Broken and Shared

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A friend of mine wrote these words: “Unless grapes and grain are broken there will be no bread and wine. Unless the broken are shared there will be no communion.”

Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it may be because pieces will feed a multitude when a loaf would satisfy only a little boy.”

Sometimes, in order for God to use me, I have to be broken before I can be shared.

No, I take that back. EVERY time God gets ready to use me He starts first by breaking me. Every single time.

I don’t mean every time I completely fall apart and lose every possession and wind up destitute. I mean usually a dream of mine dies. Or a friend lets me down. Or I find myself overwhelmed by life.

It’s the day to day stuff that I stumble over most often. The big crises find me more calm and trusting in God’s strength and provision. But the small details get to me.

Dying to self isn’t always as grand and dramatic as taking a bullet for someone you love. It means dying a thousand times in a thousand small ways every day. It means dying to self-rights, to pride, to vanity, to my own way of seeing and doing things. Those are the hard deaths.

If you are going through brokenness, take comfort in this. God will bless so many more with your broken life than He could with your perfect life. Everything you’ve lost, God will restore a thousand fold, in the lives of a thousand people who find the hope of God’s provision in your story of ruin and redemption.

I still don’t like pain. I don’t like discomfort or inconvenience. I get impatient in front of the microwave, for crying out loud.

But I trust God’s leading. I trust His heart more than my own feelings, my own perceived need for comfort and safety and calm. Trusting that the bridge built with planks of thanksgiving and joy will hold up until I get all the way Home.

Has It Really Been 22 Years?

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In case you’re wondering what 22 years is referring to, that’s how long it’s been since I went on an actual date. With an actual girl. To a place outside my imagination.

At first, that thought was horribly and mind-numbingly depressing, but later I saw it as a blessing. More on that later. Back to the sad me.

I’ve never kissed a girl. And no, I have not nor will I ever kiss a dude. Blech!

I’ve never even held hands with a girl outside of prayer groups. And yes, I was one of those guys who tried to strategically place myself next to the girl I liked right before the prayer started so I could hold her hand. Notice how I said “tried.” Key word there.

But you know what?

I’m still blessed.

I’m still living my miracle.

How?

I have known nights where I didn’t think I could hold on until the sunrise. It was then I felt my Abba’s arms encircling me, holding me tight. There is not a moment when my hand has ever slipped out of the firm grip of my Father’s strong hand.

And yes, I have known the sweet kisses of grace and the embrace of mercy unfolding over and around me. I know what it is to be desired by the Great Lover and ravished by Sweet Words of Love. I know Jesus sings over me nightly because His delight is in me.

So I am as blessed (or more so) than people with far more impressive dating resumes who have found their dream-mate.

I know I was, am, and will always be the dream in God’s heart, the apple of His eye, the one He adores, and His beloved son in whom He is well pleased.

That is so much more than enough for me.

Isn’t It Ironic? Don’t You Think?

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Ahh, the irony of it all. And as you well know, the opposite of irony is wrinkly. That was a freebie, totally unrelated to what will follow.

I have to confess something. Again.

I’m really good at patience until I run into someone who’s not. Let’s just say I am very impatient with impatient people. You know the kind. Those who are ALWAYS in a hurry and will cut in front of you to save those precious few seconds.

I’m a big believer in grace and showing it to others. Except for when it comes to legalistic and judgmental people. Like those Westboro Baptist people. I’d really like to give them a piece of my mind, which is probably not a good idea since I need to keep what mind I have left.

I am all for inclusion and welcoming everybody. Except for that guy who is obviously not as socially adept as I am. Or that girl who refuses to join in the conversation.

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Do you get where I’m going?

All this proves that I am, despite all my own protests to the contrary, all the things I detest in those other people. I am impatient, judgmental, exclusivist, and not a loving person. At least not in a way that will make people around me take notice.

Anybody can love someone who loves them back. It’s easy to be kind to a kind person.

But a true test of patience is dealing with those impatient folks. A true test of grace is how you answer those who are always out condemning this group or that person. The litmus test of Christ’s love is intentionally showing love to those who aren’t as easy to talk to or get along with.

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Now isn’t that ironic? Don’t you think?

We– meaning, I– would like to think that this love business is just something we can get down if we try harder, work at it more, eat our greenies, and grit our teeth.

The truth is it’s impossible to truly love someone the way we’re supposed to. Like the way Jesus loves us.

Only Jesus can love like that. Only Jesus’ love for us in us flowing through us can reach other people that we would (or could) never love on our own.

Like the Robert Randolph song says, “I need more love every day of my life.”

I need more of that love.

Maybe the more I make an effort to go to that unsocial person, that impatient driver, that judgmental guy with an open mind and an open heart, the more that love flows out of me and the more I am able to receive.

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May we be less like lakes where love stagnates and more like rivers where love always flows in and out.

Revisiting the Old Fears

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All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends” (Ann Voskamp).

Sometimes they do come back.

I’m talking about fears. Every so often, you will run into one of those along your path, usually when you least expect it and thought you had dealt with it.

Here’s a few examples.

Someone stops responding to your texts. The fear says, “See? You’ve offended that person in some way. You’ve ruined the relationship and it will never again be the same.”

A good friend moves to another town. “The fear moved in and whispers, “She won’t tell you to your face, but the real reason she moved was to get away from you.”

The one that dogged me for years was this: “Every one will eventually abandon you. Once they’ve seen what you’re really like, they won’t want to have anything more to do with you. They’ll start by growing distant with you and then disappear altogether. Nothing you do matters. No one notices anything you say. You might as well never have been born.”

Or maybe your fear goes like this: “You’re not worth someone’s love. No one could ever be attracted to you. You are repulsive to the opposite sex. You will always be alone.”

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Fear lies. That’s its nature.

Fear doesn’t come from God. Ever. Fear comes from the father of lies and means to keep you from God, imprisoned in your anxieties and phobias

Remember, perfect love casts out fear. And you are perfectly loved, just as you are, not as you should be or could be.

Name the fear. Expose it. Demons die in the light. Rebuke that fear OUT LOUD in the name of Jesus.

You in and of yourself will never defeat fear, but the power of Christ in you has already beaten it once and for all. That power is yours now to claim.

If you’ve allowed yourself to be mastered again to that fear, repent and move forward. Shame is a close relative of fear and is just as bent on keeping you away from God. Shame is also a defeated foe.

You as a child of God fight not for victory but FROM it. Keep that in mind and have a blessed Monday!

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A Kairos Greeter Prayer

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“I want the last face you see in this world to be the face of love, so you look at me when they do this thing. I’ll be the face of love for you” (Sister Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking).

Lord,

I’m just one person. There are so many hurting and lost people who feel like nobody sees them. There are so many crying out for someone to notice them in their pain and anguish. Some will be here tonight for Kairos. Some will bring their profound brokenness, their wrist scars, their needle marks, their shattered dreams, their dashed hopes.

Help the first face they see in mine to be the face of Love. For some, it could be the last face they see, and may they leave this world knowing they saw at least one face filled with Your lovingkindness.

Help them to not see Greg Johnson, but Jesus Christ. May it be His smile they see and His words they hear and His hope they receive.

Let Your joy be in me and let it overflow to those who walk by. May your peace radiate outward from me in tangible waves to those who are in bondage to fear and doubt and anxiety. May You be everything in that moment and may I be nothing but a vessel for You to love Your people through.

I can’t touch every single hurting person, but I can be Jesus to just one. I can love the person in front of me. I can show grace to the next person who walks by my door.

Most of all, may they not remember me or Michael Boggs and the worship team or Mike Glenn (or whoever else happens to be teaching that night). If they don’t remember any of the lyrics to any of the songs or anything of the message, may they walk away knowing they have met with You, the Almighty Creator and King of the Universe as well as the Abba Father and Counter of the Lowliest Sparrow.

And may they never be the same again.

Amen.

Things I Love 32: Everything Will Be Fine in the End

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“The prayers we weave into the matching of socks, the stirring of oatmeal, the reading of stories, they survive fire” (Ann Voskamp).

“I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done-yesterday” (Ann Voskamp).

The way I figure it, I have only two of these left. Then again, I was never good at math. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be a rebel and add one extra just for the fun of it. Why stop at 1,000? Why stop at all? Gratitude means you never stop counting your blessings that you become aware of as you number them one by one. So that said, I start again at #936.

936) Making my triumphant return to swing dancing tonight at Centennial Park.

937) How anyone who has ever worked in a corporate environment can relate to the movie Office Space.

938) The Greek on the GO! Strawberry Granola Bites. You can’t have just one. Or at least I can’t.

939) Whenever my family gets together.

940) That I’m losing my mind and as long as I don’t lose the part that tells me when to pee, I’ll be just fine.

941) Reading The Horse and His Boy again for probably the 15th year in a row.

942) Having “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” as my new text and email alert on my iPhone.

943) Mild summer days with low humidity.

944) Having my only expectations be that God will keep all His promises to me.

945) The Dream of someone.

946) Using Inappropriately Captalized Letters At Random.

947) Having access to the Throne of Grace 24 hours 7 days a week.

948) Sometimes my only mode of transportation is a leap of faith (borrowed from a Facebook post).

949) That I don’t have to fire cannons to call attention to my shining; all I have to do is shine (from D. L. Moody).

950) Borrowing quotes and ideas from people on Facebook.

951) Being able to highlight verses in my YouVersion Bible app on my iPhone.

952) Having all my Christmas music on my laptop in case I ever feel the need for Christmas in July (or August).

953) Office chairs that swivel and spin.

954) Saturdays when it’s not raining.

955) Ditto for Sundays.

956) Not having been hit by any cars in the last 6 months.

957) Being alone and praying in Baskin Chapel at Brentwood Baptist Church.

958) Every time someone accepts my friend request on Facebook.

959) The way when I’m in a serious moment of silence and my stomach suddenly decides to do a spot-on impression of a whale’s mating call (borrowed this one from Pinterest).

960) That the walk of faith is not about seeing the whole journey but taking the next step.

961) That my hope isn’t in a President but a King.

962) Knowing the Kingdom of God is now and not yet.

963) Nerds candy.

964) Big League Chew bubble gum.

965) Meeting an Asian person who hates all Asian food (and thus busting another stereotype).

966) Asian food of just about any kind.

967) All George MacDonald’s fantasy stories.

968) How much I can relate to John Cusack’s characters in just about every one of his movies.

969) Living in the moment and finding God there.

970) My friend at Ultimate Frisbee who looks like Amanda Seyfried and who always makes me smile.

Things I Love 19: Yay, I Finally Finished the Book!

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“…the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is” (Ann Voskamp).

I’ve probably quoted half of the book on my facebook page by now. I’m sure I’m in serious violation of some copyright laws somewhere, even though I did give Mrs. Voskamp credit for every single quote. I’m sure my friends are probably either sick to death of this book or waiting for their own order of the book to come in through amazon.com.  That being said (and it was short and pointless), I start out with #481.

481) The smell of coppertone suntan spray.

482) Remembering my uncle for the amazing father he was (and wishing I could hug his neck once more).

483) My eternal optimism that one day I will get through Candy Crush Saga level 33. I’m not defeated just yet.

484) Not getting what I deserve, especially what I think I deserve, but getting something so much bigger and better.

485) My bathroom air freshener that smells like oranges.

486) My friend (who will remain nameless) who always encourages me and listens to me when I talk crazy (especially that night after the Sounds game).

487) That my spiritual gift seems to be always leaving something behind wherever I go.

488) The unusually cool night that was tailor-made for sand volleyball.

489) All those things Julie Andrews sang about in that annoyingly cheery song from The Sound of Music.

490) The way my cat still wants to sleep in my lap after I’ve stepped on her tail, made disparaging remarks about her weight, and let her food bowl run empty yet again.

491) A full moon on a clear night.

492) That insanity doesn’t run in my family. Rather, it strolls through, taking its time, getting to know everyone personally (stolen from something I saw on pinterest).

493) Unquenchable hope in an undefeatable God.

494) All of my family including aunts, uncles, cousins– and all those who are related not by blood but by a common Father.

495) That I’ll never be normal but I can be extraordinary.

496) Those extremely offensive and very politically incorrect Helen Keller jokes.

497) Writing this blog while watching a Golden Girls marathon.

498) 20 second of insane courage and embarrassing bravery.

499) Ross ending up with Rachel in the last episode of Friends.

500) Being halfway through my list of 1,000 things I love.

501) The “It’s Jake from State Farm” commercial. Cracks me up every time.

502) The smell in the air of people grilling out.

503) People who like me for me.

504) Happy endings in movies, books, TV shows, etc.

505) That I’m looking forward to my ultimate happily ever ending in the Kingdom of God.

506) A warm glass of milk late at night.

507) People who respond to texts and posts every single time.

508) Writing because I want to and not because it’s due Friday.

509) Every time Joey Tribbiani says, “How you doin’?”

510) Never having to get lost again thanks to GPS.

511) All my teacher friends who work insane hours for ridiculous pay to make a difference in the next generation.

512) Long hair on an older woman.

513) All those cat mystery books by Lillian Jackson Braun (except maybe that last one).

514) The days when every single problem could be solved in 30 minutes (23 not counting commercials).

515) That pirates can’t ever remember the alphabet because they always get lost at “c”– think about it for a minute and you’ll get it.

Things I Love 13: Not Written on a Friday Nor on the 13th

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I normally make some witty and socially relevant comment right about now, but we’re skipping that to get to the list. I do want to get to 1,000 before I’m 80. So we’re starting this one at #293.

293) The moment when gratitude wins out over self-pity, hurt, and anger.

294) Knowing I can never go back to the way things used to be but that the future will be so much better.

295) Iced Tazo Tea Lemonade and sympathetic baristas.

296) Condemning words and harsh unforgiving texts no longer will define who I am or wreck my life.

297) The idea that one day one girl out there will not only want to go out with me on a date, but will actually want to spend the rest of her life with me as my wife.

298) Christmasy candles that fill the air with apple and pumpkin spice aromas.

299) I’ve gotten so used to typing instead of writing that I automatically expect to see that red little line under a word when I’ve misspelled it.

300) The word phonetics isn’t spelled phonetically (otherwise it would be spelled starting with an f).

301) Alanis Morissette’s song Ironic contains no actual ironies– now, isn’t that ironic? Don’t you think?

302) Lost hopes restored and broken dreams reborn.

303) Candy Crush Saga– and yes, I can quit at any time.

304) Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

305) My sister, who is much prettier than Joan Jett.

306) Fruit Ninja.

307) Hearing Emmylou Harris sing just about ANYTHING.

308) Someone will read these lists and be inspired to start one of their own.

309) The beauty of seeing a classic film in the high definition format of blu ray and noticing details and textures that even the original movie audiences would have missed.

310) I’m a guy who has Breakfast at Tiffany’s in his top five movie list and am comfortable with that.

311) Still knowing all the words to the Don McLean song American Pie.

312) Knowing just about all the lines from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

313) Any movie starring both Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

314) A perfect God using imperfect people to accomplish his purposes in the world.

315) God using nobodies to shame the who’s who and turn the world right-side up again.

316) Even the worst commercials are only 30 seconds long (or on rare occasion, 1 minute).

317) Chillin’ like a villain.

318) Being like Phoebe Buffay from the TV show friends (in personality, not looks, in case you were confused).

319) Cereal at midnight.

320) One day God will wipe every tear from every  eye and everything wrong will be made right again.

321) Being me.

Things I Love 12: Tested And Approved by Lucy The Wonder Kitty

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Lucy is in my lap, approving  whatever I type. Of course, she can’t read, but if she could, she would add her own comments (most of which would not be fit to print in a family-style blog such as this one). So I’ll take her silence as either approval or extreme sleepiness.

The list commences with #264 (I think).

264) Ice-cold water to quench my thirst on a humid summer day.

265) A long walk alone under a full moon at night (as opposed to all those moonlit walks during the day).

266) That I’m finally at a place where I’m comfortable alone or in a crowd.

267) Planned spontaneity.

268) That I’ve come to the place where if I never see a certain person ever again (and at the moment it appears very likely to be the case), that I will be glad for the friendship; I will miss her, but my life will go on.

269) Those quiet moments of peace where God speaks into my silence.

270) That with God, every day is a day to look forward to.

271) Reading collects out of The Book of Common Prayer and seeing my own prayers expressed better than I could ever put them.

272) That this blog site has spell-check so that I can appear smarter than I really am, i.e. that I can actually spell.

273) That I really don’t have to be friends with everyone or have everyone like me to be content.

274) That everything will be fine in the end, and if it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

275) Good lines from good movies (like the one I just referenced earlier).

276) Chocolate bars with bacon in them (it sounds gross, but tastes divine).

277) All of my quirks

278) That I have to show my driver’s license to prove that I really am the age I say I am.

279) That even though Jon Acuff might have more readers for one blog than I’ve had for all my 1,000+ blogs combined, that I have touched and impacted lives that wouldn’t have been touched and impacted had I chosen not to write a blog.

280) That I can use bad grammar, and bad punctuation, in my blogs, if I so, choose.

281) Those rare times when the Church is known for what it’s for rather than what it’s against.

282) That I can learn something from anybody, no matter what their philosophical, theological, political or social beliefs and regardless of whether or not they have the same worldview as mine.

283) That hamburger from The Pharmacy with bacon, ham, and a fried egg (10,000 calories of deliciousness!)

284) That the last spoken words from Jesus in the Bible aren’t a condemnation but an invitation.

285) When I talk into a box fan and make my voice sound like a robot.

286) That being grown-up doesn’t always mean having to be mature all the time.

287) That the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

288) The way my cat Lucy hovers when she goes to the bathroom.

289) Not knowing all the answers (or even all of the questions).

290) A perfectly made and perfectly thrown paper airplane.

291) That I saw the actual Batmobile from the campy 60’s TV show tonight in downtown Franklin

292) That this list will continue– maybe tomorrow, maybe not. You’ll just have to tune in tomorrow to find out. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Finding the Silver Lining

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After seeing Silver Linings Playbook, I’m 4 down and 5 to go in my quest to see all the best picture nominees for 2013. Hopefully, I can accomplish this quest in 2013. So far, it’s looking good.

But that movie resonated with me at a deep level. It’s about mental illness and broken people trying to fit the pieces back together again. The reason I could relate to it so very well is because I recognize the brokenness inside of me. In fact, I believe that everybody is fundamentally broken at some level. Some are just better at hiding the cracks and appearing normal. But face it, we’re messed up in one way or another.

So many times, we approach relationships with the mentality of “fix me” and “save me.” Maybe instead, we should have the attitude of “how can I make you better?” or “how can I bring out the best in you?’

Too many romantic relationships fail because one person tries to make another their world. No one person can be another’s world. It’s simply too much pressure and expectation. But that person can make the other’s world better. That person can make the other’s world a little brighter.

I still love how God has a heart for broken people like you and me. I love how gently he can bring together all the scattered pieces and put them back together to where you can’t see the cracks anymore. I don’t know how that all works, but I know that it does.

There’s no one better at loving broken people than someone who has embraced their brokenness and the healing that comes with it. There’s no one better at helping to pick up someone else’s broken pieces than someone who’s had their broken pieces fitted back together.

My goal shouldn’t be for you to complete me or fix me, but to see you become a whole person in Jesus, to see the image of God restored in you. So I look for the best in you and you look for the best in me and we help each other see not who we are but what we could be and– by God’s grace– will be one day.