Saturday, November 29, 2008

thanks and thanksgiving

I love thanksgiving more than the other holidays. My soul feels healthy to not only be thankful but to try to act out this thankfulness. So in the spirit of the holiday, I want to list some things God has brought to mind this week I’m deeply thankful for.

1. I’m so very thankful I got to go to the Johnson’s for thanksgiving. They were gracious and fun. I ate too much and laughed too hard. I’m deeply grateful they adopted me into their family for the day.

2. I’m thankful that Jesus makes all things new. He makes broken things whole again. He mends torn hopes and breathes life into us when we feel lifeless. When we feel lost he finds us. When we are on the wrong path he rights us. He restores. And he’s doing these things for me as my fingers hit these keys. I’m so thankful.

3. I’m thankful for pepperoni pizza. No explanation is needed.

4. I’m deeply thankful I’m able to go home this year for Christmas. I don’t think I can express to my parents and sister how badly I need them or how much I love them. I’m ready for some Bebe time and the pork chops that come with it.

5. I’m very very thankful for my friends in Austin (and that I’ll see the three of them very soon). I can’t tell Kirk Gentzel how great a friend he’s been to me, especially in the last 6 months. I wish I had the words. I’ll get to watch an old movie with Cara, listen to Christmas music with David, hug both Woodards, and eat Christmas dinner with James kwon. I’m a lucky guy. I mean it.

6. I’m thankful for the scenery only found on an island in the south pacific. Its beautiful even when I don’t notice.

Of course I could go on and on. I really am blessed more than I deserve.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

missing home thanks to emerson

I read a poem last night that caught my attention. In “early poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson” I read one of my favorites called “Berrying.”

“ ‘may be true what I had heard,
Earth’s a hallowing wilderness
Truculent with fraud and force,’
Said I, strolling through the pastures,
And along the riverside.
Caught among the blackberry vines,
Feeding on the Ethiops sweet,
Pleasant fancies overtook me:
I said, ‘With influence me preferred
Elect to dreams thus beautiful?’
The vines replied, ‘And didst thou deem
No wisdom to our berries went?’ “

This poem is so nostalgic to me. I remember as a kid walking with my dad down our dirt road to pick blackberries for my Bebee. As we would walk my dad would talk to me like a friend, or maybe like a dad friend. And he would tell me how to be a man. He told me to always pick flowers for ladies and to look out for snakes in the grass. He told me to say yes sir and to look at someone when they are talking to you. He taught me how to find a ripe blackberry and how to let one stay on the vine. And I remember these lessons.

I remember looking at the woods we walked in with wonder at the unknown inside them, and I remember the peace that overwhelmed this uneasiness knowing my dad was there walking with me. He knew the way. Since he knew the way I was free to enjoy the woods and the berries and the smells of pine trees. My imagination could roam around the bushes and listen to the bugs talk to each other like they usually did in my 8 yr old brain. Reading this poem tonight indeed, “pleasant fancies overtook me.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

go west young man.

I was reading some of “on the road” on the plane ride to Guam from Hawaii when a section caught my attention. He has this dream to hitchhike west across the country and spends the entire first day riding north and south. Out of frustration he says,

“chatter-chatter blah-blah, and me swearing for all the time and the money I’d wasted, and telling myself, I wanted to go west and here I’ve been all day and into the night going up and down, north and south, like something that can’t get started.”

When I read this my heart sank. In his mind and heart and self the man dreamed to go west, but he couldn’t get going, couldn’t get started on his journey even though he had set out for it. when I look at myself honestly I worry I feel the same way sometimes. I worry that in my hopes to change the world, these unsolid, indefinable hopes of engaging the world with something valuable and unselfish and good, I worry I’m “going up and down, north and south, like something that can’t get started.” And then I read about the life of Jesus,

“when the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face like flint to go to Jerusalem… but the people did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem.”

He made up his mind to do something grand. He resolved in his self to do what he was made to do. And so to Jerusalem he went. He accomplished his goal. Love won. This resolve is so attractive to me. So attractive and foreign and reachable maybe… but I feel like I’m at times floundering like something that can’t quite get started, can’t get the momentum it needs, can’t find the flint set face.

So this is my prayer: Jesus, I want to follow you now. Right now. I want to move toward you and change the world with you right now. Enough moving up and down, north and south, enough of these things that hinder my journey. Enough. Please give me the wisdom to find the paths you set in my life and the resolve to follow you through them with my heart as well as my mind. I want to truly get started. Help me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

the steam smelled funny

i just got to go take pictures of an active volcano. i didn't get to see any lava and the gasses were spewing pretty serious so we couldn't go close at all, but i took some pictures. it was incredible. i also stood in some steam from steam vents. it smelled funny.

i remember being intrigued with volcanoes when i was a kid. i saw a clay volcano errupt vinegar and baked soda in a classroom and immediately checked out any book with a volcano on the cover. the volcano phase was just after the dinosaur phase and just before the sharks. but anyway, i always wanted to see one in person. and today, 18 years later, i got to hang out in volcano national park.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

we want homework!

i've started teaching a bible study for the latte treatment centers here in guam. tonight i'll go to the youth house and hang out with some 11-17 yr olds. last week was my first week there so i asked what they wanted me to do to help them learn about jesus and the bible. did they want movie clips, narratives, an outline...? their answer really surprised me. they wanted homework. i'm not making it up. a few students actually said they wanted me to print off questions so they could answer them during the week and "know the passage better." and these are youth with severe behavior issues. they want homework.

one of the kids said something profound as we started the bible study last week. he's the youngest kid in the house and supposedly can be pretty difficult. as i started to talk about the prodigal son, he leaned in toward me and said, "you know, i'm not familiar with God." i was struck with his honestly and answered, "well, at least you're a self aware man. sometimes i don't feel very familiar with God either. but thats what i'm hear for. lets get familiar with God together." wasn't that a wonderful way to describe our hearts? its hard to love someone you aren't familiar with.

and when we're honest with ourselves, i hope we don't think we've grown so familiar with God that we are content. i don't want to lose the wonder as i gain "familiarity." i want to be as taken aback as the youth when i told them God wants them in the family like the father wanted the prodigal son. i want to be intrigued with Jesus's words. and i'm thinking that if we REALLY became "familiar with God" we couldn't help but be intrigued and surprised and excited and confused and happy and frustrated and hopeful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election thoughts

so, the election... i'm not ashamed to say i was happy with the outcome, although i thought neither candidate was incapable or evil. i just read donald miller's blog and was relieved to hear him articualte so well a few of my concerns and thoughts (though many were new to me and very insightful). i haven't checked out his blog in a long time.

something has bothered me throughout the day however. speaking of the house and senate all I've heard is "who will gain CONTROL over" either. that word makes something in my stomach twinge and turn. why do we americans have to have a controller? why isn't it enough to say someone has won, and why even do we use this word for the party with the most reps? why don't we rather say "democrats have a great INFLUENCE in the senate" or better yet, "the democrats now have a great oppertunity to SERVE in the house." why must things always be about control and power and winning?

and i wonder about the church's role in changing the way we see power. i wonder openly if we are just adding fuel to this fire named power. do we want to control our country as christians or do we want to influse it with the hope and service and love of the Jesus we say we follow?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

ive never heard of it. it wasn't a major conflict in my nations history was it?

Our college group cooked pancakes for one of the dorms on campus Saturday morning. We’ve finally been allowed to minister openly on campus, so we tried to get this opportunity as soon as we could. We had a nice little info card from my friend James Kwon, pancakes, and enough syrup to drown a college student.

I’ve never felt like a nervous person. I mean, I get stressed out about things, but I usually don’t deal with really heavy nerves before speaking or an event like this or whatever. Oh, not Friday night. I couldn’t fall asleep. I hadn’t had time to go get the groceries and wasn’t sure how many students were coming to help from PIBC or how many students we’d get to meet. I was a wreck. I dreamed about the morning going badly twice and woke up three times during the night. At 4:00 a.m. I told myself that they would in fact have pancake mix at payless supermarket and tried to go back to sleep. At 6:10 I told myself I wouldn’t burn the pancakes and that they would have the milk and eggs needed when I went shopping. When I woke up again at 6:40 I decided to get up and go shop just in case.

I bought the pancake batter and other supplies (payless didn’t disappoint) making my way back home still with a knot in my stomach. I had our rave cards. I had the groceries. I had the griddles. I had my pants on. What was there left to be nervous about?

So I got to the college, picked up the PIBC students to help, and started cooking some pancakes. All in all the day went well. We served maybe 30-45 students and had some cool conversations. I got to talk to two guys almost the entire time students were there and only made a fool of myself once. One of the guys was from Vietnam. When I asked him where he was from I couldn’t understand his response, after asking twice I just said, “I haven’t heard of that. Where exactly is it?” He and his friend looked at me and politely said Asia. Hahah! About an hour later I asked again and understood he said Vietnam and was able to correct the blunder, which made us laugh for a good 3 minutes. They were concerned for the tall white American who hadn’t heard of Vietnam.

So now I may not be such a nervous wreck for the next pancake brunch. I know payless has pancakes. I know our campus group will show up to cook. I know students want to eat. And I know where Vietnam is.