Hey everyone! How are you all? I’m doing well. =) Right now, I’m enjoying a little bit of free time, and it feels great. I’ve been so tired, and have been working hard trying to read a lot and memorize what year the Vandals attacked North Africa and cut off what was left (East or West, I can’t remember) of the Roman Empire’s grain supply (I wrote a poem about it! Just a second…), and memorize the forms of the Greek word λόγος (there are 8 of them!), and write on what I think Augustine’s understanding of the self is. Whew! It’s been wonderful to learn all the things I have been learning, but wow, I’m a bit exhausted, and it feels good to do something leisurely and restful. I must be lacking in a year’s worth of sleep… I think I’ll go to bed early tonight (pshhh… we’ll see if that actually happens).
This past week, we’ve been learning about Islam: its history, its religious and political significance, and what Muslims believe (studying its doctrines to what the Bible teaches). It’s been very interesting. For example, did you know, that their god (Allah) has 99 names that signify his attributes, but not one of them means “love”? Learning that made me so thankful that the true God, YHWH, is full of love, and that by giving His Son to atone for my guilt, I, who once was black with all my errors and pain and regrets, have been made clean and set free from my sin, and become His adopted daughter, to love and serve Him in joy forever and bask in His glory… not because of anything I’ve done, but because of what HE did, out of His love for me! I mean, seriously, what a gift! No other religion teaches news like this.
Greek has been super hard, but fun. I prefer the class sessions over the individual study time, because our Greek prof makes the classes fun and interactive, calling on us at random to answer questions (“Madeline. Say this word on the board, tell me what it means, and parse it for me.”). To parse a word is to identify its qualities, such as its case, gender, number. For example, λόγος (logos – “word”) is in the nominative case, is masculine, and singular. Greek is as hard to learn as I imagine English as a second language would be. But it’s definitely interesting and fun! It’s so cool to actually be able to read the New Testament in its original language.
I’ve been biking pretty often. It’s been fun… biking in the city is kind of a new experience for me, so I’m getting used to that. I have had a few awkward moments while doing it though… such as trying to cross a street but taking a while to get my bike to actually get moving, because the pedals are inconveniently situated, so I can’t push on it to get it going very well (while the guy in the car by me has to wait a second until I’m out of his way. sorry dude). This has happened a few times. Or the time when I was biking with a friend, when we happened upon one of those ramps at the end of sidewalks, and I, having just been going rather slowly, had some trouble actually getting up the ramp, and had to kind of assist my bike along using my feet. (Smooth.) Meanwhile, my friend is several yards ahead, and looks back with an amused expression, probably wondering, “what’s taking her so long?” Yup. Haha. But it’s been fun.
For the past few days, we’ve been studying for a history quiz. Some of my housemates and I made a timeline on our dining room wall out of different-colored baker’s twine, pinning on index cards with names and dates with clothespins. It’s pretty awesome. A few friends and I went to a coffee shop to study, two days in a row. The second time was originally the morning of the quiz, so we all got up at 5-ish in the morning and got there while it was still dark. And then as we were studying, we all received an email from our professor that it got postponed until Friday (so, this morning). I’m not sure how everyone else felt about that, but I was relieved: more time to get the facts cemented into my brain! I didn’t mind a bit that we had to get up at 5. By the way, I found a fun way to study facts and dates: write little poems or haikus about them! Everything’s easier to remember when it’s put to rhyme or a tune. Here’s one I wrote yesterday:
Near four hundred thirty the Vandals took Africa
Stopping the import of wheat to the Empire
This was a blow to the economy,
They then had no choice but to eat gluten free.
Obviously that last line isn’t historically accurate; I’m sure the victims of this catastrophe possibly could have grown their own wheat if they wanted to, and they probably did, but I added it just for the fun of it. (YOLO.) Anyway, all that poetry writing paid off today; I think I did rather well. =)
These days God has been teaching me to take every hard situation – be it a hard assignment, or a life problem, or a day where I’m feeling a bit overtired, or a time when life isn’t going according to what I’d hoped – and “count it all joy”.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)
What does it mean to “count it all joy”? Well, the verse is saying that when hard times happen, I should know that God is using it to strengthen my faith, to teach me to trust him. It’s sanctification. So when I’m feeling not-so-joyful and wondering why on earth, or looking ahead with intimidation at a hard task, or whatever, God is teaching me to say “well, LORD, this isn’t pleasant, but I know that You have caused this moment in my life to happen for a reason, to teach me to trust You more. So thank You, and help me to take this moment with joy, knowing that You are doing this for my good, because You LOVE me.” If life were easy, I would be a spoiled brat. Thank You, LORD for discipline.
Also, I’ve been reminded that God is the giver of wisdom. Yesterday I was sitting in the school library trying to write the final draft of my Augustine paper. It was pouring outside (yes!), and I was listening to my playlist on Spotify titled “Chillax” (full of calm, wordless, relaxing music), and I thought I knew where I was going with my paper. All was going fine. Then suddenly… I don’t know what to write anymore. My thesis doesn’t work. I can’t come up with six pages’ worth of information to support my argument. Oh no. What on earth am I going to do? These are the moments where I break down and am like, “Okay, God. I cannot do this on my own. Any knowledge I have is a gift from You. Would you be pleased to give me wisdom for what to write, and help me to get this turned in on time?” And often in the past He has been pleased to answer this prayer. Last semester I was writing a paper that had to be five pages long, and I only had two, and it was due the next day. So I asked Him to give me the right things to write. And would You believe it? God gave me some grace. He helped me to think (more clearly, when it was midnight and all I could think about was “I want to go to bed”) about the topic I was writing about and calling to mind all kinds of biblical evidence for my argument, and soon I had 5 pages’ worth of “word vomit”, which I could sort through the next day. I was like, “WOW, God! Thank You!” Also, today my professor happened to read 1 Kings 3:1-15 to us as our morning devotional before class. This chapter tells about when Solomon became king of Israel, and God appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon could have asked for anything he wanted, but what he asks for is wisdom – understanding to govern the people well, and to discern between good and evil. He realizes that he is only human, and cannot lead such a large nation of people on his own strength. God is pleased with his humility, and answers His prayer. Like, He REALLY answers his prayer, making him wiser than anyone before or after him. So. Moral of the story: Do you need wisdom? Ask God. =)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5 ESV)
Lately, I’ve been enjoying: Tazo Passion tea // “Live To Praise You” and “Oxygen” by Lincoln Brewster // “Born Again” by Josh Garrels. This song. Wow. // Wearing dresses around the house because they’re comfortable, and why not. =) // Reading Beowulf. (It’s our assigned reading for this Monday. I’m only on the second page, but so far it’s enjoyable. I’m reading the Seamus Heaney translation.) // The occasional chilly, rainy days. =) Fall is coming! // The book of Romans (I’m going through it for my devotions. So good. Paul is the man).