why should I gain from his reward?

One of my classes this semester is an online class called Evangelism and Discipleship.  So far, I’m really enjoying it.  I am finding myself challenged by the various thoughts on what Evangelism look like and how the best way is to communicate this Gospel to which I’ve given my life.
So this week’s topic is “What is the Gospel?”  We had some readings to do and then a challenge of writing an essay that explains what the Gospel is in 55 words or less.  It’s off this movement called 55-word fiction.  This movement sort of intrigues me, as does the thought of trying to sum up the Gospel in 55 words.  It seems unbelievably challenging.
I’ve tried already a couple of times and each time it comes out so formulaic.  It seems so dry and impersonal.  Like I’m giving the Sunday School answer of “We were created to be in community with God but then sin entered the world and we were separated from God.  Then Jesus came and died for us so we could be reunited with God.”  … the end, amen.
I look at my words on the screen and think, gross.  So impersonal and so blah.  I can almost see that cheesy diagram they pass out in tracts and draw on the board to help you understand why it is Jesus died for us.  Ya know, with the two cliffs and the cross that we can walk across to get to God…  yeah, that one.
But that is so not my style.  Not that I don’t think those tools are helpful and have brought thousands of people to Christ.  I just can’t help but feel there needs to be more.
I want to display the scandal that is the act of the cross.  The fact that Jesus walked on earth as an equal to God and yet he didn’t claim that as something to place him above others.  He humbled himself to the point of the most humiliating death known at that time and allowed himself to be killed by the hands of the people he was sent to save.  The love and grace that takes is literally unthinkable. We cannot imagine it.  We do not have the capacity as fallen creatures to understand what that feels like.
But we are called to respond.  We are called to love out of that grace and love.  To worship the God that stood by and watched his son die on the cross.  To try and identify with that in some way, to which we cannot, at least not fully.
The beauty of the Gospel is that it is simple, “Come, all who are weary and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).  All we have to do to receive that salvation is to come to him, and yet as a response to that gift we must love him and love others around us.
Last night I went downtown to attend the worship session for Youth Worker’s Connection.  It was, as always, a great night of worship and fellowship.  After a great message was delivered on hope we sang the old hymn, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”  A hymn that I have always loved for the way that it grabs my heart right out of my chest.  But last night was different.
Last night I was sitting there and listened the the verse that said,
“How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns his face away
As wounds which mare the chosen one
Bring many sons to glory”
In that moment I flashed back to sitting in the hospital next to my dad, holding his hand as he struggled to breathe.  I remember the gut-wrenching pain that filled me and the amount of hatred I had for this disease that was killing him.  Then I thought about how there are other words in this song that say, “It was my sin that held him there.”  And I thought about the way that God must love us an unbelievable amount because he doesn’t hold that against us.  Instead he pours blessings over us time and time again.
Keep in mind that I have never loved anyone perfectly and my dad probably the least of all of those.  And my dad never loved me perfectly.  My dad made his choices and I made mine.  As heartbreaking as his death was and still is in my life, it is nothing compared to the blameless death of Christ on the cross.  But for a small moment last night I had a slight glimpse into what that could have felt like.  And it sucked.  It makes me want to love so much more, worship so much better and all in all be better.
so now the question begs itself…. how do I put that into 55 words?

the quest for great coffee pt 2

Yesterday afternoon I made a plan to hang out with the Best Friend and after she picked me up she suggested that we go to Julius Meinl.  Which, coincidentally, is on the list!  Scoring at number 7, Julius Meinl is an Austria-based coffee shop that serves every cup of coffee on a tray with a glass of water and a biscuit.
Now this coffee shop was one of the only one’s on the list I had ever even heard of, having driven by it several times but never going in.  Best Friend had never been there either and we had a plan to go and talk for a while and then do some work/homework.
On a Saturday afternoon, the Julius Meinl we went to was packed.  Located in southern Lincoln Square it was pretty packed with people.  We walked in and realized that everything we had thought of this coffee shop was incorrect.  It is definitely higher end of coffee shop, fully equipped with a “please wait to be seated” sign.
Because I had already had too much coffee yesterday, I ordered a White Toffee Tea Latte off of the specials menu.  Let me tell you, it was delicious.  The atmosphere was great for community with a close friend.  The service was friendly and the price was about even with the atmosphere and product you were receiving.  I would discourage people from trying to actually study there, it’s not the right atmosphere, but go with a good friend.
They also had food that looked really delicious.  So everyone, go check it out with a friend that you want to catch up with.  Go there, sit for a while and enjoy the little escape from living in the middle of a city.
Two down, thirteen to go.  So far this challenge has gotten me out of my box and allowed me to enjoy some good community.  I’m stoked to see what else this challenge has in store for me.  Yeah, Buddy!
Here is a side note to just appreciate the day that I had yesterday.  I woke up early and had coffee with a few seminary girls to catch up on the events of the weekend.  Then I drove out to Ch’ava and did homework for a few hours before returning home to have lunch with my roomsmate.  We sat around and caught up for a while before I went to Julius Meinl with Best Friend.  She and I sat and chatted for a couple hours before I returned home to find Roomsmate hanging out with another one of our friends.  So we hung for a while then Roomsmate and I went to dinner and got ice cream cones at McDonalds.  After that the Swed gave us a Swedish lesson and we rounded the night out by watching a movie with the guys.
Yesterday was one of those days where I found myself unbelievably thankful for the community that surrounds me.  This week, as we’ve been re-entering into each others’ lives I have realized how lucky I am to have these friends in this place.  I’m excited to see what the rest of this year has for us all.

the quest for great coffee, pt 1

Since I moved to Chicago I’ve been desiring to get out into the surrounding areas and explore more.  Last semester in all my business I did not succeed at this goal.  However, yesterday my Roomsmate sent me an e-mail with a link in it to an article that yahoo did on the 15 best coffee shops in Chicago and as I read through them I thought, this is exactly what I need to get me out of my rut.
So I have taken on the goal of trying all 15 of these coffee shops in the next five and a half months.  It’s the perfect goal because my schedule is quite open on a lot of days of the week which means getting off campus and doing homework elsewhere is totally feasible.  So I’ve also decided to document them as I go.
Today finds me at Ch’ava Cafe in Ravenswood.  It was #2 on the list and I actually quite like it.  Definitely more of a cafe than a traditional coffee shop, it has floor to ceiling windows which provides a bright atmosphere.  They brew their coffees individually using a Clover machine (which, I believe, my good friend Eric uses at his coffee shop in Arvada, CO).  The employees are super nice and friendly, the guy taking my order offered up a suggestion of which coffee for me to try.
The coffee itself was delicious, a little on the pricey side for a brewed cup (in my opinion), but we are in Chicago I guess.  The decor is quite creative and modern.  White walls with orange accents, which I loved, and a few murals of trees painted on the walls, which I also love.  They have a full menu of salads, soups and sandwiches to go alongside the coffee and the smell and look of those are amazing.
Overall, I think this is a great little cafe.  I would love to see what the vibe is like during a weekday when it’s not so busy with people enjoying their Saturdays.  I will probably come back here but maybe more with friends for lunch than to study for any length of time, but who knows, the brightness of it really appeals to me.

be here now

I gave up making new years resolutions a long time ago.  I never really felt like it was a great idea but I know that in elementary and middle school it’s a great ice breaker for teachers to use when you get back from break so I blame them for my feeling like I always needed to have at least two or three.  But in my adult life I’ve given up on them and I haven’t looked back on that decision … until recently that is.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make a resolution this year.  But at church on Sunday our pastor challenged us with a new thought.  She was talking through identity and introduced this idea of “one word” … she posed the question of  “If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?  One word that says who you are?”  The idea comes from the book Eat, Pray, Love which I read last year and this thought that every city has one word that describes it and that every person has one word that describes them.  It can’t be a descriptor of what you DO … example, mine can’t be student or Pastor-in-training.  Rather it’s supposed to be a word that describes who you are, not what you do.
Then, she posed the question of what is one word that you want to be about this year.  One word, hopefully placed on your heart by God, that you want to have define your actions this year.  It was an interesting thing to reflect on.  She recognized that these words may take time to come to us, hers had taken a few weeks but that they’ll flush themselves out eventually if we seek them out and pray about it.
As for my words… my doing word for the year came almost instantly, but my being word…that’s coming slower.  I have ideas about what it could be but I’m not sure yet I wanna put it out there this early in the stages.  Instead I’ll share my doing word ….
After our pastor finished speaking and praying for us, I got the chance to just sort of sit in silence and almost immediately I had my word.  It’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time and it’s the idea of being present.  I’m a mental wanderer.  I suspect that I have slight ADD tendencies but more so I think I just have too many ideas and thoughts running through my head.  It is extremely easy to day dream in seminary which causes you to suddenly be at the end of class and wondering where the last hour and twenty minutes have gone.
I also have struggled in my relationships in being fully present at any given moment.  It’s not an endearing quality I’m sure, and it is probably quite annoying.  It even spills over into my relationship with God at times, I start to pray or spend time with him and my mind just drifts.  I’m sure he just sort of rolls his eyes at me while my mind wanders and waits for me to come back to what I was thinking originally.
So this year, or maybe just this semester, I’m going to work hard on being present.  Fully present in whatever situation I’m in at any given time.  I want to be better at listening, really listening to people.  I want to fully be present in class and glean wisdom from my professors and fellow classmates.  I want to be fully present in church (which requires actually getting there, which is a sub-goal of mine).  I want to be fully present with my roommates.  Fully present with Emmett knowing that this year is going fast and next year I won’t be with him as much.  I want to not let my mind daydream about situations that are not reality but to dream about things that can become a reality.
I’m not saying that I’m going to cure myself of absentmindedness in a year, but I’m hoping that by trying to tackle it hard I will be better eventually.  I also hope to be better at blogging … it’s just so therapeutic to my soul to get my thoughts out there.