A Good Night

So I inadvertently recycled my sunglasses tonight.

I was in the process of depositing several plastic bottles into one of the recycle containers in the Connection Center of Brentwood Baptist Church (also known as The Place Where They Have Kairos on Tuesdays).

I’m still not exactly sure of the order of events (or even 100% positive of the sunglasses part) but I believe that when I bent down to beautify the planet by not adding to the already overflowing landfills and being green and all that, my sunglasses slipped off my shirt and into the container (along with one unopened water bottle that I fully intended to drink).

Something a guy I work with came to mind: if that’s the worst thing that happens to me tonight, I’m having a good night.

Later, the main speaker, Chris Brooks, said something that arrested my attention. He said that while emotions can be very real, they aren’t always reliable. Immediately, my mind went to Jeremiah 17:9 where the heart, the seat of all emotions, is described as “most devious and incurably sick.”

I’ve learned that one the hard way over the years. Trial and error have taught me never to trust my emotions when I’m fatigued or hungry (and especially not when it’s a combination of the two).

While feelings can be legitimate, they can be misleading. I remember something a friend said once that I’ve never forgotten– feelings can lie to you, so you go with what you know.

In my case, I remember that Jesus promised that everything would turn out fine in the end (and if it’s not fine, it’s not yet the end). Jesus promised that He’d work all things together for good. Jesus promised never to leave or forsake me.

I cling to these promises when my feelings tell me they have failed. I hold fast to what Jesus said over what I feel because while my feelings come and go, Jesus’ words are eternal and secure.

I ended up making a late night run to Kroger’s and picking up another pair of shades just like the ones I accidentally discarded. Next time, I hope I’ll be a little less careless when saving the planet.

 

Changes 2.0

Once again, I find myself facing changes that I’m not ready to face. But then again, when am I really ever completely ready for changes when they happen?

Next week is Mike Glenn’s last week as Kairos Pastor. It still doesn’t seem real. I can’t begin to imagine Kairos without Uncle Mikey. But starting February 16, it will be a reality to which I’ll have to adjust.

I’ve had friendships that ended because the other person moved away or simply drifted out of my life. Even now, I wish I could go back and do things differently for some of them. Still, life moves on. Maybe our paths weren’t meant to stay parallel forever. Maybe God has something different and better for the other person that neither of us can see right now.

I’m reminded once again that the only constant in this life is that everything will change and nothing will ever stay the same.

Well, not exactly.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the constant in a world of change.

That’s what I’m holding on to when I face new circumstances. It’s what I cling to when I feel like I have nothing solid to hang on to in my life.

So beside death and taxes, one more thing is sure. Jesus will fulfill all His promises in and through me. I can count on that.

With that in mind, I can look forward to the future with great confidence. Kairos is in good hands with Chris Brooks. I am in good hands with Jesus. There is no mistake, no tragedy, no loss that Jesus can’t redeem and transform into something way better than I or anyone else ever dreamed possible.

That’s a good thought to send me off to sleep tonight. I hope it will be for you as well.

 

My Life is God’s Prayer

“When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you, From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar. Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids. Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me. Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night! My life is God’s prayer” (Psalm 42:8 MSG)

That’s the kind of rehearsal I really like, remembering everything I know of God and all He’s done for me. Or even better yet, looking back through ages past and seeing how many times in how many places God has come through for His people.

God’s faithfulness trumps my faithlessness. God’s promises outweigh my doubts. Not that I am so bad, but God is so good. Not that I’m so very weak, but God is so very strong.

I could go on and on, but I am really tired. It’s a good kind of tired, but it still leaves me wanting to visit my pillow in the worst way possible.

I’ll be up excruciatingly early on a Saturday, heading over to Belmont University at 6:30 am for Freshman Move-In Day. It’s still in my top favorite activities that I’m involved in over the year.

Yes, you read that right. That’s 6:30 in the AM. A nap will be had later on in the day by me. Then I think there will be the usual frivolity up and down Main Street in Franklin in celebration of surviving a week of waking up at 5:30 am.

“So let my deeds outrun my words
And let my life outweigh my songs” (Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman).

 

A Prayer for the Longsuffering

The Eternal will finish what He started in me.
    Your faithful love, O Eternal One, lasts forever;
    do not give up on what Your hands have made” (Psalm 138:8, The Voice).

Lord, don’t give up on us. And don’t let us give up on us.

Sometimes, it seems like day comes after day with no change and no hope for tomorrow. It seems like a weather forecast for more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Help us to remember Your works in days past.

Help us to recall how many times You have delivered us when we have forgotten.

Remind us that Your promises are truer than what our eyes can see, what our hands can touch, what our minds can comprehend.

Your faithful love will last forever. Longer than our doubts. Longer than our fears. Longer than situations we feel will never get better.

Even when we feel like giving up on You, You still hold onto us and keep us safe.

You will finish what You started in me. And it will have been worth the wait.

Amen.

 

F-E-A-R

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“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:17-18, The Message).

Everyone has fears. Everyone.

Maybe yours is a fear that you will end up alone in the end.

Maybe you’re afraid that people will see the real behind the well-rehearsed act and the painted-on smiles and not want to have anything further to do with you.

Maybe you’re anxious over the future, wondering where the money is going to come from to pay the bills.

Maybe you’re scared that you’ll never find out what your purpose in life is.

Ann Voskamp put it best: “All fear is but the notion that God’s love will end.”

As a black pastor put it so well, fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear only shows you half the picture. Fear envisions a scenario where God either isn’t present or is unwilling to help. Fear leads you to think that the way things are now is how it will always be.

But God’s love is stronger than fear. As the song says, “Every fear has no place at the sound of Your great Name.”

When you focus on fear, you live defeated. When you focus on the love of God and choose gratitude and thanksgiving and joy, you’re showing fear the door.

Choose joy. Choose gratitude. Choose life.

I’m not saying I have fear and anxiety mastered. Some days, it can feel overwhelming. But I know that the future Jesus has promised me is more real than the present fear that I’m feeling.

Perfect love casts out all fear. Just remember that.

 

 

Something Else from Kairos

Tonight as usual I took home something to think about from Kairos. In almost nine years of attending and serving, I’ve rarely ever walked away without either the message or the music having affected me in some way.

Tonight I heard this: Jesus calls you by who you will become rather than who you are now.

Look at Peter, formerly known as Simon. Jesus hears his brave declaration of “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God,” and proceeds to declare that he is now Peter, the rock on whom Jesus will build His church.

Peter? Look at the guy. Immediately after making that statement, He tries to rebuke Jesus and His plans of going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. The pastor made the astute assessment that Peter folded like a cheap card table when intensely interrogated by a 13-year old servant girl.

“Weren’t you one of Jesus’ followers?” Not a loaded question. Also not one of Peter’s finest moments. Not even close.

I believe that sanctification is the process by which you and I become what Jesus has already declared us to be.

Let me say that again.

Sanctification is the process by which you and I become what Jesus has already declared us to be.

My favorite of Jesus’ declarations over me is Beloved. I may not live like that now. I may live like someone who’s ashamed of Him and who sometimes does a really good job of being an incognito Christian. But that’s not who I will be. Jesus said so.

That gives me great hope. Jesus never makes a promise or a declaration that isn’t already as good as done. It maybe a future tense promise, but it’s a present tense reality. Jesus is that good.

So maybe you and I need to believe about ourselves what Jesus has declared about us, and not what we see in the mirror every day. Maybe then others will start to see it and believe it about themselves as well.

 

Three Years, People!

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I realized today that it has been THREE years since I last had a carbonated beverage. That works out to 1,095 days. That’s a long time for anybody but especially for me.

My life has changed quite a bit since that day on April 28, 2012. Back then, I was gainfully employed at Affinion Benefits Group, having worked there for five years. I had absolutely no idea that less than a month later, I’d be having that meeting with HR where they’d inform me that I was being downsized.

I haven’t always made the wisest choices concerning nutrition, but I count that as one of the best I’ve ever made. I don’t really miss carbonation, though every now and then I still get a craving for one of those Mexican cokes with cane sugar. And yes, I still dream about drinking cokes from time to time. Don’t ask me what the dreams mean or why I’m still having them. That question is above my pay grade.

A lot can happen in three years. According to statistics, the majority of you out there reading this will be looking for a job in another 2-3 years, as the average job stint is now slightly longer than 2 years. So get those resumes out and do all that fun stuff like spell-checking and proof-reading and updating.

I know this will probably sound like a Sunday School answer, but I have truly found that the only constant in a world where nothing is constant is Jesus. He’s still the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s still as faithful to keep His promises today as He was way back in 2012.

I’m trying to do better about drinking more water. Some days I do well and others– well, not so much. I read somewhere that if you cut out all beverages and drink only water with meals, you eliminate 20 percent of your calories. That’s if you want to shed a few pounds.

 

 

Good Times, Bad Times

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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.

 

 

Those Times

I’ve been living my miracle. I’ve been counting my blessings and finding joy in the everyday minutiae of life. But sometimes . . . .

You know the feeling. It happens when you’re tired or hungry or by yourself– or all three. 

You feel like your friends will all eventually abandon you. Little things, like someone not responding to a text or someone else who usually liked and commented on your posts not having done so for a few days, seem like proof that you’re not really wanted or desired.

You find it’s much easier to wallow in that old mire of self-pity and entitlement than to fight for the joy and to consciously bring to mind the blessings. Sometimes it does feel good (but not in a good way) to feel sorry for yourself and believe that no one truly understands or cares about you. Lies are sometimes easier to believe and more comforting than the truth. Well, most of the time.

It’s at those times when you want to lean on what you’re feeling as a gauge for how you’re doing. It’s times when you want to use your understanding as a crutch for figuring out your life at that particular moment.

But just remember this familiar verse:

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“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding [or feelings]. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6. Amplified)

I added that part about feelings, in case you wondered. But it’s implied in the Hebrew. 

Trust God, not in how you feel or what you think. Those things (thoughts and feelings) aren’t always trustworthy. But God is.

And I know from experience your friends aren’t nearly as ready to abandon you as you think they are. Sometimes, they just get caught up in life, their own pain, crazy work or school, etc. They haven’t forgotten or left you.

Remember even if one or two has left you, God never will. He’s promised with an oath as sure as Himself to be with you, no matter what, not only up to the end, but beyond.

That should help you get past those times.

 

Speaking Louder than Words

I heard a great illustration from a pastor today. The way our culture is becoming so image-driven, in a few generations we’ll all be walking around with huge thumbs for texting, enormous eyes, and tiny ears just big enough for ear buds and to hold our eye glasses up.

In other words, it’s all about the eye. But did you ever stop and think for a moment that the old saying is not, “The hand is quicker than the ear?” Magicians don’t set out to fool your ears, do they? Why? Because the eye can be deceived much more than the ear can.

So listen carefully. Don’t be deceived, whether it’s politicians or elevision preachers. Listen carefully to what they’re saying and whether it lines up with the word of God.

And now, since I don’t have a clever or witty segue way (or one at all, actually), I moved on to point #2, which is that talk is cheap. I will tie these two thoughts together at some point. I promise.

But speaking of promises (see, now that was a clever segue way), it seems to me that my generation and younger are really good at making promises, but not so much at keeping them. It’s sad, but you hear someone say a variation of “I’ll be there” or “I’ll meet you there,” you usually expect them not to show. If they do actually keep their word, it’s a minor miracle.

Words are cheap. Especially when it comes to politics and faith. It’s easy to talk a good game, but much harder to back it up. In the arena of faith, people are sick and tired of professing believers who do nothing but profess. If they never see any evidence behind those words, why should they believe anything the person says?

Jesus told us that his family isn’t flesh and blood. It’s those who follow him and do what he says. The evidence of whether or not someone belongs to Jesus is obedience to Jesus. Period.

So don’t talk love. Show love. Don’t talk compassion. Show compassion. Your actions really do speak louder than your words, especially if they don’t match your words. People will remember how you acted far longer than they will remember the actual words you spoke.

And every single bit of this is for me as much as it is for anybody else. I’m bad about speaking and then not following through with my actions. May you and I both be known to keep our promises no matter what and to live out what we believe rather than just talking a good game. May we speak our faith out loud, but live it out even louder. And no, I couldn’t come up with a way to tie both my points together, so I’ll leave that up to you. Just preach the gospel at all times with your attitudes and actions and, if necessary, use words.

That’s all.