30 October 2008

Thankful Thursday: The Heart of the Matter

"Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land; thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.
Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of they people, thou hast covered all their sin.
Thou hast taken away all thy wrath; thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.
Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.
. . .
I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people and to his saints.
. . .
Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.
Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps."
-Psalm 85

Need I say more? Glory to our Savior!

27 October 2008

Mellifluous Mondays: Oh, Shakespeare

12 Shakespeare geeks made the trek to the Stratford Theatre Festival this weekend in order to see top-of-the-line performances of Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew. We stayed at a cheap but clean hostel, visited several lovely little shops (books! tea! quirky hats!), ate delicious food, and got a lot of walking in. Stratford is a beautiful town and the October leaves made it even more so.

Stratford swans. The walk from the hostel to the theatre took us along the river.

After Taming of the Shrew on Saturday, we walked back and went to dinner at Cafe Ten, where we feasted on scrumptious curried sweet potato soup, penne Italian salad, and Bailey's cheesecake.

It rained on Sunday, so between lunch and Hamlet we pranced about the "Shakespearean Gardens" with umbrellas and cameras brandished.

My dear friend Jessica, with the roses in the garden.

Stratford has so many lovely buildings! It's an architect's dreamland.

Now for today's poetry: a few lines from Laertes, one of my favorite characters in Hamlet. He loves his father and sister, and he's got the guts to prove it.


22 October 2008

Thankful Thursday: Now For Something Completely Different

I know, it's only Wednesday. But I am SO grateful for a couple of the things on this list, I couldn't wait! This week, I decided to express thankfulness for things which don't exist.

1) Midterms. I conquered my last one today!
2) Hunger. Not only does Saga give me fifteen all-I-can-eat meals a week, I get wonderful food from church, Bible studies, friends, and my own experimenting.
3) The flu. Despite an occasional fit of sneezing, I've gone through two weeks of stress and late nights without getting sick.
4) Loneliness. My suitemates, classmates, dancing buddies, study buddies, and "adopted family" take care of that. In fact, I should probably impose some loneliness on myself for the next couple days before we go to Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Otherwise, I'll never get my homework done!

20 October 2008

Mellifluous Mondays: Tea

This little lyric comes courtesy of my dear friend Gretchen Spencer, who knows the value of a good cup of tea.

We had a kettle, we let it leak;
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week...
The bottom is out of the Universe.
-Rudyard Kipling

16 October 2008

Thankful Thursdays: Library

Things I'm thankful for, regarding the library:
1) The Heritage Room has leather chairs, rare books, and fireplaces, yet students can use it with abandon. There's no better place to study in style.
2) We have interlibrary loan (so not only can I check out our entire section on Gothic literature, but also sack the collections of Wayne State and MSU!).
3) It's open late. Really late.
4) The friendly people on staff...who are patient with my mile-high checkout stack, let me take books home over break, pretend they don't see my illegal coffee and bananas, and work long into the night so we can too.

13 October 2008

Mellifluous Mondays: Acquainted With the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain-- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-by;
And further still at an unearthly height
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
-Robert Frost 1928

This seemed appopriate in light of the late, late study parties we've been holding recently. :) More seriously, I thought it was interesting that Frost wrote this in terza rima, the same rhyme scheme used in Dante's Divine Comedy. But where Dante (by the grace of God) ascends from deepest Hell to highest bliss of Heaven, Frost stays in Limbo: uncertain, isolated, and unable to explain either his surroundings or his own actions. So very modern.

10 October 2008

But He Can

"O my Strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress.
My God in His steadfast love will meet me;
God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

...I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.

O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love."
-from Psalm 59

I can't do this. But He can. Whatever "this" is (from passing an exam to exercising self-control) my strength comes from God alone, and His power does not fail. In the midst of distress, therefore, we should never give up, because our Sovereign God provides both a fortress for retreat and an unstoppable force for victory.

09 October 2008

Thankful Thursday: "I Don't Feel It"

I was reading Edwards's essay "On Religious Affections" last night and was particularly struck by this passage.

"Spiritual light may be let into the soul in one way, when it is not in another. So there is such a thing as the saints trusting in God, and also knowing their good estate, when they are destitute of some kinds of experience."
-Jonathan Edwards

For those of us feeling spiritually empty, Edwards advises that we look a little harder. God is with us, and He is faithful. His work lets in "spiritual light" in unexpected ways. Do we have enough to eat today? Are we safe from danger, and free to worship the Lord as we wish? Is God creating beauty in the world around us? Do we see evidences of His sanctifying grace? And above all, don't we know beyond a doubt that He has made us...saved us by His son...and even now sustains us?

Now, that knowledge may not immediately stir up the "experience" that we want. However, it TRUE, and our fickle emotions are not! Keep your eyes fixed on God and the eternal inheritance you have in him. It's constant, even if the "spiritual light" seems to be flickering. And for that, I'm deeply thankful.

08 October 2008

In the Midst of Lions

"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

My soul is in the midst of lions...

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!"

-Psalm 58

Today's lions: no worse than usual. Homework, a Spanish quiz, several important phone calls, fluctuating emotions, and the prospect of two very stressful weeks after Fall Break. Put together, it all seems utterly overwhelming. But is it? No. God will send from heaven and save me. In fact, he already has.

06 October 2008

Mellifluous Mondays: Flattery

What cannot praise effect in mighty minds,
When flattery sooths, and when ambition blinds!
Desire of power, on earth a vicious weed,
Yet, sprung from high, is of celestial seed:
In God 'tis glory; and when men aspire,
'Tis but a spark too much of heavenly fire.
[An] ambitious youth, too covetous of fame,
Too full of angels' metal in his frame,
Unwarily was led from virtue's ways;
Made drunk with honour, and debauched with praise.
-from John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel (1681)

A warning to all the "ambitious youths" out there, all too ready to listen to others' flattery or their own self-praise: watch out. The desire for power and fame suits God, who alone has the right to glorify himself, but in you, it's a ludicrous presumption. Soli Deo Gloria is a lot harder to put into practice than we think!

Edwards on the Excellency of God

"There is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness...there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance."
-Jonathan Edwards, from A Divine and Supernatural Light

Oh, Edwards. You're the man.

Essentially, this sermon expands on the awesome gift of spiritual illumination. That is precisely what I desire as I read Scripture and pray: the knowledge which pierces straight to my soul, brought by God's Spirit and not my own efforts. The glad consciousness of His "loveliness and beauty," the inexpressible joy which comes from that knowledge...a heartfelt conviction and not just an intellectual assent. As we all dive into another crazy week, may He bless each of us with that magnificent evidence of grace! May we know Him deeply and constantly, and may we never tire of His glorious presence.

02 October 2008

Thankful Thursdays: Rule-Bending

Yesterday I was the thankful receipient of professorial graciousness... i.e. Dr. Raney is letting me fudge the "rules" for my honors thesis and construct my own advisor committee, which means that I can work with the professors I want, thankyouverymuch. This thesis just gets better all the time. I love benevolent dictators. :)