Sunday, September 20, 2015

better

{via pinterest}

Usually when God wants to tell me something, He does it by giving me certain Scripture passages, speaking through my friends, and tailoring the sermons I hear and books I read so that they all repeat different aspects of the same message. A friend and I talk about "divine bruises" - when God is whacking us over the head with something over and over again so that we can't ignore what He has to say. I'm always excited by divine bruises, because they are a signal to me that God is working in my life. But very, very rarely, God will speak to me more directly, giving me words that I know are not mine in order to tell me what I need to hear.

(Disclaimer: whatever the method God uses to tell me something, I always make sure to test it with Scripture: this is, after all, the final authority on the nature of the things that God says to us. If something doesn't completely line up with Scripture, it is not of God, no matter how supernatural it seems.}

Last week was one of the incredibly rare times that God gave me a direct assurance while I was praying - an assurance as clearly from the Holy Spirit as if it had been a direct quote from the Bible. Because He usually chooses to speak to me through His Word and the people He has placed in my life, the words He gave me were all the more striking, while harmonizing perfectly with all that I know of Him.

Awhile ago I set aside something I wanted. It was difficult, and I wasn't sure exactly why it was necessary, but I knew that I needed to. So I did. This was long enough ago that I thought I had dealt with it and it wasn't an issue any more. But as I was praying over my tea a few weeks ago, I suddenly found myself praying about this desire, questioning why I had to give it up, why it would not have been good.

And suddenly, in the middle of a thought, I was given three words. They did not come from me: I've generated inner dialogue and tried to convince myself it was God talking enough times that I know the flavor of that self-deception. This was different, clearly coming from something other than myself.

I have better.

That was it, but it pulled me up sharply. I started turning these words over in my mind: "I have better." As in, "Kate, I have something better for you than this thing that you wanted."

These words reminded me that whatever I get - or do not get - comes from God, who is the source of my contentment and joy. But that was something I already knew.

What grabbed my attention was the word "better." God was not telling me that my misguided heart wanted something bad that He withheld in order to give me something good. He didn't say "I have good." He said better. Which means that what I wanted was a good thing, but that I needed to let it go in order for Him to prepare me to receive a better gift.

This realization came as such a relief to me. I had tried to convince myself that this desire was somehow bad, and that this was why I couldn't have it. But I really knew that it was good. I think this is why I found myself praying about it after such a long time - I had not moved on because I had attempted to do so by denying the good in this desire.

But now I don't need to do that. When it comes up, I don't need to tell myself what I don't really believe: "Kate, that would have been bad for you." I can instead remind myself, "Yes, that could have been good, but God has something better in mind."

As small a shift as it seems, it makes a world of difference, and it really applies to every prayer answered negatively or every good thing withheld from us. When God says no, it is because in the long run, He has something better.

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly." ~Psalm 84:11

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart." ~Psalm 37:4

"Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you...My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips." ~Psalm 63:3, 5

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I want

"Great people don't do great things; God does great things through surrendered people." ~Jennie Allen

It's the beginning of a new school year. As a junior in college, I find that I and many of my peers are thinking hard about what we want - what we want from community life, from our studies this year, and, in the not-so-distant-future, from life after college.

To be honest, I want a lot of things, ranging all over the place in level of importance.

I want to have a fabulous apartment that people feel welcome in.

I want to enjoy being a college student - not get so swamped in work that I forget to appreciate the gift of being a full-time student with no more pressing responsibilities. 

I want to get decent grades.

I want to read every book that peaks my interest in both the college library and the public library.

I want to study in Oxford.

I want to live in Germany.

I want to get an interesting job.

Eventually I want to get married.

The list goes on and on.

I want, I want, I want.

But, as pressing as these desires may seem, none of them reach the core of what I truly want.

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection of the dead. 

I want to live a life that is Christ.

I want to know the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

I want to die to myself and my desires so that I may fling myself without reserve into the life God unfolds for me, knowing that every step of the way He is drawing me closer to Himself, who is the source of fullness of joy and eternal life.

How do I prepare for this kind of life? More pressingly, how do I live it now - a life poured out as a living sacrifice to God, not a living witness that in spite of my words to the contrary I still think of myself as number 1?

How do I keep my sights fixed on things above, where my heart is hidden with Christ in God, and not on earthly things while still affirming the goodness of His earthly gifts?

How do I learn to live prepared to lay everything He has given me down in a heartbeat and cling only to Him?

How do I know when to lay aside my plans and open myself to the wonder of His Plan - and yet not be paralyzed when I don't receive my own personal cloud like the Israelites had in the wilderness?

How do I love with Christ's love?

These are the questions of a lifetime. But as I head into this next school year, I want to start working them out, prioritizing these fundamental desires over all other superficial, circumstantial ones. I want to do this now, while I am still in college. Before I settle down and form habits that get me stuck in an earthly rut of selfishness and independence instead of the heavenly freedom of complete dependence upon God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. ~Romans 12:1

For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. ~Philippians 1:21

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ~Colossians 3:3

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7

Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:4







Friday, July 31, 2015

What I Learned: July

It's the end of July (what? where did June go?), so I'm linking up with Emily Freeman's What We Learned in July post. It's a useful way to help me remember things - trivial, profound, or somewhere in-between - that I've encountered over the month, and it's fun to share them with you all.


1. I can read books in German. 

This realization came as I was browsing through bookstores throughout Germany. As a result, I brought 22 books home with me. Some are classics, like Anne Frank's Diary or Bonhoeffer's Life Together, which I want to read in the original language. Others are books that I'd never heard of before, but looked fascinating. Being able to read books in another language has drastically expanded this book-lover's world.

2. It is important to me to seek out and serve those that aren't from my social echelon or background.

After working with refugees for a month, I have realized that I don't want to stop. It has always been important to me to serve my friends and family, but now I want to deliberately look outside my circles and seek places to serve. This could involve refugees, the elderly, children, or whatever. I want to give to people who have nothing to give back. After all, I have been given so much, and to whom much is given, much is expected.

3. I don't do my own convictions a favor by refusing to listen to those who hold an opposite viewpoint.

This isn't a new lesson, but it's one I've been revisiting in the past few weeks. If I can't handle some pushback from the other side, it probably means that my convictions are more flimsy than I'd like to admit. On the flip side, it is hard for me to respect someone who relentlessly pushes their own ideas without giving me the chance to express my own. 

4. It never hurts to say thank you.

People are serving us all the time, making sure our small worlds run smoothly. Waiters, cashiers, security officers, flight attendants, janitors, and so many other people would be sorely missed if they stopped doing their jobs, but we rarely think to stop and say thanks. Just because their work is commonplace does not mean they should not be thanked. In fact, the fact that they faithfully keep things running behind the scenes means we owe them all the more thanks. On my flights to and from Germany, I left simple thank-you notes on my seat. I happened to still be there when one of the flight attendants from my flight home (which had a lot of unexpected complications) saw the note, and her face absolutely lit up as she thanked me. It makes a difference, folks.



Saturday, July 25, 2015

when it's time to stop

{photo credit}
It should have been the perfect movie for a girls’ night in. The cast contained an impressive number of stellar British actors, the film is supposed to be an entertaining comedy, and several of my friends have told me I would enjoy it. So Mom and I curled up on the couch ready for a delightful evening. We had every intention of liking the film, which made it a bummer when we decided to quit with forty minutes to go.

The actors were, indeed, knock-your-socks-off, there were many instances of dry British wit, and I was rooting for several of the characters. The overarching idea for the story was compelling.  But the details of the individual storylines were irreparably flawed.

Almost without exception, the storylines of the individual characters – even the dear, sweet, elegant lady who I wanted to end up happy – were morally compromising. No, more than that: they were designed to make sin look not only acceptable or excusable, but appealing. They were crafted in such a way that the only possible “happy ending” was one on terms that I could not accept.

Now, I am not saying that to be good a film has to uphold every traditional Christian value that I believe in. I have seen and deeply appreciated films that have serious flaws. The problem is when suddenly, in the world of the film, outright sin – of many different varieties – is unapologetically and unequivocally portrayed as right. This was one of those films.

So we turned it off. I checked on Wikipedia to satisfy our curiosity as to how it ended, and to find out if somehow things were redeemed in the end. They weren’t. In order to be satisfied with the “happy ending,” we would have had to been satisfied with sin being portrayed as something with no consequences.  


It was thought-provoking, how appealing sinful attitudes and actions were made to appear in this movie. It made my mom and me discuss how Satan masquerades as an angel of light. It can’t be wrong if it’s so beautiful, we think. But our perception of what is beautiful has been twisted by the fall, and only marinating in the truth of Scripture can heal our broken perspectives. I am so grateful to my parents for teaching me to love and seek after truth for as long as I can remember. Although it would be easier to have dulled perceptions of right and wrong – being able to enjoy the comic elements of such a film without having a pit in my gut at how twisted it was – I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because it is truth that sets us free – free from the laws of sin and death that appear so appealing to our fallen vision, free to recognize and see the beauty of righteousness, and free to choose between them.

Monday, July 20, 2015

the big picture






Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. ~Colossians 1:6-7


Today I read Colossians. In English. It is the first time in over a month that I have read the Bible in my own language. The surprising thing is, that didn't actually seem like such a big deal.

For the vast majority of the Wheaton in Germany trip, I read the Bible in German. But rather than being laborious, this was soothing to my soul. During the very first week of the trip, when I was absolutely exhausted from German immersion, I opened up my Luther Bible to read the living word of God. And even though it was in a different language, it was sweet, familiar, and restorative. Just as much as, if not more so, than reading something else in English or speaking English. Even when I came across words that I didn't know in German, it wasn't a problem: I may not be fluent in German, but I am quite comfortable with the words of Scripture.

The reason that reading the Bible - even in German - was more refreshing to me than taking a much-needed break from the German language is that even though the English language is one of my most basic elements of who I am, my faith is the fundamental element of who I am.


Many things on this trip have reminded me of a verse that I love:

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." ~Philippians 3:20

As I felt the tension between my love of Germany and my love of America, I remembered that my citizenship is in heaven.

As I made friends who I now feel like I have known for years, not weeks, I remembered that my closest community is not defined by culture or blood ties, but by shared faith in Christ.

As I read the Bible in German, I remembered that the Word of God bridges cultures, millennia, languages and oceans to speak truth into the hearts of humanity and draw us into His eternal kingdom.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

of beautiful neighborhoods and internships



I got of the Stra├čenbahn - commuter train - on a whim. As I headed home from my internship, I had glanced out the window and noticed some beautiful old buildings that merited further exploration. So I stepped off the train to investigate.


I found myself in a beautiful neighborhood. I think it was an old military post from before the war, and the barracks have now been turned into apartment buildings. I wandered for awhile, and then found this building.


It was a Red Cross station during the Cold War, where volunteers cared for refugees who had made it out of East Berlin. Normally I would have glanced at the sign, thought, "That's interesting," and moved on. But that day I stopped to think.

I am through with the first part of the Wheaton in Germany program, and am now interning with a Christian organization - the Berliner Stadtmission - that among other things provides a waystation for refugees arriving in Berlin from the Balkans, the Middle East, and several countries in Africa. The day I explored that beautiful old neighborhood was my second day working in the kitchen and housekeeping in the Stadtmission's refugee center.

Finding this old center put what I'm doing in a broader historical context. For thousands of years, people have fled from their homes as refugees to other countries, whether because of famine or war or persecution or oppressive regimes. These people did not start off as refugees. They lived normal lives - until their lives fell apart. The refugees cared for in the old Red Cross building were fleeing oppression. The ones I am serving now are trying to escape homelands torn apart by war or persecution. They all decided that things were so bad that they were willing to leave everything behind to start again somewhere else.

When refugees come to Berlin today, they are utterly disoriented. Most of them don't speak German. They are trying to figure out where they will stay, how they will eat, and what the next step is. The Stadtmission is one of the first places they are directed to. It provides food, shelter, recreation, and language lessons. The turnover there is fast - people usually stay only 3-4 days until moving on to the next station. The Stadtmission is a place for them to begin to figure out where to go next.

What I do at the Stadtmission is inglorious work. I hand out food, clean the kitchen, strip beds. It is inglorious, but it is necessary.  Someone asked me what my motivation is to work at the Stadtmission. The obvious answer is that I'm getting college credit for it. But honestly, that's not really a good enough reason to do menial labor for forty hours a week for four weeks. My real motivation, as for many of the people that volunteer at the Stadtmission, is faith. Volunteering at the Stadtmission is a form of washing feet - taking the love that Jesus has poured out on me and giving it to others in the form of humble service. This is the kind of service I as a Christian am called to do.

I mulled over all of this as I wandered through the Sudkreutz neighborhood of Berlin - I have a feeling I will pondering a lot more during the coming weeks of my internship.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

update: I'm in Germany!

I'm on a school trip to Germany for the summer, and I'm in charge of the blog for the program. So I probably won't be posting much here for the next couple of months, but for those who are interested head over and check out Never a Dull Moment. :)


Monday, May 25, 2015

Army Boots

All last week, we were talking about buying boots. Charlie's heading off to West Point soon, and he needs to buy his boots well before he leaves so that he can break them in before the dreaded Beast Barracks. Army boots are a normal part of my daily life - since I'm an Army Brat, they're Dad's standard footwear for work. So buying boots for Charlie was just one more item on the to-do list.

Then, on Saturday, we ran a 5K sponsored by an organization that supports the survivors of servicemen who have died, giving them a link to the military for as long as they want it. In the middle of the track that was the starting point for the race, there was a huge display of boots. One boot for each of the more than 6,000 soldiers who have died since 9/11, each with a photo ID attached to the laces.


It was a profound reminder of what the men and women I grew up around have gone through.


None of these soldiers, sailors, marines, or pilots were drafted. They joined the military voluntarily and served faithfully. Each of them has families - if not spouses and children then at least parents and siblings - who must miss them every single day.

Someone recently told me he is anti-war (specifically referring to the War on Terror).  That's fine with me - it's a free country, and I'm an avid supporter of freedom of thought and speech. But although I didn't say it, I did think to myself that the reason that we live in a country that supports those freedoms and the right to be anti-war is because of the servicemen and women who put their lives on the line to do the dirty work of guarding our nation.

And it is incredibly difficult work. Nobody knows that better than the soldiers themselves. They and their families sacrifice an unbelievable amount to the cause of serving their country. It isn't fun to spend months and years away from home, fighting a war under the direction of politicians who make mistakes or unpopular decisions. None of the soldiers I know are "for" war per se - they just think that war is better than the alternative. And considering how hellish war is, that's saying a lot.

So I want to take a moment to give my small thanks to all of those who have sacrificed so much in service to their country. To the soldiers who have died, and to the families and loved ones who survived them. To those who continue to wear their boots and carry on the job faithfully. Thank you.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Things I Learned in April

At the end of every month, Emily at Chatting at the Sky does a post on things she learned that month, with a link-up for other people to join in. I've been wanting to do this for awhile, but always remember sometime in the middle of the month instead of at the end. Today I decided that 3 days into May is definitely not too late to share some things I learned in April, so here goes. Three short things I learned in April.


1. My shoe size is 8 wide.

Awhile ago I came to the conclusion that since 8 is too small and 8.5 is too big, my shoe size must be 8.25. Then on a whim I ordered an 8 wide and BOOM - my sizing problems were solved.

2. My roommate and suite mate are tree huggers. Literally.


3. Puppies and bunnies and chicks are adorable.



4. Heaven is going to be awesome

For many different reasons. But one thing that I'm really excited about is getting to know people who love Jesus. Every day I encounter so many people whom I will never have the opportunity to get to really know in this life, and I am so looking forward to getting to know them later on.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

one rich life

My mother, with great wisdom, did not teach history, philosophy, literature and art as isolated subjects cordoned off into neat categories. She recognized, and taught me and Charlie to recognize, that the humanities are deeply intertwined with each other. With history as the baseline, she made sure that we understood that all of these disciplines are in continual conversation with each other. 

She gifted us with a love of the liberal arts.

In some ways it might have been easier to teach us these subjects separately, not taking the time to uncover the dialogue between them. But I know from others that this seemingly simpler method drains the study of the humanities of its vividness. The world isn't neatly categorized, and our understanding of it should not be either. The focus should be on the cohesiveness of human existence. 

~~~


How's your _________ life? 

Fill in the blank with the word of your choice: 

love
school
home
work
family
devotional
prayer
spiritual
...anything else you think of...

~~~~

Questions like this can be useful. They certainly have a well-intentioned purpose: to move beyond a general "How's it going?" to actually talk about specific areas of life. This is good.

But I feel that there is a tendency to do with our lives what so many teachers have done with their subjects: divide them up into manageable, definable chunks that have little dialogue with one another.

Instead of seeing life as a unified whole, we see it as composed of separable parts. And so often to cope with the craziness of it all, we find that it is much more manageable to keep life separated into those parts instead of thinking about life in a holistic way. This compartmentalized view has the potential to strip away the fullness and wonder of the gift of life. 

I don't want a strong, thriving, {insert item from list above} life. I simply want a strong and thriving and abundant life. All of it. Each element brought into harmony and interplay with the others by the unifying element of my relationship with Jesus, so that the many facets of my life are interwoven into one rich life.

~~~~

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. ~John 10:10

Sunday, April 5, 2015

a thought experiment

{I wrote this last July. It seemed fitting to post shortly after Easter.}

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen. He presented Himself alive to them after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.

Acts 1:1-9

The apostles were euphoric and a little dazed. Their hopes that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel had been shattered by His brutal crucifixion, but then the impossible had happened: He rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath. They had given up trying to figure that one out. Jesus had done other astonishing things (like raising Lazarus from the dead), but He had always been the subject of the action - doing something to someone - not having something done to Him. The Resurrection was different. No one had gone to the tomb of Jesus and commanded “Jesus, come out!” It wouldn’t have worked. No one had that kind of power – except Jesus, and He was lying in a tomb wrapped in seventy-five pounds of myrrh and spices. But then unbelievable things began to happen.

It started when the women went to the tomb and found it empty. The disciples thought they were seeing things, because after all there was Roman guard and the stone to be considered. No way could the tomb be empty. But John and Peter ran to it anyway, just to see for themselves. And it was empty. Stranger than that, even, was the fact that the graveclothes were folded in the tomb. That was what tipped them off to the fact that this was more than a case of grave-robbery. First of all, they knew that none of the disciples had taken the body, and who else would want it? But even if someone else had stolen the body for some unknown reason, no thief in his right mind would make it past the Roman guard and then sit there in the tomb unwrapping the linens and spices and myrrh from the dead body. It just didn’t make sense. John and Peter weren’t sure what was going on, but they had an inkling that maybe the story of Jesus wasn’t over after all.

And then He started appearing to them. First to Mary Magdalene. Then to two disciples on the Road to Emmaeus. Then to all of them together. And then to up to five hundred people. And He was no ghost. True, He walked through walls, but He also embraced them and talked with them and ate with them. This was Jesus, alive and well. Trying to explain it gave Peter a headache. It just wasn’t possible. At all. But He was there. And Thomas, who had been the most cynical, had put his fingers in the nail holes and his hand in Jesus’ side. Jesus was alive. No doubt about it. Eventually they gave up trying to explain it and just accepted it. What else could they do?

And then they started thinking about what this meant. Before Jesus was crucified, they had believed that He was the Messiah. No one had ever spoken with the authority His words contained. No one had ever done the things He did. But He had been arrested, the disciples had scattered, and He had ultimately died on a Roman cross. But now, after He accomplished the unthinkable and rose from the dead, they were absolutely certain that He was the Messiah. All their faith was pinned on Him. He would restore the kingdom to Israel. He would vanquish the hated Romans and rule His kingdom with the wisdom of Solomon and the dedication of David. And they, His disciples, would be right there with Him. They could not be more excited. After all, hadn’t He told them that He would baptize them with the Holy Spirit? They thought of all the heroes of the Old Testament who had been vessels for the Holy Spirit – Moses, Sampson, David … These men had been servants of God who did mighty things for God. And now God Himself was with them, the disciples, in the flesh, and they too would do mighty things for Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

No wonder they were excited.

During the time He spent with them before His ascension, Jesus of course knew the thoughts and hopes and dreams of the disciples. These people, with their penchant for getting His plans and purposes for them totally wrong, were so precious to Him. How gentle He was with them, and how stern when the occasion required. He chuckled inwardly at their absurdity. They thought they were expecting big things from Him: the wrenching of Israel from the hand of Rome, the restoration of the kingdom, the glory of the golden days of David and Solomon. To them, these accomplishments would be titanic, bigger-than-life, and what their people had desperately wanted for hundreds – no, thousands – of years. But their expectations were so small. They were so limited. Even after His death and resurrection, which had achieved restoration of relationship with God for any sinner that would accept the gift, His disciples fixated on the temporal salvation of Israel. They still could not fathom that His purpose was the eternal salvation of the world – everyone in it, that is, who would believe in His Name.

So, after a few weeks, the disciples finally got up the nerve to ask Him the big question. It took a lot of guts, and of course Peter was the one to ask. “Jesus, Lord, isn’t it about time for you to start doing what the Messiah is supposed to do? How much longer are you going to wait before you restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He smiled. How He loved them. “Peter, you are missing the whole point. It isn’t your business to know the times My Father had appointed for things. It isn’t for you to worry about the restoration of Israel. I will take care of that. Your job, and the job of each and every one of you, is to go into the world and spread the news of My life, death, and resurrection. This is why you will need the power of the Holy Spirit, not to work beside me in an earthly revolution, but in a spiritual one. You are witnesses to the greatest restoration ever known to mankind – not the restoration of Israel to its former glory, but the restoration of fallen humanity to their God.”

Saturday, April 4, 2015

before Sunday

On a Theme from Julian's Chapter XX
Denise Levertov

Six hours outstretched in the sun, yes,
hot wood, the nails, blood trickling
into the eyes, yes --
but the thieves on their neighbor crosses 
survived till after the soldiers
had come to fracture their legs, or longer. 
Why single out this agony? What's 
a mere six hours?
Torture then, torture now,
the same, the pain's the same,
immemorial branding iron,
electric prod.
Hasn't a child 
dazed in the hospital ward they reserve 
for the most abused, known worse?
This air we're breathing,
these very clouds, ephemeral billows
languid upon the sky's 
moody ocean, we share
with women and men who've held out
days and weeks on the rack --
and in the ancient dust of the world 
what particles 
of the long tormented,
what ashes.

But Julian's lucid spirit leapt
to the difference:
perceived why no awe could measure 
that brief day's endless length,
why among all the tortured
One only is 'King of Grief.'
The oneing, she saw, the oneing
with the Godhead opened Him utterly
to the pain of all minds, all bodies.
- sands of the sea, of the desert - 
from first beginning
to last day. The great wonder is 
that the human cells of His flesh and bone 
didn't explode
when utmost Imagination rose
in that flood of knowledge. Unique
in agony, Infinite strength, Incarnate,
empowered Him to endure
inside of history,
through those hours when He took to Himself
the sum total of anguish and drank
even the lees of that cup:

within the mesh of the web, Himself
woven within it, yet seeing it,
seeing it whole. Every sorrow and desolation 
He saw, and sorrowed in kinship.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

of poetry

{from A Family of Poems, edited by Caroline Kennedy}


I was surprised to realize a few months ago that I have a poetry collection.

Off the top of my head, I can think of ten volumes of poetry that I own. Chances are, I'm forgetting one or two. I didn't set out to collect poetry. Books, yes. Poetry specifically, no. But I apparently can't resist it. My collection ranges from fun children's poems to T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets - with a lot in between.

I love poetry. Not more than prose. But just as much as prose.

A philosophy professor told me last year that "deep poetry is trying to get at truths that are too deep to be articulated in plain prose."

Sarah Anne Stuart, who edited the newest anthology in my collection, said this in the introduction:

Putting one's thoughts into words can sometimes be frustrating. At times, words can become a limitation - we are left thinking how we felt so much more than we were able to convey.

However, words can also challenge us into thinking a new way - pushing the limits of our individual scope and opening us up to a larger world.

Poetry captures in a few words the thoughts and emotions that reach to the heart of human experience, flashing insight on the universal truths that unite all of us. In a unique way, poetry is able to break the boundaries of unspoken feelings, helping the reader feel that he or she is not alone; uniting the reader with the world around him.

Poetry at its best is a way of expressing what the poet sees in the world. It expresses thoughts, ideas, emotions, and experiences common to mankind in a concentrated form that can say more in a few short lines than could be said in an entire essay.

And that isn't to say that only poems that say something "profound" are worth reading. These are worth reading, but good poetry doesn't have to be long-faced and serious. One of my favorite poems is by Alfred Noyes, who also wrote "Song of Sherwood" and "The Highwayman."

Daddy Fell Into the Pond

Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.
There was nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And there seemed to be nothing beyond,

THEN
Daddy fell into the pond!

And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed!" Click!

Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft
And it sounded as if the old drake laughed

O, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond
WHEN
Daddy fell into the pond!

This poem is so delightful to me because it takes a silly moment - a moment of joy and laughter and ridiculousness, and says "Look! The silly things in life should be paid attention to and enjoyed and even commemorated with poetry!"

Poets pay attention to the world around them - to nature and to humanity and to stories and ideas. And in their poetry, they codify what they see so that the readers can see it too - experience the world for a moment as if we, too, were poets.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

concerning the Sabbath

{image via pinterest}

At Wheaton, students are encouraged, though not required by any stretch of the imagination, to keep the Sabbath.

How each student handles the Sabbath is different. For some, Sabbath looks like 24 hours -not necessarily on Sunday - without doing schoolwork. For others, it means not doing homework on Sunday afternoons. Some keep it regularly. Others keep it when they can. Others don't take Sabbath at all, finding other ways to work rest into their weeks.

I have found that the Sabbath is a necessity in my life as a college student. It's not a luxury that I take when I can afford to. It's something I practice every week, whether I am totally on top of my schoolwork or completely overwhelmed. Keeping the Sabbath is not a burden to me - it is a gift, since I am one of those people who doesn't know when to stop working. I tend to be two days ahead in all my classes. If I get the chance, I work ahead even more than that. There is never an end to the work that needs to be done. If I wait until my work is finished to rest, then I will never rest at all. Taking the command to rest one day a week gives me permission to set aside my work and relax, which refreshes me so that I can head into each new week rejuvenated and eager to work.

This has been my approach to the Sabbath ever since I got to Wheaton. That being said, I still have days where my school load is crushing and I decide to work during my usual Sabbath - in a "relaxing" way. But I have come to think that for me, even having more schoolwork than I know how to handle is no excuse to break the Sabbath.

Here's why:

In my Old Testament class we have been talking about what it would have been like to live in Ancient Israelites, and my professor cited an interesting statistic.

During the Iron Age, the average household, with each member working nearly every waking minute of every day, would only produce a food supply sufficient for 300 days. This means that to survive, they had to tighten their belts year-round and live on less food than they really needed in order to make ends meet. Life for the settlers in the early days of Israel was a constant battle for survival. None of the other Ancient Near Eastern cultures had a concept of halting work for one day each week. They were too practical for that: to eat you had to work. Constantly.

It was in this context that God gave the command to rest.

There is more to Sabbath than rest. Taking a Sabbath is an act of trust in and surrender to God. Taking a Sabbath is saying with my life that I know that I cannot do everything. It forces me to actively stop and trust that God will enable me to do what I need to do. Taking a Sabbath is living out the conviction that "God will provide."

For the Israelites, this meant much more than trusting that God would enable them to meet a deadline. It meant trusting that God would not allow them to starve.

None of my common excuses for not taking the Sabbath come anywhere near the fear of severe malnutrition. That, in my opinion, would be a legitimate excuse. Yet this is what the Israelites faced, and God still commanded them to keep the Sabbath.

Now, I'm not saying here that there aren't times when it is impossible to keep the Sabbath. As Jesus said, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. There are times when emergencies come up, when people need help, when keeping the Sabbath would be as harmful as refusing to heal someone who desperately needs healing. But I'm going to think long and hard from now on whether I am choosing not to keep the Sabbath because I legitimately cannot, or whether I simply feel overwhelmed and can't see how I will finish my work without doing so. Because I now think that those days are the ones during which it is most important to honor God and trust His provision by resting on the Sabbath.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Thought

You are not God's answer to the problems of this world.

Jesus is.

And He lives in you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I've been dwelling on this ever since a professor said it in class Thursday. It's powerful.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

conviction and civility

A lot of terms have been floating around in my mind recently. They have been coming up in different discussions going on among my friends and in the wider campus community. Truth and love. Conviction and civility. Epistemological humility. All having to do with the same thing: the ability to hold deep, strong convictions with a posture of humility.

This binding together of conviction and humility is something that most people need to work on, in one of two ways. There are some people who, in the interests of sensitivity toward other people, are hesitant to claim strong convictions. There are others who have no trouble establishing their convictions, but who struggle with engaging with opposing convictions in a spirit of gentleness and humility.

I am the girl who thinks through what she believes, comes to firm conclusions, and is very forthright about sharing them. I get the strong convictions thing. I'm good at that. The humility thing, however, is something that I have increasingly realized that I need to work on. I am often not humble in my convictions. And that is something that I need to repent of and work and pray to change.

I need to be clear: I am in no way apologetic for my beliefs or the strength of them. But I realize that all too often the way I hold them is in an attitude of pride and not of humility. This manifests itself in two different ways.

First, it means that when I am listening to people who have different beliefs than I do, I listen very critically, mentally (and sometimes verbally) pulling apart their arguments to reveal the faults that exist in them.

Second, it means that when I share my own convictions, I unintentionally come across as stubbornly dogmatic. People can feel that I am trying to change their minds rather than help them understand where I'm coming from.

This is counterproductive. When I listen to others, my first task is not to critically compare their beliefs with my own. My first task is to seek to understand their beliefs in order to better understand them and love them. This does not mean that I unthinkingly agree with their opinions. It does mean that I learn to understand how someone else could think through an issue and come to a completely different conclusion than I have.

This idea of seeking understanding is crucial when I am sharing my own convictions. When I have an argumentative manner designed to convince the other person, I put her on the defensive, which can lead to her being unwilling to hear and consider what I actually have to say.

My mom always said there's no point in winning an argument if you lose the person you're arguing with.

I want to cultivate an attitude of humility and desire for understanding. When I listen to others, I want to move past the fact that I disagree with their conclusions and respect their thoughtfulness in reaching them. If I share my ideas with the goal of helping them understand me, rather than convert them to my view, they are actually more open to my ideas. Instead of feeling attacked, they feel cared for. It is amazing what a world of difference humility can make.
 
"Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." Ephesians 4:15
 
"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." 1 Peter 3:15-16

Saturday, January 17, 2015

fear stops life

"I realized that attitude was stemming from fear. And I do not think in terms of fear. I do not tolerate fear in my life. I attack it and stomp it out because it is something I absolutely refuse to live with. So even though ultimately what I'm going to do hasn't changed, my attitude and motivations as I do it have. I won't be acting in fear: I'll be acting in faith."

"Hm. You're a funny little thing."

"Why?"

"How do you manage to live without fear? It's one of the fundamentals of human life...Whatever do you build your incentive structure around?"

*chuckles* "Last year was a year full of what I like to call divine bruises. God was banging me over the head again and again and again.

*whump* It's all about love. *whump* Guess what, My love is amazing and will never ever run out. I delight in giving it to you, my beloved daughter. *whump* And I want you to share that love with others. *whump* *whump* *whump*

And I began to realize that the more I am saturated with God's love, the more it flows through me into the lives of the people around me. And as it flows through me He fills me again and again so that the love increases without end.

I have experienced in a small way the truth that perfect love casts out fear. When I recognize and acknowledge the perfect and powerful love of God, I cannot fear. And you know what? Fear cannot possibly hold a candle to love as an incentive. That is why I refuse to tolerate fear as something that must be accepted."

"Wow. You are a strange little creature. In the best sense."

***
 
And that was that.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

a time to wonder

 
One late afternoon in October, I was walking to the cafeteria and passed a large group. One of them, Rachel, grabbed me.
“Kate! I’m so glad you are here! I’ve been lamenting that there was no one here who would understand. Look!”
I looked, and there was a spectacular tree at the peak of its fall colors – bright orange and red with just a hint of yellow. We stopped and stared at it for a good thirty seconds, enthusing over how stunning it was.
In class later that week, our English professor was talking about Hopkins: “Hopkins made you stop and look at things you otherwise wouldn’t pay attention to. ‘Look at that!’ he would say, ‘it’s not just a tree – IT’S A TREE!’ He wanted you to stop and see all the glory of its tree-ness, instead of just glancing at it as something familiar.”
Rachel and I glanced at each other and smiled. We knew exactly what Hopkins and our professor were talking about.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was an incredibly clear, cold night. The moon was full and bright, surrounded by stars. The Pleiades, which has been one of my favorite constellations since long before I knew its name, was easily visible, just below and to the right of the moon.

A group of some of my favorite people was walking to a friend’s apartment for tea and cookies after the college Christmas concert. As wonderful as I knew it would be, I couldn’t stand the idea of going inside on such a beautiful night. I kept walking slower and slower, which led to a lively exchange with one of my friends who was freezing cold and in a hurry to get inside.
Finally I stopped and flopped down on my back on one of the big lawns on campus. I knew where we were going and could easily catch up to the others, but first I just needed to lie there and stare at the moon for a few minutes. Most of the group kept going, used to my sometimes eccentric ways, but two of my friends who are as crazy and held by beauty as I am flopped down on the grass with me. We talked a bit, but mostly, we just enjoyed the rare moment of peace. When we were ready, we got up and went inside to drink hot things and enjoy cookies like sane people.
It was one of the best moments of the semester.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
All too often last semester, I was too hurried and harried to stop and be filled with wonder at the glory of the world and people around me. I would glance at it and note its presence, but not stop and pay full attention. The best days were the ones when I did stop to truly see and soak up the beauty of the natural world, or the quirky character trait of one of my friends, or the gift of a brief but meaningful conversation, or a funny comic that my brother sent me. The best days were the ones with moments when I was captivated by wonder to the extent that I would grab anyone in sight so they would get to experience it too.

E.B. White said to "always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder."

Join me?