A Little Hint of Heaven

I don’t know why, but when the weather turns cooler I find myself getting more nostalgic for the people and places of my past. Today, I caught myself wishing I could revisit my grandparents’ old house on Alcy Road in Memphis.

Then it occurred to me.  Maybe I will. Not in the sense of actually driving back to Memphis and going to that neighborhood. Maybe in another way.

Perhaps all the places you and I loved back when and long for were glimpses of what heaven will be like. In The Chronicles of Narnia, when Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and the rest get to the New Narnia, one of them says that all the reason that he loved certain parts of the Old Narnia is that they reminded him of the new. The Old Narnia itself was a shadow and a copy of the New Narnia, the Real and True Narnia.

For me, I have a fondness for Union University. In the past, I had times when I even dreamed of going back and what it would be like. In this case, I really was able to go back, only to discover that the campus has so radically changed that I recognize very little of it. The people that made it so great weren’t there.

I see now that it wasn’t the actual brick-and-mortar buildings that I loved. It was the memories housed in those places — memories of people and events that shaped who I am now. The best memories were the tiniest glimpses into eternity, almost of heaven breaking through.

You can’t go back. Not really. You can never recreate a moment once it’s gone. You can cherish the memory of it and recognize that you saw a little bit of heaven in it. You can devote yourself to living every day to the fullest in pursuit of making new memories rather than living in the past and dwelling solely on old ones.

 

Capturing a Moment

“Come and gather ’round at the table
In the spirit of family and friends
And we’ll all join hands and remember this moment
’til the season comes ’round again
So let us smile for the picture
And we’ll hold it as long as we can
May it carry us through should we ever get lonely
’til the season comes ’round again”(Vince Gill – Til The Season Comes Round Again).

Whenever I’m gathered together with family and friends to celebrate a special occasion, I always try to take a mental photograph. I try to remember every detail, every person, everything about the moment.

Try as I might, I will never be able to recreate just that exact moment. It will be gone forever.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but people grow older and change. Places change. Even I will be different the next time than I am right now.

There are two options:

  1. You can take an actual photograph which may capture some of the magic and trigger memories, but photographs themselves fade.
  2. Learn to give thanks in the moment for the moment as a unique gift that will never be repeated.

I’m probably sounding like a broken record by now, but I really am stuck on this whole gratitude thing. It really does change the way you see things.

Gratitude truly does make what you have enough. It keeps you from missing the now from obsessing over what might have been or what might be missing or what may or may never be.

So, at 12:19 am, I’m saying this: I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for another Christmas. I’m thankful for the God who became Jesus who became my Substitute.

I’m thankful for every day that I get to live and for every person God places in my life for however long they’re in my life.

I’m even thankful for 15-year old cats who suddenly have the energy of a kitten, if only for a little while.

I’m thankful for Ann Voskamp, the vessel through whom God has spoken to me most loudly (other than the Bible, of course). She’s taught me more about that thanksgiving and gratitude lifestyle than anyone else.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t say thanks to you for reading this little blog of mine. It may be 200 or 20 or even just two, but I’m thankful for anybody who makes time in a hectic schedule to read what I write.

So do what the song says tonight and count your blessings instead of sheep. You’ll find yourself seeing Christmas from a different set of eyes tomorrow.

Quotes I Love Part One

I think this says it all.

“WE CAN SAY THAT the story of the Resurrection means simply that the teachings of Jesus are immortal like the plays of Shakespeare or the music of Beethoven and that their wisdom and truth will live on forever. Or we can say that the Resurrection means that the spirit of Jesus is undying, that he himself lives on among us, the way that Socrates does, for instance, in the good that he left behind him, in the lives of all who follow his great example. Or we can say that the language in which the Gospels describe the Resurrection of Jesus is the language of poetry and that, as such, it is not to be taken literally but as pointing to a truth more profound than the literal.

Very often, I think, this is the way that the Bible is written, and I would point to some of the stories about the birth of Jesus, for instance, as examples; but in the case of the Resurrection, this simply does not apply because there really is no story about the Resurrection in the New Testament. Except in the most fragmentary way, it is not described at all. There is no poetry about it. Instead, it is simply proclaimed as a fact. Christ is risen! In fact, the very existence of the New Testament itself proclaims it. Unless something very real indeed took place on that strange, confused morning, there would be no New Testament, no Church, no Christianity.

Yet we try to reduce it to poetry anyway: the coming of spring with the return of life to the dead earth, the rebirth of hope in the despairing soul. We try to suggest that these are the miracles that the Resurrection is all about, but they are not. In their way they are all miracles, but they are not this miracle, this central one to which the whole Christian faith points.

Unlike the chief priests and the Pharisees, who tried with soldiers and a great stone to make themselves as secure as they could against the terrible possibility of Christ’s really rising again from the dead, we are considerably more subtle. We tend in our age to say, ‘Of course, it was bound to happen. Nothing could stop it.’ But when we are pressed to say what it was that actually did happen, what we are apt to come out with is something pretty meager: this ‘miracle’ of truth that never dies, the ‘miracle’ of a life so beautiful that two thousand years have left the memory of it undimmed, the ‘miracle’ of doubt turning into faith, fear into hope. If I believed that this or something like this was all that the Resurrection meant, then I would turn in my certificate of ordination and take up some other profession. Or at least I hope that I would have the courage to” (Frederick Buechner).

-Originally published in The Alphabet of Grace

Elvis, Basketball, and Spring

Recently, I spent my birthday amazon gift card on some Elvis. Specifically, I purchased Walk a Mile in My Shoes, a box set of the King’s essential 70’s recordings. For those of you at home keeping score, that’s 5 discs of 120 songs. Now I sound like a PBS pledge fundraiser.

http://www.amazon.com/Walk-Mile-My-Shoes-Essential/dp/B004LR5K0I/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1426219405&sr=1-1&keywords=walk+a+mile+in+my+shoes

But one of those songs took me back. The memory was driving at night in Christiana, TN, and the song in question was T-R-O-U-B-L-E, which I’m sure I haven’t heard since I was much smaller and weighed a lot less. And I was a huge Elvis fan.

The only problem with that is that I remember the song from an 8-track of dubious quality where on that particular song Elvis sounds as if he’s singing through a oscillating fan. The CD version was too cleaned up, at least in my opinion, to truly recreate the memory from that night. But it was close enough for me.

In other news, yes it is finally spring. I love the fact that I can wear a t-shirt and not get hypothermia. And I’ll take all the rain from the past few days over all the snow and ice from a few weeks ago. That was nice for a bit but got old rather quickly. Being stuck at home for a week tends to have that effect.

Finally, March means one thing for true sports fans– March Madness. That means LOTS of college basketball, lots of excitement and close games, and quite possibly one or two memorable and miraculous buzzer-beaters.

It also means I will be filling out multiple NCAA tournament brackets once again in hopes of finally winning the jackpot. So far, I’ve come close once or twice, but haven’t actually won any money.

FYI, if you’re looking for some good Elvis music, I recommend these fine compilations. Both have 30 songs on them and both have the best sound of any Elvis CDs that I’ve heard.

http://www.amazon.com/30-1-Hits-Elvis-Presley/dp/B00006AG5N/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426219096&sr=8-1&keywords=elvis+%231

http://www.amazon.com/Elvis-2nd-None-PRESLEY-ELVIS/dp/B0000AUHOX/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1426219132&sr=1-1&keywords=elvis+2nd+to+none

 

 

Still Yet Another Good Reminder

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“Sorrow cannot steal our faith or even cause it to be lost; betrayal and loss steal our faith only when we refuse to remember, tell our stories, listen even as we tell them, and explore the meaning that God has woven into every one. If we want to grow in faith we must be open to listening to our own stories, perhaps familiar or forgotten, where we have not mined the rich deposit of God’s presence. With better eyes and ears we will sense how God has worked to redeem even our most tragic experiences” (Dan Allender, The Healing Path).

I don’t know why I gravitated to this quote. I’m not dealing with any kind of loss or grief or even sadness, yet these words spoke deeply to me.

Maybe because I realize lately how fragile life is and how easily those we love can slip away from us, how quickly those little babies grow up and leave home, how fleeting are the days.

The most tragic remembrance in the end will be how we took so many people for granted and left words of love and gratitude unspoken. In the end we will not treasure our trophies or promotions or rewards, but the relationships that made us come alive and be better people.

So all that from a quote I stole from someone on Facebook.

When You Forget

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As often as I’ve been doing this whole blogging thing– very nearly four years– you’d think I’d remember. But I went all day yesterday and forgot to write anything. Again.

How could I be so forgetful? The same way you and I are forgetful every day. The same way those pesky Israelites kept forgetting those miraculous interventions from God and kept complaining.

Stress and worry have a way of causing amnesia. It’s hard to remember what God did for me last week or last year when I have an unpaid bill due today.

There’s a verse in 2 Timothy that talks about how God remains faithful when we’re faithless because He can’t deny Himself. That’s what worry is. Unbelief.

God is faithful. Period. Whether or not I have a good memory about all the other times God provided, He still provides. That is very comforting.

It’s a good thing tomorrow’s Friday. Today is Thursday, right?

Just Keep Calm

keep-calm-and-eat-cheese-549

It’s funny how when you have a really great conversation or an amazing gathering of friends or a beautiful moment, you want to go back to that same place and re-create it. Well, at least I do. In my mind, I think if I get back to that place with those same people, maybe that same magic will be there and we can recreate another moment just like the one I remember so well.

But I’m learning you can’t. Real pleasure is only fully realized when a moment becomes a memory. Or so says one Mr. C. S. Lewis who I’ve heard was somewhat wise on these matters.

Besides, you can’t go back. Only forward. Otherwise we might stay stuck repeating one moment over and over. We’d never move into the future for always wanting to go back into the past and recreate it.

This is your best moment because this is where God has you now and this is where you will find Him. Be all in the moment right now.

I’m tired but thankful. I know I’ll sleep well and hopefully have more moments worth remembering tomorrow. I hope you will, too.

My Dear John Letter to Microsoft (Or Should It Be Dear Bill?)

sadpc

Microsoft/Windows/PCs in general,

I am breaking up with you. It’s just not working out. I could say the whole “It’s not you, it’s me” line, but that wouldn’t be true. It’s not me, it’s you.

There’s always that imminent threat of the almighty blue screen of death, of the hard drive crashing at any point and me losing everything I’ve typed and scanned so hard for. Not forgetting the ever-present looming viruses and malware that could strike at any time.

There are the smaller crashes, the freezes, the annoyingly eternal hourglasses, the increasing slowness. I just can’t take it anymore.

So I’m leaving you.

I’ve found something that will take better care of me and better meet my needs.

It’s a MacBook Pro.

It may take me a while to save up the money, but once I get it, I’m not looking back.

Don’t expect me to come crawling back on hands and knees. Don’t try to entice me with your wristwatches and expandable memory. I’m done with you.

It was real and it was great. And it was really great. But I gotta go.

PS The irony that I’m typing this on a Sony Vaio laptop is not lost on me. But when I do get my Mac, my blogs will automatically be 57% more user-friendly and artsy and 68% all-around better. I will be 74% cooler and hipper and look 53% better when sitting in Frothy Monkey with my steamy beverage.

That is all. Good day.

Music I Heard: For All The Ones I’ve Lost

While this year for me is a happy time, it’s also brings a bit of sadness with it. The memories of those I’ve loved and lost come more alive at this time of year than at any other time. I’ve been thinking about a particular poem by Conrad Aiken that makes me think of family members whom I wish I could talk to but never will again this side of heaven:

“Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, beloved,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart that you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always, –
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.”

The good news is that there is the other side of heaven where I WILL see all these people again. And Jesus will be there to wipe away every tear from my (and everyone else’s) eyes.

 

Things I Love 24: From a Guy Who’s Running on Caffeine and Hope

island hammock

I had a fantastic conversation with a friend tonight at Starbucks. Even though we’ve never met in person before, we talked like we’d been friends for years. The meds are working. I am still blessed. Which brings us to #656.

656) Laptops that actually fit in your lap (does anyone remember the old portable computers that weighed 50 pounds and had a 2-inch screen?)

657) Conversations that last for hours over coffee drinks.

658) Love that will not let me go.

659) Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

660) Turkey sausage from Cracker Barrel.

661) When someone gets one of my obscure movie references.

662) IMDB for when my usually spot-on memory for names of actors fails me.

663) The little emoticons on Facebook messaging.

664) Free books on Kindle or iBooks.

665) Leaving ridiculous tips, i.e. 50% or higher, whenever I eat out.

666) Not being freaked out by the number 666.

667) Being 2/3 of the way through my list of 1,000 things I love.

668) Bare feet on carpet.

669) People complimenting me on my I Am Second bracelet.

670) Finding that Friends Trivia Game at Music City Thrift for $1.

671) Those people in the Bible who God used who were possibly even crazier and more messed up than me.

672) Gregorian chant music.

673) My organic liquid hand soap that smells like Canadian pine with white sage.

674) Being manly enough to admit that I have organic liquid hand soap that smells like trees.

675) Knowing just enough Spanish to be dangerous (and to order at Taco Bell).

676) Being able to read most of John 1 in my Greek New Testament,

677) Movie soundtracks.

678) Getting packages in the mail.

679) Color correcting old pictures on Adobe Photoshop.

680) Birthday presents.

681) Watching other people open gifts.

682) Christmas presents.

683) Presents in general.

684) Being present in the moment.

685) Leigh Nash’s voice.

686) That guitar sound in the song Luka by Suzanne Vega.

687) That guys aren’t better than girls and girls aren’t better than guys. We’re just different.

688) Being uniquely and wonderfully made.

689) Owning all four seasons of Felicity.

690) A good night’s sleep after a really good day.