A Very Long But Very Good Day

I had a very long day. It was also a very good day.

It started off with a 6:40 appointment to get my teeth cleaned at the dentist. Yes, that’s 6:40 AM (as in way too early for this guy). That went well and look ma, no cavities!

From there, it was off to work, where I ended up being an hour late from the dentist. I made up half of my missed time by staying 30 minutes extra. That made for a longer day, but it was still all good.

I ended up the day with worship, Kairos-style. I got to greet the good folks at my usual Door H and then experience some good worship music and teaching.

I’m home now and my cat is ever so grateful. She probably wishes I could stay home and attend to her every whim, but alas, I must go forth and earn the bacon for her to feast upon.

I’ve decided that just about every day is a good day because every day I’m alive is a gift. Every day I’m alive has God in it and God has proven way more than once that He is enough for those who truly learn to rest in Him.

So that’s where I am at 9:22 pm on a Tuesday night. Tired but happy. Exhausted but filled with joy. Ready for bed but knowing that I am blessed.

It’s all about perspective. You have to train yourself to look for the good in every day, then you will see God in every day. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort.

Once again, I’m blessed by the people God has in my life. My family, of course, is awesome, but I also have some good friends (especially the ones I greet with at Kairos). I even have a few furry friends.

Best of all, knowing that nothing I have ever done can lessen God’s love for me or cause Him to turn away from me is priceless.

PS Brennan Manning’s memoir, All is Grace, is available FOR FREE from the Amazon Kindle store (if you have either a Kindle or the Kindle app on your mobile device of choice). Go get it now.

 

So My Niece Turned Four

I still can’t believe that my niece Lizzie is now a 4-year old. It feels like yesterday when I was holding her for the first time as a one-day old. It really and truly does.

It also seems surreal and weird that my nephews are now 8 and 10.

On days like these, I wish I still had my two uncles on my dad’s side. I’d love to get some of their advice on how to be a better uncle. I’d like to know how they felt when I was a 4-year old having birthday parties.

I miss them whenever I hear really good music I think they would like. I also wish I could have appreciated them as much when they were living.

I also think that right now God is pleased with me. Because of Jesus and what He’s done, I am enough and I have enough. I don’t have to perform to earn God’s favor. I don’t have to constantly strive for perfection in hopes that God will grant me His love.

I have it.

That’s the best feeling in the world. Knowing that I am already forgiven and loved and chosen and blessed makes me want to forgive and love and choose and bless better. It makes me want to live better.

So this day continues to be a gift. So is every day that I wake up to. So is every single moment where I’m breathing in and out, basking in the grace of God that forever holds me together and keeps me sane.

I really enjoyed being a part of Lizzie’s 4th birthday party. My sister is a fantastic mother and wife, and my brother-in-law is a great father and husband. Their kids aren’t perfect, but they have the two best role models I know to emulate.

Oh, and God is still God. That’s the best part.

 

Soooooooo Tired

This is my experience lately. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can’t. So here goes.

I basically am on the go at work from 7:30 straight through until 4 pm (taking 30 minutes for lunch).

From there, I headed south to the Goodwill on Highway 96 where I made some good $2 music finds. Those are always the best kind.

After that, I walked over to Bar-B-Cuties for a stellar dinner, including the world’s best fruit tea. If you’re ever at a Bar-B-Cuties, you should try it.

Following the grub, I went in the direction of a friend’s house where I attend a Life Group, but I stopped off at a pet store because I would have been super early to his place. I browsed and bought a little something for the cat.

After all that, I made it to my friend’s house and finally sat down. Then I was tired. Really tired.

It’s funny how that works. As long as you’re on the go, you don’t realize how drained you are. Not at least until you stop. Then all that activity catches up with you.

As much as I’d like to fall back a couple of hours tonight so I could sleep extra, that’s not the best kind of rest.

The best kind of rest is the kind Jesus promises to all those who are weary and heavy-laden. He says, “Come to me, all you who work to the point of exhaustion and I will give you real rest.”

Not necessarily sleep, although that is sometimes part of it. What Jesus means is the rest from striving to perform in order to measure up to some artificial standard (either your’s or someone else’s). It’s ceasing from feeling like you always have to do more and be more to be complete and fulfilled.

Jesus says, “I love you just as you are, not as you should be or as you wish you could be or how everyone else wishes you would be. Come to me, right now, just exactly the way you are, and I will get you to where and who you need to be.”

That’s true rest.

 

Just Pray: Yet Another Guest Blogger Post

I heard this tonight at our churchwide prayer event at The Church at Avenue South. It’s not really a blog. It’s an excerpt from Prayer, a book by Richard Foster (who also happened to write a little book you might have heard of called A Celebration of Discipline.

What follows is a bit lengthy but so worth the time it takes to read it:

“And so I am telling you. I am telling you that God is inviting you — God is inviting me — to come home; to come home to where we belong; to come home to that for which we were created. His arms are stretched out wide to receive us. His heart is enlarged to take us in. For too long we have been in a far country — a country of noise and hurry and crowds; a country of climb and push and shove; a country of frustration and fear and intimidation.

And he welcomes us home — home to serenity and peace and joy; home to friendship and fellowship and openness; home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation.

And we don’t need to be shy. He invites us into the living room of his heart where we can put on old slippers and share freely. He invites us into the kitchen of his friendship where chatter and batter mix in good fun. He invites us into the dining room of his strength where we can feast to our heart’s delight. He invites us into the study of his wisdom where we can learn and grow and stretch and ask all the questions we want. He invites us into the workshop of his creativity where we can be co-laborers with him, working together to determine the outcome of events. And he invites us into the bedroom of his rest where new peace is found, and where we can be naked and vulnerable and free. It is also the place of deepest intimacy where we know and are known to the fullest.

The key into this home, which is the heart of God, is prayer. Perhaps you have never prayed before except in anguish or terror. It may be that the only time the divine name has been on your lips is in angry expletives. Never mind. I am here to tell you that the Father’s heart is open wide to you –you are welcome to come in.

Perhaps you do not believe in prayer. You tried to pray before and were profoundly disappointed … and disillusioned. You have little faith, or none. It does not matter. The Father’s heart is open wide to you — you are welcome to come in.

Perhaps you are bruised and broken by the pressures of life. Others have sinned against you and you feel scarred for life. You have old painful memories that have never been healed. You avoid prayer because you feel too distant, too unworthy, too defiled. Don’t despair. The Father’s heart is open wide to you — you are welcome to come in.

Perhaps you have prayed for many years but the words have grown brittle and cold. Little ever seems to happen anymore. God seems remote and inaccessible. Listen to me. The Father’s heart is open wide to you — you are welcome to come in.

Perhaps prayer is the delight of your life. You have lived in God’s love for a long time and can attest to his goodness. But you long for more. More power, more love, more reality in your life. Believe me. The Father’s heart is open wide to you — you too are welcome to come higher up and deeper in.

If the key is prayer, the door is Jesus Christ. Isn’t it good of God to provide us a way into the Father’s house? God knows that we are stiff-necked, hard-hearted, far-off. And so he has provided a means of entrance — Jesus, the Christ, lived, died, and rose from the grave that we might live through him. This is wonderfully good news. No longer do we have to stand outside barred from nearness to God by our sin and rebellion. We may now enter through the door of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.

Listen to me, Jesus receives you just as you are, and he receives your prayers just as they are. Just like a small child cannot draw a bad picture, a child of God cannot utter a bad prayer.”

Out Among the Stars

“Oh, how many travelers get weary
Bearing both their burdens and their scars
Don’t you think they’d love to start all over
And fly like eagles out among the stars?”

I had Johnny Cash keeping me company on my drive home from work today. Not literally, as that would be a bit creepy.

I had a CD of his that I checked out from the library. It’s an album of previously unreleased material that Cash recorded back in the early 80’s. I don’t know why these songs didn’t see the light of day until recently. I’m not a music exec.

I do know that the song “Out Among the Stars” spoke to me, particularly the chorus.

How many out there are carrying burdens and scars from a lifetime of things they did and things done to them? How many cry out incessantly for a chance for a do-over?

The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that it is the Gospel of Second Chances and Do-Overs? When you belong to Jesus, what you did in the past no longer matters. It’s who you are now that counts. It’s WHOSE you are now that really counts.

Sure, past actions have present consequences. But those actions don’t have to define you or the choices you make today. They don’t have to determine your future.

There’s a line in an old Switchfoot song that I love: “Every breath is a second chance.” That’s what Jesus offers. Not just one second chance, but multiple do-overs. In fact, each new morning is a clean slate filled with God’s new mercies and lovingkindness.

That’s what I cling to these days. That’s what I hold on to on those dark and dreary days.

By the way, that Johnny Cash CD is worth picking up if you haven’t purchased it already. Just follow this link:

http://www.amazon.com/Out-Among-Stars-Johnny-Cash/dp/B00H5D52VC/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1444098675&sr=1-1&keywords=johnny+cash+out+among+the+stars

A Good Place to Start

It was another good night at Kairos, a young(ish) adult worship event that takes place at 7pm every Tuesday night at Brentwood Baptist Church (shameless plug). It’s located off I-65 exit 71 if you’re ever in the area (another shameless plug).

Tonight, Mike Glenn spoke about how Jesus, who defined how we measure history, came into the world in an inauspicious way. He didn’t come with pomp and circumstance to Jerusalem or Rome. He was born to peasant parents in backwater Bethlehem and the first eyewitnesses to the event were some smelly shepherds keeping their flocks in a nearby field.

The takeaway from tonight? Jesus is looking for a good place to start.

If I can offer up even the most hesitant agreements and the most tentative yes to God, He can completely transform my world and then use me to transform the world around me. I still believe that because I’ve seen it too many times not to believe.

That’s why I love the Christmas story. Jesus didn’t ask us to get our acts together and get cleaned up so we could make our way to Him. While we was still mired in sin, Jesus came down to where we were and became one of us. Not as a high and mighty ruler or a holier-than-thou mystic, but as the son of a carpenter. A regular joe.

By the way, if you come to Kairos, they have free coffee and Cheez-Its. For me, that’s an irresistible draw, but I understand that not everyone has come to truly experience the awesomeness of the little snack crackers known as Cheez-Its. I pray they one day will.

And if you’re stuck in a rut or don’t like where you are, remember that God is always looking for a good place to start. Maybe that next place is in you?

 

The Long and Winding Road

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to” (Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings).

I had another good night in Franklin. I hit all the usual places– McCreary’s Irish Pub, Kilwin’s, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. I had to cut it short when it started to rain.

I also had to improvise a bit for my drive home. Franklin Road going north was blocked off for the Pilgrimage Festival, so I tried a new way. More accurately, I started to try a new way and resorted to GPS when my way led me into unfamiliar territory.

When you’re not sure where you are, i.e. lost, nothing feels better than finding a familiar landmark or street.

When I turned on to Berry’s Chapel Road, I knew I was finally heading in the right direction. It was literally the long and winding road that led me back home.

The faith journey often takes us into unfamiliar territory. Usually, God does that to increase both our awareness of dependence on Him and to grow our faith as we discover new aspects to God’s ability to come through in the clutch.

Sometimes, I’ve been guilty of viewing God as my GPS, a sort of last minute back-up plan in case my own way of getting home fails. Too many of us have prayer and God as a last resort after every other effort has failed.

The lesson from tonight is to start off with prayer. It involves less stress in the end. It also will save you from a lot of heartache and disappointment and distractions that your own “short cuts” inevitably lead to.

One other note: I’d have probably done better if it hadn’t been dark and raining. I probably missed a street or two from not being able to see street signs very well. I think sometimes when you’re tired and frustrated, it’s best not to figure things out because you can’t always see everything properly. And definitely hold off on those emails and posts until you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Just FYI.

 

Today’s Word for the Day– Suffering

“There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter” (Phil. 1:29-30).

Imagine Mr. Fred Rogers in his sweater and sneakers saying something along these lines: Boys and girls, today’s word for the day is suffering.  Can you say suffering? Suh-fer-ring.

Most of the time, I am all about the suffering- avoidance mode. I likes my comfort. I don’t likes to suffer in the least.

I think that what drives most of the consumer market is comfort and convenience. That seems to be the American way, especially in American churches.

Still, the American comfortable middle-class Christianity is an anomaly. For most of the world, to proclaim Christ as Lord is to invite suffering. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

If I’m honest, when I read that suffering is a gift, my first thought is where to go to exchange it for something more comfortable and convenient.

But that’s where you and I find God. C. S. Lewis said that God speaks through our pleasures but shouts to us in our pain. Something about suffering clarifies our perspective and gives us better eyes to see God with.

Also, there is no better testimony than seeing someone willing to sacrifice for their faith. Anyone can believe in something that benefits them tangibly, but it’s quite another when you give up family, houses, and land for what you believe. Jesus Himself said that those people would be rewarded a thousand-times over for what they lose, but the loss is still very much present and real.

Christians all over the world are literally laying down their lives for the Gospel. I believe that the day is coming soon when believers in America will face the choice of denying Christ or death. Maybe not in my lifetime, but soon enough.

Will you and I choose suffering to advance the Gospel? Will we choose the painful path if it means that Jesus is glorified in us?

I pray our answer to both these questions is a resounding YES.

 

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.

 

People and Things That Make Me Really Tired

I used to get upset at a lot of things. Now when I’m confronted by these same things, I feel the overwhelming urge to lie down and take a nap.

Here’s a list of the people and things that make me really tired (note that this is 98% in jest and not to be taken too seriously):

  1. People who won’t speak to you or acknowledge you even when you’re literally sitting right next to them. Is it that hard?
  2. Every piece of electronic equipment that seems to slow down when you’re trying to get through the end of the day.
  3. People who are super impatient and hyper-aggressive drivers that will cut in front of fifteen cars to arrive at their destinations a whopping thirty seconds earlier.
  4. People who still think that spiritual problems have political answers, even after twenty plus years of evidence to the contrary.
  5. People who make lists about people who get on their nerves.
  6. People who are unkind and/or neglectful to animals or children (or other grown people). Kindness literally costs nothing and benefits you greatly, at least a lot more than jerkiness does.
  7. Being up since 5:25 am, which is totally unnatural, unbiblical, and unethical (in my opinion),

Quite honestly, I make my own self tired a lot. I catch myself doing and saying stupid stuff a la Joey Tribbiani. I catch myself thinking judgmentally toward others when  I would expect grace if I were in their shoes.

I think my guardian angel looks at me a lot and shakes his head and face-palms over me on a daily basis. I think I even drive him to drink alcoholic beverages (which is probably frowned upon in heaven).

I know that God looks at me and sees none of the royal mess-ups I make or my daily screw-ups but instead sees the perfection of His Son Jesus. He looks at me more completely and perfectly than anyone else (including me looking at myself in a mirror) and is pleased.

And that, my friends, is the only opinion that matters.

The end.