Sunday, March 28, 2010

Flour? Sugar? Or Caulk? Reflections After 6 Months!

If you can believe it, I've officially lived in Sarajevo for over 6 months now! Here's a taste of what's its been like to be immersed in a culture so completely different than my own...

There's something that happens when you move overseas: you question EVERYTHING. Some call this part of the culture shock process, but I like to call part of the adventure.  A few examples: What is this I'm eating again? How do you turn on the washing machine? Is this the washing machine? Can I wear this here? Is this sugar, flour, or caulk? Why isn't anyone wearing shorts, chaco's or t-shirts?

I'm not sure if everyone goes through this or if this is just my burden to bear, but there's also been another question that has been swirling my mind the last few months: "Is Christianity truth? Or is it something entirely made up?"

Almost everyday, I am bombarded with moments that could war against my faith. For starters, I live in a Muslim country where less than 1% are Christ followers, the majority hasn't even heard the gospel, and the teaching is that Islam is the one true religion and Jesus was only a prophet.  And this hasn't been all of the bombardment- I catch my news online, and there always seems to be an article posted on how Christianity, coupled with all other religions (except the ones where YOU are the center of the universe), are fake and outdated. (thanks cnn and msnbc!)

Here's something that may surprise you, especially my non-Christian friends: I read these things. And, I don't just read them, I think about them. I consider them. If I see an article on cnn that says "Why We Should Ditch Religion," I don't roll my eyes, ignore it, angrily post comments about how these people are going to hell, or turn my computer off and run for a C.S. Lewis book. Instead, I consider the arguments. If someone tells me that science disproves the bible- I honestly consider it. I research it. If a Muslim friend tells me that Jesus never claimed to be God and was only a prophet-I think about it. I study it. If someone tells me that the bible can't be trusted- I look into it. I research it. If someone tells me that religion is outdated or only for the ignorant- I analyze it. If a friend renounces their long held Christian faith-I ponder it. I consider their arguments, doubts, and objections.

I haven't always done this. I've always had a fear of anything that would cause me to question my faith. Used to be, I would ignore all the arguments against it. I honestly don't think this is ALL bad.  Believers looking into skepticism and doubts should always do so carefully and prayerfully.  "Let no one delude you with persuasive argument..." Colossians 2:4

What's my response to it all now? Well, one thing hasn't changed. I DON'T want to start questioning my faith. Coming from someone who bases much (I would hope all) of my life decisions on my faith, it is a scary thing to consider that something you spend your life pursuing could be false.

But, here's the change: I don't ignore them anymore. I consider them. Here's the reason why-why I put myself out there to question these things, why I allow myself to go through the scary moments of "what if this is all made up:" Every time I do it, it gives me a stronger conviction to my beliefs. And no, I don't question or doubt flippantly. Some of my most intense times of questioning have lasted close to a year, and I don't wish these trying times in my life on anyone. But, I am thankful for them, because these times of doubting, researching, asking, questioning has only deepened my faith that God is real, that Jesus is God in the flesh, and that through Him one inherits eternal life. Often times people forget that faith is not the absence of doubt, but instead the assurance of things hoped for. Far too often people define faith incorrectly.

Personally, there are few things that ruffle my feathers more than hearing someone say that Christianity is a "blind faith," thus insinuating that Christians ignore facts and substance, blindly accept the bible as being true, and never consider the arguments against it.

Here are just a few things I continue to do after 6 months of questioning, doubting, researching, struggling, asking...

  • I study claims that teach Jesus was JUST a good, moral teacher, as many says he was, and nothing more. (of the many responses... What good, moral teacher would tell people to eat of his flesh? I mean, really?! Or allow them to bow before him? Or say things like "No one enters the father but THROUGH me?)
  • I study things that are scientifically proven in nature and science to see if they prove that Christianity is indeed false as many say they do. (Check out this link for a list of verses that refute this argument. One example?  Stars and the photosynthesis being explained WAY before scientists discover the truth of it.)
  • I research whether or not this person of Jesus was real, or whether his life, death, and resurrection was made up. (Secular historians give account to his life, his gruesome death, and the fact that his body "disappeared" 3 days later.)
  • I consider the possibility of whether or not Jesus' disciples came and stole his body after his death, staging that he rose from the dead. (11 of the 12 were gruesomely martyred- why would they die, and die such cruel deaths, for something they made up?)
Here's something I've come to realize: no, you are NEVER going to be able to FULLY prove that there is a God and that Jesus is, in fact, God in the flesh. I believe this is all by design-God wants us to live by faith. You can give arguments of how science supports the bible, give examples of miracles unexplained by science alone, tell of the miracle of someone's life turning around, tell incredible conversion stories, and argue philosophically about human depravity and our yearnings for heaven, but I don't think there will ever be something that gives 100% evidence that this is truth (on this side of heaven).  And that argument is supported biblically.

Here's something else that many haven't considered: many have argued that you can't prove there is a God,  but how often is it considered that no one has proved that there isn't one? Yes, you can point out  how moral atheists can be, how there are some scientific THEORIES that go against what the bible says, and of the atrocities people have committed in the name of their faith,  but there is nothing out there that says that without a shadow of a doubt that there is no God and disproves the divinity of Jesus.

Why am I still a Christ follower? Its not because I feel like I HAVE to be one, that I was born into it, or because its better to believe than not to. Here are just a few of the many reasons, in no particular order: it makes sense to me on an intellectual, personal, moral, and inner level, the way in which God has turned my life around 100% since I became a believer,  the times in my life that have no other explanation apart from the presence of God, the changes I see in people's lives when they become believers in Jesus, seeing prayers incredibly answered (such as this!), the incredible depth and wisdom found in the bible, how personal God is to me, seeing God be faithful time, time, and time again, and, most importantly, because I believe it to be true.

I don't write this post to try to persuade you to become a believer in Jesus, or to try to win a religious argument. I've learned that my job as a Christ follower is not to persuade you to believe- I can't. Only God can do that. My job is to be prepared, to be bold, to be honest, to be patient, to be available. I write this post because I am tired- tired of non-believers thinking that Christians are ignorant of all the objections, and tired of the silence in the Christian community about doubts. My prayer is that we, as followers of Christ, would "grow in the GRACE and KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3:18

Till next time-


Saturday, March 6, 2010

An American in Bosnia! (not Paris for all you Gershwin-ites!)

As facebook so wonderfully publicized, I turned 25 again this week! (I'll leave you to wonder how many times I've done that! ha!)

I wasn't sure what to expect for my first birthday away from home, but it turned out to be one of my favorite birthdays yet! The day was mixed with usual American traditions and new Bosnian ones, relaxation balanced out by tiring sports activity.

As I'm sure you've probably figured out by now, I'm big into taking pictures, and I definitely made sure to document this day. So.. here you are! Here's how I celebrated my birthday, Bosnian and American style!

After sleeping in a bit, my team treated me to a fantastic breakfast at one of their apartments. Yum, yum!

It was complete with one of my favorites- coffee cake!

Me trying to blow out all the candles without spitting all over the cake. 

Jacque=the hostest with the mostest!

 During the early afternoon, I took some time to digest the food, relax, enjoy some bible reading, and be surprised by amount of facebook and email messages I was receiving! (Gotta love facebook!)

An American friend asked what I wanted most for my birthday, and I said I wanted nothing more than to play some sort of game- ultimate frisbee, tag football, basketball, etc. They worked it out perfectly! Plus, as prayed for, the rain stopped just enough for us to enjoy it. It was GREAT! 

Testing to see if the -ole football-throwing arm is still in working condition.

Liz and Andrew talking a little bit of smack before we start our game of Ultimate. 

Us wrapping things up after a satisfying afternoon of ultimate frisbee and basketball.

After playing, I reconnected with my good friend, Alex through a way-to-quick Skype call. I MISS YOU Alex!!!

As usual when talking with her, I completely lost track of time! So, I hurried to get cleaned up and get to the Bosnian part of my birthday...

 The festivities continued at the ESL class. Per Bosnian custom, the birthday girl (or boy) brings cake for everyone to eat to celebrate their big day. 

Adela surprised me (and everyone else) with a thoughtful toast while we were enjoying the birthday cake!
(P.S. This room is a work in progress! We moved in last week!)

We went to a coffee bar later that night, but I (uncharacteristically) forgot to take a picture. So.. here's a fun picture I found online of a Sarajevo coffee bar. :-)

It was raining on the way home, and I saw a car broken down near apartment building. Near it was a mom with her daughter. I decided to see if there was anything I could do to help. Wouldn't you know it? I know just as much about cars in Europe as I did in the states (uhh.. close to nothing!). So, I wasn't able to help that much, but I was grateful to know enough language to talk with her for a little bit, offer my phone, umbrella, etc. 

The end of the great day- these are a few of my birthday goodies!  The OREOs and Celestial Seasonings  were gifts given by teammates that originate from the states, and the cookies behind are coconut flavored treats from Sarajevo that a Sarajevo buddy gave to me. Yum, yum!

This is me kissing the OREOs goodbye. I don't imagine they'll last too long in my apartment. :-)
(You can also see check out some of my language learning methods behind me.)

Thanks to everyone for making this such a special day!!! In addition to all the fun I had here, I was once again reminded of all the support I have at home. I can't thank you enough for all of it- thanks to everyone contributing to what turned into a great day!

Till next time-