Be Still and Wait

“Maybe I have been living much too fast, too restlessly, too feverishly, forgetting to pay attention to what is happening here and now, right under my nose. Just as a whole world of beauty can be discovered in one flower, so the great grace of God can be tasted in one small moment. Just as no great travels are necessary to see the beauty of creation, so no great ecstasies are needed to discover the love of God. But you have to be still and wait so that you can realize that God is not in the earthquake, the storm, or the lightning, but in the gentle breeze with which he touches your back” (Henri Nouwen).

When was the last time you were still? I don’t mean just sitting down or sedentary while looking at your phone. I mean you were still. No books, no phone, no television, no radio or streaming. Just you alone with your thoughts and God.

One of the most needed commands in the Bible comes in Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

How can we ever hope to hear from God when we are allergic to silence and stillness? How can we discern God’s voice if our days are filled with constant noise and tasks filling up the margins of our existence?

Being still isn’t natural. It’s as much a discipline as prayer, fasting, meditating, or studying your Bible. And if you wait until you have time, you will never start. As with anything that’s important, you have to make time by prioritizing stillness over activity and busyness. But in the end, it’s worth it.

Name It

If envy is the enemy of joy, then gratitude is surely its friend. When we harbor critical spirits, we double down in our fallenness, but when we embrace thanksgiving, we remember that the present isn’t eternal but only temporary. Hope is eternal. Joy is forever.

One of My Pet Peeves

If I had to name my biggest pet peeve at the moment, it would probably be tailgating. Nothing makes me lose my religion (to use an old Southern expression) more than people who ride my bumper. Especially when there’s ample room on both sides for passing.

I don’t get it. Someone tailgating me isn’t going to make me drive any faster. I can only drive as fast as the person in front of me. And the person in front of the person in front of me. Unless they speed up, I can’t speed up.

I try not to be judgmental, but seeing someone behind me who is practically attached to my rear bumper tests my patience more than anything. I personally have never been that much in a hurry or that impatient that I have to tailgate.

So the moral of the story is that I need to work on my patience. And people in this town need to learn to drive better.

The Love Chapter

I’ll be the first to admit that while I’m a fan of The Message translation, it can be hit or miss with me. Sometimes, it misses the mark. Other times, it gets it right. And when it gets it right, it changes the way you will look at that particular passage from then on. Like for instance, 1 Corinthians 13. I think Eugene Peterson absolutely nailed it on this one:

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’m blessed. I have one of the best Moms. I had a pretty great Dad, too. I was one of those fortunate enough to be raised in a home with a Mom and a Dad who loved me and more importantly, loved each other. Above all, they loved God. And after reading all that, I have to add that they are both still around and they still love me, each other, and God. I don’t want to skip that part.

But if you were blessed enough to have a parent or both parents who cared for you, let them know. Call them on the phone. Go and visit them. Don’t assume that they know how much they mean to you. Tell them.

One day, we will look up from our devices and they won’t be there. Then it will be too late to visit, to call, to say the words, “Thank you” and “I love you.” I know some of you would give just about anything for the chance to tell a parent you love him or her one more time.

And if you are a parent, stay strong. You might feel like you’re totally screwing up your children, but the fact that you are still around and still trying says a lot. What your kids need to see is that you love them. What they need to see more is that you love your spouse more. And whether you’re married or a single parent, they need to see that you love God above everything and every one else. They need to see you living out your faith and not just talking about it. They need to see a faith that expresses itself in acts of love and obedience and not just church attendance.

So I want to wish all the mothers out there — whether you gave birth or adopted or fostered — a very happy and blessed Mother’s day.

Little Things

Today, I went to a Renaissance Festival for the first time in at least a decade. It was great. It was so much better than the last time when I felt like I had wasted my money.

At first, I was a bit worried because I realized when I arrived that I had forgotten to get more cash. I thought I might run short. But as it turns out, I had exactly the right amount. I started out with $9 and left with no cash left.

I believe that is an example of God’s faithfulness in the little things. And for me, those are generally the hardest to entrust to God.

I can put the major stuff in God’s hands because I know there’s no way I can do otherwise. But when it comes to the little stuff, I’m more tempted to say, “Nah, God. I’m good. I got this” and miss an opportunity for God to show up and show out. Plus, I typically find out that I in fact am not good and don’t in fact have this.

If I can trust God in those million little daily things, then I can trust Him when the big stuff happens. I can trust Him when my world falls apart and nothing makes sense. God is faithful in the little and the big and all the in between because that is who He is.

Ways to Unwind

Sometimes, you need to unwind after a long week. It doesn’t necessarily have to be bad or stressful, but sometimes when there’s a lot going on, those five days can be a bit taxing. So I have made a list of some ways to relax at the end of the week:

  1. I always love to listen to a good vinyl album while lying in bed. There’s something calming about the familiar rhythms of watching the needle drop on a record.
  2. I try to eat somewhere that has good chips and salsa. Or sometimes, the occasion calls for queso. If the week has been more wearying than normal, cheese helps.
  3. Sometimes, sitting down in a comfortable chair and doing nothing. No devices, no books, no music. Just sit there and be. Close your eyes if it helps.
  4. Sometimes, I will focus on my breathing, taking deep drafts of air and exhaling slowly. Usually, I can feel my blood pressure lowering and any anxiety lessening.
  5. Having a nice cup of hot tea is a good way to unwind. I like black tea, but lately I gravitate toward herbal teas with no caffeine, especially if it’s later in the afternoon.

There are probably more ways I could name if I thought about it longer. And I can already hear you saying that you don’t have time to unwind. That’s right. You will never have time for anything unless you make time by making it a priority. And if you don’t make time for your health, your body will force you to make time for illness. So it’s best to practice relaxing and unwinding.

Also, naps are good. I just wish I’d learned that when I was younger. All those naps I missed. Such a shame.

Random Thursday Madness

FYI: Scratch out the 39 and write 50, since the picture still applies.

It’s hard to come up with creative stuff to write about when your brain has officially turned to jello. That’s usually where I am at thus point in the week. I even failed at Wordle, missing the word for the first time since February.

But here I am at the end of the day, talking about it all in past tense. Some days, your victory will be that you persevered and survived, even if you have nothing else to show for it. For me, I actually accomplished quite a lot. Still, I know what it’s like to be able to say, “My accomplishment for the day is that I’m still here.”

Plus, there’s coffee. As long as I have my well-doctored cup(s) of coffee, I will be fine. Whatever the day throws at me, caffeine will lie to me and tell me how easy it all will be. Plus, coffee does tend to help you keep your eyes open, which I believe is considered important if you want to do your job well.

I also believe that you need to celebrate the little victories and small accomplishments. So yay me for not falling down any stairs or punching myself in the face today. Well done.

Desktop Computers and Dial-Up Internet

Yep, and back in the day we had a thing called dial-up internet where you had to . . . wait for it . . . dial in to the internet. You had to sit there and wait for your 56K modem to connect to the internet. This is our generation’s version of walking to school in the snow uphill both ways.

And back when if you were downloading a large file, you suddenly developed a strong prayer life. You didn’t want to be that person who got to 99% downloaded only to have your internet connection mysteriously broken and have to start over from scratch. I guarantee that dial-up made lots of Baptists cuss back in the day.

I still can’t believe that I paid $24.95 for dial-up internet with America Online. Yes, it was nice hearing “You’ve got mail” when you finally got connected, but it was also a pain having one of your parents yell up the stairs, “Get off the internet! I need to use the phone!” But such was life back in my day.

Yes, the struggle was real.

Rechurching and Reconstructing

“A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. . . .There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way. . . God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There us no such thing” (CS Lewis).

More and more these days I hear about people who have dechurched and are in the process of deconstructing their faith. There’s a fundamentalist part of me that recoils and says, “How dare you? How dare you leave Jesus?” But most of the time it’s not about that.

Mostly it’s people who have been hurt by those who are in positions of leadership within the Church and who practice a Phariseeical form of Christianity that puts rules over people. Some people have been through hurt and trauma and are processing honest doubt and need answers to real questions.

I learned tonight at Kairos that the opposite of doubt isn’t facts. The opposite of doubt is trust. The way to interact with people who are deconstructing is not to argue theology or question their motives but to listen and to love well. It’s to walk with people through their journeys.

Ultimately, we need to be as patient with others as God has been with us. We need to remember that it was the kindness of God that led us to repentance and relationship in the first place. You and I need to learn a word that has become one of my favorite words — hesed. As I learned, hesed is when the person from whom you have the right to expect nothing gives you everything.

When you understand that you can’t outgive or outlove God, then you can be much more patient and understanding with people who have doubts and struggles. And that just might be what they need most.