Joy in the Midst of Sadness


I celebrated with the rest of the family as my niece turned 2. Finally, I can stop counting in months. I was seriously running out of fingers and toes to count on.

I loved seeing the pure unadulterated joy on her face when she saw her presents and the complete love and trust she has for her mommy and daddy and two big brothers. It did my heart good.

But I also remembered Adrian Peterson’s 2-year old son who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend. My heart hurts and I have questions I can’t answer.

Who does that to a 2-year old? For what possible reason?

I know we live in a broken world filled with broken people. Creation groans for deliverance and for everything to be made right. Too many defenseless and helpless children suffer, too many people go to bed hungry, too many marriages fall apart, and too many die way too young.

Then I remember how this story ends. I cheated and read the last page. It’s about God wiping away every tear from our eyes. It’s about a new Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth where lambs lie safely next to lions, where others is no need for sun, moon, or stars because God is there.

I love what the guest pastor said. God didn’t want an only child, so He chose us to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus and become heirs with Jesus to all the promises of God.

I love this version of Romans 8:29-30: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.”

That’s what keeps me going in the midst of so much suffering and sadness. That’s why I can find joy in everything. Because ultimately Love does win.

A Beautiful Moment


I saw one example of Eucharisteo paying off today.  My mother and  were on the way back from picking up my grandmother from her assisted living apartment. We had Hank Williams playing in the car, hoping my grandmother would recognize the old music.

We got to the song “Hey Good Lookin'”, a song pretty much EVERYBODY has heard of at some point in their lives. My mom started singing and, lo and behold, my grandmother chimed in. I don’t know why that moment blessed me so much, but it did.

Out of all the great things that happened today– seeing my niece Lizzie’s joy in opening her birthday presents, being with family, driving home at night with the windows rolled down– that moment topped them all. In fact, I’d say it has hit the charts with a bullet for one of my favorite moments of 2013.

I guess I love that moment because I was able to slow down to catch that fleeting moment and savor it. I didn’t miss it like I’ve missed so many others because I was too busy looking back in regret or looking ahead with anxiety. I was squarely in that moment and seeing God at work right then and there.

My grandmother is 89 and her memory’s not what it used to be. I know she won’t live forever, as much as the 10-year old part of me thinks otherwise. I know no one I love lives forever. At some point, I will have to say goodbye to everything and everyone I love this side of heaven. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t relish in every moment I’m given. It doesn’t mean that I can’t build memories of moments that will carry me through the grief back to the joy.

I love my friends, whether they’re in my life for 15 minutes, 6 months, 2 years, or a lifetime. I know better than to assume every friend will always be my friend and will always be around. I also know that each person, whether family or friend, has left footprints in my heart and residue of their spirit in my soul, so that I am forever changed, more like Jesus, because of knowing them.

My prayer isn’t that people will look back and remember me as a really swell guy, but that they will look on the times they spent with me and reflect on how much closer to Jesus they are now because of my small part in their lives.

That’s all.

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.

Things I Love 8: Greg’s Sanity Has Left the Building

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FYI: these blogs will continue until I get to 1,000 things I love. It’s from the book, One Thousand Gifts, so I’m trying to list out– wait for it– 1,000 little things that I believe are God’s gifts to me and daily reminders that stir me to gratitude and thanksgiving as a lifestyle. Plus, I don’t have to worry about what I will be blogging on until at least July of 2014. Just kidding. Sort of.

Ok. Here goes the list, starting at #168. Drum roll, please.

168) Looking through old photo albums and reliving those old memories and remembering people who’ve been gone from my life for a while (and thinking they’re looking down from heaven and smiling at those photos, too).

169) My extremely loud Hawaiian shirt, which one random teenager called “sick.” I guess that’s a compliment. I’m not really sure.

170) Everything related to either Narnia and Wardrobes or Middle Earth and Hobbits.

171) Surprise birthday parties (hint, hint, subtle subliminal suggestion. . . cough).

172) Celebrating Easter and remembering that the Resurrection changed EVERYTHING. Including me.

173) That Jesus would have chosen the nails and the cross and the agony if only for me alone.

174) By Jesus loving me unconditionally and prodigally, he made me loveable.

175) Silent movies.

176) Box hockey (and the fact that I know what box hockey is).

177) All my high school reunions where I see old friends and get to catch up after 10 (or 20) years apart.

178) That I get to be a small part of Kairos, a worship gathering for young adults, every week and I see God at work there every single week.

179) Being content in my relationships and not obsessively wondering where they might or might not be headed,

180) Knowing that if the absolute worst case scenario should happen, I would still be loved by Jesus and God would still work even that out for my good and his glory.

181) How randomly my brain works these days.

182) The vast array of autumn colors from the leaves changing and falling.

183) Doing small random acts of kindness for people when they least expect it.

184) Any positive news stories (because they are sadly the exception and not the rule).

185) That I’m down to 715 more things to be thankful for.

186) Now it’s only 714.

187) That I’m not what everyone else thinks I am or even what I think of myself, but only what Jesus says I am– Chosen, Redeemed, Beloved, Child of God, Forgiven, Free, etc.

188) That Jesus won’t ever stop reminding me of my true identity and sending friends who will help me remember the song in my heart when I forget the words.

189) Lightning bugs at night in an open field.

190) Cheese grits made just right.

191) That I probably have at least 32 more of these blogs a-comin’ your way. But not in a row.

A Letter to My Niece Lizzie

You’re too young to read this right now, but one day maybe you will.

Today is your 1st birthday. It only seems like a few days ago that I was meeting you for the first time in the hospital room with your mother and father wearing smiles that stretched from ear to ear. I got to hold you for a little while and I think you grabbed my heart in your tiny hands and it’s been there ever since.

Today I and the rest of your family watched you eat your first birthday cake, getting more frosting all over your face and in your hair and on the floor than in your mouth. You had the biggest grin on your face. You were loving every minute of it.

You’ve already grown up so very fast, learning to crawl and stand up and say a few words. It won’t be long before you’ll be walking, then running, then asking for the keys to the car.

I hope you know already how much your mother and father and brothers love you. How much your grandparents love you. And how much your crazy goofy uncle loves you, too.

You’ll be the most photographed child in history. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you will have lots more photos taken of you. You’ll have videos taken of your first steps, your first day of school, your first soccer game, and so on. There will be birthday parties and slumber parties and field trips and vacations and so many things to look forward to.

If anything, I hope you come to know as soon as possible how much not only your family loves you, but how much God loves you. I know your parents are already showing you by word and by example.

I hope you know that you are a princess, because your Father is a King. I hope you will listen to what he says about you and don’t listen to anybody else who tries to tell you otherwise.

I hope you grow up into a beautiful young woman and find a godly young man who loves you more than his own life. I hope you get married and have children of your own that you can laugh with and tell stories to. I hope that you can pass the legacy of faith down to them just as it was passed to you.

I can’t wait to see you become all that God created you to be.

Turning the big 4-Uh-Oh

In less than six days, I turn 40.

Yes, I’ve heard that 40 is the new 30, and 20 is the new 10. I guess that makes 10 the new embryo.

I’m gonna be 40. Right now, I think I’m in denial. I’ve been telling everyone I am celebrating the 15th anniversary of my 25th birthday, which is true and sounds less ominous that the dreaded “turning 40.”

Am I where I thought I would be at 40? Not even close.

I’m not married. Or engaged. Or dating. Or even remotely close to dating (I’ve always heard that for dating to work you need to not only be attracted to someone, but that someone should also be attraced back. Funny how that always seems to be the case.)

Sometimes, if I let myself think about how far off-course I am from where I envisioned myself, it’s enough to make me uber-bummed.

But as I was reminded this week, God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. As far as the heavens are above the earth, so His thoughts are that much higher than mine.

I see only a tiny part of the picture while He sees the whole thing. He knows where I need to be and He knows how to get me there when I am good and ready, and not one second before then.

Daily, it’s a fight to seek first the Kingdom of God and not my own itinerary. It’s hard to keep trusting in God when He leads me contrary to where everything in me tells me I should go.

Still, I know that even though I don’t know the way or how I will get there, I can trust the One leading me. I can look back at His proven track record and know that He’s got me.

I’m in Good Hands.