Sunday, January 22, 2012

dancing through life

deep breath.
where do I even begin?
first, to clear my mind: I hate slow wi-fi. it makes skyping really hard. I feel terrible for spending so much money, but then again I knew this was coming and have been preparing for it for over a year. I miss my family, and it's only been 10 days. I just need hugs. being a grown-up and scheduling flights, train rides, and hotels for weekend trips is NOT fun, only tough. I also miss my home church and really need to just worship with reckless abandon like I can there and at Passion... people in London don't worship like that and I feel so restrained. I need more clothing (no really. I have one shirt here that is warm enough & suitable for church.) I feel like I should be spending more time out in the city exploring but I already feel like my brain is going to EXPLODE from all the new things going on around me.
so anyway, in the midst of all these weird, totally new stresses, here I am in London, England. falling in love with this city. falling in love with God in a new way. falling in love with life in a new way. I really really like it.
I can't help but be scared, though, that this is the climax of my life. I feel like surely it could never get better than this. nothing could top it, not even being in love. because for some reason, I'm thinking that being in love with the True Love, more so than I've ever been before, tops any worldly love I'll ever experience. Because maybe the creator and definition of Love himself knows how to do it better than humans do.
so anyway. I have this feeling like these three months are gonna be the best it ever gets. and God has to keep reminding me "The best is yet to come," even after I've gone back to boring old Alabama. There is beauty to be found in every place, every situation, every person. It's just not as hard to find it in London as it is in Alabama, probably because I'm so tired of Alabama that I forget to look for it and instead only see the mundane, plain, and boring.
This reminds me of a quote by Socrates we were told of during Art History on friday: "The unexamined life is not a life worth living." Obviously true, at first glance. But when I just typed that last paragraph and reminded me of this. Life before WAS dull and boring in comparison with life in London, not necessarily because it's such a new and exciting adventure (although that is part of it), but because life in London forces me to examine life. It forces me to think new thoughts and develop new convictions and ask new questions. It makes me learn new words, meet new people, examine new emotions. So then isn't that why life here feels like it's so much more worth living than life in Alabama was? Because I'm actually examining it every minute of every day? Whoa. I think that just blew my mind.
This also reminds me of Stephen Schwartz and his GENIUS musical, Wicked. One of the songs, Dancing Through Life, contains the line "Stop struggling with strife and learn to live the unexamined life!" Then it goes on to talk about taking the easy way out in every circumstance, and sloughing off responsibilities and how life is "better" that way... but the character singing, Fiyero, ends up growing out of his immaturity and changing his mind about everything he says in that song, and even falls in love with a different girl because he realizes that the unexamined life is NOT worth living after all. He comes to realize that fighting for what you care about, finding nuggets of truth in life's lessons, and struggling to understand life's curveballs makes life more vivid and enjoyable in the long run.
I feel like I'm just coming to this realization too. While I didn't exactly slough off responsibility before, I definitely didn't enjoy struggling to understand life's curveballs. I didn't enjoy examining life at all, and I am beginning to learn to. I'm sure it's a long, winding road. But I've discovered that those are the most fun roads to explore.

Friday, January 13, 2012

LONDON.

whoa. I'm here. the best city in the world.
warning, this post will be short. it's almost 1 am, and I'm worn stinking out. 
I feel like I've been waiting my whole life to be here and do this and be this person.
And now here I am. Being and doing. 
The only way this can be explained is God. it's because of Him that I got accepted, that the money came in, that we got here safely, and that all the experiences of my life have been building up to this, which is building up to something else. so crazy. 
Yesterday, we arrived in London at 7 am, London time. We ended up being awake for 34 straight hours, because of the time change and flight weirdness. It got to some of us, cause A couple girls got sick when we got here, I guess from the crazy traffic in a big bus & jet lag & airplane food. but I was OK! :) I was thanking God that I wasn't in their shoes. It's weird that I'm finally in England, but it's awesome. In the bus between Gatwick & here we saw Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, the River Thames... all those lovely famous places which we have yet to explore.
we are at THE VERY TOP FLOOR of the hotel. so lugging the suitcases up was a feat, but we made it.
Yesterday, Dr. Parks fell and dislocated his shoulder. He is all right now- went to the hospital and got it put back in place, along with a sling and some pain meds. But he's his usual chipper/persevering self and met us for a pizza dinner after the incident and took us to hear Big Ben chime on the hour and see Westminster Abbey and the London Eye all lit up. we also got our Oyster cards (tube & bus passes) and rode the tube for the first time. SO FUN!
Guys, I know this is weird, but I feel like my whole life has just been waiting for me to be here. I love it so much. 
No one wears make up, and everyone just makes up their own fashion and doesn't care what other people think (not to mention the fantastic history & landmarks). We're reading a George Orwell essay called "England, Your England" to prepare for Brit. Lit. and it states several times that England is much more millions of individuals than it is a single nation, and I so agree with that. Of course they're a nation and are unified in the love of their country, but everyone is so diverse, and they do what they want. 

Today we went on a "tube rallye" and took the underground & buses to basically ever possible inch of downtown London learning where things were and how everything works. We were out 6.5 hours but it was SO FUN! I feel like a true Englander now. Tonight we went to see the musical Guys & Dolls, which of course I loved. a ton. and now, here we are sitting in the hotel lobby. at 1 AM. all trying to facebook and skype our families. feeling the tube rumble a hundred feet under our feet.
I know this all sounds silly and doesn't make much sense. but I absolutely adore every second of it. 


Fun facts: every single house has weather vanes. the accents are AWESOME, duh. customs was really mean & scary. the driving here is crazy like Ecuador, everyone's really close and you think you're going to crush pedestrians and small cars. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

give me words!

Isaiah 1:16-17 says, "Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows."
There are 27 million slaves in the world today, more than there have been at any other point in human history. But they aren't just "27 million". Not just a number. They have names. They have faces. They're a little girl who's kidnapped and is now the subject of pornographic pictures. They're a man who was born into slavery and is forced to work in dangerous conditions with no hope for his family's future and childrens' education. They're a young woman who was tricked into moving to a different country for a job, only to become a prostitute whose only hope of escape is suicide. 
THEY ARE REAL PEOPLE.
"WE'VE GOT TO RISE UP, OPEN OUR EYES UP.
BE HER VOICE, BE HER FREEDOM.
COME ON, STAND UP."
This week was Passion 2012, also known as the week Jesus changed my life. Obviously, he'd already changed my life the day He redeemed me and I became His at 9 years old. But this week, I realized I truly desire God. He is beautiful to me, and I seek to glorify Him with my life so that others may see His beauty as well. I am satisfied by all that He is in my life through Jesus Christ, because of how he's freed me from the bondage of sin and bound me to a life of sacrificial love with Him (thank you, John Piper, for that wording). I feel like my heart has been pricked with an injecting-needle of faith. It's like a small blossom has entered and is spreading, slowly and boldly. 
He opened my eyes to the brutal reality of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Did you know it takes 3.2 slaves to make a smartphone? Yeah. There's a really awesome anti-slavery organization, www.slaveryfootprint.org, which has a survey you can take to calculate how many slaves you employ with the products you buy and the things you own. I calculated mine, and I employ 47 slaves. The sad truth is, I don't live that extravagantly. I have a car and a smartphone and eat food in the caf at school. I wear mostly t-shirts and buy the Wal-Mart brand a lot. And still, with the purchases I make everyday I am continuing global modern-day slavery. Take a couple minutes and learn about modern-day slavery on SlaveryFootprint's website, and take the survey. Then, use your voice. They have a great resource on the website where you can send letters to various companies whose products you use, asking them to reevaluate where they get their resources and if they're made through forced labor. I've sent 26 today alone, because I am concerned about our culture's rampant apathy about this issue and I want to see it changed. Also, you can donate money on their website to help end human trafficking, and you can download their app that helps you keep track of the products you're buying and whether they were made by forced laborers. Other wonderful organizations you could check out are the A21 Campaign, International Justice Mission (IJM), Tiny Hands, Hagar International, Wellspring Living, NightLight, and Restore International are just a few of those seeking to "seek justice, help the oppressed, fight for the rights of widows, and defend the cause of the orphans."
My one prayer, now, is that my God would give me the words to speak. That we all would "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:16-17). My prayer is that the Jesus that has been poured into my life the past three days would spill over on everyone that I come in contact with, especially in the spiritual darkness of London. My prayer is that I would not be ashamed of the Gospel, for I know that it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes it (Romans 1:16). My prayer is that my conversations would overflow with the words of God and with His grace; and most of all, my prayer is for those of my brothers and sisters around the world that are enslaved, that they would be found and rescued. That they would come to faith in Christ, and that their captors would be imprisoned, and that this bright blaze of a fire that started at Passion 2012 would catch fire around the world, and that the church would rise up and do her job- seek justice. help the oppressed. 
Here's a video of what CNN reported as a teensy bit of what happened the past three days in Atlanta, Georgia.  $3 million for 27 million

welcome to midnight.

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