Tuesday, April 12, 2011

[dreams] as big as vultures eyes

so many thoughts. i met a new friend through an old friend here at school tonight and i've just been thinking. i was sharing with him over coffee what i think about community and relationships, and he asked me if i thought it was even possible in the US. wow. i feel like it's possible to recreating God-fearing community here, but it would be downright hard. there are a number of christian communities like this in the states, i just wonder if i'm called toward something different. maybe not. maybe i'm supposed to stay here and serve and love the very people i feel frustrated with sometimes. our conversation tonight at my favorite south bend irish pub started me thinking once again about my future and what that looks like. it would be a tragedy for me to have experienced what i did in the Dominican and to turn around and pursue the American dream. that has nothing that i desire. i feel so dissatisfied right now. that's not to say that i'm not happy, that i'm not incredibly blessed or that i don't have beautiful relationships. i just wonder if there is something so much greater in this life than graduating from college and starting the career ladder. there has got to be more for me than that. i'm realizing that i serve a God who desires for me to dream big. so i'm dreaming big. my heart is open, all of my options are open, i feel that i have been created for something great. god, lead me.

i've been thinking a lot about that "American Dream" lately. timing is interesting becuase we are talking in my US History class right now about how the american people started to lose sight of that dream in the 70's with Vietnam and Richard Nixon, up until this day, in this economy where for some people there is no hope or sight of that dream any longer. i just wonder what that dream really is. i'll be quick to admit that i still catch myself wanting money, things, popularity and a lot of friends on facebook. i'm not saying any of this out of a spirit of judgement or from a different platform. i am so much in the midst of it. i'm just questioning the point of this "dream". i mean, is there even one thing about the american dream that is biblical? security? maybe. happiness? not usually. status? yes, but does that matter? there are just so many questions i have about whether my goal in life would be to go to church on sundays but on monday join in on the rat race where there are winners and losers, and people who are left behind with hungry kids and cold fingers. i don't think king david, a man who is said to have been a man after God's own heart, wanted to have a new volkswagon or the biggest house on the block, complete with in-ground swimming pool and an environmentally friendly heating/cooling system. so why should i? i don't buy into the idea that the times have changed and that the american dream is the new normal or what God desires for us. i learned in the Dominican that i am not called to a life of comfort. why do i get to be comfortable when others are cold and hungry? because i'm white? becuase i'm an american? i thank God that i was blessed with these comforts, but i no longer require them.

i often ask myself that if God called me to leave everything and follow him, just as Jesus called the disciples in the New Testament. i'll be honest in saying that some days i feel like i would say yes, but most days i would hesitate, exposing my true heart. right now i'm finishing up Dorothy Day's autobiography. talk about a woman who left everything and followed God's calling in her life. now don't get all caught up in the fact that she was a Catholic or a political radical for a time, but think about her obedience, her commitment to her call. she only allowed herself a few years of her own life to 'live the dream', which she willingly gave up for her faith and her calling. reading about her life and her passion makes me feel like i just coast through life in a constant state of apathy. what was hers she gave away, welcoming others into her home, starting a movement which still to this day aides the poor and homeless in America. what a beautiful legacy. a legacy becuase she was obedient and did not allow her desire for comfort to get in the way of the vision that God placed on her heart. God, give my courage like hers to do the things you call me to do.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Open up Your Eyes and Look Past Your Front Door

these are some thoughts that i had today after my first class:

i think i am learning tha tthe end result of all of these changes that God is making in me is not that i would become bitter or jaded. as God develops my sense of discernment and i learn to see right and wrong in my life,  my college campus, the church, the point is not that i reject those things becuase i see wrong or sin in them. it's all about love right? i think the point in my newly developed heart of discernment is so i could be in love with the things that break my heart.
so many people get so bitter towards the hypocrisy on my college campus, but what would it look like if instead of turning my back on Bethel in judgement, if i embraced and loved on those people who claim one thing but live another way? i think bitterness, judgementalism, or escapism is just a cop-out, just as bad as being a hypocrite. i mean, all sins are equal before the throne of God right? more than hypocrisy, i am becoming disgusted by christians who abandon their brothers and sisters due to self-righteousness, judgement and superiority. it is not acceptable to claim Christ and reject our brothers and sisters. i have been so guilty of this sin in the past, but i so see the evidence of God speaking to me softly in this area. love. that's what it's about right? that's what i've been saying. it's so much easier to love the poor and the marginalized, becuase when we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are forced to face our own ugliness, our own filthy, broken souls. oh, that i would have the strength and courage to love the broken hypocrites around in me in this place, because i am nothing more than one of them. i hope that i will continue to be broken in this way. the destruction of my pride and self-righteousness. the destruction of my desire, and ultimately my very ability, to judge others. how can i go about desiring, yearning for community when i so quickly reject the very community that i live in? i am starting to see some of God's purpose in bringing me back to this place. to learn to truly love.

one of my professors showed us a video in class today of a pastor speaking on the crucifixion of Christ. it rocked me. his throught were that God's wrath was poured out on Christ as he hung on the cross. what is that even? throughout the old testament, i read about God's wrath and punishments and have often wondered why we do not experience that today. the answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus was not sweating blood in the garden before he was crucified because he was afraid of the physical pain of being crucified, the injustice of being sinless and on trial, or the embarassment of being before a crowd for unjust reasons. no, none of those things caused that kind of stress. Jesus sweat blood because he knew that God's wrath was about to be poured out on him. God's past wrath, his present wrath, and the biggest of all, the wrath, anger and fury for all of the sins yest to be committed against the law of God for all of the rest of history. what would it feel like to die for the future generation, to die for people that had not yet been created or made those bad decisions? this thought of God's wrath rocks everything i have learned about the crucifixion before. how we have cheapened Christ's sacrifice. Jesus' expereince was so much more than physical pain. this explains too why the martyrs of the first century endured horrific physical torture for the name of Christ, but Christ's sacrifice was the one that atoned for our sin. i don't understand what it would feel like to be one of mind with God but to still voluntarily bear the weight of God's wrath. what courage. what love. with this understanding, how could i ever again doubt that God loves me so much, so unconditionally?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I've Built a Wooden Heart inside this Iron Ship

I thought that last post was the end of this blog for a while, but even if no one reads this I need to get these thoughts out. Just as a disclaimer, I think that this blog will no longer serve as a way to let my friends and family know what I'm up to, but will now become a way for me to write down my thoughts. There are infinite ways in my life where I see the impact that my trip had on me. Everything, I mean absolutely everything is different now. Some of those things are incredible and encouraging changes, ones that I would never reverse, but some are heartbreaking and require a daily decision to change or work through. I have to daily check and make sure that I am not showing an attitude of superiority or judgement because many around me have not had an experience like the one I had. I also have to check myself and remember that not everyone is in a place of incredible growth and renewal as I am, some people are stuck in a place of complacency, even as I was for so long.

One thing that has been radically changed since my return from the Dominican is the way that I view the Holy Spirit. While I was gone, I read the book "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan, which talks all about how we have forgotten to teach about, to listen to the Holy Spirit. Growing up, I always knew that there was a third part of the Holy Trinity along with the Father and Son, but I never knew what the purpose of the Holy Spirit was. I heard a sermon recently where the pastor talked about the Holy Spirit, saying that what we normally call a "concsience" is really the Holy Spirit speaking truth to us and leading us in the right and healthy direction. The Holy Spirit is speaking to us when we feel guilt, shame, or regret, but also when we have an indescribable urging. My mentor and I talk about how we know it is the Holy Spirit leading us because he often asks us to do things completely out of our comfort zone or normal action. I think the first time that I am absolutely sure that I felt the Holy Spirit leading me was when I asked my mentor to begin meeting with me. I ws terrified, but I couldn't leave class that night without talking to her. Hands shaking, eyes tearing, I walked up to her after class and asked her for help. If any of you know me really at all, you know that I hate asking for help. The Holy Spirit asked me to do something that I did not want to do, and I totally see the fruit and blessings that have already resulted from that relationship. Looking back, I would say that the first time I talked to her about myself about a year and a half ago, I say it was one of the "Holy Moments" that Francis Chan talks about. A moment where heaven meets earth and I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, even if only for a moment. Beautiful.

The topic of the Holy Spirit has always been one that is difficult for me to grasp, because as we read in 1 Kings 19:11-13, the Holy Spirit speaks to us in quiet whispers, not on billboards or through megaphones. I so struggle with the idea that I have not heard God's voice, it frustrates me that I have asked for it and it has not been given to me. I mean, I'm not asking God to move a mountain, but simply to hear a whisper saying "Beloved, I am here". I will be honest in saying that I often find myself jealous of people who can say that they have. I had some beautiful conversations this week about what it looks like to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. For me, it may look like gradually developing the ability to discern between my thoughts and the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to me inside of my own mind. I'll admit, I'm a little discouraged by the idea that this will happen at time, because I am the perfect example of what our instant society creates, but I know it will be a skill well-worth developing.

I so often doubt the presence and the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life, but since returning from my adventure, it seems almost impossible to ignore the changes that have taken place within me. I care. That's different. I want to be the best version of myself that I can be. Before, I was so content to settle for "good", but now that's not even an option. I want to be better. I long to be closer to my Abba, to read my Bible, to have beautiful honest conversation, to wake up early to pray. One of the ways I am continuing to learn about the Holy Spirit working in my life is that I am in a Bible study on my college campus. We are reading through the book of Acts in the New Testament and discussing each time that Scripture records the activity of the Holy Spirit, which, by the way, is all the time. It's been so beneficial for me to feel comfortable asking questions in my group and to really take a deeper look at what God is showing us. I am in a group with a professor, and four other students, both girls and boys. It has been such a great thing to be able to study God's Word in a group that is diverse like this. All of us have different backgrounds, which allow us to each bring out own view to the table.

This leads me to the next thing I have been experiencing in a whole new way: COMMUNITY. What a beautiful idea. I learned so much about community in the Dominican, and I have been looking for ways to build Godly community here at school, which is not an easy task. Being in a Bible Study is a beautiful type of learning community where we offer our own opinions. I also have been blessed with a couple of incredibly unexpected friendships. It's so refreshing to be able to be honest with another person and to know that there is no judgement. We spend time asking difficult questions, ones that are not acceptable to ask in certain Christian circles. I have also been learning that community isn't always easy and wonderful, but that is part of the beauty of it: that it is sometimes difficult but there is such reward when we stick with it and continue to invest in relationships, becuase people matter.

I went to a show in South Bend last week with a friend. It completely rocked my world, again. Dan Smith from Listener and Derek Zanetti from The Homeless Gospel Choir visited us and shared words between songs. Dan was talking about difficult circumstances when he shared with us that when we are faced with situations that are difficult, testy friendships, difficult classes, non-ideal work situations. When we have these rough places in our lives what we should do is to "LOVE.. UNTIL IT LOVES YOU BACK". Wow. Over the past 10 or so days this has made itself true to me in so many ways. This idea requires that I take an active part in my life instead of sitting back with a "woe is me" attitude complaining about everything in my life that is not easy. We have never been promised an easy life, I don't know why we all get so consumed with that desire. But in those moments when things are hard and a certain person requires and extra dose of patience, or another thing you do at work goes unnoticed, love. Love it until it loves you back.

Because that's what it's all about right? love? You're probably all thinking of that certain popular Beatles song in your heads right now, but as I read through the Bible this year and look especially into the life of Jesus, that's what the Gospel message is all about. I have a friend who is doing a research project with homeless individuals in South Bend, and he could tell you so many stories and proofs that what those people truly need is not a hot meal or a place to stay warm at night, but what their hearts really desire is to be loved, to have a person to talk to and care for them. I went last weekend to meet and hang out with some of those individuals at a homeless shelter, and I was struck by the beauty of their friendships. They look out for one another and care for each other dearly. Love.

Another thing that I heard at the show last week which has been running through my head is something that Derek said. He said that there is so much in this world that we could be worried about, that we could spread ourselves to thin failing to fix. But the truth of it is that we can only do so much, and that we should start with trying "TO BE THE BEST SELVES WE CAN BE". This isnt' some selfish desire to focus only on our own problems or successes. The result that I see from this in my own life is that once I begin to work on myself (the plank in my eye), then I begin to desire to see those around me do the same (the speck in theirs). Once I begin to experience what it looks like to be close to God, to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking truth and direction into my life, there is no doubt in my mind that I will want others to experience that as well. I have already begun to have difficult conversations out of love for my friends and family, with the desire to see them be their best selves.

I never knew that two 30 minute sets of music could change and effect my thoughts so dramatically, but they did. Those were Holy Moments in my life.