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Aug 2017

Cooking with Gentiles

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Cooking with Gentiles

I attended public school for the first 13 years of my childhood and with it, came the sense of uniqueness. Being unable to discuss or share religion in class made me feel as if I were one of the few children in the community who worshiped God the way my family and I did. Attending university amongst other believers my age washed those feelings of solitude away and replaced them with unity, fellowship, and love. I was beginning my adult life in a community of Sabbath keepers and people who had the same morals and values I grew up believing in. But then “adult life” began. After graduation, I was thrown into the world, of “reality." Living in downtown Dallas, Texas tested my faith and beliefs daily. The festival is on Sabbath; should I go? My new friends want to hang out Friday night; what do I tell them? I wasn’t in the Christian bubble my University kept me in any longer.

I didn’t immediately enter the workforce after graduation. I pursued my dream of attending Culinary School. Within our classes, we were split into groups of four for the entire semester. The Chef would teach a recipe that the entire class will make in their teams and present for review. After presentation, we would eat our creations. There were times when we would prepare and cook unclean meats such as shrimp, clams, and pork. This never bothered me and I would follow directions and assist my team in the preparation. It wasn’t until it was time to eat, that my teammates asked, “Why aren’t you eating?” It was then God opened a small door for me to share my faith. I explained how in my faith I don’t eat certain types of food. My group felt bad and apologized and I assured them that they have nothing to apologize for. I truly didn’t mind.

Weeks had gone by and another pork recipe came about. After the Chef gave the class prep, he pulled me aside. “I heard from some of the students that you don’t eat pork, is that correct?” “Yes Chef, ” I replied. “I brought you some chicken to substitute for the recipe.” It was a small gesture for him, but a huge show of respect for me.  For the rest of the semester, my group continued to modify recipes so that I would be able to enjoy them as well. My heart filled with astonishment and gratitude for their consideration.

A class collaboration project came up. Each group was in charge of a course. The main course was of course, pork. The sides were collard greens sautéed in lard. Polenta cooked with more lard. Needless to say, it was going to be difficult to find something for me to munch on. Our entire class sat down family style at a long dinner table. As the courses were being served, I noticed that one wasn’t served for me. A separate group, apart from my team, came to me and presented me with a special plate. “We made this one for you! It doesn’t have pork in it. We sautéed the greens separately and made a separate polenta just for you. We wanted you to enjoy the meal with us.”

 

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I never sought for accommodations, but God found ways to impress upon me the kindness of others. Although I am an outgoing person, sharing my faith and beliefs publicly was not something I would normally do. By continuing to live my lifestyle no matter what environment I was in, the people around me began to notice that I am different. Instead of being met with annoyance, I was met with consideration, respect, and love. Not only did God provide for me, he used my beliefs to witness to my class. In Philippians chapter 13, Paul and Timothy urge us to follow Christ’s example and to live a Christian life as they did. “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” If we claim to be Christians, we must live as such every day of our lives. Verse 12 states, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

My experience in Culinary School showed me that you don't have to shout what you believe in from the rooftops. I mentioned my faith once to my group and from then on, it spread to every person in my class. My positive actions and attitude towards unclean meat allowed God to use me as a witness. Allow God to use you today. Stand up for your faith. Be different. Be unique. That my friend is always a good thing in God’s eyes.

 

Alejandra Rodriguez Clark is an elementary school teacher and currently resides in McAllen, Texas.


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Seek First His Kingdom

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Seek First His Kingdom

I remember getting the email late one night. It instructed all of the teachers at my school to start looking for employment elsewhere, they had decided to shut down my school. It was my first year of teaching and it had been a rocky one. The teaching part was great and the students were wonderful but there are always other factors at play. It was soon after news spread about Valley Grande Academy closing that I came into contact with the principal at Chisholm Trail Academy. He sought me out and told me that he wanted me to send him a resume. It wasn’t exactly an offer of employment but at least I had a lead on a possible job. He thought a new position might open up if their enrollment went up.

As the days and weeks rolled on I continued to chase other leads for teaching jobs. I sent my resume to any school hiring for a job that I was qualified for. A few leads were promising and I interviewed at different schools. Some of the schools were wonderful, absolutely perfect on paper and in person, but even though CTA hadn’t made a formal offer it always stuck in the back of my mind.

Being pragmatic I knew I needed to pick one of the schools that actually offered me a job. But as I went to make the phone call or write the email I couldn’t bring myself to do it. My heart had made up it’s mind and I had no peace picturing myself elsewhere.  The more I thought about it the more I became convicted that I should wait on CTA and see if they would accept me. I decided to turn down the other schools.

What came next was the summer and the waiting. There were no more calls from other schools. They had all picked their staff members and I waited in faith that God would put me where I felt I should be. But first that meant CTA would need enough students to open the position. Looking back on it, it seems stupid. There wasn’t even a position and even if one opened up, who is to say they would offer it to me?

Finally, the school year was about to start. I called to see if they had enough students and the news I got wasn’t encouraging. This is when I remember the feelings of doubt starting to rise. It was at this time that a friend convinced me to send a resume out for a job other than teaching but I felt ambivalent about it. I tried to tuck away the thought of giving up on what my heart wanted most, a job at CTA.

The school year started. I got a call and learned they didn’t get enough students; they were close but not close enough. I was devastated. It’s hard even now to recall it and type it down. Just days prior I knew God would provide and now I doubted everything. I was painting houses at the time and became so overwhelmed that I couldn’t move my brush or hold my roller. I had to stop and pray. I mean, really pray. The kind of prayer you pray with your whole body, soul, and mind. I poured my heart out to God and wept and struggled because I thought he wanted something different for me than what I wanted. I felt like maybe he was guiding me away from teaching.

The school year already started and there were no more teaching jobs available. I felt at that moment that God had been impressing me to pass on those other jobs and had orchestrated this whole thing so that he could guide me away from teaching the only way I would be willing to; if it was the only door open to me.

So I prayed and I told God that if it was what he truly wanted for me for me then I would go but he would have to change my heart. He would have to help change my heart’s desire so that it would match his. It was one of my most honest moments with God. I was finally willing to go anywhere He asked me to. For the first time I knew what it meant to surrender completely to His will.

It was only then that God was finally able to give me what I wanted. It was only when I submitted that I finally got a call from CTA. They wanted to open the position; they had just learned of some extra money made available from the conference, money made available from the redistribution of subsidy to all academies due to VGA closing. It was just enough to make the difference and the irony was not lost on me. The job I lost had helped make my new one possible.

Three weeks after the school year started I walked into my new classroom because God had made it so. God put me in the wilderness to bring my will in line with His. He knew what I wanted before I did and made a way to get there visible to me after I finally submitted.

The passage found in Matthew 6:33 has new meaning for me, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” What things are you seeking? If you seek God first and submit to him, he’ll take care of all the other things. Have you submitted to God lately? He has untold blessings waiting for you when you finally do.

 

Johnathan Coker is one of the founders of Enspire Productions. He is currently a teacher at Chisholm Trail Academy. 


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In Love

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In Love

I remember the first time I had feelings for Jesus. It wasn’t very long ago. I had gone to a conference on the coast with some Reed students, and a man spoke who was a professor at a local bible college. He spoke mostly about how we should read the Bible. He was convincing. He seemed to have an emotional relationship with the Book.

When we got back from the conference, I felt like my bible was calling me. By the time I got to the end of Luke, to the part where they were going to kill Jesus again, where they were going to stretch Him out on a cross, something shifted within me.

I remember it was cold outside, crisp, and the leaves in the tress of the park across the street were getting tired and dry. And I remember sitting at my desk, and I don’t know what it was that I read or what Jesus was doing in the book, but i felt a love for Him rush through me, through my back and into my chest.

I started crying. I remember thinking that I would follow Jesus anywhere, that it didn’t matter what He asked me to do. I loved Him, and I was going to follow Him.

I think the most important thing that happens within Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus. I know our culture often views a love for Jesus as weakness. There is the lie floating around that says, "I am supposed to be able to do life alone, without any help, without stopping to worship something bigger than myself."

But there is something bigger than me. And I need for there to be something bigger than me.

I need someone to put awe inside me; I need to come second to someone who has everything figured out. If you haven’t done it in a while, pray and talk to Jesus. Ask Him to become real to you. Ask Him to forgive you of self-addiction. Ask Him to put a song in your heart. 

I dare you to venture into the unknown to discover God and His unfailing love

Chantal Williams recently graduated from Andrews University as a doctor of physical therapy, and has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2011.


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