A New Song

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So. This is senior year.

This season of living is for learning more, and growing deep, and and loving wide. It’s for comparing yourself to others less and to the Savior more–because you’ll never measure up. But you will grow into His nature. As you do so, you will be renewed. The oil of joy will be poured over your head, and the peace which is bigger than understanding will fill your heart.

The tasks seem overwhelming.

Each day will bring a new challenge to the table. Each week will present new hurdles to jump. Each quarter will showcase a new skill to master. But each semester will be won through little victories in the days and weeks and quarters in which you struggled. To new heights you will climb, experiencing in each step the love that is higher, and wider, and deeper than anything of this world.

You will fail.

Don’t let yourself believe you will be able to manage everything. If this were true, you would never have the chance to grow. So allow yourself to fail. And allow yourself to be forgiven. Receive the grace offered to you each day, hour, moment. And lean close into the Savior. His arms are wide for you. And don’t forget to drag others into that embrace beside you. Like that boy who sat beside you in your favorite class last year. And the girl who’s already feeling the pressure of her schedule, weeks before school starts. Or the friend who has broken pieces that need mending. Don’t forget about them. And expand your search to find others.

Don’t be afraid of saying, “yes.”

Say “yes” to those whom God places in close proximity to you. Have compassion–the desire to “suffer with.” As you experience the unfailing love of the Master, just extend it. Because it is the only important thing in this life. We are called to first love God with everything in us, and then to love our neighbors as ourselves. Don’t forget those things. Because those are the ones that will last. So say “yes!” when God asks it of you. Remember, he said “yes” to you, even while you were His enemy.

Make this the year you died to live.

In dying to yourself and your selfish wants, you find life in Jesus Christ. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” So make an effort to learn the art of selflessness–because underneath all the pain of the flesh, this is love. And this is life. And. This. Is. Christ.

So learn to love, little senior. And learn to sing a new song.

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
Psalm 98:1 ESV
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So Have Faith.

Big Idea #3: Normal embryonic development is a process that involves timing and coordination of several events that are regulated by multiple mechanisms, including genes.

I could watch YouTube videos detailing embryology for hours. Butter the popcorn. Grab a fleece blanket. Hunker down with a laptop. And watch. After fertilization of the female egg (from which I will spare you the juicy details), the single cell divides multiple times without gaining mass. In the resulting small ball of individual cells, the germ layers protrude. Eventually, these layers differentiate into specialized, life-containing units. Out of the organized layers, organogenesis ushers in cells and tissues and organs. And all these things occur under the careful direction of gene regulation by which genes containing DNA are turned on or off as needed.

I love it. All of it.

Because life is beautiful.

When I watch the embryo develop and grow, I see the Maker’s hand busy at work, weaving together his intricate design for a new life. It is precious and it is profound, mostly because there is purpose in the haphazard. And it all unfolds gently within his hand. As specified by my biology teacher’s syllabus, embryonic development involves extensive timing and coordination by the One and Only.

Recently, this changed my perspective.

Just as God defined the sequential stages in a human embryo’s young life, so also has he organized my emotional and spiritual maturity. Previously, he has coordinated the events and progression of my life which lead to complete development–and everything is heavily regulated by his hand. Each season of life he gives me is timed carefully and specifically to grow me into maturity. The rate of my development is not too fast, nor too slow; it is controlled in perfection. And each stage prepares me for the next as it gently unfolds.

This realization is significant.

Because you know what? This particular season– this particular year–in my life is for stretching. And stretching inevitably includes breaking through comfort zones–comfort zones which have hemmed me in and kept me from growth. These fences were–and are–strong and tall. And so it has taken three hundred and sixty-five days to tear them down. I’m not even finished yet.

But, I have discovered this is not a problem; rather, it is an opportunity for continual growth. Because God has everything prepared.When he planned my life, he had my proper and complete development in mind. And like each stage of embryonic development, he has directed my past, my present, and my future. Accordingly, I have nothing to fear.

And neither do you.

The progression of every life is coordinated by the Giver of Life. And we can be sure that he is fully capable. He is all knowing, all seeing, all creating. The works of his hands are perfect–and he calls them good. Although you are not perfect, as none of us are, he does have marvelous dreams for you. And he has planned them perfectly, which means he is perfectly preparing you for them.

He has this under control; so have faith.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.

The World Wanderer

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I used to think I was something in this world.

I was the Bible scholar (due to my being the pastor’s kid, I think), the believer, the one who knew herself and what she wanted too. Now I know that I’m just a wanderer upon the face of the earth. Much like everyone else, I presume.

Sometimes the reactions of photosynthesis, of which there are many, are easier to understand than myself. And to me, this is unsettling. I become frustrated and anxious when I cannot understand who I am. Consequently, my fears begin mounting. How can I comprehend the intricacies of creation when I cannot grasp the complexities contained within? I do not need to understand the world. But I want to do so, just as I want to know who I am–who I am created to be! In addition, I want to know what my tomorrow will look like–and how I will react to it. But I allude myself as the future alludes me. I cannot be fully known, nor can I fully know what lies ahead, with any nervous system understood by man. It takes a Superhuman and his brain to understand any human. And he always knows, which is both comforting and alarming.

We are human.

We are finitely infinite; only God sees every particle of who we are. From the hairs on our physical head to the scars on our emotional heart, he knows us. The most staggering thing is not that we are completely known, but that we are unconditionally loved. Would you love yourself if you could see everything God sees, from the perspective that God sees it? I do not think that I could love myself after a bitter taste of reality like that.

My doubts about myself and fear of tomorrow have left me somewhat empty. However, over the past year, I have found that God is faithful. He makes many promises, but he is faithful to keep them all. He does say he loves unconditionally, that he always gives grace, that he continually extends forgiveness. His mercies are new every morning and he will never leave or forsake me. I really don’t need to know myself or see the future so long as I have faith.

It was said of Abraham, the Father of Israel, God’s chosen people, that “he went without knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) This statement leaves me breathless, every time I read it. It’s worth repeating: “He went without knowing where he was going.” I think Abraham went–physically stood up and moved from his home–not because he knew or was confident in himself. And obviously he did not go because he clearly saw the way. Rather, he went because he trusted God, the faithful promise keeper.

I’m trying to keep this in mind as I wander through the world.

Evidence.

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Thanksgiving morning I outlined the first things on my thankful list. I thought no one really cared about it just as I did not care for the thanksgiving of others. But I did know God was anxious to hear each blessing mentioned. I knew there were many blessings too. Some were stuffed under rocks and hidden in darkness. But they were present, if only I was willing to seek them out.

Concluding three paragraphs of gratitude in my journal, I wrote a simple phrase: “Thank you for being so close.” And although it was I who penned the words, I felt a scoffing laugh well within my heart. In expressing thanks for his presence, I suppose I was trying to convince myself he had indeed been present with me through the past three months. Contrarily, I had so often felt God was distant.

I thought about the contents of my journal as the day progressed. For a Thanksgiving feast, eight of us gathered around the dinner table. My dad started by saying we needed to each name something for which we were thankful. My family is emotional; therefore, tears accumulated on the dark tabletop as our collective thankful list was made. My grandparents were thankful for this country and the freedom we had because of it and Jesus Christ. A typical reply. My brothers thanked God for their siblings. I guess they couldn’t think of much else. My sister gave gratitude for all the people she had been able to contact through her online school.

Finally it was my turn. I knew what I was going to say; it had been burning in me after writing that morning. It hurt, in a quiet way, to set free. Because this blessing was not wrapped in unblemished white paper; it was scarred by darkness and fear. Most days, I perceived it as a curse rather than a blessing. But that Thanksgiving Day, I had to release the thanks; I knew that I needed to set the gratitude free for all the growth that had occurred in me.

Through tears I whimpered words which my heart struggled to relate. “Thank you. Thank you, God, for my school–the public school I have attended these past three months. It’s not been easy to return there each weekday. But I know you have grown me because of this experience. So thank you,” I choked on those last words. “Thank you for being close to me, for being present. Thank you for walking with me into my high school each day of this school year.

There was a fire in these words. Because declaring them made me a certain kind of brave; the words were produced out of a handful of faith. And this faith allowed me to believe he was present–even when his presence wasn’t evident.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” -Hebrews 11:1, 6

Brave

I have stalled because of fear.

Although it should have been an adventure, this ever-ongoing transition into public school has been dark, in all honesty. Depression has trailed behind the stress of this frontier. There have been good days, and I don’t hate life altogether. But it has been difficult, mostly because of my lack of strength and bravery—and my tendency to give into fear; I let it dictate my movements and it keeps me from moving.

But I learned this week that worrying isn’t worth my time.

Because I took a beast of a test on Tuesday. Slinking from Room 258, each of us fifteen students felt as if we had failed it. And unlike past exams, the results were slow in coming. Everyday we returned to that same room with knots in our stomachs.

By Thursday, my lab partner decided he could take it no longer; he up and asked our teacher how he had scored on the multiple choice portion. What he discovered surprised us both. Rumor had it the lowest score was below thirty percent—and the highest was a mere seventy-three.

After receiving that information, I let anxiety get the best of me; it reduced me to a hot mess manifested in tears Thursday night. Fear crawled into my heart. Because I knew I had worked hard. I had studied. I had done what was needed, and tried my best. What if none of this would make a difference in the results? What if my best wasn’t good enough? I was afraid I couldn’t do or be what was required of me. My parents tried to tell me I shouldn’t be concerned over something I didn’t know. Maybe I had a passing score. Even so, I cried.

On Friday morning, we quietly asked if we could view our results for the multiple choice portion, just as my lab partner had done. Our teacher agreed. She passed back the papers, and faces fell. The best comment I heard was, “Well, I didn’t fail.”

After all the stress I experienced, my teacher finally handed my scantron sheet to me. I peered at the paper with a thudding heart. And my jaw fell to the table top below. I had received an eighty-three—the highest score in all of the class.

My parents had been right; giving into fear was not the solution when facing an unknown. Faith was better–faith in believing trying my best was the only thing required.

All I could really think that day–accompanied by extreme relief–was my response to any good thing: “Gloria a Dios.

Glory to God.

Glory to God for continually walking with me. Glory to God for not leaving me in a mess of doubts and giving up on my weak faith. Glory to God for slowly ridding my heart of fears.

Glory to God for making me brave.

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” Psalm 31:24