Gifts from God from the OT

Recently, I’ve been reading through the Old Testament because other than the Sunday-school basics, I’ve never had much knowledge of much of it. Here I am, someone who tries to live according to the Word of the Lord, never having read a good chunk of it. I figured maybe that should change.

It’s been a long, slow process, and I’m probably not going to finish any time soon, but I’m glad I’m doing it. I’m currently in Isaiah and to be honest, I haven’t had a great understanding of a lot of what I’ve read up to now. I’ve always been intimidated by the OT because I knew I wouldn’t understand a lot of it, but I decided I wanted to read it for knowledge of the content, if nothing else.  Much of it has been pretty over my head, but much of it has also been very illuminating, and God has spoken to me through this confusing, difficult part of the Word that has formerly been all too easy for me to ignore.

This journey began a few years ago when my campus ministry did a semester-long sermon series on Exodus. This opened my eyes to the importance of sacrifice in Old Testament law. It gave me greater understanding and appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ, and why his death and resurrection was the way the Lord chose to save humanity. Similarly, since then, my attempted studying of the OT has increased my appreciation for God’s immeasurable holiness and endless mercy.

Reading of the Israelites forsaking God, coming back, forsaking him, and coming back over and over and over again is exhausting. Chronicles and Kings tell of little else but who was king and if that king worshiped the Lord or led Israel in sin. How this must have broken God’s heart! And yet, because of His incredible, irrevocable love, He always forgave when they cried out to Him with true repentance in their hearts. Not quite so different from my own life. What my OT attempt has taught me so far is a deeper appreciation of the Lord’s mercy. All I can do is marvel in awe and humbly give thanks for what He has done and continues to do for me. It’s a hard thing to explain in words, but the Lord is continuing to draw me nearer to Him through this experience. I’m grateful for that. Though I lack an understanding of many things, God is true to his promise to “draw near to those that draw near to Him.” How blessed are we to serve a God who speaks directly to us and hears when we cry out?

Though I often get bogged down by the hard-to-get-through parts of the OT, I’m looking forward to continuing my “study,” and letting God speak to me regardless of my scholarly iniquities. I encourage anyone intimidated by the Word to trust that God is close to those who seek him, and remember that we are not supposed to know and understand everything. Indeed, He never fails to reveal Himself to those who seek Him.

Rachel Pozzo

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The Common Good–Megan Helbling

My favorite thing about Colorado is the warning signs of steep grades on the highways coming in and out of the mountains.

TRUCKERS! ARE YOUR BRAKES COOL AND READY? NEXT 5 MILES STEEP GRADES.

HANG ON TRUCKERS! YOU’RE NOT THERE YET. 7% GRADE NEXT 3 MILES.

CHAIN LAWS IN EFFECT! PULL OVER NEXT 2 MILES TO AVOID BIG FINES. BE SAFE!

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life gave us these warnings?

HUMANS! TOUGH DAYS IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS AHEAD. STAY IN BED WITH YOUR COVERS PULLED TIGHT.

WOMEN! CATCALLER AROUND THE NEXT CORNER. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

7% COST OF LIFE INCREASE IN 2019! START SAVING NOW.

I recently read an article about the common good, the thesis of which was essentially: no one gives a damn about the common good anymore. Yesterday, I stopped to read a note written on a napkin squished against the sidewalk. It read, “THIS WAS A TERRIBLE PARKING JOB. THINK ABOUT OTHERS MORE THE NEXT TIME YOU PARK”. In a world of anonymous individualism, it’s easy to feel like no one cares about anyone they don’t know the name of.

Here’s a poem by Louise Gluck:

You want to know how I spend my time?

I walk the front lawn, pretending

to be weeding. You ought to know

I’m never weeding, on my knees, pulling

clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact

I’m looking for courage, for some evidence

my life will change, though

it takes forever, checking

each clump for the symbolic

leaf, and soon the summer is ending, already

the leaves turning, always the sick trees

going first, the dying turning

brilliant yellow, while a few dark birds perform

their curfew of music. You want to see my hands?

As empty now as at the first note.

Or was the point always

to continue without a sign?

Maybe the problem with working for the ‘common good’ (whatever the heck that means) is that it takes the innocent, vulnerable, foolish, naive belief that what is common is good, what is communal is good, and that even though she’s mostly failing, the idiot who parked next to you is actually trying to be good. With that kind of soft attitude in this hard world, you’ll be as vulnerable to being plucked off as a dandelion in damp soil.

But weeding is what makes the flowers grow.

New Year, New Hair by Emily Eldridge

I’ve never done much with my hair. I don’t even take a lot of time styling it most days, even though one of the reasons I always say I like having long hair is that you can do fun things with it. I’ve never dyed it, although I did want purple hair as a teenager. It’s never been shorter than my shoulders and I’ve never had any haircuts that needed more maintaining than the occasional trim of the ends – at least not since I had bangs in first grade.

At the start of the program year, some conversation that I don’t even remember made me mention that I liked the look of a side shave haircut (specifically on Natalie Dormer in the last Hunger Games movie), and then the thought stuck in my head, what if I actually got one? I approached the idea in typical “me” fashion, which means that I spent three months thinking about whether I really liked it enough to try, saving pictures on Pinterest, googling how to style and trim and grow out a side shave, and asking people around me what they thought, including making sure my workplace wouldn’t consider it unprofessional. And finally, at the very end of 2018, I did it.

It was a scary prospect, especially because I have social anxiety and don’t like situations like going to a hairstylist and asking for an unusual haircut. I was afraid I would get it done and immediately not like how it looked, but I decided that even if that happened, I wanted to have done it; I wanted to try something new. Hair grows back, after all.

I’m happy to report that I am now “edgy” (according to the woman who cut my hair) for the first time ever and I love it!

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Special thanks to my roommates for encouraging me, my boyfriend for going with me to get it done, and my parents for not freaking out when I surprised them with my new look!

Hope–Megan Helbling

The other night, we sat around the dinner table, which we had cleared of cups and dishes but still had crumbs and smears of gravy, and lit the first advent candle. Hope. The first week of advent we are meant to hold and expect hope.

I don’t feel very hopeful about the state of our world. Our president suppresses the media like the scary fascists I learned about in 10th grade World History, there were more dead pine trees than alive when I drove into the mountains to go skiing last weekend, and I stepped over a sleeping body when I got off my bus today to go to work. I think hope might be a thing that rich people teach their kids while on vacation in Turks and Caicos, like believing in Santa Claus or that things happen for a reason.

But then I feel my heart soften towards someone I wasn’t expecting to forgive, and there’s an unexpected peacefulness in my heart that makes the world feel a little quieter. Or I scroll through my instagram feed and see that one of my preacher friends has crossed into Mexico in order to perform marriages, so that couples have a higher chance of staying together once they begin procedures with ICE. This morning, my bus driver waited for nearly ten minutes for a woman to peel off her gloves, one finger at a time, and, trembling, place her quarters into the meter. The whole bus was still, and the snow outside fell slowly, in clumps, and I watched the woman’s mouth move in a deliberate conversation with the bus driver, whose eyes looked back onto the rest of his passengers, silently asking our permission to continue to offer the dignity of independence to our newest fellow passenger. And we consented.

Wendell Berry writes, “Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. / Say that your main crop is the forest / that you did not plant, / that you will not live to harvest. / Say that the leaves are harvested / when they have rotted into the mold.” Yesterday, I went on a snowy hike near Mt Evans, and stood on top of a lake that was silent, deep, and stagnant, frozen with the stubbornness of cold –frozen, that is, except for the two feet at the very bottom, where fish and bacteria and the loch ness monster huddle, still, waiting for spring. There, they will cling to half-life, sharing bubbles of oxygen and fin slapping each other awake when one starts to lose sight of the inevitable arrival of warmth and hope. They don’t despair at the sun’s lack of strength, too weak to cut through the ice. The fish just press into the gift of the earth, warming the bottom foot of their lake home from the depths of its core. It’s the rotting mold that warms them, the gift of gifts that aren’t wrapped with bows.

May the gift of earthy hope be abundant this advent season.

Mostly Just Pretty Pictures

I’ve had a lot on my mind and heart that I was thinking of writing about this month, and now that I’m sitting down to type, I’m really just not feeling it.  Suffice it to say that I have been experiencing the peace and freedom of Christ a lot lately, and it’s wonderful.  Being less passive in my interactions with God is helping me immensely.  Who knew?

Also, I got off my butt this weekend and went for a hike.  Nature is pretty.

Shred Everything

Today as a house we brainstormed brief mission statements and the only thing I could think of was “Shred everything.” It’s a phrase that has been stuck in my head for the last few months, thanks to an anonymous person on the internet. “Shred everything” is something that you’d expect any rad snowboarder to say. Every time I come home from a day of riding on the mountain, Rachel asks, “Did you shred all of the things,” before I even come up the stairs. Usually, my answer is, “I shredded some of the things.”

It’s remarkable how much this catchphrase is accurate to how I feel about my ESC experience right now. I’m making a lot of friends by being out shredding on the mountain, but it’s also a good metaphor for other things as well. In the last few months, as I’ve been settling in to my role here, I’ve had to completely shred my expectations (expectations that I thought I didn’t have at all…wrong). I expected to move here with other adventurous, outdoorsy types, but instead I got two wonderful roommates that nurture my introvert self, push me to see the world and my spirituality differently, and challenge me to care about the history of a place that is brand new to me. It was becoming difficult to continue to hold up my expectations of immediate friendship, exploration, and belonging. In the interest of making friends, exploring, and belonging I’ve been slowly shredding my expectations for this year. Let the shredding continue.

Home -Sarah Meeks

I was worried before the break that coming back to Denver would be harder after sleeping in my own bed and seeing my family, friends, and dog. Somewhat surprising to me, I felt at home as soon as I stepped into Denver Int’l Airport. Part of this owes to my job entailing many airport pickups. But as I boarded the light rail at the airport and took in the Christmas lights as I unloaded at Union Station, I felt warmly welcomed back into this, albeit temporary, home. My room has accumulated some cozy accents on its walls. I regularly use my library card, enjoying having a book waiting on hold for me, chatting with the librarian when I go to pick it up, and dropping it back off again. Overall, I have really settled in quite comfortably to life in Denver.

But my home rests, and perhaps always will, in Mississippi.

 

Home. This idea holds a bittersweet taste tonight. Mississippi, the place I was born, grew up, and dearly call home, elected a white supremacist. A woman who makes light of lynchings and promotes confederate imagery. And my heart aches.

As my roommates and many others with whom I am close have come to learn, I am very sensitive about the derision of my state. For me, Mississippi is family, friends, football, school, beautiful landscapes, and warm sunshine on my skin. Mississippi is my home and so much of my identity lies there. My home means understanding the troubling and disgusting history of my state and the complexities they have created and perpetuated, and working actively to dismantle the systems of injustice that exist there. The ACLU has a poster that reads, “Vote like your rights depend on it.” Whenever I am voting in Mississippi elections, I want to cross out the “your” and replace it with “our.” The success of my home depends on the acknowledgement that our decisions deeply affect the rights of those with whom we share this beautiful state. It is an injustice to vote for your rights and not acknowledge the collective us on which the success and hope of our state depends. We cannot continue to ignore how your vote affects the rights of our people.

 

I knew not to, but I typed into Facebook the NYT’s article posting the results. And then I clicked on the comments. I found exactly what I knew I would. “I am proud to not know a single person from that state.” “I will never visit this state.” “Let us not invest a penny in this state.” “Mississippi is what it has always been.” “Join the civilized world.” “You deserve her.” “Can’t we dump these dead beat states?”

I understand the sentiments of frustration, rage, bafflement, and deep sorrow towards my state. But you with your scathing words must not realize how horribly degrading these comments are both for those suffering under the oppressive systems in Mississippi and those fighting tirelessly to overcome them. You must not realize how incredibly hypocritical your urges to abandon our state and its people are. How you are further suppressing those suffocating under its systems. How you are pushing people to the extremes. Making the red, redder. How you make the people fighting for justice lose their faith and feel like breaking down and quitting. How can we win when no one is rooting for us? How can we win when we are so utterly divided?

 

Mississippi is troubled with outmigration of young adults when they find there is no work for them here, when they find that their progressive political ideologies cannot be supported by the systems of the state, when they want more than anything to not be embarrassed or defensive when they announce where they’re from. So they move. And when we move, our state doesn’t.

Lately I have been struggling with this question. I have always loved to travel and experience other places and cultures. I love living in a city with unlimited opportunity at my fingertips. I love the ocean. The mountains. The diverse landscape of our country and beyond.

But the work on which I have embarked this year, coupled with the criticism of my home that I have met along the way, have urged me to wrestle with this dilemma. Who am I to defend Mississippi, the state for which I hold so much love, if I succumb to the tempting call to “get out?” Who am I to learn so much from my state and take those talents elsewhere? Am I willing to endure the constant criticism, frustration, and sorrow that comes with committing oneself so deeply to this cause?