I keep thinking about something I heard in a Kairos sermon. Basically, the gist is that the best gift you can give to a loved one, more than presents, is presence.

More than going to a store and picking up something that may or may not end up being regifted or donated to Goodwill, maybe the best gift you can give is you. Your time. Your attention.

Who in your life needs to see your actual face (and not just your profile picture)? Who needs a reminder that you haven’t forgotten them?

Is it a relative? Is it a friend?

You can send a Facebook post or a text, but the best is to have a face-to-face conversation, one in which you aren’t distracted by your phone or tablet, but where you fully engage the other person and actually listen to what they are saying.

Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Not to be morbid, but you truly never know when it will be too late to have that conversation.

That’s really all I have. Maybe it’s something I need to do myself. Maybe I can find someone I haven’t seen in a while and try to reconnect.

Oh, and may all your traffic lights be green and all your checkout lines be short. Amen.


Full Moon Thoughts

Tonight was a full moon. Apparently, that’s when the crazies come out. Or maybe that’s when people’s tendencies to act crazy go into full gear. Or so I’ve heard.

For me, it was very calming to see the full moon in the night sky. I suppose it’s because I know I’m looking at the same moon that was up in the sky when I was little.

So much in this life is transitory. So many people I thought would be around for a long time have gone AWOL. So many loved ones aren’t here at all anymore.

Even the places I love don’t stay around, i.e. Borders and all those record stores in the malls.

But seeing that moon in the sky tonight reminded me that God is my constant. He’s the one that stays the same while everything else around me changes, while I myself am changing.

That’s the thing I’ve learned. Even if I could go back to a happy place in my childhood and find it’s still the same, it’s not the same because I’m different. I’m not the same as I was as an 8-year old. Hopefully, no one as an adult is exactly like he or she was as an 8-year old.

It’s comforting to know that God will always be the same. He will always love me the same (perfectly and unconditionally), He will always think of me the same (as His beloved), and He will always treat me the same (working all things together for my good and giving me only the very best).

For a while, clouds obscured the moon, but after a while they drifted away. Sometimes, God gets obscured by those pressing anxieties in my life. It gets difficult to find Him when there’s so many things clamoring for my attention.

The good news is that after the anxieties subside and those things move on, God remains.

Long Journey Home

“We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God- which is another way of saying that all our seeking will fall short unless God starts and finishes the search. The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but His descent to us. Without God’s descent there is no human ascent. The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance but in His grace” (Os Guinness, Long Journey Home).

That’s it.

It’s not that I found Jesus. As one pastor I know always puts it, it’s not Jesus who was lost. I was. Jesus found me.

It may sound like semantics to you, but I think it’s important to know the difference.

Salvation is all God. It’s not like I was smart enough to figure it out or brave enough to seek it out. If God hadn’t sought me out first, I never would have sought Him in the first place.

That’s humbling. I can take no credit whatsoever for my being saved. It is all of grace.

That’s also good news. It means that if it’s not up to human efforts or human goodness, then anyone can find it (or better yet, anyone can be found). There’s no such thing as too lost, too far gone, too out of reach for God.

That helps when you’re praying for a son or a daughter, a brother or sister, a mother or father who seems hopelessly unreachable. It helps when you have a friend who seems bent on self-destructing and won’t let you help.

There are countless stories of those whom the world had basically given up on that God saved. The best example is the Apostle Paul. Maybe the next one will be someone you love. Maybe the next one will be you.


Something Else Borrowed

As you know, I try to keep these blogs original and share my own thoughts from my own head written by my own hand (or more accurately, typed with my four fingers). But occasionally I read something that I know I have to share because it is so good and also because it speaks to me so loudly and powerfully that I know it will speak to some of you in the same way.

Forgive me if this is violating some kind of copyright laws. I will give credit to where credit is due and not claim any of the following as my own:

“…. so, yeah, turns out there’s absolutely nothing in those Words of Yours, God, that says it at all:

“Blessed are the rich in money & wealthy in mind & lavish in body & extravagant in stuff, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

You just quietly said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, the needy in spirit, the weary at the end of their rope, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven — for theirs is the gift of getting to be tied close to Me.”

And You didn’t say either, “Blessed are those who live comfortable, who buy comfort, who want creature comforts, for they will be comforted.”

You just quietly said:
“Blessed are those who mourn, those who ache with grief, those who weep for losses of loved ones & dreams, for they shall be comforted– for they shall wake to being held by One who Loves them beyond their wildest dreams.”

And You didn’t mention it anywhere: “Blessed are the big shots with the big lights wearing the big names, driving the big cars, living in the big digs, for they shall inherit the earth.”

You just quietly said: “Blessed are the meek, the humble, the content-with-who-they-are, the simple and down to earth, for they will inherit the earth, they will find themselves with an inheritance as rich as the oceans, as glorious as the mountain peaks, as abundant as all the harvests of the whole earth.”

Nowhere, anywhere did You say, “Blessed are those who hunger for a bigger house, who starve for more applause, who thirst for more ease, more acceptance, more status, more convenience, for they will be satisfied.”

You just quietly said: “Blessed are those who hunger for rightness and goodness, who are famished for justice, who are starved for generous helpings of grace and truth and love, who have a wild appetite for more of God — for they will be satisfied, they will be fed the best things till they are deeply fulfilled.”

Oh. oh.

So tonight, Lord? Your ragamuffin people bow their heads… & our hearts turn upside down to everything we know — and upright to You, and to Your upside down ways, and we whisper our brave Amens to the coming of the Upside Down Kingdom here —
and in us” (Ann Voskamp, from something she posted earlier today on Facebook).

‪#‎HonestBravePrayers‬ ‪#‎SharingRealPrayerTogether‬ (also from Ann Voskamp)

Although I’d say not that the Kingdom is upside down, but that the world is upside down and the Kingdom will put it Right Side Up Again. But that’s probably po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Jesus Is Your Peace


This is just a reminder for those weary and worn ragamuffins who occasionally stray from the road and get lost in the dark from time to time. There’s always a Voice calling your name to lead you back. And the name of that Voice is the Prince of Peace.

When you’re tired and you can’t sleep, Jesus is your peace.

When the one you really like prefers someone else over you, Jesus is your peace.

When your spouse wakes up one morning and decides he or she doesn’t love you anymore and doesn’t want to be married to you anymore, Jesus is your peace.

When a friend whom you trusted hurts you and the wound goes deeper than pain, Jesus is your peace.

When your good intentions get maligned and people ascribe you malicious motives, Jesus is your peace.

When you have a week of Mondays at work and nothing seems to go right, Jesus is your peace.

When you’ve been out of work for months and begin to wonder if you even have anything worth offering to anybody, Jesus is your peace.

When you’re bending over a sick loved one and your only prayers are tears, Jesus is your peace.

When your child hovers between life and death and you are powerless to help, Jesus is your peace

Through whatever storms or calm, joy or sorrow, victory or defeat, gain or loss, Jesus has been, is, and will always be your peace.



Things I Love 26: Sowing the Seeds of Love

island hammock

“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ” (Ann Voskamp).

“…life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change” (Ann Voskamp).

I think for me two of the biggest agents of change have been 1) letting go of expectations of others and 2) receiving all of life as a gift. Making this list has changed my outlook. I have too many blessings to not see God in my daily world. I have been blessed too much not to want to be a conduit of blessing to others. That said, the list picks up at #726

726) God using me in the lives of those around me who don’t know Jesus to be Jesus to them.

727) The moment when you realize that the headache is gone.

728) Unplanned naps on Sunday afternoons.

729) Any time I get a chance to have a conversation with my smart and funny friend Alex.

730) Getting compliments on my t-shirts.

731) Not being naked in public.

732) The anticipation of coming to a good part in a book I’ve already read before.

733) Old Glenn Miller recordings.

734) Those pens that have the four different colors of ink.

735) Finding something of mine that I thought was lost forever.

736) That everybody doesn’t think like I do.

737) The smell of a freshly painted room.

738) The way Jesus told the best stories.

739) Gibson’s Donuts (even though there aren’t any in Nashville . . . yet).

740) The scent of honeysuckle in the air.

741) Picking blackberries in summer.

742) Being a Bapticostalicopalean (Baptist+Pentecostal+Catholic+Episcopalian) at heart.

743) Dreams that refuse to die.

744) Goat cheese.

745) The idea of changing the world by changing one person’s world.

746) Hearing people’s stories of how Jesus found and rescued them.

747) Seeing the glow of a person coming out of the baptismal waters a new creation in Christ.

748) The smell of the tire section at Costco.

749) Road trips.

750) Capturing a moment and a feeling inside a photograph.

751) Old graveyards.

752) My book of Emily Dickinson poems that I’ve somehow managed to misplace.

753) That I’m over 3/4 of the way through my list.

754) The freedom of finally being able to forgive myself for not being perfect.

755) Wintergreen or spearmint gum.

756) A now discontinued flavor of Snapple called Ralph’s Cantaloupe Cocktail that actually tasted just like cantaloupes.

757) Memories of riding standing up on the back of my dad’s old pickup truck with Murphy the black lab in the middle, grinning like an idiot and loving every minute of it (I meant the dog, but I’m sure I was smiling a mile wide, too)

758) Finding one Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels in hardback at a used bookshop.

759) People who always give me the benefit of the doubt.

760) Those Market Fresh BLTs from Arby’s.

A Prayer for Those Who Grieve

I found a beautiful prayer for those who have lost loved ones and still feel the void where that person used to be. It doesn’t matter whether the loved one was a few minutes old or 100 years old. The loss still hurts. So hopefully this will being you comfort:

“We seem to give her back to thee, dear God, who gavest her to us.

Yet, as thou didst not lose her in giving

So we have not lost her by her return.

Not as the world giveth, gavest thou, O lover of souls

What thou givest, thou takest not away.

For what is thine is our always, if we are thine

And life is eternal

And love is immortal

And death is only a horizon

And a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.

Lift us up, O God, that we may see further,

Cleanse our eyes so that we may see more clearly,

Draw us closer to thyself that we may know ourselves nearer to our beloved who art with thee.

And while thy Son prepareth a place for us

Prepare us for that happy place,

That where they are and thou are we too may be,

Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. “


For The Ones You Can’t Save


“Each one of here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”

That’s from one of my favorite movies, A River Runs Through It, where a pastor is eulogizing the son he couldn’t help. That son kept making bad choices and one bad choice proved to be fatal. But it was not for a lack of people trying to help him.

I have known people like that. No matter how much you try to help, nothing ever gets better. That person, as lovable and kind as they might be, keeps making bad choices. You think anything you do for that person is a waste. It’s not.

Anything done out of love is never wasted. Generous selfless love is never in vain. I really truly believe that person who seems to blow off your kind efforts and fight your efforts to help deep down knows that you love him or her. They may not be able to express it or acknowledge it, but they know.

God knows, too. He sees the smallest act of charity done to the least of these as done to Him. When you try to help someone close to you who’s down and out, you’re serving Jesus.

When you are loving those who can’t love you back, you are most like Jesus. When you give freely, expecting nothing in return, you show the very best qualities of the Father. When your love is spurned time and time again and thrown back in your face and you still choose to love, that is the Spirit of God really loving through you.

I don’t know what prompted this blog, except that movie quote popped in my head today. Maybe it was for me, to remind me that what to me seems hopeless and impossible is not even remotely difficult to God (thanks to Pastor Pete for that one). And yes, love does win in the end.