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When Dream Muscles Atrophy

This summer marks the seventh year I’ve been serving as the Lead Pastor of East 91stStreet Christian Church and the 27thyear of full-time pastoral ministry. As I’ve talked with others in a similar season of life and work, I’ve discovered that the hills we once aspired to climb can easily turn into plateaus.

George Herbert once wrote, “He begins to die, that quits his desires.” What is it that leads us to complacency where our dream muscles atrophy and our desires turn to disinterest? Our happiness rests in past memories far more than future opportunities. Ed Sissman captured the inward battle of eyes that only see a monotonous horizon:

Men past forty
Get up nights,
Look out at city lights
And wonder
Where they made the wrong turn
And why life is so long
                   (Wild at Heart, 45-46).

Many face this dilemma only to turn to fool’s gold in the form of a mid-life crisis. They believe their heart’s apathy can be regenerated with all that is new: a new car, a new spouse, a new job, a new house, a new hobby. One would think, however, that after the unending testimonies of these aspirations turning to desperations leading to failure, we would wise up and chart a different course.

Will I fall victim to this same infectious disease? I choose not. Are these words of Thoreau descriptive of your life today? “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I pray not. What can save us from a listless future of weariness?

I believe the answer rests not in a new hill to climb or a new challenge to tackle. The answer rests in a renewed commitment to the One who leads us into uncharted territory once again.

When the Israelites were crossing the Jordan River for the very first time, Joshua told them to follow the ark of the covenant, symbolizing the presence of God. “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before” (Joshua 3:4, NIV). The right destinations are best achieved by following the One who has the right directions.

Do you hope for a better future? Do you long for a new adventure? Then follow the One who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. His future for your life is not one of mediocrity. Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb, is the One who makes all things new (Revelation 21:5), and He will guide you, since you have never been this way before.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

It’s Time to Face What’s Nipping at Your Heels

Sometimes childhood experiences teach us lifetime lessons.

When I was probably only five or six years old, I was chased by a neighborhood dog that in my mind was a raging Rottweiler but in actuality was only a small Yorkshire Terrier. Before the beast reached my ankles, I made a decision that has impacted me for the rest of my life.

In that narrow window of time where threat and opportunity collide, I stopped in my tracks, turned around and started screaming at the dog. To my delightful surprise, and no less to the anxious surprise of the dog, it stopped, turned and started running away from me. With adrenaline flowing and thoughts of global celebration for my total triumph, I chased the dog for another block down the street before heading home.

I’m not always keen on taking time to dredge up memories from my childhood, but this memory gave me one of life’s greatest lessons: Sometimes you have to turn around and face whatever is nipping at your heels.

Through the years, I’ve wasted a tremendous amount of time and energy by avoiding tough conversations, difficult circumstances, and potential threats that come nipping at my heels. Is it easy to face our problems? No. Is it easier to keep running and looking over our shoulders instead of dealing with a situation head on? It seems so in the moment, but our problems never go away until we stop running and turn around to face whatever is chasing us.

Brene Brown tells a story of a time she spoke at a leadership event for Costco. Before she was invited to the stage, the event organizers moved into a Q & A time with Costco CEO, Craig Jelinek. The questions were tough, but Craig’s answers were tougher. Rather than giving the usual one-liners of, “We’ll look into that,” or “Let me give that some thought,” he responded head-on with . . . truth.

He didn’t keep running, and he didn’t keep avoiding. He just gave straight answers to specific questions: “Yes. We did make that decision, and here’s why . . .” “No, we’re not going this direction, and here’s how we got to that decision . . .” (Dare to Lead, 111). When he finished, the audience leapt to their feet, clapping and cheering.

Before Brene walked up the stage to give her talk, she asked the host, “Why is everyone cheering?” And the host smiled and said, “At Costco, we clap for the truth.”

Acknowledging truth and facing whatever is nipping at our heels are not easy tasks, but they are the right tasks. We live in a culture of avoidance and dysfunction where truth is increasingly rare. It seems easier to keep running than to turn and face the truth. But Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, ESV).

What is it that keeps nipping at your heels? What are you afraid will happen if you turn and face the truth? Perhaps, like Jesus said, when you discover (and face) the truth, it will actually set you free.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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