the story room

Friday, December 31, 2004

Learning from Johann Arnold

I read an article today by Johann Christoph Arnold, and this particular section stood out to me:

"For what else is peace, if not readiness to meet God? And if it means readiness, doesn't it have to mean readiness in every aspect of life? Doesn't it mean readiness to forgive the unforgivable; to forget when I would rather rememeber; to reach out to those I've avoided? Doesn't it mean readiness to give everything, and to lay down my life for my brothers?" (taken from

I appreciate how Arnold talks about meeting God not just in the who-knows-how-distant future when we's about how we live now, too. I'm convicted by these words, but encouraged, too. Forgiving, forgetting, reaching out, giving everything - it's the cost of discipleship, living as a sacrifice. It's dying to ourselves every single day, because the life we're called to is more valuable.

I admit that living this Jesus-life like this is hard sometimes, but it's the most beautiful life I know. His Life becomes our life, and even in light of the pain that comes with it, I'd choose this over anything else in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Asia on my mind

It's amazing how little a tragedy half a world away affects me. When my mom first told me about it the other night, I didn't realize how big of a deal this was. And even now, though I know how big it is, I'm at a loss for what to do, and even what to think. My thoughts and prayers can't seem to get past, "Oh wow. Father, help them. Good God, have mercy."

I found a prayer by Richard Foster that speaks to this, but what stands out to me the most is the first line: "Stir me, O LORD, to care." Indeed, stir us, O LORD, to care.

One more thing. I have a professor who's from Indonesia and is over there right now visiting family. I think he's on the island of Java (which is a good sign, I think), but I'm not sure. Could you guys please stop and say a prayer for Dr. T. and his family right now? Thanks, guys; I appreciate that a lot.

Grace and peace to you today.

Monday, December 27, 2004

God With Us Here

Every time I think about Christmas, I think about something that happened to me a few years ago.

My senior year of high school, I was standing outside, waiting for the activity bus to come so I could go home. As I stood in the cold, I looked over and saw a group of boys playing with a hacky sack. I usually don't cry for no reason, but as I watched them, I was suddenly overcome with emotion and without warning, tears started welling up in my eyes. And I remember the words that I heard in my mind as I watched them: "Jesus came for this."

For the first time, I got it.

Jesus didn't come just so we could experience Him in our "holy" moments. No - He came to make our everyday moments holy. Jesus comes and suddenly the secular is transformed into the sacred. He came to live with us, and that goes beyond our church services and private prayer time.

Jesus came to be with me on my way to my grandma's house yesterday, when I was squished in the backseat of our Ford Taurus with my sister and two brothers (It was a lot of fun...only my youngest brother is still the size of a child). Jesus came for times like today when I got frustrated and hurt by someone I love and want to trust. He came for times like now, when I'm sitting quietly on the computer, listening to the tv in the background. He came for the beautiful, the ordinary, and the painful times.

When I think about this, even when I feel all alone, I don't feel so alone.

It always amazes me that God would share His life with me this way, being with me all the time. It amazes me that God lives with me, showing Himself through all sorts of ways, including people near me. Sometimes, as a person makes eye contact with me, speaks to me, or touches me, I know I'm encountering the God who lives in them.

Emmanuel...God With Us, right here. Wow; I still can't shake the amazement.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I've been thinking about Advent a lot lately...

Growing up, I never knew about Advent. Of course, I knew about the Christmas season, stretching from Thanksgiving until December 25th. But whenever I was in that season, it felt like something very important was missing...but I figured it was just something wrong with me and the way I perceived the season.

When I started college, I started learning about Advent (lit. "coming"). It's a period marked by longing. We remember the longing of the Israelites, awaiting the coming Messiah. Now, situated between the first and second comings, we long for Christ to continually come into our hearts, making our brokenness whole. And more than anything else, we remember that there is more still to come, and we wait for Jesus to come back again, raising our dead and making His home with us in a way that's not just spiritual, but tangible.

This way of looking at the season is a lot more human than trying to be perpetually happy from Thanksgiving to Christmas day, with all the happiness suddenly halting December 26th.

Although I am filled with joy at the coming of Christ to (and in) us, I realize that that joy only has substance because I remember the longing that led up to Him coming...and I still am longing so much.

Personally, I'm longing for a lot of things. With all my dental issues, I'm longing intensely for my physical brokenness to be made whole. I've been accutely aware of my own depravity and fallenness lately, and so I've found myself needing my Savior, making me spiritually whole every day. And as I've experienced death hurt the people I love, I long for the day when we're resurrected just like Christ has been...experiencing in its fullness how Jesus brings us victory over the grave.

What are you longing for?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

This is why I love college...

Every Wednesday afternoon, one of my profs hosts "Honors Tea" in his office. It's a time for all the students in the honors program to get together, eat some food, and enjoy each other's company.

I had so much fun today! At my request, we listened to an awful version of "Leise rieselt der Schnee" (it's hilarious, though!), spent time laughing and telling stories, and watching lots of our profs give each other crap (in the same kind of way my friends and I give each other crap). We also had a rather intense conversation about violence and being desensitized (sp?)...and I really appreciate how everybody's views were welcome and respected even when we disagreed.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there was something about our time that made my night. It was nothing spectacular, really, but it was an expression of family. (And maybe I'm also just a big nerd and love hanging out with friends and professors!)

Monday, December 06, 2004

This week's epiphany...

For the first time in my life, I think I know (more or less) what I want to be when I "grow up."

This isn't to say that I'm dead-set on my future; I know things could change at any time, and I'm open to that. But I finally have a sort of direction that I didn't at all have this time last week. I can't believe I never seriously considered it before...

I was sitting in my professor's office last Thursday because I had some questions for him about seminary (when I walked into his office, I was leaning more toward 'no' than anything else, but was trying to be open). Anyway, the things he said about his own experience at seminary put my mind at ease. He asked me what I wanted to do after I graduat from here, and since I had no idea, I just told him about what I see as my gifts, and what I'm passionate about.

When I finished talking he said, "You know you completely described your ideal job, right?" Yeah...I had no clue what I had described. And he said to me, "Erin, look - you know that you'll be working with the Body of Christ, discipling them. You love to teach/preach, but don't have a desire to be a pastor of a church. You love pushing people to think and challenging them in their relationships with Christ. You love college but know you're not designed to be a professor...You just totally described a campus minister."

Holy crap...why had I never seriously considered that before?

It makes sense. I've been thinking and praying about it a lot, and I'm going to just listen and be obedient. But now I have a direction to start walking in. Yep...that means that while I've been fighting with the idea of seminary for three years now, I've come to the point where I really, really want to go. I want to learn more, be challenged, and broaden my horizons. Instead of freaking out about it, I'm really excited.

I don't know what's ahead, but I have a bit of direction and a lot of encouragement. I didn't know how refreshing that could be; wow...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

My Grassland Adventure

This has been a very busy week for me as far as schoolwork goes. I had a major (and very difficult) paper due today, and a bunch of other little projects that needed to be done.

In an effort to cling to our sanity, Amanda (who also has a lot due this week) and I decided to take a little adventure. Earlier in the summer we tried to tackle this forest preserve-type area where the sign at the entrance always said "Closed"...but there were these mosquitoes that went straight for our faces (it was freaky how that was the only area they went for), and so we postponed our adventure.

But on Monday, we decided that it was time to explore this uncharted terrain. It turns out that it wasn't actually a forest preserve (though there were a bunch of trees at the entrance and in some of the surrounding area), but a grassland preserve. I didn't even know there was such a thing...especially out in my area! Bundled up in our scarves and mittens, Amanda and I tackled a couple miles of thorns and swampy grass, saw some deer, got our jeans soaked up to our knees (it was rainy that day), and had a much-need conversation about Advent, longing, and life. It was just what both of us needed.

Spontaneity, adventure, exposing our hearts, and getting wet and dirty . . . I think these are the things we live for, but easily miss out on when we get too wrapped up in the busyness and "urgent" needs of our day-to-day lives.

My grassland adventure reminded me of what it means to live. And if Christ is the aroma of life (2 Corinthians 2ish), I'm pretty sure he smells at least a bit like the Orland Park grassland preserves.