Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Africa Taught Me

I went to South Africa in July, 2010. While I was there there were a few things I learned.

1. The entire Bible is relevant
2. God speaks all languages
3. Not everyone lives like an American
4. Education is important
5. Not everyone has heard of Jesus

The Entire Bible is Relevant
I grew up in church world and in church world we primarily focus on the New Testament and about how cool Jesus is and what our actions should be to reflect what we believe. In church world, I looked at the Old Testament, but I struggled with connecting them to today's times. When I was in Africa, I learned that there is a purpose to every part of the Bible. There was a purpose for when it was written, way back when. And there is a purpose for when it's being read, right now. I never really understood how Deuteronomy 18:9-11 was relevant today, because I never really saw that.  In South Africa, that was the verse that they are the most challenged with. The entire Bible is relevant, in someway. Even today.

God Speaks All Languages
Who knew that God didn't only speak English?! This may seem like a "no, duh" thing--I thought it was too. But I didn't really get it until I heard prayer and worship in Swahili, Zulu, and Sasotho did I really get it. God speaks every single language there is and He speaks it better than anyone. I don't understand every language--I barely understand English--but He does. We can communicate to Him in other ways other than English. That was a huge concept for me.

Not Everyone Lives Like an American
America is a great country--I love America and Americans. We really are a wealthy country with "wealthy" people. While not EVERY American lives in a "nice" home, MOST Americans do. While not EVERY American has enough to eat, MOST Americans do. While not EVERY American has a job, MOST Americans do. America really is the land of the free, the home of the brave.

The unemployment rate in South Africa--a better part of the African continent--is at 25% (2010). America's is at 9% (2010). The poverty rate in South Africa is at 57% (people who live below the poverty line). In America, the poverty rate is at 15%. In South Africa, the literacy rate is at about 80% (actually, pretty high--the overall literacy rate in underdeveloped countries is at 51%). In America, the literacy rate is at 99%. We are privileged and we live well.

I don't remember how big my house is at home, but I will say this--we definitely don't have one of the bigger houses in America. But it does have four bedrooms. It has two full bathrooms. It was a full kitchen. It a dining room, a living room, and a family room. It has a garage. It has a driveway, a front yard, and backyard. It has a sliding glass door. It has doors for all of the bedrooms. There are windows in every room. There is a fireplace.

The biggest house I saw in South Africa (and through conversations with the family, we learned that they were one of the wealthiest families in their village) had two bedrooms, one bathroom, no garage, no backyard, no real front yard, few windows, a small kitchen that barely fit five people just to stand, and one common room. I live well. Americans live well.

Education is Important
Americans rip on school all the dang time. We talk about how much we hate going to school, how evil our teachers are, how much homework sucks, the list goes on. I've heard people get upset with the fact that it's mandatory to go to school until a certain age (sixteen, I believe?). Not only do we GET to go to school, we GET to go to school for free.

I'm not going to start bragging about how great the actual education system is in America, because I think it needs some vast improvement. But it's still pretty dang cool that every American has the privilege to learn and acquire knowledge..for free (until higher education..that's a fun time..). That's cool and something that people in South Africa long for.

I met a girl named Cindy. Cindy was thirteen when I met her...and in fourth grade. When I was in fourth grade, I was nine. By the time I was thirteen I reached the eighth grade. One of Cindy's brothers was eight and he hadn't even started school. I talked with Cindy about school and she gushed about how much she loves it and how wonderful it was to learn and be able to read and write and do math problems.

Not Everyone Has Heard of Jesus
In America, it's almost impossible to not have heard the name Jesus (in fact, I've never encountered anyone who hasn't). Now, there are definitely a ton of people who haven't actually heard ABOUT Jesus in America or who don't really know who He is, but His name is pretty common. In South Africa, the majority of Basothos that we talked to had never even heard the name. Mind blowing, huh?

I didn't realize that every country wasn't like America. It was a concept that I knew, but didn't really grasp or understand the depths of. Africa taught me to get outside of myself--there is a whole world that is vastly different than America. And I should probably get to know it. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Like a Tug Boat?

Tuesday was a great day. It was seriously awesome. Tonight (er, Tuesday night), something happened though.

I was confronted with my sin. The Holy Spirit tugged at me and said, "Yo, Ash...that thing that you just did like 20 minutes ago..that wasn't right. In fact, there are about 4 different things that were wrong about what just being ignoring me until you were out of the situation."


I was in my room when I really talked with God. I love my room because it's When I was in my room, I really listened to the Holy Spirit and even though I was confronted with my sin and brokenness, I still felt mercy rushing over me.

I serve a God of love, mercy, and grace. A God who is just, who doesn't let me get away with my sin, who says, "My dear daughter, oh how I love you, no matter what". Wow.

And instead of saying: "Whatever God, I had to do it. I couldn't do what you're asking me to do. I still love you...just because I'm not ALWAYS obedient doesn't mean I'm not usually disobedient. Just because I am like Peter right now doesn't really mean anything. Tonight didn't mean anything. It'll be fine."

I had to decide...

Do I really want to be like Jesus? Do I really want Him as my role model? Do I really want to be a radical disciple, no matter the cost?

These may seem like easy things to answer. On the surface, they are. On the surface, it seems like any Christian would say, "Well, duh". But when we get to the core, the real root and meaning of these questions. That's not how I answer. I'm answering with hesitation. I'm answering with shame. I'm answering with a wavery voice, unsure. I want to be bold. I want to answer with confidence. I want to answer without hesitation. I want to say, Heck yes, absolutely, no doubt about it.

Before you start questioning my faith in Christ, realize that these are hard questions to answer. Realize that our lives drastically change when we become radical disciples. Sometimes, our lives can SUCK when we stand up for Christ. Am I willing to risk it? I think so. But it's hard. 

I then turned off all the lights in my room, except for a small lamp, turned on worship music and sang out loud in my room.

Here's the deal. I screw up. A lot. I mess up over and over and over again. That was always something I KNEW, but I didn't understand. How do I mess up? In what ways do I screw up often? Do I really disobey that God all that often? Am I really a sinner? I needed concrete answers. And tonight I got them. But that led to a beautiful thing and wonderful worship time.

I didn't let this upset my relationship with God. I didn't let this be the beginning of excuses. I didn't let this ruin my day. I didn't let the devil win. My Jesus is victorious over sin. All sin. My sin. Your sin. He is victorious and He forgives.

Christ followers, let's stop messing around. Let's stop holding back. Let's stop treating Jesus like He's not our role model. And when we fall, when we start answering those questions with a big fat "NO", we can be comforted in the fact that we can be forgiven. And we are still the redeemed. And we will have another opportunity to speak boldly about Christ.

Friday, November 11, 2011

According to Freud

Freud is a hoot. He's a whacky dude with horrible writing skills (Have you read Civilization and its Discontents?!) and fascinating ideas. In my Social Psychology class, we did a projection test and we're going to try it here so you can do it too, if you'd like. Freud is all about the unconscious and tapping into it, and that's precisely what this test aims to do.

How To Do It
1. Get comfortable. Lay down, close your eyes, kick off your (Sunday) shoes, whatever you need to do.
2. Breathe deeply.
3. Focus on your breathing...breathe and relax for like 5 minutes.
4. Picture yourself on a cloud..a very light, fluffy, and comfortable cloud.
5. You're entering a new land...what does the land look like?
6. Get off the cloud and keep moving forward until you run into water--it can be any kind of water. What kind of water is it?
7. Continue to go forward until you see an animal. Describe the animal.
8. Keep going until you see a structure. What kind of structure is it? Describe it.
9. Continue see an object ahead. Again, you see an object ahead. It's a special object--what is it?

Okay, that whole thing took us about 25 minutes or so and it's to have someone else facilitate it..but anyways, here are my responses and what Freud says each thing means:

Disclaimer: I suck at relaxing. I think I consciously thought about everything...I think I was still able to control my thoughts. But, I didn't know what anything meant, so whether or not Freud's ideas still apply to me, I don't know. But tapping into my unconscious is really difficult because I'm "so stressed and tense all the time" (according to one of my friends in my class). I wrote down everything I saw before we  discussed what each one meant. It's still fascinating and may still be unconscious thinking regardless of what I think....

New Land

  • What I saw: Buildings--tall, with lots of lights, very city-like...sort of like how I imagine New York City...I got off the cloud and as I began to look and take in the city, a boy appeared and he and I started to embark on looking at the city before the next direction was given.
  • Freud says: Summation of current life...what I saw resembles my life now. 
  • What that might mean (My interpretation with Freud's ideas): My life is very busy, hustle and bustle all the time, lots of things going on...and then the boy thing threw me off..

  • What I saw: A brook hidden behind lots of trees that was pretty secluded and only one person knew about other than myself. The boy was with me and we walked to the brook together, however we were much more interested in the journey there then reaching the destination (quite vivid at this part). From far away, the brook almost looked shallow, as it didn't seem to have very much water, and as though it would dry up, but once we got there and really explored, we saw that there actually was a lot of water, flowing steadily, yet rapidly, and it was much deeper than it originally seemed. It was private and a fun place to be, like our own little secluded area. (When we were told to go onto the next step, I kept wanting to come back to the brook and just be in the water and with the boy...)
  • Freud says: It resembles sex
  • What It might mean: I literally laughed out loud as soon as I heard that. Seriously? Maybe Freud was onto something. Everyone else saw waterfalls (that was the most popular) and before we were told what the water meant, I was like "Man, I didn't even think of a waterfall..but a waterfall just seems to be too powerful and too...much for me. It's weird that I thought of a brook because I much prefer and fast rivers, rather than serene waters so I wonder what this means". And then come to find out it means sex...I mean my vivid image was pretty explicit. Just me and a boy who explored other things prior to the brook and we were more interested in other things than going to the brook, though we were excited about it...and it's a place that is secluded and private and solely for us, where we have more fun than imagined and seen to anyone else. How exciting!

  • What I saw: Kangaroo...basically Roo from Winnie the Pooh 
  • Freud says: This is my alter ego
  • What it might mean: I was never a big Winnie the Pooh fan, so I found it odd that I thought of Roo...Anyhoo, Roo is super cute and little. I just now did research on Roo and found out that Roo didn't really have favorites and didn't eat the healthy things he was supposed to. Hahaha

  • What I saw: Huge building--it was tall and beautiful and what I imagine an embassy to look like. It was really busy, but I felt safe. It kind of like a cross between an airport and Grand Central Station in some parts, but the overall structure was like an embassy...There were lots of food options and restaurants and many people in suits running around and doing things. Everyone was important and doing important things, except a few people who were sitting on benches. That boy was still with me, and we first went and talked with them and then they got off the benches. It was pristine and was part of something and I was able to communicate with a lot of people in various ways--via telephone, in person, and something that resembled FaceTime. 
  • Freud says: How I feel about society and my place in it.
  • What it might mean: Whoa. I see the world very different from most everyone else, as many others said they saw small shacks or broken cottages...out of the people that shared, I was the only person to think of a nice building. I see society as a place with lots of food. I see it as a safe place, so long as people are moving. I see something that doesn't fit--like people sitting on the benches--and I do something about it (even if I'm with a boy, apparently), by reminding them that they matter. I think everyone is important and has the capability to do important things. I have hope for society and see it is as beautiful, which is a different concept that what most people have. 

Special Object
  • What I saw: A marble like object, and when it was held in a certain way, it could do neat things (things wasn't specified during the test, unfortunately. I kept trying to figure it out and nothing came about...all I was sure of was that big and cool things happened).
  • Freud says: Resembles a future...could be mine or somebody else's, but usually your own. 
  • What it might mean: My future may seem inadequate, especially before it is approached. But when pushed and with the right support system, I may do big and cool things. My future will blow people's minds and it'll be awesome, just the way in which that'll happen is not yet apparent. 

Did you do this? What were your results? Thoughts on my results? My favorite was the sex interpretation, which was closely followed by the way in which I view society (water and the structure). Oh Freud...he's so fun. 

Anyhoo, that is me, according to Freud

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Have you ever seen this bumper sticker?

I may upset people with what I'm about to say...and if you can give me a logical reason as to why I'm in the wrong place, let me know and I may change my mind. But for now, I hold onto this position: I don't like this bumper sticker.

But why not, Ashley? It's all about harmony and we can all exist in peace. Who wouldn't like this?

Two reasons.

1. I don't think we were made to just exist. We were made to do more than that and we have so much more purpose. Yes, we should be getting along and care about others and not be haters toward one another. But I think we should also be passionate about things, beliefs, and people. I think we need to go beyond just exiting with other humans and move into that scary and difficult threshold of loving on people and legitimately caring about people--even when it sucks or it's not returned.

Something I love about Jesus is how much he didn't simply exist and when Christ followers are stepping up and not being lazy, that's when things happen. Jesus called out hypocrisy when it was damaging, forgave people constantly, followed through with everything He said, gave agape love even when not returned. Jesus lived and I really think that the lives we have demand to be lived and not just exist. I think that's why people feel empty and useless when they aren't being purposeful--because we were made with purpose and to have purpose. Simply existing does not seem to do anybody any good.

2. To coexist means to "exist in mutual tolerance despite different ideologies or interests". Essentially, this holds the idea of you have your beliefs, I have mine, and neither of us are wrong, also called relativism. In all practicality and reality, if we're being rational, not all of these religions represented can be right.

Relativism has become a popular and widely accepted belief around the world, particularly around the United States. We just don't want to offend anyone, so we tiptoe around and act like we don't believe in anything. What the filth? What's the point in believing in something if it doesn't drive you into action? I believe in people. I believe in God. I believe that individuals matter. I believe that what Jesus did on the cross matters. Belief doesn't mean anything without action. So I take action on those beliefs. Belief and action are essential. Individually, not much impact is made. Together, something can happen.

My challenge for you is this:
Believe in something and live purposely. 

That doesn't happen by simply coexisting. That doesn't happen by not having any truth or being irrational. Know what you believe in and why you believe in it and do something about it.