Expensive Mistakes, Shame, and other Random Tuesday Night Thoughts

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Have you ever made an expensive mistake?

Immediately, I think of the movie Elizabethtown and the character Drew Baylor. He created a shoe which ended up costing the company he worked for close to $1 billion. It was, in his words, a fiasco.

There’s a great line from the movie:

“As somebody once said, there’s a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is simply the non-present of success. Any fool can accomplish failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. A fiasco is a folktale told to others, that makes other people feel more… alive. Because it didn’t happen to them.”

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe your mistake wasn’t worth $1 billion. Maybe it was worth $10,000. Or maybe it just ruined a relationship. Or a reputation.

Maybe you feel the familiar nagging sensation of shame, never overpowering but always there, lurking nearby.

Tonight’s guest speaker at Kairos spoke of how two different people in the Bible dealt with shame in radically different ways:

Judas betrayed Jesus and ended up hanging himself, while Peter denied knowing Jesus and ended up hanging around. Not only that, the shame turned into an opportunity for God to use him in ways he probably never would have thought possible.

The speaker said something that I’ll never forget. He said something to the effect that Judas hung himself by his shame because he didn’t know that Jesus hung on the cross for his shame.

The cross means that shame has no more power over your (or my) life ever again. Shame has lost the power to speak into our lives because Jesus took those failures, those fiascos, those worst moments upon Himself on the cross. He took them to the grave, but when He arose on Easter morning, He left them behind, utterly defeated and powerless.

You are not defined by your fiascos or those moments of shame any longer. You are defined by what Jesus did for you and by who you are now in the power of His resurrection. You are defined as beloved child of God in whom He is well pleased.

Shame is all about your past. Jesus wants you to go forward and live in the future He has for you, not in that past any longer.

 

Forgiveness and Grace in January

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“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family” Henri J.M. Nouwen).

Have you royally messed up with a friend (or at least felt like you have)? Have you ever had someone “let you have it,” verbally blasting you with a post or a text?

Maybe you deserved it. Maybe not.

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Or maybe you’re the one who did the telling off. Maybe you got way upset with someone and spoke in pure anger and frustration. Maybe that person deserved it.

I have some questions for you and me.

1) Since when is the life of a believer about giving people what they deserve? Isn’t it supposed to be about giving those in your life the benefit of the doubt and extending grace?

Which leads to my second question:

2) Would I want Jesus treating me as I deserve? Would I even stand a chance?

I know the answers to the second question are: no, not long, and a snowball’s chance in hell.

Maybe I need to drop that stone in my hand and look in the mirror. I may look just like that person I intend to cast that proverbial first stone at. I may not struggle with the same sins, but my sins would make me just as guilty in the eyes of a holy God if not for grace and Jesus.

It’s one thing to call out a person in love when their actions don’t match their professed beliefs. It’s another to blast someone and assume sinful motives, which I’ve done too many times. And in this case, once is one time too many.

You will lose friendships through misundestandings. You will have “friends” who show their true colors when you act in the slightest unloving way or slip in the least. You will have those who will stick with you even when you yourself would have bailed on you.

I’m glad God doesn’t ever give me what I have coming to me or treat me as my sins deserve. Even on my best days, I’d still be in trouble. Because of my favorite word– grace– God looks at my filthy rags of good intentions and best efforts and sees the perfection of Jesus.

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Gosh, I do so love grace!

PS You will need to forgive yourself at some point. All of the above still applies if it’s you needing the forgiveness from yourself.

A Conversation with David

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I was sitting outside of Starbucks minding my own business and being all unobtrusive when a guy walked up and started a conversation with me. Well, he did most of the talking.

He noticed my very green Bible and wondered what I was reading in it. He asked if I was in seminary. He proceeded to give his thoughts on God, a brief synopsis of his faith history, a sad tale of his previous two vehicles, and the weather report. Ok, I’m just kidding. About that last one.

If ever God presented me with a golden opportunity to share my faith, this was it.

I can’t say I passed with flying colors. I left out some stuff I should have said. A great deal. But I did invite him to Kairos. I did my best to listen. Truly listen. Not wait to respond or listen to correct his theology, but listening to try to feel what he was feeling.

After he left, I prayed for him. I’m still praying. I’m praying that he took away something from our conversation more than my words. I’m praying he caught something in my expression or my countenance that even I didn’t know was there. Maybe he saw Jesus in me and maybe he will be drawn to that.

I’m praying for more conversations, more opportunities where I can be bolder and more eloquent about what I believe. Maybe I can share my own faith story. All I know is that unless the Spirit is in it, nothing I say or do will matter– even if I start spouting off verses in Hebrew and Greek.

Most of all, I’m praying for my eyes to be open to more people like him and I will see these people not through my own narrow set of eyes, but through God’s widescreen vision.

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

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Sometimes, life will hand you lemons. You could make them into lemonade, but without sugar and water to go with it, your lemonade is really going to suck. Or you could freeze those lemons and throw them at all those people who really annoy you. Just a thought.

Maybe it’s a friend who really disappointed you and wasn’t around when you needed them. Maybe it’s a long work week where you seem to have not only two left feet but two left hands as well. Maybe it’s just a general sense of discouragement at where you find yourself compared to so many others.

Here’s the cure. Focus on the good things in your life, or as the old song says. accentuate the positive.

Here are some of my positives which may or may not inspire you to find your own (or you could just steal mine if you like):

1) I woke up this morning and got out of bed and got dressed and went to work. It may not seem like much, but I know a lot of people who didn’t get that privilege today.

2) I greet on Tuesdays at Kairos (a young adult worship experience) with some of the most amazing people, each of whom I am blessed to know and to call friends.

3) The three C’s essential to any early morning– coffee, chocolate, and caffeine. All three are marvelous.

4) I can pull out my Bible (or pull out my iPhone or my iPad and bring up my Bible app) and instantly be encouraged and motivated and strengthen at any time of day or night.

5) Instead of lamenting about how far I am from where I need to be, I can celebrate how far I’ve already come and who I am now versus who I used to be.

6) If I look through eyes of faith, I can always find blessings and joys stashed throughout my week and choose to live out Eucharisteo in every moment.

7) No matter how bad my day may suck, it will never last more than 24 hours. No matter how bad the week seems, it will never have more than 7 days. And that includes Friday and Saturday.

8) My cat Lucy is always happy to see me when I come home and loves to tell me how her day went. Ok, not really. She’s more the silent type, but still her presence is a great comfort to me.

9) I love seeing how my nephews and niece are discovering this great big world and their place in it. They are becoming who God made them to be and I love the previews I get of what that will look like.

10) I have my favorite places that always make me happy: my corner of the couch in the morning, downtown Franklin, serving at Kairos and Room in the Inn, and being around my family and friends.

Joy is a choice that I must make every single day. If I want my life to matter and if I want the people I live with and work with and play with to see a difference in me, the only way is me living out of joy and gratitude and thanksgiving at the never ending goodness and mercy and steadfast love of God.

And there’s those three C’s.

Love on a Tuesday Night

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Mike Glenn spoke about love tonight at Kairos.

No, it was not another sermon on dating or marriage or romantic love. It was about loving Jesus and what that looks like.

It looks like obedience.

As unpopular a term as that may be, obedience defines my love for Jesus. In other words, if I love Jesus, I do what He says. If I don’t do what He says, I don’t love Him, no matter how many warm and fuzzy feelings I get in a worship setting or how well I talk of Jesus or even how much I know about Him.

If I love Jesus, I will do what He says. I will obey Him. Not only when it’s easy or convenient or rewarding.

I think the gauge for my level of obedience is to ask those around me who know me best. Ask them if I really live out what I say I believe. Ask them if I look and act like Jesus on a daily basis.

I do know I fail to be grateful for being so blessed. I have so many people in my life who show me exactly what loving Jesus looks like in lifestyles that model obedience and faithfulness. I have so many people who love me with the love of Jesus and forgive me with a forgiveness that can only come from Jesus.

I don’t have to feed 5,000. I just have to give a cup of cold water to one. I don’t have to build a hospital in Kenya. I just have to visit one sick person or provide something to wear for one person in need. I just have to be faithful today, in this moment, to what I know Jesus is calling me to do and to be.

I don’t ever have any excuse to be disobedient to Jesus. No matter how my obedience is received, no matter how people disdain my efforts, no matter if anyone notices, I still am called to not only hear the words of Jesus, but DO them. To put them into practice. To live them out.

Like every fallible human saved by grace, I could do a lot better. But I’m thankful that ultimately the love that counts most isn’t my love for Jesus, but His unfailing love for me.

Who Says You Can’t Go Back?

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It’s been 18 years since I graduated and 8 years since I last stepped foot on the campus, but today I went back to Union University, where I spent four of the best years of my life.

I knew in my mind that things change. I prepared myself for seeing a different Union than the 1995 version that I remember so well. But even then it was still so very surreal.

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Just about every building on campus was new or completely remodeled. Even the layout of the buildings was different. There were no walls around the guys and girls dorms. Maggie would not have been pleased.

It hit me that half the students on campus weren’t even born when I graduated from Union. Well, maybe 1/4. I was never very good at math.

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I found a vey few familiar places. The old library smelled exactly like it did in 1995. Funny how particular smells can trigger memories. For me, nothing stimulates remembering more than a certain combination of scents.

I found my old mailbox slot (and yes, it had mail in it and no, I didn’t open it). The cafeteria still looked the same.

I walked down the same sidewalk where I once had my trusty umbrella inverted by a sudden windy downpour. I could literally see the rain heading toward me as I walked to class. I also remember leaving for an 8 am class on a frigid winter morning with my hair still wet and arriving to class with my hair literally frozen.

None of the people who made Union great were there. New people are there making new lasting memories with new friends. Who knows? 18 years from now, maybe a current student will come back to unfamiliar people and buildings in 2031?

I know I’m not the same person who wanted so desperately for people to like him and to fit in and to belong. I’m not the same person who didn’t like himself very much and couldn’t bear to look at himself in the mirror. I’m definitely not the same guy who thought no girl could ever find him attractive or ever seriously consider a dating relationship with him.

Coming back reminded me of how far I’ve come. Maybe it wasn’t so much the new buildings and people that made my visit surreal. ,
Maybe it was me seeing everything with new eyes. Whoa. That was deep. 😁

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I found God’s peace and healing at Union. I made some amazing friendships with some amazing people. Some I’ve kept up with, some I’m not friends with anymore, but all of them I still am thankful for.

I remember still the feeling I had the first time I set foot on this campus. I knew without a doubt that this is where God wanted me. Today, I look back and I can see just as clearly why that was.

I remain blessed. I am still living my miracle. God is good.

Theology from a BBC Sitcom

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I’ve discovered a great new (to me) BBC sitcom called Miranda. It’s about a very tall and very awkward English woman named– wait for it— Miranda, played by –again, wait for it– Miranda Hart.

The whole concept of the show is Miranda being socially awkward, clumsy, and hapless in just about every situation. Something none of you can relate to, I’m sure.

Maybe you find your self talking to someone you’re romantically interested in and you find the most bizarre things coming out of your mouth. Your mind is thinking, “What in the world?” but is completely helpless to stop your mouth from talking.

No one? Then how about this one, sports fans?

I’m not a woman. Big shocker.

And I’m not 6’1″. At least everywhere except in my own happy little world.

But I’ve had my share of socially awkward moments, of trying way too hard to be friendly, of being both obsessive and compulsive with certain relationships, and of not being “normal.”

But I’ve come to the place where I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. I’m having way too much fun being me. I’ve finally caught a glimpse of God’s heart for me and His dream for me and how He made me like no one else.

Not everyone will get you. That doesn’t make you inferior or less worthy. Trust me, God will bring people into your life who will more than just get you. They will embrace you and celebrate you and champion you. They will make you feel like a superhero on days when you can’t even button your shirt up right.

Remember that God Himself more than gets you. He made you. He designed you just the way you are to be like no one else and play a part in His ongoing Story that absolutely no one else could possibly fill.

I’ve seen 5 episodes so far and I love it. I also love the way my family and friends love me. I adore how God adores and celebrates and rejoices in and dances over and shouts over me.

I call that a very good reminder for this All Saints Day.

My Own Particular Brand of Theology

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I used to love to argue theology. It was all about not only proving my side was right, but proving just how wrong the other side really was. After all, if anyone REALLY read the Bible, they would see things the way I saw them. Right?

I had my proof texts. I had my arguments.

I’m a lot less dogmatic about a lot of things, but there are a few things I still can say for certain.

I would never have loved God if He hadn’t loved me first.

I would never have chosen Him had He not chosen me from before creation.

In the end, I will have no room for boasting. I won’t be able to pat myself on the back on how clever or wise I was for choosing Jesus and following Him all these years.

In the end, Jesus will get ALL the credit. He’s the one who wooed me and led me with tender words through the desert. He’s the one who found me when I got lost from the path countless times, walked beside me, and carried me when I couldn’t walk.

All Jesus needs to to AMAZING things in my life is the tiniest of places to start. Just the least bit of agreement on my part gives Him room to amaze me and everyone around me by what He does in and through me.

I’ve come to the point where I don’t really trust -isms anymore. I trust Jesus. I try not to build my faith on what people have said about Jesus but in what Jesus actually said. I have set my hopes not on a man-made system of rules and beliefs but in a Person.

Lately I’ve found I’m a lot more flexible and forgiving and loving and compassionate because I have seen all those times when I was weak and unloving and messed-up and broken. I’ve found that grace really is the best way.

I guess some people will call me a liberal. Some will call me a fundamentalist. Lately, I’ve gotten away from using terms like born again because of too many political implications associated with that word. When I look back at my life and where I am as opposed to where I’ve been, the word I choose to use is THANKFUL. I’m living my miracle and I’m falling in love with Jesus a little more every single day.

 

A Little Sunday Perspective

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“Look carefully at your call, brothers and sisters. By human standards, not many of you are deemed to be wise. Not many are considered powerful. Not many of you come from royalty, right? But celebrate this: God selected the world’s foolish to bring shame upon those who think they are wise; likewise, He selected the world’s weak to bring disgrace upon those who think they are strong. God selected the common and the castoff, whatever lacks status, so He could invalidate the claims of those who think those things are significant. So it makes no sense for any person to boast in God’s presence. Instead, credit God with your new situation: you are united with Jesus the Anointed. He is God’s wisdom for us and more. He is our righteousness and holiness and redemption. As the Scripture says: “If someone wants to boast, he should boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

Hi. My name is Greg and I used to be a nobody with no hope, no purpose, and no future. I was hopelessly lost and about as far from God as humanly possible.

Then Jesus found me.

Those of you who know my story might be scratching your heads right now and asking, “Weren’t you 7 when you got saved? What bad things could you possibly have done at age 7?”

Well, according to the Bible, anyone without Christ is dead in sins and alienated from God. That was me.

I look back at when Jesus found me. I don’t remember the exact day or feelings I had. I do know Jesus changed me and has been transforming me ever since. I do know I got a direction, a purpose, a new name, and a future.

According to Forbes or GQ or Entertainment Weekly, I am a nobody. But Jesus knows my name. That more than makes up for looking like a fool and an idiot in the eyes of the world for what I believe and how I live my life.

Jesus knows my name.

I can’t get over that.

At least when I’m not caught up in mind games about how this person may or may not like me. Or how I might have offended this or that person.

If I have everything the world has to offer and don’t have Jesus, I really have nothing. I lose. If I have Jesus and absolutely nothing else, I have everything. I win.

I am so forgetful about what really matters. The best things in life aren’t free; they’re not even things. They are the people God brings into your life, whether for one hour, one day, one month, or a lifetime. They are the ones who remind you of who you really are and Whose you really are.

You can replace things. You can never replace people once they’re gone from your life.

So that’s why I can say I’m blessed. I’m rich in the currency of love. I am living my miracle every day, the miracle of seeing blessings everywhere, of finding joy in every place and circumstance, of always finding God right where I am if I only know where and how to look.

It truly doesn’t matter if people remember my name after I’m gone. It won’t matter if no one ever finds me attractive or desirable. My Abba is very fond of me, has chosen me, made me His child, and forever called me His Beloved.

That’s enough for me to last a lifetime. That’s enough for a lifetime of lifetimes. I’m good.

Letting The Door Close for Good

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I have a picture on my iPhone. It’s me with a friend at Centennial Park, under a picture-perfect summer night sky. I have my arm around her and we’re both smiling. We have just been swing dancing and having a grand time. We look like such good friends.

I had that picture. Up until tonight. I deleted it. I let that proverbial door close. You know. The one almost closed but barely held open by one of those rubbery door stop thingys? The one that once it’s closed you can never re-open?

It’s now closed. I believe her chapter in my life is over. I prayed my goodbyes and grieved over the friendship’s end. My next steps are moving on.

It’s not like she’s a bad person or even that the friendship was wrong. But I think sometimes you have to let go of something that was good– or even very good– in the past to be able to receive God’s future best.

Sometimes you have to say goodbye to your dream in order that God can dream a bigger and better dream in and for you.

So I’m letting a few things — and a few people– go. I hold no bitterness and no more regrets. I cherish the memories but realize that I must move on as they have already moved on.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me in the coming weeks and months, but I know it will be good. I love the imagery in this quote from a book I’m currently reading:

““So here’s my thought: Your best thought on your best day falls 15.5 billion light-years short of how great and how good God really is. Even the most brilliant among us underestimate God by 15.5 billion light-years. God is able to do 15.5 billion light-years beyond what you can ask or imagine” (Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker).