Another Night of Worship

  
I always love when Kairos has their Night of Worship.

There’s more emphasis on music, which is something that Kairos does well on just about any given Tuesdays but especially on nights like these.

The theme was My Brave Is. Basically, it’s facing whatever you’re most afraid of and realizing that God in Jesus has already overcome it. It’s knowing that Perfect Love casts out all fear, including that one that’s been gnawing at you for years.

The weather cooperated magnificently. What started out as a stupid hot and humid day turned into a lovely breezy summer night after some rain swept through the area. It made for a fantastic After Hours gathering where plenty of hot dogs and shaved ice got consumed (and corn hole was played by all).

I need nights like this. I need worship. I need to get my mind off of me for a little while and onto Something Much Bigger and Better.

Worship is like the reset button on my WiFi router. It’s like rebooting my laptop every so often. It basically reorients my life around the True Priorities after I’ve allowed it to get seriously off track.

Worship reminds me that I’m not in control and that it is not up to me. This God who is worthy of all the songs ever sung about Him is more than up to taking care of me and my problems and getting me where I need to be.

After all these years, I still love volunteering as a greeter and welcoming the people as they enter the building. I wonder if sometimes faces like mine might be the first friendly, non-threatening faces some people have seen all day. Who knows what difference even something as simple as a smile might make in someone’s life?

So, it was a good night. Even the little bit of rain at the end couldn’t dampen my spirits.

My brave is that God will not fail to make me who He always meant for me to be (even if I still don’t know what that is) and will finish what He started in me so very long ago.

 

 

Tuesdays Are Good Again

As you know, I’m a greeter for Kairos, a contemporary worship event on Tuesdays at 7 pm. I realized tonight that this fall will mark nine years that I have volunteered by offering a smile and a hello as people make their way into Hudson Hall on the Brentwood Baptist Church campus.

I love what I do and I love that people know me as the greeter guy from Kairos. I truly think that my worship experience is all the greater for me having invested, however small, my time and my somewhat limited people skills. I’m not the world’s biggest extrovert who can walk up to any stranger at any time and start a conversation, but I can offer a friendly greeting to the person in front of me.

On some days, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. I mean how hard is it really to wave at someone and say, “Hi”?

But then I think that maybe the person I’m greeting has had a rotten day or even a horrible week. I may be the first face that person has seen that isn’t cursing at them or sneering at them. Maybe that person will look at me and see Jesus smiling at them. Who knows?

I’ve been on the other end, barely making it through the week and badly in need of something– anything– positive. I know the power of a smile and a friendly greeting. I know the power of encouraging words, whether spoken or texted or posted. In fact, when I missed Kairos a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on my wall that she missed seeing me there. That meant the world to me.

You don’t have to have the Bible memorized or have your theology down pat to be able to serve. All you need are open hands and a willing heart. Sometimes, all you need is simply to show up and get out of the way so that Jesus can take over.

 

SMiLe

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Back in 1967, the Beach Boys recorded an album that never got released. That is, until 2011. It was the love-child of Brian Wilson, who was (and presumably still is) one one of the most brilliant (and eccentric) artists out there. And I mean out there.

Aside from Good Vibrations, Smile isn’t the most radio-friendly record ever made. From my understanding, what finally got released in 2011 is a not-quite-finished product that hinted at what might have been. It’ll probably take me listening to the whole thing at least two or three times before I can come to any kind of informed opinion.

That said, my advice for you today is to smile. God’s got this. You don’t have to worry that somethings going to pop up on the radar screen and catch God off guard. He knows it all and He’s in control, both of your life and of everything else in the universe.

It’s easy to fall into a state of anxiety over all the possible outcomes and all that could go horribly wrong in your life. But that does no good. Plus, worry dethrones God and puts you where only God belongs in the center of your life. That’s a scary place to be.

It helps if you  have two kinds of friends out there: those who will encourage you and see more in you than you see in yourself and those who will call your B.S. and not let you settle for less than your best. You need both. I know I do.

For me, music has been a great antidote to anxiety at those times when I felt overwhelmed. Art and beauty can do that. Most of all, I’m thankful that God is composing the symphony of my life and He alone knows that when it’s done, it will be a masterpiece. For that I’m most thankful.

It’s A Good Feeling When . . .

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It’s a good feeling when you can finally be you– the real you– with no shame or embarrassment. That you can be a full-on goober and not care what anybody else thinks. That you can be the ultimate anti-hipster and go against all that is hip and trendy and not give a rat’s . . . tail.

It’s a good feeling when people walk out of your life and you can smile and wave goodbye and move forward. When you know the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind. The people in your life are God’s blessing to you. When He removes people from your life, it’s often a bigger– though underappreciated– blessing. You never really know what He protected and saved you from when He did that.

It’s a good feeling when you’re content with who you are and realize the best things in life can’t be bought or sold or even valued. When you hear your Abba’s voice and decide that that one voice speaks more meaningfully to you than all the other voices of popularity and fame and success.

It’s a good feeling when you can finally forgive yourself for not being all things to all people, for not being perfect all the time, for being a forgiven sinner and not a first-rate saint. It really is a good feeling when you can not only hear God calling you His beloved in whom He is well pleased, but receive it and live out of it and never ever get over it.

So go live boldly. Make big mistakes and fail ridiculously. As one of my favorite quotes from a movies goes, “Have the courage to fail big and stick around and make ’em wonder why you’re still smilin’.”

And most of all, go out and love being you because not even you can love being you as much as God does.

 

Why I Still Love Being a Kairos Greeter

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I don’t know exactly when I started greeting at Kairos, but I figure that this fall will mark 8 years. It doesn’t seem like it, but the math doesn’t lie. At least if I did my math right.

I still love standing at the door and making people feel welcome as they walk through to Kairos. It may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I think it’s an important role.

I may be the only smiling face someone will see all day long. If someone feels unnoticed and unwanted, I could be the one who in essence says, “I see you. I notice you. You matter to me and I want you to feel like you belong here.”

I’ve seen people whose faces absolutely light up because someone (me) saw them and took time and effort to say hi to them. That’s all. Just a smile and a wave and a hello.

I’ve been on the other side of the smile, feeling invisible and wishing someone– anyone would acknowledge my existance. I have known what it feels like to feel alone in a crowd.

Hopefully, you can take this and use it in your own lives. Who knows what person whose day you can completely turn around and revolutionize just by a smile and a kind word of greeting. You don’t have to share your entire life story or become best friends with the person. Sometimes just seeing the people, looking in their faces, and validating their existence is enough.

So I hope to continue being a greeter for as long as God allows. Not so people will recognize me and think how cool and great I am. I want to be that one smiling face that makes someone’s day a little bit better and shows a little bit of God’s love to everyone I meet.

That’s all.

A Perfect Night for Sand Volleyball

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I had a blast playing sand volleyball tonight. Even though my teams only won once and I sweated like the pig that knows he’s about to be dinner.

It’s not about my mad volleyball skills. In fact, none of us are all that good. Well, maybe one or two. But we have fun and we cheer each other on and we laugh with each other instead of at each other. It never gets overly competitive and no one gets mad at anybody about a bad hit or that occasional moment when someone forgets that they’re in the middle of an actual game.

My favorite to watch (and my new friend) is a girl named Katie. She has an infectious joy and is one of those people who smile with their whole face. It’s hard to not be happy around her. I love the way my friends J.D. and Julie exhibit what a good marriage is and how two married people can be best friends too. Troy is one of the most consistent players who’s as good as any player out there yet able to laugh at himself when he messes up.

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The best part is that we root for each other, even if we’re on opposite teams. I don’t mind losing if I see the people on the other team enjoying themselves and getting in a good hit or two. As long as it’s not a complete blowout.

I love more than anything watching people who get better each time they play and really start believing in themselves. There’s nothing better for somebody than a little taste of success.

I like to think that Jesus roots for His children that way. He knows we’re frail and too often choose badly and fall down. He knows that we still have that old sin nature that sometimes comes out when we make poor decisions and know something is wrong yet  do it anyway.

I heard in church today that we don’t need empathy. We don’t need someone who feels bad with us when we feel bad. What we need is Somebody who knows what we’re feeling but also has the power to do something about it. Somebody who has the power to transform us and our choices.

Jesus is the best because not only does He root for us, but He sees us not as we are but how we could be at our very best. Not only that, but He is changing us into our very best selves. That is, changing us to be just like Jesus.

Things I Love 50: The Last Farewell

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“Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift” (Albert Einstein).

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself” (Tecumseh).

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness” (John Keats).

“Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

This is the last one. But as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle, the the end of history was not the end; history itself is but the title page and preface, and after that begins the real story which goes on for ever and where each chapter is better than the previous one. That’s how it is with joy. There really is no end to joy and its gifts for those with thankful hearts and wide-open eyes.

1,551) The good tired feeling after mowing the lawn.

1,552) Hugs from my grandmother.

1,553) Great music from Coldplay and Radiohead.

1,554) Freshly clipped toe nails.

1,555) How perfectly cold water quenches my thirst.

1,556) The Living Water than never runs dry and never leaves me thirsty ever.

1,557) People who “get” me.

1,558) The freedom that comes with forgiveness.

1,559) Finding out that being broke doesn’t mean the end of life as I know it.

1,560) My friend Wendy who is just a facebook message away at all times.

1,561) That post-shower feeling.

1,562) “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us” (Psalm 46:1,MSG).

1,563) Jesus’ promise of rest to those who are weary and exhausted.

1,564) God making me and loving me just the way I am.

1,565) Catfish and hush puppies, all fried.

1,566) Relaxing in a jacuzzi.

1,567) Liking me for me and being good with being a nice guy.

1,568) Knowing when to hold ’em, knowing when to fold ’em (like Kenny Rogers sang).

1,569) My very sleepy yet very comforting feline therapist yet again at her job.

1,570) iCloud automatically transferring pictures from my iPhone to my iPad and my iLaptop (just kidding, it’s a Sony Vaio).

1.571) How much better typing out one of these lists makes me feel.

1,572) My dad’s goofy but totally lovable dog, Molly.

1,573) My goofy and random sense of humor.

1,574) My impressive t-shirt collection.

1,575) People who wait until they are married before living together (which is so rare these days).

1,576) Planning up a Delilah playlist of cheesy love songs on my iPhone.

1,577) The safe recovery of that 16-year old girl Hannah who had been kidnapped.

1,578) All news stories that have happy endings.

1,579) Friendly neighbors.

1,580) Credence Clearwater Revival.

1,581) The photo frame option on my iPad that turns it into . . .wait for it. . . one of those electronic photo frames.

1,582) Stepping out of a muggy summer day into air conditioning.

1,583) People who not only speak their faith but live it out.

1,584)  The car KITT from the old TV show Knight Rider.

1,585) Seeing pictures of healthy newborns from friends and family on Facebook.

1,586) Taking a spoonful of local honey that’s supposedly good for my allergies but so good to me.

1,587) That girl’s smile in the picture that I used for one of my blogs. I’ll probably never see her again but I won’t ever forget that smile.

1,588) John Mayer’s lyrics.

1,589) Checking out the newest smart-phones in the stores (even though I’m perfectly content with my iPhone 5).

1,590) Looking forward to my next coffee and conversation outing.

1,591) Knowing all my family and friends are safe and sound for the night.

1,592) Real and authentic conversations about life and faith.

1,593) Having all my needs supplied out of God’s glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

1,594) Perfect love casting out fear.

1,595) That Jesus isn’t safe, but He’s good.

1,596) One day going overseas on a mission trip.

1,597) Having no regrets about following Jesus.

1,598) “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

1,599) Having many local coffee spots to check out in the next few months.

1,600) Every second I’ve spend writing these lists over the last couple of months.

I hope these lists have inspired you to start list of your own where you name those things you’re thankful for that you love. Not necessarily the monumental or earth-shaking things, but even the tiniest of things that make you smile or make your day a little brighter. It has been so much fun writing these and I thank you for reading them. God bless.

A Face to Call Home: Still Another Letter to my Future Wife

I chose this picture because I want my wife to look this radiant. The actual girl pictured is probably-- no definitely-- too young for me.

I chose this picture because I want my wife to look this radiant. The actual girl pictured is probably– no definitely– too young for me.

Little by little, inch by inch
We built a yard with a garden in the middle of it
It ain’t much but it’s a start
You got me swaying right along to the song in your heart
And a face to call home
A face to call home
You got a face to call home . . . .

So good you didn’t see
The nervous wreck I used to be
You’d never know a man could feel so small
And you never look at me
Like I’m a liability
I bet you think I’ve never been at all

Little by little, inch by inch
We built a yard with a garden in the middle of it
And it ain’t much, but it’s a start
You got me swaying right along to the song in your heart

And a face to call home
A face to call home
You got a face to call home

A face to call home
A face to call home
You got a face to call home

Maybe I could stay a while,
Maybe I could stay a while,
Maybe I could stay a while,
I’m talkin’ like all of the time” (John Mayer).

Here I am again, writing you another letter instead of holding you in my arms. A verse in Proverbs says that a hope deferred makes a heart sick, but a hope deferred is still better than no hope at all. And my hopes are alive, even if the monitors would barely pick up a heartbeat. I still have hope.

I’m seeing more and more of what you’re like and I’m loving it. You have a beauty that’s all your own and you’re probably not even aware of it. It’ll be my job to show you and tell you every single day how beautiful you are and to bring that radiance out of you. You have a smile that makes me weak in the knees and a laugh that warms my heart. I don’t deserve that way you look at me and only me.

If I were to say that I’m up to the task of being a husband and a father, I’d be proving once and for all that I’m not ready. I can say for certain that I’m not up to it– not nearly– but I’ll be calling on all the power of Christ in me if I have any hopes of making us work.

So yet again. I’m praying that you hold on to hope. I’m praying you don’t listen to anyone who tells you how to become their idea of beautiful. Don’t let any man (even me. Especially me) treat you like anything less than a Princess, Child of the King, Beloved, the one Christ thought was to die for. Don’t settle. Don’t compromise. Don’t quit.

I love what I heard while you search for the perfect man, you could be missing the one who’s imperfect but would do anything to make you perfectly happy. I’m praying when the time comes that will be me.

Until then, I love you already and I can’t wait to meet you.

Your future husband (and still another Ragamuffin who’s living his miracle).

Greg

 

Things I Love 32: Everything Will Be Fine in the End

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“The prayers we weave into the matching of socks, the stirring of oatmeal, the reading of stories, they survive fire” (Ann Voskamp).

“I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done-yesterday” (Ann Voskamp).

The way I figure it, I have only two of these left. Then again, I was never good at math. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be a rebel and add one extra just for the fun of it. Why stop at 1,000? Why stop at all? Gratitude means you never stop counting your blessings that you become aware of as you number them one by one. So that said, I start again at #936.

936) Making my triumphant return to swing dancing tonight at Centennial Park.

937) How anyone who has ever worked in a corporate environment can relate to the movie Office Space.

938) The Greek on the GO! Strawberry Granola Bites. You can’t have just one. Or at least I can’t.

939) Whenever my family gets together.

940) That I’m losing my mind and as long as I don’t lose the part that tells me when to pee, I’ll be just fine.

941) Reading The Horse and His Boy again for probably the 15th year in a row.

942) Having “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” as my new text and email alert on my iPhone.

943) Mild summer days with low humidity.

944) Having my only expectations be that God will keep all His promises to me.

945) The Dream of someone.

946) Using Inappropriately Captalized Letters At Random.

947) Having access to the Throne of Grace 24 hours 7 days a week.

948) Sometimes my only mode of transportation is a leap of faith (borrowed from a Facebook post).

949) That I don’t have to fire cannons to call attention to my shining; all I have to do is shine (from D. L. Moody).

950) Borrowing quotes and ideas from people on Facebook.

951) Being able to highlight verses in my YouVersion Bible app on my iPhone.

952) Having all my Christmas music on my laptop in case I ever feel the need for Christmas in July (or August).

953) Office chairs that swivel and spin.

954) Saturdays when it’s not raining.

955) Ditto for Sundays.

956) Not having been hit by any cars in the last 6 months.

957) Being alone and praying in Baskin Chapel at Brentwood Baptist Church.

958) Every time someone accepts my friend request on Facebook.

959) The way when I’m in a serious moment of silence and my stomach suddenly decides to do a spot-on impression of a whale’s mating call (borrowed this one from Pinterest).

960) That the walk of faith is not about seeing the whole journey but taking the next step.

961) That my hope isn’t in a President but a King.

962) Knowing the Kingdom of God is now and not yet.

963) Nerds candy.

964) Big League Chew bubble gum.

965) Meeting an Asian person who hates all Asian food (and thus busting another stereotype).

966) Asian food of just about any kind.

967) All George MacDonald’s fantasy stories.

968) How much I can relate to John Cusack’s characters in just about every one of his movies.

969) Living in the moment and finding God there.

970) My friend at Ultimate Frisbee who looks like Amanda Seyfried and who always makes me smile.

It’s in the Details

“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Colossians 3:15-17).

I’ve had a hard time coming up with something to write tonight. That happens to me periodically. I search my brain for a memory or a word or a phrase I heard earlier to trigger an idea that becomes a blog, but I get nothing. I can hear the wheels in my head a-turnin’, but apparently the hampster has gone off to sleep somewhere.

I do know that it’s useless to spend your whole life waiting for the next big event. If you’re single, that means waiting until you find someone to date. If you’re dating, that means waiting until you are engaged and then married. If you’re married, it means waiting until the first child is on the way. And so on.

If you’re not careful, you get so caught up in looking ahead in anticipation that you miss what is in front of you. A smiling face. A kind word. A small blessing.

Those little things help you along the road to becoming the person who is ready for the next big event. How you treat the people around you now will determine if you’re ready for your next phase.

So be compassionate now. Love unconditionally now. Be content now. Trust God now.

He will take care of getting you to the next step.