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).

 

Going Home

winding road

“Going home is a lifelong journey. There are always parts of ourselves that wander off in dissipation or get stuck in resentment. Before we know it we are lost in lustful fantasies or angry ruminations. Our night dreams and daydreams often remind us of our lostness.

Spiritual disciplines such as praying, fasting and caring are ways to help us return home. As we walk home we often realise how long the way is. But let us not be discouraged. Jesus walks with us and speaks to us on the road. When we listen carefully we discover that we are already home while on the way” (Henri Nouwen).

That’s what really matters in the end.

I’m headed toward my real home and Jesus is the one who’ll help me get there.

This journey is where Jesus walks with us and speaks to us. In fact, Jesus Himself said that knowing Him is the journey. He said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

He didn’t say that He knew the way.

He didn’t even say that He was an expert in the knowledge about the way.

He said He is THE way.

There is no other way because no other god ever took on human flesh and became one of us. No other god willingly laid down his life for us in order that we might escape the punishment we deserved.

Sometimes, the way seems long and hard. Many of us sometimes feel like we will never get to the place we want to be or become the persons we feel we should have been all along.

Rest easy, my friends.

Jesus promised that even though the road was narrow and few find it, He would be there.

Jesus promised that His yoke would be easy and His burden light.

Jesus promised that He would finish that great work He started in you.

He promised to never leave or forsake you.

When Jesus is with you, you truly are already home while you’re on the road home.

 

Blog #1,796 (or What I Took Away from Another Good Night at Kairos)

Tonight’s guest speaker was Tyler McKenzie, who spoke from the Beatitudes about what it meant to be blessed.

American culture has a decidedly different take on what being blessed looks like than Jesus. Unfortunately, too many believers (including me at times) have fallen into their idea that wealth, success, power, popularity, and recognition are what it looks like when you’re blessed.

Jesus had a very different idea. He said that you were blessed if you were poor in spirit, mourning, meek, righteous, merciful, pure in heart, and persecuted. Those are not concepts that you’ll find in the self-help section of the bookstore or in any motivational speeches. At least not in 99% of them.

Blessing involves foregoing the immediate and temporary pleasures of the now for a greater and lasting joy that’s partly now but mostly later. It means following the path of Jesus, who for the future joy set before Him endured the present pain and suffering of the cross.

Pain and suffering aren’t words we normally associate with blessing. I’d much rather have comfort and convenience (and chocolate as often as possible). I’d rather choose the easy over the hard path. Sometimes, I’m content to hunker down in my safe haven and pray to be able to coast into heaven. But that’s not the gateway to joy.

As I remember, the Greek word for blessed is a very interesting word. Before Jesus used it in this context, it wasn’t ever used to refer to people but rather to the gods. But here Jesus is saying that if you’re poor in spirit, you have the joy that God has. You can experience (or come as close to experiencing as any fallen human can) the state of blessedness that God lives in. You can have joy overflowing and life abundant.

I don’t want this to turn into another burden of “you and I really need to add this to the list of things we need to work on.” It’s not something I need to work on, but something Jesus is already working on in me. Ultimately, I’m not blessed because I have it all together but because I know that Jesus has it all together and He has me.

 

What’s It Worth?

“Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?'” (Mark 8:34-37).

God is not your co-pilot. If He is, it’s time to switch seats.

But enough of cliches. This is the gospel. It’s not about prosperity and happiness. It’s about following Jesus, no matter what, even if it hurts.

Sometimes where Jesus leads is pleasant, but not always.

Sometimes, it feels good to follow Jesus, but sometimes it feels like swimming against the current.

Sometimes, you’ll really feel like saying yes to whatever Jesus asks of you, but sometimes you will have to say yes when your feelings are saying no.

It’s about letting Jesus lead, wherever He takes you and through whatever He brings you.

As much as I love my comfort and convenience, that’s not the road that Jesus took.

His road was marked with suffering and pain.

His road was definitely the road less traveled, the narrow road that few find that leads to life eternal.

His road was the road that led to you and me in our worst moments, where He invited us to follow and find out what a different and better life could look like.

What good would it do me to get everything I’ve ever wanted and dreamed about, everything on my Amazon wish list, everything on my bucket list, and lose my soul in the process?

If I have everything else and no Jesus, I have nothing. If I have nothing else but Jesus, I have everything.

The end.

 

Going Public

“God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness” Titus‬ ‭2‬:‭11-14‬ MSG).

I think that pretty much covers it.

Peter, Peter, Peter

 “As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. ‘A ghost!’ they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. ‘Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.’

Peter, suddenly bold, said, ‘Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.’

He said, ‘Come ahead.’

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, ‘Faint-heart, what got into you?’

The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, ‘This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!'” (Matthew 14:22-33, The Message).

I’ve been thinking about Peter, the disciple with the chronic case of foot-in-mouth disease. He got into trouble by saying things and acting out without really thinking it through. Not that any of us can relate, right?

He often gets a bad rap for the whole sinking bit. After Jesus calls him to walk on water, he gets so far out and sees the waves and panics and . . . . down he goes. Only a fast-acting Jesus keeps Peter from sleeping with the fishes. Literally.

But for a moment or two, Peter walked on water. Other than Jesus Himself, Peter is the only other in history who can make that claim.

While it’s easy to chide Peter for taking his eyes off Jesus, you have to give him kudos for getting out of the boat in the first place. After all, there were eleven other disciples who stayed put.

Peter left everything he knew, everything that was comfortable, and everything that made sense in that moment to come to where Jesus was. To me, failure would have been Peter staying in the boat and saying, “No thanks, Jesus. I’m fine. Really.”

I can relate to the other disciples. It’s easy to stay in the boat and criticize the ones who try to get out and do something. It’s easy to sit where you have something tangible to hold onto in the middle of raging waves.

But that kind of faith never gets you anywhere. It’s the faith that takes risks, that takes that step of faith out into the scary unknown, that leads us to where Jesus is. That’s the faith that takes us to places where we see the impossible becoming reality.

Lord, I want that kind of faith that Peter had in that moment. I want to step out of the boat, get my feet wet, and make fool of myself if it will help get me a little closer to You.

Amen.

 

Absolutely Positively Definitely Maybe

Definitely-Maybe-2008-movie-quote

“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:18-21, The Message).

Such a great moment in the movie. I’ve actually owned Definitely, Maybe for a while and just now got around to watching it (one of the few perks of being without a job).

I love that line because it reminds me so much of God and the Story He is writing. And I do so love stories, especially when they’re well-told and have happy endings.

I know that ultimately God’s Story is about God, as it should be, but one of the very happy side effects is you and me finding redemption and freedom and abundant life. Because of God’s Story, you and I have a Story that we get to share. Because of God’s Story, we know that our Story will always have a happy ending because God has written it already. I read the last page of the book and I know that it’s good.

It’s hard to remember that when the Story seems headed for tragedy or when the current chapter seems like it will never end and circumstances will never change or get better. It’s hard to see that happy ending when you’re wondering how you’ll pay the bills or make your struggling marriage work or find that job that makes you come alive.

As I’ve learned in reading books, you don’t put down the book when the characters run into hard times. You keep going with the hope that those struggles will lead to something better. As Corrie Ten Boom says, you don’t jump off the train when it goes through a dark tunnel. You trust the Engineer to get you through.

I don’t want to be that guy who says things like, “Hold on, it will get better” or “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” When you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or discouragement, bumper sticker quotes don’t really do the trick.

You need to know that God is still faithful to His promises. You need to know that the same Jesus who conquered death and the grave can conquer your circumstances. You need to know that He will finish what He started in you because He said He would.

That’s a happy ending.

 

Who Is This Jesus?

That’s the question of the night from speaker Tyler McKenzie.

Who else’s birthday do we still celebrate nearly 2,000 years later? Who else do we gather together– some risking their lives to do so–to honor, to celebrate, to sing songs about, to worship?

Who else has changed the way we look at history? Literally, there is a before and after centered around this Man.

Some want Jesus to be a nice guy, a great teacher, a grand example. But Jesus’ own words don’t allow that. The best explanation of Jesus comes from the pen of one Mr. C. S. Lewis, who said that Jesus was either crazy enough to be committed to an asylum, a pathological liar on a grand scale, or He was who He said He was. In other words, Jesus was either a lunatic, a liar, or He’s Lord.

I bet I got a chorus of “Amen”s on that, but how many of us actually live like Jesus is Lord? Like what He did and Who He was (and still is) matters more than anything or anyone else in history?

Jesus is not a board member in your life whose advice you take under consideration. He’s boss of your life. He’s in control. To use a very non-pc term, He’s your Master.

I heard it somewhere and thought it was worth sharing– if someone rejects Christianity, the question to ask is “What version of Jesus was presented to you?”

Was it meek-and-mild Jesus who seemed bored most of the time? Was it the Jesus who just wanted us to all get along and was completely passive? Was it the Jesus who was a white, middle-class Republican who lived in the suburbs and drove a minivan?

Or was it the Ultimate God-Man who beat death on its own terms and emerged from the grave victorious? Was it that Jesus who went through it all for love of you and me?

It’s not about sin management. It’s not about having your doctrines line up like ducks in a row. It’s not about being a good Christian who fastidiously keeps the list of things not to do. It’s about once being dead in sin and now being alive because Jesus died for me and gave me His life so that I could really and truly and finally live.

That’s it.