Monday, October 24, 2011

Walks in the Dark

As I made the pleasant walk from the gym to my car tonight, I wound through the familiar shrubs and bushes nestled around the walls of the fitness center. I scuffled across a stretch of dry, brown ground, kicking up dust as I did. I crossed a quiet street, and passed a sleeping church and huddle of houses before reaching my vehicle.

I had made that walk many times before, but in the past, I felt fear.

From the summer of 2009 to the summer of 2010, I dealt with rampant fear in my life. Like a cancer, its mass spread from one area of my existence to another, devouring truth and implanting panic. For example, when I took walks like the one described, I experienced constant paranoia that someone would attack me. In addition, I was consumed by fear that I would be found un-beautiful by the world, so I indulged disordered eating behavior and rejected all affirmation from my husband. Also, I hated flying, because the idea of a plane crash made me pale with terror. The list went on. It was a difficult time, one of profound confusion and struggle.

I won't go into any more details now. Suffice it to say that God delivered me over the course of the year as I met with a Stephen Minister (lay counselor) at Wildwood Community Church, listened to the Word spoken and accepted the love poured into my life by loved ones. 

My walk tonight reminded me, with a burst of clarity, of just how far God has brought me. I'm no longer scared of dark walks alone, nor am I a slave to bad eating habits and thoughts. I also dislike flying only for practical reasons now. 

Can we say HALLELUJAH? God was so patient with me the entire time, which is material enough for an entirely new post! What I want to comment on right now, though, is how my past issue of fear branched out, in seemingly unrelated ways, so that I felt its effects holistically.

If you see a pattern of fear (or some other issue) cropping up in several different areas of your life, whether or not they seem connected, it is likely that you need to deal with the general issue of fear (or fill-in-the-blank) in your life. And by deal with, I don't mean grit your teeth and will yourself to do better -- I mean bring before our holy, healing God. For I know that he is the only one who can deliver us from ourselves.

To the dismay of my writer's mind, I don't have much of a conclusion to offer here. Just keep in mind that we see patterns in our thoughts and behaviors for a reason, and instead of trying to play whack-a-mole and kill off the different ways a bad thing manifests itself, we need to go after the thing itself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Imperfect Forgiver

Strangely, I've only recently realized that God sanctifies our ability to forgive, along with the other aspects of our character.

Chris and I had just come to the end of a typical marital spat, probably involving a decorative pillow or something similarly random, when we both reached the point where we could say "I'm sorry" and mean it.

With our "sorries," of course, came our "I forgive yous" --  usually much easier words to make our lips form. Chris confessed his sin and asked my forgiveness. I told him I forgave him with a golden swell of purity and magnanimity in my chest. Just as I was basking in this feeling, the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge. Heart check! he urged. What is the origin of this feeling, as if you were being particularly charitable toward Chris when you had to ask his forgiveness of you not five minutes ago?

Suddenly, I realized the reason I was so amenable to forgiving Chris is because, deep inside, I believed that Chris was the only one who had done something wrong, even though I had apologized for sinning, too. I was happy to forgive only because I was happy that I had been the "good" one during the squabble -- the one who had been irreproachably holy -- while Chris was the sole perpetrator. Believe you me, dear reader -- that realization deflated the golden swell of purity and magnanimity in my chest real fast.

Yes, it's true that when I told Chris I forgave him, I was truly forgiving him. That's a good thing. However, the motive behind my eagerness was not because I wanted to exemplify Christ, who has forgiven me much, but because of the twisted belief that I was innocent and was doing Chris a favor. That's not a good thing.

After this incident, I spent time thinking about how even something like forgiveness, which seems so straightforward, is tainted by our sin. Because it is, we have to allow God to sanctify it. We have to recognize that, as is true of so many other things in life, we have not "arrived" at a place of perfect forgiving power. Even as we strive to forgive well, we will mess up when we act in our own power.

But rejoice, dear reader, for as always, the solution is not for us to will ourselves to do better next time. The solution is to look to Christ, who is our flawless example of how to forgive. The more we know him and seek him, the more we will become like him, and our forgiveness, along with the rest of our hearts, will become more sanctified.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Heavy-Hearted Poem Written in the Park

There is no guilt that I can bear,
For Holy God has given me
A final way to meet him, where
Christ Jesus's love brings sanctity.
Though pain and suffering I deserve,
Peace and fulfillment I receive;
And though my heart feels naught of verve,
My spirit nothing can bereave.
For hope is mine for all my life
And bliss secure in Christ's abode;
Companionship to bear the cross
And resting place to drop the load.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why I Study

When evangelical Christians say the word "doctrine," they may get a number of tacit reactions, including, but not limited to,

  • Immediate boredom
  • Thorough revulsion
  • Cavalier dismissal
  • Polite apathy
I used to be in the last category, but have done a 180 over the last few years. When I say doctrine, I'm talking about a deep and systematic study of the person of God, and the Biblical reasons for why we, as Christ-followers, do believe and must believe what we believe. 

This goes deeper than rote memorization that could fit inside a children's Sunday School song -- it's persistent and careful study of the Bible, understanding of the beautiful implications of the Trinity, caring about the topics that the Word -- and therefore, God! -- cares about, and more.

Not that I claim to have studied the whole Bible thoroughly, or that I "understand the beautiful implications of the Trinity." Goodness, no. If you claim that, you either need to start teaching others how to do what you did, or let the Spirit convict you of your blatant lying problem. I kid, of course. Kind of. 

But, I digress, dear reader! As I was saying, I don't claim any of those things, but I do make the acquisition a closer knowledge of God an ongoing pursuit. Doing that doesn't mean I have to become a major theological scholar, reading N.T. Wright books thicker than Oklahoma air on a warm and humid morning (in other words, it doesn't mean I have to become my sweet husband!). 

It just means a lifelong study of GOD. It's not a study of the things that we choose to focus on about God, but on God Himself, who is infinitely multifaceted so that we never, ever, ever run out of new, amazing and breathtaking things to learn about him. 

I'll admit -- the kind of Bible reading and spiritual study I did in 6th grade was easy, and extremely comfortable, most of the time. Getting from "polite apathy" to passion about doctrine was a long, and sometimes arduous or painful, process. It required many days of wrestling with what I thought I understood about God. It required some disagreement with other believers, and forced me to revisit basic topics. 

I think some people are afraid of going through those things, as if they're bad. They're difficult, but as you know, that's not the same thing as bad! For some, maybe the journey won't be as difficult as it was for me, but it will at least stretch you. At the end of the day, though, when the fruit of your labor blossoms into a new depth of intimacy with Christ and a new, soul-deep passion and adoration of the Gospel of Christ, you will say, "That was SO worth it."

Friends, that's why I study, and why I hope you will, too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Self-pity is not the same as repentance.

I think it's easy to see our chronic sin problems as pests and nothing more. When they buzz in our faces, showing themselves for what they are, we swat them away and feel sorry for ourselves that we have to deal with them.

For instance, I've had the following thought: "It's unfair that I have to dress so modestly. It's hard to do, and I don't look nearly as good."

I didn't recognize the sin of knowingly causing temptation, and of treating my body, which is "the temple of the Holy Spirit," with disrespect. I pitied myself instead, because it can be difficult and "uncool" not to conform to the world. Though I dressed differently, I didn't address my heart in the matter, so I didn't repent. I treated the symptoms instead of the root problem.

This is only one of a million examples, of course. The point is --

Repentance is a direct confrontation of the root problem.

When we truly repent, we will first recognize the seriousness of our sin. Action flows from recognition - our behavior will change once we see sin as God sees it. Recognition of sin demands a response, and we are in active rebellion when we choose to ignore the issue rather than go to God about it.

Oh, and I can already tell you what God is going to say - come to me, confess, repent, and be made more whole and more holy by the blood of Christ. Though we are already washed clean by Christ's blood so that we have spiritual life, we are being sanctified day by day while we are on this earth. Repentance is a huge part of sanctification. Let us embrace it, because only in Christ can something be simultaneously so difficult and so beautiful...

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Have you ever done or made something that gets you noticed by a handful of people you don't know? It's a heady feeling, perhaps especially if you're a people-pleaser like me. Well, after I made the video in my last post, I tweeted about it to two fairly large Wheel of Time groups, who subsequently re-tweeted the video to their many followers. This brought an influx of views to the video, though not perhaps as many as I [somehow] garnered for the last nerdy WoT video I made.

Silly as it may sound, it was a great feeling. As a person given to strong emotion, I was exhilarated. I was pleased with myself and anxious to see what kind of positive feedback I could garner.

But I've found that attention is much like a shot of espresso - after the high comes a slump that leaves me a mite debilitated.

Why would I feel debilitated? Because I want that same attention - all. the. time. In my heart is a secret, persistent desire for fame. That's one of the many reasons why it's easy for me to become discouraged about my writing - my subconscious is groaning for recognition, and being somewhere in the middle is not good enough. I want to shine, I want to be the star, I want to be at the top.

Moments of fleeting (and really very minor) attention like my video gained for me, and moments of dark hopelessness about a talent (writing) that's completely from God and pointless to fret about, reveal just how much I still live for my own glory. I look forward to the day when I can say, with all my heart, that I strive to excel for the sake of glorifying God alone. Of course, it's not like that day is a finish line that I'll cross once and never have to think about again. Such a dedication to glorifying God requires clinging to faith and fighting the flesh and Satan day in and day out. I pray that the Lord increase my eternal perspective to the point where I know, in the deepest part of me, that life lived for my own fame is death and emptiness wrapped in shiny paper, but that life lived for the fame of the Lord is a full one indeed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Okay, Yes, I Did it Again...

Another nerdy Wheel of Time video. Because the idea was just too fun to pass up.

Trust, Trust Not

Today's reading in My Utmost for His Highest addresses the burning question I've held for years: how am I to trust people (let them in), yet not trust them (expect them not to let me down) at the same time? This is good stuff right here...

An excerpt from GOD FIRST

"Jesus did not commit Himself unto them...for He knew what was in man." John 2:24-25

Put God First in Trust. Our Lord trusted no man; yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man, because He put God first in trust; He trusted absolutely in what God's grace could do for any man. If I put my trust in human beings first, I will end in despairing of everyone; I will become bitter, because I have insisted on man being what no man can ever be -- absolutely right. Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.

Monday, May 30, 2011


There's something to be said for laughing at our fears, as Harry and his classmates must do in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

In Defense Against the Dark Arts class, the Hogwarts students come up against a boggart, which takes the shape of the thing they most fear. In order to combat it, they incant the spell Riddikulus! while thinking of a way to make their feared object into something utterly laughable (for example, Ron makes a giant spider funny by removing all its legs).

Neville makes his biggest fear look pretty ridiculous
in the
Prisoner of Azkaban movie!
My fears are so often unfounded and get blown way out of proportion, not to mention that the nature of fear in the first place is that is is usually irrational. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to perform a riddikulus charm on fear of the future, financial anxiety, fear of being alone?

The great thing is, for those of us who are in Christ, we have that kind of defense. It's called the truth - that is, the Word of God - and it's not to be taken lightly. Our fears will come against us using all the negative power of our weak human mind, but we have a sure way to stop them where they stand.

Fear (of the boggart sort) is not from God. We are commanded to have faith instead. I'm reading in Mark right now, and one of his primary themes is faith as the antidote to fear. "Do not fear, only believe," he says in Mark 5:36, even as one of the greatest fears of humankind, death, lay before them.

We can have faith because we know the truth, and we can repeat the truth to ourselves because it's been given to us in the form of the Bible. Even if we can't think of a specific verse right off the bat to combat our fears at a given moment, we can remember the sure and unchanging character of God that we have learned. That he is good. Holy. All-knowing. Just. Compassionate. Merciful. Almighty.

And the legs fall off the spider, and the boggart retreats back into its dark box.

We can laugh, because the overwhelming perfection of Christ makes our fears look so small, and so, well, riddikulus. :)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kitchen Observations

One way I like to make cooking dinner more interesting is by reading the boxes I'm working with. Today's choice was Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The last part of the blurb says this:
Inside this box you'll find the same deliciously gooey macaroni & cheese dinner you know and love... in fact, raise our new box above your head and announce to the whole store that you love it. Because you know you do.

Imagine how hilarious that would be.

Person walks over to the box in the grocery store, picks it up, reads it.


"I LOVE THIS!!!!!"

Person walks away.

Also, guess what? Our microwave has gone crazy. Keep it plugged in long enough, and it will spaz out sometime after 2 pm (or maybe I'm just imagining things) by spouting, "2! 2! 22222222!" After awhile you're like, okay, I get it, 2! and unplug it in wrath.

Bet your microwave doesn't do that!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Being Sick Has Been Nice...

One thing about being sick is that it makes you stop. It's kind of a heady feeling to be freed from all obligations so that you can recover. It's like getting a day off from the world. With lots of salt water, medicine and tissues involved, of course.

The past few days that I've had pharyngitis have been surprisingly restful. I've slept a lot - when do I ever pass up a chance to do that? - as well as simply reflected a lot. My reflections have brought me many times into the long, vaulted hallways of spiritual meditation, which has been extremely good for me.

It can be hard for me to come face to face with God, particularly when I don't feel that I have anything to say to him. Things aren't unbelievably wonderful right now, nor are they painfully and dark. I'm not doing anything particularly special, nor have I learned anything lately that's turned my life upside-down. I'm just here, being me. What does God have to do with me being me? Me being me is frighteningly small and boring.

However, as I've started a second read-through of Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest and read in Psalms and Mark, God has simply reminded me how little I know of him, yet how much he loves me in my ignorance and wants to simply spend time with me. God's love is the biggest, most encompassing force I can imagine, yet I've managed (so I thought) to squeeze it into a neat little box in the corner of my mind labeled "For Further Intellectual Enquiry at a Later Date." It's no wonder I go around with a vague feeling of self-imposed loneliness.

So, yeah. I have this annoying habit of pushing love away when I see it being poured recklessly upon me. Now open the floodgates, Lord, and let me taste the joyful, heart-ful abandon of a life filled by you!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My First Audiobook

I am proud to have studied under author Mel Odom for the last few years of my undergraduate studies. He is a talented writer, a superb teacher and a friend I greatly admire. 

If and when I get my first book published, I intend to dedicate it to him.

Recently, Mel and I have collaborated on a project - recording an audiobook to accompany the novella he published on Kindle. The story is called The Affair of the Wooden Boy and is a colorful and exciting read.

Mel discovered that I can conjure up a "radio voice" when needed, and he thought it sounded great. He recruited me to record the audiobook version of his story for him, and now we're going to sell it on Amazon and see how it goes. It's a publishing experiment. Writers, you'll understand. 

Check out the promo page that Mel set up, and listen to the first chapter of The Affair of the Wooden Boy!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thoughts from a First-Time Harry Potter Reader

Well, folks, the title is just what it sounds. I've never read Harry Potter before! Please, hold back your collective gasp! I'm a poser bibliophile is what I am, apparently. Instead of shunning me from your hearts and minds forever, though, perhaps you'd like to hear a few of my thoughts first?

Books vs. Movies

I'm not far into The Sorcerer's Stone yet. In fact, Harry has only just learned of his past from Hagrid, since those darn Dursleys (just thinking about them makes my blood pressure rise) failed to inform him that he is a wizard. 

However, one thing is eminently clear - the Harry Potter movies are incapable of creating proper pathos for Harry.

[Pathos (n) - an emotion of sympathetic pity]

Surprisingly, since I sometimes sport the memory of a goldfish, I remember the first time I watched The Sorcerer's Stone. I recall that the Dursleys were annoying, and that Dudley was ugly. Honestly, though, the only thing I remember about Harry Potter is that he was smiling gleefully when his letters from Hogwarts came pouring through the fireplace. I had no sense of compassion or hurt for the fact that he was basically being abused by his family. 

Reading the book, on the other hand, makes me want to cry for the kid. Shut up in the cupboard under the stairs, thinking a good day is a trip to the zoo where he is practically ignored...awful stuff. 

You might be thinking, "The books is always better than the movie." While I cannot substantiate that statement, based on the principle delineated in the following scene in Napoleon Dynamite...

Napoleon: This is pretty much the worst video ever made.
Kip: Napoleon, like any one can even know that.

...I can say that I already see how seriously lacking my conception of HP characters is having only seen the movies. Some movies are able to communicate a depth of character that does the book some justice, but the HP series probably isn't among them. The story may be much too complex for that, or the movie making just not quite thoughtful enough.

I'll read on, and we shall see!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I Have Bruxism.

That's right, folks; it exists, and I have it.

The Merriam-Webster definition of bruxism is "the habit of unconsciously gritting or grinding the teeth especially in situations of stress or during sleep."

This only started in the past three months or so. At first I thought I must be doing something awesome in my subconscious, like fighting velociraptors in my dreams, but it turns out that I just do it. When I'm stressed, when I'm not stressed, when I'm engaging in an apologetic tirade (which is a story for another time) or participating in a dance-off in my dreams, I grind my teeth so hard that it wakes up my poor husband most nights. 

As I mentioned this to various friends, I was surprised at how many of them knew that Wal-Mart sells "dental guards" to ameliorate the effects of bruxism. Not that they used the term, but come on. I mean, how pervasive is this condition? For all I know, my college friends all have small boxes with molds shaped to their implements of chomping while I thought I was the only one in the world who was apparently so disturbed that I had to masticate the helpless folds of nothingness for hours each night.

Anyway, Chris and I went to Wal-Mart today, and I bought a dental guard. 

I don't know why she's so happy to have one.

Here's mine! Yusss.

This particular dental guard was roundabouts $23. Okay. Cool. Whatevs. The disturbing part was the packaging. In the upper-right corner was a picture of teeth - yes, just teeth - with a huge, 200-lb weight bearing down on them. "This is what grinding your teeth is like!!!!!!" the caption read (though perhaps it did not have 6 exclamation points, or any at all). 

Greeeat. Not only have I not been fighting velociraptors, I've been putting a 200-lb weight on my teeth. 

So, my exciting activity for tonight was boiling the guard to soften the plastic-like material, then shape it to my teeth. Now my "dentures," as I call them, are all ready to go when I feel like closing my computer and closing my eyes. I must say, this all makes me feel rather humbled. There's nothing like having a weird device to keep you from unwittingly doing something that's bad for you that you can't stop doing even when you want to to take you down a peg.

Anyhow, thus concludes another episode of my surprisingly normal odd life. If your teeth and jaw hurt in the morning and your "sleep partner" - as the package calls the unfortunate person who has to put up with the lovely crrrk crrrk crrrkkk your grinding teeth make - has especially dark circles under his/her eyes, you mighty have bruxism. 

So then, dear reader, you should join me in my grand denture adventure.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Song, in Sadness

Special thanks to Emily Dickinson and William Ernest Henley

I’m like a bird that is losing her path
In the sky
I’m getting hurt by the same winds that helped me
To fly

And none of the things that have feathers
Perch in my soul
Singing the tunes without words,
Never stopping at all

How awesome is the darkness—
How deep the hopeless holes—
That shadows all the pathways
That barricades the roads!

They never quench my thirsting
Or wrap me up at night
So why does sitting in them
Still make me feel all right?

This is my turn, but the road’s looking long
Up ahead
How can I walk when my heart and my feet
Are like lead?

And sometimes the gates there look straight,
And no sins mark the scroll
Yet I do not master my fate,
Nor captain my soul

How awesome is the darkness—
How deep the hopeless holes—
That shadows all the pathways
That barricades the roads!

They never sate my hunger
Or tuck me in at night
So why does singing of them
Still make me feel all right?

All right...
All right...

Hope is a thing with feathers
With feathers, with feathers
Let these words fly, I’ll feel better
Feel better, feel better.
Hope is a thing with feathers,
With feathers, with feathers
Now it can land, and I’ll feel better
I’m better, I’m better...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Rant About Facebook

Well, it seems my blog has become unduly boring, dear reader, mostly due to the fact that I've consistently neglected it for the last few months. However, I do have some incendiary insights to share with you today, about your favorite topic (yes - I know all  your favorite topics) -- Facebook.

Photo courtesy

I am taking a Facebook hiatus. I know this may be a foreign concept to many, but let me explain.

In case you didn't know (I mentioned it to a teacher today, and he didn't know and found it rather hilarious), people over the last few years have taken to giving up Facebook for Lent. I think it's a good idea. It's not exactly why I'm taking a break, however.

In the midst of conversation with PJ and Katie, I discovered that I turn to Facebook when I'm having a bad day. I don't know why, for I certainly don't find solace there. In fact, Facebook, like good wine, is proven to be a depressor -- looking at the highlights of the lives of others certainly isn't going to make you feel great about your own lame, bad day, after all.

Because of this, I decided to see how I fared off Facebook.

Guess what?

I feel markedly better, and I've redeemed at least three hours per week.

That's not insignificant. Think about it.


I'm serious! There's a flipside to the coin, of course, but I'm going to concentrate on the negative side for now. The advent of Facebook has created a relational phenomenon -- we now conduct our relationships in the public eye, often for the public eye.

When someone asks you out but doesn't subsequently post that he's/she's your boyfriend/girlfriend on Facebook, are you really, officially going out?

What's the best way to show that you're having fun in college? Why, post pictures, of course! Your old high school classmates are never going to know that you're having a great life unless you provide them with the all-important, indisputable proof of a photograph.

I'm only being a bit hyperbolic. Since I've gotten off Facebook, some people seem to think it equivalent to my showing up on a list of missing persons. Among the reactions...

A text message asking, "Jaimie!! What happened to your Facebook?!"

Uh... *shifty eyes* If I killed it, can we still be friends?

A text message from a friend I haven't heard from in forever: "Hey, I was thinking about you and just wanted to see how you were doing!"

My answer, suspecting the issue: "I'm doing well! I'm taking a break from Facebook if you were wondering what happened to me. :)"

Her answer: "That's exactly what I was wondering!"

>_> Oh. I thought maybe you were just asking because I actually came to mind out of nowhere. But the absence of my Facebook is important, too.

I know, I know. I'm being overly sarcastic, but you get the picture. I'm going to resume Facebook after Easter (not coincidentally, which is why Lent only partly plays into this), so it's not like I'm advocating a total shut-down. It does frustrate me, however, to see the effects that my leaving the Facebook world has on some people's peace of mind.

So, to all who were wondering: off-screen, my life goes on.

I promise.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Transparencies, Fourth Part

Ministry is  hard. Sometimes, it's really frustrating.

I often fear that I'm damaging peoples' faith, not building it, but I know that's a lie from the enemy. If I share the word prayerfully, God is able to cover over my mistakes, I believe.

Sometimes, my ministry feels unusable and ignorant and stale.

But today I am one day more sanctified than yesterday. Today, Christ teaches me how to be more like him, and it is in him, not in my knowledge or ability, that I put my hope.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Death, and a Challenge

I have a challenge for you.

First, read this Facebook note by my friend Emily. No, that is not the challenge - I've posted some of Emily's writing before, and if you haven't read it yet I think you'll find it elegant, frank and full of wisdom.

This particular note is about death, inspired after Emily's beloved Grandmother passed away and she began thinking about the whole situation in light of Biblical truth. It's spot-on, and it's stuck with me throughout the week. God has used it to remind me that worldly beauty - which, as you know if you've been reading this blog for a while, is something I put an inappropriate amount of stock and hope in - is the end of my life, it'll be gone, and I'll have nothing to show for it.

There's more, of course, but I'll let you read it for yourself. My challenge is this: after you read the note, consider what you put your trust in. Not what you profess to put it in - what you actually do put it in when the scenes of life play out. Ask yourself: will it be there a the end? After I've lived, what will I have to show for it?

--- "Longing for a Better Country"

"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter because a sad face is good for the heart." -Ecclesiastes 7:2-3

I would dare anyone to visit a nursing home and walk away prideful. They are halls of death, corridors where people come to await their final breath. The names on the doors represent lives...Jane...Norman...decades of life, no doubt, but what does it matter now? They are but shells of their former selves. Perhaps they used to run, but now they cannot even stand. Perhaps they once did great things, but now they cannot even eat without great effort. My heart and mind are sobered and I am taught.

As I pass through these halls, I know that all roads lead here. Whether our lives are marked by wealth, poverty, the extraordinary, or the ordinary, they all converge to this spot, to this door of death. How little we think about it and what a tragedy that is, for it is the destiny of us all and when we arrive, so many of us find that we have been deceived. All those comforts and achievements we fought for have betrayed us. We are left alone with nothing but the sound of the machines and a thin gown. We find that even our bodies have lied to us. We are not strong, for we cannot even sit up. We are not beautiful, for our flesh is deteriorating. We are not smart, for our minds have abandoned us to a dim fog.

These truths must be pondered in life to prepare for death. If we do, we find wisdom. We learn that "the world and its desires shall pass away, but the man who does the will of God will live forever." I John 2:17 And there is One in whom we can hope and trust who will not deceive us or desert us, but draws near to us as we draw near to Him. We must choose Him over the things of this world so that when we meet our common destiny, our hope does not vanish like the finals rays of day, but rather, grows ever brighter like the coming dawn.

Then we will not be surprised or hurt by the desertion of the things of this world, for we did not cling to them in the first place. The simple truth is that we will all die. We will all be humbled and brought low, but it is our choice of how and when. We can ignore this truth and reality and have all that we cling to ripped from our hands, leaving us alone and afraid in our final moments, or we can embrace wisdom. We can release our false hopes now, humble ourselves now, cling to Jesus now, and so someday, meet death not as a thief of all we hold dear, but as a giver of what we have hoped for, but not seen, the fulfillment of our faith.

I have been reflecting on what a strange thing it is for us to say that someone died, as if they did it on purpose, took some kind of action. In truth, living and dying are such passive acts that we have no say in. We do not choose to be born, not do we choose to die. Our hearts beat. We inhale. We exhale. But there is nothing purposeful in that, nor is there anything purposeful in ceasing to do so.

Yet, it occurs to me that there is a paradox here, a reality that so few come to face. In order to have any kind of purpose, we must live to die and die to live. Of course, it is more than the physical living and dying that we cannot escape even if we should wish it. But no, in living to die and dying to live, we focus our hearts, our minds, and our bodies on putting to death our false and transitory hopes, on considering all our profit and gain as loss for the sake of Christ. And Christ is our model. He himself came to this earth and lived to die, but He knew the Father's promise. “He poured out his life unto death,” Isaiah 53:12 knowing that “after the suffering of His soul, He would see the light of life, and be satisfied” Isaiah 53:11

So, we must follow in His footsteps. For His sake, “we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered” Romans 8:36 We die to ourselves and this world deliberately, purposefully so that we might live and live just as deliberately and purposefully as we have died. In so doing, we gain the censure of the world and are counted as fools. “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12 And I now find that the wisdom of this truth has never been more clearly authenticated. I perceive it and lay hold of it and exhort you to do the same. If we do, we live it out. We “give what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose.” And we are no fools.

But what of those left behind? What balm do we find for the sorrow of our souls? What ointment to assauge the sting of loss? It is nothing of this world, for we have seen how fleeting it is. Indeed, the changefulness of this world, the sifting of its shores teach us not to build here, but to build upon His future promises. We must be like Abraham, and by faith, look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10 The pain of this world, teaches us to distrust it and admit that we are “aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own”....for we are “longing for a better country—a heavenly one” Hebrews 11:13-16

So, we lift our eyes to heaven. We deposit our trust in His love. We “consider him faithful who has made the promise.” Hebrews 11:11 We build on that promise and long for a better country. And we do not do so in vain, for it is an ever-fixed shore whose sands are not altered by the tide of time nor the winds of change. Pain and sorrow find no root there, and upon it treads our Savior, our King, our Conqueror. On Him we fasten our gaze and to His word we cling, believing and knowing that one day “he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 25:7-8

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Status and Stasis

Hello, world out there!

It's been many a day since I last blogged, and for that, I beg your forgiveness. Not that any of you were holding it against me, but oh well.

Life in the Krycho household is fine. God has restored a lot of happiness around here since I've been doing so much better. No big news to share - Chris continues to work faithfully, even when he has no work, and I continue to slave away in school against the slings and arrows of outrageous senioritis and the desire to do nothing else but work on my fantasy novel.

Lately, I've been taking care of my Nepalese friends's - Keshav and Deva's - two young children, ages two and six (as well as occasionally getting to hold their newborn!). It has been quite the learning experience for me. I've taken care of kids before, having worked in my former church's daycare for three years. Since I'm living in the same apartment complex as these kids, though, I can go over at random times, invite them outside to play, bake cookies with them...the possibilities are endless.

Because of that, I more fully realize how difficult it is to care for children, especially when they're disobeying! Parenthood carries a weight of responsibility that I cannot fathom until I experience it, I'm sure. That's why I can now say: I can rest in goodness of the fact that Chris and I do not have children yet.  God knows what he's doing. I will rejoice like crazy when I am finally a mother, but until then, I have a glimpse of a reason why God is postponing that stage of our lives (or perhaps we'll  never be parents, and if that is God's will, it is still good).

So there's that. I'm also blessed by my friendship with that family, particularly with Deva. It's different than anything I've known, especially when it comes to talking about God and Christ. Deva, like the rest of her family, is Hindu, which means (in addition to other things, of course) that "she respects all religions." Instead of butting up against staunch atheism or deism, I am now facing a tolerant polytheism that draws the Christian God in as just another deity in a line of divine beings.

This is forcing me to trust God in a new way -- to truly acknowledge that salvation is always miraculous, and the miracle that God works at other times in ways that are way more familiar to me is just as possible here with Deva and her family. Our God does not change from situation to situation, and that is profoundly comforting.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Jar of the Body

If you break the jar of the body
You will find blackness inside.
So cleverly hidden, black string in the water
Dispersing rapidly, infecting everything
Inside the jar of the body.
Outside the jar of the body
Beguiling beautifully, deceiving sweetly
So perfectly aligned, these jars on display
Though you would find blackness inside
You will never break them to find it.
You will never find what you seek
If you seek whiteness inside.
So hard to accept, a truth half-realized
Desire for good, good not fully manifest
Inside the jar of the body.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Morsel of Tremendous Weight

This morning was "Communion Sunday" at Wildwood. Our church celebrates Communion every fourth Sunday of the month, which means it doesn't happen often, and I'm always pretty excited when it does.

Dave Robbins, our youth pastor, preached the message, which he opened with a string of humorous oxymorons including "hospital food," "military intelligence" (well, he implied this one but didn't outright state it because "he wants the military people to like him"), and "casual sex."

Finally,  he came to "self righteousness." You can imagine how the sermon went from there. We have no righteousness in our selves at all - we have nothing to offer in the way of goodness. It is only through Christ becoming sin on our behalf that we now have the righteousness of God; that we have righteousness at all!

I was particularly blessed by Dave's highlighting of this passage in 1 Corinthians 11:27-28:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

Communion is serious. Someone who is not a believer should not partake of it. Believers should search their hearts - "examine themselves," as it were - before partaking. We must consider where our lives are not lining up with our holy identities before we engage in such a vivid picture of the gospel and the holiness in which we now live.

I am so appreciative that the Wildwood pastors care enough to admonish their flock about the importance of a right heart in Communion, because it doesn't seem like a topic that Christians often talk about. It's not a warm, fuzzy verse in any way. Au contraire, it's really a bit alarming - no one wants to incur guilt by taking the Lord's Supper! Such verses can be hard to bring up with a few people, much less an entire congregation.

The Holy Spirit's presence was strong today as the congregation met with the Lord, repenting in humility and joy. My heart was richly blessed with the resplendence of the gospel - in addition, I was reminded that we should not be afraid to talk about the "hard things" in the Bible. They are there for a reason, and God will use them, as he did today. All praise and glory be to him!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Great Adventure of the Christian Life

I'm coming to realize something -- a great truth.

It came after a bout of bitter tears yesterday. The short of it was I was questioning God's timing in several areas of my life. I couldn't comprehend why God would withhold something from me that is good, that I earnestly desire and that I would do well with.

As I was crying, a statement I made months ago came to mind. I was describing a young man I know to Chris. I said that the young man "has so much love to give that he just wants to put it somewhere. However, he directs it all into the wrong places (in this case, to girlfriends instead of God)."

Suddenly, I realized that I was no different from that young man. I had so much good intention toward this thing I wanted from God -- so much enthusiasm and love! Wisdom settled into my heart like a sweet, comforting whisper sinking into my ears. Don't direct your enthusiasm and love into all the wrong places. Give it all to God. Find all joy in him. Be completely content in him."

This is the great adventure of the Christian life: that as we walk with God, relying on him entirely, the things he chooses to give us along the way will be sweeter and more beautiful surprises than what we would've chosen for ourselves. We always try to conjure - we try to make spiritual situations happen, we try to improve ourselves, we try to love people better. The truth is, when we let go and say, "God, I love you above all. I will follow you whatever you ask me to do," we're so busy looking at God that we don't even realize we're about to stumble on a moment of great spiritual significance, growth, or depth. Then we stumble upon it, and our joy is unsurpassable. We are able to say, "God, when I trusted you, you brought me right to where I needed to be. You blessed me in a place I wasn't even looking for blessing. Thank you, mighty Father!"

I long to live the adventure. Truly, there is nothing my heart wants more!

Monday, January 10, 2011


Dear friends,

Again, I want to feature the work of another writer that I think you will enjoy. My husband wrote this poem for me not too long ago, on my 22nd birthday. I think it's beautiful.

What? Do you dare to suggest that this is an excuse for not writing myself? Well, maybe the tiniest bit. :) Mostly, though, I want to share the art. Hope you like it.



Though darkness came this year, and pain
it has not cast us down nor any battle won,
and clouds there are that gather still
but cannot kill the sky nor hide the rising sun

Through trial, tempest, shadows, rain,
we jogged like dogged marathoners 'gainst our fears
though road was turned to mud and mire
our feet we pounded, raised again against the year

Though murk and gloom around have lain
it has not conquered you (nor us) nor overcome
and mighty though its bluster be
this sorrow is but fog, by daylight soon undone

Through canyons, valleys, crevices,
we hiked like mountaineers against the rocks and shame
though path was crumbling dust and shale
we unimpressed pressed on, though wearied, wounded, lamed


Another year awaits your tired, lovely soul,
But I swear again you will not walk these months alone.

My hand in yours, your beauty still my sword against the night
until we two shall set the world alight, aright, aflight

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Race for Our Humility

Dear friends,

Be encouraged today! Read this wonderful post by my freshman roommate, Emily Powell. She is a wise, godly woman and a dear friend. She writes from the perspective of a Christian philosophy major at the University of Oklahoma.


This note is the product of the combination of my insomnia, stimulating conversations with my parents, and the current quandary of what in the world God wants me to do with my life.

There are several passages of the New Testament that give us images of running a race. We are exhorted, as Christians, to run the race with perseverance, run in such a way to get the prize, run, run, run. I don't know about you, but when I read these passages, I often get rather excited. I am called to the noble, glorious task of running the race, complete with a slow motion ending and Chariots of Fire theme song as I cross the finish line. Sadly, these images of glory are not easily reconciled with the reality of life. I'm not hearing the theme song whenever I'm having a bad day or someone cuts me off in traffic or especially when I'm told that I basically have no chance of achieving my philosophical aspirations because everyone just thinks I'm a stupid Christian. The nerve! Don't they know who I am? I'm a child of God. I've got a race to run here, people and you're making it really hard for me to look great while I do it. But I am beginning to grasp something that is very important. My frustration stems from a misconception. For we are not called to greatness. We are called to lowliness. The actual goal of the Christian life is to lose all our pride, all our glory for the sake of Christ.

However, from the time we are young, we receive a different message, a different goal. We are fed the wisdom of the world, and inevitably as well as unfortunately, some of it sinks in. One of the core "truths" the world teaches us is that we are our own gods and we should live to exalt ourselves. Now, of course, they don't come right out and say this, but it is the underlying message behind all the "believe in yourself" posters pasted across elementary school classrooms. Perhaps, the more adult version of this are "self-help" Christians like Joel Olsteen who assure us that we just have to actualize our own potential. We race for our own sakes and God is that nice teddy-bear-like guy in the sky who loves us so much He just can't wait to help us along in the pursuit of our own glorification. Beware. This is not only wrong, it is, as I am becoming increasingly aware, completely contrary to the message of the Bible.

Yet, we can easily fall prey to this, at least to some extent. It is actually quite alarming how many people ascribe to this kind of soft, fuzzy Christianity complete with a simplistic, "Jesus Loves You" Gospel. The danger of this is that we completely misinterpret and misuse the truth that God loves us. Jesus is then put on the sidelines of the race, cheering us on and saying, "just believe in yourselves!" His love becomes nothing but a bonus prize that confirms that we're really something special. We know it and we're glad God does too. This is basically nothing but worldly wisdom dressed up in its Sunday best. Don't misunderstand me. God does love us and He loves us in a powerful, unfathomable, and lavish way. However, it is not a love that elevates us. Rather, it is a love that first, brings us low and then, draws us near. If we truly grasp who God is and who we are, the knowledge that He loves us should not inspire pride, but rather, the deepest humility.
One of the main themes of the Gospel is restoration. Jesus, through His sacrifice, has restored what was lost in the garden of Eden. But what was lost? It says in Genesis 2:25 that "the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." Think about that, and not just literally, but symbolically as well. Think about being totally and utterly exposed and yet, knowing no shame. This was possible for Adam and Eve before the Fall because they knew exactly who they were. They were in an incredibly humble state, but they were His. They needed no covering for this was enough.

However, after they ate the fruit, "they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." Genesis 3:7 They lost their identity in God that allowed them to exist just as they were, just as they were created to be. Now, they had to find ways to cover themselves and the shame of their exposure. I think of this symbolically. We use all manner of things to "cover" ourselves. Whether it be wealth, relationships, position, intelligence or even legalistic self-righteousness, we find ways to make sure we're not exposed and to convince the world and ourselves that we are okay. This is what is at the heart of the wisdom of the world, to dress ourselves up so we look better than we really are. We attempt to recreate, by our own efforts, the absolute peace and assurance of worth and identity that Adam and Eve had in the garden. But we cannot do this on our own! In fact, the message of the Gospel is to cast off our "coverings", our own feeble attempts at righteousness, and to merely be found in Christ.

I think that this idea of casting off our coverings is inextricably linked to the metaphor of running the race. One of my favorite pictures of the race that the Bible gives is the familiar passage of Philippians 3 where Paul exhorts us to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus." Can't you just hear the Chariots of Fire music now? But let's back up a little bit to verse 7. Here Pauls tells us that "whatever was to [his] profit he now considers loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, he considers everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord." Beautiful, eloquent, inspiring words indeed. But what is Paul really talking about here? What is he losing for the sake of Christ? In the preceding verses, he tell us. "If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." Philippians 3:4-6 Basically, the point is that, legalistically, Paul had it all. In terms of self-made "coverings," his were made of silk. And yet, he considered "them rubbish, that he may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of his own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ." Philippians 3:8-9 Paul, contrary to the wisdom of this world, was trading his high rank and reputation in order to know Christ and "the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Philippians 3:10

All this talk about suffering and death doesn't quite fit in with the self-glorification message of the world and my dreams of following in Eric Liddell's footsteps. And yet, this is the call of the Christian life, not to pomp and glory, but to imitate the incredible humility of the death of Christ. Think about it. We are commanded to be like Christ, but what was Christ like? As he walked to Calvary, did He grasp at coverings, at dignity, at pride? No. Rather, for our sake, He was humbled and completely and utterly exposed. Should we not, in turn, be willing to do the same for His sake? Yes, we should! So, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1 Yet, we should remember, with sobriety, that in throwing off everything that hinders, we may very well be left totally exposed, totally humiliated. We may not achieve anything particularly remarkable according to worldly standards or gain any kind of recognition. We may not gain much of anything on this side of the finish line. In fact, it is much more likely that we will gain the censure and the mockery of the world, suffering and humiliation. We might lose it all. We might have to stand exposed for the sake of Christ. If that is the price of His glory in our lives, we must be willing to pay it.

Yet, the beautiful and wondrous part of it is that, by casting off these "coverings", by forsaking the approval of man and the wisdom of this world, we are found in Christ. We belong to Him once more. We are, before God, as Adam and Eve were, exposed and yet, without shame. We are restored to that perfect state of humility, being just what we were created to be, nothing more, nothing less. Like them, we need no covering. For Christ's righteousness is our cloak, His grace our mantle. Now, freed from the need to cover ourselves, we no longer race in pursuit of our glory, but rather, we race in pursuit of our humility for the sake of His glory.

And now, I am going to bed. Or else I won't be racing anywhere for a really long time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

For Brentley

Blue eyes like stars landed
In a blanket of snow
Look world, look! The Lord rules the earth!
A smile that breaks gently
Like the water on sand
Sense world, sense! He moves His right arm!
Formless words - no sound prettier
My ears have yet heard
Hear world, hear! Our creative God speaks!
Oh, fair little creature,
Here, beauty I see
That makes the world tremble -
A hint of God's glory!

Photo courtesy

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review - Andrew Peterson's Counting Stars

For those moments when words fail, Andrew Peterson fills in the blanks, and he does it for God. Peterson’s worship overflows in a way that makes listeners desperately thirst to do the same – his new album is like a master painting that inspires others to pick up a brush and try to paint, too.

I’ve never heard the likes of Peterson – he truly wields his acoustic guitar and smooth voice like a paintbrush as he sings to life the spiritual and emotional beauties that overflow in the life of one who knows God. Counting Stars, the title of his most recent album released in July 2010, is an appropriate one. The collection of songs whispers of the treasures of unseen worlds, and reaches out an invisible hand to brush the edge of the infinite and flawless.

Peterson was born in small-town Florida in the 1980s, where he dreamed of adventure as he poured through fiction books like those of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Eventually, he moved to Nashville, where he began his career as a musician. His song “Nothing to Say” became a Top Ten radio hit in 2001. In addition, Peterson received a Dove Award nomination for his single "Family Man," and has since garnered much respect among other Christian musicians. Peterson is also an accomplished fantasy novelist as the author of the Wingfeather Saga, which won the 2010 Christy Award for best young adult fiction. He is married with two sons.

Peterson has frequently been compared to Rich Mullins, and rightly so. The self-proclaimed Mullins aficionado writes profound, yet conversational lyrics and plays with a mellow, folk-like sound that hearkens back to older Mullins songs like “Here in America.” However, Peterson drops the early 90’s flair and sticks to simple, effective instrumentation with acoustic guitar, piano, bass, light percussion, and occasionally strings and a french horn. The result is a sound that lends itself to quietness of mind, and simple consideration. Peterson invites us into this mindset in his charming opening song “Many Roads”:
If you'll step inside this great glass elevator/It'll take us up above the city lights/To where the planet curves away to the equator/I want to show you something fine.

There’s more to Peterson than just good sound, though. Clearly, he knows why he’s doing what he’s doing – God has given him a gift, and he wants to squeeze every last bit of joyful worship out of it to give back to his Lord. A listener will never get the impression that Peterson threw his lyrics together quickly or carelessly. The words are consistently thoughtful and thought provoking, simultaneously ministering to listeners in a raw, human-to-human way as in the song “You Came So Close,” and leading them past the wall of the mundane to the realm of the invisible God as in the more melancholy “The Last Frontier.”

Counting Stars covers a rich range of themes, from fidelity to the fear of God – basically, anything that stirs up Peterson’s bone-deep emotion. However, the songwriter’s central concept is that beauty saturates human experience, which he speaks extensively of in “The Magic Hour.” Though Peterson is too subtle to out-and-out state that theme, it’s incredibly clear. Just as the promise that Abraham’s descendants would outnumber the stars (Genesis 15:5) began with God, every statement about life that Peterson makes points to God, its origin.

No matter where a Christian listener is in life, Counting Stars will renew the childlike wonder of the listener’s soul. Peterson is an artist worth commending and supporting as he continues to use his talent to glorify God.