2013: Crazy & Chaotic…

Although it is now 2014, I don’t think a review of 2013 would be too late. And considering how chaotic and stressful last year was, I think it’d be best to reflect over everything before gearing up for the rest of this year.

At the end of 2012, I decided I was going to apply for seminary. So during January of last year, I filled out my FAFSA and requested an application from Western Seminary. I figured Western was my best route since I had several friends who had attended there and they are pretty smart people. But toward the end of January and beginning of February, I started thinking I should at least put in an application to George Fox – on the off chance a miracle occurs and I get accepted there. Once the application for Western was finished and sent, I started rounding up recommendation letters and working on the essay for Fox.

I had submitted the George Fox application with less than a week to spare. If you’ve never filled out an application for seminary, it’s not an easy task. You’re forced to reflect a lot on your reason for applying and what you would want to do with the skillsets you’d acquire at seminary. You’re forced to articulate what you believe and why – and, more specifically, how your own personal theology would fit inside their particular seminary. And with everything these seminary applications ask, you realize you can’t even begin to answer them without spending some time alone with God. The start of my 2013 caused me to revise and refine my own mission statement.

Toward the middle of the year, after many baseball games and track meets working with the Duck Store, I received an email informing me that I had been accepted into George Fox and that I would begin classes in the following Fall semester. I cannot recall the last time I had felt such an excitement in being accepted into something I had only dreamed of before. Yet it was right around that time when things started to get really chaotic.

I now drive a 2008 Chevy Cobalt. But I started last year driving a 1996 Chevy Lumina – the car both I and my brother drove in high school. Throughout the near-eight years I had been driving it, it had had a few mechanical problems. First was the alternator belt back in 2008, which kept me from going home for Thanksgiving that year. Next problem were the brakes in 2011, a couple months before graduating from the University of Oregon. After that, which brought about the final straw to my time with the Lumina, was the blown head gasket. And of course, it had to happen while I was parked at a car dealership in Eugene.

My car troubles didn’t end there, either. I traded in my Lumina, conveniently dead in the parking lot at Kiefer Mazda, for a 2005 Nissan Sentra, which only had 70,000 miles on it. I signed the papers, got the keys, and drove it around Eugene frequently. It was the first car I ever purchased on my own, so of course I wanted to drive it a ton. And after a trip to Lincoln City, Portland, Lincoln City, Portland, and back to Eugene, the Sentra started having problems. The engine kept flooding and I had to keep going back to the dealership to figure out what was wrong – since I only had the car for three weeks. Whatever the problem was remains to me a mystery because I gave up and traded it in for what I’m driving now. Yet during all this I was working two jobs and trying to find a place to live in Portland (hence the trips up there and back). “Stressed” is putting it mildly.

As the summer came to an end, though, we had found a place to live with only one catch: The apartment wouldn’t be available until after I had started school at George Fox. In fact, my move-in date was set for the 10th – the day after my second day of classes. I commuted to and from Tigard for the first two days of class and packed up all my stuff in between (as well as finishing homework).

Moving day was by far the most stressful day I’ve ever had. For one thing, I have way too much stuff. For another, moving it all mostly by myself (special thanks to Brian Schaudt and Sierra Stopper – I would be homeless without them… probably) was not the best decision I’ve made. What was really the backbone to the stress that day was time. I left Eugene right around 3:45pm. Our apartment office closes at 6pm. The drive from Eugene to Tigard is close to two hours, especially in a U-Haul, which was also towing my Cobalt. Safe to say I did not have time for any rest stop. Yet I made it with five minutes to spare and, despite exhaustion, got all my stuff moved in (again, not entirely by myself). After a couple of weeks, I had my room as settled as it possibly could have been, which then enabled me to focus on studying more.

Once that happened, things calmed down quite a bit. I was still busy, but I wasn’t stressed. I wasn’t stressed because I was finally doing what I love to do: study Scripture. Of course, that is an over-simplification of my seminary experience thus far, but it is at the core of what brought about my less-stressful life. Reading the Bible, studying various schools of criticism, and then listening to my classmates discuss various points is what draws me to pursue God. And I am most certainly in the right environment for that pursuit.

Not everything that happened in 2013 could possibly be discussed in one post, but I believe I got most of the main points. What I started to thoroughly enjoy toward the end of the year, though, was the new friendships I had made since moving up to Portland. Classmates, coworkers, and friends of friends suddenly started to function like a family and reminded me that the purpose to any degree I might acquire from a seminary should always include an aspect of developing and enhancing these types of friendships. I can only see these friendships growing stronger in 2014.

I hope to write about my first semester at George Fox in the coming days, as well as what I hope to do in 2014 (resolutions of sorts). For now, though, I conclude that 2013 was a chaotic year and grew more chaotic when I chose to follow my passions. Such chaos, though, simply forced me to focus on accomplishing each task as needed and yet enabled me to enjoy those passions all the more.

What was your 2013 like?

Happy New Year to all!

God bless.

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Reflections of a Ten Year-Old…

Believe it or not, I’m only ten years old as a follower of Christ (baptized May 12th, 2002). Yes, I understand that years do not really equate to spiritual maturity (neither positively nor negatively), but it feels strange to me that I’ve only been a practicing Christian for the past ten years. It feels much longer.

I’m in a very weird spot in my tenth year of Christianity – spiritually speaking anyway. Actually, I’m in a weird spot in life also; I have a degree and two jobs, but I know I want something more – I just don’t know what “it” is. But regarding my spiritual life, I have no home church. In the previous nine years, this was never the case.

Of course, it runs much deeper than simply not having a home church; I’m still getting over the changes made with the last church I was a part of (Calvary Fellowship). I still wish my old pastor was in town and preaching. I still wish I was helping with the leadership staff. And I still wish I was able to discuss theology so openly.

It’s not that every church I’ve gone to in the past five and a half months doesn’t discuss theology; it’s simply that I’m nervous about discussing controversial issues. The things I’d like to discuss might make everyone else nervous because it might be attacking the very foundation of their beliefs. And yet I’m eager to break it open and talk about it. I just no longer have the atmosphere I had with Danny and Calvary Fellowship.

Even though I feel as if I don’t have a home, I must reconsider what I’ve learned in the past ten years – if anything at all. I must reconsider what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God rather than one specific church. I must reconsider how that identity then affects my life in this world (politically, socially, and economically). And I must reconsider what this race we run is all about – speed or endurance? Because if I take a look back at the bare roots of my faith, finding a church home where I feel safe and secure isn’t one of those roots. If anything, my faith is rooted in something – Someone – that makes me rather uncomfortable as a human.

Being a part of God’s kingdom means we’re using our time differently – seeking truth and understanding rather than the “right” answers. It means we’re using our money differently – recognizing first and foremost that it isn’t ours to begin with, and then stewarding it wherever we believe God would be most glorified in. And it also means we’re living our social lives much differently – not seeking popularity, but instead a Godly reputation.

Once we’ve adjusted our social lives, we find we’re thrust right into difficult discussions in the political realm with subjects such as gay marriage, abortion, and fiscal responsibility. And we’re allowed to ignore none of these issues regardless of how many enemies we create with whichever direction we cast our vote. Beyond this we’re asked to do something even more challenging: Love those who hate us.

And after all the aspects of our lives are reconsidered – and all the changes we’re asked to make understood – we then arrive to the most difficult part of being a Christian: Continuing. Going the distance. Persisting. Remaining steadfast. Enduring. And no, I don’t mean keeping a church-attendance-streak going for several years; I mean continuing to love others as God has loved us. I mean continuing to show gays, Muslims, Democrats, librarians, officers, lawyers, stock brokers, baristas, hippies, KKK members, AARP members, and even that driver who cut you off while flipping you off a continuous and unending love and friendship. It’s the kind that God has given us life with.

What I’ve often noticed about myself in my walk is that I like to make small goals. I fast for so long or I pray for so long or I commit to a devotional for so long, etc. And yet what Christ teaches us is more than a periodical commitment: It’s a life-long commitment. It’s not enough to commit so much of my time, so much of my talent, so much of my money, or so much of energy to loving God and loving others for a certain extent of time. It’s enough when God says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If all of this is what I’ve learned in the past ten years, then I think I’m doing okay for being without a home church. Not to say that I’m not making mistakes or that I don’t need improvement, but to say that I think I’m still on the right track with God. It isn’t easy, but then again, it was never meant to be. God has asked us to change our ways completely from what we’re compelled to do – it’s like teaching a dog to walk on its hind legs and not eat its own poop; it’s not impossible, but it takes a lot of work.

In my final words to Calvary Fellowship and Danny O’Neil, I had said that Jesus was a wanderer. His faith and relationship with God was with Him wherever He was. At this juncture in my life, this aspect stands as a model to emulate in my own walk. Wherever I go, I’m still with Jesus. I will always have a home. Such news is the only news that is truly worth living – and even dying – for.

God bless.