In Memoriam

My maternal grandfather, Russell Lee Creaser, died on March 30, 2016. He had been recovering from a stroke since July 2014, and I had the opportunity to visit him a few months before I left for Hungary. We knew it was going to happen this year while I was abroad, but that doesn’t make the pain and grief any less terrible.  I was able to be present at his funeral service on April 11 via Skype. I’d like to share with you something I wrote for his funeral:

When I heard of Papa’s death, I first turned not to scripture, but to the hymnal. I miss the old, familiar tunes: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!”   “Just a closer walk with thee, grant it, Jesus, is my plea…”   “Come home! Come home! You who are weary, come home. Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, calling ‘O sinner, come home!’”.  A recent memory I have with Papa is when we were all singing “How great thou art” at the care home, and when we got to the refrain, he sang with such gusto: “Then sings my soul, my savior God, to thee, how great thou art! How great thou art!” Sometimes, the organist will play this as an instrumental during communion at my church and it always brings me to tears, because I remember Papa.

Papa is a soul-singer. Music is how he frequently communicated with the rest of the world and with the divine. I’ve never heard anyone sing with such conviction. He expressed his faith through music, and I know he touched many lives this way, including my own. In this time of grief and pain, I am comforted by the music he shared with me, and the music we both share as a larger church:

“Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord his children sever;

Unto them his grace he showeth, and their sorrows all he knoweth.”   (ELW 781, v. 3)

Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God: not Papa’s death, nor angels, nor rulers, not mountains or valleys or anything else in all creation. Because of the resurrection, death does not have the final say. Papa’s memory will live on in all of us, in the stories we tell and how he impacted our lives. Though they may feel far away, God is with us in this moment, accompanying us in this time of celebration and grief.

Let us pray: God, I thank you for the life of Papa Creaser. I thank you for his presence in my life for the past 23 years, and how he’ll influence my life for years to come. In these days of sorrow and rejoicing, be with all my family near and far who are remembering your faithful servant, Russell. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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Papa and the Washington cousins, ca. 1999 (I’m second from the right)
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Skyping with my grandparents, Nanny and Papa, on Christmas this year.

 

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Easter in Hungary

Kellemes Húsvéti Űnnepeket! Happy Easter! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

For Easter, as on Christmas, I was invited to travel to Slovakia with our chaplain, Páli, and his wife, Helga. We went to three different Hungarian-speaking villages for worship. Daylight Savings Time also started in Hungary on Easter Sunday, so it was quite an early morning for us! We had communion at all three churches, and I even said a prayer in English and Hungarian. The prayer comes from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, and Páli helped me translate it to Hungarian:

O God, you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen. (ELW page 31)

Istenem! A Te egyszülött fiadat kínos kereszthalálra adtad a mi megváltásunkra, és dicsőséges feltámadásával megszabadítottál minket a halál hatalmából. Add, hogy minden nap meghaljunk a bűnnek, hogy vele élhessünk örökké a feltámadás örömében, a Te szent Fiad, Jézus Krisztus által, aki az Atyával és a Szentlélekkel együtt él és uralkodik örökkön-örökké. Ámen!

I was asked to help with communion at two of the services with serving the wafers. At many Lutheran churches in Hungary, the pastor feeds you the wafer and tips the chalice of wine to your mouth, so it was a challenge for me to give people the wafers without touching their lips or face. The pastor also says the equivalent of “take and eat, this is my body, broken/given for you” while serving the wafers. I couldn’t remember all the words, but I managed to say “Ez az ő teste” (‘this is His body’) to every congregant. I love being involved in worship in this way, and I didn’t realize I missed it so much until Easter Sunday.

Before Easter, we talked about how we celebrate in the US and Hungary in most of my classes. Many of my students said they celebrate with family, eating ham with horseradish and eggs for Easter, but most do not go to church. Traditional Hungarian Easter eggs are quite beautiful, but I did not have the chance to make any. On Easter Monday, boys and men will visit their family and friends, reciting a poem or a song for the ladies, and will sprinkle them with water or perfume afterwards. In return, the women and girls give them a chocolate egg. You can read more about Hungarian Easter traditions here.

Since Easter was so early this year, the weather was still chilly and hardly any trees had begun to bloom, so it was hard to get in to the resurrection spirit. As I write this now, a month later, spring has definitely sprung in northeastern Hungary. Within this past week, all of the trees on the Avas hillside have got their leaves, the lilacs are blooming, and the chestnut trees smell heavenly as I walk around Miskolc. It took the landscape a while to catch up, but it is hard to escape the joy of the resurrection with so much life around us. It is important to remember that as Christians, we are an Easter people, living into the joy of the resurrection as we die every day to sin.

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Beautiful Hungarian Easter eggs. photo: http://welovebudapest.com/budapest.and.hungary/easter.in.hungary.traditions.and.events
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A group of adults with disabilities from Budapest presented a passion play at the church during Holy Week.
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Leading prayers in English and Hungarian
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Distributing Communion at Easter worship

Birthdays (and Name Days)

I want to thank everyone for the birthday wishes on Facebook, by email, and through the mail (yes, you can send me mail! Contact me if you’d like my mailing address). This year, my birthday was on Maundy Thursday, and it was the first day of our Spring Break. I had a relaxing day, and did some of my favorite things. In the morning, I had a Hungarian lesson (learning a language makes my left-brain really happy), and afterwards, I went to the family shelter I volunteer with once a week. They had a day full of activities for the kids of all ages, and we made some cute Easter crafts and had lunch. I spent some time exploring the park around the lookout tower on my walk home, since it was so nice outside. In the evening, I attended the Maundy Thursday service with communion at the downtown church. The Eucharist was particularly memorable on this day, since the painting behind the altar is Jesus praying in the garden.

Hungarians usually celebrate their birthday with a small gathering with family and close friends. It’s more common to celebrate your name day. Every day has a traditional Hungarian name associated with it, which started from the Catholic tradition of a saint’s feast day. Some popular names have more than one day, so you can choose when you celebrate it. If you’re name isn’t officially included on the name day calendar, you get to choose your own (or one similar to yours). Many calendars are published with the names for that day, and it’s also published in newspapers, magazines, and some stores, or you can find it out online. In my community, people usually bring their coworkers or choir members pogácsa (savory scones), homemade treats, or other home-cooked food (fried chicken, salads, bread, etc.) People usually give you a small gift: women typically receive flowers or chocolates, while men typically receive a bottle of liquor. The students say that they usually have a party with family and friends to celebrate their name day, and some students will bring treats for their class.

You can find a list of traditional Hungarian name days alphabetically here, or by calendar date here.   Unfortunately, my name is not a traditional Hungarian name (thanks, Mom and Dad), so I don’t have a name day. Since Kirsten is a Scandinavian form of Kristina, I would celebrate my name day on August 5 (Krisztina). When is your name day?

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A typical name day spread: fried meatballs, homemade treats (turos taska), snacks (peanut puffs), bread, pickles, and fresh wine.

Light and Darkness: Lent Retreat in Bratislava and Vienna

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12)

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

Lent seems like an appropriate time to discuss light and darkness, especially in Central Europe, where the winter days are cloudy, gray, damp, and cold, and the nights are long. The past few weeks, I feel like I’ve been walking through the darkness. Many days, I do not feel like God is present in my life, and it has been difficult to experience God in the ways I am used to: through daily worship, in song, in my relationships, in creation, and more. As I entered our retreat time together, I was looking forward to exploring these themes deeper with my friends, gaining some insight to why I was feeling so detached from God.

We spent our second retreat, once again, in cities (see my blog about our Advent retreat in a city). Our first stop was four days Bratislava, Slovakia. Our country coordinator, Rachel, completed her seminary internship with the Bratislava International Church, and still has many connections there. In one of our sessions, we studied the Road to Emmaus story (Luke 24: 13-35), to learn how God speaks to us through scripture. One thing that stood out to me was how the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and they say, “‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’” It was only after the fact that the disciples recognized him. Maybe I am in a similar time now, and I will look back and say, “oh, that was Jesus” or “oh, that was the Holy Spirit at work.” It’s just frustrating to be in the midst of the period of unrecognition.

After Bratislava, we journeyed to Vienna. We stayed at the Magdas Hotel, which is part of a social business organization that employs people who have difficulty finding work for a variety of reasons.  The Magdas Hotel employs refugees from many different countries. This hotel was transformed from an old retirement home that was run by Caritas, a Catholic charity in Austria. It’s decorated in an upcycled style (think Pinterest), and they had donations of furniture from all over Austria. The hotel’s intention is to provide refugees with the opportunity to work, giving them job experience that they can take elsewhere in the community. Magdas has only been operating for one year, and have already been internationally recognized for their work in the hospitality industry. It was uplifting to encounter a business that is doing such good work in the local community, and is a light in the seemingly endless darkness of the refugee crisis.

Here are some links to articles about the Magdas Hotel (here, here and here) and their main website.

While in Vienna, we went to Dialog im Dunkeln (Dialog in the Dark), a walk-through exhibit lead by a person who is blind. We walked through a forest, crossed a street, went shopping, rode a boat, and even visited a bar, all in complete darkness. It was really disorienting to have one of my senses gone. I felt really vulnerable to depend on my other senses, the others in my group and our guide. I’d never realized how much I rely on my sight, and when that was taken away, it completely jolting. When we were finished, I wanted to go through again with the lights on, to fill in the gaps of the experience. But I’m glad we were not offered that chance.  It taught me that there are many ways to experience the world around us, if we just engage our other senses.

I’ve come to realize that God works in a similar way. Say you suddenly lose a familiar way of interacting with God (such as moving to a foreign country where English is not widely spoken), and at first, you’ll feel lost, left behind, in the dark. But God is with us at all times and in all places, even in the darkness. It’s kind of like the electromagnetic spectrum (I watch a lot of educational science videos in my free time, but I hope this will make sense). There’s all this radiation out there: radio waves, infrared radiation, the visible spectrum, x-rays, and more. We directly interact with the visible spectrum, and if we take out the visible spectrum, the radio waves and everything else is still there, interacting with the universe. However, we can’t experience it with our eyes, as we do with the visible spectrum. We need some other method to experience the electromagnetic radiation.

One of the biggest struggles of this year has been finding those other ways to experience God. This darkness has been frustrating, because when I read scriptures like those in John and 1 John, it sounds like I am not following Christ (“in him there is no darkness at all”). But even in the darkness, God is still beside me. The retreat equipped me with new skills and tools to experience God in new ways. It has taken some time, but now I am beginning to experience God in other ways in my community. I’ve been intentional about reflecting on this every day: maybe it will be the way the birds wake me up in the morning, or the conversation I have with a teacher in the coffee room, or witnessing an interaction between people on the bus. It’s not what I’m used to, but God is still with us at all times and in all places, interacting with the world in surprising ways. Even in the darkness, God is still at work in the world.

Christmas Time is Here

Christmas is a special holiday all around the world, and Hungary is no exception. Advent is widely celebrated before Christmas: almost every home has an Advent wreath, where the candles are lit every Sunday in anticipation of Jesus’ birth. Most towns have a Christmas market, selling food, warm beverages, and handicraft gifts. The Miskolc Christmas market was about 2 minutes from my flat, so it was fun to walk around and explore all the stalls. There was even a skating rink!

Along with an Advent wreath, homes are decorated with Christmas trees. Families will decorate the tree on December 24 with lights, ornaments and garland, perhaps with some tinsel as well. On the top of the tree, you can either put a star, an angel, or a “csúcs” (“mountain peak” in English, looks like a steeple spire). The tree is also decorated with “szaloncukor”, a kind of flavored Christmas chocolate wrapped in colored foil. My favorite flavor is citrom-túró, it tastes like lemon cheesecake!

On Christmas Eve, I went with the school chaplain, Pál, and his wife to Slovakia. There are many small villages in Slovakia where Hungarian is still spoken, but the congregations are too small to have their own full-time Hungarian pastor. The first village we visited was Gömörpanyit (Gemerská Panica in Slovak), the second was Lekenye (Bohúňovo in Slovak), and the last was Balogpádár (Padarovce in Slovak). At each church, there was anywhere from 20 to 60 people, and there was even a short children’s program at Gömörpanyit and Balogpádár. We heard the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s gospel, and we sang traditional Hungarian Christmas hymns, like “Mennyből az angyal” and “Pásztorok, pásztorok”, as well as “Csendes éj” (Silent Night). Following the last worship, we ate dinner with a congregation member’s family, a delicious meal of sausage mushroom soup, potato salad, fried fish, and a variety of traditional Christmas cookies.

On Christmas Day and the subsequent days, I was invited to various colleague’s and friend’s houses for lunch. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted me to come for lunch, and I am continually amazed at my community’s hospitality and kindness toward me. I ate a variety of traditional Hungarian Christmas foods, like húsleves (similar to American chicken noodle soup with the broth, noodles, and chicken all served separately), rántott hús (deep-fried chicken), töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage), and desserts like bejgli (rolled Christmas cake, either with poppyseed (mákos) or crushed walnut (diós) filling) and mézeskalács (gingerbread cookies). I am glad that I had the opportunity to get to know many of my colleagues and their families during this holiday break.

To finish off 2015, I went hiking in Slovakia with a few colleagues and their families in Szádelő (Zádiel in Slovak), about 2 hours away from Miskolc. It was very cold, but the sun was shining, so we had a panoramic view on top of the plateau. To celebrate the New Year, I traveled with a few other YAGM’s to Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár in Hungarian), the second largest city in Romania. Overall, my Christmas break was full of friends and adventure. Here’s to continuing building relationships and having adventures in 2016!

Békés Karácsonyt és Boldog Új Évet! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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One of the classes let me borrow their little Christmas tree and decorations for my flat!
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Prayers on Christmas Eve in Hungarian and English
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Hiking in Slovakia
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Visiting Cluj, in front of the downtown Orthodox church – it was sunny and cold!

Advent Retreat in Budapest

Before I left for Budapest, I was thinking, “A retreat in a city? Aren’t retreats supposed to be peaceful and relaxing and secluded? How could a city of 2 million people provide an atmosphere for retreat?” Our Advent retreat was different than I was expecting, and even rejuvenating on many different levels, such as:

  • Spiritual: Every morning, we had worship and Bible study, and we concluded every day with evening prayer. I feel like I’ve been missing a communal worship experience in my life in Miskolc (church in Hungarian every Sunday is more confusing than it is spiritually moving). It was refreshing to worship and read the Word with other people who are having similar experiences as I am and who speak my native language. Our Bible studies focused mainly on Luke, the upcoming year’s Gospel, with each of us taking turns leading a Bible study (I had Luke 9:1-6).
  • Creative: One afternoon, we went to a paint-your-own ceramics studio. I selected a coffee mug, since I drink a lot of tea at home to warm me up after walking outside (my main mode of transportation). My mug says “you are the light of the world”, to remind me to be the light during these dark winter days.
  • Educational: We visited the Terror House, which is a museum dedicated to the terror and violence that Hungarians experienced during the 20th century. This building was the headquarters for the Arrow Cross party (Hungarian Nazi party) and the Communist political police. There were exhibits about the political leaders, elections, laws, trials, and the lives of ordinary people during this time period. I wish I knew more of the details of the history of 20th century Europe before visiting, there was so much information that continues to be relevant today.
  • Physical: Hungarians appreciate thermal hot springs, which can be found all over the country (including Miskolc’s cave baths), so we visited the Gellért baths to experience it first-hand. There were pools at various temperatures, steam rooms, dry saunas, cold baths, and an exercise pool. Afterwards, I felt like I had a good workout, and slept really well that night. If you ever find yourself in Hungary, visit a thermal bath for a dose of culture and healing minerals!

Overall, our time together in retreat was just what I needed. Within the bustling city of Budapest, it was a time of reflection, of growth, and of energy. I felt renewed as I returned to Miskolc and to my work with the schools and the church.

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Christmas market at the Basilica
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Christmas market at the Basilica
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The women of YAGM Central Europe at Hero’s Square

Phiren Amenca Workshop: Volunteerism to Challenge Stereotypes and Antigypsyism

All of the YAGM attended a workshop hosted by Phiren Amenca titled, “Volunteerism to Challenge Stereotypes and Antigypsyism”. We gathered in Budapest for 4 days with three other Phiren Amenca volunteers, and three volunteers working in a Romanian village. Together, the 13 of us shared stories from our sites and our experiences with Roma communities. In my day-to-day life, I interact with few Roma people, because there are only a handful Roma students at the high school where I work, though there is a significant population of Roma in Miskolc and the surrounding area. Cultural educational activities, like this workshop, are naturally a part of the YAGM program in Central Europe, and it was helpful for me to learn more about Roma history and the current events. There is so much history about the Roma in Europe, and I’m only beginning to understand it.

On Saturday afternoon, we visited the Roma Holocaust Centre in Csepel (a suburb south of Budapest). It’s a newer museum, with detailed exhibits about Roma history, discrimination in the 20th century, and the violence they experienced during World War II. It’s difficult to know how many Romani died in the Holocaust, but estimates range from 200,000 to over 1,000,000. We all learned about the Jewish Holocaust in school, but the Roma were just a side note at the end of the chapter, along with LGBT and disabled people. For more information, the Wikipedia page is helpful.

On Sunday, we brainstormed ideas for a social media campaign to coincide with International Human Rights day (December 10). Much of the hateful, derogatory remarks aimed at Roma people happens online, so we wanted to start a project against hate speech. There’s an entire organization dedicated to this, the No Hate Speech Movement (their website and Facebook). We made individual signs, and took photos with them to post to Facebook and other social media. Mine are included in this post, check them out!

Our workshop concluded with a visit to Roma Holocaust memorial, right on the Danube River. It had been vandalized, so we gathered with Roma activists and community members to clean it up. It was incredibly moving to watch them scrub the graffiti, knowing how hard they have worked and will continue to work for Roma rights. Their experience is not mine to tell, but I can listen to their stories, and better educate myself about the history and the current issues. We concluded by holding hands, encircling the monument, and singing “We Shall Overcome”. Though the vandalism was terrible, it was fitting to end the workshop in this way. Despite all of the discrimination, hatred, and violence that we talked about all weekend, we stood in solidarity with our Roma brothers and sisters, accompanying them in their struggles and stories.

“Deep in my heart, I do believe

We shall overcome someday.”

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Cleaning the Roma Holocaust memorial from vandalism
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Roma Holocaust memorial
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Social media campaign against hate speech
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Social media campaign against hate speech

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Wind

So far, my year has been a range of ups and downs, as would be expected with serving abroad for a year. Some days are great: I’ll have a funny moment with a student or a colleague, choir practice will move me to tears, or someone will speak to me in Hungarian and I’ll actually understand them. I cherish these sacred moments. They keep me going when my days are not so great.

I had a rough day a couple of weeks ago; I can’t exactly remember what was specifically frustrating me, but I remember feeling really down. It felt like God was very far away, and that She was not ‘daily walking close to me’ (to quote a favorite hymn). As I walked to and from my Hungarian lesson that morning, the wind was blowing from all directions, gusting so strongly that you had to turn up your collar and lean into the wind. Growing up in the Columbia River Gorge and living on the prairie in Minnesota taught me a lot about the wind. A soft breeze can bring relief on a hot day, but the wind can be terribly destructive in a storm with snow, rain, ice, and thunder. The wind, with all its powers, reminds me of home.

Wind also reminds me of the Holy Spirit, how She moves and breathes and works in our lives. Walking around Miskolc on that windy day, it was a blatant reminder that God is at work here. It is such a simple promise that God is with us at all times and in all places, but I had been caught up in my day-to-day work and activities that I had forgotten this. These gusts of wind caught me off guard, shaking me from my restlessness, reminding me twofold of the people I love back at home and of God’s promises.

Thanksgiving in Budapest, November 25-27

Our short Thanksgiving holiday in Budapest began with a meeting at the Bishop’s office. We met with Bishop Tamás Fabiny and a few other leaders of the Lutheran Church in Hungary to learn more about the Church’s history, their current ministries, and to get to know each of us. The Lutheran Church in Hungary published the following article about our meeting, complete with pictures! http://deakter.lutheran.hu/amerikai-onkentesek-fabiny-talalkozas

Following the meeting, we had worship, Holden Evening Prayer, in the chapel, and Bishop Fabiny joined us. After 2 months of singing unfamiliar hymns and saying unfamiliar prayers, it was uplifting to follow the beautiful Evening Prayer liturgy that has been a staple in my worship life.

On Thursday, we had some free time to explore the city in the morning, and a group of us visited the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest. For dinner, we met up with Daryl and Marie Bratz, who are friends of my grandparents from their church. Small world, right? Daryl and Marie spend most of the year in the States, but live in Budapest for a few weeks out of the year. They suggested a restaurant that serves a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, which was nagyon finom (very fine). We had turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, gravy, stuffing, and even pumpkin pie with ice cream for dessert. Just a few tastes of home.

Though our time together was short (about 48 hours), it was delightful to get together with the other YAGM’s and to share some of our stories with each other. We’ll all be back in Budapest this upcoming week for a workshop with Phiren Amenca, followed by our own Advent retreat.

How long to sing this song?

“I waited patiently for the Lord,
he inclined and heard my cry.
He lifted me up out of the pit,
out of the miry clay.
I will sing, sing a new song. I will sing, sing a new song.
How long to sing this song? How long to sing this song? How long? How long? How long? How long to sing this song?
He set my feet upon a rock,
and made my footsteps firm.
Many will see, many will see and fear.
I will sing, sing a new song. I will sing, sing a new song.
How long to sing this song? How long to sing this song? How long? How long? How long? How long to sing this song?” – “40” by U2

When I first heard about the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, on October 1, this song came to mind. It has become commonplace in the United States for mass shootings to happen every few months, and every time, it raises virtually the same reactions and debates. We all agree that this violence is wrong and has to stop. “How long to sing this song?”

At about the same time, there was sensational media coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe. Thousands of people arrive every day from Syria and other countries, risking their lives on a journey to a safer place than their home country. We heard horror stories of why people are fleeing, and the arduous, life-threatening journey they had faced to escape their homeland. When they arrive in Europe, they face application forms and shut doors and a system that isn’t set up yet to accommodate the volume of people arriving. I am just starting to understand the history behind this crisis, and how it continues to effect Hungary, Europe, and its neighbors. One thing is clear: no one deserves to experience such violence and fear. “How long to sing this song?”

In early October, I was reading Job as part of my personal Bible study, and all of Job’s lamenting is quite similar to the lamenting and grief surrounding the Umpqua shooting and the refugee crisis. It feels like God is very far away in these times of violence and hatred and suffering. “How long? How long? How long? How long to sing this song?”

In recent weeks, I’ve read about how radical Jesus’ and God’s actions can be. There are many examples of this ‘turning-the-world-upside-down’ God: Psalm 113 (v. 7: “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap.”), Psalm 146 (v. 7b-8: “the Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.”), 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Luke 1:46-55. God continuously makes all things new! He picks us up out of the mud, out of our brokenness, and makes our footsteps firm, so we can go about the business of following Jesus, who heals the sick and loves sinners and raises the dead and otherwise turns the world order upside-down.”I will sing, sing a new song!”

Today (Saturday) was a “How long, oh Lord?” kind of day. After I read about the news of the attacks in Paris on Friday night, November 13, I spent most of Saturday trying to avoid the heart-breaking news. Many people posted Facebook statuses and messages and comments that their thoughts and prayers are with France and Paris, but neither of these methods addresses the root of the problem. Avoidance and prayers and internet posts are not enough. We live in a world where violent attacks on shootings in public places is common. “How long? How long? How long? How long to sing this song?”

The chorus of “40” reminds me that even though we ask “How long, oh Lord?” over and over again, we eventually do sing a new song. Violent events like this leave me with tough questions: Where is God in terrorist attacks? What does ‘your will be done’ mean? What will society look like if these violent attacks continue? As I wrestle with these questions, I know that God picks me up out of the muddy pit of brokenness I’m in and sets my feet on a solid rock, to proclaim God’s love and to live out the Gospel.

“I will sing, sing a new song.”