Simple Pleasures

It’s easy to let life overwhelm you and get you distracted by all that you didn’t get done today or how much awaits you tomorrow. You can get so focused on the big picture and what will happen five years from now that you forget to find joy in the simple pleasures.

Right now, my geriatric feline is sleeping on the pillow next to mine. Occasionally, she snores. I suppose when you’re an 18 year old cat, you’re allowed. Still, it never ceases to amuse me.

I still love the feeling of driving at night with the windows rolled down and the breezes blowing. It works best in spring and fall, but there are the occasional summer nights where the air is slightly less hot and humid.

In case you forgot, the very act of breathing in and out and being alive is itself a miracle and one of the greatest joys for those who are able to appreciate it. None of us are entitled to the next day, so when it comes, it comes as a gift.

Your assignment is to take time out in your busy day to find the simple pleasures and say a quick prayer of thanks for each one. You might be surprised how it changes your perspective.


Ryan Adams for the Road

I’m officially a fan of Ryan Adams. Well, his music anyway. I don’t really know Ryan Adams the human being, so I can’t really comment either way, but I’m working my way toward owning his entire music catalog.

I was listening to Heartbreaker in the car tonight. It’s one of those that I consider worthy road trip music. I almost felt like I needed to hit one of those open highways, roll down the windows, throw the road map out the window, and just drive.

I didn’t. Plus, I don’t really have an actual road map to throw out the window.

Ryan Adams is one of those rare artists whose music feels crafted rather than manufactured. It feels more like art painstakingly created by people than a commodity that’s mass produced by machines.

I’ve stopped caring whether the music is rock or country or jazz or pop or indie. I only care that it moves me on a deep soul-level and paints images in my mind and speaks to my condition.

I have a wide variety of musical tastes, not all of which fall into the hipster category (and some of which probably fall into the “I know, please don’t judge me” category).

I’m eagerly anticipating the new Ryan Adams album, due to arrive very shortly from the good people at Amazon. It will immediately go into heavy rotation in my Jeep.

I also look forward to the next Patty Griffin album, which I hope will arrive sooner than later. Fingers crossed.



Rush, The Walking Dead, and Unseasonably Warm Fridays

Thankfully, my musical tastes have improved vastly since my high school days. Also thankfully, there were exceptions to the rule even then. A few decent bands snuck in my playlist (which back then was called CDs on a Sony Walkman). One of those was Rush.

I got to relive my glory days in the car today during all my commuting. I had Rush to keep me company. I forgot how complex their music was and how proficient each of the three members were on their instruments. I find myself appreciating their music in new and different (and perhaps deeper) ways.

I made it home and finally got around to watching the season premiere of season 7 of The Walking Dead, where I found out who was the unfortunate victim of Negan and his favorite weapon, Lucille (which happens to be a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire).

This show is definitely not for the faint of heart or the queasy of stomach. This particular episode was like a punch in the gut (as I’m sure it was for the actors as well). For those who still haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it for you by naming the victim. I will say that I preferred the olden days when it was the zombies killing people.

It was another good night for driving home with the windows down. That never gets old. What does get old is the almost summer-like heat that seems to never want to go away. I already miss the fall temperatures we had over the past weekend.

Still, there’s hope for November. There’s all those festive seasonal drinks and (a few) changing colors in the leaves. Plus, the gift of waking up to celebrate the new day never ever gets old. At least I hope it never does.

PS My cat Lucy approves this message and asks for your votes for President this November. Or she would if she weren’t already asleep.



An Unexpected Detour


I have my homeward trek fairly down pat by now. At least you’d think I had it down after all the times I’ve made the afternoon commute.

Today, for some reason known only to God, I took I-40 East instead of I-40 West. Immediately, I knew I’d messed up.

Still, I looked for anything familiar and found the exit for Stewarts Ferry Pike and the Tennessee School for the Blind, which I pass every morning on my morning commute to work.

It was probably a bit out of the way, but I got back to where I started (almost) and made it home from there. All it took was finding something familiar.

I think all of us get lost on our spiritual journeys. We get to where nothing looks familiar and wonder how we got to the place where we find ourselves. We wonder how to get back to what we know.

I truly believe God will give familiar signposts to those who have lost the way and seek to find their way back. He will send an old friend or a familiar Scripture or a song from the past.

Many times, we find that Jesus will show us that He Himself is the way back. For those who are lost, the best way back is to return to the trust and obedience we knew before we got off-track.

I know that for those who get lost when driving, nothing is more comforting than finding that familiar landmark. Suddenly, you know where you are and you can navigate from there.

I believe that just as much as His lost children long to return to places they know, the Father longs to get them there. The Father longs to see them running down the dirt road into His arms, just as that prodigal son did all those years ago.

If there are people in your life who have lost the way, maybe you’re the signpost that will get them finally headed in the right direction again.

PS I survived day one of my Lent fast from social media. I resisted the urge to check my Facebook page several times throughout the day. So far, so good.

More Random Drivel About Nothing, Really

When you write blogs like these daily, you inevitably have days where the well runs dry, where the creativity has left the building, where cliches are as rampant as all the bad metaphors you just read.

After all, it’s Monday. I can use that as my excuse, right?

I read something I posted a few years back that basically asked this question: if God took away from you all that you failed to give thanks for, what would you have left? Who would you have left?

Even now, I’m bad at taken things for granted. Actually, I’m quite good at it. I’ve reached the expert level at taking things and peopler for granted and assuming that they’ll always be around.

Also, I drove home in wintry weather. For those above the Mason-Dixon line, it was probably nothing that would even raise your blood pressure in the least. But I am a Tennessee driver living amongst Tennessee drivers who freak out whenever we see a snowflake. I made it home in one piece with most of my sanity intact. I should reward myself with something chocolatey.

For those of you who are weary of holding on and waiting, remember that God is with you in this moment. All you are required to do is to trust God for the moment you’re in, not for a year or a week from now. All you have to do is believe God’s promises and put one foot in front of the other for the next 24 hours.

I’m typing this on my Mac Book Pro. I still like it. It doesn’t bog down like my Sony Vaio and, so far, it hasn’t been overheating like the old laptop did. I do feel that my cool factor is up slightly (as much as it can go for a guy who really can’t grow facial hair all that well).

That sums up another Monday about to go in the books. Not everything went swimmingly, but I made it through and I’m still blessed, so I’m calling it a good day.

The end.



More Music I Like

I’ve been listening to a lot of music in my car lately. When you have a long commute to and from work like I do, music is what makes the miles pass by without the monotony.

To say that my musical tastes are eclectic is like saying that the Pope is a little Catholic or that Kanye West is slightly fond of himself. I think I’ve reached the level of “they should make pills for this” in terms of my musical diversity and range.

So, here’s a sample of what I’ve listened to in my car on the way home from work:

  1. Toad the Wet Sprocket – Bread and Circus. It’s a definitive 90’s album that was recorded in 1988. This kind of music makes me want to go to the kind of coffeehouses that used to exist before Starbucks made them so very mainstream.
  2. Neil Young- Chrome Dreams II. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it. Besides, you don’t really hear too many 18-minute songs these days.
  3. Coldplay- Ghost Stories. It’s not my absolute favorite of theirs and isn’t nearly as good as Viva La Vida, but it’s still Coldplay, and that makes it entirely listenable.
  4. The Violent Femmes- The Violent Femmes. It’s from the early 80’s but sounds as fresh as anything being played on Lightning 100. It’s very punk in attitude if not in sound. Whatever it is, it’s classic.
  5. XTC-Oranges and Lemons. This is pre-grunge alternative music at its finest.
  6. Geoff Mann-In One Era. This is some very interesting (and sometimes odd) British Christian music from the early 80’s. I believe this is obscure even for hipsters.

I think that gives you a good idea of the variety of what I’m listening to, if not to the full extent of my eclecticism. I don’t really categorize my music anymore. It’s either music I like or music that bores me.

As always, I’m continually looking for new music that explores the road less travelled. In other words, I’m not all that interested in what’s trendy or what’s on the pop charts. The more obscure, the better.

The end.


Just Breathe

Sometimes, those moments of anxiety can be overwhelming. You know the feeling. You’re cruising down the interstate or sitting at your desk at work and suddenly, all those worries come crashing down on you. There may not be any logical reason for any of it, but you still find yourself fearful and anxious.

Just breathe.

Remember that today you will face nothing that Jesus hasn’t already overcome. Nothing will come up against you that He hasn’t already defeated on the cross.

He will work out all things for your good. It may not always look like you imagined it would, but in the end, it works out for not just the good but for the best.

Sometimes, you can say a prayer while you’re breathing in and out to calm yourself. I don’t mean a lengthy theological narrative, but a short one-sentence prayer. Maybe even a one- or two-word prayer along the lines of “Thank you” or “Help me.”

Or you can try this prayer I learned from one of Brennan Manning’s books.

When you breathe in, you can say, “Abba Father,” and when you breathe out you can say, “I belong to you,” until it becomes a kind of mantra. Say the words slowly and deliberately as if savoring and meditating on each one.

Repeat as often as necessary or until the meaning of the words finally begins to sink in and fear and anxiety loses their power over you.

It also helps to find a quiet, calm space to be alone for a bit. You may not be able to find a perfectly silent and still atmosphere, but you can find somewhere where you can hear yourself think.

Remember, God is with you. There’s nothing you will face that He can’t get you through. Absolutely nothing.

The end.

To Starbucks or Not to Starbucks?

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” (Brennan Manning).

I went to Starbucks and got my caramel apple spice beverage. It’s not on the menu anymore, but I asked for it and they were able to make it for me. It was uber-yummy. I might even get one when I go back.

Yep, I went there. Literally.

I know some people are upset with Starbucks for not having “Merry Christmas” emblazoned on all their paraphernalia. It’s not even Thanksgiving, people. What do you expect?

This is my take. Starbucks is not a Christian company. I never had any illusions that they were. They are a for-profit company. Period. They also make darn good caramel apple spice beverages.

I’m much more bothered by people who profess faith with their lips but deny it with their lifestyles, as Brennan Manning mentioned earlier.

I’m bothered by Christian businessmen and women who will engage in unethical practices and behaviors under the guise of “it’s just business,” as if their faith and their business ethics don’t mix and the people who get turned off by their bad witness don’t matter.

I’m bothered by people with Christian bumper stickers plastered all over their vehicles whose driving gives a very different kind of witness than those faith-based slogans. Not that I ever drive badly. Oh no.

I’m bothered by Christians who are the most obnoxious and demanding people at restaurants, who tip the least, who show the least amount of grace to those who serve them. I’m extremely bothered by the fact that Sunday is the day a waitperson dreads to work most of all because of all of the church people.

I’m bothered by believers who haven’t done a very good job of representing what Jesus was all about– namely, forgiveness, grace, second chances, and a home for all types of broken people. I’m bothered that people know us by what we’re against instead of what we’re for.

I’m bothered that Christians still think that we can elect a savior in the form of a politician who knows how and when to say the right things to tickle people’s ears.

I’d rather see my Merry Christmases lived out than spoken. I’d rather see people who celebrate the birth of the Christ child by following His example and, better yet, by being so filled with the Christ-presence that they bring Jesus into every place where they live, work, and play.

I’m okay with a “Happy Holidays” or a “Seasons’ Greetings.” I don’t expect Starbucks or Target or any other retailers to do my evangelizing for me. It’s not their job. It’s mine.

Oh, did I mention that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet? Let’s at least hold off on the “Merry CHRISTmas” rants until November 27, please. Thanks.


Out Among the Stars

“Oh, how many travelers get weary
Bearing both their burdens and their scars
Don’t you think they’d love to start all over
And fly like eagles out among the stars?”

I had Johnny Cash keeping me company on my drive home from work today. Not literally, as that would be a bit creepy.

I had a CD of his that I checked out from the library. It’s an album of previously unreleased material that Cash recorded back in the early 80’s. I don’t know why these songs didn’t see the light of day until recently. I’m not a music exec.

I do know that the song “Out Among the Stars” spoke to me, particularly the chorus.

How many out there are carrying burdens and scars from a lifetime of things they did and things done to them? How many cry out incessantly for a chance for a do-over?

The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that it is the Gospel of Second Chances and Do-Overs? When you belong to Jesus, what you did in the past no longer matters. It’s who you are now that counts. It’s WHOSE you are now that really counts.

Sure, past actions have present consequences. But those actions don’t have to define you or the choices you make today. They don’t have to determine your future.

There’s a line in an old Switchfoot song that I love: “Every breath is a second chance.” That’s what Jesus offers. Not just one second chance, but multiple do-overs. In fact, each new morning is a clean slate filled with God’s new mercies and lovingkindness.

That’s what I cling to these days. That’s what I hold on to on those dark and dreary days.

By the way, that Johnny Cash CD is worth picking up if you haven’t purchased it already. Just follow this link:

All Those 10,000 Maniacs and That Toasted Graham Latte


“These are days, you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this and as you feel it

You’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you” (Natalie Merchant, Robert Buck).

Maybe I look at music a little differently than most, but it seems to me that certain kinds of music lend themselves to certain seasons of the year.

Obvious example: listening to The Beach Boys conjures up all sorts of images of summer. For me, a lot of 90’s alternative music makes me think of cooler temperatures and fallish weather. Don’t ask me why. It just does.

My soundtrack for the drive from work to meet my friend at Starbucks was the fantastic 10,000 Maniacs compilation, Campfire Songs. It covers the Natalie Merchant era and makes me want to wear a sweater. PS Maybe I’m old, but most of the new music I hear doesn’t even come close to the likes of 10,000 Maniacs or Natalie Merchant as a solo act. And it’s sad that it takes 8 songwriters and 3 producers to come up with something that pales in comparison to what guys like Freddy Mercury or Brian Wilson could do all by themselves.

I had every intention of enjoying a pumpkin spice latte, but the new toasted graham latte called out to me. Not literally, because that would have been super weird. More like a metaphorical kind of calling.


I’ve found that for me, the best kind of therapy is a good song at just the right moment. Music has a way of bringing me back from obsessing over the past or fretting over the future. It forces me (in a non-violent way) to be completely in the present.

Maybe that’s why I nerded out a bit when I found Patty Griffin’s newest album, Servant of Love, at Best Buy. It truly made my heart happy and immediately went into the CD player in my Red Sled aka my 1997 Jeep Cherokee with almost 293,000 miles on it.

God speaks to me most through music, and it doesn’t always have to be overtly Christian music. Sometimes a song that’s not even remotely about God can be a vehicle through which God speaks directly to my need.

God is good like that.

The end.