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.

 

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.

 

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).

 

Django and Jimmy and a Busted Thursday Night

The bad news is that my Thursday night ended up being pretty much of a bust. Nothing worked out quite the way I had hoped it would. The good news is that I was listening to some great music while all my best laid plans went kaput.

First of all, the good. How can you go wrong with Willie Nelson AND Merle Haggard one one album? What you get is 14 tracks of awesomeness and some seriously old-school country music by folks who know what country music should sound like.

http://www.amazon.com/Django-Jimmie-Willie-Nelson-Haggard/dp/B00VXGTJMU/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1443750246&sr=1-1&keywords=django+and+jimmie+willie+nelson+%26+merle+haggard

The bad? I was supposed to lead a Life Group that met at the Starbucks on Franklin Road in Brentwood. I found out that it’s kinda hard to lead when you’re the only one to show up. Still, it wasn’t so bad. I had my pumpkin spice latte, Harper Lee, and Netflix to keep me company. Also, I did my fine dining with a chicken bowl at Chipotle (although I overdid the Tabasco Chipotle sauce just a tad).

The ugly was me showing up at Hudson Hall, thinking I would find a little peace and quiet, forgetting that it was Girls Night Out, which means No Boys Allowed and Me Feeling Like a Doofus and Doing My Best Joey Tribbiani Impression aka Not My Brightest Moment Ever.

Also, all the parking lights were out in the church parking lot, which was a bit creepy. Especially on a coldish, rainy night.

Back to the good news. Even though Thursday, October 1, won’t go down as the greatest day in the history of Greg, it still only lasts 24 hours. I get a new day (which just so happens to be Friday) tomorrow. I get to dogsit for some family friends in Murfreesboro over the weekend.

Life’s better when you count your blessings instead of nursing your wounds. Gratitude makes every situation better, because it helps you to see God in every situation more clearly.

Plus, pumpkin spice anything makes the day better.

 

A Good Place to Start

It was another good night at Kairos, a young(ish) adult worship event that takes place at 7pm every Tuesday night at Brentwood Baptist Church (shameless plug). It’s located off I-65 exit 71 if you’re ever in the area (another shameless plug).

Tonight, Mike Glenn spoke about how Jesus, who defined how we measure history, came into the world in an inauspicious way. He didn’t come with pomp and circumstance to Jerusalem or Rome. He was born to peasant parents in backwater Bethlehem and the first eyewitnesses to the event were some smelly shepherds keeping their flocks in a nearby field.

The takeaway from tonight? Jesus is looking for a good place to start.

If I can offer up even the most hesitant agreements and the most tentative yes to God, He can completely transform my world and then use me to transform the world around me. I still believe that because I’ve seen it too many times not to believe.

That’s why I love the Christmas story. Jesus didn’t ask us to get our acts together and get cleaned up so we could make our way to Him. While we was still mired in sin, Jesus came down to where we were and became one of us. Not as a high and mighty ruler or a holier-than-thou mystic, but as the son of a carpenter. A regular joe.

By the way, if you come to Kairos, they have free coffee and Cheez-Its. For me, that’s an irresistible draw, but I understand that not everyone has come to truly experience the awesomeness of the little snack crackers known as Cheez-Its. I pray they one day will.

And if you’re stuck in a rut or don’t like where you are, remember that God is always looking for a good place to start. Maybe that next place is in you?

 

Worship Revisited

“Worship is to honour with extravagant love and extreme submission” (Webster’s Dictionary, 1828).

Tonight at Kairos, Michael Boggs talked about worship. If anybody knows about worship, you’d think it’d be someone who makes his living as a worship leader. Yes, he’s really, really good at leading others into the presence of God through worship music.

Yet he himself would say that worship isn’t restricted solely to singing of songs. Worship is more than music, more than a song.

Worship is a lifestyle that starts where we live, work, and play. Worship is an attitude that informs everything we do. Worship is a state of mind that turns even the most menial of tasks into acts of adoration to God.

I’m guilty of expecting the most up-to-date songs when I go to a worship event. I expect professional-caliber musicianship (I suppose I’m a bit spoiled from living in Nashville where practically everyone plays guitar and writes songs and sings).

True worship starts before I walk through the church doors. If I am truly worshipping in spirit and in truth like Jesus told me I should, then I can worship to the latest Hillsong offering with a full band or a 500-year old hymn accompanied by a pipe organ and piano.

I’ve been to a tiny church where the pastor spoke with a thick African accent that was difficult for me to understand. The girl who led worship was about a half-step off-key the entire time. Yet I can’t think of a more worshipful experience.

A good musician with a good band can manipulate a crowd into an excited frenzy. Big speakers, colorful lights, and the right atmosphere can heighten the emotional rush. But there is still no true worship without the Holy Spirit, even with the most talented musicians and sound/light techs in the world.

My prayer is that my worship won’t just be on Sundays at 9:30 am and on Tuesdays at 7 pm, but 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I pray that my worship won’t just be lyrics but a radical and extravagant love, not just songs but a total and extreme submission, and not just music but a way of life that speaks louder than any songs ever could.

 

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.

 

Tuesdays Are Good Again

As you know, I’m a greeter for Kairos, a contemporary worship event on Tuesdays at 7 pm. I realized tonight that this fall will mark nine years that I have volunteered by offering a smile and a hello as people make their way into Hudson Hall on the Brentwood Baptist Church campus.

I love what I do and I love that people know me as the greeter guy from Kairos. I truly think that my worship experience is all the greater for me having invested, however small, my time and my somewhat limited people skills. I’m not the world’s biggest extrovert who can walk up to any stranger at any time and start a conversation, but I can offer a friendly greeting to the person in front of me.

On some days, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. I mean how hard is it really to wave at someone and say, “Hi”?

But then I think that maybe the person I’m greeting has had a rotten day or even a horrible week. I may be the first face that person has seen that isn’t cursing at them or sneering at them. Maybe that person will look at me and see Jesus smiling at them. Who knows?

I’ve been on the other end, barely making it through the week and badly in need of something– anything– positive. I know the power of a smile and a friendly greeting. I know the power of encouraging words, whether spoken or texted or posted. In fact, when I missed Kairos a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on my wall that she missed seeing me there. That meant the world to me.

You don’t have to have the Bible memorized or have your theology down pat to be able to serve. All you need are open hands and a willing heart. Sometimes, all you need is simply to show up and get out of the way so that Jesus can take over.