Monday, May 25, 2009

my senior address

For the last four years, our lives have been mainly schoolwork, preparation for the adult life on the horizon. Time has wrought a change in us; nothing is the same as it was in elementary school. As my classmate Caleb told me, “Pick something and it has not been that way before!” And yet, amidst all the swirling mists of change there’s something looming solidly in the background, something that wasn’t there when we first began high school. Something that we saw in our parents but not in us, not until recently. It is the knowledge of God, the steady realization that He is here with us, He is our rock, our friend, and more than anything it has become a passion with us to glorify Him.

As 1 Corinthians puts it, “Therefore, whether you eat or you drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” My parents had drummed that verse into me and it had the desired effect; I know that, frankly, I am human and only human. But in a lot of ways, that freed me, especially when I began attending junior college in my junior year. Faced with a collective worldview so wildly different than the Christian one, I began to understand what it means to truly glorify God and how important it is to do so. To begin with, the Bible tells us we are supposed to, in Romans 15: 6. “that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We actually have reasons to want to worship him. For me, the knowledge that someone who is absolutely perfect purified my imperfections by dying for me leaves me shaken. As Job’s friend Zophar asks, “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven -- what can you do? Deeper than Sheol -- what can you know?” And though the question was wrongly put, it still rings true. I flatter myself that as one fond of literature I’ve encountered some of the heights and depths humanity can reach and yet, not a single one of my favorite characters can aspire to such depths as that!

As Elizabeth Browning asks, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” We want to glorify God to the best of our abilities, but our abilities are still only just beginning to develop - thanks to our education and our godly parents. Our Biblical foundations have been formed, our passions, talents, ideals have formed and we’re learning to apply them to our own lives. Now is a time of making connections, of understanding consequences, of seeing the bigger picture…and our place in it. Our experiences in high school have helped to give us a goal - though some of us are still seeking God’s direction, others of us are hoping to be arborists, prosecutors, and professors. Education has shown us how best we can glorify God; it’s shown us how God is alive, is real.

My favorite author and apologist Dorothy L. Sayers wrote an essay called The Lost Tools of Learning, in which she neatly summed up the purpose of education: “The sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.” To learn for themselves - not to be spoon-fed information like so many fledglings in a nest. To learn to discern between fact and fiction -- fact and opinion -- meaning and connotation -- between, substantially, right and wrong. And once we know something to be right or wrong it is our duty to uphold it. “Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17. Our education has forced us to grow mentally and spiritually, and having a Biblical perspective on the things we learned has shown us the difference between being in the world and not of the world. Hence, the necessity of loving God has become so much nearer to our hearts. In the end, the passing of knowledge is a function of education; the fundamental love of learning is the purpose of education.

No discussion of education amongst us especially would be complete without mentioning the role Harvest Christian Academy played in guiding our parents. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Frediani. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Gowen. Thanks to the countless people who’ve been instrumental in our lives through the years - the grandparents and uncles and aunts, the pastors, mentors, teachers, debate and speech coaches, friends, and finally and most importantly, our parents. Thank you, not just for academics, but for the values, principles, and ideals you’ve bequeathed to us - the splendid Biblical foundation that we stand upon. There had to be someone to teach us how to love learning, and as I grow older I realize more and more how brave my parents are! To brave the storms of public disapproval, to keep us indoors during school hours, to make sure that no opportunity was lost for a bit of learning, not to mention giving up free time and privacy for everything from grubby hugs and sticky kisses to darkly muttered words about the state of the union and the socialistic aspects of government today. Dads, Moms, a thousand thanks from each of us to all of you. Your love, wisdom, and guidance have been much appreciated, even though we don’t always show it! Jessica in particular wants to say “thank you for taking on my education at home, for being patient and loving through all the various seasons over the past four years, but especially over my entire 18 years.” Well said!

Now, we ask for something else. By God’s grace, you’ve prepared our minds for action. You’ve set us on the right road. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says Psalms 19, but if one only begins to dig (as education has taught us to do) they don’t only declare but shout the glory of God. The growing part He’s had in our lives as we’ve begun maturing has highlighted the change in us. We can see how we’ve changed; we’ve gone from ignoring God because He was big and didn’t fit into our plans to finding Him intrinsically necessary. Once upon a time our passions were playing house or cars, but now they’re to live in the service of God. That’s widened our horizons explosively - enough, we dare to think, to begin going out into the world -- to assume responsibility for ourselves -- to dare to stand up for what we believe in, what we know to be right according to the Bible. We stand on the brink of adulthood, at the door of our homes, and see Time standing with giants on his shoulders, waiting for us. He has his orders to let us join the throng of people following him as he marches inexorably on to the horizon God has set for him. Only God can know what we will be in the future, whether we will stand as strong, godly men and women throughout time, but for now we have such dreams - “No one of our age has ever taken power,” said William Wilberforce in Amazing Grace. To which his friend William Pitt replied, “Which is why we're too young to realize certain things are impossible. Which is why we will do them anyway.” We are indeed young, but God is yet working in us. Maybe we‘ll never stand above the rest of the people, but God has given us talents and passions, and at the least we promise to use those for His glory!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I stand amid the dust of mounded years.

There are days when I’m just bubbling over with hope and excitement for the future. Days when there’s a peacefulness in my smile, when there’s a look in my eyes that I can see in the mirror. “God’s in His Heaven, All’s right with the world!” -- when I first memorized that poem for school I thought that was an inane poem and all that it merited was a huge “duh!” But as the years have passed it’s come up more and more in my thoughts until I realized that it expressed the type of hope and joy that only God can give.

I can’t describe what it’s like to feel the love of God. To know that you’re nowhere near the perfection God asks for and yet to know that you’re His, that Jesus died for YOU, and that despite all the pain I’ve caused Him He loves me. HE LOVES ME. One cannot taste of God’s love and turn back to unbelief; there is truly “no turning back.”

Today’s one of those days, and it’s an important one to me because it’s strengthened my faith. Yesterday I got the needs-based scholarship offer from PHC, and, well, it’s not enough. As it stands right now, my parents can’t afford it, and both my parents and I firmly refuse to go into debt to pay it off. It doesn’t seem like everything’s settled yet, though - I was told they really want me and there’s stuff going on behind the scenes but altogether the scholarships will pay only 47% of tuition when there’s a max of 80%. And there are a couple of different payment prices listed so we’re not sure which one they’re going off of. So whereas it was “yes until we get the final cost” it’s now “no until we get the final cost.”Sure I’m disappointed, but I haven’t lost hope. As K was singing to me yesterday, “My God is so BIG, so strong and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do…FOR YOU!” And although it seems like God is closing the door to Patrick Henry College I’m still excited for the future. Because if it’s not PHC it’ll be something better for me, at least in the long run, and frankly Patrick Henry would be pretty hard to beat.

So much can happen to this crazy world of ours in our future. Everything’s changing but I have the privilege of a firm foundation. I know Whom I have believed, and goodness but that’s goosebump-worthy. Nothing can harm me…I am His, and the world cannot stand against God…Then even Death must be a gentleman.

I say let change come. Let the future stand in its unknown, menacing palace, but let it be wary of those whom God has claimed as His own. We’ll fall and stumble a thousand times, (I know I do) but He promises never to leave or forsake us and that knowledge is enough to strengthen and hearten the weakest Christian. I am not afraid of what the coming years will bring, though I know they will not be easy even if I do go to Patrick Henry. Perhaps especially if I go to PHC. Perhaps God’s plan for me is entirely different than mine is, but so what? Much better the plan of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, LOVING God than that of a fragile, limited, imperfect young one still only just beginning to know God. It is a house built on rock that I have been given.

I suppose really, this is what it means to be human…and yet, to lean on God. God only grant that I serve Him with everything He’s given me!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

So many words to speak that the tongue cannot utter.

I’m in a strange mood today. Piano and rain and poetry would put a person in a reflective, melancholy mood, I suppose.

[quote]A shadowy tumult stirs the dusky air;
Sparkle the delicate dews, the distant snows;
The great deep thrills – for through it everywhere
The breath of Beauty blows.


Then CdnReader’s death. She had friended me (an online friend) shortly before falling ill, and though I had heard that she was ill I didn’t know that it was cancer. I had been looking forward to building up a friendship with her, because the few poems of hers that I’d read pointed to a kind, sincere, genuine woman. And now she’s dead.

[quote] Here sense dissolves, combines to print only
These bitten choirs of stone on water,
To the tumble of old cloth bells,
The cadging of confetti pigeons,
A boatman singing from his long black coffin…

- Lawrence Durrell [/quote]

Throughout the years, death has fascinated many poets and authors. I can understand why. Some see Death as the bogeyman, others as a friend. Hades, it seems, has many faces, and chooses a different one to show every person.

I am not afraid of dying young. Being a Christian puts a different spin on death, but regardless of that, I don’t think that whatever I can or will do will leave a long-lasting mark in the world. So it doesn’t matter – I’ll live and die and be forgotten soon enough, but there are some who should never be forgotten – those whom Time carries on his shoulders, though they are dead. And nearly all the other human beings – all the world – that walk with him on the long path to its hidden end are too busy scrutinizing the dust to look up at the stars.

[quote] I know you: solitary griefs,
Desolate passions, aching hours!
I know you: tremulous beliefs
Agonized hopes, and ashen flowers!”

- Lionel Johnson[/quote]

The world is denied a revolution every time someone with talent dies young – the book I’m finishing up (Modern British Poetry, 1963) has shown me reams of poets I’d never known of – and my favorites were inevitably those who died in WWI. Look:

[quote]Love is a flame: - we have beaconed the world’s night.
A city: - and we have built it, these and I.
An emperor: - we have taught the world to die.


And to keep loyalties young, I’ll write those names
Golden for ever, eagles, crying flames,
And set them as a banner, that men may know
To dare the generations, burn, and blow
Out on the wind of Time, shining and streaming…


But the best I’ve known
Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown
About the winds of the world, and fades from brains
Of living men, and dies.

-Rupert Brooke[/quote]

Somewhere in the world it’s raining on the graves of the dead – the dead who with courage and love endowed the old battlefields with a dignity that they could not otherwise attain. What a tragedy that the world forgets so quickly – that we look forward to “change” and a “new age” without any reverence, any remembrance for the lovely old beliefs and principles.

[quote]I, too, saw God through mud—
The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.
War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,
And gave their laughs more flee than shakes a child.


I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.


You shall not hear their mirth:
You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears: You are not worth their merriment.

-Wilfred Owen[/quote]

I am haunted by ghosts; half-maddened by the memory of things that never were, people I’ve never been. People tell me to “enjoy my youth” but I’ve lived it and I've died. a thousand times, vicariously, in different times, different lands, as different people, and every single one of them still grips me and fills me with ideas…but I’m stuck in this hamburger and hip hop world that refuses to budge in the direction of “progress,” only down a side-road that will end when all of Time does.

And all that we could have been will never be. All that we were set up for – through literature and ideas and principles and courage and music and poetry – will have been the fleeting dreams of my ghosts.

And now where once our fathers played
There lies a ship, for dead a grave.
Whose lives were these? The stormy
Gull above the waters knows
As well as we.

Sitting at the computer, amidst a flurry of pens and notebooks, books with faded spines opened and laying facedown beside me. One in my lap, and the outside world waiting, and frankly my dear I don't care!

A scholar I am, and a scholar I will remain.
I won’t forget.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Psalm 19
1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.

2. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
3. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
4. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
5. Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race.

6. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7. The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
8. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.
12. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.
13. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.
14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

As a Christian, I’ve always loved this Psalm, and love it even more as time passes and I grow. Having just finished an astronomy course at my local college, I begin to really understand what “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” really means. It means that on an astronomical scale, Earth is one of the smallest objects in the universe. It means that all we know and admire on a personal level is insignificant. It means that no matter how high the heights humankind reaches are, they will never be able to express the glory of God as space does. It means that there are things so much bigger than we are, and just by their existence they glorify God in ways that we never can.

Throughout time, it’s like humanity has been holding a conversation with the universe. As science progresses and we grow, we glean more information about the heavens – but they’re keeping the conversation entirely focused on the glory of God, and they’re using the universal language of beauty and nature. Even when humans put different spins on them what we learn still rather loudly proclaims the glory of God. I like to think that somewhere, space is still reverberating with the songs the angels sang when Jesus was born.

Yet considering that God and His precepts are perfect, it makes total sense that all that is great worships Him. My favorite part of the Psalm is verses 7 – 11, which focuses on a number of aspects that really are the crux of the Bible. Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, the law of the Lord was just that – rules and regulations without end. After He died and rose again, however, it changed to this: That whoever believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved. So indeed, the law of the Lord is perfect. While Jesus was on earth, His testimony was sure; nothing He did could be construed wrongly and therefore doubted. It was sure because He stood on Biblical statutes; the principles that are one of the best parts of being a Christian. So when my Lord commands, I follow, knowing that his commandments are pure, and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and that his judgments are always just and right.

How can I fail to be inspired? The chapter goes on to say that these are more to be desired than much fine gold, and from the bottom of my heart I agree. There is so much in this world that is far more valuable than material goods. I love principles, and I love ideas. I love courage, wisdom, and honor, yet despite the fact that there are those in today’s world, in no one are they manifested as perfectly as they are in the God of the Bible, the God that Psalm 19 so wonderfully describes. When I read this psalm I get excited about life because God gave it to me, to study the heavens that glorify Him and the precepts that exalt Him. To learn them and claim them for my own, to use to glorify Him myself and to walk with Him. I’ve already believed in Him, and this psalm tells me whom it is I am so blessed and so loved to be able to have a relationship with Him. All the beauty we see in the universe was created by Him. So I am exhilarated to be alive and in this world. There is so much I want to do and accomplish as both a young adult and as a Christian. I want to join the heavens in declaring the glory of God and that’s just the start.