Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Glory of God

2 Corinthians, Chapter 3 talks about Christ being the New Covenant, the covenant of life, while the law - the Torah - was the Old. Particularly, in light of Christmas, verses 7-11 stood out.

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

When God came down to the mountain to give Moses the law, the Israelites were terrified by how mighty all God's works were. The mountain shook, there was thunder and lightning and smoke, and the people could not even touch or come close to the mountain. This was just the glory surrounding the arrival, the announcement of the coming First Covenant.

The arrival of Jesus, the coming of the Second Covenant, was different. Instead of coming down in fire and cloud on a mountain, God came as an infant. He arrived not among grand expectation, but in a stable and spent his first hours in a feeding trough. Yet even in such humble beginnings, God received the glory. The infant Jesus was serenaded by the hosts of heaven, honored by shepherds, and later on given gifts by the wise men.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Picturing the angels in the sky, the Glory of God shining around them, is remarkable. It is a birth welcome that would more than honor any infant prince or prophet. It is truly beyond glorious.

But this was God come to earth, not a mere human, not a prophet. The infant lying there, helpless, vulnerable, that was literally God. And he was only acknowledged by shepherds and angels and the wise men. God deserves all the glory. All of it. He deserves for the very stones to cry out in worship of Him, as Luke 19:40 tells us they would if the people of Earth ceased to glorify Him.

And yet, that is not how Christ arrived. He arrived as a lowly infant in a not-so-well-off family to unwed parents. Really, it is mind boggling to think of that, to try and wrap your mind around God - THE God, Creator of the Universe God - choosing to come to earth as a baby. Why? Why would God bring Himself to such a low level as that?

Simply, because He loves us that much. His love for us knows no bounds. And so, because in our flawed and stubborn state, we could not get to Him, He came to us. He bridged the gap between the heavens and the earth so that we could be with Him forever. That kind of love is beyond comprehension.

It is beyond all the glory we can give Him.

And so back to 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. The passage states that the glory surrounding Christ will be far more incredibly glorious than that which surrounded the giving of the law and Moses. Far more glory than Christ received at His birth. Far more than He ever got in life, in death, or in resurrection. Far more than we humans have given in the 2000 or so years since. No, God deserves all the glory. And that glory? It is to come.

That is what Christ's birth symbolizes: the remarkable, unfathomable coming glory.

And with that, O God, thank you, for hope and knowledge that greater things are yet to come.

And to all of you, dear friends, Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wherein I Don't Study Calculus

I should be studying right now. But, clearly, I'm not. For whatever reason (drinking coffee at 10pm), my mind is ON. As in, thinking about a great many distinctly non-Calculus related things. I'm particularly fighting an urge to go find a few dozen new fonts.

Also, I'm thinking a lot about the subject of tonight's Intervarsity (on campus Christian group) meeting. Prayer. Thankfulness. God. And this post from Linny over at A Place Called Simplicity. By the way, if you have never read her blog - you need to. This woman has taught me so much over the years. You have no idea.

But about the message. I'm kind of in a mind blown state over the magnitude of God and His plans. Really, we should probably all be in this state of mind all the time, except if we even began to truly comprehend Him, we would probably beyond functioning. He is just so overwhelmingly...GOD.

Life has not always been smooth, and I know I will encounter rough patches in the future. The sort of things that from my perspective just seem purely bad. But from God's point of view, amazing things come from the dark spots. When I reflect on my life, I am so glad I listened to God when I did, and gave in to plans that were not at all what I thought was good for me. Surely, if you look at your life, you will see the ways in which God worked His God-ness and made your life turn out better than you could have dreamed. Isn't he incredible that way?

Just thinking about the physical size of the universe - how are huge planet is really smaller than a speck compared to the entirety of it all - even that doesn't begin to touch on God's magnitude. Not only can we go infinitely big, but we can go infinitely smaller. And God made all of that. He is God enough to think of everything and plan out everything and create every single rule of how the world works. This calculus stuff I'm hoping I understand enough for the final? He invented how that works. I'm so glad He is God, and I'm not. I can't even imagine that disaster....

Now, this post is a lot shorter than normal, and maybe not so profound. A bit more stream-of-consciousness style than I already write. But these thoughts are swirling in my head, and I wanted to get them out.

And now, as much as I don't particularly want to. I definitely need to get back to studying Riemann Sums. Until next time, friends.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


God is kind.

Those words jumped out to me the other day as I was scrolling through Instagram. They aren't words seen together often, but why? After all, "God is good" and "God is just" and "God is love" are heard so much as to become trite. But kind? Certainly not. And I think I get why. I mean, look at the world. Look at any one person's life - your own life. It is a far cry from perfect. And when things aren't perfect it's hard to say that the One looking over us all is "kind."

However, I still think He is. To me, those three words - God is kind - are beautiful. Because even though life is hard and the world often appears to be coming apart at the seams, I know that isn't God. Us people make the world go haywire, and God helps patch it up.

I know not everyone feels the same. Really, I get it. I so get that. But God has been kind to me. He has loved me and shown me such grace and blessed me so much. This chapter of my life - college - is the sheer proof of that. Earlier this year I wrote about not really knowing where life was heading. I didn't know which university I would end up at or who I would meet or any of that. Now I'm here at UTD and I know without a shadow of a doubt God meant for me to be here.

I haven't written about these last few months really. Well, I have - but I kept starting posts and not finishing. I think part of that has just been savoring all of the experiences. Holy cow. I love it here. I have met so many truly amazing people. I've made such wonderful friends; I really could not ask for better. I know that was all God. He put the people I needed in my life in ways that I could have never dreamed up on my own. The sort of friends who do little things totally unexpectedly to let me know they care. The sort that it seems I've known for years and years. So yes, I sure think God is kind.

But what about the times when life isn't all peachy? When things go terribly, horribly wrong? How can I say God is kind then?

Well, I still do. A perfect life is not the only way to see God's kindness (and I am certainly not saying I have a perfect life). God shows through even brighter because of the hard times. Because life isn't perfect, because sometimes life plain sucks, and because, as my friend jokingly says, the struggle is real. Because of all of that the beauty of life can be seen as the beauty that it is. After all, a gem would not be precious if the world was filled with them everywhere a person turns. No, a gem is only precious and valued because it is rare, and when you receive one it is seen as a treasured gift. Life is just the same. The dark makes the light even brighter and the hard times make the joyous moments all the more glorious.

Right now I feel like I am in one of the happiest times yet. I feel so tremendously blessed and I want to savor every single drop of it. Even the frustrating calculus assignments and the tedious studying. All of that is part of college and learning and it means that I'm here, in the moment, right where God put me.

God has shown me His kindness. He has put exactly the people I need in my life. He has given me every opportunity I need scholastically to do well and study what I love. He has taken me through trials to strengthen me and turn me into the person I am. He has given me peace.

So thank you. To God, thank you for everything you have given me, good and bad. To everyone in my life, thank you for being a part of my life and being exactly who you are. You're kind of really awesome. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


My first five weeks of college have gone by and I have yet to post. That is a long time. But I know that I have certainly been busy. And I haven't really known what to write about (except when I'm trying to fall asleep - I swear I write entire essays in my head some nights).

However, lately I have been feeling very inspired by some ladies (and a few guys) whose blogs or Instagram accounts I follow. There is way more good and awesome to social media than one might expect.

I've been feeling more artsy. More like taking photographs of candid life. More like photographing the people in my life. More like doodling. More like creating.

I've been feeling more like taking care of myself. More like dressing up nice because it makes me happy. More like making a concerted effort to eat right and exercise more. More like being around people who make me feel good about myself and about them.

I've been feeling a greater desire to be genuine. To be real with the people in my life. To admit my shortcomings and struggles to others. To make meaningful relationships and show other people that I care.

I've been feeling like I need to grow closer to God. Like I should be doing more stuff for Him, and not just living for me. That I should put in the effort when I know that I really do have the energy and I'm just being lazy.

I really want to give life my all. My 100%. I want to never give up. I want to feel continually inspired by the big things and by the little moments. I want to strive to change the things that need changing if it is in my power to do so. I want to be able to make the hard choice.

I know I can. How?

Because I can say no to the extra two cookies or the pizza line in the dining hall. Because I can study a bit more and go on Facebook a bit less. Because I can read at least one Psalm more of my Bible each day. Because I can budget better so that I can afford healthier items at the store. 

I really, really want to grow in these areas. Also, I know I am going to not follow through a lot. I've tried to find little reminders for myself. Like writing this on my arm:

Hopefully, these little things will help.

In conclusion, I want to leave you with a few things that have inspired me lately.

Ashley Campbell at Under the Sycamore. Her writing. Her genuineness. Her photography. Her artsy-ness.

Kelle Hampton at Enjoying the Small Things. Again: writing, genuineness, photography, style. Her life motto.

The Kacirek family and their story. Especially their children Lucia and Cephas. Just adopted as teens after being neglected in orphanages for over a decade (to the point that their bodies are seriously damaged) and still have the most beautiful hearts and strength. When the Kacireks finally were able to return to Cephas' Lucia's country to bring them home, Lucia told them that she knew they would come back for her. Seriously well worth your time to read. I tear up every time.

This story of orphans and kids from a rural village in Uganda having ice cream for the first time.

Humans of New York. The photography. How real he captures people. How wonderfully different people are.

I hope you enjoy these tidbits of life as much as I have.

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Eleven Days

I haven't sat down to write in a while. It's not that I haven't had time, but just that I've been so caught up in all the many other things going on that I haven't really thought about it. With that being said, right now, this small, transitory chapter of my life is one I really want to remember.

I leave for college in eleven days. Oh my goodness. My throat tightens up a bit at the thought. I feel so many things all at once. I am scared and excited and thrilled and nervous and happy all at once. I can't wait to begin this new adventure, but I'm also a bit sad, knowing that I will be leaving what I've grown up with, my childhood, behind. Not only will I be hours away from my family, but from the area I know, the places I frequent, the familiarity of living in one place for so many years. I will be leaving the routines and security of knowing what's next for a great, gaping unknown.

But oh goodness is it exciting! I will be living with people I have not met, running my own schedule, totally in control of making sure I have what I need, managing my own affairs, and knowing that the responsibility for my life is my own. I will be looking for the future, for where my path will take me once college is done. A lot of that I don't quite know yet. Especially since, as scary as it is to say, I don't know exactly what I want to do after college.

Really, that is a very normal thing for young people to not know. At least half of my friends don't have any firm ideas yet. But for me...I always knew exactly. Or so I thought. Since third grade, I've said I wanted to become a doctor. Until I got older and realized that I really did not want that life for myself. So my path is veering in an unknown direction that might lead me far away from the medical field entirely. I just have to trust God and know that He will make my paths straight, just like He has faithfully so far (and yet it is so hard for me to trust Him, even when I know that He will never, ever fail me).

In fact, that brings me around to something else that I have been doing lately: I opened up my own "business" of sorts, selling prints. I opened up a shop on Etsy called Bright Light Designs and am selling photographs and digital art prints. I am very excited about it, especially because of what I hope to do with the shop. But that really deserves its own post, so I will wait to write more on that for now. In the meantime, check out my shop!

So back to right now, what I want to remember. I have these last few days here, less than two weeks. Only a few more days working at the job I love. In two years, traversing to college will probably seem old hat. I'll think back and realize that I had nothing to worry about. But right now, I do worry and wonder and dream. It's all a blank book, the words not yet scrawled in. That's kind of a nice feeling, knowing that I have so many options and opportunities ahead. Exhilarating in the way that a roller coaster is - scary and heart wrenching, but exciting and fun, with the knowledge of unexpected twists and turns ahead. I want to remember the fluttery feeling in my chest - as if my heart is full of helium, but weighted down with sandbags - and the tightness of my throat - the same you get right before walking on to a stage or taking a huge test. This time won't happen again. Right between childhood and adulthood, between living at home and independence, between what I know and what has yet to be discovered.

I have eleven days left - and you better bet that I am going to make the most of every single one of them.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Everlasting Struggle

This latest chapter of The Reason for God struck home quite resoundingly. Especially at this time in my life, with so much change imminent. Through all of high school, I knew what my goal was: do well so I can get into a good college. But now I don't know exactly what I want to do after college. And even more worrisome to me, I don't know what God wants me to do.

I feel a great pressure to choose the path that will lead me to the most renown in the world of science, where I can do great things, wonderful things. I feel like if I do not do this, I will fail. And surely none of this is bad; after all, I could do a lot of good that way. But is that my focus? Is that all I am aiming for or am I wanting to follow this path because God wants me to?

Keller says that "sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in relationship and service to God." And I wonder, is that what I'm doing? I would love to say, "Of course not!" Yet if I'm honest with myself, I know that there are many areas of my life where I have set my identity on something besides God, my career ambitions included. I cannot help but wish that it were easier. I know that God won't fail me. I know that He has big plans for me, and I need to step my "natural self" aside and let God take controls. Yet part of me, a large part, is too terrified to give up so easily.

Referencing Ernest Becker, Keller describes this as a "child's need for self-worth" as the "condition for his life" driving him to look for "cosmic significance." Now isn't that a tasty word? Cosmic significance. Don't we all want to be remembered? Don't we all want our lives to have an impact that will change the course of history, even in some small way, until the end of time? Therein lies our struggle. We are all scared to be forgotten, scared that if our careers are not successful enough, or our families don't do well enough, or if we aren't good enough friends, or known by enough people, we will be forgotten.

When I step back and look at this mindset, God is clearly not the center, and, as Keller says, "a life not centered on God leads to emptiness." If we don't look to God, we will eventually be forgotten in the throws of time. If we don't look to God, no amount of "success" will give us the security of really mattering in the course of history. But when we do look to God, we see that we won't be forgotten, that we already matter and always will, and that in the end, everything will be okay. No matter how grand or small our lives look from the outside, putting God at the center is the one and only thing that will fulfill us.

There begins the endless battle between our heart and soul. Our human hearts are scared to give up control, especially in every area, and so we fall into sin, because "sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God." The first Commandment, the most encompassing Commandment. Have no others gods. Put nothing before God. Do not give anything more significance, meaning, or power in your life than God.

I do this, and quite a lot. I put entertainment, recreation, work, food, exercise, my idea of "security," my pride, before God. I push Him off until tomorrow, later, next time, even though every bit of sense in me knows that I'm doing it wrong.

And such goes the eternal, perpetual struggle of humanity against ourselves.

Ni Hao Yall

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mere Words

It seems that lately I've encountered a large number of people who don't believe in God, atheists and agnostics, from YouTube to friends to acquaintances. Seeing the vast numbers of people out there who don't know the God I know makes my heart hurt, and really makes me feel a bit defeated. I feel no threat when people question or argue against my beliefs, but sometimes I just don't know how to respond. How do I lay it out rationally enough that those arguing against the logic of a God can see my side? What can I say to make someone care who really doesn't think it matters whether or not there is a God?

I want to be able to have beautiful, flawless rebuttals, with no logical gaps, that inspire such a profound awe of this deity that I'm describing, that the other person can't help but want to know Him.

But I can't do that. Maybe for some amazing writer, at just the right time, when filled with the Holy Spirit, to just the right person, that can happen. Maybe even me. But not every time I share my faith with someone.

I think a large part of the problem lies in the way we approach such topics as religion. Today we live in a science-filled, rational society where atheism and skepticism are becoming more normal, and often associated with higher thinking and intelligence. But this overlooks a massive part of who we are, inherently, as humans. Albert Camus explores this in The Stranger through the purely rational figure of Mersault. Camus shows that humans cannot exist and live with reason and logic as their sole resource to maneuver through life. In fact, nearly every other person besides Mersault himself is horrified, almost disgusted, at his purely rational perspective on life and death.

Although this is a fictional novel, few can say that they would act differently if they were the jury in Mersault's trial. Why? Because humans are inherently emotional. We can't help but feel pain at the idea of a parent dying and shock that Mersault could care so little. We all know that we feel and hurt and long for things beyond the realm of rational. In our most inner selves, we are not rational creatures. We care for others and we understand the difference between right and wrong beyond the scope of laws (and now I'm purposely not addressing the debate over what defines right and wrong because regardless of each person's personal morals, there is still some right and some wrong to everyone).

Why then do many people choose to ignore this when discussing the existence of God? If we love, hurt, care, feel passion and anger, hope and despair, surely there is something beyond logical explanation driving these feelings? To even begin to understand God, one has to approach the topic with their heart open, as well as their mind.

When I think of God, I don't first think of the factual, concrete aspects of God, such as the church, and miracles, and the beauty of the Earth, all of which point me to God. No, I think of something internal. A feeling that is more than a feeling. A knowledge that I am not alone that transcends a hope or belief. I know that He will always be there with me and I know that He is looking out for me, my friends and family, the world. I know because I have felt Him right there with me. When you feel God's presence, there is no denying it. He captures your heart and your soul like nothing possibly can besides God. He will leave you gasping in awe, tears streaming down your face, your heart close to exploding with joy and love and relief and passion and hope all at once. He will so consume you with His embrace that hours will pass and it will feel like a mere twenty minutes. He will bring you to your knees and show you that the love you feel, even towards the people you love more than anyone else, is nothing at all compared to the marvelous immensity of Love that He feels towards you.

Rational thought cannot explain those experiences. Logic cannot tell you how a person can feel so many things, so intensely, all at once. Sure, there is a science behind the chemicals that flood our body and the reasons why people cry at strong emotions. But that doesn't tell you why. Nothing can, but God.

I wish that my words would go out to all the people who don't know God and, at the very least, plant a tiny seed of who God is. If you don't know God, I really and truly hope that my simple thoughts might stir some of your own and maybe you will see the proof of God that so far transcends reason.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chapter Four

The fourth chapter of The Reason for God felt so relevant to today's society. But I think I'm going to be saying that about every chapter. But this chapter really seemed so simple, and yet so profound. Summed up the chapter talks about how the Christians don't always reflect Christianity, and how God's people don't always reflect God. Why? Because we're a bunch of silly, stubborn, self-absorbed, egotistical humans.

Keller puts it this way: "The behavior of Christians...has undermined the plausibility of Christianity for so many people." Every day, ordinary people who are also Christians are failing to meet the standards God sets for us. But what people on the outside don't see, as Keller explains, is that being a Christian doesn't mean you are the best of the best. Instead, it means that you realize just how messed up you are and that you need God's grace because "our moral attempts are too feeble and falsely motivated to ever merit salvation."

Now, I'm not an expert on a lot of other religions, but it seems to me (although I may be wrong) that a lot of other religions emphasize the necessity of winning approval from God or the gods, from praying a certain way or a certain number of times or doing good works or not doing certain things. And in some ways, Christianity does, too, through the commandments and teachings. And don't get me wrong - these are so important. But they aren't how we are saved.

What does this mean? It means that Christians are going to mess up. Some people won't do "enough." Some people will do "too much," and become the people more focused on doing the Christian-y looking things than living out the love and acceptance that Christ teaches; Keller calls these "fanatics." All of these things, from the outside, make Christianity seem hollow. Because what is the point if the Christians themselves aren't doing what they tell others to do?

The point is: that isn't the point.

Although the church and the people that comprise it are ultimately epic failures, that right there is the point of Christianity. "The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." And that's why everyone is welcome. We all need a little Jesus-medicine.

Ni Hao Yall

Psalm 23

I had full intention of finishing my post about the fourth chapter of The Reason for God. And then this post came into my head, and I had to get my thoughts out.

Psalm 23 is one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized, and in the King James Version. I don't recall how or when, but I have known it by heart for as long as I can remember. It is one of my very favorites, and somehow its beautiful words speak a different meaning to me every time, in totally different circumstances, yet are always so profound and relevant. I think everyone needs a Psalm or any Bible verse like that.

The Lord is my shepherd.
Lately, I have been feeling a bit lost, purposeless almost. A large portion of that is probably because high school is over, and the college details are pretty much finalized. For a long time, doing my best in high school and getting into a good college was my purpose. I knew what to do: make my college application the best it could be. Now...what? Obviously, that what is going to college in the fall in the clearer sense, but in a way, I still feel lost. Another part of that is simply that I feel farther from God. Not as if He has moved away, but that I have drifted off, started ignoring Him. This line reminds me that He is my shepherd. As a shepherd guides his sheep, so does God guide my life. 
I shall not want.
I have been in a massive shopping mood lately. My goodness. Hours on Amazon and various other websites and going to stores. But I never buy anything. I look and look and bookmark and save, but I keep just wanting things. The $50 pair of shoes? Want them. $120 quilt? Pssh, I need that. $30 top? I really don't have one like that yet.... Honestly, it has gotten to the point the last few days that my work that needs doing, is being ignored.
I don't need that stuff. I do not need a super fancy new bedspread for college. I don't need a new wardrobe when I'm already concerned about fitting all my clothes in the dorm closet. What I need is God. Because I am giving a bunch of silly material things way more time than I'm giving Him.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.
I know God has my back, majorly. Right now my life is more peaceful than it has been in a very long time, and I am embracing that. There are so many blessings in my life, and I need to focus on praising Him for what He is giving me.
He restoreth my soul.
What I just said is especially poignant in light of where I was a year ago, sixteen months ago. It was a very rough time in my life when I felt very alone, and very hurt. My soul was broken and I remember quite literally feeling like my heart was just worn out, bruised, and sore for a long, long time. Today, I can see how far I have come. God has truly restored my soul. I am not only so much happier, but stronger and more joyful now.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
This is a reminder to me of why I choose to live how I do. It is really not easy to be a teenager or young person in this society and live my life how God commands. But I try my hardest for Him. Because honestly, God is so worth my efforts. He has done so much for me. If I can do something little for Him by trying my best to live an upright life, how can I not?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
Come at me, bro.
This world can't stop me. It has nothing on me. I have God at my side. Nothing can stand against me when the King of the Universe has my back. Not even if it was Chuck Norris, Batman, Gandalf, and Doctor Who wrapped into one.
For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
 I know that God is looking out for me. On bad days or when I'm exhausted, I know that I will be just fine because I have God to talk to and the Bible to read. There is an instruction manual to life, in a sense. God's plan, though often cryptic, is laid out in the Bible. There are always words of comfort or wisdom or guidance to be found.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
I cannot even describe the blessings God has put in my life. And I feel like this can almost start to sound pretentious, but guys, I could not have done everything I have in the past four years, or year, or six months, without God. From my grades in school to extracurricular activities that I've been a part of to college and scholarships to jobs. You guys have no idea how incredibly God-orchestrated so many of those things were. And really, I don't either. I just hope I can show my gratitude in some teeny, measly way.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
When I need a reminder that it isn't this world I'm living for.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Far Beyond Me

There is something unnervingly raw about the guttural destruction a tornado can bring. The aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma has had me in tears this afternoon. It is poignantly significant to the second chapter of The Reason for God. I think it's impossible to understand this tragedy. There are no humans on which to cast the blame of sin, no accidental mechanical malfunction. The tornadoes are simply the Earth, the planet that is home to all of us, gathering its forces and destroying all the structures humans have made to thwart nature. This time, we lost; nature beat us.

We can not help but ask: where was God?

Even the most ardent believer will ask that. We all doubt. We all wonder. We all cry out why amid the tears of pain.

My head knows the answer to that question: God was there, with every single person. He was the teachers sheltering their students, the parents hurrying to their children's sides, the rescuers pulling the injured out of the rubble. I know that God was there, and God is good, and that God loves every person in Oklahoma.

But my heart still wonders why God didn't stop it. Because He could have. I have no doubt. But the reason is far beyond me.

I think part of my answer lies in that sentence. The answer is far beyond me. If God is the God we believe in, why do we assume that we can understand His ways? Are we so arrogant to think that our small selves, who so often cannot see beyond our own noses, could fathom the cosmic workings of the universe?

There is terrible, brutal devastation. But there are also passionate embraces ripe with far more meaning than a quiet ending to the day ever could given. Hearts around the nation, and around the world, are realizing that the material possessions we have, the clothes, the books, the cars, actually have so little meaning. A deeply divided nation is slowly being brought closer as tragedy after tragedy rips through our cities.

This good may not lessen the depth of hurt felt by everyone affected. But surely it makes it more bearable. And this is only what my feeble mind can conjure up. Who can imagine what God's eyes see? Surely it is a masterpiece far greater than anything Da Vinci ever dreamed of or more beautiful than Michelangelo ever painted.

As Timothy Keller says, we "need hope that our sufferings 'are not in vain.'" Because of Christ, they are not. And more than that, Keller reveals something striking. Just because God has some far off cosmic plan, that does not mean that God is "off the hook" for the pain of the world. Instead, "God came to Earth deliberately to put himself on the hook of human suffering." That is certainly a new thought. But how incredible does that idea seem? And really, doesn't that make so much sense?

Think about it. Christ died to take the blame for all the sin and suffering in the world. He was innocent and blameless, but took on the punishments for every single person, enduring the loss of God's presence, so that someday, we will have more than this world filled with suffering. He offered a gift, so that despite the tragedy and really, unfathomably terrible times, we will be renewed into a life that is twice as unfathomably glorious and wonderful as Earth is painful.

In the words of Sam Gamgee that Keller relays - and I am never impartial to a Lord of the Rings reference - "is everything sad going to come untrue?" Yes. Someday, yes, it really and truly will.

Ni Hao Yall

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Why Christians Aren't the Best

This week (two weeks really) has been long. Filled with AP testing and studying and all sorts of other things. Five tests and four formal events in two weeks. Yikes. I have gotten to finishing the first chapter of The Reason for God, but not writing my thoughts. Now, I am finally sitting down to write.

Hello, all!

At first I wasn't sure what to write about, but since I have finished the chapter, one part has stood out to me and I keep thinking about it over and over. Honestly, it's a pretty different perspective on Christianity as a whole. Keller talks about how Christianity can save the world. Anyone can say that's a pretty bold statement, especially from the perspective of earthly saving and peace, rather than the divine peace of God. But then he throws out some even bolder statements and they totally make sense.

First off, he states that "Christianity provides a firm basis of respecting people of other faiths." I agree. I try my best to accept people of all different beliefs and I know a good many Christians out there do, too. But oh, do I fail. Lately especially God has shown me some pretty specific cases of me judging others, whether for different beliefs or different lifestyles. Typically, these are people that I don't really know. Because, sadly, these people, the people who we know the least about and should be making the least presumptions are the people we assume the most (and often the worst about). Ugh. God is challenging me hard on this.

And then Keller goes on to say the line that keeps striking me: "Christianity not only leads its members to believe people of other faiths have goodness and wisdom to offer, but it also leads them to expect that many will live lives morally superior to their own."

Come again?

Maybe I'm unique in this, but this is certainly pretty different than what I've been lead to believe my entire life. Aren't Christians the most upright? Aren't they supposed to be "the best" by some celestial standard? Isn't that what we should try to be?

Keller reminds me, pretty abruptly, that the answer to all of those is no. We are not all the best. I am sure as heck not the best or most morally upright. I know that. I know I can be a pretty massive fail sometimes.

TRFG (The Reason for God) reminds me why. It's because "God's grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a savior." And that is just it. We Christians are just as messed up as everyone else. We can get caught up in really big problems, and sometimes we cause those really big problems. Just like every other person.

What's the difference? We realize that we need something bigger. I do. I need God and the gift of Christ's death. I am hopeless without it. That can be hard to admit. Some people think that it's weak to rely on an outside source. I disagree. I can tell you for sure that it's hard to let go of the notion that I can do everything by myself, especially in such a self-driven society (and I mean that in the sense that modern society world-wide promotes the idea that we can drive ourselves to be successful). It would be easier to think that if I look out for myself and try my hardest to be nice and do well, all by myself, I will get there. But I won't.

Because when I do mess up, then where is my hope? Because I will, and I have, and I know that if I don't have God, I have nothing. As Keller states, "at the very heart of [Christians'] view of reality [is] a man for his enemies, praying for their forgiveness." In that scene, as Jesus is dying, He gives life and forgiveness to us all. He did not just pray for the criminal on the cross beside Him, or the people executing Him, but for all of us. For me. Because I am just like that criminal and I am just like those who spit on Him. And that is a humbling thought.

But Christ gives us hope and a chance at redemption, through the very act of acknowledging and accepting Him. And we also know that "all human beings are made in the image of God, capable of goodness and wisdom." Yes, we are. We each have amazing potential, potential that we will not always reach every single day. But God is in us, and God loves us. Every single silly one of us.

Have a great day, friends!
Ni Hao Yall

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Hard Questions

My time in high school is almost over. After four years, graduation is just three short weeks away. It seems insanely close. On one hand, I can't wait. But on the other, grade school is everything I know. I've been in school of some sort, including day care, for about as long as I can remember - all the way back to two years old. Now, once this year lets out, there won't be a next year.

Really, I'm ready. I'm at the right place and maturity to be moving out into the larger world of college. I'm both prepared and excited (albeit a bit nervously) for this next chapter of my life. On the same hand, my studies regarding my faith are ready to change. As I talked about in my previous post, I've just (about) finished reading through the Bible. I started looking for something new to start on, to dig deeper into my faith. I came across an online group study started by Stefanie over at Ni Hao Y'all over the book The Reason for God by Timothy Keller and decided it was right for me. Both perfect timing, and very relevant subject matter.

Ni Hao Yall

I have some beliefs that differ from the typical realm of what Christians believe. I love science, and come from a very science oriented family. I also love God, and come from a very God oriented family. But to most of society, those two don't compute. Some say that the science disproves the existence of God - after all, no more explanation is needed. Others insist that if I believe in all that science offers, I'm not really a Christian and I don't really know what I'm talking about. But I do. I've studied both sides, heard plenty from people on both ends of the spectrum, and in the middle, and know what I believe. And if you don't agree, I am so okay with that. You don't have to, and we can still be friends.

This is a large part of why Timothy Keller's book attracts me so much. He talks about the middle ground, how he finds himself there, and finds others like him. I feel like jumping up and saying, "Yes! Me too! I'm there, too!"

And I don't just mean regarding science. It applies just as much to the political nature of religion and the religious nature of politics. As much as it would be great, religion and politics cannot be separated. Maybe you realized that long ago, but I'm kind of just coming to acknowledge the falseness of my idealistic notions that people's beliefs and political views could be separate. Personally speaking, I try to keep my faith at the core of my life as much as I can. It doesn't always work, I mess up, but I try. Politics are a part of my life. I have yet to vote due to age, but I certainly have political views. Just watching the news for twenty minutes shows that the rest of America does, too - and often they aren't too kind about it. As Keller says, "the world is polarizing over religion." Politics and religion are the most heated topics. Why? Because they are interconnected. People (myself included) can get pretty riled up, pretty quickly, when people disagree with what they think or believe.

All of this comes down to doubt vs faith. Some people see these two things as mutually exclusive. The Reason for God says that they're actually not. And I agree. When someone finds what is in their head, the principals they run their life on, questioned, it sends up warning flags.s

My junior year was rough. Problems with family members and friends alike cropped up in my life all at once. It was tough and I had a lot of questions for God. What had I done wrong? Why now after so long of things being normal? Was I doing the right thing? If nothing I did helped, what was the point of trying at all? And the biggest of all...why was God letting this happen when I kept praying for things to get "fixed?"

I had doubts. Anyone would. There were a lot of things going on that I didn't understand. But I worked through them, and I grew in my faith and as a person because of them.

This is something that Keller talks about. Some people hold the truth of their beliefs so tight that they won't even allow the idea of doubts and questions. Others have so many doubts that they decide that surely there can't be a God. Honestly? I totally get both sides. Sometimes I wrestle with the bad things going on and wonder how these things can happen. Other times, I am just not in a place where I can bring myself to question God right then. The thing is...neither side is wrong - in moderation. The problems come when the faithful never ask the questions and the skeptics never realize the faith it takes to give in so fully to doubts.

If I had never took a good, hard look at what I believed when problems came up, I would probably have ended up hoping for something unrealistic. Rather than figure out what I needed to fix about myself and my life to work through things, I could have easily done nothing but plead to God to fix everything for me - when a large part of the fixing were steps that, with God's direction, I had to take myself.

On the other hand, I could just have easily have focused to much on the doubting side. I could have been so consumed by wondering why a good God let bad stuff happen, that I failed to see the good things happening, too.

But sometimes, or most times, one stance or the other is just easier. It's hard to question something you cling to for your life, that you are betting your existence and purpose on, whether that is God or a lack of Him. It's no wonder why debates over religion can get so heated and tense. The difficult part, I'm realizing, is that's what we need to do. Discussion with different people with different beliefs is really important because it helps both sides form stronger convictions and understand other people. And guys, understanding people makes it so much easier to accept them, and when we accept them, we can show them Christ's love how we are truly meant to show it.

I have so much more I could say. This is just over the introduction to the book, and I feel like I could keep typing for hours. But this is probably enough of my thoughts for this post.

I hope you (if you're part of the study, too) are enjoying the book as much as I am. Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Book Recommendation

In the August 2010 I started to read the Bible. Before then I had read bits and pieces, but never really the whole thing. I think I started at Matthew. From the day I started I committed to reading a bit of the Bible every day. At first, the amount wasn't much. Some nights (I've nearly always read at night) I would read only a paragraph. But eventually I started to read more and more each night.

I finished Matthew, then read half of Genesis. Then Acts. Then a few Psalms. I was all over the place.

Then about a year and a half ago, possibly two years, I decided to read the entire Bible. I set a rough goal to finish before I graduated (at the rate I was reading then, I wasn't sure if I could).

I started at Genesis and read all the way through 2 Kings. After that I skipped to the New Testament and read until Revelation, then went back to the rest of the Old Testament.

In January I didn't really set any New Years Resolutions. I rarely do. But I did make a commitment. I told God that I would finish the Bible before I graduated. I would for certain. This meant I really had to pick up the pace. It was a discipline, not in the sense of punishment, but in the sense of making myself do something.

I finished the Old Testament a few weeks ago. Now, four weeks before graduation, I have less than half of Revelation to finish. I am happy to say that I will finish before I graduate.

It hasn't always been easy to make myself read. Sometimes it took everything in me to crack open my Bible for just a few minutes before falling asleep. Guys, I'm not special because I made myself do it. I just knew it was important. And wow, reading the Bible is so illuminating. All the disjointed Bible stories - Jonah, Daniel, Joseph, John the Baptist - come together into one, cohesive whole with all the in between bits filled in.

And most importantly, I've learned a lot about who God is. I have learned about His love and mercy, His faithfulness to those who trust in Him. I've learned that He is the most important thing in life, and that my life here on earth is nothing at all in comparison to what He has for me. Of course, there is so much I don't understand. A lot I never will get because - let's face it - I'm certainly not God, and there's no way a silly human like me can truly understand the Creator of the entire universe.

Still, actually reading the Bible has illuminated so, so much. And I accomplished a goal that I didn't know if I could really hold myself to. But I did and I am so glad that I did.

I encourage you to pick up a Bible, as well. Maybe you have read the whole thing already, or maybe it never seemed important, or maybe you just really don't get or care about this God thing. Regardless, reading the Bible will open up your eyes to the world in a whole new way. If it's your first time, start small. Just read a tiny bit each night or morning or during lunch.

No matter how much, it's worth it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Sign. A Great, Big Sign.

A few weeks ago I posted about college, and where that part of my life is taking me. Some exciting things, to be sure. At the time, several things were still up in the air. Today, I can talk about them for certain, and exactly how God led me to go where I will be going. I will recap this post briefly, or else some of this might not make too much sense.

This season in life - being a senior in high school, applying to colleges, finishing up school, writing seemingly endless essays over every topic under the sun - is exhausting. I had my plan and applied to 4 universities, and a few scholarship programs. One was my dream, two my "safe" schools, and one my back up. Then last minute I decided to apply to another school, another school that was really good, a great research university, and had a lot of exciting options. A few acceptance letters trickled in, I looked into the schools, visited one, but I couldn't really envision myself at any of them.

My family and I assessed costs of the schools and realized that most likely my "dream" school wouldn't be a possibility without some hefty scholarships. I hadn't heard from this school, or the other really good school, yet, so I held out hope.

Then came an envelope. It was a big, full paper sized envelope, and from a school that I hadn't even applied to or really considered. But printed on the front were the words "scholarship information." Curious, I opened it, and read it over. The school was pretty much offering me a full ride.

I didn't think too much of it at that moment - after all, I hadn't applied there and I had my plans all set. I'm a planner, down to the smallest detail, and this was a very unexpected variable. (Sounds silly, doesn't it?) But slowly it started to grow on me, and I kept coming back to this school. I did research, my dad looked into it, I scoured the website.

That was about where I was when I wrote the previous post.

I was getting more and more excited about it. I sent in my application, and got an acceptance a few weeks later. I really liked this school. I could see myself living and studying there. It just felt right. But again, my plans. This wasn't part of them. So I prayed. Almost jokingly, I asked God if He would give me a sign. A literal sign would be great, God. Like a great, big billboard. If I see a billboard, I'll know it's the one. I had never seen any sort of billboard for a university before, and the thought passed from the forefront of my mind.

This past week I went to visit the campus. I loved it. Everything just seemed to be falling into place. I could afford it, easily. The campus itself was amazing. By the end of the tour, my decision was pretty much, if not entirely, made up.

The next day we drove home. From the backseat, I glanced out the window...and saw a sign. A big, orange billboard advertising my school. A billboard. A big, huge billboard on a highway.

I knew. That was God. I could imagine Him grinning, reminding me that He is faithful. I've got your back, girly! He does. He has got my back, and right now, I am just looking forward, right at some sparkly awesome things that I am sure He has in store for me.

This post is part of Memorial Box Monday, hosted over at A Place Called Simplicity. Seemed like the perfect time to share. :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fix all the things!!!

Some days, that's all I want to do. Fix everything. If there is a problem, it is up to Super Savannah to save the day!

Except. I'm not Super. And most of the time, I sure can't save the day. I know this in my head. All the logic stuffed into my cranium tells me this all the time. But my heart? It could care less about any logic. It just keeps telling me to FIXALLTHETHINGS.

If a friend has a problem, I feel like I have to find the perfect solution. If there is a typo somewhere, I need to make sure it's changed. If someone is confused about something, then I better help them figure out the solution. I mean, those all sound like great things to do, right? I'm helping people, right?

Except sometimes help isn't help at all. Sometimes it can just be annoying. I know I don't like it when people keep reminding me or advising me or "helping" me with things that I don't need help on. Managers that remind me how to do something that I've done -- correctly -- dozens of times. Teachers that remind you about an upcoming deadline every single day...for six weeks. That person who corrects every grammatical mistake? Yeah, I can be that person. It gets old quickly.

In the past, this has been a huge problem for me. Honestly, friendships have been torn apart because of my urge to help too much. Luckily, I can see the issue for what it is now. Self-realization is a wonderful thing, even if it really isn't that pleasant.

I once heard someone say something along the lines of, "Help is only help if it's asked for; otherwise, it's just an intrusion." That's definitely paraphrasing, but I can't recall where or when I heard it, if it was a person, on the radio, or online, so the approximation is what I've got. Regardless, it is so true.

So that is something I am working on. Help only when help is asked for.

Now I'm not referring to charity or volunteering or the like. That's an entirely different topic. I mean the little things. The ones that make me think, "I can make this all better!" And you know what? Maybe it isn't such a different topic at all. Maybe it's that I see all the things wrong in the world -- the big things, like the millions of neglected orphans, or massive political turmoil, or corrupt business practices -- and I get overwhelmed. So instead of trying to think of how I could fix those problems, I subconsciously find relatively tiny things that I can conceivably fix and try to do so even when it really is a bit silly.

In essence, I see that I'm no super hero, and I can't save the world, but part of me still wants to anyway. The good news is: that's what God is there for. We don't have to fix all the things wrong. We aren't meant to fix them all. Sure we should help as best we can. We're supposed to do that. But be perfect? Bring about world peace? We can't do that. Only God can do that, in His perfect timing that we can never, ever possibly understand.

God's plans are bigger than this planet and our few decades on it. They are bigger than our understanding of the past, present, and future and bigger than all of human knowledge combines. They are bigger than everything and every happening and every way things work in the entirety of existence.

A scary thought. But, to me, also pretty comforting. Because I know, that no matter how many things, big or small, that I fail to fix, in the end, it will be okay. And don't we all need to know that?

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Reading through the Bible, specifically the Old Testament prophets, I am amazed at God's power. How can I even try to describe it? What words can I use to describe this incredible sense of how large God is, and knowing that my understanding is nothing compared to God's true might.

Everything we read in the Bible - the loss and gain of Israel's independence over and over, John the Baptist, Christ - all of that has been orchestrated precisely by God. And foretold. That's the part that amazes me. Not only does God make amazing things happen, but He tells us what will happen, and in some cases, exactly how.

Jesus's entire life fulfilled so many prophecies and his death mirrored the sacrificial procedures to an incredible extent. If you read the Old Testament descriptions of sacrifices, and then read about Christ's life and death, there is no denying that He truly was the ultimate sacrifice in the very literal sense.

The way God wove all of that together into a beautiful, redeeming gift leaves me breathless. Our God is a remarkable God.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Thinking About College

Since I'll be going to college in a few months, and making my decision within weeks, I've been thinking about college a lot. Many times a day, every day. I haven't heard from all the colleges I applied to yet, so there is still that unknown, but for the most part, my options have been pretty straightforward. I had a mental list of the colleges, in the order that I most wanted to go to them, considering they were affordable. Everything was in order.

However, little things kept going wrong. Annoying, silly things that shouldn't have happened - one after another. My school wouldn't send my transcripts. The letter of recommendation wouldn't submit. The school form wouldn't process, over a month after it should have.

At the time, I dismissed all of these troubles as little, ordinary inconveniences. Now, I am starting to think that there may have been a larger purpose. Why? An out-of-the-blue surprise.

I received a letter from a college that I hadn't even considered or given any thought to. Usually I just throw away all the spam mail from random colleges, but I opened this letter. Maybe it was something about the big, orange starburst on the envelope front that said, "SCHOLARSHIP INFORMATION."

I pulled out the single, 8.5" x 11" piece of paper and skimmed over it. Then I read it again. They were offering me a full ride, plus a stipend each semester. Nearly all expenses covered.

At first, I didn't think too much of it. After all, I hadn't applied there and it wasn't one of my choices. But as days went on, it started growing in my mind. My parents started looking into it, I browsed their website. Everything about this college felt right, and still right now, feels right.

Some reasons why:
  1. I had been saying for a while that I would end up going wherever is cheapest; this school has proved to definitely be cheapest.
  2. - I want to go somewhere that has a lot of good research opportunities in the realm of Nueroscience (my intended major); this university has an entire school devoted to brain studies.
  3. I've had to share a room with one, and sometimes both, siblings for the past four years, and I am a fairly picky/light sleeper - so the prospect of sleeping in a dorm with someone I didn't know wasn't all too exciting; this university has suite style dorms, so I will pretty much have my own room. I will have more space than I have had in years. Holla! (Yes. I did just say that.)
  4. This is the first university that I can really see myself at. None of the others that I visited or applied to felt, well, right. The atmosphere and ideals never quite fit me and my interests and goals. Until this school. Even - no especially - for a totally off the radar school, it feels perfect.

I still have a few weeks to make my decision for certain.I'll be going to visit in a few weeks, around the time that I'll here the "for certain" from the two other colleges I haven't yet heard from. I have options to weigh and things to consider. Mostly, though, I'm trying to listen to God's prompting. Right now, I feel very led towards this school.

I must say, I am pretty excited!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hello, There

I feel called to write.

However...I don't know what exactly I should write. Scratch that - I have no idea. I simply feel that God is calling me to write. I have for quite some years, but the little voice in my head keeps giving me reason after reason why I shouldn't.

Well, I'm tired of listening to that little voice. If God is calling me to write then you know what? I'm going to write. Too often I let tiny, silly, and often illogical worries keep me from doing what God wants me to be doing with me life. I can't stand to let myself keep listening to those worries! I know, as gosh darn annoying as it is, that I will succumb to them again. But right now, right now in this very moment, I am not. I'm going to write! I'm going to share what I write! Even if people don't like it, or think it's silly, or no one reads what I have to say.

This isn't about me, God. This is about You. It has always been about You, and always will be. I just don't like to hear that sometimes...or a lot of the time.

So, now that I've figured out that bit (the "I'm going to write" part, in case that wasn't clear enough)....

Actually, I have no idea what to do next.

Hi, God. Yeah. So, what should I start writing about? Any ideas? Thoughts? Inspiration...? I'm certainly open to suggestions, God?


Alrighty, then.

Flying by the seat of my pants (which, if you think about it, sounds really uncomfortable) is what I shall do.

I might post regularly. I might post totally sporadically. Perhaps once a week, or once in a blue moon. I'm not too sure what I'll be saying either. Each post will be a box of chocolates! You never know what you will get.

Ah, I just love obscure (ha) movie references, don't you?

Anyway, that is that.

Talk to you later, my friend.

- Savannah