An Unexpected Detour


I have my homeward trek fairly down pat by now. At least you’d think I had it down after all the times I’ve made the afternoon commute.

Today, for some reason known only to God, I took I-40 East instead of I-40 West. Immediately, I knew I’d messed up.

Still, I looked for anything familiar and found the exit for Stewarts Ferry Pike and the Tennessee School for the Blind, which I pass every morning on my morning commute to work.

It was probably a bit out of the way, but I got back to where I started (almost) and made it home from there. All it took was finding something familiar.

I think all of us get lost on our spiritual journeys. We get to where nothing looks familiar and wonder how we got to the place where we find ourselves. We wonder how to get back to what we know.

I truly believe God will give familiar signposts to those who have lost the way and seek to find their way back. He will send an old friend or a familiar Scripture or a song from the past.

Many times, we find that Jesus will show us that He Himself is the way back. For those who are lost, the best way back is to return to the trust and obedience we knew before we got off-track.

I know that for those who get lost when driving, nothing is more comforting than finding that familiar landmark. Suddenly, you know where you are and you can navigate from there.

I believe that just as much as His lost children long to return to places they know, the Father longs to get them there. The Father longs to see them running down the dirt road into His arms, just as that prodigal son did all those years ago.

If there are people in your life who have lost the way, maybe you’re the signpost that will get them finally headed in the right direction again.

PS I survived day one of my Lent fast from social media. I resisted the urge to check my Facebook page several times throughout the day. So far, so good.

Lavished Love

“Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children” (1 John 3:1a).

Don’t rush past this like I’ve done all these years. Take it in slowly and savor what you’re reading.

This Father, the King of the Universe, has LAVISHED his love on us.

I can’t help but thinking of a chapter I read in a book called The Autobiography of God by Lloyd John Ogilvie. The very first chapter is called The Prodigal God, about the parable of the prodigal son.

In it, Ogilvie defines prodigality as that of being extravagant, excessive, and wasteful. He says the character in that parable that best fits the description of prodigal is the father.

The father is the one who had every right after his son left home to hold a mock funeral and to live as though he had only one son. He could very well have written his son off the way his son had written him off.

But that’s not what happened.

I imagine that father waited every day in the same spot on that front porch, looking out into the horizon for any sign of his son.

I know for a fact that the father RAN (something dignified men NEVER did back in that day and age). The father fell on his son’s neck and lavished him with fatherly kisses and affection.

This was my son who was dead, he said, and is now alive.

That’s the picture of the extravagant kind of love the Heavenly Father lavishes on us. It’s that excessive. It’s that wasteful when you consider how many of us ignore it or take it for granted (and I am one of those).

The Father is running after you, not to scold or punish you, but to envelop you in His arms and tell you right now that He loves you just the way you are, soot-covered, shame-covered, sin-covered, but He in His love refuses to leave you the way He found you.

He wants you to be living out of the full knowledge that you are a son, a daughter, a child of God.


Lost and Found 2: The Non-Sequel

I call it Lost and Found 2, not because it has anything to do with the my previous blog called Lost and Found, but because I couldn’t very well have two blogs with the same name, could I? And on a random note, I just finished watching the movie Brave, so I’m hearing a Scottish accent in my head as I’m typing all this.

When I volunteered at the Youth Evangelism Conference, I and all the other volunteers stayed at the downtown Doubletree hotel, courtesy of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. It was quite lovely. But somehow in my hurry to get dressed the next morning, I left one of my favorite t-shirts on the bathroom floor.

I didn’t catch the oversight until I got home. I was very tempted to give the shirt up as lost. I mean after all, it’s only a t-shirt, right? But I really liked this t-shirt. So I called the hotel and got transferred to the lost and found department. Or technically, to the answering machine of the lost and found department. Twice.

Any normal, non-OCD person might have given up by this point. But as I have mentioned many times before in many various settings, I am not a normal person. The OCD part is debatable.

I was going to be in downtown Nashville in the middle of a very wintery day today anyway for some other non-exciting event. So I thought, “Why not? What will it hurt to drop by the hotel and ask in person?”

It turns out the third time’s a charm. They did have my t-shirt, which I am now wearing, and everybody lived happily ever after. Except for those who had to go out into the bitterly cold weather.

The moral of this tale is to not give up, even when what you’re looking for seems hopelessly lost. Like maybe a lost coin. Or a missing sheep. Or maybe even a prodigal son. As someone said before, Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. Don’t give up. By the way. that someone just so happens to be Jesus, so I’d do what he says.

Remember that you were once lost, too, and Jesus found you. He didn’t give up on you, and even though you might not have thought yourself worth the time and effort, he did. He didn’t (and won’t) give until he’s found you and rescued you and brought you all the way home.

That t-shirt that I went to all the trouble to find? It’s an Elvis Presley t-shirt from Goodwill. And yeah, it was completely worth the effort.

A Good Lesson from A Lost Key

I went walking on the beach today in my ever-so-stylish swimming trunks. Imagine the polar opposite of speedos and you have an idea of what they looked like.

I headed out to the beach and went about waist-deep into the ocean. I waded like that for a while before I remembered to reach down and see if my key to the condo was still in my pocket. It was not.

I had a moment of panic. Or more accurately, a minor heart attack. I was thinking of how my keys were probably halfway to the Bahamas, or wherever the next destination is across from the ocean in South Carolina. I was figuring out in my head how much the fee for a lost key would be.

When I got back to my beach chair and looked through my backpack, there my key was where I left it when I took it out of my pocket. Apparently, I outsmarted myself again.

Sadly, this was not the first time I was too smart for my own good. On a college and career retreat to Panama City, I was convinced that I had lost my watch on the beach, only to find it in my bed. After much panicking and searching and fretting.

I was reminded tonight of the prodigal on his way back home to see his father. He was thinking, “I have lost everything. How am I going to explain that? What excuse could I possibly use to keep from getting unceremoniously thrown out the door?”

Little did he know that his father was already running down the road to meet him, not caring about all the money he wasted. All the father cared about was that his son had come home.

God doesn’t care about your wasted days and years. He doesn’t care about how you misused all those gifts he gave you. All he cares about is seeing you come home.

I worried for nothing. I made a big deal out of nothing. All my fears turned out to be groundless lies.

Whatever is keeping you from coming back to God is a lie. As big as your sin or mistake or failure, God’s grace is bigger. A past of shame and scars and waste is no barrier to the great love of God. There is nothing to heinous or scandalous that he won’t forgive. Nothing.

Your Father God is calling you. Will you come home?


“Only love has saved me now

Turned my fear to holy ground

I was lost but now am found

Only love has saved me now”

I was lost.

I was the lost sheep that the Shepherd left the other 99 to go and find. I was the one who wandered away, who thought I knew better than the very Shepherd who had led me all the way to this point. Still, He came for me.

I was the lost coin that the woman turned the house upside down to find. In my own eyes, I wasn’t worth very much but in her eyes I was worth every bit of effort it took her to find me.

I was the younger son who ran away and blew my inheritance. I wanted out and to be on my own. I was the one who finally came to his senses and made my way shamefully back home, rehearsed speech in hand, only to have my own father that I denied and disowned come running up to me and throw his arms around me and love me more than ever.

I was the older son who stayed, but rebelled in his heart. I dutifully kept the rules and thought that entitled me to something. I was so caught up in doing the right thing that I missed grace when I saw it with my own eyes.

I am found.

I am learning what it means to be valued in God’s eyes. I am finding out what it means when He calls me Beloved and tells me I was worth every bit of what He paid to win me back.

I am learning to see other people the same way. Not as those who can meet my needs and make me feel validated, but those whom God has placed alongside me for me to bless and encourage and be Jesus to every step of the way.

I once was lost but now I’m found.


The Far Country

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,breaking the hearts of their worshippers.  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (Clive Staples Lewis, Weight of Glory).

I’ve been thinking about the whole prodigal story from a different perspective. For so long, I’ve always thought about the prodigal as someone other than me. Sure, I’m glad he came home, but I’m also glad that he wasn’t me.

These days, I can see myself as the prodigal son. I may not have run away from home and sowed my wild oats, but I have rebelled in my mind. I have been at times both the younger and the older son in the story.

We are all prodigals a long way from home. As good as this life is, it’s not home. I heard it put like this: at best this life is a clean bus station; you might not mind staying there a while, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

We are all on the road, trying to find our way home. We’ve all had moments when we’ve come to ourselves and realized that we need to change.

The magical part of the story is that we all have a Father who’s waiting at the end of the road. This Father is not disappointed in us. He’s not ready to turn His back on us or disown us.

He’s got his running shoes on and He can’t wait to run down the road and throw His arms around us and welcome us home. He’s got ribs on the grill and a party unlike any you’ve ever seen.

You may have plans to work your way into  His good graces, but the most important news is that it’s already been done. His own son has paid your admission fee.

So when you catch the scent of a new flower or hear snatches of a new song, you’re catching glimpses of a home you’ve never seen, but only heard of. But in your heart of hearts, you know it’s where you belong.



Both sermons I heard today touched on the parable on the Prodigal son. I can think of no better story that really illustrates the scandalous nature of God’s love for His children.

In fact, the parable could more accurately be called The Prodigal God, since the word prodigal means “characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure” or “recklessly spendthrift” (according to Merriam-Webster). God’s love is both.

It’s prodigal that God paid way too high a price for me with His Son Jesus. It’s prodigal that Jesus didn’t shed some or most of His blood, but all of it for me. It’s way more than I or anyone else deserves.

There’s a fantastic book that’s been out of print for years called The Autobiography of God by Lloyd John Ogilvie. He has a chapter on “The Prodigal God” that impacted me when I read it the first time and still comes to mind every time I hear the Prodigal Son story.

It was shocking to the hearers of the parable the way the father in the story let the younger son have his share. For the son to ask for it while the father was still living was to say in essence, “Drop dead!” and show the utmost comtempt for him.

Even more scandalous was how the father not only received his son at the end of the story, but how he ran to him and threw his arms around him and kissed him. Well-respected men in that day didn’t run. It was not considered dignified. But this father wasn’t about to wait one more second for his son who was coming home.

The Cross is so much more shocking and scandalous than we normally paint it in our sanitized sermons on the subject. By the time Jesus got to the cross, He was barely recognizable as human.

That’s the kind of scandalous, prodigal love God has for those of his prodigal children, whether we rebel in a far country or at home. Honestly, the far country doesn’t have to be geographically distant. It can be relational distance, too.

So if you have experienced radigal grace and forgiveness, take time today to express your gratitude for this prodigal God whose prodigal love for us is the reason we are forgiven and free.

It’s Wednesday

I keep thinking about how Aaron Bryant described the father in the prodigal son parable. Especially about how radical his expression of love for his son was.

The son had his return speech down-pat. He would be a servant and work his way back into his father’s good graces. At least this way, he would have three square meals and a roof over his head. Better than that pig slop and pig sty he came from. Literally.

What did the son see? Did he see his father standing far off with his arms crossed and a look of disappointment or anger or shame? Did he see his father turn his back away to not see him coming down the road?


He saw his father take off running down the road, tears streaming, and practically tackle him in the biggest bear hug ever in human history.

From a cultural standpoint, there are several things wrong. First of all, grown men didn’t run back then. At least not respectable ones. Second, the right thing to do would be to disown the son and have a funeral and consider him dead.

I think the definition of prodigal fits the father more than the son. It’s lavish, excessive, extravagant, and almost wasteful. That describes perfectly this love the father had for his wayward son.

That’s the kind of love the Father has for us. A love that caused Him to take on the lowly flesh of a slave and take that long, arduous, painful march to the Cross to die a humiliating and criminal death for you and me.

It’s Wednesday. You’re halfway through another week, looking forward to another weekend that will probably be over all too soon with another Monday right behind.

Remember that you are greatly blessed, highly favored, and (best of all) deeply loved. Your Abba is still very much fond of you and always will be.

May that be what carries you through Thursday and into the weekend and beyond.