Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Symphony

To live content with small means;
to seek elegance             
                  rather than luxury,
and refinement               
                  rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable       
                     and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly          
                        talk gently, act frankly;
to listen to stars and birds,          
                    to babies and sages,
with an open heart;
to bear all cheerfully,                
                                  do all bravely     
await occasions, hurry never.
                     In a word, to let the 
spiritual, unbidden, and         
                                    unconscious grow up                  
through the commonplace.
This is to be
my symphony.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Most days, God reminds me of His faithfulness by scattering small blessings throughout my day. They are things that it is easy to miss, but which I do usually notice and which bring me joy as reminders of His presence and love in my life.

But there are some days when Jesus knows that I will be too frantically busy and harried to notice these small things. So He crashes down large, impossible-to-miss blessings into my day again and again and again so that I will have no choice but to remember His grace and faithfulness.

Wednesday was a day like that.

It should have been miserable. I knew that I would leave my dorm at 7:30 am and not get back until after 5 pm, miss lunch, and have to be mentally alert the entire time. In addition, I was worried about a prompt for a paper due on Monday that I didn't understand, as well as my first practice debate (I just joined debate team) on Thursday. A bit of context paper-wise: I usually have the rough draft of a paper finished a week before it is due. And there I was on Wednesday still not sure what I would write about. And it was rainy and cold.

On Wednesday morning, I told God: "I cannot do everything that I have to do today. It is absolutely impossible. I am stressed and worried and weak. Lord, I do not like to be weak, but that is part of my nature as a human being. I can do nothing without You. Help me acknowledge that freely before You and before everyone who will listen to my story. I am so needy, Lord. Fill me with Your Sprit. Empower me by Your awesome might. Guide me with Your Presence. Let Your power be made perfectly manifest in my weakness, so that when You enable me to do the impossible today I will look back and laugh with joy at Your faithfulness and glorify Your name."

And you know what? He answered my prayer abundantly beyond what I could ever have imagined. Not only did He allow me to accomplish everything, but He also piled on blessing upon blessing over and above my needs for that day.

In Physics class, He gave me a verse. I looked it up later - it's Isaiah 30:15. "In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength." Thank You, Lord. I needed that.

I felt almost from the beginning of the day that I was covered in prayer - even more than usual. I knew that my family and a few of my friends here were praying for me. I later found out that someone actually fasted for me all day. That was incredibly humbling to realize. It is an amazing thing to be so completely wrapped in prayer, and it is also incredible to see God working to answer those prayers.

A friend sent me this verse from Philippians 4: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

A line in a song in chapel expressed the desire of my heart: "Teach us to love as You have loved us."

My German professor didn't assign homework for Friday.

I was able to turn in physics homework two days early.

I talked to my lit professor about my idea for the paper coming up and she said I was on the right track.

I actually had energy to do homework after my crazily busy day.

I was constantly aware of the faithful Presence of the Lord - much more so than usual.

I went on a run in the wind and the sunshine and the cool fall weather.

And, to top it all off, I was not only abundantly blessed by the people around me and by the Lord Himself, but He also allowed me to bless others, which is one of the things that brings me the greatest joy. I was studying in the library that evening when a freshman from my floor came to me in tears, completely overwhelmed by the research she needed to do for a public speaking project. I was able to comfort her, talk her through it, remind her that all of us go through this at some point here (I had broken down in tears on Tuesday night), and encourage her to stop for the night (she had been working futilely for three hours), get some sleep, and start fresh the next day. I felt so blessed that God had placed me in the right place at the right time to minister to her.

At the end of the day, I collapsed in my room with a hot mug of tea and the company of several of my friends. As I told them about my day, I laughed with joy and amazement at the faithfulness of God to not only meet my minimum needs, but pour out more blessings on me that I could have asked for or imagined.

My God is faithful to answer prayer, to walk with His children, and to delight in pouring out grace upon grace in their lives. I knew that before this Wednesday, but that day was an incredible reminder to me of what that looks like in my own life.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

thoughts on a German hymn

On Fridays in German class, we sing hymns.

Usually they were written by great hymnists who incorporated rich theological truth into beautiful texts.

But this Friday, Herr Schaeffer had us sing something with less textual richness. He laughed as he was handing it out, and as we translated it. It is a very simple and not very well-written song from 1961 - a seemingly random list of things the author was thankful for. We laughed along with him.

And then Herr Schaeffer explained why we were singing this song.

He said that the best time in his faith was the season when he focused on thanksgiving. Somehow that strengthened his walk with the Lord as nothing else had. And this song had reminded him of the value of gratitude. So this simple little song actually comes from a profound place: a place of understanding the importance of thanksgiving to God.

That was such a blessing to me.

It reminded me that gratitude is the foundation of a relationship with God grounded in trust. Because cultivating a habit of gratitude is really cultivating an attitude of reliance on God. Saying "thank you" means acknowledging that God freely chose to give me something that He did not have to give and that I could not have gotten on my own. And after thanking God for enough things, I realize that He deserves thanks for everything - including the hard things - because there is absolutely nothing that I have that is not a gift from Him.

This is a truth that every Christian would affirm, but it only becomes real and relevant when I consciously thank Him for everything in all circumstances. It is a truth that takes a lifetime to seep into a soul, and the habit of giving thanks for all things takes hard work and many baby steps to acquire. But it is the truth that makes it possible to rejoice always and pray continually. It is the truth that enabled Betsy ten Boom to thank God for the fleas in the barracks in a German concentration camp - before she found out that the fleas were the reason the guards would not come into the barracks to harass the inmates.

When I thank God, I confess the reality of His goodness and omnipotence. And when I make a practice of thanking God in the midst of daily life, I prepare myself to trust Him when things seem to go desperately wrong. Because the same God who daily provides for my every need will not desert me in times of trouble.

This is why gratitude is essential to a thriving relationship with God: gratitude is the practical outworking of trust in His love.     

This reminder one Friday in German class came at a timely moment. Diving back into the hectic world of college life, it is so easy to let gratitude slip onto the back burner in the effort to remember everything that needs to be accomplished. But gratitude is the only practical way to remember what God has promised: He does and will provide for me, because He loves meAnd He is always with me. This is what makes life worth living.

I know from experience that my joy disappears when I focus on how crazy my schedule is. My peace also disappears in short order. My relationship with Jesus is hurt because I am so focused on all the things I have to do that I forget I cannot possibly do anything without Him. But my relationship with Jesus, my joy, and my peace all thrive when I remember that I walk through every day in the presence of a faithful, loving God who showers gifts upon me simply to remind me of His love. The practice of gratitude is really the practice of stopping to remind myself of the presence of the Giver. And the presence of Jesus is what my whole being longs for more than anything else in the world.

Danke für diesen guten Morgen: Thank you for this good Morning   

Thank You for this good morning,
Thank You for every new  day,
Thank You that I can throw
All my worries onto You.
Thank You for all good friends,
Thank You, O Lord, for everyone.
Thank You also when I can also
Forgive my greatest enemy.
Thank You for my workplace,
Thank You for every little joy.
Thank You for all that is good and light,
And for the music.
Thank You for some sadness,
Thank You for every good word.
Thank You, that Your hand
Leads me everywhere.
Thank You, that I can understand your Word,
Thank You, that You give Your Spirit.
Thank You, that near and far,
You love Your people.
Thank You, that Your salvation knows no bounds,
Thank You - I am holding fast to that.
Thank You, O Lord, I want to thank You,
In order that I can be thankful.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jesus Loves Me

A few nights ago a group of girls from my floor sat around a firepit fellowshipping, eating s'mores, and singing worship songs. The final song we sang was "Jesus Loves Me."  Most of us have known this song since we were tiny, and we can sing it without really thinking about what it means. But Maddison, who was playing the guitar, encouraged us to remember that when we sing this simple children's song, we are singing nothing less than the most profound, deepest truth that we will ever know.

Jesus loves us.
This truth lies at the core of the gospel, and at the core of what it means to be human: Jesus loves us. This is a truth so simple that I think we can often take it for granted, while in reality it is so profound that nothing else can touch it. It is a truth that deserves to be repeated every waking moment for as long as I live, because its power is only increased by repetition. It is something that we need to remember constantly, because knowing that Jesus loves each and every one of us is what makes life worth living, and what makes loving other people worthwhile. If Jesus loves me, then I can have hope and joy and peace no matter what my circumstances. And if my Jesus poured out His life in love for the people around me, how can I do otherwise? 

This past year, Jesus' love for me and the love He shows others through me has been a theme for my life. I have a feeling that it is a theme that will continue to shape me as long as I live. I want it to sink into the very essence of my being and flow from every facet of my soul. Jesus loves us. How different would our lives be - and I'm not even talking about the world right now, just our daily interactions with the people around us - if we truly lived the ramifications of that truth? Jesus loves us.

And then I got to thinking how amazing it is that the deepest truth is not only available to great philosophers, but rather is a truth that even the smallest children can grasp with the gift of faith. Any Christian, whatever their age or background or education, knows that at the most fundamental level, the answer to the most important question is that Jesus loves us. This is not a trite saying that we mindlessly take refuge behind when confronted with the difficulties of life in this broken world. It is a truth powerful enough to take those impossible situations and trials and use them to make something new and beautiful.

Jesus loves us.

Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.
Jesus loves me, He who died
Heaven's gates to open wide.
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.