An Inauspicious Start to 2018

In all my wildly imagined scenarios, never did I picture myself standing in the 5 degree weather at 6:20 am, waiting for a tow truck.

It all started normally enough until I went to take a left turn out of my subdivision. First the power steering went, then the power. My car stalled mid-turn.

I sincerely repent of all my comments about all temperatures below 20 being the same. They’re not.

In my short wait for a AAA tow truck, I ran through all the possible causes of my Jeep being in a frozen coma on the side of the road (after I got out and managed to push it to the side of the road).

It could be anything from a bad battery to an engine apocalypse. I was hoping for a dead battery but secretly fearing worse.

Thankfully, the tow truck dude showed up within 20 minutes of me calling AAA for roadside assistance.

Thankfully, he took me to an auto shop close to where I work. They were able to take my car and drop me off at work.

Thankfully, all my beloved Jeep needed was a new battery.

It really could have been much worse on so many levels.

At least I wasn’t pulling out onto a busy street when my car died.

At least I was able to get to work and get my car taken care of.

At least it wasn’t a monumental, wallet-sucking repair.

So a day that started off bad ended up good.

Truly, God is still able to work all things together for good for His beloved, even at a ridiculously early morning hour on a frigid January 2 day.

It’s all about being intentionally grateful and not taking my every day blessings for granted. It’s about thanks-living and not just thanksgiving.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

 

The Red Sled Lives On

Four years ago, I acquired this 1997 Jeep Cherokee, also affectionately known as the Red Sled. Said Red Sled now has over 323,000 miles and is still running like a champ (knock on the nearest wooden object I can find).

I don’t see any newer vehicles that I like quite as much as my beloved Jeep. Almost none of them has the style or personality. While the gas mileage isn’t the greatest, it gets me where I need to go with more than a little pizazz. That has to count for something.

I know it doesn’t look like a new car anymore. It has its share of dings and scratches and blemishes like any self-respecting 20 year old car should. I’ve seen a lot of cars not quite as old that look way more beat up and run down than mine.

I’m thankful for this Jeep, even if the KBB value is under $1000. It’s value to me is way more than monetary. There are lots of great memories (and a few sad ones, but the good ones far outweigh the bad) associated with this car. Lots of family and friends have ridden in it over the years, and lots of good conversations and laughter have taken place there.

I plan to keep driving the Red Sled for a while longer. It may not have the cool factor of a Wrangler or a CJ7, but it’s hip and trendy enough for me. Plus, the A/C still works great, which is always a bonus in the hot and sticky Tennessee weather we’re having (can fall please get here soon?).

I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about whether my car will get me where I need to go. It’s very dependable. And did I mention how cool I look driving it with my gnarly $20 shades?

 

What’s Your Worth?

Today for a lark, I decided to look up the value of my 1997 Jeep Cherokee on the Kelly Blue Book website. I had no delusions of grandeur, thinking I owned a Lamborghini or a Mercedes Benz. I knew my car was old and had over 300,000 miles on it.

Still I was a bit surprised by the result. $800 was the maximum value of my car. I could probably trade in my car for a nice bicycle, but not a really nice one. Just sorta nice.

I was more amused than offended. I know that I couldn’t get anything close to as good as the car I have now for $800. I’d be doing really good to get something that even ran for $800.

I got to thinking. If you took all the raw materials that made up a human body, what would be the worth of all those elements? I was curious, so I googled it and got the result of $5. That’s the going rate for a body’s worth of these raw materials.

I remembered something my pastor said. He said that your worth is more than what you are made of. If you were on Antiques Roadshow, the appraiser would put on his white gloves and talk in hushed excited tones.

My pastor said that if he could turn you upside down and show you the Artist’s signature, that would prove that not only are you of great worth, you are priceless.

You have more than God’s signature on you. You bear the Imago Dei, the image of God, in you. You are unique and one of a kind, and there has never been nor ever will be anyone else exactly like you.

You are also worth Christ dying to redeem you. Bear that in mind when people judge your worth by your income or your title or your possessions. Whether you live in a gated mansion or in a cardboard box, your worth and your identity is not what you have but in Who made you and Whose you are.

Oh, and I still love driving my $800 Jeep.

Jeeps

1979-cj7-yellow-hardtop

I love driving my Jeep. I’m sure you know that by now. I still really like driving my red 1997 Jeep Cherokee Country, especially after it got a much-needed, long-overdue tune up.

I previously drove a 1995 Jeep Cherokee Sport, which I also really liked to drive. I miss that car but not the manual locks and windows or the crappy drink holder which fell over if you so much as looked at it wrong.

Sensing a trend? It honestly wasn’t planned out that way. I’ve been paying more attention since I started driving one and I see Jeeps all the time now, partly due to that incredible in-line V6 engine which is practically indestructible.

I’m thinking my next car might be a Jeep. Maybe a Wrangler (or possibly even one of those old CJ7s). It’d be fun to drive a car where I could take off the top and ride around with the sun and breeze in my hair.

The secret to happiness isn’t having the best of everything but seeing the best in what you already have. It’s being content with who you are, where you are, with what you have. Being satisfied and content is still the most radically counter-cultural mindset you can have in this current age of overspending to keep up with those proverbial Joneses.

I personally have never really lusted after one of those really expensive luxury sports cars like the Ferraris and the Lamborghinis. I don’t fancy spending more money on a car than most houses cost.

I’ve also never really had a strong desire for a muscle car. I really just want something that suits my personality and that doesn’t look like every other car on the road.

If I go with the better gas mileage, I still think I’d like to have a Mini Cooper. Those look like they’d be fun to drive.

For now, I’m feeling thankful and blessed to still be driving my vintage Jeep with over 315,000 miles on it that still looks and runs great.

I’ll stick with that one for now.

 

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.

 

 

I Love my Jeep

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I recently had to take my 1997 Jeep Cherokee to Fitz-It Auto Repair. Anytime you have work done on an older car, there’s always the possibility– however remote– that the repairs could end up costing more than the car is worth.

Thankfully, all my car needed was a tuneup. Now it runs better than it has in a long, long time. In fact, driving the Red Sled, as I affectionately call my vehicle, is more fun than ever.

It won’t ever get mistaken for a luxury sports car like a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. It doesn’t get the ridiculously good gas mileage of a hybrid like a Toyota Prius. It’s “vintage,” which is another way of saying it’s OLD.

But how many 20 year old cars are still on the road? How many engines are still running after over 300,000 miles?

Contentment is loving what you already have and being brave enough to say that no, I don’t need more to be happy. I have enough. In this day and age, that’s a rare and radical mindset.

I may be an old fart for saying this, but I don’t see very many cars rolling out of the automotive plants these days that will have the staying power of those old Jeeps. Those Cherokee engines practically last forever if you routinely take care of them and do all the regular maintenance (like getting tuneups more than once every 20 years).

I think everyone should have at least one car in their lifetime that’s just fun to drive. Screw practicality and economy and safety ratings and just pick something that you can roll down the windows and turn up the volume on the music and enjoy the open road.

It helps if you have good music to go with your fun ride. That’s also a must.

 

All Those Miles

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts.

We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts.

But especially with gifts.

You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child.

All the stockings are filled — all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up.

The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s His birthday we are celebrating. Don’t ever let us forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most, and then let each put in his share.

Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance.

All the shining gifts that make peace on earth” (from The Bishop’s Wife).

On my way home from work, I hit a milestone. My Jeep crossed over 295,000 miles. For those who aren’t too familiar with cars and all things automotive, that’s a lot of miles. Even I know that.

So, basically, I have a 15-year old cat and an 18-year old car. Most of my shoes are old enough to be in grade school. Just about everything I own is old.

The older I get, the more I realize that what’s important, what truly matters, isn’t anything that can be bought or sold. It doesn’t come with a price tag. In fact, the most important things in life are free (or more accurately, they’re priceless).

Relationships matter. Time spent with family and friends matters. Integrity and character matter. Compassion matters.

All those things that you will never see advertised (or maybe used to motivate you to buy a product).

This Christmas, maybe instead of another gift that will end up in some Goodwill, how about spending more time with those you love? Maybe, give someone a call or send a text.

The most important gift of all won’t be found under any Christmas tree. It was found in a stable, wrapped snugly in an old blanket and laid in a feeding trough. But what was in that small stable was bigger than our whole world (to borrow a quote from Lucy Pevensie of The Chronicles of Narnia).

Advent is all about celebrating the waiting for the Messiah. It’s preparing room in our hearts to once again receive the Infant King who became Savior of the World. It’s knowing that in the heart of Jesus is enough room for you and me and all who seek Immanuel, God with us.

That, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about. That is what the best part of life is all about– your life after salvation is one extended thank you to Jesus for making that salvation possible, for actually saving you. Your lifestyle of gratitude and thanksgiving will make other people want the Jesus you have.

That’s the best kind of gift.

Here’s the Deal

So I found out today that the cost to repair the transmission on my Jeep is $2700. I almost needed the smelling salts as I typed that sentence. I’ll be sans car for up to four weeks. Pass those smelling salts, please.

That’s a lot of money. All for some itty bitty parts that decided on their own without consulting me or anyone else to stop working. All for some unseen mechanical gears that I didn’t even know existed until they decided to break down. Rude.

A lot of life is like that. Things break, people die, situations change. What seemed like a sure thing vanishes like the morning mist and what you thought would last forever ends abruptly without any warning.

It’s easy to let those things make you cynical, believing that only the very worst scenarios will play out and that nothing good can ever happen and that people are only out to get you.

Or it drives you deeper into all the Mystery that is the Abba Father.

As big as my car bill is, God is bigger.

As big as the void that is left by the passing of a loved one is, God is bigger.

As big as the hurt caused by the rejection of a friend or a family member, God is bigger.

As big as the accumulation of scars and wounds from a broken relationship are, God is bigger.

God is bigger than anything you will face today or tomorrow or the next day or any day after that.

God is bigger than any problem that you will ever face.

God is bigger than your fears and your doubts and even your unbelief.

Whatever circumstances, God will prove that He is enough. Everything you could possibly desire or want or hold in your hands without God is less than holding onto nothing but God.

That’s a lesson that all of us learn eventually, whether that means losing everything in a literal sense or in coming to the end of your own schemes and plans.

God is enough. God will be enough.

That is enough.

 

Being Thankful on a Friday

“Thankfulness opens the door to my Presence. Thankfulness is built on a substructure of trust. I want you to learn the art of giving thanks in all circumstances. See how many times you can thank Me daily; this will awaken your awareness to a multitude of blessings. It will also cushion the impact of trials when they come against you. Practice My Presence by practicing the discipline of thankfulness” (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling).

I am thankful for Fridays.

I am thankful for friends who invite me over to do stuff with them.

I am thankful for ice cream socials.

I am thankful for bonfires that burn low and sweet and conjure up a million memories.

I am thankful for milder temperatures on late July evenings.

I am thankful that in God’s economy change always leads to something better.

I am thankful for my old red Jeep that still gets me places in style.

I am thankful for my bed which I will shortly be inhabiting.

I am thankful for that 15-year old feline that calls me Dude and continues to let me take care of her.

I am thankful.

 

Introducing The Red Sled

theredsled

I have a major announcement. I am getting a new (to me) car. Well, my mom got a new car and I’m taking her old car and selling my old car. So really, there’s nothing new. The above pictured Jeep is NOT mine (and I will be shortly inserting a better picture of my red Jeep).

It has automatic locks and windows. It has cup holders that actually hold cups. It has a remote device that allows me to lock and unlock the doors from a great distance (as in across the parking lot, not across the country). It has 267,000 miles but still runs and looks great.

The main reason I chose to go with this one is that this car has been in the family since we bought it brand new back in 1997. This Jeep a.k.a. Maggie a.k.a. The Red Sled needs to stay in the family. There are too many memories we made in this car to let just any stranger buy it.

And did I mention it’s RED? I think it’s good practice for me for when I get my RED Mini Cooper. People need to get used to seeing me in a RED vehicle before they see me in a RED Mini Cooper and the shock is too much and they all spontaneously combust into a messy RED goo from a combination of awe, envy, and shock.

So yes, my cool factor just went up. I’m a bit closer to having a vehicle from THIS millennium. And it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with Jeep Cherokees. And yes, you’re welcome to ride in it anytime (between 9 am and 11 pm).

Also, I will be selling my 1995 Jeep Cherokee with 128,000 miles on it if you know someone who might be interested in owning the car that the amazing and awesome Greg Johnson drove for 10 years. The bidding starts at $5,000 (just kidding).

There will be further updates and a better picture of my red Jeep to follow. You may go back to watching Duck Dynasty.