Safe Places

“…maybe on the days we want out of our lives — it isn’t so much that we want to die from shame, but *hide* from shame. But let’s remember: shame gets unspeakable power only if it’s unspeakable. Shame dies when stories are told in safe places.
You know what? Your scars are proof that you’re a kind of bulletproof — because living through the hardest battles proves you can live through any battle. You can trace those scars and let it feed your courage and feel no shame for the wars you’ve come through, no shame for any of your broken.
And tonight we’re just going to take heart — take His heart
and pour a brave and willing love like His
over all the open wounds…
that we may even now
take hope” (Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way). 
#TheBrokenWay #StrengethingPrayers

Normally, I like to share my own thoughts, but this one practically begged me to share it. I’m positive that someone out there needs this tonight, someone who’s battled shame for a long time and needs to know that there’s hope and freedom just around the corner in one of those safe places.

You’ll never know the freedom over the power of shame until you can find your brave and share your stories– even the hardest and most shameful ones. As my pastor said, healing takes place when the worst moment of your life that you never thought you’d ever share with another living soul becomes the first line of your testimony of God’s deliverance.

My prayer is that you’ll find someone and somewhere safe to tell your shameful secrets so that they no longer hold you captive. Then perhaps your story will encourage someone else to tell his or her story. Someone will her their own story in your words and find their own healing.


Don’t Panic

“Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” (Isaiah 41:10).

There’s a wonderful series of books called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which all sorts of sci-fi shenanigans occur and in which one electronic book features prominently, the book after which the series is named, On the cover in big friendly letters are the words “Don’t Panic!”

I think that’s very good advice for these uncertain days.

No matter which way you lean politically, the end is not nigh if the opposition wins. America is not done for if “they” win.

No matter how out of control you feel right now, despair will not have the last word.

No matter how much you avoid looking in the mirror because you detest the image looking back, those voices in your head will not have the last word.

God will have the last word. Jesus already had the last words when He cried out on the cross: “It is finished!”

For those who have clung to the cross as their last desperate hope, victory is the final word. Peace is the final word. Joy is the final word.

I have read the last word of the last page of the Great Story. It is Amen. The Bible ends with the promise that the final victory is for all those who will simply drop their pretenses and come.

That’s the invitation. Come to Jesus just as you are, not after you’ve cleaned yourself up and pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps and vastly improved your morality. Just come, you and your scars and regrets and shame. He will never cast out anyone who comes to Him in earnest faith.



Holy Ground



I watched Scent of a Woman for the first time tonight, and I really liked it. Okay, so I was biased by the film’s autumn setting. Any movie that’s set around the fall season is automatically a winner in my book. Especially if the background is a historic school campus.

There was a shot of the school’s motto in some shots that I noticed. It said,” The place where people meet to seek the highest is holy ground.”

That’s worship. Seeking the highest. What else is there that’s higher than God and what other purpose do we have other than to seek out the God who created and sustains everything that is?

The beauty of it is that God didn’t wait for us to seek Him. He didn’t play celestial hide and seek with us and manufacture a bunch of rules in order for us to get to the place where we could find us. We don’t have to speak any dead languages or perform secret rites or know the right people, because we have a direct line to the throne of God. We don’t have to find a way to get to God because God has already made a way for us to come.

No. God came to us in Jesus. God found us. After all, we were (and still are sometimes) the ones who were lost. We’re the ones running and hiding. Or more accurately, trying to hide like Adam and Eve in the garden with their makeshift fig-leaf outfits and overwhelming fear and shame.

Worship is seeking that which wants to be found and has already found us. Worship isn’t a demand made of us so that we can hope to gain God’s favor but a privilege given to those who already have it. While worship may be all about extolling the greatness of God, it’s also where our greatest good and our greatest joy can be found.

By the way, the movie was really good. Al Pacino deserved his Best Actor Academy Award for sure. And the falling leaves were pretty.




A Legacy of Love That Includes YOU

 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

I attend The Church at Avenue South. Somewhere in the neighborhood of two years ago, some members of Brentwood Baptist Church had a dream about reaching out to the residents of the Melrose and Berry Hill area for Jesus and set out to make that dream a reality. They were told that it was impossible to find a place in the area for a church to meet. God proved them wrong.

45 years ago, Brentwood Baptist Church was the dream in the minds of some people from Woodmont Baptist Church. People told them that to plant a church in Brentwood was a pipe dream– there would never be enough people to warrant a church in the area. God again proved them wrong.

In 1941, someone had the vision to start Woodmont Baptist Church itself. 74 years later, who knows how many people have been affected by that one simple act of obedience? Who knows how far the ripples will reach from that one stone’s throw?

You are part of a legacy of love. Even if you don’t know it, you have a crowd cheering you on and rooting for you. Whether that’s your physical family or your spiritual family or even those who have gone on and are watching from heaven, you have people who are on your side. Even Jesus Himself roots for you and intercedes for you.

It’s easy on the dark days to feel alone, that you don’t matter, that nothing you do makes any difference. It’s easy to think that nothing will ever change for the better, that this is as good as it will ever get.

Don’t let that be the final word. Let what Jesus has declared be the final word. What did He declare? That He would finish what He started in you, that He had plans for you not for barm but for hope and a future for you, that eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love Him (and those He loves).

Let this Monday be the day that you run your race faithfully, knowing you have a legacy both behind and ahead of you, cheering you on and being inspired by you to run their own race.


Throwing Rocks 2


It almost always happens when I write one of these blogs that I will remember something I left out. In this case, it was when I woke up in the middle of the night around 2 am that I remembered what specifically I left out.

Maybe the person who needs your forgiveness the most is you.

Even if someone else did the wounding, it’s easy to blame yourself for letting it happen. Especially if the abuse went on for some time. You stayed and made excuses and didn’t run when you had the chance. So a part of you feels that you deserve what you got.

First of all, you don’t.

And second, you survived. You’re still here, which counts as a win in my book.

Sometimes, you just need to forgive yourself for not living up to your own unrealistic expectations. Or to the expectations that the culture and society has hoodwinked you into believing were essential to your success.

You need to know that God’s plan for you is your own and no one else’s. Maybe you’re not where everyone else seems to be at this point in your life. But you are where God put you. Where God wants you to be. Where God is using you and molding you and making you more like Jesus. And that is by far the best place to be.

I know I’d rather have Jesus and nothing else than to have everything else and not have Jesus.

So everything I said about laying those rocks down and building that altar still applies, even the person who you’re aiming at is your own reflection in the mirror. Let the altar be as a reminder of the time when you stopped letting your failures or unmet expectations or your shame define you. When you started to let your Creator define you.

I think that pretty much covers it.

Expensive Mistakes, Shame, and other Random Tuesday Night Thoughts


Have you ever made an expensive mistake?

Immediately, I think of the movie Elizabethtown and the character Drew Baylor. He created a shoe which ended up costing the company he worked for close to $1 billion. It was, in his words, a fiasco.

There’s a great line from the movie:

“As somebody once said, there’s a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is simply the non-present of success. Any fool can accomplish failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. A fiasco is a folktale told to others, that makes other people feel more… alive. Because it didn’t happen to them.”

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe your mistake wasn’t worth $1 billion. Maybe it was worth $10,000. Or maybe it just ruined a relationship. Or a reputation.

Maybe you feel the familiar nagging sensation of shame, never overpowering but always there, lurking nearby.

Tonight’s guest speaker at Kairos spoke of how two different people in the Bible dealt with shame in radically different ways:

Judas betrayed Jesus and ended up hanging himself, while Peter denied knowing Jesus and ended up hanging around. Not only that, the shame turned into an opportunity for God to use him in ways he probably never would have thought possible.

The speaker said something that I’ll never forget. He said something to the effect that Judas hung himself by his shame because he didn’t know that Jesus hung on the cross for his shame.

The cross means that shame has no more power over your (or my) life ever again. Shame has lost the power to speak into our lives because Jesus took those failures, those fiascos, those worst moments upon Himself on the cross. He took them to the grave, but when He arose on Easter morning, He left them behind, utterly defeated and powerless.

You are not defined by your fiascos or those moments of shame any longer. You are defined by what Jesus did for you and by who you are now in the power of His resurrection. You are defined as beloved child of God in whom He is well pleased.

Shame is all about your past. Jesus wants you to go forward and live in the future He has for you, not in that past any longer.


Out of Control


Has there ever been a moment in your life when you felt out of control? Like when you stopped and looked around and wondered how in the heck you got there and how you’d ever get out of the mess you’d made?

I think EVERYBODY has felt that way to some degree or other. Kinda like King David, who started out lusting after a neighbor’s wife and ended up with not only adultery but lying and mass murder thrown in. It took a bold prophet named Nathan to get David out of his downward spiral.

You will at some point get yourself into a hot mess. You will wonder how you could have been so STUPID. You may well wonder if escape is even a possibility.

I love what I heard someone say: it’s never too late on this side of heaven to become what you might have been. It’s never too late to become the dream God had when He thought you up and gave you a purpose before anything was made. That gives me hope.

That means that those days that seem wasted, those years that seem lost have really served a purpose– to get you to where you are, with all your life experiences, good and bad, all your successes and failures– to be the person God can use to do what NO ONE else can do, to the calling only YOU can fulfill.

Even if you’re an 80-year old backwoods shepherd like Moses. Or a nobody sitting in a prison like Joseph.

God can take nobodies and confound all those who think they’re somebodies. He uses the lowly and the nothings in the world to shame all those who think they’re hot stuff. That’s my take on 1 Corinthians 1:25-30. Or as one translation puts it:

You can count on this: God’s foolishness will always be wiser than mere human wisdom, and God’s weakness will always be stronger than mere human strength.

Look carefully at your call, brothers and sisters. By human standards, not many of you are deemed to be wise. Not many are considered powerful. Not many of you come from royalty, right? But celebrate this: God selected the world’s foolish to bring shame upon those who think they are wise; likewise, He selected the world’s weak to bring disgrace upon those who think they are strong. God selected the common and the castoff, whatever lacks status, so He could invalidate the claims of those who think those things are significant. So it makes no sense for any person to boast in God’s presence. Instead, credit God with your new situation: you are united with Jesus the Anointed. He is God’s wisdom for us and more. He is our righteousness and holiness and redemption.”


Crazy Little Thing Called Fear


I’ve heard that the command “Don’t be afraid” (or some variation of it) occurs 365 times in the Bible. Then I read somewhere else that it’s nowhere near that many times. I’ve read arguments on both sides.

First of all, is it really necessary to argue over everything? Is it so all-important to be proven right all the time?

I know this command is used more than the commands to “Love others” or “Tithe more” or any other. I know it’s because we’re fearful people, prone to worrying. I’ve known fear for much of my own life. Too much in fact.

Jon Acuff mentioned that his favorite verse about fear comes in Matthew where Jesus tells us we are worth more than birds, whom the Father feeds and clothes and takes care of. He uses the most common example so there’s practically nowhere I can go without a visual reminder of why it’s safe to trust Jesus instead of listening to my fears.

Fear has kept me bound to the past, to shame, to the humdrum. Fear has kept me from stepping out on adventures and trying new things.

Maybe fear has kept you from asking that certain someone out on a date.

Maybe fear has kept you from going deeper in your marriage and dealing with all those unresolved issues.

Maybe fear has kept you bound to a job you hate, to a routine that feels more like a rut, to a life without much meaning.

There’s no such thing as a comfortable adventure or a safe quest. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear, but going forward even though you feel like crying and throwing up and passing out all at the same time.

I’ve always loved this definition of courage: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

May you find that the perfect love of Jesus really does cast out all fear.

May you step out in faith even in the midst of fear to find out the bridge built on planks of thanksgiving and joy really does hold (thanks to Ann Voskamp for that one) and that Jesus will be with you in the fieriest furnaces and the darkest nights and the coldest days.

Fear ends. The love of Jesus never will.

That’s where my hope lies.

Pre-WordPress Writings Part 5

An poem I wrote back in the day

18 March 2010

The Prodigal is You 
How tragic is the mess I made 
And I no better than a slave 
Yet to me the world You gave 
The Prodigal is You 
How blessed just to be the one 
For whom the Father-King would run 
To kiss my cheek and call me, “Son” 
The Prodigal is You 

You wore the robe that I defiled 
And gave Your own to this mean child 
Your love carried me all the while 
The Prodigal is You 

No more fear

29 March 2010


I have a confession to make. Well, another confession. I have been afraid for most of my adult life. I have lived in fear, which is not really living at all, but existing. Passing time. Waiting it out. I have not taken chances. I have played it safe. I have taken the road well-traveled and regretted every single time not taking that other road. I have been nice and timid and ignored, and I deserved to be ignored, because I was boring. 

I am so done with fear. Do you hear me world? Do you hear me, Satan? I refuse to let fear dictate anymore who I am and what I do. I refuse to sit quietly when I should take a stand. I will take chances, because the old motto says “Those who risk, win.” I will learn to live my life to the fullest and be willing to fall on my face a few times. 

Those of you who knew me a month ago, that is not me anymore. I am so done with that life. This is me now, standing bodly and proclaiming that MY GOD HAS LOVED ME PERFECTLY AND THAT PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT ALL FEAR!!!!!

You Know My Name

12 March 2010


When I am alone and nobody seems to care, 
Lord, You know my name. 
When I am ignored in a crowd, 
Lord, You know my name. 
When I am screaming inside with a smile on my face, 
Lord, You know my name. 
When I have one more step left in me before I quit, 
Lord, You know my name. 
When I have all that I want and am still empty, 
Lord, You know my name. 
When I forget You and walk away from Your promises, 
Lord, You know my name. 
When I am in heaven and see You waiting for me there, 
Lord, You know my name. 
For it is written in stone and on Your heart.

A Little Sunday Perspective


“Look carefully at your call, brothers and sisters. By human standards, not many of you are deemed to be wise. Not many are considered powerful. Not many of you come from royalty, right? But celebrate this: God selected the world’s foolish to bring shame upon those who think they are wise; likewise, He selected the world’s weak to bring disgrace upon those who think they are strong. God selected the common and the castoff, whatever lacks status, so He could invalidate the claims of those who think those things are significant. So it makes no sense for any person to boast in God’s presence. Instead, credit God with your new situation: you are united with Jesus the Anointed. He is God’s wisdom for us and more. He is our righteousness and holiness and redemption. As the Scripture says: “If someone wants to boast, he should boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

Hi. My name is Greg and I used to be a nobody with no hope, no purpose, and no future. I was hopelessly lost and about as far from God as humanly possible.

Then Jesus found me.

Those of you who know my story might be scratching your heads right now and asking, “Weren’t you 7 when you got saved? What bad things could you possibly have done at age 7?”

Well, according to the Bible, anyone without Christ is dead in sins and alienated from God. That was me.

I look back at when Jesus found me. I don’t remember the exact day or feelings I had. I do know Jesus changed me and has been transforming me ever since. I do know I got a direction, a purpose, a new name, and a future.

According to Forbes or GQ or Entertainment Weekly, I am a nobody. But Jesus knows my name. That more than makes up for looking like a fool and an idiot in the eyes of the world for what I believe and how I live my life.

Jesus knows my name.

I can’t get over that.

At least when I’m not caught up in mind games about how this person may or may not like me. Or how I might have offended this or that person.

If I have everything the world has to offer and don’t have Jesus, I really have nothing. I lose. If I have Jesus and absolutely nothing else, I have everything. I win.

I am so forgetful about what really matters. The best things in life aren’t free; they’re not even things. They are the people God brings into your life, whether for one hour, one day, one month, or a lifetime. They are the ones who remind you of who you really are and Whose you really are.

You can replace things. You can never replace people once they’re gone from your life.

So that’s why I can say I’m blessed. I’m rich in the currency of love. I am living my miracle every day, the miracle of seeing blessings everywhere, of finding joy in every place and circumstance, of always finding God right where I am if I only know where and how to look.

It truly doesn’t matter if people remember my name after I’m gone. It won’t matter if no one ever finds me attractive or desirable. My Abba is very fond of me, has chosen me, made me His child, and forever called me His Beloved.

That’s enough for me to last a lifetime. That’s enough for a lifetime of lifetimes. I’m good.