Friday, July 31, 2015

What I Learned: July

It's the end of July (what? where did June go?), so I'm linking up with Emily Freeman's What We Learned in July post. It's a useful way to help me remember things - trivial, profound, or somewhere in-between - that I've encountered over the month, and it's fun to share them with you all.

1. I can read books in German. 

This realization came as I was browsing through bookstores throughout Germany. As a result, I brought 22 books home with me. Some are classics, like Anne Frank's Diary or Bonhoeffer's Life Together, which I want to read in the original language. Others are books that I'd never heard of before, but looked fascinating. Being able to read books in another language has drastically expanded this book-lover's world.

2. It is important to me to seek out and serve those that aren't from my social echelon or background.

After working with refugees for a month, I have realized that I don't want to stop. It has always been important to me to serve my friends and family, but now I want to deliberately look outside my circles and seek places to serve. This could involve refugees, the elderly, children, or whatever. I want to give to people who have nothing to give back. After all, I have been given so much, and to whom much is given, much is expected.

3. I don't do my own convictions a favor by refusing to listen to those who hold an opposite viewpoint.

This isn't a new lesson, but it's one I've been revisiting in the past few weeks. If I can't handle some pushback from the other side, it probably means that my convictions are more flimsy than I'd like to admit. On the flip side, it is hard for me to respect someone who relentlessly pushes their own ideas without giving me the chance to express my own. 

4. It never hurts to say thank you.

People are serving us all the time, making sure our small worlds run smoothly. Waiters, cashiers, security officers, flight attendants, janitors, and so many other people would be sorely missed if they stopped doing their jobs, but we rarely think to stop and say thanks. Just because their work is commonplace does not mean they should not be thanked. In fact, the fact that they faithfully keep things running behind the scenes means we owe them all the more thanks. On my flights to and from Germany, I left simple thank-you notes on my seat. I happened to still be there when one of the flight attendants from my flight home (which had a lot of unexpected complications) saw the note, and her face absolutely lit up as she thanked me. It makes a difference, folks.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

when it's time to stop

{photo credit}
It should have been the perfect movie for a girls’ night in. The cast contained an impressive number of stellar British actors, the film is supposed to be an entertaining comedy, and several of my friends have told me I would enjoy it. So Mom and I curled up on the couch ready for a delightful evening. We had every intention of liking the film, which made it a bummer when we decided to quit with forty minutes to go.

The actors were, indeed, knock-your-socks-off, there were many instances of dry British wit, and I was rooting for several of the characters. The overarching idea for the story was compelling.  But the details of the individual storylines were irreparably flawed.

Almost without exception, the storylines of the individual characters – even the dear, sweet, elegant lady who I wanted to end up happy – were morally compromising. No, more than that: they were designed to make sin look not only acceptable or excusable, but appealing. They were crafted in such a way that the only possible “happy ending” was one on terms that I could not accept.

Now, I am not saying that to be good a film has to uphold every traditional Christian value that I believe in. I have seen and deeply appreciated films that have serious flaws. The problem is when suddenly, in the world of the film, outright sin – of many different varieties – is unapologetically and unequivocally portrayed as right. This was one of those films.

So we turned it off. I checked on Wikipedia to satisfy our curiosity as to how it ended, and to find out if somehow things were redeemed in the end. They weren’t. In order to be satisfied with the “happy ending,” we would have had to been satisfied with sin being portrayed as something with no consequences.  

It was thought-provoking, how appealing sinful attitudes and actions were made to appear in this movie. It made my mom and me discuss how Satan masquerades as an angel of light. It can’t be wrong if it’s so beautiful, we think. But our perception of what is beautiful has been twisted by the fall, and only marinating in the truth of Scripture can heal our broken perspectives. I am so grateful to my parents for teaching me to love and seek after truth for as long as I can remember. Although it would be easier to have dulled perceptions of right and wrong – being able to enjoy the comic elements of such a film without having a pit in my gut at how twisted it was – I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because it is truth that sets us free – free from the laws of sin and death that appear so appealing to our fallen vision, free to recognize and see the beauty of righteousness, and free to choose between them.

Monday, July 20, 2015

the big picture

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. ~Colossians 1:6-7

Today I read Colossians. In English. It is the first time in over a month that I have read the Bible in my own language. The surprising thing is, that didn't actually seem like such a big deal.

For the vast majority of the Wheaton in Germany trip, I read the Bible in German. But rather than being laborious, this was soothing to my soul. During the very first week of the trip, when I was absolutely exhausted from German immersion, I opened up my Luther Bible to read the living word of God. And even though it was in a different language, it was sweet, familiar, and restorative. Just as much as, if not more so, than reading something else in English or speaking English. Even when I came across words that I didn't know in German, it wasn't a problem: I may not be fluent in German, but I am quite comfortable with the words of Scripture.

The reason that reading the Bible - even in German - was more refreshing to me than taking a much-needed break from the German language is that even though the English language is one of my most basic elements of who I am, my faith is the fundamental element of who I am.

Many things on this trip have reminded me of a verse that I love:

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." ~Philippians 3:20

As I felt the tension between my love of Germany and my love of America, I remembered that my citizenship is in heaven.

As I made friends who I now feel like I have known for years, not weeks, I remembered that my closest community is not defined by culture or blood ties, but by shared faith in Christ.

As I read the Bible in German, I remembered that the Word of God bridges cultures, millennia, languages and oceans to speak truth into the hearts of humanity and draw us into His eternal kingdom.