Monday, April 18, 2011

Region II Invitational 2011

How do you like my new background?  I thought it was more cheerful and spring-ish than the last one...So I changed it  =)

Anyway, the Lord did it again, He performed more miracles at this tournament than I could ever list.  I am constantly amazed at how very different His plans are than mine...and how much better His are.

My family had been fighting the stomach flu for a few days before Regionals. We were all praying that we would be fine until after we got home again...yeah, God had something else in mind.  First Johnny got sick, then Kaity, my dad, Becky and then Joe.  Needless to say, none of them were coming, and we made some hugely last minute (as in, the morning we were leaving last minute) changes to "the plan" and I got a ride up to Portland with the amazing Scott family.

About half way up to Portland I realized that I was not entirely well.  We got there, I checked in and got past the dreaded script check and visited people.  At that point I didn't want to infect anyone with "the plague" so when people came up and tried to give me hugs they would get responses like, "Don't touch me!  I'm sick!"   Sweet Sarah Anne, Devin and Mrs. Paul were, I think, the only people daring enough to hug me anyway...I wouldn't have been! 

God sure does work in strange and mysterious ways, doesn't He?  If it were up to me everyone would be healthy at every tournament and everyone would make it to Nationals and everyone would get first in at least one event at at least one tournament...wouldn't that be so predictable, though?  Man, life would get boring if I were in charge!

For those of you who don't know, Regionals is generally a four day tournament.  The first day is almost always exclusively Illustrated Oratory, Extemporaneous and Debate rounds, along with check in for everyone.  This meant that I didn't have to speak at all on Wednesday, and that was perfectly fine with me.

Around the time of announcements and worship (sometime after 4) I really started feeling ill.  I found a nice, somewhat quiet hallway and curled up against the wall.  In not very much time at all I was begging God to let me throw up...and He let me throw up =P  Sarah Anne and my amazing duo partner, Ariel, stayed with me almost the whole time and were praying right along with me.

I ended up spending that night with the fantastic Strom family, who risked their health and happiness and welcomed a girl with the stomach flu into their hotel room.  Tianna and I stayed there during the dinner cruise (they generally have a special dinner event the first night of Regionals) and watched "Risen" and "Revenge of the Risen" of Snowtop Studios.  They were both amazing.  We watched some other stuff also, but nothing like those.

The next morning (Thursday) I made the decision to drop my Dramatic Interpretive speech.  It was a bummer, but I really just needed to rest up and have one less thing to worry about.  I was feeling quite a bit better by that time, but you know how the flu is, and if you don't I envy you.  So I spoke twice on Thursday, my persuasive and our duo each once.  My mom, Kaity and Johnny drove up to Portland that afternoon (they were all feeling better) and we got a hotel room of our own, it was wonderful to have my mommy there!

Friday I was feeling pretty much all the way better which was marvelous.  Speeches went well the first round, much better than Thursday, and I had a great time visiting with people.  Debate octa-finals were scheduled for 2:00 that afternoon, but, for some odd tab thing that I didn't quite understand, they didn't end up needing octafinals at all.  We then had two hours to kill... So naturally Tianna, Ariel, Sarah Anne, myself, Raymond, Jared and Hannah of Snowtop Studios, along with a few other speechians found an empty room and had some fun with duos.  Ariel and I did an over dramatized, super funny version of our duo, and then we swapped characters.  Then we had a few people do impromptu duos and some odd duo renditions of movies or books...It was pretty much awesome  =)

The next speech pattern I had my persuasive scheduled 6th and our duo scheduled last (which was 7th or 8th).  I gave my persuasive and then a few people met me in the hall and said that Ariel was waiting for me and that it was our turn to perform our duo.  Now, you must understand that the duo room was not right down the hall.  It was down a hall, down a flight of stairs, down another hall, through a gym, up a flight of stairs and down another hall.  So I took off my heels and sprinted.  That was our best duo round.  We had so much fun!  We had a large audience and they laughed at every even halfway funny line we said.  Ariel and I both had a blast.

The last day, Saturday, my family was running a bit late so I got there just in time to hear that I had broken to semi finals in my persuasive!  I was scheduled to go first, so my prayer warrior, Sarah Anne, prayed for me and I gave my speech.  I didn't make a single mistake, God gave me a perfect round!  The judges were quite responsive and they looked like they got the message, and that's what this is all about.  Turns out one of my judges was the younger sister of Alex and Brett Harris, who I mention in my speech.

I didn't break to finals, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that God used my speech to touch hearts, change lives and help the homeless.  That was what this whole speech was about from the beginning, that's why I did it.

I got eighth place with my persuasive speech, a couple of slots away from qualifying to Nations.  Yes, I'm sad that I'm probably done with it.  The whole time I gave this speech, at the Clarion tournament in January, the Emerald City tournament last month and at Regionals it was like a treasure hunt.  At each of those tournaments at least once God performed incredible miracles through this speech, it became something that I looked forward to, that I hunted for, the next miracle that God would choose to do.  Yes, I'm sad, but I know that God used that speech to touch the exact people that He wanted to touch in the exact ways that He wanted them touched at the exact tournaments that He wanted them touched at. On top of all that, He used this speech to draw me closer to Him in drastic ways. I will never be the same.

There is still a chance that I could get an at large slot to Nationals, or I could compete at the Stoa Nationals, if God wants me speaking there He will open the doors, but if not, so be it.  I'm just grateful that He helped me to write this speech in the first place, and that He chose to work in such amazing ways through it.  My simple little speech... What a humbling experience.  Thank you, Lord, for everything.

Over and out,


Monday, April 11, 2011

Be Thou My Wisdom

 I've been thinking about my last post and the things that the Lord has been teaching me lately and I thought that I should do a follow up "Be Thou My Vision" post on the first two lines of the second verse... So here it is  =)
"Be Thou my wisdom,
and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;"

Directly after my miracle finals round at the Emerald City tournament (read about it here) I read my Bible.  I don't often just open it up to wherever, but I opened it up to Proverbs, and prayed that God would lead me to read the chapter that He wanted me to.  He opened it up to Proverbs chapter 3, which has now become very dear to me, and is now one of my favorite Proverbs.  Verses 13-14 say, "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold."

King Solomon, the man God used to write the book of Proverbs, had an incredible opportunity.  1 Kings chapter 3 says that, "the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, "Ask what I shall give you." And Solomon said..."O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in...Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil,""  Solomon could have asked for riches, power and long life, but he realized that wisdom, or understanding, "is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold."  Solomon essentially had the world at his finger tips in that moment, but he asked for wisdom, he asked for understanding.

I have never really felt like a wise person, I think I have made a few wise decisions, but I don't think of myself as a wise person.  So many times I have felt inadequate for tasks, I feel like I'm not wise enough, like I don't possess enough understanding, but you know what's great about not being wise?  Through my weakness, my lack of wisdom and understanding, God shows His strength.

Proverbs 3:19-20 says, "The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew."  These verses really got me!  God is so wise, so full of understanding that He created the earth and heaven and hell all through and by His wisdom, understanding and knowledge!  Man!  Is He wise, or is He wise?  Reading those verses gave me a new understanding of the line in this beloved hymn "Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true Word."  God is so amazingly, unfathomably wise that nobody can, or ever will, understand the extent of His wisdom, it's simply not possible. 

I want that kind of wisdom, but I can never have it for myself...Unless...Wait, is it possible?  Could I possibly have that kind of wisdom?  Yes, surprisingly enough, we all can, well, we can, but it won't really be ours.  It is God's wisdom, and always will be, He just lets us use it, isn't that fantastic?

Lord, I know that I am an unwise person who lacks understanding.  Lord, I know that you are the only way for me to have any form of wisdom at all.  I want to be wise, Father.  Please, "Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word!"

Moving on to the next line of this stupendous hymn, "I ever with The and Thou with me, Lord."  This one sort of had me confused for a little while, I mean Psalm 139:7-10 says, "Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." Obviously God is always with us, there's no escaping Him, even if I wanted to (which I don't...).  The confusing part is that this hymn is pretty much a prayer, and we don't really need to pray for God to always be with us, because He already is always with us.  I'm sure that, like most hymns, there is more than one meaning to be extracted from each line, but this is the one that the Lord revealed to me:  How often am I living like Jesus is right there watching everything that I do, hearing everything that I say and everything that I think?  Do I live like that?  To be honest, no.  I think this line goes right along with "Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word."  I don't think that there is much separation at all between the two lines at all.

My trusty Webster's 1940 defines 'wisdom' as, "Knowledge practically applied."  This requires an action, practically applying.  I think that this line is doing more than simply stating that God is always with us.  It is a prayer, asking God to give us the wisdom to act on the knowledge that He gives us, the knowledge that He is always with us.  Practically applying that knowledge would be (among other things) acting, thinking, talking, serving, worshiping, praying, loving and fighting like God is right next to us, watching every move we make, hearing every word and every thought, because guess what?  He is.

This has now become almost a hobby of mine, digging down into the meaning of hymns.  you ought to try it some time  =)

My God bless you with His unfathomable wisdom, God bless you all!

Over and out,


Monday, April 4, 2011

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

 I won't deny it, this is a very challenging hymn.  It is one of my favorites, but it is very, very challenging.

It's an easy thing to say "Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart," but praying this prayer from your heart and truly meaning it is another story.  Then, once we actually mean this prayer, it is even harder to live it out.  See, the hymn doesn't stop at "Be Thou my vision," it goes on to say "Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art."  As I am prone to do when I am writing, or just thinking, about a topic, I pulled out my trusty Webster's 1940 dictionary, which defines 'Vision' as, "The act or sense of seeing, sight, object of sight."  God being our "object of sight" should change the way that we view everything!  It's kind of like if I were cell phone shopping (with no spending limit...).  As I look at the dozens of cell phones my gaze turns toward the iPhone 4.  All of a sudden those other phones sort of fade away and all I see is that iPhone.  Now all of those other phones seem obsolete, low tech and so not the phone I'll be getting.  Before I saw the iPhone I was impressed by the other phones, "Wow!  This one has a slide out QWERTY keyboard!"  I thought.  After the iPhone, though, my thoughts were more along the lines of, "Psh.  Slide out keyboard?  The iPhone has a touch screen keyboard that switches directions when I turn the phone!"  The iPhone is now my vision, the object of my sight, and no other phone matters.

Okay, okay, really bad illustration, and the iPhone isn't that amazing, but I think you probably understand what I'm trying to get at.

When we are not walking with the Lord our vision gets twisted.  It's like putting on a pair of prescription eyeglasses that aren't yours, everything looks strange and is distorted.  The glasses twist your judgement and your reflexes.  With those glasses that don't work right, little dollar tree plastic cups might look like the Queen's crystal, but when you take those glasses (the "worldly" glasses) off and God comes into focus, you realize that the thing that you had been looking at, admiring and coveting even, was junk and that God is all that matters.  Psalm 63:3 says, "Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee."  God's lovingkindness is better than life, He is all that matters.

This beautiful hymn goes on, again going deeper, to say, "Thou my best thought, by day or by night."  Now, I know that most of us know what 'best' means, but I quite like the way that Webster's 1940 puts it, "Of the first quality or standing; most desirable; the highest state of excellence."  "Thou my best thought by day or by night" is saying that God is, or should be, our most desirable thought, our thought with the first quality or standing, the thought of ours with the highest state of excellence.  This song isn't simply saying that God is all of these things but that we should be thinking of, dwelling on God in remembrance of the fact that He is these things "by day or by night"  Pretty much, we should be distracted by God!  God should be taking up so much of our time, thought, energy and devotion that we don't have any extra time, any extra thought, any extra energy or any extra devotion to waste on the world.  (As an aside, we are to do things, not just think godly thoughts, God comands us to do things, but the motivation behind doing good deeds needs to come from focusing on God.)

I don't think of God in this way.  I don't find myself constantly thinking about, meditating on God.  I don't find myself thinking that He is the most desirable thing to think about.  See what I mean by a challenging hymn?  Psalm 63:4-6 says, "Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.  My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches."

The first verse of this challenging hymn ends with "waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light."  John 8:12 says, "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.""  This goes right along with "Be Thou my vision," doesn't it?  Vision, "the object of sight" cannot really be attained without light.  I can try my hardest  to read a book in a pitch black room, but it isn't going to happen, I need light.  I think it's amazing that God is both the light to help us see, and then the object of the sight that He gives us.  Isn't that fantastic?

I have been realizing more and more lately how God is not the object of my sight, but He needs to be.  I spend my days thinking about speech tournaments, school, friends, family, the weather, summer plans, books and so many other things.  So often I find myself just sitting and thinking about things.  Rarely, though, do I find myself sitting and just thinking about God, and that has got to change. 

This hymn has now become a prayer for me, I truly mean it, now I just have to work on living it out. 

Lord?  Please, be my vision!

Over and out,


Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1st

Yeah, so I was planning on posting again today...and then I realized that today is April 1st, so no matter what I posted nobody would believe it...So I'll wait to post until tomorrow  =)
Happy April fools day!