A New Year’s Day Poem

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this on the eve of the new year 1945, the year in which he would later be executed by Hitler, days before the concentration camp he was in was liberated by the Allies. Note: this may or may not be a repeat, but if so, it’s worth a second read.

“By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
and confidently waiting, come what may,
we know that God is with us night and morning,
and never fails to greet us each new day.

Yet is this heart by its old foe tormented,
still evil days bring burdens hard to bear;
O give our frightened souls the sure salvation,
for which, O Lord, you taught us to prepare.

And when this cup you give is filled to brimming,
with bitter sorrow, hard to understand,
we take it thankfully and without trembling,
out of so good and so beloved a hand.

Yet when again in this same world you give us,
the joy we had, the brightness of your sun,
we shall remember all the days we lived through,
and our whole life shall then be yours alone.”

Only God knows what 2018 will bring, but just as certainly we can know that whatever prevails, God will be with us all the way. He will still work all things together for your good and His glory.

I still believe that God’s plans are far better than mine, and whatever He brings ends up  exceeding anything I could have wished or dreamed for on my own.

My prayer for all of us is to know the love of God that passes all understanding and casts out all fear and anxiety, and to know that no matter what happens, for good or bad, that Emmanuel, God with us, is still with you and for you and in you.

 

 

Longing for the Word

“Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance, their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone. They know that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them guilty, even when they feel nothing of their own guilt, and that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them free and righteous even when they feel nothing of their own righteousness…

Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

One question: when last did you long for the word of God? When did you last hunger and thirst for Scripture?

These are questions not meant to guilt you into picking up your Bible, but to gauge where you and I are spiritually. I know for me if the Bible is the last thought in my mind when I have some down time, it means that I am in a spiritually vulnerable place.

May God grant each of us a desire for His word that outweighs all other appetites, even physical ones, so that we can search the pages of His word and find Him there.

Amen.

 

More Wisdom from Mr. Bonhoeffer

“Do not worry! Earthly goods deceive the human heart into believing that they give it security and freedom from worry. But in truth, they are what cause anxiety. The heart which clings to goods receives with them the choking burden of worry. Worry collects treasures, and treasures produce more worries. We desire to secure our lives with earthly goods; we want our worrying to make us worry-free, but the truth is the opposite. The chains which bind us to earthly goods, the clutches which hold the goods tight, are themselves worries.

Abuse of earthly goods consists of using them as a security for the next day. Worry is always directed toward tomorrow. But the goods are intended only for today in the strictest sense. It is our securing things for tomorrow which makes us so insecure today. It is enough that each day should have its own troubles. Only those who put tomorrow completely into God’s hand and receive fully today what they need for their lives are really secure. Receiving daily liberates me from tomorrow” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Give us this day our daily bread. That means that God gives us just what we need for each moment and for each day, not for next month or next week or even tomorrow, but for today.

I also believe we are to live each day our daily bread. That is, live each day being present to each moment and not dwelling on past might-have-beens or future could-yet-happens.

That said, I confess that I am an expert worrier. I suck at living out the principle of daily bread. I feel like I’m much too anxious about if I’ll have enough or do enough or be enough for tomorrow that I can’t fully appreciate and engage today.

Give us this day our daily bread. Give me enough of You for today that I can be all that You created me to be today. Amen.

PS That post on the sermon from Kairos will hopefully come tomorrow. I haven’t forgotten. At least not completely.

A Word from Mr. Bonhoeffer

“Thankfulness works in the Christian community as it usually does in the
Christian life. Only those who give thanks for the little things receive the
great things as well. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts
prepared for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think that
we should not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge,
experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be
seeking the great gifts. Then we complain that we lack the deep certainty, the
strong faith, and the rich experiences that God has given to other Christians,
and we consider these complaints to be pious. We pray for the big things and
forget to give thanks for the small (and yet really not so small!) gifts we
receive daily. How can God entrust great things to those who will not
gratefully receive the little things from God’s hand?” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

To receive the greater gifts and blessings, it’s important for us to give thanks for the seemingly smaller gifts (which in hindsight turn out to be not quite so small after all).

Above all, I think it’s important to give thanks for each day God wakes us up and not take for granted another 24 hours that we got to see and touch and taste and smell and live.

No matter what happened today, good or bad or ugly, the fact that you survived is an indication that God’s not done with you and that He still has a purpose for you being here.

I believe those who are the happiest and most joyful are the ones who are grateful for everything, not just the obvious blessings. I know those are the people I want to get to know and to be like. May we all be those kinds of thankful people.

 

 

Thankfulness Makes You Rich

“I discovered that being thankful and experiencing the power and presence of Jesus Christ are tightly entwined. As we practice thankfulness, we experience more of God’s transforming grace, God’s there-ness” (Mark BuchananThe Road We Must Travel: A Personal Guide for Your Journey).

I keep thinking about what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said. And no, I normally don’t go around pondering the words of dead German theologians, but what he said has stuck with me ever since I read this: “It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

It’s not possessions or wealth or status that makes you rich. It’s not what car you drive or what shirts you wear or what part of town you live in.

It’s gratitude.

I’d forgotten to give thanks. I let envy and anxiety creep in (like all of us do from time to time) and forgot to be thankful for all the little things that make life great.

I still believe that when you give thanks for the minutiae, that’s when God shows up and that’s when the miracles start happening. That’s when your life becomes rich in a way that no amount of money could ever buy.

That’s what I want to get back to.

Thank you, God, for this life and forgive me if I don’t love it enough.

Amen.

 

 

Advent Thoughts in April

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken” (Dietrich BonhoefferGod Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas).

Ok, so I goofed. I meant to type in Lent quotes, but reverted to Advent quotes instead. Blame it on the lack of sleep. But this one applies not only for Advent season but for all seasons in which we feel excluded or weak or broken.

There is never a time when God is not the Emmanuel, God with us.

 

A Beautiful Borrowed Prayer

“In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.”

“Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
When all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is Your will that I should know You
And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison).

I’m too weary to think of something original, so I scrolled through the quotes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer until I found this. It’s a beautiful prayer penned by someone who knew what it meant to fight against real evil.

Sometimes the biggest fight of all can be against your own frailty and sinfulness. It’s easy to get discouraged when all you see is failure and fear within yourself.

Yet God Himself doesn’t see any of those things. He sees beyond potential to your future realized self, that self that He is working toward.

If you feel the most hopeless in your most darkest place, try praying this prayer and remember that God is a God who knows the way out of the grave, who knows where you are, and certainly knows how to get you where you need to be. Failure will not be your final word.

Ok, so I lied. I did add an original thought or two. I want to end by reminding you that God will never leave you alone. Never ever ever.

The end.

 

 

Neighborliness

“Neighborliness is not a quality in other people; it is simply their claim on ourselves. Every moment and every situation challenges us to action and to obedience. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).

Who is my neighbor? That’s the question that the expert in Jewish law asked Jesus. In other words, who am I required to love?

Jesus turned the question around from “Who is my neighbor?” to “How am I being a good neighbor to those around me?”

So, a neighbor is anyone who is in need and who is within my power to help. I can’t help every single one in need, but I can meet the needs of those who are in front of me, and those by Jesus’ definition are my neighbors.

Ultimately, the Good Samaritan is a picture of Jesus Himself. I’m the one who foolishly took the dangerous road alone and ended up beaten up and robbed. I’m the one lying half-dead on the road whom the Neighbor spotted and had pity on.

That changes the parable quite a bit, doesn’t it? It means just as the Good Samaritan wasn’t the kind of hero the Jewish audience was expecting, Jesus wasn’t (and isn’t) the kind of Messiah we were expecting.

We prize physical strength and virility. We prize magazine-cover good looks. We love take-charge, grab-the-bull-by-the-horns people.

I wonder sometimes if we’d know Jesus as Messiah if He showed up today as He did almost two millennia ago. People were expecting someone to rally the people against Rome, but instead got a man who insisted that we turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.

Sure, Jesus overturned those tables in the Temple, but He also said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

I’m thankful most of all that in Jesus, I got not the kind of Savior I might have wanted, but the kind I so desperately needed. He loved ( and still loves) me just like I am but refuses to let me stay that way.

PS Credit for all of this goes to Mike Glenn, courtesy of tonight’s Kairos message. Check it out some Tuesday evening if you’re ever in the Brentwood/Greater Nashville area.

 

A Prayer for Another Thursday in July

“O Heavenly Father
I praise and thank You
for the peace of the night;
I praise and thank You for the new day;
I praise and thank You for all Your goodness
and faithfulness throughout my life.

You have granted me many blessings.
Now let me also accept what is hard
from Your hand.
You will lay on me no more
than I can bear.
You make all things work together
for the good of Your children”

Amen

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Not everything that You give, God, seems good to us at the present time, but we know in faith and will soon see by sight that everything You give us ends up being for our very best.

Give us grace to endure the hard things, the in-betweens, the waiting so that we may see the fruits of long-suffering and find out how true You are to Your Word.

Help us to continue to find ways to bless and encourage each other, to help carry each other’s burdens, and to not accept the “I’m fine”s when we ask how someone is doing. And may we in turn be honest when someone asks us that question.

Give us grace not just for ourselves but so that we can give it to those around us who need it as badly as we do.

Thank You that You are forever faithful in every season and won’t ever give up on those you call by Your name.

Thank You that You will finish what You started in us and the end result will have been more than worth it.

Thank You that You are already worth more than any price we will ever have to pay or any ordeal we will ever have to undergo.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Things I Love 25: I Feel Like I Should Celebrate With Some Grape Juice or Something

island hammock

I read something that actually made me laugh out loud. It said something to the effect that if life doesn’t hand you water and sugar to go along with your lemons, your lemonade is really going to suck. Literally. As far as this whole series of things I love, hopefully I’m taking the proverbial lemons of life and adding the sweetness of grace to make yet again proverbial lemonade. Which tastes much better than Country Time Lemonade, by the way. So I’m starting up again at #691.

691) The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

692) Actually looking forward to my Brentwood Baptist Church Life Group (or Sunday School class if you’re over 30 and don’t quite get the hipper church lingo yet).

693) All the waiters and waitresses at McCreary’s Irish Pub who always make me feel so very welcome and at home.

694) My sister’s dog Ellie who is the sweetest and friendliest dog on the planet.

695) Not tossing and turning half the night.

696) The comfy leather chairs at Starbucks.

697) Rainbows after a thunderstorm.

698) Hearing chirping birds again after a long rainy spell.

699) Catching old episodes of Family Ties.

700) Feeling welcomed in a group.

701) Making others feel welcome in a group.

702) Being able to play the music on my iPhone through my car and charge my phone at the same time.

703) That I’m reading The Chronicles of Narnia again for about the 15th year in a row.

704) Being able to plug in my iPhone and hear GPS directions through those same car speakers.

705) Those cheezy episodes of 21 Jump Street.

706) Eric Metaxas’ amazing biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

707) The way my cat Lucy often poses like a supermodel.

708) Wondering about things like if animals could talk before the Fall.

709) Revolutionary War-era biographies.

710) Lawn darts.

711) My never-ending hunt for bowling shoes at thrift stores.

712) Badminton and my awesome badminton racquet.

713) Jesus.

714) The times when I trust in the Lord with all my heart instead of leaning on my own understanding.

715) Chocolate covered raisins.

716) Bond. James Bond.

717) The godly example my brother-in-law Steve is setting for his family.

718) When people talk about turning 30 like it’s the end of the world and I feel like I’m really starting to come alive at age 41.

719) Old people who don’t act their age.

720) That time a friend of mine walked all the way over from Chipotle to where I was sitting at Starbucks to talk to me.

721) Caramelized onions.

722) Knowing the difference between to, two, and too.

723) My fantastic Glenn Miller collection.

724) When I talk to myself and grin like an idiot because I’m so spectacularly funny.

725) Passing that BMW SUV tonight in my vintage ’95 Jeep Cherokee.