Revisiting a Favorite Quote

I love the movie A River Runs Through It. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it, because I’ve actually lost count.

I love everything about the movie, from its perfect casting to the story of a Presbyterian minister who imparts his love of fly fishing to his two sons. Particularly, I love the poignant storyline of the younger brother who is so immensely likeable but destined to keep making poor choices.

In the end, that son makes one poor choice too many and it costs him his life. At his funeral, his father imparts these words which have spoken to me in my own seasons of loss:

“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true, we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”

That’s the key. You can’t always help those closest to you, but you can always love them. After all, that’s what God did for us. Let these words soak in for a moment:

“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (Romans 5:6-8, The Message).

Generic 1,888th Blog Post

20140708-094432-35072370

I have Monday brain. That means all higher functions have ceased and my mode of existence is somewhat akin to “Fire bad. Tree pretty.” It’s not pretty.

I started off my post-work afternoon with a salted caramel latte, courtesy of the fine folks at the Starbucks on Franklin Road in Brentwood . I later met my accountability friend at the same Starbucks and we went walking in the lovely pre-fall weather. We toured the usual places– REI, The Fresh Market, the parking lot. We talked about anything and everything– football, life, work, etc.

20 years ago, I would not have foreseen my life turning out like it has. I don’t think anyone could. But I have seen two decades worth of the faithfulness of God in the midst of frustration, disappointment, joy, grief, triumph, and defeat. I have felt God’s smile over me and known that no matter what, my identity as His Beloved is forever secure. Nothing can or will ever change that.

Would I like the big house and the wife and kids? Of course.

Still, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. I’m on my own journey that belongs to me and to no one else. I don’t know what’s around the corner, but I know God will be there has He has been around every other.

I’ve learned in every way possible that God is enough. It’s something I’m reminded of on a daily basis, because I am that stubborn and slow to believe and also because God is that patient and willing to lead me.

So once again, I slow down and count the moments and relish the blessings. I sit in Starbucks, sipping on my latte and watching Friends on Netflix, taking in my surroundings and the people coming and going all around me.

Life is always good because God is always good.

The end.

PS I still think my blogs would be much improved by me typing them on a Mac Book Pro. Donations accepted in all forms.

 

 

Helping Hands and More of What Love Looks Like

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (Philippians 2:3-4, MSG).

A lot of this is antithetical to what you will read in those self-help books or hear in those leadership seminars.

But it’s the Way of Jesus and the Way of the Cross, and that has always been the Narrow Road that few have chosen.

Put simply, love means sacrifice. Love means giving up your rights to help someone else and make their life better. Again, that is polar opposite to the “love as warm fuzzies” sentiment that you hear in most top-40 radio.

I don’t claim to be an expert on love in any of its forms, but I do claim to be loved by the Ultimate Expert. In fact, the God who loves me unconditionally invented all four of the kinds of love (eros, phileo, storge, and agape). The Apostle John goes so far as to say that God is love, whoever doesn’t love doesn’t know God. That’s hardcore.

That means if I say I love God, then I must love the unloveable. I must love those everyone else walks away from and rejects. I must even love myself when I’m at my worst, because God did (and still does).

I’ve heard once that when you don’t feel love for someone, act in a loving way as if you felt love. Keep putting their needs above your own, keep helping them realize all of their God-given potential, keep building them up, and then the feelings will come later.

I’m a student who still has a long way to go in the school of love, but I have the best possible Teacher.

 

 

As You Go

“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 MSG).

I remembered something about this verse that somebody told me a long time ago.

The idea of this verse is this: as you’re going, make disciples of all the nations.

That means that wherever you go, whatever you do, wherever you are, make disciples.

To make a disciple you have to first be a disciple then live like one. It does no good to try to preach something that you’re not living (or worse living diametrically in opposition to).

Pastor Mike Glenn has said more than once that the reason the world hates Christians is not because they’re too different but because they’re not different enough. They’re too much like the people they’re trying to convert.

That’s where discipleship comes in. If I’m truly a disciple of Jesus, then I should start to look and act like Him. Then when I make disciples, they won’t look like me at all. They’ll look like the same Jesus that I look like.

That means you.

Too many of us expect people who make their living in the ministry, yet the Bible says that we are all ministers. Some of us will be able to reach people that paid ministers could never touch.

I do believe that making disciples involves speaking your witness (something I’ve never been very good at), yet the most important way to make disciples is to live what you preach as much as you speak it. I think it was D. L. Moody who said that for every person who reads the Bible, ten will read the Christian and his lifestyle.

That’s something to think about.

 

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.

 

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.

 

My Life is God’s Prayer

“When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you, From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar. Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids. Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me. Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night! My life is God’s prayer” (Psalm 42:8 MSG)

That’s the kind of rehearsal I really like, remembering everything I know of God and all He’s done for me. Or even better yet, looking back through ages past and seeing how many times in how many places God has come through for His people.

God’s faithfulness trumps my faithlessness. God’s promises outweigh my doubts. Not that I am so bad, but God is so good. Not that I’m so very weak, but God is so very strong.

I could go on and on, but I am really tired. It’s a good kind of tired, but it still leaves me wanting to visit my pillow in the worst way possible.

I’ll be up excruciatingly early on a Saturday, heading over to Belmont University at 6:30 am for Freshman Move-In Day. It’s still in my top favorite activities that I’m involved in over the year.

Yes, you read that right. That’s 6:30 in the AM. A nap will be had later on in the day by me. Then I think there will be the usual frivolity up and down Main Street in Franklin in celebration of surviving a week of waking up at 5:30 am.

“So let my deeds outrun my words
And let my life outweigh my songs” (Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman).

 

This Is It

“This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life” (1 John 5:12).

The life is in Jesus.

When I was a kid, I thought eternal life was simply living forever. Not that anyone overtly told me this, but it’s what my kid brain grasped when anybody talked about how whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. To me, that meant life that lasted a long time.

I think what I’m beginning to understand is that, while the forever part is right, there is more to it than that. It’s more than just quantity of life. It’s about a quality of life, too.

Eternal life is life with Jesus at the source. It’s where Jesus becomes my life. It’s where even my best days now are nothing compared to what my eternal future will be like.

As I’ve said before, I like to think of C.S. Lewis’ description of the New Narnia in his book, The Last Battle. It’s like everything you were always looking for but never knew it.

It’s like waking up on the first day of summer after school ends, knowing you have freedom up ahead. It’s like that first day of pure vacation bliss. Oh, and it doesn’t end in August or when you go back to work. It never ends.

It’s like that one book I read so long  ago. I can’t remember any of the detail, only that it was one of those books that I couldn’t put down and was sorry to see it end. Eternal life is the realization that this life now are like the title page and the introduction and the rest is the real beginning, a story where each chapter gets better than the last.

 

 

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.