Philemon: Small Book, Big Message


     On our first day of class where we learned the Inductive Bible study method, we practiced on the book Philemon. I’m pretty sure that I had never read it before. When our school leader said the name Philemon, my first thought was, “Is that really a book of the Bible?” I had no clue it was even in there!

     When I flipped to it and glanced over the single page, I wondered why it was even included. It seemed just like a random letter that didn’t have any relevance other than to Philemon himself, the one who the letter was written to. How could one page of a personal letter possibly have an important message to convey?

     By the time we finished the book, I was absolutely blown away by how much there was in this single page, just 25 verses in one chapter. I was shocked at how much substance there was, when I had read it only 2 hours before and quickly decided from the shallow read that there was nothing important in this book.

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Take Note

After spending 6 weeks here in the main city of the country we’re in, we took an 8 hour bus ride to a smaller city to spend 2 weeks in before a 2 week trek. We had stayed up late the night before, packing and reflecting and fellow shopping with other teams who lived in the same guesthouse as us. Since we had stayed up so late, when we woke up early to leave the next morning I was tired and slept a lot on the bus ride. In the beginning there was not much to look at, because it was still the dusty and dry landscape of the capitol. When I woke up the first time to see the river we were careening past, at a frighteningly high speed on a very narrow and windy mountain road, it was completely brown as well as all the shrubbery and trees and everything else that was around. I had pangs in my heart because my eyes had been starved of the beauty of nature for a longer time than I have ever been used to. 
Soon after, I feel asleep because I deemed the scenery to be unimportant and not worth paying attention to. When I woke up again I was looking back through pictures on my phone of our time in the city, but happened to look out the window for a few seconds. I had to do a double take when my eyes caught the sight of something they were not expecting to see: a crystal clear blue river!  

It was something simple. It was just a beautiful river, yet it was so much more than that. It was food for my thoughts. 

Where else in my life do I look down and not notice the change? Where else do I not take notice of the breakthrough? Where do I look over the process? 

Our travel from capitol to mountains (Follow the link to check out a short video of the bus ride!) 
Look up. Look up from the distractions and notice the journey He is taking you on, notice His hand in everything.  

Ritualism and the Temple of Death

    The second temple we went to was called the temple of death. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. We had been told a little bit about the place before we arrived, but were not expecting what it actually was. We knew it was a place where Hindus came to be cremated because they believe they will be reincarnated into a higher being in their next life. I knew there would be a spirit of death there, but didn’t realize how heavily it would cover the entire area.          

    Something I learned about myself while on the mission was that I am able to discern the spiritual atmosphere of a place, and one of the first times I realized this was when we went to this temple. Before I stepped foot inside the bounds of the temple I could feel the darkness in the form of immense tension in my chest, like a vice grip. The feeling did not let up, as the dark atmosphere of death was everywhere. We could smell the bodies burning long before we saw the flames. 

    We bought tickets at the visitor center and this began our time in the temple of death. A tour guide explained the importance of observing every ritual aspect perfectly down to the minutest detail. Before the bodies were burned, they were draped with wreaths of marigolds, bathed in the river running through the temple, and then walked several times around the pyre where the body was to be burned.

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