Reminders for When That Mid-Life Crisis Hits

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Maybe it will hit in the middle of the night.

Maybe you’ll wake up and wonder where your life has gone and what you’ve done with it.

Maybe you’ll have that pounding in your chest and that overwhelming anxiety, scared that you’ve wasted your one and only life up to this point.

Maybe, just maybe, you feel like it’s too late to make anything of yourself and that you’re doomed to mediocrity.

Remember this: not everything that pops into your head is from you. The father of lies can be incredibly sneaky about pushing little fabrications into your mind about your identity and your purpose.

If you let him, he’ll have you believing that you have no purpose or worth. That your life doesn’t matter. That it’s too late to change and become who you might have been, that best self you always dreamed you might be.

Let your Abba Father speak truth over you. Hear Him call you Beloved, not out of anything you’ve done to earn special merit or out of any outstanding character traits that you possess, but simply because you are His.

Let your Abba Father remind you that you have supreme worth because you are created in the image of God and because Jesus paid the ultimate price for your redemption.

That’s what counts in the end.

Not salary.

Not titles.

Not awards.

Not accolades.

But simply living out of being the Beloved of your Abba and letting that love define who you are and what you do. If you end up with everything you could possibly want, everything the world says you need, and miss out on God, you have nothing. But if you end up with God and nothing else, you will have found everything that truly matters in the end.

Just think about that for a while.

 

 

You Are Not: A Reminder

I’m about to repeat myself. Again.

I find I keep returning to the same themes in my writing over and over, probably because I keep needing to hear them over and over. Here’s one more reminder for the road.

You are not your worst fears about yourself– that you’re essentially unemployable and that you will never find out what you’re good at and be able to make a living with it.

You are not your spotty employment background or your so-so credit score or your monumental mistakes in the past.

You are not your history of relationship failures (or your history of failure of relationships).

You are not your failed marriages or your broken relationships with your parents (or children).

You are not who you were and you are not yet who you will be.

You are the Beloved of your Abba Father, the apple of His eye.

You are Forgiven, with a blank slate as clean as if there were never any bad marks on it.

You are a child of the One True King, despite your questionable family history and your own long list of personal quirks.

You are exactly where God wants you to be and He knows where you are and where He’s taking you. And trust me, you will get there one day.

 

More Good Conversation

I was talking with a friend of mine at Kairos tonight.

We’d both gone through long stretches of unemployment.

Both of us expressed how before we had days where we might tend to grumble and complain and gripe about our jobs and possibly even “mail it in” (meaning give less than absolutely 110%) on a given day.

If you were to poll the average American worker, the vast majority would probably say they don’t like their job. Most would say the only reason they show up to work each day is out of the daily necessity of paying bills and mortgages and putting food on the table and supporting families.

My friend and I have a different perspective now. Both of us know what it’s like to not have a job. Both of us know what it’s like to feel purpose-less and discouraged, wondering if we truly have anything the job market wants.

I’m working another temp job, but I’ve purposed in my mind to make it my act of worship. I’m going to show up and do my very best, as if I’m working directly for Jesus. Because in a sense, I am.

The Bible says that whatever you do, you should do it to the glory of God. That means writing songs and presiding over large corporations as a CEO. That also means cleaning houses and toilets, punching in numbers into a computer, organizing and filing massive amounts of medical files.

Whatever you do, do it as if Jesus were watching. Do it because you want to please Jesus because He gave so much for you. Do it not because you have to, but because you get to. Do it because someone else may be watching you and you may be the only Bible they will read all day.

Make your job your ministry and your mission field. Do whatever you do whenever you do it to the best of the abilities God has given you and leave the results to God.

See if that doesn’t change your perspective.

 

 

 

For When You’re Feeling Anxious

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It’s February. And unless you’re living in Hawaii with all those palm trees and beaches, it’s cold.

My feelings on cold weather go something like this: if it’s gonna be this cold, it might as well snow, or what’s the point?

Maybe you’re feeling more than just cold. Maybe you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

Perhaps you’re out of a job and wondering how that big stack of bills is going to get paid. Or where they money is going to come from to put gas in the car. Or food on the table.

Maybe you’re still single and wondering when (or even if) that special someone will ever come along.

Maybe you’re children don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore and you don’t know how to get through to them anymore.

Maybe it’s just a combination of a million little things all rolled up into one big case of anxiety.

Don’t you know that Jesus didn’t come to bring your peace?

He came to be your peace. He is after all the Prince of Peace.

That’s what all of us who are overwhelmed with worry and stress need to remember. Jesus may not take away all those things that cause anxiety, but He promises to walk with us through every trial, every tribulation, and every dark valley.

Jesus has already overcome whatever you’re afraid of. Nothing can touch you apart from God’s permission. And absolutely nothing can come between you and the love of your Abba Father.

Sometimes, you need medicine to make those anxieties go away. That doesn’t make you less spiritual. It just means your brain needs a little help to function normally.

I love the line from that movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

Stewardship

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In ye olden castle days, stewards were the ones who took care of the finances and property management of the castle and surrounding village. The stewards didn’t own any of it, but they took care of it as though it were their own.

Most people, when they hear a preacher bring up the word “steward” or “stewardship,” automatically think, “Uh-oh. Here comes another sermon on tithing.”

Stewardship is about money. But it is so much more than that.

The truth is that nothing you have really belongs to you. The earth and everything in it, including you, belong to the Lord.

Your money? It really belongs to God.

Your career? Also God’s.

Your spouse? Ditto.

Your children? Not yours.

When you make Jesus Lord of your life, He takes over ownership of all that you call yours. But when you think about it, everything you have is really a gift from God anyway.

Your money and your ability to earn it come from God. He created you with unique talents and gifts to be able to start a career and earn a living.

Your spouse and your children? They belong to God, not you. God has entrusted them to your care and expects that you will present them back better than when He gave them to you.

It’s humbling when you realize you’re not the king of your castle. Even more so when you realize you don’t even own your own castle.

May we all remember that we are stewards of what really belongs to God. May we take good care of what– and who– He has entrusted into our care so that when He comes, He can say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Going Against the Flow (When a Guy Becomes a Man)

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Tonight was a good reminder for me as a man of what I’m up against. Never in history has true masculinity been under such attack. Men are viewed alternately as unnecessary, evil, primitive, oppressive, and the cause of all that’s wrong with the world.

The alternatives are 1) to give up and drop out as a functioning member of society, 2) give in to the stereotypes of men as beer-swilling, skirt-chasing buffoons who only live by their appetites.

Then there’s what’s behind door #3. This option is the hardest but most rewarding.

It means choosing to be a man in a world of guys. It means choosing to be a gentleman in a society where manners and values are viewed as anachronistic and old-fashioned. It means swimming against the currents of culture, fashion, societal opinion, popular world-views, and even our own sinful human nature.

It means knowing who you are and where you’re going and living with intention and purpose. It means seeing and savoring Jesus, of devoting a lifetime to pursuing Christ and His heart for the world. It means Jesus becomes not one of my top priorities or even my #1 priority, but my only priority through which everything and everyone else falls into place.

it means transformed friendships, careers, goals, hobbies, and dreams.

I am in the process of finding these things out. So far, I know Whose I am, which tells me who I am– namely, God’s Beloved. I know where I’m going insofar as I want to be conformed into the image of Christ and one day become a husband who loves his wife like Christ loves His Church.

I want people to really grasp who they are in Christ and how much God values and cherishes and loves them. To show them they truly are uniquely and wonderfully made.

I can’t look for a girl who will tell me who I am or where I’m going. I can’t find my true identity in a career or a hobby. What a true woman of God will find most attractive in me is me coming alive to my calling, knowing my identity and purpose, and inviting her to be a part of it.

Notice, I did not say that finding and winning her is the adventure. That’s too small of a goal. I find someone who I can love and cherish and serve a hungry world with and who as a team and a couple can display in a godly marriage just how much Jesus loves His own Bride, the Church.

We will find that we can serve out of a Kingdom mission and purpose far more effectively together than we ever could apart. Our marriage will be about so much more than two people in love, but be about the Kingdom of God lived out in flesh and blood, bound by a covenant until death do us part.

So, I invite you in the words of the movie Say Anything: don’t be a guy. The world is full of guys. Be a man.

Things I Love 50: The Last Farewell

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“Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift” (Albert Einstein).

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself” (Tecumseh).

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness” (John Keats).

“Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

This is the last one. But as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle, the the end of history was not the end; history itself is but the title page and preface, and after that begins the real story which goes on for ever and where each chapter is better than the previous one. That’s how it is with joy. There really is no end to joy and its gifts for those with thankful hearts and wide-open eyes.

1,551) The good tired feeling after mowing the lawn.

1,552) Hugs from my grandmother.

1,553) Great music from Coldplay and Radiohead.

1,554) Freshly clipped toe nails.

1,555) How perfectly cold water quenches my thirst.

1,556) The Living Water than never runs dry and never leaves me thirsty ever.

1,557) People who “get” me.

1,558) The freedom that comes with forgiveness.

1,559) Finding out that being broke doesn’t mean the end of life as I know it.

1,560) My friend Wendy who is just a facebook message away at all times.

1,561) That post-shower feeling.

1,562) “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us” (Psalm 46:1,MSG).

1,563) Jesus’ promise of rest to those who are weary and exhausted.

1,564) God making me and loving me just the way I am.

1,565) Catfish and hush puppies, all fried.

1,566) Relaxing in a jacuzzi.

1,567) Liking me for me and being good with being a nice guy.

1,568) Knowing when to hold ’em, knowing when to fold ’em (like Kenny Rogers sang).

1,569) My very sleepy yet very comforting feline therapist yet again at her job.

1,570) iCloud automatically transferring pictures from my iPhone to my iPad and my iLaptop (just kidding, it’s a Sony Vaio).

1.571) How much better typing out one of these lists makes me feel.

1,572) My dad’s goofy but totally lovable dog, Molly.

1,573) My goofy and random sense of humor.

1,574) My impressive t-shirt collection.

1,575) People who wait until they are married before living together (which is so rare these days).

1,576) Planning up a Delilah playlist of cheesy love songs on my iPhone.

1,577) The safe recovery of that 16-year old girl Hannah who had been kidnapped.

1,578) All news stories that have happy endings.

1,579) Friendly neighbors.

1,580) Credence Clearwater Revival.

1,581) The photo frame option on my iPad that turns it into . . .wait for it. . . one of those electronic photo frames.

1,582) Stepping out of a muggy summer day into air conditioning.

1,583) People who not only speak their faith but live it out.

1,584)  The car KITT from the old TV show Knight Rider.

1,585) Seeing pictures of healthy newborns from friends and family on Facebook.

1,586) Taking a spoonful of local honey that’s supposedly good for my allergies but so good to me.

1,587) That girl’s smile in the picture that I used for one of my blogs. I’ll probably never see her again but I won’t ever forget that smile.

1,588) John Mayer’s lyrics.

1,589) Checking out the newest smart-phones in the stores (even though I’m perfectly content with my iPhone 5).

1,590) Looking forward to my next coffee and conversation outing.

1,591) Knowing all my family and friends are safe and sound for the night.

1,592) Real and authentic conversations about life and faith.

1,593) Having all my needs supplied out of God’s glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

1,594) Perfect love casting out fear.

1,595) That Jesus isn’t safe, but He’s good.

1,596) One day going overseas on a mission trip.

1,597) Having no regrets about following Jesus.

1,598) “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

1,599) Having many local coffee spots to check out in the next few months.

1,600) Every second I’ve spend writing these lists over the last couple of months.

I hope these lists have inspired you to start list of your own where you name those things you’re thankful for that you love. Not necessarily the monumental or earth-shaking things, but even the tiniest of things that make you smile or make your day a little brighter. It has been so much fun writing these and I thank you for reading them. God bless.

Things I Love 48: When My Job’s Done You’ll Be the One Who Knows

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“You’ll fly away
but take my hand until that day
So when they ask how far love goes
When my job’s done, you’ll be the one who knows” (Dar Williams)

“Life is dessert – too brief to hurry…”Where ever you are, be all there” is only possible with eucharisteo. Slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God. Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus. Eucharisteo keeps the focus” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

On the way home from work, I ran out of gas. Well, my car ran out of gas, Right in front of where I live. I had just enough power to park on the street before everything died. I’m not saying that me focusing on eucharisteo (or thanksgiving to you non-Greek speaking people) had anything to do with this, but I do think God was looking after me today. I am truly learning trust lately and finding out that my God is infinitely trustworthy.

1,491) Not running out of gas in the middle of a busy street during rush hour or in the middle of a left turn at busy intersection.

1,492) Putting in 30 minutes on the treadmill for the first time in a very long time.

1,493) Knowing that tomorrow is once again Friday.

1,494) To use a horrible pun, getting LOST in a very intriguing TV series.

1,495) A little coffee with my creamer and sugar.

1,496) Being able to go back and revisit what I wrote on this date for the past three years.

1,497) That I always forget about my paper cuts at work and only remember when I go to apply hand sanitizer. Ouch.

1,498) That God is much more patient at teaching than I am at learning.

1,499) The dream of one day typing these posts on a MacBook Pro.

1,500) Another day of having fun at my job and living in the moment rather than speculating about the future.

1,501) Black olives on just about anything (except ice cream).

1,502) Having a great ideas and brain-storming about possible blog cards for when I run out of my current ones.

1,503) Not having watched the Sci-Fi movie Sharknado.

1,504) Being young at heart (and I like to think in real life).

1,505)  All those optimistic Titans fans (including me) who hope this year will turn out better than the last.

1,506) Letting go of my expectations to find that what God gives is infinitely better.

1,507) Craving a glass of milk at 9:19 on a Thursday night.

1,508) Old books with their dust jackets still intact.

1,509) Getting yet another cat scan from Lucy. Literally.

1,510) The now 10-year old album, The Beauty of the Rain, by Dar Williams. Amazing from start to finish.

1,511) Drinking a glass of milk at 9:29.

1,512) My little iPod shuffle.

1,513) God smiling over me right now.

1,514) Just now finding out that people from roughly 120 countries (roughly as in me counting by hand) have read my blogs at some point in time since I started them over three years ago.

1,515) Having 140 followers of this little blog.

1,516) Not having to look for a job.

1,517) Shoelaces that stay tied.

1,518) Crisp cucumber salsa.

1,519) Getting so caught up in my job that I lose track of time.

1,520) My optimistic and cheerful personality.

Things I Love 46: A Terrible Mystery

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“What a terrible mystery
How I searched for the key
To unlock your guarded heart
And set your love free
What a beautiful dream
I tried more than anything
To unlock your heart
And set your love free
A terrible mystery” (The Choir)

“How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

“Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

I keep returning to this well of thanksgiving because it is there that I find life. I don’t mean blood pumping through my veins, breathing in and out kind of life. I mean the kind of life that consists of more than just existing, but being fully enveloped in and aware of God in each moment. The life that sees the rainbow through the rain clouds, the sun behind the dark night, and the joy behind the thousand daily heartbreaks and little dream-deaths we face each day. Joy is being truly awake and alive to the good in everything, even the worst of circumstances, knowing that the Father will work out all these things for the best possible good.

1,431) Muggy days that make the coming crisp days of autumn all the more welcome.

1,432) Reepicheep, the bravest of all the talking mice in Narnia.

1,433) Seeing my job as a priestly function of offering my work as a thanksgiving offering to God.

1,434) Having a job to go to, even if it was at 6:30 this morning.

1,435)  That I still love driving my ’95 Jeep Cherokee even after 10 years.

1,436) Taking notes at Kairos tonight on my iPad2.

1,437) Having the best family (which includes blood relatives, and friends both on Facebook and in the real world).

1,438) Adam Wheatley and Courtney Cole leading the amazing worship tonight at Kairos.

1,439) My friend Paige who has faithfully led the greeter team and been one of my most supportive friends when I really needed it.

1,440) Signing up again to volunteer for Belmont move-in day for incoming freshmen.

1,441) Finally converted after much kicking and screaming (mostly in the metaphorical sense) to being an Apple guy. All I need now is a MacBook Pro.

1,442) Seeing one of my Romanian friends at Kairos tonight.

1,443) Resuming my lunch walks (even if this one was interrupted on account of rain).

1,444) Wifi when it is working right.

1,445) The movie Notting Hill, even if it’s a chick-flick. It’s a very well-made, well-written chick-flick.

1,446) Not even being the least bit tempted to break my more than 15-month break from carbonated beverages today.

1,447) My scars.

1,448) Singing “All that she wants is to go to Kairos” tonight to the tune of the Ace of Base song, “All That She Wants.”

1,449) When I let God be my defender and justifier.

1,450) Random acts of recycling.

1,451) Tagging these blogs creatively so more people can read them.

1,452) Being around something completely annoying and hearing the character Janice from the TV show friends in her nasal Bronx accent saying in my head, “OH MY GOD!”

1,453) Having such entertaining voices in my head.

1,454) Being reminded that surrender to Jesus is the truest freedom I’ve ever known.

1,455) Knowing that God is more faithful and eager to hear my prayers and answer them than I am to pray them most of the time.

1,456) The calming effect of hearing the rainfall outside.

1,457) Thinking of how very far my driving skills have come since my very first time behind the wheel, terrified out of my mind and driving down one of the busiest streets in Memphis.

1,458) Choosing joy over a bitter and complaining spirit.

1,459) My friend Emily, who also serves in Kairos faithfully each week and who has a true Proverbs 31 kind of beauty.

1,460) The thought of going to bed soon after a long day that started at 5:30 this morning.

Things I Love 43: It Is Well With My Soul

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“Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing–and are filled” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

“When we lay the soil of our hard lives opened the rain of grace and let Joy permeate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? for us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

At another Kairos Night of Worship, I was reminded of just how much in control and how good God is. Even when prayers seem to go unanswered or don’t get answered the way we wanted. Even when life wounds us by loss and pain. Only when the seed is wrecked can new life emerge and the resurrection take place.

1,331) A night of singing old hymns with some very creative arrangements.

1,332) The rhythmic pattern of rain hitting my bedroom window at night.

1,333) Pictures of big dogs and little cats being friends with each other.

1,334) My USAA car insurance.

1,335) Testimonies of how God brought transformation and healing out of deep sorrow and pain.

1,336) 900 people singing as one a Kairos.

1,337) Bananas, which were the only fruit I would eat for a long time.

1,338) The lack of 100+ temps so far this summer.

1,339) Not having to worry about drought conditions this year.

1,340) That God doesn’t just love good little children. He loves even the ones who can’t seem to get their acts together.

1,341) Not being in a legalistic church.

1,342) FInally getting the time zone thing right on my WordPress settings after only 3 years of blogging.

1,343) Appreciating people who think differently than me, i.e. left-brained, logical, liberal, etc.

1,344) How laser printers are so much quieter than the old dot matrix.

1,345) Remembering that life is more of a marathon than a sprint.

1,346) Jumping in the occasional puddle of rain water.

1,347) Browsing (and not stalking) other peoples’ facebook pages.

1,348) The No Crop app that lets me post full pictures on instagram.

1,349) Being reminded of truths through friends’ facebook posts.

1,350) No more pop quizzes ever.

1,351) Being able to cheer and be happy when my friends find their true loves and get married.

1,352) Family and friends who keep encouraging me to keep believing that I will find my own true love.

1,353) Knowing that a chicken coop only has two doors because four would make it a chicken sedan.

1,354) That my 18-year old car still works and runs good.

1,355) Sending Facebook birthday greetings.

1,356) Boxers. No more whitey tightys.

1,357) Getting the room cool so the bed feels extra warm.

1,358) My own unique brand of logic.

1,359) Me.

1,360) The way God sees me as I am, loves me as I could be, treats me like I will be, and is making me more like Jesus.