Friday, April 26, 2013

Sometimes I Can't Sleep

I feel like I'm in this awkward mess of stuff.

Last night I couldn't sleep.  I was caught up in the amazement of God that he creates when you realize certain things.  I was in a reminiscent mood.  I try to be a writer... not only do I keep blogs but journals.  I got out some old journals and was reading old blog posts as well and I was thinking about how much has happened over the past year.  How if this breakup hadn't happened then I wouldn't have worked at camp last summer.  And if I hadn't have worked at camp, then I may not have done this and this which led to me going into social work.  And how certain experiences led me to passions that I have now and just... wow.

And I was also thinking about location.

Next fall, after I graduate from undergrad at Baylor, I'm staying in Waco and doing a dual masters degree in divinity and social work through our seminary and the school of social work.  I'm really excited.  God has put a passion in my heart over the past year to go into social work and such.  I'm just still trying to figure out logistics of money, where I'm living, and where I'm working.  It's stressful.

When I was reminiscing last night, I started to think about how last year around this time I wrote a blog post about how I wanted to get out of Texas.  How I wanted to travel.  I started thinking about programs that I wanted to do last year with missions and volunteering in different countries.  I started thinking about how other people I know are going on huge mission trips around the world.  How my biggest regret in college is not studying abroad even though that is something I really wanted to do.  And the reason I didn't was Sing.

And then I'm thinking about how I'm staying.  And it's making my head fuzzy with emotion because on one hand I'm confident in it because I definitely think it's where God is calling me to be, but on the other hand, there is still a part of me that is aching to travel.  There is still that part of me that wants to live on the mid-atlantic or northeast or northwestern coast of the United States or in Europe... and there is that part of me that wants to travel.  That part that wants to meet random people and go to Israel and Paris and Scotland.

But I have to remember that this is where God has called me for now.  And while it seems boring and mondain at the moment, I can only imagine the things God has in store for me through this place called Waco, TX.

I just need to find a place to live and a job so I don't have to live in a box under I35.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"I Challenge You to a Resurrection!"

This blog is a couple of months late.... oh well...

A lot of majors have senior capstone classes.  My major, religion, happens to be one of those.  This year we're studying the Branch Davidians, Mt.Carmel, and all the related events (

When I came to Baylor University in Waco, TX, a lot of people would make little sly remarks about Waco.  They would say stuff like, "Isn't that where that cult thing happened?"  To which I would smile and nod.  I didn't really know what they were talking about.

Here's the thing.  The event occurred in Spring of 1993.  I was two when this happened, and I am among the oldest undergrad students at Baylor.  Most current Baylor students were either toddlers, infants, or not even born.  This is not accounting for the fact that the majority of Baylor students are somewhat disconnected from the Waco community.  Most students don't really know what happened at Mt. Carmel.

From February 28- April 19, 1993, there was a standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel near Waco, TX.  The police were originally there for reports of artillery and child abuse.  There is no clear indication of who fired first, but somehow shots ended up being fired.  There was then a 51 day standoff between the two groups, as they worked to create the most peaceful ending possible.  Thankfully several people, including several children came out before the end.

On April 19, 1993, there were several gun shots, tanks went in filled with gas, and then a fire started.  This fire killed 76 Branch Davidians, including men, women, children, and their leader, Vernon Howell (who later changed his name to David Koresh).  It is unclear who started the fire.

The Branch Davidians are a sect off of the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists, who are a sect off of the Seventh Day Adventists.  Something that they highlight is the book of Revelation, and the end times.  To the Branch, Revelation is a compilation and conclusion to all of the books of the Bible, primarily those of the Old Testament prophets. 

A couple of months ago, my class visited Mt. Carmel.  As we drove up to the site, we were overwhelmed by the memorials set up, and the no trespassing signs (clearly aimed at the government).

The chapel.
We met with the rest of our group and walked into the chapel.  The original chapel was destroyed in the fire.  This place served as a museum and for worship on sunday mornings.  The new building was actually created over the place where the front doors originally were.  These doors were those that the government shot at and put army tanks into.

As we walked through the doors, I was struck by the plain white walls and carpeting.  At the front of the chapel was a little stage with drums, just as you might find in any Southern church.  However, on the sides of it were the 10 commandments hung on two huge tablets.  For an instance I had flashbacks to last semester.

Last November, Westboro Baptist Church came to protest at a Baylor football game.  In preparation for the event, I decided to educate myself by watching many youtube videos on the group.  It was apparent that they had a strong emphasis on teachings of the Old Testament, just as the Davidians do.  I seem to remember some of these churches having the 10 commandments hanging up.  As I walked into the Davidian chapel, I felt like I was walking into one of these videos.

Amongst the whiteness of the walls to our sides were the faces of the previous Davidian prophets.  Victor Houteff, Ben Roden, Lois Roden, and David Koresh were just a few of these.  Sitting in that room and having their faces there was almost surreal.

Dog grave.  Some of the pets of the compound were among the first to be shot.
When we got there we sat down in the chapel.  Charles Pace, who is a Davidian himself (although he did not follow Koresh and wasn't in the Branch) spoke to us.  He spoke rather quickly, but with much passion.  It was easy to tell that this man surely believed what he was saying, even if those of us listening intently to him did not.

Pace started to speak of the theology and the events that actually occurred throughout that time.  Some of what he said we didn't agree with at all.  Examples of this being that Texas will succeed from the United States and become a satellite country of Israel.  This would be where God would send a prophet to judge the world.  In Pace's eyes, the American government, our governmental leaders, and Catholics and Muslims are the problems in the world.  When he spoke of theology, he used a lot of old testament to back him up, specifically Ezekiel.

We were all struck by some of the things he said to us, but we all had an ara of respect as well.  Here is this man that believes so full-heartedly in what he teaches, that he is willing to be out on this land everyday that almost a hundred people, many of whom he knew, died.  He was so determined and passionate about his message.  With seeing that in his eyes and that tone of his voice, it was hard not to see how someone may decide to follow this group of people.

The concrete slab is what remains of the old gym.
After spending 45-minutes to an hour or so indoors listening to Charles Pace, it was finally our time to walk around the site.

The first thing that stood out to us was the size of the compound.  From all of the pictures we had seen of this giant building set to flames, or with FBI around it, we expected to be amazed by the amount of land that this place would have taken up.  We were surprised when we realized that it was not nearly as large as we would have thought.  With the towers gone, it looked surprisingly small.

This is likely the site where most of the women and children passed away in the fire on April 19, 1993.
At some point while we were walking along we remembered that this was the site of 80+ deaths.  Then we remembered where Pace had said that the women and children would have been when the fire happened.  Let's just say that realizing that you are standing on the ground where that many people died in one of the countries largest tragedies is humbling to say the least.

Trying to get through the tunnel into the storm shelter.

This was a storm shelter.  The people tried to get there before the fire, but their only way of entry was blown to shreds.
Burnt items... flashlight and nails we thought

melted glass

Words that we found inscribed into the concrete of the steps of the pool.  Says "DK 92 Boom"... kinda eery.  (DK- David Koresh)

The incident is what inspired the Oklahoma City bombing.   This is a memorial to the people who passed away in it.

In class we have been evaluating different secondary sources, watching documentaries, videos, and engaging on conversation.  For the second half of the semester we have been working with primary documents, choosing a topic of our choice, and writing papers and having presentations.

For my topic, I chose to write on how Baylor reacted to all this... if you want to know more about my research, let me know! :-)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lent 20+13

I gave up meat for Lent.

Over the past year, I have begun to be far more interested in food and health.  I guess this began at camp last year.  Basically most every meal we had was fried, and I just felt absolutely disgusting by the end of my 7 weeks there.

When I got back to my apartment in Waco, one of the things that I became most excited about was going to the grocery store and buying some healthy food-- veggies, yogurt, real eggs, almond milk, whole grains, hummus, etc.  I also started watching these videos on youtube that talked about health.

Some of these videos talked about basic things that most people know, like saturated fats are bad, and that we need to eat our fruits and veggies.  Some others talked more about high fructose corn syrup, GMO, MSG, and other harmful things that food manufacturers put in our food to get us addicted.  These videos also talked about the real dangers of simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, fried foods, and sugary drinks.  All of this blew my mind.

Over the past couple of semesters I have tried to eat healthier.  I still mess up and treat myself, but my diet now will consist of whole grain tortillas and hummus rather than kraft mac and cheese.

I have also begun to recognize the value in locally grown and natural foods.  Reasons for this being that I like to put my money into the local economy, the food is fresher, and it tastes better.

Something I've become aware of lately is how not only are there pesticides that are put on our produce in the supermarket, but also the meat that we buy and eat is filled with gross stuff as well.  For example, meat should go bad after around 4 days, but meat producers will pump most of the meat in grocery stores full of carbon monoxide to keep it looking fresh.

So for lent I decided to give up meat.

Before I gave it up I wasn't really eating too much meat anyway, but I also wasn't restricting myself in anyway.  There's a difference when I'm purposefully not eating it than when I just don't want to eat it.

So I decided to allow myself to eat meat on sundays (sundays aren't counted into the 40 days of Lent).  Most times I would only have a little chicken, but last week I ventured out.  The college group I'm involved with at church had a little cookout, and I decided to indulge in a hamburger and a couple small pieces of sausage.

Bad choice.  For the rest of the day I was feeling gross and feeling kinda sick.  It's funny how our bodies will adjust to what we do or do not put in it.

As Americans we eat a lot of meat.  I have especially realized this especially over the past month or so.  Walk in to most restaurants, and it is a challenge to find something that doesn't involve some sort of chicken, beef, or bacon.  If you think about it, it almost seems kind of silly.  Here God gave us all these vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts to fill our bodies with the nutrients, protein, fiber, and calcium we need to live, but here we are eating a diet that generally doesn't include these natural gifts given by God.  It's awesome how God gives us the food to eat and the nutrients we need naturally.

A lot of people would ask me where I was getting my protein.  For some reason we have this misconception that we can only get the protein we need from poultry and meats.  Truth is that our culture eats too much protein, and meat is just one way to getting it.  It can also be found in nuts, eggs, legumes, seafood, seeds, and soy.

I have nothing against eating meat.  I think it is ok for us to kill animals and eat the meat from them.  However, my issue is our way of doing so.  Feeding our animals antibiotics and steroids and then killing them.... putting hazardous chemicals in the food... not exactly The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, but it's up there.

So yah... not gonna go completely vegetarian now, but I'll be eating less meat for sure.  Natural and grass fed meat when I can help it.


During Lent, I unintentionally learned a lot about grace.  I got a new view of the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.

I'm not going to go into specifics, but let's just say that a group including myself and some friends, got together to study one day.  We started to form a list of study questions and sent them out to the class.  Because of the circumstances of the exam, this could have been viewed as cheating, even though it was not our intention whatsoever.  Basically our professors found out, and it was a big thing... thankfully they realized that we were not trying to cheat, and we didn't get in trouble.


I'm applying for a graduate school program at Baylor.  Because of some circumstances, my application was not in until the last minute.  I knew that all of my stuff was in, but I was worried about my reference letters.  The next day, the school e-mailed out that they were extending their admissions deadline.


Grace is an undeserved gift.  They didn't have to not punish us.  They didn't have to extend the deadline.

Jesus didn't have to put my sins on his shoulders and carry them for me.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, especially in the past week:  what was Jesus feeling during those final hours of his life?

How was he feeling when his closest friends wouldn't stay awake with him during his final hours in the Garden?  Or when one of them betrayed him with a kiss?  One of the most symbolic signs of intimacy... and he was led to persecution by it.

I've been trying to put myself in his shoes.  Trying to think of circumstances in which my friends didn't come through or when I felt betrayed by someone I loved.  It hurts, and it hurts deep.

Some of the very people who Jesus knew and loved were yelling to Pilot to crucify him.

and that is where I see the grace.

The Bible tells us that three days after he was crucified, Jesus came up from the tomb.  He appeared to Mary and Martha, and then the disciples.

If you recall, in Mark14, all of the disciples completely deserted Jesus (and then there is an awkward story about a guy running naked).  Not only were Jesus' disciples unable to stay awake with him in the garden, but they completely deserted him in his time of need.

When we look at the resurrection we don't see a guy who is upset at his closest friends for deserting him.  We don't see a guy who is holding resentment for the things that have been done to him.  No, here Jesus embraces his disciples.  He forgives them and loves him.  He tells them to go out and spread his name.  He gives them a mission and a purpose... these very people who betrayed him.


I like to think that these examples of grace shown to me can be adequate examples of the grace Jesus gives us... but I don't think it can.  While I know that I feel thankful and undeserving of the gifts bestowed upon me, I know that what Jesus did is far more than any of that.  He made it so that I could show grace to others in response to how he's shown it to me.