Hey Y’all, It’s Fall!

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! “(Romans 5:3-4, MSG)”

Today, September 23, is officially the first day of fall, or as those who prefer the pronunciation po-tah-to call it, “autumn.”

Whatever you call it, I love it. I love the brisk air and the leaves changing colors. I love bonfires, hayrides, and all things pumpkin spice.

Even more than that, I love that fall signifies change before winter comes. Change can be scary, but in God’s economy all change eventually leads to something good, due to the fact that He works all these things together for good for those who love Him.

I personally can’t wait to see what God will do next in my life.  I can’t wait to see what God will do next in the life of The Church at Avenue South. I can’t wait to see how He will stir up His Church all over the world to even greater deeds of love and sacrifice.

Even when the circumstances look as bleak as the tree limbs barren of leaves, we do not lose hope. We know that the same God who kept His promises throughout the history of the Bible and through the centuries won’t fail to keep them now. That’s a fact.

So bring on the mid-60’s temps. I’m ready. I’m also ready for flannel and jackets. I’m ready for hot dogs and s’mores over an open fire.

Bring it all on.

 

Joni Mitchell and Another Wednesday Evening

jm

It was a perfect Wednesday evening. Here in the glorious state of Tennessee, we’re in that wonderful time of spring, just before it starts to get sticky hot and humid, where the temperature is just right.

I love driving home when the weather’s like that. There’s something about temps in the low 70s and a cool spring breeze that awakens all my happy memories from childhood and makes me hopeful for the future. What is it in the springtime air that makes me feel a little less anxious and a little more assured of God’s plan for me?

Also, I had Ms. Joni Mitchell playing in the car, which always makes everything better, especially her albums like Clouds and Blue. Those are currently my top two favorites of hers.

We all need days like these when hope seems like a precious and rare commodity. We need little God-winks to remind us that God still cares and still watches and still provides.

I’ve seen too many times where God came though at just the right time to doubt, yet somehow I still do. I think somehow this time will be different than the other 99, that maybe God will be caught napping or away from His desk. Or maybe that He’s decided that I’m not worth the effort anymore.

I remember those thoughts and feelings. I know where they come from. Not from the Father but from the father of lies. I let these thoughts pass right on through without heeding them at all. I remember the promises of God that are always YES and AMEN in Jesus and then I have hope again.

I have to remind myself that every moment is grace, even the lonely moment or the anxious moment or the doubful moment. Every moment that I’m alive to see what God will do next in my life is grace.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

 

Community of Faith

Sometimes, it’s easy to believe. Everything is going your way and you seemingly are getting all the breaks.

Sometimes, it’s not so easy. Your prayers bounce back from the ceiling and you can’t hear God as well as before, but you keep praying and trusting, though with little seeds of doubt creeping in.

Sometimes, you don’t have it in you anymore to pray or believe for yourself.

That’s where community comes in. That’s what I believe we’re called to do in 2015.

Community means that I believe for you when you can’t believe for yourself when it comes to the promises of God. It means that I pray on your behalf claiming your promises for you when you can’t get the words to come out.

On occasion, I find it easier to visualize the person I’m praying for. I picture him (or her) in a small chapel, walking down the center aisle. I picture Jesus at the end of that aisle. I see myself as guiding that person toward Jesus and watching as He wraps His arms around the person for whom I’m praying.

Community means that we encourage each other. It also means we don’t accept easy answers, but push beyond the “I’m fine”s to get to the truth. It means that every now and then we speak the hard truth, but speak it in love, when we see the other headed down a harmful path.

Community means that we are honest, vulnerable, and transparent as close to 100% of the time as our imperfections will allow. It means that we choose to love the unlovable in our midst, remembering that we too were at one point unlovable before Christ made us loveable.

That’s what the 1st century world saw in the early Christians that won them over. That’s what God used to turn the world upside down (or more accurately, right-side up again) and transform a small band of believers into His Church.

That’s what the world around us needs to see more than ever right now and in 2015.

 

Promises, Promises

“Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You.
I told You, Eternal One, “You are my Lord,
    for the only good I know in this world is found in You alone” (Psalm 16:1-2)

That’s something I need to remember. Especially in these days when everything seems so unpredictable and topsy-turvy and nothing seems settled, when the only constant in this world seems to be that change is inevitable.

When I was a kid, my world seemed a lot more secure. People never lost jobs, friends were always healthy and vital, and all my cousins and uncles and aunts and grandparents were always around for holidays and special occasions. It seemed to me that all my friends’ parents stayed married and everybody I knew had a happy family.

But these days, that’s not the case. I’ve said goodbye to too many loved ones already. I’ve had my fair share of job losses. I’ve even lost one or two friends. Too many people I know have gone through divorces and unhappy homes.

But the promises of God are secure. Absolutely secure. As in “good as done” secure. God’s promises are so sure that we can believe in His future for us and live that reality now. We can speak of the future promises in the present tense even when we can’t see them yet.

That’s worth celebrating. No matter what happens tomorrow, good or bad, these words of God will not fail. Even if I fail, they will not. As the Bible says, even if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. Even when my feelings and my thoughts tell me otherwise, God is true even when they lie. Always.

As I’ve heard it said before, it’s not about big faith in God, but faith in a big God, even if that faith is mustard-seed small. As my friend used to say, it’s a big world out there, but a bigger God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trusting in True Love

charliebrownisokay

“But for my part I trust in thy true love.
My heart shall rejoice, for thou hast set me free.
I will sing to the Lord, who has granted all my desire” (Psalm 13:5-6).

That’s where I am, folks. My life hasn’t turned out like I thought it would, and that truly is okay. It only means something better’s coming.

I still believe that with all my being. I still believe that God has taken me by a unique path because He has unique blessings in store for me.

Maybe that’s you. Maybe your life hasn’t turned out nearly to be what you’d thought it be at this point. Maybe you haven’t hit those all-important societal markers that tell you that you’ve arrived.

Maybe you don’t have kids. Maybe you’re not married. Maybe you’re (gasp) still living with mom and dad, It’s easy to feel like you’re the world’s biggest failure.

But maybe, just maybe, that’s where God has you for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve got something special coming and you’re just not ready to receive what God has in store for you right now.

I know that the Bible is replete with stories of people who had to wait for their promise from God. Joseph, Moses, Abraham, and David are just a few out of many. So if you’re waiting, you’re in good company.

The point is that what God has promised to you is truer than your present circumstances. In fact, He is so true to His word that whatever He’s promised is as good as done and you can truthfully say right now that God has “granted all my desire.”

That’s not an easy place to be, waiting on God’s promises. Waiting is never easy. But it is a good place. And always, always worth it.

 

 

 

Another Blog About Nothing

1375137091000-SEINFELD-E11-SEINFELD2-01-6061599-1307291904_4_3cra

I swear I had a great idea for a blog this morning. I probably had another two or three decent topics lined up. Right now, at 10:23 pm, I can’t remember a single one of them. One day I will write these strokes of genius down on paper or make a note on my phone.

So you get another one of my stream-of-consciousness ramblings. Which is make even more fun by the fact that my brain is tired, as is the rest of me.

I can’t believe it’s almost the 4th of July weekend already. That means the year is over halfway over. That means we’re past the summer solstice and the days are getting shorter again. Before you know it, school will start back up again.

The seasons are reminders of God’s faithfulness. Just as summer follows spring and autumn follows summer, so the promises of God always come to pass. That will always be true.

I hope that is as comforting to you as it is to me these days. It’s good to have a few constants in this crazy world of change and unrest. It’s good to know that as unpredictable as life can be that God will always keep His word.

A Small Sign

image

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.

Good Times, Bad Times

alexander

I had a really good day. In fact, nearly all my days are good days. It helps when you’re an optimist like me and choose to focus on the good instead of the bad. That helps.

But what about when you have bad days?

What about when you have those days when you don’t feel confident? When you feel like all those old fears and insecurities have crept right back into your mind and taken up residence again? When you feel like you’ve regressed back into the you that wasn’t very fun to be around?

Even as much as I, the eternal optimist, would like to say differently, you will have bad days. You will even have crappy days. You will have those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days (just like that Alexander kid).

Bad days do more than just take up the necessary 24 hour allotment of space. They give perspective. They help you see how good the good days are in comparison.

The good news that I need to remember (and I’m sure you do, too) is that God is just as faithful and present on the bad days as He is on the good. He may not seem as tangibly present, but trust me, He’s there. You just have to trust what you know of God and His promises rather than what you feel. After all, feelings lie. Feelings can be misleading. Feelings can be such fickle things. But God never lies.

Even when it seems like you’re having a month of Mondays, remember that all the promises of God still hold just as true for you as they did when you were having a good day.

And remember, you DID wake up this morning. You DID get out of bed. You ARE reading this, so you still have your mind. Even on a bad day, there are still so many things to be thankful for. Good things. Just you remember that.

 

 

Why I Call Myself Blessed

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say” (C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair).

Good ol’ Puddleglum. For those not familiar with Narnia, that’s the character speaking these words. And I like them.

I am currently jobless. Again. But I still consider myself blessed.

I’d rather be where I am right now with God than in my dream job, making ridiculous amounts of money, without Him.

I’ve found out this simple equation:

Me + God > Me + Everything Else – God

I don’t know if that’s grammatically or mathematically correct, but it’s right as far as I’m concerned.

I’m blessed because I have God. I’m blessed because this God promises not to give me what I need or lead me to it, but because He’s promised that HE HIMSELF will be my provision.

Even if God never did another blessed thing for me, if God never gave me another sign or another visible reminder of His prescence, He would still have been better to me that I deserve for saving my soul.

So if I wake up tomorrow and draw breath, if I get out of bed and live through the next 24 hours, I’m blessed because God is with me. If I don’t wake up tomorrow, I’m still blessed because then I’ll be with God.

I call that a win-win.

Following a Star and a Promise

wise-men

I’m prefacing this by stating that I don’t know a whole lot about these wise men of biblical fame. I mean, where did they come from? Were there just three or were there more who accidentally happened to bring the same gifts? (I’m sure that would have been awkward even then).

I do know they came from a great distance based solely on a single star in the sky and the promise of a Messiah, an Anointed One.

I do know it probably took them a few years to make the journey from home to Bethlehem. I also know they didn’t arrive at the location of Jesus’ birth, but probably a year or two later when the family was settled in a home.

I wonder what it was like for them to travel out into a foreign country with nothing concrete to go on except that solitary star and an ancient promise.

I feel like that sometimes. Maybe you do, too.

You’ve stepped outside of everything that’s familiar with only the promises and the presence of Jesus to guide you. You don’t know exactly where you are going or what you will find when you get there, other than that Jesus will be there.

I imagine it would have been so very easy for the wise men to get sidetracked and tempted to settle for a  comfortable oasis along the way. Or maybe a small village where the locals are friendly and the food is good.

I’m certain that the daily ritual of camping for the night, packing it all up, and setting out again got old quick. I get bored on a car trip that lasts more than 5 hours. I can’t imagine 2 or 3 years of constant travelling.

History shows that they were faithful to the journey’s end. They were faithful to the promise, faithful to keep it sacred and safe from men like Herod who wanted to destroy it.

I’m hoping that you and I will be just as diligent and faithful on our own journeys. May you and I find the Christ not only awaiting us at the end of the road, but feel His presence along the way as well.