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Posts tagged ‘Neighbor’

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

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!