When things don't go the way we planned

12:44 PM

I didn't plan to have bad connections and mismatched schedules that kept me from talking to my parents for my first three weeks abroad. I didn't plan on missing the train for church this morning. I didn't plan on losing my temper yesterday afternoon, or last night, or this morning. I didn't plan on spending my afternoon alone and I definitely didn't plan on having any sort of revelation about my character. 
This morning I woke up with the intention of having a vastly better day than I did yesterday, but life pays no mind to our intentions. Life hands you whatever it has, scraping the bottom of the bag for the leftovers of someone else's good day. After missing the train this morning I walked back alone with self pity in my breath and mild anger in my footsteps. It's an odd feeling when you realize that no one's going to come looking for you, that you really are accountable for yourself. I feel like a freshman all over again. Missing home, missing my mom, wondering why in the world I decided to go so far away from everything, and doubting that I'll be able to pull myself from my fear to actual become friends with all these new people. This isn't nearly as scary as freshman year, but it is more frustrating. I guess I thought that if I could do this once, I could do it again. Funny how that works. You think you've learned a lesson only to realize that you're no where near finished with it. 
So what do you do? How do you handle all these things you can't really control? How do you relearn the lesson and adjust to the change you are do desperately avoiding? You pray. And you use the rest of your strength to have faith that God is in control. You just have to keep telling yourself that God is bigger than all these things that are overwhelming you. 
I'm still learning and as much as I'd like to say I'm beyond all these childish lessons, I'm not. I may be twenty, butI've still got a lot of growing up to do. 

History of Ireland

2:04 PM

Ok, not my best photo, but it is from an iPhone. 
This week we have been studying the history of Ireland in it's entirety. This is no easy task as Ireland is tied to England, France, the US, and a few other countries histories. So besides figuring out the complexities of the Irish political scene we are also struggling to recall little details of high school world history classes. There's been a hectic silence around our little complex as everyone scrambles to read our "textbook" which is really just the most complicated novel I've ever read. The general consensus is the girls hate it, the boys like it. There are a few exceptions, but some people are struggling. One thing I have taken from forcing myself through this complicated history is that the richness of the Irish history has shaped them as a people and has created a deep-rooted sense of self and identity. As Americans we may not understand how wholly one’s history can affect one’s future. Our “young” history leaves us with a confusion of who we are. If we understand where we come from we can understand where we’re going. Our “new nationality” leaves us with more of a blank slate and the “freedom” to decide who we are as individuals without associating ourselves with any sort of ancient past. Could this be the root of our self- centered culture? Maybe I'm thinking too much, but I can't help but be jealous of such a rich history, even if I don't fully comprehend all of it. 

On Judas

6:26 AM

Today we heard a minister from the Presbyterian church talk about Judas. He had some very interesting thoughts regarding the severity with which we view this disciple. He pointed out that the word paradounai (παραδοῦναι) in Luke used as "betray" is used hundreds of time in the New Testament, but it is only translated as "betrayal" when referring to Judas. Every other time it mean "to hand down" like tradition, or "to hand over" as God hands us over to Jesus. The question was raised, Should we be trusting this traditional English translation, does this imply that when God hands us over to Jesus that it is a bad thing? Certainly not. Perhaps we have been looking at this scripture in the wrong way. Then we look at Luke 22:3 in a new light.

Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.

Perhaps Satan entering into Judas is not so much demonic possession like many would believe, but more of the sly, subtle temptation of sin that is classically associated with the enemy. 
Judas knew that Jesus said he was to be handed over and crucified, but he also knew that Jesus was the true Messiah. In Judas' mind he could have seen his actions as getting Jesus before the High Priests to make his case as the Messiah. Initially he may not have seen this as an act of betrayal. Satan entering into Judas may have occurred at the moment Judas decided that he had a better idea than having Jesus crucified, he was going to give Jesus the opportunity to make himself known to the High Priests. What Judas didn't expect was that Jesus had anticipated his actions and their consequences. 

This is just a small summary of a longer lecture, but I found the idea very interesting. How ofter do we just write Judas off as a heartless betrayer? If we see from this new perspective, Judas is no worse than any of us when we decide that we know better that God and we do what ever we please. 

Small Wonders

3:48 AM

Yesterday was stressful. Like "everything in life is coming to a head and even the little things are going wrong" stressful. I wanted to give up on a lot of things, but I just went to bed and prayed for some touch of beauty or positivity. This morning Arianne and I went to do our homework at a coffee shop, but no homework was accomplished. I had a magnificent soy latte and we just talked it out. Life, school, love, everything. And while nothing was resolved, I just felt better. God knows how to take care of us and even when that overwhelming sense of insanity starts to cover all life's joy, he can just pick you up and set you down in a place where none of that matters. I know all the stress is still there, but I also know that God's got it under control. I can stop freaking out. 

A Minor Bird

I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song. 

Blank Slate

12:51 PM

This weekend we took a trip to Blarney Castle and the Dingle peninsula. While the trip itself was long and a little stressful the sights we got to see were so glorious and vibrant that everything seemed more than worth it. 

On Valentine's Day we were at Blarney Castle and I got to kiss the Blarney Stone. Legend says that if you kiss it you will be blessed with eloquence. We'll see. While we were standing at the top of the castle we saw the clearest rainbow I've ever seen. I could just feel God smiling at our silliness as we just soaked in his creation that surrounded us. We explored the castle grounds and it felt like we were in a fairy tale with all the moss and lush greens all around. I half expected a nymph or a unicorn to come bursting through the trees with the sun.

On our last day we drove around the Peninsula stopping occasionally to look at different cliffs and hills. We drove through some land that seemed like it was just unused land, but we learned that it used to be home to millions of people who were forced onto these tiny tracts of land and made to survive. This is where the potatoes were grown. And where the famine began. The terrain out there is very shallow soil with rock underneath. In order to grow potatoes farmers had to build up from the ground. They made "lazy beds" which were just mounds of dirt build up with sand and seaweed so there was room to grow the crops. It seemed so odd to me that a place was once so bursting with life (even if that life was not necessarily prosperous) is now completely desolate, all that's left are the remains of some old walls that were once the barriers dividing the precious land. The place has been wiped bare, waiting for a new chapter of life. 

I can very much relate to that abandoned land. I was once a person with such clear ambitions and goals and now God has wiped all that away and all I'm left with is my faith and my name. I can feel God working in me, preparing me for something bigger than I ever thought was possible for my life. While getting to know people on this program I have realized that while almost everyone has an idea about their life and themselves, I do not. I love everything and I find it impossible to eliminate anything. From areas of study to genres of music, I like everything. There is nothing that I can definitively claim as my own, as an identifier. Jesus is really the only thing I'm sure of at this point and while that's terrifying, it's also exciting. I don't know what my life's going to look like next year or even next month, but I know that if I trust God, it's all going to turn out for the best. I feel like God is stripping away all the things I used to hide behind as my identity in order to create a new one that's entirely based on who he is and who I'm supposed to be. I'm getting a clean slate, whether I want it or not.

Notes on a Catholic Mass

1:31 PM

For my Irish Studies program I'm required to study the differences between a Catholic Mass and a service at the Church of Ireland, so this morning I tromped though the rain to the Holy Rosary Church to experience my very first Catholic Mass. The service was very eye opening as I come from a long line of practicing Southern Baptists who are completely opposed to any sort of religious practice that is not blatantly Protestant. The service began as one would expect, a few short songs sung by a small chorus of older ladies and a man with a guitar. Then there was a reading of scripture, more singing, prayer, and the priest said a few words about the approaching anniversary of several deaths. After more scripture was read, the priest talked for a few minutes about the scripture and how it ought to be applied in our lives. The priest had a low, soothing voice with a rather muted Irish accent. His words had authority and even though it was not what I was used to the message still had an air of power that can really only come from the Word of God. In that, at least, it is comparable to protestant services. 
It is more clear to me now why a deviation from Catholicism would not be warmly received by those who had been raised in it. It has a tradition behind that really holds it together. These services are clearly routine and are never varied from day to day. There is something about consistency and tradition that is comforting to the human soul. To know that you are worshiping God in a way that has been practiced for hundreds of years must bring some deep reassurance that I can't even begin to fathom. I can see now why it offends people when protestant believers try to convert them to “newer” ways of worship. 
I was interesting to notice that the priest talked about praying for the dead and every pew had a gold plaque on it reminding worshipers to pray for "The Deceased Relatives of..." I've been noticing these subtle difference of faith whilst studying Irish culture. I may sound incredibly ignorant, but even though I grew up with Catholic friends, I never really learned much about their faith. All I've ever known is that there are differences. Some see them as slight difference, others see them as conflicting enough to start wars over. Praying for the dead is not something I've ever practiced. I've always been taught that once you die you're soul goes to either Heaven or Hell and there is no changing that. I'm reminded of the passage in Luke, the story of Lazarus and the rich man. When the rich man asks if Lazarus can bring him a drop of water Abraham tells him, "between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us"(Luke 16: 26). There's not much discussion of Purgatory in the protestant churches that I've attended over the years and I can honestly say I know very little about the beliefs and ideas concerning it. I know that it's seen as a state  before Heaven in which you are purified, but from a Catholic perspective what does that mean exactly? Is that why they pray for the dead? I guess I should do a little more research, maybe actually have a conversation with someone who knows what they're talking about rather than ramble on about how I don't know. I do find this all very fascinating and after spending the week soaked in Irish history I feel myself getting more and more involved in the background of this country. I actually crave information and for the first time in a while I'm actually drawn to learning. Perhaps it's because I'm in this beautiful place surrounded by people who are as enamored and excited to be here as I am. Maybe in the "Land of Saints and Scholars" I may actually become a scholar. 


1:57 PM

Well I'm finally in Ireland! We got here yesterday morning, but I was so horribly jet-lagged that there was no blogging to be done. There are thirty other people on this trip with us and I could name half of them I think. This is a picture from a hike we took today. We hiked from Bray to Greystones and apart from being unexpectedly difficult on the way up, it was positively beautiful. I'm meeting loads of lovely people, both Irish and American, and I can't understand how I'm ever possibly going to leave at the end of the semester.
We visited a Presbyterian church this morning and it was very cute. Everyone had tea together afterward and every person I met was fascinating and incredibly friendly. I'm trying to get out of my shell this semester and so far it's going pretty well. Usually I'm fairly shy in new groups of people, but I've managed to have a conversation or two with pretty much everyone on the trip. That's big for me. A year ago, I would've been lucky to talk to more than a few people in a day.
Ireland is so magical thus far and I'm so blessed to be here. I left my actual camera at home, so I'll be relying only on my iPhone for pictures. I can't wait to get settled in and acclimated to everything here. It's going to be an incredible semester.

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