That’s What He Said

 

“How are we to think about Jesus’s presence today? No doubt volumes could be written on that question, and have been. But the simple fact is that Jesus Christ is present in this world, the only world we have, and in many ways. His teachings, even mangled and broken, have an incredible power to disrupt human systems, including the ones that claim to own him. He is the misfit and thus is available to all who would seek him. His crucifixion and resurrection announce the end of human systems and stand in judgment over them. He is the man on the cross calling us to join him there. He makes himself available to individuals who hear of him and seek him. In many forms both inside and outside the church, with its traditions, symbolisms, and literature, he is simply here among us. He is in his people, but he does not allow himself to be boxed in by them. He calls to us by just being here in our midst. There is nothing like him. The people in the churches also have the option of finding him and following him into his kingdom, though that may rarely be what they are doing.

For many today who think of themselves as educated, historical studies and ‘higher criticism’—perhaps something they call a ‘scientific’ outlook—have made the person and teachings of Jesus problematic. From where they start, he seems a questionable resource for actually living their lives. He may become for them a scholarly football to kick around or to ignore. But he does not go away. In spite of all, he himself is still available in this world, and beyond all historical issues and confusions there stands a strong if somewhat hazy impression of what he stood for. To come to know him and to clarify who he really is, people have only to stand for what he stood for, as best they can, and to do so by inviting him to take their life into his life and walk with them. If they do just this with humility and openness—which everyone knows to be his manner of life—they will know him more and more as they take his life to be their life. In this way they do not have to ‘know’ at the start. It is enough to venture in the kingdom of God and its King. ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Acts 2:21)” (Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge).

Wow. I do believe that says it all.

 

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.

 

 

Another Good Borrowed Prayer

“Lord, when I don’t like me,
You still love me, You still like me, You still lavish me with acceptance.
When I am fed up with me, You invite me to Your feast,
When I am done — with me, with life, with everything,
You whisper, ‘Hang on — I am making *all things* — *you* — new.’ (Rev21:5)
And when I want to quit, You cup my face: ‘This great work I started in you? I won’t stop that beautiful work until you are fully, completely, gloriously beautiful’ (Phil1:6, 1 Cor2:7)
So this becomes our brave & broken-hearted hallelujah, the one we sing into the dark, even when it’s hard to believe:
I am His Beloved, His Beloved, His Beloved… and even now I will be held.

In the name of the only One who loved us to death & back to the real & forever life… Amen.” (Ann Voskamp).

This is a good prayer for the week that never seems to want to end. This is a doxology for the difficult days that seem to come in bunches and never in just one.

I still remember the line from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that I quote to myself periodically: “Everything will be fine in the end, and if it’s not fine, it’s not yet the end.”

I remind myself that even the worst of days where nothing goes right still only lasts for 24 hours. It may feel longer, but the tell-tale ticking of the second hand on the clock tells a much different story.

I suppose this is another variation on my infamous “Don’t give up because God’s not done with you yet” rah-rah cheery blog posts. I don’t care. I’ll keep thinking of different ways to keep preaching the gospel to myself (and hopefully you as well) until it finally begins to sink in. And I think it’s working at last.

 

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.

 

A Little Shakespeare For Your Soul

“Sigh No More, Ladies…”

(From "Much Ado about Nothing")
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh nor more;
    Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
    To one thing constant never;
        Then sigh not so,
        But let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into. Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no mo,
    Or dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
    Since summer first was leavy.
        Then sigh not so, 
        But let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into hey, nonny, nonny.

I admit that I was craving a bit of Shakespeare on this rainy Thursday. I put in my blu ray of the 1993 adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing.

It’s good to go back to the classics every now and then. It’s good to hear dialogue that actually makes you smarter and increases your love of the language.

It’s always good to go back to ancient wisdom.

I’m reminded of that as I’m reading through the Bible again.

Some of it is hard to take. I see where the people of God chosen by God have acted like anything but God’s own. They have run after anything and everything to fill a void that only God can fill.

Sadly, I can relate after too many times of doing that very thing myself. Many times, prayer and God will be last resorts after everything else has failed instead of my first go-to. As frustrated as I can get with those Israelites, I confess that I am too much like them sometimes.

The ultimate story of the Bible is God’s quest to woo His own people to Himself with a love that refuses to be defeated or deferred.

As for Shakespeare, I watched about half the movie and I feel like my IQ has gone up about 10 points. I call that a win.

 

 

Unspeakable Joy to All You Ebenezers Out There

a-christmas-carol-5

“Joy, it’s always a function of gratitude — and gratitude is always a function of perspective. If we are going to change our lives, what we’re going to have to change is the way we see” (Ann Voskamp).

I love the 1951 version of Scrooge, known to us Americans as A Christmas Carol. Most of what I love about the movie is how giddy Ebenezer Scrooge is at the end when he discovers the true spirit of Christmas. That gets to me every single time.

I’m thinking about a Facebook friend who posted about how much she hated Christmas, partly due to the fact that all she saw were the crazy spending, the long lines, the push-and-shove grab-all-you-can mentality.

That’s not Christmas. At least that’s not what Christmas is truly all about.

Joy does come when you shift your perspective from what is seen, i.e. the money exchanging hands, to the unseen, i.e. what can never be bought and can never be earned but only received as a free gift.

I often lose perspective, especially in Nashville traffic. But I always love being reminded that as a believer saved by that amazing grace, I have more reason than anyone to have unspeakable joy.

I hope you never forget who you were when Jesus found you. I hope you never lose the feeling of that moment when your life changed forever and you went from being a nobody set on a dead end street to a child and heir of God bound for something much better than anyone has ever dreamed.

Jesus now and Heaven ahead. Actually, Jesus now and then Jesus AND Heaven ahead. There will always be Jesus.

I love that I discovered Advent later in life because I appreciate it so much more than if I had grown up with it. I also love that I am still coming to understand the full extent of what that unspeakable joy looks and feels like.

I hope and pray that never gets old for any of us who have ever experienced it.

The end.

 

Too Good Not to Share

“look — we’re facing some pretty big things, Lord,
And You whisper: “Child, look — look at Me.
Now You’re facing the Best thing, who dwarfs all the other things.”
And we exhale.. and we get it, God, because that is the thing:
Prayer isn’t so much to remind our God of what all the problems are —
but to remind all the problems of who our God is.

And You cup us close tonight and tell us: No matter what you’re facing, look into My face — and know it, feel it: Your God is greater than what you’re trying to face, your God is bigger than what you’re trying to escape, your God is better than anything you’re trying to chase.
And our problems fade in the light of Your gentle face, Your tender embrace….” (Ann Voskamp).

That’s it. “Prayer isn’t so much to remind our God of what all the problems are– but to remind all the problems of who our God is.”

That sentence. For the win.

I got my health insurance premiums for 2016. Apparently, they’re going up over $150 a month. That’s a whole lot of moolah.

But no matter how big my insurance premium gets, God is bigger.

No matter how overwhelmed I’ve felt over the pressing issues facing me, God has been and will always be able.

That’s not a news flash, but it’s a good reminder out there to all the weary and heavy-laden hearts tonight who need to hear it one more time. It’s a great comfort to all those who feel like they’re less than adequate to meet all that life has thrown their way this past week.

No matter what, God will be enough.

Let that be your mantra for the days to come. Let it resound in your heart and mind when the lies come and try to drag you down into defeat.

No matter what, God will be enough.