Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blessed to be a Blessing

God blesses Abram (Abraham) to be a blessing to the nations. - Genesis 12:2
Giving thanks whenever we think of those relationships we have been given. - Philippians 1:1-11

Middle school students are very savvy, especially when determining truth in relationships.

Being more than aware. Being intentional about giving proper thanks to God and being intentional about sharing my blessings is a goal and desire. I have been gifted with quite a lot.  So much has been given to me in this life. When I say this, I definitely do not merely mean "gifts" due to the special occasions of birthdays and holidays. Conversely, this is certainly not limited to wealth in the sense of money and finances. I speak of gifts and wealth in the context of "riches". To me, those riches include: faith, forgiveness, education and wisdom, freedoms, and love. Then, when I take an extra moment to really reflect, I realize those all come with a very specific requirement: relationships.

God is amazing enough to have taught me the value of this wealth I have, by giving me specific relationships. And He has done that for you, too. Take a moment to consider the multitude of family, friends, teachers and other who have cared for you. Awe-inspiring, isn't it?!

My family gave me such a huge foundation and continues to be a solid support network. I must continue to be aware of the fact I have been blessed beyond what I deserve. My heart goes out to those who haven't had the ability to know the full joy of attending one or all of the following:
 - have a sit-down, "family" dinner;
 - experience a graduation party - their own or a family member's;
 - a wedding ceremony and reception with a party atmosphere, ambiance and taste of elegance;
or
 - have the means to simply enjoy a spur-of-the-moment barbecue.

In our world, today. No, not just in cities and neighborhoods elsewhere. In our cities, all throughout this world, there are people who desire to avoid the sound of gunshots and the screams of war, violence, and chaos. It's a real sadness to consider that people are supporting one another out of the necessity of survival.  My support came from a place of stability. My support continues to come during a time of peace and the pursuit of happiness. Let us consider, though, another man my age in another part of the world or maybe even this city. He is probably trying to take care of his family - which includes more than simply his generation. The man in his mid-30's will begin to take responsibility for others and himself. Typically this means offering some kind of help and assistance to those who raised him (parents and grandparents). Without a doubt, he now has the task of providing for himself and his own family (wife and kids). All of this takes place while he works diligently to make a name for himself so he can fully explore his dreams. It's a prayer and relief to know my God is big enough to take care of that man who is out there. God loves all of those children who are His, too. It is my prayer that the many men and women who are out there in our world today will know their role and fully see the blessings they have already been given. God has taken care of those people and families

Therefore, since God is taking care of His creation, I am left to wonder: What's my role?

What my family has given me is indeed a blessing and I need to be more like Abraham. I have had so many wonderful people in my life. What's more is that these opportunities have transcended my immediate family and I start to see how these kinds of relationships which have resulted from the unanticipated experiences which I have been called to witness. These support systems are formed because of relationships; the relationships that make are a deep, intricate, part of every culture. I consider the number of people I have been able to meet, spend time with, learn from, and in some cases help. I have been blessed to be a blessing, and so have you.

Get out there and do it.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cloud-Spotting: Seeing the Exotic in the Everyday. Planning for the unplanned.

After watching this TED talk a few weeks ago, I knew I would eventually refer to the inspiring presentation. Gavin Pretor-Pinney describes why we can be joyful in the most simplest of ways, like an everyday activity such as looking at the clouds. He even turned this into a organization: the Cloud Appreciation Society!




My personal search for sincere bliss has been happening over the last couple years.  I was wondering and wandering into the emotional, intellectual, and physical pursuit of: joy. I mean, I know I can be happy. I know I can crack a joke or two. However, it seemed to be a common theme through my life that eventually others would point out to me, "Hey, you don't seem so joyful." Apparently my body language and my overall “look” was not  beaming with jovial expressions.

And all the time, I thought I looked like this....
Instead of a constant grin and a showing of “good spirits”, I could be found with a more focused and unemotional expression. I would have a face of contemplation, seriousness, and whatever other perceptions people saw as they attempted to peer into my world. I simply wish they would have asked, or offered support rather than make a quick judgement of my emotional. Yet, maybe they were right. Maybe I simply didn’t take the time to “live life with my head in the clouds.” I was not able to truly engage in dreaming and imagination. Although I preached this by my mouth, my ability to fully engage in life was not really experienced until I truly interacted with others and nature (Interim-Service of “Adoption Journeys), went back home for Christmas to be with my family and friends, and then went on an unbelievable service trip to Liberia. 

Butterfly at Huge Grace - our struggle, everyone's struggle
Adoption Journey's - everyone except Mrs. Tonn!

Family Christmas - Great times!
Liberian Flag on Armed Forces Day, one day after the Playground Dedication

As I look back, I definitely see the blessings. My life was touched and blessed, love for God and love for others became clear because "it's all about relationships.". My Creator provided people, paths, and answers to prayer. My family and friends were sometimes the “clouds” which allowed me to see life through a different lens. Sometimes those clouds were fluffy, clear-as-day clouds and other times they were a cool reprieve from the hot, tense stress of life. There were even times when the clouds came along as storm clouds. When this happened, it meant I had to wait. I needed to take cover, be safe with regard to decisions, and fully appreciate the power of that which was out of my control. Eventually though, all would pass and I was able to get out and truly enjoy the outside.

Just in case you miss it
Since I am often unable to draw a clear point with audiences, let me be straight forward with the point of this entry: You and I have a great opportunity to experience the extraordinary by taking the time, effort, and energy to see the mystery and majesty of life in the ordinary. I am willing to bet you will experience peace, patience, and probably even joy.

In simple english terms and phrases, we can - and should - “stop and smell the roses”. We need to live with our "head in the sky." Then, take it a step further and consider the intricacy of the rose, it’s stem, the photosynthesis, and the myriad of other factors it took for that flower to be in your path. Take a moment to contemplate the many different forms of the clouds and how they are given to us in abundance while providing a spectacle of scientific inquiry.

It is clear to me, there is a design and a purpose to the way living beings are woven into form and function.

This causes me to think. However, I must admit, a good percentage of my life has been spent in this extreme of being too intense about ideas, opportunities, and possibilities. “You think too much, JR.” Then, the opposite of this approach to life has been to simply live in the moment. “Man, you are crazy”. While I do enjoy having a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” attitude, I need reconsider the times and places. I have to know the people and the situation at hand. Truly, I do appreciate the flexibility, spontaneity and excitement that comes along with a worldview and mentality of taking life as it comes. Also, I really don’t mind making choices as they need to be made, rather than being very detailed in my planning and thinking about the future. Is there a balance to be made?

Alas, back to my inner-dilemma and outer-response. As a school teacher, I can’t afford the luxury of simply “winging-it”. The time I have, the productive time has been limited and sometimes non-existent. Yet, when I am able to truly set some goals as well as a plan to achieve those objectives.

Are you just a bit curious about what my approach will entail? Well, let’s just say I don’t like “weather conversations”. On the other hand, I am sincerely anticipating the curiosity and responses from my students as I encourage them to discover the joy of cloud spotting. 


Enjoy the basic, everyday-ness of today. There are a LOT of people in this world who would be truly overwhelmed with joy if they could live a day in your life. Dream big, but remember to count your blessings for the answers to prayer, the dreams realized, and the life you have already experienced.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Purpose of Our Life

Thank you (Xie xie ni. Arigato gozaimus. Mh goi or Doh je and Cam on!) You are reading this because we are connected one way or another. With all of the technology available, it is amazing and wonderful. I give praise to God for the opportunity to know you - whether it is because of a chance encounter or a from a long-time relationship. I thank you for being a part of my journey.


Defining one's purpose can be extremely daunting or quite simple. Between a devotion this morning, an observation about this blog not being updated, my desire to refine my professional-personal appearance online, and a plethora of other reasons -  I must admit: I found myself lost. I find myself, and then lose focus time and time again. What's the purpose? What's my purpose? What's our purpose? Simply put though, our purpose can be found by looking at our relationships.

Clarity, vision, focus, these words have been in my life since around February when I was ill with pink-eye. At that time I was able to rest in Jesus. As the devotion shared: "Paul clearly states the purpose of our lives: we live for Jesus, who lived, died, and rose for us. Jesus is to be number one in our daily lives. Our lives are to be centered and focused on Him." (Portals of Prayer, July-Sept. 2013 - Concordia Publishing House, Thursday, July 18). My experience brought me closer to God, giving me a clearer understanding of how much I need to rely on Him. My purpose became better understood because of an experience. My experience led me back to: relationships - my relationships with those who helped me and my relationship with Jesus.

Relationships do two things, they define and reveal the purpose of our life. Backed by years of "relationship defining conversations" known as prayer...ultimately it is our individual relationship with God. As the Trinity, He displays the value of relationships and provides a way for us to grasp the immense care He has for each of us. I pray you find joy in the discovery of your purpose during your earthly journey.

A prayer: My Lord, help me to show gratitude in my daily life for all You have done for me. Amen (again, a Portals of Prayer offering)
2 Corinthians 5:15

Thursday, October 27, 2011

AFL 3 - Having Phun with Photos and Videos

Dear Awesome AFL 3,

Greetings! I hope you are ready for a Fantastic Friday, a Wonderful Weekend, and then a Marvelous Monday next week!

Today we will do three things:

1. Practice using the video program we have in the computer room.

2. Work on our C.O.N.C.O.R.D.I.A./iLEAST "Sports Day" Identity Project.
(30 Second Video)
SAVE YOUR WORK ON A USB!! - The project AND the video!

If you finish, you can start work on the main, regular "C.O.N.C.O.R.D.I.A./iLEAST - iAM CMS Identity Project.
(2 minute video)

3. For the last 10 minutes of class, I want you to:

a.Save your project
b.Journal what you learned. Answer these questions:

"What is the movie-making program you used?" Why?

Have you used this program before? When? Where?

"Was the program easy or difficult to use?"

"Would you use this program again, or try to find a different program?"

What DO YOU THINK is the goal of this project?


What is YOUR goal for this project? How would you use this video in the future? (Is this a way for you to talk to colleges, future jobs, other family members?)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Walk by the Lake

"To walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called."
Ephesians 4:1

This Bible verse says it plain and clear. As I reflect on my summer and look to this coming fall, I ask for God to forgive me for the wrongs I have committed. I give thanks and celebrate heartily for the new life He gives me everyday. I pray for His help as I seek His guidance for the next step(s).

May the same hold true for you.

Also, here is a video to share some of my reflections and pictures from my summer of visiting: Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Lake Annecy in France, Higgins Lake and Silver Lake in Michigan, and Sun Moon Lake here in Taiwan.

video

Talk to you soon, God bless,
James

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cultural Me - My Name Explains a lot (but not all!)

Dear Family, Friends, and Guests,
I hope you are having a great first week of July and enjoying all of the freedoms we have been gloriously given by our God.

As for me, it has been a time of rest, reflection, and some time for recreation. After this last semester of serving at Concordia Middle School,it has been wonderful to share with some of you about what has been happening. For others of you, this is maybe the first you have heard from me in a while. I am sorry for that.

Well, as I mentioned, I am resting from finishing a school year and also starting my masters course with UM-Flint in the Global Program. Soon I will be taking off for Switzerland to further my study in this cohort. It is a 15 month program and I will be sure to share more with you as time allows and relevance determines!

And with that, I will close this post for now and let you watch the following video. It was actually part of an assignment for my class and was meant to help introduce myself...feel free to share or comment!

video

Until next post! - James

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Team Taiwan Recruiting Season!

Ready for an adventure? Join us for the coming school year!

video

See you soon!