I’m Dreaming of a Wet (and Humid) Christmas

So, apparently my dreams of a white Christmas will have to come true in my dreams. The forecast doesn’t look promising in the least.

Try a week of mid-60s to lower 70’s with rain forecasted for every day up to Sunday. Yep, Christmas will be green . . . and very wet.

Still, it will be Christmas. There will be gifts and food and candles and food and holiday apparel and food. Did I mention food? There will be food aplenty. The diet starts in 2016.

I’m learning to live out of eucharisteo, out of a mindset of joy and thanksgiving. Instead of focusing on all those rain clouds, I choose to see that when people like you and me couldn’t find a way to get to God, God found a way to get to us. To become one of us. To live and die as one of us.

But not just to live and die, but to live in perfect obedience the life that we could never live and to die as a perfect sacrifice to pay for the sin that we could never begin to work off.

That alone is enough for a million lifetimes’ worth of gratitude. That should be enough for me.

Advent is a season not only of awaiting and anticipating the arrival of the Emmanuel, bu also of remembering why He came in the first place. Advent stirs up gratitude and thanksgiving in the hearts of those who know where to look and what to look for.

So I’ll probably get my White Christmas courtesy of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. It’s still my favorite Christmas movie and it never fails to deliver the feels.

Then again, maybe the best kind of white Christmas is this one:

Come on now, let’s walk and talk; let’s work this out.
        Your wrongdoings are blood red
    But they can turn as white as snow.
        Your sins are red like crimson,
    But they can be made clean again like new wool” (Isaiah 1:18, The Voice).

 

 

 

Thank You!

“Thank you! Everything in me says ‘Thank you!’
    Angels listen as I sing my thanks.
I kneel in worship facing your holy temple
    and say it again: ‘Thank you!’
Thank you for your love,
    thank you for your faithfulness;
Most holy is your name,
    most holy is your Word.
The moment I called out, you stepped in;
    you made my life large with strength” (Psalm 138:1-3).

Gratitude is still the word of the day.

It’s easy to be grateful and full of thanksgiving when you get everything you’re after. When your skies are sunny and your wallet is fat and your life is easy and comfortable.

It’s not so easy when you’re looking at an endless procession of grey skies filled with lightening and thunder. When you’re looking at a fat stack of bills you can’t pay and your wallet is looking pitifully thin.

Give thanks anyway.

Not because it’s some kind of magic password that will unlock untold riches and happiness into your life.

Give thanks because God deserves it.

If He never did one more thing for you than to save your soul, that’s more than enough reason to spend the rest of your days in praise and thanksgiving.

And besides, what better gift is there than being alive with God on your side?

One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, says that gratitude changes how you see the world. When you give thanks, you see God more in the details. You see God at work in and around you.

She says that eucharisteo (thanksgiving with joy) releases the miracle.

Again, that doesn’t mean your bank account statement will have a few extra zeros at the end. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a sleek new Ferrari will show up in your driveway.

What it does mean is that you see that life itself is the miracle and the present where God is present is the best place to be.

 

 

F-E-A-R

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“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:17-18, The Message).

Everyone has fears. Everyone.

Maybe yours is a fear that you will end up alone in the end.

Maybe you’re afraid that people will see the real behind the well-rehearsed act and the painted-on smiles and not want to have anything further to do with you.

Maybe you’re anxious over the future, wondering where the money is going to come from to pay the bills.

Maybe you’re scared that you’ll never find out what your purpose in life is.

Ann Voskamp put it best: “All fear is but the notion that God’s love will end.”

As a black pastor put it so well, fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear only shows you half the picture. Fear envisions a scenario where God either isn’t present or is unwilling to help. Fear leads you to think that the way things are now is how it will always be.

But God’s love is stronger than fear. As the song says, “Every fear has no place at the sound of Your great Name.”

When you focus on fear, you live defeated. When you focus on the love of God and choose gratitude and thanksgiving and joy, you’re showing fear the door.

Choose joy. Choose gratitude. Choose life.

I’m not saying I have fear and anxiety mastered. Some days, it can feel overwhelming. But I know that the future Jesus has promised me is more real than the present fear that I’m feeling.

Perfect love casts out all fear. Just remember that.

 

 

New Year’s Adam 2013

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Ok, so you’re probably wondering what the heck I mean by New Year’s Adam. Think of it this way: Adam came before Eve, so New Year’s Adam comes before New Year’s Eve.

Now that we’ve got our terms defined, let us proceed.

I’m both glad and sorry to see 2013 go. But mostly glad.

It’s been a trying year with lack of stability in the employment and financial areas. I’ve had to reassess my view of relationships and realize that sometimes it is good and healthy to give up on certain relationships and move on rather than stay and risk further disappointment and hurt.

Yet I’ve known more intimately how God can sustain me and hold me up in the midst or turmoil and uncertainty. I’ve learned to count it all joy and find my miracle by living out of eucharisteo, or thanksgiving with joy and gladness.

Most of my loved ones are still here. Most of my friends have stuck around and remained as encouraging and positive as ever. Even some of the weight I lost has found it’s way back home. Boo.

I haven’t set any new year’s resolutions yet. I may not. Those generally tend to flame out in the first month anyway. I’m more inclined to let God lead and concentrate more on seeking Him in a more disciplined and consistent way than in 2013.

I still have three movies I haven’t seen from last year’s list of best picture nominees. I should probably get around to thar before the new list gets revealed.

I’m thinking 2014 will be a good year because it will be God’s year. I’m anticipating and expecting more than ever that He will show up in every area of my life and do great things.

More to come tomorrow.

Untitled Blog #1,239

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Yeah, it was a Monday. A 12-hour workday Monday.

Normally, that recipe makes for one grumpy Greg. But not today.

God reminded me that joy is a choice that I must make every single day, even on a cold winter Monday at 6 am.

Thanksgiving means not seeing a long work day ahead but me having a job, not me having an annoying cough that sounds like a car that won’t start but me being awake and alive.

I still have those people I don’t get. One won’t ever speak to me unless I speak to her first and even then she sometimes doesn’t respond. One I’ve pretty much learned to leave alone and pray for from a distance.

But God still can teach me something in every circumstance and use every person I meet as a blessing, a lesson, or a caution.

I’m learning to slow down and appreciate the small moments, the short conversations, the texts, these moments of quiet grace.

I lost my joy for a little while. I took my eyes off of Jesus and got swamped by worry, fear, and lack. I bemoaned all that I didn’t have instead of practicing the art of thanksgiving for all that I do have.

Right now, I’m thankful for friends who still want to know me after I’ve gone a little nutty on them, white chocolate covered oreos, my Jeep, a faithful 13-year old feline, a warm soft bed, and for Jesus. Most of all, for Jesus.

Mo-vember Madness and More

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It’s officially “Mo-vember” and this time I am doing my part (or at least trying to). I am attempting to be all manly and grow a beard. So far, it’s going . . . very slowly.

This Mo-vember, or November as it is called by the non-bearded populace, has been cold. As in “I can see my breath” and “I can’t feel my hands” cold. That made for a shorter than usual downtown Franklin night.

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I started it all off with some fantastic Lobster Mac and Cheese at Grey’s on Main, the swanky new dive on Main Street. It was pricey, but the atmosphere is very hip and trendy. Like me. 😁

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I visited my usual favorite spots: Frothy Monkey, St. Paul’s, and Sweet CeCe’s. I took in all the very early Christmas decorations (does anybody remember that little holiday in November called Thanksgiving? Anyone?)

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I almost forgot to mention one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in a while. I tried to capture it with my iPhone but the real thing was much better than what ended up on my screen. No matter how good camera technology gets, nothing will ever beat seeing sunsets with your own two eyes.

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I took quite a few pictures of the festive decorations and multicolored leaves. I got a great shot of the lit-up Grey’s sign from my table right at the second floor window. It looks like something out of one of those old 40’s film noir classics. Except it’s in color.

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Life is so much better and so much more fun when you focus on what you have and how much you’re blessed. I think Ann Voskamp said something to the effect that gratitude makes what you have enough. While comparison kills joy, gratitude makes it blossom and grow.

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I’ll be back in downtown Franklin next Thursday, so look for more pictures and more life lessons learned and more hijinks and antics shared.

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Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

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Sometimes, life will hand you lemons. You could make them into lemonade, but without sugar and water to go with it, your lemonade is really going to suck. Or you could freeze those lemons and throw them at all those people who really annoy you. Just a thought.

Maybe it’s a friend who really disappointed you and wasn’t around when you needed them. Maybe it’s a long work week where you seem to have not only two left feet but two left hands as well. Maybe it’s just a general sense of discouragement at where you find yourself compared to so many others.

Here’s the cure. Focus on the good things in your life, or as the old song says. accentuate the positive.

Here are some of my positives which may or may not inspire you to find your own (or you could just steal mine if you like):

1) I woke up this morning and got out of bed and got dressed and went to work. It may not seem like much, but I know a lot of people who didn’t get that privilege today.

2) I greet on Tuesdays at Kairos (a young adult worship experience) with some of the most amazing people, each of whom I am blessed to know and to call friends.

3) The three C’s essential to any early morning– coffee, chocolate, and caffeine. All three are marvelous.

4) I can pull out my Bible (or pull out my iPhone or my iPad and bring up my Bible app) and instantly be encouraged and motivated and strengthen at any time of day or night.

5) Instead of lamenting about how far I am from where I need to be, I can celebrate how far I’ve already come and who I am now versus who I used to be.

6) If I look through eyes of faith, I can always find blessings and joys stashed throughout my week and choose to live out Eucharisteo in every moment.

7) No matter how bad my day may suck, it will never last more than 24 hours. No matter how bad the week seems, it will never have more than 7 days. And that includes Friday and Saturday.

8) My cat Lucy is always happy to see me when I come home and loves to tell me how her day went. Ok, not really. She’s more the silent type, but still her presence is a great comfort to me.

9) I love seeing how my nephews and niece are discovering this great big world and their place in it. They are becoming who God made them to be and I love the previews I get of what that will look like.

10) I have my favorite places that always make me happy: my corner of the couch in the morning, downtown Franklin, serving at Kairos and Room in the Inn, and being around my family and friends.

Joy is a choice that I must make every single day. If I want my life to matter and if I want the people I live with and work with and play with to see a difference in me, the only way is me living out of joy and gratitude and thanksgiving at the never ending goodness and mercy and steadfast love of God.

And there’s those three C’s.

Another Monday In the Books

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As with most Mondays, there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The ugly? I’d go with my reflection in the mirror at 5:00 am. Not so much that I think I’m ugly, which I don’t. It’s just that no one looks good in the bathroom mirror at the pre-dawn hour of 5 am. Well, maybe Cindy Crawford, but I’m fairly certain she’s not human.

The bad? How about this? I left my lunch and my debit card at home. Whether I’ve totally lost my mind is up for debate, but if you happen to run across it, take good care of it for me. 😁

The good? I woke up this morning. I went to work. I ate three meals today. I walked to lunch and breathed in the crisp autumn air and breathed out all my worries.

That Eucharisteo that I keep talking about works. A thankful heart and a grateful spirit opens up your eyes to see so many more small gifts that ordinarily lie unopened, like all those gift cards that go unredeemed every year.

Gratitude makes what you have enough. Yes, I stole that from Ann Voskamp. But it’s true. If comparison is the thief of joy, then joy keeps that competitive spirit at bay. If you keep your eyes on Jesus and the joy of knowing Him, then you’re not consumed with keeping up with the Joneses.

Also, thankfulness shifts your perspective from what you don’t have (a spouse, children, your dream job, a mind, etc.) to what you do have (amazing friends, wonderful family, a place to live, food to eat, senses to enjoy life with, sunrises and sunsets, etc.).

I choose joy again today because joy is a choice that you make every single day. To not choose joy is to choose bitterness and envy and dissatisfaction. Basically, to choose to live defeated and discouraged.

I’ve lived that way and I know it’s no way to live. You’re no good for you or anybody else.

May you choose joy. May you embrace a spirit of Eucharisteo (joy with thanksgiving in grace) and find all those small gifts waiting to be opened and all those blessings waiting to be shared and all that joy waiting to be given away.

I guess that makes this a good Monday.

Is God Fluffy? Questions I’ve Never Thought About Until Now

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I sat in on a very interesting conversation with some friends and a man who’s name I have unfortunately forgotten. It was surreal and made my brain hurt a bit.

The guy said that God called him on a quest. Immediately, I thought something along the lines of “They should make pills for this.” The cheese had obviously slid off of this guy’s cracker.

He said that sometimes He calls God “Master Fluffy.” That one had me scratching me head. Master Fluffy? Really?

I’m just being honest. Keeping it real, as the kids nowadays put it.

Then again, I remembered some things.

Aren’t I taking meds, too? How would I think and behave if I’d been through west this guy has been through (or even half). My cheese might be completely AWOL from my cracker.

And doesn’t God speak of protecting us underneath His wings? Doesn’t He know when the lowliest sparrow falls from the sky? Doesn’t He delight in all His children, including the ones with broken minds and broken hearts?

Most of all, didn’t God put on human skin and come to pitch His tent among us? To laugh and weep with us? To experience every bit of what we face, except without sin?

I can’t help feeling sometimes that the most “normal” of us don’t get God half as much as the ones who don’t always act and speak normally. The ones who need pills to make their minds work right. The ones who felt ugly and stupid and fat and unloveable until they understood how large a space God has reserved in His heart just for them?

To get into God’s Kingdom, you have to be like a little child. I know it means you have to come acknowledging that you are helpless without God.

I like to think it also means you need to see the world through the eyes of a child, with eyes that cling to dreams, look for fairies and pixie dust, find miracles around every corner, and never give up hoping that joy will win in the end.

Celebrate not that you are normal, but that you are unique. Celebrate that there is and will never again be anything in the world quite like you. Find joy in being “heaven’s poetry etched in lives” (Ephesians 2:10).

Then you will start out discovering Eucharisteo, finding joy and thanksgiving and grace in everything, and living your miracle.

Take it from one unique and blessed Ragamuffin.

My Own Particular Brand of Theology

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I used to love to argue theology. It was all about not only proving my side was right, but proving just how wrong the other side really was. After all, if anyone REALLY read the Bible, they would see things the way I saw them. Right?

I had my proof texts. I had my arguments.

I’m a lot less dogmatic about a lot of things, but there are a few things I still can say for certain.

I would never have loved God if He hadn’t loved me first.

I would never have chosen Him had He not chosen me from before creation.

In the end, I will have no room for boasting. I won’t be able to pat myself on the back on how clever or wise I was for choosing Jesus and following Him all these years.

In the end, Jesus will get ALL the credit. He’s the one who wooed me and led me with tender words through the desert. He’s the one who found me when I got lost from the path countless times, walked beside me, and carried me when I couldn’t walk.

All Jesus needs to to AMAZING things in my life is the tiniest of places to start. Just the least bit of agreement on my part gives Him room to amaze me and everyone around me by what He does in and through me.

I’ve come to the point where I don’t really trust -isms anymore. I trust Jesus. I try not to build my faith on what people have said about Jesus but in what Jesus actually said. I have set my hopes not on a man-made system of rules and beliefs but in a Person.

Lately I’ve found I’m a lot more flexible and forgiving and loving and compassionate because I have seen all those times when I was weak and unloving and messed-up and broken. I’ve found that grace really is the best way.

I guess some people will call me a liberal. Some will call me a fundamentalist. Lately, I’ve gotten away from using terms like born again because of too many political implications associated with that word. When I look back at my life and where I am as opposed to where I’ve been, the word I choose to use is THANKFUL. I’m living my miracle and I’m falling in love with Jesus a little more every single day.