Tuesday, January 29, 2008

only in Illinois

Right now, it's about 53 degrees Fahrenheit outside with gray skies and it's pouring down rain with about 30 mph winds. We're currently in a Severe Thunderstorm Warning.

Tonight's low is 8 degrees and we're expecting blowing snow.

This is ridiculous.

Friday, January 25, 2008

i wish...

Last night I had a dream that I was on a flight from Chicago O'Hare to Bloomington/Normal and the entire crew from The Office was on my flight. I kept trying to sit next to Jim.

Oh, how I wish that would really happen.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

fleeting thoughts about snow and grace

Last night I had a meeting with the students I'm taking to Romania in March, and I stopped in my office to check messages before and after the meeting. When I finally dragged myself out into the freezing tundra of Illinois weather, my car was covered in snow! I didn't even know it had been snowing!

So I got out my scraper/brush combo and started brushing the snow off of my windows and headlights. As I did, it fell ever-so-lightly back onto the ground, where an inch or two had already collected into little pillows of sparkly wonder. I couldn't help but think that the snow reminded me of some magical fairy dust.

Now I'm not a fan of winter in Illinois, and I particularly hate the cold. In fact, today I tentatively decided I'm moving to Fiji where it's warm. But I do love a pretty snow that collects on your eyelashes and brushes off of your car without layers of ice underneath needing to be scraped. I love watching through the windows as it falls under the streetlights with a navy blue backdrop. And I love how snow softly, gently reminds me of grace.

I know I've written about this before, but I think it is God's subtle reminder to me that maybe this is the reason I live in central Illinois--to see the snow and be reminded of His grace. I can't help but think about how one minute the ground can be wet, muddy, and filthy, and an hour later it can be covered in a beautiful layer of white that seems to wash it of all its impurities. But it doesn't stay that way...because any midwesterner with any common sense would know that soon cars, salt trucks, and human feet will trample the ground and dirty the soft white that was once so pure.

But that's the beauty of grace.

It's lavished on us when we're covered in filth and dirt and mud and muck. And like a good rain or snowfall, grace falls and covers over our filth. But then our human nature wins out, and once again our hearts are grimy with pride, selfishness, jealousy, bitterness, anger.

But have you noticed? In the winter, we're bound to get snow. And in all seasons, we're bound to get rain. Precipitation is inevitable. But I think grace is too.

God doesn't withhold it from us. He doesn't take it back. It's always there, just like the fact that it's always raining somewhere on the Earth. (Did you know that? I just learned it. Thanks, Google. I always appreciate the info you find for me.)

I just wish that grace was tangible like big snowflakes...that you could catch it on your tongue or it would get stuck on your eyelashes...that you could ball it up and throw it at people! How amazing would that kind of grace be?! I suppose God didn't intend for it to be tangible...or for it to be thrown at people.

Although I wasn't thinking about the beauty of grace last night when the snow was falling, I am always somehow reminded of it later. Last night I was caught up in my own bitterness because of the cold and anger because I accidentally brushed snow all over the driver's seat, so I had to drive home with a wet butt. But even in those moments, I somehow uncover just a split second of the beauty of it all.

So if just for a split second, the snow can remind me of God's grace, I'll take it.

And now I sort of hope it snows again tonight.

Monday, January 14, 2008

the beautiful mess that is the Church

This past week I've been thinking a lot about the Church.

To be completely honest with you, I haven't felt like I was "home" at any church since I left for college 8 years ago. My home church in Streator was all I knew, and I had no idea my entire perspective and experience with the church would change so much over the course of time. Throughout college and up through now, I have visited several churches, become a "member" at another church, regularly attended a couple others, studied the Church, studied the Bible, led in the Church, and recruited students to BE the church and prepare to LEAD the church of the future. And after all of these things, I realize that the Church isn't quite as simple as the old hand-folding "here is the church; here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people."

But maybe it is.

I've confused it. I've compartmentalized it. I've tried to classify types of churches and parts of them and there have been all of these lists and containers in my mind that have held ideas about the church. And really, it all boils down to the people. There might be a steeple and a building, but the people are all that matter.

Some recent events in my home church and an episode of Grey's Anatomy this week have really put some things into perspective for me.

Sadly, there are all too often occurrences of ministers who have failed their churches morally. Or maybe, I should say, they have failed their God. They fall to pornography, adultery, homosexuality & molestation (commonly in Catholic churches, it seems...), or an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, no church is free from the attacks of Satan, and neither are people in ministry. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We know this. So why does it come as such a surprise when we find out that someone in ministry has failed? Too often those in ministry are put on a pedestal, much like we put celebrities on a false pedestal, and we expect to see perfection. When we see their failure, it appears more visibly because of this invisible spotlight we've placed on their lives.

Needless to say, there are countless lives out there going through what Britney Spears is experiencing, but only she is suffering from the whole world watching it happen...which surely won't help her get through what she's going through. Similarly, there are leaders in companies, organizations, and churches who fail. And those who once trusted, respected, and followed these people are now impacted and confused by their behavior.

It makes me realize how critical every decision in life truly is. Every choice matters.

This past week we found out some truths about the minister at my home church that have led to his resignation and a torn family all around. Not only are families of the parties involved affected, but the church family is greatly affected. After a church meeting it felt like we were grieving the loss of a life, and it seems we are, in fact, grieving the loss of some spiritual aspect of life or one's morality.

People are hurting. Those who have made poor choices are hurting. The church body is in pain, and it needs healing.

Somehow, in the disappointment of it all, I can see a glimmer of hope and beauty in the way the church comes together. Sadly, I'm sure that some members will leave and some will continue to tear it apart as much as they can with gossip, lies, and unending speculation. Some members will be discouraged and find themselves in doubt and distrust...possibly even a lack of faith. But somewhere in the mess of all of this, I believe that God is working, healing, maybe even performing "surgery" on this body of people to fix what needed to be fixed, to purge what was hurting the body, and to bring healing where healing is needed.

The other night while watching Grey's, I couldn't help but be inspired by the brilliant narration. While scrolling through each character's scenario at the end, this narration in Dr. Bailey's voice was spoken:

"As doctors, we know more about the human body now than at any point in our history. But the miracle of life itself; why people live and die, why they hurt and get hurt is still a mystery. We want to know the reason, the secret, the answer at the back of the book… because the thought of our being all alone down here is just too much for us to bear. But at the end of the day, the fact that we show up for each other, in spite of our differences, no matter what we believe, is reason enough to keep believing."

That last line depicted for me exactly what the Church is and always should be. The fact that we show up for each other, in spite of our differences and beliefs, is reason enough to keep believing. It's reason enough to keep living. We're not alone. And no one is perfect. Everybody hurts sometimes. (enter R.E.M.)

As I reflected on the church meeting that was held this weekend and how so many kinds of people are a part of the church and how different we all are, I realized that it's all just a beautiful mess. It's a tangled web of crazy people. It's full of people who are liars, cheaters, alcoholics, gossips, and druggies. It's full of the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the broken and the joyful, the weary and the strong. And not one is better than the other. We all sit in the same pews at the same level, and we all kneel before the same throne.

I praise God for being the only one who we can hold high above us, on the highest pedestal of all. And I praise Him for being the one who loves this beautiful mess, no matter how messed up it may seem.

Friday, January 04, 2008

happy new year!!!

So I forgot to keep updating on my week, but that's ok. I'm sure you have better things to do than read my blog, and I certainly have better things to do being in New York than to sit and write to let you know WHAT I'm doing.

I'm having a blast w/ the girls, and it's great to be here and have the time to do basically anything I want. Since I've been to New York before, I'm not really doing anything touristy this time, and I get to enjoy the city in other ways. It seems I mostly try to eat good food. I really wish I could steal Rachael Ray's job with $40 a day and Tasty Travels.

Well, I just woke up and Faith just returned from her workout, so I'm off to enjoy my last entirely full day. I'll probably do some more wandering and shopping after she heads to work. Then I might visit the MOMA for an hour or so b/c it's free on Fridays from 4-8. And then, Becka and I are going to the New York City Ballet tonight. And maybe going to sing karaoke after that...we'll see. We tore it up last night w/ our first hurrah of karaoke with an old school Wilson Phillips hit, "Hold On."

So I'll leave you with that image in your mind to enjoy your day.
"yeah I know that there is pain, but you hold on for one more dayyyy....
and you break free, break from the chains....."