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Posts tagged ‘God’

Internship has begun!

Hello everyone!

Thanks for reading! As most (if not all) of you know, I recently moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to begin my internship. Well, the beginning has begun now as of church service this morning. I’m happy to report that, besides some mic difficulties and stepping on the hem of my alb once or twice, the services went fairly well.

Tomorrow I look forward to my first full day with both St. Luke’s hospital and St. Stephen’s Church. I’m hoping they go easy on me for my first day, but you never know. I’ll be learning the ropes at the hospital from 8-4:30 and then head back to St. Stephen’s for evening events including Bible Study. It’s going to be fun, I promise!

I’ll have more to report later (and hopefully some awesome pictures of my new place) when I post again. Hopefully sometime mid-week you should see another post.

Thanks again for reading!

God Bless!

 

– Intern Paul Andrew Johnson

Boxes, boxes everywhere…

I’m currently in the process of packing up all my stuff. And by packing, I mean throwing everything out into the open and organizing it into bins.

It’s amazing to see how much stuff I’ve accumulated over the last two years, and now I’m scratching my head over how I’m going to get it all into the aforementioned boxes. After several days of it looking progressively worse in the midst of organizing, I’m finally starting to see progress. I’ve fully packed five tubs and two cardboard boxes with books, toiletries and cleaning supplies, electronics, decorations, yarn, more yarn, and still more books!

I’m hoping to pack at least two more boxes tonight before bed and then get the room semi-cleaned until next weekend when I’ll clean even more! Little by little, I’m chipping away at the process. I’m hoping that by the time my moving weekend arrives I’ll be able to get in the car, drive home and load up the truck in De Pere, drive back to Dubuque and get everything organized so that Sunday morning we can load up, drive to Cedar Rapids, enjoy the church service, and then unload all the boxes and furniture in one fell swoop!

Until then I keep switching back and forth between packing things up and remembering all the stories behind each item.

The spider plant my Aunt gave me which became my first official houseplant.

The mug that, after serving one of my teachers for many years, was given back to me so that I could remember her. I still use it every morning with my coffee or water.

The microwave, refrigerator and towels my grandmother made sure I had so I’d be “all set” for school.

The cross painted and stamped by a dear classmate that didn’t continue with the program, but continues to be a close friend.

The poem given to me from someone who only writes when inspired and has managed to inspire me each day.

The Bible, Book of Concord, Memory book and several other mementos from my Sisters and Brothers in Christ back at St. John’s.

The drawing Jim made and framed for me, the beautiful cross my dad made, the journal from my mother filled with notes from her and spilling with love…

The memories go on and on, making each item a precious memento and a wonderful reminder of all who walk with me through this journey. When the people of St. Stephen’s church in Cedar Rapids help me unpack, they won’t just be looking at my personal effects… They’ll be looking at the loving support I have received and continue to receive from those whom I am proud to call my friends and family. Everything I own here, down to my underwear (Thanks Aunt Lynn and Uncle Larry!) have been from generous gifts of love from others.

And those items just scratch the surface of all the wonderful memories made on this epic and beautiful journey. Thanks be to God!

 

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.

Planning on “Proclaim”ing again this year!

I realized, quite ashamedly in fact, that I haven’t really shared some great news with my friends and family near and far. So for all who haven’t heard, I’m sorry.

Proclaim Retreat, 2013

With that, I am happy to report that, beginning this Thursday at 1pm, I will begin my adventure to California to attend the Proclaim Retreat again this year. I am excited to see some familiar faces and get to know a ton of knew people as well during this trip. I only hope that I’ll have enough to do between flights on Thursday afternoon/evening and Friday morning as well as Monday afternoon/evening and Tuesday morning. Despite my best efforts, I’ll be spending nearly a day in airplanes or airports before and after the retreat.

If you’d like more information on the retreat, you can click here and it will bring you to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ website on the retreat. Please pray for me on Thursday and Tuesday that my flights go well and send warm thoughts my way over the weekend. I’ll definitely be doing the same and will even try to send a bit of warm weather and sunshine along with it. It’s looking like mid to high seventies all weekend long. Ahh, I can almost feel it!

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.