For Fear of Hell

I was baptized on May 20, 2007. It was just before I was going to be an eighth grader – I guess that means that I was thirteen. I just remember waking up one morning, a Sunday, and telling my parents that I wanted to get baptized. That night. And then I went back to sleep, which was weird. My parents really didn’t ever let me sleep through church unless I was running a fever or throwing up. But that morning, as I remember anyway, I just went back to sleep in a sea of pink. The light in my room was positively vibrant – pink from the curtains, and from the walls, and from the bedding.

Let me backtrack a little. I don’t know why I got this into my head, but even as a kid I was terrified that I would die, and since I wasn’t baptized, I would go to Hell. No questions asked, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars style. (Actually no, I completely understand how that got into my head, but more on that later.) I have clear memories of trying to baptize myself at the swimming pool, hoping that my mom wouldn’t know what I was doing and ask me about it. I wanted it to be personal, my elementary school last ditch effort to save my soul. And I think that God probably looked down on me, and gave a sad little chuckle. Sad at my fear, and grinning at my innocence. And then you fast forward to seventh grade Maggie, just waking up and feeling like it was high time I was actually, properly baptized by my dad, in my church, with others there to see it.

Part of me is kind of annoyed at seventh grade Maggie for that. I had no idea what I was committing to, the ramifications of living a life with Christ, and I knew it! I knew that I had no idea what I was really getting myself into, and was immensely aware that there was no way that I could live up to the expectations of a Godly woman one hundred percent of the time. I guess part of what pushed me over was this weekly Bible study I went to. I remember the woman in charge asking us one day what we were waiting for? And I said “I’m just scared that I’m not ready yet, that I’m not good enough.” And she said, “Well honey, you’ll never be good enough! Nobody is! You’ll have to stop waiting for that!”

But there’s another part of me. This Maggie finds great joy in the way that my thirteen year old self just jumped into it. That I, for a moment, was able to say “I know that I won’t ever be good enough, but I want you and for you to take me anyway”. Trusting in God has become so much harder since then. I’ve been thinking a lot on the passages that talk about leaving one’s father and mother to follow Christ and I’ve decided that that is just about the most horrible thing I can imagine. To no longer have them within driving distance for an extended amount of time; but I fear that God is calling me away regardless of this fact. He knows the taste I have for adventure, and he is using that to his advantage. And I’m just going to have to trust that whatever happens is the right thing. And that is horrifying, but if I trusted God when I was thirteen and had no clue about what the future held for me, why can’t I trust him now? My spur of the moment baptism, I feel, symbolizes the way I’ve walked with God. It’s been messy and irrational and I screw up a lot, but he reminds me with random moments of his love, unconditional and eternal.

And then there’s another part of me that is just kind of flat out angry with the church. In elementary school I was afraid that I would go to Hell if I wasn’t “properly” baptized in front of my congregation, or the part of it that showed up, anyway. Maybe I’m just a particularly fearful person, but I think that we as the church need to rethink the way that we think of redemption. Yes, I do believe that we need to take on Christ in baptism, but I don’t think we need to indoctrinate children in a way that makes them grow up to be people who are baptized less for a love of God and of people than for a fear of damnation. How we do that? I have no real idea. All I can think of is love. And I believe that love is truly the most powerful tool we have be given. We can build from there.

I guess I’ve been thinking about my own baptism a lot lately because we’ve had so many staffers be rebaptized. It makes me want to do the same, but I’m terrified that doing so would be doing it for the wrong reason. Like keeping my original baptism is a testament to my faith in God’s salvation. There’s this little voice in my head that says if I’m rebaptized, I’m doubting. I’m trying to save myself with a little extra holy water. But I know that’s silly. Rebaptism isn’t an attempt to save myself. It’s a shout of joy at the everlasting hope that I have in God. It’s a physical reminder that I am cleansed, and accepted. I haven’t decided yet, and I am in no rush to. I know that I am redeemed. But, on the off chance that you’re reading this, and you’re the praying type, I would appreciate it if you would pray that I make a decision that is right with God.

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“Would you like to stay for dinner?” “Wouldya like to stay forever!?”

So, today marks the first day of my third week as a camp counselor, and let me tell you РI have the best summer job. Ever. Period. Last Thursday I spent the evening watching Mulan, painting nails, and eating pizza with middle school girls. I had a watergun fight in the SWRC pool. I got to share my faith and have others share their own with me, I played games, got dinner for free, and to top it all off I work with a staff that has become family to me. As Dillon put it in our MPulse color group, we all love each other unconditionally, and the knowledge of the truth in that is an overwhelming joy. 

The point of this whole post is to gush about these kids and this staff and the volunteers and how blessed I am by them. So if you’re not up for that, I suggest you quit reading now. ūüôā

Kadesh 1

K1 was crazy. It was like nothing went like it was planned to go, and yet it all worked out because God likes to do his own thing. The biggest wrench in the plan was that lovely little hail storm that had an adverse effect (affect? I have such a hard time keeping those two straight.) on every pocketbook in Abilene. Including those of a majority of the camp counselors, staff, volunteers, and even a couple of the campers. And we took care of each other. At two o’clock the next morning, when it started to pour down rain,¬†a couple of the boy counselors were parking damaged cars under the awning at the WPAC.

I got to be a kind-of group leader for a bunch of Abilene kids, which was unexpected and awesome, and played ERS in the Campus Center with some very competitive campers, resulting in loss of a small piece of skin from the palm of my hand. One of my girl’s best friends gave us his testimony during free time, and we played a lot of Apples to Apples.

The girls on my hall and the hall next to me were definitely the ones who I became closest to, and a girl from downstairs who I just ended up hanging out with a lot. They opened my eyes to just how close the community here at Kadesh is – my sister always talks about it, but I hadn’t experienced it first hand. It is¬†insane. It’s like, these campers just kind of accept one another. The girls who I got to spend the most time around were particularly accepting and open with one another. Some were boy crazy, some hated to follow the dress code, some couldn’t wait to come to ACU for school (“I come to Abilene, and it just feels right”), and some just wanted someone to listen to them or to hug or to laugh with, and they just shared snacks and experiences and loved on one another. While I didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with these campers because they were so often in their groups, I definitely got the jackpot corridor for K1.

As far as the staff goes – another¬†really cool thing happened after the hail. So many of us had hail damage that it was decided by a few of the counselors that it would be easier to just have our own church service in the Blacktop on Sunday morning than trying to facilitate a way to get everyone where they wanted to go. That would’ve been pretty much impossible. So now we have Counselor Church every Sunday morning, come one come all.

MPulse 1

Y’ALL. MPULSE ONE. Holy goodness gracious. I wish I could just show y’all pictures of all of the girls on my hall laughing with each other because it was impossible not to smile when those girls were around. I had the youngest of the bunch, girls going into the eighth grade. The theme of the camp this summer is Agape (which according to a misinformed friend of mine¬†is a color), but the girls¬†seemed to already have this down. I hope it’s okay for me to tell the following story, because I can’t resist. It’s just too amazing to keep to myself. One room on my hall housed two best friends. We’ll call them¬†Miriam and Oswin, because I’m writing this post and I like those names and I’d just feel better if I didn’t put their real names out there¬†on the big bad internet even though anyone who worked at camp this summer will know who I’m talking about. Oswin has cancer, and Miriam shaved her head when Oswin’s hair started to fall out from the treatments. (Keep in mind that this has been going on for at¬†least¬†a year, so when this started happening the girls were 6th/7th graders.) Sunday night, I’m walking to dinner with these two girls, and Miriam says to me that she’s going to Africa next summer, and that she’s really excited.

“That’s so cool”, I told her. “What are you going to do there?”

“Oh, we’re digging a well!” She kind of hopped when she said this. I had been expecting for her to tell me that she’s going with her church on a medical mission.

I thought that was amazing enough, but the next part put my stomach in a knot and melted my knees. Without taking the time to bat an eyelid, Oswin said “Yeah, it’s her Make-A-Wish.”

 

Like, what?!

This eight grade girl who is facing death head on, who could use her one Make-A-Wish trip to do literally whatever she wanted, is going to Africa next summer to dig a well. She is using death’s attempt to take her as a means to give others a fighting chance at life. If that isn’t agape, I don’t know what is.

This one moment is pretty indicative¬†the rest of my week. They all accepted each other for who they were. The group had girls from every point on the spectrum of eighth grade social awkwardness, and they did nothing but include and love on each other, myself and Abby included. We have devo every night in my room, and on Monday night I asked them what they wanted to talk about the rest of the week at devo, and they said that they wanted to talk about being homesick. So, the next night, that’s what we did. And the most heartwarming thing happened – it turned into a room with myself, Abby, and ten middle school girls going around popcorn style telling about our own homesickness remedies. At dinner one night, we talked about how the Harry Potter books were¬†way¬†better than the movies, because the way *SPOILER ALERT* Voldemort dies in the movies is so¬†weird, among other reasons. One of the smallest, most giggly girls on my hall informed me that she had played Shere Khan in her school’s production of¬†The Jungle Book, because this sweet little girl had “the loudest voice in my whooolleee class!”

The last night, I walked in to hear them singing along to some new Brit Nicole CD on Spotify. For the rest of the night, we just hung out in my room eating pizza and painting nails, watching Mulan (which includes quoting, singing, and laughing a lot). 
My color group was awesome too. I felt a little out of place at first, because us PM counselors are only with them for a few hours¬†every afternoon/night. But the group leaders and the campers alike made Chandler, Dillon, Abby and I feel like we were a full-fledged part of the group. They even included us in the blessing at the end of the week, which is a¬†huge deal. We wrote each other these encouragement notes, among which are some really sweet, serious ones, while some are sweet but also say things like “You’re cool for a Harry Potter geek”. (A little backstory on that – on the first day of color groups, we played the game where you pick a word that starts with the same letter as your first name, and then go around the circle saying everyone’s who went before you before adding on your own to the list, and mine was Muggle Maggie. Apparently, fewer people in this age group know Harry Potter than I expected. But seeing as how very few of the campers knew what a Muggle is, they had a hard time remembering the word and my name. This led to some fun variations, like Mugger Maggie, Muggie Maggie, Muffled Maggie, and my personal favorite, Mother Mary.)
There was also this group of boys who went around the last two days of camps talking like pirates. And these weren’t the youngest guys – these were the oldest ones. At MPulse, the counselors are split up into pairs or groups of three, and assigned a Spiritual Discipline (i.e., worship, hospitality, and solitude) to teach a class on. The campers can pick whichever one they want to go to, and one of the counselors who teaches Scripture Memorization with me, Josh, happens to be the counselor of these Pirate Boys. While they were actually quite funny pirates, we ended up telling them that the next person to make a joke about “Arrg, I’m going to find the booty!” would receive no candy in class, even if they won the games. Their reaction to this was “Arrg, I’m going to find the gluteus maximus!” One of the pirates was also in our color group, and this one in particular¬†decided to change my name from Muggle Maggie to First Mate Maggie.¬†
The Staff
Oh, my camp family. I freaking love them. There’s never a dull moment. Joanna wore my death trap heels to Sonic, a huge group of us went to the pool on Saturday and played Sharks and Minnows, we eat together, we explore together, we give each other rides places, and we’re there to pick each other up. Two nights ago, Josh showed us that the library had dumped a bunch of books in the dumpsters, so we retrieved some. Last night, we stayed up too late playing Battle of the Sexes. This morning, one of our girls decided to be rebaptized. We watch The Office and 90’s chick flicks a lot, play cards, walk the Lunsford, laugh at and with each other, and sometimes we even share groceries – if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
K2 started today, and it’s off with a bang. I can’t wait to see what these campers have in store for me, and what God has in store for us.

GOOD MORNING, ABILENE

Contrary to the title of this post, it’s not morning here. Not nearly, though I wish it was. I’ve always been a night owl, but the problem with that is that I begin to miss the sunlight.

I’ve always been a bit of an optimist. A sarcastic optimist, often, but deep down an optimist. I’ve also never really been able to pinpoint what I want to do with my life. The answer to the question “So what do you want to do with your life, Maggie?” has always been one that I’ve answered with some level of excitement and assuredness that yes, this is what I want. Even if I knew that wasn’t what I was going to stick with. For a long time it was English teacher, then at the beginning of this semester when posed with that question by one of my favorite humans, Mel Hailey, I gave a brutally honest response: Lots of things. I want to be a Disney princess in Florida one summer, Dr. Hailey (“Well, you can’t be that forever! Haha. What’s a more long term plan?” was the gist of his response), I want to be a writer, I want to help people, I want to be a pub/bar church/music venue owner.

One of the most beautiful things about studying abroad is that you fall in love with far away, wondrous places and amazingly relatable, human people. Nothing could’ve prepared me for how much I fell in love with people. Barcelona, Vienna, Budapest, Dublin. St. David’s, Haverfordwest, and Broadhaven, Wales. The people are just people. And that’s what makes them remarkable and wonderful and loving. And on this trip I realized that I never want to leave them, and that now I know for sure that I am one of them. We’re all one people, and we all have this amazing capacity to hope and to love. I guess you could say I woke up.

So now, when people ask me what I want to do with my life, I smile. I say, sometimes¬†often too fast so that I receive confused looks and have to repeat myself, that I want to work for something like a humanitarian organization. Something where I can help people and love them. My ideal job would be one where I get to fight for people, and love on kids all day, and give a home to those who need it. I guess that’s not a job though, it’s a vocation. And I can’t wait.

But before I can go out there, I want to finish college, graduate from ACU with a degree in International Studies, concentrations in Europe and the Middle East. I want to go on and get my Master’s degree (hopefully from Trinity College in Dublin), learn languages, and learn more about God. Right now, in order to finish the first goal on this list, I’m in this little class called Terrorism Studies. Exciting, right? Actually, it is really interesting, and I know that I’m going to learn a lot. However. It’s hard to stay optimistic when I’m sitting in a classroom for an hour and a half hearing lecture over the evils of radical groups who like to use bombs to get their point across, to show everybody that they mean business. No matter how much you know that it isn’t true, it’s not fun to know that there is a group of people out there who consider you to be pure evil, The Great Satan. And then I go to work in the Political Science office, and even though I’m surrounded by some of my favorite people on campus, I’m also watching the news. And the thing about 24 hour news is that it repeats itself over and over again, so you see a story about a school shooting covered three or four times without any new information since the first one and it makes you sick and then there are three shootings within two days and there are women who are¬†so hurt that they are threatening to blow up civilians and there are governments who are using chemical weapons against children and there are kids who don’t have parents because their parents were killed in the genocide and there are parents who don’t have their kids because Kony took them and suddenly the world isn’t full of hope and love and you’re stuck, and whether you pray or not sometimes it feels like nothing will be okay for those people and you lose your hope.

And that’s where I’ve been off and on lately. I’ve been engulfed by this grey cloud since late last night. After work today, I went straight home. Not dorm home, home home, and I stayed there until 10:00. I spent an hour just hanging out with my dad, and I started crying and telling him why I was upset (he’s one of those people who can always tell when I’m off) and instead of the simple “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay” that I have given out before when I don’t know what else to say, he just talked with me. He talked about how it seems bad now, but it¬†will¬†be okay, eventually. Something’s always wrong. But it’ll be okay. We talked about how we’ve made it this far, we’ll keep on surviving.

He’s right. Because in all of that bad, there’s always hope. We as humans have this really insane and beautiful knack for taking up arms and radiating hope, love, and determination, even in the face of peril. We’re never going to give up. One of my favorite books, Looking for Alaska by John Green, includes one of my favorite quotes: “When adults say, ‘Teenagers think they are invincible’ with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.” (My only qualm with this is that it seems like all adults have lost hope, but if lack of hope is the measurement of adulthood, I refuse to grow up.) The human spirit can only be broken if we let it be. The one thing I have control over is my soul, and whether or not I choose to crumble or snap. And even when I give up, God can fix me. He can put me back together again, and does over and over, and it’s amazing.

When people ask me what I want to do with my life, I smile, because the simplest, most honest answer I can give is one that they are not looking for. It’s not a doctor, or a psychologist, or an actress. It’s that I want to experience and contribute to humanity, I want to show God’s love and see it working around me, and quite honestly I think that’s perfect, even for someone like me who messes up often and would rather listen to AC/DC than the Newsboys just about any day of the week. And sometimes I get the “Oh Honey” shake of the head at my “innocent outlook” on life, but those people completely misunderstand. I don’t love people so much because I think that humanity is spotless. I love people so much because we choose to fight when we must, and there’s a light that seeps out of us that cannot be squelched out by any darkness, and I want in on the battle.

God gives us an unlimited supply of hope. It’s hard to get to sometimes, but it’s there. He’s always there, and we needn’t fret or be dismayed. We never need to fear or lose hope. But even when we do, God’s there to catch us if we let Him, no matter where we are in the world, no matter who our parents are, no matter what language we speak.

Naan For Me, Thanks.

Wondering “Hmm, when is Maggie going to do anything that even remotely has anything to do with recipes?”¬†

Well, I’ve finally got something recipe related.

There’s a group of us here who always eat dinner together, and we’ve started planning it to where one person cooks for everyone once a week, that way we don’t spend a ton of money on food while we’re here. My plan was to make these little mini pizza biscuits (recipe here:¬†http://www.melissas-cuisine.com/2013/04/pizza-sliders.html).¬†

So I get to the store, looking for ingredients to make biscuits from scratch, cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni. For the biscuits, I would need flour, crisco, baking powder, baking soda, and buttermilk.

 

Guess what no one in the UK uses.

Crisco and buttermilk. And, apparently, pepperoni. Greatttt.

So, after starting to kind of panic a little and after asking a shop attendant if they had buttermilk, I improvised. Turns out, naan makes fantastic pizza crust. 

Maggie’s Naan Pizza

  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celcius
  • Put your naan on a cookie sheet, then put pizza (or pasta, like I used) sauce, and grated cheese.¬†
  • Put it in the oven for five or so minutes (or until you think the cheese is brown enough for your taste).
  • As Natalie learned, LET IT COOL BEFORE EATING. Boiling hot cheese is not so fun.¬†
  • Enjoy! ūüôā¬†

Stuck Between “Boy Crazy” and “Maybe She’s a Lesbian”

(I’m about to rant a little bit, but part of why I’m doing it is so that if some person out there stumbles across this blog post, they’ll know they’re not alone. Feeling like you’re the only one like you is the worst.)

 

I hate being a girl sometimes. Especially when I’m surrounded (generally) by status-quo girls.

Why? Being a girl is great, when you get doors opened for you, and when guys call you ma’am, and when you get free stuff. But it’s not so great when you don’t really fit in with the girls, and you’re the only one who wants to do a cannon ball contest, and you like cooking but would rather talk about¬†The Walking Dead¬†than about who is dating who (even though, let’s face it, that can be intriguing). And then you get the weird looks from the girls and the “huh. must be a lesbian” looks from the guys. And then the girls judge you hard for being boy crazy because you get along better with the guys, which puts a bigger wedge in that friendship, and the guys only include you because why not, or even worse just ignore you, or go back to the “huh. must be a lesbian” looks.¬†Awesome.

Maybe I’m just feeling victimized, but since I feel like I can’t really talk to anybody besides the rents about this, and they’re both asleep, I’m blogging about it.

The Love Yourself Remedy

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” – Mark 12, MSG

 

I have a really hard time with the loving myself. As I’m packing for a semester, I can’t help but think through every little scenario that could go wrong because I screw up. Every scene that plays through my head either includes me messing something up horribly, or ends with me telling myself “That would never happen. When do those things happen in real life? To you, anyway?” I guess you could say that I’m kind of hard on myself. And by kind of, really. But I know that I’m not the only one who is like this. There are tons of us out there who live on a diet of self-deprecation and black coffee. We allow little hope for ourselves, while trying to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt. But something I’ve noticed is that when I’m in a particularly low and muddy rut of self-doubt, I become more bitter towards the world around me, no matter how many people I give second and third chances to. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It’s way harder to love others when we can’t love ourselves. And I’m finally starting to really love myself, thank goodness. I still look in the mirror sometimes and say “Ugly”, but more and more often I say “Huh. Not bad.” I’m starting to let me love me, and consequently I feel like I love others more genuinely. It’s amazing.¬†

Love yourself.

He Is Jealous For Me.

So, I didn’t go to church tonight. I’m not running a temperature, nor am I vomiting. I haven’t been at work all day, nor was I up all night taking care of a sick baby. I just didn’t feel up to facing people tonight. Not a lot of them anyway. Why? Because I’m in this constant state of tears. They just hit, and won’t stop. Right now, the words on my screen are blurry.¬†

And I am so wrong.

I know how silly all of this is. My hate for my own tears. I¬†despise crying in front of people. It is one of my absolute least favorite things in the world. But I have no problems with other people’s tears, in fact I want for those who are hurting to always know that they can come to me. All the same, I would almost rather crawl up in a ball and die than cry in front of people. And tonight is praise night, and I know that if I had gone the waterworks would’ve started for sure.¬†

So here I am, sitting on my couch, listening to worship music and singing to myself and typing this to you and balling like a baby.¬†I’ve had a lot of trouble lately with talking to God, I guess singing and crying has become my way of communication with Him.

Here’s the thing. No matter how many times I tell myself this, I seem to always forget. I’m sure that God would love for us to be ship shape and in line with what He wants for us. But He loves us and takes us¬†as we are.¬†He takes us broken, screwed up, ship shape, or brilliant. He takes us with tears streaming down our faces. Why? Because He loves us¬†so much.¬†

Would you give your child a stone when he asks for bread?

How much more are you loved?

It doesn’t matter how broken or twisted or useless you think you are, or I think I am, we are His, and we are loved. He is jealous for me. And for you. And if I cry in church, that should be absolutely 100% okay with me. It’s just something that I’ve got to work on, I guess.

Sweet Snack – Fried Honey Bananas

I found this recipe and it’s delicious! It’s so easy, but I never would’ve thought to try it on my own.

http://rachelschultz.com/2013/05/15/fried-honey-bananas/

Step Uno: Drizzle a little olive oil into a frying pan, and put your banana slices in there. Put the pan over medium heat, and wait until they start to sizzle (When you turn them over they should be dark yellow/starting to turn a little brown. The dark yellow is after one to two minutes after you’ve started cooking them. Just cook them for as long as you want!)

Step Dos: While this is cooking, make a little honey water concoction. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of water mixed with 1 tablespoon of honey, but you can pretty much eyeball it. The exact measurement was way too much for me!

Step Three: When you’ve cooked the bananas as long as you wanted, flip them over and repeat.

Step Four: When they’re as brown as you want them, put them on a plate or in a bowl or what have you, and pour your honey mixture on top! Then, sprinkle some cinnamon ¬†(or nutmeg, if you’re not fond of cinnamon) on top. (Or, if you’re like me, you just mix it all together.) You’re supposed to wait until the bananas are cooled off, but I prefer them hot.

Enjoy!

Pro tip! These would probably be really delicious as a topping on ice cream or something like that.

This guy is saving forests using cloning

Grist

Cloning: a great idea for Ryan Gosling, but old-growth trees? American tree conservationist David Milarch thinks that since 1,000-year-old British ‚Äúsuper-trees‚ÄĚ have withstood climate change and thousands of carved initials, they can take a little tampering with their genes. He and his nonprofit, Archangel, are on a $3 million mission to reproduce the trees and give away the cloned babies.

Pop quiz. Super-trees are super because …

A) They watch over you and protect you while you sleep (but not in a creepy way)

B) They wear tights and are impervious to pain

C) They can breathe underwater, morph into animals, and travel through time

D) Shut up and go back to giving me the news

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