If I could choose to be anywhere, then I would choose to be exactly where I am, Perkins School of Theology. Why would I not choose some exotic place that I have never been before? Well, I plan on telling you just that.
Perkins is not a place I prayed I would end up one day. My life goals had changed so quickly and frequently I didn’t really have a plan beyond college. When I realized I needed and wanted to go to graduate school, I began to panic. Applications didn’t make me feel any better about the process. Perkins came highly recommended from a trusted friend, oh, and the application didn’t stress me out. Perkins ended up being the only place I applied.
I had a summer position lined up and all thoughts of Texas seemed to be so far away. The closer it became, the more nervous I became. Then came time to leave PA. I was a nervous wreck. Hours before I left I told my mom I didn’t want to go. The further away from PA I got, the less likely I would be to turn around. I finally made it it Texas and I only felt like I had made a huge mistake.
The feeling of making a mistake quadrupled at orientation. Everyone seemed so positive and sure Perkins is where they were supposed to be, but I shared none of those feelings. So now you are really curious why I chose Perkins out of all the places in the world, right? Be patient.
Orientation was also the beginning of realizing Perkins was exactly where I was meant to be. As the year faucet was turned on full blast, I sought out the first official person I could find to tell them this wasn’t it and I was going home. However, the person I chose was not willing to see me go and not in a typical concern of losing numbers king of way. She genuinely wanted me at Perkins. Why? She didn’t even know me.
This is how Perkins is, a family. The Perkins hug is real. From day one (of classes that is, orientation was rough), the people at Perkins have been the definition of a caring community. We laugh together and cry together. We study together and find solace in not doing our work together. However, this doesn’t stop when we leave the classroom. We have get-togethers and meet frequently for meals.
The fellow students are only a part of what makes this such an amazing community. The professors and other faculty create the space for this to occur. They are here for more than making sure we succeed academically. They are invested in our lives and want us to succeed in finding and pursuing our passions. They celebrate with us and mourn with us. They are here with us.
Leaving everyone behind in PA, including my support system, was an extremely difficult situation for me. However, I now feel so at home at Perkins and among all the people there. As much as I miss everyone in PA, I am so happy to be with everyone here in Texas.
Perkins is where the coffee is always flowing, the tissues are being handed over, and conversations about theology happen even on a Galentine’s Day outing (which ended at a coffee shop studying). Perkins is the place where your professors and faculty purchase your book and are so excited to walk this path with you. Perkins is where you aren’t afraid to walk into an office bawling or shouting about an awkward moment you just encountered. Perkins is where you get to pursue your passions in a completely supportive environment with a bounty of resources.
I believe that God heals. Isaiah 53:5 writes prophetically about Jesus, the Messiah who would redeem all of humanity, and notes that “He was beaten so we could be whole; He was whipped so we could be healed.” This passage coupled with the numerous healings Jesus and the apostles did, as well as a few healings I’ve seen personally, solidifies this belief.
But what happens when God doesn’t answer prayer? What happens when we don’t see the healing that we desperately seek? Is God still a God of healing?
On May 23, 2016, my family began to explore these questions when my mom was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. I was working on campus at Messiah College for the summer, with few friends to confide in, and I was mad. I was mad at God. I was having some difficulties with my faith at the time, and I didn’t know what to do. After an hour of talking with God, yelling at Him and crying to Him, God reminded me of a verse from the book of John: “In this world you will face many troubles. But take heart, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). I had a choice: to either give up hope and turn from God, or to turn to Him and cling to the hope of this promise. Choosing to trust God, as I had in years prior, our family clung to His promises and prayed for Mom’s healing.
Mom started chemotherapy and was discouraged for the first month and a half. However, she found that living in fear was not only a hopeless position to have, but physically damaging for her health. When we are afraid, our body has natural responses: our heart rate increases causing our blood pressure to go up, our breathing becomes heavier, and adrenaline starts flowing through the body. While these symptoms of fear are typically used for a fight-or-flight scenario, when battling cancer it actually weakens the body and gives the cancer more strength. Mom put her hope in Jesus instead, and we saw her rapidly improve thanks to a lack of fear and the many prayers that were sent her way. By the end of August, three months after the initial diagnosis, her health was where most patients would hope to be six to nine months into chemotherapy. Mom was able to go back to work at our church in September.
We were grateful for God’s providence, and even during this time of better health, Mom continued to seek God for complete healing in her body. She declared Scriptures over herself, read various books about healing, and spent a lot of time in prayer. Our church was also very supportive during this time, in ways we had never seen our church work before – providing meals for our family, sending people to our home every night to pray, and even doing things that we hadn’t thought about, like yard work.
However, our time of rejoicing was short. Near Christmas, Mom had another scan that showed the cancer had grown. We were disappointed, but Mom chose to be thankful for the healing work that God had done, knowing that the growth was small compared to where her journey had begun. We recognized that cancer was not just a physical battle, but a spiritual one as well, as any sickness or disease is. However, we also knew Who held victory over sin, death, and disease, and we continued to trust Jesus.
The Spring of 2017 was a fairly consistent season with little change in Mom’s condition. For the most part, she was feeling well with the occasional bout of symptoms with each chemo treatment. In this strange season of seeking health for Mom, my parents went on a retreat together as they did every year. During that retreat, they felt God was saying something kind of odd: to make plans for the summer and to not change them. So Mom and Dad took that to heart and made their plans for the summer: they planned to help with a summer camp in June, attend a conference in DC in July, and visit missionaries in Thailand in August.
In May, a full year since Mom was diagnosed, she received bad news. The cancer was growing again – and we saw similar symptoms to what happened the year prior: the cancer in her liver was sending funny signals to the kidneys, and the kidneys were essentially telling her body that she was not retaining enough water. Thus, her body started to balloon with excess water weight, so much that she looked pregnant and had swollen feet and legs.
Despite these symptoms and the difficulties they presented, she did not fear and fully trusted God. Even though she was sick, she held onto what God told her to do and did not change anything. She helped out with camp in June and delighted in ministering to the campers and other counselors. She attended the conference in DC in July and enjoyed her stay, holding firmly to faith. Several of the other conference guests would approach Mom and, seeing her ballooned belly, ask “Are you expecting?” Mom would smile and say, “Yes, but I’m not expecting a baby. I’m expecting a miracle”, and would proceed to tell them her story. At the same time, she quietly made preparations in the scenario that healing would not occur – organizing her files, making sure people knew where things were, and having people at the church take on responsibilities she could not do as easily in her weakened state.
The closer the day to leave for Thailand came, the worse Mom’s condition became. Family, friends, and doctors asked her if she really wanted to go, but Mom was adamant: “God said not to change anything. I’m going on that plane.”
Mom passed away in a hospital in Japan after the plane stopped for a layover there. She passed in perfect peace, as if God’s Spirit had enveloped her in His love. Her story ended with her repeating a single phrase while on her deathbed:
“Just trust Jesus.”
There are many cliché things that can be said – “she was healed in heaven”, or “she received her healing differently than we thought”, which is true. However, it doesn’t help the heart ache of losing someone you loved. It doesn’t help to overcome the pain, the longing to see her and hear her say “I love you”, things that over a year later I am still wrestling with.
What it does do is beg a question: does God really want to heal?
Even now, I say yes.
Mom’s testimony of faith was to trust Jesus with everything. Jesus healed everywhere He went, and He delighted in restoring identity and wholeness into those around Him. Jesus also says that God hears our prayers, and desires to answer them, for a good Father will always have compassion on His child, and gives good gifts to His children.
However, I recognize that God is not the only unseen power. I think a better way to understand the world is to recognize the battle behind this reality. Life, both physical and spiritual, is often a battle, and sometimes, people die in battle. In mom’s case, she died valiantly and will full confidence in Christ. I am glad to know that I can take her words to heart and hold the same bold confidence in Christ and His power.
Besides, if she was able to fully trust Jesus in the midst of sickness and death, why should I not trust Him while I still have health and life?
I was scrolling through Pinterest, looking at all things fall, when I came across this photo.
Then it really hit me… this is a season of change for the world, so why can’t it be a season of change for you and for me? A time where we shed the dead leaves to make room for new ones in the spring. So, this week, I challenge you, take a moment, and ask yourself, “what dead leaves do I have in my life?” As you begin to shed them, you may feel bare like a tree in the fall, but remember that God will fill you up with so much good and new when it comes spring!
Happy Monday!! Have a great week! And feel free to drop you dead leaves here in the comments! ❤️🍂🍃
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. –Colossians 3:23-24
Happy Labor Day to those in the US! And for those who don’t have the day off, make sure you make today count! You are serving the Lord no matter what profession you may be in! You have entered the mission field, make it count!
Just because you don’t feel like being yourself is good enough doesn’t mean you should act like someone else just to please those around you. God made you. He made one of you. He said the world wasn’t perfect without you. Just be you. Because you is all you are meant to be.
In Matthew 22:37-40, and it’s parallel verses, Jesus sums up all of the Old Testament laws with just two Great Commandments. This is impressive because there are 613 Old Testament Laws. All of these laws have been summed up to love. Which I think we do lose a bit in translation with these two commandments. If you look at the Greek, Jesus says, “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” and “you will love your neighbor as yourself.” We’re not given an option here. Jesus is literally commanding us, yet we treat them as options sometimes.
So let’s dive into the commandments a bit more. “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Let’s start with all your heart since that is the easier part. When we think of love we think of something dear to our hearts; family, friends, pets. Here we are told to love God with all of our hearts. Not just a piece. Now I know I said this is the easy part and you are all sitting there going I already don’t have enough of my heart to go around. Well… just wait.
Next we have, “You will love the Lord your God with all your soul.” I think we lose a bit in translation here too. The Greek word is psyche which means life. And not just the fact that you’re alive, but with everything that is your life. The job you have should be done loving God. The relationships you have should be aiding in your love towards God. The free time you may or may not have should be spent living God. You should be living your life loving God in preparation for spending eternity praising God.
Alright, so now you know that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. Next we will love with our whole mind. This one word, mind, covers the rest. Mind is our words, our thoughts, our knowledge, and our imagination. All we say, think and know should be loving God. To sum this all up, every piece of our heart, everything we do, all we say and all we think should be done by loving God. This should be easy right? I mean look at the God we serve! He is worthy of all that. Yet, we get busy, our mind wanders, and we are all human. However, we can only love because God first loved us. Therefore as long as we are striving to love God with all we are and strive to be in a constant relationship with God then God is pleased. It’s when we begin to wander away, when we begin to place things before God, that God gets sadden with our absence. But He never stops loving us. We aren’t perfect and God doesn’t expect us to be.
All of that and we haven’t even got to the second commandment yet. Take a deep breath. Are you ready? The second is like it, you will love your neighbor as yourself. This too is multifaceted. Who is our neighbor? Que the story of the great Samaritan. We are to love the least, the last, the lost, and everyone else as our neighbors and therefore as ourselves. Now this leaves room for one tricky excuse. I don’t love myself much so I don’t have to love others much. Sadly, we hear this more often than we should. If you struggle with this, Think of the love God has for you, but overflowing, never ending love. What God sees in you is what you should see in you. Then you should see that and everyone else is well. God loves everyone, and that is your neighbor is. If you think about it the second commandment falls under the first one since it is an action of love and God by loving others. So, why would you just choose to state it as well? He chose to state this just to show how important it is to love others especially when it’s just plain easier not to sometimes.
I just recently saw church sign that said, “God loves me God loves you let’s love each other.” The first time I saw I just kind of dismissed it, but then it kept coming back to me. And since it was on my path from Tyrone to Morrisdale, I saw an awful lot. Then I began to realize that this commandment really is just as simple as the church sign makes it look. If God loves your neighbor just as much as He loves you, why shouldn’t you love your neighbor? That was the question I had for my weekly devotion and I would really recommend doing the same thing yourselves.
Either way, challenge yourself to begin fulfilling these commandments the new ways. Maybe that’s a new spiritual practice to grow closer to God. Maybe it’s reaching out to new people in your community. Maybe they’re trying to compliment someone everyday. Whatever it maybe love. Love with all you are. Love with all you do. Not only will your relationships here on earth begin the blossom, they are relationship with God will grow expeditiously as well. You could even say Jesus knew what he was talking about.
Let us pray:
God we thank you for loving us no matter what, 24 seven, no exceptions. We thank you for sending your son to pay for the way and even die, so we may live with you eternally. We thank you that the Holy Spirit resides in each of us, so we may begin to love as you love. Grant us the ability to open our hearts, souls, and minds to love more. Then open our eyes to see your neighbors the way you do, Lord. May we honor you and all that we do amen!
When we think of someone suffering, we tend to automatically assume sadness and grief for that person. We tend to overlook the joy they are portraying in Christ. We tend to overlook how people overcome their suffering to be who Jesus wants them to be. The potential God sees in us.
When we see a person with a background of suffering and a joyful presence, what do we think? Are we those people?
What if I told you these people were beautiful people? Would you believe me? I think Jesus says this loud and clear when He communes with these exact people.
Beautiful people see beautiful people. -Caroline Barsom
We are able to spot beautiful people because we are beautiful people. Isn’t that great? I want you to remember that YOU are beautiful!
Beautiful people teach us how to be real. How to use our past to be more Christ-like in our present.
Do you know beautiful people? In what ways have they taught you to be real?