Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Finding God Bigger

Last post of the year...and of the decade. Weird.

This year was amazing. It far exceeded expectations. I have probably anticipated this year more than any other, due to the fact I've had a "Class of 2009" t-shirt since middle school. But truly, I couldn't have asked for a better year. It was a tremendous blessing, especially after the hardships of 2008.

This time last year I was petrified about what was coming. I wasn't sure what I was going to be doing. I couldn't see the path in front of me farther than my toes. A year later, I've had some of the best experiences in my life, and I have some vague idea of what's coming. But more than that, God has yet again (and again and again!) proved Himself faithful, in so many ways.

I blogged this last year on New Year's. It's so cool to see where God has brought me this year.

To me, New Year's is a time to reflect and contemplate and worship. It's a time to consider what God has done and rejoice in what He will do. This past year had been really rough. And I know 2009 will be a time of change and transition, and I'm not sure I'm ready. But my God is faithful.

My God is faithful!

My understanding of His faithfulness has increased this year. I've got a long ways to go - I have a feeling I'll still be learning this from beyond the grave.

There were so many awesome little things that God worked out - an amazing senior year, winning state, senior trip, YIM tour, summer camp, tutoring. And there were things that were greater than anything I could have dreamed, events that truly have been life changing - the East Asia trip and Summit Semester.

In my plan of two years ago, these never would have happened. In my plan of 12 months ago, they wouldn't have happened. That's why God is God - He sees what I cannot and would not see, and He orchestrates everything for His glory. And I have the privilege of trusting Him and being able to participate in what He's doing, which is absolutely amazing.

I haven't understood everything that happened this year, and I don't know what's coming. But I know I am right where I am supposed to be - learning to trust God.

Looking back on this year, I have had an experience much like Lucy Penvensie in Prince Caspian when she encounters Aslan again after returning to Narnia. Aslan had not grown, but her perspective had changed. As He told her: "Every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

This year, I have found God to be bigger and more beautiful and more faithful. May this be my discovery every year of my life.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Times. Tenth Avenue North.

I know I need You
I need to love You
I love to see You, but it's been so long
I long to feel You
I feel this need for You
And I need to hear You, is that so wrong?

Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.
Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.

Now You pull me near You
When we're close, I fear You
Still I'm afraid to tell You, all that I've done
Are You done forgiving?
Or can You look past my pretending?
Lord, I'm so tired of defending, what I've become
What have I become?

Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.
Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.
Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.
Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.

I hear You say,
"My love is over. It's underneath.
It's inside. It's in between.

The times you doubt Me, when you can't feel.
The times that you question, 'Is this for real?'
The times you're broken.
The times that you mend.
The times that you hate Me, and the times that you bend.

Well, My love is over, it's underneath.
It's inside, it's in between.

These times you're healing, and when your heart breaks.
The times that you feel like you've fallen from grace.
The times you're hurting.
The times that you heal.
The times you go hungry, and are tempted to steal.

In times of confusion, in chaos and pain.
I'm there in your sorrow, under the weight of your shame.
I'm there through your heartache.
I'm there in the storm.
My love I will keep you, by My pow'r alone.

I don't care where you fall, where you have been.
I'll never forsake you, My love never ends.
It never ends."

Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.
Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Adventing: Arrival

I can't say it better than this.

May the truth of God's coming to earth, the glory of His Advent, and the love He so displayed saturate your hearts and minds this (and every) day, and may you live as one who knows Immanuel, the God-With-Us.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Adventing: O Holy Night

Sang this twice while running sound for both Christmas Eve services tonight. Several lines jumped out at me.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

I found this interesting. I hadn't ever really thought about this before - the soul feeling its worth with Christ's Advent. It reminds me of what Bauman and Stonestreet emphasized. In Jesus, we have the full revelation of who God is and the full revelation of what it means to be human. The psychosomatic unity we have as humans - creatures made in the image of God, being fully spiritual and fully physical - was most fully realized in the person of Jesus Christ - fully God and fully man.

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!

How crazy is this. The Incarnation defies all expectations. God, the King of the universe, humbles Himself, becoming as one of His creatures. And yet He goes beyond this, taking the worst of the human experience upon Himself, that we might have life in His death. He willingly chose to identify with us, that our identity might be in Him, in His righteousness, before the Father. I have no other response but to fall on my face and worship, lowly bending all I am.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.

Last Sunday our pastor preached on love. Again, it was one of those things I should know, but that I'll be learning all my life. The oft quoted commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself" is the most basic requirement God has given. It was given to those under the Law, in Leviticus 19. Love as understood in the New Covenant demands much more - not just loving my neighbor as myself, but laying down my life for my neighbor.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. - John 15:12-17

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Adventing: Desire of Nations

Two aforementioned carols feature this phrase "Desire of Nations" - Hark the Herald and O Come.

The reference itself comes from Haggai 2:6-7: For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.

It reminds me of this passage from Isaiah 9. This obviously deals with Adventing, but it also holds truth I would do well to remember when I want to get all freaked out and angry at the state of the world.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end...The zeal of Yahweh, Lord of the hosts of the armies of heaven, will accomplish this!

God's Kingdom is always increasing, always growing, always taking ground, all around the world - even when it seems that the darkness is only getting darker. Yet God is always revealing Himself! All the peoples, all the nations will know His light!

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk. Revelation 21:23-24

For now, we cling to what John says, "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Adventing: St. Nick and Nicea

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my uncle, a pastor, about the church history class I took at Summit, specifically about the Nicene Creed. He mentioned two things that I found fascinating, and they relate to Advent, so I'll share them.

The second (but oft skipped) verse of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" is inspired by the Nicene Creed. (It always annoys me when we skip verses of good hymns, especially the parts that are theological!)

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

He then related a story about St. Nicholas, who would later inspire Santa Claus, with the disclaimer that it may be more legend than fact. St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, was a delegate at the Council of Nicea, in which Arius was eventually condemned as a heretic for teaching that Jesus was not fully God. It has been said that at one point Nicholas was so fed up with listening to the heresy that he got up and slapped Arius. For this he was almost removed from the bishopric, but it turns out the council agreed with him and he was reinstated after asking forgiveness.

Gene Edward Veith wrote a column for WORLD based off this story a couple of years ago, suggesting perhaps the Church needs to be more like St. Nicholas when it comes to defending Christ against heresies, instead of resembling a tolerant, non-religious Santa Claus.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Adventing: As Far As The Curse Is Found

No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

This is one of those simple truths you're supposed to learn growing up. I'm sure it's somewhere back in my head, but it is these simple truths that slap me upside the head sometimes. It's something so obvious, so critical to the Christian message, and yet it strikes me as if I had never considered it before.

The concept embodied in this verse is so important, and yet I had never fully articulated it until Semester.

His blessings flow as far as the curse is found. The scope of redemption is the same as the scope of creation. Everything will be redeemed! Nothing is "secular" because everything that God created was created good! And He has come, and will come again, that EVERYTHING might be redeemed - that the world will be reconciled to Himself.

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Adventing: seeking and following

I ran sound and media tonight for the church's "Blue Christmas" service. Intended for those who are grieving or struggling this season, it was a much quieter and mellow service. I really enjoyed it.

The last half of the third verse of "The First Noel" (I'm really glad I'm not a math major or I'd have to do that all the time!) really stuck out to me. I wasn't familiar with it, but it struck a chord.

"To seek for a King was their intent, and to follow the Star wherever it went."

Two things. My calling in life is first and foremost to know the One who calls me. We're called to seek God's face, not God's hand or His plan. My intent each and every day should be to seek after God, that I would know Him better.

The second phrase reminded me of a quote that really struck me last Christmas, which I blogged about then. Mark Alexander of The Patriot Post wrote a great essay for their special Christmas edition, and included this:

When we make God our North Star, we are guided precisely along the path He has prepared for us, even though we do not know where it leads.

May my intent this Advent be to seek my King and follow Him wherever He leads.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Summit Semester wrap up...

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming for this cop-out blog. I'm adventing by recapping Summit Semester on FB and posting it here, too. I am so grateful for S2 - what it taught me during the best three months of my life and what it continues to teach me now. I may be abusing this reference (I really need to re-read it!) but it reminds me of what CS Lewis talks about in Surprised by Joy - an intense longing that drives us toward what we should really be longing for - in this case, knowing and walking in the fellowship of the Spirit and looking toward our true Home.

I’ve now been home three weeks from Summit Semester. It’s taken me long enough, but I thought I’d post on what we did and learned and all of that. It’s hard to even know where to start, so bear with me…

Summit Semester is a three-month academic program that focuses on developing a Biblical worldview (learning to think Christianly about everything) in the context of living in community. We lived at Snow Wolf Lodge, which is outside of Pagosa Springs, CO. We were surrounded on three sides by national forests. We only had internet for a few hours in town on Sunday, and I had to hike up to the ridge behind the lodge to get cell phone service. It’s amazing what you can accomplish without so many distractions!

Weekly, we had an art and Bible survey class, in addition to 15 hours of instruction with Dr. Michael Bauman of Hillsdale College in Politics and Christianity, British Literature, and History of Christian Theology. The 40 of us living at Snow Wolf Lodge (28 students, 7 staff, and the director’s family) grew close – we became a family – as we did basically everything together: class, family-style meals, dish crews, chores, volleyball, deep and random discussions, field trips, work crews, campfires, games, and so much more.

Everything with Bauman was discussed in light of four diagnostic questions:

(Try to answer these – it’s a lot harder than you might think!)

What is a good life and what good is life?

What is a good death and what good is death?

What is a good love and what good is love?

What is a human being?

So what did I learn? Again, I’m not sure where to start…

- I’ve learned how much I don’t know. There is so much I need to read and learn and ask…

- I’ve learned I have an infinite, lifelong reading list.

- I’ve learned about questions – how answer them, how to ask them. Bauman’s now in my head forever, making question just about everything…

- I’ve learned what it means to live in community, how important it is to have deep friendships and accountability and mentoring.

- I’ve learning about calling. It’s really basic, but it was an important lesson for me. God calls each of us to specific things – I’m not called to fix every problem I see. Others are called to those things to which I am not called. It’s how the Body works.

I was truly taught how to think, not what to think.

I’ve been told that from my pictures, it looks like we only had fun. So here’s an abbreviated list of what we studied in class. (feel free to skip to the end if you don’t want to be intimidated…or if you’re bored already…)

Politics: basic principles; formulating public policy; liberalism, conservatives, liberals, historical pragmatists, and revolutionaries; terrorism; abortion; Civil Rights; libertarianism and John Stuart Mill; Machiavelli and The Prince, Edmond Burke, the just war theory, capitalism, socialism, Milton on censorship and education; Dante on monarchy and governments, the Constitution; Switzerland; and regular discussion of current events…

British Literature: An Experiment in Criticism by CS Lewis, the medieval worldview (habits, beliefs, education system, courtly love); Beowulf; the Pearl Poet and his four poems; Geoffrey Chaucer (Romance of the Rose, Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, Parliament of Fowls, Troilus and Creseyde, Legend of Good Women, and The Canterbury Tales); Sir Philip Sidney (Lady of May, Arcadia, Astrophil and Stella, Defense of Poesy); Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet; John Milton (sonnets, Lycidas, and Paradise Lost); Thomas Gray’s poetry; William Wordsworth’s poetry; Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poetry; Walter de la Mare’s poetry

History of Christian Theology: Jewish roots, Jesus, apostles, persecution and growth of the church; Apostolic Fathers – Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, and the Didache; the Trinity and the first four church councils; Second Century Church Fathers – Tertullian, Justin Martyr; Heretics – Gnostics, Montantus; the Pelagius vs. Augustine debate; Augustine vs. Donatists; the Medieval Roman Catholic Church – popes, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham); the mystics vs. scholastics; pre-reformation reformers – John Wycliffe, John Hus, Girolamo Savonarola; Francesco Petrarch (Ascent of Mt. Ventoux, The Secret, The Remedy, The Rest of the Religious); Thomas More (Dialogue of Comfort, Utopia); Erasmus; the Reformation; Martin Luther; Philip Melanchton; Ulrich Zwingli; John Calvin; Anabaptists, the Council of Trent; and random theology lectures – what is beauty, worship, church services, marriage/divorce…

A week with Dr. Don Williams of Toccoa Falls College, GA: theory of Christian study; higher education; theology of literature; poetry; the praise of Christ in British poetry; deconstructing deconstructionism; CS Lewis as a scholar; CS Lewis on Goodness, Truth, and Beauty; Edmund Spenser; Worldviews in literature; why evangelicals can’t write; speaking the truth in love

Dr. JP Moreland of Biola University: philosophy – types of knowledge, epistemology, brain/mind and body/soul,

Art with Charlie Pepiton: wrestled with the definition of art, the definition of beauty, the continuum of glory and suffering, breaking constructs, midrash interpretation, elements of design, theater basics, dramatic structure, semiotics, poetry, art history from 1850s to present…

Bible with Eric and God: understanding the overarching metanarrative of the Bible – seeing it as one Story rather than 66 different books; Creation, Fall, the Law, Israel’s history and kings, prophets, interlude, the Kingdom of God, redemption… read through major chunks of Scripture

It is impossible for any description of Semester to do it justice. I grew exponentially in so many ways - academically, spiritually, personally, relationally...the list goes on. I could not have spent those three months in a better way, and I am so grateful for the experience.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Adventing: O Come, O Come Emmanuel 1

So after Hark the Herald, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is my favorite Christmas carol. Maybe it's a personality thing - it's more solemn, and yet still filled with hope and joy. I feel like it captures the reality of Advent better than any other hymn - waiting in captivity, waiting for ransom, knowing it will come, but not yet seeing it...and here enters the paradox of Christianity: rejoicing in what cannot yet be seen. Such a contrast to the instant gratification culture we live in.

The biblical Christmas story is much darker than we like to remember it. The faith of the characters - Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, the shepherds and the magi - is admirable only because of the fear and doubt they had to fight. Often we forget how dangerous the story really is. They faced threats to their reputations and their lives, as they threatened the power structure of culture and Herod and Rome.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is not a happy bubbly song. I like this because often life isn't either.

While it addresses the realities and the harshness of life in this fallen world and the sin we struggle against...
captive, lonely exile, Satan's tyranny, depths of hell, gloomy clouds of night, death's dark shadows, sad divisions also is full of hope.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
free, save, give victory over the grave, Day-spring cheer our spirits, disperse [darkness], open wide our heavenly home, close the path to misery, be the ensign of your people, end our sad divisions, be Thyself our King of Peace.
Joy, as described in the Bible, isn't happy and bubbly.

  • Joy is having lost all family and possessions and wealth and yet declaring "I know my Redeemer lives, and in the end He will stand upon the earth."
  • Joy is sitting in a jail cell, awaiting execution, and encouraging other believers to rejoice and fight the good fight of faith.
  • Joy is dying, not having yet arrived, and yet looking forward to that which is unseen.
  • Joy is coming to earth and enduring the cross, scorning its shame, that the world might be redeemed and reconciled.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel! God is with us! He is here, and He is coming.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Adventing: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" Part II

I'm sitting here again, just a few minutes until this day is done, wondering why I made this commitment to blog daily. And this is precisely why I made the commitment. Blogging is definitely not the best way to give oneself accountability, but it's something. A commitment in words, in print, in public.

Coming back from three months of community accountability is rough. And I really miss the accountability - to get up on time, be at meals, work, exercise, and go to bed at a decent hour. When I've explained what I've done to people here at home, several have commented about "oh, you learn so much about yourself in community like that." That's definitely a true statement, but I think I'm learning just as much or more about myself now, in the absence of said communal accountability. It's not a pretty picture.

It's been harder creating and keeping a schedule than I anticipated. Truth be told, I haven't really made it a priority. Sure, many events have been outside my control, but things like not starting projects at 11 PM and getting a decent sleep schedule definitely don't count in that category. Some things can only be attributed to stupidity and laziness and sin.

So here's a blog that deserves more thought but perfectly illustrates the above experiences. The last two verse of Hark the Herald aren't really well known. I admit, I don't really have them memorized at all. But there's a lot of theology in them that's really important.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
Hark! The herald angels sing:
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.
Hark! The herald angels sing:
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Jesus, bruise the serpent's head in me. Efface the sin, the image I so quickly chose as my identity. Transform me into Your image, for Your glory.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adventing: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

This was the first Christmas carol I knew by heart, and it has always been my favorite for multiple reasons.
1. My parents both like it a lot.
2. Charles Wesley. Enough said. The guy was brilliant.
3. This probably didn't hurt my young impressions of it, either.
Seriously, though, I love "Hark! The Herald..." because it tells the Gospel. It's saturated with Scripture, quoted and referenced in almost every line.

Hark the herald angels sing (Luke 2)
"Glory to the newborn King! (Matthew 2)
Peace on earth and mercy mild (Luke 2)
God and sinners reconciled" (II Corinthians 5)
Joyful, all ye nations rise (Revelation 21)
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim: (Luke 2)
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing (Luke 2)
"Glory to the newborn King!" (Matthew 2)

Christ by highest heav'n adored (Hebrews 1)
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come (Galatians 4)
Offspring of a Virgin's womb (Isaiah 7, Matthew 1)
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell (John 1)
Jesus, our Emmanuel (Matthew 1)
Hark! The herald angels sing (Luke 2)
"Glory to the newborn King!" (Matthew 2)

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9)
Hail the Sun of Righteousness! (Malachi 4)
Light and life to all He brings (John 1)
Ris'n with healing in His wings (Malachi 4)
Mild He lays His glory by (Philippians 2)
Born that man no more may die (John 11)
Born to raise the sons of earth (I Corinthians 15)
Born to give them second birth (John 3)
Hark! The herald angels sing (Luke 2)
"Glory to the newborn King!" (Matthew 2)

After I had compiled most of these, I found a really detailed list at this website. So check that out if you care...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Frustration and Repentence

I freely admit that I'm kind of a Scrooge about Christmas.

And I realized tonight that it's probably not a good thing.

Let me explain several things. We'll try to make this coherent.

Knowing that sloppy language makes sloppy thought possible, I seriously want two different words to distinguish between Christmas in a Biblical sense, and the materialistic sentimental consumerism that is so very rampant in our culture. As fun as it is to make up new words entirely, I'm going to go with "Advent" referring to the Biblical sense of Christmas and "Christmas" to refer to the commercial greatness. Hate me if you will, but at least we know what we're talking about now.

I ran sound for the elementary Christmas/Advent programs at school tonight. Starting rehearsals at 12, with a two hour break, I was thinking about Christmas to some degree for six hours. (Probably most of those thoughts were related to Christmas by way of adjusting the gain on the microphone to make the kids singing the Christmas carols sound better, but I did actually have some time to contemplate the lyrics and the program itself.) Both the younger kids' program and the older elementary programs were quite gospel centered, which was great. But as I blogged here last year, I still have problems with sugar-coating Advent within the church.

While it may be a great starting place for really little kids to understand Advent, I think it seems pretty trite to look at Advent as just "Jesus' birthday." It is of course (though not literally a date in December), but it is so much more than that. And it seems we lessen the glory of the Incarnation and the perfect plan of redemption and His kenosis (see Philippians 2) if all we do is talk about a birthday party in which we're the ones really receiving the presents.

Driving home tonight I was still thinking about this, and while it may be trite or devaluing to just see Advent as a birthday party, it's no different than my normal behavior. Like it or not, purposefully or not, far too often I live as a practical atheist. God is often an afterthought, rather than my raison d'etre.

My heart needs to practice the season of Advent every day. I need to constantly be reminding myself of the Truth of the Incarnation, of Immanuel, of God-With-Us, and that knowledge needs to radically transform the way I live, day in and day out. As Eric says, I have to constantly preach the Gospel to myself.

Two weeks ago, I wrote this:

I can get so distracted by what Christmas is not, or what it shouldn't be, that I forget what it is. This is why I desperately need something like the season of Advent, a time to actively remember and prepare my heart for Immanuel, God-with-us, taking the form of His creation upon Himself that He might redeem us.

I'm wrote this two weeks ago, but I've been pretty terrible about purposefully observing Advent personally. Fully realizing that Advent has been going on for three Sundays now, I'm immersing myself in it now. Better late than never, right?

Anyways, I'm not a huge music person, but I think my favorite thing about Christmas/Advent is that everybody is playing and singing hymns, which is rare the rest of the year. I'm going to blog every day, now until Christmas, looking at some of my favorite Advent hymns and a few brief thoughts.

It's an exercise in preaching the Gospel to myself, which my hard heart desperately needs.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Home? ...Defining and Equivocating

I've been home in Texas for a week now.

I'm not sure what I think about that statement. On the one hand, I love being home. We got to hang out with all my cousins last night, and I realized just how much I had missed my family (even if I didn't really have time to realize it while I was away). Yet part of me still feels like "home" is somewhere else - yes, in a very special lodge hidden in the San Juan mountains, but more so with a very special group of 40 people I call my Semester family.

For the first time this year, I've begun to think of places other than the North Texas address I've lived at for most of my life as "home." I've now lived outside of Texas for the first time in my life, and this year is the first time I have seriously contemplated moving much farther away - as in halfway across the globe. (And I'm sure this post, just like this one did nine months ago, is making my mom seriously freak out...)

To quote from the aforementioned post:

I miss it.

It is so different than home. And in a million ways, I'm so glad to be home. But for the first time in my life, I've recently entertained thoughts that "home" may be far from my beloved Texas.

I couldn't be happier with my home as it is right now. I'm not looking for a one-way ticket to Timbuktu or anywhere else. But my heart longs for Home, and deep down, I know my allegiance is first and foremost to that Place, to Him who makes it Home, and not to geography or ideals or people.

Meaning, I know I will have to be in whichever place He decides is most necessary for His glory and the good of all those who may one day call His presence "Home."

The context of this is coming back from Asia, another place where my heart felt strangely at home, yet I find these words ringing true again. Perhaps they have a deeper meaning to me now, after living away from what I've always known as "home."

I felt at home at Semester like I've never felt at any other place or with any other group of people, save my family. And while I miss them dearly, it is stirring something deeper within me. Beck wrote in her blog near the end of the Semester that we could now identify with the Penvensie children having to leave Narnia. The experience is similar, I think - we got a taste of otherworldliness, how this world is supposed to be - and that stirs a deep longing which cannot easily be fulfilled. I'm reminded of CS Lewis' journey as chronicled in Surprised by Joy.

Yet as Lewis writes, this longing, this Joy, is not the end in of itself. It is the signpost that leads to something much greater, Home. Heaven. The New Creation.

Revelation 21: 1-5
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Approaching Advent

Tonight I ran sound (and got paid!) for my school's annual Christmas concert - elementary, middle, and high school orchestra, band, and choir.

(I was reminded of Bauman's lecture on Machiavelli, and the need to be a virtuoso. This year I had a lot more sympathy/empathy with the 5th grade band/orchestra. They've only been playing for a few months, and I'm realizing how now, more than ever, I'm really in their shoes with so many things - actually everything! - from reading to learning to media/video and theology and asking questions...)

But it was the Christmas part that struck me. (Crazy, right, at a Christmas concert? Who would have guessed?)

The past two Christmases have not been particularly joyful for me. Two years ago was in the middle of the Implosion, when our church was splitting apart, and I was losing my community, friends, and mentors, the place where I was encouraged and where I served. At the same time, my grandmother was really sick, in the hospital, and it was our last Christmas with her. Last year I had surgery right after finals, so I was still on drugs and in pain on Christmas day - and it was so different without Nanny.

The greatest blessing of Christmas last year was getting to officially participate in the celebration of Advent at church. It wasn't really done at the interdenominational church we attended for the previous nine years, and while I had always been aware of Advent, it was really encouraging to be a part of consciously celebrating it. (I was reminded this past Sunday that it was exactly a year ago, the first Sunday of Advent 2008, that I really began to feel at home with FUMCC.)

I think Advent is really important, and something I've never been good at. It always seems as if Christmas sneaks up on me, and it's here and gone before I ever really consider the significance of God becoming flesh and living among us.

I see the world in terms of black and white, and sometimes it's hard for me to get past the problems I see. There have been times I've really struggled with Christmas just because of the cultural implications and the materialism and the sentimentalism. And contrary to popular opinion, these are not what Christmas is about. I blogged about this last year, and I don't want to beat a dead horse, so here's my point.

I can get so distracted by what Christmas is not, or what it shouldn't be, that I forget what it is. This is why I desperately need something like the season of Advent, a time to actively remember and prepare my heart for Immanuel, God-with-us, taking the form of His creation upon Himself that He might redeem us.

Oh God, teach me how to remember and worship.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home for Christ and His Kingdom and Hope

On Friday night, I became an alumna of Summit Semester, the class of 2009. It doesn't seem right. It seems like we should just be starting. But, no, we spent three amazing months together, and now it is time to go home, "for Christ and His Kingdom," as Eric charged us.

So I'm home, after a 14 hour drive all day Saturday. It was so weird to be home. I stayed up for like three more hours, reading the Semester blogs, bios, and notes, looking at pictures, remembering...

We went to church this morning, which was really good. It was good to see friends again. And I really needed the sermon, on hope, today being the first Sunday of Advent.

I'm not gonna lie, I don't feel like being hopeful right now. My heart is still looking back, longing for my new family and the home we had at Snow Wolf Lodge. I'd honestly rather wallow in the "400 silent years" for at least a few more days, musing and contemplating and grieving, in a sense, rather than jump back in wholeheartedly into life.

Yet I'm called to more than this.

To quote my new favorite article ("Telling the World Its Own Story," Richard John Neuhaus):

All of us who have contended to be Christian disciples, to be faithful, know times in which we are tempted to despair and to feel that we are a part not only of a minority enterprise but a failing and perhaps definitively failed enterprise. But we have not the right to despair, for despair is a sin. And finally we have not the reason to despair, quite simply because Christ has risen.

As Dr. Dunagin reminded us this morning, God broke the the silence of 400 years with the command: "Fear not!" Of all of Jesus' commands, almost 20% of these were spent telling us not to fear.

His main points: Fear robs us of joy and hope. It causes us to doubt God's goodness, and fear produces "spiritual amnesia." Fear drains us of generosity; it causes us to seek safety first, which drains us of love. On the other hand, joy is deep and firm and abiding. Joy flourishes in the midst of pain and struggle.

Currently, I am wrestling more with fear and despair than I am with hope and joy. I'm not sure how to best keep up the friendships I've made these past three months. I'm scared of finding/creating a community here at home like the one I've just come from and of developing deep friendships that sharpen like iron. I'm not sure what lies ahead, and I don't really like that.

Yet this is why hope and joy are so essential. They aren't abstract ideas that only work when life is good and the world is happy. Hope and joy sustain us when everything else is falling apart because hope and joy can't just be mustered up inside us when we feel down. They come as a result of tremendous sacrifice.

Neuhaus again:

Optimism is not a Christian virtue. Optimism is simply a matter of optics, of seeing what you want to see and opting not to see what you don't want to see.

We are hopeful, filled with hope, which is a very different thing. Hope is a virtue of having looked unblinkingly into all the reasons for despair, into all of the reasons that would seem to falsify hope, and to say, "Nonetheless Christ is Lord. Nonetheless this is the story of the world. Nonetheless this is a story to which I will surrender myself day by day." Not simply on one altar call, but as the entirety of one's life, in which every day is a laying of your life on the altar of the Lord Jesus Christ being offered up in perfect sacrifice to the Father.

And will we overcome? Will we prevail? We have overcome and have prevailed ultimately because He has overcome and He has prevailed. There are days in which you and I get discouraged. On those days I tell myself — I suppose almost every day I tell myself, sometimes several times a day — those marvelous lines from T. S. Eliot's "East Coker," where Eliot says, "For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."

For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. Some people read those lines as lines of resignation, kind of shrugging your shoulders and saying, "What can you do?" But I read them as lines of vibrant hope. The rest is not our business. The rest is God's business.

Thank God, we are not God. Thank God, God is God.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The First Goodbye

Saturday, November 21, 2009
Day 77, Summit Semester

Tonight was our first goodbye. Of course, it wasn’t really – not in any sense. (I think the first goodbye to really hit was five weeks ago when Dr. Williams was here – he connected with us in a way that other visiting speakers just didn’t, and he was the first to prepare us for going home.) But in another sense, tonight was one of the most significant goodbyes we will have this Semester.

This Semester was very different from years past in many respects, but perhaps most of all because Bauman was not our scholar-in-residence, living here at Snow Wolf Lodge the whole semester but traveling back and forth every week from Hillsdale. He said today that he’s spent four and a half 40-hour workweeks just traveling this semester – yet he also feels this is the most significant work he does all year. And for this, his sacrifice and dedication, we are very grateful.

Yet it was weird tonight – our last class with Bauman. It was pretty anticlimactic – and I’m actually really grateful for that. I’m just not a fan of big blubbering drawn out goodbyes – though sometimes that’s necessary, and I’ve certainly experienced those (and will again… probably next week…). We just had class as normal – finished up the overview of the Reformation with the Anabaptists and the Council of Trent tonight, after the Calvinist/Arminian lecture this morning. (Quote of the day from Bauman: I’m a no-point Calvinist, which is not the same as a pointless Calvinist – a pointless Calvinist is redundant!) We asked a last few questions, he commented for a minute or two about how we’ve grown this semester, and we stood and applauded. That was our last class.

We hung around for a while afterwards. Bauman signed books, took pictures with us, and joked around. He’s been very gracious with his time the past two weeks, staying an hour or more after class to answer our questions. Getting to talk and just hear him explain things in a smaller group of four or five has been just amazing. I’m so grateful for him and this Semester.

And in many ways, I’m ready to be home. In many ways, I’m ready to be done here. (Not in all ways – a lot of me wishes we were coming back next semester…) Yet it is still so weird. Today was our last Saturday – talking at breakfast I realized that I wouldn’t be here this time next week. And I’m okay with that – but it’s going to be so very different.

One of the most surprising things to me is that looking forward to these goodbyes is much harder than graduating high school – even though I had been with some of my classmates for 14 years. I guess some of it is geography – even though we’re scattered, we’ll probably all be back in town for holidays and stuff for the next couple of years - as opposed to my friends now being scattered all over the US (and South Korea).

But I really wasn’t expecting to be impacted this deeply by this community. I came in with one idea of community – based largely on my friendships at CCA with the friends I’ve had for a decade – and I’m leaving with an entirely different understanding. As Dr. Williams said, this community is just about as close to being what the church is supposed to be as about anything. And there is a factor here I haven’t experienced before – of living life with 40 people day in and day out for three months – spending an hour and half at the dinner table together every day, sitting in the same classes, wrestling with the same questions, doing the same chores, having the same crazy fun on the volleyball court. And the depth of what we do – from class to conversations over lunch that carry over to dish crew that we pick up again after dinner – and the ridiculous amount of inside jokes we’re able to accumulate every second… it’s so unique. I want everyone I know to experience this because it is so amazing.

And yet I know that’s ridiculous, impossible. So the challenge in going home is A) keeping up with the friendships we’ve developed here, and perhaps more importantly, B) developing and cultivating a sense of community, of deep friendship at home. It’s this second part that I’m kind of worried about, honestly. In a sense I’ve gone from having friends I’ve had all my life at CCA, to really deep friendships here at Semester, to not having the same kind of community at all at home. I haven’t yet experienced life at home, with my old friends at college, and I don’t have any idea what that looks like. I know I’m called to do CP!, but it’s definitely not the social experience this has been. It’s going to be radically different going from having 40 people keeping me company and accountable 24/7 to be studying on my own for most of the day.

So I’m not quite sure what that is going to look like, and I have no idea about what my schedule will look like either. It’s crazy how much more I get done when I have a schedule and stick to it. Not having internet or phone here means there are a lot less distractions, but the test of what we’ve learned is not how much we accomplish here but how we take it home and apply it and implement it for the rest of our lives.

One of the best ideas we’ve talked about in going home is to make a list of all the things we’re looking forward to about going home, to remind ourselves that this isn’t the end of the world. (And seriously, we’re not that depressed at all – it’s just a very weird time…)

So here’s my partial list (I’m sure there’s more… and these are ordered as they jumped into my head – not a whole lot of significance)
• Being with family!
• Church! I’ve really missed it – definitely more grateful for it now…
• Seeing and getting to regularly communicate with old friends
• Getting to read all the books I already own and need to read
• Organizing my lifetime reading list
• Working with missions stuff at church
• Working with media stuff at church
• Hanging out/investing in the youth group
• Normal cell phone use (yes, this is this far down the list)
• Getting a new cell phone – possibly more excited about this – I’m not sure what I’ll do when I don’t have to climb a mountain to get coverage every-other day or so, haha…
• Limited internet use – I really have no desire to use it every day! (except maybe for blogging…we’ll see….)
• Processing through more of what we’ve talked about here – especially talking things out with people
• Working around the house and yard – I am excited about this – regular work crews grow on you, though I’m not sure you want me to put up barbed-wire fences – those are the most fun by far! (seriously….)
• Eventually talking with M&Ms and trying to figure out more of what I’m specifically called to – discussions here have raised a lot of really good questions I need to wrestle through

So yeah. That’s what’s running through my head. Hopefully it made some sense.

And I am looking forward to seeing y’all this week!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 71, Summit Semester

Two weeks from today, I will be back home. That's a really weird thought.

Things have been really busy. I didn't blog before now, so these won't be profound at all. Sorry, haha.


We're having a blast, despite the fact time is flying way too fast.

A couple of us stayed after class for over an hour, talking to Bauman about different things, and it was really good. And after that, we went mattress sliding again. (Yes, Mom, I was careful, and my leg is doing well.)

We've been discussing the Reformation and the events leading up to it and the major figures of it this week in Theology, and it's been good. Bauman is an amazing teacher.

We had a really interesting discussion on CS Lewis' views on worship and prayer yesterday morning. It was fascinating, but I think I've found an area where I definitely don't agree with him, on how a worship service should be run. Interesting stuff to think about though.

We've looked at Wordsworth and the Romantic poets in Brit Lit. I'm glad we're reading a lot of their works, but I think I appreciate the old school guys like Gray and Milton and Donne a lot more...

It seems impossible, but our time here seems to be getting better and better. I'm so grateful for the leadership and for my friends. It's absolutely amazing.

At the same time, I'm not dreading coming home, just so you know. It's definitely going to be different, and I don't really have any idea what I'm coming home to schedule wise (which is weird after 3 months of great rigidity - seriously, no sarcasm - you get used to the schedule and it's really helpful - a lot harder to waste time...).

I'm just really happy and really grateful for this opportunity. I couldn't imagine doing anything better these three months.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 65, Summit Semester

Today was seriously the most fun I've had in a long long time! The first year of Summit Semester, they were planning to have a Harvest Fall celebration, but it got tongue twisted, and has immortally become known as Farvest Hall celebration. It's pretty epic.

We started out the morning in five teams, out in the field. It turns out they don't really sell pumpkins after All Saint's Day (for some reason also associated with something called halloween or something? yeah, not sure...), so we couldn't have pumpkin carving. We did something way better - gourd carving and sculpture. My team came in 2nd place with a great representation of a wonderful political leader. (Pictures withheld so Summit doesn't lose tax exemption and I don't wind up in jail or something within the next seven years. But as Bauman cheerfully asserts: "It's not slander if it's true!")

We also had a shooting contest going on while we were carving. For my second time to shoot, I did decent, and it was fun. That's something I'd definitely like to learn how to do well when I get home...

After that, we had an amazing celebration of World Freedom Day. We had an original 6+ minutes political speech, followed by a reenactment of tearing down the Berlin Wall. It was amazing - and it would only happen at Nerd Camp!

After that, we had a bobbing for apples contest, which ended with some people getting soaked. It was another cool thing to add to my list of new fun experiences at Semester.

We then had lunch - pumpkin soup in bread bowls and caramel apples.

After lunch, we watched a movie, which was interesting. We then got ready for the costume party. People had crazy costumes and it was hilarious. Food, dancing, games, and pure fun. I love how this community can be so academic and deep, discussing intense things, and crazy silly and having a blast at the same time. It's amazing...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day 64, Summit Semester

In politics this week, we covered the Constitution – the Convention, the background of the different groups of Framers, the various economic and political ideologies, how the document itself was composed and defended. Definitely something we need to understand in this day and age.

In Brit Lit, we’ve been hitting the highlights of Milton’s Paradise Lost. There’s not nearly enough time to go through all 11,000 lines, but we got a great overview and feel for it over the past three days.

In Theology, we’ve been discussing the guys leading up the Reformation – Thomas More and Erasmus. Interesting to really understand the political, social, and theological background going on during that time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 61, Summit Semester

Bauman returned! We gave him a standing O as he entered class tonight. Williams and Moreland were great, but it’s so much fun to have Bauman back. In typical Bauman fashion, he trashed both Williams and Moreland, both good friends of his, implying if not outright stating we shouldn’t trust what we learned while he was gone. Seriously, where else in the world do you get the quality of profs we get in three months? It’s amazing!

Bauman told the story of a scientist who wanted to be an entomologist – someone who studies insects. His prof gave him a specimen to study – a fish. For his first week, his only assignment was to stare at the fish – learn and observe everything he could about it using only his eyes, hands, and pencil and paper. He thought he knew everything there was to know about the fish within the first hour, but as the prof kept coming back and asking him what else he learned, he realized he wasn’t really seeing the fish. So over the course of that week, thinking about it in the lab and at night, and being quizzed by the prof, he learned how to really see and observe.

Bauman’s point? Keep staring at the fish! “I won’t always be here to answer your questions – that’s not real learning anyway. Stare at the fish! Think about it, figure it out yourself! Learn. And keep staring at the fish from every possible angle.”

If there’s one thing we’re learning at Semester, it’s that learning is a lifetime process. Our questions can’t be answered in a Semester, we can only realize how deep the questions really go and how little we actually know – about ourselves, the world, God, knowledge. There is infinitely more to learn, and while we’ll never get to the point where we know it all, learning and thinking well should be a part of every day for the rest of our lives.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 59, Summit Semester

Today was a nice day of rest after a quick but fun art field trip to Santa Fe. I talked with Naomi for about an hour in the morning, which was really good. There are definitely some things I really need to think through and define, both for myself and others, about missions and mobilizing. I love being in a place where good questions challenge you to the core and force you to really know what you think. They help clarify and make you sort through what you really believe. It was really helpful.

We then went into town, where we spent most of the day. We had internet access for three days in a row, with our trip to Santa Fe, and I definitely ran out of things to do. Of course, there’s always something to do on FB, but I had to think about how to spend my last hour or two on the internet. So crazy. I really need to ration my time on the internet when I get home. It’s one of those things you think you can’t live without, then you discover you live so much more and accomplish a gazillion more things without it…

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Hmm, so even though we had extra time on the internet, I didn't write out blogs beforehand this week, so this will be a pathetic week for blogging. Check FB, though, cause there are pics and videos up. A picture's worth a thousand words, so that should satisfy, right?

Monday we had Bible class and small group, and on Tuesday we had two art classes, one in the morning with Charlie (we did skits again) and one in the evening with his wife on art history. She's a high school art teacher, and she ran through the major art movements of the past 160 ish years so we would be prepared for our art field trip to Sante Fe this weekend.

Wednesday through Friday we had Dr. JP Moreland, one of the most important Christian philosophers alive today. He's a great teacher, though I will say he's much more enjoyable in person than in books (don't get me wrong, I really like his books and need to read more of them). He was great, I just wish we had more time with him.

Yesterday, we drove down early to Sante Fe to look at various art galleries. We started with a postmodern gallery called Site Sante Fe, which was interesting. I learned I need to start coring concrete out of the floors and selling it for thousands and thousands of dollars.

We then hung out on Canyon Road for several hours. There are dozens upon dozens of galleries there, with all kinds of art. It was definitely interesting. We then came back to the hotel, hung out, had great Mexican food, talked about art, and then used the internet for hours on end. It was pretty amazing.

Happy All Saints Day!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

wRestling, Rights, and Remembering

Day 51, Summit Semester

Disclaimer: this is really long, but it’s really important. It’s what I’ve been wrestling with all Semester, and I’m now kind of maybe starting to get it…

(read the referenced blog first...for some reason, I don't think it posted last week, sorry)

So the “personal blog” I wrote last week was written Saturday night (10-17), and it was kind of coming from some of the frustration (and resignation) I’d been wrestling with for the past couple of weeks. Various things, those outside my control and those inspired by some of the Semester experience, have left me feeling less secure about my future plans than I was before coming here. (Perhaps, as Bauman asserts, I’ve been confused all along, and it just takes the right questions to make me realize it.) Seriously though, I felt to some degree that the rug had been pulled out from under me again, as far as my plans for the future.

And I really struggled with this. I struggled with not knowing. I struggled because I felt like I wasn’t trusting God like I should. I struggled because I felt I had, in some way, walked this path before (post-Implosion and college decision) and yet I was struggling with trusting God just as much now as then, though I have already seen Him work things out better than I could have planned or dreamed in a million years. It was frustrating because it felt like I had made no progress, that I was currently in an unstable spiritual state of not trusting God fully, and that I still really wanted to know what’s coming and I still have no idea.

I talked with Naomi, my mentor and small group leader, and she had some really helpful stuff to say. In a sense, she’s been in a place of not knowing any long term plans for the past six years, so she definitely understood what I was wrestling with. She said that sometimes the Christian life doesn’t seem so much like hills and valleys as it does this spiraling motion – often it seems we keep coming back to the same issue/problem/question time and time again, each time coming with a little more knowledge than we had before, which can inspire both hope (God got me through this once, we can do it again) and frustration (God why can’ t I learn this and move on?). There are times it just seems like I haven’t grown at all since the last time God tried to teach me this, and yet I know I have. Talking with her really gave me a better perspective, and I definitely had more peace after that, but it was still simmering at the back of my conscious for another week or two. Which led to Saturday’s blog of frustration.

And then came (last) Sunday morning, when God gave me exactly what I needed in church. It was amazing. The pastor is preaching through Philippians, and he was at the last part of Philippians 2, which is about Timothy and Epaphroditus…not exactly a passage obviously conducive to application. He talked about their example, how they didn’t look out for their own interests, but those of Jesus Christ, and how they were willing to and almost died for the Gospel. He talked about how far this is from our understanding of the Christian life today. We understand that if you join the Marines, you give up all rights – they own you and you do exactly what they tell you, even if you don’t like or understand it or consider it abusive. You signed up, and they own you. Yet we don’t carry this understanding over to our understanding of the God of the Universe, who created us and owns us more than the United States ever could.

He talked about how there’s no middle ground – we have “full devotion” or “no devotion.” There’s a straight narrow path, and an easy wide path – we’re not given the option of middle ground. We’re called to live holistically, and following Jesus costs me everything. We can’t have everything on our “middle road” and have Jesus. It just doesn’t work that way.

Going back to a theme of Bauman’s, I have no biblical rights, only responsibilities. I have no rights, only the obligation to remember and the responsibility to obey.

I have no rights. I have no right to assume college or the pursuit of Master’s degree or a missions career or marriage. I have no right to know God’s plan or where I’ll be next year or five years down the road. I have no right to my next breath. Jesus is EVERYTHING, and nothing can be better than Him. To paraphrase CS Lewis, he who has _________ + God has nothing more than he who has God alone.

I forget so quickly. And God knows this.

In the Pentateuch, God commands us to “remember” 18 times. In the same space, God “remembers” 6 times. Based on the rest of Scripture and my personal experience, we don’t remember well often at all. That’s why it’s commanded so frequently.

This idea of remembrance isn’t new to me. Pastor Syvelle talked about it when I was 10 at the Garden Tomb. It came up again when I was 16, in India. Later that year I wrote a paper about the connection between those – see here. That year in chapel, Mr. Gregory went with the theme of the Hebrew word “zakar” – meaning to remember and therefore live - for chapel as we worked through the 10 Commandments. I then put that term on a leather bracelet I made that summer and have worn since. I’ve been journaling consistently for the past four or five years. It’s something I’m aware of, but that I fail to practice.

And when I forget what God has done, and how glorious He is, how perfect and faithful, I get in trouble really fast.

God commands us to remember, because we’re stupid humans and we forget the important things really, really fast.

So when I forget what God has done, and live in light of my forgetfulness – walking in worry or doubt or fear – I am sinning. I’m pretty good at this.

There’s a quote I stumbled across on a blog one time, and I love it, because I think it sums up what I’ve been wrestling with really well.

“I find I fall the hardest when I try the hardest to do in myself what God wants to do in me.”

I’m called to live. To die. To surrender. To jump. To trust. To love. To work out my salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in me to will in to act according to His good purpose.

His purpose is good. It is good, because He is good. It is safe to trust God.

I’m called to remember – remember what God has done in history and in my life, and to remember those who have gone before me, those who have given everything to follow Jesus. How can I not do the same, for Him who is always faithful even as I forget time and time again?

The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O LORD, endures forever – do not abandon the works of Your hands!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 50, Summit Semester

Trip to Mesa Verde….see FB pics and postcards coming soon to an address near you.

After we got back from Mesa Verde, about eight of us had a campfire up on the ridge. It was fun just hanging out. The fire was beautiful. I still can’t get over the stars. There’s so many of them, more than I’ve ever seen before, and it blows my mind to realize how big the universe is, and how amazing the creation of God is. There are so many things here that make the entire Semester experience so brilliant and beautiful.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 49, Summit Semester

Ludicrous, Lacking, or Logical? The Validity of Lewis’ Trilemma
Why Evangelicals Can’t Write
Speaking the Truth in Love

The last two lectures were by far my favorite. They both deserve a blog all of their own, which will be forthcoming, but a summary is necessary now.

The first one was basically about how evangelicals don’t understand the mystery of the Gospel, or the symbolic power of the sacraments, and therefore we don’t understand the fullness of the Story in which God has revealed Himself and placed us. Therefore, we don’t communicate our own story creations well. It was fascinating, and something I definitely need to spend more time on.

The last lecture was the most significant and possibly the most important lecture we’ve had thus far. Dr. Williams has taught all four classes of Semester, and he’s kept up with many of the students in past years. He understands the tension we experience really well. Semester is amazing. To quote Williams, it is the closest thing to Schaeffer’s L’Abri as exists today and a true community of what the church is supposed to be. Which sounds incredible, but it’s infinitely more amazing to be here. It’s not just the intellectual brilliance, but also the community – it really is a family. And as much as we joke about it, it really is hard for us to relate/understand with the outside world, just as it is for them to us.

And yet the reality is we will be back home in five short weeks, which is a seriously kind of depressing thought. And Williams was preparing us for the fact that it will be depressing in some ways going back home, leaving the family we’ve had here for three months and going back to people we love, but people who simply haven’t had the experience of this community for three months.

With all we’ve learned and lived, seeing the vision of a Biblical worldview lived out in community, we’re going to want to go back and change the world, teach everybody everything we’ve learned. But it doesn’t work that way, and at a smaller level, that’s something we’re already realizing in our connection with the outside world. And Summit is training us to change the world, but we have to go about it in the right way. We have to speak the truth in love, earning the right to be heard by serving, not immediately assuming that we have all the answers that those in the outside world haven’t had the opportunity to learn. While that may be true, we can’t be frustrated with them for not having experienced what we’ve experienced.

And this is a genuine struggle. To a small degree, we already realize it, and it’s something I’ve struggled with on a much smaller scale coming home from missions trips or camps. And while we’re all looking forward to being home in one sense, we are definitely already dreading our departure in a little over a month. It’s a really weird tension, and while I’m not explaining it well, he and some of the other graduates here say it’s a lot easier to deal with if you communicate as much as possible with the people back home. So thus ends my feeble attempt to do such….

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 48, Summit Semester

CS Lewis on Goodness, Truth, and Beauty (Continued)
A Christian Role Model: Edmund Spenser
Deconstructing Deconstructionism

Tonight was the performance of “Revenge of the DWEMs,” a one-act play/ Socratic tetralogue Dr. Williams wrote about the interaction of Socrates, Erasmus (a Renaissance scholar), a New Critic (the dominant literary view of the past century) professor, and a postmodern professor. DWEM stands for Dead White European Males, the “source of all evil in the world” according to the postmodernist. The other three prove her to be a fool, though, and it’s a great and funny way to understand the conflict of literary criticism today.

I ran lights and did the program, both of which were fun. Those might show up somewhere later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 45, Summit Semester

We had Dr. Donald T. Williams with us this week for a really broad course entitled “Literature: A Christian Approach.” I don’t know how it’s physically possible, but our lectures here just keep getting better and better! Seriously, it’s hard to comprehend how amazing Semester is and what a tremendous privilege and opportunity we have.

I really don’t have time to go into all of the lectures, but I will post the schedule here so you can be jealous. Dr. Williams definitely has a different style of teaching than Bauman – he claims Bauman is the best professor of the Socratic method alive today, and he won’t attempt to rival that. Dr. Williams presented his lectures as if reading an academic paper – so there was tons of great information, so much so that it was hard to keep up and take notes. It was great though – l loved it. (Not gonna lie though, I was seriously mad that the two lectures I wanted recorded the most were the ones my computer decided to lose – grrr.) I can’t say this was my favorite week, because everything else is so good too (!!!) but it was definitely incredible.

He gave three lectures every morning for 50-ish minutes each:


The Place of Study in the Christian Life
Repairing the Ruins: Thoughts On Christian Higher Education
The Necessity of Narrative: A Theology of Literature

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Day 46, Summit Semester
Worldviews in Literature
The Expression of Emotion in Poetry

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Day 47, Summit Semester
The Praise of Christ in English Poetry
CS Lewis as a Literary Scholar
CS Lewis on Goodness, Truth, and Beauty

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 43, Summit Semester

And now for a blog of a more personal nature:

Yo no se nada.

Seriously, it’s kind of overwhelming how much I don’t know. About everything. And I guess that’s kind of the point. I’m a (very) finite creature, still relatively young and inexperienced, and this is how the world works.

God knows. He knows what I do not know. He knows what I want to know. He knows what I think I need to know right now, and He knows the perfect timing in which He will reveal that.

As Ecclesiastes says, “Of the making of books there is no end.” There is always more to learn, more to study, and while this is good, this is not ultimate. The pursuit of knowledge is only good insofar as it leads to Him who is Truth.

As I so often need to be reminded, we’re called to seek the face of God, not His hand, nor His plan. Those are not ultimate. Knowing Jesus is.

Psalm 27:8. My heart says of You, “Seek His face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 42, Summit Semester

We continued our discussion of Milton in Brit Lit, but also looked at his political theory in Politics. He wrote the Areopagitica, the greatest defense of the press ever written in English. He also wrote a book called On Education, which was an interesting perspective. Two quotes from him on the purpose of education:

“Education is that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously, all the offices public and private, in peace and war.”

“The purpose of education is to help repair the ruins of our first parents by learning to know God aright.”

In other words, education ought to be part of the process of redemption and sanctification - we need to learn to love God and imitate Him to possess true virtue in our souls.

Today was significant in a somewhat depressing way. It’s our half-way point through the Semester, a rather sobering thought. Perhaps because of our isolation, the rather strict schedule, or simply because we’re having fun, time has absolutely flown by here. It seems like we just arrived a week or two ago.

And as Bethany and I discussed last night, we’re all starting to realize that this Semester isn’t about how much we learn here. We’re learning a ton, but that’s really not the purpose. We’re realizing how much we don’t know, and won’t be able to figure out in the next six weeks. But we are being given the tools to think well and study well for the rest of our lives. With the questions we have to wrestle with now, and the new ones that are sure to come, that’s about how long it will take, too. We all have a list of books to read that’s about three miles long, and we’re always asking Bauman for more books. We’re not gluttons for punishment; it’s just contagious. Once you start learning how to really study and think, you want to keep doing it.

In that sense, Semester is somewhat different than I expected. But I love it. Where else can you wrestle with the big questions of life in a community that’s seeking the Truth together?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 41, Summit Semester

We started talking about John Milton in Brit Lit today, which is definitely interesting. Bauman thinks Milton’s always brilliant and poetic, even when he’s dead wrong. He’s certainly an incredible guy. He felt he was called to be a poet, which he thought was just as important calling as a pastor, because both are called to communicate the Truth in words to the people. He felt called to write the greatest English epic poem of all time, so he took six years at Cambridge for his BA and MA, then went back home for about nine years to prepare, read, and study to be the best poet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 40, Summit Semester

This morning we had “Bible with Eric and God.” We’ve been reading through big chunks of the OT, and in class once a week we talk about major themes. The past couple of weeks we covered creation, the Law, and today we talked about the covenants we’ve read about so far: Noah, Abraham, and Moses.

At the end of last week, we looked at Shakespeare. Bauman asked us to read Romeo and Juliet in small groups over the weekend so we would be ready to discuss it today. I read it with Abby, Bethany, and Precious – it’s definitely more amusing reading it out loud. And if you ever thought the Old English literature and culture was nice and chaste….um, haha. Maybe not… Tonight instead of a lecture, we watched the film of Romeo and Juliet from the 60s. We awkwardly censored a whole scene, but it was good.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 39, Summit Semester

Charlie Pepitone, our art teacher, is familiar with all kinds of art, but his focus is theater. He has his Master’s in theater production or direction or something like that, and he leads an acting group around here. He’s taught college drama courses, so he definitely knows what he’s doing with theater. We spent art class today learning about theater, and it was really interesting. I was involved in all the plays and musicals in high school on the tech side of them, doing lights and sound, so I’ve had decent exposure to theater. It was really interesting to have a class with a professional actor/director, and hear what he tells his professional actors. Let’s just say it was different from my high school experiences, and quite fascinating.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 38, Summit Semester

Today we went to Durango, which is about an hour away from SWL. We had lunch in a park, then we hung out in downtown Durango for a couple of hours. It was nice to have a day to just chill and not have a whole lot of driving or activity. There are several blocks of shops – mostly touristy kinds of stuff, but it was fun to go and look around. I hung out with Bethany most of the day, and that was good.

The most interesting experience of the day was a used bookstore. It looked like an old small house, and it was completely crammed from floor to ceiling with books. The aisles were so narrow that you often had to walk kind of sideways to get through, and you definitely couldn’t pass anyone. You had to back out and let them come through or some other maneuvering. It was kind of cool, but also had kind of a chaotic overwhelming feel to it as well.

After downtown, we had a little over an hour to shop at Wal-mart and grab dinner before heading back to the lodge.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Christianity and Culture diagrams

So I still haven't processed this enough from last week to do a decent job of coherently explaining what we talked about. We discussed so much and it's all so important. I want to write a book about it, but I have to get it straight in my head first. So that will be forthcoming, but until then, here are some of the diagrams from the lectures. I'll try to explain them, but they should give a quick idea of the complexity of some of the stuff we're dealing with. I loved this course though, and I will elaborate later...

Click on each picture to get a bigger image...

So this is the chart of the history of Evangelicals and Fundamentals in America the past two centuries. Ideas have consequences, and they have histories.

Culture is what we create and what creates us. We have to be able to "read" what culture tells us and what we internalize, and we have to "write" culture - externalize and create culture.

This is dealing with how we understand culture and our call to create from Genesis. Below is a larger version. God formed and filled the earth, and calls us to do the same.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bauman returned! He had only been gone a week and a half, but somehow it seemed longer. It was fun to have class with him again. We jumped right back into everything.

In politics, we moved from our discussion of John Stuart Mill and Libertarianism to Niccolo Machiavelli and The Prince and his theory of the politics of power. It’s pretty straightforward: if you want to get and keep power, you must become indifferent to questions of morality and Christian values. You also have to be a realpolitik – realistic about the world, knowing that it’s better to be feared than loved or hated. You have to be un-virtuous in a subterranean fashion – accommodate evil and get it done quickly under the table.

Beyond this, though, you have to be a “political virtuoso” – you have to be as good at politics and reading situations and people as a violin virtuoso is with his instrument. You have to practice for hours and hours every day for years to reach this level; you can’t survive if you’re an amateur. You have to have insight and perception others don’t have; you have to have careful and precise observation so you know how things are now and how they can be changed in your favor.

Here’s the frustrating part. I’ll just quote Bauman: “CHRISTIANS DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS! It’s not enough to send money to Focus on the Family, pray once in a while, and vote Republican. The guys we’re opposing know Machiavelli and they hope we stay just how we are right now. The typical Christian just hopes and prays things turn out well. Machiavelli says this is like rolling the dice and leaving things to chance, which virtuosos never do. God is in control of history, but He works through His people.”

Machiavelli said to be both a lion and a fox; Jesus commanded us to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. If we’re not wise in what we do, we can’t be harmless: we will inflict harm on our causes and ourselves.

Ronald Reagan is the best example of a Christian following Machiavelli’s principles. We’re starting to read When Character was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan, so I’m sure I’ll have more to say about him later. Bauman also mentioned Phyllis Schaeffly as someone who knew what to do and did it well. He said she single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment by taking on both houses of Congress and 30 states and winning.

I asked Dr. Bauman why the Church is so terrible at influencing culture and politics and how we can change that. His reply was basically “the Church isn’t going to change. You have to learn and get involved and get good, fast.” Christian individuals need to study Machiavelli, study Reagan and Schaeffly and the like, and become virtuosos, not bumbling idiots who don’t really know what they’re doing or what their opponents are doing.

PS: See FB note for additional response to this + culture class from last week…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 32, Summit Semester

Today art class was a little different. Last week we talked about what it meant for something to be “sacred” and how to define “sacred arts.” We read a chapter on “midrash,” the Hebrew concept of inventing stories about the silences in Scripture to understand the text better. Most of us agreed that while that could be helpful to a very limited level, it’d be pretty easy to take that concept way too far. Anyways, our assignment was to create some form of art based on Genesis 22, the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. We could draw, write, sing, put together a play, sculpt, just about anything. It was interesting to see what people came up with. I did a sketch of sorts, using the words and the context of what we know about Abraham and the promises he had received before this. I used different verses, from Genesis 12 through 22, and a couple random ones from Hebrews and Samuel, to illustrate the scene. The history of what Abraham and Isaac have been through add so much to the story – you really have to get the background to understand the story at all.

This evening we had Jeff Ventrella come speak. He’s the vice-president of Alliance Defense Fund, an organization and network of Christian lawyers working to support Christians legally and especially protect free speech and First Amendment rights as it relates to Christianity. Jeff is in charge of their education department, which includes speaking to groups and overseeing Blackstone Fellowship, a nine-week internship they have for first year law students, to train them in a Biblical perspective of law.

He talked about natural law, and how that’s the foundation for private and social life in Western Civilization. Natural law isn’t innate moral knowledge, biological instinct, matters of consensus, the physical laws of nature, or moral law as known through the Bible. He defined natural law as “a notion of law that is both transcendent and imminent, and is therefore binding and knowable.”

He explained why we have to have natural law from an experience he had in a debate hosted by the Museum of Tolerance in San Francisco. The Museum of Tolerance was originally an organization created after the Holocaust to prevent that from happening again, but has since been hijacked by the Left. His opponent declared that there was no natural law, but that all rights came from the state. Jeff refuted this quickly, arguing that if the only source of rights is the state, and the only law is positive law, what we create, then Dachau was right and Nuremburg was wrong, because the Nazis did everything according to their positive law. There has to be a law above our law.

Wednesday morning, we had “Bible with Eric and God, “ our Bible survey class. We had read the book of Deuteronomy, and we talked about the Law and how we’re under the New Covenant. Bauman came back, but he didn’t teach because we had another lecture with Jeff Ventrella on law.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 31, Summit Semester

On Monday, our weekend day, we would have climbed the 14-er, but instead we had just a chill day in town. We got to use the internet for several hours, make phone calls, walk around and see the touristy shops, and we had lunch at the Mexican restaurant. We came back to the lodge around 3:30, and studied or hung out for the rest of the day. That evening was the long anticipated (for some) football game between the Vikings and the Packers, and there was a party at Bob’s house. (He’s the property manager for Snow Wolf Lodge, and he’s a really cool guy. He also has a really nice TV…) Almost-7-month-old Liam was enjoying watching everybody and learning to clap when everybody else did, but he got scared at the first touchdown when several of the guys exploded. The Smiths decided it was bedtime after that, haha. It was a fun, restful day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 30, Summit Semester

Last week John Stonestreet was here Wednesday through Saturday morning lecturing on Christianity and Culture. Bauman had a week off to stay in Michigan and not worry about crossing two time zones to teach at two different institutions several states away. We definitely missed him, but Stonestreet’s lectures were amazing. He and his family left after lunch on Saturday, so we had Saturday evening free. This was the weekend we were scheduled to camp overnight and then climb the fourteener, but it turns out there was a blizzard on the mountain. We decided to stay home.

We had a campfire Saturday evening, with s’mores and banana boats. I had never had banana boats, but they were fun. You unpeel only one part of the banana, hollow out the top, and then fill it with peanut butter and chocolate chips. Cover it with the peel and tin foil, then heat it in the coals. It was really good.

We told stories – stupid, “scary,” and funny, sang songs, and laughed a lot. It was a fun evening. About half of us then sleep outside. I was with five other girls in a tent, but a good number were just sleeping out under the stars. We were really grateful for the tent when it started raining at about 1 a.m. Gratefully, it didn’t get nearly as cold as it has other nights.

The next morning we had instant oatmeal and toast cooked over the fire, then we hiked up to the cross on the ridge opposite our lodge. During the first semester here three years ago, several of the guys erected this huge cross as a symbol of the legacy they wanted to leave. It looks really small from the lodge, but it’s definitely big in person. We hiked about two miles, I think, going the long way, which meant we weren’t bushwhacking all the way up. There were some steep parts, but it was beautiful. It was the last great chance to see the leaves in all their glorious color. Since then, the leaves have definitely been falling/turning more of a brownish color. We hiked over several beautiful ridges, and we saw a black bear on the opposite ridge from us.

Once we got to the cross, we had church up there. We sang several hymns, and then Benn (“Benn with 2 “n”s – it’s not short for anything, it’s just long for Ben”), who was at Semester last year and is the brother of Abby, a student this year, did a devo. He talked about humility and how that’s the defining characteristic of Christ in Philippians 2. It was a really cool time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today we had "Bible with Eric and God" in the morning, and we started going through the Bible as one story. While it's not a new concept to me, it's definitely interesting. We looked at the first two chapters of Genesis, looking at creation and the responsibilities of man. We then had an hour of solitude to pray and read Scripture.

Wednesday evening was exciting because John Stonestreet arrived and began teaching his class on "Christianity and Culture." He used to teach a full semester senior level class on this at Bryan College, and I definitely wish I could take the full thing. His class has been my favorite, as well as most challenging (not work load wise, but just in thinking through things and wanting to respond and make a difference). I'm going to skip over most of his stuff, because I haven't worked through it enough to coherently summarize it. That, and I didn't type these blogs out ahead of time. Sorry Mom. Suffice it to say for now that I've loved this week of classes, and I'm excited about the ideas I'll get to wrestle through in the coming days and week about culture and Christianity and how I (and the Church) needs to be involved.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesdays are art class days with Charlie Pepitone. He's a cool guy, strong Christian though definitely liberal, but it's kind of cool to get different viewpoint on some things. On other things, it's more frustrating, and gives me a lot more respect for my mom's liberal seminary experience. It's a fascinating class, though - I'm really enjoying it. In terms of information, it's definitely the class I have the least experience in, and I'm finding my interest is growing. I've wanted to do "media" - combining words and graphics and layouts - but more and more I'm realizing I need to learn how to do "art." Not quite sure what this looks like yet, but Charlie's class is definitely the most intriguing and frustrating class right now, and it's encouraging me to look more into all of this once Semester's over.

After dinner, we also have small groups, and tonight we met up at Dr. Bauman's house, which is the second story of the Smiths' duplex. It was fun and a good time of discussion. Afterwards, Naomi, my mentor, and I, walked the mile and back down to Blue Creek Road in the moonlight, and that was amazing. We talked about a lot of stuff, from trusting God to experiences of the past couple years to art. It was great.