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.