Thoughts on Light and Dark

“What we are telling you now is the very message we heard from Him: God is purelight, undimmed by darkness of any kind. If we say we have an intimate connection with the Father but we continue stumbling around in darkness, then we are lying because we do not live according to truth. If we walk step by step in the light, where the Father is, then we are ultimately connected to each other through the sacrifice of Jesus His Son. His blood purifies us from all our sins” (1 John 1:5-7, The Voice).

It struck me tonight how staggering the word picture of light and dark really is. I mean, you really can’t get more polar opposites than light and dark. It is literally a night and day difference.

John speaks of believers who formerly walked in darkness  who now walk in light.

That’s not about being a little nicer and a little more patient. That’s not about being a better and more improved version of yourself.

That’s about as radical a change as you can have. That’s about the difference between being dead and being alive.

It makes me wonder why there is such little difference between the lives of some believers and the lives of the unbelievers around them. If I’m truly walking in God’s light, how can I continue to act out of dark motives and desires?

I’m not suggesting that those who follow Jesus are supposed to be perfect. I am saying that they should look and sound different.

My favorite pastor once said that the problem that an unbelieving world has with Christians is not that they are too different from everybody else; it’s that they are too much the same. They speak a good game, but they don’t live the way they speak.

I can say that because I live that way too often. Too many of us are too good at being incognito Christians.

May God continue to lead us into a place where we strive to walk in the light and reflect the radical difference that comes from what only God can do.

 

Once Again, I Got Nothin’

It’s Friday night at 10:55 pm, and I am brain-dead. We’re talking total Night of the Living Dead, flesh-craving zombie kind of brain-dead.

I stayed home on a Friday night because it was grey and rainy. And because I was tired.

Maturity doesn’t mean that you can’t stay out until the wee small hours of the morning, but that you don’t have to. You can survive by staying at home and watching old episodes of The Facts of Life. I did.

I used to think that if I was alone by myself, there was something going on somewhere that I was missing. Not just any something, but something vitally and earth-shakingly important. Something that was bound to come up on a pop quiz later.

Now if it’s just me and Lucy the Wonder Cat hanging out, it’s still a good night. She’s the most affordable feline therapist out there, though she still tends to sleep on the job. That’s okay. She always has room to pencil me last minute into her schedule. She’s good like that.

Tonight will end like this. Me reading a bit of Go Set a Watchman and Luke 18. Some of you may be out painting the town red (or whatever other color you prefer if red is not your thing). I will be very shortly watching with great intent the backs of my eyelids.

Good night.

 

Full Moon Thoughts

Tonight was a full moon. Apparently, that’s when the crazies come out. Or maybe that’s when people’s tendencies to act crazy go into full gear. Or so I’ve heard.

For me, it was very calming to see the full moon in the night sky. I suppose it’s because I know I’m looking at the same moon that was up in the sky when I was little.

So much in this life is transitory. So many people I thought would be around for a long time have gone AWOL. So many loved ones aren’t here at all anymore.

Even the places I love don’t stay around, i.e. Borders and all those record stores in the malls.

But seeing that moon in the sky tonight reminded me that God is my constant. He’s the one that stays the same while everything else around me changes, while I myself am changing.

That’s the thing I’ve learned. Even if I could go back to a happy place in my childhood and find it’s still the same, it’s not the same because I’m different. I’m not the same as I was as an 8-year old. Hopefully, no one as an adult is exactly like he or she was as an 8-year old.

It’s comforting to know that God will always be the same. He will always love me the same (perfectly and unconditionally), He will always think of me the same (as His beloved), and He will always treat me the same (working all things together for my good and giving me only the very best).

For a while, clouds obscured the moon, but after a while they drifted away. Sometimes, God gets obscured by those pressing anxieties in my life. It gets difficult to find Him when there’s so many things clamoring for my attention.

The good news is that after the anxieties subside and those things move on, God remains.

Oh So Tired

I finished the work week and I am tired. I mean dog tired. Or better yet, cat tired, since cats seem to sleep more than dogs. At least my cat does.

I’m looking forward to turning off the alarm clock and sleeping in tomorrow. That will be lovely. No 5:40 wake-up call for me. No sirree.

It’s the good kind of tired. It’s the kind of tired where you feel like you’ve accomplished something productive and made a difference, albeit the tiniest, in people’s lives.

I’ve learned that sleep is God’s gift. Some nights, it doesn’t matter how tired I am. I simply can’t sleep. I also noticed that I do my best sleeping just before my alarm is set to go off. What’s up with that?

Sleep belongs to those who know it’s not up to them to figure it all out. Sleep belongs to those who understand not just intellectually but experientially that God is in control of every aspect of their lives.

It still amazes me how my cat can fall asleep at any moment in any place at any given time. Cats never have insomnia. I suppose they have a lot less on their little kitty minds to keep them awake at night.

In fact, my cat is asleep close to me as I write all this. I suppose when you’re as cute and cuddly as Lucy is, what better way to exhibit it than to sleep all the time. Plus, you get the added benefit of being your own blanket.

So here’s hoping and praying that you find not just sleep but rest. Here’s hoping and praying that you can rest in the knowledge that your Abba is very fond of you at this moment just as you are. And His love will lead you all the way to where you need to be.

 

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.

 

Those Sleepless Nights

I had a rough night last night. Well, that may be overstating things a bit. Last night, I didn’t sleep as well as I normally do. That’s more accurate.

I tossed and turned until after 1 am, then managed to wake up several more times in the night. At least I didn’t wake up one minute before my alarm is set to go off. That’s the absolute worst.

So I’m tired.

The Bible says that God grants sleep to those He loves.

I know that more than a few of you know what it’s like to go whole nights without sleeping. It can get to be a frustrating process, with you getting more and more weary and less and less able to sleep.

Maybe God has you up in the middle of the night for a reason. Maybe He’s putting something (or someone) on your mind to turn over to Him in prayer.

Pay attention to what God whispers in your ear on those sleepless nights. Maybe cease from all your tossing and turning and be still. Listen for that still, small voice that calls you Beloved.

I hope that I’ll sleep better tonight. I think I will. But in case I don’t, just know that I will likely be praying for some of you.

 

Another Night of Worship

  
I always love when Kairos has their Night of Worship.

There’s more emphasis on music, which is something that Kairos does well on just about any given Tuesdays but especially on nights like these.

The theme was My Brave Is. Basically, it’s facing whatever you’re most afraid of and realizing that God in Jesus has already overcome it. It’s knowing that Perfect Love casts out all fear, including that one that’s been gnawing at you for years.

The weather cooperated magnificently. What started out as a stupid hot and humid day turned into a lovely breezy summer night after some rain swept through the area. It made for a fantastic After Hours gathering where plenty of hot dogs and shaved ice got consumed (and corn hole was played by all).

I need nights like this. I need worship. I need to get my mind off of me for a little while and onto Something Much Bigger and Better.

Worship is like the reset button on my WiFi router. It’s like rebooting my laptop every so often. It basically reorients my life around the True Priorities after I’ve allowed it to get seriously off track.

Worship reminds me that I’m not in control and that it is not up to me. This God who is worthy of all the songs ever sung about Him is more than up to taking care of me and my problems and getting me where I need to be.

After all these years, I still love volunteering as a greeter and welcoming the people as they enter the building. I wonder if sometimes faces like mine might be the first friendly, non-threatening faces some people have seen all day. Who knows what difference even something as simple as a smile might make in someone’s life?

So, it was a good night. Even the little bit of rain at the end couldn’t dampen my spirits.

My brave is that God will not fail to make me who He always meant for me to be (even if I still don’t know what that is) and will finish what He started in me so very long ago.

 

 

Music for the Drive Home

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When most people want music, they turn on the radio and pick out a favorite station. They pick music suitable for tuning out, background music that won’t demand too much of their attention. I am not most people.

I think that even a night drive deserves a worthy soundtrack. Like for tonight after I helped a friend move some of his belongings into storage. I needed music that would set the perfect mood for driving home at 11 pm.

There are three kinds of musical tastes as far as I’m concerned: 1) people who only like one kind of music, i.e. Christian or country or hip-hop, 2) people who like a variety of styles and artists, and 3) good Lord, they should make pills for this. Guess which one I am. Though I prefer the terms eclectic or eccentric. Crazy cat lady music. And why isn’t there a male version of the crazy cat lady yet?

For me, there’s nothing better than the right song at the right moment to evoke the right mood. You don’t necessarily want speed metal at 5 am or frenetic music late at night. At least I don’t.

I’ll give you a sampling of what my playlist might look like on any given drive:

1) Come Undone – Duran Duran

2) Found Out About You – Gin Blossoms

3) Keep Us- Peter Bradley Adams

4) Air that I Breathe – The Mavericks

5) Runaway Feeling – The Thorns

6) Thank You – Alanis Morrissette

7) I’m a Believer- The Monkees

8) Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

9) The One I Love – R.E.M.

10) Save It for a Rainy Day- The Jayhawks

It’s a bit of everything. To me, listening to the same kind of music all the time is like eating the same meal every day or wearing the same clothes all the time. While that might work for some, it would drive me nuttier than squirrel poo.

So there you have it. That’s probably way more than you wanted to know about my musical tastes, but I like oversharing. It makes life interesting.

elizabethtown movie poster

 

 

Easter Season Liturgy Part V

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“O God, Creator of heaven and earth:  Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

So I did the whole downtown Franklin thing again. It always does my heart good to be back there, revisiting my favorite haunts and breathing in the perfect spring night air.

I don’t really know what to do with the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. It seems so low-key compared to the tragic drama of Friday and the joyful triumphant victory of Sunday.

But I know what’s coming. I wonder what those disciples were thinking and feeling. Or the Marys. It must have seemed like the lowest point of their lives. All of their hopes and dreams and been awakened and they had only just begun to hope, then it was dashed and broken to pieces beyond recognition.

The one they thought would save them was dead in a tomb. They had seem the bloodied body, seen the moment when the spear went into Jesus’ side and both blood and water poured out. There was no doubt.

I’m glad I’m on this side of history and I know what’s coming. I know with the next sunrise comes Sunday and the empty tomb and a risen Christ. That’s where my hope lies.

I can’t imagine people whose faith won’t allow for miracles or resurrections. Would that even be faith at all? What if Jesus’ death were only an example and the only way He lived was in the memories of His followers? What kind of hope would that be?

Only a literal resurrection can give true hope. Only a Jesus who’s really and truly alive, with the wounds in His hands, feet, and side, could inspire the joy of Easter. That’s why I can’t wait for tomorrow and the celebration that comes with it.

 

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.”