Sleepy Songs

This past week, I became rather sick to a temporarily debilitating degree. It was a good lesson in casting my anxieties on the Lord, because I couldn’t even think about school. I just needed to cease the majority of my output of energy and stress (good and bad) and take in a lot of good things, like water and sleep. As such, I haven’t had nearly the time or energy to make a very thoughtful Parakaleo post and would instead like to share with you some of my favorite sleepy songs. One of my favorite genres involves a singer-songwriter with a guitar; I love those simple songs that you can listen to in those quiet moments at 4 in the morning, when you’re the only one awake during a random all-nighter, or when you’re lying in bed overthinking or stressing about something and seeking peace. At some point our bodies and souls just yearn for rest and peace, as they were made to do! I love this image from Isaiah 32:

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”

Amen! It’s Christ’s work and perfect righteousness that brings this all about, but it’s such a blessing to be part of the ongoing work (though often messily so) and to be able to reflect Him not only in that, but in our rest as well.

So while my full “Sleepy” playlist includes some Finnish children’s songs, or old favorites that sometimes bring me to tears, here are a few of the ones that calm me down physically while reminding me of the only source of true peace and rest:

You’re Beautiful by Phil Wickham

I see Your power in the moonlit night

Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright

We are amazed in the light of the stars

It’s all proclaiming who You are

You’re beautiful

Jesus, Lover of My Soul as recorded by Indelible Grace

Other refuge have I none, 

I helpless, hang on Thee; 

Leave, oh leave me not alone, 

Support and comfort me. 

All my trust on Thee is stayed, 

All help from Thee I bring; 

Cover my defenseless head 

In the shadow of Thy wing.

Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle

What a priceless gift, undeserved life

Have I been given through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death

You’ve called me into life

And I was under Your wrath

Now, through the cross, I’m reconciled

Home by Switchfoot

All that’s in my head is in Your hands

Over, over; over, take me over

I’ve been poison, I’ve been rain

I’ve been fooled again

I’ve seen ashes shine like chrome

Someday I’ll see home

 

Sweet and true rest to you all.

Guest Post: Halloween Reflections

I am so excited to introduce my dear friend Hannah as a guest blogger this week! I’ve carried on before about fear and how much I detest anything having to do with scary things, but I have largely disregarded Halloween on Parakaleo. It’s not something that I have ever enjoyed and I typically shuffle on through the 31st waiting impatiently for Pinterest and grocery store aisles to clear their themed items and make room for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, Hannah has developed some far more thorough thoughts on the day from her perspective and was kind enough to share them. Please enjoy and feel free to leave any comments about what role your faith plays in your activities on October 31.

~ ~ ~

Let us, for a moment, reflect on the nature and characteristics of God. God is…

love (1 John 4:8)

truth (John 17:17)

life (John 14:6)

peaceful (Philippians 4:7)

strong (Isaiah 41:10)

perfect (Matthew 6:26)

patient (Psalm 86:15)

sustenance (Psalm 54:4)

kind and forgiving (Ephesians 4:32)

worthy of all praise (Psalm 150:6).

What God do we serve? How powerful, perfect, and loving is this God after whom we are to model our lives? With every breath, we have been commanded to be an example of Christ to the world as believers. Jesus should be reflected in every moment of our lives. He should be woven into every thread that forms the tapestry of our lives. He should be the center and the focus of every facet of our lives. He should be the water that infiltrates every crevice of our lives.

With this in mind, I ask you to consider Halloween. Take yourself back to your very favorite Halloween night as a child…Do you remember the excitement at school as your friends and you compared costume ideas and conversed about your house-to-house plans while munching on black and orange goodies? What about getting ready for the big night? Remember how mom used to make sure your costume was just right and you even had family themes sometimes? Think about stepping into the chilly October air before your night of spooks and sweets commenced.

When I think of these nights, I have no recollection of the above memories. I have never been trick-or-treating and was raised to recognize Halloween as “just another day on the calendar.” My parents took me to harvest festivals at church and made sure I got plenty of candy so that I didn’t feel left out, but as far as my parents were concerned, Halloween was evil. As I got into college, I wondered whether or not this belief was merited. To form this opinion for yourself, I present to you a very brief history:

Halloween was originally called All Hallows Eve. This night (the night before the fall harvest) was said to be the night when the dead walked the earth. As a Pagan tradition and a celebration of the Celtic festival of Samhain, people would dress up and light bonfires to ward off these ghosts. People also offered the ghosts food and valuables to protect their crops for harvest the next day. Taking advantage of this system, children would dress up as goblins, ghosts, witches, fairies, etc. and go door to door requesting for these offerings while threatening to play “tricks” if they were not appeased (enter trick-or-treating).

In my findings, I decided that, personally, I did not want to participate in this holiday. I do not want my children to participate and I would love to just pretend that it does not exist. “Why?!” You say, “Halloween is so fun! Your kids will miss out!” Honestly, I began learning how to have an identity in Christ through my lack of participation in Halloween as a child. I learned that it is ok to be different and that my identity in Christ made me different from other kids. This identity helped to begin Christ’s transformation of my old self into my new self.

As Christians, we are called to reflect Christ in every aspect of our lives. I ask you now: what aspect of Halloween reflects the character of God? Is it the haunted houses? Is it the disfigured masks? Is it the continuation of a Pagan tradition glorifying a form of, essentially, bullying? Here’s the answer: none of the above. Halloween does not reflect Christ’s character. Christ is not represented in a single aspect of the day. While I don’t expect to turn any firm believers in Halloween’s importance into non-observers, I do challenge you to do your research. Think about whom you represent with every breath you breathe and every action you take. Are you reflecting the holiness of Christ or reflecting the ways of the enemy? There is no middle ground.

Philippians 4:8 ESV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Brokenness for Cohesion

I don’t know how people do grad school, or really anything, without God or a relationship with Him. A few weeks ago, things got really busy and while I’m normally very good about reading even the littlest bit of the Bible a day, I let that fall by the wayside. I realized that I was becoming more concerned with my needs and with whether I was getting credit for having done something, and just generally caring about school to a greater degree than I typically do. I didn’t notice anything was going on until my friend pointed out that I seemed “a little frazzled.” I grew up in the church, but I’m still reminded from time to time of what a mess I definitely am when I’m not putting my trust in my Savior and living like the truth of the good news is what motivates my life. I’m so glad to have a God who is making me new.

I’d like to share with you all a few songs that have helped me refocus. These are the songs that get stuck in my head and remind me, as John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all.” As Colossians 1 continues, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” I love how this passage points out how worthy God is of the glory we’re called to give Him. He created everything and He is holding it all together. He is holding me together. It’s surprising how unwilling I sometimes am to sacrifice brokenness for being held together.

“Mercy, Mercy” by Hillsong United is a great song for singing my heart out in those times.

“Mercy, mercy, bring me to my knees

as the morning calls to light the dark in me…

Now I find my life in Yours;

My eyes on Your name…

Awake my soul to the hope You hold;

Your grace is all I need.”

 

I also love “Strangely Dim” by Francesca Battistelli. This was my “over and over” song right after that little rough patch. Oh, to spend more time marveling at all that God is.

“When I fix my eyes on all that You are

then every doubt I feel deep in my heart

grow strangely dim”

 

And if you want to get pumped up in a Mumford and Sons/The Lumineers way (or just in general), the spirited prayer/jam session “Build Your Kingdom Here” by Rend Collective Experiment has some great calls to action:

“Increase in us, we pray…

You made us for much more than this

Awake the kingdom seed in us

Fill us with the strength and love of Christ

 

But really, can you imagine a jam session with these people? How happy and sore would you be after this?! They even post their chords on their website like they’re just asking you to sing along.

Even above and beyond RCE, there is some amazing and uniquely genred Christian music today. I love that part of worship is taking the time to sing these songs to God and to one another, and hopefully to use them to encourage us to worship God with all of the other aspects of lives.

The Cycle of Crowns

I spend a lot of time driving, and have enjoyed road trips with friends since I first found out what a delight they were on annual trips to retreats and other activities with my youth group. As we got older, the vehicle of choice changed from busses and giant vans to cars, which allowed for smaller groups and wonderful bonding! One of my favorite things to do on road trips is play a game previously titled “The iPod Game,” and more recently conned, “So You Think You’re a Hipster,” or more affectionately, “SYTYAH.”

The premise of this game is that we play songs that we know that we assume are not very well known to the others in the car. (Basically, you get points for every person in the car who does not know the song that you chose to play.) This game has introduced me to some really great bands and artists and motivates me all the more to find new artists and share them with others. At some point my friends and I started ruining our chances at winning the game and just shared new artists with one another. My friend Emily, for instance, told me about a British band this summer and I have not been able to stop listening to them.

What’s particularly engaging about this band is that while I’m fairly certain they are not a Christian group, they make a lot of solid observations about the world around them. Their songs are far less about love and loss than about just noting the human condition and one such song actually worked its way into my devotional time. (Isn’t it wonderful how God uses us for good even when we’re ignoring His existence?!)

I’m currently reading through Genesis, which I actually think in some ways is more challenging to my faith than Revelation is (that may be a later post). Because of this additional level of thought and meditation, I’ve been going through passages more slowly and referring to commentaries more. In any case, I’ve been poking my way through the story of Jacob’s dysfunctional family and I arrived at the following genealogy:

“These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites. Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom, the name of his city being Dinhabah. Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place. Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his place. Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, reigned in his place, the name of his city being Avith. Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his place. Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates reigned in his place. Shaul died, and Baal-hanan the son of Achbor reigned in his place. Baal-hanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his place, the name of his city being Pau; his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, daughter of Mezahab.” 

 

– Genesis 36:31-39

It all seems very unexciting unless you were Jobab’s best friend and got really excited when his name came up, but that seems unlikely for those of us who were born thousands of years later. The reason this seemingly mundane passage resonated with me was because it brought to mind lyrics from Bastille’s “Daniel in the Den.” “And you thought the lions were bad, well, they tried to kill my brothers,” lead singer Dan Smith begins, “and for every king that died, oh, they will crown another.”

For every king that died, they will crown another. We don’t get to hear the stories of all of the kings described here, but we see elsewhere in the Old Testament that getting a new king could be a really amazing thing or a really horrible thing for Israel. Sometimes a really horrible king would die, and they’d crown another with joy. As was the case with my treasured psalmist Asaph, “they crowned another” king during his time as worship leader and the new king was not nearly as godly as his predecessor. I love Asaph’s psalms because they are his crying out in the midst of this unfortunate change. But in either event, the crowning of a new king is significant and literally life-changing, but also very temporary. As “Daniel in the Den” echoed through my head, I wondered what would happen if the cycle broke.

What would happen if they didn’t crown another king?

What would happen if every king didn’t die?

What would happen if a king succumb to death and was so good, just, and set apart that there was no better option?

Then I was pretty thankful that that is just the case.

Revelation 5 always blows me away because it is such a blatant reminder that the situation posed in that last question is a very real one. In the situation described there, everyone is literally in tears because they can’t find anyone to open the scroll with seven seals. They searched the earth and literally no one was worthy or able. But then, the author writes, “one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain… And He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne. And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Then an awesome (in the most literal sense of the word) amount of singing ensues as they all worship the King who defeated death. I’d like to take a minute to backtrack and point out that all that the Lamb has done at this point is literally to take the scroll. He just has it in His hands. He hasn’t opened it, He hasn’t read it; He took it.

This tells me two main things: 1.) The Lamb who was slain is dead no longer, and 2.) He is a powerful, perfect, worthy King to be trusted.

I serve a God who is surely alive, and I have no desire to crown another.

The Silver Chair!

I would be remiss if I did not address the extremely exciting news that the fourth Chronicles of Narnia movie, “The Silver Chair,” has officially been greenlit. The likelihood that I will have a doctorate before we see even a bit of the movie is rather high, but the ball is rolling, and I am extremely excited. Please stay tuned, and if you find yourself in need of clever, thought-provoking, well-written fictional texts over the next five years, please let me refer you to C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.”  Thank you for your time and attention, and please go see the movie when it comes out.

[End Narnia commentary]

Sidetracked

8 years ago, a camp stole my heart and the difficulty of ever getting rid of me began to increase. To prepare for camp each year, I try to send out a little countdown with a Bible verse and some thoughts to get us in the mindset for camp service. As I’ve mentioned before, I long to generalize the way God uses me and the passion I have for life and for God at camp to other areas of my life. Today’s Parakaleo is adapted from one of this year’s camp preparation emails.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”

– Titus 3:4-8
 
I love that Biblical letters, regardless of their purpose (challenging, encouraging, rebuking, etc.) get “sidetracked” by preaching the gospel to the readers because they just can’t help themselves. The “title” for this section of text in the ESV is “Be Ready for Every Good Work.” It starts off simply enough with suggestions to avoid quarreling, respect authority, etc., and then the author veers away from the legalistic, reminding us of our own foolish, disobedient past, and God’s great work in us. In fact, it calls us to insist on (in the NIV, to stress) the truths of the gospel and their application to our daily lives. 
 
I need to remember to not be afraid to get “sidetracked” in activities and conversations, bringing them back to their original purpose of preaching the gospel to everyone I meet. This may have something to do with my occasionally perfectionistic nature, but when my to-do list gets really long, or the stressors in my life begin to pile up, my attitude shifts to a rather stubborn declaration to the world that, “Yes, I will get this done!! WATCH ME!” This is motivating, but it’s motivating towards the wrong goal. I’ve set my own plan, completely disregarding God’s will and the little side plans that He might have for whatever I think the ultimate goal is, and I’ve put the focus more on myself than on His glory. It’s in these times that I am reminded of what a mess I am without my Savior. He wouldn’t need to make me new and more like Him if I was already perfectly set to take on the world or whatever little corner of it caught my eye.
 
May we get sidetracked from our broken, small-minded goals. May we focus our attention on the goal that brings the truest, fullest good beyond what we could think of knowing. May we insist on using our position of “heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” as given to us by God’s grace, by devoting ourselves to excellent and profitable good works this week and all weeks! Amen!

Back to Parakaleo!

Welcome back, everyone! I know “regular” for some people has remained fairly unchanged since I wrote last, while others are hurrying back to school or just starting school. I miss the hullabaloo that is likely happening at my undergraduate institution right now, but I’m also excited to see what God has in store for me this year as I start my second year of grad school and for Parakaleo as I start its FIFTH year.

After I graduated from undergrad, I switched to an ALL-NEW format where I only posted every other week, rather than weekly, as I have done in the past. That format, along with my goals for Parakaleo will continue for now with a slight change. I love some of my long posts and the heart and thought that I have put into them, but this semester, I’m planning to include more short posts. While they won’t be “Snippets” short, some may be a little less verbose in the interest of saving some time both for myself (in writing them) and for my readers (in taking them in!). Inevitably I’ll start prattling on about something, and I will certainly continue to link to lengthy past posts.

For now, I’ll leave you with a verse that I have found motivating in my work throughout the summer and as I transition back into schoolwork:

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

– Hebrews 6:10-12

Happy September, everyone!