The Patience of a Willing Heart

There’s been a song stuck in my head since Sunday, and it won’t leave no matter what. That song is Jon Foreman’s Your Love is Strong.

One of the lines from the song that has embedded itself within me says “so why do I worry? Why do I freak out? God knows what I need, You know what I need.” I hadn’t thought about this until today, but I realize that this song replaying itself in my mind may serve a purpose.

See, lately I’ve been worrying/freaking out on a minor scale about life in a few years. I want to be married, I want to make enough money to not struggle through life, but at the same time, I don’t have a four-year degree and I’m still praying about what decision to make as far as school goes (there’s a story behind why I’m unsure whether school is for me, and I may or may not write about it at a later date). I’ve looked up many jobs in the Melbourne, Fl area to scope out what the job market may be like come September, and I’ve also been searching out career paths. All of it has left me, as anyone whose every had financial worries, quite flustered. “What do I do?” “How do I go about this?” “Which job is right?” Every thought concerning this has run circles in my brain. Until today. Today, my heart finally lined itself up with what my mouth has been speaking for so long: God knows what I need.

I don’t believe with a single ounce of my being that God brings us places to just let us down. I don’t believe He closed the doors of schooling for two years before opening the door to travel to leave me high and dry. I don’t believe he resolved the issue of getting the money for the plane ticket here just to abandon me once I left the U.S. And I certainly don’t believe that He’s going to ignore me for the rest of my days so that I can figure out life on my own. The Bible says that God is an ever-present help in times of need. And if you, like me, believe we always need Him, then we can be sure that He’s always here for us.

So why do I worry? Why do I freak out? I can be the first to admit that my faith may not always be as strong as I’d like it to be. God’s okay with it though. He doesn’t expect my perfection, just my obedience, and I’m out to partner with Him in whatever He wants for my life and my world.

Is the process of growing up and finding enough money to be well-off scary and intimidating? You can bet the butt that you’re sitting on while reading this it is. But I’m making the decision (for like, the millionth time) to put my fears aside in trust in God to provide. Does this mean I’ll sit on my arse and expect Him to do all the work for me? Absolutely not. The beauty of the partnership we have with God is that we get to be a part of His dreams, which are so much bigger than we can imagine. That’s a topic for another post, but my point is that working together with God instead of alone, or instead of Him doing all the work, is that we finite creations get to work together with the INfinite Creator! That is one of the most beautiful things my mind can (hardly) wrap itself around.

So with this new season coming up just 5 months away, I’m making the choice to step out in faith and trust God with not only my life and my heart, but with my fears, insecurities, finances, and everything else. Because I can’t do it alone. And even if I could, doing things alone sucks. So here’s to the future which God is propelling me into. May my heart, my mind, and my spirit be trusting and in tune with the Lord.

David

Sinners, Saints, & Nothing In Between

While browsing through certain tags today, I came across a Christian post titled “FOR SINNERS ONLY!” with a cutesy picture of an animal with hands clasped together as though praying.
As a Christian myself, these types of things bother me.

At one point and time, I was as legalistic as can be (albeit I was very young – both in age and in my faith), even telling people that you couldn’t be a Christian if you didn’t go to church. After spending about seven years at the church I became a believer at, surrounded by this thinking, I made the choice to (gladly) leave. I didn’t know where I would start to attend services, but I knew I couldn’t spend another Sunday surrounded by uptight joyless gossipers. This isn’t to say I judged them–this is just the way it was. “Women can only where skirts!” “Dying your hair is wrong!” “Rock is the devil’s music!” (I literally got sat down and spoken to for an hour about how evil it was that I listened to Christian rock by a guy who, in an ironic twist of fate, had a son who ended up loving secular rock)

As I found a couple of places of worship to attend on different days during the week, I began to experience newer, fresher, and more vibrant Church culture. My worship and expressions of praise soared to new levels, and my understanding of God, and with it my love for Him, grew.  I ceased to see the world as “Us vs Them” and instead began to realize that to love God is to love man, His creation. Now, at 23 years of age, I find love to be what I strive for most. I want to love those who are broken, those who are poor, the unlovable and the lovely, the holy and the decadent, and everyone in between.

And this is the Church’s assignment.

With that being said, I feel that too often, we as Christians set up a divide between the Saints and the Sinners. I think about that post I saw and all I can think is “do you really think that’s going to draw the ‘sinners’ in? Or rather, will you attract all the Christians who come to your blog and say ‘amen!’ or ‘praise God’?” We live in an era where the mistakes of our past are taught at every corner of education; racial segregation, genocide, class divisions, etc. And while the rest of the world is beginning to see blacks and whites, men and women, young and old, rich and homeless, and everyone in between not by their differences, but by our shared quality of being human, it’s easy to see Christians falling behind by creating a contrast.

Many churches say “we welcome everybody!” but really, those same congregations would be appalled or disgusted to see a gay couple sitting among them, or a smelly homeless dude, or a heavily-tattooed punk rocker partaking of their “special club.” Change is needed.

Thankfully, I am ecstatic to see that the Church in America is realizing these same things. I am proud to say that I’ve been a member of two of the most welcoming churches in one of the most diverse areas of the world. I have seen the power of the love of God; the Love that knows no class or division. Biblically speaking, are there sinners and saints? Yes, of course. But the line between us is at times very thin. Jesus recognized this. The Bible says that He didn’t think of oneness with God something to be held on to, so He came to His creation and died by their hand in the name of unfailing Love. He sat and ate and befriended tax collectors, adulterers, religious people, homeless people, those afflicted with terrible diseases, and so many others that the pious zealots of the day wanted nothing to do with. He came to show us that God’s love is for everyone, not just those who look like they’ve got it all together on the outside. And I think the fact that the “holiest” people of the day hated Jesus shows that His love really is offensive. It’s offensive to think that God loved Hitler as much as He loves the Pope. But the truth of our offense speaks volumes of our hearts.

I have witnessed an increasing number of youth coming into an understanding of God I wish I’d had at their age, and it’s giving me so much hope. The generation of Christians that is coming up will be, in my opinion, the most loving yet. As we become more hungry for Him, He satisfies our thirst with increasing revelations of His love.

But while my hope in the youth grows, my heart is still troubled for those who are decades older than me; those for whom segregation has always been normal. Those who have no trouble condemning or guilt-tripping the souls who are far from God. I pray for these, and I hope you will join me in this.

I may be young and lacking in life experience, and maybe I’m a bit too new-fashioned, but I believe in the power of Love. Love saved my life, and has saved the life of countless others. The time has come to stop seeing people as either lost or found, but rather to see them all as human beings under the umbrella of God’s love.

Love wins. Always.
David

Why I’m A Feminist

I am a man, and I am a feminist.

One of the clearest memories I have of my childhood is also one of the saddest. I was about six years old, living with my mom, who lived with her parents. My aunt was visiting that day as well. I remember sitting on the sofa in the living room, playing Pokemon on my Game Boy when an argument broke out. To save time, I’ll just tell you flat out that my grandfather has a history of being violent. I recall hearing glass breaking; a drinking glass had been thrown to the floor. Soon after, my grandfather had one of his daughters pinned against the wall of the kitchen area, and much yelling and crying was going on. Being helpless, I remained where I sat as silent tears streamed down my face.
I am a feminist because circumstances like this are common in Hispanic households.

Fast forward to when I was about 20. I had a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while, so I made the effort to catch up with them over Facebook. The biggest headline in her life was that she’d recently been raped. She would be due in court to testify soon thereafter, and I would come to find out the rapist was sentenced to one year in prison. It is common, however, that men who rape women get equal or less jail time for this act.
I am a feminist because of this.
Because men who get raped are told things like “men can’t get raped,” or other statements which undermine their experience.
Because what is considered “okay” for women to wear is dictated by men, and God forbid a teenager in high school can’t focus on his work because he sees a bra strap peeking out from under a classmate’s shirt.
Because phrases like “look at what she’s wearing. She’s just asking for it!” are still commonplace.

I am a feminist because in a world of increasing single mother households (like mine was), women are still being payed less than men and are being treated as less human than their male counterparts.
Because “boys will be boys” is still being used to excuse male behavior.

I am a feminist because women’s bodies are so sexualized that men traverse nations and continents to lay their hands on them.
Because young women and girls are sold like pieces of meat into a life of sex slavery.
Because a woman’s weight overshadows her skills and talents.

I am a feminist because men are told they have to have a certain body type to be appealing.
Because Photoshop sets an impossible standard.
Because nations still debate whether or not a woman is as fit as a man to lead.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a feminist because equality is on my heart.
Because people who claim to love God and love people treat women more poorly than Jesus ever did.

I am a feminist because it’s 2014 and I still have the need to type up a post like this.

There is a stereotype that feminists are all about bra-burning and the mindset that “women > men.” In reality, feminists are people, both men and women, who support gender equality. Anyone who supports freedom, love, or even just basic human decency should be a feminist.

Are there differences between men and women? Undoubtedly. But we are equals in personhood, and therefore I proudly state that
I am a man, and I am a feminist.

Partnership & Offense

Yesterday, as the sun shone through scattered clouds onto the small German village where six months remain to pass me by, I dug into Genesis 18. Most people who cite this chapter either do so to cite Sarah’s lack of faith or to speak of Abraham’s plea with God for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this chapter, however, I found a couple of items I’d like to talk about.

First of all, when the three men appear near Abraham and he insists on serving them, he immediately runs in to where his wife Sarah is. The verses read as follows in the Amplified Bible: “So Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah and said, Quickly get ready three measures of fine meal, knead it, and bake cakes. And Abraham ran to the herd and brought a calf tender and good and gave it to the young man [to butcher]; then he [Abraham] hastened to prepare it. And he took curds and milk and the calf which he had made ready, and set it before [the men]; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.” The first thing to pop out at me while reading this passage is that the relationship between Abraham and Sarah is not one in which the man commands the woman to serve the men, but rather it is one where they partner together to serve. What makes this more interesting is that from the 10th verse on, we find that one of the three men was the Lord Himself. As the story transitions into this acknowledgement, there is no indication that either Abraham or Sarah were surprised by this.
Abraham, who is famous even thousands of years later as a man of incredible faith, could easily have told his wife “bake cakes, get the butcher to prepare a young calf, and bring milk and curds to us. The Lord is among these men!” But instead the husband and wife duo team up to serve God. In this circumstance, neither Abraham nor Sarah elevated themselves among the other, instead preparing the way for an encounter with God.
What I see here is a marriage where respect is a firm foundation. And what’s more is that this act of service paves the way for God to flat out bless the sandals off of the pair as He tells them “within the year, you’ll have a son.” Sarah famously laughs as she overhears what He says. Preachers have used this verse time and time again to show that Sarah “lacked faith,” but what a stark contrast that is to Hebrews 11:11 which says “[b]ecause of faith also Sarah herself received physical power to conceive a child, even when she was long past the age for it, because she considered [God] Who had given her the promise to be reliable and trustworthy and true to His word. (AMP)” Sarah may have doubted for a moment, but she regained her faith quickly and gave birth to Isaac.

Here’s where things get interesting though. The Amplified Bible has a footnote at the bottom of this page that raises the fact that John 1:18 states no man has ever seen God in bodily form, and therefore only the Angel of the Covenant could be meant here. The “Angel” was Jesus Himself.
This totally blew my mind, because this means that Jesus came straight to Abraham and blessed him to have a son whose lineage would one day produce Him in human form to save the world. Thousands of years before Jesus of Nazareth was born, Jesus the Angel of the Covenant made the birth possible.

“God offends the mind to reveal the heart.” Personally, I love having my mind offended by God. He is bigger than any of us can wrap our minds around, and yet humble enough to walk the very earth He made and bless those whose minds are offended by His words.

These are just my thoughts and notes. Be blessed.
David

Yo soy Americano, and I care about Venezuela

By now the vast majority of us blogging, Internet-savvy types have heard about what’s going on in Venezuela (there’s also this handy video that’s been making the rounds as well).

Admittedly, I was behind with the news of this. I saw videos and posts appear on my Facebook feed, but I never watched them. I caught the gist of it all without actually reading any articles: peaceful protests in Venezuela. But just a few minutes ago, I took the time to educate myself on the whole situation, and I can honestly say, without a single drop of Venezuelan blood in my veins, that my heart is aching for these people.
My mother was born in Cuba, the daughter of Cuban parents and granddaughter of Spanish grandparents. My father is about as white as they come (Irish, German, etc). This is the blood coursing through my veins; my strongest link to the Venezuelan people is that we both speak Spanish. But there is a much greater bond that ties us together: the human element.

See, I don’t need to have visited a country to have a heart for its people. I don’t need to speak their language, eat their food, or even meet someone who was born there to understand that the cause of peace and justice is always to be supported. Perhaps not every protester has been peaceful, but the intentions of the opposition is one any person would stand for: We want better; not just for us, but for our children.

This may not be my best writing by a long shot, but this post isn’t about making my words flow. No, this one’s for Venezuela.

Aunque no seamos los dos hijos de Venezuela, si eres usted Venezolano/a, sepa que yo estoy en favor de tu causa. No somos hermanos de sangre, pero somos parte de la familia humana. Tu país esta en mis pensamientos, mi corazón, y mis oraciones.

David

Fernbeziehung

Figured I’d take advantage of Valentine’s Day to talk about this.

In my last post, I briefly talked about long-distance relationships, and never is the distance between you and your significant other more apparent and painful than when all of Facebook is uploading pictures of themselves with their cutesy boyfriends or girlfriends.

Sadly, the majority of my relationship has been long-distance, even when I was back home. Four hours between Miami and Orlando can make things suck, especially when she has a busy class schedule and you have to work at Starbucks and have no car. Now, for the second year in a row, I’ve been forced to send gifts to her door, none of which were me. This time, however, there is an even greater distance between us. It is currently 8:32pm in Germany while it’s only 2:32 in Florida. In about half an hour we’ll have a Skype date and I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

To put it in eloquent vernacular, distance really sucks. But as I count down the days until I can hold my beloved in my arms once more, I search for the positive in our situation.
For one, “distance makes the heart grow fonder” isn’t just some cheesy line you find on Hallmark cards or in a Lifetime movie; it’s a huge truth. Not that I didn’t value my girlfriend before I came here, but ever since our schedules started allowing us only a few hours a day to communicate (sometimes less), the appreciation I have for even a sentence from her over the Internet is astounding. The value that’s been placed on our daily time together exceeds what I imagined.
Another positive is that we’ve seen just how strong our love is. I know this is starting to sound really mushy, but just bear with me. In spite of limited contact, postal service miscues, and failed Internet connections, the love we started out with has grown with each passing day. We know we can survive this season of our lives, and the end result will be a more fruitful harvest.

So for those of you that get to see your loved ones today, please don’t take it for granted. Be so grateful you don’t have 195 days between you. Hold them, treat them with all kindness, and tell them you love and appreciate them all the time. Okay? Okay.

Liebevoll,
David

My German Journey

Earlier this week marked the 5-month mark of my year in Germany. After much prayer and thinking, I decided to embark on a journey to be an au pair for a year. For those of you that don’t know what an au pair is, I’m essentially a glorified nanny for a host family. However, the benefits are pretty amazing, the best being the experiences you get to have in a foreign country.

Now, travel has been heavy on my heart for quite some time, and going off to university hadn’t been working out for about two years at that point. I had a friend who spent a year in Germany as an au pair, and one night after a fiery mid-week service at my church, her experience became heavy on my mind for the first time. I looked into what an au pair does, and, long story short, I ended up with a host family in the small village of Schornweisach in Bavaria (Bayern). I arrived on September 11th, 2013 with the intention of staying for a year.

Five months and many experiences (both terrible and amazing) later, I’m here writing this blog. Though the beginning was rough, by the third month I’d settled in completely, learned the family’s routine, and am feeling the homesickness less (trust me, it never goes away fully).

I can really see why God led here, not just for my own growth, but to have an impact on this family. I’m responsible for three children aged eleven, six (soon to be seven), and three. The parents are three months away from separating, but that’s a topic for another post.

If you’ve stumbled upon this and are considering becoming an au pair, then here are some things you should consider when searching:

  • Europe is the easiest place to find host families. From what I saw, France leads the pack, which is know surprise since au pairing is a concept which originated in la France. However, there are plenty of host families in other western European countries willing to find a match. Outside of these nations though, it becomes increasingly difficult to search. The site I used allowed limited your criteria to your top five countries (Germany was not in the original list, I’ll admit). After being unable to find any host families in Lithuania, Japan, Italy or Switzerland, I amended my choices to include Germany alongside France. You may have better luck though. Search far and wide to see your dream come to light!
  • Once you’ve found a potential family, make it a point to Skype with them as much as possible. You want to be able to see their faces in something other than a photo and get a feel for what they’re like. I was able to Skype with my host mother three times, but only in one of those meetings did the children come along. As is to be expected, they were kind of shy and hesitant to talk. The fact that I’m a man in the mostly female world of au pairs didn’t help. The kids, who’d had two au pairs before me, both female, were against having a boy come in at first (don’t worry, they enjoy me now), but ultimately it was the mom’s decision that a male influence was needed in the house (yes, the dad lives with them, but that goes along with the “topic for another day” category). She wanted them to see that women aren’t the only human beings who can cook, clean and be around children. That being said, most host families are more keen on girl au pairs than guys, so being a girl automatically works in your favor.
  • Ask questions. I’ll say it again, ask a buttload of questions. One of my faults in the process was that I didn’t know the right questions to ask, since I’d never done anything like this before. I asked what the kids are like, what the village is like, and what my responsibilities would be, but there’s always more I could’ve asked. There are also just some things you won’t be able to know until you start living with a family. For example, I had no idea that my host mother would be so incredibly environmentally-conscious. Sure, Germany is keen on protecting the environment, but this lady takes it to new extremes, even by German standards.
  • Agree to a contract. If you’re not working through an agency to find a family, then discuss a contract over email or Skype sessions. Bonus: Talk about a weekly schedule. This could become very important down the road to ensure that your host family doesn’t take advantage of you. Remember, you’re an au pair, not a servant. With that in mind,
  • You are not a servant. Sadly, some families desire their au pair to be a form of cheap labor to do all the things they don’t want to. Keep in mind that, under law (in Germany at least), you are to work six hours a day for five days a week. The minimum you can be paid here is 260 Euros per month. If you feel these items will be an issue, talk it out over Skype or email.
  • Residency permits. This can be a tedious process. To avoid lots of hassle (especially if your host parents are like mine and have never had to deal with obtaining one even though they’ve led you to believe they have), begin the process before you even leave your country. The whole ordeal can be a little pricey, so also discuss paying it with your family. Some might offer to cover it for you, others will make you do it.
  • If you are from a climate that enjoys warm to mild winters (like this Florida boy here), prepare well for your new home. In my case, I overestimated how cold it would be. Research the weather patterns of where you’ll be living.
  • Money. It makes the world go ’round. More specifically, it makes the world go ’round beneath the plane you’ll be traveling in. Think about ways to save and afford travel costs. It also helps to have spending money set aside for all the things you’re going to want to experience.
  • Dating. If you’re in a committed relationship when you leave and you’ve never had distance between you before, this could be one of the absolute hardest parts about being an au pair. In my case, my girlfriend and I have a six-hour time difference between us, coupled with classes and work and an all-around different schedule. It gets very difficult and frustrating. However, you want to make sure that your significant other is supportive and encouraging. Believe me, that makes a world of difference, especially during the first couple of months. And remember, love is worth waiting for. Nothing worth having ever comes easy.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. If you are considering this journey, I hope my points were useful, and if you currently are or ever have been an au pair, feel free to correct me or add to what I wrote. Any input is appreciated.

From Germany with love,
David