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.

Grace for Today

“My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves
you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because
nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace
that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages
as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that
hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking
of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands,
or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without
asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and
puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot
cover. Grace is enough…Jesus is enough” (Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir)

I had a decent sort of day. Not fantastic. Not horrible. Just decent.

On days like these, I need the grace of God.

I’ve had days where everything goes wrong and I have two left feet and I can barely remember my own name.

On those days, I need the grace of God.

I’ve also had days where all the traffic lights were green and I got the coffee/creamer mix just right and I was in rare form at work.

On those days, I need the grace of God.

There’s not a day that will ever go by where I don’t need grace.

My advice for those of you reading this. You need grace every day, so give grace every day.

Social media these days is filled with vindictiveness and spiteful words, mostly along the lines of my side is right, therefore yours must be evil and wrong and stupid.

Buck the trend by showing and giving grace to everyone, even those on the other side of the political aisle who say things you don’t agree with.

Give grace because you may one day need it from someone else.

Give grace because you have already received it in abundance from the God of all Grace.

I love grace because it comes to me when I don’t deserve it and is always more than I expected and always leaves me better than when it found me.

That’s God’s way. That’s grace.

 

John 3:16

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

Anybody remember that guy with the rainbow colored afro who used to hold up the John 3:16 signs at sporting events? I do.

Some of you reading this may not be old enough to remember him, but you’re at least familiar with the verse. Perhaps too familiar. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve heard these words so many times that you’ve almost stopped listening to them.

I think I heard them in a fresh new way today at Room in the Inn when the guest speaker chose that as the theme of his message to the homeless men.

“For God . . .” Every great story begins with God. Every story of hope and redemption, every story where good overcomes evil, begins with God.

“For God loved . . .” If your God is known more for what He hates and what He is against rather than what He loves and what He is for, perhaps you’re serving a god instead of God. The defining verse about the God of the bible starts out with “For God so loved . . .”

“For God loved the world . . .” God doesn’t just love white Republicans. God doesn’t just love Americans. God doesn’t just love religious people. God doesn’t just love “successful” people with the perfect resumes and perfect lives.

“For God loved the world  so much that He gave . . .” True love always involves sacrifice. The epitome and the ultimate example of sacrificial love is God giving us Jesus both to live and to die for us.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone . . .” Salvation is for everyone. Not just a select few. Not just for some. Not for those who deserve it (because none of us do). It’s for anyone who asks for it. It’s for you and me.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes . . .” Sometimes, faith gets overcomplicated. Sometimes faith gets reduced to pithy bumper sticker slogans. Faith is simple yet profound. It costs nothing yet it is priceless. Faith means believing not just with your heart or your mind but with your whole life.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

That’s it. You don’t have to perish. You have the choice of eternal life. Not just a future pie in the sky by and by kind of life, but real and robust life to the full right here and now. God will always respect the decision you make, whether for Him or not.

The choice is yours. What will you do with it?

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

I found out that a friend of the family is currently walking through his own valley of the shadow of death in dealing with incurable cancer. To hear the word “cancer” coming out of the mouth of a doctor is scary enough, but to hear it preceded by “terminal” has to be frightening to an almost paralyzing degree.

Yet this friend of mine has faced this diagnosis with dignity and peace and an unswerving faith in the God who is still in the miracle business. While the odds seem insurmountable, I’m reminded yet again that what seems impossible to us isn’t even remotely difficult for God. Just ask any of the blind or lame men that Jesus healed. Or the lepers. Or Lazarus.

My friend said that it all starts with an attitude of gratitude. I truly believe that. A positive mental outlook is half the battle when dealing with a grim medical diagnosis.

Yet it’s more than that. This attitude of gratitude comes from the same place that allowed the Apostle Paul to pen the words that to live is Christ and to die is gain. It’s literally a win-win with Jesus.

Either my friend gets healed here and becomes a witness of God’s healing power or he is resurrected and finds ultimate healing and stands in front of Jesus to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

When you think about it, we’re all terminal. After sin entered the world, death followed close behind and that proverbial hourglass started on each one of us. Unless Jesus comes back soon, all of you reading this will come to the place where you breathe your last.

Thanks to Jesus death will not have the final word. The grave is only temporary. The resurrection truly does mean that the worst thing is never the last thing and Jesus will have the final word in your story.

I’m praying for my friend for healing here and now knowing that no matter what happens, God is always good and we are always loved and that grace still wins in the end.

 

You Are Not the God We Would Have Chosen

Sometimes, it’s good to pray scripted prayers. Not all the time, but some times.

Sometimes, you have no words and need to borrow the words of those who have been where you are and voiced your words to God.

I think this prayer may soon qualify as one of my borrowed prayers:

We would as soon you were stable and reliable.
We would as soon you were predictable
and always the same toward us.
We would like to take the hammer of doctrine
and take the nails of piety
and nail your feet to the floor
and have you stay in one place.

And then we find you moving,
always surprising us,
always coming at us from new directions.
Always planting us
and uprooting us
and tearing all things down
and making all things new.
You are not the God we would have chosen
had we done the choosing,
but we are your people
and you have chosen us in freedom.
We pray for the great gift of freedom
that we may be free toward you
as you are in your world.
Give us that gift of freedom
that we may move in new places
in obedience and in gratitude.

Thank you for Jesus
who embodied your freedom for all of us. Amen” (Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers by Walter Brueggemann).

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

Merry Christmas Adam

Everyone knows that tomorrow is Christmas Eve. But does everyone also know that today is Christmas Adam, which precedes Christmas Eve. Celebrate in style with a McRib at McDonald’s!

Actually, all those dreams I’ve had of a white Christmas this year are being replaced by the reality of thunderstorms and tornado watches. In this case, the line “Hail, the Son of Righteousness” is quite literally coming true in some places with actual hail.

I’m hoping and praying that all my Nashville friends out there are safe and sound in the midst of tornado warnings.

I’m also praying that in the midst of the shopping frenzy, people will remember that what counts most aren’t the gifts under the tree as much as the Gift lying in a manger.

I confess that for me it’s a time to watch all the classic movies like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas and to listen to my vast collection of Christmas music.

Still, it’s also a time for me to reflect and remember the birth that changed history as we know it. There would be no Golgotha and no Resurrection without a Bethlehem. There could be no Risen Savior with Scarred Hands and Feet with out a Child Wrapped in Swaddling Cloths and Lying in a Manger.

Maybe I’m like a broken record when it comes to Christmas, but I don’t care. I do love Christmas. Yes, for the nostalgia and warm fuzzies, but also for the way in which the impossible became glorious reality in the form of Emmanuel, God with us.

So be sure to have all your presents bought and wrapped. Have plenty of eggnog and cheer. But don’t forget to leave room on your schedule and in your heart for the babe born to be a sacrifice for you and me.

And God bless us, everyone!

 

Free Stuff

“Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
    a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
    The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—
    He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, The Voice).

I confess. I love free stuff.

I periodically go by the Brentwood Public Library where they have two bookshelves off the front lobby to the right where they put all the books and other media that they can’t for whatever reason take.

I always look for hidden treasures there. Mostly, it’s old VHS tapes and 80’s-era computer manuals and other equally useful items.

Every now and then, I do find something worthwhile. A few months back, I found a 1945 Book of Common Prayer in more or less decent shape. Win.

I also like to look through the bins in front of McKay’s Used Books, Movies, Music, and So Much More Store (which isn’t really the name, but what it should be named).

Again, there’s a reason a lot of these got discarded and left behind. Still, every now and then, I can find some really cool stuff. Like the last time I was there, I found three Christmas CDs that I’ve added to my already astounding and amazing collection.

The best gift of Christmas was also free. It came in the unlikeliest of places– in a stone manger inside of a barn on the outskirts of the little town of Bethlehem. It came wrapped not in a fancy package with ribbons and bows aplenty, but in a worn-out cloth.

That gift was Emmanuel. God downsized into human flesh, infant flesh, born ultimately to be the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me.

The gift wasn’t free to God. It cost Him everything. But the gift is free to you and me. The only problem with a gift– any gift– is that it doesn’t become yours until you take it. So will you?

This Christmas, don’t get so distracted by the gifts under the tree that you miss the best gift in the manger.

The end.