2 things about the body that are on my mind by rebecca keating

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1.     God is with me where my body is.

I am a person who is very inclined to living in their imagination. Throughout many seasons of unhealth, I have often used my imagination for escapist purposes, detaching from reality as an act of resignation from present struggles or situations. It is only a recent thing where in my relationship with God we’re really addressing this issue. I had somewhat of a revelation on this this morning when I was complaining to God in prayer about not wanting to accept reality and struggling with accepting my being trapped in this finite body:

I don’t want to be physically present. I’m really struggling to accept reality – to love it too. I’m trying to transcend myself, to find you in another space. I don’t want to be here. But you’re here Lord. Yes, I can find you in my past. I can trust you’re in my future. I can wonder about you in my daydreams. But really, I’m so finite. I can only meet with you in the present – where I am today. You’re with me where my body is.

2.   I am a body.

I often think about this poem that I wrote back in April. I wrote it at the start of becoming aware that my formation into the likeness of Christ takes place in my body – not just in my emotions/feelings (aka the spaces where I am the most comfortable and familiar in connecting with God; which is where I have spent probably 90% of my existence).

Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart, helped me to name and understand the many dimensions of the human self – mind (thought/feeling), body, spirit (will/heart), community, and soul. God made me containing all of these spaces, and I believe that each broken space is undergoing transformation. God reaches into each space of my being and allows me to experience intimacy with Him. I have access to God in more parts of me than just my feelings, and as someone who desires balance in all aspects of life, I am seeking a renovation of my whole self into His likeness. This is work that requires me to be actively in touch with all of those parts of my being, including my body.

Anyway, this is a poem that I wrote about finding God outside of my feelings:  

From a Morning Walk
April 2019

You’ve started taking walks at six a.m.
to remind yourself that you are a body.
The air is so cold,
but the birds are singing again
and lawns are flowering now.
The streets are quiet;
you like to notice whose lights are on this early,
wonder who’s awake to pray.

It’s all an effort to find God outside

of your feelings.

So you look for him in the naked branches,

try to meet his gaze in the sunrise.

Promises for 2019 by rebecca keating

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30 December 2018

Today, Noah and I (and his brother Cord) have been driving from Noah’s parent’s house up near San Francisco down to San Diego. This full day of being cooped up in the car has been full of moments to be bothered and annoyed, disheartened and misunderstood. Around the fourth quarter of the drive, I really snapped. All of the anxiety that I had worked to buckle down throughout the day burst out of my chest, bringing tears to my eyes and paralyzing my mind. I pulled out my laptop to unpack the anxiety that has become too familiar to me over this year. I got the cheesy idea to start broadcasting that I am leaving anxiety in 2018 — that I won’t be bringing it into 2019. Maybe I’m not hopeful or optimistic enough yet, but I quickly nixed that idea, thinking to myself that unless a miracle happens, there’s no guarantee that my anxiety will magically disappear when the clock strikes midnight tomorrow night. (update from 2019 — anxiety is still here)

Call it a lack of faith or call it pragmatism, I have decided that if I wasn’t guaranteed that my anxiety was going to still be hanging around in the new year, the best I can do is make promises to myself for 2019 — for how I am going to handle my anxiety (and other things too). Since I’m getting married this year and writing wedding vows in May, I feel like it’s quite appropriate to write vows to myself in place of resolutions this year. 

So, in 2019, I promise these things to myself:

I promise to pursue peace in my mind. I promise to fight vigorously for my mental and emotional wellbeing. 

I promise to lean into the Holy Spirit to break myself off of years and years of horrible cycles of unhealth.

I promise to cut anxiety off from the authority I allow it to have over my present realities. I promise to protect my emotions from the attacks that anxiety relentlessly spars my way. 

I promise to give my mind more room to breathe, to give my intellect rest days and sabbaths. 

I promise to stop allowing my critical spirit to rob me of hope. I promise to be slower to judge, quicker to ask why. 

I promise to be patient with the healing of my body. 

I promise to leave college well: with grace and gentleness, lamenting the end of a season but praising God for the abundance of faithfulness that led me in and out of each semester. 

I promise to practice secrecy and gratitude. I promise to claim the goodness in the present and ponder things more deeply in my heart. 

I promise to cherish my final months of singleness, gratefully being present in these days before my life is bound to Noah’s in the eyes of God and our loved ones. 

I promise to enter into my covenant bond with Noah with a humility and selflessness that is only made true by the Holy Spirit. I promise to ask God to teach me how to love Noah like Christ loves the Church and deny myself of the selfish desires that get in the way of practicing perfect love. 

I promise to serve my Church with meekness rather than self-righteousness and generosity instead of vanity. In this year I will grow to love the Church in a way that trades my ideals of how things should go for joy to be in the Presence with God’s people. 

I promise to keep my hands and eyes open in this new year, looking for ways to help and be curious and understand and love. 

I promise to be vulnerable, even when it hurts. I promise to let myself get scary close to people.

All these things and more, I commit to these 12 months. I give myself to the Lord to be mended and mended, again and again. Willingly and in faith, I surrender these days to He who sees beyond the year to come. 


photo by the best! : Lindsey @ http://www.lindsmariephoto.com

Testimonies of Traveling Mercies by rebecca keating

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June 23
1:24pm
Imphal Airport

Today I left Sielmat. This morning, Rosie came over for one last morning on the balcony at the Bangla where we shared allll the sentiments and eased into the day. Later on, friends and family arrived at the house to send me off in prayer. I’m always overwhelmed with gratitude for getting to be a part of a Christ following family because of how comforting it is to depart from places knowing that I have been prayed for. I’m sentimental and Jesus is so good. 

Anyway, domestic travel through India is not glamorous. It’s loud. The smells are unavoidable. The stares from being a foreigner are obvious. And there’s not really a “system” in the whole process from walking into the airport to getting on the plane. 

I’m traveling from Imphal to Guwahati (and then on to Shillong). The drive to the airport was almost two hours from Sielmat. I got to the airport to a huge herd of people making 3 really unclear lines at the entrance of the airport. The airport process here is: show boarding pass to get in, sign in at foreigners desk, run luggage through security screening, check in at airline desk and drop off baggage, go through security, then board the flight! 

I was really anxious about going through this airport alone. My memories of traveling out of Imphal are blurry and overwhelming, plus I always had my mom with me to lead the way, so I never had to take initiative for things. My confidence and assertiveness are for sure growing on this trip since I don’t have my mom here to do everything for me. When I got to the foreigners desk, the attendant asked if I was traveling alone. He replied with a big “wow”. He then said, “You are related to the Pudaites, no?” I replied “Yes! You know my family?” And he told me about how he knows my grandmother well. His face lit up talking about my family, and I was like thank you Jesus, I’ll get through this. 

He ended up helping me through the next few steps through the airport. He let me cut lines, and approached all desks with me. When I found out that my bags were going to cost 2500 rupees (almost 40 USD) for the excess weight, I asked the lady at the counter if  I could pay less because I am traveling from the States. She said she wouldn’t change anything, so the attendant that was assisting me grabbed another guy and they said they were going to take care of me and that I should just sit and rest while they help waive the fees. Flash forward a few minutes and they have returned to me with a new boarding pass, fees waived, AND my seat upgraded. Traveling mercies af am I right? 

June 26
2:24pm

Guwahati Airport

This morning before heading out to the airport, I asked my Uncle Lal for tips on begging for a bargain with my overweight baggage. The airline I am flying from Guwahati to Goa only allows 15kg for your check in bag and 7kg for carry on items when flying domestically. All my bags totaled over 30kg and I was freaking out about how much it would cost to pay for all of the overweight. Uncle Lal said that on the airline I am flying, there is a guy that works at the check in desk named Michael. He’s from Nagaland, where my Aunt Lipono is from. Uncle Lal has chatted with him before, he’s a Christian, and last time let Uncle Lal bargain his baggage price down. I prayed all morning that traveling mercies would manifest themselves in getting to be at this guy’s desk. 

After a 3 hour road trip from Shillong to Guwahati, I arrived at the airport, anxiety in full swing. I approached the check in counter and saw the guy Uncle Lal told me about, but was beckoned to a different desk. The girl was very stiff about my overweight bags and wanted me to shuffle some things around. In the process of shuffling my stuff and waiting or her to be free again, Michael’s desk opened up. So I asked if I could switch over to him. I told him that my uncle and I prayed for him this morning, and asked if he remembered who he was. He was so full of warmth toward me and my anxiety started easing up. After chatting a bit and exchanging lots of smiles, he totally took me by surprise. He waived all my extra overweight fees. ALL of it. AND he gave me really good seats on my flights. 

June 28
1:36pm
Co-Worx Cyber Cafe, Goa

Today is my second full day in Goa. I am still in awe of the favor God has had on my travel days. His kindness towards me is evident even in these things where I don't often find myself pleading for his aid. One of the biggest things I have been working on over the past year has been teaching myself that I am worthy of goodness. Over the past months I have come a really long way in how I think about the things that happen to me. I once felt so unworthy of good things, destined to a life of struggle, viewing every situation as hard. But throughout this whole trip, I have experienced how beautiful it is to be out of the negative cognition that I am not worthy of goodness. I have learned yet again from the easy yoke of Jesus Christ and some wise words of Rosaria Butterfield that I can go through hard things, but that does not mean life is hard. Life does not have to be a struggle, living each day with expectations of hardship. I now believe we can be free and experience goodness. 

endnote: I wanted to title this piece "traveling mercies are saving my ass" but I didn't think my parents would appreciate that :-/ 

If you were to ask me how my trip was going, these are some of the things I would tell you by rebecca keating

This balcony is one of my favorite places in the whole world and all my best words have been written from this spot. 

This balcony is one of my favorite places in the whole world and all my best words have been written from this spot. 

The other day, my friend Peter wrote a blog post called “Digressions Captured in One Sitting” and it was so thought provoking yet fun to read that I was inspired to do a similar sort of thing. I gave myself 20 minutes to write down all that came to mind while I thought about my trip so far. Also, Peter’s post was really fantastic, so here is a link to enjoy his words too: https://peterbattlewriting.blogspot.com/2018/06/digressions-of-linear-sort.html?spref=fb

I have been here for over three weeks now! If 21 days is what’s required to make a habit, then I’m now used to sleeping in a big house all alone and not being able to see a weather forecast. I have read books that I will cling to forever. I’ve been wading through the Gospels and soaking in everything that I can from the way of Jesus. I have gotten to use my voice and sing and it has felt so good and whole. On Thursday night I laughed for what felt like two hours straight and my cheeks hurt so bad but my heart was so at rest. I love having a friend that will sing along to a live cover band with as much giddiness as me. I’ve learned to let go of being stiff about doing things my way. I’ve sat with the frustrations of wondering why people don’t encourage me more. I’ve let myself get disappointed by people who don’t reply to Instagram direct messages that are, in reality, the least direct kind of messages. I have learned to let go of lots of things like this because they only stir negative emotions in me and the love and peace of Jesus Christ are too powerful to let them stay. I am recognizing what it means to truly be confident. I have experienced how laughter connects people when language cannot. I have stepped into a new level of independence that I’ve quite honestly been afraid of. I have experienced my identity 100% outside of Noah, and our love is stronger because of it. I have eaten over a dozen meals alone. I have learned to put down my phone and just sit still and listen to insects and the trees and village drums. I have marveled at changing skies. I have met people who I am going to miss dearly. I have met people whose names I have embarrassingly forgotten. I have wondered and wondered about culture and globalism and poverty and privilege and how the hell am I going to understand all these complex things! Did you know that how much money I make in one month of nannying part time is how much the average person out here makes in a whole year? I have taken things for granted and I have hidden myself away at the wrong times. I have witnessed the miracle of how the love of Jesus transforms the lonely and disheartened. I have grown in love for my family and in appreciation for the life my parents provided for me. I have eaten so many preservatives and so much gluten that my stomach hurts but I’ve reconciled it with myself because if I was raised out here, I wouldn’t even give a rip about what it means to be “tighter”. God is healing my perspective of my church back at home. I came here with bitterness and questions and misunderstandings but now I have come to have gratitude and a desire to be selfless towards it all. I had a really huge moment with the Lord where it finally became so real to me that if He delights in showing mercy, then I should too. I’ve just gotten past the halfway point of this trip and there are so many things that matter to me and a whole lot of things I’m realizing there is no need to be so consumed by. Two weeks ago I was so discouraged and alone that I wanted to change my ticket and return home early, but now I am so glad I didn’t. I’m on the edge of my seat for all of the things, here to follow through for the long haul.

Week 2 in India by rebecca keating

Man oh man I wish I could capture every sunset perfectly, every shift in the sky that I've marveled at while being here. The earth is so lush and beautiful -- I'm going to be so homesick for this place. 

Man oh man I wish I could capture every sunset perfectly, every shift in the sky that I've marveled at while being here. The earth is so lush and beautiful -- I'm going to be so homesick for this place. 

June 9 8:34pm

It’s super amusing to me — I pay for 4.5 GB of data on Airtel every day and on good days I get 2.5 GB. . .on a normal day I’ll get about 1.7 or so. I’m deciding to call it a blessing that I’ve run out of data for the day at 8pm. I’ve been saying since Tuesday that I need to compile a new blog post and, well, it’s now Saturday night and I’m finally here to string the words together. 

Anyway, what a week! I’ve just completed my second full week in Sielmat.

Adapting to new places, especially remote and dramatically different cultures, is so funny to me. The first few days you’re acutely aware of every single difference and quirk. This small village in Northeast India will never be on Condé Nast’s top 10 travel destinations. There are no Air Bnbs here and definitely not air conditioning. The power goes out at least five times a day, and I consistently find ants in my bed. But then, all of a sudden, you stop comparing every detail and just live into the moments, fully alive and still aware, but in a different way. 

I have wild amounts of pride for where my family comes from. . .it’s an honor to have Hmar blood flowing through my veins. I’m one of so few people on this whole planet that is half Hmar half caucasian (Irish mostly, right dad?), and during my stay here, I want to learn every single thing that I can from this place and it’s people. 

Conducting fieldwork has been going pretty well. Making friends and not being lonely has been 100x easier than planned. I’m leading worship twice tomorrow! It’ll be my first time singing in a church in over a year. I’ve missed it a lot and I’m really grateful to get to have worship opportunities out here. 

There are parts of me inside that are hasty, telling me I need to conjure up real good and thorough conclusions about the trip so far. But they’ll come in their time, I’m confident of that. I’m not leaving myself anytime soon. So while being with people is really life giving and amazing, my most savored parts of the days are my morning hours alone with Jesus. So in place of thoughtful and brilliant conclusions, here are snippets of more journal entries from my quiet times this week. . .

June 2 10pm

I was sitting, listening to the clanging of some instrument out in the hills, thinking about telling Pi Choung what time I would be eating dinner tonight. But then I remembered that clocks and schedules don’t run people’s lives out here. It’s in more civilized (I’m not sure if that’s the right word) places that time is everything to us. After having this thought, I turned the page in the book I was reading, A Handful of Quietness by Harold Rogers, and I read, “civilization has caused us to become clock watchers.” No way, Harold. 

As I am sitting here reading, as the rain goes in and out, I come to realize how sacred and special these days and moments are. I must not hurry them away. I must not frantically check the time because months down the road, I will be homesick for all these minutes I get to spend in creation, undistracted and in the Word, and with people I never knew I’d grow close to. 

June 5 9:07am

I’m excited to trust You with my emotions today, Jesus. I’m excited that I’m deepening what it means to let them be taken captive by you. 

June 6 12:06pm

Truth is becoming internal. I can’t wait to see what truths become ingrained in me throughout my time here. 

I ventured out to India with the song “New Wine” by Hillsong as a prayer deep in my heart. I'm singing it in church on Sunday, and I'm so excited to share my prayer with the community.

“I came here with nothing but all you have given me / Jesus bring new wine out of me”

“I lay down my old flame / To carry your new fire today”

These words were prophetic over my personal mission in coming on this trip. I don’t have all the words for it yet. 

June 7 9:12am

When I sit outside of the shadows. When I don’t have to wear any makeup or special clothes. When I can prop my legs up on the railing and drink in the sunlight. You radiate beams of stillness into me. There will be no anxiety within me today. 

June 8 8am

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord determines his steps. . .”

Am I willing to take this to the grandest extreme? If every single plan I made or decided for the rest of my life was redirected by You, would I obey? If you called me to move to India next summer, would I do it? Would I do it cause I have to? Would I do it cause I trust you? For those who want to plan their lives to a T, the way of Jesus is not safe for them. For those who want to accomplish all that they desire, the way of Jesus might not be so accommodating. 

I’m not saying it’s bad to plan or that all of us should forfeit designing our lives. But I am saying that we must always hold things loosely. We must always be willing to release our own plans and ideals for the sake of the cross. This school year I was so guilty of clinging to my ideals for plans and situations. During these days, I’m realizing what a waste of energy that all was. 

(Sidenote: At this point, I don’t feel called to move to India next summer, it's just an example;) 

June 9 1:15pm

Wow dang social media sucks kind of. It is so not good to just sit around on a more low-key day and scroll. I feel so much FOMO, so out of the loop of what other people are doing. And it’s funny because it’s 3am back at home and if I were there right now I’d just be asleep. lol. 

I have SO MANY MORE words to share!! God is moving me and purifying me and all I can do is overflow with praise. 

 

I can't even put into words how fond I am of Rosie!! Thankful for this gal pal of mine. 

I can't even put into words how fond I am of Rosie!! Thankful for this gal pal of mine. 

Movie night on the balcony :-) 

Movie night on the balcony :-) 

ALL THIS WAS LESS THAN 5 USD. THANKFUL N BLESSED. 

ALL THIS WAS LESS THAN 5 USD. THANKFUL N BLESSED. 

Journal entries from week 1 in India by rebecca keating

The main road through Sielmat that leads to Prayer Mountain

The main road through Sielmat that leads to Prayer Mountain

May 24, Munich Airport

I am so thankful for all the prayers that have been prayed over me and this trip. It is so uplifting—entering into this adventure knowing that I am not alone in spirit. Physically and mentally, a lot of this trip I’ll learn to be alone in ways I’ve never had to experience before. It’s going to be wildly challenging and hopefully transformational. But, being alone in spirit is something I am so thankful I will never had to experience. With the Holy Spirit as my constant companion, and the prayers of friends, family, and even some strangers, I have all that I need. 

May 27, Sielmat

In a previous post about coming to India, I asked that people would pray “for the Lord to show up in ways that I could not plan on my own in the church services and times of fellowship with the Hmar community”. I’m on my third full day here and I can already declare that that prayer is being answered! I’m here to study lament in the Hmar evangelical church, and on my first Sunday here, the English worship service’s sermon was on Job! I couldn’t have planned this myself! I couldn’t have known that the speaker today would be led to speak about suffering on one of my first days here! I asked God to take this discipline of anthropology and make it Spirit-led. He’s got me for sure. 

May 29, Sielmat

God showed up again in a way that I could not plan for on my own! One of the things I have heard my mom and grandmother talk a lot about is how it would be really good to experience a funeral here in the village. They said how we grieve a person's death is so unique here, and I could learn a lot from observing and participating in a funeral service. 

It's probs not the best idea to hope that someone dies just so I can get research done, or celebrate death, but someone died this morning at 8:30am. By 10:30, people were clothed in black, deciding to take the day off of work to participate in the funeral. Getting to observe this today is going to be so fruitful for my work. Instead of simply interviewing people about funerals and how they grieve a person's death, I get to observe it firsthand. 

On another note, I'm dealing with a lot of loneliness. Culture shock hit me hard--I think I've already gone through all four stages. I'm homesick, and adjusting to a totally different way of living is stressful! I don't have the same kind of control over my day to day that I do at home. I don't have a schedule. I don't speak the language and when I'm feeling sad or alone, I don't have close friends to comfort and encourage me. 

I'm realizing the things I take for granted and the things that are second nature to me. I'm praying the most desperate prayers I've had to pray in a long time. I asked God to prepare me for this trip and all that was in store, and I have faith that He has given me all that I need to be present, to work well, and to love well. 

There is so much to learn about and grow in while I'm out here. These days, though they're long and sometimes exhausting, have so much to teach me. In my most angsty moments of wanting to quit and give up, the Lord is faithful to encourage and empower my spirit. I abide in Him, and I have all that I need. 

Outside our flat in Delhi, where I stayed for two nights

Outside our flat in Delhi, where I stayed for two nights

Papaya tree next to our house in Sielmat!

Papaya tree next to our house in Sielmat!

India is happening soon and things I am trying to remember by rebecca keating

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I am leaving for India in 12 days!! During the school semester it was so hard to slow down and pause to ask myself how I’m feeling about the trip, what I can do to prepare for it, etc. Now that I’m out of school and home at my parents’, I’m met with an abundance of free time to think, pray, and cultivate and dispel anxiety all at once. 

The hardest thing to think through in preparing for this trip both practically and mentally is knowing the reality that I am going to forget things. I’m going to forget to pack enough of something, I’m going to forget to make note of something in my surroundings. I probably won’t take enough pictures, and I definitely won’t be sure to capture every single thing that I feel in words. 

How do I reconcile my awareness that I am not going to make note of everything? That I am not going to see everything I should try to see while I am there, that I am bound to be forget some things? 

Despite worrying about my forgetfulness, I’m praying that the Lord would help me to be mindful now. I’m making all the checklists that I can, lists of things I want to take note of and bring, and things that value, so that I don’t forget what my purpose is. I'm practicing rest now, so that I remember to rest there. I'm making sure that I am listening for God in these days, so that I know to hear him there.  

I will forget to be wholehearted. I will waste time. I will forget to worship, and not just observe. I will doubt my capabilities. But by grace, and in the strength of the Lord, I will still go confidently. I will go with boldness. I will be mindful today, and let tomorrow take care of itself. 

The Standstill by rebecca keating

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“Your growth is found in the standstill” is what God told me last Thursday. I’ve been experiencing a disconnect from God and from myself for three weeks. Everything feels like it’s on hold until I finish all the work that is required of me. What does growth look like in the seasons that don’t have us achieving our goals one right after the other? What does growing look like when podcasts and sermons and books don’t bring more closeness to God and learning more seems pointless? 

I’ve been expanding what it means for me to grow. The definition of growth in my life has for so long been contingent upon how much I’m learning and progressing. But God is drawing me out of that, calling me to show up and seek Him in the stillness.

This season's growth is coming as I learn to encounter God’s love without the intellectual lenses that I like to apply. Growth in the standstill looks like pushing past my longing to think my way to God’s voice. 

And after days of restlessness, I have finally gotten still before God. And He is bringing me to a place of more intimate worship and more single-minded encounter. 

I'M GOING TO INDIA by rebecca keating

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Back in high school, I’m pretty sure I Instagrammed or blogged about going to India at least a dozen times. My mom’s side of the family is from the Hmar tribe of India, tucked away into the Northeast edges of the country, and that place is so special to me. I have travelled there twice, when I was 13 and when I was 15, and both trips carry some of my fondest, most vibrant and exhilarating memories. The past 6 years have been really focused on being where my feet are (aka in school), but the time has come where fulfilling my duties as a student calls me back to India. 

Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) is a major and program where a student can combine multiple disciplines to gain understanding on a specific question or topic. I have the honor of participating in this program, and in it, I am integrating English, Theology, and Anthropology. I’m using these disciplines to understand lament, songwriting, and the Evangelical church cultures of NE India and the US. My claim is that there needs to be more space for lament in our North American Evangelical churches, as many do not make room for lament as often as they should. I want to understand this lack in our congregational worship, then look at churches in Northeast India and observe how they respond to suffering and practice lament in worship. 

In my two trips to our village in Sielmat, India, I witnessed worship services in which people were experiencing great sorrow; the way that other members of the congregation mourn with the hurting is truly beautiful. What furthers that beauty is that these services are never only a time of sadness. There is always an acknowledgement of a hope of healing and praise to God for His faithfulness, even when suffering is present. I want to understand this way of lament in the Hmar tribe’s churches to inspire a more rhythmic practice of Biblical lament in our North American churches.

This summer, I will spend 6 weeks in Northeast India. I will stay in my family’s village and travel throughout the surrounding area. There I will do ethnographic research consisting of participant observation and interviews. I will attend and participate in church services and meet with people from the village.

To allow my trip to happen with ease, having financial support would be an incredible blessing. If you’re willing, I would receive with utmost gratitude any donations for this trip. They will go toward travel expenses such as airfare and lodging. To donate, simply click the “Donate to my research project in India” button on the right sidebar of this site. (All donations ARE tax deductible:-) It will take you to the giving page where you can take it from there! 

If you are able to aid in funding my research project and trip, I would love to thank you by acknowledging you in my final project, and I will send a copy of my research project to you when I graduate in May 2019 and complete my study. Prayers are always, always welcome and appreciated: pray specifically for safety while traveling and for the Lord to show up in ways that I could not plan on my own in the church services and times of fellowship with the Hmar community. Lastly, I will be doing my best to post often on this blog and on Instagram during my trip. Be sure to insert your email into my subscription box to get my words and photos straight to your inbox!

I’m thrilled about this opportunity to research in such a unique way the topics and people that I have so much love for. My past trips to India have been so formative in my becoming, and I'm on my tippy toes with expectancy for what this trip will hold.

If you are joining with me monetarily or simply spiritually, I'm excited to continue learning about our global Church family and share with you what I learn! 

THINGS I AM UNLEARNING ABOUT JUSTICE (an essay i've been trying to write for 2 years now) by rebecca keating

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One of the biggest things that I wrestle with when it comes to the church is the fact that there are people who go to Bible studies or lead children’s ministry, are married to elders or go on mission trips, sing in church choirs or even lead worship, and yet they withhold forgiveness from their brothers and sisters. Or they gossip about about their pastor’s spouse. Maybe they verbally abuse their children. How are these people constantly before God in church / Christ following settings, and yet so unlike Him in these blatant ways? 

I know we all sin. I am not exempt from this whole thing. I go to church and rave about meeting God in worship and then I snark at my roommates. But it aches me that because our nature is fallen, we can be in church and listen to worship music and lead bible studies but still fall so so short. 

I struggle to trust God in the area of convicting and refining other people. It can be hard to believe that the Holy Spirit I am listening to is the same one others are listening to because their actions make me wonder if we have two different Gods. Maybe people don’t have the desire to imitate Christ. There is probably so much they have yet to understand. There is probably a lot that I don't understand about them.

Not gonna lie — these things have been prompted within me because they are so personal. There are people who I know are in the church and declare a love for the Lord, but have hurt me deeply. They have inflicted wounds toward me that they know about, but may not perceive the same way as I do. I wish I could be the Holy Spirit in them and convict them to mend things between us. I so badly want to tell them how they have hurt me and make sure they feel sorry for the years of ache my heart has suffered from it. I want them to know that it’s been a difficult journey of learning to thoroughly forgive. But that’s not my place and I am not the Holy Spirit. Jesus never said that “I’m sorry” must be served with a side of long winded apologies. 

I want to trust that because these people who have hurt me know God and are in Christian community, that they will see clearly how far our relationship is from the type of relationship that God desires for His beloved children. But it has been a really long time and I don’t know if they’ll ever say anything again. It pains me that we might die unreconciled. Even though full redemption in heaven is a true reality ahead for us, and there we won’t carry the pain of all that has been left unreconciled, it’s still hard to know that Christ followers may die with grudges remaining in our hearts. 

I’m a justice oriented person. I have learned a lot about grace as I’ve become a more mature Christ follower, and I have gotten better at being inclined to extend grace to others and myself especially. But up until two days ago, I don’t think I had a sound grasp on what God’s justice is like. My thoughts of justice have been tainted by a sinful desire to get back at people and make them feel so sorry for things. 

But I just finished reading John Mark Comer’s book God Has a Name and it changed how I think about justice. He writes, “Yahweh’s justice isn’t about retribution or payback . . .it’s about the healing and renewal of the world.” (226) [WOWOWOW] 

God desires justice not because He has a burning desire to get revenge. God is not just in that he wants people to feel the sting of their sin until they die. God’s justice is about healing. God’s justice is about restoration. 

I am asking God to change the way I consider justice. Now I don’t want justice for the people I’ve described in that I want them to feel terrible about their behavior and come repent to me. I don’t want justice for them so that I can finally relax and stop thirsting for them to see their wrongs clearly. I desire justice in that I want them to repent of their sins and feel the healing and restoration of God’s image in them—not the image that I think they should morph into. 

Yesterday in chapel, our chaplain talked about how someday, the people that sit in worship services, inattentive and distracted and preoccupied with doing things besides being caught up in “breathless wonder” of God — they will be in heaven someday — and they will be so overtaken by God’s presence that they will be unrecognizable. 

This image brought me to think about all of the people in the church that I have a bad taste toward because of how they have hurt me or others and how I don’t understand how people who love God could act so cruelly. And I got caught up in it as I realized that they are a part of this vision — even these people will be in heaven, worshipping in the same space as me. Then we won’t see each other for the hurt and the pain. Instead, we will all be swept up in the glory of God and see one another clothed in forgiveness, faces radiant with redemption. 

In my truer grasp on God’s healing-seeking justice, and in the confidence that one day we will all be together in heaven, I release my bitterness. I can surrender my need to understand what God is going to make of all of this because we’ll all be worshipping together in eternity anyway. For now I’ll press into what my friend Aimee once told me: eyes on myself and Jesus—that’s all that matters. 

With this advice in hand, I no longer have a need to wait around, itching to get an apology, itching for my version of justice to play out with these brothers and sisters. It’s not encouraging for me to stand with my arms crossed and pouting when hurtful people don’t get the punishment I think they deserve. My place is not to condemn people who do church things but then also hurt me. Eyes on myself and Jesus — seeking to forgive without hesitation as He does, seeking to love well even when I don’t feel loved well.

As I unlearn my old ways of justice and unbind myself from bitterness, I ease into the peace that comes with the overwhelming image of us all in heaven — fully restored and completely captivated by the majesty of our forgiving King.