Thanks, Uncle Mike: The Sequel

I heard out of your own mouth tonight that you are stepping down from Kairos soon. I’d heard it from other people recently, but even so, I couldn’t quite believe it even when you were the one saying the words.

I thought I’d say a few words to you, since I most likely won’t get to say them to you in person.

Thank you for being faithfully devoted to the Kairos ministry and to all of us who have attended over the years. We see how biblically wise you are. We also see how honest and vulnerable you are at times, making us feel like it’s okay to struggle and have doubts, even if you’re a senior pastor of a megachurch with several campuses.

I for one am a better person because of you and Kairos. I like myself a lot better than when I first started attending Kairos way back in 2006. I understand more of my Abba Father’s love for me and am learning how to define myself by that love and the voice that calls me His Beloved.

I learned how to take a few minutes in the middle of my hectic day and be still and have a moment or two of prayer. I learned that confession is not beating yourself up, but admitting that I acted out of fear instead of faith, of owning my sin and calling it for what it really is. I learned that I-40 West will take me to Memphis every time (even if I’m only going to Jackson). I learned that Oreos are your kryptonite and that a mostly clean glass of milk is still dirty.

I and many others saw how much you loved your parents, your wife, and your sons. That more than anything has probably helped strengthen many of our marriages and families.

I can’t imagine Kairos without you. I keep saying how much I like change and I’m always ready for it, but when it actually happens, I find I’m not so fond of it. Sometimes, I wish I some things could stay the same.

But I think I’m ready for what God has next for Kairos. I’m excited for you and what God has in store for you next. Plus, I’ll always think of you whenever I pick up a Henri Nouwen book.

Anyway, thanks for allowing God to use you in helping me become more like Jesus. I and the rest of those you’ve touched through Kairos will never be able to repay how much you’ve blessed us all.

 

God of Wonders: Thoughts on Community

It’s amazing what true community will do for the weary and heavy-laden. Or just those who are in need of a nap.

My community group met again, and it was good. We started our study of Philippians, focusing on the first twelve verses.

For me, the best part was afterwards. I can’t really point to any one moment as extra magical, but it was really just the five of us sharing life together. One of the bright moments that I do recall is one of the girls breaking out the guitar and leading us in the oldie but goodie, God of Wonders.

Community doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or ground-breaking (or any of those other tried and true cliches). It can mean sharing the small moments of life together. It can be me saying to you, “I see you and I’m a witness to the fact that you’re not in this alone. I’m with you.”

Sometimes, that’s all we need– just a voice that says, “No, you’re not the only one who struggles with fear and doubt. No, you’re not weird or crazy. Yes, you will get through this. Yes, we will be with you.”

If you find a group of people who will let you be yourself, warts and all, you have truly found a blessing. It may not always look pretty, but then again, those healing moments never are. What we need most is quite honestly a lot less pleasant that what we’d like. But you’re never broken, you can never be truly whole.

My goal is to lead my own group soon. Hopefully sooner than later. But for now I’m enjoying being a part of a group where the leader sets the example of authenticity and honesty better than just about anybody I’ve seen. Thanks, David. Also, thanks to Jeff, Abbey, and Paige for making me feel so welcome.

The end.

 

 

Why I Love the Psalms

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Here’s my update on my Bible reading. I’m up to Psalm 127, which is probably ahead of the pace I need to get through the Bible in a year, but I’m okay with that.

I’m reminded of why I love the Psalms so much. Yes, there’s a lot of “praise the Lord” and “hallelujah” verses, but there’s also plenty of “Where are you, God” verses. There are stories of both victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, health and illness, strength and weaknesses. In other words, it runs the gamut of human experience.

I love the honesty. I used to feel like David, or whoever else happened to write the particular Psalm I was reading, was boasting about how perfect and obedient he was. Now I think I see it as a man who feels like he’s giving everything he’s got to do the right thing.

I see that life is hard, bad things happen, and sometimes the bad guys get the upperhand. Still, the last word is always how the loyal, steadfast love and faithful God (or the Eternal One, as my translation puts it) never ceases.

That’s a good reminder for anyone going through struggles and pain and loss. God’s faithfulness never runs out. His love never lets up. It always finds us and brings us back to His heart and one day will lead us home.

To paraphrase an old saying, victory is never final and failure is never fatal. It is trust in the strong arms of God that wins out in the end.

Authenticity

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I did one of those personality analysis tests and was not too surprised at the results. Basically, it turns out that I’m an idealist who wants to make a difference in the world around him. I pretty much knew that.

The test also said that I am drawn toward authenticity.

I think there are few who wouldn’t want some kind of authenticity in their lives, to be in a place where they can truly be themselves. Not only that, but a place where the people around them are just as genuine.

Ideally, the Church is just the place where that should happen.

Sadly, that’s the last place you find true authenticity these days.

These days, especially in the American Church, most believers feel they have to wear the “super spiritual, got it all together” mask and act as if their lives are perfect. Very few feel comfortable being open and honest about their struggles, addictions, and fears for fear of being judged and condemned.

That’s sad. That’s also not at all the Church Jesus had in mind when He prayed that they be united and one just as He and the Father are one. That’s not the Church portrayed in Acts as sharing possessions and helping out the less fortunate.

That’s not the kind that will draw the hurting and helpless, the kind Jesus told us to reach out to.

Pretending to be perfect is a damaging facade in two ways. First, it’s an impossible illusion to maintain because no one is perfect. Second, it creates the false image that to become a believer, you can’t have any issues or problems or sin-issues.

I think what people are looking for when they look to believers are people who make mistakes and fess up to those mistakes, who fail miserably and pick themselves up and move on, who have flaws and choose to see the good in themselves and others.

I’m praying that I can live with that kind of authenticity. I’m praying you will seek to be just as honest and real and transparent in your own lives as well.

Remember, God above all knows your deepest secrets, your utmost failures and flaws, and loves you just as you are. Not as you wish you could be or how you see yourself on your very best days but just exactly as you are when you’re feeling lowest.

That’s the kind of love I’m craving and the only kind of love that can change me into someone who can love others the same way.

 

Things I Love 14: Back to Life, Back to Reality

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OK, I confess. I’ve slacked off from reading the book that I said was so amazing, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It’s still amazing, but I’ve been distracted from reading by a multitude of things, mostly involving my ADD. So I do plan to resume reading the book at some point, but I continue with the list currently, starting at #322.

322) Those of you who are old enough now have that song by Soul II Soul stuck in your head, thanks to my oh-so-clever subtitle.

323) Grabbing coffee with friends at the multiple coffee locations around town (and I would love to meet any of you for coffee and conversation, preferably at The Frothy Monkey or The Well, but Starbucks works just as well).

324) When the Word of God comes alive to me and speaks to my life in powerful ways.

325) Fellow cat-lovers who understand that cats aren’t dogs, but can be very loving in their own ways.

326) Finally being able to speak the truth in love and not have the co-dependent, approval-addicted part of me worried sick about losing the friend.

327) Orange popsicles.

328) Still getting a kick out of trying to type out a word and accidentally typing the word “poop.”

329) The people who get my weirdness and love me anyway.

330) The honesty and vulnerability of the teaching pastor at Kairos, Mike Glenn.

331) Singing along with Stevie Wonder in the car (well, not actually Stevie Wonder, but his songs).

332) That Stevie Wonder is not driving the car while I’m listening to his music in my car.

333) I’m officially 1/3 of the way through my list of 1,000 things I love.

334) Really small Bibles.

335) God loving me when I’m most selfish and petty and whiny.

336) When friends have every right to write me off, but choose to give me grace instead.

337) Recognizing a thought for the lie that it is and taking it captive through the power of Christ in me.

338) One-hit wonders from the 90’s.

339) The Cheesecake Factory.

340) The Mall at Green Hills (even though parking there is a nightmare).

341) Because of Jesus goodbyes are only temporary.

342) Feeling God’s pleasure over me when I run.

343) Learning more about Jesus from faith-traditions that are different than mine.

344) The spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A.

345) The steak bowl from Chipotle with Smoked Chipotle Tobasco sauce on it (to add a little extra kick to the flavor).

346) Food in general.

347) My $5 polarized sunglasses from Savannah, Georgia that I still somehow have not managed to lose yet.

348) Being able to use the suffering and hardship in my own life to help someone else who’s going through something similar.

349) Little baby shoes. Even though I don’t have kids yet, I love how they can make boots and sandals and tennis shoes so small.

350) That I’m now going to start calling my tennis shoes “tenny runners” just to be different.

More for Those With Broken Hearts

I have something I’ve learned about having my heart broken a few times that I want to pass along to you. First of all, I want to say that okay to grieve when your love or interest in someone goes unrequited. It’s okay to hurt. I think it requires as much of a grieving process as losing a loved one, because you’re seeing the death of a dream that was very dear to your heart.

I think it’s okay to be brutally open and honest with God about the pain. He can take it. Besides, he already knows those feelings that you pretend aren’t there when you tell yourself that you’re fine.

That said, I think one good thing out of having your heart broken is that it is never again the same shape as it was, pre-break. It’s larger. And if you choose the path of healing versus the path of grudges and bitterness, good things can come out of the pain, such as these:

You have more room to love others and you have an increased sensitivity to those in pain around you who need your love.

You give more grace toward those who act out of their own hurt toward you because you remember when you did the same out of the great pain you were once in.

You have more compassion and tenderness in general because you know what it’s like to need it and find it so you want others to experience the same joy you did.

Finally, you become a little more like Jesus because you’ve shared in his sufferings. Jesus above all knows the pain of a broken heart, both physically and metaphorically. He’s the one who wept over Jerusalem because they wouldn’t come to him and find life and freedom. His heart was just as broken that day as when the spear pierced his side into his heart.

So remember that there is nothing broken that God can’t take and make beautiful. No, not just beautiful like it was before. It won’t ever be the same. It will be much, much better.

 

 

 

Friends

As I’ve stated many times before, I am still trying to figure out this whole friendship thing. Sometimes I do good, sometimes . . . not so much. I’ve had good friends who I still count as friends and I’ve had some that I probably creeped out a little and who aren’t as friendly to me anymore.

I’ve learned in my life not to beat myself up over the friendships that I feel like I’ve botched. It’s not up to me to carry every single one of my relationships. God is more than able to keep people in my life that need to be there. It’s so much less stressful that I can relax and be myself and not have to worry if that will be enough for people to like me.

I’ve learned to always give the benefit of the doubt and to see my friends in the best possible light. Essentially, I’ve learned to give them grace, because God knows I sure need it. Often.

To my friends who have stuck around, I’m thankful. I don’t deserve you, but I’m glad to have you in my life.

To my friends who I’ve run off or weirded out, I hope you give me grace and a second chance. But I don’t blame you if you don’t. I am still very much a work in progress and though I am at a much better place mentally, spiritually, and physically than I’ve ever been, I still have some broken places and hidden hurts that surface from time to time.

To all my friends, whether you were only around for a few weeks or are still here after many years, thank you. You bless me more than you know. You encourage and support me, you pray for me, you keep me honest, you love me, and you show me Jesus every single day.

I hope one day I can finally be the friend that I’ve always wanted. And with God’s help, I believe I will be.

Live Naked

I need to preface this blog by emphatically stating that by “live naked,” I so do not mean join a nudist colony or walk around all day in your birthday suit. If you do, we will disavow all knowledge and pretend you don’t exist. This blog will self-destruct in 15 seconds. . . .

For real, I do think that we need to live naked. By that, I mean live transparently and honestly. You will always be a second-rate version of someone else, but a first-rate version of you, because God made you to be you, only you, and no one else.

That means you don’t have to force yourself to believe that everything is fine when it’s not. You can honestly admit that you’re having a bad day, that your brokenness is showing, and that you feel completely inadequate to handle what the day is throwing at you.

To like naked is to live a life that is 100% 24/7 completely and utterly dependent on God for every single moment and every single thing. You know you need God in the next moment to avoid a full-on falling apart mental and emotional meltdown. You need all of God’s strength to hold you together and you need all of his love to keep you sane.

To live naked is to live trusting without understanding, following without knowing the way, and believing without having all (or even most) of the answers.

That’s how I am choosing to live each day. That’s how I pray you choose to live. Because believers aren’t perfect, but forgiven. If anything, those who have given up everything to follow Jesus know that Jesus is all they have and that Jesus is all they need.

It’s a battle to trust when your emotions and thoughts are screaming at you that God won’t come through. It’s a lifelong struggle, but it’s so much more than worthwhile.

May we live naked starting today and every day.

A Week Full of Mondays

I had a week full of Mondays this week. Except for Tuesday, which was Christmas Day and awesome. That goes without saying. But the rest of the week . . . not so much.

Some weeks are like that. No matter how much you try, you say the wrong things. You do the wrong things. And when you try to correct your mistakes, it just gets worse. It’s like your foot got surgically implanted into your mouth or something.

So I’m glad it will be Saturday tomorrow. I mean surely, Saturday can’t turn into ANOTHER Monday, can it?

I suppose the lesson out of all of this is that a bad week serves the purpose of making you thankful for the good weeks, if nothing else.

I can at least be thankful for that.

 

Thoughts on Authenticity and the New Testament Church

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I’ve been reading over Acts 2:42-47 lately and I am struck by how radically different the Early Church was from my own experience of Church. For one thing, we in the South (me included) talk about “going to church,” while the early believers talked about “being the church” and being the hands and feet of Jesus. Church for them was not a place or an event, but a shared way of life.

Where is the sense of awe? Where are the signs and wonders? By that I don’t mean crazy gibberish, but the genuine miraculous moving of God among His people. I think part of the answer is that the early believers spent so much time together. They fellowshipped and broke bread together DAILY. We do good if we see each other twice a week. They shared everything. They were willing to sacrifice of themselves to help fellow believers. They were of one mind, one purpose and had one goal– to lift up Jesus in such a way that He would draw all people to Himself.

They faced a level of persecution that we know nothing about. There was no room for casual Christianity, because to proclaim “Jesus is Lord” was to risk torture and death. I have never faced that in my life.

How do we change course? I know for me, that if I am comfortable and satisfied with the way things are, the staus quo, I will never change. Only with a holy discontent can I seek the face of God to bring the change in my life. When we are willing to take off our masks and be real, to stop talking Christianese and Sunday School answers and be brutally honest about ourselves, then we see change. Only God can initiated that in His people, but we have to want it.

Who’s with me? Who’s tired of just going to church? I see the main problem with the American Church everytime I look in the mirror.  I am the main problem. If I want to see change, I have to be the change. I must desperately want God to change me, to transform me, to live through me in the Person of His Son, Jesus, and through His Holy Spirit.

It’s time to break up our shallow ground and seek the Lord. Who’s with me?