Thoughts on Light and Dark

“What we are telling you now is the very message we heard from Him: God is purelight, undimmed by darkness of any kind. If we say we have an intimate connection with the Father but we continue stumbling around in darkness, then we are lying because we do not live according to truth. If we walk step by step in the light, where the Father is, then we are ultimately connected to each other through the sacrifice of Jesus His Son. His blood purifies us from all our sins” (1 John 1:5-7, The Voice).

It struck me tonight how staggering the word picture of light and dark really is. I mean, you really can’t get more polar opposites than light and dark. It is literally a night and day difference.

John speaks of believers who formerly walked in darkness  who now walk in light.

That’s not about being a little nicer and a little more patient. That’s not about being a better and more improved version of yourself.

That’s about as radical a change as you can have. That’s about the difference between being dead and being alive.

It makes me wonder why there is such little difference between the lives of some believers and the lives of the unbelievers around them. If I’m truly walking in God’s light, how can I continue to act out of dark motives and desires?

I’m not suggesting that those who follow Jesus are supposed to be perfect. I am saying that they should look and sound different.

My favorite pastor once said that the problem that an unbelieving world has with Christians is not that they are too different from everybody else; it’s that they are too much the same. They speak a good game, but they don’t live the way they speak.

I can say that because I live that way too often. Too many of us are too good at being incognito Christians.

May God continue to lead us into a place where we strive to walk in the light and reflect the radical difference that comes from what only God can do.

 

The Long and Winding Road

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to” (Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings).

I had another good night in Franklin. I hit all the usual places– McCreary’s Irish Pub, Kilwin’s, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. I had to cut it short when it started to rain.

I also had to improvise a bit for my drive home. Franklin Road going north was blocked off for the Pilgrimage Festival, so I tried a new way. More accurately, I started to try a new way and resorted to GPS when my way led me into unfamiliar territory.

When you’re not sure where you are, i.e. lost, nothing feels better than finding a familiar landmark or street.

When I turned on to Berry’s Chapel Road, I knew I was finally heading in the right direction. It was literally the long and winding road that led me back home.

The faith journey often takes us into unfamiliar territory. Usually, God does that to increase both our awareness of dependence on Him and to grow our faith as we discover new aspects to God’s ability to come through in the clutch.

Sometimes, I’ve been guilty of viewing God as my GPS, a sort of last minute back-up plan in case my own way of getting home fails. Too many of us have prayer and God as a last resort after every other effort has failed.

The lesson from tonight is to start off with prayer. It involves less stress in the end. It also will save you from a lot of heartache and disappointment and distractions that your own “short cuts” inevitably lead to.

One other note: I’d have probably done better if it hadn’t been dark and raining. I probably missed a street or two from not being able to see street signs very well. I think sometimes when you’re tired and frustrated, it’s best not to figure things out because you can’t always see everything properly. And definitely hold off on those emails and posts until you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Just FYI.

 

If It Hadn’t Been for Those Meddling Hypocrites!

image

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.

Character (And Not the Cartoon Kind)

image

I’m sure you’ve heard the word character defined as “what you do in the dark” or “how you behave when you think no one is watching.”

I agree with that. But my question in response is: so what does that look like in real life?

I think it means keeping your word. Regardless.

It means following through on a commitment, even if it becomes inconvenient.

It means when I say, “I’ll pray for you,” actually praying. I can say that I’m about 50/50 on that. Sometimes, I pray and sometimes I intend to but life and forgetfulness get in the way. I need to work on that.

image

It means when you say you’re a friend, actually being a friend and not just being friendly. To me, being friendly means “whenever I gave spare time or whenever I feel like it.” Being a friend means sacrificing by taking time out do other important things to make time for a person.

Character means when I say I’ll be somewhere, actually showing up.

Character means more than good intentions and good feelings. It means I am the same person to all people in all situations. Not like the old joke, “I’m frank and earnest with all my women. In Memphis, I’m Frank and in Nashville, I’m Earnest.”

image

When life squeezes me, what comes out? Is it anger? Is it annoyance? Is it impatience?

The reality is that what I’m filled with is what comes out. If I spend time with Jesus and get filled up with Him, He’s what comes out.

People are watching me whether I know it or not. People will decide whether or not Jesus is worth following by examining how much I talk about Him and how much I look and act like Him.

And sometimes, it’s fun to be a character. But that’s another topic for another day.

image

Things I Love 38: Pilates? Heck No! I Thought You Said Pie and Lattes!

island hammock

“Remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust – to really believe” (Ann Voskamp).

“God reveals Himself in rearview mirrors. And I’ve an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we can look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror. Maybe sometimes about as far as heaven — that kind of distance” (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

“We’re called to do more than believe in God, we’re called to live in God” (Ann Voskamp).

Thanksgiving really does alter your perspective. During those times when you’re in between jobs and your bank account wouldn’t cover a Starbucks latte, it’s easy to focus on what’s lacking. But eucharisteo reminds you that really even in those times you’re truly blessed if you can only see with the eyes of your heart instead of your physical eyes. Blessings are always ready to be found by those with grateful hearts and God-centered minds. So with that, I pick up at #1,141.

1,141) Finding stray money in the pockets of my jeans and shorts.

1,142) Funny cat videos.

1,143) That there really is a fountain filled with blood where all my sins are washed away.

1,144) Being completely comfortable with interstate driving.

1,145) No humidity in the fall.

1,146) People who still practice common courtesy and good manners.

1,147) A dentist visit with no cavities.

1,148) Reading the books my favorite writers read (like reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton because he was one of C.S. Lewis’ favorite authors).

1,149) Watching and reading about the new birth in the British royal family.

1,150) When I wake up and roll over to see that it’s only 2 am and I have 5 more hours of sleep.

1,151) Knowing that my best day this side of heaven won’t even touch my worst day in heaven. And yes, I know in heaven they’ll all be good days.

1,152) Eating and shopping locally at non-chain establishments.

1,153) The occasional Taco Bell meal.

1,154) The way my friend Sara has faithfully greeted at Kairos and is now transitioning to being an 11:11 greeter.

1,155) Having a short-haired cat who always looks well-groomed.

1,156) That my mother finally got her new car.

1,157) Hugs from friends and family.

1,158) Those rare times when I mention something I love twice in these lists (which must mean I really love it).

1,159) Setting out on a road trip with good books and good music.

1,160)  My old teddy bear that I’ve had since I was 10.

1,161) Really comfy oversized couches.

1,162) Seeing my friend from Orlando (who always makes me smile) at Kairos tonight.

1,163) Amy Winehouse’s amazing voice.

1,164) Wireless broadband internet.

1,165) The way my GPS pronounces Briley Parkway as “Brilley.”

1,166) Seeing photos of my friends and family on vacation via Facebook and Instagram.

1,167) Remembering the way the breeze off the ocean feels at twilight.

1,168) Finding books I’ve always wanted to read in the clearance section of a bookstore.

1,169) That I’ve had 21 views on my blogs today (and while that’s nowhere near a record, it means people are still reading what I write).

1,170) Making it to level 51 on Candy Crush Saga.

1,171) Remembering when technology was much bigger and heavier and slower and more expensive (and how it’s now smaller and lighter and faster and . . . well, not as expensive).

1,172) Night lights.

1,173) Not stubbing my toe on furniture in the dark at night.

1,174) Knowing that I’m not the most directionally-challenged person in the world.

1,175) People who have the gift of hospitality and practice it often.

Something Good to Remember on a Monday

Matthew 5:1 says, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.”

I’ve read past that a thousand or more times. I’ve rushed past those words to get to the Sermon on the Mount, the good stuff. But I think I’ve done myself a disservice by not paying attention to this verse, particularly the first three words: “Seeing the crowds.”

Did you catch that? He saw the people who came to see him. He didn’t see bodies. He saw faces lined with pain. He saw heartaches and anxieties and unrest. He saw people just trying to get through the day.

Just as he sees you and he sees me.

Do you ever feel unnoticed? Do you ever post on facebook and no one responds? Do you ever comment on someone else’s post and he or she responds to everyone else but you?

Do you often feel invisible in a crowd? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that no one would miss you if you were suddenly not there? Or like George Bailey, do you think the world would be better off if you’d never been born?

You may not feel like anyone knows you or the secret shame and pain you carry. Jesus does.

You may think that you don’t matter to anyone. You matter to Jesus.

You are not alone. You have an advocate, someone who is on your side, who fights for you, who roots for you, who won’t abandon you in the dark or in the storms. His name is Jesus.

I didn’t come up with this, but it’s still true: if you had been the only one lost and in need of a Savior, Jesus still would have gone through every bit of the cross just for you. He loves you that much.

If your Monday’s been awesome, that’s great. God rejoices with you. But if your Monday was horrible and couldn’t end soon enough, this promise still holds true.

This is from a ragamuffin who needs daily reminders of the goodness of God as much as anyone else. God is faithful, even when it seems he is absent. He is good, always.