Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Monthly Archives: December 2012

Looking at a tapestry/50 awesome things

I said a little while ago that I quite literally had almost nothing to do before heading back to school, and thus could devote plenty of time to writing here. Boy do I need to put my foot in my mouth…

Anyway, I’m about to head to a New Year’s Party at a friend’s, so I have to make this quick:

I spent part of yesterday and today reviewing the year, partly through even little acts like cleaning out my wallet of old receipts, but mainly through this blog. I went back and skimmed or read through everything I posted this year, starting in January all the way until now.

All I can say is… man, what a journey.

I couldn’t possibly condense everything that happened this year into a list of even the most important things (and there are so many other things, great and small, that I failed to record here), but suffice to say that it has been one incredible tapestry of grace. God is good, and I learned a lot about that this year. Sometimes I’m tempted to wonder if I ever lived before this year.

I apologize for being so informal, but I have to get going.

Wishing you all a 2013 full of blessing, joy, growth, and drawing closer to Him,

~ Timothy

*   *   *   *   *

*update

Once again, I must make a meal of my words. After declaring with such certainty that this past year had been so full of adventure, joy, challenge, growth and a plethora of other things that I couldn’t possibly boil it down to a mere list, I saw a friend do this on Facebook and caved in was inspired to do the same.

Here it is:

50 Awesome Things I(?) Did in 2012

1. Created a Facebook and kept it.

2. Became shorter than both my brothers, older and younger. (Maybe I should reconsider having this one here…)

3. Graduated from high school. Twice. (Sort of.)

4. Finished Chinese school forever — a beautiful thing, I assure you.

5. Almost got my black belt (still one requirement to go).

6. Took Marine Bio with Mrs. Ellis, where Finding Nemo was quoted at least twice every class.

7. Did mock trial for the first time.

8. Partook of my first Shakespearean play! Discovered I evidently have a knack for acting drunk…

9. Took part in my 5th and final HST troupe show; even got to choreograph my own number!

10. Crafted, completed and performed a martial arts demonstration that drew from 7 different styles of martial arts, learned a ton.

11. Caused my first car accident – and experienced God’s grace in a way unlike anything I’ve ever known before.

12. Pulled an excessively elaborate but immensely entertaining senior prank with my graduating class, mostly involving caution tape, bubble wrap, glow sticks, army men, and a LOT of streamers.

13. Spent a week in Paris with six females who are very capable at shopping.

14. Attended Momentum 2012; came back a different person.

15. Enjoyed a surprise 18th birthday party, complete with a violent but thoroughly enjoyable water battle to the death.

16. Played the most ridiculously fun game of gravel conceivable, on the most awe-inspiring playground ever constructed by man.

17. Learned how to juggle (now I REALLY need to practice).

18. Got a laptop.

19. Completed my first semester at a college that now lies very close to my heart.

20. Developed an obsession with historical primary sources and everyday quotes of hilarity.

21. Learned how to swing dance!

22. Developed a laugh reflex to the words “vocation” and “studly.”

23. Learned U.S. History from a professor who made me enjoy, understand, and appreciate it for the first time.

24. Dressed like a Bolshevik and danced like a cossack. Got shot for my pains.

25. Kidnapped a professor and held him for ransom (in tandem with the rest of my class), ending in an incredibly epic battle fought within a gazebo.

26. Forged many new friendships with like-minded yet wonderfully different people from all over the country (or beyond) – some of which have reached a depth I’d never known before, and that I hope and believe will last a lifetime.

27. Developed a new appreciation and love for the friends I’ve known for many years, and discovered how rewarding staying in touch can be.

28. Learned it’s okay to ask people for prayer requests; in fact, it’s an incredible privilege.

29. Played a newspaper boy, a cat-calling baseball player, and a dead man in my first Eden Troupe show. Learned that life is beautiful, in ways you often don’t expect…

30. Had a blast on my first political campaigning trip in St. Louis, MO, with my very Southern, music-loving team.

31. Visited several amazing churches. Got left at one of them… Learned that Baptist churches always have food. Always.

32. Dove deeper into the Word than ever before… and felt more distant from the Word than ever before (which seems also to be a blessing in an odd way).

33. Experienced more challenges to my faith than ever before.

34. Grew in my faith more than ever before.

35. Shared in some of the most profound, enlightening, engaging and entertaining conversations of my life (mostly taking place over an ordinary dining commons meal).

36. Rekindled my love for jamming with my myachi – and got a friend infected with it too.

37. Learned and cultivated the ability to talk to perfect strangers about spiritual matters.

38. Became more aware of the issue of human trafficking and involved in the fight against it.

39. Spent more time than ever before on my knees in prayer.

40. Choreographed a routine with a kindred spirit in dance, wrote/directed a skit on Western Civ, helped write a song parody, and sang in another duet – in other words, took on way too much but had loads of fun – taking part in my first Harmonicomedy.

41. Attended a number of dances – including but not limited to a prom, a Christmas Ball and a masquerade – all proving that homeschooled folks are quite capable of having fun.

42. Found a new appreciation for a cappella music, and found no small amount of pleasure in singing it.

43. Enriched my understanding and skill as a musician at least tenfold in my first semester of Chorale. Sang in my first Lessons and Carols.

44. Participated in two White Elephant parties, one being the most fun I’ve ever seen (I don’t remember how or why, except that crayons were involved), the other by far the most unusual… (A plunger and a live lobster. Need I say more?)

45. Went caroling with glow sticks, sign language accompaniment, a full band, a hay ride, and a pickup truck decked out in Christmas lights.

46. Experienced Handel’s Messiah for the first time, in the form of a sing-along concert.

47. Danced more frequently, consciously, subconsciously, publicly, privately and unashamedly than ever before in my life.

48. Kept my blog alive for another year (though admittedly and unintentionally dormant for parts of it…).

49. Made good my graduating class’s long-time motto, “Strong enough to survive the end of the world.” Three times, I believe.

50. Lived more deliberately than I ever have before.

Quite a few of these have some kind of connection, large or small, with another member or two on the list. I apologize for the number of times I had to resort to the phrase “in a new way” or “more than ever before,” but this really was a year unlike, in many ways, all the previous years I’ve lived on this earth.

We use the word “awesome” to describe pretty much everything nowadays. Usually it denotes some kind of exceptionally fun, uniquely enjoyable, or wonderfully memorable experience, which is generally how I used it here. But for a number of the items on my list, the older, original meaning applies too — something inspiring awe, something wonderful and even unbelievable. So much of this past year has put me in awe — once again, in a new way, more than ever before — of the love of God, the creativity of God, the complexity of God, and especially the grace of God.

I received so many good things at His hand this year; far more than I’m even aware of, or could even begin to adequately thank and praise Him for. And I did absolutely nothing to merit receiving most, if not all of these blessings. Even the hardships, which have assuredly been there, are a form of blessing themselves. Through them I’ve grown stronger, learning to rely on Him to sustain me in my weakness. That too, is grace.

Which is why I have a question mark next to “I” in my title. I’m the one who experienced the blessings, and I have no doubt that I had a hand in making at least some of them happen, to the degree that they did. But looking back on all the things that I had no control over that made these things so rich in my life, I can’t conclude it was entirely I who did them either.

There is absolutely no conceivable way that I could have looked ahead at the end of 2011 or the very beginning of 2012, and seen even half of these things happening or the transformations that I would go through. Sure, I’m still me. But I know that because of what God has been doing in me over the past 12 months (and before), I am not the same anymore. So much has changed, and as far as I can tell, it’s for the better. It has been one grace-laden year.

I’m not even going to try to guess what 2013 will bring. But Lord willing, I’ll be able to look back at the end of it and say once again: It’s been an awesome year, full of grace and transforming growth. And I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

Here’s to grace,

~ Timothy

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Christmas carol exegesis

Christmas-Carols-Origin-and-History

I wasn’t able to craft a fully coherent Christmas message this year, but since I’ve mentioned my difficulty with finding meaning in Christmas music before (my post on the season from last year), I thought I’d indulge in a bit of exegesis in some of the carols I’ve heard most often and loved singing most this season. If nothing else, I hope that my scattered thoughts give you encouragement you to ponder more deeply the music you sing and hear this Christmas.

*     *     *

O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining.

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

‘Til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

To be holy means to be set-apart. It doesn’t refer to the intrinsic worth of an object, but the value placed on it by another; the rocks in an altar holy to the Lord are rocks like any other but set apart for a special purpose, as are the living stones set apart by God to be a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5).

That night so many years ago was, in many ways, like any ordinary night. Yet it stands apart from every other night in history. All else melts away like morning frost in comparison to this: the Lord of all the Universe stooped low enough to enter His creation, wrapped in flesh and nestled in a food-trough.

Were the stars, excepting the one that lead the Wise Men, brightly shining that night? Did they array themselves in all the splendor they could muster at the joy of welcoming their Maker into the universe? Or did they look like they do every night? I could see it being either way; God does seem inclined to be incredibly poetic at times, and starkly undramatic and unglamorous at others (sending His Son to be born in a stable is a good example of that).

However the stars looked that night, the dear Savior came. Why? Why come to this fallen world, a figment still of what God had intended it to be, yet bound by its corruption and rebellion since Eden? Why come to a planet that to this day, two thousand years after the Holy birth, still lies pining in its sin, groaning for its redemption?

Simply this: to testify to the truth that would set men free (John 8:32, 18:37). To bring light to darkness, to make a way of redemption for all who are willing to follow it and eventually, for all of Creation. The Hope of the nations appeared in Bethlehem that night, and the hope of His returning fills the universe still to this day. When the Lord of the heavens appears on the earth to bring salvation to man, there is hope indeed. And faced with such humility and sacrifice — God Almighty stepping down from His celestial throne to become a part of a messy, fallen world, that He might redeem it — how can the soul not exult in feeling its true worth? God doesn’t need us. But if He wants us, if He loved our race enough to take on our weakness and enter our lowly existence, how He values us can hardly be made any clearer. And that is where our ultimate worth lies.

When we sing of a Holy Night, we truly do sing of a night unlike any that has ever been or ever will be.

*     *     *

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh

Come peasant, king, to own Him.

The King of Kings salvation brings

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

I never realized before how much this verse is saturated with the Kingship of Christ. Even the first line speaks of bringing gifts befitting a king. He is worthy of that honor, and far more.

Yet the Savior’s birth belongs to the rich and poor alike. Peasant and king, lowly shepherd and Magi, the lowest and the highest and everything in between, all may lay claim to Him; good thing too, because all need Him and none deserve Him. Yet any heart that is willing to grant Him its scepter, a heart that truly loves Him, is one He will deem worthy to enter and reign in.

Why He would deign to sit enthroned in our lowly hearts when He has a throne in heaven is beyond me, but I am grateful. Thank the Lord that He, the King of Kings, bore a salvation for us all.

*     *     *

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

The long-awaited, long-expected Messiah’s arrival is truly an event for every son of Israel and daughter of Zion to rejoice greatly over. Foretold in ages past, He had finally come. God with us, a promise made reality.

Yet, it is a promise that the adopted children of Abraham have cause to rejoice in as well. As the angel proclaimed to the shepherds, it is a news of great joy “for all people.” As old Simeon exulted in the temple courts, this salvation was to be “a light unto the Gentiles,” as well as the glory of Israel.

I rejoice for the children of Israel who have received their long-awaited Messiah. But I am also exceedingly glad that I, a Gentile and stranger to the old covenant, may enter in and share the Light of Salvation with them as a child of the New Israel. Thanks be to the Lord for that!

*     *     *

Sing, choirs of angels! Sing in exultation!

Sing all ye citizens of heaven above.

Glory to God in the highest!

O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him,

O come let us adore Him, Christ the L0rd.

Translated literally, the Hebrew hallelujah simply means “praise the Lord!” But more than merely a vague expression of praise, the term is a plural imperative, i.e. an instruction or even command to many. A more apt translation would be, “Everyone! Let us praise the Lord together!”

To me, this verse seems to be the same way. I’ve always sung this verse concerning the angels in a nebulous, praise-the-Lord kind of fashion. Perhaps you have as well.

But that’s not what the text says. It’s an imperative, a request or even command to the hosts of heaven themselves! Then it turns to address the whole Body of Christ, all whose citizenship lies in heaven above.

When we tell angels to sing in exultation, “Glory to God in the highest!”, I have little doubt that they can hear us. Perhaps they join in every time we invite them to as well. At any rate, whether we invite the angels or our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to sing to God’s glory with us, let our invitation be a sincere one.

He is worth singing about. Truly, let us come before Him and adore Him for who He is: our Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, Friend, the Light of all men, the Firstborn of creation, the perfect Son of God.

Wishing you a merry and most blessed Christmas,

  ~ Timothy

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I first heard this song last Christmas, but it seemed especially appropriate this year, in light of all that happened in Connecticut so terribly recently…

Based off of a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (the full poem can be found here), this song has been running through my head quite often of late. Whether or not you’re already familiar with the poem or song, please take a moment to listen. Whatever is filling your heart and mind this Christmastime, I pray that this song encourages and strengthens you.

“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

~ Hebrews 13:20-21

Let it begin

Well, dear friends, it is finished. My first semester at college has come to an end and I am home once more. It has been a journey overflowing with fulfillment and growth, challenge and adventure, fun and laughter, all interwoven into an incredible tapestry of God’s grace and faithfulness.

As mentioned previously, I’d never had so many things to post about and so little time to actually complete the posting process. Consequently, my draft folder has accumulated several tagalongs — poor embryonic, half-formed things that I tried to raise to maturity and set loose on the world, but ran out of time to fully refine and develop.

But until January, I quite literally have almost nothing to do before I head back for my next semester. My hope is this surplus of time will yield an increase of posting; only keep in mind that many of the things I’ll be posting on probably took place many weeks ago. Hopefully, they will be entertaining, encouraging, and edifying in their own way just the same.

Be back soon,

~ Timothy