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Posts tagged ‘christian’

Goodnight, Jesus

With one of my responsibilities on campus currently being to lock up the Castle (Wartburg) each night, I’ve added in a little perk. Each night as I’m turning off lights and locking doors, I say goodnight to Jesus.

Let me explain…

It started several months ago (maybe even a year ago) when a good friend of mine, Sara, saw me in the chapel helping move some furniture and said hello as she walked past. She was showing someone around the campus (her mom, perhaps?) and this woman looked in with a puzzled expression until spotting us, and then said “oh, you were talking to them!”

Apparently, she thought Sara was waving and saying “Hey!” to Jesus.

Sara said that was crazy. I thought it was hilarious. And so when I would walk past the chapel, I’d wave and say “hey” to Jesus. Then when I started locking up at night I noticed they would leave the altar lights on during the day (which to me seemed like a nightlight for Jesus) so when I climb up the steps and turn of the light, I always turn to the crucifix and say “Goodnight, Jesus” before turning off the lights.

It may seem a bit weird, but I’ve come to enjoy these quick comments to Jesus each night. And while I was originally irked that the sacristan was leaving the altar lights on each night (one more light switch to flip) tonight I was saddened that they were already turned off and I didn’t have to say “Goodnight, Jesus.” But fear not, because even though I didn’t have to, I still did it.

Who knows, maybe at my internship site this upcoming year I’ll be turning out the lights and be able to say “Goodnight, Jesus” in a whole new setting. If not, I guess I’ll just have to say goodnight each day at home.

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I’ve been published!!!

Hey everyone! I just wanted you all to know that I have recently been published in one of our school’s newsletter. The article (about a page long) is in response to my feelings about the Boy Scouts of America and their decision regarding homosexuality. If you have a few minutes, I would be tickled pink if you’d read my article and the posts by others as well. There are some truly amazing people who have helped out with this newsletter through the years. I am incredibly honored to be published with them.

You can find the newsletter here, and my article, titled “To Protest by Persisting in Remaining” here. <–Click on the word(s) to follow the link!

Thank you and God Bless!

 

Bookmarks

Being someone who LOVES to read, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to hear that I have bookmarks. A LOT of bookmarks. Some are incredibly decorative, or have inspirations quotes or Bible passages on them. Some are simplistic, such as a neatly laminated bookmark that has BOOKMARK printed along the length of it in bold, large sized font. Some have tassels, some have ribbons, some have clips, some are magnetic. But the strangest thing about these bookmarks is that none of them are currently marking spots in my books!

Instead of bookmarks, I have cards, flyers, notes, fortunes, pictures, receipts, bumper stickers, leaves and church bulletins in between the pages of my books. I’ve tried using bookmarks in the past, but it never seems to work. I’ll be reading a book, take out the bookmark while reading and slide it in the back by the cover. Then when I’m done reading for a bit, I pick up one of the aforementioned items and place it neatly within to hold my place. Try as I might, my bookmarks collect dust on my bookshelf while these other items sneak between the pages of these books.

I guess I just can’t use something as a bookmark whose only purpose is to be a bookmark. I have a card from my grandmother currently marking my progression in a book for Theology of the Congregation. A fortune cookie paper holds the spot in another book, and even though I don’t need something to keep place in my kindle, there’s a Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker nestled between the protector and the screen. At times, these other items seem to hold bigger stories and wilder tales than the ones for which they are keeping place. Each item acts as a memento, a reminder of activities gone by or yet to come. These are not merely scraps or a means by which I can remember where I had left off in my reading, but something much more.

Even more, while pondering this fact, I noticed that the items in my books often corresponded to what I was reading in some way. The HRC bumper sticker in my kindle reminds me of the stories I have been reading about fights for freedom and equality. The fortune cookie in my Bible is a memento from an amazing birthday party with great friends from school. And that card from my grandmother, with her nearly illegible handwriting and comforting words? It’s held firmly in a book which is difficult to read because of its raw and gruesome truth. When the reading is too much, I can be comforted by the care and kindness my grandmother showed me in that card.

These items, which may serve temporarily serve as bookmarks, are much more than that, because they are touch stones to remember some of the important things in my life. Oftentimes after returning to Dubuque from DePere, I’ll find myself remembering the people of St. John Lutheran by using a church bulletin. In fact, if I were to write a diary or keep a journal of my life, it would undoubtedly be overflowing with these reminders of what has affected me and shaped me. Until then, my diary is split up, a memory here, a friendship there. A family member holding a place in my heart will also likely hold a place in my books as well.

Just as John’s Gospel comments that the world could not hold books listing all of which Jesus had done, nor can all my books ever hope to contain all the amazing memories I have had within my lifetime. Undoubtedly Christ’s actions are far more important, but they were done for God’s people, like me, and that makes my stories all the more amazing because of Jesus’ story.

Seeking Perfection

While reading some very creative and insightful articles for preaching, I had a thought that I wanted to share with you all. You may relate to the thought, or it may seem completely opposite to your nature. Either way, I hope it helps you to better understand me and something I still struggle with- perfectionism.

When I had my endorsement interview, I remember thinking that things were going really well. I enjoyed talking about my faith story, the ups and downs of seminary life, and was surprised to realize how far I had come in a year and a half. In the midst of talking about classes and which professors I liked (I said all, and I truly meant it) Pastor Scott hit me with a question that caught me completely off-guard. He asked me if being a perfectionist got in the way of my studies. WHAT?!? Me, a perfectionist? I remember sitting in a chair outside while they discussed their decision and writing on the pad of paper that I had brought with me “Am I a perfectionist?”

Pastor Scott’s question hit me like a slap in the face, and the next day when I spoke with Susan (my adviser) and asked her if she thought I was a perfectionist, she responded with a blatant “YEAH!” Since then, I have been slowly realizing that what was so obvious to them (and likely to many others as well) was completely hidden from me. Recognizing it and finally admitting to it has been a struggle. I encountered it again when discussing internship sites with Dr. Sayler. She told me that I’m too hard on myself and second-guess myself too much. After I stopped putting myself down for putting myself down, I realized it was because of that perfectionism again.

Being more aware of it, I’ve noticed that it has affected my life so much and kept holding me back. In dieting, I tried to be perfect in counting every calorie and watching every little thing that I ate. When I goofed and ate too much or scarfed down something unhealthy, all was lost in my mind. I screwed it up, so I might as well give up. Writing assignments, especially major papers, have been so hard because I worry so much about doing it right that I’m too scared to even start. Even in cleaning my room, I will put it off because I don’t have enough time to clean it to perfection. And it’s all so silly! I’m so caught up in doing it wrong that I can’t even do it at all!

I’m reminded of a trip last summer that I took to the cabin up north. I wanted to whittle something, so I got a pocket knife and found a large branch and started whittling away. The branch was a bit dry, so at times pieces would break off, and there was some discoloration in places. As I tried to fix all the mistakes and cut out the discoloration, it kept breaking and new spots kept showing up. Eventually all I had left was a tiny little piece of wood, about as long as my fingernail. The tip broke off, so I threw even that away. Looking back, I realize that my perfectionism is the knife and I’m the piece of wood. Whenever I tried to do something, that need for perfection would cut away at me until there wasn’t anything left.

So what does this have to do with the preaching articles? In reading them, they repeatedly remind the reader to keep the Word in mind. All too often sermon writers try to form some perfect masterpiece, or tell this perfect story, but at the expense of the Word. When they don’t keep Scripture at the center, it becomes all too easy to keep hacking away at it until there’s nothing left. The same goes for ourselves. If we forget who we are, as children of God, and forget that our goal is to share the Good News, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, help the poor, and love our neighbor, it’s easy to get caught up in life until there’s no real meaning left. We find ourselves constantly busy trying to find fulfillment in empty things. And what does that mean for us? Well, for me it means I have more schoolwork to finish. For you? Well, you’ll have to figure that one out yourself. If you figure it out, let me know. I’d love to hear what God’s calling you to do.

Happiness and Hmm…

Hey everyone!

Well this year has definitely started off on a good note! I finished the last year and began this one at home in De Pere, then returned back to Dubuque in the evening of the first to get back into my normal routine before classes begin.  I love my family dearly and truly enjoyed the ten or so days I was able to share with them. It was great having a chance to see everyone in person, to hear their voices, shake their hands, and hug them tight. That being said, it has been great being back in Dubuque as well. I’m always happy to come home, so with two homes, it makes for a lot of happiness. I’m hoping the happiness can and will continue.

Amid the joy and happiness welcoming in yet another year has brought, I’m still left with several questions. Nothing too serious or urgent, mind you, but questions nonetheless. I’d say the biggest remains how God will continue to shape my life. I recently wrote about how amazing these past three years have been since I stopped running from God’s calling, but it doesn’t mean I know what the future will hold for me. It’s both incredibly frightening and comforting all at once. While it would be great to just say “Okay, God. I trust you completely, so I’m not going to fret,” I wouldn’t want to lie so boldly to God. Because the fact of the matter is, I’m still left with doubts and concerns. I can and always try to rejoice in the moments where my worry proves unwarranted, but hindsight is 20/20.

Another major question, or pondering, that I’m still chewing over is whether or not to become vegetarian. While I know a lot of people make this choice for ethical reasons, such as in protest of the cruelty to animals or because they feel the slaughtering of innocence in all creatures to be horrendous, my pondering is for another reason. I don’t really crave meat, hate the thought of going anywhere near raw meat, and wouldn’t want to slaughter an animal or even just butcher one to get said raw and icky meat. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing meat-eaters, either. I’m just wondering if it’s fair for me to eat something I’d never actually want to prepare myself. In my meals here in Dubuque, I rarely use meat, and even then only if it’s pre-cooked, like in soups or lunchmeats. 90% of the meals I prepare for myself are already vegetarian, so why not simplify things and make it 100%?

In any case, I want to make sure this year continues to go well. I thought about what I could do to make my life better and came up with ten goals for myself. It started off with the idea of writing down a goal or two, but ten is what I ended up with. So without any further ado, here they are:

1. Weigh 266lbs or less

2. Pay down loans to less than $23,000 (currently at $24,364.34 and increasing about a dollar per day. Still, with a stipend while on Internship, I’m hoping this can be a reality.)

3. Be more assertive.

4. Eat/Live/Feel healthier.

5. Be closer to God.

6. Be less reactive with others.

7. Stick with spiritual practices.

8. De-clutter your life.

9. Do something wild and crazy. (For me, of course. Being the fairly conservative person that I am, it wouldn’t have to be anything too out there.)

10. Be happier with who you are.

I think #5 and #10 are the most important of them all. If I manage these two, the other eight will undoubtedly happen as well. I’m hoping that at the end of the year I’ll be able to come back to these goals and tell you that I’ve managed to fulfill all of them. If not, oh well. I just hope the journey is a good one.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with an idea that’s currently going around on the internet. It suggests making a jar for the 2013 year, and sticking positive thoughts and notes from each day into the jar. Then, on New Years Eve, you can open up the jar and read all the wonderful blessings you’ve had over the year. I’ve started mine, and I have to say it feels really good to think of the positives each day and focus on them. The other day, after shoveling out a friend’s driveway with other great friends, I was invited to share in a truly delicious meal. Between the bites of delicious breads and warm, tasty soup, we shared stories and enjoyed one another’s company. Afterwards, it felt so great knowing that the memory of that day would be kept safe in my jar.

So what about you? Do you have any New Years Resolutions or goals you’d like to share? Are you thinking maybe the jar idea is pretty cool? I’ve already seen another one with the beginning of what is sure to be a treasure trove of positives. The family is working on one together, and even decorated the jar. Definitely a good idea for families of any age, or for individuals as well. Let me know if it works out for you.

Until next time!

Paul Johnson

Recharging Batteries: Time at home!

Hey y’all!

Wow, I can’t believe yet another semester is done! I am now officially halfway through my academic courses for Seminary and over a third of the way through Seminary as a whole! It feels like just last week I was starting Summer Greek and now, a blink of an eye later, I’m finishing my third semester and getting ready for the fourth. Then it’s off to a year of internship and a final year of schooling before (I hope) I’ll graduate and get my first call. Where DID the time go?

This past week has been a great time of rest and relaxation. I managed to finally slow down on Thursday (because the Seminary closing MADE me) and then on Friday I made my way home to join the family. I’ve played some cards, chatted with family, gotten a ton of hugs from loved ones, and recharged my batteries at home and at church. It has been a truly amazing time, back in De Pere and celebrating Christ’s birth with my fabulous family and the amazing people of St. John Lutheran in De Pere! Once again, this time of the year has left me in tears, but in a good way. I have been so moved by this season and the wonderful message of Christ’s coming, knowing that it has already happened and occurs each and every day.

I was actually joined with the family; mom, dad and Jim, at St. John Lutheran in Ashwaubenon when I thought of something truly amazing. It had been three years ago, at that Christmas Eve Service in 2009 that I finally stopped running from my call and let God into my life. I used to think I was saying “yes” to God at that moment, but I’ve since realized that I merely stopped saying “no.” In actuality, I do believe my words to God that evening were “Okay, God. You win.” And ever since that moment, my life has been changed so drastically. I look back now, Three years wiser, three years closer to God, 70+ lbs lighter, and can’t help but shed even more tears this Christmas Season in thanksgiving. I am so thankful that God so loved us that God sent Christ as a child to us, and that God–for whatever reason–has chosen me to spread this Good News and is preparing me to administer the Sacraments. What an honor to be given an reminded of every year, and all I had to do was stop fighting with God and let the Holy Spirit work in my life.

If these past three years are any indication, the next three are going to be a wild and crazy experience! Thanks be to God!

Losing it!

Well it’s official, folks! I’ve lost it! But fret not, because not all of it is bad!

First things first, I think I’m losing it mentally in these last few weeks of the semester. I only have a few assignments left to finish, but they seem to be growing exponentially harder by the hour. Perhaps once my Hebrew Paper is finished I’ll be able to take a few cleansing breaths and start on the next assignment. Only two papers, a fieldwork report, two exams, one reading and a few translations left. I can do this!

The other part of losing it is absolutely fantastic! For those of you that don’t know, when I first felt the call to ministry in late December of ’09, I was 369lbs. Yes, you read that right. YOWZA! I’ve been working on eating healthier and exercising more and am happy to report that for the first time in my entire adult life, I am down into the 200s! I slipped under the 300 mark this morning and plan to keep going! When I looked at a picture of me from first semester at Wartburg, I could definitely see the difference! I’m hoping that by the time this seminary journey is done I’ll be a much healthier, much skinnier and hopefully much wiser person. As it is, I think I’m on the right track 🙂

I would ask for your thoughts and prayers in these next two weeks of classes and the next few months of holidays and food-induced comas. And for all you amazing people in the greater green bay area, watch out, because I’ll be home from the 21st of December to the 1st of January. I can’t wait to see you again!

Blessings,

Paul Johnson

From left to right: Mary, Deb, Me, Kelly
From left to right: Mary, Deb, Me, Kelly
Picture of me when my aunt and mom visited. I was making it rain!
Picture of me when my aunt and mom visited. I was making it rain!