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

-erwin mcmanus

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Something rare happened yesterday morning.  We had time off.  Unplanned, unscheduled time off.
From 8:35am until 12:40pm, we had no responsibilities.
No chores.
No class.
No errands.

So we jumped in the car and left.  Destination?  IHOP.  Of the prayer variety, not pancakes.  I had never been before, and didn't really know what to expect, but, by golly, I was overwhelmed.

The place radiated joy and love.  Each person wore on their face a look that said "I am in awe of who God is."  The International House of Prayer was phenomenal.  As we entered the Prayer Room, I saw dozens of people from all walks of life spending time with God in their own ways.  Some sat, some stood; some walked, some knelt; many read, many wrote; some were silent and some cried out - all were in the presence of God.

The worship band at the front didn't have a specific song they sang, instead choosing several passages of Scripture to sing spontaneously with a group of musicians who laid the groundwork for it.  They sang as the Spirit led.  Whatever verses they sang appeared on screens in the prayer room so that the people could meditate over those passages.

The people.  Well, it was a mix of people like I had never seen before.  Some were apparently wealthy, some were granola backpackers.  Young wanderers and retirees alike worshiped the Lord together.  Some came in on what seemed like lunch breaks from their desk jobs, while others wore construction gear.  And then there were the internationals - people from all over the world who traveled to Kansas City to hang out at IHOP.  Who would have thought that a place like this was such a destination point?  Yet it is.

24/7 There are people in the IHOP prayer room.  24/7 there is a group leading worship.  24/7.  I hear that it is just as full at 3am as it is at noon - what a wonderful way to spend a sleepless night, praising God, praying with Him!

Because this little visit wasn't planned, I didn't have my Bible, no journal, and no book.  This could have been  setback, but instead it forced me to sit and listen.  To clear my head and just listen for the Lord to speak.  One at a time, I put each frustration, each worry, every subject out of my head, so to be cleared - to just sit in the presence of God.

So often we come before Him with lists.  Lists of prayer requests, lists of wants, expectations, even lists of praises - but lists nonetheless.  An agenda.  How often do we come before God without really coming before Him at all, but attacking Him with a barrage of questions?  And then we finish asking our questions and walk away before allowing God to work in your heart to answer them, to teach you, to guide your thoughts?

To just sit, hands open - empty before Him.

It reminds me of the new Switchfoot song, Your Love is a Song.

They sing:
Oh, your love is a symphony
All around me
Running through me
Oh, your love is a melody
Underneath me
Running to me
All your love is a song

Let us just sit and be.  In the presence of God, allow this love to overwhelm you - to feel the presence of God.  With eyes wide open.  And minds wide open.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter us.

I find that my life sometimes resembles a reality tv show.

Not only is my life in Missouri always interesting, but my family is crazy-fun too, as I've had the opportunity to enjoy this weekend.  The first time getting away from Missouri since arriving seven weeks ago, I found myself collapsed on the couch upon arrival, unable to hold back tears.  I'm not sure why, but I couldn't hold it back.  I finally felt the freedom to release, freedom to relax, to enjoy, to empty.  Perhaps this is the release of brokenness that allows me to embrace the redemption that Easter represents and reminds us of.

This morning, Pastor Jim's sermon followed the "trail of blood that bleeds through the pages of Scripture."  It was all about the blood sacrifices that began even as far back as the Garden of Eden when God made clothing from the skin of an animal to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve after they sinned.  From there, the use of blood for the forgiveness of sins is used time and time again, making Jesus' death all the more meaningful as it not only carries into the future, but looks back into the past, tying together the Old Testament with the New (as if there were no other ties..).

This look at redemptive history helps to solidify the understanding of the crucifixion, and, more importantly, the resurrection.  To overcome.
What beauty.

Easter us, Lord.

Monday, April 18, 2011


We find ourselves thinking that we deserve things.
Time off.
Good meals.
Time to relax.
Our way.

But when I take a step back, I see all of those things as privileges, not entitlements.  Many of the girls struggle visibly with entitlement, especially in a place like Shelterwood where they don't have the freedoms that they used to abuse and enjoy.  It is not uncommon to be asked to take a girl to her room to drop off a book/waterbottle/sweatshirt, say no because there isn't enough coverage, and then get a dirty look, a scowl, or a raised eyebrow.  How important is it, really, to put away that item right now, at this very moment?  Not really at all, yet she thinks it is imperative that she gets to go put it away.  And then who am I to say no?  I, too, have selfish motives for not wanting to take her, but my selfishness trumps hers and she has to wait.

These moments of time off are so precious, so valuable.  Yet even these are not my own.  I do not deserve the time off.  Though it certainly is necessary to do my job well, to stay positive, to have energy to give - I am not entitled to it.

When we give our lives to God, to our Creator, we give everything.  We give our time, our energy, our love, all for God to use however He sees fit, however will bring Him the most glory - whether that be through spending time with His people, spending time with Him, working extra hours to make something the best that it can possibly be for the glory of God, taking energy to spend with family, doing dishes late at night so that someone else doesn't have to worry about it in the morning... All for the glory of God.

My life is not my own.  My time is not my own.

A poem struck me this week as I thought about these things, about what I think to be mine, and what I find to be most important.  Here it is:

The Noise of Politics
by Walter Brueggemann

We watch as the jets fly in
     with the power people and
     the money people,
     the suits, the budgets, the billions.

We wonder about monetary policy
     because we are among the haves,
and about generosity
     because we care about the have-nots.

By slower modes we notice
     Lazarus and the poor arriving from Africa,
     and the beggars from Central Europe, and
     the throng of environmentalists
          with their vision of butterflies and oil
               of flowers and tanks
               of growing things and
                    killing fields.

We wonder about peace and war
     about ecology and development,
     about hope and entitlement.

We listen beyond jeering protesters and
          soaring jets and
     faintly we hear the mumbling of the crucified one,
     something about
          feeding the hungry
          and giving drink to the thirsty,
          about clothing the naked,
          and noticing the prisoners,
          more about the least and about holiness among them.

We are moved by the mumbles of the Gospel,
     even while we are tenured in our privilege.

We are half ready to join the choir of hope,
          half afraid things might change,
               and in a third half of our faith
                    turning to you,
               and your outpouring love
               that works justice and
               that binds us each and all to one another.

So we pray amid jeering protesters
          and soaring jets.
     Come by here and make new,
          even at some risk to our entitlements.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I've been building some good relationships with these girls.  Some of them are easier than other, some you have to really dig in to get to the issues - those are hard.

But I came to realize today why it's so hard to speak into the lives of some the girls:  So many of them reject God.  If they reject God, then they reject the one thing I have to offer them, so I feel as if they reject me.  In reality, this little setback is only a reason to love on them more, pray for them more, talk about my own experiences with God without placing it on them.

Oh, to love them more.

I think about these girls as whole people, as teens with a context.  They've had so much life before this, and they have brilliant lives to live after they leave here.  Shelterwood may be a beautiful place of restoration, but it's for a purpose.  We may be isolated out here in the woods, but it does not mean there is not a bustling world around us.  God comes in a redeems us as whole people.

In the words of Lady Gaga "I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want your everything... I want your psycho..." and the song continues.  God wants all of us.  I know Lady Gaga wrote no spiritual tie into her song, but it makes itself evident when we think about God restoring all of our being.  Our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole soul.

What a beautiful picture..

Let us embrace that redemption.  Let us not lose sight of it when people reject God or when things seem too broken to fix.  Jesus can redeem even the hardest of the hard.

Friday, April 8, 2011

parents weekend.

Emotions run high.
Girls are anxious, excited, nervous, terrified, nauseous - the whole gamut - at the thought of their parents coming to visit them.

It means loud arguments, family counseling, classes for the parents, and high stress for everyone.  It gives families the opportunity to work things out together, resulting sometimes in joy, laughter, and sighs of relief, sometimes in anguish, tears, and resentment.  Sometimes both.

It's a beautiful picture of brokenness.  Tears so strong the body shakes.  Remorse so deep that the soul is in anguish.  This is the picture that I became a part of last night with one girl in particular.  Seeing her brokenness as some kind of inconceivably awful, unforgiveable state - we prayed.  Beauty rises from the ashes.  Restoration comes from the dust.  This girl experienced the grace of God last night.

And today I got to go out to breakfast with her parents - phenomenal people.  I feel as if I got some pretty incredible insight into her personality, her struggles, her background.  I love it, and I'm excited to see her grow and change through this program, to know that her parents support her 100%.  It's a picture of family reconciliation that I long to see in this particular family, but also with all of the girls and their families.

God is so good.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

to find the one.

"It's like someone saying, 'I hid one silver dollar under one stone in this whole forest.  Go find it!'"

That's what this morning felt like, as SJ and I scoured the woods behind property for yet another runaway.  This one is a little closer to home, more near and dear to my heart, since it's the little who lives in my room.  Not only is she "my little" because she lives in my room, but I was with her just moments before she ran out the back door not to be seen again.

Found tonight by the grace of Jesus down on the Plaza (10 hours after she left property... only by God was this possible!), she was entirely apathetic about it all.  She's at a point where she doesn't care at all about what she did, doesn't care at all what happens next, and doesn't care that she doesn't care.  So sad.

After the beginning statement was made in the woods this morning, I joked in response, "Nah, it's like leaving the 99 behind to find the one."  As much as I was just being a cheeseball and making a joke, it was true.

The entire staff split up in groups nearly all day to search for her.  Why?  Because we care about her.  Because we love her.  And she still decides to wander off.  Can she not see how much people care about her?  Does she not know that she is unconditionally loved and accepted?  If only she knew Jesus...

The same is true of all the girls.  If they could accept God's unconditional love for them, their issues would be fixed.

It's all a process..

(P.S. I bet the title of this post made you think it was going to be about marriage, didn't it?  Tricked you!  bahaha)

Monday, April 4, 2011


"Trust is not a passive state of mind.  It is a vigorous act of the soul."
-Jerry Bridges

Sunday, April 3, 2011

praise God.

Today has been wonderful.  Not only did I almost wear a skirt to church because it was so warm (until it nearly blew off my body on the way to the dining hall for breakfast!), but I also got to go on that money request I wrote about yesterday!  Quality time with two of the girls.  Good conversations with several others afterward.  A trip to QT for sodas in a hailstorm for the other Bigs.  And a good ride to and from church this morning with girls I don't usually spend time with.  Overall, I wouldn't complain about a single thing today!

It's time for bed, but I'm not really tired yet.  But I'm on breakfast in the morning and I have to get up early for it, so I should probably just go to bed.  Why is it such a chore to go to bed?  Oh wait - it's because I have a top bunk right now and don't want to climb up into it:  Another praise Jesus comes from the fact that starting tomorrow, I WILL have a bottom bunk!  mmhm.  Nothing to complain about :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011


My heart aches for these girls.  They just need to know Jesus - to know how much He loves them and cares for them.

As I take a comprehensive look at these kids and this program, there are many ways for kids to fail here.  Sure, part of the process is working on failures and celebrating success, but it is pretty normal for kids to be pulled from the program for having too many of those failures.

When two girls ran away this week, some of the other girls asked if they could write letters explaining why one of them shouldn't be let back in.  They saw what a detrimental effect this particular girl has on the rest of them and they wanted to see change.  I was so proud of them for distinguishing who are negative and positive influences on them.  At the same time, it hurts to see that Shelterwood just doesn't help some of the kids, but for others it is transformational.  Can it not be effective for everyone?  Can it not help each of them to love Jesus?

In an ideal world..  well, I guess there wouldn't be a need for a place like this.  But if there were a need, then a group home like this would help everyone without exception.  Every teen who walks through the doors comes out transformed by the power of the cross and the redemption that comes from loving God.

Here I sit at Starbucks the afternoon of my day off.  And what a beautiful day off it is!  72 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze, it is a day of perfect weather.

Three of the boys ran away last weekend.  They weren't found until three days later, but we came to find out that they had smuggled in an iTouch after their spring break, hacked into the secured network, and used Facebook to orchestrate their pick-up.  As a result, Facebook is now blocked on property.

Who would have thought one website being blocked could be such a big deal, but it makes it hard.  I message on Facebook a lot, and I feel so cut off!  I am too attached to these things, aren't I?
I spent this afternoon with a cousin, who I have met once in my life, and his wife.  I'm so thankful to have family in the area, especially since I didn't expect it.

We went to the art museum here.  Remember the picture I put up a few weeks ago of the huge shuttlecocks?  Well, those are right outside the museum.

Walking inside, though, is stunning.  The architecture complements the displayed artwork in a way that makes it all even more precious, more beautiful.  I wonder how artists see things.  Do they see colors differently?  How can they recreate what they see using a different medium?  It's not the same as snapping a photo, it's a process of interpretation, reconfiguring what the eye sees using the hands - a process that I admire, but do not understand.
In other exciting news:
- A girl punched a wall last week and broke her hand.
- I am officially kitchen trained
- Two girls ran away Thursday night.  One was found right away, and one wasn't found until morning.
- This morning I purchased a plane ticket to Green Bay for Daniel's high school graduation :)
- One girl asked me to take her shopping with some money her parents allowed for church clothes.  Out of all the staff she could have chose, she picked ME!  I was ecstatic.  Until I realized it was for my day off yesterday and I already had plans all afternoon/evening so I couldn't take her.  Either way, her question was a pretty big step.
- That's all.  For now.

I want to do something adventurous.  Like get a tattoo.  Or shoot guns.  Or go spelunking.  Even hiking.  Or rock climbing.  Maybe even ride a motorcycle.  Or get a haircut.  I do need one..
Maybe next weekend.

For now I will drink my coffee, reply to some Facebook messages, and then have dinner with some of the other Bigs.
I end this extra-long post with the inscription on the outside of the art museum:

"The soul has greater need of the ideal than of the real."
Chew on it.  I will too.  And maybe post on it another time :)