Thankful on Memorial Day

I know it’s not national BBQ day. I know this holiday really isn’t about sitting out by the pool or grilling hot dogs. I do know that we have the liberty to do such things because of the bravery and sacrifice of so many– the real reason for Memorial Day.

I never served in the military. I’ve never been in combat. I can’t imagine what they’ve seen or had to do and what the ones who survive deal with on a daily basis.

All I can do is be thankful. I understand that the price for my freedom is never free, and the right to speak my mind as I please was bought and paid for in blood.

Thank you, solders, for your bravery. Thanks especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and never got to see again to the land they loved.

I’m thankful that God in Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for me so that I could live. So that I could be forgiven and redeemed.

I hope and pray none of us ever take our freedoms for granted ever. We are truly blessed to have them.

 

 

Give Blood

I did my civic duty today and donated blood. I know that you’re always supposed to give 100% at whatever you do, but I thought in this case to hold back a little. Just a tad.

Sure, there’s a time inconvenience. Plus, there’s that super humongous needle they stick in your arm (or at least it seems that way when you’re staring at it up close and personal).

But the payoff is worth way more than whatever costs are involved.

Who knows but one day you may be the one in the emergency room needing a pint of blood? Or it might be your son or your daughter on that operating table.

I don’t normally write blog posts telling you to do stuff, but I really believe that this is one case where your contribution actually makes a tangible difference.

Whenever I give blood, I’m reminded that my own life was saved by blood. The Apostle Peter reminds us of the true cost of our salvation: “You know that a price was paid to redeem you from following the empty ways handed on to you by your ancestors; it was not paid with things that perish (like silver and gold), but with the precious blood of the Anointed, who was like a perfect and unblemished sacrificial lamb (1 Peter 2:18-19).

Blood is life and Jesus, unlike me, did opt to give 100%. He didn’t spare a drop. He looked at you and me and said, “They may not amount to much in the eyes of most people, but in My eyes, they are completely worth the sacrifice.”

Ultimately, we give because He gave. We love because He first loved us. That’s the key to everything.

So give blood. It’s an easy way to pay it forward and live out the gratitude for what others (and God) have done for you over the years.

Who knows? The life you save could very well be your own.

 

The Fasting and the Feast

“When the fast, the death, the sacrifice of the gospel is omitted from the Christian life, then it isn’t Christian at all. Not only that its boring. If I just want to feel good or get self-help, I’ll buy a $12 book from Borders and join a gym. The church the Bible described is exciting and adventurous and wrought with sacrifice. It costs believers everything and they still came. It was good news to the poor and stumped its enemies. The church was patterned after a Savior who had no place to lay his head and voluntarily died a brutal death, even knowing we would reduce the gospel to a self-serving personal improvement program where people were encouraged to make a truce with their Maker and stop sinning and join the church, when in fact the gospel does not call for a truce but a complete surrender.
Jesus said the kingdom was like a treasure hidden in a field, and once someone truly finds it, he will happily sell everything he owns to possess that field. a perfect description of the fasting and the feast. It will cost everything, but it is a treasure and an unfathomable joy. This is the balance of the kingdom; to live we must die, to be lifted we bow, to gain we must lose. There is no alternative definition, no path of least resistance, no treasure in the field without the sacrifice of everything else” (Jen Hatmaker, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Access).

So I finished reading the book 7. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s tired of the same old same old and is looking for something fresh and different. It’s for those who are weary of the prevalence of consumeristic Christianity that has overtaken much of America’s churches, along with a definite trend toward style over substance.

Most of what passes for the gospel these days is either some form of sin management, self-help program, or a variation of the “I’m okay, you’re okay, everyone’s okay.” The Apostle Paul said very clearly more than once that even if he or an angel should proclaim any other kind of gospel other than the gospel of Jesus as presented and expounded upon in the writings of Paul, let him (or her) be condemned.

I was convicted in several areas about my own excesses and my bouts of self-centeredness in opposition to serving others. We in this country have the means to alleviate a lot of the world’s suffering, but we choose rather to spend on lavish buildings   with the latest technologies and comforts. In other words, we’d rather spend it on ourselves.

So I’m telling you to run to your local bookstore (or your local laptop and your local amazon website) to get this book. You will not regret it.

 

What Makes Someone Attractive

I heard something at Kairos that impacted me in a powerful way– looks will make you look, but they are not what make you attractive. What makes you attractive is who you are, your character, at the deepest level.

Your attractiveness comes from how much you serve and invest in those around you. It’s about how you pour your life into your friends and family. The most beautiful thing about a person is a servant’s heart shining through.

If all your relationships are based on is looks and appearances, you’re destined for a series of shallow, skin-deep relationships that can never satisfy the deep hunger within. The best relationships are born out of being deeply loved by God and serving out of the vast overflow of that love.

True love is always others-centered. It’s counter-cultural in a culture that defines love with a “what can do you for me?” kind of attitude.

If you look at love at its best and the ultimate example of attractiveness, look at the cross. Look at Jesus forgiving those who put Him up there. Look at the most extraordinary example of sacrifice in history.

2,000 years later, no one can deny that that pivotal moment completely altered history and civilization. People are still drawn to images of Jesus hanging on that cross for love of you and me.

In an age where it’s all about “taking care of me first” and “looking out for number one,” the most attractive thing you can do is to serve someone with no other ulterior motive than for the joy of giving. The way you invest in those around you with no expectation of them ever returning the favor is what makes you beautiful.

You are never more like Jesus than when you wash the feet of others, when you serve the least of these. There can be nothing more attractive than that.

 

A Maundy Thursday Prayer

I copied this from another blog because it spoke so deeply to me on this Maundy Thursday. Here is a prayer from Henri Nouwen:

“I am looking to you, Lord. You have said so many loving words. Your heart has spoken so clearly. Now you want to show me even more clearly how much you love me. Knowing that your Father has put everything in your hands, that you have come from God and are returning to God, you remove your outer garments and, taking a towel, you wrap it around your waist, pour water into a basin and begin to wash my feet, and then wipe them with the towel you are wearing …

You look at me with utter tenderness, saying, ‘I want you to be with me. I want you to have a full share in my life. I want you to belong to me as much as I belong to my Father. I want to wash you completely clean so that you and I can be one and so that you can do to others what I have done to you.’

I am looking at you again, Lord. You stand up and invite me to the table. As we are eating, you take bread, say the blessing, break the bread, and give it to me. ‘Take and eat,’ you say, ‘this is my body given for you.’ Then you take a cup, and, after giving thanks, you hand it to me, saying, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant poured out for you.’ Knowing that your hour has come to pass from this world to your Father and having loved me, you now love me to the end. You give me everything that you have and are. You pour out for me your very self. All the love that you carry for me in your heart now becomes manifest. You wash my feet and then give me your own body and blood as food and drink” (Henri Nouwen).

Maundy Thursday is the best example of true love. It’s love that is expressed not just in kind words and poetic sentiments but is lived out in sacrificial deeds. It is the supreme selfless love that goes out to people undeserving and often unwilling to receive such love.

May that kind of love fully dwell within our hearts so that we can in turn show love in the breaking of bread and washing of feet and selfless service with those with whom we live and work and play.

 

What Love Is

“Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all” (Joni Mitchell)

It’s Valentines Day, a. k. a. Single Awareness Day. It’s great for those who are in relationships (or who still have great hopes of relationships). For those who are perpetually single who spend way too much time with their cats? Not so much.

Still, I’ve been around enough to know what real love is and is not. So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the matter.

Love is not a feeling. Well, it is, but it’s so much more than that. I heard a pastor today say that love involves the head, the heart, and the hands. Love is primarily a choice, an act of the will– that’s the head. It’s also emotions– that’s the heart. It always leads to acts of selflessness– that’s the hands.

Love is not just romantic. There’s brotherly love and comfort love and– best of all– that unconditional love that always starts and ends with God.

If I say I love someone, that means more than a warm fuzzy feeling or a Hallmark sentiment. It is a decision to place that person’s welfare above my own, to do everything in my power to help that person realize all their potential and help them to become everything God created them to be.

That’s love.

If you want to define love, you begin and end with God’s ultimate expression of Himself in the person of Jesus. He gave up absolutely everything for you and me. His sacrifice forever set the tone of what true love should look like.

I believe love isn’t Romeo and Juliet dying for passion, but the old couple down the street growing old together. it’s the man with arthritis painting the toenails of his wife who has Alzheimer’s and can’t begin to repay him, much less express thanks for what he’s done.

Love is always sacrifice. Ultimately, love means you give without expecting anything in return. The final word on love is Jesus dying on a cross for people who would ultimately reject His sacrifice and many more who accept it and then take it for granted. Yet, that love perseveres.

That’s love. I don’t completely understand all of it, but I know that I can only love someone else if God first loved me and His love in me flows out to the other person.

I definitely know I want more of it.

 

 

In Whatever You Do

“Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father” (Colossians 3:17 VOICE).

So, this is my 1,955th blog. Tonight, I revisited an old classic, To Catch a Thief, from the year 1955. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s always nice when a Wednesday turns into a Friday. For the lucky ones (like me), that means that we get both Thanksgiving Day and The Day After Thanksgiving (also known in some circles as Black Friday) off from work.

I’m thinking about these words. Whatever you do, do it all in the name of Jesus, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.

Do it all for the glory of God out of a spirit of thanksgiving. How appropriate is this verse? Maybe that’s why the good folks at Bible Gateway chose this to be their verse of the day on this November 25, 2015.

Today, I am thankful for my job. I’m thankful for my car that got me to my job. I’m thankful for good health and legs that were able to get me to my car, which got me to my job.

I’m thankful for friends who refuse to accept bumper sticker answers to hard questions. I’m thankful that I have friends who have stuck around when maybe they shouldn’t have.

I’m thankful for the abundance of turkeys who made the ultimate sacrifice for our feasts tomorrow. Your sacrifice will not be in vain. Trust me.

I’m thankful for 15-year old furry babies who still like to curl up in my lap and lower my blood pressure in the process.

I’m thankful for every single day that I get to live and remember those who didn’t get that chance.

I’m just plain thankful.

The end.

 

 

Helping Hands and More of What Love Looks Like

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (Philippians 2:3-4, MSG).

A lot of this is antithetical to what you will read in those self-help books or hear in those leadership seminars.

But it’s the Way of Jesus and the Way of the Cross, and that has always been the Narrow Road that few have chosen.

Put simply, love means sacrifice. Love means giving up your rights to help someone else and make their life better. Again, that is polar opposite to the “love as warm fuzzies” sentiment that you hear in most top-40 radio.

I don’t claim to be an expert on love in any of its forms, but I do claim to be loved by the Ultimate Expert. In fact, the God who loves me unconditionally invented all four of the kinds of love (eros, phileo, storge, and agape). The Apostle John goes so far as to say that God is love, whoever doesn’t love doesn’t know God. That’s hardcore.

That means if I say I love God, then I must love the unloveable. I must love those everyone else walks away from and rejects. I must even love myself when I’m at my worst, because God did (and still does).

I’ve heard once that when you don’t feel love for someone, act in a loving way as if you felt love. Keep putting their needs above your own, keep helping them realize all of their God-given potential, keep building them up, and then the feelings will come later.

I’m a student who still has a long way to go in the school of love, but I have the best possible Teacher.

 

 

God Can Do Anything 

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Repeat after me: God can do anything.

Repeat it again: God can do anything.

Once more with feeling: God can do anything.

Got that?

Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing. And your circumstances are not the exception to the rule. You are not the odd man out, the freak that God looks at and says, “I can’t do anything with this one.”

No matter what you’re facing, God is stronger. No matter how dark it gets, God can still see you. No matter how long it seems to take, God has not stopped working.

I remind you yet again of what a pastor said: “What seems impossible to us is not even remotely difficult for God.”

If God can create the universe in seven days, then He can create order out of your chaos.

If God brought Jesus back from the dead, then He can resurrect the ashes of your dreams into something far more glorious and beautiful than you ever dreamed possible.

If God loved you enough to save you at your worst, what makes you think He will stop loving you now?

Don’t trust your feelings. They lie. Anything and everything affects them, from eating too much spicy food to way too much caffeine late at night.

Make this your mantra: God works all things together for those whom He loves.

Even when your feelings, your senses, your intuition tells you other wise, this is still true. It will always be true.

 

Happy Birthday, ‘Murica!

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The nation whose True God is the Eternal is truly blessed;
    fortunate are all whom He chooses to inherit His legacy” (Psalm 33:12, The Voice).

Well, America is 239 years old today. And she doesn’t look a day over 190. Tops.

Today is the day we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, which said that we would no longer be colonies of Great Britain, but that we would indeed be the United States of America.

Today is a good day to remember all the freedoms that we normally take for granted.

The freedom to worship as you choose? Or not to worship at all? Don’t take that for granted.

The freedom to live as you choose? Don’t take that for granted either.

The freedom to disagree with each other (and hopefully be civil about it) and to even disagree with the powers that be? Definitely do not take that one for granted.

Many have fought and died for your freedoms. People through the ages have sacrificed greatly so that they could come to this great land of opportunity to find new lives here.

Is America perfect? Of course not.

Does she have a lot in her past to be ashamed of? Yes.

Does she also have a lot in her past to be proud of? Absolutely.

Remember this — as believers, we are ultimately not citizens of America (or any other country). We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. When all other kingdoms have fallen (including the one under the red, white, and blue flag), this Kingdom will stand.

Your ultimate allegiance isn’t to a flag or to a president or to a political party or to an ideal.

Your ultimate allegiance is to a King and a Kingdom. to Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Now go be patriotic and eat lots of grilled meats and drink lots of carbonated beverages!

“All religious and political systems, Right and Left alike, are the work of human beings. Abba’s children will not sell their birthright for any mess of pottage, conservative or liberal. They hold fast to their freedom in Christ to live the gospel-uncontaminated by cultural junk, political wreckage, and the complex hypocrisies of a bullying religion” (Brennan Manning).