Just got real

So I just realized that in the next month I have three trips (one out of town, one out of state, one out of COUNTRY), and 2 research papers due as finals for this quarter. I might be slightly in shock now.

WHAT?!
WHAT?!

It’s going to be crazy and it’s going to be awesome. I hope I can slow down long enough to enjoy it all.

It IS about me. A little

The new quarter started this week so I’ve got two new classes to be consumed by. Whereas my last classes were missional in focus, these are straight up theology and I’m a bit more nervous about them!

But it’s been a great first week and already in my Interpretive Practices class I’ve had an eye opener. It’s actually ridiculously simple, and it seems silly to say, but I need the humility practice 😉

I need to be reading the Bible as Scripture.

I know, that’s a no-brainer. But I realized that often wheFullSizeRendern I read the Bible, I read it as stories, lessons, history, wisdom or poetry. I see it as good advice and a long gone message from a God who once walked among his people. I think about how lucky the Disciples were to have Jesus among them, and how amazing it must have been to be among those who formed the first Church. I try to to discover context and meaning and figure out what applies to my life and what was relevant only in ancient culture.

What if I’m not meant to read with all of these goals in mind? I’m not saying I shouldn’t try to understand the Bible, I absolutely want to know what God is saying. But instead of trying to wring an interpretation out of what I’m reading, what if I read with the intent of letting the Scripture change me? Perhaps I could try to put away my preconceived notions about what I think God is trying to say, and read as though he is speaking to me.

I tried that this morning and was doing some reading in Jeremiah, when I came across this verse:

For you were not being honest when you sent me to pray to the Lord your God for you. You said, ‘Just tell us the Lord our God says, and we will do it!’ And today I have told you exactly what he said, but you will not obey the Lord your God any better now than you have in the past.  Jeremiah 42:20-21

Oh….

So if I apply that to me, and I’m honest with myself, then that’s pretty uncomfortable. Have I ever gone to God in prayer, complained about how miserable I am, asked for help and then gone right ahead down the same path anyway? Yes. Have I done it more than once? Twice? More than that? Yeah, I have.

Well, that was awkward. But I still see the value in the practice; the concept of seeking conversion by the Scripture rather than mastery of the Scripture.

Inside

As part of my Practice of Mission class I’ll be writing a paper next week over a formal religious experience that is different than my own. This afternoon I went to a local mosque for a Jummah service because aside from my assignment, I really wanted to meet people of the Islamic faith. So many stereotypes exist regarding Islam and I want a more than a one dimensional picture.

Being completely ignorant I attempted to walk in the main door, and was fortunately corrected (in a very friendly, non-judgmental way) and shown the way to a side entrance into the women’s area. The front door leads into the large, main area which is where the men pray and listen to the service. I took off my shoes, entered the women’s room and sat down in the back. The service and just started so the other ladies were already seated and quiet, and I noticed immediately that they all had their heads covered. I got a little nervous, hoping I wasn’t being disrespectful by not following suit, but several turned around and greeted me with nods and smiles that were genuine and friendly.

As I sat and listened to the message given by the Imam I was struck by several things.

The first thing was that this message was something that could just as easily have been given at my church. The Imam spoke of serving the community, being a good neighbor and presenting a good witness of your faith. All of these ring familiar.

The next thing that stuck out to me was the call to fellowship. He spoke of blood drives, a team being put together for the MS150 this Spring and an upcoming family event taking place. No matter our faith or our ethnicity, these are the things that make up our lives!

I think what stood out to me the most, the thing that caused me to have to push back some tears, was the burden that the Muslim community here in Cypress, Texas is feeling for the terrorist images being portrayed of Islam in the media. As the Imam encouraged his people to come out from behind their walls and join in their community, he was urging them to fight the stereotypes being given to America by cable news. As he called to them to join in their homeowners associations and become registered voters, he was inviting them to act wisely and peacefully to counteract the single story we are presented with.

I can’t deny what’s going on in the world, and I can’t say that it isn’t heartbreaking, enraging and beyond comprehension. But I can say that there are individuals behind the stereotypes, that don’t fall under the label of “terrorist” or “extremist” or “murderer.”

As a Christian, I maintained a state of prayer to my God while I was in the mosque. Prayer for his people there and prayer for my understanding. I had a good experience. An enlightening one. And I’m grateful to the people there for allowing me to visit.

**This is one of the many awesome reasons I’m in seminary working on an Intercultural Studies degree… I want to learn more about other people and cultures! If you read my last post you know that I’m going to Kenya!!!! If you’d like to support me, please visit my fundraising page:

www.gofundme.com/desiriegoestokenya  🙂

Mr. Smith goes to Austin

I took my kids on a field trip to Austin the other day to learn about government. We had a great time and they learned lots, and I got to take a few pictures 🙂

IMG_3509 IMG_3515   IMG_3516IMG_3513IMG_3529  IMG_3508IMG_3517IMG_3535Pretty cool place.

Changed

I promise, I’ll finish the story in this post… no more continuations.

Isaiah has been doing wonderfully in school over the last year. He’s participating in school now, learning to read and write, do math, and is being taught sign language so that he can communicate more effectively. I’m so grateful for the pictures that Elie sends me, so that I can see Isaiah’s progress and the changes that he is making in his life.

SAM_1028The school operates on a quarter calendar and at every quarter break, the children go back to their home communities. The idea is that they can maintain the ties with their families or at least their villages, and one day reassimilate back into them. Isaiah is not the only orphan at the school, so in these circumstances a foster family is found for the child to stay with for these 10 day breaks. Isaiah has been taking his breaks with the pastor at the school/orphanage where I originally met him.

This past December Isaiah went back to his village for his break as usual and when Elie was checking in with the pastor to see how the break was going, he was shocked to hear that Isaiah was at home with his family… the family that we had understood didn’t exist!

Elie immediately came out to the village to investigate further and was led out to a tiny house, far out in the trees, away from the populace of the small parish. Isaiah was there with his parents and 4 siblings.

He’d been turned out of the home years earlier due to his disabilities. But now after just a year in school, his behavior has changed dramatically. He’s able to communicate more clearly his needs, which has made him calmer and less prone to outbursts. He’s able to do simple chores like fetch water from the well, and takes care of his own hygiene needs. Because of all of these changes, Isaiah has been welcomed back into his home as a member of the family again.

Isaiah

While my Western upbringing and attitudes make me defensive and angry about parents treating a child this way, I know that this is a tremendous victory. One of the many things that Elie does in Rwanda is advocate for awareness of special needs in the communities in the area. There are still a great many people who don’t know how to treat disabled children and often discard them rather than deal with the difficulties they may present.

So Isaiah has returned to school again, and at the next quarter break he will again go home to his family. He has a home, parents and brothers and sisters. I know this might come across as anticlimactic, but the little boy in the yellow shirt in that picture is a dramatically different child that the boy I met several years ago. God has moved him from a homeless, uneducated boy with no community to a young man with 2 homes! His school community that he loves and now his family home. He’s getting an education and he’s learning that Jesus loves him just as he is.

The story still isn’t over, really. But we’re caught up to the present now. Thanks for reading 🙂