Saturday, April 19, 2014

Riding on a Donkey

Lent blog #11

I don't quite understand Palm Sunday...

or the way that it's been celebrated in churches I've been in.

I started crying during the service last week.  That's kind of weird since it's Palm Sunday, which is supposed to be a happy service full of joy and anticipation for the coming of the Lord into Jerusalem.  And it was an exciting service full of "Hosanna", and palm branches, and a sermon on God's love... but I still started crying.

There were two thoughts that I really had while we were celebrating Jesus:

1) Why is it that the children are the only ones with palm branches?

But really... service I've been in generally have children with palm branches, or just the choir... which is a great demonstration of waving palm branches to God.... but it just seems a little odd to me, I guess.  I think we all should be jumping out of seats with excitement of the coming of the Lord.

2) Why am I celebrating?

Don't get me wrong, I know why I'm celebrating.  What I think I really mean, is why am I celebrating when I know the end of the story... when I know that less than a week later I will be shouting, "Crucify him!"

I was just struck down by the sense of guilt that I can't quite explain.  Because I see me in that story.  This isn't the version of me in the first century.  This is the version of me now.  I see myself getting caught up in the excitement, but questioning all I know when it comes time to judging whether this Jesus person should be put to death or not.  How do I feel about him?  Is this faith, or is it being caught up in the crowd?

Because I like to think that I would have the faith to stand apart... but I can't quite say.  I've never been put up to that point of stress and pressure to deny what I believe in.  I can't say what it's like to have a gun put to your head, or a whip on your back, or thrown in prison, or have your whole community turn from you... if I say yes to having the faith that I have.  I can't imagine it quite frankly, because it is not the world that I know.

What I do know is that Jesus was a great teacher, a healer, a friend to the friendless, and a man who was in his very essence God.  So with my lesson of grace that has been planting itself upon me this Lenten season, I should look at the characters in the Bible not just as fictional people who lived thousands of years ago and shouted to kill my savior and denied him... but I should look at them with grace, because beneath it all I see myself.

and there he comes... riding on a donkey.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A heart felt "Thank you!"

Lent blog #10

I clearly haven't kept up with this.  I think it's been useful and God has used it, but I don't think he's stopped loving me because of it.

This semester has been an emotional roller coaster for me.  Those close to me know this.

From recovering from brain surgery, to figuring out seizure medications, to having to deal with not driving, to interacting with friends, to dealing with myself, and school, and the freight and newness of change, and the craziness of the world, and uncertainty...  sometimes the world has felt like it was going to collapse on me, and my 4'11" self would have to strain to keep up.

I have learned some things, and these are things that I have to keep reminding myself...

I am loved.  I am prayed for.  I am supported.  There is quite possibly nothing more humbling than reading through facebook posts of people saying they love you and are praying for you, looking at notes people sent you, realizing the friends that have sacrificed their time and money into getting me places, and realizing that above and through all, Christ has been working through what has quite possibly been the hardest semester I have had so far.

So while often the response I will have to, "How are you?" is simply, "Okay", and it simply means that I'm just okay or struggling at that moment... it doesn't mean that I don't have support and that God isn't sovereign, that Jesus isn't teaching me things, and that I will be down forever.  Because I have friends who love me: ones who I have just met, and ones that I have grown up with.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. thank you. thank you.

I really think love is an action.... whether expressed in a facebook post, an e-mail, a hug, or a car ride.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Ten Stages of Writing a Paper

The dreaded school paper... being in seminary, I have realized that there are a lot of these, and that they usually follow a certain pattern... only varying slightly based on the type or length of the paper.  

Despite my roommate saying that the ten stages of this paper are "death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, HOPE, and death" (she's an english graduate student by the way), I would beg to differ slightly...

So here we go!

1) Come to terms with the fact that you have to write a paper.

2) Think about said paper.... then forget for a week 'til the day before.

3) Get distracted by a friend... and talk for an hour.

4) Look up a couple sources.

5) Spend two hours scavenging through the internet on facebook, tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, Blogger, Buzzfeed, etc.

6) Remember your paper, but also remember that it's 10pm.... so you go get coffee!

7) Write an outline and fill in a bit.

8) Start to write a blog post....

9) Lock yourself away, write, facebook, write, buzzfeed, write, text, write....

10) Go to sleep, wake up, finish the paper an hour before class is due and print it out...



Friday, April 4, 2014

Have Mercy on Me

Lent blog #9 (I'm way behind... my apologies)

"As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience," Colossians 3:12 

A few years ago at camp, one of my co-counselors was really bugging me.  She wasn't picking up what I felt was her share, wasn't being with the girls as much as she should, and was emotionally distant.  I began to grow very aggravated.  I didn't understand why she was behaving this way.  I liked her as a person and friend, but this was getting on my nerves.

I talked to one of my good friends about it.  He told me words that I have come to realize have impacted me greatly through my life.  He said, "Well, maybe she has something else going on in her life that you don't know about".

Over the next hours, I contemplated that greatly.  Was this true?  Maybe my friend had a point...

Later that day, my co-counselor came over to me and told me what was going on.  She had found out some pretty dramatic news about her health.  She was distant because she needed time to process what she had just learned.

How often do we do that?  Make assumptions about the way someone is acting and why she or he is acting that way?  How often do we allow our assumptions to dictate our actions? ... even oftentimes after strenuous amounts of thinking and praying?

This is something that I often think about... or I try to at least.  What is going on in the mind of those closest to me, and why are they acting the way they are towards me?  Do they mean it or is it simply an extension of another emotion they are feeling?

People are tricky.  I don't understand them.  I think it's funny that my two master degrees will be in theology and social work.  As if I could ever master God or ever have a theology that isn't shifting and changing throughout time.  And as if I could ever master knowing how to interact with people and systems in social work.  People are always changing and unpredictable.

But one thing remains certain: humans are a complication of circumstances.  My reactions to things are based on my past experiences, my situation at that moment, and morals and everything.  Real people are not stagnant.

And so this is why I depend on Christ's mercy and upon his grace.  Because I mess up.  I say things I shouldn't.  I react to friends how I shouldn't... and they to me the same.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rest in You

Lent Blog #8
"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our souls are restless until they rest in you," Augustine of Hippo, Confessions (c. 397)

I did hot yoga today for the first time today.  It was hard, but it was wonderful.  Yoga is one of my favorite things.  I feel so good right now, although I know that I will be sore tomorrow.

I understand the basis of many Christians being against yoga, it being something that Hindus do to relate to their gods... but I don't think that it is contradictory to Christianity.  Let me explain:

To me yoga is a time of exercise, stretching, and a time to clear my mind.  As an ex-dancer, the stretching that I can get with yoga is something I miss greatly from dance classes.  It is something that I yearn for.

But I also like it because it helps me to forget the craziness of my day.  I have to focus on my breathing, on finding strength for the different poses, and on finding inner peace.  An inner peace that is focused on loving myself and being secure of where I am in that moment.  An inner peace that ultimately comes from God.

We finish off the practice with meditation.

I think it's funny that so many Christians have such an issue with meditation.  In complete honesty, I don't understand.  I think it's just because of the 'negative' connotation that has for many people.

Really I don't think that these things have to be separate from God though.  If we believe that God is with us always, we believe that God is with us when we do yoga, when we drive our cars, and when we are in the deepest depths of life.  Meditation helps me to focus on knowing God is always with me, and helps me feel closer to him and to forget about my other issues.

One of the most important things that I learn from yoga is rest.  By focusing my mind, not on the things of my day, but on Christ, I am learning to rest in him.  To put my hope in him.  To gain my strength from him.

But rest isn't exclusively in yoga.  Rest for me is found in a hike outside, in sitting outside, in drinking tea and reading a good book, in waking up peacefully when I want to, sitting in the middle of a field and thinking about God...

The concept of rest is something we often forget to do in our crazy, busy world.  We focus so much on other things, that remembering to sit back, reflect, and rest in God, is something we don't do.

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."- Mark 1:35

Take a few minutes to watch this video of Audrey Assad and a few band mates playing great music, and reflecting on what it means to rest, be still, and reflect on God.