Wednesday, January 30, 2013

5 and 5

This was week 2 of worship practice at church, and it has inspired me to give you 5 reasons why being a college student-athlete-worship leader is a challenge, and 5 reasons why it's rewarding.


1) Saturday nights and Sunday mornings are arch nemeses. After track all day Saturday, I'm tired, but I also want to connect with some of the meaningful relationships in my life. Worship team practices at 8:30 on Sunday mornings, which is much earlier than it sounds. Especially when you forget to practice until 11:30 in Saturday night. Oops.

2) Weekday rehearsals mean library nights. Since I was missing practice, I get up early to run, shower, and eat before class. After class, I go home with my pastor's wife (who works at the college), and then we make dinner and dessert. I eat with them, before walking over to church for practice. Tonight, we went late, and I didn't get home until almost 8. I hadn't been on campus all day, and felt generally disorganized. Lattes are delicious.

3) Not knowing as many songs as everyone else. We have a couple different teams at our church, but they've all been doing this for years, so they're more familiar with the music. I feel like a heathen sometimes (Does EVERYONE except me know all 6 verses of this hymn by heart?! Really?)

4) Track workouts are hard to do alone. Tuesdays are our hard days, where we do speed workouts and hills and everything nasty. It's almost fun when your team is with you, cheering you on, equally exhausted, but when it's 7am and you're hitting the track by yourself, it's a whole lot less fun.

5) Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. When I say yes to worship leading, I say no to sitting with my fellow college students for worship as part of our church body, to extra study time, to working out with my team, to friends whom I can love and serve.


1) I have to learn how to keep a schedule. I have to be a little wiser, and more intentional with what I'm doing, because I spend the bulk of my day off campus.

2) Learning opportunities. I have the chance to sit under people who really know what they're doing, and it is a blessing to be able to do so.

3) Worshiping. I love to worship, so getting to do so with fellow believers Tuesday nights, Sunday mornings, and Sunday mornings again is fantastic.

4) Church involvement. Biblically, it's important to be a part of a church. I really love being able to be involved. I like getting to know my fellow team members more than I would if I were just there on Sundays. We have some pretty silly when our 59 year old worship pastor plays the "bass" on the key board, and we kick the classic hymn, "What a Wonderful Savior" up a few notches too far.

5) Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. When I say yes to worship leading, I say no to wasting time, to refusing to be part of God's call for my life, to letting my passions go unused.

So, there you have it. I think I'm glad I didn't do this throughout college, because I would've been too busy and put more pressure on myself than necessary. I have the time this semester, and I'm glad to be able to use it in this way.

Messy and Ashamed

Tonight, I'm giving a talk (other people have called it a lecture, but the whole idea of giving a lecture freaks me out so I don't use that term) as part of a speaker series on John 14:6. I'm really excited about it, and I really hope that people ask questions because I'm only going to talk for about 20 minutes and will feel awkward if there's a lot of silence afterwards.

In any event, I titled it, "Why I Need Jesus to be All He Claims to Be". I'm probably breaking a rule of giving talks, because I basically titled it a question and I'm going to answer that question within the first 5 minutes. I'm also going to quote Stick It. La la la whatever, right? (I think yolo is probably more relevant).

I'll post a piece from the beginning, in case anyone sees it and decides they want to come.

Recently, I read an article called "Messy and Ashamed". I don't remember the specific content, but I do remember that phrase. Contrary to what some of you may think about me, I come to Jesus messy and ashamed. I have lied, I have failed to submit to God-given authorities, I have been angry, which is equated with murder. I have lusted, which is the same as adultery in God's eyes. I have held on to idols - like time, money, and public opinion; I have gossiped and I have failed to love my neighbor. By my own admission, I am a liar, a rebel, a murderer, an adulteress, an idolater, a gossip and a failure. If that isn't messy and ashamed, I don't know what is. So I have this question burning on my heart, "Lord, I am messy and ashamed. Where do I go from here?" 

I can't look at John 14:6 without seeing the words as what they are - an answer for my mess and shame. In the previous verse, Thomas, one of Jesus' followers asks, "How can we know the way?" Jesus tells him who He is, the way, the truth and the life. What I find to be most important about this question and response is that Thomas is totally clueless. The way is before him, and he has no idea. It's like going out by the president's house and asking where college street is. It's right there! But if Jesus hadn't told me who He was , and is, I would, like Thomas, remain oblivious. Jesus shows me who I am - with my sin and my mess and my utter failures, and then He tells me who He is: I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Monkey and the Fish

I read the Monkey and the Fish by David Gibbons yesterday as part of my research. I found Gibbons' thoughts to be important, and at times incredibly convicting.

The title of the book comes from an Eastern parable:

A typhoon stranded a monkey on the island. In a protected place on the shore, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed to the monkey resolved to help the fish. A tree leaned precariously over the spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on a limb, reached down, and snatched the fish from the waters. Scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments, the fish showed excitement but soon settled into a peaceful rest. 

Get it? The fish died.

So why is this important?

The monkey saw that the fish was struggling and needed help. In this, Mr. Monkey was correct. However, the monkey didn't know about the fish well enough to know how to help him. The monkey probably thought, 'hmm, this fish is having a hard time in the water. If I were having a hard time in the water, I'd want to get out'. But that wasn't the fish's problem. He can't survive on the dry ground like the monkey can! So even though the monkey wanted to help, he couldn't, and in fact caused great harm to his friend the fish.

This concept is so key for us to get through our thick skulls. I cannot love my neighbor if I do not know my neighbor. If I do not know my neighbor, I only have what I know.

It is not helpful if I notice someone is having a rough day and I send them a Bible verse text if they don't believe in the God of the Bible. This may actually cause further duress and frustration, and they will likely grow annoyed with me. While that would help me, and would be something I appreciate, it is not a one-size-fits-all way to love your neighbor.

One of the most convicting questions in this book was a suggestion for churches to ask their neighbors - organizations, groups of people - around them to see how they felt the church was doing in loving and serving them. Yikes! I can only imagine some of the answers we might get.

I'll share a few quotes from Gibbons himself now -

"Loving the other can be messy, ugly, unnatural, and perhaps not fun, but this is the set of clothes we all have been called to wear. And one set fits all who know Jesus"

"The second most important commandment is all about loving people we don't understand, whom maybe even the community we live in doesn't like, maybe even hates, or at the least disregards or writes off"

"Embracing a life of discomfort means venturing into places we don't feel like going, doing things we don't wish to do, being with people we don't feel comfortable being with, loving them, helping them - all of which demonstrates a not-of-this-world brand of love that is irresistible to all people in all places"

These statements were running through my brain as I ran yesterday afternoon (43 degrees in January!). It was hard, I'm not going to lie. It's easy to love people who are like us, who are near to us, whom we can understand, who are nice to us. How do we do when that's not the case?

That's when we have to decide, does the commandment to love my neighbor apply to me, or not?

Monday, January 28, 2013

It May Not Be Easy To Be A Woman

I shared Ann Voskamp's blog post on facebook yesterday, but I'm going to post some of the text here, because I know there are some women who read the blog but are not my facebook friends.

I also have to admit, that I just found her blog yesterday and literally read every entry. Sabbath rest. Also, I watched the interview she gave at Patrick Henry College and I LOVED it. Furthermore, I am addicted to those interviews, and it's really weird but that's ok.

(The title of this post comes from my favorite line)

"Women could be this to each other:

We’ll tell our daughters at the sink and at the mirror and at the door, that your Father made you fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely and You are the perfect-sized you for a God-sized plan.

And we’ll say it in the dressing rooms and to the shaming thoughts behind closed doors and we’ll say it to every woman who hides: that God’s daughters fit in any swim suit, dress suit, shimmering suits, because they are suited up in the armour of Christ, and no arrows from the media or the past or ourselves can harm us.

We will be sisters to each other and we won’t ever judge another sister and we will see each woman’s face as pure God-masterpiece because it’s the truth and we’ll tell each other what every woman needs to hear: You have the prettiest eyes.

Because it’s always first the eyes, always first the perspective and the way we see, and if the eyes have light, the whole body is full of light. We have to help our sisters see who they are in light of Christ — so radiant. 

So we’ll say it a dozen time a day, to every woman who we meet because it’s the truth and she needs to hear it and no matter if she has a man saying it, she has sisters speaking into her scraped and bleeding places: You are so beautiful — so soul beautiful. And we’ll watch our sisters’ eyes light, always first the eyes.

And we won’t ever let one of our sisters ever forget and we won’t leave even one woman behind:

The curve of a smile is a woman’s most perfect curve and the only tag that matters is the one that says Robed in the Righteousness of Christ.

It may not be easy to be a woman in this world. But it is always perfect to be a woman in His hand"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

When Your Project Changes

The blessings wall

Remember a few posts back when I said I have been learning to give myself permission to fail, to be wrong, and to quit? 

I am about as far down as I can comfortably go on the blessings wall and still be able to read in bed without feeling the rustling of paper against my head. As I've traveled the eucharisteo journey the last few weeks, I have found myself living a little more slowly, and a little more thoughtfully, thankfully. I have loved walking in the room and recalling all the things I'm thankful for. 

But as the wall filled, I realized that it would drive me nuts to have much more space covered like that. I am also bothered by the amount of paper I am using; it's really adding up. This project was more short-lived than I anticipated, but I feel good about allowing it to change. 

I will leave the wall up, but I will only add to it the dozen or so slips I have already cut. I will continue to be thankful, and to "lean into the ugly and whisper thanks", but I will do so in my journal, and perhaps, now and then, on this blog. Thanks for following along. 

I am going to try to list all of the blessings on my wall without missing any...sorry if there are repeats; this is going to be tough. 

johnson days*striving to keep Jesus the main thing*being invited, even if I have no interest in going*cooking with kathryn*being alone in the library*dreams for the future*Christmas blend VIA past holiday season*kathryn's involvement in my life*quiet conversation*stereotypical banana peel on the sidewalk*january rain*answered expectations*crunchy snow*josh's laugh*wide-eyed excited teen boys*chick peas mashed over leafy spinach*seniors being nice to each other just because it's our last chance*pre-Easter service interest*his wounds have paid my ransom*tears of joy*fresh basil*a heart overflowing with praise*being in debt to grace. o to grace!*light dancing in doorways*quiet worship with my guitar and my God*more garlic*winter sunset runs*pole tape conforming to my hand*air kicking in for a stifling hot room*wrath that makes glory and mercy known*hour long breakfasts*coffee and donuts*being awake before dining commons, and the sun*pausing life to admire dusk*running daily to the found of Christ's blood to be cleansed of filth*sleepless mornings becoming jump starts for the day*isaac: but Piper, yo. Piper, yo*laughter with sisters in Christ*worship music in the kitchen*kids devouring the Bible*kids too tired to stay awake a second longer*the promise of new life*kind-hearted teasing*being part of a gospel-preaching church*Easter at Eaton: the early stages*fruit smash*last first day of school plans*not taking track too seriously*distance girls weight room invasion*I am new*big hugs from gentle giants*warm laundry fresh out of the dryer*stadium lights*unexpectedly good communication*professors laughing at your reason for taking their course*thoughtfulness from peers*kind RAs*heros of faith*sharing a meal with someone new*hanging out in the times in between*people excited about doing life together*feeling accomplished*meow meow runs*a meet official who makes fun of your teammate with you*adults who know you are nice to them, but that you really want to talk to their child*father-son high fives*kids running in to church, late*being at the library for fun, not homework*not always agreeing, but enjoying learning one another*knowing who I am*being a little rambunctious at student government*cookies for breakfast*going to class and learning new things*having many places to call home*feeling of authenticity*community*room-filling laughter*sitting in bed eating fruity oatmeal*reactions caused by tie-dye tights*post-meet workouts*drink-y friends with thanks for you driving home at night*every opportunity to praise the Lord*long distance prayer requests that bind the body together*God's perfection amidst our chaos*jokes between friends*jane's reminder to pray for friendships*tangent insights from maggie*college boys acting like goons*hearing my heart beat in the silence of a new day*newborns*little girl hugs*going to bed knowing that His mercies are new each morning*sun that makes the day sparkle*rain glistening on the rooftop*mentor-friends*fruitful fellowship*quinn energy*agreement on track philosophy*new drills with good form*explaining things to freshmen*a coach will to slow you down*knowing glances between worship team members*jason brother love*trespasses not counted against me*good strong coffee in the morning*intimacy with the Father so that tears blur words and speak for themselves*wearing betsy's packer shirt*discussing the prospect of bioethics haikus with betsy over text*spice blends*falling down, and standing up again*parents who love their kids and each other*church greeting time*footprints in the snow*reunion with my advisor*love from "a tough guy"*coach betsy*'serious' questions you can't help but laugh at*facilitation of intellectual stimulation*wolof-ing*dead raised to life*coming aching and desperate to the cross*local coffee shops*tiny florets of broccoli peppering the counter*His promises as my delight*old men cracking jokes*spicy chai*the right song stuck in my head*cooking and baking to relieve someone's burden*hot soup after a cold run*God enabling sinners to see our sin*blessings lavished on continual sinners*girlfriends who get it*seeing a friend; pausing in an awkward place*chats with Bethany*long hugs before another separation*phone calls with sisters while getting dressed*an outfit that makes you feel like you can conquer the world*negative splitting a great run with great friends*praying in Scripture*friends with out own language*having a private experience of God in a room full of people*making your academics work for you*servant leadership*the grace to run just five more minutes*icy echoing walk ways*peace when I need it most*out of breath, and loving it*outfits that make you feel as cool and classy as kathryn hepburn*international "texting"*Sabbath rest*strong winds under blue sky*finding more questions in the so-called answers*catching your professor a little off guard*spirit-filled prayer*dorky professors*surprisingly warm weather*thinking in new ways*sisters*spontaneous fellowship*eating a whole big bag of reese's pieces in one sitting*sweatpants after church days*Betsy's crocheting*being loved*church choirs and their directors*pole vault pit naps*bare skin on soft sheets*jane days*having a spring semester saturday off*commons dupes*praying to desire God*casual but not sloppy clothes*easy access to clean water*excitement over a worn shirt that smells like its owner*Jesus' rescue of my soul*being less sore after practice than before it*journals with pretty bookmarks*maddie: I love hymns. and church*surprise reunions*runners who step out into a dark, wet, grey day and say, 'oh, it's nice!'*clean socks*grace around the 'family' dinner table*wearing a yellow dress on an incredibly dreary day*slow, plodding deliberate steps*water - ice cold from sitting by the window*neon running clothes and shoes*finishing a breath-taking book and realizing that the last page is only the beginning*feeling healthy*grounds in my coffee*pink clouds frosting the sky out my window*soft, sweet, slow tears*nit nitay garabam*distance kids and hurdle drills*long, tired showers*grateful hugs*cheese curling off the grater and onto the plate*new friends*testimonies of more mature believers*car tops covered in light frost*an abs partner with whom to high five upon completion*being able to use muscles and make them sore*lungs filled with cold, crisp air*academic excitement for new perspectives*moms and their kids*onion tears*worship as the body of Christ*pastor tim's jokes*beloit's rich history*laughing loudly in public*genuine excitement about being in class*biblical humor*Jesus being bigger than my failures*old hymnals*opportunity to learn from someone with more experience*friends with whom to share Christmas candy*friends to tell me which class I have when*God's word ministering to me personally*beloit professors*old document smell*the historic nature of Easter at Eaton 2013*fred, the archivist*calm mornings without urgency, even to leave my room at all*sunday breakfasts*friends who make fun of me*God's timing being best*children choosing to be baptized as disciples*fathers and their kids*breaking down fresh beef*brisk weather

Wow! That was a much bigger block of text than I even realized. I am glad this list made me aware of so many blessings; I especially like the ones that deal with people. God has given me so many gifts in the lives of those around me, and I am thankful for them all.

Sunday Morning Struggle Bus

I usually love Sunday mornings because I get to wake up and have a relaxed long run and shower and eat breakfast and then go to church at the leisurely time of 10:10. I also usually go to bed around 8 on Saturdays after track meets.

Well, today and last night were none of those things. I actually socialized last night, even though I did more at the track meet than I usually do...and I'm on worship team this week, which means departure time was 8:15, which doesn't seem that early at midnight, but at 7:05 when you really really do not want to get out of bed, it is definitely early. So I skipped the run and breakfast at commons and bi-passed straight to the coffee. I made a potent cup with my French press, and then at 8:02 decided that wasn't going to be enough, and I dumped two packets of via in a portable container and added water. In a surprising turn of events, there was actually ice in the freezer downstairs, and I used it. Of course, I forgot the coffee as I was walking out the door and didn't realize it until I was at church. Boo.

I got to church on time, though, and we had a great time practicing. I like that we get to start worship early, because even the practice is a time of worship. Since I'm not in choir, I had some downtime before the service started, and I had a chance to read some more Bible, which I had sort of rushed through while trying to get ready.

This was my first time being part of such a large mixed worship group. We had two lead vocalists, two violinists, a flutist, a pianist, and a drummer. I really enjoyed it, and am looking forward to learning from them (most of the others have been worship leading much longer than I have!), and whatever the Lord might show me through this.

But in any event, it's just going to be a tired kind of day. I really haven't felt 100% awake yet...good thing tomorrow's Monday and I don't have anywhere to be until 10.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Trust Runs

Alternative title: Why it's necessary to pay attention to the person in front of you

Today, we had a really fantastic outside run...outside is important because it has been too cold for us to go outside all week, and we were all of 3 degrees over the minimum, so it was feeling nice and warm.

In any event, it involved some creek-ing and windy paths, large parts of which require a single-file arrangement. This means that you are following someone along the trail, where there is ice and turns and holes and rocks and a bunch of other hazards. I was following Betsy. Since I cannot see the terrain in front of me, only her, I have to pay attention to what she's doing. Is she jumping over stuff? Tucking over left or right?

Another part of this adventure means that you basically have to run right behind the person in order for it to be useful. You also should not attempt to pass them, but you do need to keep moving.

It's like walking with the Lord. He's in front of you, and He will guide you into security as long as you continue to step out in faith and trust Him for your next step.

That was sort of lame. This is what happens when you write your blog post in your head while on a run in 12 degree weather.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I am grateful now for seasons of life that involved being busy from 6:30 am until 11pm with little to no breaks. I am grateful for breakdowns during first hour, and compulsive schedules and not sleeping and not getting to the library until after 10 and due dates and doing too much

But I am also grateful for seasons of life that involve long long long quiet times, group prayer, relaxed mornings, afternoons spent doing what I love, taking time to drink a cup of tea, loving my friends better, and sleeping 9 hours a night.

I love that God gives us different strength and grace for different times; it's all about listening to His calling.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Letting Myself Be

My current journal's cover reads:

She didn't have to be perfect because she was perfectly loved {1 John 4:8} 

I picked it because that's something that I finally feel like I'm learning. I spent high school as the thin, blonde, cheerleader/gymnast, teacher's pet. I think quitting gymnastics was what jump started a lot of my spiritual growth. I started to learn that who I am isn't what I do; my entire identity is in Christ. I learned that my life isn't going to be over if I'm not a size 0 anymore. I started running cross country, and I am not good at that sport, trust me. I took some really out of my box courses and realized that I don't have to have a 4.0 GPA. I slipped when I wasn't good at pole vaulting anymore, like I used to be. I was frustrated. I stayed frustrated for a year. And then, I went on a year long journey. I went to another country, where I had to learn that I would not be ostracized for making a language error, and that I could get back home even if I did pay too much or take the wrong bus. I learned that listening can be more important than being right. I'm learning that I don't have to be the glue holding everyone together. I'm learning that I don't have to vault my high school best in order to have a successful day.

It's been a long process, but I'm learning that I don't always have to be the best. I don't have to be right or know what I'm doing. I don't have to take my world so seriously.

It might sound crazy, but I think that cutting and dying my hair were actually really big steps that I needed to take in order to "complete" a certain phase of this lesson (I put quotation marks around complete because I doubt I'll ever really be finished). When I became a brunette, whatever part of me was still holding on to the perfect, perky blonde cheerleader had to fade away.

I've had to give myself permission to be wrong, to ask for help, to come in last place, to mess up, to say the wrong thing, to admit that I don't know, and to say I can't.

I have had to allow myself to say things like

Your ways are higher, Lord (Isaiah 55:9).

I don't know how, but this work will be brought to completion (Philippians 1:6). 

This may look bad, but You are working all things for my good (Romans 8:28). 

I am not perfect, but You are, and You are calling me to Your ways (Matthew 5:48). 

I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

You have loved me with an everlasting love, even while I was a sinner, Christ died for me (Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 5:8). 

You have yadda'ed (yadda is the Hebrew word here for "known", which means to know, to be known, and to be deeply respected) me from the beginning (Psalm 139). 

You are I AM (Exodus 3:14). 

I have had to let myself be.

Hardening Hearts

I think the Bible passages on God hardening hearts have always troubled a lot of people. We read about Pharaoh and how God would continually harden his heart. I would read that and think, Why would God do that? If He could soften a heart, why harden one instead?

RC Sproul addressed this exact concern in an elegant, Biblical way, that made me love the Lord even more in his book, Chosen by God:

"All that God has to do to harden people's hearts is to remove the restraints. He gives them a longer leash. Rather than restricting their human freedom, he increases it. He lets them have their own way. In a sense he gives them enough rope to hang themselves. It is not that God puts his hand on them to create fresh evil in their hearts; he merely removes his holy hand of restraint from them and lets them do their own will" 

Because not one of us does good, all of our hearts are naturally hardened against the Lord. We are all at enmity with the cross of Christ. All God has to do to keep us from him is to not intervene. If God lets us go, we will never come to him. If God did not wake me up to me need for him, I would have self-destructed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Big Question

I don't usually write about things with political overtones because that's not what this is about, and I don't want to turn what I'm learning about who God is into some big policy debate. With that in mind, let's continue.

I watched this fabulous interview today over at The Gospel Coalition. It's a little over an hour, but if you a are a person, especially a person in the church, and even more important, a person who may have the opportunity to minister to someone in the gay community, this is a must watch. Dr. Rosaria Butterfield was a research professor at Syracuse University, living with her lesbian partner, and lost her job, her friends, her home (that she owned) when Jesus called her into covenant with Him. She is now married to a Reformed Presbyterian pastor and homeschools their children.

I have not (yet) read her book, but I am planning on it. It goes into more details on her journey to Christ, but a brief synopsis is: A pastor engaged her in conversation after one of her papers, and invited her over for dinner with his family. He welcomed her, and asked her real questions. He encouraged her to read the Bible and let her feel comfortable in his spaces. The church did the same. Eventually, one day, she knew that Jesus was the real deal, and that she was going to have to give everything up in order to follow Him: her lesbian identity, her sin, her job, her homes, many relationships. She was looking at all the moms in the church she was at, and all she saw was a bunch of cleaned-up, perfect looking people. She started going up to people and asking them one question:

What did it cost you to get here?

She wanted to believe that, to paraphrase Jane Austen, her sore throats her more than everyone else's. She thought she was the only one who was really struggling.

And she got real answers. She had people talk about their own sexual sin, their lust, their very real, very big would-be "deal-breakers". People were honest with her. She realized that everyone has to give up the same thing in order to follow Jesus: everything. She wasn't any different from anyone else.

I like that she asked that question, and I like having to think about the answer. She says that it's an important one to ask ourselves, because what meant the most to her was not people telling her Christianity would be easy and they were all perfect, but that she had to count the cost.

And she did.

Naming Values

I realized today two things that I value, specific things, that encompass larger qualities about myself. As I journaled, I noted that it was important to me to be able to name these things and express the fact that they matter. 

The first of these would be "quality longevity". After morning prayer, Xadi and I hung out for over an hour, just sitting and talking. We grew so close in Senegal, but I didn't know what to expect from our relationship when I came back to Beloit. The fact that this is now the second time that we have had meaningful one on one time since classes started last week is cherished by me. We established a relationship on the basis of a spirit of adventure and spiritual inquiry and willingness to not always be right. Continuing to have that, even back in our "normal" environment is something that I have enjoyed. 

The second would be "learning one another". I sat in biomedical ethics today, as we discussed an article on abortion and infanticide. I knew that the person to my left was pro choice, and that I am pro life. I knew we didn't agree, that we were, in many ways opposites. But it felt as though we were working into this field of philosophical inquiry together; we needed each other to do it. And we needed to know each other, to learn one another. It's not enough to know what someone thinks, but rather, to know why she thinks that way and on what grounds. I enjoy that. 

Not much else to say, just that I found it meaningful what is important to me. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

I Choose to Love

I was listening to "Choose" by Christy Nockles today, and it really captivated me.

Let me be in love with what You love
Let me be most satisfied in You
Forsaking what this world has offered me
I choose to be in love with You
I will choose to be in love with You

Let me know the peace that's mine in You
Let me know the joy my heart can sing
For I have nothing Lord apart from You
I choose to call on Christ in me
I will choose to call on Christ in me

For in the fullness of who You are
I can rest in this place
And giving over this, my journey Lord
I see nothing but Your face

Let me know that You have loved me first
Let me know the weight of my response

For You have long pursued my wandering heart
I choose to glory in Your cross
I will choose to glory in Your cross

And I bow down...
Humbly, I bow down...
Humbly, I bow down... 
I bow down...

I bow down, I bow down
my beloved- here I am
I bow down, I bow down to You...

This is one of those songs that I could see being swiftly attacked by theological nit-pickers, because it says, I choose to love You. But when you look at the rest of the song, you can see that the singer expresses the fact that God loved us first, and that we respond to the grace offered in Christ. 

When I say "I choose to love", it means that right now, in this moment, I am going to choose to love the Lord more than my stress, more than my time, more than my friends. I choose to be in love with the Lord and no one and nothing else. 

This was particularly intriguing in light of the blessings wall and eucharisteo life. At any moment, we can say, I choose to love You, Lord, and accept the blessings You are bestowing up on me, or we can allow the little things to get under our skin. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Enjoying It

That moment when you realize everyone else in your class is there to fulfill a requirement of some kind, or for a relation to their career path, and you and your friend just picked it for fun. At least our professor laughed. And it helps that we both participated in the first discussion thrown at us, proving we aren't just there to mess around.

Naturally, I don't have anything to do the rest of the day. Eventually, afternoons will be the designated thesis-writing time, but as I don't yet have a topic, and my first advising session is Monday, there is a free afternoon. How nice.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Being Awkward

This post is dedicated to Abigail, with whom I had lunch. She's upset that I haven't blogged since Saturday.

Transitioning back into Beloit has been weird, hence the title of this blog post. A lot of things have changed, relationships have changed, and I've changed. Sometimes I don't feel like I know what my role is or what people expect from me anymore - in all different ways. My friend Kate got a verse for me about putting new wine into old wineskins, and that pretty much sums up how I feel. Betsy put it like this, "It's going to be weird, and then you'll have the honeymoon phase, and then you'll just complain about commons for two months".

My advisor, after not seeing me for 13 months, didn't recognize me. The last time she saw me, my hair was 16 inches longer and blonde. She was pretty funny once she realized it was me.

Double takes continue to abound.

People want to hang out with me, kind of all the time. People want to meet up and talk. This is probably normal, but I have never been one particularly sought out for social engagements, so even being this kind of pseudo "popular" is weirding me out.

I am not a good distance track runner; I have neither the current ability nor desire to be one. But I don't have the resources (like a coach, a consistent practice facility) to be a good pole vaulter. At least my distance coach understands me for once. We don't usually communicate well, but today we did, and that was nice.

I'm trying new things, though, like wheatberry salad (spicy and bizarre) and being on the church worship team. And learning how to play this song, which I love:


Nothing can tear us from 
The grip of His mighty love 
We’ve only glimpsed, His vast affection 
Heard whispers of, His heart and passion 
It’s pouring down… 

His love is deep, His love is wide 
And it covers us 
His love is fierce, His love is strong 
It is furious 
His love is sweet, His love is wild 
And its waking hearts to life 

The Father loves and sends His son 
The Son lays down His life for all 
He lavishes His love upon us 
He calls us now, His sons and daughters 
He'’s reaching out… 

… and its waking hearts to life 
He is waking hearts to life 
He is waking hearts to life 

I really like, "He lavishes His love upon us" because it reminds me of John 1:16 and gets me pumped about my blessings wall. 

 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Multiplied Blessings

Here's my blessings wall as it stands tonight. It's getting loaded up. I've lost count as to how many there are, but I know the last time I counted, there were over 60, and I've added at least 20 or 30 since then, so I know I am rapidly approaching 100. Perhaps I will make 1,000 this semester after all. Although, where I will put 9 more sets of 100 will be an intriguing question. Blessings ceiling?

One thing I've noticed is how nice it is to share my blessings wall with others. The gifts are for me, but they are even more for the Lord, to see His name lifted high and His glory known. So when I'm able to talk about my little project, and point out blessings as I'm around people, they also have that window of opportunity to see God at work. I also like looking at how different people have blessed me, and how I can be a blessing to others.

Grace abounds!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

O To Grace

As I've continued this eucharisteo journey, the line from the classic hymn, Come Thou Fount, has kept ringing through my head:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be

Sometimes I sit and stare up at my wall of 60+ blessings, and just think, O to grace

One of the slips reads, "being in debt to grace. O to grace!" I'm grateful that I am in debt to grace because it means I know Jesus. It means that I understand the antithesis of grace.

Some of my blessings are traditionally spiritual. But some are things like "fresh basil" and "cuddles with Betsy" (Also, her being excited about wearing my shirt after I told her I'd been sleeping in it for two nights and that's why it smelled like me...)

I was mulling this all over, wondering briefly what others might think of some of my gifts. Is it possible for chickpeas mashed over spinach to truly be one of God's graces? I think it is.

And a verse came to mind:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

If I receive a blessing and recognize that it is good, I can also thank my Father for it.  Salvation, redemption, justification, sanctification; what if all these big words boil down to the simple truth of being able to enjoy the gifts that God has put before us, not the least of which is His presence? What if our right standing with the Lord is what enables us to see His hand behind all of creation, like old men cracking jokes and clean socks and water that's ice cold from sitting by an open window?

Doesn't our debt to grace only grow? 

O to grace

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wall of Blessings Update

I am only on my second day, but I can already see having a full wall. I will add more space if that becomes a necessity. Less than two days in, the eucharisteo life is changing me. It's making me steadier, calmer, more aware. It made my devotions sweeter, and every moment a little bit better. I think it's good to start this now, before the semester begins, so that I can establish a pattern of looking for blessings. I am really excited for this to continue.

"Lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. Give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good"  

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

Right now, I am giving thanks for: 

  1. Crunchy snow
  2. His wounds have paid my ransom
  3. Winter sunset runs
  4. Hour long breakfasts
  5. Quiet worship with my God and my guitar
  6. Sun that makes the day sparkle
  7. Hearing my heart beat in the silence of a new day
  8. Good, strong coffee in the morning
  9. The right song stuck in my head
  10. Feeling healthy
  11. Grateful hugs
  12. Journals with pretty bookmarks
  13. Jesus' rescue of my soul
  14. Water - ice cold from sitting by the window
  15. Soft, sweet, slow tears
  16. New friends
  17. Lungs filled with cold, crisp air 

I am looking forward to watching not only my wall grow, but myself as well. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Attitude of Gratitude

I am currently reading One Thousand Gifts. It is the story of a farmer's wife who has experienced tragedy, but also a pleasant existence. It is her journey towards a full, meaningful life.

She finds that the key is gratitude - the New Testament repeatedly uses, "take" or "took" and then, "eucharisteo", to give thanks. Part of receiving the fulness of God's blessing is being thankful. She also learns that Jesus gives thanks before multiplying the fishes and loaves. Thankfulness produces multiplicity. She begins a challenge of listing 1,000 things to be thankful for, and continues her study. After her journal is completed, she continues to stop in wonder. It's a breathtaking, beautiful book, and I knew if I didn't blog about it know, it would be forever long when I did. So, 4 chapters in, I take a breath.

Here are some excerpts:

"How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?"

"Is this the toxic air of the world, this atmosphere we inhale, burning into our lungs, this, 'No, God? No, God, we won't take what You give. No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn't sign up for this and You really thought I'd go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can't You get anything right and just haul all this pain out of here and I'll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing.' Isn't this the human inheritance, the legacy of the Garden?...I believe the Serpent's hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn't good. It's the cornerstone of his movement".

"Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden."

"Standing before that tree, laden with fruit withheld, we listen to Evil's murmur, 'In the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened...'(Genesis 3:5). But in the beginning, our eyes were already open. Our sight was perfect. Our vision let us see a world spilling with goodness. Our eyes fell on nothing but the glory of God. We saw God as He truly is: good. But we were lured by the deception that there was more to a full life, there was more to see. And true, there was more to see: the ugliness we hadn't beheld, the sinfulness we hadn't witnessed, the loss we hadn't known. We eat. And in an instant, we are blind. No longer do we see God as one we can trust. No longer do we perceive Him as wholly good. No longer do we observe all of the remaining paradise. We eat. And in an instant, we see. Everywhere we look, we see a world of lack, a universe of loss, a cosmos of scarcity and injustice"

This passage is hard to type, because the tears flow freely. I just think of how Adam and Eve really knew God - they tasted and walked with His goodness. And even though good was before them, walking among them, they still wanted the other, the evil. That's so sad. And then of course, I think of all that it would take to bring us back to that state, of truly knowing God and all His goodness. Doesn't it break your heart?

"I hunger for filling in a world that is starved."

"Eat the mystery"

"Isn't it here? The wonder? Why do I spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it? Do we truly stumble so blind that we must be affronted with blinding magnificence for our blurry soul-sight to recognize grandeur?"

"Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo - the table of thanksgiving I sit there it that simple? Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?"

"Jesus didn't institute the Eucharist around some unusual, rare, once a year event, but around this continual act of eating a slice of bread, drinking a cup of fruit from the vine. First Corinthians 11:26 reads, 'whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup' - whenever. Like every day. Whenever we eat."

"Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy."

"What will a life magnify? The world's stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted? Or God?"

"In Christ, don't we have everlasting existence? Don't Christians have all the time in eternity, life everlasting? If Christians run out of time - wouldn't we lose our very own existence? If anyone should have time, isn't it the Christ-followers?"

"I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry."

"I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away. In our rushing, bulls in china shops, we break our own lives."

"Hurry always empties a soul."

"I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. And when I'm always looking for the next glimpse of glory, I slow and enter. And time slows. Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole time's river slows, slows, slows."

"Full attention fills the empty ache."

"Thanks makes now a sanctuary."

"The clock ticks slow. I hear it for what it is: good and holy. Time, what God first deemed holy above all else (Genesis 2:3). Thank God for the time, and very God enters that time, presence hallowing it. True, this, full attention slows time and I live the full of the moment, right to outer edges. But there's more. I awake to I AM here. When I'm present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God. In HIs embrace, time loses all sense of spend stress and space and stands so still and...holy"

"The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life - in my life - is lack of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks - take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks - and He miraculously makes it more than enough."

"Life is brief and fleeting but it is not an emergency"

"When did I stop thinking life was dessert?"

I want to not just read this book, but to live it. So, I have decided to have a wall of gratitude. Every day,  I will add to the wall behind my head so that when I walk in to my room, I will see it. I want a wall full of even the little things to be thankful for. I want to see it, and to remember that I have more than enough reasons to be thankful.

I will try to keep you posted as the wall is filled.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Point of Observation

The more deeply invested I am in my relationship with God, the more creative I am. I am not an artist, but He makes me one sometimes. I draw in my journals, I see more pictures.

In the beginning, God created...Genesis 1:1

Thursday, January 3, 2013

13 in 13

I am going back to school this weekend after a year long leave of absence, so I thought I'd share 13 things I'm looking forward to in the Spring 2013 semester:

1. Living <20 seconds from Maggie and a minute from Betsy. Phone calls, texts, skypes, emails, and occasional visits cannot replace 24/7 easy access to people I love so dearly.

2. Track. I've been involved in year-round competitive sports for most of my life, so 2012 was weird. It was nice on the one hand, but I'm definitely the kind of person who enjoys competing. I like working towards a goal, challenging myself to reach it (Victoria, this is totally a C type of competitive). Plus, Beloit is hosting outdoor conference during graduation weekend, which means my parents will be able to see me compete as a collegiate trackster for the first time (second, I believe for my dad, but that was indoor and indoor is always a little rough). And the historic Beloit Relays return for the first time in years, and I get to be a part of it!

3. My space. I am excited to have a room I can "be" in. I've loved this year of moving around, living out of suitcases, and being around new people, but it'll be nice to decorate a room and be able to enjoy it for awhile. I am less thrilled about the communal bathroom, but it is not a bucket shower so I will take it.

4. InterVarsity. I'll be the first to admit that joining IV and immediately leadership, and then staying on leadership for the next four semesters left me burnt out. I am blessed to say I will be serving our chapter as vice president this semester.

5. Weekly meetings with Jane. I really want to do this, Jane, for as long as you're still in town. I love spending time with you.

6. My classes. It will be odd to go back to more traditional learning than I've experienced over the past year, but I'm looking forward to discussions and papers and taking part in that kind of creative academics that Beloit brings out in its students.

7. Rock Valley Chapel. YES! I was there all summer, and can't wait to be back. I'm also looking forward to spending time with the Johnsons again. Also, RVC and IV are teaming up to bring an Easter service to campus, so two ministries will be combined into one. Love it.

8. Campus. You just fall in love with campus from the minute you arrive. I like it in every season, and love the little places I've made my own.

9. Nikki's. It's barely off campus, but it's just enough in order to be refreshing and fun. I especially love the spring when I can get an iced coffee and go for a walk by the river. Who am I kidding? Make it a hot coffee, and I'm there in any season.

10. Being responsible for myself. For the most part, I don't have to coordinate a whole lot with other people. I can set my own schedule, and I don't need to worry about offending another culture, keeping twigs to branches in line ;), upsetting a family routine, or someone else needing the car. Right now, I enjoy doing my own thing and not having to worry if it's messing up someone else doing their thing. This is all probably some big sign about how I'm not ready to be married or have a family yet, but that's fine with me.

11. Writing (and handing in) my thesis. I'm not quite sure what it is yet, but it sounds so official and important. I hope it turns out well!

12. Graduating. I'm sad about the thought of leaving the people who have become family and the campus that's become my home, but I am excited to have finished college, and to celebrate all the experiences it gave me.

13. The moments in between, the little moments that make Beloit Beloit.


I'm a little late, but I needed time to think.

In fact, I still need a minute, so I'm going to share some of my favorites of the famed Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards,

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects.

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. 

I have one serious resolution and one not so serious one. 

The first is to stop allowing others to make me feel guilty for things that are not my fault and that I cannot control. Guilt and shame do not exist in Christ and in Christ, they should not exist in me either. 

The silly one is to stop buying the wrong sized clothes. I have a serious problem of buying a 6 when I'm really a 4. I'm going to knock it off. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dickinson's Lament

I read through Lamentations today at lunch. I've always loved that book. When I read it, I just want to put my hands up and lift all of my sorrow and burdens and anguish straight up to the Lord. There's that real, raw, pain, and then there's this hope - that His mercies are new daily and His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:23).

Here are some of the excerpts that I was taken with today:

...among all her lovers she has none to comfort her...from 1:2

...she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her...from 1:3

I called to my lovers, but the deceived me... 1:19a 

...the Lord has made Zion forget festival and Sabbath...from  2:6

This one was particularly striking because of my own reverence for the Sabbath. I love the Sabbath because it's a gift from God to us - a day set apart for Himself, to dwell in His presence and to enjoy His pleasures. The privilege of Sabbath, in this verse, has been taken away from Zion.

The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago;  2:17a 

...Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!...from 2:19

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion,," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 3: 21-26

For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. 3:31-33

Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven 3:41

"You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life. 3:58

The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished; he will keep you in exile no longer; 4:22a

We must pay for the water we drink; 5:4a (See Isaiah 55:1-2, John 4:14, Revelation 22:17 for a deeper meaning to this text)

But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. 5:19

I had a few moments to kill before break was over, and I was thinking about all I'd read. I recalled a poem I'd memorized for English class about seven years ago, "Success", by Emily Dickinson:

Success is counted sweetest 
By those who ne'er succeed
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need

Not one of all the purple host 
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition, 
So clear, of victory!

As he, defeated, dying
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear.

This is Dickinson's Lament. It is the lament of the failures, the losers, the mourners, the sufferers. It's the deceitful lovers, the forgotten Sabbath, and the water we must purchase. And it's why the new mercy and enduring throne are so powerful. The victory is sweetest when you know loss. Christ's victory only means something when you know your own sin. His success is made that much bigger by your failures.