Prepared Vs. Anchored

“When we are anxious we are inclined to overprepare. We wonder what to say when we are attacked, how to respond when we are being interrogated, and what defence to put up when we are accused. It is precisely this turmoil that makes us lose our self-confidence and creates in us a debilitating self-consciousness.

Jesus tells us not to prepare at all and to trust that he will give us the words and wisdom we need. What is important is not that we have a little speech ready but that we remain deeply anchored in the love of Jesus, secure about who we are in this world and why we are here. With our hearts connected to the heart of Jesus, we will always know what to say when the time to speak comes” (Henri Nouwen).

I confess that I am an overthinker and and overanalyzer. I’ve been known to play different conversation scenarios in my head and almost to have a script in my head in case I run into certain people during the day. Typically, this leads to anxiety.

But when I let it all go and trust that God will give me the words to say, I find peace. Being anchored in the peace that passes all understanding frees me from the need to overplan and overprepare. Instead of being a Martha that is constantly distracted and frazzled, I can be more like the depiction of Mary who was able to sit calmly at the feet of Jesus.

May we never get too busy doing for God that we miss being with God and getting to know the heart of God.

Trusting a Known God in the Midst of the Unknown

I think at some point all of us wish we could see our lives mapped out like the table of contents in the beginning of a book. If we knew there were better times ahead, we could solder on through the tough parts. But then we wouldn’t need faith.

I think knowing the whole story might be a bit overwhelming. Knowing every single obstacle, every single trial, every single tragedy, and every single moment of stress might be a bit much. Besides, the point isn’t to navigate through life as much as it is to get to know the heart of God, and what better way than seeing God reward your trust time and time again in the midst of the unknown?

It’s like the picture of the old-fashioned candle light and the staircase. We’re almost never shown the entire set of stairs. We get the step in front of us, and once we take that step, we get shown the next. That’s how faith works.

I love that it’s not about the size of my faith or how flawlessly I execute my beliefs, but it’s about the size of the God we believe in and how even the tiniest amount of faith can move mountains and work miracles.

9/11 21 Years Later

I learned recently that the college graduating class of 2022 will be the last to have been born before 9/11. That both blew my mind and made me feel old. It’s been 21 years.

I still can’t get over how much of a seismic shock that day was. It was pretty much everyone’s worst nightmare come to waking life. It was what nobody ever imagined could happen in their lifetime — a major terrorist attack on domestic soil.

The images still haunt me — the towers crumbling, people leaping to their deaths out of the buildings rather than burn to death, and people walking out of the wreckage looking like ghosts from all the smoke and debris.

I also remember 9/12. There has never been a time since when we were as united as we were on that day. We were resolved to bring justice for all the lives lost and make the terrorists responsible pay. Churches were full of people who were seeking answers and who were maybe for the first time seeking God.

While that unity didn’t last, the hope that birthed it remains. Because of the cross of Christ, we who have chosen to follow Jesus have not just any hope but a certain hope and an undefeatable joy that no terrorist attack or catastrophe or death can ever take away. We have a firm foundation that nothing in all this world can shake because we know that in the end God wins and makes all things right and whole and healed and pure again. Even days like 9/11.

Rain, Rain

I didn’t used to like rain. I think as a kid rain meant staying inside and not getting to play. Rain meant getting wet if I went outside and possibly catching my death of cold (as my grandparents used to say).

These days I don’t mind rain. I actually like it some days. There’s nothing more tranquil than the sound of rain, especially falling on a tin roof. There’s nothing better for taking a nap than a cold rainy October afternoon.

There’s nothing like the smell when you walk outside after a good thunderstorm. It’s a fresh clean smell that I can’t really describe in terms of smelling like anything else.

On rare occasion, I’ll be hiking at Radnor at it will start raining. I can hear the rain falling but can’t really feel it beneath all the trees. Those rainy days have turned out to be some of my favorite and most relaxing hikes.

I’m not a fan of rain for 10 days straight where the sky is nothing but grey, but I do like rain from time to time. Besides, rain is what makes the flowers grow.

Dear Memphis

I found this on Facebook and thought it was too perfect not to share. I may not live in Memphis any more, but it will always be my hometown.

“Dear Memphis, I am praying. So help me. I really am.

I’m praying for your families. For your ER doctors and nurses. For your wounded. For all who are sad.

I’m nobody, Memphis. I’m just a guy. A guy who likes your music. A guy who loves your barbecue.

I am located 200 miles southeast of you, but my heart is in Bluff City right now.

When I close my eyes to pray, my mind wanders along Union Avenue. Past Sun Studios, birthplace of rock and roll. Where Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis discovered themselves.

In my heart, Memphis, I am meandering Beale Street, past the clapboard shotgun house where W.C. Handy’s mother gave birth to the Inventor of the Blues.

My spirit is strolling just south of Beale, past the old Lorraine Motel, where Doctor King was gunned down in 1968.

In my heart, I am eating a pulled pork sandwich, Memphis. I am covered in red sauce, my shirt has already gone to be with Jesus.

I am at the Memphis Zoo. Riding a Memphis trolley. At the Peabody Hotel. The Botanical Gardens. Graceland.

And I’m praying for you.

Although, frankly, I’m not sure God will answer my prayers because I’m nothing. Truth told, I’m not even a very spiritual person. I don’t pray as often as I should. And if I’m being honest, I mostly pray during national championships.

But I heard about the gunman who drove through your town last night. He was shooting randomized victims. I read about how he walked into an AutoZone and pulled the trigger. Coldhearted. No remorse.

I read about the four he killed. About the terror he inspired.

My friend in Memphis called me last night, during the hourslong rampage. He said the whole town was taking cover.

‘It’s weird,’ he told me. ‘It’s like something from a horror movie.’

Memphis buses stopped running. Local television stations interrupted regular broadcasts with live updates. The Memphis Redbirds left the minor-league ballfield. Half the city was messaging each other like crazy, texting things like:

‘Are you okay?’

‘Yes. But I heard something outside.’

‘Gunshots?’

‘Not sure.’

‘I’m so scared.’

‘So am I.’

And all this comes after a decimating string of violence and murder, Memphis.

Eliza Fletcher. The 34-year-old kindergarten teacher. She was out for a jog. A wife and a mother. Beautiful and fair. Athletic and strong. A 3000-watt smile. Great personality. The kind of teacher who taught her kids to sing “This Little Light of Mine,” and meant it.

She was abducted on her running route. Killed.

Also, the local woman who was shot at her home. A carjacking. Autura Eason-Williams was her name. Fifty-two years young. Pretty. Well-loved. Accomplished. She was a pastor. A reverend at Capeville United Methodist.

She was found in her driveway. Multiple gunshot wounds.

Oh, Memphis. I am praying.

I am praying for the family of Yvonne Nelson, 60, a community activist. She was shot during an argument over money. Of all things.

For the family of Drew Rainer. The Rhodes College student who was one heck of a musician. He was killed last October during a home invasion.

I’m going to level with you, Memphis. Sometimes I’m not sure whether God is even up there listening. How can he be?

How can there be a God when so much evil happens in the world? And if there is a God, why does he allow all hell to break loose?

But when I look at you, Memphis. I see that I am wrong. Dead wrong. There is a God. He is ever present. He is deeply involved in this world. And he is a Memphian.

Your churches have banded together to finish the jogging route Eliza Fletcher began on the morning she was taken.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, runners all over the nation will complete her jog. Races are being held in her honor, far and wide. Public and private. They’re holding memorial 5Ks as far away as Quebec.

Drew Rainer’s memorial fund has already raised $166,000. Donations are still pouring in. The prayer services for Reverend Eason-Williams were legendary. The whole city is alive with love.

And we who love you can see your incredible light. And you shine it so well, Memphis. And with God’s help, I pray nobody blows it out. I pray you will do what a humble kindergarten teacher once encouraged her students to do. To continue to let your light shine.

Let it shine. Let it shine.

Let it shine” (Sean Dietrich).

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The Latest Peanut Update

Garrison Keillor once joked that cats are proof that not everything God created has a purpose. I tend to think they do.

Cats basically exist to look cute and to sleep a lot. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. Like for cats, consciousness is that annoying time between naps. Being awake for a cat is a chore, which is why they try not to be awake if they can help it.

Peanut is no exception. She follows the typical feline beauty regimen of at least 23 hours of sleep a day. I admit that I get a bit jealous when she can fall asleep at any given moment in any given position. While I can be known to toss and turn, she can literally curl up and be snoozing inside of 10 seconds without fail.

But she does like to be around me a lot. And she does sleep in my lap. Plus, she looks awfully cute when she’s sleeping. So I think I’ll give her a pass.

Remaining Confident

“…you know, in the midst of it all? 
Here’s what unexpectedly tilts everything: You’ve gotta have faith that God is kind. *Faith is confidence in the kindness of God
no matter the confusion of circumstances * 
And because God is kind? There is 100% confidence that even in the confusion of the circumstances — God is for you, He is with you, He is carrying you, He is using all things to make you more like Jesus & He is absolutely, entirely, 100% making a way. 
Have Faith! Have Confidence! Forward! 

“Now faith is confidence…” Heb.11:1
“How precious is your lovingkindness, O God!” Ps.36:7

#PreachingGospelToMyself” (Ann Voskamp).

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13, NIV).

Faith is trusting in God’s character over and above your circumstances. It’s trusting in His heart over your history. It’s clinging to the promises of God over the particulars of your surroundings. It’s remembering all the times God has been faithful in the past to know He will be faithful again.

17 More Days

To be fair, it’s still summer. I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but in Tennessee, we expect summer to last at least through the end of September. The calendar says that September 22 is the first official day of fall, but round here summer is like the houseguest who won’t leave. Summer starts saying goodbye and getting ready to leave around the middle of September, but in the South you have to say goodbye at least 3 times and be “fixing to get ready” to leave for at least 30 minutes before you leave. All that to say that fall doesn’t really start here until sometime in October (or when we can finally get summer out the door and down the driveway).

But I’m ready for cooler weather. I’m ready for all the changing leaves and crisp breezes. I’m even ready for all things pumpkin spice. Most of all, I’m ready to not sweat through all my clothes every time I step outside for longer than 5 minutes. I’m ready to not feel like I’m having a heatstroke every time I mow the lawn.

To those who are sad because you love summer, tough. You have had at least 4 months of summer. You got all your hot humid weather to tide you over for a while. Let us fall lovers have our moment and enjoy our kind of weather. We put up with all the sweaty stinkiness from ourselves and from others. We’ve earned the right to be able to wear flannel and sit around bonfires and to partake of hot chocolate and hot apple cider.

Only 17 more days to go . . .

God Loves You

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (John 3:16-17, The Message).