Random Friday Thoughts

According to my sources, i.e. the interwebs, tonight will be verrry interesting for those in the general Middle Tennessee area. As in possible thunderstorms, tornados, and flooding, oh my.

But I’m in bed. I’m ready to sleep in tomorrow after a week’s worth of 5 am wake-up calls. I’m planning on doing as little as possible tomorrow, seeing as how it will be a big wet mess outside.

I am tired, but it’s the good kind of tired from actually doing stuff and being all productive and earning a living rather than from doing nothing all day and feeling very much unproductive and useless. I know I tend to sleep better when I’m good tired.

Maybe the rain outside will help me sleep better.

Oh, and I know the struggle of being at a Baptist potluck and having to choose between those six different kinds of potato salad. The struggle was real and could mean the difference between a good potluck experience and a meh one. At least there was always lots of fried chicken to compensate.

A Pre-Lent Lenten Prayer

“A lenten prayer to avoid entitlement from Richard Rohr:

‘Maybe we all should begin our days with a litany of satisfaction, abundance, and enoughness. God, you have given me another day of totally gratuitous life: my health, my eyes, my ears, my mind, my taste, my family, my freedom, my education, clean water, more than enough food, a roof over my head, a warm bed and blanket, friends, sunshine, a beating heart, and your eternal love and guidance.

To any one of these we must say, “And this is more than enough!'”

Ok, I know we’re not quite to Lent season just yet. I realize that Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday are two weeks away (and Mardi Gras just happens to fall on my birthday this year, which is neat).

Still, this applies to any season of the year or of life. Gratitude is the gift that never goes  out of style and never becomes obsolete. Joy is as much of an art and a discipline as it is a gift because while it’s free, it takes effort and stamina to fully realize and appreciate it.

I should probably at some point tape these words from Richard Rohr to my bathroom mirror so that they are the first thing I see when I wake up. Or maybe I should post them somewhere I will see them AFTER I’ve had that all-important first cup of coffee.

I need reminding often of how blessed  I truly am. It’s easy in a culture that promotes dissatisfaction and envy to look at all that’s missing from my life and all that I don’t have. That can lead to despair.

Joy starts with being content with such things that I have already. Gratitude is the way we see God’s provident hand everywhere working in everything. Even on Mondays.

 

 

Severe Mercies

I survived a wreck today.

Actually, that makes it sound much worse that it really was.

I was in a three-car fender-bender where the car behind me got hit from behind and ended up bumping into me.

I ended up with a dinged-up bumper and some shaky nerves.

It could have been so much worse.

I often wonder why God allows His people to go through dark valleys of suffering.

I know that the world we live in is broken and all of creation is affected by the fall and original sin. Plus, there’s that little matter of free will.

I also know that sometimes it takes a little pain to get our attention and remind us that our lives are about more than just us and our pleasure.

I believe that there are some precious truths and lessons that can be learned no other way than going through the dark night of the soul.

We find true community when we come together to share each others burdens and be strong for the ones who can’t be strong for themselves.

I still believe that there is no situation any of us will ever go through that is so dire where we cannot discover small blessings and at least something to be thankful for.

The Psalmist said that even in the deepest and darkest valley he would ever walk through, the Shepherd was with him.

There is nothing that will ever come against the child of God that Jesus has not already faced and defeated once and for all on that Cross of Calvary. Nothing.

That means that any trial is temporary and any affliction is fleeing and momentary.

You can survive just about anything if you can see beyond it to something better. Even Jesus endured the cross, knowing the joy that awaited Him on the other side.

Ultimately, I still believe that every day I wake up is grace and everything beyond that is gravy and there are a multitude of blessings and gifts to be found along the way with those who see with eyes of faith.

 

 

Keeping Vigil

“There is a difference between waiting and keeping vigil. Anxious, fretful, impatient waiting is nothing more than waiting. Waiting with purpose, patience, hope, and love is vigilant waiting. Would that all of our waiting could be a vigil–a watch in the night or in the day hours. So by all means, find a way to make your vigils sacred. Learn the art of holy waiting. Whether you choose, on occasion, to get up in the middle of night, or whether you make an effort to turn your everyday moments of waiting in sacred vigils rather than impatient pacing, you will be blessed through this spiritual practice” (Macrina  Wiederkehr, Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day).

The difference between waiting and keeping vigil is expectation. Simply waiting is assuming the worst, while keeping vigil is holding out hope for God’s best. Waiting fixates on hoping the circumstance will change, while keeping vigil is knowing that you will be the one to change (and trusting that God will do the changing).

Keeping vigil is waiting intentionally. Instead of being idle or unfocused, we are using the time to pray about the matter and create spaces in which God can move and speak.

I’ve learned through time spent waiting that it’s better not to pin my hopes on a certain desired outcome (that job offer or that certain someone to like you or that package in the mail), but rather to put my confidence in God who sees a much bigger picture than I do and has a much more vast plan in mind than I can currently conceive.

“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is ‘timing’
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way” (Fulton J. Sheen).

 

 

My Prayer for You

 “It is for this reason that I bow my knees before the Father, after whom all families in heaven above and on earth below receive their names, and pray:

Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings” (Ephesians 3:14-19, The Voice).

This is my prayer for all of you tonight, as originally prayed by the Apostle Paul.

2,115 Posts? Really?

“One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as others to see” (Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey).

This July will mark six years since I started writing these blogs. For me, that’s a long time. There have been very few things that I have done consistently for that long, outside of eating and breathing and such.

Part of me still hopes that one day my posts will blow up and my readership will escalate into the millions and I will be able to retire from my job and write blogs exclusively. Part of me still hopes that chocolate is low-calorie and fat-free. You can’t have everything you want.

Even if this never becomes anything more than a hobby and a release, that’s just fine with me. These have been extremely therapeutic for me and helpful for many of you. That’s enough for me.

I said it before quite a few times and I say it again– I’d write these blogs even if I were the only one reading them. I really really would.

I have enjoyed writing them much more since I finally got my Mac Book Pro. I do feel a bit more hipster-y and cool, though I am still a goober at heart (in case you were beginning to get worried).

Faith will always inform everything I write on here, whether it’s overtly faith-based or not. That’s who I am. That will always be who I am.

2,115 posts. It does boggle the mind. Well, it boggles MY mind. At an average of 300 words per blog, that comes to over 634,000 words. That’s more than the word count in the novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I should know. I just looked it up on google to be sure.

My next goal is one million words. But as always, my main goal is to be authentic and encouraging and (sometimes) challenging. Maybe one day I’ll finally break down and write that novel. Maybe.

 

More Lessons from Lent

It’s been a week since I gave up social media for Lent and so far, I’ve managed to stay away. I’m also trying not to be super-legalistic about it, but I’ve done well so far.

I do miss seeing what everyone’s up to and what their kids and pets are doing. I do feel quite a bit out of the loop when I’m away from social media. I also feel like I’m actually participating in my own life again.

I got to see a good friend of mine in what looks to me like the beginning stages of a dating relationship. I’m to the point now where I can be completely happy and supportive of both of them.

I also was blessed to celebrate the transition of Kairos  leadership from Mike Glenn to Chris Brooks. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of change (as I may have mentioned in passing in a few other blogs), I know that better things are in store for Kairos.

Maybe I’ll actually get back to that novel I started back in December but haven’t been able to get around to in 2016. Imagine that. Reading actual books. It boggles the mind.

I still hope to have more face-to-face conversations and do more of that real life stuff that I’ve been hearing so much about. From what little I’ve seen, I really think I’m going to like it.

In three days, my teenaged geriatric cat turns 16. I almost feel like a parent, wondering where the time has gone from when she was a wee little kitten barely bigger than my hand.

I think at some point in the future, I’d like to take a week or so where I go off the grid completely. No electronics, no phones, TV. Just me getting back to nature and (hopefully) getting my internal clock reset.

I also want to get back to living out of a sense of wonderment. I want to enjoy the moments and give thanks to the Creator not only of the grand universe but also of the smallest details.

There will be more updates as Lent progresses. If you’re pining away without me on social media, you can always reach me at gmendel72@icloud.com (because I get so few actual emails from actual people these days).

 

Forgiveness on Repeat

“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness” (Reinhold Niebuhr).

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it” (Mark Twain).

“Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again” (Dag Hammerskjold).

I’m still a big fan of forgiveness, because I still need it very much every single day.

I’m no worse than anyone else, but I also have a front-row seat to my own bad choices, bad motives, and poor decisions. I know that God has a lot to forgive in me, and I’m forever grateful that He still does.

My question for me is this: what has anyone ever done to me that tops what I’ve done to God? If God can forgive me for a billion dollar-sized debt of failures and regrets, how can I not forgive what amounts to a few measly dollars (in comparison) of those who’ve wronged me?

I forgive because I fail. I know there will be too many times when I will need that forgiveness not just from God but also from others. So I forgive.

Holding back forgiveness doesn’t hurt the other person. It does hurt you. It holds you back. It keeps you from growing and moving forward. The best illustration is that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die from it. Ultimately, that kind of bitterness is fatal to only one person– you.

So forgive, not because the other person deserves it– or even asks for it– because you need it for peace of mind and resolution. So you can finally move on and embrace the next place God has for you.

The end.

Still Astonished

“We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground” (Brennan Manning).

” . . . [A]lmost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to . . . . [O]nly a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement” (from Joe Vs. The Volcano).

Very few things in my life are cause for astonishment anymore. I don’t necessarily consider myself overly cynical, but I have experienced a lot in my lifetime, so not much is new to me.

I miss the part of being a child where so many things astonished me, to when the world was a far more magical and mystical place.

Maybe the one thing that should never lose its wonder for me is the grace of God. The fact that I wake up every morning to a new dose of grace still astonishes me. In fact, the more I see of myself, the more I learn what I am deep down apart from the grace of God, I am amazed that such a thing as grace still exists for me.

Also, perhaps what could serve to draw people to this great God we serve is when people see us living in a constant state of total amazement over God’s love for us. It won’t happen when we focus on following rules and being moral. It will happen when we finally confess our complete and total dependence on God and His grace and fall at His feet in an act of utter surrender.

When you see that life and everything in it is grace, you truly begin to see each new day not as an entitlement or a reward but as a completely undeserved gift (which is what grace is) that comes not to those who’ve earned it but to those who realize that they deserve nothing but death and hell apart from God.

So, thank you, God, for this life, and forgive me if I don’t love it enough. Forgive me if I don’t thank You enough for it and live amazed by it.

Amen.

All is Still Grace on a Monday in January

I had the good fortune to run into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We were greeters together at Kairos for a few years and then her life took a different path than mine and I hadn’t seen her in a long time.

I seriously doubt that she was as excited to see me as I was to see her, but it was a nice, brief reunion. It was another of those God-winks that I keep seeing when I look through the lens of gratitude instead of seeing through fear or despair.

I also got to see a homeless deaf man signing with a woman via Skype over his iPad. It was a beautiful moment that made my day.

I look at it this way– the worst day ever still only lasts 24 hours. No matter what happens, there will be a sunset and a sunrise, followed by a fresh morning with new mercies and grace. For that I will always be thankful.

I did have a caramel macchiato from Starbucks and sipped it while watching The Wonder Years on my antique iPad that I traded for at McKay’s a couple of years ago. I think that qualifies as a Monday win.

So there it is. A full work day, Starbucks, a good conversation with my friend that I see every Monday, serving at Room in the Inn, and good music in the Jeep to make the driving in Nashville traffic bearable.

I realize that there are a LOT of people out there around the world who would trade anything to have my problems (as well as my blessings). There are many much worse off than I am, many of those who are way more grateful for what little they do have.

It’s still a process. I have spells of envy and anxiety like anybody else. I have moments where I can’t see the good in the moment because I’m too wrapped up in reliving the past or worrying about the future.

But right now, by the grace of God, I am thankful for where I am right now, because that is exactly where God is and where God is working on me at this very moment.

The end.