Sunday, March 31, 2013

It is Easter

and I don't think my mind can comprehend all that that means. Soon, I will be cooking Easter dinner with my extended family. My cousin is currently learning Easter hymns by ear on the guitar. Earlier today we had a sermon preceded by donuts -- extra special. The sky is grey, but all the signs indicate that it is, in fact, springtime. All the hallmarks of Easter are here.

I've seen all the Facebook posts by all my friends with great Bible verses, hymn lyrics, and joyous expressions of gratitude. They make me happy. But I'm afraid that the Easter-y trappings are simply sweeping me along. How do I wrap my head around all that Easter is?

I really hope you're not spending a lot of your Easter Sunday on the computer, but if you just happen to stop by, what puts it in perspective for you? How do you understand the magnitude of Christ's sacrifice? How do you approach it with a receptive heart? How can you even come near to knowing its significance? What do you do to prepare your heart to listen to the message?

This particular passage is a favorite of mine. I've never really connected it with Easter before, but I think it's a good place to start.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. -- 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, ESV
 Sometimes we need help getting back to basics. Please share your answers, if you're so inclined.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Small adventures

Yesterday, my cousin and I took a romp through the woods. We climbed trees, put up a hammock, slacklined, and went exploring (though nothing was really new for her, since this was five minutes from her house.) We had hopes and dreams for a spring break filled with camping and nature, becoming one with our surroundings and wild at heart. And then today it snowed ten inches.

Of course, the weather people had been warning, but when do we ever listen to them? No, our hopes had been pinned elsewhere, on the expectation of the kinds of adventures we've tried to make for ourselves on every family picnic and gathering we've had since we were three. We would cross fallen logs, find rabbit trails, and send adults into a panic because we had disappeared again. Fortunately, we have reached the age of accountability and also cell phones. Adventures seem ever more feasible to our adult minds -- weather notwithstanding.

I have another week of spring break, and it looks like for most of it I'll be hanging around my cousin's house doing homework. Sure, it's not camping, but most of our lives she and I have been figuring out how to have small adventures. Today, we went walking in the snowstorm and sledded down the streets of what appears to be the only hilly town in central Illinois. It was great. We also built a spectacular snowman and had some good conversation. Later this week, we may take a train to some as-of-yet unknown city and explore. We have crafts to make, walks to go on, and stories to come up with. We have lots of little adventures we can have.

Someday, we may go backpacking across Europe. And one day we'll make up our spring break camping trip. Until then, I'm glad we have a positive enough outlook to come up with the small adventures that are trying new things and looking at the new places that are around every corner.

Happy spring break.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Broken isn't beautiful

Last night I saw Les Misérables for the second time. It is my favorite book, my favorite musical, and this recent movie version is almost certainly on my list of favorite movies. It would be easy for me to turn this into a post made of pure fangirl, but luckily Les Mis is so good that it inevitably lends itself to deeper thought.

Seeing it again offered some clarity on an idea that's been milling around in my head for a while now, the title of this post: broken isn't beautiful.

Some people may take offense at this, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to those who have experienced hardship and horror in their lives. I don't want to minimize the pain people go through or the strength it takes to overcome it. But that's my point -- it's not the pain and horror itself that makes things beautiful. It's the fact that we do overcome it. The beauty comes in healing, salvation, and light. The problem is I think some people, even Christians, tend to glorify brokenness.

But don't we have to learn from mistakes? Doesn't overcoming hardship make us stronger? Aren't some of the most admirable people in the world those who have gone through trauma and pain, only to come out the other side better and stronger?

 I do believe so. But I think we tend to concentrate on these actions because we don't know what true beauty looks like. This world is a cracked mirror. What we see can never be the same as that which is true. If we knew what real beauty looked like, truth and goodness untainted by this world's darkness, would we try to hold up our brokenness as the better thing?

But we do have flaws. There is evil at work, and it has left scars. However, scars exist because wounds have been healed. Though there is pain, we don't need to despair.

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. -- 2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJV
We don't boast in our infirmities because they're infirmities. We boast in them because they are opportunities to let Christ shine through us. Thus, the boast is not for us and the evil that has affected us. It's for Christ.

Les Misérables means "the miserable ones." It's a story of darkness at war in human history, taking lives, wrecking families, oppressing nations. Still, I believe it is the most beautiful story I've ever heard. Why? Because we are shown light wins out over darkness. God's goodness saves. It takes a thief and a desperate man and turns him into a bastion of righteousness for others. The marks of a thief are still there, but they serve not to define the man, but contrast who he has become.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. -- 1 Corinthians 15:10, NKJV

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Judging you

For me, the theme for this past year at Taylor has been "this place is not perfect." I'm one of those people who will gush about our intentional community and servant leadership, but this does not stop the cracks from showing. Though Taylor University for me has been a haven and wellspring of Christian fellowship, I'm learning more and more that this isn't the case for everybody. People have been hurt. Some feel isolated or unwelcome, judged.

Not all Christians act like Christians. But if everyone at Taylor were perfect, complete with perfect administration and academic systems, everyone would be happy all the time, right?

Actually, no. Because there are people who, no matter how worshipful the worship or kind the leaders or amicable the students, do not want to be part of it. And there are people who are hurt and don't know how to enter into the Body. These problems need to be addressed with love and prayer.

And then there are people who give out judgments like candy on a parade, and their counterparts: people who complain about how everybody judges everybody. These also need to be addressed with love and prayer -- and, I think, in the spirit of love, just a little mockery, too.

It's okay, I'm going to start by mocking myself. The following are just a few judgments I make on a regular basis and the things that instigate them.

Crowd screams for someone making an announcement during chapel.
Judgment: Yeah, okay, they're from your wing. Shut up already.

Someone I know makes an announcement during chapel.
Judgment: Whoohoo!!! This is worth getting excited over!

Loud male voices are heard outside.
Judgment: Broho boys are up to something... 

Person whooshes past on a longboard.
Judgment: Insta-cool points. You appear to be a free-spirited individual who cares not for the social constraint of having to actually walk with people.

Pants are purposefully worn to show underwear and belted so they stay that way.  
Judgment: Obviously you don't know the purpose of pants or how to wear them.

Combination of the previous two.
Judgment: ..... I no longer know what to think of you.

These things probably say more about me than I know. Are any of these assessments in any way justifiable? Am I the problem at Taylor?  Do we make up more problems than actually exist?

My point? Love people. Don't assume too much. And don't neglect to notice when you're the one doing the judging.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Life Verse

I'm going to admit something that may shock and nauseate the majority of people reading this blog. I say this to warn you, and prepare you for an explanation. However, it doesn't change the facts. It's my fault, and it's really pretty stupid: I don't like Jeremiah 29:11.

Everybody has their little peculiar vexations. Some of mine: personality tests (except Meyers-Briggs) always drive me nuts. I get inordinately irritated when people don't label their axes on graphs. I hate when songs repeat the word "yeah." I loathe being called "cute" because it feels patronizing (I know it's not, and I'm learning to smile and move on.) Pretty much all of these irritations are irrational, and the amount of aggravation they inflict is disproportional to the weight of the crime ("Don't they realize that this graph is useless without labels? This is meaningless! This person needs to die!").

Most of the time I can laugh and move on. Sometimes, though, I'll recognize that the irritation hints at a deeper character flaw or results in a worse problem than irritation. One of these is related to what I daresay is my only hipsterish tendency (though I'm not criticizing hipsters [here]): a distrust of things that are popular. Yes, this even affects how I feel about popular Bible verses.

Jeremiah 29:11 is stirring, beautiful, inspired scripture. And everybody likes it. This should not be sufficient reason for me to wrinkle my nose when people talk about it (or John 3:16, or Proverbs 3:5-6). There are some popular ones that mean enough to me to counterbalance this, but it doesn't fix everything.

With this ridiculous tendency comes one that's a little more wholesome: an interest in scripture that's not often quoted. I'll be the first to admit I don't memorize as much scripture as I should, but I do love to read it and find things I've never noticed before. I'm ever becoming more convicted that the bits that don't make obvious fodder for evangelism can transform people's lives.

Consider Matthew 10:22. "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." In church today, our pastor spoke on following Christ, listening, and letting it be transforming in our lives.This means difficulty. This means that verses like Jeremiah 29:11 as well as Matthew 10:22 should be abundantly meaningful.

There are Pollyanna moments, and then there are Ecclesiastes moments. There is reason to cherish and apply every scripture. (And now I've got to make sure I act on my own words.)