advent - peace

Advent – Week Two 

Peace is one of the most beautiful parts of Christmas. This advent season always comes in the darkest time of year physically, and often the darkest in other ways as well. But Christmas is the reminder that God keeps His promises and that Shalom is coming, wholeness and fullness of relationship with people, with God, and with creation. I caught a glimpse of that peace on the faces of two of my best friends today: Claire, babysitting with me, and holding Remi contentedly in her lap. When we don't want or need time to move on. When for a moment we are content, despite everything. I'll be looking for more of those glimpses that remind us that full Shalom is coming. 

Advent is the holy season that precedes Christmas. From the Latin adventus, meaning “arrival,” it is a time of hope and expectancy, when Christians prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ. Each of the four weeks of advent encompass a theme; this week’s theme is Peace, Repentance, and Justice. Use these prayers and Scriptures to prepare your heart for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Advent Collect (Book of Common Prayer)
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Select Prayer (Revised Common Lectionary)
Laboring God, with axe and winnowing fork you clear a holy space where hurt and destruction have no place, and a little child holds sway. Clear our lives of hatred and despair, sow seeds of joy and peace, that shoots of hope may spring forth and we may live in harmony with one another. Amen.

Hebrew Bible         Psalm           New Testament          Gospel
Isaiah 11:1-10        Psalm 72      Romans 15:4-13        Matthew 3:1-12

The wrong shall fail, The right prevail 
With Peace on earth, Goodwill to men 


advent - hope

Advent – Week One 

Today is the first day of Advent for 2017. I have been so looking forward to this season of preparing the way to remember Jesus' arrival. I want to be intentional with these next 22 days until Christmas, and perhaps you do as well. Each week I'll post a sheet that I put together for the prayer ministry here on campus in the hopes that it will help you focus on the beauty of Advent. The commercialism and materialism doesn't have to dominate this season for us; we can be culture-shifters who actually need less things and more Jesus. 

What is Advent?
Advent is the holy season that precedes Christmas. From the Latin adventus, meaning “arrival,” it is a time of hope and expectancy, when Christians prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ. Each of the four weeks of advent encompass a theme; this week’s theme is Hope, Salvation, Prophecy, and Judgment. Use these prayers and Scriptures to prepare your heart for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Advent Collect (Book of Common Prayer)
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Select Prayer (Revised Common Lectionary)
Unexpected God, your advent alarms us. Wake us from drowsy worship, from the sleep that neglects love, and the sedative of misdirected frenzy. Awaken us now to your coming, and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.

Hebrew Bible            Psalm                   New Testament                    Gospel
Isaiah 2:1-5        Psalm 122       Romans 13:11-14        Matthew 24:36-44

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn 


of mosaics

This past Thursday was six months since Dad's accident. I didn't know if it would be really hard or really not a big deal, no worse than the average day, or the average Tuesday. Kelly prepared a beautiful, contemplative, commemorative day for me. We were looking forward to it for weeks, especially making a mosaic.

The spiritual parallels surrounding mosaics are by no means new; the beauty has been appreciated over and over again. But the process was especially beautiful for me this week, and it seemed quite clear that I would write about it for this week's post.

We smashed some unwanted dishes. I smashed it like the way Satan will be smashed, sin will be smashed, death will be broken.

I started trying to make my mosaic. It was yachal, the Hebrew word I wrote about two weeks ago. We used different pieces from different dishes in order to have different colors. It made me think about how God uses all the pieces of our brokenness, weaving them together, using all things for good, never wasting anything.

It was really hard. It's a puzzle where you're not guaranteed to find a piece that fits. It gave me such a grander appreciation for the omnipotence and love of God who somehow has the power and ability to work all things together for good for those who love him.

I think it's beautiful that God isn't necessarily making the pieces not broken anymore, but he's using them the way they are. He's making something new. It gives purpose to something broken.

It's incredible that in order to make the mosaic, you have to break the pieces. There would be no art without the shattered fragments.

Another interesting unexpected parallel: the mosaics didn't look very good when we were done. We were all a little disappointed. But then I took Kelly's and held it far away. She was amazed at how cohesive the pieces looked from a distance. It made me realize that we have such a close-up, small-picture view of our own lives. But from a big-picture, eternal, broad perspective, it's more cohesive than we realize now. I can only hope for more glimpses of what God is seeing. We'll see it someday.



Simple and cliché as it may be, in honor of Thanksgiving this week and after a long week at school, I want to write a list of things I am thankful for. It will not be exhaustive; it never could be. And it will not be in any order. It may be more for my own benefit in the writing and remember, but perhaps it can also be a reminder for you to remember all you are thankful for as well.

I am thankful for rain.

I am thankful for my roommate. It's her birthday tomorrow; she is a joy, a person full of passion and drive, thoughtful and easy to be with.

I am thankful for this song. I heard it for the first time today and it's playing on repeat now.

I am thankful for church right now, a small Anglican community downtown that I never pictured myself with but who have blessed me with familiarity, ritual, liturgy, reverence, and peace.

I am thankful for photographs.

I am thankful for memories.

I am thankful for a dorm full of girls who bless me so regularly, who wrote personalized encouragement to each other all over the whiteboard in our lounge.

I am thankful for exegetical papers.

I am thankful for my little family here at TWU, for how they show so much love, and for a precious 2-year-old with Down's Syndrome who teaches us that unexpected journeys can be so beautiful.

I am thankful for knocks on the door and spontaneous deep conversations that happened in the middle of writing this sentence.

I am thankful that I get to study linguistics.

I am thankful for a family that calls me, emails me, texts me, prays for me, and loves me.

I am thankful for safe places.

I am thankful for a jar full of marble, a handmade wooden cross, and a growing stack of notes.

I am thankful for hope.

I am thankful for the Big Dipper.

I am thankful for teachings that constantly shape me to be more like Jesus.

I am thankful for invitations, initiative, and innovation.

I am thankful for a God who came and who comes.

I am thankful for twenty-two and a half years of having a father who helped me know I could love and trust God because I knew I could love and trust him.

There are a lot of things I'm not thankful for, but I can leave them for another day. Today, or at least right now, I'm reminded of how much I am thankful for. And I am grateful that I have Someone to thank.

Thank you, Father.


a study of hope

I've had the first word below written on my arm all week. I've written it on the outside of my door. I've spoken of it in chapel and in conversation. I've searched for it as I read the Bible. I've pondered and prayed it. When I asked one of the girls in the dorm what I should write my blog post about tonight, she said, "Yachal!" 

First, a bit of technical but incredibly meaningful jargon. But keep reading for the beautiful stuff. 

Yachal is the Hebrew word meaning, briefly, "to wait, to hope." And I think there is so much beauty in the fact that Hebrew combines those concepts as one. Waiting and hoping. In some of my further study of the idea of "hope," I've discovered that yachal is not alone in its depth of meaning. 

As I looked into the deeper meaning of yachal, still in awe of the connection between "wait" and "hope," I found that another form of the word "hope" in Hebrew is batach, which not only means "to hope," but also "to trust." That really surprised me; we think of trust and hope as two very separate ideas, separate emotions, separate mental processes. "Trust" and "hope" have been the two biggest ideas that I have been wrestling through this semester. There is something so profound in the fact that the language of the Old Testament, the language in which God first revealed Himself, those two concepts are nearly one in the same. 

And not just the Old Testament. In New Testament Koine Greek, there is really only one commonly used word for hope, elpizo, and it also encapsulates "trust" and "hope" into one word. 

I've included the definitions of some of these incredible words. 

yachal - to remain, to delay, to expect, to hope, to wait (for)

batach - to trust, to hope in, to confide in, to set one’s hope and confidence upon anyone, to be secure, to fear nothing for oneself

qavah - to bind, to be strong, robust, to expect, to await, to be gathered together

sabar - to look at, to view, to expect, wait for, to hope

elpizo - to hope, to hopefully trust in, to wait for salvation with joy and full of confidence, to trust in

You can see them for yourself here; explore the verses in which they are used!

To wait is to trust.

To trust is to hope.

To hope is to believe there is something worth waiting for.

I put this into practice yesterday. I needed to do some processing of some hard memories from around the accident, but I didn't want to because it was late; everyone was either gone for reading break or sleeping already. I wondered why I felt like I needed people around in order to do this. I realized that I didn't actually think I could trust God to be as much of a comforter as another human could be. But everything I say I believe about God preaches the opposite - I believe, even if I doubt, that God is the ultimate comforter, the best comforter, the most present comforter. At least, I hoped so. I hoped he would come through, hoped he would show up, but the only way to find out would be to actually trust him. And the only way to actually trust him would be to put myself in the situation where he has to come through. It was a scary thought. I waited a long time before I was ready. Then I dove in; I journaled and cried, and felt like I was literally in the arms of Jesus, my head on his chest as we cried together. It wasn't until I opened my eyes at one point that I realized that he wasn't physically there next to me. If someone had seen me in the room, it would have looked like I was alone, but I wasn't. I had decided to hope in him, to wait for him, to expect him, to trust him just a little bit more. And with each fulfilled hope, each tiny step forward, I trust him more.

We must hope. We must wait, we must trust that there is something worth waiting for.

But we are not the only ones who hope.

Earlier this week, broken by the stories of people whose lives have contained so, so much hurt, I sat and asked God, Why don't you come back already? Why haven't you ended this yet? And I realized in a moment, in one breath, that God must love us so much because he continues to allow suffering that he hates in order to allow more time for more people to be saved. The people who are yet unsaved, he knows them and he wants them. Even the people who are yet unborn, he knows them and he wants them. He hates, hates, hates the evil and distress that is hurting his children. He hates it. But he is waiting. Waiting. Waiting and hoping. God is the author of hope because he hopes more than any of us. He is the Great Hoper, the One of Great Hope. He longs for, expects, gathers together, waits.

To wait is to trust.

To trust is to hope.

To hope is to believe there is something worth waiting for.

He believes we are worth waiting for.

I believe he is worth waiting for. He is worth trusting. He is worth hoping in.

Jesus is my hope, my trust, my everything. He will be yours too.



Psalm 51

Have mercy on me,O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

This Psalm has been translated into Latin and used in the beautiful piece, Miserere Mei, Deus. Kelly shared the music with me this week, and its beauty has blessed me. 



I went outside to meet with Jesus today on a bench by the pond. 

I'm reading through the gospel of Mark a chapter at a time, in chapter 4 today. It's a chapter of Jesus telling parable after parable, and then ends with the story of Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The chapter ends with the disciples asking, "Who is this, that even the winds and the seas obey him?" It struck me that after a chapter's worth of teaching, no miracle stories, just parables, perhaps the disciples had started to become comfortable with this teacher-Jesus, this Rabbi who tells meaningful stories about the kingdom of God and not a lot more. Their faith was small, they didn't even ask him to calm the storm, they just woke him up from his nap to beg for help in keeping the boat afloat. He surprised them. He was more than who they thought He was. 

I asked Holy Spirit why that had stood out to me in the story I read today. I felt like he asked me, "Are you ready for surprises?" 

And my quick, unhesitating response was, "Yes." 

It surprised me, actually, because I've felt that I'm becoming more and more cautious, even timid, compared to who I used to be. But maybe that's not actually true. I felt that Holy Spirit wanted to remind me that Jesus is still more than I think He is. I will still be surprised by Him. Not every surprise is wanted or understood in the moment. But I want to know who Jesus is. 
I want His surprises.  

And the wind began to blow furiously; "wind," that word that means "Spirit" as well in both Hebrew and Greek. I looked up and saw Him everywhere. Yellow, orange, and red leaves were flying through the sky with the Canadian geese. The water was rippling and carrying leaves like tiny ships. The sun was shining and warming my arms and face as the wind whipped my hair. And I smiled, smiled so big at the beauty around me. And then I laughed at myself, and then I was surprised by joy. Surprised by a sudden simple happiness that wasn't ignorant of the past, but noticed the present. 

And then without realizing it, I was pulling out my little prayer notebook where I keep specific requests written until they are answered. I hadn't written anything since early September; I hadn't felt the faith. But I did today. I was surprised by faith, surprised by how suddenly I remembered that God is faithful, and I need to faithfully ask. 

Jesus continues to surprise me, and I'm on the look-out to know him more. I, like the disciples, want to find myself asking, "Who is this?"