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Silence of God

It’s enough to drive a man crazy, it’ll break a man’s faith
It’s enough to make him wonder, if he’s ever been sane
When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God

It’ll shake a man’s timbers when he loses his heart
When he has to remember what broke him apart
This yoke may be easy but this burden is not
When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God

And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got
When they tell you all their troubles
Have been nailed up to that cross
Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
‘Cause we all get lost sometimes

There’s a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll
In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold
And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God

– Silence of God by Andrew Peterson
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Suffering

He didn’t suffer so we wouldn’t have to; He suffered so we’d know HOW to.

– seen on Facebook somewhere

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Practicing for Death

“At least three times a day, deny yourself some tiny, legitimate pleasure, such as the extra cigarette, the second drink, or the extra lump of sugar, in order to discipline your spirit and keep mastery over yourself for the love of God.

These little “deaths” are so many rehearsals for the final death. Dying is a masterpiece, and to do it well, we must die daily: ‘If any man would come after me, let him…take up his cross daily’ (Luke 9:23).” – Fulton Sheen’s Wartime Prayer Book, via HouseUnseen

I like the idea that we have to practice for death. I touched on it here after reading Pilgrim’s Progress.

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Living in Babylon, Buying New Pants

In Jeremiah 29, the Israelites have recently been exiled from their home and moved to Babylon. They’re dejected and confused. “Why would God take us out of the land He promised us?”

The prophet Jeremiah, remaining behind in Israel with the very poor, has heard from God and sends a letter to the exiles in Babylon. I imagine they were expecting some hopeful news: “God is sending some warrior angels to rescue you! He will defeat the Babylonians tomorrow! Pack your bags!”

Instead, he has harder news: you’re not coming back to Israel for 70 years. Settle in.

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

I have long loved this chapter in talking to new graduate students (the not-so-subtle metaphor here is to see grad school as exile, though I think rarely is grad school one of God’s punishments). To thrive in graduate school, one needs to view it not as a transitory period, where the temptation is to focus on schoolwork to the exclusion of all else. Jeremiah’s letter reminds us that we should invest deeply in our communities while we are there – make deep friendships, get involved in a church, even date, get married, and have children. Grad school is real life – not another holding pattern before “real life” starts.

Now I find this passage meaningful in a new way. I’ve been in the long, painful wait of infertility for about two years now. The extra challenge of infertility is that every month could be the last one. The uncertainty, the pain, and the hopefulness cycle over and over again, one after another.

I recently went to a support group where I found people who understood the unique challenges of this season. We shared many struggles, even down to not wanting to buy new clothes. “What if this is the month I get pregnant, and then I won’t be able to wear them?”

One woman wisely shared that God was asking her to live in to her current circumstances: buy a few new clothes, make the “baby room” a sewing room, make an appointment with the doctor. Don’t put your life on hold awaiting the good gift of a child.

I connected this beautiful idea to my beloved Jeremiah 29 passage*. I am especially meditating on the phrase, “Multiply there and do not decrease,” or in another translation, “Increase there and do not decrease.”

Alas, the immediate context of this phrase (meaning, “Have babies”) and being in the state of infertility are mutually exclusive. What, therefore, does “increase there and do not decrease” mean for me? What is God trying to grow in me during this barren time?

I am listening, I am praying, I am waiting as I sit here in Babylon, trying to grow and waiting for the call to come home. And I bought some new pants last week.

 

*I also have “Run the race that is set before you” (Hebrews 12:1) pinned to my desk. I only have to run the one race that God has given me, which at this moment includes infertility.

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Patient Quotes to Remember

“How are you doing today, sir?” “I only have 4-6 months to live, so I’m not sure how to answer that question anymore. I just hope I can help you with your research.”

“You’re just an angel – there’s angels all around taking care of me. An angel here to take my blood.”

(Translating) “She says, We are all in the hands of God.”

The doctor comes out of the room looking sad, shaking her head. “There’s just nothing we can do.” I enter, in expectation of a somber atmosphere, to shouts of joy: “Oh! It’s the finger-pricker! The finger-pricker’s here!” There was so much laughter in that room.

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A Tuesday in January

Continuing to try to chronicle the daily life of a grad student.
I was tired, as usual, and got in around 10:15. I scanned documents to apply to get a badge to do a study at a hospital – something we’ve been trying to get approval for since April.
I emailed my thesis committee about a date for my defense!
I responded to various other emails, including sending in some puzzles for a podcast I enjoy.
I started to assemble the slides for my research presentation in group meeting later that week.
Getting excited about the possibility of actually defending, I printed and filled out my application for degree. Procrastinating real research, I wrote my biannual progress report for the department. I ate lunch at my desk, surfing the internet.
In the afternoon, I hung out in the lab running lateral flow experiments one after the other. A few looked like success, then a few looked like failure. As I started to investigate why, I ran out of antibody-latex and had to make more. I started that reaction, and then Jessica and I walked to Starbucks for a break.
While I waited on my reaction, I edited an application for Jessica and foozled a bit with the background chapter of my thesis.
I went back into the lab to finish off the reaction, playing Sudoku at my lab bench while things centrifuged.
I drove home around 6:30.

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Read in 2015, Part 2

  1. The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories by George MacDonald. Delightful and profound as always.
  2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. We listened to this driving back from somewhere, and I picked it up and read it on vacation in Denver. It was a beautiful story – a smalltown Kansas pastor and son of a pastor looks back on his life. I do think this is one of the rare books that was better on audiobook than print – the reader’s voice added much to the story.
  3. Spiritual Friendship by Wesley Hill. Hill’s new book discussing the Christian perspective on friendship – some theory and some practicality – especially as pertains to single Christians. I thought it very good, and very important for our church moving forward.
  4. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams. Crazy, campy, intricate, and funny as ever.
  5. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. We stumbled across Brother Odd on another long drive and loved it. Odd Thomas is the first of the series: An ordinary guy can see dead people and uses it to solve mysteries. The series is witty, funny, and deep.
  6. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz.
  7. Odd Hours by Dean Koontz.
  8. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. This is Hill’s first book, writing about the practicalities of living out a celibate life as a gay Christian in modern times. I thought it was very good – informative and thought-provoking for those gay or straight, single or married.
  9. Patrick by Stephen Lawhead.  Lawhead’s treatment of the legend of St. Patrick covers his early life and a bit of his return to Ireland. I enjoyed it, but was left wanting more, especially about his ministry in Ireland. I really enjoy how Lawhead weaves in native beliefs with Christianity – I think it is done authentically and well.
  10. Peter Pan by JM Barrie. So good!
  11. Tramp for the Lord and Not I, but Christ by Corrie ten Boom. Tales of Corrie ten Boom’s travels and a collection of speeches. Lovely, but I’ve enjoyed her other writings more.
  12. Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov. This and the next book bridge Asimov’s Robots series with the Foundation series, which I have never read. Enjoyable.
  13. Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov. 
  14. Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. My Halloween reading this year.
  15. Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a long time. Walton sees Genesis One as narrative about the creation of the cosmic temple (with parallels in other ancient Near Eastern writings and in other places in the Bible) and has some convincing arguments. This viewpoint resolves (or rather, removes Genesis 1 as evidence for) a lot of controversies. I really liked this one.
  16. Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers. Enjoyable mystery introducing Harriet Vane.
  17. Letters to Children by CS Lewis. Read as I was beginning a penpal relationship with my small kinfolk. Very good.
  18. My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Potok is Greg’s favorite author. This story follows a young Jewish boy with a profound gift for art.Very good.
  19. Greenwitch by Susan Cooper. Part of a kids’ Arthurian series. I enjoyed the first two books, but this and the Grey King had some things in it that concerned me. The book argues that light and dark are equal and opposite powers, and that there is a cold hardness at the center of the light. I will probably finish reading the series and then get rid of it.
  20. Grey King by Susan Cooper
  21. Empyrion: the Search for Fierra by Stephen Lawhead. Lawhead does sci-fi?! I found these at my in-laws’ over Thanksgiving. The main characters go to a far-off planet expecting to find a recently planted colony, but they actually end up far in the colony’s future. I’m not sure it was particularly profound, but I enjoyed them very much.
  22. Empyrion: the Siege of Dome by Stephen Lawhead
  23. The Martian by Andy Weir. I got this for Christmas and devoured it. It was amazing. My two complaints were (1) language and (2) being too short.

Happy reading!

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