puzzled

Dear Friends,

Two “puzzle” definitions for you:

  1. noun – a game, toy, or problem designed to test ingenuity or knowledge
  2. verb – cause someone to feel confused because they cannot understand or make sense of something.

I find it quite fascinating that God’s gifts are often puzzles.  When His people were in the desert and complaining about their hunger, He heard them and had a gift for them.  He said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.”  The people were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was. (Exodus 16:4,15).  It was a double gift:  an answered prayer and a puzzle of faith.

Doesn’t He answer our complaints (or prayers) in puzzling ways?  Jesus replied, If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water… My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:10,34).

Sincerely,

Katie

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Tetris life

Dear Friends,

My life feels like Tetris.  I generally like Tetris at the beginning when I feel in control.  I have time to think and plant each piece precisely in its most fitting position.  I eagerly take on new pieces, even looking ahead at the next one before it comes.  But maybe you have noticed this about life:  the more you succeed, the more pieces come, and they come faster.  There is a point when pieces pile up, not because I’m incapable of placing them, but because I don’t have time.  I shift from seeking the optimal placement to seeking any open space.  I shift from valuing each piece to to valuing my own survival.  I make more and more mistakes.  It’s a colorful chaos until I lose.  (There is really no way to win this game.)

God is teaching me to trust Him in the chaos.  I know I can’t win on my own, but I know He does win (Col 2:15).  I have to trust that He is building a masterpiece with my small chaos, filling my lack with the perfection of Jesus and weaving my mess with others’ around me to make something beautiful – only fully seen from His perspective.  “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that powerfully works within me” (Col 1:29).  “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.  On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor 15:10).  “The LORD will work out his plans for my life – for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me” (Ps 138:8).

Sincerely,

Katie

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How poignant

Dear Friends,

Today I went to Half Price Books, as I often do to recharge my introvert batteries in the presence of other humans.  #praiseGodtheyarerechargeable  The time was uneventful #thankfully.  But as I was going to the car, a mysterious, person-sized, floating plastic bag danced in front of me.  It was definitely a slow dance, with hardly any wind.  I don’t know anything about dances, but Wikipedia’s idea of a slow one is helpful:  “The distance between the two is usually 15-30 centimeters, depending on the desired level of intimacy. The couple looks into each other’s eyes and talks casually. Slow dancing can end with a kiss or hug.”  #dontforgetyourruler  But anyway, during the drift-pause-drift-pause of this bag in front of me, I saw it was filled with black balloons with either 2014 or 2015 in gold on the side #probably2015.  Our dance ended more with a “Huh?” than a hug #obviously #nochemistryat90cm.  And I stood there in the cold pondering this encounter with these black balloons of the past and/or future.  I watched them dance alone across the parking lot.  I watched other people watch them and I smiled at their reactions.  No one ran after them.  Everyone just watched.  “How poignant,” I thought.  #butitreallywasntthatpoignant #thatphraseisjuststuckinmyhead

It was poignant enough to inspire me to pull out my collection of journals when I got home.  This time last year I was alone in my apartment studying for exams the first week of January.  I felt that I was facing inevitable failure and I took a break to talk with God.  The writing is mainly full of thanksgiving.  Also, a lot of forward-looking prayers – some fulfilled, most not so much.  But He did a lot I didn’t know to ask.

Sincerely,

Katie

“I know you better than anyone in the world and yet there is so much more for me to learn.  So much more to experience with you.  I love that you work for the good of your people.  Always.  And not just because I am one of them.  It’s a display of your deep kindness and the adopting love in your nature.  Oh that more people would open their hearts to this love.  Or rather, that you would just open them.  They don’t know to ask.” – Katie, December 31, 2013

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Ant Life

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Dear Friends,

Yesterday I watched red ants work for almost an hour as they brought into their mound pieces of grass and clover leaves.  It was pretty amazing (amusing?) to watch them stagger around under the weight and awkward shape of their load.  The path required them to climb up the mound and then down into a valley to enter their lair.  Very often an ant would make it fine up the hill, but then tumble down into the valley, unable to see the changing terrain because of their leafy loads.  After a fall, the ant would scurry around in panic for a second, before locating his leaf and carrying on toward the hole.  Sometimes, nearby ants without loads would help.  Sometimes one ant’s tumble took out the whole line, sending them all sliding down the valley and into collective frenzy.

We humans carry burdens too.  Sometimes sickness, unemployment, or loss.  Sometimes loneliness or rejection.  These burdens sometimes send us tumbling, feeling out of control.  These burdens sometimes cause cascades of tumbling for those around us and we all scurry aimlessly in panic.  But God is with us and cares for us (Deut 31:8, Zeph 3:17).  He even walked among us, coming down to our level, wrapping Himself in human flesh, and subjecting Himself to the same trials and temptations, but without sin (Heb 4:15).  #Christmas #gospel

And God did not only give us Himself (as if He was not enough!).  He gave us community.  We make a beautifully productive kingdom.  God calls His people to build each other up and bear each other’s burdens in love (1 Thes 5:11, Gal 6:2).  These burdens also include sin: “If anyone is caught in any transgression, … restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6:1).  James says the way this works is that we “confess our sins to each other and pray for one another, that we may be healed” (James 5:16).  Ultimately, we are each accountable to God for our own sin, but He arranged it so that we would not walk alone.  #antlife

Sincerely,

Katie

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Morning Kneads

Dear Friends,

This morning before work I made gluten-free apple crisp.  The best part was “Take about 5 minutes and thoroughly toss, rubbing the butter throughout the dry ingredients with your fingers until it clumps together.”  First of all, 5 minutes sounded a long time.  But it went by seriously fast.  Basically, this served as intense lotion, the brown sugar softening my hands and the butter moisturizing.  All throughout the day I would smell my hands – authentic apple crisp!  Bath & Body Works is no match.

It is not often that I bake in the morning.  Or use my hands to bake in the morning.  But today, I was pondering how the scent stuck with me almost until dinner and the softness of my hands through a few washes.  This same effect is the reason I have time with Jesus in the morning.  I knead the Word!  I need to take time to soak up the fragrance of Christ to stay fresh and welcoming to others during the day.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor 2:14-15).

Sincerely,

Katie

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Sweater Safety

Dear Friends,

It can be pretty dangerous to remove a cardigan while driving.  This is one of many times “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).  I recently found myself driving and sweating through my sweater in the Texas November sun.  Although that time I was stuck twisting out of my cardigan with one hand, my life in the last few months has generally been filled smiling faces and helping hands.  I never thought I would be convinced, but full cars are indeed more fun.

I am reminded of when the Israelites were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  Half of the workers were building and half were armed to fight off enemies.  They worked together and encouraged one another, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes… Our God will fight for us” (Nehemiah 4:14,20).

I imagine this bunch of builders/fighters in a car together today.  I imagine they take turns driving and resting, talking and texting.  I imagine they eat together, sing together, laugh together, and pray together.  I imagine they recount “wall stories” of God’s faithful provision and protection.  I imagine flat tires, traffic, and construction detours don’t really bother them.  I wonder how many hands they would say it takes to safely remove the driver’s sweater.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed…  Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecc 4:9,12).

Sincerely,

Katie

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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

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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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