Here’s the Deal

So I found out today that the cost to repair the transmission on my Jeep is $2700. I almost needed the smelling salts as I typed that sentence. I’ll be sans car for up to four weeks. Pass those smelling salts, please.

That’s a lot of money. All for some itty bitty parts that decided on their own without consulting me or anyone else to stop working. All for some unseen mechanical gears that I didn’t even know existed until they decided to break down. Rude.

A lot of life is like that. Things break, people die, situations change. What seemed like a sure thing vanishes like the morning mist and what you thought would last forever ends abruptly without any warning.

It’s easy to let those things make you cynical, believing that only the very worst scenarios will play out and that nothing good can ever happen and that people are only out to get you.

Or it drives you deeper into all the Mystery that is the Abba Father.

As big as my car bill is, God is bigger.

As big as the void that is left by the passing of a loved one is, God is bigger.

As big as the hurt caused by the rejection of a friend or a family member, God is bigger.

As big as the accumulation of scars and wounds from a broken relationship are, God is bigger.

God is bigger than anything you will face today or tomorrow or the next day or any day after that.

God is bigger than any problem that you will ever face.

God is bigger than your fears and your doubts and even your unbelief.

Whatever circumstances, God will prove that He is enough. Everything you could possibly desire or want or hold in your hands without God is less than holding onto nothing but God.

That’s a lesson that all of us learn eventually, whether that means losing everything in a literal sense or in coming to the end of your own schemes and plans.

God is enough. God will be enough.

That is enough.

 

I Like Free Stuff

“The payoff for a life of sin is death, but God is offering us a free gift—eternal life through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King” (Romans 6:23).

I like free stuff. I admit it.

Every so often, I stop off at the Brentwood Public Library and check in the front where they keep all the materials that for whatever reason they can’t accept as donations.

I’ve found more than a few antiquated computer manuals from the late great 80’s and some other unintentional sleep aids. I’ve also managed to run across some treasures.

I picked up a seven-volume set of classic books on prayer that I will (hopefully) read before I die.

I found a Dorothy Sayers mystery paperback that I actually hadn’t read before.

I found a couple of opera recordings on CD that I will use to further broaden my musical horizons.

I do so love free stuff.

After all, aren’t the best things in life free?

My salvation was free to me, but not free to God. It cost Him Jesus. It cost Him everything.

I don’t say that to invoke a guilt trip on anyone, but as a reminder to myself that I should never take any part of the process lightly or for granted.

I need to remind myself that I’m saved not because I was oh so very clever or witty or crafty but simply and solely out of the grace of God.

The key, then, for me is to live gratefully. The lesson from all this is to see all my life as a grace that I don’t deserve. To see whatever comes next as a gift, no matter how it fits into my preconceived plans. To live it as a hymn of gratitude back to God.

Oh, and I will keep checking the library for more cool free stuff.

 

The Ragamuffin Blog

As you know, the reason for the name of this blog is the very famous book The Ragamuffin Gospel by one Mr. Brennan Manning. I thought I’d share one of his quotes that I love, one of the reasons why I write these blogs:

““The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian” (Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God).

That truly is what it means to be a Christian.

 

Untitled Blog #1,623

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“Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you” (C. S. Lewis)

One of the reasons I write this little daily blog is to tell you that it’s okay to be you. You don’t have to conform to anybody else’s expectations of who you should be because no one else has to live your life or walk in your shoes but you.

I sincerely hope that you will do what you like, not what society or fashion trends say. Especially not what the current hipster movement says. If you want to grow a beard, then grow one (unless you’re female, which might make it a bit awkward). If you don’t, then be clean-shaven. Or scruffy. It’s really up to you.

Never be ashamed of who God made you to be. You are the one God dreamed up in His infinite mind long before anyone existed. You are the one God fashioned out of the dirt with His very own hands and with the very breath from His mouth giving you life and spirit. You are the one Jesus, the very incarnation of God in human form, died for. And He would have gone through all the torture and death if it had been only you that needed saving.

So go ahead. Wear black socks with those sandals if that’s what makes you happy. Wear those Christmas-y t-shirts in July. You can even wear plaids with stripes if you fancy, but I will disavow any knowledge of you if you do.

Just you be you, because what the world needs more than anything is to see you loving who you are and who you’re becoming. Nothing delights God more than a man comfortable in his masculinity and a woman who is in love with her femininity.

That’s all. You can go back to your pink fuzzy bunny slippers now.

 

Some Wise Words Written by Someone Else

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This is one of those nights when I couldn’t think of a blessed thing to write about so I am borrowing someone else’s words. In this case, that someone is Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite writers. Here are those words:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

And then there’s this one:

“From the simplest lyric to the most complex novel and densest drama, literature is asking us to pay attention. Pay attention to the frog. Pay attention to the west wind. Pay attention to the boy on the raft, the lady in the tower, the old man on the train. In sum, pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells therein. . .

“Literature, painting, music — the most basic lesson that all art teaches us is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things. . .

“And when Jesus comes along saying that the greatest command of all is to love God and to love our neighbor, he too is asking us to pay attention. If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces, but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

 

Easter Season Liturgy Part III

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“Your light is the only light we need
as we travel through life’s mystery
Your word the only voice we hear
that still small voice that leads us
to the place where we should be
Your presence is the only company we need
as we walk this narrow road
Your fellowship the warmth we crave
to help us on our way
May the truth of Easter
The joy of Easter
And the blessings of Easter
Be with us this day and all days
AMEN”

“Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.”

It is Maundy Thursday, the night before Good Friday, when Jesus endured the sufferings and torture of the cross. It is on this night that He instituted the Lord’s Supper, also referred to as Communion or Eucharist.

On this night, He foreshadowed the brokenness of His own body with the bread and the pouring out of His blood with the wine. He gave the single command to “Do this in remembrance of me.

Regardless of whether you believe the elements are symbols or actually become the body and blood of Jesus, do this in remembrance of Me.

Not because you are sinless, but because you are forgiven, do this in remembrance of Me.

Not because we hope for victory, but because the victory has already been won, do this in remembrance of Me.

Come to the table, with hands open in a posture of submission, dependence, and obedience, and take these elements.

Do this in remembrance of Me.”

 

Easter Season Liturgy Part II

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Seeing as  how this is Holy Week, I thought I’d continue with the theme I started yesterday. This is a prayer of confession and forgiveness that was also a part of the liturgical Kairos service last night:

“We serve a risen Saviour yet live as if in chains. Forgive us, Lord that we are so hesitant to live the resurrection life. Forgive us that we fail to show through word and action the truth that you loved us into your kingdom through the glorious mystery of the Cross. Forgive us that there is still fear in our lives that prevents us from achieving our full potential. Draw us close. Open our eyes to the glory of the risen Christ, our hearts to the wonder of the Cross and our hands to the service of your kingdom where you have placed us. That your name might be glorified through our lives.

AMEN

God of resurrection
of life and death
rebirth
All: Renew our hearts and minds
God of promise
of all beginnings
and all endings
All: Renew our hearts and minds
God of hope
of new growth
and harvest
All: Renew our hearts and minds”

I hope that for me, Easter is a reminder of the penalty that I could NEVER have paid that was paid for me, the cost to redeem me from sin that I could NEVER have afforded but was paid for me. He who knew no sin BECAME sin that I might become the righteousness of God in Christ. He who never did wrong and never took ONE disobedient step ever in His ENTIRE life bore the punishment and shame for ALL my misdeeds and sins and disobedience and rebellion.

As much as I’m all for Easter eggs and bunny rabbits and candy (especially those Cadbury eggs), I hope I never lose sight of why I really and truly celebrate Easter this and every year. Jesus died FOR ME.

A Slice of Blogging Life

Here I am, sitting at a table in the middle of a Connection Cafe at Brentwood Baptist Church that’s full of people and conversations and laughter and . . . well, life. While I was bashing my brains (not literally) trying to come up with a fresh blog topic, I thought, “Why not just describe where I am?” I mean, after all, if this blog fails spectacularly, it’s not like I don’t have 988 others to fall back on. The world won’t end.

I’m in a good position to witness a lot of the interaction going on around me and do what I love to do but don’t normally do unless I’m at the mall: people-watching.

I sometimes like to step outside of life for a bit and observe it. Not in an OCD, note-taking kind of way, but just in a general non-threatening, non-creepy kind of way. I love seeing families and married couples and throngs of teenagers and all the ways they mesh together.

It’s good to slow down and really appreciate this simple things in life. To appreciate family and friends, good health, freedom, the Church with all her beauty and faults, and life. There’s that life stuff again. I guess it boils down to being grateful for being alive. Life isn’t guaranteed. It’s a gift handed to us each day for which most of us– including me– taking for granted most of the time. But not today.

Today I am aware that I could very well not be here tomorrow. Neither could you. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow.

So if you get anything out of this rambling mess of a blog, take this. Take time to appreciate all the miracle and mystery and madness that is life. Take time to be thankful for the gift of being alive and being able to enjoy it.

That’s all. Now you can go back to watching re-runs of Swamp People.

Father Abraham, the Hokey Pokey, and Other Randomness

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I have to confess something. When I was growing up, I thought the song “Father Abraham” (as in “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham”) was about Abraham Lincoln. I was confused. And apparently not the brightest bulb in the lamp. Did Abraham Lincoln have many sons? Am I one of them? And what does waving my arms around have to do with anything? Am I supposed to be excited about the Emancipation Proclamation? Or Abe’s gnarly beard? Needless to say, the truth set me free . . . from a lot of confusion.

Also, the Hokey Pokey is a mystery to me. I’ve always wondered. Is the Hokey Pokey REALLY what it’s all about? ‘Cause it seems to be to be a bit indecisive and wishy-washy. Put your right arm in. . .no. . .wait. . .put your right arm out. . .no. . . wait. . .shake it all about. Seriously! Make up your mind! My arm’s gettin’ tired here! And another thing. What exactly is the part where you “do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around?” I never got that part clear. Is the Hokey Pokey turning your self around? Or is it some vague waving your hands around in the air while you’re in the process of turning?

Yes, I do obsess over very trivial and random things. I am odd. I’ll admit that, though I prefer the term “quirky.” Or “eccentric.” Heck, I’m not picky. I am completely normal, or at least that’s what the voices in my head told me.

What it means to be a Christian by Brennan Manning

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“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”

‘Nuff said!