Up, In and Out

We had a guest speaker at Kairos tonight named Chris. Apparently, my ADD kicked in at some point because his last name escapes me. I remember that he is a pastor in a church at Tuscaloosa and a self-proclaimed introvert, but I can’t for the life of me recall any part of his last name.

He said that the Christian life basically needs three parts– up, in, and out.

Up is worship, in is community, and out is evangelism. Any two without the other third is an incomplete faith. You need all three.

Without worship, you cut yourself off from the power source. Without community, you become easy prey for temptation (like the gazelle that gets separated from the pack when chased by lions). Without evangelism, what you learn and accomplish dies with you.

You need all three. We all do. Yet every one of us is weak in one of these areas. Chris admitted that his area of weakness was evangelism. I can relate. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to go up to a  complete stranger and share your faith.

Still, all is not lost. You can always pray for those in your circle of influence who don’t know Jesus. That’s a place to start. That’s where I am.

By the way, his name is Chris Brooks. I cheated and looked up @kairosnashville and saw where he was tagged in one of their posts. Thanks again, social media, for helping me appear smarter than I really am. That and google are my friends.

My takeaway is that you will never outgrow your need of spending time with God (worship), spending time with other believers (community), and sharing your faith with non-believers (evangelism). The best news of all is that God has already given you everything you need to succeed in all three areas. He’s given you Himself.

So basically, as long as you realize you will never outgrow your complete and total dependence on Jesus, you will be fine.

 

Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Dwight Yoakum, and The Facts of Life

I had my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season, courtesy of the good folks at the Starbucks on Franklin Road in Brentwood, Tennessee. Never mind that it was 90+ degrees outside and I was sweating like the soon-to-be-Thanksgiving-dinner turkey. It was still the advent of autumn for me (though fall doesn’t officially start until September 23).

I even ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. That was an unexpected God-wink moment that reminded me that God is still able to work all things together for good in any situation.

Driving home, I listened to Dwight Yoakum and was reminded of what REAL country music sounds like, as opposed to 90% of what you hear on present-day country music radio stations. I didn’t hear anything about “pickup trucks from where I grew up” or “girls in Daisy Dukes.” I did hear some pretty great music.

I bookended all that with a marathon of one of my old favorite TV shows, The Facts of Life. I had forgotten that George Clooney was a regular cast member (and that he apparently used to jiggle his head a lot). I didn’t forget how much I loved Blair, Jo, Natalie and (my personal favorite) Tootie. It was like travelling back to the 80’s.

I still find it ironic that Labor Day is all about rest. Maybe they should change the name to Rest from Labor Day. According to my research, it celebrates the modern labor movement, as well as the fact that most of us no longer have to work 12-hour days 7 days a week anymore (unless you’re a doctor or a nurse).

Heck, it could be celebrating my big toe and I’d take it. Any excuse to be able to sleep until almost 9:30 on a Monday morning is good by me.

I am thankful for those who paved the way for me to be able to get paid fairly for a 40-hour week. I’m thankful for those men and women who fought and died so that I could live free. I’m thankful for a Savior who thought I was worth dying for and redeeming and calling one of His own.

I may not have everything my heart desires, but I have God and that will always be enough.

 

 

Glory’s Just Around the Corner

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner” (1 Peter 4:12-13, The Message).

Glory’s just around the corner. I love that.

All that you’re going through, all the heartache and pain, seems like it will never end. You feel like nothing will ever get better, that everything will go on just as it has been.

Remember that Paul calls it light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that’s coming. Whatever it is, it won’t last forever. But the glory will.

That’s a good reason to never give up. You don’t know how close you are to your breakthrough. It may be closer than you  think. It may even literally be around the next corner.

I might sound like a broken record, but I feel in my spirit that some of you out there are tempted to quit. Some of you are about to give up. Don’t.

Jesus didn’t quit. He more than anyone else had the best reason to give up. He knew what He was facing and what it would cost in blood, sweat, and tears. But He persevered. He kept going.

He knew that even death by torture was a light and momentary affliction compared to the joy and glory that would come after. Not just His joy and glory, but ours, too.

It’s all about taking it 24 hours at a time. Sometimes, it’s about one deep breath at a time, if that’s all you can do.

One day, you will look back and say that it was all worth it. Even the very worst parts were worth it to get to the glory.

 

 

Belmont Move-In Day, 2015 Edition

Feature_Belmont_MoveInDay

I’m sore. I don’t think I’ve been this sore in quite some time, but it was more than worth it.

I got out of bed at the most ungodly hour of 5:40 (on a Saturday, no less) to drive to Belmont Heights Baptist Church. From there, several Kairos folks and I went to the Patton-Bear Dorm to help move freshmen into their dorm rooms.

I’m feeling every bit of those six flights of stairs I climbed more times than I can count. I’m also feeling satisfaction over the knowledge that we helped to ease the stress and trauma (mostly to the parents of the freshmen). What would’ve taken all day for them took approximately five minutes.

I met four new canine friends who just happened to be hanging out at Belmont near where we were working. One was a rescued Boston Terrier who had the distinction of having one blue eye. I can’t fathom who would get a dog only to neglect, abuse, and abandon it. But I am glad he’s found a good and loving home at last.

Most of service in the Kingdom of God is being faithful in the details and small stuff. We earn the right to have our gospel message heard when we walk the extra mile with people and help them carry their burdens (in this case literal burdens). We gain an audience when we first listen to what they have to say.

I counted in my head and this makes my fourth year of toting boxes up and down stairs and seeing the faces of grateful freshmen and their parents. I also figured that most of the freshmen I helped the first time are probably getting ready to graduate in May of next year.

God willing, I plan to be back for my fifth year in 2016. Maybe by then I’ll be in better shape. Maybe we’ll get assigned to a dorm with less floors.

 

Family Bible

“There’s a family Bible on the table each page is torn and hard to read
But the family Bible on the table will ever be my key to memories
At the end of day when work was over and when the evening meal was done
Dad would read to us from the family Bible
And we’d count our many blessings one by one
I can see us sittin’ round the table when from the family Bible dad would read
I can hear my mother softly singing rock of ages rock of ages cleft for me” ( P. Buskirk, W. Breeland, C. Gray).

I’m reading through the New English Bible this year. I picked it up at McKay’s Used Books, Movies, Music (and Everything Else Your Nerdy Little Heart Could Possibly Desire).

This Bible previously belonged to Jo Ann Hardin, who received it as a gift on September 5, 1975. She was married to Robert Allen Hardin on March 13, 1954 by the Rev. Cecil Ewell. They had four children.

She was good about taking notes and marking favorite passages in her Bible, and I benefit from it. I love to see what verses spoke to her and what struck her out of a sermon she heard on any given Sunday.

My mother has underlined and dated verses for years. If a given verse speaks to her or relates to her current circumstances, she highlights it and writes the date in the margins. That’s a good way to go back and see how God has been speaking through the years. After all, we are so very prone to forget.

I love how God doesn’t leave it to each new generation to figure out the faith-life. He provides the example of the preceding generations, the “cloud of witnesses,” to show us how it’s done.

I hope one day to pass a Bible on to some future generation to carry on the legacy of the Family Bible.

 

Something I Read Lately

philippians

 

I’ve prayed this prayer many times on many different occasions. Never once has God answered my prayer by changing my circumstances, i.e. making my life easier, taking away my difficulties, instantly transporting me to the other side of my trials. What He has done is reminded me ever so subtly that He will be with me as He always has during my dark road.

Peace isn’t always  a feeling of contentment. Sometimes, the butterflies remain but so does the promise that God won’t forsake me. For me, a feeling of peace doesn’t always mean peace, nor does a lack of it indicate its absence. Try and work that one out and see if it makes sense.

After all, it is a peace that is beyond my utmost understanding. I don’t need a god who I can figure out and manage and understand. I need a God who is bigger than me, stronger than me, wiser than me. I need a God who is completely Other than me (not a bigger, stronger, wiser version of me).

My advice to you? Keep praying for that peace that passes all understanding and keep claiming it, whether you feel it or not. Keep trusting that the God of peace is walking with you through your dark road.

Sometimes the absence of peace means there is something in your life that needs to change. You’ll generally have an idea of what that something is and how to go about making the changes. You can’t have peace if you’re consistently making choices that go against God’s Word and refuse to submit to His will for your life.

Even then, peace comes with repentance. Peace comes to those whose hearts are broken, like King David’s, over their sin. Peace comes to those who admit once again their total and complete dependence on God.

That’s all for tonight. Come back for something completely different. Or maybe more of the same. You never can tell with me.

 

 

 

Keep On Keeping On

“Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says: “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!” (Revelation 3:14,20 MSG).

That’s who wins– the conquerors. Those who keep showing up day after day and never give in or give up. Those who stand by their convictions, no matter how popular they are, and don’t compromise for the sake of appeasing others and fitting in.

It may not feel like winning at the time. It may feel like all that you can do to make it out of bed, put on clothes, and put one foot in front of the other until it’s time to go to bed again.

You may feel defeated. You may feel hopeless. But you still keep getting up and going forth. Sometimes, that’s what winning looks like.

To be on Jesus’ side is to be on the winning side. To have Jesus in your corner is to already be more than a conqueror.

Jesus has read the past page in the last chapter of your book. In fact, He has written it. He knows how your story ends. He’s even promised that it would be the best ending you could ever imagine. And the best part? He’s not only read it; He’s in it as the main character. The hero.

Remember that the next time you feel dragged down and beat up by life. Just think about that when you’re closer than ever to throwing in that proverbial towel. You have already won.

 

 

Return to Randomness

This is what I do when I can’t think of anything productive to write about. I start typing and let the words fall where they may.

I’m thinking a lot about what it means to live gratefully. It’s harder than it sounds. It’s definitely counter-cultural when every other ad tells you that you need to be more, do more, buy more, invest more, and try harder in order to be happy. It’s funny how each of the ads has a different idea about what will make you whole and complete.

I’m thinking still about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. He/she may look and act different, but those old fears and hang-ups are still there. You can’t change yourself from the outside in– it’s the other way around. I do hope he/she finds true peace and fulfillment, but I wonder what will happen when all the hoopla dies down and they turn off the cameras.

True peace comes from knowing Jesus and reclining fully on everything He is– everything He said and did and promised– and believing in that completely. Not minus anything and not plus anything else.

The key to fulfillment (as I am learning) is to see your life as a gift and every adversity as a tool to chisel you into something better. That’s what truly transforms you. Plus, it costs a whole lot less than an operation.

I know people are struggling with issues that I can’t even begin to comprehend. I can look at a person’s profile picture on Facebook and see only a smiling face and not all the secret baggage, hurt, and pain that person bears each and every day.

I still believe that Jesus is in control and that He will set all things right one day soon. I still believe that nothing is impossible for God and it is never too late to become who you might have always been.

On top of all that, I’m starting to get interested in Major League Baseball again. According to Back to the Future Part II, the Chicago Cubs are supposed to win the World Series this year. Also, those day-glo hoverboards should start showing up just about any day now.

That’s all the randomness I can muster up for one night. I’ll see you again tomorrow with something more organized and normal.

 

Back at McKay’s

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31, The Message).

If you’ve kept up with my posts, you know that my idea of heaven is a place like McKay’s Used Books, CDs, Movies & More. It’s a place where the inner book-nerd can bask in the glow of the warmth that comes from a warehouse filled with everything to satisfy his geeky little heart.

I went Saturday and did my usual trading old unwanted stuff for new wanted stuff. I picked up The Beatles Anthology Volumes 1 & 2. Lo and behold, when I got home I discovered that Volume 1 consisted of two Disc 2s and no Disc 1.

So I went back today. What else could a self-respecting multimedia nerd do?

I ended up trading in a bit more and picked up a fantastic (to me) CD called Music Box Christmas Creations (which I am currently listening to as I write this) for the princely sum of 19 cents.

I also got the Beatles Anthology Volume 1 with both discs.

I had thoughts of putting up a hammock and calling it home, but then I realized my cat Lucy might object. She’s already camping out on my backpack to keep me from leaving home after I spend four nights dog sitting in the Bellevue area.

The best place is still in the “Very Scratched” section. Most people will pass that up, but I’ve learned that with the miracle of a little 70% rubbing alcohol (and occasionally some toothpaste) you can get any CD with scratches to play, In fact, you really have to work hard to make a CD unplayable (as I’ve learned).

Most of us are like that. We’re not new. We’ve got some scratches and scars and wear and tear from a life of poor choices, unfortunate circumstances, and that old persistent problem called a sin nature.

God still chooses to use us. He goes to the discarded section and picks us out because He has plans for us. I love that about God.

I only wish I had more stuff to trade at McKay’s. Maybe one day soon.