Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How long?

I'm not one to just post some song lyrics or a random link, but I wanted to add this as a follow-up to last night's post. This song is by one of my favorite artists, Andrew Peterson. "The Reckoning (How Long)" is cry to God, asking how much longer we have to wait for Jesus to return and for God to set this world right. The lyrics in this song sum up my feelings over the last few days exactly. I'll be the first to admit that my selfish, human side doesn't necessarily want Him to return just yet, because there's tons of stuff I want to do here on Earth....but there will always be something else. When I'm downright honest with myself, I can't help but let these words be my prayer as I listen to this awesome song. Just follow the link below. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do. :)

"The Reckoning (How Long)"

Monday, December 27, 2010

I want to move to Narnia

I just recently finished re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I read all of them when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, but as a kid, I missed most (if not all) of their symbolism. I remember enjoying them a lot, so I was really excited when I found out a few years ago that they were going to start making them into movies. Thankfully, they've stayed pretty true to the books and I've loved all three of the movies they've turned out so far. (Hopefully, they'll turn the other books into movies as well, but that's neither here nor there.) After seeing the first two movies (which were The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe followed by Prince Caspian) I decided to re-read the series because as I had also realized after starting college, there was a lot of theology woven into the books; I wanted to catch what I had missed as a 9 year old. As I read each book, I fell in love with the them and the story that they told.

In my last post, I wrote about how I've rediscovered the birth of Christ and just how monumental it really was. Much in the same way, re-reading these books has helped me rediscover how incredible God's story is. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, tells the awesome story of our God. God creates man, but man turns away from God over and over again because of sin. But rather than destroy everyone out of anger, God chooses to show them how much He loves them by redeeming them through Christ. And then He goes even further by giving them instructions on how to live as His adopted children once they've been redeemed. And if that wasn't enough, He ends it all by giving them a glimpse of what's to come when He once and for all destroys sin, the one thing that stands between Him and His beloved children. He creates a new Heaven and a new Earth that's perfect and free from sin, where His children can be with Him forever. The best part?? It's all true. How awesome is that?! Although they are works of fiction and fantasy, The Chronicles of Narnia mirror this story, but simplifying the major points. All of this is just a long way of saying that I was able to draw the comparisons and similarities between the books and the Bible as I read, and that's what I loved so much about the books. They're purely fantasy, but you can sense the longing that the children in the books have to be with Aslan the lion, the God-character in the series. 

It was as I read about their longing for Aslan that I realized that's the same way God wants us to long for Him. Whenever the children were sent back to England from Narnia, they never stopped thinking about being back in Narnia with Aslan. How much more should we want to be where our true, living God is? The last book really got me thinking about this as well. As the book wraps up, the children are called to Aslan's country, where Aslan lives. They soon realize after arriving that Aslan's country is a mirror of both Narnia and England, only bigger, better, and perfect. And I may be off, but right now that's how I envision the new Heaven and new Earth that are mentioned in Revelation...a perfect Earth that's never felt the effects of sin. And I'm so excited to be there someday. But honestly, as long as I'm with my God and Creator, I don't think it really matters where I am.

That's what I've really been thinking about for the last week since finishing the Narnia series. God gave us the Bible so that we could see how much He loves us, so that it would point us to Him so that we could be saved by the blood of His Son, and so that someday soon we can all be with Him and remain in His presence forevermore. And that's what simply amazes me. It gives me a new perspective with which to read my Bible. It gives me a renewed sense of hope. And it reassures me that God has everything under control, because He already knows how everything will end someday. I'm thankful my God is who He is. And I'm thankful that He's able and willing to use even a book series written for children to reopen our eyes to how awesome His story is and how awesome His plans are for us. Our God truly is an awesome God. :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

"That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown"

I'll be up front about admitting that I'm a horrible blogger. Life has gotten way too busy for me to update my blog faithfully, but here we are. Allow me give a quick school update, because that's not the main reason I'm posting today. I'm halfway through my second year of dental school. I'm surviving and finding ways to enjoy it even though this is the toughest and most hectic year of the four (or so we've heard; honestly, they're all hard, ha). Most of my time is spent studying or working on lab work for several classes. This spring will be the final push before we start seeing patients this summer. We take National Boards Part 1 this summer, and we start treating patients in clinic sometime in June or July. Terrifying? Yes. Exciting? You bet!

Enough about school. Today is Christmas Eve. I've always loved the Christmas season. Like any kid, I always looked forward to opening presents on Christmas morning, and let's be honest...I still do, ha. But as I've grown older, especially these last few years, I've come to appreciate the time spent with family much more. But even though I've "grown up" in church and have been a Christian since I was 7, I still don't think I've ever really appreciated the reason we even celebrate Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ. But this Christmas season has been different for me, and I'm grateful for that.

After some "shopping" and a lot of driving back to Etown for church, I now consider Southeast Christian Church my church home in Louisville. I've joined a small group, I've made lots of new friends, and I truly love worshipping there on Sundays. For the last few weeks, we've been in a sermon series called "Socks and Underwear". Socks and underwear are typically gifts that you get at Christmas that you really don't want, even though they may be exactly what you need. So, that has been the theme as we've taken a different approach to the Christmas story: The Jewish people back in the Jesus' day viewed him as their socks and underwear. When they expected the Messiah, they envisioned a warrior king, not a poor, humble carpenter born in a barn. However, Jesus was exactly what they needed, even though they didn't realize it. Studying the prophets and the Gospels from that approach has really given me a renewed sense of awe, humility, and gratitude for the Gift that we received over 2,000 years ago. 

I also had the pleasure of seeing Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God" last Thursday in Nashville at the Ryman with some of my best friends. What a night! For those of you who have never heard of it before, it's a concert, for lack of a better word, that is completely based on Scripture. Starting in the Old testament, it goes through the Bible and explains Israel's (and our) need for a Savior; it ends with the birth of Christ in the Gospels. The music is very powerful and thought provoking, and it opened my eyes yet again to the truth of the Christmas story. Jesus came to redeem a world that was ravaged and oppressed by sin, and the entire Bible is devoted to telling that story. The Old Testament isn't just a compilation of books of laws, poems, and prophecies, but rather story that points directly to Christ. I've heard that all throughout college, but for the first time, it resonated and really affected me.

Growing up singing Christmas carols, reading the Christmas story from Luke, seeing the birth of Christ portrayed by various Christmas programs had given me a view of the birth story that wasn't entirely accurate. Jesus wasn't born on just a silent night, and most likely it wasn't all calm. He was born during a Roman census in a tiny, crowded city. He was born in a dirty barn that was full of animals, behind an inn. There were no nurses, no doctors, no midwives. Mary and Joseph were young, newly married virgins who were probably scared to death to be delivering a baby alone in such filthy conditions. And that's not even the half of it. This wasn't just a boy that grew up to become our Savior. Jesus left his throne in Heaven, spent 9 months in Mary's womb, and was born as a tiny baby into these conditions...not a birth that's fitting for such a King. He was with God from the beginning. He was there when God spoke everything into creation. He witnessed the downfall of man. He knew what he was being born into, and knew that he would have to die alone on a cross. He knew exactly what he was coming to do, and he did it willingly because he loves us so much. That is why we celebrate Christmas.

**Forgive me if you read all of this and said "Duh, Ryan." I just wanted to express the complete awe and humility that I've been blessed to feel these last couple of weeks. I really believe this is the first time that I've truly appreciated just how amazing and how huge the birth of Christ really is, and even though it saddens me that it has taken 24 years for it to happen, I'm truly grateful for this revelation. I'm even more grateful that the God of the Universe loves me enough to save me in such a way. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and that you and your families will be blessed this season. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One year down

Well, I successfully completed my first year of dental school!! (And summer term of our second year started today...bit of a bummer but we knew it happened like this. :) ) God is good, people. I can think of no other reason as to why I was able to make it out of this last year. Let me be honest for a minute. Dental school is not in and of itself unbearably hard. The stress that you put on yourself to succeed, and moreover, to excel really takes a toll and makes dental school harder than it really is. Of course the hours of studying that you need to put into your science classes and the hours of lab time you need to put toward projects and practicing operative also contribute to the stress. But all in all, it's doable. But I am so thankful that my God is bigger than my stresses and worries. God has placed many friends in my path since school started last July, and they have been there for me through thick and thin. Study partners, someone to laugh with, someone to vent with, a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen when needed....all blessings that I'm very grateful for. And of course my family...it would have been extremely hard without my family to support me. My parents have no idea what I'm talking about when I call to talk about my day, but they always listen and are always praying for me and have encouraging words to say. And my friends down in good 'ol Bowling Green...to say I miss them would be a huge understatement. They've all been great and understanding of the fact that school is a priority right now, and even though I can't see them as often as I'd like, they're always there for me and are great at helping me relax and get away for a while when I visit or when we happen to talk on the phone. All of the people in my life are huge blessings from God. He's given me endurance, rest, confidence, peace, patience and so many other things. More importantly, His unconditional love and grace are always there. I think I've been able to reflect more on that fact this year than ever before, and I've been able to share that with classmates as well. Every time I think about it, or talk about it especially, I get a little emotional because of how great of a gift grace truly is. I'm very undeserving. God is so good, and THAT'S an understatement. :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend update

So...thought I would give a quick update on life here in the Ville. In a word, it's busy. Very busy. We're heading into our last 2 weeks of classes, and our finals week is the last week of April. And then we get a week off for Derby, and then back for summer term. At least at that point we'll be sophomores! But life is good. School has been very up and down for me this semester. I've had great weeks, I've had days that make me want to give up and quit school, but all in all, I can't complain. I've been blessed with some great friends up here. That was one thing that I missed about BG so much, and I still do. But having a close group of friends that I can study with, hang out with, go to church with...it makes life in the Ville so much more bearable when school gets me down. But my new outlook on school is simply this: I just have to survive and make thru to the next exam. I have been getting so caught up on grades and how I'm comparing to my classmates that I've been really, really upset with myself at times. But ya know what? The hand skills will come with practice. The grades are fine as long as they're passing...doesn't matter what my classmates get. At the end of it all, Lord willing, I'll graduate with a degree in my hand and a career as a dentist ahead of me. So yeah...there's a quick update for ya. My summer schedule should be a LOT less hectic, so I'll try to post more frequently. :) God is good!!! :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"You're not alone"

This past Tuesday night at The Post, we talked about touching the unnoticed. This month's series is called "Touch", and it has been really challenging, encouraging, and motivating from the first week. This week really struck me however. We read from Mark 5:24-33, and its the story of the bleeding woman who was healed by touching Jesus' robes. Until now, I viewed it as just another story abut one of Jesus' miracles. So wrong. It's deals with so much more than that.

First of all, the thought that this woman had been bleeding for 12 years is hard to fathom. Up until a few years ago, I never even realized what was really going on with her...I just imagined that she was bleeding randomly as if she'd skinned her knees...definitely not the case here. I won't go into details...if you don't know what I'm talking about, go ask your mom. ;) Anyway, Jewish laws stated that if a woman was on her period, she was unclean. Everything she touched, sat on, etc, was also considered unclean during this time. I imagine that dealing with uncleanliness for a week out of the month was frustrating enough...imagine 12 years. And since anything or anyone you touched became unclean as well, you can imagine the responses she drew from people. No one would want to be around her. No one would want to hug her or show any sort of affection. She would be like an ignored, unnoticed, outcast, much like the lepers of the time. Imagine how hard that would be. Imagine how lonely she felt.

Fast forward to 2010. Put yourself in her shoes. Not the bleeding part, but the loneliness. I can assure you that I've never gone 12 years without so much as a tap on the shoulder from a loved one or friend, so I can't imagine what she was experiencing. But I have experienced loneliness. We all have. We're just like this woman. And the thing is, our loneliness may never present itself the same way every time. I've felt lonely and isolated because of sin. I've felt lonely when I moved to Louisville and felt as if I knew nobody. I've felt lonely even in a room full of people. Sure, I have lots of friends, but there are times when being surrounded by a crowd can be when you feel most alone. Just think...I'm sure we've all experienced it at some point. And when it happens to you, you feel even more isolated because you feel as if nobody else understands what you're going through or what you're thinking and feeling. That makes it much harder.

Back to the story. This woman had faith that even touching the hem of Jesus' robes would heal her and make her clean. (v. 28) To do so, she would have to push through the crowds, touching hundreds of people in the streets, making them "unclean" as she did. And then what faith and boldness it must have taken for her to reach out and touch the God of the Universe in the flesh. If there were one person that I would be afraid to touch and make "unclean", it would be Him. But Jesus didn't care. He knew immediately and asked "Who touched me?" (v. 31) With there being such a huge crowd, that woman could have easily shrunken away and left without ever saying a word. But she stepped forward and told Jesus everything. For one thing, I think it's amazing how even in a situation where she had no idea how Jesus would react, she felt compelled to tell Him everything about her situation. (v. 33) And he didn't get mad like some might expect. He responded by calling her daughter. (v. 34) Right in that moment, I can imagine how loved she felt. With a single touch, she went from being known as an unclean outcast to being referred to as a daughter by the Son of God. She went from feeling lonely and unloved to knowing that the Creator loved her and cared so much for her. How incredible?!

Picture your own life again. God has done the same for us. If you want to think of it as being "unclean", our sins have made us just as unclean as this woman, if not more. Yet Jesus calls us sons and daughters. He loves us so much that none of that matters. As long as we confess our sins to Him and have faith and truly believe in who He is, like the woman, He will gladly cover our sins and vouch for us before the Lord someday. Our faith makes us well, just like it did for her. And just like the woman, He can heal us of our loneliness. In today's world, its so hard to remember that even on our loneliest days, God is always right there with us, and that we're never truly alone. We sang a song to end the night on Tuesday that I thought summed it all up perfectly. And as cliche as it is to post song lyrics, I'm gonna post some of the lyrics to this song because I think this song describes Christ's love for us so beautifully.

Safe, by Phil Wickham

To the one who's dreams are falling all apart
And all you're left with is a tired and broken heart
I can tell by your eyes you think your on your own
but you're not all alone

Have you heard of the One who can calm the raging seas
Give sight to the blind, pull the lame up to their feet
With a love so strong and never let you go
oh you're not alone

You will be safe in His arms
You will be safe in His arms
'Cause the hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made
He will be with You always
When everything is falling apart
You will be safe in His arms

I just posted the first verse or two and the chorus, but I think you get the picture. I've heard this song I don't know how many times on the radio, but Tuesday night is when the meaning of the lyrics really hit me. I just love how it reminds us that we're not alone. God does the same thing all throughout Scripture, and I'm so glad that He's given us that promise. And even though its tough, I always try to remember that even on my worst days, I'm never, ever alone. The God who created the universe created me, holds me together, and loves me more than I could ever know. No matter what I'm feeling or going through, God will always be there to pick up the pieces when I fall apart and feel as if the rest of world could care less. And because God does that for us, we can and should do that for others. How can we reach out to the people who may feel unnoticed and unloved and touch them? I'm not just talking literal touch, although hugs and pats on the back are great. How can we impact someone's life by noticing them, even if it's just by having a conversation at lunch, or simply acknowledging them with a genuine smile? How can we share the love of Christ with the people of this world who need Him so desperately? Who in your life needs to experience the healing, loving, powerful touch of Christ?

How awesome is our God? :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Me and my pal Regis

Well, I've been back in school for 2 weeks now, and I can already tell one thing about this semester: it's gonna be busy. As far as studying goes, I don't think it will be as intense as last semester. I say that now...we'll see, haha. However I can already tell that I'm going to be spending a lot of extra time at school in the labs working on dentures projects and trying to catch up with Operative. We're definitely starting to have more of a dentistry focus in our classes, and I think I'll enjoy that for the most part. But, a new semester means a new beginning, and that in itself is pretty exciting. On a side note about school, we're taking Head & Neck Anatomy this semester, and you know what that means...new cadavers!! This time around, we're only dissecting the head and the neck...hence the name of the class. :) We named our cadaver Regis. It's a good conversation starter. :)

God's really working in my life and revealing areas that need to be cleaned up, where I need to grow, and He's just teaching me so much. I can definitely feel when Satan tries to get at me, and those days are just downright frustrating and depressing. Those are the days when I question why I'm in dental school and if I've made the right decision. Those are the days when I have a bad day in lab and where I really just don't wanna study. But then there are the days where God gets my attention and says "Ryan, you're here for a reason. Be patient, and have faith." So that's what I've been trying to do. I'm reading my Bible more. I'm trying to be more faithful in prayer. I've been trying to live each day in a way that's pleasing to Christ, and I'm praying that His desires would be my desires and that I would stop living this life for myself. I gave that up when I was 7 years old...little did I know back then. It's only taken me 16 years to realize it. And believe me, it's not any easier knowing it now. Every day is a battle. But God is faithful, as always. This past Thursday, I had one of those days where God said "Ryan, here's why you're in dental school." I got to do my first clinical rotation for one of my classes, and it was in the Pedo (pediatric) clinic. I loved it. I've always loved hanging out and working with kids. If you've heard me talk about camp, you know how true that is. :) Until now, I've ruled out the possibility of specializing because I just didn't want to put myself through the stress and pressure of trying to be top of my class to get into a residency program. Most programs accept 2-3 students out of pools of at least 100 applicants. Needless to say, I could very easily see myself working with kids as a dentist. Whether thats as a general dentist who treats patients of all ages or as a pediatric dentist remains to be determined. I'm leaving that up to God. I know I'll be happy whichever way He leads though. That being said, specializing is not ruled out anymore...we'll just see where God takes me. After all, that's still a good 3 years away. I got really excited about it though, and a few of us went to observe in the Pedo Dental OR at Kosair's Children's Hospital on Friday morning at 7 am before class. The program director said we could observe and hang out with them anytime, so I think I may try to do that when I can. Ya know, just to keep my options open. :)

But anyway, yeah. God. School. Not much else going on in my life really. And that's ok. I'm gonna try to get more involved with Southeast and The Post this semester, and I'm hopefully going to join a small group in the next few weeks. I really miss having that kind of relationship with a group of guys who are able to keep me accountable, both in my spiritual walk and my personal life. It's such a blessing, and you don't realize how hard it can be trying to live the life Christ has called us to live until you try it alone. We're not meant to live it alone. That's one thing God has really taught me so far in my time in Louisville. But I've also gotta remember- even when I feel like I'm alone, Jesus is always with me. What an awesome thought. :)