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

-erwin mcmanus

Sunday, October 28, 2012

homily recap.

When I lived in Chicago, I did have a home church that I was a part of, but I would regularly visit a few others.  One of those was called Grace Chicago.  A small community of believers, they made intentional efforts to worship well.  Their music was arranged by a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and included several stringed instruments, classical guitar, flutes, hand drums, and other small percussion instruments.  It was always well-done and always beautiful.

The service centers around the church calendar, celebrating the rich history of the Christian faith, and recognizing the redemptive rhythm of God's presence in our lives.  It includes several liturgical readings and responses, worded just right so to convey exactly the message intended.  The homily, what most evangelicals call a sermon, is always profound, intellectual, well-planned, and inspires thoughtful reflection and response.

The pastor also keeps a blog that contains homily recaps.  While there has been a significant time gap since his last post and the most recent one, I found the one posted a few weeks ago to be incredibly insightful into the apparent conflict between suffering and redemption.  Please check out the recap here.  You won't be disappointed, I promise, and you may even find it to be your new favorite homily recap blog!

Friday, October 26, 2012

me without you.

Last weekend I watched the marathon.  I know I already posted about it, but what I didn't talk about was the amount of planning that went into it.  When you have to be responsible for several groups of people getting to three different mile markers by an ungodly early hour, and then navigating ways back downtown avoiding the blocked roads and also avoiding the football traffic only a few blocks away, to be at the finish line by a given time, especially when it was made very clear by my boss that we needed to be there at a certain time, well, planning is necessary.  To get 30 women fed, clothed, and medicated, with snacks and drinks and coats and gloves and out the door by 5:30am, there is preparation and planning.

While it was necessary before the morning of the marathon, I'm realizing its effect on many other things I do.  I like to plan ahead.

One thing I noticed yesterday is that I listen to my iPod in the car instead of the radio.  I say it's because I don't like most of the music on the radio (which is true).  I say it's because the music all sounds the same, or the messages they send are awful, or because even the Christian station plays the same songs over and over again, and I could continue with my list of reasons why I don't listen to the radio.  But on a deeper level, I realize that I want to be able to choose what music I listen to and when I want to listen to it.  I think they call that control.

So I turned on the radio instead, and the Lord spoke.
Even in the small act of relinquishing my control of my music, God works.
This song came on:  Toby Mac's Me Without You.

I began to think about where I would be right now if it wasn't for the Lord's leading in my life.  In an immediate context, well, I would no longer be in Saint Louis if it were up to me.  I ask God to remind me every day why I'm here.  I have to, or my bags would be packed.  Because everything in me wants to leave and be somewhere where I'm known, to be with people I love.  Where I am not alone.

Then I remember:  Even here, I am not alone.  When my apartment floods, God is here.  When health issues arise, God is here.  When I'm stressed about circumstances outside of my control, God is here.  When I seem to be lacking, God is here.  If He wasn't here, well.. I would be a mess.  But He is there even when I am a mess.

He is here.  And He is in control.  Of everything.  Even when I grasp for the edge of things already in His grip.

So I stop grasping.  It begins with the small things - today I thought to myself that I really wanted to see a particular movie, so I just... went.  I didn't plan ahead for it, and I even (God forbid..) left an unfinished to-do list at home.  And I listened to the radio on the way there. :)

One day at a time, one open palm at a time, I let go in the small things so I will learn to let go of the big ones.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Through the cracks between the shoulders of the crowd in front of me, I could see them running, raising their arms in victory.  Red faces and throbbing legs accompanied the wide grins on their faces after running a god-awful number of miles.  They slow down, put medals around their sweaty necks, and they breathe.


There was something beautiful about it.  A sense of accomplishment radiated from their faces.  Whether or not each one reached their time goal didn't matter because they finished.  They finished.  A feat for which one trains a long time.  During training, it seems like all you do is work and run and sleep and work and run, repeat.  But as their bodies cross that line, it is all worth it.

I have a brother named Daniel who is now 20 years old.  Always an active guy, he played soccer, baseball, and golf.  He ran a couple of 5k's in elementary school.  He danced in show choir and even rode the unicycle.  It was at 16 years old, as he earned his black belt in tae kwon do, that he learned he had rheumatoid arthritis.  He was constantly in pain and it hurt to even walk.

And now, four years later, he ran a marathon.  By the grace of God, his medication is just right to keep him pain-free.  He accomplished what seemed to be the impossible.

There's something beautiful about that, isn't there?  When something seems unreachable, but you desire it so deeply.  Determination, focus, and most importantly faith get you there.  God brings us there.  And in that accomplishment, we become more and more the people who God created us to be, and do more and more for His glory.

 Think about your own accomplishments and praise God for them.  Think about your own goals, and pray that God will get you there.

So we strive.  We press on toward the goal.  We remain in Him.  We accomplish that which He set for us to do.

Friday, October 12, 2012


"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."  - C.S. Lewis

My dear friend Lisa always says, "Relationships are weird."  I am reminded these last few weeks of how true that is.  Not only are they weird, but they are hard.

People are so vastly different.  We all act differently, we think differently, and being around different people brings out varying facets of who we are.  We give our stories, our past, our dreams, our time and energy, and, most importantly, our emotions.  And in that revealing of who we are, we give ourselves, in small pieces, to those with whom we are in relationship.

Acquaintances, friendships, dating relationships, and family all require a person to give and to receive.  But then if and when those relationships end, well, those pieces of you go with the person who leaves.  It's strange.  And it hurts.  It happens when you move from one place to another, leaving behind relationships that will inevitably change with distance.  It happens when a dating relationship ends and that person will no longer ever be a part of your life.

We are made to be in relationship, and those things that make us known to the other are the very things that make us the most vulnerable.  Those are also the things easiest to withhold for fear of getting hurt.  So I withhold and my fears are validated when relationship ends.

Yet for the sake of my well-being long-term, it is time to relinquish that fear, give up the hurt and disappointment, and make myself vulnerable, but this time using better discernment to choose the receiving end.

As C.S. Lewis said, "your heart will certainly be wrung and broken", yet I know of a great healer who puts those pieces back together if the hurt is great, and even if it is small.  He is Healer, He is good, He is faithful, and my heart is whole and full.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


God always gets His way.
But you know what is forever true?  His way is always the best way.  Even if it takes time to for us to realize it.

God often calls us to do specific things.  Some are easy and enjoyable, others are difficult and take a lot of courage.  Like Jonah, we have the choice to obey and go to Ninevah, or to say no and run in the opposite direction.

When we disobey that voice of God and run the other way, there is most certainly disappointment at the other end.  Disappointment and pain that could have so easily been avoided had you just done what you knew you should have done to begin with.  Disobedience will always always lead to disappointment.

His plan for our lives is bigger and better than what we see in our day to day.  His desire is to use us, to love us, to bring us closer and closer to himself in order to bring restoration to this world.  He knows us inside and out, knows our desires before we do, knows our thoughts before we think them, and absolutely desires the best for our lives.  So when He tells me to do something, why do I still choose to think that my way is better?

It stems from a pattern I was recently reminded of.  A pattern of rebellion and disobedience that once had very tangible consequences in the form of spankings as a small child, then grounding and restricted computer use in my teens.  It progressed to internal consequences of feelings of guilt and condemnation over disobedience after I left Green Bay.  And now?  Well, now it seems God is showing me again and again that He gets His way whether I choose to listen to Him or not.  The consequence?  Pushing myself away from the one, the only one who has my best interests in mind and can tell me what I need to do.  I create my own consequences when I separate myself from the creator, the lover, the one who wants desperately for me to return to Him.

So I repent and I obey and I run to Him, confident that He knows best.  That the development of my respect for my authorities here on earth is to now be translated to a God who is my ultimate authority.  If I were to go to the Lord first and listen to the Spirit first and trust in Jesus first, well.. I would be in unbroken communion with God.  And this is what I desire.

Monday, October 1, 2012

name change.

As I've been thinking about the name of this blog, I just didn't like it.  "Life is an adventure" seemed cliche and, honestly, was the first name I thought of when I first started this blog four years ago.  Therefore, its thoughtlessness has finally gotten the better of me, and a new name has been tugging on my heart.

I strive to pursue life.  Life is joy and relationship.  Life is excitement and rest.  Life is in abundance with our faithful Creator.  Life is worth pursuing, so I do.

And here on this newly-named blog I will continue to write about it.

he will not prevail.

As I knelt on a trash bag, precisely laid against the floorboard, I scrubbed.  The once-white hard-bristled brush was now covered in chemicals and the spores of a black mold that had grown overnight on a small portion of the wall.  I WILL eliminate this if it's the last thing I do is all that was running through my mind.  The flowery scarf tied around my head blocked the spores from entering my mouth and nose, and the gloves on my hands protected my skin.

The "get rid of black mold" supply list.
Earlier, I carefully poured several solutions of various combinations of vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda on my brand new mattress.  I was exhausted after a busy weekend at work and all I wanted to do when I arrived home was to lay down and sleep.  The smell of cat urine was pungent as I nearly laid my head on the now-contaminated pillow.  The questions raced:  Why this?  Why now?

Today I carefully took a bucket of bleach water and, square by square, scrubbed the linoleum floor.  All I wanted was to be free from the filthy residue from the dirty water that regularly poured itself from the rusted pipes.  Thanks to the handiwork of a plumber, the pipes are fresh and new and the water stays inside of them as it was always meant to.

And I remembered.  I remember the words of a post I wrote just last week that fully centered on hope and staying positive.  I wrote, "Why not look at the positive, see the possibility for redemption in the brokenness of our shattered lives?"  Oh goodness, how easily I forget in the day to day.

The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  I know this to be true.  But what the devil means for harm, the Lord makes good.

This weekend at work, we took the residents to another conference, this one in Springfield, Missouri.  The way that the speakers proclaimed truth and the power with which they encouraged that particular body of women, well, I left with a renewed passion for a long-forgotten dream that God placed in my heart years ago.  I will write more about that some other time, but my point here is that God did something in me this weekend, and the only way the devil could retaliate was by making me frustrated, yet again, by my living situation.

He will not prevail.  My God is bigger.

Timely, how this negative attitude came over me right after writing about optimism.  It is as if that very piece of me was tested this week by various things.  I was asked, "What about if this happens, will your hope be crushed?  What about now when life get messy?  Will you still find the positive?  Then let's hit you with more and see if that is enough to crush you."

He will not prevail.  My God is bigger.