Radnor Lake in January?

I couldn’t believe it when I stepped outside. It felt like early October (or late March, depending on your viewpoint). In other words, it did NOT feel like January.

Instead of meeting my friend and accountability partner at the normal location, we met at Radnor Lake State Park and went hiking.

More accurately, we met at the park, waited 40 minutes to find parking spots, THEN went hiking. Apparently, half of Nashville decided to take advantage of the 65 degree weather and go to Radnor. At the same time.

The wait was worth it. We counted several squirrels and turkeys snd at least eight deer. Or maybe we saw the same two deer in four different places. It could go either way.

I’ve heard the term “God-wink” used to describe a totally unexpected albeit small blessing. Today was one of those.

It was a small reminder that if God can show up in the small and seemingly trivial details, then He can surely show up in the big moments and dark places of my life.

I know I’m not the only one who needed this reminder on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Day.

A Beautiful Day in January

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“This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards … was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself—perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defence against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film” (C. S. Lewis, Perelandra).

Today was perfect. I served as a greeter at the church’s back door this morning and was pleasantly surprised at how warm and spring-like the weather was. The sun was shining, there was a faint breeze, and I felt really good.

Sometimes, I wish I could bottle weather on days like this. That way I could pull it out on those cold, rainy days where it’s easy to feel discouraged and disheartened and instantly be transported back to this morning. Even if it were only 5 minutes, that would be enough to tide me over until the next sunny day.

Unfortunately, that sort of technology doesn’t yet exist. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe instead of pining for better weather, I could train my eye to see the good, even during those nasty, cold, and rainy days that always seem to come in bunches.

You can’t repeat a memory, no matter how good it was. You can never go back and re-create it. After all, all those variables that worked out just perfectly for you to have that moment have changed, as have you. And besides, all the time spent longing for past glories only takes away from your ability to be fully present where you are right now.

So I’ll be content to think about how I got a sneak preview of spring on January 18, 2015 and just as equally content when the weather goes back to normal cold January weather.

 

 

The Ragamuffin Blog

As you know, the reason for the name of this blog is the very famous book The Ragamuffin Gospel by one Mr. Brennan Manning. I thought I’d share one of his quotes that I love, one of the reasons why I write these blogs:

““The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian” (Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God).

That truly is what it means to be a Christian.

 

When You Can’t Think of Any Good Blog Ideas . . . .

Since I am fresh out of original material, I thought I’d pick the brain of one C. S. Lewis and see if he has anything worthwhile to say. I found this in an email and thought it worthy enough to share with you. Plus, it uses words like solecism, which I’m going to have to look up now because I have no idea what it means. Here goes:

“If the world exists not chiefly that we may love God but that God may love us, yet that very fact, on a deeper level, is so for our sakes. If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed. Before and behind all the relations of God to man, as we now learn them from Christianity, yawns the abyss of a Divine act of pure giving—the election of man, from nonentity, to be the beloved of God, and therefore (in some sense) the needed and desired of God, who but for that act needs and desires nothing, since He eternally has, and is, all goodness. And that act is for our sakes. It is good for us to know love; and best for us to know the love of the best object, God. But to know it as a love in which we were primarily the wooers and God the wooed, in which we sought and He was found, in which His conformity to our needs, not ours to His, came first, would be to know it in a form false to the very nature of things. For we are only creatures: our role must always be that of patient to agent, female to male, mirror to light, echo to voice. Our highest activity must be response, not initiative. To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire: to experience it in the opposite way is, as it were, a solecism against the grammar of being.”

I looked up solecism. According to my handy-dandy Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence.” In other words, to experience the love of God in an illusory form is basically to go against the very fabric of our existence. Or something like that.

The fact that God created us and redeemed us and loves us for no other reason than He chooses to do so blows my mind. God didn’t– and still doesn’t– need me but He still wants me. He still wants you, even when it seems nobody else does.

That’s a good thought to take with you as you drift into dreamland tonight.

 

Another Letter to Myself

Last year at Kairos, Mike Glenn instructed us to take pen to paper and write ourselves a letter, to be place in a self-addressed envelope and mailed back, to us at some point in the future. The point was that you could see where you were back then and where you are now and how far you’ve come.

Mine came back today. Here’s what I wrote way back in 2014:

“Dear Me,

You probably feel like your life is headed toward a dead end. You feel like everything will always be as it is right now. You feel like you’ll never move out on your own or go on a date, much less ever get married. You feel like you’ll always be behind, trying to catch up.

Remember, God can take anything in your life and turn it to good. What seems impossible to you right now isn’t even remotely difficult for God. One day, you will look back and see God was preparing you for a future only He could see. Remember that you kept putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that God knew what He was doing when you didn’t.

God is good. His promises are always true, in sunshine and rain, joy and pain, good and bad, in daytime and nighttime, as long as forever lasts.

Don’t let your past define you. Don’t let failure define you. Don’t let other people (or even you) define you. Let the Abba Father who calls you His Beloved be the one who defines you both now and forevermore.

A slightly wiser version of you”

 

A Clear Command

If someone claims, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother or sister, then he is a liar. Anyone who does not love a brother or sister, whom he has seen, cannot possibly love God, whom he has never seen. He gave us a clear command, that all who love God must also love their brothers and sisters” (1 John 4:20-21).

That’s one of those verses that most of us wishes wasn’t in the Bible. Maybe if John had said “anyone who does not try to love a brother or sister,” then it would have been a lot easier to swallow.

But as my pastor says, Jesus never gives us an out when it comes to obedience. We’re never given the okay to be disobedient.

Even when the other person is hard to get along with? Yes.

Even when the other person does and says hateful things? Yes.

Even when it seems beyond our capacity to love that person? Yes.

If it seems too hard, remember that God loved you while you were His enemy and set against everything He stood for. Plus, it’s not really your love that you love these people with anyway.

It goes like this. Jesus fills you up with so much love that you can’t contain it all and it splashes onto those around you. Even those people who aren’t your favorites.

The key isn’t to grit your teeth, eat your Wheaties, and try harder when it comes to loving these people. The secret is spending more time with Jesus, enough time for His love to really soak in. And while you’re with Jesus, you could pray for these people, because it’s hard to keep hating someone after you’ve been fervently praying for them.

Oh, and by praying for them, I don’t mean praying for the earth to swallow them up or for them to get hit by a bus. You pray for them like you pray for those you love– that they will know and understand the love God has for them, that they find healing from the people who wounded them in the past, and that they prosper and succeed.

 

Thanksgiving in Advance

If you’ve ever been out of a job, you know it’s not fun. Well, maybe for a day or two when it still seems like a mini-vacation, but when the bills start coming due and there’s not enough money to cover them, reality rudely barges in.

Maybe you’ve been praying for a job. Maybe you’ve been praying for a spouse. Or maybe you’ve been praying for something else entirely. I have a suggestion.

Maybe you thank God in advance for His provision.

Here’s the way I see it. God will either 1) give you what you ask or 2) give you something better.

I’m not saying that God is a celestial genie who will unload untold riches on you if you know the magical password or rub the lamp a certain way.

I am saying that God knows best how to give good gifts to His children. He knows what they need best, far more than they often do. He does after all own all those cattle on those thousand hills.

I truly believe that the best gift God gives is God. God gives Himself. And God plus nothing else is better than everything in the world minus God. God is enough.

So maybe you and I need to incorporate more thanksgiving in our prayers. I know sometimes it’s hard to give thanks when all you see are unpaid bills and all you feel is anxiety. But even if you’re alive, that in itself is something to be grateful for.

Maybe you can even try the experiment where every day you list three things you are thankful for. I do believe gratitude changes your perspective and helps you see more of what God is up to in your life. Gratitude opens your eyes to the miraculous.

At least try it for 24 hours and see if it doesn’t make a difference in your outlook.

 

Ahh, Back in Ye Olden Days of 1994

friends 1994

Earlier, I ended up at Starbucks where I was waiting on a friend of mine. I decided to utilize their exceptional wi-fi (exceptional in this case meaning “way better than my home wi-fi”). I watched a couple episodes of the TV show Friends. Season 1 to be more specific.

It always cracks me up to see how quickly technology becomes dated. The old brick phones that they used to carry around seem as antiquated as the old tube televisions, but then I have to realize that they were the newest tech 20 years ago.

I also think that 20 years ago, people still predominately had face-to-face conversations. Sure, people talked on their cell phones, but at $5 a minute (or whatever the rate was back then), it was much cheaper to talk to a live person.

Now, we live in a world where we intentionally isolate ourselves through our technology. We can go through a whole day, even a whole week, without having to actually interact with another living soul. We can be connected 24/7 and at the same time be cut off from human contact.

I’m not suggesting we revert back to 1994 phones. What I am saying is maybe you and I put down those smart phones and actually participate in this beautiful, one-and-only life we’re given. Maybe leave the phone at home and take a walk or visit a neighbor or sit on the patio of a small cafe on a lovely spring day.

As much as I do love my iPhone, I admit it can be addictive. It can be a time-suck. I seriously doubt that I will get to the end of my life and wish that I could have spent more time checking on and updating my Facebook. And there are no real-life bonus points awarded for mastering Candy Crush. Sorry to disappoint you on that one.

Jesus said that if you want to do right then do two things. 1) Love God and 2) love people. There’s wisdom in the old saying that you love people and use technology or you love technology and use people. And technology doesn’t excuse ignoring people or being rude, but that’s a topic for another blog on another day.

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Even though Albert Einstein probably didn’t actually say this, it’s still true.

 

Real Love

I’d like to preface this by confessing my lack of expertise in this area, but here goes.

I think true love doesn’t always look like it does in the movies.

It’s not as dramatic and there’s usually no orchestra playing a grand theme in the background when it happens.

There may or may not be butterflies and it may or may not happen in an instant, though I’m inclined to believe that the best of true loves happen gradually over time as friends realize that they are in love with each other.

Sometimes, I think people miss true love because they expect it to be like it is in those rom-com movies and in those Nicholas Sparks books and in all those love songs.

I’m not saying that movie-love never ever happens outside of the movies, but more that it isn’t the norm.

Love isn’t a feeling as much as it is an act of the will. A choice. A commitment to seek the welfare of the beloved regardless of whether you feel like it or not. And the feelings will come and go. You will probably fall in and out of love many times but you can always choose to love consistently through it all. Sometimes you have to act loving and do loving things before the loving feeling comes.

As I understand it, love isn’t easy. Love takes work. It takes dying to your own needs sometimes and putting the other’s needs above yours. It takes dying to your ways of doing things and your perceptions about how those things ought to be done.

I think it’s okay to watch those Hallmark movies or listen to those love songs as long as you don’t confuse them for reality. Real love isn’t as flowery or poetic but in the end, it’s something far more grand.

Never forget that real love led a Man to a Cross to be tortured and bleed and die for you and me. Real love said that no price was too high to win your heart. To win my heart.

That, my friends, is real love.

Blue Light Special

I had a random memory recently. For some odd reason, I purchased a blue light bulb as a Union University

college student. I remember I installed it in place of my regular white bulb.

I used to lay in my bed (or is it lie in my bed?) under the blue light and feel completely relaxed. I don’t know what it is about blue light, but it is very calming. At least to me.

I truly think that on tactic the devil uses on believers is to get them in a state of perpetual “busy”ness, where there is no time to rest or relax or recharge. After all, exhausted Christians are the most prone to temptation.

There’s a reason God instituted the Sabbath. He knew we needed a day off. We need downtime.

Sometimes, even taking a nap can be a spiritual act of worship. Or maybe just going alone to a quiet place to meditate and think. Sometimes, even going on a nature hike can be where God speaks to you.

So to summarize, 1) take one day off a week, 2) take naps, 3) go hiking periodically. And on that note, it’s time for my nightly nap.