Radner Lake and Henry David Thoreau

image When was the last time you paused and stood absolutely still and silent for one minute? When was the last time you went to a place of solitude and did nothing more than listen to the quiet? I walked my favorite trail at Radnor Lake State Park again today. Even after so many times, it still feels like I’m leaving Middle Tennessee for Middle Earth. I feel like I could be Frodo Baggins out for a hike in the Shire. image When I stood still, I could hear nature all around me. Leaves rustling, birds singing, wind humming. Even myself thinking. I think God speaks loudest to me in the quiet. When I’m still and my brain isn’t racing with 9,956 tabs open at the same time. Like He did with Elijah, God often chooses to speak through a still, small voice that won’t compete with all the noise and clamor around us. image I can hear that Voice when I’m at Radnor Lake and when I’m sitting in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church or when I’m laying in bed late at night. I confess I’m still not very good at listening. I’m still too impatient and easily distracted. If I try to be still, immediately I think of something I need to do or a note I need to write. Complete stillness is so unnatural for me. For all of us.

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I need to get out more. And by out, I mean to these quiet places with no flashing neon lights or constant noise. Sometimes I think I could be like Mr. Thoreau and find myself a Walden Pond to visit for a while. Yeah, that’d be nice.

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The Theology of Tired

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Have you ever been somewhere and suddenly have the overwhelming feeling of being tired? Like you could go sleep for 18 hours straight?

I had that feeling tonight. I went from fine to tired in 0.6 seconds. At least, that’s what it felt like.

Sometimes when you’re tired, your mind can play tricks on you. It will tell you that you’re all alone, that no one really understands you– or really wants to. That maybe they’d be better off without you.

It’s easy to take small things that mean nothing– a particular turn of phrase or remark– and make it seem monumental.

You have to remind yourself that your brain doesn’t function at its best when you’re tired. Sometimes, the best thing– the most spiritual thing– you can do is physically rest. Take a nap. Go to bed early.

The longer you let those tired thoughts play out in your head, the more attractive they become. You can even be to the point of wanting to give up on everything and everybody for no good reason. All because you’re tired.

As I learned once and have mentioned before more than once, what you think and what you feel will lie to you, so you go with what you know.

You remember that God is faithful and He’s got His eye on you tonight. You’ll be alright in the end. And all those overblown scenarios that play out in your head won’t ever come to fruition.

God is in control. You’re not. That’s a very good thing.

The Holy Spirit

Francis Chan has a remarkable book called Forgotten God, one of the best books I’ve read about the Holy Spirit.

To say the Holy Spirit is a touchy topic is putting it mildly. People in general tend to go to one of two extremes. Either folks go to hyperemotionalism and experience devoid of doctrine or they practically deny His existence and never speak of Him.

And I did say “Him” and not “It.” The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force a la “May the force be with you” from Star Wars fame. He is just as much of a person as either God the Father or God the Son. He can be grieved, full of joy, and can remind us of the truths Jesus taught us.

I heard a really good reminder. The Holy Spirit isn’t mystical as much as He is practical. Everything He does isn’t so much to get us to feel as much as it is to do and to be. More specifically, to conform our character to Christ’s and build up the Kingdom of God.

True worship, as well as all other aspects of faith, involve spirit and truth, the heart and the mind, emotion and intellect. It’s folly to devote yourself to one exclusively to the detriment of the other.

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Too much Word and not enough Spirit you puff up. Too much Spirit and not enough Word you blow up. With the Word and the Spirit together, you grow up.”

I agree with that in terms of finding a balance between emotion and intellect. I would argue however that the Spirit is not in opposition to the Word. The Holy Spirit of God will always illuminate and confirm the Word of God. He will never go against that Word, but bring clarity and interpretation and application.

As with most spiritual matters, I don’t claim to have expertise or command of the subject. There is so much I don’t know and don’t understand, so much I never will this side of heaven. But that shouldn’t ever stop me from seeking and growing and learning.

And I recommend that Francis Chan book if you get the chance to read it some time.

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.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Weird (A Celebration of Life)

First of all, the good news. I FOUND MY PHONE! WOOHOO!

Can you tell I’m a tad excited? I think so (said in my best Joey Tribbiani voice).

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Apparently, the lady at the Connection Cafe found it after I left it on one of the tables and took it back behind the counter, turning it off to save the battery. Thank you, nice Cafe lady whose name I don’t know but to whom I and Steve Jobs are eternally grateful.

Also, I had a marvelous time in downtown Franklin with a Facebook friend and her daughter, with whom I am also now Facebook friends. They are two of the best people ever. Seriously. Thank you, Carol and Hannah for making this Wednesday one of my best ever.

The bad? It was rainy and I had a sinus headache. The rain passed and so did my headache. End of story.

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The ugly? I may have found my phone but I’m still looking for my mind. If you see it, make sure and put it someplace safe and comfortable and make sure it gets fed twice a day. Preferably cheese and chocolate.

The weird? Me on a daily basis. But I’ve come to love my own particular brand of weird that I prefer to call eccentricity.

I still love that God knows where I am at all times. It’s even better than that Find my iPhone app.  He knows the secret thoughts I carry and the secret scars hidden so deep no one has ever found them.

Hannah, keep writing. Keep telling your story and keep singing the song God has put in your heart. Someone out there needs to hear it.

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To celebrate, I am posting pictures of animals and people celebrating. I am also sitting on the couch with one very non-celebratory cat sleeping in my lap. Yay.

I celebrate being alive and redeemed. I celebrate drawing another breath and breathing in the grace of God in every moment. I celebrate God’s amazing goodness to me who never deserved one iota of it.

Life is good, God is great, I am blessed. The end.

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Hello, My Name Is . . . More of What Jesus Wants to Say to Every Woman

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I felt like I had to revisit this because there’s so much more that I felt needs to be said. So much I feel like Jesus wants to communicate to women, both single and married. So here goes:

“My Precious Daughter,

Why are you so concerned about the future? Do you think by worrying you can hasten its arrival or change one iota of your destiny?

If you are single, be single. Regardless of whether I’ve called you to be single for life or not, I have called you to be single today. Embrace this stage as a gift and especially embrace all the lessons and wisdom that you can only gain from this part of your life.

If you are married, remember I am your identity now. Not your husband, not your children, not your job. All these things belong to Me.

Your marriage is not yours. It’s Mine. So is your husband. I expect you to give him back to me better than when I first gave him to you– more like Me.

Your children do not belong to you. They are Mine and I have entrusted them to your care for such a short time. They will form their opinions of Me much more by watching your daily actions and habits and lifestyle than by listening to your words. Live what you profess to believe.

Make time to find rest in Me. Notice I did not say to take time. In your hectic schedule, you will never have time for Me unless you make time for Me. And you will always make time for what really matters to to you.

Remember, whenever you hear the voices reminding you of your past, your shortcomings, your faults, and your mistakes, speak My name aloud. Do not dwell on such things, but rebuke them in My name.

Your feelings will lie to you. Your woman’s intuition will lie to you. Your mind and heart will deceive you. I will always tell you the truth, for I am the Truth. Trust me.

Let My love for you captivate and enthrall your heart tonight. Repeat the phrase, “Abba Father, I belong to you” over and over until the thought becomes as ingrained as breathing.

I love you just as you are right now but I will not let you stay that way. I am far from finished from the masterpiece I am making out of you.

Isn’t It Ironic? Don’t You Think?

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Ahh, the irony of it all. And as you well know, the opposite of irony is wrinkly. That was a freebie, totally unrelated to what will follow.

I have to confess something. Again.

I’m really good at patience until I run into someone who’s not. Let’s just say I am very impatient with impatient people. You know the kind. Those who are ALWAYS in a hurry and will cut in front of you to save those precious few seconds.

I’m a big believer in grace and showing it to others. Except for when it comes to legalistic and judgmental people. Like those Westboro Baptist people. I’d really like to give them a piece of my mind, which is probably not a good idea since I need to keep what mind I have left.

I am all for inclusion and welcoming everybody. Except for that guy who is obviously not as socially adept as I am. Or that girl who refuses to join in the conversation.

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Do you get where I’m going?

All this proves that I am, despite all my own protests to the contrary, all the things I detest in those other people. I am impatient, judgmental, exclusivist, and not a loving person. At least not in a way that will make people around me take notice.

Anybody can love someone who loves them back. It’s easy to be kind to a kind person.

But a true test of patience is dealing with those impatient folks. A true test of grace is how you answer those who are always out condemning this group or that person. The litmus test of Christ’s love is intentionally showing love to those who aren’t as easy to talk to or get along with.

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Now isn’t that ironic? Don’t you think?

We– meaning, I– would like to think that this love business is just something we can get down if we try harder, work at it more, eat our greenies, and grit our teeth.

The truth is it’s impossible to truly love someone the way we’re supposed to. Like the way Jesus loves us.

Only Jesus can love like that. Only Jesus’ love for us in us flowing through us can reach other people that we would (or could) never love on our own.

Like the Robert Randolph song says, “I need more love every day of my life.”

I need more of that love.

Maybe the more I make an effort to go to that unsocial person, that impatient driver, that judgmental guy with an open mind and an open heart, the more that love flows out of me and the more I am able to receive.

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May we be less like lakes where love stagnates and more like rivers where love always flows in and out.

An Awesome Definition for Worship

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“Worship is extravagant love and extreme submission.”

I love that definition.

Too often, worship is all about singing songs. It’s all too easy to sit back and critique the song choices and musical styles and whether or not those around me are worshiping the “right” way.

In Nashville, it’s easy to let worship become all about the level of musicianship and charasmatic personality. It’s easy to manipulate a crowd into a frenzy if you’re talented enough, but that’s not worship.

Worship is extravagant love. I can’t help but thinking about the woman who poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and then wiped those feet with her hair. That was more than inconvenient. That was extremely costly and humiliating. That’s worship.

It’s also extreme submission. It’s surrendering my own illusion of self-control and admitting that I have a desperate need for God. And it starts long before you enter the sanctuary and the church service and doesn’t end when you pass the exit doors on your way out into the parking lot.

Worship is not an event, but a lifestyle of saying, “Not my will, but Thine.”

I don’t normally do this, but I posted a link to a fantastic blog about the nature of worship that I ran across today.

http://allsonsanddaughters.com/2012/03/26/art-in-worship-join-the-conversation/

I challenge to you read it and let it soak into your very being.

If I’m truly worshipping in Romans 12:1-2 fashion and being transformed by the renewing of my mind and offering my body as a living sacrifice, then it won’t matter whether I’m singing the most current and trendy modern worship songs or the old, old hymns.

It won’t matter if there’s a rockin’ worship band, or a guy with a guitar, or an orchestra and choir, or just a piano and organ.

It will be worship. It will declare the great worth of God to the world.

After all, like the song says, it’s not about me. It’s all about You, Jesus.