Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Prayer

Advent Prayer

O come, O Come Emmanuel: And ransom captive Israel As Christians, we live between the two comings of Christ. We remember his first coming to be sacrificed and we anticipate his second coming to reign. The two comings of Christ are held together in Christian thought, action, and prayer at all times. They cannot be separated. When they are, it is the end of Christian faith, life and worship. The first coming without the second is a meaningless tragedy. The second coming without the first is an absurd impossibility. Jesus is born to bring God's kingdom. He dies to prove his kingship. He rises to establish his reign. He comes again in glory to share it with his people. Lord, Along with millions before us we eagerly await your coming. Jesus you cannot come again soon enough! Everywhere we look sin seems to be rampant. We know that at you are in control which you made very clear in your first coming, but Lord our hearts are heavy. We your people are exhausted by all the violence, lack of empathy, and downright hatred show by both Christians and non-Christian. We need your kingdom to come now! We want to fully devour the joy that we’ve only tasted. We want to be and your presence and enjoy your grace fully. You have taken us captive with longing for You, O Christ, And have transformed us with Your divine love. Burn up Our sins with the fire of Your Spirit And count us worthy to take my fill of delight in You That dancing with joy, We may magnify Your two Comings

--Evan Kroon

So Many Questions

I think that we are constantly thinking of questions throughout the day, week, month, year, etc. At least for me, I feel like most of my thoughts end with question marks—from simple, shallow questions to mind boggling questions that have been recently coming up that can probably only be answered by God. At times, this is frustrating, because I need answers, but not all problems have solutions.  

I tried to compile a list of some of the countless questions that pop up in my head. This may or may not be representative of the average female 20 year-old Korean college student from China who is attending a private Christian Reformed college in Grand Rapids:

What’s for dinner?
What happens when Jesus comes tonight?
Then my dinner won’t matter anymore, right?
Will I make it to heaven safe and sound?
Oh wait, do I have an exam this week?
What if I die young?
Will this exam really affect my life?
What do I even want to do when I grow up?
Should I graduate early?
Should I study abroad?
Should I drop out and open up a bar by a beach and provide counseling to my customers?
Why does time fly, yet 5 minutes feels like forever in class?
Why is the weekend so short?
Did God really choose who would go to heaven?
Then what’s the point?
Even so, should we care?
Why are some people so selfish?
What happens if I get deported?
Why is the sky blue?
How big is the universe?
Are we the only ones in the universe?
What if I am the only real person in my world and everything/everyone else is a figment of my imagination?
Should I watch a movie or start on my project?
How long can I survive without my phone?
Can I sneak in a nap today?
Why doesn’t God make himself visible and tangible so that we can have a conversation the same way I talk to my friend?
What is the function of cockroaches?
Will people notice my pimple?
How do people know when they are adults?
Do tyrants feel shame?
Did they have the potential to grow up to be good, but were nurtured the wrong way as a child?
Why do people fear the unknown?
Does my breath smell like pickles?
Will I be able to find a ride tomorrow?
Why do I feel like my life is constantly being chased by assignments, tests, and projects?
Are we meant to be living like this?
Will I concentrate better at a cafe?
Where should I live in the future?
What if I become homeless one day?
If our average lifespan was 40 years, would we be living differently?
Why am I so privileged?
How could I be blessed excessively, yet some individuals lack the basics, such as safe shelter?
Why don’t adults get summer vacation?
Why do I stress?
Why can’t people be more like me?
How can I be more humble?
Should I grow out my hair, or keep it short?
Why are some individuals such haters?
Would he have been able to say those words he wrote directly to the individual it was targeted towards?
When I get old, will I look back and say that I’ve lived a successful, fulfilling life?
Why am I writing these questions?
Why are you reading this?
Do you have questions, too?

 --Sarah Lee

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Being With

I have felt at a loss for words, I have not known what to say. With Paris, with San Bernardino, with the refugee crisis, with the nasty conversation, if it can be called that, among presidential candidates, and with the recent events at Calvin. I feel stuck between two equally uncomfortable places. One is to care, the other is to not care.

Let me explain the struggle with both those choices. First, if I let myself care, if I don’t turn that switch off, I find myself in a place where I can’t actually do anything. I can’t actually act on that decision to care, and if I’m not able to do that, I’m stuck in a place of sentimentality. I try to avoid sentimentality.

On the other hand, I could try to not care. I could choose to believe I can’t do anything anyway. Why cause myself distress in caring? I didn’t know the 14 people massacred in San Bernardino. I didn’t know the college student from California who was studying abroad and died in the Paris attack. Why not just let it go? Swoosh. Done. Forgotten.

Now, I’m not as binary and elementary as that--I know the world is not black and white, and I have more choices than to care or not to care. But I can’t quite figure out what the intermediate would be.

I’ll also say that among classes, homework, work, and studying, this question does not consume my time and attention. However, it has been persistent, popping up enough times that I can’t ignore it.

So, what to do?

Well, I prayed, kind of. It was not without feeling uncomfortable, inadequate. It’s easier for me to give prayers of thanks than prayers of supplication. I struggle to not feel cheap in saying “help them, be with them, Jesus.” It feels like I'm saying it more for my own benefit than for theirs. With my head, I know that it’s not like that, so I keep on.

The article Jeff gave us before Thanksgiving ( was encouraging. It said “don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional ‘authenticity…’” Rebel against the emotional authenticity. And isn’t that what we should do? “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances,” says 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Pray constantly.

I do want to throw out this disclaimer, a tidbit from my mental health nursing rotation: feelings are important, and should not be ignored. Rebelling against emotional authenticity does not mean ignoring your feelings. On the contrary, it means being aware of your feelings, and deciding to act apart from them (because sometimes feelings are not facts. Another tidbit).

So, I was sad when I read an article on “prayer shaming” ( I was sad because, well, prayer is already hard to begin with, and I can’t say that I hadn’t thought about arguments against prayer myself. I can see why people would think them. "Your 'thoughts' should be about steps to take to stop this carnage," "Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing — again," read some tweets.

The article ends with this paragraph:

I think a lot of people who pray don't think of it as a replacement for deeds, or an occasion to utter a gift list of desires. They pray to open their minds and hearts. They pray when words won't come, and emotions overwhelm. They pray to mark a loss, and to try to make a moment of peace in a landscape of turmoil. They don't see prayer as a substitute for action, but the beginning. The merit of prayer is what people do after we say Amen.

Generally, I was glad the article ended this way. I was glad Scott shared that, and I mostly agree. But I would change the last sentence. The merit of prayer is not first the action, my action, that results from it; that is secondary. The merit of prayer is that I am giving up my prayer to Jesus. I am surrendering, placing it not in my control. It is an act of faith and hope.

Also, to care or to not care can be framed in terms of connection or disconnection. To choose to be connected, to care, to pray -- that is a choice that matters, regardless of the resulting action. Prayer is a way of being with, of holding, of connecting with. It is a way to be still in the midst of what is. It helps us to not become desensitized to the tragedies.

On Friday, students, staff, and faculty gathered on Commons Lawn to pray about the recent hate speech incident on campus. We stood in a circle, as a community, and prayed. I left feeling like I had finally exhaled. I left with hope. And I’ll continue to pray, even though I’m not good at it.


--Mariana Pèrez