When The Lights Go Out at Christmas

His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
  A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched” (John 1:4-5).

I had an interesting experience at work today. The lights went out.

I was in the middle of my last mail delivery run when all the lights went out for a split second, long enough to catch everybody by surprise and get them freaked out before the backup generators kicked in and some of the lights came back on. It was weird.

Suddenly, everything seemed more sinister. There’s something about not being able to see everything that unnerves me a little. Maybe that’s from all those scary movies I’ve watched. Maybe that’s from when I was little and was deathly afraid of the dark.

Sometimes life feels like that. It’s like someone switched off the proverbial lights and it’s hard to see where you are or where you’re going. You can’t prepare for what’s coming because you can’t see what’s coming. Sometimes you can’t even see the next step.

Advent is all about a light coming into the darkness. Some translations of John 1 say that the light came into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it. Some say that the darkness could not comprehend it. I’m pulling a Forrest Gump and saying maybe both are right.

You can’t overcome what you do not understand. You will always be overpowered until you gain wisdom and learn a better way.

I love that it only takes one candle to defeat darkness. Or one little night light. I also love what a pastor said. The present state of things in our world isn’t due to the victory of darkness but from a failure of the light to shine. We’ve been silent when we should have spoken and sometimes we’ve spoken when we should have been silent (and maybe more discerning about what and when to speak).

 

Things I Love 29: She’s The Tear That Hangs Inside my Soul Forever

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“How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can’t I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

Just to give you a context for this particular blog, I have the TV on. Late Night with Conan O’Brien to be specific. So I apologize in advance for any random goofiness that filters into this blog. Oh wait. That’s filters in every other time. Never Mind. Back to #836.

836) Impromptu dashes to Starbucks in the pouring rain for a cold foam mocha that was totally worth it.

837) A tall glass of orange juice.

838) Conan’s wacky brand of humor.

839) Watching a thunderstorm from a safe place.

840) Hugging my grandmother and telling her I love her.

841) The way my little niece’s eyes light up when she sees me.

842) The way the song “Easy to Love” as sung by Ella Fitzgerald perfectly captures the way I feel about a certain someone.

843) Any day without Fox News.

844) Bacon.

845) Kevin Bacon (just because he’s the coolest . . . and in a very non-gay way).

846) Peanut M & Ms

847) The most recent screen adaptation of Les Miserables.

848) Changing machines that could turn my brother into a puppy (if only I had a brother).

849) Finally getting past level 33 in Candy Crush Saga.

850) Melatonin that helps me sleep at night.

851) James Bond movie marathons.

852) Encouraging facebook messages sent at just the right time.

853) Remembering when Bruce Willis had hair.

854) BOTH pairs of  Crocs that I still wear, regardless of whether they are in fashion anymore or not.

855) Every single episode of Firefly and the movie follow-up called Serenity.

856) Pretty much everything Joss Whedon has ever been associated with.

857) The peace of God that comes out of nowhere when I least expect or deserve it.

858) The drive-in movie theatre in Watertown.

859) Driving anywhere late at night with good friends.

860) That the wheels on the bus DO go round and round.

861) That Nosferatu is still the creepiest and most effective adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

862) God picking me up every single time I fall.

863) The concept of flying monkeys. Brilliant.

864) The ending of It’s a Wonderful Life that tears me up every single time.

865) That the thief on the cross was the first person Jesus welcomed into heaven.

866) Never having seen a single episode of Honey Boo Boo (a record I intend to keep going).

867) The first two Die Hard movies (after that. . . . not so much).

868) True beauty that comes from within.

869) Those rare moments when I am totally selfless and God-focused.

870) That God knows me and calls me by name.

Things I Love 28: ‘Cause It’s The End of The World As We Know It . . . And I Feel Fine

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“When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?” (Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

I think part of joy is being okay with not knowing the answers or how any given story within the Greater Story will end. It’s having peace in the midst of so much that remains unresolved and unexplained. And if that doesn’t work, eat a cookie. That always makes me feel better. So here we are coming down to the last few blogs of the series, starting at #801.

801) That a colossal and epic fiasco such as King David could be called later “a man after God’s own heart,” proving that what matters isn’t so much how big your failure was, but how great God is to turn even that into something praiseworthy and good.

802) The avocado lime ranch dressing I had on my Cobb salad tonight at Chick-fil-A.

803) The fact that Aslan a.k.a. Jesus isn’t safe but He’s good.

804) The amazing illustrations by Alan Lee in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit commemorative editions.

805) When in the middle of an already fantastic Buddy Miller/Jim Lauderdale/Patty Griffin concert they brought out Robert Plant to do a few songs. Only in Nashville.

806) Walking in downtown Nashville at night in the rain.

807) How the love of Abba Father for His children will never come to an end.

808) Looking through old high school and college yearbooks.

809) The Neverending Story.

810) When my church celebrates those rare couples who have been married 50 years or longer (and how much collective wisdom is in one room at one time on those nights).

811) Thinking about a particular song and then hearing it on the radio.

812) Tuesday nights.

813) Nights that turn into mornings, friends that turn into family, dreams that turn into reality, and likes that turn into love (borrowed from a Facebook post).

814) The episode of Friends with the couch– “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”

815) Reading through the Catholic Bible in 2013 (or as I like to call it, The Director’s Cut of the Bible).

816) That if I love God with everything and love my neighbor as I love myself I fulfill the Whole Law.

817) That Jesus already fulfilled the Whole Law in my place and traded His perfection for my poor efforts.

818) Heaven being described as that feeling you get on the first day of summer break from school and knowing that feeling will last forever.

819) The neverending possibility of God breaking through into my life at any moment.

820) Cheese crackers.

821) Having a car with 127,000 miles on it.

822) Being left-handed (at least when it comes to writing and eating).

823) The way Mike Glenn used the lyrics to a Jackson Browne song so effectively in his sermon last Sunday.

824) Marvin the Martian and his tennis shoes always wanting to blow up the Earth.

825) Not being married to any of the Kardashians.

826) The occasional scary movie.

827) Everything Elvis ever recorded at Sun Studio.

828) Johnny Cash’s autobiography (the one called Cash).

829) The way my cat looks at me sometimes as if to say, “Seriously, dude?”

830) The recent fact I learned that every face you dream about is of someone you’ve seen before, even if only for a fleeting moment.

831) Mustard-sized faith that moves mountains.

832) Just about all the movies Tom Hanks made in the 80’s.

833) Always having a second chance because of Jesus.

834) The movie Clueless.

835) “The Living Years” by Mike + The Mechanics.

Things I Love 27: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

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Even on a Monday there’s plenty to be thankful for. In fact, having a mindset of thankfulness can make even the worst of Mondays bearable and even good. And even the worst of Mondays are only 24 hours. Unless you’re Bill Murray on Groundhog Day. Then good luck. On to #761.

761) Hiking the Ganier Ridge trail at Radner Lake in the rain.

762) Knowing that even the worst of days last only 24 hours.

763) Seeing a baby deer with its mother.

764) The thought of having a bowl of cereal as a reward for finishing this blog.

765) Yard sales and garage sales.

766) Looking forward to another Kairos tomorrow night.

767) Being 100% condemnation-free in Christ.

768) Rescued pets.

769) Finally releasing my cares into the more than capable hands of Jesus.

770) Corn on the cob.

771) Being reminded of my dependence on Jesus and how it’s not up to me.

772) All those Back to the Future movies (even that confusing Part II).

773) Knowing that Jesus won’t ever give up on me.

774) That knowing is half the battle– thanks to the 80’s G. I. Joe cartoons for that reminder.

775) That all I have to to is stand and watch and God will fight my battles for me.

776) A good game of gin rummy (even though I never ever win).

777) The possibility, however remote, of going on a date with Kari Jobe.

778) Watching Halloween and Halloween II back-to-back on Halloween night.

779) Remembering all those late nights at Perkin’s when I was a student at Union.

780) That tree-lined road between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

781) Those moments of clarity in the middle of the hazy days.

782) That God didn’t give me most of the things I prayed for.

783) The Pauline Baynes illustrations in The Chronicles of Narnia.

784) The fruit tea at Calypso Cafe.

785) Fried chicken at family reunions.

786) Bette Davis in Now, Voyager.

787) Picnics at Arrington Vineyards on Sunday afternoons.

788) How my cat looks so peaceful and serene when she’s sleeping.

789) Victor Hugo’s beautiful story of redemption and hope in Les Miserables.

790) Wading in a creek on an especially hot and humid day.

791) How much better I feel right now than when I started this blog.

792) Serving breakfast at an ungodly hour at the Nashville Rescue Mission.

793) Pure 100% Vermont maple syrup.

794) The beautiful and sad movie, Bright Star.

795) Not ever giving up on people because God never gave up on me.

796) Vh1’s Behind The Music– especially about the bands I loved growing up.

797) Whitney Houston’s 1991 version of The Star-Spangled Banner.

798) High fives and fist bumps.

799) Oscillating fans.

800) Whoever came up with the brilliant idea of those combination squirt guns and portable fans.

Falling Leaves

I love autumn. I especially love the keen bite of the crisp October air and the leaves changing colors and the smell of bonfires. I am a fall kind of guy.

I think it’s gotten into the mid-40’s in Nashville and that means a few traditions for me:

1) It’s time for me to start watching my scary movies in anticipation of Halloween, such as the Halloween movies and Rosemary’s Baby. I throw in the Halloween Charlie Brown special, not because it’s scary, but because it’s tradition and required by law to watch every October (or it should be).

2) It’s getting close to time for pumpkin carving and that yearly debate about what costume I will wear on October 31 (and yes, I still do wear costumes, though they tend to be last minute, Goodwill-bought variety).

3) Hopefully, it means hay rides and corn mazes and bonfires and roasted marsh mellows (I like mine blackened just a bit on the outside).

4) It means that Thanksgiving and the mad rush to Christmas will be just around the proverbial corner and that all the festive holiday decor will start showing up in your local Walgreens and other retail outlets in the next couple of weeks, if they aren’t already pulling out the ornaments and tinsel as I write this.

5) I don’t know why, but fall tends to bring back all my happy childhood memories. Maybe it’s the smell of fall that triggers these memories. I’m not sure.

6) I almost forgot. Fall means the return of the seasonal Starbucks drinks, including caramel apple spice, pumpkin spice and– my favorite– chegnogg, which for the uninitiated is chai egg nog late. I very highly recommend it.

I thought about posting a pretty picture of falling leaves or something very autumn-y, but I am feeling lazy and sleepy at the moment, so just use your imagination. It’s more fun that way.