Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Lasting Ordinance of a Faithful God

Today is Yom Kippur. A high holy day in the Jewish calendar.
And I was thinking, as I tend to do. But today as I was thinking, I was also fasting. So my mind began to wander . . .
I wondered if Jesus ever observed Yom Kippur. Not in the “I need to ask for forgiveness from God”-type observation of the day, but it was after all a command from God to remember the day as holy. And then I began thinking of Jews all through history and what Yom Kippur looked like for them. (Well maybe not all the Jews. That would take a while.)
In captivity in Babylon, did the Israelites pray and fast for atonement, or were they too busy adjusting to life in a foreign land? What about those Sephardic Jews living in the midst of the Spanish Inquisition? I wonder if the first Jews to land in North American in 1654 remembered to fast and pray. According to legend, it was early autumn when they landed in New Amsterdam. . .
 And then there are times like Eli Weisel describes in his memoir Night. The Day of Atonement rolls around and Weisel adamantly decides to not observe the day. By this point in his captivity he has lost faith in the Almighty God. He does not see the point of fasting from food he does not have or praying to an unseen God who has most obviously abandoned him and the other prisoners. Why would one add more afflictions to a life already afflicted with loss, pain and death?
I wonder if we are not sometimes like that. Convinced that God must have no idea what He is doing. Or at the very least thinking that He’s gone on vacation and left a deaf and blind arch angel in charge.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading Madeleine L’Engle’s The Rock that is Higher. It’s one of her older works--a reflection on what it means to write a story. (And a little like Donald Miller’s newest book about living your life story). There are long passages where she simply recaps her thoughts about a book she’s written or a life-shattering event. But then there are sections where she really dishes out truth. Truth about how we are to live our story in God’s story. Last night I read:
When I pray, in church or without, in my prayer corner at home, or on the street as I walk to and fro, I pray that God’s will may be done, and I pray it especially fervently during those many times when I am not able to discern God’s will. . . Often I do not know, and so I throw myself upon God’s will. (L'Engle, p.147)
Even when we don’t see His hand moving, or our need for redemption, or the fruit of our labors, God is the One who is faithful. Outside of time, yet like clockwork, we can depend on His nearness; His response; His mercy. I think that is why Judaism and older Christian practices are so routine, so repetitive. We fast and pray each autumn because that is the time God has set aside for His people to repent and remember. We are the ones who are unfaithful; in constant need a faithful God who will say to us,
This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you- because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. (Leviticus 16:29-31)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Business Cards

Hello friends,
I have decided to make a business card. Here are a few of my designs thus far. Please vote for your favorite/tell me what you think.

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A past-minded blogosphere

The other night I sat scouring the internet for history websites and blogs; job hunting and searching for potential places of employment. I am very familiar with the Website --> About Us -->Employment Opportunities/Jobs obstacle course.
But one thing I noticed.
In the news, the world is falling apart. Pop-culture pages find mindless things to smile about, telling us stories of Angelina Jolie’s nannies and the next teenage heart-throb.  On the other end of the spectrum (though maybe not far removed from our society’s current obsessions), history blogs have sky-rocketed. They are flourishing, in fact.  At first glance, I am overjoyed. People are finally interested in history! But wait a minute—people are finally interested in history . . .  The unfortunate side of things is that retrospective tendencies tend to develop at the end of a great thing. One must wonder what this says about our culture; what ideas go racing through the minds of the human race.
It is possible that I am just more attuned to all things “public history” since receiving a degree in that field. Maybe things have always been this way. But I think not. Looking back, the world (or at least the Western world) has been very focused on dreaming ahead. For centuries peasants and kings have eloquently prophesied about how the future would look, sound, feel.  Just look at the works of authors like H. G. Wells, George Orwell, Jules Verne and Edward Bellamy.
As I sift though pages and pages of “history” and “public history” blogs, I can’t help thinking that an intense focus has shifted to an understanding of the past.  Too see where we have come; to give an account of what has already happened. It’s a little overwhelming if you think about it for too long. But mostly it’s fascinating—what the human mind will do for the sake of self preservation.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A public history adventure

On Saturday I did Public History. Well, that’s actually an odd way of putting it. I should probably think of a better way to express my adventure.  Another time, maybe. For now, let me tell you about my Saturday.
Most of the time I am on the receiving end of public history. In and of itself, it is a beautiful thing, but that is not what I spent countless hours studying. I’m sure there are classes on how to be a better recipient of public history (in fact I can point out quite a few people who would benefit from such a class), but that is far removed from the point. The point:  I got to do public history this weekend!
A couple years ago the Evanston History Center was forced to close due to ownership and financial negotiations with Northwestern University. Prior to that time, I served as a weekend docent at the Dawes House. On Sunday afternoons, while many people would rather be taking a nap, I sat at the front desk of a majestic mansion on Lake Michigan, waiting for unsuspecting people to walk up to the front door and ask to take a tour. I enjoyed showing people the house; spewing useful facts about Dawes, 1920’s American society and European architecture, maybe throwing in a tidbit about Lincrusta Walton or annunciators. But I don’t think I really appreciated what I was doing. At that time, I was in the midst of obtaining my degree. Every bit of “Public History” I was doing was for an assignment.
Yet on Saturday, after a year away from the house and couple recent weeks of patron-less desk-sitting-sessions, I got to share my passion for history with ten random people. It was hot and muggy; I was sweating from every possible pore, and I’m sure they were as well. But do you know the joy I felt as I closed the door after the last visitor had departed? I was expecting to feel relieved that I could sit still in front of the fan, or at the very least get a drink of water. I was not expecting to have such happiness over a 45-minute tour through a turn-of-the-century mansion.
So what would any up-and-coming Public Historian do in such a situation? She would plop back down in that squishy desk chair and start designing a business card. Call me crazy, but it seemed appropriate. And I was in an artsy mood. Needless to say, I have a design, and I’m quite excited. Now I just need to have them made, preferably free of charge.
But one thing at a time. I was not done with my Public History adventure. Nope, not yet. For in addition to it being sweltering hot, it was also a beautiful day. And that meant my camera had to come out of its cozy crocheted traveling case. Walking around the outside of the Dawes House is blast to the past all in itself. From a crumbling terrace to mossed-over flower planters, the fa├žade and exterior exude pride and the desire to be remembered. I took some pretty fun shots, allowing my camera’d eye to see the house from a new point of view. I doubt Robert Sheppard dreamt of a time when the study of his glorious home would be considered History. Charles Gates Dawes on the other hand—he was pretty brilliant. With amazing foresight, he bestowed his home to be used for historical purposes. And that is just what I did!
I guess I should be thanking the man.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Reflection on American History

This blog post has been stewing in the back of my brain since yesterday at approximately 1:30pm, when I went to go hear the Grant Park Music Festival's Independence Day Concert. There was this riveting compilation of songs from across the United States entitled "Sea to Shining Sea." Showcased were arrangements of pieces like "Meet Me in St. Louis", "Chicago", "Tennessee Waltz", and "New York, New York." And I thought to myself, what an amazing way to tell the history of our nation.

It's an oddly known fact that I, the neighborhood history nerd, once used to believe I did not like American history. I'm sure I even spouted it out loud once or twice to an unsuspecting family friend who simply wanted to know what I was going to be studying when I went off to college. I wasn't trying to be pretentious or anti-patriotic, I just didn't really appreciate the American history I'd learned up to that point. You probably didn't either . . . all that confusing jargon about the Constitution and jumbled politics, not to mention all those dates. . .

I may be exaggerating a bit. Because there were definitely units I loved--especially when Social Studies and English got to hang out together and our assignments would involve writing stories about specific periods in time. Or when I was reading books on my own like Little House on the Prairie. I guess what I really didn't like was the way classroom textbooks taught history, not the history itself. I knew that I didn't particularly thrive under that type of learning. I wanted to learn about what life was like "back then".

So I made up my mind somewhere between my freshman and senior year of high school that when I went to college to study history, I was not going to focus on American history. Ideas like archeology and Biblical history popped into my head, or maybe I would study world history in general. I was a little confused, but then again I was only 17. As you can imagine, my plan did not work out so well, seeing as the school I got into didn't have Biblical history or archaeology primary fields of study--and it was a requirement to take at least two U.S. History courses.

So as I sat listening to lectures about colonization, war, reconstruction, expansion, immigration and progress, something amazing happened. I realized that I did in fact love America's history. Real life people were the ones who traveled to and inhabited the far corners of this country. They were the ones who created and thwarted events; sought out new ideas and innovations. Those dates, institutions and political mandates that I so disliked are really only the periphery of history. The finding and telling of the stories in between--that is what I thrive upon.

And that is why I chose Public History. I want to help share those stories and show people--especially children hemmed in by classroom textbooks--what is really exciting and invigorating about studying the past.

So Happy Independence Day, my friends. Take a moment to think about the real life people who came before us and paved the way for the liberty we get to experience today.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Places of Living History

One year ago I set out on an adventure that involved seeing New York City for the first time. Returning from my travels, I was sure that my new season would produce a profitable Public History job and a expanded perspective on life.

I am sure I look at things differently since then, but there is still no dream job to provide intellectual stimulation and fund my ever-growing desire to hop around the nation's most intriguing museums and historic sites.

While in NYC I visited the Tenement Museum, a spectacular institution that specializes in the history of the Lower East Side and its immigrants at the turn of the Century. A prime example of living history, smack dab in the middle of a historic neighborhood. With each flight of stairs or turn of a corner, it is as if one were wading through history--stepping into snap shots of the past. The stories of real life people are told in those rooms; the remnants of lives such as theirs scattered for all to see. Such an enriching way to experience history.

Recently, I was remembering my experience at the Tenement Museum and wondering if Chicago possessed such a gem. I know of institutions like the Jane Addams Hull House Museum and the newly created Public Housing Museum, both of which (unfortunately) I have been unable to visit. Yet every once in a while, I'll be walking along a street with buildings of historical persuasion and think to myself, "Who used to walk up and down these same streets? What events occurred under this building's shadow?"
What if, as we walked along the streets of a historic neighborhood, we were able to see the hidden history piled beneath slabs of concrete? I am certain that interspersed between franchised coffee shops and modeled strip malls there are stories to be told, memories to behold.

Away from the often-pretentiousness of exhibit-laden museums, places of living history--on site museums specifically, are probably my favorite. I thrive on experiencing the past in a three-dimensional way, without all the trappings of digital media and surround sound.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

An Ode to the Westward Wind

I had an interesting thought the other night as I was watching a reflection of the sunset on clouds over Lake Michigan. The shore was completely calm, but for a gentle breeze wrinkling over the surface of the water. Yet as I stepped away from my reverie and returned to the concrete jungle, a torrential wind tore at me from the West.

And this was my thought--consequently geographical in nature. Imagine from whence that wind had come. . . Traversing around mountains and vales, through cities and towns, across rivers and streams, making its way steadfastly to the coast--not of a vast ocean or sea, but a simple lake--the birth place of a Midwestern metropolis.

Oh to be a breath on the wings of that wind. To hover over the changing landscape and shifting tide. A perfect witness to time and space. The most honest of troubadours. A noble chronicler. An ode to the Westward wind.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On Being Steadfast in the Desert

It has been a long time since I wrote. But this is not an observation of the ditsy variety. I am honestly saddened that I haven't much been in the mood for writing. As many of you who read this may observe, I usually write after I've pooled my thoughts and honed my emotions. Not many "depths of despair" (To quote the beloved Anne of Green Gables. She does need a good shout out every once in a while) posts here. So put two and two together and you'll see why its been so long since I've written. Being in the dull-drums is not good fodder happy thoughts and I, unfortunately, do not have the gift of the Psalmist David. I am not good at crying out (either in despair and praise) when I'm "sitting at the bottom of my well." I used that phrase on a Facebook status a few weeks back and really freaked some people out. It was not meant to be the end of the world. Just the image that popped into my head during this desert time. 

Anyway, it's a year since I graduated from Loyola. I've been a Master of the Arts for a year. I don't feel like a master of anything at the moment. That's probably the way God likes it. But I have the unfortunate tendency to want control, to be able to place my ducks in a row and look to the well planned future. Not at all embodying the Noble Woman of Proverbs 31(v. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come). I've been wringing my hands in worry at the times to come. Wondering what God is playing at, putting me through all this waiting. On really bad days I incorrectly blame it all on my passive, introverted self. But then I remember, if I was relying on myself for anything, I would get no where. So that's not it. God must have a plan. A purpose for this season. Back in August, maybe even reaching towards November I was okay with waiting. But now it's May and I am still where I was a year ago.

Ironically, (and appropriately--for God is One with a sense of humor) our church small group is studying the book of James this summer. It gets better folks, I'm facilitating the Thursday night group. Not only to have I have to listen to James' wise words (1:2-4): "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." But I have to teach them.

As a group, we are going to try to memorize portions of James, starting with these first three verses. I often read the NIV, but our "pew" Bibles at church are ESV. So I, at least, have decided to use that translation. The NIV uses the word "persevere." But the ESV choses "steadfast." Now I am a visual learner. And as soon as I read this word, I got an image in my head that has really helped me. A stead is a post, something securely positioned, immovable. And so I have created my own definition of the word "steadfast" , as pertains to this passage, and for me as I find myself in this desert season.

Steadfastness: the act of holding on firmly to the immovable Jesus.

I guess that's all I can do right now. The next step will be joy--odd as that seems.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Power of Story

 “Prelude to a Blog Post”
Sometimes I have an idea for a blog, but deep down inside I know that it is not yet ready for “viewing.” When this happens, it often turns into un-motivation. I don’t feel like writing because nothing seems complete. I feel like I need pieces of a puzzle to fall into place before I can put my thoughts into words.
If you have not yet caught on, this is where I was. Sitting stubbornly on the couch; drifting between sleep and restlessness on a bus; eating in my parent’s dining room; listening in a church pew; walking to work. I let life wash over me. I didn’t try to finish my thoughts. Then all of a sudden it all began to make sense. A chain of words formed in my head. A string of thoughts wove its way into my imagination. It may have happened this morning in the shower, but only now am I typing it. This is the culmination of what began some many weeks ago.  I apologize for the delay. 

The actual blog post: “The Power of Story”          
Stories are powerful things. They evoke emotion; they expand the imagination; they allow us to time- travel and space-travel, across millennia, through wrinkles and over oceans, rivers and seas. A good story can transport you from where you are to, where you desire to be, to where you are actually understood, and truly belong.  
Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. When I was younger (starting about the 7th grade)I read pretty much every Holocaust story I could get my hands on. Why? Because I had a fascination with the stories, the retelling of events. I could relate to the people whose lives were torn in two because I had a similar history. We shared a past, and yet I could only imagine the happenings of their life. Those stories, whether based on actual events or imaginary history, brought what happened to life. And in my mind’s eye I saw them walking, living, laughing, sharing, crying, dying. My imagination ran wild with emotion, and inspiration, and color, but most of all a desire to learn more--to take these stories and flesh out the truthful events behind them.  Although I am speaking of Holocaust stories, the same was, and became true for all works of historical literature, fiction and memoirs.  
C.S. Lewis, a man whom I count among my dear (and yet deceased) literary friends, knew well the power of story. How else could an image of a faun walking with an umbrella in the snow become the basis for one of the best tomes of Western allegorical literature? I mention Lewis quite often when I write, but I will not apologize for this. Instead I would like to share a bit of joy. Throughout Lent (and onwards, since Lent is obviously past) two friends and I (from work) have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia. Truthfully, they began before I knew of their brilliant plan, but I was quickly included, and am much the happier for it. What better way to spend the weeks leading up to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (other than reading the actual account in the Gospels, of course!) then to focus on some of the best stories rooted in Divinely inspired creativity.  Lewis takes the mundane and turns it on its head with Aslan at the helm (pun intended). So captivating are the stories that we find ourselves desiring Narnia right along with the Pevensies, Eustace, Jill, Polly, and Digory. What joy to press our faces against Aslan’s mane, to feel the wind as we are carried across the sea on the Dawn Treader, to see Narnian trees dancing in the wood, to hear Aslan say, “There is a way into my country from all worlds . . . and I shall be telling you all the time”!
One of my favorite images in the Chronicles can be found at the end of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The children have very nearly reached the world’s end and they come to an island where they meet a lamb. It is a quiet, simple lamb. And yet, as it begins to speak, it turns into the great Lion, Aslan himself! This imagery is best represented in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe, with Aslan’s sacrificial death on the Stone Table, yet Lewis waits until a book steeped in the theme of yearning to show the Lion as a lamb.  
Jesus himself is described many times in Scripture (both prophetically and contemporarily) as a lamb—but ultimately as The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). With Passover and Easter overlapping this year, I had a lot of time to think about Jesus as the Lamb. I am often awestruck by the frankness and beauty of God’s imagery. Such a powerful story, that of Redemption! It is rooted in the ancient practices of sacrifice, and the practical cycle of birth, life and death, but it is brought to life in the narrative of Jesus. The symbols of the Passover meal, and Christ’s actions during that final week, remind us of God’s deliverance from slavery to freedom, from darkness into brilliant light. 
And so we remember the story. We place it on our hearts as God’s Truth. And we repeat it with significance because in the telling, we find Life.

Friday, March 26, 2010

a Peg-board and the Great Carpenter

I recently acquired a 4' x 4' peg board. It's made of masonite, I believe. And I am super exited about its potential.
My immediate thought, the moment I heard about the said peg-board, was an image of Brother and Sister Bernstein Bear organizing all their toys. If you ever read "the Bernstein Bears and the Messy Room" then you'll know what I'm talking about. But I digress.
Peg boards are most commonly used for the hanging of items. Usually in a storage-type way. They can be found in tool shops, kitchens, craft rooms. But I want to use mine differently. I'm not exactly sure how . . . but I want to paint it and make it usable art.
A project. And a crafty project at that. Pure bliss. Tomorrow's goal will be the purchasing of said paint. Maybe a lovely shade of burgundy. 
Along the same line, but just short of becoming a tangent: I've been thinking a lot recently about the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a carpenter. My thoughts have been two fold. 
1. How awesome that Jesus was a man who worked with his hands. Unlike the plasticized images of Christ our culture likes to produce, Jesus the Carpenter had dirty hands (and dirty feet too, by the way). He probably had a fair share of splinters and slivers (are these the same thing?) and I bet He hammered His thumb. But beyond that, I'm sure He created beautiful masterpieces. Anything He repaired  turned out better than it was before. And I bet no one ever complained about the quality of His workmanship. These were tangible things He could fix and produce. Yet, for all things unseen (the spiritual realm), He was chastised and rejected in His own "home town."
2.  As the Son of God, Jesus takes what the Father has created and shapes it into something beautiful. Just as a potter molds clay, Jesus takes our hard hearts and makes them pliable for His will. He takes the broken pieces of our lives and fastens them back together--making us perfect in His sight. We are sanded down, and coated in His righteousness.
If Jesus had a peg-board, what would he hang there? What "tools" does he use to conform us into His image? There are days that I desire to experience that change, and then there are others when it seems easier to just remain my sinful self. Who needs humility and restoration when I can be selfish and stagnant? But just like Eustace's radical transformation in C.S. Lewis' "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," Jesus knows our heart. He knows what we need fixed. And as the Great Carpenter, He is going to fix it. He will not leave us worn out and used up. His business is that of building up, repairing that which is broken, and restoring Life. All we need to do is ask Him to take down those tools from His peg-board and start using them on us--trusting that His hands are steady and His skills are sure.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wanting to be me: thoughts on Joy and Faith

I do not seek to be existential, or at all philosophical, but yesterday I experienced the odd, yet thrilling sensation of being nameless face in a sea of strangers. It was a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. And though I have been many times, each visit is eye-opening and profound. My Facebook status later that afternoon read, “trip to the art museum= a long walk among perfect strangers and dear friends.” Am I crazy, or did I just equate paintings with my close companions of flesh and blood?

It is both an honest and perplexing observation. Looking back, I imagine that being something Anne Shirley would say—a romantic view of a plebeian past-time. But what does that say about me? Or our society for that matter? How is it that I could be situated within such a space of beauty and inspiration, and feel no camaraderie for my fellow museum-goers? I’ll take a stab. It could be that many such patrons were simply there at the bidding of a loved one—for I saw no love of art in their eyes. Or it could be that I would have nothing worthwhile to say (Doesn’t the art demand silence and reflection?). Yet I believe the reason is far simpler than that.

In an era of social networking and an ever-shrinking world, I desired to just be me. And I choose to fully encompass that role in a place where I felt most comfortable. I wish I had a name for this type of place. Because I believe we should all go there more often. I, as much as anyone, am plagued by the constant inclination to be or act as someone I am not. Yet that is not who God made me to be. He made me to be me (a reflector of His image). Odd isn’t it. If I had not felt this straining tug at my heart, I might not have sought a remedy for this madness, but to the art museum I went. I went to immerse myself in that which is created (made to reflection Creation, I believe) and experience the full range of beauty, grotesque, pain, and rebirth.

In a strange way, this makes me think of faith. I’ve been learning and relearning quite a bit about that small word this week. From Abraham to Esther to David, to Jesus—wow, those guys knew about faith in God. We (and they knew this too) cannot be who God created us to be without recognizing our identity as God’s beloved, and following Him in faith. He is sovereign. We are not. Without resting in that fact, joy cannot be ours. Sure, we might have happiness, we may even feel ecstatic at times, but Scripture says the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

So when I am driven to the point of an “art museum excursion,” I humbly choose joy. What more can I do for the Man who got down on His hands and knees to wash His disciples’ feet? (John 13:1-17) With a towel around His waist and perfect blood running through His veins, He who created mud took it all on Himself and washed His creation clean.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Love: a discussion subsequent to Valentine's and present in Lent

During Advent I created a special blog to record my thoughts and daily devotionals. But for some reason, Lent does not seem to merit the same type of reflection. Perhaps it’s because there is sorrow and sacrifice associated with the Cross. Yet for believers, there is nothing more beautiful than the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  At the cross we see perfect love. Love that, in 1 Corinthians 13 is described as patient and kind; not envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. It is a love that keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. This love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. It never fails.

Living near Loyola University, I am surrounded by the Catholic traditions of Lent. Yesterday I saw many foreheads marked with ashes. Countless Facebook statuses declare what my friends are “giving up” for the season. Some will abstain from certain foods, others have chosen to unplug their televisions, and still others say they will not log onto Facebook until Easter Monday. I’m sure this Friday I’ll be able to smell the scent of frying fish.

But what does it really mean to abstain for the Lord? I have often wondered this as I fast during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Fasting, whether from food or pleasure, means nothing unless it is done with the right heart attitude. So before you congratulate yourself for getting through one week without carbonated beverages or cable TV, check your heart and see if those things are really being replaced by a deeper devotion and love for Christ.

I love when God uses irony. One might consider it a coincidence that my small group is studying the life of King David, while at the same time my Sunday night Bible Study is going through the Psalms.  But I know better. God uses repetition to get our attention—an especially useful tactic for us self-centered “sheep.” Anyway, this last Sunday we read Psalm 22. This psalm of David is often expressed as the Crucifixion Psalm. It is prophetic in nature, speaking in great detail about the death of One who suffers and the joy of the Lord’s sovereignty.  Being Valentine’s Day, it was a perfect picture of Christ’s love—that God’s Son would suffer and taste the bitterness of death for us. Just as John says in chapter 15, verse 13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

May this be our vision as we walk through this season of Lent. Allow God to speak to your heart as He draws you closer to the Cross.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So I guess I am fighting a battle

Do you ever feel like your life is stagnant? That all you’re doing is keeping time?

Two weeks ago I was reading 1 Samuel 17 (you know, the part where David kills Goliath) in preparation for my small group Bible Study. And God spoke some powerful words. Little shepherd boy David was not looking for adventure. He was not looking to be a hero. He was not looking for victory. But God brought him right up against a giant and said “fight.” As I have experienced with God’s voice in my own life, He did not audibly decree that David kill the giant, but He prepared him for that moment. David had all the tools he needed. He was strong, he was courageous, but most of all he trusted in the Almighty God. He was equipped with all he needed for the task. And that was enough for there to be victory that day in the Valley of Elah.

With this in mind, and fully believing that Scripture is the Living Word, I set out to not look for adventure, heroism or victory. And guess what God did? He dropped three possibilities of further employment into my lap. Now I’ve heard it said, “when it rains, it pours,” but this was a little unprecedented. I went from praying earnestly for God to release me from the grips of retail to praying for discernment about which path to pursue. If nothing else, He has a sense of humor. 

So I guess I am fighting a “battle” (oftentimes with myself and my worries). It is neither with sword nor sling, in fact, I am not even sure what it is against. But I do know the Lord does hear, and He is moving. Even though things feel stagnant, I know the Lord is preparing the way for whatever is to come.  This past December at the Urbana missions conference I heard Patrick Fung, the director of OMF say, “God’s work, done in God’s will, will never lack God’s supply.” Such true and powerful words!

Monday, January 25, 2010

God is in the details.

What does one do with a Masters degree, a faith in the Almighty God, and a ¾ time job in retail? Easy-- the wise words of Micah the prophet (6:8): act justly, love mercy , and walk humbly with God. So simple. Right?

This last semester I have been struggling a lot with trusting my future job and career to God. . . I keep telling myself that God will provide, just be patient. But in doing so, I think I forgot to look at where I am now. I get so wrapped up in the future that I lose focus on the present. (Which is really funny since I am usually very wrapped up in the past—as a history major). . . Anyway, what’s that verse that talks about worry? Oh yeah,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” –Matthew 6:25-27, 33

I need to read that more often. And take time to slow down and dwell on God’s promises. So guess what happened? I got sick. I caught a bug and it made me slow down. It made me take time to rest. And in the process I was able to see God’s hand at work--the small details that my Heavenly Father delights in. The same details that I too often over look, or at least take for granted.

Last Thursday instead of going to small group Bible Study, I was able to sit on my couch and read through my notes from Urbana (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s missions convention that I attended the last week in December). God spoke in powerful ways at that conference. But how much good are powerful words when they are trapped inside a notebook. On Saturday I was able to sit down and read . . . something I haven’t had the patience for in a while.
And today, instead of standing at a cash register telling students that it was too late to return textbooks, I sat on the couch and listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll. But this was not just any sermon. Together with a fellow pastor and a media team, Driscoll created an organization (Churches Helping Churches) and implemented a trip to Haiti. The goal: to bring awareness of the need and the perseverance of believers in Haiti, and to create a conduit for churches around the world to serve the Church in Haiti. It was a very powerful message; one that made my own worries and problems seem so trivial and selfish.

God is in the details. We may never know why He allowed destruction to strike an already devastated country. But I do know that God will and has used every event in history for His purpose. Just as with the cross, it takes death to bring life. Out of the brokenness, our Creator will breathe life. We just have to let Him. We can worry and wallow in the world’s pain, or we can choose to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. He will do the rest. Promise.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Glimpses of God's Glory

Yesterday I decided to visit the Art Institute of Chicago. I love that place, but I haven’t been there since last spring when I graduated. I had high hopes that by this time I would be employed at a place like the Art Institute, but it seems that God has had other plans.
There’s something almost sacred about the art-lined halls. The pieces not only depict beauty, but they tell history, evoke emotion, and ultimately, show a glimpse of God’s glory. No matter what I end up doing with my life, I do know that art will be a part of it. From an early age I saw my parent using their artistic abilities and visual creations as both worship and a means to share God’s goodness with others. So why would less be expected of me?
When I see an image that truly evokes God’s glory (often without crosses and Jesus fishes—imagine that!), I feel great joy. This is creation, designed by humans, divinely inspired by their Creator God. One of my professors at North Park often spoke of God as Creator. Being in the arts, this was the way he best thought of God. I have often reflected on that characteristic. The very first thing God did for us was create. From there, every other good thing was able to be revealed to His creation.

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I have seen many images for which this is true; many pieces of art, photographs, sculptures, monuments that evoke great emotion.  From the Gospel of John we know that the image of God is captured by just one Word.  God’s voice is made flesh in His Son, Jesus Christ. What a glorious image!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A new year . . . a new blog, well sort of.

It has been almost a million years since I last wrote on this blog . . . but not really, since I transferred my old blog to this new address last week. And during the month of December I created a different site altogether for my Advent Blog (

But fear not, dear friends and semi-devoted readers. I am back. I have made it a new year's resolution to write on a regular basis. Not just to record my often-monotonous existence, but to transcribe life's mediocrity into glorious possibilities. I make no promises of eloquence or finesse, but I do hope that my thoughts and reflections will bring you inspiration and affirmation. Most of all, I am using this space to process the ways that God is working in my own life. I write, knowing in faith that I will be drawn closer to Him and the plans He has for my life.

But this blog is not just about giving. In this process I hope to receive as well. As you read, I encourage you to leave comments and words of affirmation. This will help to keep me disciplined, and might even spur dialogue--always a good side effect of blogging.
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