The Gospel & Studying

The most important book you’ll read this fall is your Bible.

Ultimately, your only hope this fall or any fall is the gospel.

And that is a really, really strong place to stand and study.

- Marshall Segal

Dear Friends,

I will celebrate my 19th first day of school next week #fallsemestersonly.  It is not everyone’s dream to rack up these milestones, not even mine.  But I want to echo the quote above because it is #truth.  I can testify to that strong place.  I feel that I could write a book on the topic of The Gospel & Studying filled with stories of God’s faithfulness and my frailty, but I will just offer a few truths here.

First of all, what is this gospel?  It is the good news that Jesus (God’s Son!) lived a perfect human life (for the glory of God!), died on our behalf (absorbing all God’s wrath toward us!), and then rose from the dead (showing His power over all things!)!!  #infiniteexclamationsneeded #!! #∞  So then, this changes our lives in big ways.  The gospel sets us free from the world’s nonsense and from the nonsense of all God’s enemies.

  1. Free to fail.  Jesus’ spotless record has secured my eternal destiny and my identity.  No P-Chem test can erase it.  (Heb 6:19, Rom 8:38-39)
  2. Free to excel.  Jesus’ work inspires me to worship wholeheartedly as I study and to excel in a way that makes Him known.  No laziness can cripple me when I strive to honor Him.  (Ecc 9:10, Col 3:23, Matt 5:16, Phil 3:7-8)
  3. Free to explore.  Jesus’ payment of my adoption price made me God’s child, granting me freedom to explore the world He created with awe and thanksgiving.  No subject is beyond His understanding.  (Eph 1:4-6, 1 John 3:1, Gen 1:26)
  4. Free to serve.  Jesus’ example pulls me away from selfish studying.  With my identity and hope secure, I can give time, energy, resources, and understanding freely in love.  No competitive advantage need be withheld. (Phil 2:3, Mark 10:45, Acts 20:35, Gal 5:13-14)
  5. Free to rest.  Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are more than enough.  He said, “It is finished!” and we can rest confidently, submitting to His power. No all-nighter can complete me.  (John 19:30, Matt 11:28-30, Psalm 127:2)

Soak up the Word, stand in the strong place, and study in freedom.  #letthesemesterbegin

Sincerely,

Katie

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Cloud 9

“Cloud 9: Cookie experts have declared this cookie to be nature’s most nearly perfect food. Two delicate pecan cookies sandwich a creamy filling that is sweet and potentially addictive. A taste of Heaven!” – Kalico Kitchen

3T6X6392

Dear Friends,

I enjoyed this cookie today, “a taste of heaven” in many ways.  I not only absorbed God’s gift of good food, but also time with Kingdom family.  After heading out, I thought about clouds.  I thought about how thoughts are like clouds, not just in cartoons.  They are abstract, impossible to hold, hard to interpret, signs of hope and suspense, peaceful and threatening.  I could try to flesh out this thought about thoughts further, but I’d rather you taste what the Word says regarding clouds.  “Cloud” can be found in the ESV 148 times.  Here are my 9 #faves.

  1. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:38)
  2. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea” (1 Kings 18:42-44).
  3. “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God… Do you know the balancings of the cloudsthe wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:14,16).
  4. Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds (Psalm 36:5, 57:10, 108:4).
  5. He covers the heavens with cloudshe prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. (Psalm 147:8)
  6. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)
  7. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)
  8. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61-62)
  9. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thes 4:17)

Sincerely,

Katie

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Soundtrack

Dear Friends,

Today I drove south from Dallas on 35.  Before West, traffic thickened, slowed, and finally stood more “stop” than “go.”  Without really knowing what was ahead, I made a decision.  I took the next exit to follow a meandering path toward Waco.  The road was open as well as the fields, aside from a handful of cows.  It was as if my iPhone knew my path was nothing but country and adjusted my songs accordingly.  #smartphone  I rolled through the outskirts of Waco before running into 35 again and picking up speed.  Then, the road elevated a bit and, behold!  Baylor University!  iPhone dramatically pulled up “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  Glory, glory, hallelujah! #welcometobaylor #thanksphone  Although I may have only saved 10 minutes, I was quite pleased with my decision to detour.

I was pondering God’s will and how we tend to think there is a single “right” path He has ordained for each of us.  One right college, one right career, one right spouse, one right church, one right city.  This idea throws us into paralysis and stress when, really, God has given us authority, freedom, and wisdom to choose.  He let Adam name all the animals whatever he wanted (no wrong answers!).  He let them enjoy the garden as long as they didn’t eat from one tree.  It’s like a 4-year-old given freedom to color or build or run or play house as long as they “play nice.”  Of course, some seasons are quite structured with worksheets and naps and reading times, but all of these are for our good.

So as we navigate this path of life, I find Psalm 119:54 to be a worthy goal: “Your decrees have been the theme of my songs wherever I have lived.”  We may choose country or old school hymn soundtracks, but the motivation and message stay the same.  We may find God directs us through songs we find painful or obnoxious, but we can still celebrate the theme of His rock solid Word.

Sincerely,

Katie

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Cells & Sovereignty: Lessons from the Lab

Dear Friends,

I work in a laboratory where we grow cells (particularly bacteria).  God has been teaching me a lot through various aspects of my work and I thought I’d share a few here.

  1. Creation.  When I grow cells for an experiment, I first set up their future home/environment.  I find out exactly what food they like and temperature they love and I set it up for them in advance.  God did this for us.  See Genesis 1.
  2. Sovereignty.  The power differential between me and my cells is (not equal to, but) reminiscent of the differential between God and me.  I hold their world in my hand and God holds mine in His.  There are times I identify with God during the time of Noah.  #iwillkillyouall  #herecomestheflood #bleach  Then I remember my own sin and God’s patience and kindness.  I am also often reminded of my lack of sovereignty.  It is normal for something I don’t expect to happen.  Cells grow where I never put cells.  I follow the protocol for manipulating their DNA and nothing appears to happen.  I constantly praise God for knowing where the cells came from and how they work.  And giving us all life!
  3. Culture.  This is the word we use for the cultivation of bacteria in an artificial medium.  Sometimes it smells.  Sometimes you judge a culture by its smell.  We should also have discriminating senses to wisely discern falsehood and corruption in our human cultures and stand up for the Word of God (sweet as honey).
  4. Discipleship.  Generational training is all over the place.  Someone trains me how to grow cells and I train the next person.  Each of us has expertise with certain protocols and strains of bacteria.  Jesus also instructed His followers to train others to live according to the pattern He gave.  There is so much room for personality, strengths, and weaknesses, but key truths are to be communicated and passed down with absolute precision.

Don’t worry, there is more where this came from.  #4x6limit

Sincerely,

Katie

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The Last Car

Dear Friends,

Here is a postcard poem.

Sincerely,

Katie

“The Last Car”

The show was over and the crowd flooded by,
A race over unmowed hills, like ants
People marched home this 4th of July.

Some were lost and after much alarm
A moment of relief – “There it is!”
The blinking lights of their car a welcoming charm.

Lovers retreated, skipping to their cars.
Some took refuge in the dark back seat,
Others the moonlit roof, admiring the other admiring the stars.

Some doors open and others were closed.
No car was moving.
Some folks quite calm, others were not so composed.

Windows rolled down, we listened to the hum:
The native southern drawl met languages from afar,
Strangers united, waiting for freedom on the highway to come.

We talked about family, movies, God, and fears.
We wondered about the last car.
Would it leave before the sun reappears?

Surely the hills would take on a new peace
When the last car finally pulled away,
Directed by the weary but unwavering police.

Perhaps thankfully, though, we will never know.
Our turn came to leave the gravel and get on the road,
Impatient for freedom, my song here below.

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Voiceover

Dear Friends,

I had the unique experience of losing my voice last week.  Not figuratively, but literally.  I felt it coming (or going, rather), but it didn’t really hurt so I tried to push through.  Of course, let’s go to dinner! … Yes, I am free, let’s talk! … I have a story, want to FaceTime?  Obviously, this was not wise.  I was quite humbled the next few days.  I had a lot to say, but there was no sound.

I had the joy of visiting my #bff in Cambridge, UK and meeting her new people.  There was a moment I found myself singing an amazing hymn I had never heard before (excerpt below).  If you haven’t been to a gospel-driven church in the UK, I highly encourage it.  These folks sing like they mean it.  I have a lot of favorite parts about this situation, but another one is that no matter how loud I sang, I heard British coming out.  This might sound weird, but I felt so welcomed and encouraged by this voiceover.  It was Ephesians 5:  “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

We should really take seriously the opportunity to voiceover each other when we sing as a group.  We have a responsibility to build up the “one another” whose souls are dry, whose voices are absent, or whose accents are improper.  I have heard a man share his testimony including, “I heard everyone singing around me, singing to God.  I was thinking either they are all crazy or I am the crazy one.  I kind of moved my mouth at times, but at some point, I was singing with them.  I decided to follow Jesus.”

Sincerely,

Katie

“O wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord”
Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby, 1887

Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
True wisdom its pages unfold;
And though we may read them a thousand times o’er,
They never, no never, grow old!
Each line hath a treasure, each promise a pearl,
That all if they will may secure;
And we know that when time and the world pass away,
God’s Word shall forever endure.

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Summer Pleasures

Dear Friends,

As I mentioned, I am enjoying a season in the Psalms and I have recombined some truths into my own poems.  The more I write, the more I realize a large percentage will remain concealed within my notebook.  I am reminded of a day in high school when I submitted a poem to our literary magazine.  I soon heard one of the student editors discussing submissions with a friend: “There’s a lot of good stuff… But some are like ‘seriously?’ Like there was this ‘Love is’ poem, ridiculously simple.  A 2nd grader could have written it.”  Needless to say, I wrote that poem (as a 12th grader).  Hearing those words felt more like an attack on my heart than on my writing.  When I write to God, the value is my overlap with His heart.  Literary quality often fades to the background.  That being said, I have written the poem below.

Sincerely,
Katie

“Summer Pleasures”

A couple kissing in the back of a U-Haul,
Another wedding, another bridesmaid.
I wonder in which summer
I’ll join the Facebook photo parade.
And yet already, I’ve got a perfect lover.
His affections never fade.
We endure beyond “’til death,”
His faithfulness displayed.

A lady cackling at Half Price Books,
Another novel, another thrilled suburbanite.
I wonder in which summer
I’ll finish my intended reading list outright.
And yet already, I’ve got a perfect book.
It never ceases to delight.
Action, mystery, romance, and history,
It keeps me morning ’til night.

A student traveling to who knows where,
Another flight, another homesick sigh.
I wonder in which summer
I’ll fully settle, maybe Dallas or Shanghai.
And yet already, I’ve got a perfect home.
This place lacks no supply.
Far beyond dreams and far beyond measure,
This shelter I’ll take when I die.

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For Dad

Dear Friends,

I wrote this a while back to God, the Ultimate Dad.  I tend to call Him Dad and I use another name for my here-on-earth dad.  We can call this a poem (you know there are these free form ones that have no rules) or a note (like a postcard!).  There are a lot of parallels between these relationships and I am so thankful to have both.  Happy Father’s Day.

Sincerely,

Katie

Adoption.  How amazing it is to be chosen, to be sought out, to be bought, to be rescued, to be given rights, to be loved, to be cherished, to be trained to live.  A seat at your table.  A spot in your lap.  Your attention.  A key to your house.  Your protection in the night.  A guarantee for you ear when I call.  Your name.  Your reputation.  You hang my scribbles on the fridge.  You call me your daughter.  You train me patiently to walk in your ways, to cut my own food (your perfect Word!), to read and speak your language.  You watch over me.  I am never out of your sight.  You give good gifts – sometimes you let me choose.  You lift me up on your shoulders so I can see from your point of view.  Sometimes you get down on the floor and play with me and limit yourself to my simple speech and simple ways.  You carry me when I am tired.  You protect me from bad guys (real and imaginary).  You clean up after me.  (I am really messy).  You teach me about your creation.  You let me explore it for myself.  I think you know everything (and you do).  Sometimes I think you don’t know anything (but you actually do).  You are my hero.

Guinea pig poems

Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:
How can I ‘love’ you?
I only as far as gratitude & awe
confidently & absolutely go.

John Berryman, “Address to the Lord”

Dear Friends,

Have you ever heard a good poem?  My guess is that this question is difficult to answer.  For the vast majority of us, poetry is lofty and elusive.  We think of Shakespeare and the painful school nights staring hopelessly at foreign English.  After all, Shakespeare would be the king of “good” poetry, right?  Maybe.

I want to redefine “good,” though.  I have a book:  Good Poems selected by Garrison Keillor.  In the introduction, he defines “good:”  “Stickiness, memorability, is one sign of a good poem.”  These are not clouded in unnecessary mystery, but relatable and accessible.  “What makes a poem memorable is its narrative line.  A story is easier to remember than a puzzle.”

So dear Shakespeare… a good poet… to be or not to be?  Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?  But, for my own part, it was Greek to me…  Indeed, he makes the cut, but not for what we perceive as elevated, fancy, puzzling language.  Rather, for the stickiness of individual lines and of whole stories.

As I embark on a season in the Psalms, I have decided to list at least one “takeaway truth” from each and then to periodically recompile these truths into my own poems.  Beware, postcard poems may follow.

Sincerely,

Katie

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Gone Digital

Dear Friends,

For the last week, I have been trying to mail some old school postcards.  Do you remember those?  They are like paper?  Well, I went to the post office and they didn’t have postcard stamps.  I was pretty surprised.  But even more surprised when the lady suggested I order them online.  I thought, “WHYYY?  Don’t you know I can write digital postcards whenever I want?  Snail mail is different.  You should know.  Represent!!”  But I said, “Oh.”  And smiled.  And left.  I won’t describe my other (also fruitless) person-to-person postcard stamp missions.  They are equally saddening.

I want to bring up this issue of digital because it affects (or infects) everything.  For the record, obviously, I think digital is the #bomb.  I daily devote much attention to multiple things digital!  #iheartdigital But the thing about #bombs is that they #blowup.  We need to evaluate the #bombs we use and how we use them.  How are we using their power?

Consider:  Does your Bible run out of battery?  #danger  Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to read in the dark.  It’s cool to use some of the great tools out there.  But there’s a different level of reverence for me when I hold a physical print of God’s Word.  I recognize it’s weight (literally).  I don’t think, “Man, this thing really deserves to be shoved in my back pocket and sat on.”  I praise God for the lives sacrificed to make His Truth accessible! (in English! in digital English!)  But we need more than the physical or the digital.  We need this Word inside our hearts!  I mean it.  Books and phones are wiped out in fire and flood.  But there’s this cool thing.  I can dwell in God’s word even while swimming, even when in a basement with no service, even when the lights are out.  There is so much joy in memorizing His Word word-for-word.  #promise  #Hepromises  #memorizetoday

Sincerely,

Katie

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