Observations from an Outsider

I took myself on a date to the British Museum. After being blown away by the famous paintings in the National Gallery I wanted a twist toward archeological excellence. Before I left, I search for my lost sock in the laundry room. Two days gone. After the 10 pounds it took to do laundry, I lost a sock.

While walking, I am in a cloud of sweet smelling smoke originating from an Ecig, which I much prefer to the stench of a cigarette. Europe’s lungs match the dress code - black and black.

Yesterday, I glanced down at a man’s Camel pack on the table outside the cafe. The picture on the front was of a baby face. I couldn’t understand the connection, why does Camel want the user to think of babies when they smoke?

I grab a free magazine and paper from the bin, pardon the American, rack. I ride a lift down to my train. Occasionally, it’s just me on the platform. My station’s rather small. I’m not sure I’ve ever spent such a long period constantly alone.

The security guard outside the museum asked me if my bag held any knives. I said, "I don’t know" without understanding the questions. He repeats the question with a mix of snicker and concern. I made it through security.

The building seems disorganized. When I think I circle one direction, I end up a dozen rooms to the left. Everyone seems fascinated with the mummies, the room roars with noise. I prefer to read anything I can about ancient Israelites and their oppressors (Assyria, Rome, Babylonians, Greeks, Canaanites, etc.). There's a tomb from Jericho. Ancient idols made of clay. Augustus’ marble head that was buried to shame him.

Hours pass. I’m lost finding the exit, but stumble upon a room glowing white. I want a sweetie from a bakery, but restrain without proper occasion. I walk about 15k steps a day, but fail to exercise. Tonight, I wrote zucchini pasta on the menu to be healthy, but it suddenly comes to me that I bought a cucumber at Borough Market the other day thinking it was zucchini. (Update: I later found out I could not find the zucchini because it is called a "courgette" and I sliced my finger that night trying to peel it. Some ideas are better to not fully find completion.)

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I’m herded like cattle through the tube. Pushed, shoved and stepped on through the small staircases during rush hour. Outside, a calm 60 degrees with a white sky. Underground, a 80 degree mosh pit. I imagine myself in Katy Perry’s music video, “Hot N Cold.” The warmth leaves me in a haze of slumber. I wonder how people who fall asleep on the tube know to wake up at their stop.

I climb to the air and reach Leather Street. A contrast of silence to the hectic bustle of the tube. I can hear a nail drop, the hum of a delivery truck on the curb and a whistler echoing from another alley. I pass Santa sifting through heaps of trash to find treasures. The air turns moist and it’s drizzling, but not enough to pull out my umbrella.

I contrast Leather Street with Charing Cross, my previous favorite street. They both harbor bookstores down their alleys, but Leather’s contained chic photo filled magazines while Charing's held antiques. Leather had street food of all kinds. Charing was closer to the Monet paintings. Charing wins. (Update: I found out that Charing Cross was part of the street used in Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. So I am placing more emphasis on it's winning the imaginary cool street contest.)

I reach my destination, Good and Proper Tea. The wifi password is tea and crumpets. I’m not sure what a crumpet is. I try a Rooibos Latte with oat milk, which I now prefer, while I stare at cacti and try to form thoughts. Silence. Where is my tirelessly dripping shower head to give me some white noise? The water always lingers on my toilet from the shower as they are practically on top of one another. London’s space efficient.

I reached home without Citymapper. I’m almost fluent on the tube now. Some people I notice wear heavy coats, some wear skirts and some short sleeves. I’m glad to realize I’m not the only one who can’t comprehend the weather.

The Drive for Dependence

I absolutely love to dream about the future (this statement is no surprise to anyone who has talked to me for longer than 30 minutes). My mind often strays from my exams and meditates on how I can save up for a trip when I graduate or a new camera lens or the career that I desire. When I think about a couple years from now I picture myself living international, possibly with a family, taking photos and writing for a magazine. I like to think about all the things I need to do in order to make this dream a reality.

Suddenly, the other day my laptop crashes and the small trivial moment of thousands of dollars going toward a new one snaps me back into this present moment. This day is now consumed with finals, packing to wrap up the school year, work and other many daily tasks. I’m now incapable of handling the momentary circumstance because I was so flustered with how this situation was going to ruin the future. In this scenario, I am so out of control. I then balance wondering how God could possibly care about such a first world problem in comparison to the size of his glory of his kingdom. But trying to push my feeling deeper inside myself, only allows other anxieties to surface.

Thus the start of me relearning a valuable lesson about my relationship with God, that I must be extremely dependent on him.

A normal day consists of me doing a lot of activities that don’t require me to consult God. I pray often, but obviously not the daily face-to-the-ground-full-surrender type of prayer because I often feel sufficient. I have deceived myself into believing that I while I need God’s guidance for the bigger picture, I have the means to get myself through the day to day.



My perspective is rather arrogant for who am I to say I have the ability to handle this day when I do not know what tomorrow brings or even can confidently say that I will have tomorrow (James 4:13-15). If it’s impossible for our finite minds to predict the future, how can we possibly rely on our own strength to get through today?

I personally hate the idea of being needy and letting others do things for me. People often prove unreliable (myself included). While I think it’s great to trust everyone has the best intentions, we must acknowledge how forgettable humans are. We often overstuff our schedules until we are bound to forget to do something for someone. Being constantly surrounded by the undependable nature of humans, it's hard to remember that our God is fully dependable. God’s dependability is especially difficult to grasp when it seems easier to quickly handle a situation yourself instead of taking the time to consult God.

Often I think of 1 Thessalonians 4:12, “so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” to back up my reasoning that I should be independent. The mentality of this verse for me translates to “I’ll do what’s best for me and you do you.” But this is not what Paul means by this verse.

The church was made to function as a body, together.

He calls the Thessalonians to work hard at what they’re best at and not to exploit the wealthy. Paul certainly does not mean work independently and do whatever floats your own boat. We are not superhumans with the capability to thrive alone, but we were made to work collectively while depending on God instead of trying to provide for ourselves or by contrast lazily waiting for other believers to provide the means for us.

American’s thrive on this concept of individualism. Our schools push us towards this individualistic attitude. If students want to succeed then they must put in the effort to make good grades on their own merit. The business world pushes individualism. To have a successful career may require outperforming coworkers who are up for the same position.

Independence can teach us that we are fit to run the world in a way that fits the ideal in our head. Independence means organizing everything to flow according to how we like it and while we may care for others, the ultimate goal is to fulfill whatever plans we designed for ourselves whenever our brains developed enough to create these plans. With hearts that are so fickle, how could we expect the plans we designed to be constant. Our desires change daily and yet we still will choose our own way of life over the path of following Christ. 

Dependence can teach us that while we aren't fit to run the world, we have a God who is. Dependence means recognizing who designed our very brains before the beginning of time, a God who has all knowledge, all power and who's plans never change. 

John 15 talks about abiding in Jesus, that we are unable to bear fruit alone. Abiding is not something we chose to do, but what we have to do. Dependence directly correlates with abiding. When we are with Jesus daily, we are able to remember he’s the first one we need to go to in order to be able to handle every daily circumstance. We have to depend on him or else our achievements will delude us into self-sufficiency and when the storm begins to blow we won’t have a firm foundation to get us through.  

The vine that connects us to Jesus is not imprisoning either, it is beautifully dressed and abundant with the fruit of life. By desiring independence from God, we become the little grape that jumps off the tree to be “free” and ends up rotting away in the ground. We were designed to be a part of the tree and to follow in His purpose (Proverbs 19:21).

Dependence reminds us what this relationship with Jesus is all about. If we don’t depend on God, who do we depend on? Our own talents, performance, abilities, and grades or perhaps friends and family.

If we don’t depend on God, where does our trust lie? Do we believe he is incapable of providing everything we could ever want or need?

If we don’t depend on God, have we ever given our lives to him to begin with? The ultimate sin in the bible is idolizing other things instead of relying that the one true God is enough.

Dependence reveals hearts that seek his help first in prayer when problems arise and his opinion last before making a big decision. We seek him because he is a beautiful and wonderful Father that we desire to follow.

Ultimately when we are depending on God, we will be given a spirit that delights daily. When you look at Father of the entire universe and see how he cares so intimately for EVERY single thing that happens to you, you recognize that you can trust him to deliver you every time. Resting in the truth about dependence will bring peace beyond doubt.

Growing in the Garden

I'm not sure what I was expecting for orientation week, but it was beautiful and a bit tiring at once. This week was mainly about getting to know each other and to get an glimpse of what this summer will be like most specifically New York. We heard short sessions on the word, prayer, testimonies and community.

I didn't think community as something that could happen all at once, but I've already found myself praising God for the friendships that are already beginning to bloom. I can't wait to discover aspects of Gods character reflected in the many faces I will come to know better. My apartment mates in themselves are a blessing. We have already had multiple jam sessions and 1/4 of us conquered the rock at Eno river. Everyone has this delight to know the Lord and having that joy surrounding me every single day is just a true glimpse of heaven.

But, being surrounded by so many strong believers has been tough at the same time when the sin of comparison comes rushing in. I found myself internally trying to impress and please those around me instead of directing my focus to Christ. That is just the devil trying to shatter the unity we have by making us feel down when really were all different, but also fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who loves us.

On Friday we all were fasting and we went to Duke Gardens where Jesus took us on a date. This week I learned all about how Jesus is the one who takes the first move to reconcile with us. He reached out to us while we were still lost and repeatedly betraying him over and over again. He called my name and ran after me to save me. It was easy to get lost in the garden with all the different paths you could take, but even when I didn't know where I was exactly or where I was going it didn't matter because I was in the presence of God. The king of the universe was guiding me and the more lost I became the more I would discover hidden pockets of beautiful flowers.

While his presence always dwells around me, it was wonderful spending peace time with Jesus one on one for a few hours. We read through Psalm 73 and it really hit me in a new way than before. I often fall into the trap of keeping my own heart clean in self-righteousness. As if I can lift myself up by doing good. Jesus shatters that for me. Good things for the wrong reasons are equally sinful because there is always an ounce of pride. Luckily I have a Father that is so intimate to me that he lets me call him Daddy, He guides me to what is true and points me to the everlasting. It's easy to try and forget the sin you had before salvation, but remembering the debts you had is the essence of gratitude toward our Father for redeeming us of all that. Even being saved as a child before my salvation I was born dead in my trespasses and I can't forget what he saved me from.

It's tempting to look at the world and think we are missing out on something. The whole grass is greener on the other side. But what is greater than any grass is the evergreen land flowing of milk and honey in the one true promise land above. How can I turn my back on my savior thinking that He won't provide all things abundantly and more if He already gave up His Son for me! The only thing I am bringing to my salvation is my sin. Even in the few minutes in the word I would get distracted constantly. He loves me knowing I will fail on earth consistently and counts me blameless.He saved me despite my inability to focus on him alone for even an hour.

Isn't that mind blowing that I'm so tied to the world that I can't even focus all my energy and thoughts completely toward the Creator of the Universe!

I learned this week that Jesus was Plan A for God to redeem his children. I never would have thought that sending your son to die for the world would be Gods plan the whole time, I always thought of it as a last resort to our consistent disobedience that always fell short. But no, since the beginning of time He planned to send Jesus to unite all through his name, to be the ultimate savior. He planned to extend that love and sacrifice to bring his children to him the whole time.

I learned during fasting that the only nourishment I need is from his word. That hunger pains point be back to a God who satisfies more than food. He is the bread of life. This past year food has been one thing that enslaves me easily without my realization of it because it's a necessity, but it's not to be put before God. All good things can be abused when you put them in your thoughts above the one who deserves all your attention.

Finally at church I learned the power of prayer. Prayer is a blessing, it is direct correspondence to God that people who don't know him don't have. He also answers all prayer which I kind of knew, but I never really thought about expecting movement immediately from God. He promises that if we ask anything in Jesus' name he will do it. Answered prayer is the greatest testimony that is often overlooked. Prayer and connection to our Father is the most powerful tool we have above all else. And he always answers- giving us what we asked or what we would have asked for if we knew what he knew.

The gardens was a time of repentance, but also renewal. He restores me completely and he forgives me. The birds were singing his praises, the children's laughter lifted him on high and I couldn't help but join in relaxing in awe in his beauty.