Fall Issue 2
What Are You Doing Here?
A Prayer to Begin the Year
By Rachel Hart
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life… And the word of the Lord came to him:“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”—1 Kings 19:3; 8-14 NIV
What are you doing here? It’s a question I’ve asked myself more than once in my year of being in Vancouver. What are you doing here, Rachel? I answered what I thought was God’s call to move to Canada, to begin grad school, but life didn’t fall into place like I hoped it would. Whether you’re a new student or returning, it’s a question that I’m sure has come up at least once. Life picks up. Coursework starts to mount. Bills pile up. Relationships don’t form as quickly or as deeply as we might like. So if you’re asking that question, you’re in good company.
In this passage, Elijah is at his end. He’s exhausted, physically, emotionally, mentally, from his time on Mt. Carmel. After running for his life, he finally has a moment to rest and to speak. What I love about this passage is how honest Elijah is before God. He doesn’t try any false modesty. He doesn’t focus on the ACTS structure of a prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Right away, his answer is raw and personal. If God were to ask you this question, how would you respond? I certainly have had a difficult time being honest with myself and with God in my response. What are you doing here?
As we enter another year of school, there is value in taking time to examine ourselves before our Father. J.I. Packer has said rightly that “If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both; if it does not encourage the commitment of faith, it reinforces the detachment of unbelief; if it fails to promote humility, it inevitably feeds pride.” I am in my sixth year of theological education, and that quotation has served as a plumb line each year. The fact of the matter is, the study we do cannot be focused on abstract ideas or concepts alone. We are made for relationship, with God and with each other. Therefore, the work that we do will affect our worship of God and how we minister [live] toward each other.
What are you doing here? Are you seeking answers? Do you need a degree? Have you been burned out by your vocation? If this time is merely utilitarian, serving a means to an end, I would like to challenge you. Yes, you are here to be a student, and your studies should take priority. But you are also here seeking the Triune Creator God. Lesslie Newbigin adds, “We are speaking not of an irrational leap into the unknown, but of the responsible acceptance of the personal invitation: ‘Follow me.’” The beauty of the incarnation is that this transcendent God has drawn near in the person of Christ. In following Christ, our lives are changed. Maybe that means moving to Vancouver. Maybe it means putting a career on hold. Maybe it means not having the relationship you thought you would by now. My prayer for you is that you are able to answer this question honestly before God and before yourself. If you’re coming to the retreat this weekend, maybe take some time to reflect and pray. He intimately seeks relationship with you, and cares how you answer his question to you. In your answer, seek God’s response to you. In scripture, prayer, and other believers.
Dear friend, child of God,
What are you doing here?
Let’s Talk about Silence
By Tetsuya Shimada
If I say, “silence is a way of communication”—how would you respond? Does that sound odd or strange? Oxymoronic and contradictory? Well, it is what it is—silence can be a way of communicating. Can be.
Let me briefly explore how. To this end, I must begin with my home—a small rice farming community in the countryside of Japan. When I grew up, there was not much commerce. One little shop carried daily necessities, and one was a candy shop. For tofu, you have to walk for half an hour to granny’s tofu shop.
But the place was never silent.
There are sparrows as the farmers begin their work in spring. With their mouths wide open, the chicks go on calling until their parents feed them. The farmers work silently and birds and wind fill the space between their speech.
In the summer, there is a variation of sounds throughout the day. Dt, dt, dt, dt … before sunrise, someone rushes out with the tractor. Perhaps it is Uncle H. Everyone in this village knows he works diligently, though he doesn’t talk about it. Or I’m in bed. Tu, tu, tu, tu, tututututu … yes, I know it is my grandma, doing laundry outside and checking the water in between her smokes. Tun, tun-tun-tun-tun-tun-tun-tun … the consistent rhythm from the kitchen—I can almost smell the miso soup. It’s my mum. “Ohayo-!” the voice of my grandpa breaks the silence. The TV turns on—so loud. It is a typical morning scene.
Yes, it’s summer, the time for cicadas. They live in the basement for seven winters, but now finally—off the ground. They shout with all their might, as if they know their life is short. Miiin-min-min-min-min-min … Min-min zemi calls in the morning. Tsuku-tsuku-bo-shi, tsuku-tsuku-bo-shi, tsuku-tsuku-bo-shi … Tsuku-tsuku-boushi fills the midday. Kanakanakanakanakanakanakanakanakana … Higurashi is also called the evening cicada. After the sunset, all the cicadas and birds go offstage. Now is time for the music, and the choir is assembled. Rri-rri-rri-rri-rri-rri-rri-rri … Qell-qell, qell-qell-qell … It fills a summer night. Frogs’ tenor backs up the crickets’ soprano, and together they bring harmony to the nocturnal quiet.
We live in the age of pick-n-choose. Being selective may be our disposition. We tend to pick and choose what we want to hear. While filtering what to listen to, we filter out things we don’t like. “I prefer not,” sounds fair and polite, but it might be limiting our world. Those being filtered out by us are, at the same time, unheard voices. There are many voices that we never hear or pay attention to, for we prefer not to listen. What are those voices we restrict?
Living in the age of preferential choice, as if everything is ours to decide, but we also get nervous and bashful. Imagine that you are at a coffee shop, but behind the counter. It can be pretty distressing to meet five different orders at once. Café latte, short mocha, caramel macchiato, and… tall, decaf soy latte with an extra shot, and…triple, venti, half sweet non-fat pumpkin spice macchiato? Triple, venti, half…sorry, could you repeat that? Well—forget it. As our preferences get their ways, our servers are stretched out to the point of giving up. We do care about what we like and what we order, but with that we grow a culture of customization. Everyone is a customer of somebody. But pickiness often correlates to our temper and patience. The pickier we become, the more tolerance we seem to lose.
All this is relevant to our Christian living. Pickiness could be called micromanagement, and quite naturally, grace and forgiveness is marginalized between us and our neighbors. Pickiness enhances our sense of control, which can damage our stance of trust toward God.
One aspect of silence is to give space for others. When our preferred music, in our own playlist, on our own devices, is not occupying our heads through our ear buds, there is so much more out there to engage with us. How attuned are we to nature, to the seasons, to others, to the Lord?
Silence is a form of communication—while we express it differently, silence is our stance of listening. It is not so much to do with the person who expresses, but with the one who receives the message. Behind silence there is openness, reverence, care, gratitude, stillness, hope—and with hope, empathy. Silence can express inexpressible emotions. With it one listens, so there may be better understanding between two persons.
Who wouldn’t need help on this matter? To be kind and caring, with childlike openness and carelessness, giving space to our neighbors, and listening to their voices?
Deliberations with Ms. Doubtfire
Dear Ms. Doubtfire,
There are so many “should”s swirling around, and especially at a place like Regent where so much of what we talk about has bearing on daily life. We should be eating better, more ethically, we should be caring for Creation, we should be spending time with the marginalized, we should be involved at our churches, we should be cultivating our gifts—and all this on top of studies and work and keeping sane. I can’t do it all, but somehow I feel like I should be. How do I sort through the various shoulds?
Anxious and Overwhelmed
Dear Anxious and Overwhelmed,
Imagine you know exactly who you are and what you are to do on any given day. Imagine the freedom of settling into your particular calling and living it out with clarity and joy. Your life is in perfect plumb with God’s intentions. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? The truth is, we befuddle along, attempting to connect identity and action, hoping the two coincide in perfect harmony with an outcome of bountiful life-fruit. When we indiscriminately follow other voices who “should” us, when we impose our own wild array of “shoulds,” we set ourselves up to crash and burn.
You’re right. We can’t do it all, nor should we. We’re never asked to play every part in the whole body, to use St. Paul’s metaphor. The confusion comes when we listen to cultural demands to over-function, work hard, try harder. That’s why discerning the swirling “shoulds” is essential for sustainable, long-term faithful participation with God’s Spirit in the gift of life and service. Consider:
· Who’s “shoulding” me and is the source credible?
· What drives my response to the influential voices I hear?
· When am I most vulnerable to “shoulds”?
· How might it be important to learn more about my personality, my family history, my unique gifts and resources as an antidote to being tossed about by external and internal pressures?
· What brings me joy? What makes me laugh? What actions evoke a visceral sense of peace? How might my responses guide discernment?
· Who can I ask to help me discern who I am and what is my particular call?
A few helpful phrases that put the “shoulds” to bed when they become unruly, are these:
· As I am able
· As I understand
· As I sense the Spirit
Not that you will, but even if you did sit on the couch watching sitcoms and drinking beer the rest of your days, God would love you no less.
Because We Could All Use a Brain Break
By Lizibeth Fischer
Just a little mad-lib to put the madness of the start of term in perspective! Find a friend/ acquaintance/ bored bystander/attractive stranger and do a little bit of assisted storytelling. Ask your partner for the parts of speech required, then read back the story to them. Hint: Gather the pieces out of order for maximum randomness.
It was a damp Vancouver morning when (Name 1) arrived at Regent College. Glancing around the Atrium, he/she saw (Name 2) and (adverb) past tense verb) over to them. “Where have you been? I’ve felt like a (noun) in an (appliance) since I saw you last!” (Repeat Name 2) looked (emotional state) . “But it has only been (number) time increment) since I saw you last! You can be such a (noun) , you (adjective) noun)____ .” (Repeat Name 1) just laughed (adverb) and asked, “How is your class with (Regent Professor) ?” (Repeat Name 2) began to (verb) as he/she answered (adverb) , “It is so (adjective)_ ! I’ve never thought so seriously about integrating (hobby) with (theological term) ______________ .” “(Exclamation) ,” (Repeat Name 1 ) answered. “That is a super (adjective) dimension of embodiment that I need to think more about…I want to hear more about it—just let me grab a (favorite drink from The Well) .” But before they could take a single step toward the cafe, a (adjective) noun 1) came (verb w/ –ing 1) down from the second floor. “(Exclamation) !” they screamed. Regent students scattered like (plural noun) out of a (container) . It was full panic at the disco. The (Repeat noun 1) unexpectedly kept on (Repeat verb w/–ing 1) and everyone was stunned. Suddenly, (Name 3) appeared wearing a (article of clothing) on their (body part) and a mysterious (headwear) , and carrying a giant (noun) . It was like something from (book/movie/novel/tv show) . He /she thundered, “I am here to (verb) and to bring order…” Before he/she could finish, or indeed do anything at all, the chapel doors opened and an icy blast of air tore through the Atrium. The scattered students swooned. Some crawled towards The Well, pleading for hot beverages. Others huddled together for warmth. (Repeat Name 3) gave up their brave mission and retreated to the secret bunker (A.k.a. Room 2). A totally normal morning at Regent was verging on chaos. “Someone close the chapel door!” cried a sensible soul. “I’ll do it!” (Repeat Name 1) cried. He/she ran toward the chapel and hollered, “Save yourselves!” To which a patristics student could be heard to retort, “ (Adjective) Pelagian.” At the same moment that the chapel door was closed, narrowly averting a new ice age, the out of control (Repeat noun 1) past tense verb) out the Atrium doors with a resounding (sound) . Calm returned. Awkward hugs were exchanged. The storm was stilled. But the scene of calm was prematurely shattered by the fire alarm—really?! But then…it was more of a bell, a melodic chiming, it was….(Repeat Name 1) ’s alarm clock. He/she startled awake. It had all been a dream. (Repeat Name 1) shook his/her head and vowed never to eat (food) after midnight again. He/she got out of bed to embrace an (relatively) normal morning at Regent College.
Hurrahing in Harvest
By Gerard Manley Hopkins
Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?
And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet—
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.
Crossword by Embolus
1. Sharpen with internal proportion, left child, 9, supported by column. (7,6)
9. Water fight led by mad, mad liar. (7)
11. Self contained male and ban keeps things under wraps. (7)
12. Alien it most upset produced a letter of good standing. (11)
13. Life jacket with no direction? (3)
14. Pink bloomer? (4)
18. Attractive, bipolar man? Get sorted out! (6)
20. Fresh paint for Columbus’s vessel. (5)
21. In his part is Titian’s calling. (6)
24. Boxer’s first and boxer’s last resort. (4)
29. Olympian queen lost her head for quite some time. (3)
30. Spoiler! Ex Lax zone died very nastily. (5,6)
31. Stargazer played Lego with Ali. (7)
32. Penny rooted explosive sinker. (7)
33. Sydney’s founder made painting Judah’s father measure of acidity unwell I perceive at first. (6,7)
2. A threadbare report made fearful outcome. (6)
3. & 18D Self-harm with amino compound in off-shore tax haven. (4,2,3)
4. When you are not 2D, you will perhaps fear this. (2,4)
5. Throw priest a flower. (7)
6. Eight chaps sitting in a row? (7)
7. Intrepid explorer left in water curtailed right to consume beer. (6,7)
8. Darwin’s conductor has Scottish hero fret about zit. (6,7)
10.1,7,8 & 33 all needed these to hold up their sheets. (5)
15. Samuel’s guardian in fine light? (3)
16. Choose work over time. (3)
17. Good man leaves bad smell, black stuff. (3)
18. See 3D.
19. Britain has no occupation for big mouth! (3)
22. Confused alert about reading and writing starts for vessel. (7)
23. Latest hard, deviant deceit. (7)
25. Walked like a duck, with neither beginning nor end, to discombobulate. (5)
26. Former Arab wilderness in Devon. (6)
27. Seize Poles over a Tchaikovsky overture. (6)
28. Guards’ duty is endless release from prison about time. (6)