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Archive for September, 2011

28 September 2011

Everything seems to be crashing in.

Am I being serious right now? I am extremely blessed to be in Florence, Italy studying and living life among a people group that is so fascinating to me.  I even read about Italian culture, so why waste time leaving it when I can become like them?

Today, I passed an acquaintance as she finished a jog, and for the first time just blabbed on about my honest impression right now..

She asked, “Hey, how are you?” And instead of the plain-Jane, “I’m great, how about you..” I figured this is an opportunity to insist on prayer.

I continued on about how I came to Europe with 10 1/2 months to check off 30 countries. Now that I am here–in Italia–I keep traveling on these pre-paid excursions that I never intended to spend money on.  Now, assume that I am enjoying the trips, because I am, but I had every intention of star-gazing and wine tasting at a Tuscan vineyard, photographing Lake Garda and the Italian villages around, experiencing life in Monte Carlo, visiting the 2nd smallest country–Monaco, and spending a nice weekend on the beaches and biking the towns of the Amalfi Coast.  These are the trips of Italy I desired most.  None of which have occurred nor seem to be plausible during this trip, due to change of seasonal conditions and cancellations.

You can say I am bummed out. The thing with me is though, I want to enjoy life so much that you may never know something is effecting my experience until you ask with every intention of listening.

Perhaps with this jogger, I saw the sweet, honest, loving Son grabbing for my attention.

This is His trip..it is not, nor will it ever be about me.  I am passionate about Italian culture and family structure, so in order to apply their life style to my therapeutic techniques, I must open my eyes and ears: see and hear the bells of Florence.

And guess what.. it is now 4 hours later from my little frantic phase, and I am glorifying God with a dinner in a nearby suburban town.  I have now met an Italian family of 5–2 boys and 1 girl, like my family. They have asked me into their home whenever I’d like to join them for games, food, and conversation.  The two youngest are twins, and the eldest son is 17 and possibly “too good” to come to dinner and meet me tonight.

The mom lost her best friend about two months ago and since then has chopped her hair and became a vegetarian.  It is nice to have our cooking and food interest in common, but her life changes are not seeming to drown out the family’s joy for life.

The kids and father know very little English, so the mom told me after about 30 minutes of meeting me, that her son likes me, and told me how to say it back to him in Italian.

God is so good and I look forward to celebrating birthdays, and perhaps Christmas with them!

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18 November 2008

During my time interning for Outreach,Inc. Events, one of my co-workers was in the process of publishing her devotionals into a book.  Since then she has celebrating book signings and public speaking engagements.

This devotional post was written during my Senior yer of high school and was very much influenced by the other student leaders at my high school.

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[Singleness, From A Teenager’s Perspective by Melanie Demlinger]– “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Who honestly can say they have faith in the average teenager? Teens are known for car accidents, partying, cursing, and not taking responsibility in general. Temptation is everywhere.

High school-aged, as well as younger and older students are currently being judged. We are competing to become the popular girl/boy on campus, or for someone of the opposite sex, we’re changing who we are for others.

We are creating this evil by recognizing what we consider to be cool, when all it is, is wrong. We are the ones who create this image we want to be, when all we live here for is to love and serve all through our Heavenly Father.

God sent Jesus to die on the cross while we were all sinners to forgive any past, present, or future sins (Romans 5:8).

So why are we competing to be the best at something, when there is always a greater being up there?

At church, with our church friends, with fellow believers in a closed off community it can be easy to share His love, but in a school environment where the “bad students” roam free, we tend to bring ourselves closer to being worthless.

By not standing up for what we believe and by sheltering off those who may influence us, we are not serving all. He wishes to work in all of us, but He comes for the wounded, the sick, the ones we decide are unworthy of what we have as His family. We are not given that power to stay safe inside the church walls, we are put in tough situations to love and serve Him in everything we do, everything!

Yes, He has blessed us. Yes, He wishes to know all our details. Yes, He wishes to be our Head, our Heart, and our Soul (Matthew 22:37-39, Ephesians 4:15-15). He will lead us to live out more than our greatest dreams, on His time line.

Sometimes it may require a loss, giving up baseball, swim, a friend, or a hobby, maybe even a love, but He has a plan, He knows all and has a reason for everything. Although it may feel like a great loss, in the end we are gaining more than we could ever deserve.

It is time we stop making that so difficult on ourselves and our peers. We can grow in Him with the aid of our surrounding followers, or bring those who we see suffer to the aid of His magnificence.

Why don’t we start loving those around us? Let’s stop being so consumed in ourselves and serve those who need Him. Acts 20:35 says, “It is more blessed to give, then to receive.”

We are blessed in all we have; can’t we begin to realize it?

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28 September 2011

Is it rude to tell someone to stop chewing so loudly? Or is it rude to walk out of a room, grab ear-buds, and blast music every time a roommate begins to eat?

My family bonds through experiencing the world together, we spend our time together on flights, cruises, and/or road trips.  So throughout two decades of yearly and semi-annual travel, I began to hate the smell of food in the car, and even more so the noise of my mom eating crackers and chips in the front passenger’s seat.

Now, I can eat out with somebody, but if they start chopping, I begin to speak louder. In the convenience of my own home, I demand watching a television show, youtube clip, or listening to music during a meal. It has become such a big deal to me, that I use the excuse, “I can’t eat in silence” or “This is my only free time to watch a show.”

I can not stand the sound of chomping–apples, chips, cereal, or any foods that make sound come out..

Pretty much, when you eat with your mouth closed and take smaller bites, you will be perfectly safe and sound around me for a polite meal.

My biggest concern with the formation of such “pet peeves,” however, is not the irritation itself, but the effects of my needing constant noise.  For example, in college years, the majority of students only sit together and enjoy conversation or company during a meal. There is also the study habit of munching to stay awake and alert.

Presently, while I write, one roommate just finished a mean bowl of cereal, and another sat, opened her laptop, and is now snacking on an even louder, crumblier-sounding dish.

“Silent Night” just stepped up a couple more notches on volume, and an undetected glare was passed.

It is so easy to gain these habits and nearly lose control of our own reactions. How are we supposed to allow for second impressions when we can’t get passed the first upset.  Yes you can forgive and forget, but pet peeves keep coming…

Does this mean, to protect current and future relationships, we must rid our small annoyances? Are we meant to remain ignorant to what we like and dislike? Or just act as if we are?

Why is it sometimes so easy to think hatred, but so hard to express it?

It isn’t that I hate my roommates for doing these things, nor do I hate myself for not expressing my concerns..but it is an annoyance.  It hinders my mood when I am present in situations concerning food, chirping, and other strange noises in the apartment, and it hinders any existing common ground between the people in the room.

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25 September, 2011

For some time now God has been proving to me that, I must be humbled. Many of us speak about being broken in order to be restored again in His image, and I believe that this brokenness comes after a time when Christians become prideful, arrogant, and in turn, lost in what His plan is for our lives.

As a student of psychology, leadership, philosophy, and theology, I am constantly aware of what titles describe my personality, abilities, traits, strengths, and gifts, but never have I been told how this may appear to the world and what it means to God.

Instead, I have recently been provoked by Socrates, “I know that I do not know.”

Is being wise all about knowing that there is so much I do not know, or is it simply the ability to apply what I have become experienced in?

In response, I have posted below the definitions of my top four spiritual gifts, from Gifted2Serve:

Wisdom: The special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to know how given knowledge may best be applied to specific needs arising in the Body of Christ.
This gift is a practical gift. Those with this gift have an excellent ability to apply spiritual truth to everyday life. Often, people in the church naturally seek out people with this gift when they are facing complicated spiritual problems. When a person with this gift considers past experience, they realize that they often make good and correct decisions and judgements. Scriptures: Proverbs 4:5-8; Acts 6:3, 10; 15:13-20; 20:20-21; Romans 12:17; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-14; Colossians 1:28.

 Hospitality: “The special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to provide an open house and a warm welcome to those in need of food and lodging.”
This gift is a practical gift. Those with this gift have an acute awareness of visitors and have a desire to make all people feel welcome. People with this gift enjoy visitors in their home, and are usually not bothered if someone stops by and their home is not spotless. Those with this gift are a key to helping new people become a part of the group. Scriptures: Acts 16:14-15; Romans 12:9-13; 16:23; Hebrews 13:1-2; 1 Peter 4:9.

Mercy: “The special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals (both Christian and non-Christian) who suffer from distressing physical, mental, or emotional problems, and to translate that compassion into cheerfully done deeds which reflect Christ’s love and alleviate the suffering.”
This gift is a practical gift. Those with this gift find themselves visiting and assisting those in need, and often feel the pain of the person they are helping within themself. People with this gift find it extremely difficult not to help those who seem less fortunate than themself. Those with this gift generally enjoy helping those with physical or mental problems and do well in ministries involving visiting hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and shut-ins. Scriptures: Matthew 20:29-34; 25:24-40; Mark 9:41; Luke 10:33-35; Acts 11:28-30; 16:33-34; Romans 12:8; Jude 22-23.
Note: The gifts of Helps, Mercy, and Service are often confused. Helps focuses on Christian works and freeing others to accomplish their God-given ministries. Mercy focuses on people in distress and reflects God’s love and compassion. Service focuses on accomplishing little tasks that may otherwise go undone in order to move the greater goal of the ministry or church toward completion.

Faith: “The special ability that God gives certain members of the Body of Christ to discern with extraordinary confidence the will and purposes of God for His work.”
This gift is a practical gift. Those with this gift often scare other people with their confidence. People with this gift are often very irritated by criticism, as they consider it to be criticism against God and His will. Probably the biggest danger for those with this gift is that they often try to project their gift onto other people. Scriptures: Acts 11:22-24; 27:21-25; Romans 4:18-21; 1 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 11.

I know that I would not be the person I am today, nor would I be created if it were not for the Father’s blessings, however, I was living before I recognized His presence in my life.  Therefore, I question, in what part of my life would I completely crumble if the support beam–the Holy Spirit–were to leave me? Where do I not have faith in the Father every moment I breath? What part of my life do I think is so sacred, I will not omit its’ influence on me, and present it before the Father?

By any chance,  do I blur the line between my spiritual gifts–my personal abilities–and the parts of me that are completely open to the Father’s presence: His actions?

If I am strong when it comes to applying knowledge, helping others, believing, and welcoming, may I then be more committed to the Father, and presenting hearts to Him, in these times.

After all, according to the spiritual gifts inventory, to be wise is to apply knowledge to life in such a way as to make spiritual truths quite relevant and practical in proper decision-making and daily life situations (1 Corinthians 12:8).

With all this said and done, my version of Socrates’ philosophy is best stated: ” I know that I do not know what I am not to know, but I am getting to know the Heavenly Father through the Spirit and Son, and He knows me well.”

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24 September 2011

Recently, I mentioned that it is difficult at times for me to say, “I love you.” Reason being, I don’t know the way someone will take it.  If you are a Believer, and I say it, you understand that God loves you and He loves me, and therefore, I love you through Him.  However, do I love friends, new acquaintances, family, and strangers the same? Do I love non-believers and believers in the same way, as well?

The recipient of this comment then replied, saying: To me, saying “I love you” is about me recognizing the love God has for a person.

This explanation seemed undeniably beautiful, as God does love us all, no single individual goes unloved.

However, in terms of romantic relationships, is this love different? Can you only feel this type of love with the sexual attraction justified by His grace for one person in all the earth?

From personal experience, this matter is a bit hazed over. Until the truth came out after my Grandma’s funeral service, I always used my grandparent’s affection for each other as the perfect image of a healthy couple.  In matters of financial inheritance, lawyers and family members began to argue, and people stopped respecting one another, as well as speaking to each other all together.  The fact was: my grandfather cheating on my Grandma Marjie at a young age. Now, she passed away in her early 60’s, but towards the beginning of her career, when my Grandpa Paul really supported her with time, energy, and work, he met a co-worker whom apparently either seduced him, or they felt a mutual pull.  I don’t know the details, nor do I know if I will ever be prepared to know how far this relation went, or to what extent this lady stayed with him.  But for 40 years or so, she would write him for holidays and just to say “Hi.”  My understanding, is that my grandma found out and they discussed it, she knew also about the continued letters.

My grandparents stayed together, working on their relationship, raising grand kids, and watching their 3 children succeed and struggle in life.

They both were so wise and caring.  I wish now, that my Grandpa could give me words of advice when it comes to love and how to know who it is to dedicate myself too, etc., but that opportunity has passed.

For his experience, the last words my Grandma said to him were to be happy, and if that meant remarrying the lady of the past, then do so.

How brave is she? I love her so much! A love that means respect and admiration, with a desire to hold on to.

Having done so, Grandpa reunited with this lady of his past and they married within the year of my Grandma’s passing, on a Hawaiian island, alone.  The camera man as the witness, for they knew, they were not being supported by their loved ones.

Love. Does being blood related or related by marriage automatically give you the honor and duty to love another? And in times of discontent, is there a different emotion you feel that does not directly correlate with love, but hatred? How can you feel both emotions for the same human being?

Humans are flawed by definition, so we are to love one another even in times of weakness.

However, my biggest concern is, if my Grandpa was hopelessly devoted to this woman for all the years between their meeting and marriage, how did he convince us all that he was so devoted and in love with Grandma? Or did it take no convincing at all, for he was in love?

There is Agape love, the love of the Father, for God Himself is the definition of love. But can I say I feel God for someone? It doesn’t necessarily seem so.

Then there is liking someone, but I wouldn’t say I am crushing on a friend, so there is no parallel between liking and loving, it is another playing field.

Where are the boundaries? What is right in the eyes of the beholder of love?

And if God is love, and people do not know God, do they know love at all? How much of it, and who gets to share it?

All I know is, I am grateful for feeling loved my you, Father God.  In terms of endearment for everyone else, may I continue to mirror your grace for them in whichever terms you see adequate, for I am not sure.

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23 September 2011

Is a first impression everything?  If you get an irregular feeling about someone or something, are you likely to give it a second chance?  Most likely, not.  Now, what if you were given the kindest most inspiring first impression by someone, would you not want to get to know them more?

Actions speak louder than words.  A picture is worth 1000 words. We hear all these sayings all the time, yet so often we forget the impressions we leave through all we do. Yes, we are human and tend to care about how we look and whatnot, but this is not the impression I am speaking of.

Two of the three girls I live with in Florence were my hotel roomies in Rome.  For some reason, sleeping in three beds beside each other in a dark room led to serious conversations at bedtime.

I let out a good portion of my testimony within two nights knowing these girls.  This had never happened before. Never as genuinely as I had shared this particular night.  Neither of them had currently been living their lives for the Lord, and perhaps this is where the pursuit came from, but still..

Because of that night, one of the girls expected me to be a positive influence on her this semester.  She mentioned me opening her eyes away from ignorance or towards a purpose.

Since then, they have seen me in a hurry, in laziness, in study, in cooking, in the daily routine of a college student in Florence.

About 3 weeks after that conversation, the other roommate–once a member of a Cathedral–stressed her shock in media I listen to and watch.  Compared to the greater population of 20-year old students, I confess, I am sheltered, naive, and definitely girly.  However, this is not what she meant, she expected me to be more sensored. Was this reasonable? Is it possible for me to be more careful with Hollywood’s influence in my life?

“Lay down my pride, my desires..I am through..” –Jeremy Camp

Prayer: Father, may I live a life that is true of what you desire.  May I only be influence by your grace, and know how to turn my face away from what is not of you.

So, you may be wondering what it is that is not seen as “being Christian of me,” and well, these are the shows I am trying to rid off my weekly agenda: The Lying Game, Pretty Little Liars, Burn Notice, and Drop Dead Diva.

I am not someone who has to rely on watching television programs, but every now and then, I like the option of having background noise while eating, cooking, etc., and for it to not always be music.  Having this being said, I remembered my mother and I’s favorite bonding experience nearly a decade and a half ago–7th Heaven.

7th Heaven is the most moderate example of a Christian American family.  Although the family is a larger ministers family, the trials, temptations, struggles, losses, and scenarios are very much real matters.

Season 1 Episode 1 ends by having a grandmother confess of her diagnoses to her daughter and son-in-law, then in episode 2, she passes away after leaving her last words of encouragement.  By episode 5, the writers include morals of prejudicial crimes, loss, acceptance, body image issues, mental illness, polygamy, marriage disturbances, sibling rivalry, pranks, service, teen pregnancy, suspension, and many other substantial topics.

What happened to broadcasting shows and movies with real life lessons?

I came to Italy, and am continuing onto Cyprus, because I respect the values they continue to model that Americans have easily forgotten all about. Families feast, celebrate, and share with one another.  A son returns to his mother with great news, and a father cares for his girls.  Produce is bought from the farmers and life is lived to the fullest, nothing seems to be taken for granted.

I came to Florence, because I did not find these characteristics in any city I have come to know in the states. Until last night. I met an inspiring North Dakota farmer’s boy who is here studying in Florence with similar passions, but he grew up without a TV until his 20’s.  Now he jokes that his parents only turn the television on for about an hour a day, merely for the news.  Even then so, he sees no point in the technological purchase.

Can you imagine what life would be like in the household if only the kids weren’t distracted from cartoons, the men from their sports, and the wives–their dramas?

“I can only imagine.” –Mercy Me

He is still away from home exploring life with the same desire to open his perspective to all world views, yet, he has never been pressured by stereotypes, fashion interests, or anything caused by the persuasion of the “image.”

I believe that a simple life away from dependency on mechanisms is possible. We can literally go back home to the farm as this example depicts, or we can continue on our days, perhaps walking one place to another, taking time socializing with those around us, and not rushing home for the 8-o’clock season premier.

We are not identified by anyone or anything other than the Spirit within.

“Don’t you think that your life’s worth saving? Don’t you know that love is amazing?…  If I thought love was just a word, I might feel the same way too. But it is so much more than that. And it is waiting for you too…  There is a way, truth and the light, and the way..” –New World Son’s There is a Way

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23 September 2011

Last words… what come to mind?

For me, it is the impression someone leaves when leaving this temporary life.  Those whom they leave remain very loyal to the physical life they live, and therefore, last words seem to move change in relationships for a lifetime.

Going back to freshman year, the last words spoken to me were to work on my mother and I’s relationship.  I didn’t at first.  But since then, I have at times been engaged in rather challenging, respectful conversations and traded signs of affections with my mother.

I don’t know if this change of mind would have settled without those words.

Watching Season 1 Episode 2 of 7th Heaven again, recently–I recognize the power of these words. May it be bickering with a sibling, loss of connection with a spouse, carelessness for life or responsibility, etc. people living this life have the experience to guide us in a way that we look back at life and giggle in excitement.

Socrates did not know whether death is just a state of stillness for the physical body, or if the spirit moved on to a greater life, but he did no not to fear death.  For living a life where he could not fully be himself would be imprisonment, whereas after death, he would be accompanied by the spirit to living either with those who have unfortunately been killed under similar circumstances, or by continuing speaking elsewhere.

He knew of the spirits guidance in his life constantly, so where is the Holy Spirit saying about you? How are you to make the lives of the world greater, better?

May it be the virtues of courage, moderation, wisdom, or another depicted by cultural values, what is it that people will remember you for? If you succeed, what will make you most chipper to leave on to the next part of eternity with Christ?

Whatever it may be, set a daily reminder, and begin to live your days cherishing the traits of others you desire them to most be identified by.  Then, don’t forget the good works He continues to do through you, and spend the time opening up; for last words may come here, but we are all joined again in Heaven. 7th Heaven… Holy place filled with wonders we can not imagine..what is there to fear?

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