I walked two miles in the rain to complete the Easter service ritual. I was tempted to feel as empty as my pew, the only one with a sole congregant in the packed sanctuary.

Easter is kind of funny because it's the only time when we celebrate emptiness. But God loves doing stuff like that. He takes our emptiness, sadness, and sorrow and transforms it all. He redeems. He gives us a reason to celebrate. We can rejoice in spite (and maybe because) of what we lack- because we have gained so much more. That's what Christianity is about.

It’s about how we didn’t know how lost we were until he found us. How we didn’t realize how deadened to him we were until he gave us life. It’s about how while we were not merely unlovable, but downright repulsive- that God Himself came to us and engaged with us. He became like us. He lived like us. But he didn’t die like us.

Just as through one man’s sin, death entered into the world, so, too, through one man’s death, death’s power and sting were overcome. For Christ wasn’t just any man, but a priest. Not just the high priest, but the great high priest, the Son of God, merciful and faithful in the service to God and helper to the offspring of Abraham. For our high priest has passed through both heaven and hell. He is not unable to sympathize with us in our weaknesses, but in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

The sinless Christ suffered and died and experienced the wrath of God so that those who place their hope in Him will not have to. Now, though we suffer and bear our crosses and, yes, even die, that empty tomb means so much for us. We have faith in its power, and that power is now our inheritance. We believe that which Christ has started, He will bring to completion. Two miles in the rain is a short journey compared to our sojourn through this life, and the average 78.7 years is miniscule compared to eternity. A ritual is not just a series of motions, but is a demonstration of hope for the future. We know this hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit he has given to us. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. So now these remain: faith, hope, and love. The grass will wither, and the flowers fall, but the Word who became flesh lasts forever. This is the symbol of the empty tomb.

This is our assurance; thanks be to God. Now we may go in His peace.

Options v. Solutions

(Meant to be a starting point, not the final word)

My soul, my soul must sing

The Answer

How long has it been?
How many years of the laying of hands and slitting throats
tossing blood against the altar
the firstfruit and the firstborn
Burnt, grain, peace, sin, guilt- were there more?
How many bulls, sheep, goats, turtledoves, pigeons
Lambs, innocent and whole, without blemish
Broken, and bleeding.
One was never enough.

How long has it been?
Forty-four days, years, decades
What an unlucky number!
Forty-four days of death and dying
No: more than that.
Forty-four days of realizing we were already dead
How many broken cisterns, failed attempts, and dirty rags?
They were never enough.

We demanded a king, a conqueror
One who would break the bow of bronze,
Hear our cries, and tear the yokes from our backs
A great tempest tearing rocks from the mountain
or the shaking of the ground and consuming tongues of fire
We stood at the mouth of the cave and waited.  Days.  Years.  Centuries.
But the LORD was not in the wind, not in the quake, not in the flame.
Not on a horse, but on a donkey
with a whisper.

Father, forgive them.

Living Theology

In the past around Christmas and Easter I start talking a lot about theology.  Instead, this Holy Week, I've been talking a lot about, well, me.  Or rather, how I've been applying theology to my life.  My life is so incredibly broken, and there is so much that becomes applicable.

In Christian circles, or at least in my Christian circles, there is a lot of talk about "preaching the Gospel" to yourself or "living cross-centered lives."  I'd imagine that many, like me, have heard these phrases but have not actually read the books.  We Christians like our phrases.  Organic.  Missional.  Kingdom-living.  Cross-centeredness.  But what do these phrases mean?  How is it that we apply theology to our lives?

I co-led a Bible study once.  Something my co-leader would always say is, "What does this look like?"  Someone would answer, "Well, it means we always have to remember the cross."  Then he would counter, "Well, what does remembering the cross look like?  What does it look like, really?"  That question was something that always struck me.  After leaving the group, I expanded on his question with my new Christian friends: "What does this look like on Tuesday morning?  Thursday afternoon?  What does it look like, really?"

If the Bible is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness, if it is a double-edged sword piercing through flesh and marrow, if it is living and active- if it is any of these things, then we should be able to point at our lives and think about how the Bible speaks to that area of our life.  Conversely, we should be able to point to the Bible and think about how we can apply that verse in our lives.

Tomorrow is Good Friday.  What does it mean?  And what does it mean to make the cross a daily reality for us, not just this week, but next month?

Frustration of Purpose

The TS saga continues.  I spent more time on the phone today.  I was put on hold five times within the same conversation.  I love how the "you're on hold" music is so cheery and joyful, almost like it's mocking my misery.  At this point, it doesn't look like I will be able to get an appointment.  It looks like I'll have to take my finals without any TS medication.  Now, TS medication isn't medically necessary.  Physically, I can't be harmed by TS symptoms, unless I tic violently at the top of a flight of stairs or something.  But tics are obnoxious.  Imagine going through life having no control over your physical body.  Your head jerks around, you get whiplash, you scream every so often.  It's no fun.

After I got off the phone with my neurologist's receptionist, I was very angry and frustrated.  Why did my old medication suddenly decide to give me major side effects now?  Why can't I get an appointment?  Why can't they call me back when they say they'll call me back?  Why am I being put on hold five times in the same conversation?  Why?  Why?  Why?

Then I realized it's all God's fault.  If he wanted my medication to work without giving me major side effects, I wouldn't get the side effects.  If he wanted me to get an appointment, I would get an appointment.  If he wanted me to be healthy, I wouldn't have TS.

My internal dialogue went something like this:
Seriously, God?
So you really want me to go through finals without having medication, huh?
But don't you know I need to do well on my finals?
Don't you know that if I don't do well, I won't have the finances to continue in law school?
Wasn't it your idea for me to go to law school?
I thought this was my "calling."
What if I fail at my calling?  What am I supposed to do then, huh?
Why are you against me?  Why are you frustrating my purpose?

I'm not sure why I landed on the thought of "frustration of purpose."  It sounds like something that would be in the Bible, maybe in the Psalms, or maybe when Paul was trying to get into Asia but couldn't.  Or maybe I thought of it because my contracts reading last night was titled "frustration of purpose."

Maybe God really is frustrating my purposes.  I thought about it, and then I kind of laughed at myself.  God frustrating me?  If I stepped back, if I didn't think about TS and finals and being put on hold- if I just thought about it for a second, it's rather laughable.  Me, a speck on this earth, pointing up at God, "You're frustrating me!  I have plans, you know, and you're ruining them!  How dare you!"

Somehow God hasn't struck me down with lightning yet.

Again, I'm reminded of holy week.  It's weird, how I keep having to remind myself.  So forgetful.  So silly.  One minute, I can praise God and thank him for the cross, and the next minute I'm telling God that he's frustrating my plans.

And He hasn't struck me down with lightning yet.

Isn't that amazing?  The grace, the love, the longsuffering, and the patience?  I think God sometimes looks at me and *facepalms*, yet he continues to love me.  That's what the cross is about.  It's about me failing time and time again.  It's about how I couldn't have pleased God even if I wanted to or tried.  But more importantly, it's not about me at all.

It's about the purposes of God, and how I can never, ever frustrate them.

edit: Awesomely enough, I finally was able to get an appt.  Praise God!



There is a song by Relient K that has the chorus:
Life could you be a little softer to me.
Life could you be more gentle to me.
Yeah I know this is a selfish plea,
Because Christ sacrificed his flesh
On the cross for me
I wrote about some of my recent Tourette's issues earlier.  I scheduled an appointment to see her on the one day I had off.  They confirmed over the phone that I had that appointment.  Yesterday, I found out the office messed up the scheduling.  I've been calling the office all day (Monday), and the receptionist assured me that she would call back by 5pm.  She didn't.  Now I'm dealing with TS symptoms and trying to study for finals.  If things continue as the are, I won't have any medication for finals and will take them with unabated TS symptoms.  At times like this, I'm really tempted to complain.  Why do I have to deal with all this?  I don't feel like I deserve this.  Yeah, I know I'm  selfish, but sometimes it would be nice if life were a little easier.  Why can't life's troubles pass over me?


And then I remembered that it's Lent, and more than that- Holy Week.  I remember my brokenness, and I'm filled with shame.  Just yesterday I was sitting in Palm Sunday service feeling sorry for myself because my pew was empty.  All the feelings of loneliness and frustration in not being able to find a church came back to me.  I was sitting in the House of God, and I felt so alone.  I was supposed to be worshiping God, but I couldn't get over my own self-absorption.  How shameful.  I  don't deserve your love or goodness.  Just pass me by.  Don't even look at me.  Pass over me.


Death passed over the early believers, the ones that had faith in Yahweh's promise.  But Yahweh didn't meet them.  Their only interaction with Him was on a mountain.  Twice-made carved stone.  A veiled, radiant face.  A cloud by day, a fire by night.  A tent.  The Holy-Holiest room into which one person with a rope around his ankle barely dared to tread once a year.

Death passes over us believers as well, the ones that have faith in Yahweh's promise.  While Death flies overhead, Christ is the sacrificial lamb.  We stay huddled in our tents and eat the bread and drink the wine, his body and blood.  Christ is our High Priest, but He is not the priest looking at us with disgust and disdain and taking the other side of the road and leaving us to die.  No, he stopped for us, and he let us kill him.  Why?  He could have let us perish, but He didn't.  He did not pass over us.  I do not understand.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.  It is high; I cannot attain it.


They crowd around me, vying for my attention.
The little ones, with their little hands
clasping my ankles, my jeans, my wrists
They are little, but they are many.

I toss my purse to the ground by the door and manage to make
three steps
into the room
before their little bodies block me.

By now, there are two, one wrapped around each leg
Standing on my feet, their arms encircling my thighs
and gripping tightly.
Three more encumber my fingers, wrists, arms
And I don’t know how many more
with wide, glistening eyes
just staring
vying for my attention.

At this point, I find that I am quite immobilized
and can move on no further-
not to my bed in the other room, or 
even the couch two feet away.

These tiny cares
the nagging of my mind
the quiet doubts
the restrictions and the responsibilities.
From my mind, they sprung up, fully armed
and ready to wage battle.
They were little, but they are many.
Oh, how fast they grow up.

A man named Christian once told me about a cross at the top of the hill
where his burdens slid off of his back
But that hill is a long journey’s away
And I, stationary, barely standing, am in my living room

In which posters remind me about eternity

I guess this is talk-about-my-party week. My roommate and I had a number of people over for a game night/ birthday shindig, and in the process of cleaning the apartment, I decided to finally put my posters up. I originally forwent putting posters up because I absolutely hated my apartment. Having a piece of myself bound to the walls of my apartment was the last thing I wanted. However, time progressed, and I came to terms with living here, and it was the least I could do to spruce my room up.

A quick cell phone snapshot I took right before it came crashing down.

I swear these walls are coated with ACME anti-stick.

From the second I put my posters up, it was like a sadistic game of whack-a-mole. One would fall down, and I would tape it up again. Then another would fall down, and I would fix that one. Then I would leave the room for two seconds and hear a *thud* as two more fell down. I used more double-stick poster tape. I used different kinds of double-stick poster tape. I used single-sided tape.

This continued for a good half a day before I gave up.

It's weird how much effort I put into a handful of posters.

I wanted to make my mark. I quite literally, wanted it to stick. It didn't, and it frustrated me.

But how long would I be in that apartment? A few years at most? What is the true importance of a few posters? None at all.

Sometimes I wonder if we have too many posters in our lives. Too many things that aren't working, but are giving us the runaround. Too many things that don't really matter but are sucking up our time and energy. I was humbled when I remembered that it's Lent, and I haven't really been thinking much about the cross. I was preoccupied with the party, and getting the cake, and putting up posters. How silly.

We lose sight so easily, don't we?

What are your posters? How do you identify or avoid them?

In which the Albertson's baker curses at me

(rox sm, flickr, CC2.0 SA)

The title says it all.

I think a lot of my experiences would have been avoided if I had a car. That being said, I needed a cake for my birthday party, so I ordered one online from Albertson's. It seemed like a great idea at the time. 1) Place your order online. 2) Pay for the order. 3) Bribe a friend to help you pick it up the day of the party. I was overjoyed that in this day and age online ordering was available. It's a lovely arrangement for a grocery store to offer its customers.

The day of my party (already running an hour later than I cared for), I go to pick up the cake from the store while my friend waited in the car. I go up to the counter and announced, "Hi, I'm here to pick up a cake. Let me give you the confirmation number of my order."

The baker stared back at me blankly.
We don't have your order.
   Um, I'm sorry?
We don't have your order.
   Well, I pre-paid for a cake online. I have the confirmation number right here. It was 1/4 sheet Red Velvet.
You need a receipt
   I don't have a receipt. I ordered online. I have a confirmation number.
We don't have your order
... (repeat last few lines of the conversation a few times)
Let me check
(She disappears for a good 20 minutes. During this time, a second, much nicer baker finds 1/4 sheet red velvet lying around and asks me if there was anything I wanted to write on it. I said, "Happy birthday, Jo." Not-nice baker comes back.)
We don't have your order. You need a receipt.
   I don't have a receipt, but I did pre-pay. I would like to pick up the merchandise I paid for. May I speak with a manager?
(She calls on the intercom a few times. No one comes. She sees that the other baker wrote "Happy birthday, Jo" on the cake for me.)
This is for a birthday?
   Yeah, min- (She cuts me off and raises her already escalating voice.)
Who the hell orders cake online for a birthday? I mean, really? You would think it would be important.

Yep. Albertson's has great customer service. However, understanding that as an employee her hands were tied and maybe she really couldn't give me the cake without a receipt, even though I never got one but had a confirmation number instead:
   You know what, I know this is neither of our faults, and I really do appreciate the help you have been giving me so far.

She proceeded to keep muttering "You're killing me." and "Why would you order a cake online? Who the hell orders cake online? You should have called. You should come in person next time." (Quite frankly, I'm starting to agree. Or skip Albertson's and go to Baskin Robins instead.)

We wait for some manager to come. They don't. She continues to mutter to herself. Finally, she snapped at me and asked me for my confirmation number. She wrote it down and said, "Well, just take the cake and leave." And that's what I did.

PS Don't let the picture fool you. The cake wasn't that nice (but it did taste good, at least.)

Party's over. Move along.

(Katie@!, flickr, CC2.0)

Had a nice party and really enjoyed hanging out with my friends, particularly ones that I don't get to see very often. This will be ancient history by the time it goes live, but right now, I just feel really, really exhausted and kind of glad it's over. Anyone else get like this?

In other news, congrats to Joshua Wong for winning the free Million Miles givaway! Hope you enjoy it, Josh! And if you're not Josh, you should go out to buy it because it really is a fantastic book!

A Priestly Community

Last Sunday, we had a guest speaker at church who spoke on community. Community is three things, he told us: unlikely (given its diversity), priestly (given 1 Peter 2), and hopeful (given the incredibly joy we have in the present and the incredible promise for the future.)

It has been my experience that the "priestly" factor is the one people find the hardest. However unlikely the alliance, people (for the most part) usually have no trouble uniting under Christ. Or at least the idea of Christ. And even if it's difficult in practice sometimes, you usually don't have to go around convincing Christians that there's hope in Christ.

However, priests? People balk at the word. Isn't that an Old Testament thing? Minister to one another? Why would I do that? That's why we have ministers, to minster to us. "I go to church to get ministered to, by the pastor. I don't want you ministering to me, and I'm sure as heck not going to minister to you." is often the mindset.

But I don't see any way around it. First, the Bible says so, so you're kind of stuck. Second, there are a ton of verses in the Bible that say how we are to treat one another. Collectively, they are called *surprise!* the "One Anothers." Again, it's in the Bible, so you're kind of stuck. Third, if we are truly unified in Christ and if we truly have hope in Him, why wouldn't we minister to each other? It seems silly not to. Fourth, some may shy away from ministering because they feel they are not properly equipped and they leave it "for someone else." Yes, sometimes there are extreme situations which will require a professional, perhaps the pastor or a Biblical counselor. However, your friend won't be living life with a pastor or a Biblical counselor. Your friend is living life with YOU. And YOU have the Gospel.

I mentioned on Wednesday that I would explain why my post was late. All my meaningful relationships are ones in which others minister to me, and I minister to them. It's quite beautiful, really, and I cherish those relationships a lot. However, ministry also takes a lot of time and energy. Some weeks, I need to be ministered to. Some weeks other people need to be ministered to. Still other weeks, a ton of people need ministering to. This was one of those weeks. And that's fine. In fact, that's great- not that I had friends who were suffering, but that in ministering to them I was able to point them back towards Christ, the Great High Priest who started all of this in the first place.

Do you regularly minister to people in your life? Do you find yourself being ministered to? What steps can we take as Christians to move from casual relationships to ministry and discipleship?

List of "One Another" Verses

The Secret of the Learning Curve

(ispap, sxc.hu)

In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Sorry for the late comic today; I'll elaborate a bit on why it's late on Friday.
Also: Have you entered your comment in my book givaway yet?

Why platitudes make for bad advice

(Yuliya Libkina, Flickr, CC2.0)

Unrelated: I got my free book in the mail!  Check out my Million Miles Giveaway!

How I apply Scripture

A story

I don't normally post about my day to day life on the blog because it's not that kind of blog.  However, if I describe what happened between the time I decided to post on Philippians 4 last week and the time I'm actually writing this post, I feel my experience may help by way of illustration of applying the Bible to daily life instead of to nice, neat hypotheticals.  If we're going to say the Bible is applicable to life and godliness, then we should really apply it to life and for godliness.  If you want to bypass my boring story, though, you can skip to the end, and that's fine with me.  The short version is that I had a bad week.

Sometime last week, my life got a bit more stressful, and my TS symptoms got worse. So I took TS meds, which is something I haven't done in a good while. Then my knuckles started swelling and were really painful, which made it hard to type. I thought I was having a reaction to the meds, and I spent 2 hours at the hospital on Friday. Then Sunday I went back for the most painful blood test I've ever gotten. (Still have the bruise.)

Additionally, I had a sore throat Thursday and Friday, the kind that hurts from your tongue to halfway down your esophagus.  Monday I woke up nauseated and dizzy; I skipped class but didn't get any better. Tuesday, I was even more nauseated, and the room still spun a bit. Wednesday, the nausea lessened but I still couldn't eat much more than rice. Thursday I was nauseated but mainly just really hungry because I hadn't really eaten for a few days.

I have a 14 page paper due next week. Being nauseated and dizzy isn't good for productivity, and neither is having swollen joints that don't cooperate when you type.  Not eating isn't good for productivity, either. Being sick leads to physical stress and non-productivity leads to psychological stress, and stress of any type leads to more TS symptoms. Then the TS worsens productivity...you get the idea.  The room may have stopped spinning, but between my flu and the TS and the swollen joints, my entire body hurts, and I'm just plain tired.

Stepping Back

I say this not to complain or to get sympathy- there are a lot worse things going on in the world right now.  I, myself, have been through a lot worse.  But the point is that God meets us where we are, in whatever circumstances we are facing.

Though life itself is stressful, and my body is under a lot of stress, I, personally, am [trying to be] not all that stressed.  And the reason why I'm not stressed [or at least somewhat successful at it] is because I've been meditating on this passage all week.

Joy, reasonableness, prayer, and peace

I'm rejoicing in the Lord.  Why?  The real question is WHY NOT?  If I understand what I have in the Lord and what he's given me- if I understand the all-surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, rejoicing is the reasonable thing to do.  It makes sense, and it doesn't matter what else is going on in my life.  When the room is spinning or when each letter typed burns through my hands or if I'm in class trying to suppress the TS, or if I'm worried about how I'm going to finish my paper on time given all of this- God is bigger.  God is better.  God is greater.  God is good, and He has shared His goodness with me.  I preach the Gospel to myself and force myself to listen.

We react to the things in our lives; that's natural and probably healthy to do.  But we don't let them control us.  External circumstances are just that- external.  However, internally, we have the Spirit.  We learn not only to rejoice, but to rejoice always.  We learn not only to not be anxious, but not be anxious about anything.  We learn not only how to pray, but to pray about everything.  We learn to give thanks while we give our supplications because there is always so much to be thankful for.  And when we know that we have things to be thankful for, we have peace that the God who gave us so much will give us also what we need.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.