Happy Last Day of April

I sincerely repent of all the times as a kid when I laughed and made fun of old people for always talking about how fast time goes by. They were right. And now I’m old. Well, older.

Which brings me to the fact that tomorrow is officially May.

That means that we’re officially 1/3 of the way through 2018.

Not only will tomorrow be the first day of May, it will also be the 8th anniversary of the flooding that took place in Nashville on May 1-2, 2010.

Where did that 8 years go? Man, those old people were right again. At least I get to make fun of the funny clothes they wore back in the day, just like someone down the road will look at my fashion sense and roll on the floor laughing at me.

I can still remember seeing all the flood waters, especially in the downtown area. I recall hearing about how Opry Mills had being overrun with flood waters. I couldn’t even get out of my neighborhood to get to work that day. It was insane.

Looking back has given me a little perspective. Like the fact that I’m able to look back. The flood waters left and Nashville is still here. I still remember the words written on a garage door on a street where the flood waters had done the most damage: “Storms pass, love shines, we survive.” Those floods are in the past and you and I are still here.

Philip Yancey wrote, “Faith is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

You don’t get the benefit of all the hindsight and 20/20 vision from looking back on something until you’ve lived through it. Faith is believing God’s promises as though they had already come to pass. In fact, faith is knowing that God’s future is so certain that it can be spoken of in the present tense.

Speaking of time flying, there are only 239 days until Christmas, so you best get to shoppin’.

Thinking of Texas Tonight

 “Do not be afraid—I will save you.
    I have called you by name—you are mine.
When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you;
    your troubles will not overwhelm you.
When you pass through fire, you will not be burned;
    the hard trials that come will not hurt you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the holy God of Israel, who saves you” (Isaiah 43:1-3, GNT).

I’m seeing pictures and hearing stories out of Texas about the complete devastation from the hurricane and flooding. So many people have lost everything. Some have even lost their lives. I know that the waters are rising and the rain never seems to stop.

It seems that natural disasters and tragedies like this have a way of snapping your priorities back into place. All those trinkets you chase after don’t seem nearly as important as before.

It brings back memories of when Nashville had its own flooding back in 2010. I can’t imagine watching helplessly as all your possessions and heirlooms are lost forever in the waters.

I do know that God Almighty has promised to be present with those in the midst of deep waters. No amount of storms or floods can ever separate any of us from the unfathomable love of Christ.

Lord, be with those who are wading through the deep waters tonight in Texas. Let Your peace that passes all understanding guard their hearts and minds tonight. May Your grace be sufficient for them and Your comforting presence be near to all whose hearts are heavy.

May all find that you are a Shelter in the midst of the storm, and a Strong Tower and Refuge to those in time of need. May all find that underneath are the Everlasting Arms that won’t ever let go.

May Your people be Your tangible presence as they go to where the need is keenest to be with the people who have lost everything. More than any money or material goods we can give, may we be the face of Christ to all those we serve.

Amen.

 

Another Field Trip

I finally accomplished my goal that I set in 2015. I visited the last of the regional campuses of Brentwood Baptist Church, located in East Nashville and known as The Church at Lockeland Springs. That goal will probably need to be amended when the next regional campus starts in Nolensville, but until then– mission accomplished!

I had help from a new app called Waze. It’s like your ordinary GPS app that gives directions, but this one has the option of Mr. T telling you when and where to turn. My personal favorite is him yelling at me to “TURN LEFT, SUCKA!”

I made it, thanks to Mr. T and Waze. I knew immediately I was going to like this place. It had the smell of a very old church building and looked very inviting. The worship service was spot-on in theology and practicality.

I love how the Church is made up of churches that all express different facets of the body of Christ, yet are all each the body of Christ. Each of the regional campuses has taken on the nuances and flavor of their communities and each reaches out to a different segment of Nashville’s population.

Of course, since I was already in the neighborhood, I had to stop by The Pharmacy for one of their amazing burgers. The one I consumed was called The Farm Burger and had bacon, ham, and a fried egg on it (and it was delicious). I truly appreciate the animal sacrifice that went into the making of this fine creation.

I believe that occasionally, it’s good to break up the routine and do something that’s different. That could mean going to a different church or checking out a part of town that you’re not used to.

I’m thankful for the inspiration to visit all five of the regional campuses. It definitely opened my eyes to the fact that not all of the body of Christ looks and functions like my church. There’s lots of room for every kind of person in God’s kingdom.

 

The Allman Brothers Band for the Road

One of the joys of having over 100 people a day move to Nashville is the most enjoyable and fun commutes I’ve been having [said with copious amounts of sarcasm].

I really enjoy creeping along I-40, then for a brief moment to speed up, only to run into more traffic and slow down again. I really have nothing better to do than idle in traffic for an eternity. [sarcasm continued].

The one glimmer of goodness in all the gridlock is that I have ample time to listen to quality music. It’s not like I have anywhere else I can go during that time, so I might as well put it to good use.

Today, I spent a lot of time with The Allman Brothers Band, specifically the deluxe edition of their second album, Idlewild South. There’s a 45-minute version of the song Mountain Jam that’s not for the musically faint of heart.

Their music is ideal for cruising down the highway with the windows rolled down and the summer breezes blowing in. It still works for windows rolled up and inching along the interstate, but really it makes me want to find a deserted two-lane road, throw the map out the window, and just drive wherever the road takes me. One day I just might do that very thing.

I do think good music is good for the soul. There’s something healing about hearing the right song at the right time that goes along way toward detoxing from the stresses of the work week. I recommend old-school country, southern rock, jazz, blues, or just about anything from the 70’s.

PS It helps a lot if you crank up the volume and roll down the windows (but not so much when it’s sweltering and humid outside). Then maybe just crank up the A/C.

 

 

May Day: Seven Years Later

As I was hiking through Radnor Lake State Park on this picture perfect day, it hit me. Seven years ago, the rains started that led to the floods that devastated much of the Greater Nashville area.

Seven years ago, I saw a portable school building floating down an interstate that looked more like a river than a highway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much rain in a 48-hour period in my entire life (and I hope I never do again).

It wasn’t just a bit of flash floods here and there. It was called the 1000-year flood for a reason because Nashville hadn’t seen anything like this in a very, very long time.

Not only did we survive, we have thrived since. Nashville is back and better than ever.

I was reminded yet again that in the life of faith, whatever we may suffer or lose cannot begin to compare to what we gain in the end. Any loss or pain we go through doesn’t come close to matching the glory that awaits and the inheritance that is ours in Christ.

It’s easy to lose perspective in the daily grind and forget that Jesus has already overcome all that we face (or will ever face). There’s nothing that was or is or will be that God can’t work to our good and His glory, nothing that can ever separate us even for a moment from His love.

I still remember seeing the words on someone’s garage door just days after the flood subsided: Storms leave. Love shines. We Survive.

That’s still true because the same Jesus who spoke peace to the waves can still speak healing and peace and victory to the hearts that need it most today.

 

Return to Radnor

 

I read recently that exercise is one of the most underutilized antidepressants. It’s also a great way to enjoy this beautiful spring weather we’re having here in Tennessee.

After several months, I finally made it back to Radnor Lake State Park. And yes, it was more than worth the wait.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait to get in. I was surprised at how easily I was able to find a parking spot. I figured that half of Nashville would want to take advantage of the ideal weather and get in a little hiking. Apparently not.

So my friend and I got our hiking in. There’s nothing like a strenuous hike to show you how out of shape you are. For me, it involved lots of heavy breathing and more than a little wheezing. It was not my finest moment.

Still, I was in my favorite place doing one of my favorite activities. I call that a win, even on a Monday.

Not even a brush fire could diminish the beauty of Radnor. Apparently, a brush fire burned about 1/2 to 2/3 of an acre, but I believe that it will come back better and more glorious than ever.

I still think it’s one of the best kinds of therapy to get out into nature and breathe deeply (with only a sleeping cat in your lap topping it). It’s healing for the soul to get away from electronics and technology and all things man-made and get back to what God created.

After a while, I started breathing normally again. If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost say I got a “hiker’s high,” similar to the euphoria and endorphins release that runners experience. Plus, there was a breeze blowing with just a hint of crispness to it.

I think I’ll sleep better tonight than I have in a while. And I will be back to Radnor soon enough.

 

How You Know You’re Officially Old

thejoshuatree

I can still remember where I was when I first heard U2’s The Joshua Tree.

It was my first foray into the world of U2 and Bono. I recall being captivated by the sounds coming out of the headphones connected to my Sony Walkman (cassette player, no less). I bought the album on cassette, CD, and finally the deluxe 2-CD edition that came out about 10 years ago with B-sides and unreleased tracks thrown in for good measure).

I still remember what it felt like the first time I experienced it. I had never heard anything like it before. It blew my 15-year old mind.

This year, that album turns 30 years old.

I’m officially old.

Most albums from the 80’s sound very much like they came from the 80’s. You can listen to how the drums were produced and almost pinpoint the year the song came out.

The Joshua Tree doesn’t sound like an 80’s album. It sounds like a classic album whose sound is universal and timeless. It sounds as fresh and new today as it did way back in 1987.

I just discovered that U2 will be embarking on a 30th anniversary tour of The Joshua Tree, where they’ll play the entire album from start to finish (with other songs thrown in, I assume).

If they come anywhere Nashville, I might just have to sell a kidney or mortgage my cat to get a ticket. After all, it’s on my bucket list.

This album remains one of my favorite faith-based albums of all time. Actually, it’s one of my favorite albums of all time, period. I can’t overemphasize how much of an impact it had on my musical formation and appreciation. I might have had crappy musical taste back in the day, but I got at least one album right.

Guess what I’ll be listening to tonight as I fall asleep?

 

 

23,000 Steps and Counting

I got my 10,000 steps in (and then some).

Actually, I tallied in the neighborhood of 23,000 steps, which equates to 10.3 miles. That’s a lot of walking.

I did what is coming to be known as my Annual Christmastime Visit to Opryland Hotel. It’s easy to log in a lot of steps because there’s so much to see and so much ground to cover. Literally.

If you haven’t been, I can’t recommend this place highly enough. It’s like a massive version of the Enchanted Forest with an insane amount of Christmas lights strung up and enough decorations to satisfy the festive hearts of even the most fanatical devotees to all things Christmasy.

It helps if you wear comfortable shoes that can handle walking long distances. It also helps if you’re in at least moderately good shape.

You may or may not want to take a massive quantity of photos while you’re there to capture the moments. That all depends on your skills as a photographer (and possibly how good your camera is).

If I’m not mistaken, the good folks at Opryland Hotel start decorating in July. Once you see the final result, you’ll understand why. It’s a spectacle with few equals.

Give yourself plenty of time to take in all the sights and sounds (and maybe bring some cash for a souvenir or two).

I think I should add staying at the Opryland Hotel to my bucket list, preferably in one of the rooms that overlook one of the conservatories. I’m not sure of the exact price, but I imagine it would involve 1) selling an organ, 2) the sale of any possible future offspring, 3) sacrificing a small woodland animal, and/or 4) a huge wad of cash.

So for right now, I’ll settle for visiting and putting in all those steps. Maybe one day I’ll see some of you there.

 

 

My Plan for 2016 — So Far

“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” (Romans 8:28VOICE).

It’s not really a new year’s resolution, but I’ve made a plan for 2016. My goal is to visit all the campuses of Brentwood Baptist Church in this calendar year. Obviously, I’ve been to the main campus and I’m a member of the Avenue South campus, so those don’t count.

So far, one down and two more to go.

I visited the campus of The Church at Station Hill. That place is blowing up (in a good and non-destructive way). What I mean is that this congregation has doubled since they moved into their new facility.

In a city where 95% of the churches are either plateaued or declining, that’s pretty remarkable. That speaks to what God is doing in the Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station area. That speaks to people who are completely committed to following the vision God has laid on their hearts.

They have a dynamic pastor in Jay Strothers. They have a really good contemporary worship team (with a brass section that reminds me of the old band Chicago). They are warm and friendly people who made me feel right at home.

Next month, the plan is to visit The Church at West Franklin. I’m very excited to see this church, once failing and now repurposed and thriving once more.

In May, I want to see The Church at Woodbine. I’ve heard really good things about this congregation, how they’re so ethnically diverse yet unified in their focus of reaching the lost for Jesus.

As Brentwood Baptist adds more regional campuses, I hope to be able to set aside a Sunday in the month to visit those as well.

So far, so good.

 

No More

It’s official. I’m over celebrities dying. I’m over cancer. So far, we’ve said goodbye to David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Dan Haggerty, and Rene Angelil (Celine Dion’s manager and husband). That’s four too many.

Not even three weeks into 2016, I’m already over the fact that all of us have a terminal illness– that all of us will eventually die.

I’m also over Nashville traffic. Someone sneezes on I-24 and there’s a backup for miles and miles. Seriously? Because my favorite thing in life is to creep down the interstate at a snail’s pace. At least I have good tunes to keep me company in the drudgery.

I was thinking that in heaven there will be lots of no mores.

No more death. No more loss. No more tears. No more sorrow. No more pain.

No more traffic. No more waking up before sunrise. No more coffee pots that are empty because someone else drank all the coffee before I got there.

Okay, that last one is sketchy.

The best part of Jesus’ resurrection is that all the lies and hurt will eventually become extinct. No form of meanness or pettiness or jealousy or any of those other deadly sins will exist anymore.

Only what was best and truest and purest will last.

I like to think that the best things in this life are shadows of what’s to come. They’re echoes of the glories yet to come. All your best moments and memories pale in comparison to what’s coming.

In the meantime, I’m afraid of what I’ll see every time I check the msn.com website. I don’t want to hear of anyone else dying (especially from cancer) for a very long time.

If you have any good news, send it my way. I’m due for something positive these days.

Until then, I’ll drift off to sleep with some good music and hope for the future.

The end.