Sunday, April 29, 2012

Normalcy

One of my favorite things about traveling around Jamaica is the variety in road signs.
According to other volunteers, these genre of signs are not unique to Jamaica,
but California certainly has no such thing.
Here are a few samples:

Literally, or figuratively

One of my personal favorites

GOOD DRIVERS WAIT THEIR TURN AT A STOP SIGN. ARE YOU ONE?

Well, if you put it that way...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Preaching the Gospel to Myself, Daily


I have neglected to journal as much as I should be. Every time I put a pen to paper, fingers to keys, or thoughts into words, I never think they come out coordinated enough to mean much of anything. There is such a deep desire to provoke intellectual thought, to captivate an audience with a well-written anecdote, or simply to rouse sentimental feelings.  My own standard of writing has been raised not only by the exceptional English teachers who taught me accordingly, but also by my own family members who offer an unannounced competitive vibe.

I know I can write better than, “Today in training we had a lady from the Ministry of Education come teach us about the 4 Blocks to Literacy. It’s a system that involves 4 steps of blah, blah, blah.” I am fairly certain my mother would be the only person interested in reading such posts. Critiquing others’ writing and comparing my own to theirs does not prove to be beneficial. I constantly battle with formulating my sentences to be both neoteric as well as accurate. Ergo, I succumb to laziness and pride whenever I do not have anything “worthy” to write about.

Though we did have a wonderful misses present a worthy session on the Four Blocks to Literacy this morning, there is something heavier on my heart.

During Christmas break S and I went swing dancing. Some dance partners were quite skilled while others left something to be desired. After a good few hours, we found ourselves enjoying the freedom of youthful singleness, aka, buying Oreo Fosties at the Wendy’s drive through at midnight. As we sat in the parking lot munching away and discussing the deeper things of life, S confessed to me that she carries a type of guilt or shame for living a privileged life. She is the daughter of a well-esteemed medical doctor and has never gone without want or need. Her parents are not frivolous spenders and are quite wise with their finances. But S is aware that her father’s income has bought her certain extra amenities in life. These feelings of guilt have provoked in her an attitude similar to that of penance. She feels as though she needs to somehow live a lesser life and endure hard things that she did not have to as an adolescent. Of course, this was news to me.

Fast forward to Peace Corps Jamaica. R (fellow PCV) told me about a Jamaican PCV some years ago who used her father’s wealth to provide luxuries for herself as a volunteer. I related to R what a recruiter friend told me a couple of years ago: that PC is experiencing an influx of applicants who come from well-to-do families. Her speculation is that they feel as S does. They have a need to give up what they know, to have a purpose beyond tangible things. I went on to tell Rabout S’s recent struggle. He confirmed the attitude to be true of his own life.

R’s testimony continued to play in my head throughout the day. My thoughts have been provoked. I could not imagine feeling as S and R and young people in their circumstances do. First, my parents did not provide me with the same lifestyle as S. Our larger family lived on a strict budget and saved money at every instance possible. Second, and most important, I know that my worth and my value far surpass that of monetary possessions. God gives and God takes away. He alone is the provider of wealth, and our individual stewardship of that wealth matters more than the value.

All these thoughts have led to the underlying truth that I have been set free. Free from sin, free from fear, and free from having to be “good enough.” Because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, there is absolutely nothing I can do to be a better person, to win favor with God. Jehovah Jireh; the Lord provides. It is finished.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Process of Change

5 April 2012
The process of change has been a popular topic in training recently. We started by discussing the general concept of change and how to promote change in various ways among a variety of demographics. This is particularly helpful to think through, as a major part of our job as Peace Corps Volunteers is to promote positive change. In general, I tend to be fascinated by how people think about and react to situations in life. As a counseling major, I have learned effective processes of helping an individual to change.
This afternoon, the Education sector hosted a guest speaker who talked about behavior change as it relates to elementary school students. We were given various case studies about children who were being picked on, who had no interest in completing homework, and the like. The case study I was assigned to counsel had a two-fold problem: two boys started fighting during a math lesson, and when instructed to “stop” by the teacher, one boy replied with “shut up.”
As I discussed the various routine disciplines that each child may have received, I was reminded that true behavioral change cannot be accomplished without a heart change. As cheesy as it may sound, the child’s heart has to change—their motives have to shift—in order for their behavior change in a long-term, effective way. The same is true with any adult’s behavior change. Something as simple as changing to be more physically active is motivated by a change in the mindset to becoming healthier (or competitive, if you’re like myself). Likewise, changing one’s attitude toward a spouse will change how they act toward that person and, ultimately, change the dynamics of their marriage.
Ephesians 4 discusses the Biblical, 3-step process of change.
1.     Put off false thinking/bad attitude/negative behavior.
2.     Be renewed in the thinking of your mind.
3.     Put on truth/good attitude/positive behavior.
One of the first questions I asked of my Introduction to Biblical Counseling professor was, “What about change that has been proved to work and does not necessarily come from the Bible?” I was thinking along the lines of behavior change, as I had recently completed coursework in Psychology and Child Development. His simple response was, “it’s probably based on something Biblical.” I struggled through accepting that answer; however, the more involved I became in Biblical counseling, the more I was convinced of his reply.
I write all this to say that, no matter what one’s approach is, true behavioral change has to come from a heart and/or mind change. Revisiting behavioral change during training has only affirmed my own training in years passed.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Loving the Temporary


The other day John Piper tweeted something of the effect of,” It is difficult to fall in love with that which is temporary.” As with reading many of Piper’s quotes, my thoughts were stimulated as I took a moment to think through his implications and how it applies to my own life. After reading Piper’s quote, I have been thinking about its application in various life circumstances: material items, relationships, marriage, work, attitudes.
Some of you know that I tend to be conscious of the use of extremes. “Oh I looooove pumpkin spice lattes.” “I. Love. Board games.” Or even “My parents yell at me every day” and “I used to go to LAX all the time.” Really? You love a cup of espresso? And did you live at LAX? I used to respond to my students with “Really? You love it? Like, you would die for it?” About 8 years I met a fellow camp counselor who told me about his commitment to using the word love quite selectively--that he uses it only in referring to his wife, his children, and God. His purpose was to make the word love more meaningful. I took the challenge and quickly reaped the understanding of (1) how precious the word love really is, and (2) how lazy we have become with our speech.
After reading Piper’s tweet, my first thought was how it applies to the general worldview. According to the Scriptures, our life on earth is only temporary (James 4). Jesus explicitly states to store up one’s treasures in heaven (Matthew 7). Ergo, if one loves God, he cannot also love the world. Not of this World is a contemporary design label, and this is what they are advertising. Eventually, the Christian’s love for God and longing for heaven far surpasses anything this world has to offer.
I have thought about this dichotomy in relation to committing the next two years of service to Jamaica. One of Peace Corps’ mantras is that a volunteer’s service will be “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” I was thinking about that in conjunction with falling in love with one’s country of service. In Africa, I constantly felt guilty for not loving The Gambia or my work there. However, I am thoroughly enjoying time in Jamaica and anticipate a particularly happy service. But do I love it? ‘Tis only temporary.
Perhaps the difference between really liking and absolutely loving something has parallels with the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness can be taken away; it is circumstantial. Joy is a constant. It is the gift that gets us through the particularly unhappy times. Liking something is temporary. Our emotions are fickle and finite. Love is eternal, and it does not end. I’m still thinking through loving various people, things, and circumstances. I’ve come to the conclusion that we first we must understand our ability to love, and where love comes from. But for now, I’m working on loving the things of eternity.

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