Keep Praying

At Kairos tonight, Mike Glenn spoke from Luke 18 on the persistent widow and the unjust judge. I wish I could tell you I took copious notes and remembered every word he said. I didn’t. I saw something shiny, my ADD took over, and it was all over from there.

The main point I take from that passage is this: keep praying.

Even if it seems that you’re mouthing words, keep praying.

Even if it seems like you’re the only one listening to your own prayer, keep praying.

Even if it seems that your praying is doing nobody any good, keep praying.

You’ll never know the power of persistent prayer if you quit in the middle.

I’ve learned a few things over my lifetime. One of those is that God’s timetable is entirely different than mine. He’s looking at a much bigger picture than I am.

So what I see as a deadline that’s come and gone, God sees as a better time and a better me to receive what He’s preparing for me.

Often, I don’t receive what I pray for, not because it’s out of God’s will, but because I’m not ready for it. I think I am. I say I am, but I’m not.

Often, what I pray for isn’t big enough. God has something way bigger than what my small mind can dream of and hope for. I’m praying pint-sized but God is thinking Kingdom-sized.

God is not like that unjust judge. He’s not reluctant to give us what we ask for. In fact, He’s often very willing to give us what we ask for. That means that we have to do the asking.

I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit that prays my own prayers better than I can.

I’m thankful for those around me who pray for me unceasingly and who believe for me when I can’t believe for myself.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the God who gives the perfect gift at the perfect time in the perfect way.

The end.

Gratitude Kairos-Style

“A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Gratitude makes all the difference. That was one of tonight’s themes from Rachel Cruze, daughter of Dave Ramsey and speaker extraordinaire. Comparison is the thief of joy, according to Theodore Roosevelt, but gratitude makes what you have enough (so said Ann Voskamp in her book, 1000 Gifts).

So here’s what I’m supremely thankful for tonight.

I’m so very grateful for the many people I’ve crossed paths with at Kairos over the nine years I’ve attended and served as a greeter.

You may not know this, but I’m a different person because of you. You will never know how you’ve encouraged, blessed, challenged, rebuked, and lifted me up during all these years.

I see a generation of godly women whose true beauty comes from within. If God chooses to bless me with a wife, I hope she will be half as pretty and tender and sweet and loving and generous and godly as these women.

I see young men who are learning how to be masculine without being macho. I’m encouraged that it’s still possible to be a man of God in this day and age when such a thing is about as politically incorrect as you can get.

I see people every single Tuesday who never fail to make me smile and feel better about myself. I see people who make me want to be more like Jesus.

I serve with some of the greatest people on the planet whom I am privileged to call friends. Yes, I am shamelessly plugging the Kairos Greeting team if you’re looking for a safe place to serve and meet people and show the love of Jesus to people.

I’m grateful most of all that I came to serve and bless and I have found that I’ve been served and been blessed a thousand times more than anything I’ve ever done for anybody. And that’s the Gospel Truth.

 

Thanksliving

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There truly is always something to be thankful for. Even on Mondays.

When you stop looking at what’s wrong with your life, what you don’t have, and start counting your blessings and finding reasons to be thankful, it changes your outlook. It changes you.

I like myself better when I live out of gratitude instead of comparison or envy.

As much as I look forward to all the food on Thanksgiving, that’s not the best part. It’s not what’s on the table that matters nearly as much as who’s around the table. And besides, people don’t go straight to my hips.

This year, I’ve decided to not just celebrate Thanksgiving, but also Thanksliving, which is a deliberate act of living out of a sense of gratitude.

As one of my new favorite writers says, eucharisteo (that is living out of thanksgiving and joy) always precedes the miracle. I hope so. Still, even without the miracle, gratitude and thanksgiving are the best ways to live.

“The very quality of your life, whether you love it or hate it, is based upon how thankful you are toward God. It is one’s attitude that determines whether life unfolds into a place of blessedness or wretchedness. Indeed, looking at the same rose bush, some people complain that the roses have thorns while others rejoice that some thorns come with roses. It all depends on your perspective . . . .

It does not matter what your circumstances are; the instant you begin to thank God, even though your situation has not changed, you begin to change. The key that unlocks the gates of heaven is a thankful heart. Entrance into the courts of God comes as you simply begin to praise the Lord”(Francis Frangipane).

 

One Thing I’m Thankful for Today

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Note: I want to say this and get it off my chest. It’s one thing to be depressed and quite another to struggle with clinical depression (which thankfully I never have).

You would never say to someone with a broken ankle, “Just walk it off. You’ll be fine.”

Then why do we say things to clinically depressed people like, “Snap out of it” or “You obviously don’t have enough faith or you’d be over this” or “Just pray harder and you’ll be okay.”

To borrow something Rick Warren said, a broken brain is just as broken as a broken arm or leg or ankle. Just because you can’t see the ailment doesn’t mean it’s not there.

End of soapbox.

I’m choosing to be thankful that I only moderately sprained my ankle when I rolled it while cutting the backyard. For a second, it felt much worse. I got light-headed and nauseous, which is never fun.

But thankfully, I’m only limping a little with minimal pain.

I suppose I’m also thankful that I can walk. Oh, and that I still have two feet attached to two legs.

So many people go without those things I take for granted. Not just being able to walk, but being healthy and having a good job. Some people would give just about anything to be where I am. Why should I complain?

God, if I don’t say it enough, thank You for this beautiful life and another day to live it. You know I don’t deserve it, but You give it anyway.

I’m both thankful and blessed.

Just Keep Calm

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It’s funny how when you have a really great conversation or an amazing gathering of friends or a beautiful moment, you want to go back to that same place and re-create it. Well, at least I do. In my mind, I think if I get back to that place with those same people, maybe that same magic will be there and we can recreate another moment just like the one I remember so well.

But I’m learning you can’t. Real pleasure is only fully realized when a moment becomes a memory. Or so says one Mr. C. S. Lewis who I’ve heard was somewhat wise on these matters.

Besides, you can’t go back. Only forward. Otherwise we might stay stuck repeating one moment over and over. We’d never move into the future for always wanting to go back into the past and recreate it.

This is your best moment because this is where God has you now and this is where you will find Him. Be all in the moment right now.

I’m tired but thankful. I know I’ll sleep well and hopefully have more moments worth remembering tomorrow. I hope you will, too.

10:55 PM

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I know I’m not the only one who does this.

You have a picture in your head about how your weekend will go. You envision going to a party and who you will see there and maybe even what you’ll talk about.

Then reality sets in.

There’s no party. So what’s plan B?

It turned out plan B was every bit as good as plan A. I got to spend time with my family, which is always a good thing.

Here’s what I’ve learned. God’s plan Bs are always better than our plan As. In fact, some times, I’m thankful that some of my plan As didn’t work out the way I wanted them to.

So trust God for His plan B. Trust God when your plans don’t work out. Heck, even if it seems like a plan C . . . or even a plan Z. . . God is working all things together for good.

Trust Him.

The Condescension of God

con·de·scen·sion

 [kon-duhsen-shuhn]  Show IPA

noun

1.

an act or instance of condescending.
2.

behavior that is patronizing or condescending.
3.

voluntary assumption of equality with a person regarded as inferior.
Ok, for the purposes of this blog, forget #1 and #2. Put them out of your mind. I want to focus on #3. Because that’s what God did for us.
Let me explain.
This is the God of whom Isaiah wrote, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
This God would be completely unknowable unless He had first chosen to reveal Himself to us. He would have remained completely incomprehensible unless He had chosen to reveal His nature and His character. And  He didn’t get all high and mighty with us or look down His celestial nose at us. He looked at us with pity and compassion. But mostly with love.
Truly, this God is not like one of us, only bigger, stronger, faster. He is not the ultimate $6 million dollar man. He is holy, set apart, wholly other.
Jesus is the ultimate example of God’s condescension to man. He who was infinitely higher than we could ever hope or aspire to be, voluntarily assumed equality with those who were His inferiors, i.e. us. He became one of us. Or as Paul puts it in Philippians,
Though He was in the form of God,
    He chose not to cling to equality with God;
But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new;
    a servant in form
    and a man indeed.
The very likeness of humanity,
He humbled Himself,
    obedient to death—
    a merciless death on the cross!
So God raised Him up to the highest place
    and gave Him the name above all.
So when His name is called,
    every knee will bow,
    in heaven, on earth, and below.
And every tongue will confess
    ‘Jesus, the Anointed One, is Lord,’
    to the glory of God our Father!”
I’m thankful that when I couldn’t get to God, He came to me. I’m grateful that it wasn’t me who found God, but rather it was He who found me. He wasn’t lost. I was. I’m mostly glad that He didn’t (and doesn’t) leave me where He found me but constantly makes me a little bit more like Jesus every day.
So, yeah, I suppose I do like that word condescension now.

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve? Maybe

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So far, my mailbox isn’t exactly stuffed with invitations to parties and soirees for the end of the year. My phone isn’t blowing up with texts or messages or calls– or anything for that matter.

To borrow off the old TV western, “Have Chips and GPS. Will Travel.”

Likely, this will be a subdued year’s end. I’m not one for crazy shenanigans anyway. I prefer a few friends to a crowd any day. And I’d much rather be inside on a cold night like this anyway.

I’m currently accepting offers for New Year’s Eve 2014. Apparently, that beats waiting until the last minute like this year.

Here’s something to think about as you ring in 2014: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Now is the best day to be alive, to be thankful for being alive, and to live.

Don’t wait until 2014. Start now.

That’s all.

Oh, and happy new year!

Untitled Blog #1,239

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Yeah, it was a Monday. A 12-hour workday Monday.

Normally, that recipe makes for one grumpy Greg. But not today.

God reminded me that joy is a choice that I must make every single day, even on a cold winter Monday at 6 am.

Thanksgiving means not seeing a long work day ahead but me having a job, not me having an annoying cough that sounds like a car that won’t start but me being awake and alive.

I still have those people I don’t get. One won’t ever speak to me unless I speak to her first and even then she sometimes doesn’t respond. One I’ve pretty much learned to leave alone and pray for from a distance.

But God still can teach me something in every circumstance and use every person I meet as a blessing, a lesson, or a caution.

I’m learning to slow down and appreciate the small moments, the short conversations, the texts, these moments of quiet grace.

I lost my joy for a little while. I took my eyes off of Jesus and got swamped by worry, fear, and lack. I bemoaned all that I didn’t have instead of practicing the art of thanksgiving for all that I do have.

Right now, I’m thankful for friends who still want to know me after I’ve gone a little nutty on them, white chocolate covered oreos, my Jeep, a faithful 13-year old feline, a warm soft bed, and for Jesus. Most of all, for Jesus.

Why I Love Room in the Inn

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I have to confess something. I almost skipped Room in the Inn tonight. I mean, it’s frickin’ cold outside and I am tired from a long workday and a not-so-great night of sleep.

But then I remember that the guys who benefit most Room in the Inn would otherwise be sleeping out in that bitter cold. Room in the Inn brings homeless men into different churches during the week to have a warm meal, a hot shower, and a place to sleep that’s out of the elements.

I remember how blessed I am every time I volunteer at Room in the Inn. I have all these things every day and routinely take them for granted. Which makes me wonder if all i had were those things I had given thanks for the night before, what would I still have left?

These guys put me to shame in many ways. They are grateful for everything. They have literally next to nothing but they also are always so thankful and kind. I always end up receiving more blessing than I ever could think of giving.

How are you serving and giving to those who can never repay you? How are you serving Jesus by serving the least of these? Will you give thanks for those little things in your life?

Just some food for thought on a chilly Monday night.