Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Photo: Trees

7“At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
8Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
9yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.
-- Job 14:7-9

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Photo: Mountains

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
--Isaiah 52:7

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How Should Protestants Respond to the Pope’s Abdication

On February 11, Pope Benedict announced that he was stepping down from his position due to illness and age. This was a huge moment in the history of the Roman Catholic Church because Popes usually remain in leadership until they die. But Pope Benedict prayerfully chose to step aside so that a new leader might be chosen to lead the millions and millions of Catholics worldwide.

As a former Catholic, I was considering how to process this news. I was a senior in high school when this pope was chosen and, at the time, was rather negative about it. Now that I identify as a Protestant, it would be quite easy for me to say that this event doesn’t affect me or that it doesn’t matter. In fact, since the announcement, I have heard many comments and read many articles that don’t seem to really care. Many rail against what they consider to be Pope Benedict’s failures as a leader. They vent their anger against Catholics because of our differences in doctrine. Some are just blatantly hateful.

After reading facebook status after status in which people referred to the Pope as no one special, a little god, or as the Antichrist, I was left deeply saddened. While certainly there is a gap between Roman Catholicism and Protestants, I consider them to be part of the body of Christ. The many Protestant denominations differ on many key doctrinal issues. Some of them, in fact, have a hierarchal structure not unlike that of the Roman Catholic Church. Why is it appropriate to address our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in such a way? I firmly believe that we should care about anything, good or bad, that is concerning the body worldwide.

So here is how I think Protestants should respond to the Pope’s Abdication. Spoiler: It mostly involves prayer.

1.     We should be informed. Saying things like “Catholics consider the pope a lil’ god” are simply incorrect. You can disagree with Catholic doctrine but be informed about it. Don’t say things that aren’t true because you just come off as ignorant and hateful. Study Church History, learn why the Pope has the position he does, learn how a new Pope is chosen. Just learn about what a momentous occasion it is for our Catholic brothers and sisters to have a new Pope chosen.
2.     We should pray for the Roman Catholic Church. In 2009, there were over a billion Catholics worldwide. This is a big event that could possibly threaten to split or otherwise injure the Church. We don’t need anymore fractures in the body, so we should drop to our knees and intercede for Catholics that their Church would be able to overcome any difficulties it might face.
3.     We should pray for the Conclave. As RCC leaders come from around the world in a few short weeks, we must pray for their wisdom and discernment in choosing the man that will lead their Church.
4.     We should pray for the new Pope. Whether or not you agree with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, as a leader, Pope Benedict was placed in leadership by God (Romans 13:1). The new Pope will likewise be placed by God and will need our prayers. The issues in the RCC are not small ones; in fact some, of the same issues are faced by Protestant Churches. Leading billions of Catholics is no small task. As fellow believers, we should pray for this man’s wisdom, discernment, strength, and endurance as he steps into a rather difficult situation. The new Pope is also a person. He is a person with feelings, opinions, history, interests, and weaknesses. Let us not forget that there is a difference between the office and the man. You can disagree with the office and care for the man. As believers, we should care for all and recognize that each person deserves our respect. The Pope should be special to us because he is special to God. 
5.     We should prayer for God’s correction in all our lives: God is huge and we try to understand Him the best we can, but I can’t even fathom the millions of ways we go wrong each day in how we see Him. Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox… we all fail to see things clearly at different points and we need God’s continuous correction in our lives. Let us pray that the new Pope would follow God’s voice and bring correction to any areas that need it. Might he call on Protestants to correct things we have done wrong. And might we be open to hearing it.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
-- 1 Timothy 2:1-3

Embracing Tradition: Lent

image from here

I grew up Catholic so giving up things for Lent has been practically ingrained in my DNA. For many years after I came to really know the Lord and call myself a Christian again, I resisted the Lenten rituals as too formulaic and archaic. As the years have gone by, however, I have come to crave some of the more formal and traditional expressions of my faith. Often in our desire to be sola scriptura Protestants have overlooked so many of the beautiful and historical aspects of Christianity. One of the ways that some (though obviously not all) have pulled away from the dreaded T word, that is tradition, is by disregarding the liturgical calendar. This in itself is neither, as its core, good or bad as such things are, I believe, not fundamental to our faith.

Yet, I have increasingly found that I really enjoy embracing some of the things from my Catholic roots. Last year was the first year is many that I chose to abstain from something during Lent. I chose to give up something that was near and dear to me... Diet Pepsi. While that might seems silly, it was difficult for me and it brought my attention to the areas of my life where I had not allowed the Holy Spirit to really shine His light on. Yet, as soon as Lent was over, I was back to drinking Diet Pepsi.

I am continuing on my quest to weed out things that are not of Him this year. About 2 weeks ago, I gave up soda. It hasn't been perfect and I had two slips, but I am not wasting money on soda nor am I obsessed with always having it. I have healthier and crave less sugar. Along with mostly cutting out facebook and getting rid of Twitter, I have seen drastic improvements in the clarity of my mind and my focus on more important things.

In many ways, I have been living out Lent for much of 2013. Yet, knowing that I am joining with millions of other believers around the world in giving up something that we like to do, eat, or drink and focusing more on God gives me a sense of connectedness that I very much cherish. More than ever, it is important for me to spend this Lenten season in solemn contemplation and focus on God. Thus, I have going big! Other than this blog, I will visit no other blogs of any kind. Facebook and Pinterest will be gone! Basically, I am limiting my computer to school only things.

 I want to spend more time with less stuff crammed in my mind. I expect to hear the voice of the Lord in some big ways and welcome His correction in my life. It is possible that these changes might be permanent (or I will learn how to control myself), but I am focusing just on this season and what God might have me to do. I am looking forward with sharing my Lenten Reflections each Thursday during Lent!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Photo: Flowers

28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
--Matthew 6:28-34

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"I Wanna Go Back to College": Reflections on Growing Up

This weekend, I am “baby-sitting” a 14 year old friend of the family. Basically, it involves making sure he eats dinner and taking him to the movies. Last night, he and a friend wanted to go see Avenue Q, the School Edition because some of their friends were in it. Now, I had a lot of homework to do but figured it would be nice to have a little bit of the break. Near the end of the show, some of the characters were reflecting on the harsh realities of everyday life. They started singing a song about how nice college was and it made me laugh because it was so true! 

Lately I have been thinking about how it will be 4 years in May since I graduated college. I will have been out of college as long as I was in it. That's totally crazy to me. For the first year after I graduated, my friends and I talked all the time about college, but as we have grown older we have learned to appreciate where are now while continuing to appreciate the great times we had then. 

The last 4 years have been crazy. I graduated college, my Dad moved to Arizona, my parents announced they were divorcing, I spent a year on staff with Chi Alpha with one dollar to my name, I moved across the country, started graduate school, almost quit graduate school, nursed my Dad through Cancer recovery, worked a full time corporate job and as a part time Michaels employee. I fell in love with Greek and lived through a couple Phoenix summers. My sister had a baby, moved back to Wisconsin and got married. Now she is pregnant with her second. My other sister moved to Washington.  I became a TA and a pioneer in school. I learned how to put coolant in my car. I flew across the country visiting friends. I made new friends and grew apart from others. 

Most importantly, I grew to love the Lord will all my heart and in new ways that I never thought possible. 

So no, as much as I miss being 21 and a little more carefree, I do not wish I was back in college. As much pain as the last 4 years have brought, they have also brought profound joy and growth. I think I have previously mentioned that my word of the year is HONOR. And I think I honor God most strongly when I don't pine for past seasons, but use what those past seasons have taught me to walk fully in obedience to what He has for me in this season. 

It is actually amusing to see the things that haven't changed in terms of what is keeping me from God. In my goal to be more intentional this year, I have been evaluating and cutting and having huge realizations. This one about college is just one of so many things I am learning from. I look forward to sharing more of what the Lord is showing me in the future. 

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.
--Hebrews 13:11
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Photo: Fruit of the Spirit

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
--Galations 5: 22-26