Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bride? Yes please!

So, you know that saying that roughly goes like this: "A girl's heart should be so wrapped up in God that a guy has to seek God to find her"?

It seems like a great quote. It's nice and fluffy and offers hope to any girl out there who thinks that romance is not going to ever be part of her life. It also seems to encourage the girl to pursue her creator who loves her more than any guy ever would, or could. I thought this for a long time.

Recently while talking with a friend of mine, she mentioned that she had brought up that saying while trying to counsel one of her friends in what her friend thought might be a hopeless romantic endeavor, and little red flags went up in my head. The only reason they did was because I had once had someone tell me the same thing. I'm not saying I had disastrous results with it, but there were some cautions I would give to anyone who tried to follow the sayings advice.

First my own experience with the saying. You might have read previously on this blog how I am a hopeless romantic, and in my freshmen year of college I became aware that the romance in my life was probably not going anywhere any time soon. I became despondent and depressed, worrying more about why guys weren't taking an interest in me that what my Savior thought of my moods.

So, I heard this saying from a couple different places and thought it was really a lovely idea. I swore off of guys and hoped that if I pursued my Savior, he would bring romance into my life. Let me say that again. I hoped that if I pursued my Savior, he would bring romance into my life. If you haven't already caught it, there's a problem with that statement. I was pursuing God to get an end that I wanted and not an end that my Savior wanted for me.

Now the good news is that God honored even that small misguided pursuit of him and drew me towards him, finally showing me that he was all I would ever need, no matter what. What I wish I'd done differently is just pursue God for who he is and not what he could have done for me.

So to those young women out there, I would caution you about that saying. Pursue God, yes. Bury your heart in his, yes. But don't do it with the hopes of an amazing romance on the horizon. What you will find instead is the most amazing romance of your life. The God of the universe, the one who spoke it into being, and yet cares about even the tiniest of life forms, knows you deeper than you even know yourself, your brokenness, your ugliness, your valid reasons for being unlovable, and yet loves you way more than you could ever know. He has died to bring you into a relationship with him. And it's not like we as sinners wanted relationships with him. Imagine the best romance you can and then times it by 1000 at least.

I'm trying to say with words that which is unsayable. Girls, it's okay to struggle with the fact that a God who is infinitely glorious and holy would love you. I struggle with it myself. But never stop preaching the gospel to yourself. In time you'll come to see him better and love him more and believe that he loves you as well. I am praying for each of you as you read this that you might see him who is more beautiful than you can imagine.

To all my girl friends out there who have been struggling with romance, your bridegroom awaits. All you have to do is walk down the isle. :)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

God is Good, part 3, or On Peeling a Sunburn

I went to the beach on Saturday with my sister and a mutual friend of ours. I've been lifeguarding so much this summer that I have a fairly decent tan, though, as I've been telling people it's not my cute suit tan. Well, after this Saturday, I no longer have a guard suit tan. I have a cute suit sunburn that is turning into a tan.

Now why bring up a sunburn? Well, I started peeling yesterday. And because I started peeling, I started thinking about snakes and their shedding their skin. The way my brain works, I automatically started thinking about my favorite part in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third book in the series, The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis. Many of you probably have already guessed which part that is. As it is, I'd like to put some of it here.

Eustace has been turned into a dragon, and when he appears at camp a boy again, he tells Edmund what happened. How a lion found him and let him up a mountain to a well where Eustace thought he could bathe and soothe the pain of the golden arm band that was hurting his dragon arm because it was made for a human. Eustace tells Edmund,

"The water [in the well] was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.

"I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

"But just as I was going to put my foot into the water I looked down and saw that it was all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as it had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this under skin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, o dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

"Then the lion said -- but I don't know if it spoke -- You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know -- if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

"Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off -- just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt -- and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there I was smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me -- I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on -- and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment."

The thing I love about this, is that Eustace says that when he was peeling of his skin it didn't hurt him. He only felt proud of himself. But when Aslan (because we all know the lion was Aslan) went and undressed him it hurt like crazy, but Aslan only had to do it once. It probably would have taken Eustace just about forever to get to the point that Aslan did in one go.

The whole moral of all this peeling is that, no matter how much I try to change myself and recognize my sinfulness by myself, I won't be able to change. It takes Aslan sinking his claws into my selfishness and sin to make it go away, and it probably will hurt like the dickens, but it's the only way forward. In the end it's good. Aslan is not a tame lion, but he is Good.

For that, if only for that, I am glad I got burned and started peeling. God is good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

God is Good, part 2

So, I went to title this blog (sometimes I title it before I write it, and other times I title it after I write it... this time it is before it's completely written) "God is Good" and then realized that the title sounded familiar. Sure enough, I found that I had written a blog that was already entitled that. So I read it.

First, it was written many months ago. It was during a time where Michael and I were hanging out regularly because our relationship had not yet gone "long distance", nothing much was hard in my life, in a sense that I was still in college and all I had to worry about were grades and whether or not my senior recital was going to go well. Since then I have student taught, graduated from college, and my relationship with Michael has "gone long distance." He is currently 5 hours away, and during the school year, he's 3 hours away.

It's funny how several months will change your perspective on things. Now, I'm not about to say that God's not good. That's definitely not true. But I am going to say that it's very easy to say that God is good when everything around you is good too. I'm also not saying that I'm not surrounded by good things. I am. I am surrounded by things that are good. A family that loves me, a job (though sometimes I wish it were more), the prospectiveness of jobs, life, a bed to sleep in, dentist appointments, communication with Michael, etc.

And yet, at the same time I feel like I'm learning more about the difference between saying God is good and knowing God is good. Right now, I'm having a hard time translating "God is good" from my head to my heart. What does living like you know God is good look like? I'm not sure. I think part of it looks like leaving everything to Him. Trusting that He's got a plan for whatever's happening right now. Being content (NOT the same as happy, more along the lines of joyful) with where He's put you, knowing that here and now He's trying to teach you something. It's not easy. I don't think it's supposed to be easy. But it is supposed to bring us closer to Him, and that is something that is easy. Drawing nearer to God should be easy because He is so beautiful.

Why all this wordage? What am I trying to say? Well, here. Help me. Pray that God would give me a spirit of contentment, and ease me through this time in my life where things are hard, but not terrible. Merely uncomfortable. Pray that God would enable me to see and know with my heart that He is indeed good and that He has got some massive awesome plan in mind for this. I'm sure, 100% positive, that in the future I'll look back and know that God had this for a reason, but I want to know that now.

I know. Patience isn't one of my strong suits, but this is something different. I want to know in my heart of hearts that God has something in store for me. It's called walking by faith, and not by sight. Walking through the dark night of the tunnel when you're not sure that there is light at the end, but you're trusting that there is. It's a fool's hope. A fool's trust. But then I'm trusting in the God who used the foolish things to shame the strong. Maybe there's some hope there after all.

This is me publicly declaring in the midst of stuff that God is GOOD.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Happily Ever After

So, on a trip down memory lane, Grace and I watched Ever After last night. We stayed up until about 1am to finish it after a long exhausting day, but finish it we did, with happy smiles on our faces and satisfied thoughts. Ever After is probably one of the first (if not the first) chick flicks that I learned to love. It's right up there with the boy bands that populated my early teenage years (Plus One anyone?). I loved the wit, the courage, the stupidity, the humor of it all. I still do. Grace and I were giggling in certain parts, parts that I had either forgotten, or not realized through all my previous watchings.

As it is, it got me to thinking as I attempted to go to sleep at 1 this morning. I always have trouble going directly to sleep after a movie because my brain is still processing. As my writer's brain processed, I had to smile over the fact that true to a chick flick, there had been three or four parts. The introduction of the characters to the viewer/reader/audience and to each other and the build up of story-line. Then as the story seems to be floating along on wings of awesomeness, something happens. Something dreadful happens. It doesn't come out of nowhere though. It's something that one of the characters has hidden from the other character/s. It's been building, so you know it's going to come to light and ruin everything. Sure enough, in the middle, something awful happens because the secret, or whatever it was, comes to light. Trust is betrayed, hearts are broken, and those who thought they were on top of the world suddenly find themselves at the bottom of the well. In the last part, one of the characters, preferably the one who was betrayed, steps back into the life of the betrayer and shows them that they are still loved. There is massive reconciliation and a drinks all 'round! I mean... a happy ending. I love happy endings!

Which also got my thinking, why do I love happy endings so much? Why does anyone?

Which led me to the conclusion:

It's because we all want our own happy ending.

Shocker, I know.

I guess what made me smile early this morning as I realized this was the fact that if you are a Christian, you do get a happy ending! And what's amazing is that our life resembles a chick flick... or maybe it's the chick flick that resembles our life.

In the beginning, when God first created man and woman, they were perfect. They were introduced to each other, to God, given a set of rules to live by, and very quickly they broke one (all) of the rules and tried to hide it from God. It's kinda funny because hiding things from God doesn't work very well. Because of this lie, because they broke the rules, things suddenly started looking extremely dark. Mankind hid from God because they figured that He could never love them again. After all, if they were unlovable to themselves, they should be unlovable to God. Therefore they ignored God and attempted to live on their own. They weren't only afraid of God, they were being rebellious. Something had snapped inside mankind when they sinned. They didn't want God. And yet something amazing happened.

God, the creator of the universe which is billions of light years across (and then some), stepped into our nasty and showing that He still loves us, He died for us, paying the penalty for our sins against God. It was this penalty and the sin that was separating us from God in the first place. He payed for it all, rescuing us from the death penalty that we had placed on ourselves, the shackles that we had crawled into because we were unlovable. Instead, He took the death penalty, He placed the shackles on Himself, so there would be no room for us, as long as we accepted Him and believed that He really had done this for us.

He has brought us not only back to Himself, but also back to life. He has become our life. The ultimate reconciliation has been made. This is a love story that all other love stories long to copy because it is so amazing. We, of all people, are to be most envied, and yet sometimes we can't even believe it ourselves.

As it is, it was nice, wonderful, to be reminded that my Savior is my knight in shining armor again. I hope I have been able to remind you of the same thing as you read this.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Uncomfortable much?

I've never been good at keeping a happy ending to myself. That's partially why I never ever read the ending to a book, even if the middle seems depressingly hopeless. If I know how it ends, sometimes the middle doesn't appeal to me as much. If it's a happy ending, I keep that tucked away in my brain like a little ball of hope, and it ruins any emotions the author might have wanted me to feel while reading about the trials of the hero and heroine.

That's why I feel slightly awkward on this day of all days. I always feel weird about the saturday between Good Friday and Easter. Why? Oh, because Good Friday is so sad, and mournful. We went to a service yesterday that seemed to color the rest of the day. It was solemn and beautiful. And we left the service with Jesus in the grave. I feel like I should be sad today too, because technically "Jesus is in the grave until Easter." The only problem is, I CAN'T. There's an ending to the story that I already know, dadgumit, and it's an ending of the most joy possible, I wanted to stand up and shout in the middle of my Good Friday service yesterday, "But He's not dead! Why are we mourning? He's quite alive!"

Granted, I know why we celebrate Good Friday. We're commemorating Jesus' deathday, just like we commemorate His birthday every Christmas. We're praising God solely for the torture and the pain that Christ went through to give up everything, sacrificing it all so we could be brought near.

Still, I know all this, but I feel awkward today. Am I supposed to feel mournful today? All I really want to do is wriggle with anticipation like a 4-year-old, and shout, "Just wait for tomorrow! He's not dead! I mean, yes, He died, but He's not dead!" So the confliction in me comes from the feeling that I need to be in mourning today because of yesterday, but I am also pulled towards excitement and rejoicing because of what comes tomorrow.

Altogether, I'm probably going to be very uncomfortable today.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Music is...

What is music, and who is it for? Is it for the high and mighty? is it for the layman? Is it for the audience? Is it for the composer? What purpose is it supposed to serve? Does it bring glory to the composer? Or the performer/s? Who is it for?

These are questions I've been wrestling with in my head for a while, seeing some of the responses around me to music. This is probably appropriate as well, seeing as I have been student teaching (and having a wonderful time of it) in the music area of education this entire semester. I believe, now, that I have some, and at least partial, answers to my questions stated above. To answer the later questions, however, I must first define the first question.

What is music? My awesome cooperating teacher has a definition that I completely agree with, that she thinks she got from her cooperating teacher. Her definition is this:

Music is sounds and silences organized for meaningful expression.

Sounds and silences. So, rests and any type of sounds are music? Does this mean that the clap of a hand, or the shout of a voice, or the percussive ring of wood on metal have as much musical claim as the song of a violin, or the wail or an oboe, or the lumbering of a tuba? I would argue that yes, they do, as long as they are organized for meaningful expression. If the clap of a hand or the shout of a voice express something the way the composer wishes, then we can call it music.

Now that we've defined music, now we can answer the next question.

Who is music for?

Now, for as long as humans have been able to make noise, they have been making music. The first stringed instrument wasn't much different than one small hunting bow brushing the string of a larger hunting bow. The first wind instrument was probably very similar to a panpipe or conch shell. The first real instrument was the human voice.

In the early ages of the Christian church, music was only for church. The making of music outside the church was strictly frowned upon, because they believed that any music that wasn't created to glorify and worship God was not right. As the years past, and Henry the VIII broke from the tradition of the Catholic church (and even before this time), thoughts changed. Music was still for church, certainly, but now you could have "church music" and you could have "secular music," music that didn't have to have more of a purpose than bringing enjoyment to the listener.

But then the music was for the high and mighty. The laymen, the workers in the fields, could only get music in church on Sunday, if they went. The rich, the nobles and the lords of the land would higher traveling musicians for their courts so they were never without song, but rarely was song heard elsewhere.

Ever so slowly music started to move towards pleasure for the common man. It was in this era that composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Fredrick Handel, and Dieterich Buxtehude (Bach's personal idol) composed and performed. Only, they did not perform for themselves. They composed music and then performed for the enjoyment of their employers, or for the church. Sure, they enjoyed music, but it wasn't for them in the long run.

And then wild, crazy Mozart came along. He who would not be beholden to tradition decided that he was going to try and make it on his own, without living with people and playing music for them for room and board. He broke the mold that other composers had lived by, or at least he tried. The mold never really broke until Beethoven came along.

Beethoven was a firey man who had a massive temper, generally because he couldn't hear. He was known to shout at performers when they couldn't get his music right, but even through this firey personality, his music, the emotions in his music still managed to make people cry. Listening to his 9th symphony with the chorus gives me goosebumps every time. With Beethoven suddenly music became for the masses.

As music became more relatable, composers would compose pieces that were meant to be played only in the privacy of the house. Many of the world premiers of some of the really famous pieces were for a small number of people. Music was never invented for the performer. Yes, it could be enjoyed by the person who performed it, but it was created so that in the quiet of the house a mother could rock her child to sleep, a man could storm in anger, a young girl could express her love-sick anguish. Music in any shape or form, in any tribe or language around the world, has always been for the people, for the audience. It is the call to a wedding, a funeral, a calming time, a time for war, and a time to just sit and listen.

So, my final conclusion to this super long post is that music is for anyone who has ears to hear it and a brain to enjoy it. It is not about the performer, though the performer can certainly listen and enjoy the music they are producing, but it is about the audience. That is why, with everything, both the composer and the performer have to consider their audience. Who are they playing for? Who will they influence? In what way do they wish to influence their listeners? In essence, music is not about us, the musicians, but it is about the people around us. Every time we perform, we are serving the people listening to us, and as either professional musicians, or strong amateur musicians, our job is to get out of ourselves and what people think of us and to perform an act of service for them.

So my challenge to all musicians out there is this: go out and influence the people around you for good through the music you make, whether it is a foot stomp, or a cello string, a train whistle, or a clarinet's soulful sigh. It's in your hands now. Do with it what you will.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


God is beautiful because He is trustworthy.

I know I haven't posted in, well, a month, but this is because I have been learning about the trustworthiness of God firsthand. Let me esplain. No. Ees too much. Let me sum up. (;-D)

Several posts back I shared how absolutely terrified of student teaching I was, simply because I didn't know what was coming next. I'd never before found myself in a situation like this. There were a lot of tears and anxious conversations with close friends and family. I felt incredibly lonely as my friends started to trickle back to Boone and I did not. I understood with my head that God would take care of me, the same way He's taken care of me for the past 22 years, but I did not quite translate that to my heart.

My first day of teaching was strange and not quite a full day because of weather. We let out 2.5 hours early, and I came home tired and in desperate need of some support. What I met with was my family. I was instantly bombarded with questions about my day. This is support, but at the time, it wasn't the type of support I was used to, so I did not recognize it as support, and, well, my parents weren't used to me either.

So, I snapped at my dad as he over-cheerfully asked questions, and roughly put my stuff away and then crawled into pjs and my bed and took a 30 minute nap. When I had taken my nap, I was even more groggy and tired then I had been, so I moped into the kitchen where I had been working on a 1000 piece puzzle before school started, and sat dejectedly at the kitchen table with the puzzle while mom busied herself making dinner. For the next hour at least, I sat and cried while piecing the puzzle together. It was off and on, but I had a nice little pity party. As I sat there, at one point I had been sniffling so much that mom quietly left the kitchen and came back with a tissue box, set it down beside me, patted me on the head, and went back to making dinner.

Over the next several days, in fact the first week, every time Michael called, there was a 73% chance that I was going to cry at least a little while talking to him. He handled it well. Better, in fact, than I deserved. Also, I was consistently tired (still am, thought I've adjusted) and the tiredness didn't help my functioning capabilities and often I felt like I was dragging through life.

This is the beginning of my fourth week and things have changed. They changed long ago, but I wasn't aware of it at all. More important, God has been trustworthy through all of this.

Going into this whole deal, God has provided for me. He provided a cooperating teacher who works in two schools, both under ten minutes from my house so I can live at home and save money instead of having to pay for on campus housing and food and stuff. He has provided a family, my family, as support for when I'm tired and dejected: a mother to silently but caringly issue tissues when I need it, two little sisters who are more than willing to ask me to read books to them, a father who willingly doles out hugs, a brother who is crazy and grown up to the point where I can have intelligent conversations with him.

They don't replace my family at App, but they are the support I need here. Support here includes my church family and KB, my incorrigible best friend who makes bacon creations with me and has Christmas more than a month late with me.

God has also provided for me by giving me rest and sleep when I need it most. He has consistently led me through days that look terrifying, such as conducting the high school for the first time last week, or actually starting to work with a class for the first time, or braving the teacher's lounge for lunch for the first time, or... and I could go on. There have been times in each day where I can blatantly say "Thank you God for answering this prayer, or getting me through this situation."

While God has not always given me what I want, He has consistently given me what I need and what will grow me in my faith and love for Him. I know I've talked a lot about what God has provided for me, so I can definitely say that He is beautiful because I can trust Him to provide for me, but this also points me to something else. If I can trust Him to provide for me, I can also trust Him in everything else. He will continue to do everything that He has promised for me, which is pushing me to love Him every day and every day showing me just a little more of His glory. He has promised many things and has already fulfilled the biggest one. He brought salvation to this earth through His Son's death and resurrection for our sins, in order to bring us to Him.

"He who did not spare His own Son, but willingly gave Him up, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coming soon?

For Christmas I gave Michael a book by John Piper called God is the Gospel, talking about how God is the greatest gift of the gospel and how all the gifts God gives us through the gospel and salvation are only supposed to point to him. This got me thinking. If God is the ultimate beauty, how is He the ultimate beauty? We as humans are so visually based. When we pick friends, it's with people that we like the look of. Very rarely do we go out of the way to befriend people who look strange or different than we do.

However, God is invisible. If He is the ultimate beauty, we need to learn how to see the invisible traits of beauty in order to fully appreciate how beautiful He is. Sometimes the only way we, as visible-based creatures, can see God's invisible beauty is the same way we see the wind: the evidence of moving and changing things around us.

Why am I saying all this?

Because I think in the next several blogs, I'm going to focus on God's beauty. I'll pick a couple topics, such as His grace, mercy, salvation, creation, etc. and write about each one in a different post, because if I tried to write about all of them at once, the post would be longer than the recent post about Christmas. So, stay tuned for something having to do with God's beauty as I struggle through these thoughts of mine.

See you soon-ish!