Monthly Archives: May 2014

Off on an Adventure!

Hello again! (*Snerk* And now do you like my hat?) Guess what? It’s almost June again. Like, June is tomorrow. (How did that happen? I’ve been waiting for it for FOREVER and then suddenly it popped its nose around the corner and glomped me. Kinda weird.) What does June mean? It means my blog will be going on vacation for four weeks while I go on an adventure (no, I’m not going as a furry-footed hired burglar). I’m leaving early this morning (Haha, gotta love the ability to schedule posts ahead of time!) and I won’t be home until June 28 or 29. Never sure which.

Anyways! I’m going to be attending STEP Advanced this year, hence I’ll be gone, hence this blog post. What’s that? It’s the advanced version of the camp I went to last June. There will be more scripture memory, more sweating in the Texas heat, leadership training, rock climbing, rustic camping, hiking, that fun stuff. Yay!

Once again, if you would like to contact me, I will have no internet. You’re more than welcome (read that as encouraged via the irresistable puppy eyes) to write me a letter at:

IAA attn: STEP Calista Holmes
One Academy Blvd
Big Sandy, TX 75755

Or by e-mail at step@alertacademy.com

Note: As this is the ALERT e-mail, you have to put my name (Calista Holmes, not Calista Beth, mind) as the subject, and they will print it off to give to me. (And if you happen to include your mailing address, I might manage to drop you a line or two if I have time.)

Fare thee well! Have a splendiferous June and don’t get sunburned or eaten by dragons while I’m away, and don’t eat all the licorice and smarties while I’m not looking either, because in any of the abovementioned instances I shall be seriously disappointed upon my return. 😉

So long, farewell, aufweiderzein, goodbye!

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Brief and Belated Thunk on Threadery

So, I’m late again! That seems to have become the norm… I have been busy though. *Nodnod* ANYWHO! Today’s thunk is pretty short. I’ve been watching Noelle do a cross-stitch thingy (What do you call those things anyways?) Looking at the front and the back of the cross-stitch thingy brought up a little analogy of sorts. Ready? Good. Be amazed. (That was sort of sarcastic, by the way.)

So, our lives are like a cross-stitch. All the different-colored little threadies come in here and there and cross over there and mix in the middle, working together to create a masterpiece. The Master creating it can see the logic and the design of it, because He is the one creating it. But we, on the other hand, can only view it from the back, unless He should decide to give us a glance of the grand design. And from the back, it doesn’t always make sense. The threads make really weird shapes on the back of a cross-stitch (because they make an ‘x’ on the front, so the back is weird), and sometimes there are spidery black threads that overlap other colors and make the whole thing look hopelessly messy. But that’s because we can only see the back. If we could see the front, we would understand that those black threads are outlining beautiful patterns.

Just goes to show that we can’t see the whole picture from down here on Earth. We just have to trust that Someone Else does. 🙂

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Regarding Pottery and Stuffs

This morning I was thinking about the section in Jeremiah where God compares himself to a potter making a pot. (Jeremiah 18 verses 2 through 6.) I guess since I took Ceramics in college last Fall, it kind of resonates with me. (Absolutely loved that class!)  Anyways, after taking the class, it brings some more color to the mental image, so I thought I’d attempt to share a little bit about pottery and the analogy between it and God working with people. Warning: This post is a little long. You don’t have to read it if you don’t really want to. But I really want you to, so maybe you should anyways. 

Let’s say you want to throw a beautiful lovely vase on the wheel. (Just for clarification, that means you’re going to build the vase on a rotating surface. Let’s not get any mental images of shattering vases on car tires or something. 😉 ) Once you have an idea what you want the vase to look like and you’ve picked your hunk of clay, what do you do? NOOOO, don’t plunk it down on the wheel, good gracious! Your clay has air bubbles in it. Guess what’ll happen to that pot if you try to fire it? It’ll explode. Before you can do anything useful with it, you have to wedge the clay. Smack it down hard on a porous surface and smash all the bubbles out one way or another. (If you had seen me in Ceramics class, you’d know just how violent this can get. *Laughs* People accused me of having anger issues and taking it out on the lump of clay. Honestly, I was just having fun…) I can imagine that the wedging process is not at all fun for the piece of clay.

If we are like clay, then air bubbles represent flaws that have to be worked out of us in order for the Potter to use us. Examples might be pride, selfishness, etc. You get the idea. Some of the basic things that hinder us from serving God effectively, or at all, depending on what topic you’re thinking about. Sometimes God has to wedge us to work the flaws out of us before He can use us to our full potential. Because remember, a pot that has air bubbles often shatters when it is subjected to fire. If we are to become pots, we must be prepared to take the firing.

Okay, so you’ve wedged your lump of clay. It’s a gorgeous blob of grayish matter (or red, or whatever color of clay you want to pretend you’re working with…). A real work of art. 😉 Now it’s time to slap that clay down hard in the center of the throwing wheel. (If your clay didn’t say “Ouch!” then it wasn’t hard enough, so try again. The clay has to be stuck on hard, otherwise it’ll spin right off the wheel halfway through and you’ll have to start over. Not fun! [Yes, I have had that happen…]) As you turn the wheel on and get it up to speed, you’ll notice that your blurry lump of clay looks like it’s wobbling all over the place. That’s because it isn’t entirely on-center. You’re going to have to center it, because it’s impossible to craft a beautiful vase that’s the same thickness all around if the clay is not in the exact center of the bat. (I forgot to mention, the bat is the plastic almost-like-a-plate thing that sits on the top of the wheel on which you splat your clay. That way you can remove your piece and let it dry somewhere else so you can re-use the wheel. [Because of course trying to remove a soft pot would squash it…] The bat has a smooth side and a rough one, and it goes on the wheel rough-side-up so that the clay will stick.) Where was I… (Too many side-notes, as you can see. This is how I usually think. Only my brain is even more rabbit-traily than my blog posts.) Oh yes. Center the clay. To do that the wheel must be on full-speed, and you need to have a little water on the clay for lubrication. (Otherwise it’ll grind the skin right off you, and we wouldn’t want that, would we? Remember, this is dirt…) Then you brace your elbows against your body and push on the clay with your left hand (or if you’re left-handed, that would be your right hand) and use your right hand (usually in a fist) to press down on the top of the clay (so that it doesn’t just turn into a blobby, slimy tower instead of a pretty vase). In order to center clay, you literally have to lean all your weight into it to get it to move (especially if it’s a big chunk of clay). When it stops bumping against you and rotates smoothly with none of that wobbly look, it’s in the exact middle of the bat. (Well, this turned into a long paragraph… Sorry about that. I should start making my side notes a different color so you can skip them if you want.)

Back to the analogy. If we are the clay, and God is the potter, then the bat (or the wheel, or both) is (I think) God’s will. (I guess we’re assuming hand-building doesn’t exist for this analogy…And please don’t ask me to add that into the analogy because that would make this whole picture-thing absolutely too complicated for my poor brain to handle.) In order for God to best shape us into the vase or pot or whatever, we have to be in the center of His will. And He will do everything it takes to get us there. Sometimes it takes a whole buncha pressure to center us, and sometimes it just takes a small amount. I’m not sure what the water represents in this analogy, but whatever it represents, it makes the throwing process much easier and more comfortable for potter and (no doubt) clay alike. We might come back to that one, if I figure it out.

Now your clay is perfectly centered, drenched, and probably thoroughly dizzy from all the spinning. (Well, you might be too…Been there! You really have to be careful where you look to keep from getting dizzy.) It’s time to slow the wheel to half-speed and open the clay so that you can start building it up. You kind of cup your hands around the outsides of the clay piece and jam your thumbs into the middle of the clay. (Be careful to center your thumbs first. An off-center hole will cause you big problems later. [Yes, I learned this the hard way. But it’s really not too hard to get the hole in the middle, so don’t let that scare you off.]) Once there is about a quarter-inch thickness left in the bottom of the hole, stop jabbing it. (You can measure by sticking a needle tool through it and marking how far up the clay came on the needle. [Oh, and PLEASE stop your wheel before you measure it. We don’t want marks that look like a dragon’s talons ripped up your clay…]) Switch from your thumbs to the first two fingers on both hands, right crossed over behind left, or the other way around. (I don’t think it matters which. Basically you want the pressure concentrated in about the width of two fingers.) As you pull the clay gently towards yourself, it will start to widen out. Get it to about the width you want your piece to be (remembering the clay will shrink a little in the firing) and stop. Throughout this process you should have kept a fair amount of water between you and the clay. (If you didn’t, you’ll sure notice.)

I don’t have a lot to say about this stage of the throwing process. But, you know, if you ever feel like God is jabbing you in the middle or stretching you out, maybe it’s because He’s getting ready to build you into a vase. Or a pot. Or whatever. You get the point. (Oh, and by the way, I’m actually skipping a few things, like compressing the clay, just because this would take forever to write otherwise, and I don’t have comments on everything either.)

Your clay is now open and ready to build up! (Yay!) You’ll be working on the close right side of the clay (or the left, if you’re left-handed. My, that ties my brain in knots trying to fathom doing it that way…) Place the fingers of your left hand on the inside of the clay, and take your little sponge (with some water in it) in your right hand. You’ll use the left hand for stability, and with the right one you will apply an EVEN amount of pressure as you SLOWLY pull the sponge (and your fingers, if you like) upwards. Repeat. And repeat again. And again… When the walls of your vase (Well, right now it’s just a cylinder…) are about a quarter-inch in width, you can stop. (You’d better stop too, or else you’ll get a floppy piece of clay that wants to play London-bridge-is-falling-down with you.) Now comes the fun part. (Heeheehe… *Rubs hands together*) Put down your sponge and shape your vase. You can slowly widen it out here, then choke it in up there, then flare this part out at the top. You may need to pick up your sponge and build it up higher if it gets too thick from choking it in. If one side starts getting taller than the rest, then you will have to take your needle tool and slowly insert it into the side until it slices through and removes the uneven part. In which case you’ll probably have to build it up a little bit more. Continue this until you have a shape that you like, but take heed that it may develop thin areas and do this little twist-flop thingy on you. It’s really annoying. If your vase does flop, you’ll have to stop the wheel, run your wire under the pot to cut it off the bat, and squash the whole lump together, and start over at the wedging stage, adding some clay powder to dry out all the water you dribbled on it. (And that’s really not fun…) Sometimes the pot doesn’t flop, but it gets off-center, and has to be re-centered. (That’s tricky, because the whole time you’re smallening [yes, that was the only word I could think of] the hole in the middle and probably squishing the pot in other ways. If a pot gets off-center, be prepared that your pot will probably be a very different shape after you re-center it.)

There are some really nice analogy possibilities here. (Muahahaha…*Rubs hands together again*) I’m gonna focus on the flopping and re-centering ideas mostly, though. Re-centering first. (Just because I can do it backwards if I want to. Hah.) Sometimes we don’t quite head in the direction God wants us to. Maybe we make some mistakes, or fall into a pattern of sin. When that happens, God has to push us back to the center of His will. I think I can safely say this always changes us in some way; the more off-center we are, the more we’ll be changed when we get re-centered. Not to worry though, the Potter knows how to use these changes to make us into better vases or pots or pitchers or whatever. Don’t expect the re-centering to be painless though, because sin always has consequences. Dealing with those as we move back into God’s will is going to hurt some. Now for flopping. Sometimes we get really off-center or thin in the walls, and we spin out of control and land in a pile of soggy, twisted clay. It looks like there is no way this blob of pliable but very sloppy dirt will ever be a pretty vase. The Potter is not distraught, however. (Unlike me when I flop a pot… Maybe that’s because it’s usually my fault when the pot flops, and I don’t think it’s God’s fault when we flop.) He picks us up, squashes us together, rolls us in clay dust, and begins to wedge our faults out of us again, at last returning us to the wheel and building us into beautiful pieces of pottery. Voila! Pretty cool. 🙂

I’m going to kind of skip over the bisque firing and glazing and glaze-firing and just say that obviously the firing process represents trials, or maybe persecution or something really hard that God has been preparing us for beforehand so that when we come out on the other side, we are beautiful, complete, unique works of art. (I guess that would be in Heaven by that point. Maybe the last firing is when we die…) The Potter has spent all His time and energy thus far ensuring that we will make it through the firing process and come out stronger than we were before.

 

In case you couldn’t tell, I loved Ceramics class, and all the little insights it gave into those little verses. Maybe now you’ll want to take it too. *Wink*

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Thunks from College

I’m done! I finished a year of college. Got the last final finished, the last essay pounded out of my head, last assignment turned in. It feels great! So, now that I’ve survived, what did I learn? That’s a good question…

I learned…

 

1. Exactly what parts of the textbooks you don’t have to read. Seriously. When you’ve got chapters over fifty pages long, you kinda have to learn what’s not important. And now I know! All those intensely annoying semi-articles they put smack in the middle of the sentence so that you have to flip to the end of the article just to find the end of the sentence from the main text. Most of those articles actually weren’t worth reading anyways, and I finally figured that out. Now I can indulge my pet peeve and skip over them with a clear conscience. Muahahaha!

2. How to apportion out my homework so that it all gets done when it needs to. This was especially tricky this past semester because all my courses were online, which meant that I didn’t have to sit in a lecture…which meant that I had to read more. With four classes that have entirely different schedules, it was interesting trying to mesh them in one way or another to figure out what my actual schedule should look like.

3. That it’s really a good idea to back off and trust God when I’m stressing out over grades. (I do that a lot…stressing out, I mean. Not fun.) When I finished last semester with a 4.0 (honestly, I took Web Page Design, Ceramics, and Sign Language. How do you flunk any of those? The excitement of those classes helped me get through the two I didn’t like so well. XD) there was, of course, the pressure to keep that grade up. I hadn’t worried about my GPA through the first semester, but suddenly I felt pressure to keep up the frighteningly good image I accidentally made for myself. Getting invited to join an honor society that only students with good grades can join didn’t help much. Suddenly it wasn’t just about learning, it was about performing.  This past semester I really had to learn to let go of that and surrender the stupid GPA to God. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get things done when you’re not stressing about grades!

4. That a positive outlook vastly impacts my ability to do things. You know, when you’re busy grouching about a dumb test, it’s a little hard to write that nice, respectful opinion piece for your other class. (Yes, I’m afraid my instructors had to put up with a few sarcastic days…) I found out that learning to praise God for the little things makes a big difference in my overall attitude towards my schoolwork. Praise Him for the bonus points the instructor gave me, the comment the English teacher put on my essay saying she could hardly find anything to edit at all, the sun coming through my window while I’m stuck indoors doing school. Whatever. Praise makes a huge difference towards a positive outlook! I should try doing that more often…

 

It’s amazing some of the things you can learn that are sort of not what your instructor expected. 😉 If I had to give someone else advice about college (which might be a bad idea, knowing me…), and if I wasn’t in a naughty mood, I would have to say that you have to just decide to learn from whatever happens to you. Make everything into a lesson of some kind, and welcome the lessons. If you treat everything like it’s an adventure and something you can learn from, it’s much, much easier to get through. But don’t expect to perfect that attitude overnight. Sorry, that ain’t happening, if I’m any example. So take everything a day at a time, or an hour at a time, or whatever, so you don’t get overwhelmed. And, when stuff is stressful, pray. God knows exactly what’s going on, so go ahead and give it to Him. He makes technology behave, confusing assignments make sense, and stressful timed writing assignments turn out well. 🙂

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On Weakness, Hardships, and Clay Jars

Recently I’ve been memorizing 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 which reads thus:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

It struck me – Paul sure doesn’t sound like his life was easy. And I contrasted that with how we view Christianity today. It’s easy to expect that God will make our lives easy, but the first century church certainly wasn’t known for having an easy life! They were far better known for their courage and the way they endured hardships.

See, the funny thing is that life isn’t about having things easy. It’s about glorifying God. And sometimes the best way to do that is through hardship. When we have life easy and look all put-together, we get the credit; unless we verbally give God the credit, that is. But generally speaking, that’s the way it works. But when life is falling apart all around us and we stand firm and confident, praising God in the storm, THAT’S when people start noticing. “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” That’s what it means (at least, as I understand it). The treasure is God’s light in us, and we, of course, are the jars of clay. Easily breakable, unworthy to hold such a treasure, so that the power we wield will obviously belong to God and not us.

Something I’ve noticed throughout my life is that God likes to use the littlest, the weakest, the nobodies, the poor, the persecuted, to shame the biggest, the strongest, the sombodies, the rich, the persecutors. It is His joy to take the nothings and turn them into world-changers, and I think this is because of two reasons. The first is because the people watching have no alternative but to give God the glory. The second reason is because…the lowly of this earth more easily understand that they are nothing, and that they cannot do anything on their own. And when God uses them to do mighty things, they themselves have no alternative but to give God the glory.

That’s why the early church had such a reputation for enduring hardships courageously and with a good attitude. Because they understood that they were nobody special – just human beings being used by God to do amazing things. They worked through God’s strength, and because of it, the hardships of life turned into glorious testimonies to God’s power.

We are all going to go through hard stuff. Maybe we won’t be burned at the stake like the early Christians (although you never know until it happens…), but we’re going to encounter hard stuff. God doesn’t shield us from the difficulties. What He does do is give us the power to make it through. I want to be one of those people that is such a nobody that everyone can see the Somebody who gives me strength when the hard times come. I want to be so weak that any strength people see in me is obviously from God. Kind of like what Martin Luther said… “God made man out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.” Let’s be nothings, weaklings, nobodies, so that when the hard stuff hits, God can use us to showcase His wonderful strength.

To wrap this ramble up, I’ll just share one of my favorite Bible passages, 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 :

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

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