Occasionally, I like to invite guest bloggers to write my blog posts. What I mean by that is that there are some nights when I am just too lazy to do any original thinking, so I “borrow” from some of my favorite writers who have expressed my own thoughts better than I could.

This is another one of those nights. The writer is Frederick Buechner and the topic is darkness. Here goes:

“The Old Testament begins with darkness, and the last of the Gospels ends with it.

‘Darkness was upon the face of the deep,’ Genesis says. Darkness was where it all started. Before darkness, there had never been anything other than darkness, void and without form. At the end of John, the disciples go out fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. It is night. They have no luck. Their nets are empty. Then they spot somebody standing on the beach. At first they don’t see who it is in the darkness. It is Jesus.

The darkness of Genesis is broken by God in great majesty speaking the word of creation. ‘Let there be light!’ That’s all it took.

The darkness of John is broken by the flicker of a charcoal fire on the sand. Jesus has made it. He cooks some fish on it for his old friends’ breakfast. On the horizon there are the first pale traces of the sun getting ready to rise.

All the genius and glory of God are somehow represented by these two scenes, not to mention what Saint Paul calls God’s foolishness.

The original creation of light itself is almost too extraordinary to take in. The little cookout on the beach is almost too ordinary to take seriously. Yet if Scripture is to be believed, enormous stakes were involved in them both, and still are. Only a saint or a visionary can begin to understand God setting the very sun on fire in the heavens, and therefore God takes another tack. By sheltering a spark with a pair of cupped hands and blowing on it, the Light of the World gets enough of a fire going to make breakfast. It’s not apt to be your interest in cosmology or even in theology that draws you to it so much as it’s the empty feeling in your stomach. You don’t have to understand anything very complicated. All you’re asked is to take a step or two forward through the darkness and start digging in” (Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark).

One in a Million

I’m in this apologetics class at my church and today we talked about a lot of things that made my brain hurt. Let’s just say that I think that whoever decided to put the alphabet in math was evil.

Still, it’s good to be challenged and stretched outside of your normal comfort zone. It’s important to know how to defend what you believe and why you believe it.

One of the factoids that grabbed my attention was how the odds of sustainable life in the universe were so infinitesimally small that it’s a miracle in and of itself that any of us are here. Really.

The odds of everything on this planet being just right and the earth being in just the right place to bring about life are 1 in a number with a lot of zeros. Like as in more than Donald Trump’s net worth. More than the cost of an apartment in downtown Nashville.

I remember the saying that if you have a hard time believing in miracles, remember that you are one.

God didn’t bring you about in the face of those odds for nothing. You have a purpose. You matter.

Each day you wake up is a gift. Every breath you take is grace. Every moment you witness is a Eucharisteo (a word I’m borrowing from Ann Voskamp that essentially means thanks-living).

How will you pay it forward? How will you live out your thanks to Almighty God? If life is a grand play and you get to contribute a verse, what will that verse be?

I know that life is too short to spend it nursing grudges and harboring bitterness. There’s too much beauty in the world to waste time in anger and impatience and greed.

So choose joy. Choose forgiveness. Choose freedom. Choose life.


Songs from the Wood: Listening to Nature

I’m not a proponent of worshipping nature. That’s akin to worshipping the message rather than the Messenger, or the creation rather than the Creator.

I spent some time today at Radnor Lake State Park with a friend. Even after all this time, it’s like stepping out of the world I know into a strange, slower, more peaceful world where the pace is slower but the beauty is richer.

I do believe that if you listen closely, you can hear nature (or rather God speaking through nature). It might go something like this:

“I have existed long before you and will still remain long after you have gone. In contrast to your hurried and busy lives, my rhythms are slow and easy. My seasons flow into one another at their leisure and the changes are few and small, building over time.

I speak in hushed tones and in quiet ways. Often, you are so accustomed to noise that you miss my words. You are used to constant bombardment and flashy displays and do not see the gentle beauty I offer.

To listen to me, you must learn to quiet your soul and calm your spirit. You must open your clenched fists into a posture of receiving and giving. You must learn to see beauty in the small as well as the great.

I will not compete with your frenetic striving and ceaseless chatter. I will wait until you can learn to be still and know.”

The celestial realms announce God’s glory;
    the skies testify of His hands’ great work.
Each day pours out more of their sayings;
    each night, more to hear and more to learn.
Inaudible words are their manner of speech,
    and silence, their means to convey.
Yet from here to the ends of the earth, their voices have gone out;
    the whole world can hear what they say” (Psalm 19:1-4, The Voice).

Being Good Stewards

“But as certainly as God created man in His image, He first created the earth. With the same care He designed  sixty thousand miles of blood vessels in the human body, He also crafted hydrangeas and freshwater rapids and hummingbirds. He balanced healthy ecosystems with precision and established climates and beauty. He integrated colors and smells  and sounds that would astonish humanity. The details He included while designing the earth are so extraordinary, it is no wonder He spend five of the six days of creation on it.

So why don’t we care for the earth anywhere near to the degree we do our bodies? Why don’t we fuss and examine and steward creation with the same tenacity? Why aren’t we refusing complicity in the ravaging of our planet? Why aren’t we determined to stop pillaging the earth’s resources like savages? Why do we mock environmentalists and undermine their passion for conservation? Do we think ourselves so superior to the rest of creation that we are willing to deplete the earth to supply our luxuries? If so, we may very well be the last generation who gets that prerogative” (Jen Hatmaker, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess).

It really bothers me that people will go out of their way NOT to recycle. It may seem like such a small detail, but I think it’s a symptom of a lackadaisical disregard for the planet we live on.

We are called to be stewards. So why then do we act so often like consumers and users instead? If we honor God by honoring His creation, do we dishonor Him when we abuse and disregard what He has made?

What are we telling our children about the value of creation when we don’t take care of it and waste its resources?

I’m asking these questions because I am trying to figure this all out for myself. I don’t want to be another of those who are wasteful because they believe that our earth’s resources are unlimited.

At the end of the day, I’m thankful for grace that is greater than any of my wastefulness and greed and selfishness. I’m thankful for grace greater than any of my sin.



That Ol’ Imago Dei

“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the earth by the Master Craftsman”  (Max Lucado, The Christmas Candle).

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!” (Max Lucado)

Today, Aaron Bryant preached from Genesis 1:26-31 about the creation of Adam and Eve. He then proceeded to make a very powerful illustration.

Suppose you buy a Louis Vuitton purse and spend an astronomical amount of money on them. You’re not going to give that bag away to just anybody. You’re not going to sell it to anybody who walks up to you off the street and offers you $50 for it. Why not? Because you value it.

In the same way, you and I have immense value because God created us in His own image. We bear the Imago Dei, the image of God, and that makes us worth more than any designer purse (or really fancy watch if you’re all about being manly). Side note: I had to look up the spelling for Louis Vuitton, in case you want to permanently revoke my man card.

Not only did  God created  you, but Jesus redeemed you, and that makes you much too valuable to live cheaply.

I know some of you read that as: don’t drink a gallon of whiskey a day or snort a bag of cocaine every 5 minutes or sleep with everything that moves west of the Mississippi.

But it’s more than that. To live out of your great worth is to live where Jesus and Jesus alone is the center of your universe, your reason for existence. Because He is. Anything and anyone else is much too small to fill that void.

It means that everything you say and do is an act of gratitude and worship back to the God who made and ransomed you.

It means to make the most of every moment you’re given, not taking for granted that you will have tomorrow to start living right.

So, if you’re ever in the area on a Sunday, check out The Church at Avenue South. And if not, remember Whose you are and how valuable you are because of that.

The end.



Another Random Blog

I have lots of thoughts running through the ol’ noggin all the time. Every now and then, I need to let a few of them loose so you good readers can share in the joy that is called my brain.

1) Social media is great. I love it. I love how you can communicate with friends and family even though you may be oceans apart. I do say this though: if you’re married, I hope that your primary means of communication isn’t through social media. I hope that for every one post to your husband or wife, there are at least five face-to-face conversations (and at least four of those being affirmations). Posts and texts are great, but nothing replaces hearing and seeing your loved one say, “I love you” while looking you in the eyes.

2) As much as I still love summer, it does tend to run on. I’m ready for all things autumn, from cooler temps to pumpkin spice everything to jackets to leaves changing colors. I think you know (or you should know by now) that fall is my favorite season of all. Mostly because I don’t sweat so dang much.

3) As much as you will need forgiveness from others and as much as you will need to forgive others, the most important person you need to learn to forgive is you. You see more of your own weakness and brokenness than anyone else. You know more than anyone how your own road is littered with the carcasses of good intentions and promises you discarded along the way. You also need to know that if God can forgive you of anything, there’s no reason why you can’t forgive yourself. Remember that Jesus was willing to die for what you did. It’s hard, but it’s harder to live in the prison of self-loathing and regret.

4) Go forth and do something frivolous and spontaneous today (or tomorrow if you’re reading this after 10 pm). Take time to notice your surroundings and to take pleasure in God’s creation. Take time to cherish those God has placed in your life for this season. Wherever you are, be there in the moment and live it to the fullest (to borrow a bit from both Jim Elliott and Oswald Chambers).

That’s my latest random post. There will surely be more to follow as I think very nonlinearly.


What I Love on a Friday Night

The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten” (John 1:9-13).

I love how through following Jesus and dying to self you find your true self.

I love how the best expression of who we are and what we were made for is to be a “child-of-God” self.

I love how it all starts and ends with God, not me.

I love that because God started and will end it, I can rest assured that the end is already as good as done and I don’t have to fret that I will somehow screw it up.

I love how no one who ever truly wants to find God and know Jesus will ever be disappointed for all find what they truly seek.

There are lots of things I love about this passage, but those are a few.

Most of all, I love how God’s got me right where He wants me even when I have no idea of where I am or where I’m going and I can ultimately trust Him more than what I can see or feel.


In the Beginning

“When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him. All that came to be was alive with his life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never mastered it” (John 1:1-5).

To me, John 1 has to be among the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. I may be a bit biased, but I do think that the way John opens his gospel is perfect. Matthew and Mark start with the birth narrative, but John goes back further than that. Much further.

We see Jesus as the Word with God from the beginning. Jesus, the Word, was (and is) God.

Sometimes, you need a different translation to see a verse or a group of verses in a new light. Reading the same verses in the same translations can be like singing the same old hymns in the same old style for years and years. Eventually, you fall into rote memory and stop paying attention to the words.

That’s one of the reasons I chose the New English Bible as my translation of choice to read through the Bible for 2015. It’s different enough so that the words seem fresh again.

It’s not a perfect rendering, but that’s not the point. The point is to keep letting the Word of God speak to me and (hopefully) to never let it get stale for me.

The best way to keep the Bible from getting stale is to do what it says. Don’t just read it and praise it for being clever and witty, but actually put it into practice. That’s something that’s easy to tell someone else to do, but much harder to do yourself. I should know.

As of this time, my plan is to read the Holman Christian Standard Bible (otherwise known as the Hard Core Southern Baptist Bible) in 2016 and the New Jerusalem Bible in 2017. Of course, these plans are always subject to change.



God Can Do Anything 

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Repeat after me: God can do anything.

Repeat it again: God can do anything.

Once more with feeling: God can do anything.

Got that?

Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing. And your circumstances are not the exception to the rule. You are not the odd man out, the freak that God looks at and says, “I can’t do anything with this one.”

No matter what you’re facing, God is stronger. No matter how dark it gets, God can still see you. No matter how long it seems to take, God has not stopped working.

I remind you yet again of what a pastor said: “What seems impossible to us is not even remotely difficult for God.”

If God can create the universe in seven days, then He can create order out of your chaos.

If God brought Jesus back from the dead, then He can resurrect the ashes of your dreams into something far more glorious and beautiful than you ever dreamed possible.

If God loved you enough to save you at your worst, what makes you think He will stop loving you now?

Don’t trust your feelings. They lie. Anything and everything affects them, from eating too much spicy food to way too much caffeine late at night.

Make this your mantra: God works all things together for those whom He loves.

Even when your feelings, your senses, your intuition tells you other wise, this is still true. It will always be true.