The camel: one of the most revered animals in Arabian culture. And this is the animal I found myself unsteadily sitting on a month ago in the deserts of Jordan, the location of my college study abroad program (specifically Amman, Jordan).
I remember feeling so uncoordinated trying to get one leg propped over one side of the huge animal and then after I succeeded in doing so, letting out a tiny scream as I held onto the hairs of the camel as he (or she?) stood up. A camel, at its full height, is a majestic creature indeed, and I felt powerful sitting on top of such an animal.
Now what exactly am I doing you may ask? So my study abroad program organized an overnight trip for my fellow participants and I to trek through a desert called Wadi Rum. This is the same desert that T.E. Lawrence crossed and the same desert where the film Lawrence of Arabia was shot. In other words: one magnificent desert.
So back to our trek: at one particular point, we turned a corner into an expanse of desert between the two canyons walls. The most beautiful part, riding through this section of desert, was looking up and seeing how the setting sun kissed the top of the canyon walls. I remember looking up at the soft sunlight touching the canyon walls, looking straight ahead to the majestic silhouette of the mountains in the distance, and finally looking down at the sandy desert floor that stretched on for miles and thinking, “WOW, God created this all.”
One of the most exhilarating moments of that journey across the desert was the realization that not only is God so Great that He created the vast desert that stretches further than my eyes can see; but also, God is so Loving that He sent His Son down to Earth in the form of a simple human.
I think of the verse from Philippians: “[Jesus Christ] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2: 7-8).
Personally, I think that contrast is astounding. God, the Maker of the colossal desert I trekked through, is the same God that came down in mere human form to not just be with me, but to forgive all my sins and give me eternal life with Him. Hallelujah! What a beautiful message!
So if you ever get the chance to ride a camel across the desert, four wheel across the plains, hike through a forest, climb a mountain, or simply walk in a park, think about the power of the contrast between one God who is not just Creator but also Friend.
Written by Prerna Balasundaram, a member of the Young Adult Council. Article can be found in the June 2014 issue of The Press, a young adult newsletter.
Although the weather had demonstrated otherwise, we are exiting the spring season. In the church, spring means the Lenten season and Easter are upon us. Spring also means flowers, the smell of grass clippings when maintenance decides to mow the lawn at 5:30am, and for many, the end of the school year.
Then comes summer. Depending on what stage of life you are in, summer can mean a wide variety of things. Speaking from the perspective of a student, summer means extra cash, sunshine, adventure, and most importantly, sleep. Summer leads into fall, and although the cooler weather indicates the end of freedom and the beginning of school, it also signifies more serious things like a fresh start and the changing of the leaves and more petty things like pumpkins and oversized sweaters. Over time, fall changes into winter. The colorful leaves disappear, rain changes into snow, and Starbucks Peppermint Mochas once again find a home in our waistlines and our wallets.
We find so much joy in the uncontrollable, seasonal events of creation, even amidst the parts we don’t necessarily like as much as the others. With the coming of each season, we look forward to the gladness and the change that it will bring, whether that is butterflies, sunshine, pumpkins, or snow. We accept that the season is something we cannot control, and instead of moping for three months about cooler weather, snow, and ice, we find a way to embrace the season, knowing that a new season—spring—will come soon.
Yet, we are so slow to find the joy and beauty in the uncontrollable seasonal events and changes of our own lives—we are much better at finding the sorrow and the pain.
Perhaps your family has struggled financially in the past few months or maybe you have just recently ended a relationship and it seems as though this season of lacking and emptiness has no purpose and will never end. Perhaps you can think of a few unexpected changes in your own life that have caused you to enter a season of life you would rather do without.
In the Old Testament, Job was dealt a few unexpected changes, and I think we can learn a lot from the way he handled his situation. Job was a cool guy (I even named a former pet fish after him)—he was a somewhat wealthy farmer who was considered “blameless—a man of complete integrity” (1:1).
One day, Satan noticed these honorable characteristics of Job, and approached God himself, saying the only reason Job remains blameless, full of integrity, and God-fearing is because he is wealthy and the Lord has always provided for him. Satan says to God himself, “You have made him prosper in everything he does” (1:10b).
So, Satan is given permission to test Job to try to prove that without his riches he will become weak and curse the name of God. God says, “All right, you may test him…do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically” (1:12). What follows are four messages, all of which bring unexpected seasonal change into Job’s life (check out 1:14-19 and then keep reading!).
If I were in Job’s shoes and were told even just one of those pieces of news, I would probably be upset, bitter, and angry. These aren’t the type of changes that you adjust your schedule or cancel plans for—these changes begin a new, unexpected season in the life of Job. But in verse 22, it says, “In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.”
Next, Satan and God chat again and Satan receives permission to test Job one more time. This time Satan attack’s Job’s health—he is covered in boils from head to toe.
I would venture to say that Job had a difficult time believing that any sort of good could emerge from his sad situation. He begins to question the justice and goodness of God and become angry at his circumstances.
I wonder, when we experience unwanted change—what do we focus on?
First, we could focus on the circumstances of our season itself. We could focus on they way our season makes us feel—probably negatively. Or, we could focus on the purpose of the season.
Think about the trees outside. When it gets too cold, the plant tissue in their leaves die, so if the tree wants to keep itself alive, it has to sort of say goodbye to the leaves and let them fall to the ground. Seems a little selfish, right?
Except, when the leaves fall from the tree to the ground, they are decomposed into nutrients that give new life to the surrounding ground and the roots of the very tree that let them go. The tree lives another year. But, the tree doesn’t just survive—it thrives. Every change has a purpose.
In the same way, Job saw no purpose to his trials and tribulations, but if the purpose were revealed right from the start, do you think he would have grown as much in his faith and as a follower of Christ?
Ultimately, Job recognizes God’s sovereignty, goodness, and power, and is humbled by God’s mercy. His belongings, family, and wealth, are restored and doubled—the season is over.
There are three things I believe unwanted change does for us. First, they require us to depend on our community. Whether it is through prayer, financial support, or even food. Next, they require us to depend on God. Lastly, they remind us of God’s righteousness, love, and omnipotence.
Each season has a purpose—how is God using the seasons of your life to strengthen you? How can you use your season to encourage others?
Megan Smith, Young Adult Council Member, Student at Eastern University
Article written for The PRESS, Young Adult Newsletter
The year was 1976 and I was attending the Inter-Varsity Urbana Missionary Conference with a group of young adults from my home Bible study group. It was a time in my life when I was struggling with a call to ministry and trying to decide whether to leave the teaching profession and go to seminary.
The conference was an amazing panacea of famous speakers such as Dr. Billy Graham and Dr. John Stott. There was powerful music, numerous workshops and display tables with recruiters from mission organizations all over the world. In between speakers up on the main stage at this huge coliseum there were mission advertisements that lasted for only a minute or two. One caught my attention. A large African American gentleman seemed to have a speech impediment. He spoke passionately about deaf people in Africa.
“We need workers to go to Africa and help establish deaf education.” That man was none other than Dr. Andrew Foster.
When Moses finally emerged from the wilderness, he was ready to take charge for God. What a great turning point in his life’s story, but let’s not forget that Moses was in his eighties. Could you imagine him being you and it taking you that long? We were all chosen to do something big for God. He wants us to be successful. However, some times we find ourselves anxiously waiting and wondering: “When?” Through our patience and prayers we can hear God saying, “Not yet! Get ready for the greater opportunity I’m preparing for you.”
In Exodus, Moses hits a period of waiting. Away from the noise of tradition, religion, and culture, he begins an one-on-one relationship with God. When the Conference Council on Young Adult Ministries went through its reinstatement in July 2012, we wanted to be ready for our God given assignment. Without realizing it, all of our planning led us to the wilderness for The Awakening Retreat. Our mission was to equip young people with a readiness and the confidence to lead others to God. In the calm and quiet, we embarked on a mission defining experience. It may have taken several months to offer our first event, but after all of our praying and waiting, look at what we were able to accomplish in our Inaugural year:
Throughout the year, C.C.Y.A.M. participated in over a couple dozen events. We served as a resource to young people in churches interested in forming young adult ministries, gathered for worship, retreated for Christian education and action planning, and just hung out in an intimate circle of Christian fellowship. Recently, our council recognized the need and importance of giving young people a platform to minister and witness to friends in the best possible forms. We want to foster communication with each other and encourage an authentic line of communication with God. We are The Press, ambassadors that want to propel the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and this publication spotlights our press. We know what Kingdom living is like and have faced challenges that have tested our walk. These are our stories of encouragement to stay focused on the Kingdom and to live for Christ. We intend for this publication to serve as a continual reminder for each of us to “Press On!’
by Krystl Johnson, for the Young Adult Newsletter, The PRESS
As we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr this week and observe Human Relations Day in our congregations, once again we remember the vitally important call of Christ to love one another, and especially to include all of God’s children in the circle of God’s love.
In Luke 4 we read about Jesus’ conflict with his hometown friends at the synagogue of his childhood years. He had the audacity to remind the listeners that God was about the business of supporting foreign widows and healing Syrian army officials. He challenged the long-held illusion that God was only the God of the Jews and maintained instead that Jehovah was the God of all. The crowd turned on him at that moment, and had he had a near-miss with death that day (Luke 4:23-30).
Would we have joined the crowd that tried to toss Jesus off the cliff? Or would we agree with the Lord that God is going global with this love thing and that everyone is included in the circle of God’s care and concern? Fundamentally, that was the work of Dr. King’s movement, and still today the quest for equality is based on that precept.
Continue reading on Bishop Peggy Johnson’s blog at bishoppeggyjohnson.blogspot.com/2014/01/human-relations.html.