Habakkuk and the Question of Man

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The book of Habakkuk probably isn’t the first book you turn to when you open your Bible in the morning (at least, it’s not my first choice). In fact, many have never even read this short, three-chapter book before because Old Testament prophecy isn’t thought to have any real relevancy or significance today.

This past week, I had the opportunity to sit through an overview of the Old Testament prophets and discovered that the section of my Bible I’ve largely ignored is rich with meaning and application for my life today. The prophetic books are filled with much more than just pronunciations of judgement, and the book of Habakkuk in particular answers many questions that are still being asked about God today.

This book is different from the other prophetic books. Instead of proclaiming God’s word to the people, Habakkuk records a private struggle he has with the Lord. Habakkuk wrote around 625 B.C., just before the Jews were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. He saw the impending destruction of his homeland and questioned God as a result of this.

Habakkuk 1:2 says, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear?” How many times has this been my own prayer? “God, do you see me? Do you hear me? And if so, why aren’t you answering?” Habakkuk cries out because of the injustice he sees his own people committing, writing “the law is paralyzed and justice never goes forth.” He asks God the question that people have continued to ask for the past 2500 years. If God is good, why does He allow evil? Why do the wicked go unpunished? God replies to Habakkuk and tells him that He is raising up the Babylonians to execute judgement and punish the wicked Israelites, which raises even more questions in Habakkuk’s mind. “Why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” “God, the Babylonians are even worse than we are! How can you let them judge us?” What kind of God are you? This is a hard truth for us to swallow, but God demonstrates that He can use evil people to judge evil people. The Israelites were His chosen people and that would never change, but they had broken their covenant with Him and would be disciplined in order to turn them back to the Lord. A Babylonian captivity was the method of discipline the Lord would use in this instance. Babylon would not continue in their sin, though: in chapter two of Habakkuk God declares that He’ll judge them even more harshly than He did the Israelites because their sin was worse.

The book ends with Habakkuk’s declaration of unwavering trust in the Lord: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the field yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19). Habakkuk does not fully understand the plans of the Lord, but he rests quietly and assuredly in the fact that God is unchanging, He is strong, and He is working for His own glory. One day, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). And on that day, all those who put their trust in Him will begin an eternity of glory with their Father. We cannot know the plans of the Lord, but Habakkuk can help us to understand that the wicked will not go unpunished forever and that God loves justice; He just executes it in His own way at the perfect time.

Dinner at Lemon Tree with the Hebrew Club

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I absolutely love the Hebrew program at OU. Because the classes are so small, the department really feels like a family. I have friends in all different levels of Hebrew–even some who aren’t in Hebrew classes but are still involved with the Hebrew club. Last night, we had an end-of-semester dinner at Lemon Tree, a local restaurant in Norman, where we ordered our food using only Hebrew. It’s crazy to think that less than a year ago we didn’t even know the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, much less how to form words or conjugate them to order food at a restaurant! I am so grateful to this program, especially to Ori and Yael, the professors in this department, for being such an important part of my last year at OU! If anyone asks me what language to take in the future, I will, without hesitation, recommend that they study Hebrew!

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Another Trip to Mexico !!

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Sometimes I forget that another country is just a half-day’s car ride away from where I live. During my semester in Italy, I thought it was a miracle that you could drive from one country to another, my brain not quite recognizing that essentially the same thing is possible here in Oklahoma. Sure, it’s not the most exciting car drive, but Mexico is a truly beautiful place.

This is my fourth spring break spent at Casa Hogar Getsemani, a children’s home in Morelos, Mexico, and each time I go I fall more and more in love with the people who live and work there. It’s an almost-idyllic place: pastel-painted houses, a mini-farm with ducks and chickens, children laughing and playing on the outdoor playground. It’s such a gift to be able to spend a week there each year, cooking meals for the kids and house parents and doing anything possible to lend an extra hand. It’s hard to put these kind of experiences into words, though, so I’ll include a few pictures to maybe give a little peek into the past week.

My First Published Translations !!!

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It’s crazy how quickly life can change. I know it’s a cliché, but I’m sure every college student in their last semester can agree with me. A year ago, I thought that by now I would be a nursing student with two and a half semesters left until graduation. Here we are, though, only a few weeks away from graduating as a Spanish major and applying to graduate schools and real-life adult jobs. Crazy.

Something I never thought possible was being published as a Spanish translator, but, again, here we are, and I’ve officially had three translations published in two different media outlets just in the past week. The articles have covered some very interesting (read: strange) topics–one of the articles I translated dealt with the mandatory artificial insemination of cows in Cuba. Another recounted a Cuban’s experience with pregnancy and the American healthcare system, and the third was an opinion piece on José Martí, or the Apostle, as he is known by Cubans.

You’ll notice that all of the articles, in one form or the other, deal with Cuba, and that’s because I’ve been translating for an organization called Translating Cuba, which, according to its website, is “a compilation of translations of Cuban bloggers, independent journalists and human rights activists, primarily writing from the island.” There is very limited access to the internet in Cuba, and any internet usage is monitored very closely by authorities who block any content they deem rebellious. Translating Cuba takes news from the island and translates it so that it can be distributed to speakers of other languages; the news comes from a variety of sources, all of which are independent and cover a wide range of topics. It’s volunteer translation-work, and it’s a really unique way to have a tiny impact on the global community.

A Short Trip to Reynosa and a Challenge

Last Wednesday, two days after Christmas, I joined a group of five other people on a four-day trip to Reynosa, Mexico. Our purpose was to bring backpacks filled with school supplies across the border and distribute them to families in the more impoverished areas of the city. The first and the last days were solely spent on driving, as the trip from Oklahoma to Reynosa is around 17 hours. Thursday and Friday were spent taking the backpacks across the border in small batches so the border control would allow us to pass–I made a personal record of ten trips across the border in two days. We brought the backpacks to a local church where we organized them and prepared them to be passed out. The pastor and his family spoke no English, so it was amazing to be able to converse with them in Spanish and help to translate during interactions with the families. Bud and Ruth Bivens are a missionary couple who have been working in Mexico since before I was born, and they are some of my favorite people in the world. It was so encouraging to be able to spend time with them and listen to some of the many stories they’ve collected over the years.

The most heart-wrenching part of the trip was the handing out of the backpacks. Watching a father struggle to hold back tears after his children are given something so simple as a backpack really challenges your perspective on what really matters in life. Having a mother smile wide and hug you after handing her a gallon-size Ziploc bag full of rice and beans is not an everyday experience. This part of the trip is the hardest to put into words, I think because there is something almost sacred about the experience of fulfilling the call of James 1:27 in such a direct manner. There is no difference between me and the people who I am handing backpacks to except for the situations we were born into, which neither of us had any power over. It is only by the grace of God that any of us are in the positions and situations we are in, and we should never take that for granted. This new year, I would challenge you to go deeper and deeper into a heart of gratitude. I would also challenge you to look closely at what good there is in your life and see how far you would have come if you had been born in different circumstances. Shaking your perspective of yourself in the world a little is good for the soul.

I created a video of my experience, which is a first for me because I’m much more comfortable taking pictures. The video is different, though, in that it contains only the parts of the trip where we were not handing out backpacks, because it doesn’t settle right with me to exploit the circumstances of others so I can get more Facebook likes or website views. I didn’t want the families we were speaking with to feel as if our mission to them was done only because we wanted to record the experience in order to feel a sense of personal fulfillment. They are humans and they deserve dignity and respect.

I’m honestly so grateful that I was allowed to go on this trip. It challenged my perspective of what I believe is important. I was also able to use the Spanish that I’ve spent years learning and speak and laugh with families. My favorite encounter was with an older couple from Altamira who I had a 30-minute conversation in Spanish with about the goodness of God in their lives. As we parted, the husband blessed me and said, “If you ever need a home in Altamira, you have one with us.” The Lord’s plan is so SO much better than mine, and as I look back I am able to see the beginning pieces of the story He is beginning to tell.

La Dimension Moral de “La Celestina”

La Celestina es una obra de teatro escrito alrededor del año 1499 en España. Cuenta la historia de Calisto, un joven noble que está loco con su deseo por Melibea, la hija de padres nobles. Calisto escucha al consejo de su astuto criado Sempronio y va a pedir ayuda de Celestina, una bruja conocida en su pueblo por sus acciones malas. Ella trabaja con Sempronio y Pármeno, orto criado de Calisto, para ganar dinero de Calisto. Celestina usa sus poderes del diablo para manipular Melibea en confesar su amor por Calisto. Celestina organiza una reunión entre los dos amantes, y toma su recompensa de Calisto sin compartirla con Sempronio y Pármeno. Ellos la matan de enojo, y pronto están ejecutados por la justicia. Al final de la obra, Calisto muere por accidente cuando se cae de una escalera después de se acueste con Melibea. Ella está devastada por su muerte, y salta de una torre después de se confiesa todo a su padre.

Así hay un gran confusion sobre la dimensión moral de La Celestina. La sociedad de España en el siglo quince era una muy religiosa con estrictos códices morales, y el fin de La Celestina refleja esta moralidad. Obviamente, las personajes de Celestina, Calisto, y Sempronio son figuras sin morales. Celestina es una bruja que conversa con el diablo, y ella muere sin confesión. Calisto es motivado solamente por la lujuria, y no tiene ninguna cualidad positiva, salvo su dinero que realmente no tiene nada que ver con su moralidad. Él confiesa que su dios es Melibea, y él blasfema muchas veces; él también muere sin confesión. Sempronio es un figuro que manipula a su amo y mata a una mujer debido a su codicia. Él recibe su justicia rápidamente, y aunque no es indicado directamente, el lector puede suponer que él también muere sin confesión. Así realmente no hay una pregunta sobre el destino de ellos, salvo el hecho de que nadie puede conocer verdaderamente la voluntad de Dios.

Los personajes restantes, sin embargo, no son tan fáciles de clasificar. Al principio de la obra, Pármeno es un joven inocente que no quiere engañar a su amo. Eventualmente, Celestina y Sempronio convence a él que debe ayudar a ellos a engañarlo y eventualmente ayuda a Sempronio a matar a Celestina. Él sufre el mismo destino como Sempronio: está ejecutado rápidamente. Finalmente, hay el personaje de Melibea. Al principio de la obra, ella rechaza las avanzas lascivas de Calisto y está vacilante a confiar en Celestina. Pero todo cambia después de su encuentro con Celestina: ella rápidamente cae en amor con Calisto y arriesga todo por él. Ella se acuesta con él, dando a él la cosa más importante que una mujer pudiera poseer en esa época. Ella es totalmente engañada, y está destruida cuando Calisto muere. Ella da su confesión a su padre, y se suicida porque la única cosa que ella quiere es ser con Calisto por siempre. Ella es la persona más moral de la obra, porque ella tiene una motivación buena y porque ella está bajo la influencia del poder del diablo cuando hace las cosas malas. Todo estaba en contra de ella, y ella confiesa todo a su padre al final. Ella tiene sus defectos, pero ella es la persona más moral (con la posible excepción de su padre) en toda la obra.

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Hebrew Club Game Night

If you had told me six months ago that I would be in the Hebrew Club, I would have thought you were crazy. Six months ago, I was enrolled in nursing school, had my scrubs ordered, and was ready to enter the world of nursing. Or so I thought. It’s crazy how much your plans can change in just a few months. Instead of graduating with a BSN in 2019, I’ll graduate with a BAS in 2018 and hopefully pursue a Master’s degree at OU afterward.

But enough about my future plans: let’s go back to Hebrew Club. Tonight, I played board games in Hebrew with my classmates, my professor, and some other students who are in more advanced Hebrew classes–and it was an absolute blast! I never thought I would study a language other than Spanish, but now I’m surrounded by people speaking a completely different language and playing Scrabble using a different alphabet. We ate bagels and cream cheese and lox (and some cookies) and practiced our Hebrew while taking a break from studying during dead week.

Afterward, a few friends from my class went and got coffee and studied together for a few more hours, and I realized that I would never have met these amazing people if I had gone to nursing school like I’d planned. I would never have met Yael, my Hebrew professor, who is the best professor I’ve had in my four years at OU. I would never have discovered my love for languages and my passion for teaching.

This is a short blog post, but I can sum it up in three points.

  1. Don’t choose a major based on how much money you’ll make after you graduate because joy is worth so much more than money or success can buy.
  2. Take classes that seem interesting but also push you out of your comfort zone a little bit because it just might be better than you can imagine.
  3. You should join the Hebrew Club, because you might make some amazing friends while you’re there!
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Comentario en “El Recado” por Elena Poniatowska

El Recado es un cuento escrito por Elena Poniatowska, una escritora mexicana cuyas obras enfocan mayormente en asuntos sociales y políticas. El Recado es una obra de sólo una página, pero está llena de significado y emoción. El cuento es un poco confuso al leerlo por primera vez, porque la relación entre la narradora y Martín, supuestamente el receptor de su recado, no es indicado claramente. La emoción de la narradora, sin embargo, es expresado muy fuertemente, y el cuento da al lector el sentimiento de la melancolía.

El cuento empieza con la narradora sentada en el peldaño de una casa, escribiendo un recado a Martín, un hombre que camina como un soldado. Ella está fuera de su casa, observando lo que pasa alrededor de ella. La narradora está familiarizada con los hábitos de Martin y sus interacciones con sus vecinos, como es evidente entre sus observaciones sobre ella. La narradora es una joven, y dice, “[Q]uisiera ser más vieja porque la juventud lleva en sí, la imperiosa, la implacable necesidad de relacionarlo todo con el amor.” Ella reconoce que los jóvenes son más susceptibles al poder de amor, y espera que no era tan cautivada por el amor. Su amor es para Martín, con que ella había estado muy cerca. Ella escribe, “[E]stoy a veces contra el muro de tu espalda…” significado que los dos habían estado cerca físicamente, más de una vez. La narradora sabe que quiere a Martín, pero no sabe si Martín tiene los mismos sentimientos por ella. Cuando el sol se pone y Martín todavía no ha llegado, ella decide que no va a dar la carta que estaba escribiendo a Martín, y que en vez de esto ella va a pedir a la vecina a dar un recado a él: solo que ella vino.

El Recado trata las temas de el esperar, el amor, y la incertidumbre. La mujer viene a ver Martín, pero él no está. Ella imagina lo que él está haciendo en vez de estar con ella. Una de las lineas más poderoso es, “[S]iempre fui dócil, porque te esperaba. Sé que todas las mujeres aguardan.” Pienso que Elena Poniatowska escribió este cuento para demostrar el poder que el amor y el hombre tiene sobre las mujeres, haciéndolas esperar y ser dóciles. Ella está sentada, esperando, mientras Martín está caminando por las calles, no consciente o no cuidando que ella está allí. Los lectores no saben si o no Martín tiene los mismos sentimientos que tiene la narradora, porque ella no expresa con certidumbre lo que él piensa. Ella escribe, “Quisiera tener la certeza de que te voy a ver mañana y… que nada entre nosotros ha sido provisional o un accidente.” Ellos obviamente han tenido encuentros, pero ella no sabe si tienen importancia a él. Es un cuento lleno de melancolía e incertidumbre, y termina muy abiertamente, con el lector inseguro sobre la relación entre los dos. 

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אושפיזין (Ushpizin)

The Hebrew Club at OU recently put on a showing of the movie Ushpizin in Meacham Auditorium in the Oklahoma Memorial Union. It’s a fascinating movie that provides a look into the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel that is rarely seen, as they are a fairly isolated and self-contained community. I loved this movie because it provided a positive perspective on the community that is usually depicted in a negative light in film because it is so conservative and can be seen as oppressive to women. The movie follows the life Moshe and his wife Malli, members of the ultra-Orthodox community, who are preparing for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, where a temporary dwelling is built in honor of the Israelites who wandered in tents in the desert after escaping from the Egyptians. They are surprised with Ushpizin, or guests, who have escaped from prison and have past ties with Moshe. I’m not going to give away what happens in the movie because I hope you’ll watch it, but it really does provide a fascinating look into a normally isolated community. It respectfully depicts many Jewish customs and celebrations, while at the same time bringing the viewer on an emotional journey through the life of an ultra-Orthodox Jew. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a movie that caused me to feel the emotions that the characters were feeling, which I loved. It’s excellently directed and cast, and I would encourage everyone to watch it!