Words in the Kingdom of God

Well, I have been on summer vacation from my first year at Wheaton College (IL) for twenty-one days now. Those twenty-one days have been an excellent time to remember and reflect on the year. And there are SO many things to remember and reflect on, but to impress my parents, I will being with my major. Just kidding. But really…mom and dad you can continue to be impressed.

I am an English major with a writing concentration. Practically, that means I have to take 8 credit hours of foundational course work, 16 credit hours of literary historical framework, and 16 credit hours of writing. I have wanted to major in English with a writing concentration at Wheaton College since 7th grade. Praise Jesus; the dream has come true. I took ENGL 224, my English Topical Seminar, this past Spring semester as part of my foundational course work with Professor Tiffany Kriner. It class was titled “Reading Theologically.” Now you may be thinking, “how quaint,” “how Wheaton,” or “how terrible.”

What does “reading theologically” even mean? How does one read theologically? Why would one want to read theologically?” All excellent questions. I asked of all of them before entering the class.

My professor, Tiffany Kriner, has written an entire book on this very subject titled, The Eschatology of the Word. (No, I am not receiving extra credit for this blog post…not that I couldn’t have used it.)

From what I gathered from the class, to read theologically is to read texts knowing and appreciating their part in Kingdom of God. And their part in the Kingdom not only presently, but also in the future. Texts–literary and otherwise–are part of God’s larger Creation and as such, are part of His redemptive plan for the world. Because of this and because readers are part of God’s larger Creation too, readers’ engagement with texts can cultivate both of their futures in the Kingdom. Blessedly, all of this is true in spite of the fallenness and failures of texts and readers alike. Reading theologically is a posture of appreciation, understanding, and reconciliation.

Knowing that one can and should read theologically has changed the way that I consume texts. They have deeper meanings as well as applications. This is not limited to the Bible or other religious texts. It applies to Austen, Steinbeck, and Homer too.

God spoke Creation into being. He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:2). He also “called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night'” (Genesis 1:5). God used and uses words. We have the Bible, you know. And just as every elementary school teacher would remind us, words have power.

They also have a place in the Kingdom of God.

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Long Time, No Write

It has been exactly 327 days since I last wrote on this blog. It was quite a feat trying to remember my username and password for my account just now.

What made me sign into my account and start writing a new blog post? Well…here’s what happened. Right before writing this, I was doing my BITH 111 reading while listening to some Christian music (very appropriate, I know) on Pandora. A Bethany Dillon song came on and I thought, “Whatever happened to Bethany Dillon?” I remember being obsessed with her song “Dreamer” after I saw the movie Dreamer, starring Dakota Fanning and Kurt Russell, in 2005. But where is Bethany Dillon now? Naturally, I Googled her. I first clicked on her Wikipedia bio and found out that she she married Shane Barnard of Shane & Shane in 2008. It was the Shane & Shane radio station that I heard the Bethany Dillon song on twenty minutes ago. Second, I clicked on her WordPress blog link. Her last post was in November 2010. That is when I realized that I myself have not written on my WordPress blog in quite some time (327 days to be exact).

So now I am writing a new post. SO much has happened since the last time I wrote in January 1st of this year. Frankly, I am disappointed that I have not been recording all of it. I sporadically journal, but my commitment to writing is, to be honest, really embarrassing. I am an English Writing major for crying out loud! And this is where I make a pre New Year’s resolution to write a blog post everyday for a year and 38 days. I am very tempted to do that, but I must be honest with myself. That is not going to happen. I will however, make a resolution to write a blog post every week starting now until the end of the year 2015.

Now that I have gotten all of that out of the way, I feel as if I need to write an actual real blog post. I want to resist this urge and be a minimalist, but my need to feel productive is winning in this moment. So the question now is: what to write about. There are so many options. Instead of picking one, I am just going to brainstorm one idea for every week I did not write this year. 327/7 ≈ 47. Here it goes! (Note: These appear in no particular order.)

  1. March for Babies fundraiser and walk I organized
  2. Graduating high school
  3. Project Graduation
  4. Working at Gull Lake Ministries over the summer
  5. The God-thing of actually working there
  6. The first week when I wanted to go home so bad
  7. The dishpit as a sanctuary
  8. Working with people who were, for the most part, older and more experienced than me
  9. Special God-thing conversations with quests
  10. My first En Gedi (worship service) and hearing the song, Though You Slay Me, for the first time
  11. Learning to lean on God for physical strength
  12. Realizing what a God-thing it was being at Gull Lake instead of Camp-of-the-Woods
  13. Arriving on Wheaton College’s campus for the first time in two years
  14. My pre-freshman orientation experience, Passage
  15. Pressure to make friends
  16. Cabin 12 girls
  17. Solo Trip
  18. Professor Whitney
  19. Challenge to be content and to find solitude time
  20. My first week of college at Wheaton
  21. Deciding to run for Student Government at Wheaton
  22. The campaign for the Freshman Vice Presidency
  23. My reaction to being elected Freshman Vice President
  24. My experience thus far on Wheaton’s Student Government
  25. Getting to know my 1South floor mates
  26. Getting to know my brother floor, T7
  27. Working at Phonathon
  28. My decision to quit Phonathon
  29. My BIG meltdown
  30. The challenging cliché of “intentional community”
  31. Family Weekend
  32. Aunt Joanne passing away
  33. Aunt Joanne’s memorial service
  34. My roommate relationship
  35. Letting go of plans for the future
  36. Finding BALANCE
  37. Writing down three blessings a day challenge
  38. Pre-signing to work at Gull Lake again this coming summer
  39. My view on Chapel Policy
  40. My dream of Wheaton vs. the reality of Wheaton
  41. CFAs
  42. My identity as a writer
  43. College vs. high school
  44. Trying to figure out a double major
  45. Maintaining friendships back home
  46. Redefining “home”
  47. Newfound realization of my need to be more conscientious about money

That was productive, because now I have no excuse not to write due to lack of ideas. Practice makes perfect and therefore I need to write more to become a better writer. Hopefully one blog post a week for a little over a year will help me do that.

In Your Cocoon BE STILL

be STILL in the presence of the LORD

and WAIT patiently for Him to act.

psalm 37:7a

That is my year verse for 2014.

As a lift my head ever so slightly and stare into the rear-view mirror, I see 2013 fading in the distance.

I regret that some of the year’s events and people appear fuzzy and maybe a little distorted, but I guess the passage of time does that. It bring me joy though to know that I can say without a hint of doubt that I have grown (a quarter of an inch physically and an uncountable amount emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). And don’t you worry, some events and people are a clear as yesterday.

This past Sunday I heard a sermon about Heaven. Something that stood out was the preacher’s hope that  there will be an “instant replay” room up there. Just imagine…being able to watch any event in history, to see how things really went down. Embarrassingly, my first thought was an instant replay of my life, or moments in it. But the preacher quickly put me to shame and said that he wanted to see the birth of Christ or His death on Calvary. Woah. That would be CRAZY.

So I’m not entirely sure where I am going with this entry, but bare with me.

I like reflecting on the past and I think an “instant replay” room would be fantastic. But I think those are two of my downfalls right there. I’m not saying that I spend to much time in the past or that I fantasize about the future too often. What I AM saying though is that I do not spend nearly enough time being still.

Over summer I had this constant feeling of stagnancy. I felt uncomfortable. I was not content. I wanted to move. Obviously this was not in terms of the physical. I could move all my limbs. It was in terms of the spiritual.

My wise friend, mentor, and sister in Christ gave me this analogy (I call it “Metamorphosis”):

METAMORPHOSIS~ Christians Are Like Caterpillars

1. Larvae Stage: You start off as a small (probably ugly) larva. You crawl around slowly on your belly and eat and eat and eat. That’s pretty much all you do. You eat. And poop. But, that’s it. Eat. Poop. Eat. Poop. Oh, and sleep. I guess you sleep too. But eating is the most important part.

[Interpretation: As baby Christians we “eat” lots and lots of spiritual food. Eating (which leads to growth) is most important.]

2. Pupa Stage: After you do the appropriate amount of eating you make a cocoon for yourself. And then you wait. Have you ever imagined how uncomfortable and probably painful this stage much be for insects? You trap yourself in a shell and then over a short amount of time completely change form. Talk about a lot of plastic surgery or identity crisis. The main thing here is waiting.

[Interpretation: As Christians, we all reach a point where something changes. We realize that we owe everything to God and that begins our metamorphosis. Growth is still happening, don’t get me wrong, but something just clicks. This stage comes at different times for everyone…some early on and some later on. But it does happen.]

3. Adult Stage: Ultimately you emerge from your cocoon and instead of an ugly larva you are a beautiful butterfly. You don’t crawl around on your belly anymore…you fly. And you would never want to return to being a larva (that would be stupid). The main thing here is that you are forever changed for the better.

[Interpretation: We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)!!! We are completely transformed and we would never go back to how things were. Obviously we still need to eat, poop, and sleep to survive…but in all seriousness, we are made new in Christ.]

Well being still and waiting are important in all the stages of metamorphosis, but especially in the pupa stage. I think I’m at the very end of the pupa stage and I’m praying that in this coming year I will unravel myself from my cocoon and transform into a beautiful butterfly. But before I can emerge from the cocoon I need to get better at following God’s command: “Be still…and wait.”

~BL

Life Verse

Deuteronomy 13:4

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

Pretty good, right?

I found this verse last December when I opened my Bible to a random page. It just stood out. And for those of you who read my first blog post, I think it was a God Thing.

This verse tells me exactly what needs to define my life, my actions, my thoughts.  GOD. I mean I love popular verses like Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 4:13, and John 3:16, but this verse is personal to my life. It is my LIFE VERSE.

I am a planner, an organizer, and a color coder. I like control. BUT this verse tells me plain and simple that I must FOLLOW Him. No matter my plans or my expectations, I need to follow His ways.

I am a lover of many things. Family, friends, literature, summer, Chinese food, songs around a campfire, the Adirondacks, fuzzy socks, bruschetta, hot apple cider, Sperrys, the color green, country music, and sweaters are all things I love. BUT this verse says that I need to REVERE God. I cannot put anything before Him. I cannot worship other idols.

I am a leader. I almost always take a leadership role. I may not “command” people to do things, but I do lead. This verse tells me that God needs to be who leads me. I must KEEP HIS COMMANDS and OBEY Him.

I am an extrovert. I love spending time with people. I love full schedules. I like trying new things. But this verse tells me that I need to SERVE. I need to give my time, my money, and my energy to help others. It can be as simple as setting the table or it can be a big as serving at a soup kitchen, but I need to put God and others first.

I am an emotional person. I cry a lot. (Do not worry…I laugh a lot too.) I have highs and lows, ups and downs. I get discouraged. I get excited. I get lonely. I get overwhelmed. But in all those times, I need to HOLD FAST to God.

So yeah. That’s my Life Verse and what it means to me. So I encourage you all to grab your Bible from your coffee table or your attic or where ever you keep it and open it up! Start flipping through! Dive in! Immerse yourself in the Holy Word! And find yourself a verse that can define your walk with Christ.

God Knows BEST

Patience is a virtue. That I do not have. And God knows that FULL well.

Right now. At this very moment in time, God is teaching me patience. And it sure darn hurts. But honestly and quite surprisingly, I’m okay with it. I am realizing that I cannot do everything right the first time (or even second). This is another one of my weaknesses. I tend to want to do things right on the first try. If I don’t, I  tend to get mad and it is very hard for me to see anything in a positive light for a while. Sure, we all learn that this is “bad” when we are kids, but knowing that something is bad is completely different than changing your attitude about it. Sometimes, things do not to come easy or naturally. Sometimes I mess up and I frustrate myself, but really, frustration is not going to get me anywhere. Yes, I do realize how cliche that sounds, but it is a lesson that I am learning right now.

You may be thinking that this shouldn’t be a new lesson for a senior in high school, and don’t worry, it isn’t. It is, however, so obvious to me that GOD is teaching me this lesson. And he is teaching it to me for a reason. I know it is to turn my weakness into a strength, but I’m thinking there’s a little but more to it than that. I think there is something coming down the tracks where I am going to need A LOT of patience. I think God is preparing me for something specific. I guess that is why I’m okay that it hurts right now, because I know God is saving me from pain down the road.

It blows my mind how AWESOME my God is! It is crazy to me that I can genuinely say that right now. God works and is working. It is as simple as that. He is working in me, in my heart, at this moment. And I love and praise Him for it.

I want to conclude this entry with a passage from scripture that I have heard so many times before, yet I have only come to fully understand and appreciate it now.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Woah. If that doesn’t make you feel a little bit uncomfortable I think you may need to go see a doctor or psychiatrist. This is crazy talk! To DELIGHT and BOAST about your weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and difficulties seems completely wrong, right? I mean, really? “When I am weak, then I am strong” makes absolutely zero sense. Nada. How can you be weak and strong at the same time? Weakness isn’t a good thing. Insults are no fun. Hardships and persecution hurt. And difficulties just waste too much time really. This Paul guy (the author of 2 Corinthians) must be a lunatic! If he was happy when all this “bad” stuff happened, then honestly, he can take everyone’s baggage and savor it for himself!

Question: What is missing from the previous paragraph?

Answer: God

HIS “grace is sufficient.” HIS “power is made perfect in weakness.” I boast gladly about my weaknesses “so that CHRIST’S power may rest on me. It is for CHRIST’S sake that I delight in weakness, insults, hardships, persecution, and difficulties. The key to all this is GOD. This isn’t remotely about me…it’s ALL about HIM.

Thank you my Savior for revealing this to me. Thank you for giving me the words to express how amazed I am by You. Thank you for my weaknesses. Thank you for insults that come my way, for hardships that I face, for persecution in your name, and for difficulties of everyday.

~BL


A God Thing

Has anything ever happened in your life that you cannot explain? A moment at which you look back and think to yourself…WOW, that was exactly what I needed. It could be as simple as your iPod shuffling to the song with the lyrics you really needed to hear in that moment when you felt broken or it could be as grand as an unexplainable healing of a loved one. I assume (and I hope) that you all have had at least one of those remarkable moments in your life time. If you have not I am willing to wager that you just do not remember them.

So where am I going with this? Honestly, I’m not entirely 100% sure. This is my first “blog” post and I must say it is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Now I promise, pinky-promise, that this next part relates, even though it may not seem like it at first. So keep reading, and just bear with me if you would.

I love the Christy Miller Series. I do not know how many of you have read them, but if you have not, I, without an inkling of a doubt, encourage you to start right now (well after you finish reading my first blog post that is). I honestly cannot begin to describe the series to you, but let’s just say Robin Jones Gunn is an amazing author who definitely understand the life of the average teenage Christian girl.

An amazing part of the fifth book, Island Dreamer, is the description of A GOD THING. Say what?! Yes, you heard me right (or read it right?), A GOD THING. What is A GOD THING? I am so glad you asked! Gunn describes it as such:

“It’s when something happens in your life, and you look at it and can’t explain how or why it happened, but you know there’s a reason for it. You know that God is doing something in your life, and it changes you. There’s no other way to explain it except to see it as A GOD THING.”

Take a minute and let that sink in. Reread it if you so desire.

It is pretty crazy, huh? I mean honestly, think about it…A GOD THING is kind of like a little miracle and it is literally a big blessing. Both the examples of the song playing randomly and the family member being healed happened to me (the song one happening far more times than I can count). And there have been so many more GOD THINGS in my life, some that I remember and some that I do not.

I guess I now know what point I want to make. I want to encourage and inspire you guys to remember the GOD THINGS in your life. How? Well, I keep a journal. Whenever and wherever A GOD THING occurs, scribble it down in the journal with the date. It is really as simple as that. And then, if you really want to get wild, ever so often look back on previous entries and see how God is working in your life. Take it from me, it can blow your mind! I promise, God works and is working in each and every one of you and I can honestly assume that He wants us to be blown away by His awesome, awesome plans!

So I guess that was my first “blog” post. Huh. Well, we will have to see where this takes us.

~BL