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Archive for June, 2011

VBS: A success

Hello There! I know it has been a while (a whole week!) but my absence has been for a good reason. Rather than sit here at my computer and talk about doing God’s work, I was participating each day in doing God’s work. For the past week I have been helping out with my Church’s Vacation Bible School. PandaMania at St. John’s was truly an amazing experience. Now that the week is over, I have some time to share some of the wonderful lessons I have learned from these children of God.

First, let me just say that before this experience I was absolutely terrified of working with little kids. I had never really had that experience before, so the thought of being in charge of not only their safety, but also their faith seemed to me to be a scary, heart-stopping unknown. After this past week, however, I am happy to say that I had an absolute blast working with the children, listening to their open-hearted professions of love and faith in God. I also learned one must always be on their A-game in order to field the questions and insights of these little ones. They sure do have a lot of questions and, thankfully, they aren’t afraid to ask them.

Each day of VBS, I was in charge of showing that day’s portion of the movie “The mystery of the missing pandas” and working with the kids to draw or write their God sightings for the day. While the movie part had some glitches (two dvd players that didn’t work, lack of time etc.) the God sightings were always a wonderful experience. The kids and their crew leaders did an amazing job to show how they saw God in their lives each day. One child always drew a picture of her mom; something the other kids in her crew didn’t necessarily understand. Yet I had to tell her mom that each and every day of VBS, she reminded her daughter of God’s gifts to us. I just felt I had to share that with her, because I wanted her to know what a positive impact she had in her daughter’s life and connection with God.

In addition to the movie and God sightings, the kids also learned bible stories connected with each day’s bible message, played games, worked on crafts, and sang praise to God above. If each member of the congregation sang as loudly as those kids did each day, I think the church would have to put in a new roof. That, and people would be able to hear us on the other side of the river. My only regret is that I couldn’t be with the kids throughout the whole day to see what they were up to in the other classes. I did get to see the amazing whale they were going to sit in on Thursday. I’m still trying to see if I can make one of my own for my room downstairs.

When Friday came, I couldn’t help but feel a certain level of sadness. I knew it was the last day of VBS and I didn’t want it to end so soon after it had started. I know there will be more Vacation Bible School weeks ahead in my future, but I still wanted to keep going with these kids. I felt that they still had so much to teach me about my faith and journey. Each day confirmed for me that I am on the right path in life. It didn’t matter how tired or stressed I was from work, because once I got there and started working with the children, I always felt so energized and ready to take on any challenge. In fact the kids energized me so much I found it hard to sleep afterwards because I was still so full of energy! That, and I couldn’t get the words and actions of the songs out of my head. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up in the middle of the night, pumping my fists and saying “Thank You God!” and then thinking “now please let me sleep!”

I truly hope that both the kids and I remember each and every day to look for God sightings and share them with others. I think the idea of putting all the God sightings from VBS into a quilt is an amazing idea, and I can’t wait to see the end result. Hopefully it will serve as a daily reminder for everyone who sees it that God is always present in our lives, and loves us no matter what.

Finally, I would just like to share the bible points from each day of VBS. I feel they are extremely important to remember each day, so I hope any readers will look back once in a while to remember them. I know I will!

God made you!

God listens to you!

God sees you!

God loves you no matter what!

God gives good gifts!

 

THANK YOU, GOD!!!

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Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s day to all the dads, grandpas, and great-grandpas out there! Today is a day to celebrate the men who mean so much to us. It’s nice to have a day to emphasize these important men for us to remember and celebrate the hard work and love they demonstrate. Yet we don’t have to wait until Father’s day to celebrate how much our fathers mean to us. Each day should remind us that we are here because of our father. We are who we are because of the impact he has made in our life.

If you’re getting a connection to God in those statements, then good. It was intentional. If not, try reading them over again, this time with God in your mind. Go ahead, I’ll still be here when you’re done.

It made me really happy today when I realized that I had more than one Father figure in my life to celebrate. More than that, I have two Fathers I can celebrate every day. When I think of all the amazing opportunities both of my fathers have given me, I feel perhaps unworthy of it all. I don’t deserve the unconditional love and compassion that I have received, both when I try my best to better myself, as well as those times when I rebel or fail to think about my actions. How can not one, but two fathers love me so much despite my shortcomings?

With my dad, Rick, I think it’s partially because I’m a part of him, a continuation of his existence. The other part is…maybe… because I’m not perfect and neither is he. In accepting my faults, he’s accepting his faults as well. In acknowledging the frustrations I have no doubt caused over the years (though I hope they have seriously dwindled in size and frequency) he is simultaneously acknowledging the frustrations he himself caused his father. When you think about it, it’s actually kind of cool. Sort of comforting.

But what about God? Why does he care so much for us and continually provide reasons to celebrate in our daily lives? I always turn to the same phrase with this question. “saved by grace through faith.” Ephesians 2:8 words it beautifully by stating 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— “

Being saved by grace through faith is such a wonderful concept. It means we don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved. (which, incidentally is a good thing, since we as humans are naturally flawed) We can falter in our lives and God won’t reject us and cut us out of His life. Just like my dad wouldn’t reject me if I screwed up. It means we, I, you, can be completely true to our-, my-, your-self and still be loved. We don’t have to change who we are. We just have to remember That it is our Father in heaven who grants us life and saves us with grace through faith. I think that deserves and Amen!

Thanks for sharing these thoughts with me. I hope they change the way you view this day. God Bless!

Little things

Greetings, everyone! I have finally returned from three blissful days up north to update you on my life. I know what you’re thinking, those three days were a real struggle for you, but I’m back now. Ooh! A little kernel of knowledge I acquired while on my ventures! Did you know that spaghetti will stick to the wall when fully cooked? I mean, who knew? My aunt and mom, that’s who! Probably most people reading this as well, but just in case there’s someone out there that was as clueless as me.

Any who… Three days of rest and relaxation has re-charged my mental and emotional batteries, making me once again ready to meet the world head on. I’d like to say that it was three days of intense communion with nature and constant dialogue with God, but I’d be fibbing if I said that. And I like you all too much to fib to you, so I won’t. Instead, I spent a good portion of my time eating, sleeping, and putting puzzles together with my Aunt Lynn and mother. To give you an idea, I think we put together 2-1,000 piece, 2-500, 1-650 and 1-300 piece puzzle. That’s nearly 4,000 pieces in two and a half days!

In any case, in between puzzles and stuffing my face and making Zs, I managed to do some constructive work as well. I read three more chapters from my books for school, for one. I’m hoping to be able to read them a second time before school and take notes, but the first time I just want to soak up the knowledge without having to take breaks to scribble everything down. Besides reading, I also worked hard on controlling my eating, both with portion control and by consciously determining whether I was reaching for food out of hunger, or because I was bored. I managed to do fairly well, and despite a much lower level of physical activity, I haven’t gained any weight from the expedition. I’d call that a step in the right direction. And you know what they say, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Well That’s all for now. I’d like to post more, but I’m cutting it close for time with work. Please feel free to comment on this or any other post. If you’d like to send a personal message, I can be reached via e-mail at Paul.Johnson1@snc.edu. I generally check my e-mail three or more times a day (unless I’m extremely busy) so that would probably be best for personal messages you don’t want posted for everyone to see.

Have a great day, and God Bless!

Spread The Word!!!

Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s official! I had my Entrance Panel at the East-Central Synod office today and was told they will suggest I be entranced to the whole group! I feel so reaffirmed by this whole experience. Of course that means I wanted to share it with everyone I can, so naturally I started this post as soon as I was done with the phone calls.

This whole candidacy journey has been a road of faith affirmations and joys and I feel honored to be able to share them with all of you. I must thank everyone who is reading this because each and every one of you have made a difference in my life and helped me on this path to seminary. I thank God for all the amazing people in my life who have constantly helped me to realize that, with the help of God, I can make this dream a reality.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to cut this post short because I have so many other things to do still today, but I hope to be able to update everyone again sometime Friday or Saturday. Which reminds me to tell you that I will be relaxing up north with my mother, aunt and dog from Tuesday night until Thursday late night. One last trip to Crandon before my Seminary journey begins!

God Bless!

Not sure what to say…

Ever sit in front of the computer screen or blank page and think “what should I write? How do I start?” Well I’m definitely feeling a big sense of that right now. I just can’t think of what to say to whoever might stop on by and read this. I should be sleeping, but every time I try I think about this blog. So clearly I’m supposed to say something. It would just be nice to know what that something is…

As an English major, the teachers always told me to just write whatever. It didn’t matter what it was or how silly it sounded. Just start pushing those keys or that pencil to form some letters. Make those letters into words, and the words into sentences. Before you know it, you’ve written something you didn’t even know you had in you.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m pushing the keys, not sure where this is headed (so if you’re lost it’s not your fault) and not sure why I have this sudden urge to update a blog that only a handful of people read. (Thank you to those faithful few!!!) Not even my parents read this. I told them about it, but they just nodded their heads and went back to watching tv. Heck, if all the posts were like this, I wouldn’t want to read the blog either.

I guess I’m just in that funky middle area of this transition. I’m still 28 days (well, 27 since it’s after midnight) away from my last Festival shift, 29 days away from my going away party, and a little over a month away from leaving De Pere. Time is getting ever shorter, and I find that much of the time I don’t know what to do with myself. Should I focus on working at Festival as much as possible in order to make more money for school? (I still have no idea how I’m going to pay for this) Do I hang out with one friend and risk insulting another? There seems to be too much time and not enough all at once. In the end I usually end up doing nothing of any importance because I’m so focussed on what I should do that I don’t actually get out there and do it.

So here I am, trying to change that. Instead of worrying about what I should  write about, I’m just writing. It may not be anything important, but at least people have something else to read. Well, a few people at least. I guess that’s what God’s trying to get through my thick skull with this. To stop worrying so much about the details and just get out there and do it. Whatever it may be.

Let me know if you feel the same way at times. Do you feel lost as to what you should be doing? How do you get out of the thinking and transition to the doing? What has God compelled you to do? What did it feel like when you finally managed to get it done?

Right now I’m feeling sleepy. I guess that’s my cue that I’ve done what I came here to do. Good night everyone! I hope to see you in the coming days, whether at church, at Festival, or somewhere else. God Bless!

Time to speak up!

In case Pastor Brian is reading this…  “Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”

Now for everyone else (a special shout out to Carlyn Cooper, who is a faithful reader and supporter) who may not know what that’s all about, I’ll use the rest of this post to explain. It’s actually a very simple story. I attended church today with dad (Rick) and listened quietly to the progressions of the church service. There were less than twenty people in the church including Pastor Brian, so clearly the place was packed.

Anyway, during Pastor’s sermon he exclaimed “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!” Now I know the proper response is “Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” and I even said it in my mind in response to him. But I never let the words past my lips. And I wasn’t the only one, either. If anyone did say the response, I didn’t catch it. Luckily Pastor Brian is comfortable enough with even such a tremendous crowd that he called us on it. The congregation managed a response, and the sermon progressed along.

Yet here’s the thing that troubles me. In a room full of people who were clearly there to praise the Risen Lord, no one spoke up. I didn’t speak up. Why is that? Why is it so hard to express my love of God, my trust in faith, that I didn’t let those words escape when I knew them? Following with that, how am I expected to proclaim God’s message to others who aren’t believers if I can’t even manage it with people who already believe?

I generally don’t consider myself to be a natural leader. I’m totally comfortable with letting others lead the way if they would rather do it. In fact there are many times when I fear a leadership position. Yet when it truly comes down to it, I’m usually good for stepping up and filling that role. Honestly, I think that’s a good position to be in as a pastor because you’re not afraid to let God lead you, or to let others pick up on ideas and run with them.

Yet this time I faltered in stepping up. Is it that I’m still so afraid of drawing attention to myself? Perhaps. But still, it emphasized the fact that there’s a lot of personal growth left to achieve before I’m ready to go out there on my own and lead others. Hopefully some day I’ll be as cool and smooth as the other Pastors out there. And when someone comes up to me and says “I’d never be able to do what you do” I can show them this post and honestly say “I didn’t think I’d be able to do it either.”

I hope if there is anyone out there reading this that feels the same way, that at times you are too afraid to step forward, that you understand that I’m right there with you. Don’t be afraid to speak up even if no one else is saying what needs to be said. I hope that next time I’ll be able to prove myself by trusting in God, rather than worrying about myself. If you feel the same way, maybe knowing there’s someone else out there that’s with you in the struggle will help you out.

Who knows, the next time one of the pastors says “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” maybe we’ll both/all stand up together and proudly declare “Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” God Bless!

Heat Wave!

Whew is it ever HOT outside today! On days like today I thank God for modern inventions like air conditioning, refrigerators, and ice cream. Especially ice cream.

Yet while thinking about the heat, sitting in my lovely air-conditioned house, grabbing a bit of ice cream from my refrigerator, I thought of how hot it must have gotten for people in Jesus’ time. Even now, there are so many people that don’t have the luxury items most Americans have. The thought that we take for granted so much in our lives and still manage to find things to complain about saddens me deeply. I have to wonder if these inventions are really helping us at all. We complain about a little heat, yet there are people out there that die from heat stroke, dehydration, starvation, etc. every day that never mutter a word about it.

How spoiled have we become that instead of using this warmth to remind us of the hardships others endure, we gripe to one another on our way from the cool airs of one place to another? And believe me, the griping won’t stop there. At the end of the month when that electricity bill comes, there will be a whole new slew of complaints on how expensive it is to keep the house comfortable. Meanwhile there are others out there who are suffering through the heat that don’t even have enough money to provide food for their families.

I look around my house, with 1.5 baths, three bedrooms, a full kitchen and living room, and can’t help but feel guilty. I feel guilty because I know that when I come home every day, I don’t usually take the time to thank God for a roof over my head. I don’t wake up in the morning and thank God for a safe and peaceful sleep. I eat food when I’m hungry and drink clean water when I’m thirsty without thinking that others cannot. Money and luxury, and believe me there are others out there that have a whole lot more than I do, have created a void between me and God. All this extra “stuff” has scarred my life by teaching me to take for granted all that I have been so fortunate to receive. All that I have because God loves me.

I don’t mean to be so down and depressing with this post, but it honestly angered me that I could live such a great life and not recognize the distance between me and some of my brothers and sisters out there who live each day not knowing if they’ll make it through another hungry night or scorching day.

So here’s the positive side of this post. I want those who have read up to this point to consider their own lives. Stop what you are doing and pray with me to God, thanking him for all he has provided for us. Then I want you to think about how you can remind yourself on a daily basis to see the good in life, to recognize the positive. Lastly, I want you to think of how you can make someone else’s life who is less fortunate even a little better.

Right now I’m going over to that thermostat and turning it up a couple of degrees to save some money. Once I get done with that I’m going to go through my clothes, see if there’s anything I can donate. And then finally I’m going to go on a good, long (most likely sweat-drenched) scenic walk to the De Pere Christian Outreach Center to bring my donations and praise God with prayer on the way there and back. Let me know what you decide to do.

God Bless!