Praying the Unattainable

I was in a Bible study this evening, sitting at a table with some people that I barely knew or had just met. We were discussing why it is that thanksgiving isn’t more of a part of our lives of faith.

One girl said that when she prays, she starts off by thanking God for those certain attributes of His that she will never have.

That took me by surprise. At first, it sounded like she was copping out, but I figured I’d hear her out so I tuned all the way in to the rest of what she said.

She basically said that she praises God for attributes like His omniscience and omnipotence. That centers the rest of her prayers around the fact that God knows way more than she does and can see from a bigger vantage point than she can.

I wonder how that would change my own prayer life. If I was mindful of God’s ability to know and see things I can’t, it might change my perspective toward what I think God needs to give me. It might shift my focus from what I don’t have to what I do.

I might even choose to ask for less and pray more “Thy will be done,” leaving the choice to God to provide what He knows I need instead of what I think I want (that often times I don’t really want once I get it).

Thanksgiving comes first. It changes my mindset from entitled whiner to grateful praiser. It reminds me that everything I am and have is really only God’s doing, so I have no reason to think I’m all that and a bag of chips. Then I can rightly see myself as God sees me and understand that when God sees Jesus in me, that’s a very good thing.

 

 

A Year Ago Today

Thanks to Facebook, I was reminded that today is the one-year anniversary of my fender bender. The car behind me got hit and pushed into me. Thankfully, I sustained the least amount of damage.

Looking back, I see how it could have been so much worse. I could have been the middle car and ended up with damage on the front and back of my car. Instead, my rear bumper was all that needed repairing.

It took some patience and persistence to get my car fixed. The guy who started the whole incident was originally uncooperative with his insurance company, and that gummed up the works for a bit. Finally, he relented and everything got taken care of in good time.

I needed this reminder to help put my life in perspective. Every day that I’m alive is a good day. The only day that isn’t is the day that I fail to wake up at all. That day will be fantastic because I will wake up in the presence of Jesus. That’s truly a win-win.

My rear bumper needed replacing anyway. It had accumulated some dings and scratches in 19 years on the road. I would also seriously recommend USAA for those who are either military or have military family members. They are absolutely the best auto insurance company around.

At the end of the day, if you have nothing else to be thankful for, you can be grateful that you are still here. Let none of us ever take that blessing for granted ever again.

 

Mission Accomplished

It may not sound overly exciting, but I got a few things done tonight. I paid a couple of bills and finally got around to my 2015 Federal Tax Returns. For some reason, I put my taxes off, and when I do get around to them, they really aren’t so bad.

Here’s my take on the day.

The morning and evening commute? Not my favorite.

Having a job to commute to and from? Totally worth it.

Having to pay bills? Not so much fun.

Not having to write checks and lick stamps and remember to put them in the mailbox in the morning? Win.

Having the money to pay the bills and not having to worry about it? Priceless.

Having my taxes done and over with until 2017? If I weren’t so tired, I might break into a happy dance. Maybe I’ll settle for a happy nap instead.

Perspective is my new mantra. It’s all about perspective.

I could complain about how sore my feet are from the journey or I can choose to sing along the way. I choose singing over complaining. It’s better for you.

Choosing to see the blessings instead of the burden isn’t always easy, but it is most definitely alway worth it. If you look for God’s gifts in the every day minutiae, you end up seeing God there. You see God’s hand everywhere you turn.

If you look for joy, you find it. If you look for bitterness,¬†you find that, too. You really do find what you’re looking for in the long run.

All that to say that the most important part of this Thursday is that I’m still here, therefore God must have a reason for me being here. I will celebrate another day of life successfully lived.

I say that qualifies as mission accomplished, don’t you?

 

Get to Vs. Have to

Something my pastor said today in his sermon at The Church at Avenue South made me think of something another pastor from Fellowship Bible Church said.

Most of us, including me, have from time to time looked on the different aspects of Christianity as a drudgery– as in I have to read my Bible, I have to pray, I have to share my faith with others.

That’s the wrong perspective.

Maybe instead you should see your life of faith as a delight– you get to read your Bible, you get to pray, you get to share your faith with others.

Those who serve best are the ones who love best, and the ones who love best are the ones who know more fully than anyone else that they are loved best.

Once you begin to grasp the infinite love of Abba Father for you (and it’s something that not even in eternity will you ever fully get to the bottom of), then what He asks of you is no longer a chore and a drudgery, but a blessing and a delight.

It’s not a time issue. You always make time for what you love. It’s a heart issue. What truly matters to you and where does God end up on that list?

I write from the perspective of someone who’s not nearly there yet. I also speak as someone who is daily being transformed into that kind of person who can fully live out of the knowledge of being the Beloved.

Fear is a poor motivator. Eventually, you get tired of being afraid. Love, however, is the fuel that never runs out. As much as you are loved, you can love others, and the more you love others, you find yourself receiving even more love in return.

Those who live loved will live to serve. Those who live blessed will live to look for opportunities to bless and be a blessing.

The end.

 

 

Tonight We’re Gonna Blog Like it’s 1,999

I had a random memory today. And I mean random in the sense that it wasn’t connected to anything current.

I was thinking back on a sermon by my pastor, Aaron Bryant, where he mentioned listening to The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill back in the day.

That got me thinking about a particular youth group trip way back in ’86 or ’87 in the Ridgeway Baptist Church bus with Jason Payne sitting in the very back of the bus with his ghetto blaster playing that same Beastie Boys album at full volume. I think we were on our way to that year’s Youth Evangelism Conference in Nashville (of all places).

I remember very little else about that trip. But I remember the Beastie Boys.

I bet I must have heard that CD all the way through at least two or three times.

You’re probably wondering where the oh-so-spiritual tie-in is. There’s really not one.

I just know that certain songs can trigger memories hidden deep in the recesses of my mind and can bring back faces and places from long since past.

2016 just so happens to mark the 30th anniversary of that Licensed to Ill album that ruled the Billboard charts way back in 1986. This way way before Eminem or even Vanilla Ice. For those who grew up solely on CCM fare, this was even before DC Talk.

I suppose you don’t really appreciate the significance of a moment when you’re in it. It’s only after time and distance has given you some perspective that you really do come to see those memories in a new light.

Who knows what we’ll remember about 2016? Hopefully, there will be some moments worth cherishing and remembering, some very happy moments. That’s my prayer for all of you (and for me, too).

Let’s make 2016 a year to remember.

 

Rain, Rain, Go Away: The Sequel

I am officially over the rain. I liked it for a bit, then it got old. Then it continued to rain.

I spent more than double my usual commute time from work to the Starbucks on Franklin Road in Brentwood where my friend and I meet weekly to walk and talk.

Thankfully, I had classic 90’s tunes in the form of the fantastic album, Surfacing, by Sarah McLachlan. I do believe that 90’s music by and large is better than the current pop music playing on most radio stations.

Still, I got stuck in traffic. At times, I’m fairly certain I could have gotten out of my car and walked faster than I was driving.

I don’t know what it is, but being in extended traffic makes me weary. I suppose it’s from being constantly hyper-aware of all those drivers around me (including those numbskulls who STILL don’t have their lights on in the rain EVEN after my last blog specifically on that topic).

Ultimately, being stuck in traffic means that I have a job to drive to and from, a car to drive in, and a me that is healthy and able to drive said car to said workplace. That in itself outweighs and inconveniences caused by traffic delays and the snail’s pace.

It’s still all about perspective. Before you complain about your life, remember that you still have it better than most of the world’s population. In fact, most people would give anything to have your problems versus the ones that they are facing.

Before you whine about being the 99%, remember that if you have a roof over your head, more clothes than the ones on your back, more than one meal a day, running water, transportation, and cash in your pocket, globally speaking, you are the 1%.

Plus, I had a very good chestnut praline latte at Starbucks to reward myself for not losing my everloving mind over being in the car so long.

All in all, I’d call it a good day.

 

More About Blessed

If you turn on TBN, you might hear some old preacher talking about how God wants to bless you. By that, he probably means that God wants to shower you with riches and mansions and luxury cars and yachts and so forth.

But when I read my Bible, I get a different version of what it means for God to bless someone. What Jesus calls blessed in the Beatitudes is far better than what any health-and-wealth preacher might call it.

Not that God doesn’t grant wealth as a blessing, but I think the idea of blessing is so much more than that. After all, doesn’t the Bible say not to store your treasures on earth where thieves break in and steal and rust corrodes? Will you be able to take any of your wealth with you? Of course not.

The older I get, the more I see that the best blessing God gives is God. More than any gift God gives, God giving Himself to anyone is the best gift of all. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving, because you will never in any lifetime get to the bottom of Who God is or how much He loves you.

To be blessed is to know God and to know Jesus, who is God with a human face. All of us take that privilege for granted all the time, but have you ever stopped to think that the Creator and King of Everything has sought you out for a relationship? That should boggle our minds.

At the end of the day, I’m blessed. I know that God will supply all my needs through Jesus because ultimately my greatest need is Jesus. And He will take care of all my other needs, too.

You can have everything your heart desires and not have God and you will be miserable. You can have nothing but God and you will find that He is enough.

That’s another reminder to myself.

 

 

 

More Good Conversation

I was talking with a friend of mine at Kairos tonight.

We’d both gone through long stretches of unemployment.

Both of us expressed how before we had days where we might tend to grumble and complain and gripe about our jobs and possibly even “mail it in” (meaning give less than absolutely 110%) on a given day.

If you were to poll the average American worker, the vast majority would probably say they don’t like their job. Most would say the only reason they show up to work each day is out of the daily necessity of paying bills and mortgages and putting food on the table and supporting families.

My friend and I have a different perspective now. Both of us know what it’s like to not have a job. Both of us know what it’s like to feel purpose-less and discouraged, wondering if we truly have anything the job market wants.

I’m working another temp job, but I’ve purposed in my mind to make it my act of worship. I’m going to show up and do my very best, as if I’m working directly for Jesus. Because in a sense, I am.

The Bible says that whatever you do, you should do it to the glory of God. That means writing songs and presiding over large corporations as a CEO. That also means cleaning houses and toilets, punching in numbers into a computer, organizing and filing massive amounts of medical files.

Whatever you do, do it as if Jesus were watching. Do it because you want to please Jesus because He gave so much for you. Do it not because you have to, but because you get to. Do it because someone else may be watching you and you may be the only Bible they will read all day.

Make your job your ministry and your mission field. Do whatever you do whenever you do it to the best of the abilities God has given you and leave the results to God.

See if that doesn’t change your perspective.

 

 

 

Lent Update for 2015

I have two more weeks to go for my Lent break from social media. So far, so good. More than having extra free time, the best part has been clearing my head and getting my perspective readjusted (again). As much as I love all things social media, it can mess with your head if you let it.

You know it’s time to step away for a bit when you start valuing your self-worth based on social media. I should know, being a recovering approval-addict. I’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and worn it.

I’ll confess that not everything God has shown me during this season of Lent has been fun or easy. I’ve seen just how much I’m addicted to worry and stress and doubts. My faith is smaller than I thought, but I’m also finding out that God os much bigger than I ever imagined.

It’s been a long journey from that day on May 22. 2012 when I got laid off from my job. It hasn’t gone nearly the way I thought it would. But I have seen God’s provision and felt His nearness more in these past three years than ever before.

Lent is a way of me reminding myself that 1) God owns it all and controls it all, not me; 2) if I have God and nothing else, I’m better off than if I had everything but God; 3) it truly will be fine in the end because God said so, and if it’s not fine, then it’s not the end (to borrow a line from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

I think that covers it.

 

Being Present to the Present

sunrise_earth

A few years ago, I bought a set of DVDs called Sunrise Earth. They are exactly what you think they are. Each program is 50 minutes of spectacular sunrises in some of the most beautiful places in the U.S., captured without any additional music or commentary. In short, the filmmakers let nature speak for itself.

I confess that I haven’t really watched any of these until very recently. I even forgot I had them.

But I rediscovered them and found myself watching the beauty of nature unfold. Instantly, I was in North Maine at Kidney Pond, watching a mother moose with her calf cavorting in the water. I could literally feel my blood pressure falling and a feeling of calm and serenity coming over me.

I confess. Too often, I don’t see the nature in front of me because I’m too focused on where I have to be on Wednesday or something coming up on Sunday. I fret and I worry about what may or may not happen in the future or what could or should have happened in the past.

I can’t change either one of those. I can choose to live in this present moment and be alive to all that God is unveiling before me. I can choose to look out my window and see the sunset (or God forbid, actually forklift myself out of bed at the ungodly crack of dawn to witness a sunrise).

I can also choose to be thankful for the moment I’m living in. I can decide that I don’t want to be so obsessed over the future and the past that I miss this present. Jesus said that tomorrow will take care of itself. And that God will take care of you when that tomorrow comes. It won’t make one bit of difference if you worry or not, because fretting over the future won’t change one iota of it.

So I’m going to continue to be a broken record and say that I want to be fully present to where God has me right now, whether it’s everything I hoped it would be or not. I can look down at empty hands and see all that I am missing out on or I can see those hands as ready to receive all that God is preparing for me in a future that is so much bigger and wilder than anything I could ever dream of on my own. It’s all about my perspective.

It’s my choice. It’s your choice, too.