Friday, February 11, 2011


Fasting and prayer reveals things hidden deeply away in our hearts. Tiredness, also, can do the same, as it tests our self-control. Add all three together and you get my three weeks of fasting concluded with our congregational all-night prayer. It has been a period of tears- both the happy and the sad, a period of dreaming for the future, a time of learning about grace, peace, power, and prayer; a time of seeing prayers answered in unexpected ways, and a special time to see attitudes within my own heart change before my eyes.  It has truly been an exciting time, a precious time. I don't want to forget what I have learned over these few weeks or grow weary of assembling the pieces of the lessons I haven't quite figured out yet-- like I might of a 1000+ piece monochromatic puzzle, the overwhelming feeling I can tend to adopt when attempting self examination. So, while there remains still much to contemplate and process, I believe one particular discovery merits sharing in this post, and that is the discovery of the frailty of my own life.

Moses prays, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Ps. 90). I believe there is now presented me the opportunity for growth in wisdom. Not that by the recent discovery have I gained any wisdom, but I have gained a greater knowledge of God (though only marginally so), and hopefully wisdom will come through the digestion and application of that new knowledge.

Review with me the last two weeks, in which events and thoughts began to come to a head:

A couple weeks into the internship and things are going well, but the schedule is a mess and Katie is spending exponentially more time on the phone calling (and texting now because no one picks up the phone anymore!)- and sitting, planning Bible studies- and sitting, having Bible studies- and sitting, reading and studying for myself- and sitting, and driving all over Athens while- you guessed it- sitting. Aside from the occasional prayer walk with her mom, which she had enjoyed on a daily basis throughout Christmas break, she is inside either a structure or a vehicle most all day and has not "been able to" devote any time at all to her creative writing, piano playing, singing, dancing, etc... Side note- I suppose this blog sort of counts as creative writing, but I still really want to return to my novel, play ideas, and short stories that are dogging the back of my mind. Katie, however, is loving the growth she's witnessing in her relationships with people and the opportunities to grow and serve, so she sets the right side of her brain at ease, assuring it that she'll get to it soon when she figures out her schedule. After all, she has been told many times and knows herself that it, being half of her mind and probably most of her heart, is very important and that it has needs that must be met as well. Fast forward to a conversation with Mommy that begins with Katie seeking advice about boundaries in friendship with her ex, jumps forward into a deluge of unexpected tears lamenting the absence of the intellectual and spiritual peer-ship the ex provided, and ends with cuddling on the bed and prayer. Mothers are wonderful. Wednesday night Katie and the rest of the campus ministry listen to adaptations of psalms for the purpose of setting their minds to study the poetry, and during one rendition she hears the Piedmont Chamber Singers through the voices of the men's group attempting to imitate the temple worshipers of ancient Jerusalem. Her eyes get teary. She spends the night with Jessica Fridley to be close to campus for her plans there the following day but fails to sleep much. Thursday proves to be a fun day on campus meeting people and having good talks with other disciples- and all partakers are amazed, challenged, and encouraged by the Scriptures. She finds a time to walk through Harris Shoals Park and compose a tune to Psalm 25: "Unto you, O LORD, I lift my soul..." and before she drives home she gets the opportunity to share with a new girl in town, finding she genuinely wants to do so. The next day or so Katie suggests to Daddy that they change their date plans from the usual visit to Barnes and Noble and take a welcome long walk through the Botanical Gardens instead. It is a beautiful day, the exercise is refreshing, and the conversation and company both intriguing and comforting. Fathers are wonderful, too. Sunday morning a still sleepy Katie sits next to her dad, blowing the contents of her runny nose into his hanky because she doesn't have any tissues left in her purse, and the beauty of the North Georgia mountains dominates her thoughts as Sam Laing says the phrase, "Just take a drive up 441" in his point about listening to God through nature. She recounts her many drives to Piedmont and back, drives full of song, prayer, conversations with friends, tears, and shouts of joy...four years of many trips with the perspective of the mountains either straight ahead or in the rearview mirror. She hugs Jessica after service and the tears flow freely with the confession, "I miss Piedmont! I miss the mountains!" But somewhere amidst all of this emotion she remembers she had prayed for God to reveal her heart and thinks back on the week, wondering. There was a reason- though she can't put her finger on it- that she was never drawn to attend to UGA and that she ultimately decided against Oglethorpe- Perhaps it was the noise or the proximity to home. Whatever the turn-off, the calls of 90,000+ barking and yelling "sic 'em!" were not quite "sic'ing" her, nor did the pulse of that tiny refuge of medieval architecture, encased in the arteries and veins of Atlanta traffic, pump in accordance with her own heartbeat. There was a reason she felt the need to retreat to the hills.  The truth dawns on her: She NEEDS nature, perhaps more acutely than some. How would she have survived without those hours sitting by the lake (before and after it was drained), the prayers on the dam (before it was torn down) and the prayers on the bank (after the dam was no more)? How could she have coped with the distressing moments without the wooded walk to the water treatment plant or the wandering through the cemetery down the road? Without the hikes up Mt. Yonah, drives through Sautee, meanderings through Demorest park, and time spent gazing at the stars without too much of a haze from obtrusive street lights? For the first time she regrets borrowing the Norton Anthology of Romantic literature because she knows exactly the poems she would like to read right now.
She NEEDS music and singing- the voice lessons from Mr. Jameson and Mr. Pilkington, piano lessons with Dr. Hayner, and most of all the group experience of Chamber that allowed her to participate in an outpouring of emotion composed for God and others. Music chronicling the hearts of man over centuries, connecting with her own heart through the harmonizing of her peers' voices. Music very much worth sharing through their tours up and down the east coast. She now understands Dr. Hinson's deep craving for "that sound," and the expression of peaceful revelry that would overtake him when "it" would meet his ears. And now that she has known that sound, there is a place reserved in her soul for it- and for its longing. She pauses in gratitude that the more her congregation grows in its worship, the more this connection is achieved, even without the "perfect" intonation or the acoustic glory of the Chapel.
And she could go on. She needs the small class discussion atmosphere in which she can muse on literature and what it reveals about the state of the society in herself and herself in society. The open arms with which her professors would receive her questions and discoveries, however minor. Their desire to know her life, their eager support, and often- their friendship. She needs the safe haven of the bare stage with its ghost light and the sea of empty red seats to gaze upon, the rehearsal room full of yoga mats and temporary set outlines put down in masking tape, the direction of the visionary and the teamwork of the ensemble, the closeness built through experiencing life situations in an alternate reality, yet realizing their effects very much in their own reality. She needs the movement, the discipline, the training, the practice. She needs the artistic medium through which she learns repeatedly to forgive herself and step through comfort zones, knowing she can fail without the fear of humiliation. She smiles: whether or not he knows it, Bill (Mr. G) has taught her this through eight years of instruction: Grace in theatre.
And the list continues. She needed the opportunity to lead Bible Talk for four years and study the Bible with her friends. She needed all the friendships and conversations with the cleaning staff and caf servers, registrars, deans, staff workers, etc... She needed the weekend trips home. She needed the safety net the companionship with Jeremy provided, protecting her from the impure pursuits of other men and encouraging her to deepen her study and convictions. She needed to participate in the church planting at Clemson, to live with Jarrod and Stacey for a summer and give her heart fully to the small body of believers. She needed the early Sunday morning drives over the lake between GA and SC and the time they provided for conversation with the friends who joined her. She needed Java Joes and the way it served as Bible study and catch-up spot. She needed so many things. And so she learns this: that at every turn God provided what she needed, though she could not count the needs. The sheer number of them overwhelms her and she feels intensely weak for a few moments, helpless, yet grateful that she should be so cared for when she's done nothing to merit such care. She dares to think back on the rest of the life, even back to the elementary school years and discovers similar patterns. Why has God seen fit to love her so much? The trying times pale in comparison to the blessings, and she prays along with David, "Protect me, God, for I take refuge in You. You are my Lord, I have no good besides You. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance" (Ps. 16:1-2, 6).

I raise my eyes toward the mountains. 
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, 
The Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; 
your Protector will not slumber, 
Indeed, the Protector of Israel 
Does not slumber or sleep.

The LORD protects you;
the LORD is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day
or the moon by night.

The LORD will protect you from all harm;
He will protect your life.
The LORD will protect your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Ps. 121

So to all I know and love at Piedmont, in Clemson, those in Athens who maintained friendships with me as I was away, and even those in Kentucky (sorry I left you guys out): "I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you...because I have you in my heart...For God is my witness, how I deeply miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:3-11).

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