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Archive for February, 2012

Saturday…what an experience!

Hello again!

Well I just had to tell you about what a fantastic Saturday I had yesterday! It was such an amazing day, and even when things might go sour, my amazing friends were there to make sure the night ended on a great note!

First off, I want to mention that this Saturday was the second in a row that I fasted from morning until sundown. Before anyone gets too concerned, I checked with a doctor before starting it (who was all for it) and I want to reassure you that I am doing this as a spiritual practice, not as a way to lose weight .The doc approved of the spiritual aspect as well, but told me that it may have the added benefit of resulting in more weight loss, as long as it’s not done too frequently. I’m happy to report that the last two Saturdays have been really spiritually rich for me. The hunger only helped to remind me to spend the day in prayers of thanksgiving for life, for food, and prayers for those who suffer without food far too often. I’m still considering expanding the time-frame, perhaps by getting up earlier on Saturdays, or waiting until later to break the fast. For the time being, I think I’ll just let the increasing daily sunlight slowly expand the experience for me.

Oh, and that possible side effect of losing weight? Yeah, it happened as well đŸ˜‰

I think the biggest thing that has helped these last two weeks is making sure I don’t break the fast with a huge meal. As it was, I felt much fuller on less after not eating all day, so even a “normal” meal last week made me feel over full. This week was much better with an amazing bowl of homemade venison chili (thanks to Carina) and spicy kale chips (thanks to Deb and Mary) and finger snackies at…

wait for it…

 

wait… for… it…

 

BLACK TIE JAZZ!!!

That’s right, the day ended amazingly with Black Tie Jazz at the seminary! The band was absolutely phenomenal, and I could tell that the event took a lot of careful planning and preparation. It was WILD! Now I must admit that I am not a very avid dancer. Much the opposite. This resulted in much of the night sitting down, chatting and contemplating how much more fun it would be if I had a special someone to go to with. I even started to get very jealous of Heidi’s ability to just go with the flow and dance to her heart’s content.

Luckily for me I had promised Allison that I would dance with her, and despite my insistence of having two left feet, she coerced me out onto the dance floor. She taught me some moves and we practiced them while the band was on a break. I must say she is an extremely graceful twirler!

It was so amazing out there dancing with her. Had I believed all her praise for my “natural skill,” I would have to consider entering into a competition. Still, I started feeling more comfortable with the moves and started just going with it. My thanks to Allison for being such an amazing teacher and graceful dancer. It certainly turned the night around!

But wait, there’s more! After dancing a few dances with Allison the group started line dancing. According to Amber, a classmate’s significant other (Go Tanner!), I was too close to the dance floor not to be dancing. She quickly shot me down when I tried to tell her that I didn’t know how to line dance. She explained the moves to me, we watched a couple times, and then we jumped right in. It was GREAT! I still goofed from time to time, but I started getting the hang of it, and I certainly wasn’t the worst dance out there.

Afterwards I danced with Mary, and we observed our friend Deb out on the dance floor cutting a rug like crazy while we stayed with a more comfortable pace. I was glad to see Deb out there because I was afraid of Deb’s wrath for dancing with Mary before her. Still, I think it worked out well for all of us, because that girl can move! I’m sure I held Mary back a bit, but maybe next time (after some more lessons with Allison perhaps) we’ll be out there right next to her moving like stars.

I had to go to bed far too early, but it was still such an amazing day, and I’m so grateful to have my amazing friends who are always there for me. Some day I’d like to have that special someone to get all snazzy for and dance until the cows come home. But until he shows up in my life, I have such great friends to make memories with and celebrate each day together. I can’t wait until the next big event!

From left to right: Carina, Mary, Me, Deb, Heidi

Living in the Word in Lent

Hi everyone! I’ll be brief because I have a class in a few minutes, but I received an amazing 2012 Reading Guide for the forty days of Lent from a classmate. I thought it was so amazing that I wanted to share it with all of you! You can print it off from this website here!

Here’s the first day’s reading for tomorrow, Feb-22-12 Matthew 1-7

I hope you take the time to add something into your daily routine during the next forty days. I’ll be trying my best to follow this schedule as well as other things. Let me know if you have your own plans or ideas for Lent. I’d love to hear more from you!

“Singles Awareness Day”

Hello There!

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate that special love in your life. A day for sharing your innermost appreciation for the one who matters to you. A day to spend a ton of money on cards, chocolates, and cutesy teddy bears that say I love you…

Okay, so maybe the  holiday has some flaws. One thing I’ve noticed in the last couple of years is the raising up of “Singles Awareness Day” for those individuals who are not in a relationship. A gesture of protest to another “Hallmark” holiday.

Personally, I think Singles Awareness Day is bull. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not attacking anyone who celebrates it. But it’s important to remember that this day is meant to share your love with another. It’s about showing appreciation for that special someone. Now you might be thinking “But Paul, I’m single. I don’t have anyone to show appreciation for.” How wrong you are! You have God to be thankful for. You can show God how much God means in your life. Tell God that you love all that God has done for you. Go ahead, send up a prayer right now! They don’t cost a cent, and I’m sure God wouldn’t mind being showered in prayers of thanksgiving today or any day for that matter.

Then, after you’ve sent up a prayer or two of thanks, look around you. Isn’t there someone else who might be a part of the “single” status as well? Go to the grocery store and find that sweet old lady that reminds you of your grandma and tell her that you think she’s the bees knees ( I don’t have a clue what that term means, but I think she’d like it) Call up an out of town relative and say that you love them and are thinking of them. Go to the VFW, the nursing home or the hospital. There are people all over the place that could use an extra hug or at least a smile.

Valentines Day isn’t about you. It isn’t about your singles status (if you are, in fact single like me) but  about spreading the love. What better love to spread than the love of God. Remember that you are never alone because God is always there for you. Go with God and God Bless!

God and Neighbor

Hello There!

I’m just going to get right in there and bare it all! I hope you’re ready because this could get intense!

Over the weekend I have been working on crossing off the readings for next week. I finished my From Text to Sermon reading, Ages of Faith and Reformation reading, and Pauling Letters and Mission reading and have a chunk of Sytematic Theology and Foundations of Christian Worship assignments done. Go me! While doing these readings some of the ideas kept nagging at me. Pulling at something inside me and really digging in. I even cried during a couple of them.

What really got to me was the realization (mostly through Systematic Theology and Foundations) that, as a sinful person I can never be good enough for God. Now don’t go all suicide watch on me because that’s not what this is about. The point is that, as sinful creatures, our thanks, praise, prayers, etc. to God all fall short of perfection. Because we’re imperfect and incomplete, our prayers and whatnot are as well. Duh. As imperfect prayers, they aren’t worthy of God’s perfect completeness. In one of the readings, Bernard of Clairvaux puts it perfectly by stating “My God, my help, I shall love you as much as I am able for your gift. My love is less than is your due, yet not less than I am able, for even if I cannot love you as much as I should, still I cannot love you more than I can.” (p.347 in Readings in World Christian History).

And yet (and this is this kicker) God still loves us and accepts us for it. Now this isn’t to say that we can just do whatever and sin galore. Nope, that would definitely sadden/anger/frustrate/ (who knows?) God and we certainly don’t want that. I feel like this directly correlates to Ephesians 2:8-10 “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ” No matter what we do, we cannot purchase our own salvation, but only receive it through grace.

It all really hit me, in a time where I feel like I’m struggling to keep up with all the concepts, that I am such a small, infinitesimal speck in the grand scheme of things. I’m not able to save myself, and I’m not able to give God the love that God deserves. So then what can I do? In this huge, crazy world, what impact to I have?

The answer came to me in a memory from my trip to Israel. In Abuna Chacour’s speech to us he said that “You Americans can travel to the moon, but you can’t knock on your neighbor’s door.” Aha! There’s the answer! I can go out and meet my neighbors, share in their hopes and dreams, discuss their fears, accompany them through the good times and the bad. I can be present in our conversation. In doing so, I am then able to show my love for my neighbor and, in doing so, show love for God as well. I may not be able to buy my salvation through my works, but I can darn sure show my thanks for that amazing gift by loving others. It may be imperfect, but it’s the best I’ve got.

God Bless!

Goals and more updates

Hey there!

Last night I read an absolutely amazing blog update from my friend Kelly found here. In her blog post, she started a list of things she wanted to accomplish in the next month. I thought it was really cool, so I figured I would make a list as well. Here’s the initial list I compiled last night in my sleep-deprived response.

1. Lose Weight

2. Take a close look at finances and spending

3. EXERCISE!!! (I really need to get better at this, even if it’s just taking more walks or continuing my feeble attempt at sit-ups.

4. Study my brains out (okay, maybe not literally, but it’s going to be intense.)

5. Build up my self-confidence

6. Sing. Loudly.

7. Sleep ;-)

After thoughtful reflection and pondering of my eyelids for a couple hours ( I went to bed around 11 and got up at 4:30) I knew there were a couple more things I wanted to add to the list. So here’s the continuation of that list.

8. Grow more plants- I really love plants and feel that in a sense tending for them calms me. It also makes me responsible for something in a very low-maintenance sort of way. Since I got money from Christmas and birthday from the family (too much, if you ask me) I figured I would go ahead and buy a couple pots and some soil and see if I can grow some more “stuff.” First on my list is going to be a jade plant. There’s one in the hallway and I really want to take it as my own, but I don’t want someone to come knocking at my door looking for their long lost plant, so I’m just going to take a leaf or two and plant from that. I’ll have to upload photos at a later date of all my beautiful plants!

9. Write a hand-written letter and mail it- I have a couple people in mind, but I’d also love to send a letter to you if you’d like. You can e-mail me at pjohnson@wartburgseminary.edu or message me on Facebook and I’ll do my best to write to you. Just keep in mind that I’m also busy with classes and writing thank yous and letters to other people, so don’t feel hurt if I don’t send one right away!

10. Honor the Sabbath- I’m going to go with the whole sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday as best as I’m able, but I really need to take that time for my relationship with God. Despite all the reading I’ll still be doing, (or else I’d suffer in my classes) I definitely need to set aside some time to just explore my identity as a Christian and work to strengthen my faith.

11. Get outside more! – I realize that with this being the middle of winter right now this might be a strange goal, but with the ability to go to and from classes without ever stepping outside, I really need to reconnect with the natural beauty of the land. That, and I could always use some fresh air!

12. Pray more often – this includes some silent prayers and prayers of thanksgiving. I feel a bit guilty that I’m constantly bombarding God with requests, so I want to work on some healthy alternatives.

13. Make a stranger a friend- No, this doesn’t mean I’ll be walking the streets at night or creeping around questionable places. Calm down, I’m  not completely insane. I just keep thinking about what Abuna Chacour said to us while in Israel. He said something along the lines of “You Americans can go all the way to the moon, but you can’t knock on your neighbor’s door.” This really struck me, and it hurt to admit that he’s right. I don’t really know the people living by us that aren’t in the “Wartburg Community” I want to change this, and now’s as good a time as any.

14. take my bike out for a ride- again, the winter is on, but that poor bike is accumulating dust and feeling lonely. The roads are clear of ice patches, so it would be safe, and I’ll wear my hat and gloves. Promise.

15. Tell them I love them- Family, friends, you all. I don’t say it often enough, and I need to change that. I love you.After my first day in the Loss and Grief class, I felt horrible because I couldn’t remember the last time I had said I love you to my Grandmother. She’s the only grandparent I have left, and despite the fact that she too has a hard time saying it (apparently most of the family can’t remember her ever saying it), I just had to tell her while I still had the chance. It felt great and made me want to do it again.

16. Thank others – this is always a good idea. It also brings me to my second goal of this post. I received a two cards in the mail today. I don’t want to out anyone, but I know they both read this blog. And so, I just wanted to say thank you. It meant so much to me that I had those cards (and a letter as well) today. I was feeling a bit rough from lack of sleep and coursework overload and it totally brightened my day and gave me a renewed burst of energy. Your words are very dear to me, and I’ll be sure to keep them in mind. Each piece of personal mail means so much to me (and will eventually make it into my memory binder) and reminds me of why I am here doing what I’m doing.

Finally, as #16 made clear,

17. Get (and stay) organized! – Along with organizing my binder, I also need to clean out my desk and closet. As I continue to lose weight, I’ll also have to work on culling out the clothes that just don’t fit well anymore (for all the right reasons!) so organization will go a long way.

That is all for now. I hope to be able to have more updates soon, and will try to remember to comment on what progress I made by the end of the month. Oh, and one little update right now! Since posting my last blog post on the 4th, I have lost another pound and have already noticed a difference in my energy. Thanks for all the prayers and support. Keep them coming!

God Bless!

Update!

Hello there!

This semester has officially started! I’m loving all my classes and the challenges each of them brings as well as the added challenge of trying to balance said classes along with work and housekeeping and eating better and exercise! Whew! If it seems like a whole lot trying to read it, imagine how crazy it is to LIVE it! Still, I wouldn’t trade this in for the world!

I think as of now I’m doing fairly well at balancing it all. At the moment my floor is in desperate need of vacuuming, but that will have to wait for another day. Oh! I also have several plants growing at the moment (including some edible ones, yumm!) and just started a new one today. Well… hopefully it’ll start. Other than the need to clean, I think all is going well.

I must say this semester seemed to start a lot faster than the others, with assignments from the very first day and much thought provoking discussion from the get-go. It will also be interesting to see what sixteen credits looks like compared to last semester’s twelve. Tuesdays and Thursdays are going to be crazy. I have classes from 7:30 in the morning until 4:20 in the evening. Crazy, right?

Other than that, I don’t have too much to say. I just figured I’d let everyone know how I’m doing after this first week of semester two. I’m sure my positive attitude will be challenged along the way (as it was at times last semester) but I am equally sure that I will persist through it all and emerge from the other side a stronger, more thoughtful and informed individual.

Grace and Peace to you all!

God Bless!

Slowly Revealing A New Me

Hello everyone!

I want to mention something that happened while over in Israel. Something amazing. Something, you could say, live changing. I can’t tell you where we were or what we were doing at the time. I can’t give an exact date, or time of the day. All I know is that throughout the trip I was changing. Changing for the better. Something clicked inside me, finally fell into place, however you want to describe it.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember.Except perhaps for some of my initial years, I have been overweight. This in turn caused me to have low self esteem, which led me to comfort myself… with food. Thus a scary and extremely dangerous cycle began, with me caught in the middle. After a while that cycle had been looping over and over so long that I didn’t know where it began, and I certainly didn’t know where it ended.

While I had managed for the most part to stop gaining weight (and even made some gains in losing weight) I kept balancing way above where I should be. In fact at one point I weighed a whopping 369 lbs! I stopped going to the doctor because I dreaded seeing them weigh me. Somehow the lack of a comment paired with diverted eyes cut deeper than if they had just gotten it over with and shouted “wow, we’ve got a fatty over here!”

I kept having to buy new clothes, each purchase a painful reminder of how low I had sunk. I stopped wearing dress shirts because they always tightened around the stomach. My work shirts wouldn’t stay tucked in unless I bought the extra long ones. Life became a constant hell, and I was keeping myself there.

Over the past couple of years I have managed to make some efforts to climb out of that self-created prison, but the efforts usually didn’t last long. I’d go in, full steam, and then lose momentum after a day or two. Sometimes I would make it a month before giving in and giving up. No matter how hard I tried, I kept sabotaging myself. I’d try to lose weight so I could finally find someone that would love me. But then I’d start to panic that it wasn’t being fat that kept me single, but because I wasn’t good enough. I’d think I could do it to be able to fit into smaller clothes. Then I’d see the trendier (and much more expensive) clothes and fear that if I lost weight I’d spend too much on clothing.

Like I said, it was a vicious cycle, and I didn’t know how to break it. Again, I don’t know when specifically it happened, but that cycle that I had ridden for so many years started to crumble over in Israel. I had positive reinforcement from others when I’d put myself down. I had people listen to me and encourage me to speak my mind. I had the time of my life, and knew I wanted to come back again and do even more the next time! My trip companions gave me the confidence to start singing again (and boy, does it ever feel great!) They stopped me when I said I wasn’t good enough to find someone to date. Most importantly, they provided me with enough self-worth that I know I can succeed if I just do it for me.

While the last several years have been fraught with yo-yoing, I’m determined to make sure this doesn’t happen again this time. When I returned home (to campus) I found that, despite eating like crazy over in Israel, I had still managed to lose eight pounds! In the eleven days since we returned, I have managed to lose another three. I’ve joined http://www.myfitnesspal.com in order to keep track of my daily calories and exercise (a truly wonderful website, and they have smart phone apps as well) and have some people that are going to go on walks with me. Most importantly, I have amazing friends (here and back home) that are joining me on this journey as “friends” on myfitnesspal, or as fellow dieters.

So here’s what I’m going to ask from you, my amazing readers. If you are already friends with me on mfp, then you can ignore the rest. If not, then I would highly recommend you check the website out. Even if you don’t want/need to lose any weight, it’s a great way to be more conscious of what you’re eating. If you decide to join, please add me (my username is XavierPaul101)  and we can work together. I would also LOVE comments and encouragement, either on here or on facebook. Finally, please send out a prayer for me, and remind me that God won’t let me down.

Thanks for reading, and as always, God Bless!