An Immersion Excursion: New Jersey Immersion Trip 2016

Hope’s campus is filled once again and bursting with life, especially now that the sun is out. Yet I feel a little bit lost and in the wrong, all because I’m not in New Jersey with the 12 other people I spent the last week with.

Last Saturday, our group left bright and early to drive over to New Jersey. We drove all day, finally making it to Highland Park, NJ, that night. The next day, we spent time in the church and even went to visit a Russian Orthodox church to hear a speaker talk about the Syrian refugees.

The next four days were spent serving and immersing ourselves in the church’s culture. We went out to the Jersey Shore to help a family prepare their house to be lifted, which is required by New Jersey law since Hurricane Sandy hit. We also put up dry wall in another house and painted a house in the High Land Park area.

We did other things as well, such as visit a detention center for undocumented immigrants, receive a tour of the church’s outreach in the area, and attend a seder service.

On Friday, we got to visit New York City for our day off.

It’s very hard to sum up the week in a 300-400 word blog post. I can’t elaborate on any of the deep and meaningful moments that we shared together as a group. Every morning and night we had devotionals and a breakdown of the day, which really helped to process the way that we saw God working in every day life.

I would sum up the trip by stating two things that I learned:

  1. I met and saw God working through so many people this past week. It’s incredible the way that these people give up everything for Him. I learned a lot about what it truly means to be a servant to God and lay down your life to Him.
  2. I met people with incredible stories and incredible faith. These people did not and do not lead easy lives, yet they trust in God and keep such strong faith in Him. It helped me to see what it really means to have faith in God, and also how much one can go through and still keep that faith.

I’m a little sad without my team. They’re still all around Hope’s campus, but I miss spending every day with them. I miss New Jersey and the work that we did there, but I still see God working in all of our lives here.

If you can get a chance to, sign up to go on an Immersion Trip through Campus Ministries. It truly was a life changing experience. Unfortunately the blog platform won’t upload my photos! I will try to get them up as soon as possible.

I Can’t Fix Everything

Last week was a bad week. They happen. I was kind of expecting it. By Friday morning I was convinced I was going to make myself feel better. 

How? I basically just did a bunch of things that I always want to do but consistently tell myself I don’t have the time for it.

I bought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the Kletz. I finally registered for the 10K I want to run at Kennywood Park over the summer. On a whim I asked my friend to adventure to Tunnel Park with me to watch the sunset. Plus, she agreed to letting me take pictures of her because it had been forever since I had pulled my camera out of its case and had some fun with it.

As fun as all that was, it didn’t fix how I was feeling.

On Saturday night I made plans with my friend, Ashley, to go to The Point Church on Sunday. We had been saying for months that we should go sometime ever since we ran into a few girls from there on campus.

So Sunday morning we walked through the rain from my car to the doors of this church. And as some of the members opened the doors as we approached who was there holding one of the doors? Olivia who we had met back in December on campus when she and a few friends prayed for us.

Olivia showed us to some empty seats next to her spot and introduced us to Joanna, who had an adorable little boy, and her husband played guitar in the worship band.

It’s always nice to step off campus and into a community that is composed of people outside the age range of 18-22. We were surrounded by families, little kids who danced in front of their seats or in their parents’ arms during worship, there were a few other Hope students, we talked with people who asked us questions because they wanted to get to know us, and of course there’s the way God talks.

During worship, between songs, if anyone felt there was a word placed on their heart to share they got up on stage and shared it. What Josh, one of the leaders of this church, shared was  from Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Josh then spoke about how our identity does not come from what people say about us. Our identity does not come from what people think about us. Our identity comes from what God made us to be. We are running this race for him, the one who defines us and who we are.

Bam. There it was. Exactly what I needed to hear.

Focusing and worrying about how people perceive who I am from what mistakes I’ve made, from what other people have said about me, from their own observations, etc., is trivial.

At the end of the day, I need to remember that my identity is in Christ. Because he is the one who has made me new. He is the one who continually makes me new. He is the one who can fix everything.

Thanks for reading,
~Erin


For it is [not your strength, but it is] [a]God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. ~Philippians 2:13 AMP 

 

 

 

Living on a Prayer

You might be a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, or Hindu… Whatever you are, when you are desperate enough, you turn to one God (god?) to find hope; to ask for forgiveness and even for a sign that will keep you going. Sometimes you get an answer and sometimes you feel like your whispers have been lost in the void.

It is unpredictable and there is no way of knowing whether your prayers will be answered at the end. There is no way of knowing if everything will turn out okay.

So we just hope. And pray. There is something soothing about asking something from someone that you don’t know if it exists.

I am very familiar with that.

So, knowing that tomorrow is Sunday, I put together a prayer for my fellow Seniors.

Hope this makes the service you’re attending better.

The College Senior Prayer

Father, let us pray.
Give us hope, strength to follow you, health, and a job with an actual salary. Bless us with joy, good food, and transportation benefits. To our families, give the strength of a rock and patience of a monk as we go through these hard times of looking for entry-level jobs, Father. May our good friends be our guidance and keep us from making bad decisions like investing in terrible food. I ask for your forgiveness for my sins and my federal loans. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

These are desperate times, my friends. These are the times that it gets more difficult to keep our heads over the sea level. Keep trying and have some faith. For those who took a huge step and swore not to move in with their parents, good for you. I’m right there with you.

Now, order a pizza and put up on your favorite TV show. Enjoy your time at Hope, because God knows you’ll miss it.

Finding My Home Church

Having a church to go to every Sunday is a little bit like having a home team, I think. A church can be a community of love, support and faith outside of the college context.

Up until recently, I’ve only attended Hope’s Chapel and Gathering services. One of my best friends, Rachel, and I decided that we want to find a traditional church in the Holland area to attend.

There are a lot to choose from. In Downtown Holland there’s Pillar Church (Christian Reformed) and the First United Methodist Church. There are others, such as Third Reformed Church, St. Frances de Sales Church, and Engedi Church. If you know anything about Holland, you know the list doesn’t end there. Those are just a few that students attend on a weekly basis.

Dimnent Chapel around Christmastime
Dimnent Chapel around Christmastime

This past Sunday, Rachel and I went to Pillar Church. We figured it would be our first shot since it’s a close walk downtown.

The service was nice, but I’m not sure it’s what I’m looking for in my home church. At home, I’m a member of the First United Methodist Church. It’s a whole lot bigger than the tiny Pillar. Maybe I’m looking for something more like that, but I’m not sure.

I guess I’m just looking for what feels right. I don’t think I’ll have any problem knowing when I’ve found the right place to call home for worship every Sunday.

Building a community in faith is extremely important. It’s easy to have that community at Hope considering how central it is to our every day lives. However, once college is over, that support system won’t be as much in tact. It’s necessary from that point to go out and make your own community of the church.

I want to be able to create that community once I leave Hope, and an important step is finding my faith outside the college.

You can email me at brookelyn.wharton@hope.edu, find me on Facebook, or check out my twitter @hopebrooke18!

A Word on Lent

Lent

There’s this app on the iPhone called 1 Second Everyday that I’m using to commemorate my study abroad trip in Ireland. It’s a really cool concept of making a video of your entire trip by filming one second every day that captures the essence of the day, then mashing all those seconds together to make a two minute video, give or take. You can preview it so you can see what your video looks like so far, and so I did that three days ago on Monday, two days before the start of Lent.

What did I see? Some pretty incredible moments – views, ballets, nights out with friends. But I also saw my off days in which I filmed myself watching Netflix. (Lame I know.) I was so angry at myself for doing this, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how dependent I’d grown on Netflix and how much of my day revolved around it. It was an everyday occurrence and I KNOW it was just killing all my brain cells one by one, with every episode or movie I watched.

So I asked myself, What has happened to me? I used to be eager to get home from school to finish book after book after book, not flip open my computer to watch the latest episode of whatever. Even last semester I discovered that I liked to write poetry and fell into a creative routine of coffee shops, books, and writing every day (not that that was a good thing for my budget, but it worked wonders for the soul). With the shifting seasons, I switched my routine to Netflix and my couch. Every single day this happened, and I felt horrible about myself.

I like to think I live by the quote found in the famous movie Dead Poets Society:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

It turns out, as I was watching that one second a day video just Monday, I wasn’t living into this quote as I once thought I was. I want to live a life of wondrous faith, applicable education, good literature and meaningful words, not a life dictated for me by a film on a computer screen. And so I knew what I needed to give up for this Lenten season to bring me back to those things: Netflix. And even though it’s only been a day without it, I already feel a change in myself growing. The cobwebs are being dusted off of the bookshelf. My brain cells are being regained with every page I turn of Angela’s Ashes (a perfect book to start off with while I’m in Ireland). My heart is already reaching out to be just a centimeter closer to God – something Netflix has barred me from for a long time.

I love this picture I took while walking from Bray to Graystone in Ireland. I think it's the perfect reminder of what awaits us at the end of this Lenten season.
I love this picture I took while walking from Bray to Graystone in Ireland. I think it’s the perfect reminder of the promise that awaits us at the end of this Lenten season.

It’s a beautiful feeling: to feel like I am gleaning the good things that the world has to offer me. This Lenten season will be challenging, but I’m excited for the potential it is handing to me, and for the relationship with God I’m going to have the aspiration to foster.

 

 

 

What to Give Up for Lent?

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day which marks the first day of the season of Lent. We celebrate Lent as a reflection of Christ’s forty-day fast in the desert and his enduring of Satan’s temptation, as recorded in the Synoptic gospels. Many Christians choose to observe this season by fasting from something like television or chocolate, while others choose to actually fast from meals (many people will eat one modest meal each day), and others choose to observe Lent in their hearts without much specific outward expression.

5 марта 2014, Великое повечерие в среду первой седмицы Великого поста / 5 March 2014, The Great Compline on Wednesday of the first week of Lent
Image by Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy on Flickr.

I am usually not incredibly successful in holding fast to the things that I give up for Lent. This year, a friend and I had the idea to give up coffee; this would be probably the most constant reminder of my need for the Lord that I can possibly think of. I get up for work at 4:30 or 5:30 a.m. every weekday, so when I make it to JP’s afterward, I usually feel pretty justified in buying a cup of coffee and getting my work done for the day. That’s how I am most productive. Also, since I drink coffee almost every day, I am afraid that if I give it up, I will find myself with a 40-day migraine. I am not trying to make excuses, but just to illustrate that my personal well-being might not be in great shape if I give up coffee for Lent. Maybe that is all the more reason that I should do it and just trust God to take care of the rest. I didn’t drink it today, just in case I decide to really go for it for Lent, but I am not fully committed yet.

However, I am fully committed to a few other things. One thing I want to give up this Lent is some of my time. Too often, I let my schedule fill up with so much schoolwork, and so many meetings and extracurriculars, and I do not take nearly enough time to spend with the Lord. My aim is to read at least four pages in my Bible each day (four to eight chapters, generally), to dedicate myself far more fully to prayer, and to write at least one song each week. I am hopeful that I can stick to these ways of spending my time, because I think that they will really be beneficial in keeping the saving work of Christ at the forefront of my mind during this season of Lent.


What are you giving up for Lent? Send me an email at kathryn.krieger@hope.edu or tweet me at @hopekathryn17!


‘Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’

—Matthew 4:4

The Best Beginning to a Beautiful End

Where has the time gone? I’m three weeks into my final semester at Hope. They say if you blink you might miss it, so I’m doing my best to keep my eyes wide open to capture every moment I can.

Four years goes fast. And if you complete college in three years (like myself), it goes even faster.

I remember getting that letter in the mail in the summer after my senior year of high school, reading “you’ve transferred 37 credits.” I remember dodging re-signing up for Gen Ed classes I’ve already taken plus a couple major courses as well.

I remember the long conversations with my parents, wondering if I should stay the full four or just graduate in three. Looking back, I’m not sure when it happened, but I decided three would be enough for me. I introduced myself saying I was a freshman, to a sophomore graduating in three years (to which people replied “obviously” because senior year is three years away from sophomore year) to a junior graduating in May. And now the final spring semester is here. It will be enough for me.

At the same time, three will never be enough. Four will never be enough, either; and I remember that. I’m not afraid to graduate in May, which sometimes scares me. What will I do? Where will I go?

I’m waiting to hear back on internships and jobs and the – yikes – one grad school letter to see if maybe I made the cut. And I found out that graduating high school is just a first round practice to graduating college. It’s a practice run to be able to do it again.

It’s beautiful. I’m in a creative writing class writing poetry every day and a photography class taking pictures. I’m in my final Communication course buttering bread and playing Jenga in class to learn about the way organizations function. I’m in a leadership class reading about Ernest Shackleton and his incredible journey to Antarctica. There are so many adventures yet to be had, places to go, steps to take.

And I’m grateful God is always one step ahead of me.

The Best Beginning

Why Be a Religion Major?

When I came into my freshman year at Hope I was a music education major. After my first semester, at some encouragement from a professor and a “life crisis” spurred on by myself and by emotion-creating medication for my consistent and random freshman year illnesses, I made the call to add a major in voice performance and a minor in management (possible, but crazy).

Making this decision was a pretty long process. I made a list with highlights and strikethroughs of every single major that Hope offers, hoping to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life (often asking anyone who would listen why I was expected to plan my whole life at 19 years old, which is an incorrect perception).

In the middle of the semester I decided to switch to just voice performance, which then turned into a general Bachelor of Arts in music with a ministry minor. That is how I left at the end of my freshman year. Throughout the year, becoming a religion major or minor had popped into my head a few different times, but I suppressed it each time because I had never taken a religion class at Hope. It seemed a little weird to drop everything I’d been planning for years to pursue a major in a field I had never studied at all, so I didn’t do it.

Over the summer, the idea kept popping up in my head, and one of my best friends at camp affirmed this thought more than once. I kept thinking that I couldn’t drop my music major; it was what everyone had always told me to do, it was the thing I thought I was best at, and it was the thing I had planned on for years.

Then the fall came. I was registered for 20 credit hours of almost exclusively music classes (typical for a music major), and I realized that I didn’t want to do any of it. At all. Why would I spend my time and money pursuing a field I no longer wanted to spend all my days and nights studying? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could not find a better way to spend my years at Hope than to use them to learn all I could about the Christ I love, the community of saints from which I draw my heritage, and the people who make up the world around me.

I looked at the course catalog and discovered a recent addition: The ethics, culture, and social witness track housed within the religion major. I saw it and I knew that it was exactly what I wanted, needed to do. This was Saturday, the day that all my freshman residents arrived in my cluster in Dykstra. I’m convinced that they all thought I was insane when I came out of my room and into the cluster in pajamas, probably a little teary-eyed from such a sudden sense of relief, bouncing with energy from the decision I had just made. When Monday rolled around (the eve of the first day of classes), I went to the registrar’s office, dropped all my classes, and picked up all new ones. It was crazy and stressful but I knew that it would be worth it. How would I rather spend my remaining time at Hope than being equipped to become the best disciple that I can be?

That semester was hard. I took classes that stretched me, challenged me, made me cry, and changed my life. It was horrible and wonderful all at the same time, but I knew that the seemingly random mishmash of classes I found myself in with so many last-minute changes was leading me into a field of study that was going to shape who I would become as a person and the direction of my life. I am thankful for the craziness that I encountered that semester, even though in the moment it was so difficult.

Most of the time when God reveals things to us, they aren’t that loud at first. A lot of times, he is telling us things that we aren’t listening for, and sometimes they are things that we simply do not even want to hear. Putting aside the career goals and perceived passions I had held for years was scary for me – I knew I was letting go of my expectant hope to someday direct a high school choir or to own a voice studio, but I also knew that there was something else in store for me.

Two ways I have learned to realize that maybe God is speaking are when I feel consistently unsettled about something, and when something comes up repeatedly. Both these things were present as I contemplated changing my major; I was discontent with my music major, and majoring in religion just kept popping up even though I did not feel prepared for it. Even in that nervousness, I felt so much more at peace once I made the decision to change my major. That is another way I think that God communicates with us; he gives us peace in chaos as we do the things he is calling us to.

I do not want to make this sound like I am some sort of mystical expert at listening to God or that I always do exactly what he calls me to, because that would absolutely be a lie. I am thankful that through the process of becoming a religion major I have learned what it means to listen. God’s will is not something we need to painstakingly and unhealthily search for until we are so destroyed by our own uncertainty and impatience that we begin to doubt God’s work; no, as a Christian, I am called to do God’s will. This means that when he makes something clear to me, I do it, but if I am not sure of what he wants, I do not think that he has abandoned me or that he must not care about me anymore.

Instead, I do the things that I believe I am called to and that I believe will build God’s Kingdom. I study, I read, I listen, and I pray for clarity. Sometimes God isn’t abundantly clear, and that is okay; though I do not always understand why, I know that he is good and he is working through all parts of my life. Sometimes there are moments of insane clarity, like in my choice to become a religion major, and sometimes there are times that I have no idea what to do, like in my decisions about whether and where to go to seminary. In both times, I know that God is working for my good, and I do what I believe he asks of me, even though most of the time I do not see it written on a neon sign.


Thanks for reading! Keep up with me on Twitter (@hopekathryn17), Instagram (@kathrynekrieger), Etsy (LakesPointCollective) or send me an email at kathryn.krieger@yahoo.com!


Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
—Matthew 6:33

 

 

Why Go to Church, When I Go to Hope College?

Most students at Hope College grew up going to church with their families. Wake up, eat breakfast, Sunday school, church service, eat family lunch afterwards. We lived a weekly spiritual rhythm during the first 18 years of our lives.

Now that we’re away from home, this rhythm changes. We might not go to the same church every Sunday, or go at all. We must decide for ourselves what we believe and where we will spend our time and energy.

Pillar Church
Pillar Church is a beautiful community of college students and families.

Holland is the land of a thousand churches. But many of us college students have begun to ask why church is so important in the first place. Many of us attend Campus Ministries services, like Chapel and the Gathering, but a fewer number of us are involved in a local church.

Maybe we don’t want to leave campus. Maybe we just want to sleep in. Maybe we think our doubts are too many and too great to go to church anymore. But to not go for these reasons is to miss the point.

Hiking with friends in the fall.
Hiking with friends is a good way to get out of your routine and allow yourself to question.

Church and college are the two of the only places where it’s acceptable to consistently ask the big questions in life. And in the time of our lives in which questions matter most, it would be a shame to miss out on half of the equation.

Maybe we need to make new routines, with new people. Hiking regularly with people you care about, attending a nearby church, or grabbing lunch on a weekly basis can become new spiritual practices in our lives. The church is not confined by its walls, but engaging in a spiritual rhythm like regularly attending church breathes new life into the old, weekly grind.

A Chance Encounter on a Hope College Sidewalk.

There are a lot of reasons I love Hope College. Two of my favorite reasons:
(1) the people of Hope, and (2) the way God moves through them.

Let me give you a little taste of why in this throwback story to just before the semester break…

It’s Friday, the week before Finals, and I am making my way home from my last class of the semester with my friends.

It had been a rough week.

My roommate, Kristin, was doing the last 2 weeks of school on powerful pain medicine and crutches coming off of knee surgery the week before. One afternoon I couldn’t help but cry when she came back into our room and I tried to answer her “what’s wrong?” with how she is just amazing and I just feel so bad and I don’t know how she does it.

Fast forward to the moment when we were stopped on the sidewalk on Friday afternoon by three girls.

They were working on a project together called Humans of Holland which was inspired by the popular picture blog Humans of New York (which has featured a father of a Hope College student from Vietnam!). The one girl spoke with us asking Kristin about her leg and why she needed surgery. Then they asked if there was anything they could pray about for us.

The Hope College Anchor logo imprinted in the cement of the sidewalk
One of the many sidewalks on campus that sees squirrels, conversations, long boards, laughter, prayer, tears, frisbees–a lot happens on Hope College sidewalks

As they prayed over Kristin’s knee I couldn’t help but start crying once again that week. This time it wasn’t from stress or sadness or awe at how awesome my roommate is, but in wonder and gratitude at the kind spirits on Hope’s campus. People who excitedly share God’s love and call on his name for the benefit of some strangers on a sidewalk just as they would for a friend. And I could not explain how thankful I was that they took the time to care about my friend. Instead I just assured them that I was actually really happy, I just didn’t look like it, and asked if I could give them all a hug.

It’s the moments like this, the chance encounters that aren’t really chance at all, but reminders about how we all ended up here on this beautiful little campus in western Michigan. God is moving – even during finals week – and I am continually thankful that he brought me here to Hope to learn more about him, myself, this world, and some academic things along the way.

Thanks for reading,
-Erin