Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

A word from MLK

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring…”

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The work he helped begin all those years ago is still not entirely finished today. May we strive now as Martin Luther King did in his time; filled with the same joy, laboring with the same fervor, tempered with the same prudence and inspired by the same hope.

Happy MLK Day,

~ Timothy

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

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

Political honesty

Over lunch the other day, I partook of a most fascinating (and entertaining) conversation with some friends. The basic premise was imagining a politican running for office on a platform of “total political honesty.” For example:

“If I am elected, I pledge to take whatever I want from my opponents and give it to my supporters.”

“I actually have no inclination, much less passion, towards this particular issue, and I have no intention of carrying it through when I am elected. I simply make a big deal of it now because I know it is important to you all as voters.”

“I am aware that my campaign has primarily consisted of negative ads defaming my opponent. In fact, this was intentional on the part of my team and I, as psychological studies have shown that a negative perception is more effective and impacting than a positive one, thus increasing my chances of attaining your vote even if I never say a word about myself.”

“I’d rather use lots of fancy, nice-sounding words than craft good, informed arguments. Flowery language appeals to a much broader base of people.”

“My foremost goal in this campaign is to win the election. So cast your vote for me!”

And so on. Extremely tongue-in-cheek, unlikely to ever happen in earnest, but profoundly entertaining to think about.

Please do not misunderstand me; this conversation was not directed at any political figure (past or present) in particular, and is certainly far from being applicable to all political leaders today. But it did raise an interesting question in my mind: how would people react were (unlikely as it is) a politician to arise who said such things? Would any actually vote for him? How many, and for what reason? How would having such a candidate in the line-up change people’s perspective on the political process? Would it force people to reevaluate why they vote for who they vote for? Would they become more wary, more conscientious, more informed and discerning voters? Or would it be business as usual?

All I can say is, I hope that any political leader (current or yet to appear on our ballots) who runs on a platform — or principle rather — of complete political honesty will have more noble aspirations than this one.

Duty, results, and thankfulness

Over election week, I went on a campaigning trip where for several days, I and many others engaged in various endeavors aimed to affect the outcome of the election. We had a short devotional each morning before shipping out; on Tuesday morning, our devotion centered on this simple verse: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

The first part of the verse reminded us that though our campaigning was largely done in the names of the various officials we hoped to elect into office or organizations we happened to be collaborating with, our efforts would ultimately be in vain, regardless of the results, if not done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Striving to serve those other names that week was entirely appropriate, but only if kept in perspective with our primary focus, the name above all names.

To do all things in this name has ramifications: How can you do anything in the name of the King of the Universe, and do it in a half-hearted, timid spirit? How can you act in the name of the One who is lowly and meek in heart, in a manner that is ungracious or ungentle? And how can you live in the name of the Prince of Peace in a spirit of constant frustration and anxiety? It’s a question worth pondering: what does it look like practically for me to carry out the task before me, and my whole life, in the name of Jesus?

This brought us to the second part of the verse. Having done all things in the name of Jesus, both word and deed, the proper course is not to take ownership of or to agonize over the results. It is to thank the Father. In the context of our work there as campaigners, I was reminded of the sermon I had attended that Sunday, in which the pastor exhorted his congregation to approach the impending election with humility and graciousness, neither returning the next Sunday with knowing “I told you so” smiles or “This is it; the apocalypse is upon us!” broadcasts of despair.

I find it interesting that at its root, both of these responses display a denial of the Lordship of Christ mentioned in the verse. One remarks “now all things will be put to rights; we have the right people in office,” the other laments “clearly, with these folks in office, the end is nigh,” but both fundamentally place their trust in the political leaders to make things right, rather than the sovereign God. Towards the neighbor who voted differently, both display a sort of ungracious arrogance, a turning away from the character of God, which in essence is a denial of His Lordship over one’s life. And both fail to thank God for what He has already done; one because he’s too busy celebrating the victory won by human effort, the other because he sees nothing to be thankful for. Both are greatly mistaken.

Instead, as we are commanded to do all things in Jesus’ name, we are called to be thankful in all things through our Lord Jesus to God our Father. And such an attitude of thankfulness, acknowledging both God’s sovereignty over all circumstances and over one’s own life, does not easily degenerate into either of these extremes of arrogance or despair.

The motto for the campaigning organization we worked through was “the duty is ours, the results are God’s.” This obviously applies and was intended to apply to political elections and offices, but it seems every bit as applicable to the rest of our lives also: our jobs, families, schoolwork, hobbies, friendships, and so on. A very real duty is set before us; to do all things as unto the Lord, in the name of Christ. Yet once this is done, the results belong in the hands of the very same Lord. We can and should hoe, plant, water, and weed with the best that we have to offer in our abilities and attitudes, but it is He who makes the crops grow or wither, not us. And however the harvest appears for the future, still we put our trust in Him and remain faithful to His character, through our Lord giving thanks.

How I just took an event from election week and turned it into a Thanksgiving message is beyond me, but I hope that you spent and enjoyed this day in a time of gratitude to the Lord and fellowship with others. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  ~ Timothy

An exceptional (and very temporary) substitute

Videos make poor substitutes for substantial blog posts (especially on a long-term basis). But on occasion, I suppose, we can allow for exceptions.

My brother went to San Diego last week with his dance company! Seeing how much he’s grown as a dancer never fails to amaze me, and I know he enjoys what he does profusely. Let’s just say that I’m proud of him.

If you’re not familiar with urban dance and all its varieties (in this routine alone, they perform house, African, voguing, locking, straight-up choreography, and probably a plethora of other things I don’t even recognize), you may have a harder time appreciating what you see. However, the more exposure you gain, the more you may find yourself respecting, even savoring the pure artistry and dedication of many of these dancers, as well as their craft (at least that’s been my experience). Your preferred style of dance may ever belong on the opposite end of the spectrum from these, but I think learning to admire from afar is something all partakers of art experience at one time or another. At any rate, I think the unity executed in this piece is a quality any dancer can appreciate.

See for yourself:

I don’t celebrate Halloween, or consider myself a fan of the whole Haunted House business. I understand that other people may enjoy it, but frankly, I don’t see much of a point to it all.

But this I can appreciate:

Wishing you well,

~ Timothy

On my lack of posting…

I’ve said this far too many times for it to sound remotely sincere anymore, but I do realize my abhorrent lack of posting new things recently, and I apologize…

Since I’ve embarked on this new adventure we call college, I have never had so many things to blog about… and so little time to actually blog them. So, to rectify this gross wrong, I suppose I have a few options:

I could try to post more often but generally have shorter posts. That may happen to a degree, but I hope to keep burdening you with my excessively long-winded and drawn-out posts at least somewhat. At any rate, I am now trying to set aside a time every week devoted to working on bringing something new and worthwhile to the table. That probably will not result in a new post every week, but I’ll hopefully have something to show for it more often than I do currently.

As always, many thanks to those who persist in remaining faithful to this little blog. I owe anything that has been of value here to the Giver of every good gift, though I’m afraid I have to take full credit for the mess that usually surrounds it.

Here’s to praying for more of His wisdom to be proclaimed, His power to be revealed, and His love to be displayed!

Cheers,

~ Timothy

Liberty

I was recently working on a paper concerning the Puritans and how they viewed (and lived in light of their view of) freedom. One of the verses I used was 2 Corinthians 3:17, and the moment it popped into my head, this song would not leave me alone.

Even if you’re familiar with the song, check out this collab between Shane & Shane and Phil Wickham. Good stuff.

Here’s to being free indeed!

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'”

~ John 8:34-36