A Very Long But Very Good Day

I had a very long day. It was also a very good day.

It started off with a 6:40 appointment to get my teeth cleaned at the dentist. Yes, that’s 6:40 AM (as in way too early for this guy). That went well and look ma, no cavities!

From there, it was off to work, where I ended up being an hour late from the dentist. I made up half of my missed time by staying 30 minutes extra. That made for a longer day, but it was still all good.

I ended up the day with worship, Kairos-style. I got to greet the good folks at my usual Door H and then experience some good worship music and teaching.

I’m home now and my cat is ever so grateful. She probably wishes I could stay home and attend to her every whim, but alas, I must go forth and earn the bacon for her to feast upon.

I’ve decided that just about every day is a good day because every day I’m alive is a gift. Every day I’m alive has God in it and God has proven way more than once that He is enough for those who truly learn to rest in Him.

So that’s where I am at 9:22 pm on a Tuesday night. Tired but happy. Exhausted but filled with joy. Ready for bed but knowing that I am blessed.

It’s all about perspective. You have to train yourself to look for the good in every day, then you will see God in every day. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort.

Once again, I’m blessed by the people God has in my life. My family, of course, is awesome, but I also have some good friends (especially the ones I greet with at Kairos). I even have a few furry friends.

Best of all, knowing that nothing I have ever done can lessen God’s love for me or cause Him to turn away from me is priceless.

PS Brennan Manning’s memoir, All is Grace, is available FOR FREE from the Amazon Kindle store (if you have either a Kindle or the Kindle app on your mobile device of choice). Go get it now.

 

As You Go

“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 MSG).

I remembered something about this verse that somebody told me a long time ago.

The idea of this verse is this: as you’re going, make disciples of all the nations.

That means that wherever you go, whatever you do, wherever you are, make disciples.

To make a disciple you have to first be a disciple then live like one. It does no good to try to preach something that you’re not living (or worse living diametrically in opposition to).

Pastor Mike Glenn has said more than once that the reason the world hates Christians is not because they’re too different but because they’re not different enough. They’re too much like the people they’re trying to convert.

That’s where discipleship comes in. If I’m truly a disciple of Jesus, then I should start to look and act like Him. Then when I make disciples, they won’t look like me at all. They’ll look like the same Jesus that I look like.

That means you.

Too many of us expect people who make their living in the ministry, yet the Bible says that we are all ministers. Some of us will be able to reach people that paid ministers could never touch.

I do believe that making disciples involves speaking your witness (something I’ve never been very good at), yet the most important way to make disciples is to live what you preach as much as you speak it. I think it was D. L. Moody who said that for every person who reads the Bible, ten will read the Christian and his lifestyle.

That’s something to think about.

 

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.

Do Not Seek the Treasure!

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 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” (Matthew 6:19).

I went to dinner with some friends and the topic of discussion turned to internet security and hackers. There was much that I did not understand and that made my brain hurt, but the gist of the conversation is this– if someone wants your stuff bad enough, they’re probably going to find a way to get it.

There’s no such thing as security when it comes to the internet. Someone (or maybe several someones) out there is smart enough, patient enough, wily enough to crack any encryption and figure out any password.

Besides, even if you manage to fend off every thief, swindler, and hacker out there, you still can’t take it with you when you die. Case in point: have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? Me neither.

Jesus told us that true treasures aren’t the kind behind bank vaults or in walnut frames behind your desk or the initials before and after your name. True treasures aren’t things; they’re people.

I heard a pastor say once that the reason the streets in heaven are paved with gold is that gold isn’t the real currency there. It’s like asphalt is here. The true currency in heaven is L-O-V-E. Not the syrupy, romantic kind in all those power ballads, but the kind that gives up its rights and lays down its life for the beloved. Like Jesus.

What’s the point to all this? I’m not saying to withdraw all your money and put it under your mattress. I’m telling you to remember that your worth isn’t found in your bank account or your job title or your degrees. Your true worth is in how much you love and how much you are loved.

The best treasure of all is knowing that the King of the Universe loves you truly, madly, deeply, and that love will never change.

The end.

PS I just remembered a great line from It’s a Wonderful Life that seems appropriate here– you can only take with you that which you’ve given away.

The Odd Blog

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I had an idea or two about what I was going to write about this evening, but at the moment, neither of them seem as compelling. Plus, I’m very tired.

I’m thankful for people. I know it’s an odd thing to say. Besides, people can be disappointing and rude and unkind at times. Even the best of people have their off days every now and then, not to mention periods of grumpiness and bad moods.

But life without people isn’t nearly as fulfilling as life with people. As much as I love my cat, she’s not the most stimulating conversationalist I’ve ever met. She tends to be a little short on words.

The right people in your life can inspire and encourage you to do more than you thought you could. They can keep you going when you by yourself would have given up.

That’s what I want. I want someone to say, “Because of you, I kept going. I didn’t give up.”

I’ve had those people come into my life at just the right moments. Some were only meant for a short season and some are still around. I thank God for all of them.

My assignment for you is this: find someone who needs encouragement and be that encouragement. Find someone who won’t believe that God loves them until they see it from you. Find people who doesn’t see much in themselves and help them to see that they too bear the Imago Dei, the image of God, and are intrinsically valuable.

In short, love people the way you want to be loved. Treat people like you want to be treated. And remember that God loved you at that moment when you were at your very worst, so you can love anybody.

Seasons

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The writer of Ecclesiastes talked about there being a season for everything in life– a time to be born and a time to die, a time to laugh and a time to mourn, etc.

I’ve found that to be very true. Especially in my social life.

There have been times when I have constantly been around people and there are times when I’ve felt alone. There have been times when I felt very popular and times when it seemed like I was the only one not invited to all the social activities I was seeing plastered all over social media.

I’ve come to terms with that.

I am who I am, regardless of whether that makes me popular or not. I have friends who I still see on a regular basis and some that I don’t see nearly as much as I used to. Again, that’s okay.

It doesn’t matter who else knows me and knows where I am when God does. While it  would be nice to occasionally hang out with celebrities (and who hasn’t daydreamed about that?) and have some of them know your name, the best part of all is that the God of the universe not only knows your name but has it engraved on the palms of His hands.

That’s worth celebrating.

So maybe I spend a night or two alone while people I know are off having a grand time at places I wasn’t invited to. I’ll live. Things like that don’t bother me anymore.

It took a very long time for me to get to this point. I don’t claim to have fully arrived or to be 100% mature about all this, but I am so much further along than I was two years ago.

That’s the key– not so much looking at how far you have to go but seeing how far you’ve already come and the progress, no matter how small it seems, that you’ve made. That’s what really matters.

 

Keep Calm and Choose Joy

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“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight” (Khalil Gibran).

“…the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is” (Ann Voskamp).

The difference between happiness and joy is this: happiness requires the right circumstances while joy can be found anywhere at any time.

The Apostle Paul could indeed count it all joy even when he was imprisoned or beaten or shipwrecked. He could sing hymns of joy when locked in a dungeon with little hope of his circumstances improving any time soon.

You can’t depend on happiness because you never know from one moment to the next what will happen. You can’t say for sure that everything will turn out the way you want to produce the happiness you desire.

But joy is knowing that the future belongs to Jesus. For Jesus, the future is now. For you, that means that you can count on that future coming to pass as surely as you can count on Jesus.

But joy is still a choice you and I must make every single day. Sometimes, you won’t feel like choosing joy because it seems unnatural in the face of what you’re going through. I know many times I’d rather choose anything but joy because feeling sorry for myself makes me feel good. For a little while.

So when people disappoint you– and they will– choose joy.

When you lose your job, choose joy.

When the rain clouds cover the sky and you can’t find the sun, choose joy.

Trust me. It’s always worth it.

 

 

What I Read This Morning

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I’ve been reading through the Bible this year in a different translation. It’s called The Voice, and I really like it. It’s not perfect, but I have yet to find a translation that was perfect. That’s why I tend to use more than one and go back and forth between different ones.

That being said, I was struck by reading a familiar passage in a different way. Here it is:

If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them.

Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid.

If you want to be extraordinary—love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward—you will be children of the Most High—for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.

If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge. If you don’t want to be condemned, don’t condemn. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. Don’t hold back—give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give” (Luke 6:27-38).

That’s a hard teaching. I know I could never do all that in my own strength. But that’s what t I’m aiming for. That’s what we’re all aiming for if we truly follow Jesus.

I had another thought. People want to paint Jesus in their own colors. Either they make Him into an ultra-rightwing conservative or a peace-loving liberal fanatical. I do think there’s some merit to both, but yet each side falls short in its vision of the Messiah. Jesus Himself prayed for Jerusalem that she might know His peace, but yet He also said that He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.

To me, Jesus was so much more than either conservative or liberal. He was (and is) the Eternal God-Man and, just as God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours, so in a way is Jesus. He’s beyond any of our categorization.

One thing I know. Jesus didn’t come to legitimize one side or the other. He didn’t come to justify a belief system or a political platform. He came to seek and save the lost, no matter where they came from.

He asks one thing of us. His command is, “Follow me.” More than an ideology or a systematic theology, Christianity is and has always been about following the person of Jesus. That’s it.

The Face of God

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I get emails from the Henri Nouwen Society with daily meditations on them. I thought today’s was especially good and reminded me of a blog I’d written a few years back. This one’s better.

I love the imagery and the idea that every believer carries the image of God, but only collectively can the true imago dei of God be seen and truly appreciated.

“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.

“That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is like a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world.  Nobody can say: ‘I make God visible.’  But others who see us together can say: ‘They make God visible.’ Community is where humility and glory touch.”

I think that says it all. People do see God in us individually, but people see God best when we are living in community. That’s where our unique gifts, talents, passions, and abilities come together to form something that collectively is more than the sum of its parts. That’s the Church.

So think about that the next time you’re gathered together with believers. You’re not just a group of people, but a work of art– a mosaic– displaying the great worth and glory of God.

A Small Sign

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I went to downtown Franklin for the Main Street Festival. I visited all my usual haunts: McCreary’s Irish Pub, Frothy Monkey, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

While in my favorite church, I prayed that God would lead me to the person or people I needed to see that night. Or something like that. I don’t remember exactly. I prayed I would see at least one familiar face that night.

I did. Toward the end, I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in a while. It was a short conversation, but it was a good reminder: God hasn’t forgotten me yet.

It’s funny how God sends little signs like that all the time. I confess that most of the time I miss these little signs in my quest to find the ultimate sign from God.

But God is always patient with me, more so than I deserve. There’s a verse in 1 Timothy, I think, that says that if we are faithless, God will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.

I’ve claimed that verse many times for myself when I felt faithless or just full of doubts and fear. And never once has God proved to be anything less than 100% faithful to His promises to me. Oh, and to me, too.