Saturday Night’s Alright for Slacking

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I did nothing tonight. Hard as it is to believe, I spent this Saturday evening in front of the idiot box with a very sleepy cat/therapist named Lucy. This jetsetter, this man about town, actually had a quiet night.

And the world didn’t come to a screeching halt.

Do you ever wonder that people forget about you the moment you leave the room? That when it comes to priorities, you’re not high up on anybody’s list? That ultimately you don’t truly matter to anyone?

Sure, I’ve felt that way some nights. But I know this.

There is never a moment that goes by where I’m not in God’s sight, on His mind, and engraved on His hands and on His heart. He loves me completely, unconditionally, unwaveringly, every second of every day of eternity.

God loves you the same way. God loves each person as if they were the only person who had ever lived and could receive the fullness of Love itself.

That kind of love meets you where you are but does not leave you that way. It can’t help but transform the beloved into the image of the Lover. You become most like what you love most. Always.

I can’t say that staying home was my first choice. Or even on my list of top twenty choices.

But here I am, thankful even on a slow Saturday night that I have everything I need in the world right here. Finding the joy on nights like this really does transform how you see the rest of your life. Giving thanks for the small things makes room to receive the greater things.

I think I’ll sign off in a bit here and go do some actual reading of an actual book, with actual pages that turn and everything. How novel.

May you know in full (or as fully as a finite human can comprehend the infinite) how much your Abba really does love you at every moment, whether you feel it or not.

That’s all for now.

Blessed Are the Ignored

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“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty” (Mother Teresa).

Have you ever felt like you were being ignored?

Have you ever worked in an office where a co-worker made the point of chatting with everyone else but never with you?

Have you ever sent out a friend request on Facebook and not even gotten the dignity of a response?

Have you ever texted or messaged someone and it seemed like that person didn’t even feel you were worth bothering to respond to?

Have you ever felt that no guy or girl ever even saw you as a romantic possibility or even thought about you as anything other than a friend?

I read this week that to feel ignored is the worst feeling of all. I agree. It hits at one of our most vulnerable spots– the need to feel valued and appreciated as a human being.
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When someone ignores you, that person is essentially saying to you, “You don’t matter. You have no value.” It’s demeaning not only to that individual, but also to the God who created them (see Psalm 139).

Jesus knows exactly what that feels like. He stood before Jerusalem, weeping because they refused to turn to Him so that they could have true and eternal life.

Do you know something? There is never a moment that goes by where you are not on God’s mind. There is never a second where you are not on God’s heart and His eye is not on you.

Jesus would rather go through the hell of crucifixion and death for you than go to heaven without you. If you had been the only one, He still would have gone through all of the torture and pain because He thought you were worth it. And He still does. He still thinks you’re to die for.

Jesus’ love for you proves once and for all that you have worth and value. You matter. Whatever anyone else ever says or does to you will never negate the fact that your Abba loves you and is very fond of you. He has forever set His affection on you and nothing and no one can ever take it away.

Maybe you’re reading this and realize you’ve been guilty of ignoring someone, either consciously or otherwise. Maybe you’re feeling a tug at your heart compelling you to go to that person and make it right. Don’t let another day go by until you repent before God and restore that relationship.

Remember, God’s heart is still for the widow and the orphan, the outcast and the forgotten, those that society ignores. He still blesses those who bless them. In the Kingdom of God, everyone has a place. In God’s call, everyone is to hear the Good News; no one is ever to be left out.

I now understand that sometimes people are too overwhelmed by circumstances to see me. Sometimes, it’s all they can do to hold themselves together and not fall apart completely. The best thing you can do for someone who doesn’t acknowledge you is to pray God’s peace and healing over them. To pray they know in that very moment that God sees them in their pain and knows where they are.

God, you see us when no one else does and You’re with us when we feel most alone. Be with the ones feeling alone and may they feel You near in the moment of their greatest need. Amen.

Alone But Not Lonely

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I was literally sitting in the dark on the upstairs patio at Frothy Monkey. One friend has been AWOL from my life for a while now, another moved to Cookeville today, and yet another was instagramming about how much fun she was having with friends listening to music at Franklin Mercantile just down the street.

And I sat alone in the dark.

And I was okay with it.

Sometimes, it’s good to be alone. In fact, it’s more than good. It’s necessary. You can never really effectively be present in a crowd if you can never be alone. You only hear your true name and your true identity in those times of aloneness.

It took me embracing those times of being alone to hear that I am my Abba’s beloved and to know that I belong to Him and He is very pleased with me.

I tried to message my friend to find out if she was still in the area and got no response. So I walked over to the Franklin Mercantile only to find I had missed everything. The crowd, including my friend, was gone.

I was still okay.

That used to be a recurring nightmare of mine. I’d find my friends had all left me suddenly or that I was just a step or a second too slow and would just miss them.

But tonight, I knew I wasn’t alone. Those Strong Arms that hold me up in the day and in the crowded places are just as able to carry me through the dark places where I am alone.

You can only hear your Abba singing over you when you’re alone. You can never truly appreciate God as a refuge and stronghold and place of rest in a crowd, but in those times when no one else is around.

I pray you can embrace being alone as much as you cherish being with family and friends. May you learn to love the dark, for that is where your Father will whisper precious promises to you that you will come to cherish more dearly than anything you can find at any other time.

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 49: Waited On a Line of Greens and Blues

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“How long does it take for your soul to recognize that your life is full? The slower the living, the greater the sense of fullness and satisfaction. The body and soul can synchronize” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

One important part of learning to living out of eucharisteo is to recognize not every moment will feel like joy. There will be relapses into old ways of thinking– of fear and anger and the need to control and manipulate. It’s okay. Just don’t stay there. Center your mind on the little things you love that make you grateful. Make a list of them. Maybe don’t be quite as OCD as me and list 1,420 (and counting) things, but start small and make a list of 20-25.

1,521) Remembering that no failure is final.

1,522) Chocolate moose tracks ice cream from Purity.

1,523) Little pleasant surprises like getting off work 30 minutes early.

1,524) Finding a retail store called Ragamuffin Shoppe (which turned out to be a children’s clothing store) located off of Cool Springs Blvd.

1,525) Giving one of my blog cards to the person who worked there.

1,526) Walking all the way to the intersection of Cool Springs Blvd and Frazier Drive (even though it was hot and muggy and I sweated like the pig that’s about to be Christmas Day dinner).

1,527) The video I posted today of a cat in a shark costume riding on one of those roomba thingys.

1,528) Not being ashamed to use the word “thingy” when talking about something electronic or mechanical.

1,529) Getting to sleep in tomorrow morning.

1,530) Not having any of those 4-hours-of-sleep kinds of nights lately.

1,531) “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

1,532) The little Snickers frozen ice cream bars.

1,533) Finding out about a book called 14,000 Things to be Happy About from my cousin and one of my favorite people ever, Rachel Johnson.

1,528) My cat Lucy giving me high fives.

1,529) My little Casio portable TV (even though it doesn’t work currently).

1,530) The song “To Be With You” by Mr. Big that brings back memories every time I hear it.

1,531) God’s mighty saving arm that is both strong and long enough to reach me.

1,532) The perfectly ripe banana I had today.

1,533) The video I just posted on Facebook of a 20-month old girl singing along with Elvis’ “An American Trilogy.”

1,534) The peace and quiet at 11:30 pm on a Friday night.

1,535) Not having any plans or money or gas in my car this weekend.

1,536) Not having to work this Saturday.

1,537) Being at peace at the moment.

1,538) Accepting what is, letting go of what was, and having faith in what can be (and knowing God is in all three places still).

1,539) The way Foursquare listed my workplace as Affionion Group.

1,540) The freedom that comes with not caring about appearing foolish in the eyes of others.

1,541) Getting the inside joke for once.

1,542) When other people get my obscure movie and TV show references.

1,543) Having enough of these things I love for 49 (and still counting) posts.

1,544) Not having a sinus headache today.

1,545) Eating at seafood places just for the halibut (you’ll get it if you read it out loud really fast).

1,546) All those cat emoticons on Facebook Messenger.

1,547) Those strong arms of my Abba holding on to me tightly tonight.

1,548) Reading the Bible on the YouVersion app on my iPad 2.

1,549) The dream of owning the Complete Series of Friends on blu ray one day.

1,550) Obviously being a night owl (as I type this at 12:12 am).

Facing Your Fear

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I have an embarrassing confession. Well, it may not seem so embarrassing to you, but it was to me. At least until today.

I had never jumped off a diving board into the deep end of a swimming pool.

There. It’s out there.

I had always stayed near the shallow end of the pool. Ever since a few traumatic (at least to me) experiences with swimming and diving boards, I had a fear of the deep end of the pool.

I distinctly remember being in a group of kids who were in some kind of class or something where we learned to swim. The one part I didn’t like was where the lady instructor wanted us to jump off the diving board into the deep end. I wasn’t having any part of that.

I remember my way of getting back at her was deliberately peeing in her pool. I know it doesn’t make sense now, but it did to my 8-year old mind.

Today for the first time, I dove off the diving board. It wasn’t a gold medal dive. Or silver. Not even aluminum. It probably wasn’t even a dive even in the loosest sense of the word. But I went from the diving board into the pool. That’s gotta count for something.

What are you afraid of? Is it a conversation you’ve put off having? Is it asking that girl (or guy) out on a date? Is it taking a risk on a new career or a new city?

It may be as simple as trying new foods or diving into swimming pools. All I know is that there is great freedom in facing your fear head on and finding out it wasn’t nearly so big and bad as you had always thought.

That’s the way with fear. All bark and no bite. All talk and no game. Fear is a lie, pure and simple, that the perfect love of Jesus drives out every single time.

Fear has no place alongside of faith in a believer. And I don’t mean how much you believe in Jesus as much as how much He believes in you and roots for you and fights for you and intercedes for you.

I don’t know why I was ever afraid. I’m sure that lady would have caught me when I dove in. I’m just as sure that whenever I take a leap of faith in any situation, I will either learn to fly or fall into the loving arms of my Abba Father.

As Ann Voskamp said, “All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.”

And the love of a Father for His children knows no end. Period.

 

Things I Love 9: This Series Is Getting Completely Redonkulous

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I apologize for those of you who were anxiously awaiting the next installment of this series. Both of you.

I got off track in more ways than one, but now I continue this seemingly neverending series with #192.

192) A cool breeze on a hot and humid summer day.

193) Any time I get free food, even if it’s just a free dreamcone from Chick-fil-A (one of the perks of having the app foursquare on my iPhone!)

194) Knowing that even if the worst case scenario actually comes to pass, God’s taking care of me and everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

195) The absolute magic of Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers.

196) Homemade bread.

197) Sweet potato french fries (I recommend Pucketts or The Pharmacy).

198) Knowing my family and friends are praying for me as I write this.

199) Being able to pray the prayer that never fails– Your will be done– and sincerely mean it.

200) Being okay after having my heart broken in a very failed attempt to take a friendship to the next level.

201) That the best things in life really are free.

202) GPS for those like me who are directionally-impaired.

203) Ice cold water on a hot day.

204) Unexpectedly seeing old friends at Kairos.

205) Having peace even in the midst of spectacularly blowing a friendship to smithereens.

206) When technology works like its supposed to.

207) Getting all green lights on my way to church.

208) That I am an heir with Christ and no longer a slave to fear but now possess a spirit of adoption and can cry, “Abba, Daddy” to the God and Maker of the Universe.

209) That low sexy voice you get when ever you have a cold or hay fever.

210) Hearing a favorite song at just the right moment.

211) The effortless artistry of Ella Fitzgerald’s voice.

212) That God hears my feeble prayers– and even my sighs and groans when I don’t have the words.

213) That God can use messes like Moses, Abraham, David, Peter, and (most amazing of all) me.

To All the Rahabs in the World

I’ve blogged about Rahab before. Maybe because she’s got such a beautiful story. Maybe because I can relate to her brokenness so well. Or maybe it’s because it shows God at his redemptive best.

Rahab was a prostitute who hid the Israelite spies and lied about their whereabouts to the local police. She led them to safety on the promise that they take care of her family when they come to invade the city. Note: she didn’t ask for herself, just her family.

Rahab’s past is synonymous with shame. She had seen her life spiral downward into something she could never have imagined as a little girl. Anyone else in her position could have turned hard and cold and not even let those foreign spies in.

But there was something about them that got her attention. Something about those stories of their god who had led them through the desert and defeated their enemies. All her own gods had failed her. Maybe there was something different about this Yahweh.

When people look at people like her, all they see is something broken. Something to discard, to throw away. God sees the perfect piece that will fit into his master plan of redemption. He sees the mother of Boaz, the father of Jesse, the father of King David, out of whose line came Jesus.

I love the saying that broken pieces make the best stained glass windows. It’s true. The best testimonies come from the worst moment of your life when you saw that God could stoop low enough to find you in your filth and raise you up. That he could save anyone, even you.

So to all the Rahabs in the world, just remember this. You have a place in God’s story. You have a place in God’s heart. You are not a dirty whore. You are a beloved daughter, a beloved son, a beloved child of God.

Your Abba is indeed very fond of you.

 

Revisiting the Classics

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I may lose my man-card permanently for this, but I love the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve seen it, and it still has the same impact on me every single time.

Both Paul Varjak and Holly Golightly start the movie a bit dazed and confused. And lost. Neither one has a direction or purpose. Until they find each other.

I think life’s a lot like that. We help each other find the way. We help each other find God in the times where it seems God is nowhere to be found. We are Jesus to each other in countless ways day in and day out.

I still like to think I have a Holly Golightly out there. If she looks like Audrey Hepburn, it wouldn’t hurt.

We all get lost and lose our way. We occasionally forget who we are and what we’re here for. We lose our purpose and get trapped in some bad choices. We look up and wonder how we got where we are and wonder how we can ever make it back.

I think that’s where you and I come in. We remind each other of who we really are, not the sum of bad choices or a past history, but children of God, Abba’s beloved. We root for each other, cheering over victories and encouraging in the face of defeats.

That all may sound like a mighty heap of cliches. Maybe it is. But isn’t it comforting to know in the times when you’ve felt most alone and lost and confused that familiar voice that calls you back? Maybe it’s a phone call or an email or a text or a kind word spoken.

It’s good to go back to the classics. Most of all, it’s good to go back to the promises of God that never change, despite all the upheaval and uncertainty of our times.

May we remind each other of these promises and of the goodness of God every single day while we’re here.

 

My Favorite Bible Verse

“Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Saviour. He will rejoice over you with happy song, he will renew you by his love, he will dance with shouts of joy for you” (Zephaniah 3:17).

That is my favorite verse ever. If I had a top 50 list of Bible verses, this one would be #1 with a bullet.

I still remember where I was when I first heard it and it really sank in. I was on a Union University Baptist Student Union retreat back in ’92 and Chris Rice was teaching that weekend.

I still remember being in awe of a God who was actually crazy about me. It was too good to be true. It is still too good to be true, but it is still true nonetheless.

God delights in me? God rejoices over me? God does a happy dance with loud singing over me? How can that be? It doesn’t always feel true, but it is true, and this verse is proof positive of that fact.

Read that verse in every translation you can get your hands on. It says the same thing. Meditate on it and let the fact sink in that your God delights in you. Your God doesn’t just love you out of an obligatory “I love people because I’m God and I have to love people” kind of way. No. He is crazy in love with you.

Not because you’re good enough or pretty enough or smart enough or talented enough or clever enough. He loves you because you’re you, exactly the way he made you to be.

I know this isn’t an original thought. It’s been said before (and said better) by many others. I’m just faithfully passing along to you the wisdom passed along to me by so many others through so many years.

I hope you wake up tomorrow morning and the very first thought in your head is “My Abba is very fond of me.” I hope that in your head you throw a day-long celebration over the fact that your God wants you and likes you and chose you and loves you very much.

It may not be new information, but all of us need to be reminded from time to time of these things. I know I do.