Brazil

Got back from Brazil this week. Our church does a short term mission trip there every year. It was my first year to go and it was incredible. I’m still trying to process everything.

It was so cool to see how God answered prayers while we were there. We even got to see some of the fruits of our work while we were there. There were some rough times for me personally but overall it was just wonderful and I can’t wait to go back next year.

I might write something more detailed about the trip at some point in the future. I’ll have to plan it out.

School Has Started

Seminary school started two weeks ago. I’ve been busy. So many events to go to, so many new people to meet, so many new things to read! Plus I volunteer at church, and I have to work. And take care of my mental health. It’s a lot! How does God fit into the picture?

A common problem with studying theology is that it tends to focus too much on the knowledge and not nearly enough on the spiritual learning. I’m beginning to see how that’s entirely possible. At the same time, I’m encouraged by my professors. I’m taking two classes on campus, and both classes begin with prayer to focus ourselves on why we’re there in the first place. For my online courses, the professors are always bringing in the spiritual piece to the conversation. Back on campus, we have chapel, where we have a speaker give a talk on spiritual matters. It’s encouraging to be at a place like this.

This week I have started to get scared. I have a lot of work to do over the weekend. But I also have other commitments. I’m worried about how I’ll get everything done. I had a bit of a breakdown at work this morning and had to go home. Then I slept for literally half the day.  This only adds to my worries. But I’m going to be strong and confident. I’ll get through this. I’ll work diligently at doing what I can, chip away, and study at every moment I have.

What I’m learning most is that God is good. School’s tough. It’s busy. It’s stressful. But I’m hopeful. I’m learning so much. And I’m encouraged by everything I read and hear. A thing here or there strike me differently and get me thinking but it’s a good sign. I’m excited for all that this semester will bring!

 

Normal Anxieties

Remember how I was excited about getting back to my goals? Well, I ended up catching a cold. Coughing, sneezy, runny nose, body aches. So much for watching my diet and exercising. Haven’t eaten much. Haven’t moved much. Pretty much sucks. This kind of sick just has to run its course. It better hurry up, because I’ve got stuff to do!

One week until I start seminary school. Later this week is orientation. I’m super excited to get started already! I’m ready to learn! I’m also getting nervous. What if it’s too hard? What if I can’t keep up? What if I fail? These are normal anxieties. A lot of people feel this way when they step up to something big. But that’s why they’re big dreams. Not everyone has the courage, will, and determination to do it. So here I am, making my attempt, answering the call. And I will be successful. It’s a path that I’m ready to take on. Each step will lead me to bigger and bright things in the future.

 

“May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,

your saving power among all nations.”
(Psalm 67:1–2)

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”
(Isaiah 60:1)

The Mountain Air

The last couple of days have been especially rough. I could not see any break of light. I was trapped in the black thicket of my mind. I asked my parents to take me to the hospital because I didn’t feel safe from myself. I couldn’t go to work. My mom had to drive me to work, and I still couldn’t go in. Again I said I needed to go to the hospital. I feel ashamed of that. I feel like I should have been able to get a hold of myself. But I couldn’t. Did I not have enough courage? Did I not have enough strength? Was I not trying hard enough? How I must have let them down. They must have lost respect for me. As a business, how can they trust me? I’m not reliable. If I can’t work, how can I do anything else? These thoughts are plaguing me. How can I express these feelings to my employer? Should I even disclose it? These questions go unanswered.

But. I’m doing better. We didn’t go to the hospital. I’ve been continuing to go to the gym. It’s so hard, but it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I’ve lounged in my pajamas for half the day, but haven’t succumbed to sleeping. Went out for coffee, went errand shopping. Laid down and read a book. Essentially I’ve been avoiding stress. Not sure if that’s good, or? I haven’t confronted my negative feelings. I can think about it now though. My parents’ love over the last few days shows me how much my parents so care for me. They’ve dropped everything to help me feel better. My mom made me breakfast. She took me out to lunch. She bought me some office supplies (which I secretly love). I’ve been bombarded with love.

I’m avoiding writing about how God fits into this picture. Anything I can think to say is so cliché. But it doesn’t make it any less true. I’m trying to come up with a better way to say this. God has been like clear mountain air. You’re hiking through the mountains, enjoying the scenery and all the beautiful trees, and peaks out in the distance. You’re breathing the air and it’s beautiful. On the trail you see some bear scat. And you get scared. It’s fresh. It stinks, it’s in the middle of the path. There’s a bear nearby. So you proceed with caution. Maybe you even see the bear. But all around you is still the mountain air. You can count on it. It has never left you. So you keep going. Soon enough the air is fresh again. The pine trees and the mountain laurels are perfume. You realize how satisfying the air is to your lungs. You breathe it in and feel full of joy. And you keep going on your journey trusting that the air will always be with you. He is the breath of life. A that’s just one piece of God.

“Jesus & a Latte: Evangelism Over Coffee”

Two cups of coffee. Two lattes actually. Two rose flavored lattes to be specific. So delicious. I mean, just yum. So good. I highly recommend a rose latte or two.

Today was a rather weird but good day. Not sure what kind of head space I’ve been in all day. I’ve been feeling pretty good lately. But while I was on my way to meet a friend I suddenly started feeling pretty down. I was thinking about some past relationships, and it just really bummed me out. Got me into thought patterns about not being good enough. This is pretty typical of me, and I don’t know where it stems from. Meeting up with my friend was good though. We had a good conversation about some of this. We reminded each other about how much God loves us.

Rose Latte. It was sweet, but not too sweet. Definitely flowery. I had asked the barista if they still had the Lavender Latte. He picked up the lavender syrup to show me that they always have it. As he was putting it back I noticed a bottle that had pink petals on it, so I asked, “Is that rose syrup?” Sure enough. He looked at me strange as if a rose latte was weird. But I am here to tell you that a Rose Latte is like, the best thing, ever. Now I have to go buy rose flavored syrup to make rose lattes at home. I’ll have to separate it into smaller bottles to take with me whenever I go to a coffee shop, and spike up my latte with rose syrup.

It’s not simply that Jesus loves me. He does. But what that means is that he wants to care for me. He wants me to spend my time with him. He wants to see me succeed in the plans that he has laid out for me. He calls me beautiful. He calls me his own. He calls me worthy. He gives me grace when I mess up. He loves me even when I forget about him. He pursues me because he needs me. He gave his life for me. He says what he means and means what he says. He listens when I’m sad. He comforts me when I cry. He sings with me when I’m joyful. He’s happy when I’m happy. Because he loves me.

Rose Latte. Highly recommended. The latte chose me. It was meant to be. Jesus. Highly recommended. Jesus chose me. It was meant to be. Jesus and a latte do not equal each other. But maybe that should be the name of my book, “Jesus & a Latte: Evangelism Over Coffee.”

 

Read Scripture: Judges

An overview on the book of Judges to get you a little up to speed before reading my take.

 

My Take on Judges Ch. 2

“And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger.” (Judges 2:12)

The book of Judges goes through several stories after the rule of Joshua during which there was peace and obedience to the Lord. During this time the Israelites had forgotten all the things that the Lord had done during Joshua’s time. They were a generation that was corrupted by the world around them. They served other gods above the Lord.

“Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.” (Judges 2:18-19)

These Israelites literally served other gods. Idol worship existed in every household at that time. Although the god of the Israelites asked them to follow only him, they went their own way and basically tried to assimilate into this local culture and it brought them destruction.

In our world today idol worship means a very different thing. In our world we worship wealth, prosperity, power, relationships, careers, sports teams, politics, hobbies, comfort, all these things. You could add a multitude to this list of things that we put above god.

Now, there’s this story in the New Testament about a Samaritan woman at a well that meets Jesus. (See John 4:16-26). They chat a bit. They talk about worship. Jesus says to the woman, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:22-23)

The Old Testament God was angry. “Whenever [the Israelites] marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress” (Judges 2:14). But god keeps giving them rulers (judges) to bring them back to himself. He gives them chances to be redeemed and forgiven.

In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan, he is telling her that worship should be directed at the Father and no one or thing else. Everything else is a false idol when we put them above god. They can be tools to bring others to god, but they cannot replace god. Plus these idols do not have the ability to forgive our sins the way Christ can. Ultimately we are all ruled and judged by Christ himself and he is good, forgiving, and gracious. The story of the Israelites and the Judges is what we deserve when we are disobedient. When Christ died, he was sacrificed with all of our sins on him so that we no longer bear them. We are free from the wrath that the LORD would have put upon us. Because he has already done it by sacrificing his son.