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Archive for May, 2012

15 May 2012

Today was an absurd kind of day, but it ended rightfully so.

As I walked back towards the university after making a rather small mistake, I found myself staring into the sun–straight into the center of the earth’s source of light.

Isn’t strange to think that so many people–6,840,507,003 billion people–live together in a ticking time bomb.  Since Adam and Eve, God’s heart for the broken has grown and his mercy has been spread throughout the lands.  However, earth remains dark, with a claim to fame as the place of sin.  The Western aim to a free world, not only progresses cultures from uprooting their traditions in Christ’s soil, but also brings us into a conflict: righteousness vs. pleasure.

Look into the light.  It is supposed to blind us, for the perplexity of how light travels is much more than any human can study, but to see, impossible.  However, it is in the moments of visual blindness that I recognized this evening: God allows us to see the world through His eyes when we look into His Light.  God Himself is the source of Light, so why would we turn our heads from Him?

No we are not perfect, nor can we be during our time on earth, but that does not mean we are not worth His grace.  So often we hear “I owe this to God” or “I do not deserve the love of God,” etc.  The truth is we do not, but being trapped in our imperfections only does us harm.

At one time, God made man perfect.  When the world became imperfect, God’s heart ached, and it was in His pain that He sent a Savior to live among the broken-hearted.  For God’s heart was also broken.  We are called to be in the image of Jesus.  And Jesus is our illustration of the Father’s character, therefore, it makes sense that in our brokenness we are closest to the Creator of life.

Point is, today as I looked into the sun, I glimpsed down and all I saw was brightness.  God’s light is our perfection, our perfect compass.  His direction is never faulty, and in His goodness everything is beautiful.  It was in those moments that I felt blind, blind to any wickedness.  I could no longer see the crushed coca-cola cups half buried in the dirt, or the cigarette buds streaming along the gutters.  Rather, I was with Him, safe, warm, still.  He shines through it all.

ImageAssisi, Italia: 6 November 2011

 

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12 May 2012

Being a student, I don’t often find the time to read for personal pleasure.  However, this weekend, my roommate gave me a book she hadn’t had the time to read.  Within the last 3 days–1 hour a day–I completed the 149 page devotional novel.  At times, I was puzzled, disgusted, grateful, inspired, and found myself questioning the state of my own heart for the Lord’s work.

This is my response to: The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Reverend Timothy Keller (2008):

The devotion-like novel is about Luke 15’s The Lost Son Parable, which Keller renames “The Two Lost Sons.”

Ch.5- The True Elder Brother
“The forgiveness is free and unconditional to the perpetrator, but is costly to you.  Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer.  If the wrong-doer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness…The point of the parable is that forgiveness always involves a price–someone has to pay.  There was no way for the younger brother to return to the family unless the older brother bore the cost himself.  Our true elder brother paid our debt, on the cross, in our place” (93-95). Here we notice that the young, lost son has returned.  The father, who had already given away half his fortune to this son, immediately forgives his son, welcoming him home with his most valued robe and kisses.  However, at this time, the robe is technically the older son’s robe, since the remaining family fortune is his.  However, it was disrespectful of either brother to speak of the father’s inheritance until after his death.  But in the context of the parable, it is what both brothers value over their father’s life: wealth.  Jesus is telling the Pharisees that the older brother, in a complete selfishness, refused to join in recognizing his father’s son as his brother, and then also refused to join in celebrations.  Not only does he spit on his brother, but his father as well.  As the father is the lord of the house, and during a feast, shall not leave the party for any message.  The son’s refusal caused the father to leave the party, to beg for his older son to join.  Just as the father earlier left the house and ran after the young son.  The father brings us home. However, neither of these brothers help us recognize the path to his home, for they are wary of any importance exceeding immediate satisfaction.  Jesus then, in his time on earth, became a slave.  The same way the younger son thought he would return home.  Jesus became our elder brother, so that we are able to know the Father’s House.

Chapter 6- Redefining Hope
Throughout my life, I have dreamt of moving away from my parent’s house, perhaps to the East coast, since they lived on the west.  When it came time for college, I didn’t move to the opposite coast, but I did move east of the Rockies. Then, I decided that two years at the same school was too tiring and I needed change.  Now I am in my ninth month of European/Middle Eastern travels and studies.  Keller pinned me, when he said, “We are all exiles, always longing for home.  We are always traveling, never arriving.  The houses and families we actually inhabit are only inns along the way, but they aren’t home” (106).  For he considers that “the message of the Bible is that the human race is a band of exiles trying to come home (109).

Although I never considered this before, I didn’t hesitate one moment to accept this as a challenge.  Earlier in this book, Keller writes on how a person can be righteous and further from God than someone who has a long list of sins.  And in their righteousness, their pride blinds them, giving these older-brother types a false superiority over the people Jesus came to meet, save, and live eternity with. Jesus was an exile. “During his ministry he wandered, settling nowhere, and said: ‘ Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20).  He remained completely outside the social networks of political and economic power…Finally, at the end of his life, he was crucified outside the gate of the city, a powerful symbol of rejection by the community, of exile” (113).  Jesus too felt homeless.  But why? In Bethany, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus offered him a place to stay.  When it came time for the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples to seek a man carrying a barrel of water, follow him to a house, and ask the owner of the house which room was prepared for Jesus’ last meal. He was invited into people’s homes. He was followed.  He had influence, as his followers gave him opportunity time and time again.  But when it came to the end, Jesus was more alone than ever. His friends, even His Father seemed so far away. Homelessness. Does it keep us or bring us Home to our Father in Heaven?

It is when we find ourselves asking friends and co-workers for approval that we diminish the authority of God in our lives.  For it is the Father who can rightfully cover a thick, white sheet of encouragement over all we have done and will do, but He forgives, loves, cherishes, and recreates.  We are born again in Him, not in the words of others, who also live in this place that was not made for human life.

God created the Garden of Eden.  He did not plan for us to suffer illnesses, it was because we turned our backs on Him that we live this life searching, falling, breaking.  But it is when we see the light that His Home is no longer the prize to be won, but being home with Him is the ultimate reality to be sought.

Keller also speaks of the cause of our good deeds.  And the evidence of a life lived apart from God’s Glory.  One of the clues he suggests is a dry prayer life.  Since September 11, 2001, I have prayed for the families of victims and all those who were and are suffering due to similar attacks.  I pray for those who feel displaced to find refuge in the Father’s House.  However, today, after listening and considering humility and passion for loving God, himself, I looked at the clock 1 minute late.  I cannot recall this occurrence in the full 11 years.  Today, God chose today to scream at me: “Melanie, I am not in your calendar. There is no schedule we must follow.  I am your Spouse, your Friend, your Lover, your Lord.  I care to speak and hear from you always. Please let me in.” Lord, I want you.  Instead of the routine thought at night, tonight, I pray to my own heart.  For it is in me that I do not fully confide in the everlasting love that God has continuously offered you and I.  May we reconcile with all He has provided and in return not offer deeds of good work, but deeds of love, joy, and humility.  For He is in us all, we must admit and adore His presence.

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6 May 2012

At this point in my life, I have now visited 26 countries.  Although this in itself is the progression of one of my life missions, the number is not what is of most importance to share.  Rather, I would like to remember my most preferred eateries, parks, and monuments so that you and I will each be able to visit and treasure these places.

Toronto: Enjoy your time in the city center, but take a day to drive out towards battle grounds, and the small towns on your way to Niagara Falls. The towns nearby have great spots for tea, cheese, and best of all: Pillitteri Estates Winery.  It is a must stop.  Sample the ice wines, as they are hard to come by.  I treasured my glass of their 2007 Ice wine Cabernet Sauvignon. It is nearly impossible to capture the falls on film from the ferry, but once you board the ferry take your photos in the first 5 minutes, before you and your camera are rained on by the waterfalls.

Italy:

Belgium: I nearly hate Brussels more than any city I have ever visited in all my life. However, Brugge is a charm.  Although I would not necessarily consider it a “Magical place” worth living your last moments in, as In Bruges suggests, I have visited twice and plan on many more. Make sure to visit Gare ( I think it is called), a hidden pub, where everyone orders the house beer, served with cubes of cheese.  Also enjoy the World’s Best Hot Chocolate upstairs in the small cafe, and sample your way through the small town known best for chocolate.  Although I have not yet made the trip, I believe I will even love Gent more than Brugge.  It is a town about 3x the size of Brugge and is not defined by the chocolate.  Therefore, I believe I will find many more enjoyable parks and pathways to walk along and enjoy the true Belgian culture.

Jordan: 

Israel:

Greece:

Hungary:

Paris:Make sure when planning your trip to Paris that you take into consideration your own personal interest.  Paris is “The City of Lights,” however, in the hustle of the city, it is easy to miss out on everything.  It wasn’t until my third trip to Paris that I appreciated the flavor, colors, lights, smells, or sounds of the city.  It can be peaceful.  It can be remarkable, romantic, luxurious, historic, entertaining, or exhausting.  Location is key! Choose lodging around the Notre Dame if you are on a student budget–make sure to carry your international student ID with you for free entrance into museums.  Start your day with a breakfast at the nearby cafe.  Your first landmark will be Notre Dame itself, then head towards the Shakespeare Company bookshop where Hemingway is celebrated as a former frequent visitor. Next, cross the bridge, enjoying the book stands on the side of the river.  If it is a hot day, there are ice cream stands to try out.  Take 3 hours or more to wander around the Louvre. My favorite piece incorporates the entire life of Jesus on earth: Antonio Campi’s “Les Mysteres de la Passion du Christ.” It is on the right wall along the hall after visiting DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. After your stay here, spend the money on a delicious bowl of French Onion Soup at the Hotel du Louvre’s Restaurant.  Followed by a visit to Musee d’Orsay.  Finish your day with a visit to the Eiffel Tour–make a booking online for your tour of the top at sunset.  Dinner is welcomed at a 20’s styled- restaurant nearby.

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I know that each person has their own list of places to see before they die, but if you are looking for a new adventure, these are the explorations I will be planning in the next decade or two:

Gombe, Africa: Hike through the forest to Jane’s Peak, where Jane Goodall first studied the personality of chimpanzees.

Plitvice Falls, Croatia: For years I have dreamed of kayaking to the falls, but recently heard it is illegal.  However,  I would still like to view the falls during the spring, but also the glaciers in the winter.

Morocco: I plan on taking a 4-7 day Camel-ride, camping under the stars trip through the desert.

New Zealand: While searching for the perfect place to study abroad, I fell in love with the wilderness of New Zealand.  In one country, I found my home in the mountains and the greatest beaches.  The forests and other landmarks have also created many exciting dreams within me.

Japan: While serving in a Sunday school program with a Japanese descendant, I learned of a phrase, 水に流す mizu ni nagasu, which is the equivalent of “water under the bridge,” or, “forgive and forget.”  However, she told me that if two Japanese individuals are fighting for whatever reason, if they bow to each other and say, “水に流す,” they will leave the situation with respect, truly living the words.  I would like to experience this as well as many aspects of the Japanese culture.

Burma: this country has been considered the #1 out-of-the-world experience, as it remains untouched by westernization.

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However, wherever you choose to visit.  I highly recommend packing:

America for some reason has better quality:
super glue
mole skin
Q-tips
Crystal Light–or water flavoring
Wet-ones or Huggies (for bathroom on the go, or for cleaning dishes outdoors, hands, tables, etc)
Water bladder for backpack–if on a hiking trip
water filter water bottle

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