A Considerable Tent

To celebrate my two-year anniversary at A Considerable Speck,
I purchased this lovely original artwork for the empty space above my piano.
(Check out Willowgrass Designs on Etsy.com.)
Two years.  That's how long a young man serves a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It's also how long I've been living at my current apartment, A Considerable Speck.  This is the longest I've stayed in one residence, since leaving my folks' ten years ago.  I have called this little duplex "home" for over a third of the time I've been in Utah.  Some day I would like to move to a bigger place, capable of hosting groups more comfortably.  But for now this is home, as much as a manmade building can be.  I am here for something far more permanent than a two-year mission.

And so I find myself living a delicate balance: purposefully sticking around, putting roots down, building relationships, investing in long-term ministry here in Utah Valley; yet being careful not to grow too comfortable in a place whose very existence is a fractioned heartbeat relative to eternity.  For all the grandeur and rugged strength of these mountains outside my window, they will pass away at God's appointed time.  Meanwhile, I seek an Abrahamic perspective:

By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents [...] for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  (Hebrews 11:9-10)

A Considerable Speck, therefore, is just a "tent": a temporary residence on my way to heaven.

That said, I'm tickled that this tent comes with a carport and programmable thermostat.


Remind Me Who I Am

Who are you?

I am:
Daughter, sister, aunt, friend.
Public relations director, optician, Bible teacher.
Bible college grad.
Lip balm addict.


Phony, hypocrite.
Jealous, lonely.
Shallow, judgmental, ignorant.

My identity is not wrapped up in my family or my vocation.
I am not simply the sum total of my personality and experiences.
I am not confined by the perceptions of others'.
I am not defined by my choices and successes.
Nor am I captive to my disadvantages and failures.

Sometimes I just need to be reminded who I really am:

Hidden in Christ,
Made in the image of the Giver of life.
Righteous and holy,
Reborn and remade,
Accepted and worthy:
This is [my] new name.
I am new.

Thank you, Jason Gray.

It is worth noting that Jason does not address the question of identity merely from an academic standpoint.  He knows whereof he speaks: Jason has a speech impediment.  What would normally be considered a severe handicap to a career vocalist, has become an evidence of God's grace and an agent of inspiration.  It serves as a constant reminder that, for the Christ-follower, identity is not determined by Self, but by Christ Himself.

I'm the one You love,
I'm the one You love;
That will be enough.

"I will call those who were not My people, 'My people,'
and her who was not beloved, 'Beloved.'
And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them,
'You are not my people,'
there they shall be called sons of the living God."
(Romans 9:26-27)

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ...  (2 Cor. 5:16-17 NASB)

Who are you?


Snow in June and Other Utah Humdingers

Lydia and I, hiking on the east side of Mt. Timpanogos.

There is something about yards-deep snow on a 90-degree day that I can't quite comprehend.  Shouldn't it be—oh, I don't know—melting or something?

I know this winter's was a record-breaking snowfall.  I know the eastern slopes of mountains don't get as much sun exposure.  And I know the snow is melting, but the runoff occurs under the snowpack and out of sight.

Add up all the facts—and still! wading through snow in shorts does not compute in this prairie-raised brain.  It's a humdinger to Midwestern me, but a matter of routine in Utah.  Like fry sauce.  And billboards advertising modest clothing.  And church steeples every few blocks, all void of a cross.  Many Utah anomalies I gladly adapt to.  Some: I pray I never do.


Walking for Life

I love babies.  I love life.  I love the God Who creates life.  That's why I support the Pregnancy Resource Center of Utah Valley.  They provide free services for those unprepared for pregnancy and those traumatized by abortion.  Yes, even in squeaky-clean Provo, Utah, there are many people dealing with these complex issues.  That's why I'll be participating in the June 4 Walk for Life, benefiting the PRC.  Would you consider helping me reach my $200 goal?  Click here.


Victory in Jesus

You have crushed beneath your heel the vile serpent, ¹
You have carried to the grave the black stain; ²
You have torn apart the temple's holy curtain, ³
You have beaten death at death's own game. 
- From "Hosanna" by Andrew Peterson

¹ And I will put enmity between thee [the serpent] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.  Genesis 3:15
² ...Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures...  I Corinthians 15:3-4
³ Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent...  Matthew 27:50-51
...Death is swallowed up in victory.  I Corinthians 15:54


Near the Cross

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded,
With thorns Thine only crown.
How pale Thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!

Don't old English words like "sore abuse" and "visage languish" seem more apt to describe the grisly, stomach-turning crucifixion of Christ than the casual American English of 2011?  

The stanza above is part of the standard translation of a 12th-century hymn originally written in Latin.  A few days ago, I listened to Chuck Swindoll read these words—part of a special series of Easter-themed messages on KEY Radio.  He then made an observation to the effect that nobody is writing hymn texts like that nowadays.

It's not just the quaint vocabulary he was referring to; rather, I think his point was that we as the modern-day Church have generally settled into a religion of comfort, and we hesitate to dwell on our Savior's suffering.  It is simply too uncomfortable to think about anyone—much less God!—whose flesh was torn, whose nakedness was exposed, whose bones were broken without either anesthesia or pity.  Indeed, we embrace what the Cross purchased for us (reconciliation with a holy God) without understanding the enormity of the cost paid physically by Christ.

Dr. Swindoll's remarks got me thinking, as they often do.  Is it true that songs about Jesus' suffering and humiliation are not being written by my generation of believers?  Of course, I cannot speak authoritatively; I can only make the unscientific observations of a music-lover and occasional radio deejay.  But sadly, I must agree there is a void of songwriting here.

Building a playlist for KEY that afternoon, however, I found a few notable exceptions to what I fear is the rule.  "Blessed Redeemer," by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms does not shy away  from Christ's pain: "I see him on Calvary's tree, wounded and bleeding..."  Nor did Chad Cates, Todd Smith, and Tony Wood sugarcoat the crucifixion when writing, "Beautiful Terrible Cross."  (An aside: hymn-lovers will notice the Selah version of this song incorporating musical phrases of the old Fanny Crosby hymn "Near the Cross"—subtly paying tribute to the generation- and culture-spanning power of Jesus' death.)

One more thought: balance.  We should meditate on both the Cross and what it accomplished.  Contemplating Christ's agony does little good when I don't apply its ramifications to my life.  Because Jesus willingly died on the cross (and rose again! that's a whole other post), I have victory over sin, Satan and death!  What is more worthy of song?

And so I share with you these few songs about different aspects of the Cross.  As they have done for me, may they help you to "fix your eyes on Jesus... who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself" (Hebrews 12).

(Please forgive the commercial inserted before the final song.  "Free salvation" means no strings attached; not so with "free music player.")

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Keeping Missions In Front(ier)

One of my 2011 ministry goals was to post twice a month on my blog.  Ha.  That's me: ever the optimist.  But there is still three hours left in February, if you're in Mountain time like I—and if you're not, you really should consider moving west and adding another hour to your life—so I'll rustle up a post.  It is simply a short but hearty endorsement of this:
I had the privilege of being at Frontier School of the Bible for six days this month, participating in a missions conference.  I say "a" missions conference, not "the" missions conference, because Frontier has three every school year.  Three, for crying out loud.  And here I thought the "missions conference" was an endangered animal.  But there it was: six days of special speakers and workshops and dinners and presentations and displays, all with the purpose of exposing students to opportunities of participating in Christ's Great Commission.

As if that weren't enough, I was also impressed with the warmth of the student body, the friendliness of the faculty and staff, the homemade goodness of the food, and the pleasantness of the facilities and setting.  And did I mention the food?

Frontier School of the Bible is located in rural southeastern Wyoming.  Affordable, concentrated study of God's Word and preparation for ministry.  Check it out here.


"She's Away and Westward Bound"

They say the best songs are borne of experience.  If that's true, singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot must have had his share of travel woes and adventures.

I picked up a compilation cassette of Lightfoot's music at Goodwill while I was home for Christmas.  Little did I know how it would prove to be the soundtrack of my trip back to Utah.

The journey began uneventfully enough at the Great Bend, Kansas airport.  (Airport is used only in the strictest sense here.  The terminal is a small, one-room brick building with a single glass door that opens to the tarmac.)  My folks sent me off with hugs, last-minute parental advice, and a small roll of cash slipped into my hand.  Pro that I am, leaving home is never easy.

But the mountains [...] are calling out to me,
And I got my bedroll on my back
And everything that I could pack to see me on my way...

Four of us passengers boarded the 19-seater; since there was no flight attendant, the co-captain—who looked barely old enough to shave—checked our seat belts and gave the flotation device shpeel.  Then takeoff.  It's a small thing in the grand scheme, but I thanked my Father for a clear day to fly over farmlands; there are few things as beautiful to my eyes as the rural Midwest viewed from 39,000 feet.

And the prairie towns go sailing by...

A quick stop in Dodge City yielded one more passenger; then it was on to Denver.  Though it was a crisp, sunny day when we took off, the sky clouded as we flew west.  By the time we landed in Colorado, it was a regular blizzard.  But, so far so good.

All is well.
I left the cold midwestern towns behind...

My next flight to Salt Lake City was scheduled to leave in 1.5 hours.  Winter weather, however, would dictate otherwise.  Along with thousands of other passengers, my layover became what I call a delayover.

This old airport's got me down, it's no earthly use to me
Cause I'm stuck here on the ground, cold [...] as I can be...

My flight was pushed back several times until the boarding call sounded about two hours behind schedule.  I called home; Mom answered and I let her know I wouldn't be calling when I arrive in Provo since it is already late.

Does your mother know, you had to go someday?
Just tell her [...] That you've got ten dollars and you'll be all right,
And when you get straight you're gonna come back east some day...

But the waiting wasn't over.  First, we sat in line to deice the plane.  It was dark now, with snow blowing under the lights and a chill creeping into the cabin.

Out on runway number nine, big 707 set to go, 
But I'm stuck here on the ground where the cold winds blow...

About the time I should have been pulling into my driveway in Utah, we finally took off from Denver.

Hear the mighty engines roar, see the silver bird on high;
She's away and westward bound, high above the clouds she'll fly...

It was a late but safe landing in wintery Salt Lake City.  Five inches of snow and ice had to be cleared off my car.  That was easy compared to the task of getting inside it.  The doors were frozen shut.  After much prying, yanking, pleading, huffing and puffing, I got the driver's door open and crawled in.  Only now the door wouldn't close; the latch was frozen in place.

I have had to hold my door closed as I've driven to work on a cold morning once or twice, but driving 50 minutes on the interstate is entirely different.  My door must latch.  The parking lot attendants only offered a sympathetic shake of the head and pointed me to a truck stop.  Once there, I pulled out some tools and a flashlight and attempted surgery with numb fingers.  Where was my capable-of-anything dad when I needed him?

I'm a long way from home
And I miss my loved ones so...

Ten minutes later, with no success, I admitted what I was: a Helpless Female.  I went inside the truck stop to look for a hero.  The girl behind the counter called over Hector, a young man whose wide smile I soon realized meant, "I am not an English-speaker and I would love to help but I have no idea what you're saying."  Still, he seemed to recognize a Helpless Female when he saw one.

And the service station man agreed I didn't look too well...

Hector followed me out, and by gestures I made him understand what the problem was.  He motioned for me to get in the car and then he slammed the door.  It latched!  At last I headed south to Provo and my warm bed.

All is well.
The foothills are coming into sight.
Today is just a memory, the future is tonight.
And the red pines will bow their heads,
The rivers and the watersheds will carry us along,
And the mountains [...] will greet me there as only [they] can do.

All is well.

Excerpts from songs by the great Gordon Lightfoot: Early Morning Rain, Mountains and Maryann, Does Your Mother Know.