Come, Lord Jesus: An Advent Prayer for 2016

“Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a wonder at the wisdom and power of Your Father and ours. Receive my prayer as part of my service of the Lord who enlists me in God’s own work for justice.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a hunger for peace: peace in the world, peace in my home, peace in myself.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a joy responsive to the Father’s joy. I seek His will so I can serve with gladness, singing and love.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me the joy and love and peace it is right to bring to the manger of my Lord. Raise in me, too, sober reverence for the God who acted there, hearty gratitude for the life begun there, and spirited resolution to serve the Father and Son.

I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, whose advent I hail. Amen” (A Catholic Advent Prayer).

At this time of year, I’m always on the lookout for prayers and quotations that reflect the true heart of the Advent season. I found one just now.

The incarnation of Immanuel means so much more than my world getting put right. It’s about the entire world getting put right. It’s about God inviting me to be a part of the revolution that started not from a throne room and a king or a battlefield and a general but from a manger and an infant.

The question this advent: how can we show tangible love to those around us with whom we live and work and play? How can we be the visible body of Christ to those who have never seen or heard this gospel (or who have seen and heard a very distorted version of it)?

I’m praying that this Advent is about more than just me and my own serenity and fulfillment. I want it to be about more than buying and receiving presents. I want to see change in the world and I want it to start in me.


A Moment of Whoa!


I had a Joey moment. It’s one where I literally almost said “Whoa!” out loud. I did said it in my head.

One of the men staying with us at Room in the Inn said something that paused me in my tracks. Proverbially, since I was already sitting down, but it got me thinking. Here’s what he said:

Sin has the letter I right smack dab in the middle of it, while Jesus has the word “us” in it.

There’s an I in sin. Right in the middle, which puts me in the center of my life instead of God. Sin is all about me doing things my way and setting myself up as the ultimate authority.

There’s an US in Jesus. As in although Jesus saves us one person at a time, He puts us together in community, what we sometimes refer to as the body of Christ. Jesus never saves anyone to live out their faith on their own, but in the midst of other believers. Simply put, we are better together.

Sin leads to isolation and loneliness. And as just about anyone can tell you, you are much more prone to temptations and pitfalls when you’re fighting alone. Jesus leads us to accountability and encouraging and mutual bearing of burdens. When we are together, we compliment each other because where I am weakest, someone else excels, and where that person may fall short is where my gifts and calling lie.

Beware of anything that leads you away from fellow believers. I understand that not all of us are extreme extroverts and some of us like times to be alone. But no one should spend all their time alone, away from others who can watch out for them and warn them of imminent dangers they might otherwise walk blindly into or possibly speak that word of encouragement that enables them to go on for one more day.

There’s an I in sin and and US in Jesus. It’s that simple.

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Being on the Ground Floor


Today at my church, there were few–if any– empty chairs. That might not sound like much until you consider that this church has only officially been in existence since July of last year (with the official launch in September).

I’ve always said that I wanted to be on the ground floor of a church plant and here I am.

My role may not be a big one, but I am playing a small part. I am a greeter on most Sunday mornings and once every month or so I run the graphics, which includes song lyrics and other slides related to the Sunday morning service.

I enjoy it. I really love the fact that we as the local body of Christ are making an impact on the neighborhood in which God has placed us. People driving by can’t help but notice the sign that reads “The Church at Avenue South– a regional campus of Brentwood Baptist Church.” Jesus has moved into the neighborhood and we are His visible body here on earth.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the year ahead. I pray that we won’t be content to maintain status quo but instead seek ways to think outside that proverbial box and truly become all things to all people, just as Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 9:22.

In fact, my prayer is for all the churches in Nashville to do the same. I really do hope that we can get away from the competitive spirit and learn to work together as the Church. After all, Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and His Father are one.

More than that, I pray the churches in Nashville will stick to the Gospel that Paul preached, no matter what. That’s what saves people and that’s what people are dying to hear, both figuratively and literally.


If It Hadn’t Been for Those Meddling Hypocrites!


For some odd reason today, I thought about the movie Annie Hall and a great line. Woody Allen’s character says something to the effect of: “I wouldn’t want to be a part of a club that would have me for a member.”

Then I thought of all those people who stay away from church because of all the hypocrites. So here are my thoughts on that.

First of all, if you never went any place where there were hypocrites, you’d be at home alone in the dark with your pet ferret. You’d never go anywhere for fear of running into one of those hypocrites. You might even have a hard time looking in the mirror, because . . .

That’s right. You’re a hypocrite. So am I. We’ve all pretended to be something or somebody we’re not from time to time. We’ve played the calm dispassionate part when we’re falling apart and screaming on the inside.

Society teaches us to be hypocrites, to never let our true selves out but to only show what is culturally acceptable and normal. You can be yourself as long as that fits a certain cookie-cutter mold.

If there’s anyplace where you can be you, it should be the Church. If there’s a place where you can let your guard down and admit your hurts and flaws, it should be in the midst of the body of Christ.

Churches aren’t perfect because Christians aren’t perfect. As the old joke goes, if you find the perfect church don’t go there because you’ll ruin it with your imperfections.

Church is about doing life together and figuring it all out together. And if you’re not getting anything out of it, maybe that means you’re not putting in your fair share. Isn’t faith about more than just receiving? Isn’t there the part of giving and losing yourself?

I’m glad I’ve found a church where I feel like I belong, where I matter, where I can be a part of what God is doing in the world. I hope you find a place where you can feel like family, too.

Things I Love 45: Sometimes You Just Gotta Walk Away

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“When bridges seem to give way, we fall into Christ’s safe arms, true bridge, and not into hopelessness. It is safe to trust! We can be too weak to go on because His strength is made perfect in utter brokenness and nail-pierced hands help up. It is safe to trust! We can give thanks in everything because there’s a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust! The million bridges behind us may seem flattened to the earthly eye, but all bridges ultimately hold, fastened by nails. It is safe to trust.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

Well, it was a good day. Not because absolutely everything went exactly like I wanted it to, but because God was in it, orchestrating each and every individual event toward a grander purpose than I can imagine or foresee just yet. I only see the underside of the tapestry He’s weaving, seeing the dark threads intertwined with the lighter ones, not seeing the beautiful imagery being crafted on the other side. Even during the dark moments, I know that the contrast He’s creating will make the brightly threaded moments seem all the brighter and more precious.

1,401) Starting back to work on Monday in a new temp-to-hire position.

1,402) A perfectly blended Arnold Palmer (unsweet tea and lemonade) at the Williamson County Fair.

1,403) Another amazing sermon from Mike Glenn at Brentwood Baptist Church.

1,404) Knowing when to walk away rather than risk getting upset.

1,405) My current therapy session with my sleeping feline therapist, also known as Lucy.

1,406) The continuation of strangely mild temperatures in August.

1,407) Knowing that the start of school means that autumn and changing leaves are just around the proverbial corner.

1,408) Just about all the cheesy 80’s Chicago ballads.

1,409) Playing a friendly game of volleyball without getting overly caught up in winning or playing perfectly.

1,410) Playing Candy Crush Saga on my iPad 2.

1,411) Bare feet on summer grass in the evening.

1,412) Trying on a pair of Teva sandals that feel like heaven.

1,413) Reading about the cat named Lucy who reportedly lived to be 39.

1,414) Free downloads on iBooks on my iPad 2.

1,415) Knowing all (or most) of the words to the essential classic rock songs.

1,416) Trusting the Sovereignty of God above my feelings or my intuition or my gut feelings or my understanding.

1,417) Seeing another old landmark, Gray’s Pharmacy,  in downtown Franklin renovated and finding new life as a restaurant.

1,418) Having avoided just about every single episode of any reality TV show ever made.

1,419) Committing to read the old Catholic mystic writers such as St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.

1,420) Finding a little book, The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, that I didn’t even remember I had.

1,421) My cat, Lucy, licking my hand while I’m typing this on my laptop.

1,422) The infinite possibilities and opportunities that await me on August 5.

1,423) Calling those who share my love for Jesus and His grace displayed in salvation my brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of denomination.

1,424) Not caring if I’m an extrovert or an introvert, but just loving being me in all my different moods and temperaments.

1,425) Almost three hours of volleyball this evening.

1,426) My collection of coasters that looks like a little dresser.

1,427) Labor Day being 4 weeks away.

1,428) Seeing diversity in the Body of Christ.

1,429) Remembering that I am the Hands and Feet of Christ and that He can still reach and love and embrace His children through me.

1,430) Finally starting season 4 of Lost after months of being stuck on the cliffhanger of season 3.