Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Trump Can't Trump History

Only a few months left until the U.S. presidential elctions. Great Britain just voted to leave the EU. International stocks took a dive. The question of immigration still hasn't been resolved for either Europe or the United States.

I'm not really a follower of politics in Great Britain. I was surprised by the vote. My surprise turned to assurance of one thing. That truly the only thing we can be sure of in this world, is that we can't be. There is absolutely no guarantee that tomorrow will look like today. The odds are high, however, that it probably won't.

With that in mind, the United States looks towards this election, I believe, the majority asking themselves even if not in so many words, who of the two candidates can bring us the most stability?

Unfortunately one candidate uses outright obvious lies and cover ups and stands on an extremely humanistic platform. The other candidate uses fear and the philosophy "the worse I can make others look, the better I will look." Anyone who has seen someone have lasting success with that idea, raise your hand. Yeah, I didn't think so.

As your more conservative Christian American, most understand why I won't be voiting for the first option. However, in light of the recent meeting the other candidate had with Christian Evangelicals, and how many of them are signing up to support him, even calling him a "true believer", it has caused me to realize that I may need to explain my reasons why I actually do not consider him to be the lesser of two evils. For the sake of keeping things short and succint, I'll share with you just one reason which I hope will be extremely clear.

Over the last five years, I've become intrigued with the history of Europe. Having the opportunity to visit many places where significant historical events took place, has made me pay a little more attention to history itself. That's hardly made an expert out of me, but one can learn a lot, just by being curious.

Some places I've been are dark, time never having healed what took place there. While I have thousands of photos of the beautiful bright places I've visited, it doesn't mean I find the dark places less significant.

Would you like to know the one single thing that haunts me even now, or shall I say, especially now? It's a list of names, hanging in a Holocaust museum in Budapest. No, it isn't a list of names of the innocent, helpless ones who lost their lives. It's a list of names of those who took the lives of the innocent helpless ones. Specifically, it was a list of Christian leaders who supported or aided the shipment of Jews, Roma, Homosexuals, and other minorities who were considered threats to society in some shape or form, to concentration camps and to their deaths.

You're probably getting tired of every evil being compared to World War II or said to be the beginning of World War III. But please hear me when I say this. Hitler promised stability. He promised that Germany would become its own again. He manipulated the human tendency towards narrow-mindedness and fear, to establish his own criteria of what makes you human. All while lifting himself up as god.

If you're following where I am going with this, maybe you're thinking, "the Jews weren't an actual threat, but ISIS is! Mexicans are stealing our jobs!" But, that's exactly what master manipulators do. They take an element of truth, they tell you your fears are justified, and they offer themselves as an "offering"-- a savior-- the solution personified. Whether they create the fear, or simply feed it, fear is a manipulator's greatest weapon. 

See, Satan is sneaky like that. He can use one "enemy" to distract while the other enemy sets up to strike. 

The Bible is pretty clear that the proud man only gets so far before his nose gets flattened by the ground. And I don't mean to be presumptious, but from either a historical or psychological perspective, I don't see this ending well if our country is led by someone screaming "Take back America!" It may not be so clear now, but now is when we're faced with the choice. So years from now, when my children or grandchildren are reading about now in their history books, they won't find my name under the Christian Evangelicals who believed the candidate who spewed hatred and pride from his mouth was God's annointed one.

Dear America, many will tell you, that no vote, or a vote for an independent is a wasted vote. But what side of history do you want to be on? If there are actually two enemies, I will choose to risk my country as I know it to reach out to the "unacceptable", before ever throwing myself at the feet of a proud, loud, hateful, manipulative man-- a man completely contrary to everything God says a good leader is. I know many of my friends won't agree, but I hope I provoked some thought.

God bless you guys.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." Exodus 20: 8-11

Rest is something not all of us know how to do. If there has been anything the last year has taught me, it is my need for rest. But somehow I'm still learning how.

Reading through Exodus 20 and reading how God designed the week- six days of labor and one day of rest- one might wonder at the strength of the words. I mean, why is God so adamant about keeping a day of the week for rest, that He would even call it holy and tell us to keep it that way?

I use to wonder, as I thought here too,  if God wasn't somehow just a little self-seeking simply declaring this day for Himself. It sounds bad, but I don't mind admitting which parts of the Bible have been or are confusing to me. After a few years of breaking that commandment however, I came to the conclusion that what God was really saying there in Exodus 20 is, "This is no joking matter".

My journey towards rest and learning everything it entails will be a story for another day. It involves, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of a stressed out life. I guess it is other wise known as burn out. At the moment though, I'm doing much better. I find myself in a short season of being unable to work because of visa regulations, and in a sense, being forced to rest. What I'm realizing though is that rest is so much more than a physical act of stopping whatever you are doing. It isn't just life on pause. And because that's true, it is so easy to waste opportunities one might have to rest.

I personally (in addition to actual physical rest!) am finding true rest to be

learning to control my thoughts, especially fears and worries, by coming into the presence of God.

allowing time for soul-searching and self examining.

and letting go of the need to prove my worth by doing.

The last I only realized my need for, by doing the first two. So if you're tempted like everyone else seems to be lately, to ask what in the world am I doing with all my free time, don't be surprised if you get a mystifying answer to the tune of, "I'm learning how to just be." Because no matter what lies this world feeds us, our worth in this world and definitely my worth to God isn't based off what I do, but who I am. (And who I am, I find only in who He is!)  I don't know about you, but I find rest just in knowing that.                    

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Journal Excerpt - June 20, 2016

And God spoke all these words, saying,

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." Exodus 20:1-6

Although I was never a slave in the sense the Israelites were, I already feel that God has brought Ber and I out of a kind of Egypt. When I look back and see all that He has done for us, it causes me to actually look at His commandments in a whole new light. How often do we say "God's way is best"? It definitely is but I don't often relate it to His law. I've often had thoughts from reading paricular verses like "I am a jealous God" that God is somehow self-seeking. My thought process usually landed on the fact that He is God, and what seems self-seeking to us humans, He actually rightfully deserves. Yet somehow, now when I read this, I can't help just thanking Him and blessing His name, that He gave us these standards for a purpose, knowing better than anyone how we can make the most out of this life, and that truly is by making the most of Him. I'm so grateful for the repeated chances He gave us--I personally know His instinctive nature to be that of steadfast love. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Of All The Places I've Lived, With You is My Favorite

Yesterday between rain showers I went out for a walk. As I enjoyed my beautiful surroundings from a path I'd never actually walked before, it started to sink in that I was running out of time to find other new paths and that I'd be moving away soon.

Since eighteen years of age I've lived eight different places, and that's not counting apartment changes in this current location. (I've been here almost two years and have lived in four different apartments). For however short those living situations were, all of them had an impact on me for some reason or another.

Mexico, where I lived for but a short two months. I turned eighteen while there, and will never forget being up on the rooftop with my cousin staring up at the star-filled Mexican sky and discussing life, what little I knew of it then, until we fell asleep.

Oregon, where I lived with my grandparents in the house my grandpa built, while attending a Bible school for half a year. My grandpa has since passed on but memories we made will be with me every where I go. My grandma became a friend during that time, and one of my biggest fans (I like to think) and even made the pilgrimage all the way to Hungary last month for my wedding. The Bible training was stretching I thought, until life afterwards showed me how far one can actually be stretched. I learned a lot and was a part of a precious little community of on fire mission minded saints.

Texas will always be my home state. I'll probably forever be flying into and out of there, no matter where I live in this world. My parents and two sisters and their husbands are there. And though I wonder how anyone could live somewhere so dusty and windy, I know that I did, and I think, thanks to some amazing prairie-grown folks, I turned out all right. I used to think it was boring living there, but now when I tell people in Europe where I am from, they don't find it boring at all. The grass is always greener. 

Hungary is my heart country. I mean, I've heard people say that and thought they were being slightly over-dramatic, until that is, I had one and knew exactly what they meant. I moved there at the impressionable age of twenty and I saw God do awesome things there. Some of it was challenging, some of it uncomfortable for me, but regardless it was a time of undefeatable joy. The people, the culture, the language will always be in my heart. (I don't speak it well at all, but someday speaking the Hungarian language will be second nature to me. I have a dream...)

In Hungary I lived one year with a Christian family in the village where I taught English and Bible. The next year was in an apartment in the city with the coolest curly head in Hungary, my friend whose testimony originally even brought me to my knees for Hungary, which actually led to me ultimately moving there. During that year I stayed busy with Bible studies, teaching a couple classes at the school, and visiting a children's home. While I had personal struggles that year, I also experienced friendship like I've never experienced anywhere else. Another two months were spent in a little upstairs room in Budapest shared with the daughter of the same family I lived with the first year. Bernat and I started our long distance relationship during that time and I survived and even somehow passed an intensely intensive Teaching English as a Foreign Language course.

Germany is where I live now, even though there was a time I moved away and swore I'd never go back. I blame a big part of that sentiment on rain. The first few months I was in Germany it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained, and then flooded all the way to Hungary where the Danube overflowed into Budapest. More than three years later and I'm still struggling to keep my level of Vitamin D up to what an alive adult's should be.  Living in a village of forty people and working on a pig farm (with children, not pigs), not speaking the language, and very little sunshine--well, perhaps one could say it got the best of me. I did however, make a heck of a lot of progress on the German language before I left (I mean I started from null so every baby step was something), which has served me quite well. Oh and during that time, I also visited Greece for a couple of weeks and Vancouver, Canada for five weeks, all while taking care of the same children. So that was cool.

I divide my time here in Germany into two categories. The rainy and the sunny. Before moving back, I googled "sunniest place in Germany".  I guess I owe an apology to those who believed I was following the Lord's will for me life. I was actually just following the sun.

And here I am. Oh it still rains, but when the sun shines, I can go down to the lake and watch pretty sail boats go by or just lay there in the sun and "work" on my Vitamin D intake. I can explore the little trails around and visit the horse farm or the cow farm, where I get my fresh milk. It's kind of a dream really, but here's the funny thing....

photo cred - Megan W.
I've left a lot of the details out of this post, Lord knows its long enough without them. But there were some happy times and some real unhappy times at all of those places no matter how beautiful they were. And here, just this last year, I really struggled with being alone and still not in the same country as my guy. (we always were just a little bit closer, and a little bit closer, but until our wedding a few weeks ago, we hadn't lived in the same country since being in a relationship). When people said I was living a fairy tale, I said nothing.

I could say now that God taught me a lot during that time, and it would be true, but my heart knows, I'm immensely enjoying that we no longer have those dramatic train station farewells. And sometimes I feel like saying to God, "See wouldn't this have been better all along?" But I don't because deep down I know what He'd say. "Yeah but how would you know it was better without experiencing good?" I would know He was right, and that's why I thank Him for things being just the way they were and turning out just the way they have. 

Our next move will be to Switzerland Lord willing, and after that who knows. As much as I'm intrigued by the rest of the world, I actually hope we can settle down somewhere at least for awhile to recover from the last few years. :P But I know no matter how little it is, how far away it is, or how long we're there, of all the places I've lived, with you dear, is my favorite. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us

I'm starting to see "what to do in an active shooter situation" posts pop up in my Facebook feed.

This is the world we are living in. 

This is the world my hypothetical future children will be born into.

Less than a week after the Orlando shootings and my strange, indescribable grief for families I don't even know, is starting to be overwhelmed by a weariness from all the outcries for legislative progression, theological reform, and peace.

Strange thing is

the louder the cry for peace, 

the less peaceful I feel.

Why in the world is that? Shouldn't I be comforted that others want the same thing I want? 
...Maybe it's the deafening roar which makes me doubt peace is actually what we're talking about.

Maybe I'm trying to put into words what shouldn't be or simply can not be. But sometimes all that helps me is to try to silence ALL the voices coming from every direction. As hard as it is to actually achieve, when I come the closest to reaching that quiet place is also when I catch a glimpse of the Devil's dirty, disgusting trick.

Lately, Ber and I have gotten hooked on the show Suits about a law firm. We keep asking ourselves how in the world can this be as captivating as it is, but the layers of law, good intentions, bad intentions, good people gone bad, bad people gone good but only to get something from the opponent-- It is all so strangely intriguing albeit one big complicated mess. Because of the ways that laws are written and because of human nature itself, sometimes it requires brilliancy to distract the "other side" from the main goal. However, if you can successfully take their eye off the ball even for a moment, you've most likely already scored.

While we're down here blaming Muslims for being violent, guns for shooting themselves, gays for being sinful, Christians for victimizing gays before the shooting and re-victimizing them afterwards by all of a sudden being compassionate-- * takes a breath *-- the devil's watching. Doing nothing. Because his work has already been done. All that's left for him is to sit back and enjoy.

We live in a world where Muslims and Christians hate each other, but both hate homosexuals. Where homosexuals sympathize more with Muslims but hate Christians, even though radical Muslims tend to be more violent in their hatred of Homosexuals (and Christians for that matter). We live in a world where it seems only two options exist-- Either make laws against certain people getting guns, or to make sure that everyone is carrying for that moment they'll need to defend themselves from the person who shouldn't be.***

It's a mess. It's one giant nonsensical mess!

The irony in the Orlando shooting, is that it brought all of those factors into play. Was the shooter gay or did he just hate gays...or both? Was he a soldier of ISIS or just a really angry Muslim? Is it too late for the non-fundamentalist Christians to finally speak up to say "actually we don't hate homosexuals, we just don't have a darn clue how to relate to them"? These are questions which, besides the last one, I think will prove to be mostly irrelevant when the devil's shows his hand at the end of the round.

He's making some risky plays, the devil is. Because surely we're going to see through this obvious attempt to just pit us all against each other to distract us from what's really going down... Right? ....Right? Some days I really doubt I'm right.

Guys, Jesus is coming back and if I had to guess when, I'd say soon. Yep, there it is. My point I've been getting around to which sounds like a huge attempt to just put a band-aid on wounds which are much too deep, and is what Christians have been saying pretty much since He left. But I mean it. He's coming back whether sooner or later, and I for one don't want to be caught, caught up in the devil's devices when He gets here. (and even if He doesn't come soon, you may go to Him soon, life here is short!)

If you really want to know what I think, I think you should stop wasting your time telling gays they should stop being gay. Stop wasting your time trying to keep America's constitution in tact. Stop wasting your time trying to prove that Muslims are evil. And for goodness' sake stop wasting my time telling me why you need to be able to own a semi-automatic. 

I'm not saying give up on America. I'm just saying, use your left-over time to worry about America, because the majority of your time should be spent saving the world.

I'd like to just leave a huge fill-in-the-blank blank right here.  
That's for you to go talk to God about filling up with whatever He wants to find you doing when He comes. I promise He has a job just for you. But fair warning, 

He might take you where you were too offended to go before.

 A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
 Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God's own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.
 And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
 That Word above all earthly powers
no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours
through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever!

*** This may seem a harsh characterization, but is a summary of viewpoints I've witnessed this week alone via social media. If you don't belong to any of those generalizations, good, neither do I, but probably (hopefully) you can see my point.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Whatever the Opposite of Circumstantial Evidence is, That's What I'm Talking About

There are days my faith feels abstract. Usually they are days where what I know, is occluded by circumstantial evidence, the kind which can actually prove nothing and can't actually steal my faith completely, but which definitely has the power to cause doubt. So if you ever have days like that? You're not alone.

Lake Brienz, Switzerland
However, Sunday was not one of those days. I woke up surprisingly cheerful for having had such a late night the night before. And unlike the night before, I was excited to be going to the house of the Lord for worship. (Even though it meant getting out of bed).

Even now I can't say exactly what made that service that morning different from any other. But it was from the get go. All I know is that He must have been there. And my heart so was just so ready ( excited, expectant ) to meet Him there. From the very first song my spirit and attention were captured. Distracting thoughts and remnants of circumstantial evidence faded.

As we sang "Mighty to Save", I became burdened to pray for a friend who I knew was taking a co-worker to church with her for the first time that day. I was overwhelmed by the simple reality that God could save that woman! Which in turn, left me in awe of my own salvation.

Later as we sang of God's goodness, faithfulness and love, a young couple stood with disgruntled looks on their faces and walked out. I had seen an older couple reach out and try to ask them if everything was ok. The woman just shook her head, pulled away, and literally stomped out.

Just as my heart had been raised with the affirmation that God can save, it fell, crushed for those who do not realize what they are rejecting. Every word of the song we were singing as this little scene played out, described who God is to me, and not just some character in a story book. These truths alone overwhelm all mere circumstantial evidence. How I wish everyone would only dare to taste of His sweet goodness to find just how sweet it is! And I guess this is just as good of a time as any to say that anyone rolling their eyes at the emotion and "subjectivity' of this testimony hasn't experienced His ABSOLUTE love and presence in their own lives. Roll yours eyes now, bow your knees later. (: You truly have no idea how much I wish for you to experience His love which is constant regardless of the evidence of my sin or my lack of love for Him.

By the end of the service I sat in tears, as God turned the spotlight on my own heart. What was shown me should mostly stay between Him and I until it actually produces some apples, oranges, or bananas in my life, but it really was getting down to the nitty gritty of things--to do with my identity and value as a person. 

And I'm blessed all over again writing that all out, because I can see how God first just completely unwrapped His worth for me to see, and then turned right around to show me mine. And I'm pretty sure that if things stay in that order as I live intentionally aiming to worship Him with my life, all will be well. The more I value Him, by prioritizing time with Him for example, the more I see how He values me.

Thank you God for Sundays and for refocusing my lens. Not every day is it so easy to feel His love and sense His presence, so maybe we should remind each other more often to not give up based on what we can see at the moment. Let's keep the "waterfall" of praise and memories of His faithfulness flowing at all times! 

PS... I'm updating the facebook page more often than the blog at the moment, so if you're interested in such randomness as Hungarian football scores, German worship songs, or just thoughts or verses that are on my heart through the week, follow me there. 
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