Music and Endorphins

I read somewhere that one of the reasons so many people love good music is that it causes the release of the endorphins which cause pleasure. In other words, for me a good song can take me to my happy place.

There’s nothing better than the right song at the right moment to create a soundtrack event. It’s almost like you’re suddenly inside a movie when that song comes on.  Maybe I’m the only one, but I have those moments often.

I think all the hymns and praise songs are a testament to the power of music to convey truths in a powerfully emotional way. Music is the only experience that engages all of your brain at one time (and I’m fairly certain that’s right because I read it on the internet. They can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true, right?)

For me, the perfect song was Creepin’ by Stevie Wonder right as the sun was setting on my drive home tonight. Heck, there is no bad time for a Stevie Wonder song. Any Stevie Wonder song.

Jazz is good for late at night, especially after midnight. Nothing is more perfect than some Red Garland in the wee small hours of the morning.

My point? I love music. I probably love it too much, if that’s even possible. I have music and songs in my head almost non-stop. It’s like my life has it’s own incredible soundtrack that no one hears but me. Maybe they make pills for that. I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t change it if I could.

While music in worship is important, worship is more than music. It’s more than singing. In fact, if you’re not worshipping already when the music starts, if your worship isn’t a lifestyle, then you’ve missed it. But that’s another topic for another blog on another day.


Some 4th of July Thoughts


I did my patriotic duty and witnessed a good fireworks display, courtesy of the town of Nolensville. That part was great. The drive home in the ridiculous traffic was not. Fortunately, I had some old-school Rod Stewart to keep me motivated.

I had some thoughts while I was staring at the taillights from the car in front of me that had little or nothing to do with being stuck in traffic (except for the abundance of time provided):

It doesn’t matter that you’re making really good time if you’re headed in the wrong direction. There’s no prize for getting to the wrong place early.

If you’re climbing that proverbial ladder of success, make sure it’s leaning against the right building. True failure is succeeding at things that don’t really matter while neglecting those that do matter. Like neglecting your family for the almighty dollar.

Cherish the moments you’re given, knowing that there will be more moments later, but none will be exactly like this one. Ditto for cherishing relationships.

I think that covers the extent of my enlightenment. Mostly, I was wondering how long it would take me to drive the distance that normally takes 15 minutes. And trying not to cuss. Just keeping it real, folks.

I’m thinking next year I may camp out at the fireworks site and drive home in the morning. Who’s with me?

My Favorite Ending (Other Than in Revelation, Of Course)


Here’s my favorite ending of any book I’ve ever read (not including the Bible, of course):

“Then Aslan turned to them and said: “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?” Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. “There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

This is from the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia, appropriately called The Last Battle. I heartily recommend that you read all seven of the books in the series and I rarely ever recommend anything heartily. Except Campbell’s Soup maybe.


My Prayer Life


I went to part one of a conference about Spiritual Practices. The guy who spoke focused on the discipline of prayer.

I have to be honest. Most of the time, I suck at prayer. When I try to pray early in the morning, I fall asleep. My mind wanders. I end up thinking about anything and everything but God.

One of the good takeaways (so far) from this conference is the idea of praying through the Bible, specifically the Psalms. It’s a good way to literally pray God’s Word back to Him and to keep your mind from wandering. It also keeps you from falling into rote prayers where you pray those same old tired cliches and phrases you’ve always prayed because you don’t know what else to pray, i.e. “Bless my family, bless my dog, etc.”

The point is to keep praying and not give up. It’s called a discipline because it takes effort and time. No one is born spouting off beautiful prayers. Everyone has to learn and everyone has to start somewhere.

Just because you’re not an expert at something is not a reason to quit. Besides, you become an expert only after you’ve put in 10,000  hours at something. At least that’s what I’ve read somewhere. The point is that it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of looking (and sounding) foolish.

Think of someone learning to play an instrument. At first, it sounds like an animal is being tortured to death and needs to be put out of its misery. But eventually you get better. But not by giving up after a few off-notes.

Jesus didn’t teach us to pray perfectly or even to pray well. He just said to pray. Other parts of the Bible tell us to pray boldly, without ceasing, and with confidence.

So take it from this guy. I’m still learning to pray and probably will be for the rest of my life. But the good thing is that it doesn’t take eloquence and perfect theology for God to hear. It just takes a sincere heart and a willing spirit.

That’s all.



A Good Weekend


As I stepped into my car to head home from a Sunday School class party, I could hear the hypnotic drone of cicadas and felt 10-years old again and ready for the next big adventure. That’s what life really is. At least for those who have their eyes open to appreciate the mystery and wonder in each gift God unwraps daily called life.

I still fondly remember running through the streets of downtown Nashville with my friend Katie to catch the next act at Live on the Green, Michael Franti. It was a moment I never imagined happening, yet if you were to ask what my all-time favorite moment was, this one would be climbing the charts. And no Gatorade ever tasted better than the ones from the Exxon convenience store on the way home.

How can I forget an impromptu Starbucks session of great conversation and good coffee drinks? I can’t remember two hours flying by that fast. It was yet another in a long line of unexpected treasures and blessings God has showered on me lately.

I remember Friday and Saturday in downtown Franklin, seeing some of my favorite McCreary’s people and savoring yet another beautiful summer night visiting my usual haunts and trekking my familiar path up and down Main Street. I especially recall how quiet it was in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as I sat silent and still and expectant, waiting on a Word from God.

I finally fell asleep at 4:30 this morning after another night of tossing and turning. I think I’ll sleep better tonight. At least I hope I do. But even that time awake gave me time to reflect on all the little gifts that eucharisteo had opened my eyes to see.

I remember something my Sunday School teacher Derek Webster said. He said, “God believes in you even more than you do.”

I have to write that down somewhere. Oh yeah, I guess I just did. But I need it in a place where I can find it and see it every morning, because I know some mornings I’ll wake up and not be as excited to be alive. Those old self-doubts will creep in. The enemy will whisper, “See? Nobody really cares about you. No one would notice if you weren’t around. You don’t make one bit of difference to anybody.”

That’s when this Truth of God comes in. God says differently. To me. To you. To anyone who heard and followed the voice of Jesus. God said you do matter because I made you. Jesus said you matter because I thought you were to die for. You have a gift and a purpose that no one else ever in the history of mankind has ever had. Only you can play the part God wrote for you in the Great Romance He’s written out in history.

You being you makes God smile. You being who God created you is what the world around you needs to see more than any Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. You coming alive to your gifts and talents will be the ripple in the ocean whose effects will last far beyond your own lifetime.

Yep. All that from four days in August.

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 30: That’s The Way Love Goes

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“Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perserverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life?” (Ann Voskamp)

“The practice of giving thanks…eucharisteo…this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” (Ann Voskamp)

The big 3-0. That’s how many blogs I’ve written in this series. It seems like only yesterday that I was writing the first one. Actually, it was more like three weeks ago. Maybe four. But here I am yet again, starting out with #871.

871) Still having peace and joy after being defriended on Facebook for no apparent reason (at least none that was given with no chance to correct whatever I did wrong).

872) The comfort of chocolate ice cream.

873) That Aslan is on the move.

874) A surprise visit from a friendly neighborhood cat.

875) Hanging out with my sister when it’s just the two of us, even if it’s at Michael’s.

876) Lucy the Wonder Kitty half-asleep and purring in my lap.

877) Those times when God reminds me gently that He is all I really need.

878) Salted peanuts.

879) Being able to let go and move on.

880) Seeing pictures of my friends John and Michelle’s new baby and knowing she will be loved.

881) The way my old dog Murphy used to sigh with contentment at the end of a long day.

882) Being an Eagle Scout.

883) Adele’s voice.

884) Having a great weekend to look forward to.

885) Not giving a . . . well, crap about what other people think anymore.

886) The tender yet relentless pursuit of the Father for His children (including me).

887) My coffee table book of Ansel Adams photography that I picked up at an estate sale for $5.

888) Red Velvet anything.

889) God using people like the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul.

890) My big book of Vincent Van Gogh artwork.

891) Friends who refuse to give up on other friends.

892) That last bit of sleep just before I have to wake up in the morning.

893) My friend who recently moved to Orlando and who is one of the sweetest kindest people I’ve been blessed to know.

894) Visions of lambs lying down with lions and being unafraid.

895) Red kool-aid. As long as it’s not during VBS.

896) A really good foot massage.

897) Running water, indoor plumbing, and all those other things I take for granted that half the world would love to have.

898) My very swanky Mr. Rogers t-shirt.

899) When I stop trying to define who my neighbor is and start trying to be one.

900) Big Red gum.

901) That I’m down to less than 100 things I love left. Maybe

902) Finding the perfectly random pin on Pinterest.

903) Google Chrome (much more than Internet Explorer).

904) Purple stuff (way more than Tang).

905) 10,000 years to sing of 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord.

Things I Love 22: I Have Lots of These Because I’m Old

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It’s sobering to realize that that girl I thought was really cute was born around the same time I graduated from high school. That’s when the reality set in that I’m not a twentysomething (or even a thirtysomething) any more. But I can still be immature as long as I want.

There’s no graceful way to segueway into my list, so I’ll pretend that the first part of this blog doesn’t exist. On to #586.

586) Last minute invitations to birthday (or other social) gatherings, especially if they’re anywhere near downtown Franklin.

587) The coolness of  the night air after an unexpected rain.

588) In God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted– no bad choices, no mistakes, nothing.

589) In heaven, love and not gold is the standard of currency.

590) That I’m still adding songs to my iPhone’s growing playlist.

591) Getting to sleep in tomorrow because it’s a holiday.

592) Not being afraid of the loud firework noises anymore.

593) Casablanca on blu ray.

594) My newly discovered social skills.

595) Having the privilege to pray for family and friends and knowing that prayer will avail much.

596) Both the 1974 and the 2013 versions of The Great Gatsby (though I prefer the older version slightly).

597) True redheads.

598) Having to show my driver’s license to prove my age.

599) Real accountability and transparency.

600) Getting handwritten letters in the mail.

601) All the Lord of the Rings movies (though the books are still better).

602) Taking pictures at Radner Lake.

603) Seeing what everybody else posts on pinterest and instagram.

604) Making people feel welcome and a part of the group.

605) California seedless raisins.

606) Peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

607) Doing my small part in recycling.

608) Being on the ultimate winning side.

609) Knowing that one day there will be no more politics and no more need of anything political.

610) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

611) Walking in the rain.

612) Watching a beautiful girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful.

613) Being able to appreciate beauty without feeling the need to possess it.

614) A good neck and back massage.

615) The way my grandmother’s nails felt when she used to scratch my itchy back when I was little.

616) The smell of eggs and bacon in the morning.

617) Seeing a sunset from above the clouds.

618) My Starbucks friend who may not be the tallest person but who has the biggest heart of anyone I know.

619) Every time faith wins out over fear.

620) Only having 380 more to go.

Sadness and Joy

It seems there is so much sadness in the world lately. From the Boston Marathon bombings to the tornadoes that ripped through Shawnee and Moore, Oklahoma, it seems tragedy and loss are everywhere. It seems like on Facebook people are having to say goodbye to loved ones, where they be furry or people.

It can be overwhelming if you let it. The magnitude of pain around the world right now is massive. So many people are hurting, so many are suffering, so many seem like they have nothing to look forward to but more hurt and suffering.

But as callous and unfeeling as this may sound, you can still have joy. Joy is not a denial of what happened in Boston or Oklahoma. Joy doesn’t turn a blind eye toward those who have suffered and lost. Joy sees past the pain to the God who waits on the other side. The beautiful part is that God is on both sides of the pain and walking with you through it.

I love an illustration a pastor gave. Jesus isn’t limited by time and space, so he’s in your present with you. He’s also in your future, so that the promises he gave you are already as good as done. He’s in your past in that moment when you were wounded, ready to heal you so that your past wounds no longer bleed into your present. He’s in all three places at once.

I am convinced that sadness and joy can coexist. It’s only right to grieve what’s lost. But we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve with hope that one day God will set everything right and will restore a thousand-fold what we’ve lost or given up. We grieve as those who know that our troubles are only a blip on the radar screen compared to the glory that awaits and that what we suffer pales in comparison with the ultimate joy that awaits us.

So my heart aches for all those in pain tonight, but my heart rejoices that while there may be pain in the night, joy comes in the morning.


My two cents on spiritual warfare

A group of guys and I have been watching a DVD series on spiritual warfare by Chip Ingram called The Invisible War (and yes, that was a shameless plug). It got me thinking about the mindset of so many American believers (including me) regarding the whole topic of spiritual warfare. Plainly put, either most of us don’t believe there is an war going on with an enemy that is constantly seeking our destruction. If we believe, we sure don’t live like it much of the time. Again, me included.

The war is real. The enemy is real. In this world, we are not tourists on vacation, or passengers on some kind of luxury cruise, but soldiers engaged in battle. Our ignorance of the battle and our enemy can only do us harm. We need to wake up to realize that we are under attack. But here’s the best part.

The battle is already won. Chip Ingram said, “As believers in Christ, we don’t fight FOR victory. We fight FROM victory.” That’s the good news (which is why it’s called the gospel!). But there is still a battle.

We fight back by putting on the armor of God as described in Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. We should pray these on every morning and pray these for each other on a daily basis. We should pray with eyes wide open to the spiritual realm, asking God to give us eyes to see the battle around us like the Elijah prayed for his servant when they were surrounded by the Syrian army. We should pray for discernment and wisdom. Most of all, we should pray at all times to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled, taking every thought captive and submitting them to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We must fight together. If you are fighting the enemy on your own, apart from other believers, you may succeed for a season, but you will ultimately grow weary and faint. You will stumble and fall. You need other believers praying God’s protection over you, encouraging you and keeping you honest.

We fight ultimately with one weapon– LOVE. Not as a feeling, but as a decisive act of the will. We fight by showing that Calvary’s love is stronger than hate and that love overcomes anything. Chip Ingram said, “Love is giving to another person what they need the most when they deserve it least.” Love is doing whatever you can, even to your own detriment, for the good of the beloved. It means dying to yourself and your rights and own ideas about how the world should work.

So live with eyes wide open, hands raised, side by side with your brothers and sisters in Christ. And remember that the battle is already won and that we have overcome!

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.