one month & Sunday school sermons

Time is weird.

Yesterday marked an entire month of my being in the UK/my not being in the US.

Some thoughts:

– I am not as ashamed to be American as I thought I’d be. People are kinder and smarter and can separate individuals from monoliths. Also, from this perspective, the US is not all that bad. The UK is rampant with consumerism, fast fashion, pollution, ethnocentrism, classism, and gluttony too… just in different ways (Neoliberalism, my dudes!). Posh accents aside, ‘no one is righteous, not even one…’

– Culture Shock is unforgiving and real. About a week ago, I found myself critiquing every last London thing and complaining/druging along in a way that was completely out of character for me. But talking with some other American friends here helped me realize that I wasn’t alone and maybe I wasn’t immune to the roller coaster arc of feelings my study abroad advisors warned me about. We laughed together at the things we now knew.

– People are people. Nora, the German girl in my Art class, Tom, the Welsh boy from church, Sammi, the Afghan missionary kid from bible study, Samirah, the Kenyan girl from Dilemmas of Intl Development… at the end of the day the kindness you extend towards others will reflect back onto you. Do not be afraid of the barriers that exist – they aren’t strong enough. Insert Andrea Marie’s “Truth About The World” here.

– There is so much beauty that cameras cannot contain. The lush Bath countryside, the Brighton seashore, white cliffs, wild flowers and wild grass, hidden rose gardens, dusky skies out my tenth floor window… I have tasted and seen the glory of the Lord and his goodness in creation around me. And it has set my heart at rest.

– ‘The hungry he fills with good things…’ as I’ve been here, I’ve had a lot of flashbacks to the children’s ministry at my church growing up. Not sure why, but these various sermon illustrations and silly games we’d play keep surfacing in my mind at the strangest times. In particular, I keep remembering being told “it takes 3 weeks to form a habit” and wonder why on earth so. many. pastors. spoke/repeated that to us during their time on the pulpit (motivational speaking??). The other memory was repeated in multiple services when I was an elementary schooler. The pastor would take a big bucket of loose candies (skittles or M&Ms) and get two kid volunteers. One would be given a tiny plastic shovel, the kind for building sand castles at the beach, the other kid gets the same plastic shovel – but three sizes larger. Two paper bags before them, the kids are made to get as much candy as they can in one scoop with their respective shovels. And of course the first kid is pissed looking over at the bag full of MORE sweets he’s missing out on. And the pastor says everyone can return to their seats and says that the candy is life with Jesus and the shovels are how much we want him but all you are thinking about is how much candy that one kid missed out on. Psalm 107, Matthew 5…

– I remember that they always told us raising our hands in worship was a sign of surrender, like a robber would do when caught by police. I close my eyes and see my timid, young palms lifted slowly to the ceiling – eyes peeking side to side, asking how to trust. Then the memory is jarred by protester-footage-feed-voices crying “HANDS UP / DON’T SHOOT” and I hope and know and hope that God is far more Just and Kind than our earthly models of surrender.