved and taken care of. I learn so much from people who are my parent's age or older. Being around young people all the time makes me feel like, well, like the world might revolve around whether or not we should buy pizza and (at seminary) what the eschatological something or other means.

 I guess what I mean to say is, life is more full when one gets to be friends with people of all ages. Those of every generation have something to teach the others, and yes, even my generation might have something to teach too. It is a joy to be able to have grandmothers and uncles and surrogate parents, even if they are not technically related to you. And it is a joy to have my brothers and sisters too.

So praise be to God for my great big all around the country (and the world) family. You guys make my world so much more full, and you all make me feel so loved. Consider yourselves hugged. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tragic News Regarding the Apache Reservation

Today was going to be a happy post as I seem to be consistently placing all my burdens out there for all you guys to carry, but sadly, this post is going to follow in a similar direction. The burdens do not mean that God is not faithful or that I do not have a lot of joy, for both those things are abundant. My life is a blessed one, but sometimes the world is an unfair place and we have to take notice of that.

Today's post is to fill you in on a tragedy that has occurred on the Apache reservation that I will be working on this summer. Late Sunday night, just down the road from the youth center, one of the students and her grandmother got brutally murdered. The girl was just 15 and an active participant in everything that the ministry did. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence on the reservations. There is a large drug culture, much alcohol abuse, and a history of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. Most of these kids know someone who has been murdered before, so although this is entirely tragic, for many on the reservation this is nothing new.

I will admit, I cried a lot when I heard about the death of this student. The world is an unfair place and I hate that she had to be caught in the middle of it. I now know I am walking into this summer- the heartbreak, the hardships, and the hopelessness. I am sure that in June the ministry staff and the students will still be reeling from this murder, and I need to go in with understanding and compassion. My heart also breaks for the ministry staff and the community, for I know their sadness far outweighs what I feel.

The White Mountain Apache community needs a lot of prayer right now. I ask that you each take a moment and pray for them. Please pray for the students as they work through this tragedy, and for the staff as they cope emotionally and as they try to walk with the students through this. The staff needs prayer for wisdom as they handle this, and I want us to pray that God will be made known through the situation. My prayer is that this atrocity will not feed into the feeling of hopelessness on the reservation but that God will be the comforter and that people on the reservation will come to depend on Him.

I have to believe that God will reconcile this. I have to believe that He will be made known in His fullness on these reservations and that one day they will be a place free of the terrible things that are occurring there. And in believing that I have to go to the reservation willing to be used by Him, willing to put my life down for the sake of these kids. I have step up to the plate.  I have to go where God has called me. Because no, I can't fix the reservation. I can't fix the sadness and the despair. But I do serve a God who can, and I have to believe that God can and will use me to bring His restoration to these people. I have to believe that in my weakness He will be strong.

Because if we don't go, who will? 

Friday, April 20, 2012

"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it"

As I finish my intensive today many of you may be able to guess that my heart is heavy. It seems like this happens a lot as I study development. The pain and the suffering of the world is put at my fingertips as we try to learn how to best serve and help, though the answers are never straightforward or complete. The last two weeks were emotionally and physically exhausting. The subject matter of refugees and relief aid (that is, bringing medical care, food, water, and other basic needs to people in war torn or disaster ridden areas) is a heavy one and on the last day of class it was almost too much to bear. We heard stories presented on the refugee situation in Sudan and the long, winding lines of people that need help. We went through the entire conflict in Darfur and as we analyzed the situation to understand why it has continued for so long I could not get the face of the refugee out of my mind. These people who have been displaced from their homes, who have seen horrendous atrocities committed before their eyes, and who are under constant danger, are my brothers and sisters. They are children of God, just like you and me. They are people with rights, with dignity, and with feelings. They are my family. 

One of the heartbreaking parts of the intensive was also realizing that working with refugees and relief is not the place for me. Millions of people are suffering around the world, and have been for some time, but I know that I cannot be the one to go work in those situations. I naturally take the emotional pain of others onto myself and I would not survive carrying the burden of so many people. The high risk, the emotional and physical stress factors, and the conditions of the work would render me ineffective on the field. It takes a certain kind of person to work in relief and it burdens me to know I cannot be that person. 

But my professor is always so gracious with us after he loads us down with the burdens of such a complicated operation as relief aid. He pointed us to Peter and the last thing Jesus asked of him. Jesus said to "feed my sheep." He did not tell Peter to "save my sheep" nor to "feed every single sheep on the planet." I must realize that I cannot be the savior of the world. I cannot put food in the mouths of every displaced and hurting person, but I can be faithful to God's call. I can be faithful in prayer and I can be faithful to serve those around me that need serving. 

It is a heavy burden to carry, when one knows the suffering of countless people in the world. I can only pray that Jesus will return quickly to end all of this suffering, and in the meantime I can pray for the refugees and displaced people in the world. I can pray for reconciliation and healing, for safety and the meeting of needs. And I can pray that God will use me to be faithful to His call.

I ask that tonight you join me in prayer for those suffering and those working with the suffering. We know that these are the places that Jesus spends time, with the outcast, the forgotten, and the hurting. Let us not forget that these are our brothers and sisters who are dying and suffering throughout the world at this very moment. 

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" Matthew 25:40

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

So. Tired.

So. Tired. So. Tired. So all I have for you is this:

1. My Human Development class has taught me two things this week:
Hugs are good. 
Relationships are life. 

Obviously it was more complicated than that but I was not listening so well and I think both those things are pretty good to know. So go hug someone and have lunch with a good friend. It will reduce your stress, make you happier, and make you feel more secure. Or something like that.

2. Ellen. Ellen Degeneres. When this week is over I will tell you a story about Ellen.

That is all you get for now. So sorry.

Now to finish a presentation/take a shower/go take care of a baby/give a presentation/collapse.

Three days until this madness is over. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Busy Busy Busy

It has been a crazy week here in Pasadena. I am smack-dab in the middle of a two-week intensive, meaning one of my classes has been shortened to every day, three hours a day, for two weeks. That means that on Mondays and Wednesdays I work from 7:30-2:30 then go to class from 3-6. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I am in class from 3-6 and 6:30-9:30. Then of course I come home to homework. It reminds me of my undergrad days of being super busy. Even though I am tired and burnt out, I do kind of like a busy life. 

In the midst of this class I have had a heavy and burdened heart. The class is Relief, Refugees, and Conflict and it is such a complicated issue. The suffering of people around the world, like in Somalia or Syria, is absolutely heart-breaking. The issues of relief aid adds even more heartache because the issue is nowhere near black and white. Relief and food aid can save lives, yes, but it can also contribute to the problem. It can aid in the continuing of war and conflict and the decisions that have to be made all have consequences. I am so glad that I can learn about the plight of the displaced people around the world, but I ask that we all pray for those displaced and those working in relief. Much of God's wisdom and love needs to be in these places. 

Another thing that has happened this week is a reconnecting with an old friend from high school. Though I come back exhausted from a long day we have been talking extensively about theology and the Bible. We are working through an extensive dialogue on authorship, inherency, and the reality of Jesus Christ as both God and man who physically came to earth and was killed to save us. This conversation has made me realize a few things:
1. Interfaith dialogue is always worth our time. Yes, I have papers to write, books to read, and this is the busiest week of graduate school, but if I have the opportunity to talk to someone about what I know to be truth, I will never be too busy for that. 

2  Listening and being respectful are of utmost importance in dialogue with people who believe differently than we do. When we are willing to communicate in a reciprocating conversation where we are not pushy but interested and honest, this is when we can take ahold of an opportunity. We can have a chance at sharing our faith and knowledge that would disappear if we do not have love and respect for the other.

3. Love, not judgement. I have been given a chance to take everything I am learning here in seminary and share it with someone who is in a search for the right answers. When I see the other person as a child of God, when I remember that what I know IS truth, I can love him with everything I am because I desperately want him to see who Jesus truly is. 

I hope this serves as an encouragement for you, my dear reader, to start engaging in open conversation with people who believe differently than you do. This conversation is challenging. It is making me look back on what I have learned and think through a lot of seriously valid points. I am tired its true, but if he wants to talk about these issues until the cows come home I will do it. Because earthly exhaustion is nothing compared to an eternity with our Savior. I will give up all the sleep and good grades in the world if it means that my friend receives enough of my knowledge and listening that he sees how much Jesus is waiting for his heart. 

I ask you to pray that I may be a knowledgable witness and that God will provide me with the articulation to accurately speak into his heart and show him truth. And if you are not a praying person, I will pray that someone comes into your life who will have the courage to begin dialogue with you. Because for the Christian, talking about Jesus and treating you with respect should be of utmost importance. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Birthdays and, of course, blessings.

I know that it is cliche to talk about the friendships and blessings discovered on a birthday, but I feel that I have to give in. Today (or yesterday really) I turned 23 in a new place. I have been here for 8 months and I felt as loved as I ever have in the best moments of my life. The joys of having been in many places is getting to know people in all those places. Today brought all those people back into my life and the blessings were ripe. I woke up to texts, pictures, and phone calls from my Georgia and my Virginia friends. I got on Facebook to read messages from my Spanish friends, and on Skype I saw my Arizona friend (oh the laughs!), my parents, my flight attendant friend, and my Nicaraguan friend. I got to hear from old friends and I got to celebrate with new ones.

Is there any day more perfect than one spent with friends?

And the love. Oh the love. Truly this must be a tiny representation of how Christ loves us because I felt full. Full of pie, yes, because I did make three, but also just full of heart and soul and joy. And the words! Oh the words! So many words of love and encouragement today, my love language. Add to that a floppy hat, a one shoulder dress, a Hunger Games magazine, and a precious gift from my Dad....I could not have asked for more.

So I am one year older. In my 23 years, I have been blessed beyond belief. Blessed with experiences, blessed with travels, and blessed with friends. No matter where I go I know that I am loved and am loved dearly. Isn't that a wonderful life? 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Phones and water don't mix? Oops.

I recently took a trip down history's lane. To the days of old, I went, back to the time before cellphones. For 35 hours I had no phone, and let me tell you, I kind of loved it. Now would probably be a good time to say that I did not take this experiment by choice, although the circumstances were rather funny. Out of some sort of weird skill or sheer accidental talent I somehow managed to drop my cellphone in a glass of water. Yes, that's right, a glass of water. I don't know how it happened exactly, all I remember is sitting down, pulling out my phone, and plop! right into the glass of water on the ground. In the moment I gasped (or maybe said some choice words I won't repeat) and then looked up at my roommate as we began to laugh. After 5 seconds that felt like 20 I then remembered that cellphones don't actually do well in water so I proceeded to grab my phone and run around the apartment squealing "rice! rice! I need rice!" We laughed so hard we could not stop. Sadly that small swim killed my dear phone and everything on it, but the laughter that came from the moment made it worth it. Today I did get a new phone, and it was a slight ordeal, but really it is all about perspective. I could have gotten upset about the situation, but with a global perspective and with an eternal perspective, little things like this don't even matter. Come to think of it, it was probably good for me to go 24 hours without texting. And it is good to laugh. How much better is life if we find reasons to laugh when things go wrong? Or what if we just let out a good cry, then go out with a friend and realize that relationships are what make those moments better?

You see, in two of my classes we have been talking about the idea of God and people as relational. In one class we are talking about the reciprocating self, meaning that as the Trinity is a mutually beneficial and reciprocating relationship, so should be human relationships. In another class we are talking about a covenantal God and the importance of community, and the relationship between obedience and blessing.  As God is relational, and as we are made in God's image, so should we be in relationship with others. When we combine both particularity and relatedness, we get to keep our uniqueness while being joined in beneficial relationships. And our lives are more meaningful for this is how God created us! When my roommate can laugh with me, when she can let me cry and gripe about something, and then when I can do that for her, that is what God intended for us. That is why I can laugh about my phone, because it is about so much more than a phone!

God has made us in His image, and when we strive to be more like who He created us to be, I truly believe we will be more fulfilled. So the challenge here is to try and build reciprocating relationships. Give and take, unity and uniqueness. Laughter instead of frustration. Go hug your brother or your friend. Go live with the full range of glorious emotions we are given. And laugh. Laugh a lot. For don't they say that laughter is the best medicine?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blessings and Callings

Blessings, my friends, are abundant. What a journey it has been in following God's call to Fuller, but what a phenomenal chance it has been to put my trust fully in the One who made me. These week has been evidence of the close, personal, and loving relationship that God has with each of us. Can I share a few joys? First, a wonderful friend of mine blessed me in an inconceivable and hugely unexpected way. It was such a humbling moment for me because I was utterly undeserving of this gift. It was the feeling I think God's grace should give me all the time. Even though I was so unworthy  I was still given great blessing. It was one of the most amazing things God has ever done for me, and I thank Him (and my sweet friend) for humbling me in that way. 

Then today God perfected timing so that I met a fellow Fuller student at church who is doing doctoral work on the Aboriginals in Australia. We are going to grab coffee and she is going to share her research with me. I believe that her insight plus the experience I will have with the Apache this summer combine to show God truly giving me opportunities to understand the people group He seems to be pushing me towards. What an amazing God who orchestrates things so perfectly. 

I am on a journey, and it is a journey where I am learning to praise God in the times of blessing and in the times of uncertainty. I resonates with the story of Jeremiah, which we talked about in church today.  Jeremiah felt inadequate for the calling God was giving him and in the first chapter we read Jeremiah adamantly telling God that he cannot do this. God already knows Jeremiah's weaknesses and He knows that he is not capable on his own, but God knows something else too. Listen to these words,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
   before you were born I set you apart;
   I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

 6 “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
(Jeremiah 1)

This is what I hope you hear when you read this. Wherever you are in your journey, whatever you feel God is calling you to do, know that He is with you. You may not have the strength, but He does. Don't wait to "be ready" to answer His call. Let Him perfect you along the way, let Him give you the courage, and let Him go before you. I love how my pastor put it- God is never going to call you to be something you are not, for He has made you for this. His grace and His power are sufficient. 

So I will not be afraid. For God has sent me, and He will never fail to go with me.