Wednesday, April 2, 2014

prague, vienna, and budapest with taylor sounds

 At the start of this year, I thought I'd be spending my spring break with the Taylor Sounds in Puerto Rico. That was the plan, but over the summer as Taylor tried to make connections and plans with people in Puerto Rico, nothing was happening or working out. It was in that state that our director, Dr. Rediger, got invited to direct a European Honors Choir in Prague, Czech Republic, which "just happened" to be planned for the same dates as Taylor's Spring Break! Ultimately, our plans as a group shifted, and we concluded that the Lord had ministry prepared for us in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest instead of Puerto Rico! When we received this news, to say we were ecstatic would be a huge understatement. Honestly, if I could have chosen anywhere in the world to go on a ministry tour, I likely would have chosen this area!

Dr. Rediger and two music major students got to go to Prague several days before the rest of us, so our group arrived the day of the honor's choir's last rehearsal day. We arrived in Prague at 9AM after almost 24 hours of travel (Prague is 6 hours ahead of us here in the Eastern Time Zone). Here are some pictures of Prague:

Old Town Square
This famous astronomical clock first installed in 1410 has a figure of one of the twelve disciples come out at each hour and also includes an astrolabe, a zodiacal ring that indicates the sun's position, and a form of calendar.

 After an afternoon tour of Prague, our group went to the Christian international high school in Prague where the honor choir rehearsals were taking place. We got to meet the high schoolers there, have dinner with them, and have a talent show in which our group performed some of our 50s repertoire from our Valentine's concert, and they performed some of their favorite songs from their high schools. Christian international high schools from Russia, Turkey, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and elsewhere all had students participating in this honors choir, and many of them were missionary kids. I was so pleasantly surprised at how open and eager to connect with us the kids were! I absolutely loved getting to spend time with them - they were truly amazing kids. I was shocked to find that a guy named Kurt Siegel, who had gone to my high school in my tiny hometown, was in the honors choir (his parents are missionaries in Russia)!!!

The next day (Sunday) we got to attend a service and sing a few songs at the International Church of Prague.

I honestly felt so at home at this church - the worship was so meaningful, the people so loving and encouraging, and the sermon impactful. I loved meeting missionaries and visitors there, connecting so easily as all part of Christ's Church! It was so neat how we were able to encourage the congregation, yet we left probably even more blessed and encouraged by them! For Sunday lunch we got to have some traditional Czech food. When we ordered we had no idea the meat we had coming to us...

On the left is a huge knee of pork on that turning skewer thing, in front is my 1/4 of a duck, and to the right is a knee of lamb! It was all really delicious even though we had to wait like 2 hours for it to come, ha! After lunch we had a little bit of time to explore the city, and then in the late afternoon we went to a beautiful cathedral near the center of Prague and watched the honors choir's excellent final performance! We joined them for a few of the songs we also knew, and the acoustics were amazing to sing in.

In the morning we rode a bus about 4.5 hours to Vienna. I tried the classic Wiener Schnitzel (Weiner is Vienna) which is a fried pork tenderloin, and it was great! Then we had the privilege of seeing "The Magic Flute" opera! Operas are so commonplace in Vienna, it only cost us 12 Euro for balcony seats, yet it was a phenomenal show! Unfortunately it was all in German with no subtitles, but appreciating the incredible musicians and voices was more than enough to keep me entertained! In the morning we headed for Schonbrunn Palace and took a tour of the inside (no pictures allowed) and explored the gardens outside:

Next, we headed for the International Christian School of Vienna. We performed almost all of our repertoire there, and the high school students who had been in the honors choir joined us for the songs they knew, which was really cool! The audience was mostly students, parents, and some teachers. The students absolutely loved our performance, grinning and expressing their excitement so much throughout. I thrive on responsive audiences, so I loved that.
Marie Engle, a good friend who graduated with me from Pettisville High School, is studying abroad in Vienna for the year (studying opera), and she came to our concert then gave me a night tour of the city center and the main buildings - all lit up, they were so stunning! I stood in front of basically every place she took me with my mouth hanging open... We also shared some of the famous apfelstrudel in a cafe and thoroughly enjoyed catching up as it had been almost 2 years since we'd been together! :)

 The next morning two missionaries to Vienna who were Taylor grads gave us a mini-tour of some of the main sites of Vienna, then we split into smaller groups...

 This beautiful mosaic of the Last Supper had tiny square centimeter tiles, and was displayed in a smaller cathedral which was away from the main touristic sites. It was so refreshing and peaceful to go to a church which was not full of picture-taking, souvenir-seeking tourists, and to actually take the time to sit and just bask in the presence of God that was so tangibly in that place.

The group I walked around with ended up being Abigail who is in Sounds and is from Budapest, and our director Dr. Rediger (middle) and her husband. It was quite special :)

 Next we drove to the city that quickly became my unexpected favorite of the three, Budapest, Hungary. Here are some sight-seeing pictures:

Although you can't really see it, this is the treasure of the St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, St. Stephen's arm. They even parade it around once a year...

This became one of my favorite cathedrals I've ever been to.

Most of my favorite memories from the trip, especially of ministry, come from Budapest. Originally our director was only going to ask a few members of our group to go to the Christian International Budapest high school in the early morning (6:30AM is already way too early for me even before jet-lag!), but when she asked who would go we all were practically begging to go, so we all ended up going! I really appreciated this about our group, we all really were there for the ministry above all else. So we got to join the high school choir two mornings, singing with and teaching them. We also got to sing in two of the school's chapel sessions, share cafeteria lunch with the kids, and perform an evening concert at the school, as well. We also got to perform at a church and a Korean cultural center - I loved it all!

Something I noticed and thought about a lot on this trip was the huge difference in the state of my own heart when we performed, especially compared to my Freshman year in Chorale when I remember being really frustrated with how little I could actually think about what we were singing because I was so focused on just getting everything right. This trip I knew I needed to be very intentional about maintaining my own times of fellowship with the Lord on my own each day. For much of the trip I did this, and what a difference I felt! I carried an awareness of the Lord's presence with me, and felt especially equipped and joyful as we shared our music. Each time we performed I was so full of joy! While we sang our director would usually begin each song and then sit down and stop directing, because we could continue on alone. This gave us opportunity to look out at the individuals in the audience while we sang. I was blessed again and again, seeing everything from smiles, to closed eyes and hands outstretched, to weeping, to awe. I felt deep connection with individuals as I shared with all my heart our songs' stories and declared the truths they contained. I would pray that God would highlight people to me as I looked out, and then I would have opportunities to speak with them after performances. I met so many incredible people and found that we performers and our audiences were mutually blessed and encouraged each time we glorified God through our music. He came and touched so many!

We also had one impromptu performance that meant a lot to me while in Budapest. Our whole group walked to a small convenience store one evening from our hotel to buy snacks. A Hungarian man and woman pair were running the store, and they spoke almost no English. Yet they were kind to us, and even gave us some free cakes to try. As we left, I gave the woman a CD of our recorded songs from last year and tried to communicate to her that it was us singing on it. Then someone asked if we could sing for her then and there, and we did! She so listened so intently and mouthed the words as we sang, trying to figure out what we were singing. She loved it. We said goodbye and started to walk out, only to find the man of the shop outside standing by his car with the door open, playing the CD I had given of our singing. The song playing was called "Without Love," taken from 1 Corinthians 13. He was standing there with a look of awe on his face, and continued to do so as members of our group began to sing along. He looked so grateful as it finished, and he shook our leaders' hands, pressing them to his forehead as he said what must have been many thanks in Hungarian.

Our final day in Budapest was such an amazing way to end. Some of the high school students led us like tour guides from the top of the castle hill, all the way down the hill, overlooking the river and city, and then across the river as the sun set and evening came:

We said our goodbyes to the high school students, then enjoyed two more amazing treats, a Hungarian Folk Music and Dance show, then dinner on a boat on the Danube River.

Finally, here are a few pictures of our group that a guy named Andras Kim, one of the high school students, took for us:

I feel incredibly blessed to have had this experience which combined three of my most favorite things: Europe, music, and ministry. I come away with enriched relationships, new friends, memories and photos of some amazing places, and most importantly, knowing that God was glorified and worked in the hearts of many (including my own) through our music ministry.

If you supported me financially or with your prayers as I was on this trip, I thank you yet again! You have partnered with us and with God, and he has done some really awesome things with that partnership :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

it's a new year.

I have this testimony of God's work in me this last year, and I have to share it...

I had no plans this New Years. I was going to be home with my parents, but the desire in my heart was to spend the evening worshiping God, reflecting on the year past and praying for the year ahead. But I didn't know who would want to do it with me and whether I was up for trying to organize something like that. Well, I mentioned how I wished I could spend New Years to a girl I barely knew, and she told me I had to come with her to do just that in Kentucky. Through a series of supernatural events I went, and I spent the last week of my Christmas break in Kentucky with her, in the home of a family I had never met but who rocked me by their authenticity and unity in the Lord.

New Years Eve we went to The Barn in Louisville, built specifically for worship and ministry by a man under God's instruction. Worship NYE was from 10pm-12:30am and it also involved times of asking the Lord to show us a theme of how he worked and taught in the year past, then ask him how he wants to work in the next year.

The word that came to mind for me for God and the last year is "dynamic." I traveled and experienced a lot in the last year, and even though I didn't know how I would relate to God from one transition to the next, his constant presence never changed... As I traveled to Ireland coming off of a hugely growing and rich semester in which I was learning lots about life in the Spirit, I didn't know how that growth could keep up in a completely new environment away from the friends and fellowship I'd had who were pouring into me. Yet in Ireland God taught me in new ways, growing me greatly in freedom of worship and in both rich and difficult relationships with people around me.

Then as I trusted God for a job for the 3 weeks I was home between Ireland and Turkey, he provided one the day before I came home miraculously, and it paid really well, was very meaningful work, and enabled me to significantly help out a sister in Christ who was in over her head. That was awesome provision.

Then I went to Turkey. For the first time, I was completely alone in my faith. I didn't have family or friends. My host family were Muslims, as were 96% of the whole country. For the first time, it was just me and God. How would I continue to grow with God here? I felt it was a responsibility I had all on my shoulders. For the first time I experienced how offensive the gospel can be to unbelievers, and how arrogant it made me out to be to the world. For me to say what I believed was right when the whole country thought otherwise - and they were such good people! How could I believe this? Yet even and especially in my doubts and wrestling, God graciously met me there in a completely unique way. He led me back to the essential truth of Christ's gift of salvation and why he is the only way to God. And for the first time, this head knowledge had to make its way to my heart in order for me to share it with the people around me. God gave me more understanding of how only relationship with him can be wholly fulfilling, and that it is more than enough for me. He also taught me that when my relationship with him is breached, he is not angry; he waits patiently and eagerly for me to return to him and let him heal me back up. Repentance is something we typically dread, but why? It makes the way for right and rich relationship with the Father. It is such a beautiful gift.

My transition time back into Taylor was rough. I went from it being just me and God, constantly wrestling with why I believe what I believe, living alone as a believer constantly among unbelievers, to the complete opposite, living amongst tons of peers who all at least supposedly believe what I believe, where I wasn't having to defend my faith (to myself or others), and where I was constantly being fed and having fellowship.

But once the adjustment was made, I got involved in Kingdom Life Church which is incredible, and began to learn more about the Father's heart, that all his children can hear his voice and how to do that, and how exciting it is to be a follower of Christ! It was a semester of me learning more about how much my relationship with the Lord doesn't involve striving of any kind. I used to struggle with being legalistic about my devo times and feeling like I had to take every chance for any worship or Bible study opportunity. While those things are so great and important, it is so easy to become so overfed that I am really not processing or applying any of it at all, and to just go through the motions of devos without having true fellowship with God. I have begun to learn (not just in my head, but experientially) how relationship with God isn't segmented and structured, but rather how much freedom I have and how glorious it is to spend time with God because I want to and know I need it, how that hunger grows, and how he walks with me throughout my day into each part!

Overall, I have been amazed how God has  used the circumstances of each season of this year to mold me in completely different but equally valuable ways. I am also understanding more and more that life in relationship with God is seriously an amazing adventure - nothing about it is boring! Since God created me with the desires and passions I have, he wants me to use them and will make ways for me to do so, and he will draw me nearer to himself in the process. I love to travel and try new things and live adventurously, and God loves when I travel and try new things and live adventurously, because he made me that way! The more I learn and experience with God, the more I want to learn and experience. I can wholeheartedly say that I am seriously so pumped for the future, because as long as I live I will walk with him, and as long as I walk with him life is crazy good.

Where did God take you in the past year? How did he reveal himself to you?

Have you asked him what he has for the year ahead? God told me he wants to reveal himself to me this year as my Lover, to share every moment together, to let him affirm and comfort me, and to share our deepest thoughts and desires with each other. How cool and exciting is that?!?

2014, bring it on.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

this hunger.

I wrote this at the end of this last summer, coming out of a season of incredible experiences, but in places of severe challenge; I rediscovered it today. It's basically the sum of my feelings even now.

More than anything I know
I know there's more
More depth
More intimacy
More power
More fullness
More reality
To life in You

If I but knew how to discover
How to throw out this pride in disgust
How to cast out this shame in alarm
Would I then be unhindered?

I feel so stuck
Stuck in habits I despise
Though to others they appear normal
I hate appearing normal
What can be normal about life in you?

I want my life to be marked
Marked by a difference
A presence
A submission
To one infinitely more capable than I
For alone I am utterly incapable
Of giving you the glory due your name

I fail constantly
Yet you are the only Constant
How can I constantly rely on you?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

the things he hides.

    The first thing came out of a conversation I had with a friend that I thought was just super insightful. We were talking about worship and how powerful it has been in chapel thus far this year and specifically that morning. People often comment on their amazement at the attendance of Taylor's chapel services, because unlike many Christian universities, chapel isn't required and attendance is not tracked, yet we have an abnormally high attendance rate. As we talked about how great worship was, I mentioned the fact that chapel is voluntary and that maybe that is why it is all the more passionate. This prompted my friend to share a question he'd considered in conversation before, Why doesn't Jesus just show up in front of us, like in worship, if he really wants everyone to come to him? Well, perhaps it is because then worship would not be voluntary. No faith would be required. Worship from everyone will be automatic when Christ is actually before us in his glory. This is the beauty of voluntary worship. When we choose to praise God even though he is not seen or even felt sometimes, it is evidence of our faith, and it blesses His heart!

    Also, tonight in Kingdom Life Church we talked about how worship should never be about what we get out of it, what we feel or don't feel. BUT, the awesome thing about God is that we can never out-give Him. He loves when we give from our hearts in worship to give back to us all the more :D

    More on why God "hides" certain things from us from Come to Papa by Gary Wiens: God's primary desire is intimacy with us. He has hidden most of the understanding of our own identities (who we are in Him) in His own heart. His nature is to hide precious things like hidden treasure for us to seek out, so He tells us we can find our identity by drawing near to Him, lifting our heads to "gaze upon His beauty and goodness, and then speaks to us of identity, value, and purpose" through the Spirit, establishing in us glory reflecting His own. SO God gets intimacy with us (His primary desire) while we get "knowledge we're infinitely and unconditionally loved, that our lives have meaning, that an eternal destiny of significance is our portion" (p. 22-23) - understanding of our identity! Isn't that super cool and doesn't it make so much sense!?

Wiens, Gary. Come to Papa: Encountering the Father That Jesus Knew. Grandview, MO: Burning Hearts Ministries, 2003. Print.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

my father.

    After God rocked me with the whole renewing my relationship with Him as His daughter thing as I wrote about previously, one of my friends who knew about it gave me a book to read called Come to Papa by Gary Wiens. It's super hard to find time for pleasure reading here, but so far SO good.

Some things that have stuck out:
  • Ephesians 1:17 "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him..." (it goes on wonderfully)
    • We can (and should) ask God to give us the Spirit to know the Father of glory more!
    • God's glory: the weightiness/heaviness of His beauty, majesty, and power (p. 10) - this is what we should seek to know! Also, this is in us if we are saved in Him!
  • This quote: "The presence of the Lord is addictive, and we were designed to be captured by this addiction. We were never created to live bored, dissipated lives or be satisfied with the inferior pleasures of temporary things. We were created to live an exhilarated existence, intoxicated with the beauty and goodness of God. We were meant to be captured by His heart, in love with the One who is madly in love with us" (p. 12).
 ^^ My thoughts: The Christian life isn't boring! We have been given the ability to know the source of every pleasure that exists in its purest and most glorious and fulfilling of forms. And He longs for us to know His love not just as head knowledge, but personally and experientially!

 More of Gary Wiens's thoughts:

    Jesus is to me as he was merciful and kind to Zacchaeus, gentle but pointed with me as he was with Peter and his disciples, he feels toward the unclean places in my life as he did with the leprous beggar in Mark 1 - willing to heal things that separate me from Him and from the rest of His people, he will deal with my shame mercifully and without condemnation as he did with the woman caught in adultery in John 8, and as he confronted and rebuked Pharisees and legalistic leaders this is also how he feels about my attitudes of superiority and elitism that keep me from being compassionate toward broken people (p. 18).

    Jesus is God in man form. We can learn about God's character and the way he relates to us by seeing how Jesus related with these people! SO much more could be said about this... what an awesome way to read the gospels, looking for how Jesus shows us how God sees us and wants to relate to us through his interactions with people!

Not sure the proper way to cite a book on a blog, but I'll do it like I would for a paper... :)

Wiens, Gary. Come to Papa: Encountering the Father That Jesus Knew. Grandview, MO: Burning Hearts Ministries, 2003. Print.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

he speaks.

    The same night I wrote about in my last post, my first Sunday at Kingdom Life I received prayer for Original Design. What's that? Well, it's a prophetic ministry where a prayer team asks the Lord for His thoughts concerning you, His design for you upon creating you, and any words of encouragement He may have for you. It's something I have received a few times before. The first time I went for Original Design Freshman year I was pretty skeptical, thinking they'd say things to me that they could say to anyone. But let me just tell you, my skepticism turned into utter awe of the love of the Father, which is so real and so personal, and awe of the simple fact that He knows me better than anyone else and better than I know myself. He created me for specific purposes and as I seek Him, He wants to reveal those purposes and designs to me, and to each of us! This is just one way to hear from Him. (They have a handout full of their scriptural basis for this, two examples being Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." and 1 Corinthians 14:3 which says "The one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.")

    If we believe God is alive and truly who scripture says He is, the same yesterday today and forever, of course He still speaks to us, and of course He wants to encourage, love, and direct us!

    Anyway, each time I have received Original Design things have been said that have been absolutely spot-on, and undeniably specific to me, my life, and my situations. This time one of the things they said was to guard my morning meetings with God in the morning, because they are powerful, He loves them, and when I meet with Him in this way He walks with me for the rest of the day. Well guess what's been a big struggle for me the past two weeks - giving God that precious time in the mornings! Yikes, I'm actually just tonight realizing the significance of this word I received 3 weeks ago, and am realizing it makes complete sense this is what Satan would attack! Of course, God is in and with me regardless of whether I set aside time for Him, but if I'm not spending time focusing on Him in the mornings, connecting with Him and giving my day over to Him, I'm not as effective for the Kingdom. It literally affects every interaction I have with people, my attitude, my mindset, everything. I can undeniably feel the difference.  Let me challenge you as I'm so challenged, don't let Satan get away with getting you to rationalize away your need for or your ability to have those precious times! And if we're not spending time with God to get to know Him and hear His voice, how do we expect to get any closer to Him?

    I also received words that have been confirmed in a few situations already this school year about what God has made my role to be in the community of believers, and even what that could look like in the future. Also, looking back over last semester and the summer I found myself in this role as well. These specific words have been given me I think each time I've had Original Design (I'm hesitant to say specifically what they are... but then again, shouldn't we recognize in each other who God created each person to be and hold them to it??)

    SO COOL. Those are just a couple examples of the ways the Lord has spoken to me through these people who are simply willing to hear His voice and pass it along for their fellow believers' encouragement. I want so much to develop this gift I firmly believe God gives to all His children of hearing His voice, it's just up to us to utilize and develop it! I think we make it waaay more complicated and intimidating than God intended for it to be... what good Father wouldn't talk to His children who seek Him?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


    My blog is taking a turn, just like my life. :) I am now in the middle of my fourth week back at Taylor University as a Junior and things are starting to pick up. I'm not overloaded by any means course-wise, which is really nice. In fact, I've had to check myself from getting caught in guilt for not being more busy. Here at Taylor there are unlimited opportunities for involvement in wonderful cabinets, groups, clubs, jobs, and leadership positions... I've been asked "So what leadership positions do you have? Are Chorale and Sounds your only commitments!?" There's a lot of expectation to be busy and to be involved in as much as possible.

    Here's my current life summary: International Studies major, Peace Reconciliation and Justice concentration, possibly Psych minor. Taylor Chorale and Taylor Sounds - ministries of choral music. Breuninger Hall front desk worker; hired to work catering as well. Floor worship leader, soon to help with worship at church occasionally, and hope to have a voice lesson every other week. I go to Exit 59 church (Missionary Alliance) Sunday mornings as I did last year, and have begun attending Kingdom Life Church (non-denominational, I believe) on Sunday evenings, where God has rocked me each of my 3 attendances thus far... more on that later.

  I'll say more about my regular life periodically, I am sure. But here's where I want this blog to go for now...

    One of the greatest blessings I am experiencing in this part of my life is consistent, solid, convicting, encouraging, and challenging spiritual food. Between chapel services and church services along with my personal devotional times, I feel like I am filled to overflowing with things the Lord is revealing to me about Himself and His Word. I actually have to be careful not to overstimulate in the sense that I receive so much truth that I don't end up processing or applying any of it. So I want to share some of these things on my blog. Whether with you, or for my own sake - processing now, remembering later, I'm going to try it out. :)

    It will take me some time to get out all the nuggets of truth I've received so far, but here's a bit to begin. Three Sundays ago at Kingdom Life Church the pastor, James Heth, talked about this passage:

"But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." Galatians 4:4-7

    He began to talk about how imperfect relationships can affect our relationship with God, keeping us from seeing Him as a perfect Father with abundant love for us that we don't have to earn. He began praying and pretty soon I was in tears. Soon I had three people around me praying for me. Though they couldn't hear one another for the most part, they were all praying the same things and they were all spot-on! Definitely led by the Spirit. Pretty soon they were praying that God would break down my striving and performance because I don't earn His love and that I would stop focusing on doing, and rather focus on being, in light of my identity as His daughter. They prayed I'd know how much He delights in me and how proud of me He is; how beautiful I am to Him. They got straight to the root of my struggle with legalism even though they knew nothing about it, and I felt so strongly the personal love of the Father to communicate through them just exactly what I needed to hear! I struggle a lot with feeling His love and affirmation, so I fall into striving to live my life well enough to think I deserve it. But according to this passage (and plenty of others - I never realized how many passages talk about our sonship!) I have been adopted out of slavery and made his CHILD and HEIR. What did I do to earn this? NOTHING! I just need to learn how to receive it and live out this new identity :D

    I came away from this night so encouraged, and so in awe. It almost didn't happen - one girl going with me backed out and the other was sick in the afternoon... she came with me anyway and she felt totally fine once she was there! I'm realizing more and more that Satan will do anything to keep us from truth and freedom. I'm determined more than ever to recognize and combat his every attempt!

    There's much more to this story, but this is just a summary of the beginnings of this journey He is taking me on. Praise the Lord.