Friday, April 27, 2012

A Kind and Gentle Appeal

What an incredible week this has been! In our second week of the Bible school, we studied the book of Philemon. The first day, I honestly thought, what can we get out of a book that is half a page long? And the understanding came slowly. But after many hours of researching background on the author and recipients of the letter, the cultural practices, and the context, this letter has come to life. Before reading about the author and the people addressed in the letter, I just read it as simple encouragement to the church. Now that I know Philemon was a slave owner, and Onesimus his slave, the entire purpose of the book became clearer. Paul, a disciple of Christ, was writing to his friend and fellow disciple, Philemon, to ask him to free his slave Onesimus. But the way Paul wrote the letter was not condescending of Philemon, rather kind and gentle.

We can apply this principle to our lives as well. When someone offends us or their behavior annoys us, we should voice our concern but in a loving way. Attitude makes all the difference! After researching this week, I realized how often I am quick to complain or snap at people for little annoying habits. Usually this method isn't too effective – it just angers the other person. But when I choose to respectfully and lovingly confront a friend, they are much more willing to change their behavior. I also find myself sometimes resenting the work I have to do, especially on days when I am super busy with homework and work duties. Then I remember why I'm doing this school: not only to learn about God's Word, but to improve my own character. I need to have a good attitude in all I do. Even internally, kindness and truth are important. I can be honest with myself but at the same time be positive.

I would encourage you to read Philemon if you haven't already. It's a super quick read with tons of good knowledge. Another point that struck me was how he not only addresses Philemon, but also others in the church. This is Paul's way of keeping Philemon accountable. Since Paul sent the letter to the entire church, we know that Philemon had other people supporting him and making sure he made the right decision to free Onesimus. In our society, accountability is crucial. I have seen this many times in my life. I say I will discipline myself – to run 4 times a week, to not eat so many snacks, to spend time in prayer every morning. However, if I tell no one else about this goal, I find myself soon slacking. If I tell a friend what I am aiming for, this person can remind me and push me toward achieving the goal.

As I continue learning and living in community, God is teaching me these important lessons. Reading the Bible is so much more than an obligation or habit – it is one of the major ways God speaks to us!

“Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

Sunday, April 15, 2012


This week we started the school studying the book of Acts. I have to admit that a few months ago I tried reading Acts, but didn’t get too far. After reading a few chapters, I couldn’t really get into the story. But after digging into each chapter and wrestling with the text for five days, I have such a greater understanding of this book! It’s incredible. So here’s what we’re learning in this Bible school: it’s called the inductive method. It’s a method of studying a book that involves coming into it with no prior opinions or expectations. This allows us to get the big picture of the book in context. I had never done this before. Here’s a quick run-down:

Step 1: color-code all people, places, and references to time in the book
Step 2: summarize each chapter of the book in 4-5 words
Step 3: group chapters together into main ideas
Step 4: chart all information to understand the point of the whole book

It sounds crazy, and it’s super time-consuming, but afterwards it’s so rewarding. And the cool thing is, I didn’t need a commentary or theological analysis to tell me what anything meant – I figured it out myself, using only the Bible itself! After doing all these steps I had a big picture of what is going on in Acts. Before I would get tied down with all the details of Paul’s journeys and who was going to what town. Now I see more clearly what it was all about.

The disciples had a clear calling: the spread the gospel message of Christ. They were obedient to this calling and traveled to the ends of the earth (or their known world) to do complete this purpose. Some of them didn’t feel qualified, some were afraid, and others didn’t want to leave their family or possessions. But they made the decision to trust the Lord, and he prepared them for the ministry they did. Maybe you don’t feel ready for the next step in your life, or are afraid of making a mistake. Just remember: God has it under control. Whatever we do, we’re not going to do it perfectly, but if we trust Him to lead us, great things will be done.

Studying the Bible in this way has been very intense, full of content (things to learn). Every night I stayed up late doing homework, and I feel like it’s exam week in college – except every week! The funny thing is, I don’t mind the workload. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s worth it to learn about God’s Word and be able to see how it applies to my life. I have to say that after turning in my assignments on 6pm Saturday night, I felt content. Content with content. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Again. Otra Vez.

Here I am. Again. At the YWAM base. Sometimes it feels like I never left. Thought it’s been four months – four long, difficult, but good months – I am back. And it’s amazing how quickly I can adjust to life at the base again. The friendly atmosphere, the familiar faces, the delicious food, the sense of community in this place makes it feel like home again. It’s strange because things have changed. There are always new people and new programs going on. Yet there is a sense of renewal. Being in this loving community again makes me so happy.

Again I share a room, a bunk, and a bathroom with other girls. Again I eat meals of rice and beans with 50 other people. Again I study and worship with this family. Again I am here to learn. Again I am here to serve.

Since being home, I have often pondered the significance of change on our lives. Change can be a very difficult thing, even painful at times. But change can also heal and renew our spirits. To be somewhere new, to experience different things, to meet new people. It helps us to grow. If all we ever did was to sit at home or work at the same dreary job, we wouldn’t be pushed out of our comfort zones. For me change can be scary at first. Usually it takes me a few days to adjust to a new environment, even if it is again. Then as I get used to the way of life there I settle in and am able to enjoy where I’m at.

God calls us to many different places throughout our lives. It’s easy to be discontent and always be anticipating the next journey. Right now I’m learning to focus on the present. I don’t want these three months to pass by without me enjoying them and soaking it all in. No matter where I’m going next, right now I’m here. And I intend to be fully present here, in Costa Rica studying the Bible. It’s a fresh start – and it’s going to be wonderful! Pura vida!

Monday, April 2, 2012


     Home sweet home. Home is where the heart is. There's no place like home. We all get a warm, cozy feeling when we think of the word HOME. But where is home, really? If we think about it, home is not always easy to define, especially after we have gone away to college or moved out of the house we grew up in. One of the first activities we had to do in New York was to introduce ourselves and share with the group what "home" was to us. It was interesting hearing the varying responses from people. Some said that home was the town in which they grew up, others claimed their current place of resident as home, and a few said that home was whoever they are with at any given time. This made me think more deeply about what home is to me.

      Ever since I have gone to Costa Rica and returned to my home country of the United States, I have felt torn between my love for both places. Spending a significant part of time in Costa Rica had an impact on me. I know that this culture will always be a part of me. While I'm here in the U.S., I miss things about the tico lifestyle...and when I go back there, I will miss things about being American. It's a strange feeling, because I love traveling so much, but there comes a realization that at any given point of my life, I will always miss someone or something. I have friends all over the world, and have lived in several different places. No matter where I am, I will think of the memories I made somewhere else with people there. Though this can be hard at times, it's okay. Remembering the experiences I had helps me see how I've grown, and who I am now.

     Going back to Costa Rica in a few days will be bittersweet. Part of me is just bursting with excitement to be back there! I cannot wait to see old friends, speak more Spanish, and learn more about the Bible. But I also know that I will miss my family, house, and life here in Indiana. Whenever I travel somewhere, it takes some time to adjust again, but I know that in a week or so I will be okay, even good. I really believe that happiness comes from being content where you are. I can't let being away from certain people that I love make me miserable. And that is where home is - where I find happiness. Yes, it is a challenge. It isn't always easy. But knowing that God is with me and fulfills me gives me strength and joy. When I find my true joy in Him, I will be content wherever I end up. I can still maintain old relationships while forming new ones as well. It's all a part of the journey. So, bring on the travels - to new and familiar places: past, present, and future homes.