"dream great dreams and find the courage to live them"

-erwin mcmanus

Friday, October 29, 2010

winter presses ever closer.

The family that I work with will soon have a new addition to the bunch! In the next week or so, John Luther, Jr. will be born.  It's exciting to be able to help take care of another precious child.  This will be the fourth in the family.  Not quite a quiverful, but close.

As much as I enjoy where I am and what I'm doing, there is another great period of transition coming up.  After the baby is born and routine develops, the family will most likely no longer need full-time help.  My lease is up at the end of February (though I do have another place in Chicago to live after that if I want/need).  I want to pursue something different.  Some "real" work experience.  Perhaps in Chicago, perhaps in Omaha, St. Louis, or Green Bay... I don't know.  The uncertainty is driving me a little crazy.

This time last year I felt the same way and jumped into a graduate program without really thinking through it.  sigh.  Will this transition be just another bump in the cycle of me changing my mind?

On a different note, I had breakfast today with a dear friend.  It was the kind of time that I wrote about a few days ago - timelessness.  We enjoyed every moment, thought deeply, evaluated ourselves and the culture in which we live with hardly a regard for the amount of time we spent.  It was nice, refreshing, and exactly the right way to end a week.

I will be spending a few more days in Green Bay soon.  Another friend getting baptized (Praise the Lord!).  My family returning from North Dakota.  And lots of quality reading time until then.  I enjoy my time there.

Farewell for now, my friends.  Enjoy your evening. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

cell phones.

Check out this video.
Is this what our world has come to?

A world where everyone is connected to a piece of plastic that sends messages to space and back (note the reference to this Conan O'Brien clip) may be interesting, but how can it possibly be the most important thing?

Part of living each moment means enjoying the one you're in, not the extra texting conversation that you're in at the same time.  Not the e-mail that is so important you can't wait until you arrive home to respond to.

While I don't have a major problem with my cell phone, when I'm home, my computer is never far away.  I make a pledge to enjoy moments with my roommates instead of spending them with our computers on our laps.  Beth and Rebecca, hold me to this. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

unpressured time

We wear watches, hang clocks, and spend endless moments waiting.  I even carry my cell phone sometimes simply for its time-keeping ability.  Humans are inextricably linked to time.

What if we all took a step back for a moment, forgot about what was coming next, stopped making plans for tomorrow night and lived today, lived in the now as an endless moment -- unpressured time.

In his book, A Severe Mercy (also mentioned in an earlier post), Sheldon VanAuken writes of this very thing:
Time to sit on stone walls, time to see beauty... We had spoken of 'moments made eternity', meaning what are calling timeless moments moments precisely without the pressure of time -- moments that might be called, indeed, timeful moments.  Or time-free moments.  And we had clearly understood that the pressure of time was our nearly inescapable awareness of an approaching terminus -- the bell about to ring, the holiday about to end... Life itself is pressured by death, the final terminus.  Socrates refused to delay his own death for a few more hours:  perhaps he knew that those few hours under the pressure of time would be worth little.  When we speak of Now, we seem to mean the timeless:  there is no duration.  Awareness of duration, of terminus, spoils Now. (pp. 198-99)
Time itself does not pressure us, but our own awareness of it.  The mere awareness of an ending prevents us from enjoying the now.

Let us live in these timeless moments, to forget that each must end, and enjoy each one for what it is - a piece of who we are, a portion of our lives, something that shapes each of the following moments.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"nothing in my hands i bring"

"This is the will of God, even your sanctification." - 1 Thessalonians 4:3

Yesterday's reading in My Utmost for His Highest shed light on this verse; and this verse shed light on some of my thoughts as of late.  Here's an excerpt from Chambers' devotional (October 20th):
It is not a question of whether God is willing to sanctify me; is it my will?... Beware of saying --Oh, I am longing to be sanctified.  You are not, stop longing and make it a matter of transaction --"Nothing in my hands I bring"... 
Never put the effect as the cause.  The effect in me is obedience and service and prayer, and is the outcome of speechless thanks and adoration for the marvellous sanctification wrought out in me because of the Atonement.
Let us stop wishing to be sanctified, and come before the Lord as we are:  broken, empty, and helpless.

Let us live in that speechless thanks and adoration to the Lord for taking us in our brokenness and making us whole.  For taking us in our emptiness and filling us up.  For taking us in my helplessness and picking us up.  Let this penetrate and direct our thoughts, decisions, and attitudes.

We have so much to be thankful for.

cover letters.

I'm afraid to write cover letters.  Saying so much in so little space.  The first impression the company sees.  Too much pressure.

This is really a problem.

I suppose if I were just applying for a retail job I wouldn't have to write them.  Okay, it's decided.  I will work minimum-wage jobs for the rest of my life.
Helloooo mediocre existence.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

the aftermath of an all-too-revealing deleted post.

I wrote an entire post this evening and decided to delete it for a number of reasons.  I reveal more on this blog than I'd like.  It focused a lot on how much I cried this weekend, it's a little embarrassing to admit it, and it's really none of anyone's business why I cried so much.  But for some reason, I decided to detail it all in this un-posted post.  Which is exactly why it will remain un-posted.

Instead, I will write a short advertisement for one of my favorite restaurants in Green Bay:

The Grapevine Cafe (www.grapevine-cafe.com)

Located next door to Homestead Decor, the Grapevine Cafe knows how to do a quaint breakfast the right way.  By "quaint", I mean the atmosphere.  By "breakfast", I mean delicious.  The home-style tables, flower arrangements, and Thomas Kinkade-style artwork make you feel right at home from the moment you walk in the door.  Every dish comes with fruit and thanks to the excellent service, your coffee cup will never empty.  The menu includes a variety of items from omelets to french toast, from bacon and eggs to a specialty quiche made fresh every morning.  You can't go wrong with the Grapevine Cafe.

That's all I have for now, without revealing the deepest depths of my soul to all five of my readers.

One last thing.  I was encouraged so much by my friends this weekend.  To hear what God has done, to catch up on what has happened over the last couple of years... nothing could have been better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

troves of knowledge

This morning the girls and I took a walk to the local library.  The girls love our library days and wait with anticipation for the moment that we arrive at this beautiful place with pages of adventures just waiting to be explored.

I was especially grateful for the library as we sat and read book after wonderful book.  The girls scurried from shelf to shelf, arbitrarily choosing the next books to read.  Perhaps they search for bright colors or pretty covers.  I taught them to look for the books with the shiny Caldecott Medals and Newberry Honors on the covers, because then you know you have found something great.  But I doubt the girls cared much, as it hardly influences their choices now, several months later.

I think I take libraries for granted.  Where else can you find knowledge and creativity from across the globe flooding from shelves, begging to be experienced, to be learned, and to be used by so many visitors.  Novels about the hardships of living in Europe in WWII, atlases from during biblical times, architectural blueprints of medieval castles, light stories of fairies and princesses, encyclopedias of medicine, ABC board books, Hispanic culinary traditions... the world is in these pages.

Earlier this week, I spent a night at the library downtown: the Harold Washington Library Center.  This place combines the wonder of books with the fantastic beauty of architecture.  With ten floors of novels, music, reference libraries, computer labs, children's libraries, and so much more, there is no end to what one can learn in a place like that.

I found scores of books on the Chinese immigration experience to America.  Yet dozens of them were left unopened, as anything more I would learn could not possibly fit into my 10-12 page paper.  I love to learn.  Organizing it into a paper, on the other hand, is not quite so pleasant, which is why I find myself blogging about libraries as treasure troves of knowledge instead of writing about how the Chinese were treated when they began coming to this country.

I had better fix that.  Stat.
Page three of twelve, you are mine :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

This morning, I learned that in some Asian cultures, it is customary to put a finger on one's nose while speaking.  While I find this to be odd, and would probably be a bit thrown off in conversation if someone did this, I find it fascinating.

In these cultures, they believe that the soul is not in the heart, but in the head.  By touching their noses, it is a sign of sincerity, that they really mean what they are saying, similar to the way we put a hand over our heart when we say the pledge of allegiance (I'm only half kidding :)), when we refer to a heartbreaking memory, or something of the utmost importance.

The idea of the soul being in the head sheds some light on the idea of "in spirit and in truth."  Not only do we believe things deep in our souls based on emotions and feelings, but also on an assurance of knowledge.

In the book A Severe Mercy, VanAuken writes upon his conversion:
"I choose to believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - in Christ, my lord and my God.  Christianity has the ring, the feel, of unique truth.  Of essential truth.  By it, life is made full instead of empty, meaningful instead of meaningless.  Cosmos becomes beautiful at the Centre, instead of chillingly ugly beneath the lovely pathos of spring.  But the emptiness, the meaninglessness, and the ugliness can only be seen, I think, when one has glimpsed the fullness, the meaning, and the beauty.  It is when heaven and hell have both been glimpsed that going back is impossible.  But to go on seemed impossible, also.  A glimpse is not a vision.  A choice was necessary: and there is no certainty.  One can only choose a side.  So I - I now choose my side:  I choose beauty;  I choose what I love.  But choosing to believe is believing.  It's all I can do:  choose.  I confess my doubts and ask my Lord Christ to enter my life.  I do not know God is, I do but say:  Be it unto me according to Thy will.  I do not affirm that I am without doubt, I do but ask for help, having chosen, to overcome it.  I do but say:  Lord, I believe -- help Thou mine unbelief."
Upon reading this several days ago, I realized that I need to do the same:  To choose to believe what I know to be true, instead of waiting for all of my doubts to be resolved.

To put this all together - sometimes we validate our beliefs by the feelings we have with the church body, the emotions that arise while worshiping.  While these emotions are not bad, they are not enough to constitute a real faith.  A real faith must come from the conscious decision to believe in what is True and Right and Good.

"Lord, I believe - help my unbelief"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

social justice

A few months ago I went to a particular church solely because one of my best friends was getting baptized that Sunday.  While I was so thankful I was able to be there for her, it was hard to sit through the service.

Why?  Well, the pastor made some brash statements, broad generalizations, and unsupported claims that really frustrated me.  One of them went something like this:
"A church should never worry about social justice issues.  If it does, it is misusing its time and resources."
Well, Pastor... I beg to differ.  I understand that the gospel should be central in all that the Church does, but that does not eliminate the need to engage in advocacy for social justice issues.  Jesus called us to care for orphans and widows, is that not social justice?  In Isaiah, God said that he would allow the Chaldeans to overcome His people, because they weren't taking care of their poor as they should.  So many times, God shows us the importance of loving His people.  If we sit idly by and watch these people go hungry, sleep on the streets, be extorted and then mocked, then we are not loving people as we should.

The heart of social justice advocacy IS the Gospel; the Gospel must not be lost in it all.  But the Church should be at the forefront, because God commanded us to "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

All this to say that we constantly need to evaluate what a pastor says - even if it is a pastor who you admire and love and follow.  Take everything and think through it yourself, compare it with Scripture, and use your God-given wisdom to know Truth.

Monday, October 4, 2010

getting it right.

I picked up my Bible today and decided to continue my "Participants Guide" to Tim Keller's book Gospel Christianity.  While I haven't read the book and don't own the book, this Participants Guide is an eye-opening reminder of who God is and who I am in relation to Him.

I came across this quote:
We all automatically gravitate toward the assumption that we are justified by our level of sanctification, and when this posture is adopted, it inevitably focuses our attention not on Christ but on the adequacy of our own obedience.  We start each day with our personal security not resting on the accepting love of God and the sacrifice of Christ but on our present feelings or recent achievements in the Christian's life.  Since these arguments will not quiet the human conscience, we are inevitably moved either to discouragement and apathy or to a self-righteousness [some form of idolatry] which falsifies the record to achieve a sense of peace...
--from Richard Lovelace's Dynamics of Spiritual Life
I have studied Scripture, I understand a good bit of theology and have read the works of a number of biblical scholars.  While in high school, I leaned toward the side of self-righteousness.  When I left Green Bay, my eyes were opened to the sin I engaged (though at the time, I wouldn't have called it idolatry).  Over the last five years, the pendulum has made a full swing to the side of discouragement and apathy.  Why?  Because I realize just how futile my actions are, how unworthy I am, and how little this biblical knowledge is worth in the grand scheme of things.

In that discouragement, however, I decided not to go to the Saviour, not to fall at the Master's feet, but to choose a new career path.  Being a teacher and helping to bridge the Achievement Gap would surely bring new meaning to my life.  I had a new motivation to do good and help those who are unfairly treated in the educational system on the basis of their socioeconomic status.  Jesus cared about the marginalized, and so should I... right?

And this became my idol as I pursued a Masters of Education.  In this pursuit, I came to see, yet again, that my motivations were impure - I was not in it to glorify God, but to do what I thought was right and good and to improve the world as we know it.  Sigh.  Will I ever get this right?

So here I sit.  Without a Masters degree in sight.  Without a career to pursue.  No big plans to look forward to.  With nothing but a need and desire to know my Lord better, and all the time in the world to pursue it.  I need this time, and God knew it.  All of this doubt and indecision came from Him, but I must not let apathy come to rule again.  It has come and held its power, but now is the time for me to lose that idol of doubt and embrace the life of faith that God has secured in Jesus Christ.

Lord forgive us when we get consumed by the things of this world,
That fight for our love, and our passion,
As our eyes are open wide and on you.
Grant us the privilege of your world view,
And may your kingdom be, what wakes us up, and lays us down.

--From Toby Mac's "Lose My Soul"

Sunday, October 3, 2010

sharing a meal.

Last night I went to a dinner party.  Mariah hosted a group of friends for a fantastic dinner.  Butternut squash risotto and braised short ribs were delectable.  That girl knows her way around a kitchen. :)

It reminds me of how valuable it is to share meals with other people.  Recently, I have eaten most dinners alone, as my roomies and I are on such different schedules.  It just isn't the same to eat alone.  Somehow, food brings people together; it brings everyone to a common ground, and loosens people up.  Who can be reserved when eating a wonderful meal prepared by a friend?  Nothing compares to the community developed around the table.