Thursday, October 26, 2006

When I look at your heavens...

I went to the planetarium at the University of Louisville during Fall Break with my boyfriend. He is continually teaching me new things, in areas in which I have not been familiar with in times past. He is more thoughtful, more creative, than anyone I have come in contact with thus far, and because of that he is always spurring me on to dive deeper into those things I know little about. Astronomy is one such area of interest and honestly, utter fascination, so he was pretty excited about escorting me to the planetarium. The last time I can recall going to one was so long ago, the only vague memory I have is of being in this dark room with the ceiling spinning as the multiple constellations were being pointed out. Such a memory depicts just how little I remember and how disinterested I was at the time. However, this trip was a completely new experience for me. Not only did we sit in a similar room, but we then went outside and were able to look through a telescope at certain things in the night sky. The picture above is of the Andromeda Galaxy, and even though we did view it through the telescope, our limited sight saw what looked like a blurry speck through the lens. Such an experience puts not only our humanity into perspective, but also the very God who called such things into existence when there was nothing.

I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less that God wishes. . . . [the fall of] leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.
(C.H. Spurgeon)

I often speak of the beauties of creation, pointing out the various, intricate ways in which the Sovereign Lord reveals Himself. Certain scenes take my breath away, and I spend the remainder of the day almost in a daze as I am speechless in my feeble attempt to capture what my eyes have seen. Not only am I often captured by the changing of seasons, the sun setting in the distance, a steady rain saturating the ground beneath my feet, but I am also drawn to music which speaks of such things. And it was through such music that I became aware of something that had not struck me previously when listening to (singing along with) this particular song.

A purple sky to close the day
I wade the surf where dolphins play
The taste of salt, the dance of waves
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs
A lightning flash, my pounding heart
A breaching whale, a shooting star
Give testimony that you are
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs
Oh praise Him all His mighty works
There is no language where you can't be heard
Your song goes out to all the Earth
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!
O cratered moon and sparrow's wings
O thunder's boom and Saturn's rings
Unveil our Father as you sing
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs...
The pulse of life within my wrist
A fallen snow, a rising mist
There is no higher praise than this
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs...

Chris Rice brings into view these magnificent expression of God's glory and concludes the verses with "give testimony that You are..." and "unveil our Father as you sing..." and "there is no higher praise than this..." For the first time (and mind you, I have been loving this song for many years), I realized how incorrect such a perspective on creation is. A lady I know said of a man she met in a grocery store, "He can't truly enjoy life because he doesn't know and enjoy the One who created him." When you look at a passage such as Psalm 8, you see that the display of beauty in His creation does not compare to that which is displayed in those He created in His image.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)

As I mentioned previously, this came as a somewhat shocking realization considering how often I am compelled to sing this particular song. The words shed light on those aspects of the world that leave me in utter awe and inability to speak, but creation is NOT the highest praise... As breathtaking, as awe-inspiring as creation is, there is something more beautiful, more worthy of awe and praise. Isaiah 43 points out that God created man to display His glory in order that His glory might be known and praised. He does not become more glorious in how He creates and calls--no. He, in His grace, called us to be the crowning display of His glory. O, how humbling this truth is, and how abruptly it puts things into perspective. He has given us the very eyes to behold the intricate beauties He has meticulously set in place and in motion. How small we are, and how glorious He is. "The pulse of life within my wrist..." This short phrase in the song should move us to praise more than all of the the praise of His glorious grace.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Words from a Friend

I have hesitated to write on this, partly due to lack of time, but also because I've spent more time mulling over this particular issue. A friend of mine sent me an email not too long ago. This is a girl I met through similar missions experiences in East Asia, and we have tried keeping in touch over the course of these past four years. She spent time in South Asia for two years before working towards a masters degree at Wheaton, which is where she is currently. In this particular email I received from her, she responded to some areas of concern I had mentioned previously. What I cited briefly to her were my concerns regarding the isolation I sense at times when walking around on campus. I don't mean isolation in the way of feeling like some kind of outsider, surrounded by people who all know each other and are in their own social world. What I am talking about is the overall isolation I sense when simply passing by people on the sidewalk. I came from a small university where everyone knew everyone else, you were always being invited to this thing or that, and even if students were involved in primary social circles (i.e. Greek clubs, campus ministries, etc.), a welcoming warmth still infiltrated most aspects of campus life. Things are much different here. I have personally been sweetly blessed by the Lord to meet and get to know some wonderful and encouraging men and women, but in looking at the bigger picture...I see so many people walking around by themselves. I don't see this vibrant rhythm of unique members of the body of Christ continually investing in one another's lives. To be perfectly honest, the majority of students I see walking to classes are walking by themselves. Don't hear me saying that this is a miserable, lonely place... I struggle to accurately describe what I see because it's not always something one can visibly observe. No, it's much deeper than that. I just see many individuals here who are that--individuals. I see more people walking by themselves, eating by themselves. Rarely do I see four tables pushed together in the cafeteria in order to make room for all of the people eager to fellowship with one another.

All that to say that my friend did respond to my concerns in the email I received from her:
"I think the isolated thing you mentioned is really a characteristic of grad school in general. It is similar to your description here at Wheaton too. I think it's family-building, but also just the increased course loads. Suddenly everyone is having to read for hours on end and that just zaps your social-life!"

So what do we do? Leave it at that, and resolve to acknowledge that such isolation is the norm and should be accepted as such?

Monday, October 16, 2006

~Pray for Lisa~

Lisa never ceases to bring a smile to your face. You can be sure that she will always have a thoughtful, caring word while also being ready for some spontaneous fun. She's one you can sit with over a cup of coffee, or plan on going out to the latest art festival in town (always something to do in Louisville!). I've been encouraged by her not just from attending the same church, but also by having her as one of my downstairs neighbors. I can call ahead of time or just show up randomly at her door, but whatever the case may be, she is always up for a chat.
This coming January will, Lord-willing, mark a new chapter in her life as Lisa will be joining a couple overseas. The family she is going with will be there indefinitely as career missionaries through the International Mission Board, while Lisa will be with them for six months. Her primary tasks will be attending to the family as they are adjusting to the new culture as well as creating even stronger ties there for future opportunities involving our church.
I have been particularly compelled to pray for Lisa during this significant time of transition in her life. Not only have I been moved to pray for her preparations and time spent overseas, but more directly for her preparation inwardly--in her heart. The combination of singleness and being in that uncertain season of life called your 20's can be rather trying. While others around you are getting settled into careers, getting married, beginning families, singleness can bring with it times of doubt as to what the Lord has ordained as the next chapter. The transitional time of post-college and finding your "place" can seem to never end, and every decision you make comes with the knowledge that it will directly effect every step thereafter. So I pray for Lisa, that this is a time in which her eyes are fixed on Him and her faith is increasing daily. I am excited for her during this time of transition, and I pray fervently that this is a time when she is more aware than ever before of her utter dependence and hope in Him.
I know I will miss my neighbor downstairs, whether it be the random invite to discuss new scrapbooking materials, keeping my dog from busting through the window just to say "Hello" to her cat, or having an unexpected, wonderfully candid conversation in passing on the front porch about what the Lord has been doing in recent days or weeks.
If You say 'Go,' we will go
If You say 'Wait,' we will wait
If You say 'Step out on the water,' and they say it can't be done
We'll fix our eyes on You and we will come

Friday, October 13, 2006

A rather kindred spirit...

"Windy Poplars,
"Spook's Lane,
"S'side, P. E. I.,
"Monday, September 12th.

"It's dusk, dearest. (In passing, isn't 'dusk' a lovely word? I like it better than twilight. It sounds so velvety and shadowy and . . . and . . . DUSKY.) In daylight I belong to the world . . . in the night to sleep and eternity. But in the dusk I'm free from both and belong only to myself . . . and YOU. So I'm going to keep this hour sacred to writing to you. Though THIS won't be a love-letter. I have a scratchy pen and I can't write love-letters with a scratchy pen . . . or a sharp pen . . . or a stub pen. So you'll only get THAT kind of letter from me when I have exactly the right kind of pen. Meanwhile, I'll tell you about my new domicile and its
inhabitants. . .”


"Windy Poplars,
"Spook's Lane,
"October 10th.

It's wonderful to think we're young and have our whole lives before us . . . TOGETHER . . . isn't it?"

(Several pages omitted. Anne's pen being evidently neither sharp,stub nor rusty.)

(excerpts from L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Maia Moo and the Nali Collie

--The Girls and their ears--

--Maia's learning just how rough life is when you're an irresistible puppy--

--An evening spent reclining on the couch while listening intently to Glenn Beck--

Nali, the brave hunter, has just spotted a squirrel...
...and has just discovered how stealthy she is not.
Hunting is a tough job, but someone's gotta do it!
Yes, our mom takes lots of pictures of us...

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Very Special Birthday Girl

I will say to the north, "Give up," and to the south, "Do not withhold;
bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made."
~Isaiah 43:6-8
I spent the summer of 2002 in China. The Lord ordained my time there not only for working alongside co-laborers, but to also spend time in fervent prayer. My best friend was my email correspondent while over there, and she wrote to me just a few days after arriving in early June to let me know that our youth minister and his wife had officially begun the paperwork to adopt a daughter from China.
We all knew that we wouldn't see this precious girl face to face for at least another year, and that day came in February of 2004. Myself and others greeted them at the airport as Panda Mom and Panda Pop came off the plane in tears and carrying with them their daughter.
Now backtrack to what I was just saying about being over in China during the summer of 2002. PandaGirl was born on October 6, 2002, which means that I was there (not in the same province where her orphanage was located) while she was still in the womb. In between the English training camps, discovering new and unusual food, meeting Chinese students and adults completely infatuated with America, I prayed. Oh, how I prayed. What a time to be in intercession for this child and this family; this child whom God foreknew and ordained to one day be joined with this family.
So this is my simple way of saying 'Happy Birthday' to a little girl who has been diligently prayed for by many since she was in a woman's womb on the other side of the globe from where she is now. PandaGirl isn't special because of anything she has done in her young life, not unique because of any creativity conjured up in her, but because she is a very real, very appropriate representation of the Lord's steadfast love, faithfulness, and undeserved mercy upon those He adopts as sons and daughters. When I think of all the things leading up to her birth, all of the things she has experienced and already been taught thus far about the Lord, my heart swells and I'm moved to praising the Father. He is the Author of our lives, the One who calls His children from afar, and the One who knew us even before conception.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Scrapbooking anyone?

How exciting is this??? My downstairs neighbor girls informed me that the latest and greatest of scrapbooking stores has arrived in Louisville. In other words, all of my ladies from Texas should check out the website and seeing what you're missing--heehee. I haven't walked through the doors of the store just yet, but I've already been given some free 12x12 paper and a coupon came in the mail yesterday. I'm torn between utter excitement and knowing that I will need to set a STRICT budget before experiencing such a treasure trove...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Violation of Trust or a Pastor's Responsibility?

Yes. I am an avid viewer of "The O'Reilly Factor." While I may not always catch the show on weeknights at 8:00pm, I highly respect and admire the man who has been deemed a "culture warrior" (not surprising that such is the title of his latest book).

Last night, one of the segments on the Factor was a discussion regarding a pastor in Fort Worth who has recently been sued by a former member of his congregation for defamation. Why? Pastor Westbrook of CrossLand Community Bible Church has been sued for bringing this woman's infidelity to the attention of the congregation. Not all of the details were discussed on the Factor last night, but there was a guest who appeared to talk with Bill, an attorney representing Pastor Westbrook. When Bill asked him about the situation with the pastor exposing the woman to the congregation, the attorney very simply paraphrased Matthew 18 and the steps to appropriate church discipline. It became clear rather quickly that Bill wasn't following, and he was miffed that the attorney could not quote Matthew 18 verbatim. Keep in mind that Bill is Roman Catholic, and therefore the notion of a confession going beyond the confidentiality of the priest is unheard of. All that to say that when the attorney could not give Bill a word-for-word quote of the text, Bill simply cut in and said, "Well, I think that's bull."

I wrote a brief email to Bill in regard to last night's segment, keeping in mind that he likes the viewers who write in to "keep it pithy." I am wondering how many others watched the same segment and what the varying reactions have been. It was apparent from the start of the conversation with Pastor Westbrook's attorney that Bill was not familiar with Matthew 18 or the responsibilities of the pastor(s) of local churches to follow through with biblical, necessary church discipline. This is not an issue that seems at the forefront to necessitate legal action, even when some of the details I read in an article elsewhere ( make some of the aspects of this case a little sketchy regarding the woman's position in all of this (i.e. how the woman viewed her standing with the church as a professed former member of the congregation, and trying to give a title to the pastor's role in counseling her that frees her from any form of accountability to him as her pastor/elder).

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ~Matthew 18:15-17

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ~Hebrews 13:17

Just think of the implications of this particular case and how it fits into our ever-changing postmodern culture.