Friday, December 30, 2011

The joke's on you

if you thought I had more than two friends, or any friends whose names start with anything but "A" for that matter.

Ha.  Hahaha.

Don't worry, other friends will be featured on here eventually.

Also, my apologies for the lack of pictures lately.  My computer decided to bow out the weekend before finals week.  With all of my pictures, of course, because I haven't gotten them all backed up online.

Also with my fifty-something-page-work-in-progress thesis, due that Friday, which was not backed up either.

Yeah.  It was a bad weekend.  Then, on Monday, when I went to the Technical Support Center on campus, they had a sign on the door that said they were no longer checking in any more computers.


I may or may not have had a mild freak out in the building, which succeeded in getting the pity of someone who hooked up my computer to a big machine and retrieved the thesis folder for me.  He also assured me that it's only a screen problem, and all my files are safe.

So, despite it all, I did indeed do this


And only got mildly excited about it


Like I said, only mildly excited


The first time I tried to throw my hat, this happened


It got stuck in the tree


A little anticlimactic, if you ask me, but still pretty


So there you have it. I have officially graduated from college without any debt.

Without any money either, so fixing the computer is going to wait for a little while.
Once it's fixed, though, I can guarantee you files will be stored in multiple safe places.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advent: Day Five

Oh I LOVE this part of the Christmas story!  It's always been my favorite, despite the fact that, when I was a tiny child, it rather frightened me.

Today's Advent Study Reading is Matt. 2:1-12, the story of the Wise Men.

I have such vivid memories of my parents reading this story to me when I was younger.  Every time I heard the story, I would be on the edge of my seat in anxiety about whether the Wise Men would go tell Herod where the baby Jesus was.  I don't know why I felt the outcome might change at any given reading of the tale, but I was genuinely terrified of Herod and I was afraid that, one day, he might be tricky enough to outwit the Wise Men.

But, here's the thing.  God is in control of this whole situation.  Maybe Herod is actually tricky enough to outwit the Wise Men.  That could certainly be the case.  But we'll never know because God is the one actually leading the Wise Men to His son, and He is powerful enough to direct their steps and bring them a dream, which guides them home a different way.

I tend to be a bit fearful about whether things will work out the way God actually wants them to work out.

Wow.  Even looking at that sentence sort of makes me laugh at myself.  What a crazy thing to be afraid of!
Nonetheless, I am afraid sometimes.  But it's stories like this one that really sort of knock me back to my senses and make me realize that, no matter what might be going on in our world, no matter what big-wig might seem to be trying to thwart God's plan, God is in control.

Did you catch that?  God is in control.  Regardless of momentary appearances to the contrary.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent: Day Four

Ah, the traditional "Christmas Story." This is the passage my family reads every Christmas morning when everyone is gathered in the living room, before the opening of presents and the big cinnamon roll breakfast ("big" meaning I may or may not eat three or four huge gooey cinnamon rolls).

Okay, back to the topic at hand, the Advent Study.  Today's reading is Luke 2:1-16.

One of the questions to think about when reading these passages is whether or not the story is really like what we've always thought it was like, based on the versions we were told as children.  Last night, my sister showed me the cutest little video made by a preschool in Portland.  It's basically the children's take on the Christmas story.  It's worth watching.

One thing that the video really made me think of (and probably that I've already been thinking of, based on my last Advent post) is our perception of angels.  Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but angels are probably not like what we think they're like.

One child in the video keeps talking about the fairy that comes in the Christmas story, and I'm sure, when I was younger, that was my assumption of what an angel was like - something along the lines of Tinkerbell in long white robes.
And there is a particularly annoying Christmas song that keeps coming on the radio this year.  I can't remember the name of it, but the chorus talks about the angels singing when they came to see the shepherds.  Then, in the background of the song, five or six preppy tenth-grade cheerleaders sing "Peace on Earth, goodwill to men" a few times.

No. No, no, no, no, no.  I'm pretty sure that's not how it was.  There was "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God."  That must have been one fantastic song.
And you know what's the greatest thing about this?
God sent those angels to lowly shepherds.  It reminds me of 1 Cor. 1:28 - "God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are," (ESV)

And, while we're at it, let's just make a note that Mary laid Jesus in a manger after He was born, because there was no room in the inn.  Talk about things that are not.
The Lord chose to have His Son enter the world in a stable.  God had just made everything work perfectly together to have Jesus born in Bethlehem (I'm pretty sure Mary would have stayed in Nazareth, given half the chance).  God certainly could have manipulated an inn-keeper enough to leave room for Mary and Joseph in a place where humans live, rather than cows and donkeys.
But He didn't.  He chose the route that didn't make sense to men.  In fact, He chose the route that looked ridiculous to men - like it could never work.
Then He advertised it to shepherds, very lowly people, if I'm not mistaken.
And you know what?

That event has changed the shape of history every day since then.
I pray that, when the Lord chooses to do something in my life in a way that doesn't make sense, I will follow Him without question, just like Joseph and Mary and the shepherds.
Whether or not I look absurd to my fellow men while following.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent: Day Three

Today's reading  in the Advent Bible Study is Luke 1:26-38

Having had the Christmas story read to me every Christmas since I can remember, I think sometimes I am almost too familiar with this passage of Scripture, so I'm going to look at it as if I've never really seen it before.  Here's the story:

1)  The angel, Gabriel, comes and greets Mary
2)  Mary is surprised by this visit
3)  The angel explains that Mary is going to have a son who will receive the throne of his father David (meaning his ancestor, king David)
4)  Mary questions this because she is a virgin
5)  The angel says that her child will be the son of God.  The angel also tells Mary that her relative Elizabeth has conceived a child "in her old age"
6)  Mary accepts this news and the angel departs

This is crazy.

First of all, let's remember that angels are probably (because no one really knows) not sweet-looking blonde children with wings.  This is a male angel. He is probably tall and commanding.  I wouldn't be surprised if he is clothed like a warrior.  My Bible says Mary "was greatly troubled."  I believe I would be too.

Now, it's worth noting that this account (the only account of this particular event that I could find) is written by someone who was not there, so of course he doesn't included details like how Mary or the angel acted.  He only includes what they said to each other.  We don't really know what kind of expression was on Mary's face or what the angel was doing while he spoke to her.

But are those things really important?
It's clear from the angel's words to Mary and Mary's words to the angel that each of them are willing to do whatever is required of them by the Lord.  Talk about selfless devotion.
Mary is about to go through the worst ordeal of her life (thus far, at least).  She is going to be pregnant without being married, something that was punishable by stoning in those days, if I'm not confused.  All she says in response to that is "Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
And the angel.  He's telling this young girl that she's about to be going through this.  He just says to her what the Lord has given to him to say.  Now, I know angels may not feel emotions (we don't know much at all about them), but in the scripture, it says they rejoice at times, so I'd imagine this angel could understand that Mary might be fearful of what he's telling her.  He doesn't sugar-coat it, though.  he just tells her what the Lord has sent him to say.

I can only hope and pray that, one day, if the Lord sends me on an errand anywhere near what either of these two were sent on, I could do it without questioning the Lord's methods or trying to rearrange it to make it seem more palatable to anyone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent: Week Two

Actually, I should probably start calling these "Day such-and-such" rather than "Week", because I'll pretty much be doing them every day to get them in before Christmas.  But I'm going to do it, don't you fear!
Now that I'm well and properly graduated, this blog will be getting a lot more attention. Knock on wood.

So, today's reading (or, you know, the reading from 3 weeks ago) in the Advent Study is Isaiah 9:2,6,&7 and Isaiah 11:1-4&6-9.

I sang in our local performance of Handel's Messiah this year, as I have every other year I possibly could since about the time I was 16.  It is a pure pleasure to stand and sing scriptures like Isaiah 9:6&7 and, this year, I especially enjoyed the solo based on Isaiah 9:2.  The Bass who sang it just blew it out of the water and you could actually understand what he was saying (this is sometimes a rarity in operatic performances).  I found myself sitting there on the stage, eyes closed, worshiping while he sang.  It was lovely.

I love how this prophecy is written as if it's already been accomplished - the people have seen a great light; the light has shined.  Christ has come.  He has already been here.

And here's where I might be a little unconventional.  Fast forward to Isaiah 11:1-4.  Yes, He has already been here, but He's also coming again!  And He shall not judge by what His eyes see or decide disputes by what His ears hear. (Thank the Lord for that!)  And He shall judge the poor with righteousness and the meek with equity.

These are things that, not only were yet to come when the prophecy was first spoken, but are still yet to come even today.  He shall return.  Hallelujah!  This was such an encouragement to me this year as I sang the Messiah.  I just kept thinking, these things are going to happen again, any day now.  How magnificent!  If that doesn't deserve a rousing Hallelujah chorus, I don't know what does.

But don't think these things are just memories of the past and a hope for the future.  They're going on right now.  Check out the little phrase in Isaiah 9:7 - "from this time forth and forevermore."

Christ is oh so present tense.

While we're on the subject of the Hallelujah chorus, let's not forget this part:

"The kingdom of this world is become
the kingdom of our LORD and of His Christ."

I sincerely hope that I can make this Christmas a time of praising the Lord for His original advent and His current presence in my life, but most of all, a time of glorying in the fact that He will come and fulfill all these wondrous prophecies all over again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Featured Friend: Allie

Allie and I haven't really been friends that long in the broad spectrum of things, but I'm pretty sure one day we'll be able to look back and say ours has been a long-standing friendship.

I met Allie one night when I was watching some friends playing basketball in her church's gym.  Honestly, I had no idea when I met her that we would stay friends for as long as we have.  The Lord definitely has a reason for us to be friends, because He persisted in bringing us together again and again until we finally decided Hey, we really should be friends as if it was our idea.


I've always admired Allie's personal style.  Her attitude is basically if-it-makes-me-happy-I'll-wear-it.  You may see her on one day in athletic shorts and a t-shirt, and the next day in a long bohemian skirt or a cute blazer and scarf.  As weird as it may sound, I remember what Allie was wearing when I first met her.  I don't think I can remember what any of my other friends were wearing when I first met them.  She was wearing a flowy skirt and a peasant top.  I'm pretty sure one of them was yellow.

I have learned the lesson of wear-what-you-want from her (a hard lesson for someone like me to learn), but she's taught me some other stuff as well:

Loving People:  Make Sacrifices and Listen
Allie loves her friends, her family, and her church, so she lives in the town where her church and her family are, which is half an hour away from the town where (most of) her friends live.  Girlfriend is a champion commuter, a sacrifice which should not be looked over in this day and age.  We have Bible Study every week, and Allie is there every week.  I'm sure there have been times when she didn't feel like driving, but she always comes anyway.


She doesn't come just for Bible Study either, she comes just to hang out with us.  She loves to listen to what we have to say and she always knows just what to say.  One of the best things I've learned from Allie is how to give advice.

Allie listens to the whole story, pauses and sympathizes with you, then says "well, what about this?"
She gives value to what you are saying, rather than just jumping right in and trying to solve a problem.
And she always remembers what you've said.  She looks you in the eye and doesn't let herself get distracted while you're talking to her.

Loving God:  Believe Him
This girl believes God for all his promises.  If she feels like He wants something to happen in her life, it might as well have already happened in her book.  She's the ultimate outliving of "the battle is already won."
Even in the midst of waiting for things to happen, she never doubts that the Lord will bring them about in His time.  It's as hard for her to wait as it is for the next one, but she doesn't lose hope while she's waiting.
I think that's a lesson many of us could benefit from.

Thanks, Allie, for loving me and for showing me what it really looks like to have joy in the future God has promised you.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent: Week One

As I mentioned about an hour ago,

Actually, first, let's just sit and think for a minute about the fact that I just blogged an hour ago and I am now blogging again.  When was the last time I even posted two days in a row?
*Checks archives*
July.  July was the last time I posted twice in a row. That's four months ago. I need to be more consistent.

I am finally beginning the Advent Bloggin Bible Study!
Week One's reading was Genesis 3:8-19 & 22:15-18

The first thing I noticed about this reading was, well, the first verse - "And they heard the sound of the LORD GOD walking in the garden in the cool of the day,"

Let's pause and soak in the fact that these humans heard the sound of God walking in the garden.  That's amazing!  And, not only that, they recognized it as the sound of God walking in the garden.  That means this sound/event is a regular occurrence in their lives.

They've been walking with God in the garden for some time now.

"and [after hearing the sound] the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD GOD among the trees of the garden."

Okay, so these people hear the sound of God, and they recognize it as the sound of God, and they hide.  What makes you hide from something that has been in your life since day one?  I honestly have no idea, but don't we do exactly that all the time?

Yes. Yes is the correct answer.  God has been pursuing us and pursuing us ever since our first cry, but we run and run and hide and hide.

And when the Lord finds us, we're ashamed of ourselves so we make excuses and we blame other people, just like Adam and Eve. And we wear our dead, fading fig leaves, thinking we've done something good.

And He disciplines us, just like any good father would, but He also understands us.  He sympathizes with our every weakness (Heb. 4:15) and knows we need love.  So he makes us garments of soft warm animal skin.
*forgive me for reading ahead; I couldn't help myself*

We whitewash the outside of the cup, while the inside gets blacker and blacker.
He loves the inside, despite the blackness, so He sends His son, his only son to die for us.

But it doesn't end there!

The context of our second reading is one of my favorites now.  It hasn't been my favorite always.  When I was tiny, I would beg Dad to skip over it when we came to this point in the Bible Storybook.

It's a horrifying story
if you don't keep the ending in mind.

Let's look at the ending - not only does God "restore" Abraham's son to him, God promises him more descendants, as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the sand of the seashore.
Right here, at the beginning of the scriptures, God gives a glorious picture of the redeeming, restoring work of Christ.

Lately, outside of this study and in these passages, I've been learning to let go of all my feeble efforts to please God with my flesh and to focus instead on His incredible efforts on my behalf - how, no matter how many times I throw away His warm garment and don fig leaves instead, He continually refreshes and restores. He truly deserves all glory and honor and power.

Featured Friend: Abigail

In my last post, I mentioned that I am thankful for friends who daily show me new and wonderful ways to love God and people.  One of those friends is Abigail. Her birthday was a little while ago, and she mentioned something on her blog about having done this thing in the past where, in the days leading up to her birthday, she talked about people who had been a good influence on her life.  I'm going to do almost exactly that, spotlighting some friends I have learned the important lessons of How-to-Love-People and How-to-Love-God from in the past year.

Mind you, I only have a few days until my birthday, so there won't be too many people on here and I've learned so much from so many different people!
Maybe I'll just have to continue this series after my birthday . . .

Anyone want to hazard a guess as to who my first fine "Featured Friend" (Too much alliteration?) will be?

Now how did you know that?

I've known Abigail for as long as I can remember. 
She actually started out as my babysitter.  (I love to say that to people when they ask how we met.)
About the time the gap in our ages began to close, she went to college in New Zealand (I know.  I was jealous too.) But immediately after she came back from NZ, she set up a Bible Study for some of the younger, just-starting-college girls in our church.  That Bible Study was a great growing experience for me and I'd say it's when Abigail's and my friendship really blossomed into what it is today.

Unfortunately . . . just kidding, Abigail . . . Eventually the inevitable happened and Abigail got married.  She's moved all over the country, but we've managed to stay in touch quite well and she has continued to encourage me in my walk with the Lord and be a fantastic example to me of how to love.

Last summer, Christa and I took a lovely journey to visit Abigail in Georgia.  After we were greeted by a cook-out, a sunset, and some fireworks, we came to Abigail's house and what did we find?


Ever since the days of our original Bible Study, Abigail has been a superb hostess.  She has welcomed us into her home (wherever it may be) and filled it with activities, movies, music, food, and whatever else a heart could desire. Things may not always turn out just the way she intends for them to (we certainly didn't get to all the "Possible Week Activities"), but, even if things don't go according to plan, she's happy as long as her guests are happy.  I'm pretty sure that's one of the most important lessons an aspiring hostess can learn.

Recently, Abigail came up with the idea of having a "Bloggin' Bible Study."
I watched through the first study, read other people's contributions, and thought Man, I wish I had that kind of time.  Then I realized I do have that kind of time. I'm just using it for other, less productive things.  So, when Abigail decided to do a second Bible Study, I got excited and decided to join in . . . obviously a little late.  But, better late than never, right? (Actual Bible Study coming very soon.)

I've learned, by watching her example, that sometimes the best way to love God is just to dive right in and love Him.  Simple as that.  He doesn't require a great fanfare or a set aside time or a particular mindset.  He just requires our time and our love. Those aren't so hard to give, whether you're an army-wife-mom-of-a-one-year-old or a working-girl-writer-on-the-brink-of-college-graduation or anything else on the spectrum.

Thanks Abigail, for loving me and for loving God out in the open and above all else.