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Posts tagged ‘Love’

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.

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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

 

Mister Rogers–Garden of Your Mind!

Hello All! I’m headed off to bed, but I saw this video on Facebook and just HAD to share it with you! Please take the time to watch it. It’s a short re-mixed song from Mr. Rogers. No, I’m not talking about Aaron Rodgers. I’m talking the Original, Vintage Mr. Rogers! I remember growing up on his show and always loving the routine, little teaching moments, the fantasy and imagination with the train set, and the FISH! Maybe that’s why I wanted pet fish growing up (and even now), because Mr. Rogers had them and took such good care of them.

Watching Mr. Rogers back then always calmed me and made me feel good about myself. Just like God’s holy presence in our lives. Our actions, just like Mr. Rogers taught us, have an impact in the world and can do a lot of good. We have been created, redeemed and empowered by God to go out in the world and make it a better place.  If that ends up looking like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, I think I’d be okay with that.

Anywho, here’s the video, I hope you enjoy it!

Mister Rogers Remixed–Garden of Your Mind (click the link)

Update on Goals!

Hello all! If you’re new to the blog, thanks for joining! If you’ve been reading for a while, you may remember that I posted 17 goals at the beginning of February and promised to post an update. Just a reminder, the goals were:

1. Lose Weight

2. Take a close look at finances and spending

3. EXERCISE!!!

4. Study my brains out

5. Build up my self-confidence

6. Sing. Loudly.

7. Sleep ;-)

8. Grow more plants

9. Write a hand-written letter and mail it

10. Honor the Sabbath

11. Get outside more!

12. Pray more often

13. Make a stranger a friend

14. take my bike out for a ride

15. Tell them I love them

16. Thank others

17. Get (and stay) organized!

I must definitely say it has been an amazing experience, and I’m proud to say I accomplished many of my goals.  I’m very proud to say with #1 that, since the start of the year I have lost over thirty pounds. Unfortunately the last week and a half haven’t been very productive, since I not only didn’t lose any more weight an even gained a pound or two back. Still, I’m hopeful that I’ll soon be going in the right direction again. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been this weight. I’m sure it was probably well before College,probably some time in high school. It was extremely embarassing for me when I had to buy a 4x shirt for a wedding, so it makes me so happy that I now fit into 2x shirts and have already lost 4 inches from my waist since coming to seminary. I’ll definitely need continued support, and thank all who have been doing so. It really means a lot to me. How exciting when people see you and go “Paul, are you losing weight? It really shows!”

#2 has been going well for me as well. I’m spending within my means and was even able to turn down a portion of government loans for this semester. Most of this is due to the amazing support of my congregation back home, and I can’t thank them (you) enough for all that you have done! I have definitely been wowed. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

#3 Exercise is still in the works. I can’t say I’ve figured out a routine yet, but I’m going on a lot more walks and even started asking others if they wanted to go on walks instead of the other way around. I am so confused and surprised by this weather lately and hope that it stays nice. I can’t believe I’ve been wearing shorts for the last week! It’s not even April yet! I am also proud to say that I’m able to do more crunches and pushups than before (which is still woefully inadequate) and hope to get even better at them. This is definitely going on the “continued goals” list.

#4 I am proud to say that this semester seems to be going really well. I am up to date on all the reading for all but one class (which is…interesting) and definitely feel like I’m gaining a lot of information and knowledge that will be great for the future.

#5 Whew, this on still needs a lot of work. It’s getting better with the whole weight loss bit, but I still have a ways to go. These days I seem to be in a constant struggle with wanting a significant other in my life and feeling like I’m not good enough for one. It’s also still hard for me to take a compliment in academics. Part of me wants to hear more, and part of me feels like they’re “just saying that”. Another one for the “continued goals” list.

#6 Wow. I may not have a very beautiful singing voice, but I’m definitely getting better at singing. I’ve even caught myself singing in my room and not even realize it. It’s definitely easier when the other people around me are singing, but even at church services where others aren’t singing, I’ve been doing my best to still sing. Is it perfect? No. But then again they never said you had to have a good singing voice to be a pastor.

#7 Hmm. Sleep has been…interesting. I’m getting better at going to bed at a more decent time (which I’m sure makes my neighbor Tammy happy) but I’m still feeling a bit sleepy during classes. I may have to start pouring the coffee on a more regular basis.

#8 I have been rocking this one! I have some spider plants in water that are about ready to be planted. I also have some tomato, lettuce, spinach, strawberry, mint and zucchini seeds started. I have two lettuce plants that are already getting big (mmm, homegrown lettuce) and plan on sharing a majority of the plants with the parents for their garden this year. I just feel better having things that are green and growing around me. I guess I have a bit of a green thumb. Who knew?

#9 I’ve written the letter, I’ve even put in an envelope, but I haven’t sent it yet. Gotta work on that. It’s just that I’m usually in such a rush that I forget. Hopefully I’ll remember after writing this update to go mail it. But hopefully it won’t be too long!

#10 Boom! If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll know that I started fasting for the Sabbath and am loving it. I feel that it definitely helps me feel closer to God than I have in the past. Last Saturday (a day and a week ago, not yesterday) I forgot and I think it threw my whole week off. It’s definitely a bit more interesting now with the longer days and the springing ahead in time, but I’d say it’s still going well. I’m sure there will be more to come.

#11 Bingo! I am rocking this one! I’m loving the weather outside, and can’t wait to get out there! I think I may have to take a stroll outside after this post (and mail the letter of course). I can’t wait until the thunderstorms start rolling again though, the snow storms was, though pretty, too peaceful and quiet. There needs to be Thunderbolts and Lightening (very very frightening) to light up the sky and drench the grounds. I love a good thunder storm, so I say bring them on! I’m definitely looking forward to running out in the rain(NOT when there’s lightning) and jumping in puddles! (Mom would be so proud!)

#12 This has been going along (as Dr. Persaud would say) quite smartly! Connecting with God over the last month and a half has been really important and helpful with all the questions and problems. For one, I’ve gotten a lot better at praying before meals. I’m hoping this is another thing that will continue to grow over time.

#13 and #14 definitely need work. While I’ve met some lovely people and had nice chats, I don’t know that I would call any of them a “friend” yet. As for the bike, I need to get out there with it again and feel the wind! Someday soon. Maybe Wednesday. I’m thinking that sounds good. Unless it’s thundering and lightning. I don’t really want to be riding a big piece of metal in that kind of weather.

#15 and #16 I think are going along well. In fact, after calling up my Grandmother and telling her I loved her, she made sure on Valentine’s Day to call me bright and early (6:39 in the morning, Early) an wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day and tell me that she loves me! It was so great to hear, and I’m told it made her day to tell me. I know it always makes me feel better to say it to others, or even just to thank them. Despite how good it feels to hear the words, I think it’s an even better feeling to say them!

Finally, #17 is halfway there! I did update and fill in my huge binder of cards and letters (It’s a monstrous 3″ binder) but I found a new problem. It’s Full! I love that the binder didn’t even make it a full year! I love looking through it and seeing all the thoughtful words and notes of encouragement. As far as the rest of being organized, I’m still in the process. I have my books organized (in a very OCD fashion from big to small, with books of the same size ranging from older to newer) but my desk in my room still needs a bit of attention. My room is clean (woo!) and my laundry is up to date, but my papers and desk drawers still need some TLC. Maybe after sending the letter and taking a stroll outside, I’ll be able to tackle that job. Then again, maybe not.

WOW! That was a LOT of writing. Thanks for sticking it out to the end. I am so thankful for all the people who are supporting me through this journey, and I want to make sure I do right by that. I really do appreciate each and every person who sends me letters, calls me, reads my blog posts, posts on my facebook, prays for me, encourages me, and everything else! Thanks for all that you do, and thanks for reading!

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!