Do Thou for Me

“Do Thou for me, O God the Lord,
Do Thou for me.
I need not toil to find the word
That carefully
Unfolds my prayer and offers it,
My God, to Thee.

It is enough that Thou wilt do,
And wilt not tire,
Wilt lead by cloud, all the night through
By light of fire,
Till Thou has perfected in me
Thy heart’s desire.

For my beloved I will not fear,
Love knows to do
For him, for her, from year to year,
As hitherto.
Whom my heart cherishes are dear
To Thy heart too.

O blessèd be the love that bears
The burden now,
The love that frames our very prayers,
Well knowing how
To coin our gold.  O God the Lord,
Do Thou, Do Thou” (Amy Carmichael).

There are times when we simply don’t know how to pray for a circumstance or a loved one. Try as we may, the words will not come.

I think even then God hears the groans and sighs of our petitions and knows what they mean. He hears the deepest desires of our hearts and knows best how to grant them.

Even when we have words, they aren’t always the best ones. Sometimes, we ask without such a limited point of view. Sometimes we ask selfishly. Sometimes we have too small a view of God and ask too little.

In Jan Karon’s Mitford series, Father Tim Kavanaugh always has his go-to prayer, or “the prayer that never fails,” as he calls it. The prayer goes “Thy will be done.”

You can never go wrong with leaving the matter in God’s hands.

God Is Looking for You

“God isn’t looking for religious protocol; God is looking for tax collectors who climb trees, prostitutes who crash parties, people who push through crowds wanting to be healed, people who yell at the top of their lungs like the blind beggar. He is looking for people who cut holes in ceilings, jump out of boats and follow stars to get to Jesus” (Max Lucado).

I’m thankful that God isn’t like us. When we want results, we go to the experts. We look to the elite and the famous for our inspiration. We want to be lead by those who have their lives together and come across as practically perfect in any way. But God is looking for people like you and me.

When it comes to who God uses, God seems to favor the nobodies and the screw-ups. Just ask the shepherds who were the first witnesses to the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us. Or ask Zaccheus, that infamously short tax collector that nobody liked. Ask just about anybody who was in the lineage that led to Jesus. They were adulterers, liars, foreigners, whores, and so on. Just about any one of the people in the Old Testament who got the flannel board treatment had their fair share of flaws and misdeeds.

But they’re in the Bible not because they were so great, but because they were the ones God chose to use. People very much like you and me.

 “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, ‘If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God'” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30, The Message).

A Friday Reminder

“There is more to your life than you ever thought. There is more to your story than what you have read. There is more to your song than what you have sung. A good author saves the best for last. A great composer keeps his finest for the finish. And God, the author of life and composer of hope, has done the same for you” (Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name).

If you’re reading these words, your story isn’t over. If God woke you up and let you experience another day, you still have a purpose. As long as you’re breathing, every one of those breaths is a second chance to start over in the middle and be who you always hoped you could be and who God designed and dreamed you to be.

Living In Reverse

How often have I found this to be true. How many times do I look back at events and circumstances that didn’t make sense at the time but only become clear in hindsight? How many times have I had that a-ha moment when I finally understood what God was up to?

I admit that I’m a bit slow when it comes to trusting God. Even though I have a thousand reasons for faith, I still choose doubt and anxiety. I still cling to my scenarios that magnify the problems but minimize God and His goodness. Take for instance all the times I’ve had car issues (and there have been more than a few over the years). I still tend to envision the worst case scenario instead of relying on what I know to be true of God based on His proven track record.

But I think I’m learning.

That’s why God commanded His people to set up memorials all over the place back in ye Old Testament times. People were as forgetful then as they are now — as I am now. The current Goliath you’re facing may appear to be bigger than he really is and can give you amnesia to all the other times when you watched as the giants fell.

Thankfully God is more patient than we are slow to learn. We get lots of chances to see faith rewarded and hope reborn. And yes, one day it will all make perfect sense. One day we won’t need faith because we will see it all perfectly as God sees it all now.

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

Another Unexpected Detour

The plan was to wait for an hour or so at my church for a wrecker to take my Jeep off to the repair place and then go eat seafood with my dear mother. Yep, that was the plan.

But life has a funny way of happening while you’re busy making other plans. The evening didn’t quite turn out the way I had planned, to put it mildly.

The wrecker that was supposed to show up at 8:08 pm (according to AAA’s estimated time of arrival), didn’t show up at all. When I finally got through on the phone, the rep said that the next available ETA was 4:40 am. So I cancelled and will try again tomorrow.

Chalk it down to bad customer service and plans detoured. But I won’t call it a wasted evening.

I figure that at least I wasn’t by myself. At least I had a way to get home and wasn’t forced to wait until the wee hours of the morning. I figure my so-called “bad” day was still better than a good day for so many around the world who are facing way more than I could ever comprehend or imagine.

Plus, I recall that not even a no-show tow truck can separate me from God’s love. Not a car that won’t start. Not my own anxiety and impatience. Nothing. God’s love lasts beyond all that and beyond anything that I will ever face.

That’s some good news.

Kairos Under the Stars

Tonight was the monthly Night of Worship for Kairos. Ever since we moved to Sundays, I missed those Tuesday gatherings. The past few months, they’ve had a special Tuesday night service focused on worship. Tonight, we had it on the front lawn of the church building, under the stars.

It was a perfect night for it. If I had to describe my ideal fall weather day, this would be it. There was a definite crispness to the night air and the bonfires actually felt warm and inviting. Instead of meeting in the usual Hudson Hall, we met in a larger, grander cathedral under the heavens.

At one point, I distinctly recall wishing that I had my jacket. Then I remembered that it was laying on the back of my chair at work. But I also remembered the bonfires. There’s something I love about the scent of a fire burning and the smell of sweet decay that comes with Autumn. No other season has the same aroma.

I’m thankful that I live in a place where I get to experience the fullness of all four seasons. Each season has its own charm and each speaks to a different facet of God’s mercy and grace. I prefer spring and fall over summer and winter, but I’m grateful for all of them. Most of all, I’m thankful that the heavens still declare the glory of God even when God’s people by and large don’t.

Grace in Times of Trouble

“It is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it. And we get grace enough to bear it — when we run into the arms of Grace who bore it all, into Him Who is more than enough.

I run my hand across the page. Gather the manna up into hands, what really is, and all that feeds:

Our cries to the Lord — are what give us communion with the Lord. It’s the dire distress that drives us into the deep devotion. It’s when all fails, His love never fails — and this is why we are a people who can always give thanks.”

I wish I knew who wrote that. I suspect it’s Ann Voskamp. It has her familiar cadences and rhythms. But whoever wrote it spoke truth. Trouble leads us outside of ourselves. Trials are what cause us to look up to Heaven. Tribulations are when we find out that God isn’t the Way Up There Distant Deity, but rather He’s the Emmanuel God-With-Us in the midst of our pain.

It doesn’t have to be a calamity that compels us to cry out. It can be a thousand little cuts. Those minor detours of our hopes and dreams and plans. Those million little ways we have to die to ourselves daily to witness God’s strength perfected in us.

Lord, give us our daily bread and our daily grace for what comes. You never promised not to give us more than we can handle, but You give us no more than You can handle when we come to you, willing and surrendered. Help us to know that You are always enough and that Your grace is always sufficient. Amen.

Sometimes You Can Go Back

Today, they made it official. Kairos is moving back to Tuesdays at 7 pm. It’s a worship event for young(ish) adults that is a part of Brentwood Baptist Church. It’s been around since 2004 and has met mainly on Tuesdays until the pandemic. It got moved to Sundays to accommodate two services and social distancing. But since those are no longer needed, Kairos is going back to its originally scheduled day.

It may not sound like a big deal. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not. But it’s a small example that sometimes you do get to go back. Not every change is permanent. Not everything that changes is lost forever.

It also means that I can dine at Chick-fil-A after Kairos again. It means my pre-blessed Jesus chicken is back as well. I call that a win, even if it means I have to order from my mobile app and eat outside. It will still taste the same.

Happy Fall-oween

It’s finally starting to feel like fall again. Today was a picture perfect example of what the Autumn season is supposed to look and feel like, as opposed to the unseasonably warm temps we’ve been having in the great state of Tennessee.

It’s also 15 days until Halloween.

And yes, I’ve already had my pumpkin spice.

Velveteen Love

This almost makes me want to go out and buy a velveteen rabbit.

It also reminds me that God’s love for me is real and God’s love makes me real, even when I’m worn and shabby. I don’t have to get cleaned up and get my act together and figure my life out before God will accept me. Actually, it’s God’s love that will shape me into who I need to be — who God created me to be and always meant for me to be.

In the grand scheme of things, all that matters is what God thinks of you, above and beyond what anyone else might think of you. God’s opinion is the only one that has ever mattered.

A Good Quote from a Great Movie

“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me” (Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey).

I agree.