Category Archives: God

Moving Forward

I hate to post something that’s mood-dampening, but I have felt many emotions since Tuesday night: shock, concern, and more – and I think it’s important to write them out. At the same time, I know I am very fortunate: the results of this election don’t affect me that much; my life can easily move on.

Many of the students I teach are recent immigrants, and they do not have the same privilege I do. I cried the day following the election, thinking of these children and their families, the life they want to lead, the work they put in, and the possibility that they might not be here a year from now. I couldn’t move on.
Immediately following the election results, I was mad. I was angry that the United States could have allowed this to happen: a billionaire businessman with no political experience, considered as a joke 18 months ago, against so many things the country holds dear, is now the president-elect. There are a lot of reasons and articles explaining why this happened, but I still had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this is happening for real. Sure, there was the slight chance that something might happen between now and inauguration day, but anybody who said Trump “wasn’t that bad” was in my line of fire. I was off Facebook on Wednesday, I think it was for the best.

After a little while, I began to think a little more. There just might be hope out there. Listening to Hillary Clinton’s speech gave me a case of the sniffles (Okay, there were tears.) All is not lost… right? Then I began to think about God. Where was He in all of this? I certainly don’t see Him in Trump, even if people have told me otherwise.

To those who did vote for Trump: I don’t think your votes intended to represent a bigoted, misogynist, ableist, anti-immigrant person. I presented an argument against Trump to you, and you defended him with things like:

Mocking people with disabilities isn’t okay, but…

Calling Mexicans rapists and criminals was out of line, but…

What he said about sexually assaulting women isn’t right, but…

“Whatever your reasons, a vote for Trump required a rationalization. In order to vote for Trump, something mattered more to you than his mistreatment or discrimination of certain groups.” (Shannon Dingle) You admit that Trump has said and done some things… but. You rationalize, defend, and as a result, support and voted for what that man represents. Remember: A half-hearted vote counts the same as the vote from his number one fan.

But you know what? I’m not here to rant, be angry, or insult. I’ve realized that I can’t wallow in my frustrations, because that is going to get me nowhere. I have to make a choice: love or hate. So, I decided that it’s the Jesus in me that will love the Jesus in you. I’m going to pray for him. I really, really, REALLY hope and will be praying for our country to come together. Trump begins his presidency in January (the truth, no matter how painful it is to type), even if we don’t agree with anything he stands for. The Bible says to pray for your leaders, so even if I don’t want him sitting in the White House, I need to pray for him. Even if I don’t see God in Trump, I will pray for God to move through him.

Some have suggested “You just need to move on.” When you move on, you forget and concede that “it’s okay, forget it”. I certainly have the privilege to do so, but I couldn’t do it on Wednesday – and I won’t anytime soon. However, with God’s help, I will be moving forward. Pain and sorrow like this doesn’t go away; it makes me who I am. And with everything I am, I put one foot in front of the other on the same dusty path, remembering His enduring faithfulness every step of the way.

 


Side note: I found some C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters fan fiction: letters from an older tempter/demon mentoring a younger one.  This quote still hits the nail on the head, and I think it relevant for a time like this.

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Christmas, China, and The Office

SantaBond

From The Office – a great show!

 

What is Christmas? To you, to me, to anyone. In China, a country where there are very few Christians (especially when compared to America), Christmas is still very much in session. However, it’s not for the reason that Jesus came to earth in the humblest of ways: in the form of a baby, born in a smelly, poop-filled stable. All the Christmas festivities celebrations we have were born out of the celebration of that fact. Now, if we go back in history there are some things that are simply for the joy of the winter season (e.g. hot cocoa, fireplaces, white snow, etc.) – and the Christmas tree a pagan tradition turned to a Christmas one. But things like Santa Claus/St. Nicholas, Christmas music, festive lights, gift exchanging – those all came out of the fact that God gifted Jesus to come on earth to be a light to us.

In China, Christmas is a time to make everything look awesome with light decorations – aesthetic only. They skim over the part about Jesus, but hey – even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or other religious winter holiday, it’s still fun to get presents and listen to cheery music. Right? Even if Christmas wasn’t a thing but the traditions were, I would definitely still get excited over getting presents, telling friends how much they mean to me, getting together with family, all the retail sales… generally speaking, it’s a fun time of year. At least, people work hard at making it so.

Thing is, Christmas used to have more meaning than lights, sales, and being a fun time of year. Sometimes in the cheeriness of it all, we forget the meaning and the joy – a god of the universe came to be human, sacrificed – for everyone! That’s something I get excited about when I think about it. Because of that, we can have peace – that we don’t have to be ‘good enough’ so that we can prove something to the rest of the world, but instead out of the saving of us we can find joy in doing good to others because of what God has done for us. One of my favorite Christmas songs is Joy to the World (which also happens to be playing in the airport right now):

Joy to the world, the Lord is come

Let Earth receive her king!

Let every heart prepare him room,

And heaven and nature sing!

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns

Let men their songs employ

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains,

Repeat the sounding joy!

He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove:

The glories of his righteousness

And wonders of His love!

So, my challenge to you is to find a meaning for Christmas, beyond the looks of it. Maybe it’s family, memories, or Jesus. But let it be more to you than how good it looks and sounds. Find a reason to be joyful this Christmas! Maybe it’s family, what God has done for you, happy memories of tradition.Whatever it is, don’t settle for the lights. Search and find a reason for this season.

Don't be Stanley! :)

Don’t be Stanley! 🙂

Believing in the Sun

I’m not going to lie: the last few days were not easy. I’m not writing about those things, though. I was journaling a lot last night and today, and I thought I would share an excerpt from what I’ve written. Journaling helps me to get my cluttered thoughts in down. Somehow my problems are less crazy than I realized, my thoughts more organized after I’ve written them out. So here it goes:

So, moving forward? … It’s putting my hopes, dreams – my literal dreams, too, if I can change that too – into something else. How about the sun? As long as I have been alive, it has come up every morning across the horizon. Now, it has come up at different times, but it’s always come around before 12. So for now, I’m starting from scratch and putting my hopes in things that I can see, like the sun.

This isn’t to say that I don’t believe in God anymore, or that I’ve lost faith in Him too, but that I’m going to be re-discovering, re-needing, and re-loving Him for a while.

I said I believe in the Sun. But today is an overcast, gray-skyed rainy day. I can’t see a single trace of the sun. So does it not exist? Well, it only takes a minute for me to imagine what the sky would look like were the sun not to exist, and then I reconsider that gray sky. I don’t believe in the sun because I see it – I believe in the sun because by it, I see everything else. So even on the cloudiest, grayest, rainiest of days, I can still know its existence by the things around me. Then you can’t blame the sun’s lack of existence on the rain or your bad vision. More than that, your belief of the sun exists more than based sight alone. The warmth of the sun on your face is a wonderful feeling, but it only proves the sun’s existence on a sunny day. To truly know the sun exists is not just to feel the warmth of it on a sunny day, but to acknowledge its presence on rainy days too. Even more than that, it is trusting beyond the evidence of the moment – so that even in the dark, black, cold moments of night, you are certain that the sun will rise again.

P.S. The sun idea wasn’t all me. Credit is due to to the Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun”, which I was listening to at the time of writing.

P.P.S. As it turns out, there is a C.S. Lewis quote that is very similar to what I wrote and sums it up well: “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

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Two Brief Quotes…

I can tell you my classes started yesterday, I’ve started running/exercising a lot more, and I joined the Gospel Choir at my school, but other than that I don’t have much time for an update.

Our worst days are never so bad that we are not beyond the reach of God. Our best days are never so good that we are not beyond the need of God’s grace.

-Jerry Bridges

I found this quote and have been repeating it a lot to myself. Mostly because it’s totally true, and entirely applicable. Another quote, from The Confessions of St. Augustine:

“Cramped is the dwelling of my soul; do Thou expand it, that Thou mayest enter in.”

That’s all for today.

End of Summer Thoughts

The end of summer?! It seems surreal. I’m starting this post by typing it on my bed at Cape Cod, where I’ve been with my family for the last two weeks, and ending it on my bed for the next nine months at my university, Gordon College. I’ve done a lot this summer, so I thought I’d start at the beginning…

I finished my last final exam on my birthday. Is that a good or bad thing? I haven’t decided yet. Only one class, one exam, and everything was finished afterwards. It felt good to be done with my first year! The next day, I went home – to start school again! I took Old Testament online. It’s a required class for me, so I decided to get it out of the way. For four intense weeks, I had a lot of assessments and work and reading every day. Except Sunday, of course. 🙂 During that time, I started a running program called Couch 2 5K (C25K) – over six weeks, this iPhone app would get you a little closer to running a 5K every day. After the course finished, I had a week to pack… for China!

I packed my bags and set off by myself. I blogged a lot about my time in China, so you can read all that for yourself – just scroll down. Like, a lot. To make a reeeeeally long story short, I met a lot of amazing people, saw some awesome things, and did some crazy and wonderful things as well – including teaching my own class for the first time, chopping off a lot of my hair, and white-water rafting down a heated man-made river with a tiny ladle instead of an oar! I miss them… but at the same time, I’m really glad to be back (at Gordon now)!

My return flight from China landed in Boston. I had a transfer in New Jersey (I don’t really get it, either), where I left my iPhone behind. Why Boston, you ask? My family was at Cape Cod, where we go every year, vacationing for two weeks. They arrived that day, and I joined them – with a little more jet lag than them, though. ha. It was good to have nothing to do for two weeks! I finally finished reading Gone With the Wind, which I had been working on all summer, and also read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the extra time. Good books, all of them! A few standouts from the Cape include our annual trip to the Chatham band concert, eating lobster, and traveling by boat to Martha’s Vineyard for the Grand Illumination.

Well, our time at the Cape eventually ended. The Saturday we checked out of our cottage, we road tripped to Gordon College, and I moved into my dorm. I was so excited to get back to Gordon! Gordon is really starting to feel like home now. I lived in the Fulton dorm last year, which is a right turn from the cafeteria. Now, I live in Ferrin hall (which I am super-excited for!), and a left-turn from the cafeteria. I didn’t realize how much I called Fulton home, because I’ve been subconsciously turning right to leave the cafeteria, instead of left. I think I’ll miss Fulton, but I know my time there is done. The Hill is not where I belong, especially during the winter trek down it! I am excited for what my year in Ferrin holds. My RA is awesome – already a big plus – and as my floor is mostly freshmen, I’ve gotten to meet several already. Unfortunately I’m not too good with names, so I’m hoping to get the names as we get on… heh.

My roommate’s birthday is today, and we’re planning a surprise for her. As in, kidnapping-esque surprise. Shhh. Anyways, I’m excited for classes to start, because I need routine in my life! – but even more excited to see everyone I’ve been missing all summer.

P.S. I said I was going to mention about my phone missing, but I didn’t have a really good place to talk about it. Well anyways, since I lost my phone, it’s been found at the airport and will be making its’ way back to me. Eventually. I’m not sure how long it will take. Since then, I’ve been figuring out how people have figured out civilized life for centuries without phones! I’m being very detailed with a planner (color-coding is involved), and using an old-fashioned alarm clock and everything. I’ve been stressing about this a lot, but something good has come out of it: I’ve been training for a 5K (using C25K this summer), but that required an app, and my phone provided the hardcore music I listened to while I ran. Now that I have no music but still have to run, I’ve been praying: about anything. Anything that comes to mind, I’ll pray for. I think I’ll take a list with me, to give me ideas, so when I go for longer runs, I won’t run out of ideas. Instead of distracting me from my run and how much I hate running right now, I’m refocusing – focusing on what’s really important. I like that.

45. Reunions

46. Gordon College, with every strength and weakness

47. Hard goodbyes.

winniethepooh

China 9: Final Thoughts

Well, I’m not typing any of this in China. I arrived back in the US of A on Saturday evening, and now that it’s Wednesday I figured I should write something on concluding thoughts for my China trip.

NDcampus

It’s not my first trip to China, and it’s definitely not my last – same with the organization I worked with. But this trip was special in its own way: I met people, I did things, that all left an impression on me. For starters, the people: I have always visited ND with my family – not a bad thing, but if you’re with people you’ve been with your entire life, it isn’t a terribly new experience. Coming to ND by myself, on my own, was very different and I loved it. One of the things I really appreciated about ND was their emphasis on community. They really encouraged a community feel among the workers and staff there, which really enriched the experience. Have you ever enjoyed working with people you talked with on an as-needed basis? I loved being with really great people, and not Americans either – Ireland and England joined the party too. Secondly, the things I did there at ND were different than what I had done in previous years. I taught my own class (!!!), and assisted in teaching another class. Teaching both special needs kindergarten and middle schoolers both gave me confirmation: regular early childhood education is where I want to be. I loved both classes, but they were not something I would want to do long-term. Still, I have a lot more respect for middle school and special ed teachers.

I have been blessed by the opportunity to travel to China again, on my own, meet so many fantastic people, and grow in so many ways. I am encouraged to see so much of God’s work being done through this organization, and through the willing, faithful, dreaming people working there. They inspire you – the children and the staff – to search into the faith from which they draw so much strength from, the simple love that they share, the community bond – and above all, the joy despite the circumstances they were put in. Which goes into my next point: their circumstances have become testimonies to God’s power and work. God’s will has been done through these people, and the difficult times have only brought a bigger testament to what God can do.

China is more than just my heritage; it is a culture and a place I’ve had the privilege of growing up in, and now returning to. As I eat the food, experience the subway system, learn the language, I’m just getting a taste (sometimes literally!) of the God’s Kingdom that is so much bigger than I comprehend. I am excited for what’s ahead, not just for what I’m going to learn when school starts up again in a few weeks, but for God’s will in my life – wherever that will take me.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever! Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-21, NLT

Who Am I?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is awesome. If you know who and what he is, you probably agree. This is a poem of his:

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

What did you think? Amazing, like me? We often find ourselves thinking that we are a million different things – but truth is, we are God’s! And that is the best news of all. 🙂

“…I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” -Romans 7:15-25 (excerpt)