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Posts tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

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!

 

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!

Prayer and Authenticity

Hello Dear Friends!

So I’m in the midst of reading “Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible” by Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson, and it has encouraged me to write a post in response.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with my identity in many and various ways in the past, so I feel it should come as little or no surprise that I wonder about my boundaries and identity as a future minister (God willing) in the ELCA and, even sooner, an intern. I wonder about facebook, e-mail, cell-phone numbers, etc. in regards to how much to divulge and where to draw the line. Moreso, I wonder what my “identity” should be in these regards. In reading Drescher and Anderson’s second chapter which addresses this issue (thank goodness I’m not the only one conflicted!) they suggest an intentional presence and, above all, an authentic one. In speaking with my advisor, professor, former boss, facebook friend and an all-around awesome person, Susan had also told me to do the same. Be intentional about what you post and be authentic.

This got me thinking about what that looks like even more, and with the help of Elizabeth, Keith and Susan, I’ve realized that I’m already doing it. Who I am on Facebook and on here is authentic to who I am, and I’m (usually) intentional in what I post. Sure, I like to have fun and talk about gardening, cleaning, reading, weight loss, frogs and unicorns in addition to talking about God, but that’s because it’s part of who I am. I hope that others feel comfortable with that and feel free to respond authentically as well.  I also hope that my friends will challenge me when they disagree with me!

That being said, I hope that you (whoever you are) will feel free to share a bit about who you are with me. You can post a comment on here, e-mail me at pjohnson@wartburgseminary.edu , post on my facebook page, message me, send me a letter, or any other way you can think of to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

I also want to let everyone know that I’d love the opportunity to pray for/with you. If you have a prayer request and you’d like me to pray as well, please let me know (again, by any of the aforementioned means) and I would be honored to pray. Please know that, unless directly specified by the person being prayed for, I will not post prayers or those I am praying for. I would like to respect everyone’s privacy, so unless you would like it specifically shared with others, it will be between you and me.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless! I hope to hear from you to chat about life, for prayer requests, or for any other reason. Have a good one!

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.

Quick Thoughts

Hey everyone!

So for anyone reading this that doesn’t attend St. John Lutheran Church, or does but wasn’t at the annual meeting, I gave a quick speech thanking everyone for their support, and explaining this wonderfully and scary journey called Seminary. I can remember that Christmas Eve service, back in ’09 when I sat down with the family and had my life changed for the better. We had been a bit late, so rather than sit on the left side of the church in “our” pew, we were a bit further towards the front and on the right side. Today I decided to sit over on the right side again. Partly because I was thinking about that service, but mostly because I wanted to catch up with Carlyn and Marlene. A tiny fragment of the decision may or may not have been to mess with dad’s head, but I’ll let the reader decide on that one.

In any case, being on that right side again made me realize all that has happened to me in that church since I got that calling again and finally stopped saying “no.” I helped out with communion for the first time and had my zipper down through the whole thing. Thanks again, Jim L for catching that one. I filled in for services when the pastors needed someone to cover, and undoubtedly goofed up something or another each time. I told the pastors I was terrified of the thought of working with youth, so they told me to become a confirmation guide…

The list goes on and on of the amazing opportunities that I’ve had, and the little slip-ups that have occurred along the way. At any one of those times, the congregation could have said “you know, maybe we’ll take you off the list for communion assistant” or “I think next time we’ll just hire a pulpit supply person” or “you’re afraid of kids? Oh, well then never mind.” But instead of those responses I got positive reinforcements, helpful tips (like making sure your zipper’s up before communion distribution) and encouraging nudges to explore my growing edges. I have been nurtured by the church. I have been graced with a loving, forgiving, and understanding family that stands by me and encourages me every step of the way.

My excuse all along to God was that I couldn’t do it. What I didn’t realize was that I was really thinking I couldn’t do it alone. Luckily for me, God has made sure that I didn’t have to. I have been surrounded by love, raised up in a strong faith, and encouraged to fulfill my potential. Along the way I have met truly amazing people, realized the gems in my life with my friends, family, former co-workers, random acquaintances… I can’t do it alone, and that’s okay, because I don’t have to. I only hope I can help others realize that themselves by being a part of their support network. Because the truth of the matter is that God doesn’t abandon us in our hour of need.

Blessings to you all!

-Paul

 

Chicago

This year’s January Interim (J-term) class is on domestic violence. Since coming to the Seminary and hearing about this J-term, I’ve known that this would be a class I’d want to take. All the comments I’ve heard from other classmates and graduates have only reinforced this feeling. Now that I’m in the course, it’s even more apparent that not only do I want to take this course, but I need to take it. From day one, I have been intrigued by the material. It feels horrible to say that I’m excited to be learning about domestic violence, but I can’t help but think of how much it will help me in future ministry and interactions with others who have suffered from domestic violence in one form or another. What has surprised me is how MANY people have been impacted by such a horrible thing.

Our class just returned on Friday from a three day trip in Chicago, talking with people who work with shelters, those voicing concerns about this issue, victims of domestic violence, a social worker working with the Cook County Police on responding to DV calls, someone who works with human trafficking… the list goes on. Even more, we’ve heard one another’s stories as to how this has affected each of us in our own lives. Some of us have been more closely affected by domestic violence than others. We have shared tears, hugs, stories of violence, despair, loss, hopelessness, hope, community, encouragement, faith…

As one portion of this course comes to a close, I feel like this has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Whenever I thought I had finally overloaded on emotions and wouldn’t be able to feel, yet another voice managed to break through and make me feel again. My heart broke so many times, and just as many times was made new by the knowledge that there are people out there who are working to make this right, there are people who have survived the violence, people who have found the courage to leave, the strength to move on. There are so many reasons that people stay in these relationships, sometimes even willingly. I only hope that God will use me to get through to even one person and help them find freedom from the hurt.

May God’s presence be made known to all those suffering from domestic violence, victims of hate, that they may find a way to escape such situations and find the resources necessary to survive and be free. And may God use my being to help those in need and to share the Good News. This is not their “cross to bear,” nor should they “suffer gladly for God.” Our God is one of hope and love, not suffering and pain.

 

 

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!