Monday, May 30, 2011

Today's the Day!

In a few hours, I will finally be on my way to Madrid! Reality still hasn’t really hit that I will be overseas for 50 days.

The first few days in Madrid will be pretty chaotic, as I will need to figure out a lot of things in very little time. I will (hopefully) arrive in Madrid at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, where I will see my Aunt and Uncle and get settled into their condo. Less than a day later I will already be starting my classes at Nebrija.

This has been a great week back home, as I have gotten to spend lots of time with family and friends. I even got a few unexpected goodbyes. This morning I set out for my last run in the City of Lakes, and headed out along Minnehaha Creek towards Lake Nokomis. Timing worked out great as I saw two friends from Drake, Sam and Jon on the creek who were just about ready to head back to Des Moines. That was great to see them before I took off, and now I’m headed out to lunch with the family, and then it’s off to the airport.

Prayers for safety and strength would be much appreciated!


Monday, May 23, 2011

One Week to Go!

It’s unbelievable to think that this trip has snuck up so fast! It seemed like just yesterday I was thinking about the possibility of studying abroad, and in exactly one week I will depart from Minneapolis, make a pit stop in Paris, and then arrive in Madrid. To lay out a little bit about my trip, I’ll do a quick run-through of the four W’s.

Who: Michael Rodriguez

What: Studying abroad in Madrid, Spain at the University of Nebrija from June 1-28, and then traveling Spain and Europe until July 17. I will be taking two classes, a Spanish language class, and a class about art in Spain.

Where: Madrid! I will be living with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. Their home is located just outside of Madrid in Torrejón de Ardoz. As part of my study abroad package, I will go on three excursions with other students from around the world to other towns in Spain throughout the course of Spain. After my courses are over, my sister and father will join me for the remaining time and we will do some traveling throughout the country and Europe. As of now, we are planning on spending a weekend in London, and intend to visit Barcelona as well.

Why: To fulfill my “Artistic Experience Area of Inquiry” that is necessary to graduate from Drake University, to experience and soak in a different culture (I have only been outside the U.S. once, on a vacation to Ixtapa, Mexico, which is an  Americanized tourist town), to spend time with my extended family, to travel, and to rely on and witness God’s grace transcend cultural and language barriers. I’m gonna need boatloads of grace! I haven’t consistently practiced my Spanish since I graduated from high school, and most aspects of the trip will remain ambiguous until I get there. I’m pumped about what God promises through His scripture:

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

As a person who enjoys being in control and knowing all aspects about everything, I’m going to feel very weak and vulnerable, but I’m thankful God’s already got me covered.

Hopefully later this week I’ll blog about some of things I’m looking most forward to on this journey!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Finals are Finally Done

Well they have been for over a week now… The last week of the semester is always complete chaos. This semester was a nice, slower, change of pace for me. I only had one in class final, and one take home final, my two other classes finished the week earlier, so it was pretty relaxed for me.

Overall, things went pretty well! Right now I’m feeling super burned out on school though, the first few days of summer vacation have involved a lot of sleeping. Right now my body feels like it doesn’t want to do anything – so my schedule has included a lot of naps over the past few days. Today is the first day I’ve started to rebound a bit, I’m getting ready to go on a nice long bike ride out to my hometown (Chanhassen).

Hopefully this burnout stops soon because I’ll be back in school before I know it. I leave for Madrid in 12 days, and start classes in Madrid on June 1. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the BEAUTIFUL weather in Minneapolis and taking advantage of everything MN has to offer in the summer!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Running For God

To tag off that last post, yesterday I found an article that was super convicting! It really resonated with me because as a collegiate cross country and track and field runner, I devote many hours to my training in order to reach my full potential. God's given me talent to run, I want to use that as an act of worship and to further His Kingdom. I train hard because I want to know how much potential God has put in me. Every person has a certain amount of God given talent they are born with. I know that with my talent, I'll never race in the Olympics or be good enough to be a professional runner, but I want to know how far I can push myself. Whether that be 31:00 for 10k, 30:00 or 29:00, on God knows and the only way I'll ever find out is by being disciplined in my training, pushing myself to see what my performance limit really is.

In the same way, Christians should be striving to be the best disciple they can be too. This article is really sweet, and makes so much sense to me now! A year ago, I don't think I would've understood it all, but Christ wants each and everyone of us to reach our full potential for His Kingdom as well.

2 Corinthians 9:24
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26

"Are you an Elite Christian"
by Gary Mimbs

I am excited about all of the emphasis that is being put on the "Run for God" program. What a great concept to combine the love of running with the application to the spiritual journey.

I recently had the opportunity to go and watch my youngest son run in a 5k race in Brunswick. The race was up and over the huge bridge that spans the waterway leading from Brunswick into Jekyll Island and then back across it again into Brunswick.

My son isn't a runner he just wanted to have fun doing it and be able to say that he had run across the bridge. There were almost 2,000 people who ran/jogged/walked in the event. I watched in amazement as people of all ages, sizes, shapes and color enjoyed (for the most part) this event. The young man who actually won the competition part of the race was a professional runner from Kenya but who now lives in Kennesaw. He ran this course around 14 minutes 40 seconds. I was standing near him when a member of the media interviewed him after the race. He told the reporter that when he picked up his race packet he had slapped his chest twice and announced that he was "an elite athlete" who had come to win!

This young man wasn't bragging but with a few words he was announcing with confidence that he had come to win the prize money. He wasn't there to fool around or take the race lightly. He was saying that he had disciplined himself and trained in such a way that his only goal and focus was to cross the finish line first. And he did what he set out to do. There were a lot of people there that day who would call themselves runners but I wondered how many had the determination that this young man exuded?

I started thinking about how many people who call themselves Christians have the determination and discipline to be called an "elite Christian." By that term I don't mean one who is prideful or thinks that they are better than anyone else. I mean a Christian who has set their goals on being the best ambassador for Jesus that they can - one whose very life is focused not on themselves but on the furtherance of the cause of the kingdom of God. The Bible says for us to "Do all that we do as unto the Lord."

No doubt that this young man has God-given ability but he had also trained for many hours and denied himself of junk food and other pleasures to be an "elite athlete." Jesus said to his followers that to follow him we must, "Deny ourselves and take up his cross." In other words, there is a price to pay if you want to be more than just a surface level, casual Christian.

But the reward is so much better than we can imagine. For every moment that you spend with Jesus in his word is a million times better than the things that this world has to offer.

We are all running the race of life together. Some are on the road to heaven and some are not. Those on the road to heaven are not competing against one another but our goal is to help those that are going the wrong way get pointed toward heaven.

Are you an elite Christian doing all that you can to help others cross the finish line into heaven? Are you willing to discipline yourself and deny yourself so that others can make it into the kingdom of God?

If not - why not?

Changed Forever

Sorry for the delay in posting for a while, but things have been pretty busy here. Finals are next week, and then I'll be home for two weeks and off to Madrid.

Yesterday was a special day for me. At Drake the Friday before finals is called "Dead Day" because all classes are canceled. It's a day free for study. One year ago however, I was changed forever. It started off as a typical day, I was cramming for a few finals, but at night time, I decided to go to Smokey Row Coffee House some friends to study and to continue reading the book of Romans with Nolan and Sam.

That night Nolan asked me, "What was holding me back from giving my life completely to Christ?" I told him that I knew that was something I have wanted to do for a while now, but just wanted to do it the following week after all finals were done and stress would be low. That would be perfect.

We continued to talk for a bit, and then he really made a point that hit me hard. "If God isn't good enough for you tonight, when will he ever be good enough?" That point got me. I knew I had to make a decision to follow Christ passionately for the rest of my life, or reject the free gift God was offering me. I accepted, and now looking back over a year, it's crazy to see how much meaning my life has, and how much He has changed me!

After I said I wanted Christ in my life, Nolan showed me Luke 14:26-34, the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. At that point I finally realized what it means to be a real Christian. I broke down in tears, overwhelmed and  joyful, finally being able to realize what my Savior did for me.

Yesterday night, Sam, Nolan, and some others from the Herriot Bible Study went back to Smokey Row for another study party! This year has gone so fast, and has been so often all because of how Jesus transforms and changes lives for the better.

Luke 14:26-34

"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters - yes, even one's own self! - can't be my disciple. 27 Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple. 28 "Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? 29 If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 30 'He started something he couldn't finish.' 31 "Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? 32 And if he decides he can't, won't he send an emissary and work out a truce? 33 "Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple. 34 "Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it's useless, good for nothing. "Are you listening to this? Really listening?"