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August 2018

Power Strips, Lifeguards, and a New School Year

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Power Strips, Lifeguards, and a New School Year

Well, it is once again the beginning of the fall semester. If you are like me, and your life revolves around the school year, this is a big deal. I always get excited at the start of the school year. There’s newness in the air. But, of course, the new semester also entails lots of late nights typing away at my computer, reading textbooks, and angsting over everything I have due.

This means that I constantly need to stay “plugged in” with what’s going on around me. I need to keep up with my studies, and have hopefully some semblance of a personal life which means staying in touch with my friends and family. But the most important person to stay plugged in with is God.

Think about it this way. All the other stuff on my plate is important, and things that I want to accomplish during this semester. But, if I do everything else while neglecting to grow my relationship with God, it is like plugging a bunch of things into a power strip, and then not plugging in the power strip itself. If you make time for God, everything else will fall into place.

One time when I was teaching swimming at summer camp, I was trying to teach a young camper how to swim. He was refusing to let go of the edge of the pool, just inching his way around. I told him that what he was doing was, in fact, not swimming. He told me that staying on the edge felt safer.

After a lot of persistence, I finally convinced the cub camper to venture away from the edge, with the promise that I would be right there beside him the whole time. He told me, “I’m still scared, but having a lifeguard right beside me makes me brave.”

Trying to venture away from the edge, especially when we are starting something new in uncharted waters, can be terrifying. But, if we invite God to be by our side, everything else will seem a little less intimidating.

 

 

Stephanie Wilczynski has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. She is pursuing a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Andrews University.

*I got the idea for this blog from one of my students. 

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Life Lessons From a Pupper

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Life Lessons From a Pupper

For those of you who may not know, Chantal and I recently adopted a puppy. She is a beautiful corgi-beagle mix, although we think she may have some Rottweiler in her because of her color scheme. Her name is Zoila, Zoi for short, and she is a loving and energetic little pup.

For those of you who have ever had pets you understand the hours and dedication that must be put in initially while the puppy is still young. Potty training, house training, basic commands like sit, down, stay, leave it, come, are essential in the early stages of a pups life.

Throughout this week, as we have cared for Zoi, I have seen a new picture of God. One of them, is His patience with us despite how hard headed and mean towards Him we can be. I see this because Zoi is very energetic and loves playing, especially biting. And we are trying really hard to keep her from biting objects and things that we do not want her to bite, such as our hands, feet, couch and rugs. She's doing fairly well, for her first week with us. But there are times when her mouth and teeth turn to my fingers, and it’s frustrating. That’s because she is turning on the very one who loves her so much and wants to give her the best. So we play with her toys and I reward her for her good behavior. But suddenly she’ll turn into this ferocious tyrannosaurus rex (exaggeration added) and bite me all over, growling and jumping on me. And i admit, it takes everything in me to not overreact and push, or hit, or shout at her. I know that if I am to hit her I will reinforce a negative behavior and can cause her to either fear me or attack me more. So I attempt to walk in the steps of Jesus, in gentleness and love, turning the right check when my left is bite, but it’s so hard.

It’s hard because I know what I mean to her, even though she doesn’t. It’s tough to not overreact when the one you love so much is turning on you. It’s hard to not be hurt when someone you care for unceasingly, every waking-moment of the day, turns on you and looks on you in fear or hostility.

All this has shown me how I tend to be with God. When everything is well, God and I are cool. But whenever something goes wrong, I become one who turns on God and attacks Him for allowing bad things to happen. Even though, like Zoi, I don’t understand everything that God is doing and even though I may not see or realize His love and grace in the particular moment that I am in. It’s so counterproductive to bite the hand that feeds you, as my puppy does.

In any human relationship, anyone would get fed up and walk away, but not God. He roles with the punches and attacks that we give Him and always comes back with more love and grace. If anyone has the legit right to get upset and fight back its God, and He doesn’t do it. Instead, He gives us our daily breath, works with us through our imperfections, and softly responds to our attacks.

2 Peter 3:9 tells us that, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

And even when we were fighting against Him and far from Him, Paul tells us in Romans 5:8, that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So I am encouraged in my training with Zoi, to act in a loving way towards her at all times, because God does that with me every single day. I hope that you can also act kindly and gracefully towards others, in the same way that God acts towards you.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

 

Sebastian Lopez has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2010. He is currently enrolled in the MDiv. program at the Andrews University Theological Seminary.

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The Mountaintop

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The Mountaintop

Recently I transplanted from the hot plains of Texas to the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado, and on my daily commute I am shocked by the awe-inspiring view of the mountains that stretch across the valley. Most impressive is the sight of Mount Sopris which stands high above the surrounding landscape and leaves me practically breathless every time I see it. Sometimes I think the people around me don’t really notice the beauty of the landscape, at least they aren’t quite as vocal as I am about just how beautiful the sights are, and this has caused me to pause and think about the mountains and how we as humans experience them. 

A particular memory that has been coming to mind is one from June of 2017. I had only recently completed my undergraduate studies and was trekking the “Chopta Trek” in the Himalayas of India. My companions and I completed a 16 kilometer trek and had an optional trek the following day, the Chopta Chandrashila Trek. The Chandrashila Trek began with a winding brick road that zigzagged up the side of the mountain. We passed by other trekkers some guiding donkeys and cows, and maneuvered crowds of people eager to make it to the summit.

After about a half hour the paved trail ended at a temple and we continued upward along a dirt path and often times forging our own paths up. This journey led us up into the clouds where the trail seemed like it would end after every corner. However, the trail kept going.

I remember feeling notably tired (and forgive my frankness I also had to use the restroom pretty desperately) but knowing that the peak was nearby kept me going. I remember reaching the top and feeling sheer ecstasy. A feeling of accomplishment washed over me and I looked down below and took pride in the long journey I had accomplished. We ate our lunches and rested for a half hour before we began our descent.

The journey down was excruciating. My shins were killing me and resisting gravity along the steep inclines was almost more painful than the journey up had been. I remember giving in to the gravity and just running through to the end of the hike because my body no longer could fight against gravity, or so my mind thought. However, we reached the end, and the experience of the journey up and down again resonated within me throughout the following weeks.

I’ve been thinking lately about “mountaintop experiences.” I’ve been thinking about how we as humans experience our emotional highs and the way we process our emotional lows. And I’ve come to discover that for a significant portion of my life I saw my life as highs and then stagnant points with a couple lows sprinkled throughout.

But this isn’t the case. We are constantly in motion! We’re always looking forward to the next summit looking to reach our next goal and we relish in the journey and struggles. We know that while what we’re experiencing may not be pleasant we are moving toward a reward that will make it.

But these mountaintops have to be reflected on. I think as humans we move away too quickly from our emotional highs and without meditating on said experiences we move into the rigorous descent down the mountain unprepared. Then we find ourselves in turmoil and depression and anxiety takes control — at least this is what the situation has looked like for me in the past.

I think of Jesus on the mountaintop with the disciples, when Peter makes the most profound declaration that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, but so quickly after these Peter’s faith turns to doubt and is this not a direct example of a lack of reflection and meditation? I think we would benefit from a state of constant reflection, a state of wondering if we are moving downward from a mountaintop or toward new heights and allow our challenges and struggles to have more meaning in our lives. We can allow our challenges to be our stepping stones on to the next summit, and if we feel that we are stumbling against the pull of gravity, we can release our anxieties and know that eventually our downward momentum will lead us upward again.

I hope that this will allow you a moment to stop and reflect, to look at the beauty around you and realize that while you may not be in the place you want to be, geographically, romantically, financially, spiritually, emotionally, there is beauty in the struggle and you will be a better you when you finally reach the summit.

 

Art Williams graduated with his piano degree and is currently doing a service year in Colorado.

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