Take Your Time

One of my favorite Kairos moments from back in the day when Mike Glenn used to lead the prayer time.

Put both feet on the floor, he’d say. There’s nothing that will come up in the next few minutes that’s more important than what God’s saying to you right now. Relax and breathe. All those errands will still be there later. Right now, all you need to do is focus on God.

We live in a culture that celebrates busyness. Not necessarily productivity. Just busyness. The mantra of the age is that we don’t have time because we’re so very busy doing God knows what.

The idea is to never have a dull moment or any down time. We have all these time-saving gadgets that create more time to get more done. As a result, we have less leisure and free time than ever.

Maybe the most freeing words anyone will ever tell you– take your time. That was my takeaway from tonight’s Kairos message.

Sometimes, it’s good to focus on your breathing. It’s good to be silent and still. It’s good to rest. Above all, it’s important to be in the moment, not always thinking ahead to the next big event or thinking back to the what if’s and the could have been’s.

“There’s no present like the time.” That may be my new favorite line from a movie. Time is not infinite. You get a precious few years to live, too few to waste in busyness. Life is to be lived and savored and not merely gotten through.

Take your time.  Wherever you are, be all there. Do less but do it with everything you have, offering it as your spiritual act of worship. Enjoy the little things and pay attention to the moments in your life.

Also, take plenty of naps. Those are good.

 

 

 

Good Stories

I’m drawn to a good story, whether it be in the form of a song or poem or novel or movie. I believe a good story is one in which I can identify myself and see part of my own story in the unfolding drama.

I’m reading through the Bible again, and I recognize myself all over the place. I can identify with the Israelites who are chosen as God’s people but often act as anything but God’s own possession.

I know what it’s like to want to go back to what’s comfortable and safe, even if that also happens to be bad for you and going backward rather than going forward.

I know what it’s like to be constantly tempted by idols and the surrounding culture bombarding you with images and messages that flatly contradict the message that God keeps trying to tell you.

I can fully relate to the many characters in the Bible whom God uses in spite of themselves, their weaknesses, their fears, their hang-ups. I had always been led to believe that people like Abraham and Isaac and Moses and Noah were the heroes in the stories.

That’s not true. God is always the hero of the biblical story. These are people who are only famous because God chose to use them. If God had never spoken to Moses from a burning bush, I doubt he’d be anything more than a very small footnote in the book of Exodus.

The Bible reminds me that what I need most is not to discover the inner warrior within me but rather to rely daily on the Warrior Savior who cherishes me and fights for me and never quits on me.

I’m beginning to understand the point of all the rules of the Old Testament. The point is that I’m supposed to look and act different as one of God’s people. I’m set apart. I’m not like everybody else and my story won’t play out like everybody else’s. That’s the point.

It’s not even really my story anymore. It’s God’s story that I get to be a part of.

I love that.

The end.

 

Why I Love Old Abraham

“By faith Abraham heard God’s call to travel to a place he would one day receive as an inheritance; and he obeyed, not knowing where God’s call would take him. By faith he journeyed to the land of the promise as a foreigner; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, his fellow heirs to the promise because Abraham looked ahead to a city with foundations, a city laid out and built by God.

By faith Abraham’s wife Sarah became fertile long after menopause because she believed God would be faithful to His promise. So from this man, who was almost at death’s door, God brought forth descendants, as many as the stars in the sky and as impossible to count as the sands of the shore” (Hebrews 11:8-12).

“That’s what Scripture means when it says, ‘Abraham entrusted himself to God, and God credited him with righteousness.’ And living a faithful life earned Abraham the title of ‘God’s friend'” (James 2:23, The Voice).

I like Abraham. I can relate to Abraham.

Sure, he was the father of many nations. Sure, he’s the one through whose line came the Messiah, the Hope of the World.

But he also had clay feet at times.

Remember the time when he lied about his wife, saying she was his sister? Twice?

Remember when he tried to help God out by agreeing to go to bed with Sarah’s servant Hagar to produce the heir God promised?

Remember when Abraham had a hard time believing that God could keep His word in giving him a child?

Yeah, I can relate to all of that. Abraham’s my kind of guy.

The Bible is full of people like that. Not saints in the sense of people who walked through life with halos hanging over their heads who never messed up or got a hair out of place or got their knickers in a bunch. More like saints who stumbled and fell often, but kept getting back up, kept trusting in the next step, kept trusting that God knew where he was leading them through all the deserts and foreign countries.

Sometimes faith is simply showing up and taking the next step, trusting that God knows where He’s leading you. As Corrie Ten Boom said, faith is trusting the conductor of the train when it goes into a pitch black tunnel instead of jumping off the back of the caboose.

I suppose we’re all thankful that even faith the size of a mustard seed can move  mountains and uproot trees. It can change stubborn old hearts like yours and mine.

Best of all, faith leads you to the place where God is, where you were always meant to be, the place where your heart can rest.

 

Who’s Who, Kairos-Style

Mike Glenn made an interesting point tonight at Kairos.

When you think of the great heroes of the faith in the Old Testament, your mind immediately goes to Noah, Abraham, and David among others.

But who were these people before God called them? Would anybody have ever heard of them if God hadn’t chosen them?

Noah might have lived out his life in anonymity. Abraham might have stayed in his parents’ basement and never left his hometown. David? His own father forgot that he was one of his sons, so that probably wouldn’t have amounted to much.

The old saying goes that God doesn’t call the equipped as much as He equips the called.

Look at Zachariah and Elizabeth. They were just another old couple, one who was a priest and another who was a woman who was barren. Probably not too uncommon in those days.

Still, God chose them to bring John the Baptist into the world.

If I had a takeaway from tonight, it’d be this: if God can use Noah, Abraham, and David, then He can use you. He can take your life and use it to make a difference in the lives around you. He can make your life matter.

The best example is a poor carpenter and his teenage wife-to-be. Their names? Mary and Joseph? God chose them and though they may not have understood everything, they said YES to God’s plan for their lives.

The result? A Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Jesus.

Who knows how far God will take your YES to Him? Who knows where the ripples from your small acts of obedience will end? Who knows but that people you’ve never heard of and may never meet in this lifetime may reap the rewards of your faithfulness, even though it seems like nothing to you.

It may take nine months (as in the case of Zachariah and Elizabeth) or nine years or 40 years. Keep moving forward, keep being obedient, and keep being faithful to what you know God is telling you to do and be.

Don’t give up. God is faithful.

 

 

 

Journeying Homeward

As Mike Glenn put it, Abraham was the world’s oldest teenager when he finally left home at the ripe old age of 75. He set out for a place he’d never heard of, away from everything he’d ever known, and he and his wife set out into a journey towards God’s promises that would last them both the rest of their lives.

Abraham never got to see the ultimate fulfillment of the promises God made to him. He never got to see the great nation God promised to make from his seed. He never got to see the Promise Land in the hands of the people of God.

Still, he went, believing and trusting that God was as good as His word.

That gives me hope. That should give all of us hope.

We’re all journeying toward a destination. We all have hopes and dreams that we strive toward. Sometimes it seems like they fall into our laps. Sometimes, it seems like we will never get to the place we’re so desperately seeking.

I think ultimately the reward Abraham got in all his travelling was God Himself. The journey itself became the destination as Abraham found God all along the way.

That’s where we find God– on the road. We may or may not see what we longed for come to pass, but we will find that God has been– and will continue to be– a constant companion for our travels.

God isn’t merely the rewarded at the end of the journey. He’s the reward along the way.

That’s what I’ve been learning. If you have God and nothing else, you have everything you need. If you have everything else and not God, you end up having nothing at all.

God won’t leave you high and dry. He will finish what He started in you and get you where to the place He had in mind for you when He made you. He will be faithful to be the true fulfillment of all your heart desires.

 

A Good Word from Micah

Quick question: when was the last time you heard a sermon from the little book of Micah? Or from any of the minor prophets? Just wondering.

I was reading Micah this afternoon in my quest to read through the Bible in a year (this year, I’m reading from the New English Bible). I’ll admit that most of what I read today wasn’t the most happy-go-lucky sort. After all, God was speaking through these prophets to a wayward and rebellious nation who refused to repent and come back to the God who had brought them out of Egypt and through the wilderness to their promised land (not that there are any parallels to this country, right?) But not all of it was dark and gloomy.

Here’s one section I read that I hope will uplift and encourage you as it did me.

Where is the god who can compare with you—
    wiping the slate clean of guilt,
Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear,
    to the past sins of your purged and precious people?
You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long,
    for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most.
And compassion is on its way to us.
    You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing.
You’ll sink our sins
    to the bottom of the ocean.
You’ll stay true to your word to Father Jacob
    and continue the compassion you showed Grandfather Abraham—
Everything you promised our ancestors
    from a long time ago” (Micah 7:18-20).

Note: I quoted from The Message a) because Bible Gateway doesn’t have the New English Bible as a translation and I was too lazy to type the whole thing and b) because Eugene Peterson’s rendering is pretty powerful in and of itself.

 

Tuesdays Are Still Good

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Tuesdays are awkward. They’re those misfit days between the dreaded Mondays and the (I think) vastly overrated Hump Days known as Wednesday.

But for me, Tuesdays are my favorite. That’s because Kairos is on Tuesday.

I’ve been involved with Kairos for 8 years. I’ve volunteered as a greeter for almost as long. I’ve seen lots of people come and go and been through quite a lot in that timespan.

The attendance numbers have soared way up, plummeted back to earth, then achieved a sort of happy medium. The teaching and music have remained consistently good.

The latest series was Letters to Me. It was based on the idea of what you might tell your younger self if you could somehow get hold of pen, paper, and a time machine. Or a 1985 DeLorean.

Probably, you’d tell yourself to avoid some people. You’d tell yourself not to do some things and not to go certain places.

I love the idea that there’s nothing in your past that is irredeemable. There’s nothing God can’t use and nothing God can’t turn into something good. Just ask Joseph. Or Jacob. Or Abraham.

My favorite line from Kairos is the one that says that God can take that worst moment of your life, the one you swore up and down that you would never tell ANYBODY about, and make it the very first line of your testimony.

If you’re ever in the Nashville area on a Tuesday night, check out Kairos. It’s at 7 pm in Hudson Hall at Brentwood Baptist Church, located off I-65 exit 71. It’s kinda hard to miss.

God willing, I plan to be there for at least the next 8 years.

Frump Girl and God’s Grace

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Ian Miller: I know this great place… Zorba something… anyway, I’d love to take you there if you’d like to go.
Toula Portokalos: Uh, that place, Dancing Zorba’s…
Ian Miller: Dancing Zorba’s!
Toula Portokalos: My family kinda owns that place.
Ian Miller: [looking at her closely] I remember you. You’re that waitress.
Toula Portokalos: Seating hostess.
Ian Miller: I remember you.
Toula Portokalos: Look, I was going through a phase. . . up until now. I was Frump Girl.
Ian Miller: I don’t remember Frump Girl, but I remember you. (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

I love that last line. What Ian is saying is that he saw past the awkwardness and the insecurity to the inner beauty waiting to be revealed. An inner beauty that he had a hand in unveiling.

Sometimes with God, I feel like saying, “God, remember me? That promise-breaker? That doubter? That worrier?”

God’s response would be, “I don’t remember Promise-Breaker or Doubter or Worrier, but I remember you.”

You might remind God of a past addiction to pornography or alcohol or status. You might throw in adultery (like David), or deceit (like Jacob), or outright lying (like Abraham). You might show God Polaroids of the wreck your life used to be. God doesn’t see that.

What does God see?  Thanks to the cross, God sees you as though you had never sinned, never broken a promise, never doubted, never wavered in your faith at all.

He looks at you and sees the finished product, the stunning reveal. He looks at you right now and sees Jesus in all His perfection and glory. And He likes what He sees.

Better yet, He’s wildly in love with what He sees.

I know the mirror’s not a fun place to look at 5:30 am on a Monday morning. There can be some scary critters looking back.

But remember God not only has claimed you and renamed you, but He has redefined your past. Once you were an enemy, now you are an heir and a child of God. Your past no longer dictates your future. God does.

Just think about that and see how it changes your week.

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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.

Something Borrowed, Something Blogged

I got this out of a devotional called Streams in the Desert. It’s from July 26. I hope it speaks to you as loudly and profoundly as it did to me when I first read it.

Enjoy and thank me later.

“There are times when things look very dark to me–so dark that I have to wait even for hope. It is bad enough to wait in hope. A long-deferred fulfillment carries its own pain, but to wait for hope, to see no glimmer of a prospect and yet refuse to despair; to have nothing but night before the casement and yet to keep the casement open for possible stars; to have a vacant place in my heart and yet to allow that place to be filled by no inferior presence–that is the grandest patience in the universe. It is Job in the tempest; it is Abraham on the road to Moriah; it is Moses in the desert of Midian; it is the Son of man in the Garden of Gethsemane.

There is no patience so hard as that which endures, ‘as seeing him who is invisible’; it is the waiting for hope.

You have made waiting beautiful; You have made patience divine. You have taught us that the Father’s will may be received just because it is His will. You have revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.

Give me this Divine power of Yours, the power of Gethsemane. Give me the power to wait for hope itself, to look out from the casement where there are no stars. Give me the power, when the very joy that was set before me is gone, to stand unconquered amid the night, and say, “To the eye of my Father it is perhaps shining still.” I shall reach the climax of strength when I have learned to wait for hope. –George Matheson

Strive to be one of those–so few–who walk the earth with ever-present consciousness–all mornings, middays, star-times–that the unknown which men call Heaven is “close behind the visible scene of things.”