A Borrowed Post for This March 17

It is St. Patrick’s Day. I dutifully wore green and ate my corned beef and cabbage. I also watched Edward Scissorhands again (which really has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day or what comes next but is still one of my favorite movies).

I thought I’d share what I read this morning that spoke to me about the fellowship of the wounded and broken:

“Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: “Well, I don’t have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one.” Often we also treat people this way. We say: “Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business…we’d better not take the risk of working with them.” When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak” (Henri Nouwen).

What do we do with those whose brokenness is more apparent than ours? How do we treat those who are less adept at hiding their weaknesses and failures?

I still love that Jesus didn’t just tolerate those who were outcast and broken. He often went out of HIs way to find them and bring them into His community. He laid hands on the lepers and spoke to the unmentionables. He loved those who couldn’t even love themselves, much less anybody else.

I still believe that these accounts of Jesus’ aren’t just for a lovely bedtime story or only to stir up sentimental feelings. It’s the ultimate example for all who follow after. It’s a blueprint for how to love those same people in our own lives.

Is it even possible? Not in my own strength. Not in yours.

It is only possible when we have fully received and embraced that same love for ourselves, acknowledging that we ourselves are broken and wounded. Only then can we truly love others in the unconditional way of Jesus’.

 

 

Godwinks Circa 2016

I had a Godwink moment today. For those who don’t know what that means, it’s a seemingly random moment when something really neat or good happens that you didn’t ask for or expect. It’s kinda like when you go to get one bag of Funyons out of the vending machine and you get two instead.

Tonight, I had one of those.

I went with my family to Old Chicago to eat, thanks to a very generous Christmas gift from a relative in the form of a $200 Visa Giftcard expressly for the purpose of the whole family being able to go out and eat together.

That was awesome, but that wasn’t the Godwink.

I had a very good Margherita pizza with an Ale crust that made me thankful that God inspired someone to invent pizzas. But that was also not the Godwink.

I had a friend from Union University that I hadn’t seen in 20 years approach me after recognizing me. That was the Godwink.

A Godwink moment for me has been seeing people that I really like that I haven’t seen in a while. It could be receiving a very generous gift from friends in time of need. It could be simply the overwhelming joy that comes from no discernible source other than God being present in the moment.

You can’t really plan a Godwink moment. You can’t wish for them or expect them. You can only recognize them when they happen and be grateful for them, because you can never be sure when or where they will happen.

Another smaller Godwink moment was me finding the I Am Second bracelet that I thought was forever lost. It turns out it was just hiding in plain sight in the bottom of my closet.

The truth of the matter is that God remains good and faithful whether I feel blessed or not, whether I feel Him at all or not. As a great line from a Christmas movie goes, seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing. And true faith is about looking with a different set of eyes at your circumstances and seeing God in everything, working all things together for good. It’s about looking for and finding thanksgiving and joy in every moment in life, both the good and bad moments.

So, thanks God for that Godwink moment to remind me that everything will indeed be fine in the end, and if it’s not fine, it’s not yet the end.

My First Blog of 2016

Welcome to 2016. It’s a leap year, so we all get that extra day in February that nobody knows what to do with.

I’m thankful once again that I got another day to be alive and another chance to see another year in, even if it wasn’t with a multitude of people and loud festivities. I’m okay with that. It was just me and my sister and her family in a low-key celebration that ended up with just me and my brother-in-law ringing in the new year.

Currently, it’s 12:59 am and I’m pooped. Even after that 2 1/2 hour nap earlier, I’m still tired. I guess I know what my cat feels like most of the time.

I hope to see more of my friends face-to-face and have actual, honest-to-goodness conversations, preferably over coffee, tea, or some other beverage at a Starbucks or other similar type venue.

I hope to lose the weight I gained back after getting down to a good size. And this time, I’m keeping it off. As long as there’s no chocolate or cheesecake or any other type of food to tempt me.

I hope to see the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, which I am apparently one of the few who hasn’t already seen it at least once. I’m thinking maybe of seeing it in IMAX 3D at some point in the next two weeks. Anyone want to join me?

As always, I look forward in anticipation to what God will do. As I read in a post earlier on Facebook, I’m trusting less in my own resolutions to do better and be better and trusting more in Jesus’ resolution to finish the good saving work He started in me way back when.

It’s now 1:06 and I am officially calling an end to this wild and crazy celebration. See you all later and may your 2016 be blessed and joyful.

 

Awakenings and The Gift of Being Alive

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Leonard Lowe: We’ve got to tell everybody. We’ve got to remind them. We’ve got to remind them how good it is.

Dr. Sayer: How good what is, Leonard?

Leonard Lowe: Read the newspaper. What does it say? All bad. It’s all bad. People have forgotten what life is all about. They’ve forgotten what it is to be alive. They need to be reminded. They need to be reminded of what they have and what they can lose. What I feel is the joy of life, the gift of life, the freedom of life, the wonderment of life!” (Awakenings, 1990).

First of all, when did this movie get to be 25 years old? Where was I? Why wasn’t I consulted about this occurrence?

I do so love this movie. It reminds me of what a gift being alive is. It reminds me of the blessings of all those things that I daily take for granted that so many people don’t get to experience– waking up, breathing in fresh air, having the freedom to go and do as I please, being able to worship God freely.

The saying goes that every day may not be a good day, but there is good in every day. No matter how hard-pressed or stressed you are, you can still find the good if you look for it. Even in the midst of incredible loss and grief, there are blessings waiting to be found.

You have to train your eye. If you expect bad to happen, that’s all you’ll see. If you expect good, you’ll find it. You project onto others what you see in yourself (I learned that in one of my Psychology classes way back in my Union University days).

The best way is to look for God in every situation. You’ll find Him and you’ll also see whatever you’re going through in the best possible light.

As a friend of mine always says at the end of his blogs, just you think about that.

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Absolutely Positively Definitely Maybe

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“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:18-21, The Message).

Such a great moment in the movie. I’ve actually owned Definitely, Maybe for a while and just now got around to watching it (one of the few perks of being without a job).

I love that line because it reminds me so much of God and the Story He is writing. And I do so love stories, especially when they’re well-told and have happy endings.

I know that ultimately God’s Story is about God, as it should be, but one of the very happy side effects is you and me finding redemption and freedom and abundant life. Because of God’s Story, you and I have a Story that we get to share. Because of God’s Story, we know that our Story will always have a happy ending because God has written it already. I read the last page of the book and I know that it’s good.

It’s hard to remember that when the Story seems headed for tragedy or when the current chapter seems like it will never end and circumstances will never change or get better. It’s hard to see that happy ending when you’re wondering how you’ll pay the bills or make your struggling marriage work or find that job that makes you come alive.

As I’ve learned in reading books, you don’t put down the book when the characters run into hard times. You keep going with the hope that those struggles will lead to something better. As Corrie Ten Boom says, you don’t jump off the train when it goes through a dark tunnel. You trust the Engineer to get you through.

I don’t want to be that guy who says things like, “Hold on, it will get better” or “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” When you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or discouragement, bumper sticker quotes don’t really do the trick.

You need to know that God is still faithful to His promises. You need to know that the same Jesus who conquered death and the grave can conquer your circumstances. You need to know that He will finish what He started in you because He said He would.

That’s a happy ending.

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Epiphany

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“There’s no present like the time” (a great line from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).

My life hasn’t gone the way I planned. In fact, for most of my life there really hasn’t been a plan. My first job when I moved to the Nashville area fell into my lap in a stroke of providence and blessing.

I can say that while I haven’t always gotten what I wanted, I find I always got what I needed just when I needed it.

Tonight, I saw the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the sequel to . . . you can probably figure out the title to the first movie. It was just as good and clever as the first.

I remember when I heard the line that I quoted, my brain wanted to reverse it and have it say, “There’s no time like the present.” That’s how I’ve always heard it and that’s what I hear when people are wanting you to act NOW and buy NOW and decide NOW.

But truly, there is no better present than the time you’re given. There’s no better present than the present. You only get one today and never a do-over on yesterday (unless you happen to live inside the movie Groundhog Day).

So take it all in. Be sure to pay attention. For me, it means noticing the beautiful cloud formations in the sky on the way to work and actually paying attention to the scenery on the drive. It means stopping for a moment to breathe a prayer along the lines of “Thank You, God, for this life, and forgive me if I don’t love it enough.”

I’m still learning never to take anything (or anyone) for granted. I hope I wake up tomorrow, but I can’t guarantee that I will because it’s not promised. The same goes for all my family and friends. Even my cat Lucy.

Savor your life while you live it. Don’t waste your time during the week pining away after the weekends and holidays and summer vacations. Each day is a gift that is good for only 24 hours and has a no-return policy. Open it.

 

Why Get Married?

I was channel surfing on a night when there wasn’t much that caught my eye. I came across Shall We Dance,  the American remake of a Japanese movie, neither of which I’ve seen all the way through. But I did see one scene that caught my attention.

In it, the character played by Susan Sarandon is offering her own reason why people get married. You’d expect her to say for reasons of romance or passion or out of desperate need. In fact, that’s what most people would say. But her answer floored me.

I’d never thought about marriage in this context before, but it makes sense. At least to me. Here’s what she said:

Witness

It makes me want to watch both versions of the movie all the way through. I hope it will change the way you view marriage, whether you’re already married, engaged to be married, or just one of those hopeful romantics who haven’t met the right person yet.

 

The Road Goes Ever On and On

A hiking trail at Radnor Lake State Park

A friend and I went hiking in Radnor Lake State Park. We took the Ganier Ridge trail, which is a bit more difficult but also more rewarding for the scenery and wildlife.

As I was walking, my mind immediately went to the scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie where Frodo and his companions set off on their quest. I almost felt like a hobbit as I walled down the wooded trail.

I also remembered how the movies were great, but the books were so much better because there’s just so many themes the movies never really delved into. Such as how the present age was passing away and a new one was coming. Regardless of whether Frodo succeeded in destroying the One Ring, so much would be lost forever.

Life is like that. As much as we try to hold on to things and people and places, we end up losing them.

You can choose to be saddened by the loss. Or you can choose to use what time you’re given wisely and make the most of these things and people and places while you have them.

But really, when you think about it, do we ever lose anything? Didn’t Jesus say that whoever suffered loss for the sake of the Kingdom, whoever made sacrifices and said goodbyes would receive a 1000 times what they lost in the life to come?

So maybe we never really do say goodbye at all. Maybe it’s more of a “See you later.”

All that from one nature walk. I really should get back to this place more often.

Aside from the heat and humidity, it was a perfect walk. Well, more humidity than heat. I’m a wimp when it comes to heat.

I’ll also have to make a point to re-read The Lord of the Rings sometime in the very near future.

 

Music, Music, Music

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If you haven’t already figured it out by now,  I love music. As in I have songs playing in my head non-stop all the time. Usually, I have random songs that I find myself inadvertently singing out loud or whistling without even realizing it. That can be embarrassing sometimes.

Whenever I find good music, I like to let people know. I always assume that people will feel the same way when they hear the music I love as I do. Usually not. Not everyone shares my taste in music. Actually, it’s a rare few that like all the same music I do.

But I still like to share what I like.

I absolutely love a group called the Court Yard Hounds. It’s basically the Dixie Chicks minus Natalie Maines. But I really like their sound.

I also love, love, love a group called The Thorns. This group consisted of Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins, and Pete Droge. Their one album is probably in my top 10 favorite albums ever. They have a very Crosby, Stills and Nash vibe.

I really like Jacob Dylan’s solo stuff. As much as I like The Wallflowers, I prefer the solo albums. They are very much reminiscent of his dad’s music. You may have heard of Jacob’s dad. He goes by the name Bob.

Anyway, there’s nothing like the perfect song at the perfect moment to evoke a good feeling and a good mood. It’s like watching a movie where the song really enhances the scene and brings out all the emotion in it.

I’m becoming more and more of a fan of old school music as I get older. By old school, I mean artists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and Billie Holiday. That music has a staying power than the newer stuff just doesn’t have. In my opinion.