One Day at a Time, One Thing at a Time: My Takeaway from Kairos

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I can be very judgmental at times. I can be all smiling on the outside while inwardly I am silently judging and (sometimes) condemning.

Like for instance I see a guy wearing his hat backwards and I’m all, “Dude, if you’re not in a frat on your way to a party, turn your hat around.” I know. It’s juvenile of me to think that way. It’s also juvenile to wear your hat backwards if you’re over 25. Had to get in one last zinger.

The point is this: would I be so quick to judge a person if I knew how far he or she had come? Maybe instead I’d be quicker to be astonished at the progress that person has made. Would I have done as well in similar circumstances?

It’s one day at a time, one thing at a time. You may be a recovering addict who cusses like a sailor. First, you get clean, then you work on cleaning up your language.

The life of faith is a lot like that. There will always be something to work on, something you could always do better, bad habits to break. Just focus on one thing for one day.

I don’t have the whole faith thing figured out. Some days, I suck at it. Most days, I do okay. Every day I need more grace. So do you.

The point isn’t perfection, but a yearning to be better and do better than you did yesterday. It’s believing that I can’t, but that God CAN. That’s faith.

Just Keep Pinning, Just Keep Pinning


I love the moment in one of the Harry Potter movies when Ronald Weasley observes someone doing something really stupid and says, “How thick can you get?”

I’ve felt that way about myself sometimes after repeatedly missing the obvious that was literally staring me in the face. Like when I was looking for my phone and it was lying underneath something else right in front of me. Or like I mentioned earlier when Millie’s water bowl was empty and I failed to notice.

I know I’m not the only one. Every one has those Captain Obvious moments that leave you scratching your head wondering how you could have missed the aforementioned obvious. Or not seen what you were looking for when it might as well have had flashing neon lights around it.

Sometimes, you need to just step back and do something frivolous. For me, that means going to Pinterest and pinning lots of random and useless things. Mostly what I pin turns out to be stuff that is funny and/or weird. But you do what relaxes you and calms you down.

When I step away and go do something else, sometimes I come back and I can see what I couldn’t before. Sometimes when I start looking for something else that’s missing is when I find the first thing I was looking for. I do lose my things quite often.

So what’s the point? It’s okay to not be 100% on all the time. It’s okay not to be perfect every minute of every day. Absolute perfection is an unattainable expectation anyway. You can only do your best. Just like you can only really give 100%, not 110% or 150%. But that is another topic for another day.

On a side note, I’m hoping that the “Keep Calm and . . .” fad has run its course. It’s starting to get old. Just sayin’.


Frump Girl and God’s Grace


Ian Miller: I know this great place… Zorba something… anyway, I’d love to take you there if you’d like to go.
Toula Portokalos: Uh, that place, Dancing Zorba’s…
Ian Miller: Dancing Zorba’s!
Toula Portokalos: My family kinda owns that place.
Ian Miller: [looking at her closely] I remember you. You’re that waitress.
Toula Portokalos: Seating hostess.
Ian Miller: I remember you.
Toula Portokalos: Look, I was going through a phase. . . up until now. I was Frump Girl.
Ian Miller: I don’t remember Frump Girl, but I remember you. (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

I love that last line. What Ian is saying is that he saw past the awkwardness and the insecurity to the inner beauty waiting to be revealed. An inner beauty that he had a hand in unveiling.

Sometimes with God, I feel like saying, “God, remember me? That promise-breaker? That doubter? That worrier?”

God’s response would be, “I don’t remember Promise-Breaker or Doubter or Worrier, but I remember you.”

You might remind God of a past addiction to pornography or alcohol or status. You might throw in adultery (like David), or deceit (like Jacob), or outright lying (like Abraham). You might show God Polaroids of the wreck your life used to be. God doesn’t see that.

What does God see?  Thanks to the cross, God sees you as though you had never sinned, never broken a promise, never doubted, never wavered in your faith at all.

He looks at you and sees the finished product, the stunning reveal. He looks at you right now and sees Jesus in all His perfection and glory. And He likes what He sees.

Better yet, He’s wildly in love with what He sees.

I know the mirror’s not a fun place to look at 5:30 am on a Monday morning. There can be some scary critters looking back.

But remember God not only has claimed you and renamed you, but He has redefined your past. Once you were an enemy, now you are an heir and a child of God. Your past no longer dictates your future. God does.

Just think about that and see how it changes your week.


More Life Lessons from Swing Dancing


Tonight, September 7, was the first night of swing dancing back at Otter Church of Christ after a summer at Centennial Park. It was like returning to a place of comfort for me.

I had the beginner part mastered in no time. The intermediate part? Not so much. I needed an encouraging word or two and some dancing partners practiced in the art of showing me grace.

I had fun. And I learned a few lessons in the process:

1) People just need someone to believe in them. All I needed at first was someone to say, “You can do this. We got this.” Even after the fifth straight time of me getting the steps wrong.

2) You don’t have to be an expert to lead or teach someone. You just have to be one step ahead. Even if you’ve only been swing dancing five times in your entire life, you can teach a newbie some steps and help them out with some of their confusion.

3) You never go wrong by showing someone grace. Never.

Life is a lot like that. Sometimes, all you need is a friend who’s been where you are and can help you navigate job losses and relational awkwardness. Someone who can say, “You can get through this. You’re gonna be fine.”

Jesus has been that for me. He’s been through everything I will ever face. Temptation, rejection, loss, being misunderstood– He’s faced it all.

The best part is that He doesn’t just offer empathy. His Spirit lives in me. The power that raised Him from the dead resides in me. His perfect righteousness is now mine.

And Jesus roots for me one better, too. He doesn’t just say, “You can do this,” but “I’m in you giving you the power to do this.”

He doesn’t just root for you. He intercedes for you before the Father day and night. He defends you from any and all accusations from the enemy. He is your Forever Advocate.

Remember, Jesus does grace better than anyone. He invented it. He gives it fresh and new every morning that you wake up and don’t have a cloud of sin-baggage and failures hanging over your head.

Just remember these things and you will be just fine.

Back to Loving Being Me


It really is okay to love yourself. After all, the Bible does say to love your neighbor as yourself and you can’t very well do that if you’re not too fond of you. I think there’s a kind of false modesty that gets passed around where we have the “aw shucks” mentality and downplay any compliments that come our way. I can tell you for certain that kind of thinking doesn’t come from God or the Bible.

God made you. He created you exactly how He wanted you to be and no matter how many scars and breaks and bruises and messes you may have accumulated along the way, He still loves the work of His own hands– you. No matter how you may have been rejected or friend-zoned by girls or guys, God is enraptured and enamored and captivated by you. He is completely and totally crazy in love with you.

I’m loving being me. I can say that I’m not like anybody else out there. That doesn’t make me odd. That might make me eccentric. What that does make me for absolute certain is unique. There is no one in the whole wide world quite like me, and I like that.

I love that I can be socially awkward at times. I love that I can be overly enthusiastic in my friendliness and sometimes be perceived as coming across a little creepy.  That’s okay. Aside from maybe needing to visit Decaf-land from time to time, I’m fine if not every single person likes what I have to offer. Many people were turned off by Jesus.

I love that when God sees me, He sees Jesus. He sees beauty and perfection and wisdom and strength beyond measure. He sees my very best self, the one only hinted at in my best moments of selfless devotion. He sees the finished product of who I will become.

As of this moment, I refuse to take on myself any names other than the ones He has given me. Not from family or friends. Not from co-workers. Not even from me. I don’t have to be defined by words spoken in frustration or anger or resignation. I am no longer the mistakes I’ve made or the chances I’ve missed or the good intentions coming up short.

I am Forgiven. I am Set Free. I am Redeemed. I am A New Creation. I am Blameless.

Of all the names God has given me, my favorite is this: I am His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.

My hope and prayer for you tonight is to let go of all the names you or anyone else has called you out of hate or anger and embrace the name given in love by your Creator and Redeemer and Savior. Listen to Him calling you His Beloved Child. Hear Him singing His delight over you and smiling over you. Let your life be defined by God’s pleasure over you instead of people’s disappointment in you.

I truly hope and pray that you will come to the point where you can truly and honestly say that you love being you.

Things I Love 28: ‘Cause It’s The End of The World As We Know It . . . And I Feel Fine

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“When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?” (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

I think part of joy is being okay with not knowing the answers or how any given story within the Greater Story will end. It’s having peace in the midst of so much that remains unresolved and unexplained. And if that doesn’t work, eat a cookie. That always makes me feel better. So here we are coming down to the last few blogs of the series, starting at #801.

801) That a colossal and epic fiasco such as King David could be called later “a man after God’s own heart,” proving that what matters isn’t so much how big your failure was, but how great God is to turn even that into something praiseworthy and good.

802) The avocado lime ranch dressing I had on my Cobb salad tonight at Chick-fil-A.

803) The fact that Aslan a.k.a. Jesus isn’t safe but He’s good.

804) The amazing illustrations by Alan Lee in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit commemorative editions.

805) When in the middle of an already fantastic Buddy Miller/Jim Lauderdale/Patty Griffin concert they brought out Robert Plant to do a few songs. Only in Nashville.

806) Walking in downtown Nashville at night in the rain.

807) How the love of Abba Father for His children will never come to an end.

808) Looking through old high school and college yearbooks.

809) The Neverending Story.

810) When my church celebrates those rare couples who have been married 50 years or longer (and how much collective wisdom is in one room at one time on those nights).

811) Thinking about a particular song and then hearing it on the radio.

812) Tuesday nights.

813) Nights that turn into mornings, friends that turn into family, dreams that turn into reality, and likes that turn into love (borrowed from a Facebook post).

814) The episode of Friends with the couch– “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”

815) Reading through the Catholic Bible in 2013 (or as I like to call it, The Director’s Cut of the Bible).

816) That if I love God with everything and love my neighbor as I love myself I fulfill the Whole Law.

817) That Jesus already fulfilled the Whole Law in my place and traded His perfection for my poor efforts.

818) Heaven being described as that feeling you get on the first day of summer break from school and knowing that feeling will last forever.

819) The neverending possibility of God breaking through into my life at any moment.

820) Cheese crackers.

821) Having a car with 127,000 miles on it.

822) Being left-handed (at least when it comes to writing and eating).

823) The way Mike Glenn used the lyrics to a Jackson Browne song so effectively in his sermon last Sunday.

824) Marvin the Martian and his tennis shoes always wanting to blow up the Earth.

825) Not being married to any of the Kardashians.

826) The occasional scary movie.

827) Everything Elvis ever recorded at Sun Studio.

828) Johnny Cash’s autobiography (the one called Cash).

829) The way my cat looks at me sometimes as if to say, “Seriously, dude?”

830) The recent fact I learned that every face you dream about is of someone you’ve seen before, even if only for a fleeting moment.

831) Mustard-sized faith that moves mountains.

832) Just about all the movies Tom Hanks made in the 80’s.

833) Always having a second chance because of Jesus.

834) The movie Clueless.

835) “The Living Years” by Mike + The Mechanics.

Things I Love 26: Sowing the Seeds of Love

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“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ” (Ann Voskamp).

“…life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change” (Ann Voskamp).

I think for me two of the biggest agents of change have been 1) letting go of expectations of others and 2) receiving all of life as a gift. Making this list has changed my outlook. I have too many blessings to not see God in my daily world. I have been blessed too much not to want to be a conduit of blessing to others. That said, the list picks up at #726

726) God using me in the lives of those around me who don’t know Jesus to be Jesus to them.

727) The moment when you realize that the headache is gone.

728) Unplanned naps on Sunday afternoons.

729) Any time I get a chance to have a conversation with my smart and funny friend Alex.

730) Getting compliments on my t-shirts.

731) Not being naked in public.

732) The anticipation of coming to a good part in a book I’ve already read before.

733) Old Glenn Miller recordings.

734) Those pens that have the four different colors of ink.

735) Finding something of mine that I thought was lost forever.

736) That everybody doesn’t think like I do.

737) The smell of a freshly painted room.

738) The way Jesus told the best stories.

739) Gibson’s Donuts (even though there aren’t any in Nashville . . . yet).

740) The scent of honeysuckle in the air.

741) Picking blackberries in summer.

742) Being a Bapticostalicopalean (Baptist+Pentecostal+Catholic+Episcopalian) at heart.

743) Dreams that refuse to die.

744) Goat cheese.

745) The idea of changing the world by changing one person’s world.

746) Hearing people’s stories of how Jesus found and rescued them.

747) Seeing the glow of a person coming out of the baptismal waters a new creation in Christ.

748) The smell of the tire section at Costco.

749) Road trips.

750) Capturing a moment and a feeling inside a photograph.

751) Old graveyards.

752) My book of Emily Dickinson poems that I’ve somehow managed to misplace.

753) That I’m over 3/4 of the way through my list.

754) The freedom of finally being able to forgive myself for not being perfect.

755) Wintergreen or spearmint gum.

756) A now discontinued flavor of Snapple called Ralph’s Cantaloupe Cocktail that actually tasted just like cantaloupes.

757) Memories of riding standing up on the back of my dad’s old pickup truck with Murphy the black lab in the middle, grinning like an idiot and loving every minute of it (I meant the dog, but I’m sure I was smiling a mile wide, too)

758) Finding one Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels in hardback at a used bookshop.

759) People who always give me the benefit of the doubt.

760) Those Market Fresh BLTs from Arby’s.

“Vermont. . . I Mean Tennessee should be beautiful this time of the year, all that snow”


I really don’t mind cold weather. Or snow. Or even ice.

I don’t mind them as long as I don’t have to drive in them. Or scrape them off my windshield for 20+ minutes, which is what I found myself doing after work tonight.

I’d really like one good snow for the year. Maybe a foot or more. I may be dreaming about getting 12 inches of white stuff, but I’d take even an inch or two. Just as long as I don’t have to drive in it. Especially when it turns to sleet and ice.

It really is fun to watch as it falls and covers the ground. I like watching the earth disappear underneath all those snowflakes. It reminds me of Isaiah 1:18: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”

Snow covers up a lot. It hides dead brown grass, along with the “presents” that the neighbor’s dogs leave in the yard. Everything is a blanket of white. And when the sun comes up, how brilliantly it dazzles.

Grace covers up a lot, too. You and I probably have a lot we wish we could hide. Harsh words spoken, dirty thoughts, petty actions taken. Friendships ruined, families broken, work relationships destroyed. The list goes on and on.

But grace means that when God looks at us, he doesn’t see those things. He doesn’t see your worst moment when you were at your weakest. He doesn’t see the litany of sins that stain your soul.

He sees the blood of Jesus that has washed you whiter than snow. He sees perfection, the very perfection of Jesus. He sees you and calls you his Beloved and says that he is very pleased with you.

Remember that the next time you see snow falling and be thankful for grace and second chances. I know I certainly am.

Some thoughts about worship

Jesus didn’t die for our good works or good intentions. He didn’t die to make good people better. Or for that matter to make bad people good. He died to make dead people come alive. He died for our dark places, our wicked deeds. He came to take our blame and our shame and give us His perfection. Jesus died to make us worshippers.

John Piper says in effect, Worship, not missions, is the purpose of His people. The reason that missions exists is because for so many peoples, worship does not. People can’t worship a God they don’t know. People can’t worship a god made in their image that is too small to save or love or rescue anybody. Redeemed people worship a real God. Really when you look at it, missions and evangelism are both forms of worship– declaring the great worth and works of God to all peoples.

Worship is Romans 12:1-2, offering our bodies as living sacrifices. In the Old Testament, part of worship was offering sacrifices like bulls and goats. Since Jesus did away with the old sacrificial system, what we bring as our offering of worship is ourselves. Worship is giving to God our bodies, our souls, our true selves. Worship is giving back to God what was already His and acknowledging that He owns it all, including us.

Worship is James 1:27. When we give to the widow and the orphan, we give to Jesus. Whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. Jesus didn’t choose the popular or strong or wise; He chose the throwaways of the world, the lepers, the outcasts and the abandoned to be His worshippers. Worship also means keeping yourself unstained by the world, to be set apart and different. Worship is either a 24/7 lifestyle or it’s nothing at all.

Worship is taking your two loaves and five fishes and watching Jesus turn it into a meal for thousands. When we give what little we call our own to Jesus, He takes it and not only blesses the multitudes, but gives back to us more than we can contain.

Worship means to kiss, to adore and to sacrifice. It is saying that God is supremely worthy of all of me. It means I will give my life away on a daily basis for the Kingdom of God. It means that every breath is a praise and every thought a prayer.

Honestly, after all this, I still don’t really know what worship is. I’m not very good at it. Or I should say I am not very good at worshipping the right thing, i.e. Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross and rose triumphantly from the grave and has all authority in heaven and on earth, including authority over my life.

In the New Testament, when people worshipped, they fell on their faces. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John fell on his face before Jesus as a dead man. That’s what I pray for: to die to everything else, to fall on Jesus, and live to Him, with Him and for Him only.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.