Tuesday, December 27, 2011

God With Us


     I suppose after my last somewhat cynical post I ought to write something a trifle brighter. I've had lots of ideas--as usual--but very little time in which to write them. This stretch between Christmas and New Years, however, is providing me with a little extra time and ample fodder about which to scribble.

     Over the course of December, I've particularly loved the fact that all the radio stations, both Christian and secular, play real worship music. It isn't the cheap kind that could be referring to a boyfriend if I swapped out God for a different masculine name. It doesn't praise God for the things He does for the massive ME planted right in the middle of the chorus in neon-bold. Many of the words belonging to the old carols come straight from scripture, thanking God for who He is--for being Salvation.

      I've been reading through Leviticus as well. It occurred to me today that they shared a common theme with the hymns playing everywhere.

Leviticus 26:1-2 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.


     As with the rest of the Bible, it reminds me that the LORD should be at the center of my life; the Rock of my salvation placed squarely in front of me daily with nothing else present. I ought to keep His sabbbaths not for the sake of legalism, but to put Him first in my week. I reverence His sanctuary because it represents a far greater throne room in my Father's house in eternity. I should love Him because He is so worthy of adoration.

     I greatly enjoy the imperfect practice of learning to worship here on earth. Moreso, however, I eagerly anticipate the constant "Christmas" of heaven in which I'll experience Emmanuel as just that--God with us--in a keener way than ever before. And of course, the brilliant praise music centuries of God-fanatical composers will have had infinite time to think up.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dear Customer

The Shop Girl by James Tissot


Dear Customer,

     I would like you to know that I am a human being. Not a robot, not an angel, not a fixture on which you may scrape your boots. I'm aware of the nonverbal cues you are projecting. I detect tones, eye rolls, disgust, frustration, and a sense of superiority. I understand that you want what you want when you want it and that you are equally subject to having bad days, long days, and I-just-want-to-cry days. Please understand that for the most part, I really do have the utmost sympathy and when you mention that you've been up since four in the morning with a sick baby I do make it my mission to move things along more quickly. That said, there are a lot of other people at my place of work who all have to accomplish certain tasks before you receive the final product. And that takes time. There are also other customers that are waiting to be served. That takes time, too, and if they're in front of you I still have to wait on them first.

     In addition, please know that I am a person. I have a family and set of friends who love me. There are circles in which I have worth that is partially due to the gifts God has given me. I do not work behind this counter because I am too stupid or aim so low that I find myself here. I will not work in this place all my life, and I am not some sort of scum or idiot because I do right now. There's no shame in earning a living for oneself or saving until you can get to school. There's nothing to look down on in my youth. I don't pretend to know everything and am conscious of the fact that I make plenty of mistakes. If my mistakes affect your life, I truly am sorry. I sincerely do my best, but I too have my bad days, long days, and I-just-want-to-cry days.

     I am on the front lines representing my company to you and similarly in being your advocate to my superiors. Depending on the day and situation I may take heat from both sides. I am not the only one. Every sales clerk, service provider, rep, waitress, and telemarketer is in the same position. Absurd company policies annoy us just as much as you if not more so. Believe me.

     This message isn't for the purpose of procuring favors, thanks, or gratuity in any form. Just know that I have value, not because I think so or I demand you recognize it. I belong to God and this is where He has me in life at present. Therefore, I am content to serve.

Sincerely,

A Front Counter Worker

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crossroads

     You'd think I'd know based on my own indecisiveness that being left to my own devices to choose a college would make for a long and painful process. As the saying goes, one step forward three steps back... or, in my case, one glorious moment of "this is it" whilst the heavens open up and angels are heard to sing to many, many evenings of despairing "I'd rather be incarcerated." And how does one choose, anyway?


Freehand touchpad artistry by yours truly
     It's a little frustrating, really. As a transfer student, I know what I want and don't have any misgivings regarding my calling. However, I'm also extremely picky when it comes to how schools view my subject of choice--namely, science education--and don't particularly want to put myself many hundreds of miles away from my family or my sweetheart. Bottom line, I have a short list of colleges that I'm interested in with no real desire to go and live on campus at any of them.

     Although, some useful things I have learned in my quest for perfection have been...
  • I'm not going to find it [perfection]
  • it's really important to read the Student Handbook before you start applying anywhere
  • I should run everything by a few select persons, but no one else until I know what's going on
  • DON'T PANIC
     I'm not so good at the last one. With all the ways God has been faithful in my life, I know I'm being silly if I suspect He's going to leave me hanging in this area. And yet, there is a wide gap between knowing something and really truly knowing it. Kind of like the difference between having my best friend beside me and knowing he's there versus being side by side and holding hands. (Yes, we do on occasion! Bad, bad homeschooler...)

     In the end, I guess that's really what trusting God is though--taking His hand. At a crossroads like this, it makes sense more than ever. So, I suppose it's back to the spiritual discipline of waiting on Him. Much better than back to the drawing board, in any event.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Father



(Copyright Lucy Littleford)

     A friend recently mused aloud to me, did God make us to be pleased by creation or make creation to please us? I replied that I thought when God created, He put elements of His character into every piece of matter and so naturally we would be pleased by it. That's why He could say when He looked over it at the end of each day, He saw that it was good. It follows then as a matter of course, many of man's highest thoughts and noblest feelings would be stirred by observing nature--God's nature.

     That's part of what has drawn me into my field of study, I think. While I want to learn science to teach it and be able to make a stand for Biblical creation, I have enjoyed exploring a subject that fills me with awe and reference for my Father. Maybe I'm geeky for feeling most worshipful when I've got my bio textbook on one knee and my Bible on the other. I love writing scripture references in the margin of my textbooks and thinking of what wonderful truth there is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in God's own image. Evolutionary ideas certainly cannot compare when it comes to having hope and purpose.

     With this all floating around in my head, I considered trying to hammer out a few lines of poetry. That used to be another pursuit of mine, but I've gotten a bit rusty of late. This is the raw concept that's been my meditation though...

My Father is the one who whispers to the plants to grow and flourish. (Genesis 1:11)
My Father is the one who chooses the garments of the lilies. (Matthew 6:29-30)
My Father is the one who stores up the snow until its appointed time. (Job 38:22)
My Father is the one who spoke light into existence and will banish darkness forever. (Genesis 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:8)
My Father is the one who carries healing in His wings. (Malachi 4:2)

     My Father emboldens the timid with His strength, makes low the proud, judges all peoples. None can stand before His awesome righteousness or see His glory and live. He is great enough to hold all the waters of the earth in the palm of His hand, to make the earth to tremble at His presence. Yet He has created a universe in such detail that with all of the intellect with which man has been gifted over several thousand years, we cannot come to the end of it either on a massive or a minute scale.

     And He, the one who is the Author of it all, entered into time and made Himself a servant for the fallen race He had created. This, so He could restore fellowship with mankind and call us His children, giving me the privilege to call Him Father by way of describing more of His grace. He is the God to whom I belong, the one whose finger prints I get to study when I look through a microscope at bacteria or cells or whathaveyou.


"Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." Psalm 139:3-6


"Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." Psalm 33:8-11

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

You Never Know

     I thought I'd keep this blog a little more polished than my previous attempts, but it looks like I'll be writing raw from the heart tonight...

     I've spent the past couple of years working at a Christian summer camp. I try to go to the same "week" of camp routinely so that the kids get to know me and I get to know them. Since a lot of the kids come from unstable home situations, it's good for them to see the same faces consistently. My goal has been to share the gospel with as many of them as I can and encourage these precious ones in the Lord, but more than that to demonstrate Christ's love as best I can.

     There's one little girl I really connected with since I started working as a counselor. Noel was eight when I met her, witty and full of life. Like any kid that age she tended to be fidgety, impatient, and mouth off occasionally. She and I got on really well since we could both be very chatty. During craft times especially I made a point to sit with her and help her with her projects since she was prone to giving up easily. I was so proud of her when she finished her marble game a couple of years back. I think she even managed most of this years crafts by herself.

     We were pen-pals for a while, too, until her address changed. I got it again this year on the last full day of camp. Noel was practicing a magic trick one of the leaders had taught her, making me nervous the whole while that she would hurt herself getting it wrong. The next day I saw her off, hugging her before she got into the car with her dad, telling her that Lord willing I would see her next year.

     You just never know what the Lord's plan is...

     Noel was murdered by her father a couple of days ago. I don't have any connection with her family, I just found out because another camp worker saw it on the news. I didn't know that July 30th would be my last day to tell her that I loved her dearly, but Jesus loved her more. I had been telling someone that week that I wish I could take her home with me. I can't imagine what kind of heartache her mother must being going through, or any of the rest of her family that's left to cope with the mess.

     I don't know why God doesn't stop wickedness like this. I don't know why precious little lives are violently ended. I don't know why it is that God decided to call a ten year old girl and her three year old step-sister home to Him in heaven. I don't understand. I know that He is faithful. I know that He is the only wise God. I know that Noel is safe away from hurt now. I pray that her family comes to know God's peace in time.

 Noel, sweetie, I'm going to miss you next year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Apples of Gold on a Sunday

[Sunday Afternoon by Thomas Webster]

     As today is a Sunday and my last research-blog idea is still bouncing around in the recesses of my mind, my entry shall revolve around an anecdote and a bit of scripture. As a side note, I sort of regret that I grew up long after the days when Sundays were still so strictly dedicated to God that afternoons were spent in silent contemplation of Him. There's certainly something to be said for meditation on the Psalms and the worshipful attitude it tends to produce.

     That said, the thought of the day was produced by a week of successive discouraging encounters at my workplace. I came home nightly feeling as if I could do nothing right, and wondering why on earth God had placed me in a setting where I couldn't even be a proper witness to those around me by working well. The Monday following, one of my co-workers addressed me in passing and said, "You received two compliments last week. Hazel and I were remarking how we thought you wouldn't work out when you first came here, because you're so quiet and the rest of us aren't. But you have a good sense of humor."

     Well, that brightened my day considerably, knowing that at least someone thought I belonged there. It led me to thinking about encouraging others and about all the verses in Proverbs that compare a wicked tongue and a bad attitude with the conduct of the godly man.

Proverbs 17:22  A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Proverbs 15:23  A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
Proverbs 25:11  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Psalm 15:1-3  A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary explains encouragment as...
The act of giving courage, or confidence of success; incitement to action or to practice; incentive. We ought never to neglect the encouragement of youth in generous deeds. The praise of good men serves as an encouragement of virtue and heroism.

      The verse that especially gets me as a young woman is Proverbs 31:26, talking about how the virtuous woman has the law of kindness in her tongue. The idea is almost that of a natural law, like gravity. Her automatic setting is that she blesses people with her speech. That same chapter makes note of how her husband feels safe sharing his heart with her.


     Goodness knows that in this world there are enough of the sort whose desire it is to tear down. I am so thankful for a Holy Spirit who checks my words that might do so much harm otherwise, who stills my heart and humbles me. Human encouragement falls so short, putting band-aids where people need their wounds fully dressed...


     But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep  yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of  some have compassion, making a difference: (Jude 1:20-22 )

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blogging with Bated Breath

     Children collect rocks and bottle caps and bits of glass and other treasures. For lack of space in my small bedroom, I collect instead words and phrases and trivia knowledge. Naturally, I misplace most of them at one time or another and usually when they are wanted. My thought in keeping this log is that I might pose some of the ridiculous questions that come to me and answer them in a place I will be able to recall the information as quickly as my internet connection allows. (Does anyone else find it ironic that although the human brain processes information many millions of times faster than supercomputers, I still forget what year I'm in at college? Yeah. Me too.)

Question of the day: Where did the phrase "bated breath" originate?
An example in context: Madame, I await my next homework assignment with bated breath.
Not to be confused with: "baited breath" (J. K. Rowling FAIL)
                                          "bait breath" (co-worker FAIL)

     After minimal digging, I was able to discover bated is actually short for abated. Simply defined, abate means to cease or stop. Thus, saying that you're waiting with bated breath infers that you are so overcome with emotion in regard to what you are waiting for, you stopped breathing. I might wait for news of a loved one with bated breath. Interestingly enough, I might also wait for a garbage truck to pass with bated breath for less dramatic reasons.

     This also led me to wonder, do we tell people "not to hold their breath" waiting for something as a result of the older aforementioned phrase? Hmm...

     According to Harry Oliver's Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Surprising Origins of Everyday Expressions, one of the first known literary uses of the well-known idiom is found in one of my Shakespearean favourites, Merchant of Venice. An excellent verse delivered by the antagonist of the story, Shylock, as he is being asked a boon by one of his enemies reads as follows:


      What should I say to you? Should I not say
      'Hath a dog money? is it possible
      A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
      Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
      With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
      'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
      You spurn'd me such a day; another time
      You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
      I'll lend you thus much moneys'? 

            (Act 1, Scene 3)

    I shall leave you, however, with a much more amusing verse I found in my studies that may be worth memorizing for the sake of humor. (Please note, this is a play on words and the poet Geoffrey Taylor used an intentional misspelling to his witty advantage.)


Cruel, Clever Cat
     Sally, having swallowed cheese
      Directs down holes the scented breeze
     Enticing thus with baited breath
     Nice mice to an untimely death.


References


      Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge University Press, 2003.


      Oliver, Harry. Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Surprising Origins of Everyday Expressions. Penguin Publishers, 2011.


     Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. Clich├ęs: Over 1500 Phrases Explored and Explained. MacMillan, 1999.