Praying for Orlando

I, like so many of you, was horrified by what I saw on my social media feed. a gunman murdered 50 people in a night club early this morning.

Regardless of your stance on the LBGTQ community, we should all mourn the devastating loss of life. No one should celebrate when someone else dies. Ever.

Remember, each one of these victims was someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister,  aunt or uncle. More than that, each was an individual created in the image of God and therefore possessing inherent value. Each was someone Jesus willingly went to the cross and died for.

I’m praying for the families of these victims tonight. I’m praying that God can take what was meant for pure evil and turn it into something good. I know that in God’s plan, tragedy and loss will not have the last word. God’s story never ends with ashes.

I read a post that said that those that died got what they deserved because of their lifestyles. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to get what I deserve based on some of the choices I’ve made in the past. I don’t want karma. I want and desperately need grace.

Hatred cannot overcome hatred. Only love can do that. Only the love of God as expressed in the person of Jesus can do that. Only a kind of love that was willing to lay down its life for enemies can do that.

In response to so much senseless tragedy and horror, I say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come. Only You have the power to set things right again and to wipe away the tears from every eye and to vanquish evil and hate and the lies once and for all. Only you can make a happy ending out of so much sadness. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”


A Certainty that Cannot Be Shaken

“We say, then, to anyone who is under trial, give Him time to steep the soul in His eternal truth. Go into the open air, look up into the depths of the sky, or out upon the wideness of the sea, or on the strength of the hills that is His also; or, if bound in the body, go forth in the spirit; spirit is not bound. Give Him time and, as surely as dawn follows night, there will break upon the heart a sense of certainty that cannot be shaken” (Amy Carmichael).

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what happened in Paris.

Granted, I didn’t even hear about it until I’d gotten home from work.

I turned on CNN and saw where at least 153 people had been killed in what looks like ISIS terrorist attacks on innocent civilians.

If it happened there, it could happen here. But still, the fact that it happened anywhere matters. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Attacks on liberty are a threat to liberty anywhere and everywhere.

I still don’t know why things like that happen. I know it’s a fallen and broken world. I know that people are capable of the worst acts, as evidenced by the Holocaust and Slavery and a million other atrocities.

I also know that God is in control.

I know that God can take the worst tragedies and turn them into something beautiful.

I still believe that in the end, Love wins. Jesus wins.

I know and believe with all my heart that, try as it might, darkness can never truly drive out the light. The only failure is a failure of the light when it refuses to shine.

I’m praying for Paris. I’m praying for all those who are burdened by oppression and injustice tonight.

May God have mercy on us all.


Absolutely Positively Definitely Maybe


“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:18-21, The Message).

Such a great moment in the movie. I’ve actually owned Definitely, Maybe for a while and just now got around to watching it (one of the few perks of being without a job).

I love that line because it reminds me so much of God and the Story He is writing. And I do so love stories, especially when they’re well-told and have happy endings.

I know that ultimately God’s Story is about God, as it should be, but one of the very happy side effects is you and me finding redemption and freedom and abundant life. Because of God’s Story, you and I have a Story that we get to share. Because of God’s Story, we know that our Story will always have a happy ending because God has written it already. I read the last page of the book and I know that it’s good.

It’s hard to remember that when the Story seems headed for tragedy or when the current chapter seems like it will never end and circumstances will never change or get better. It’s hard to see that happy ending when you’re wondering how you’ll pay the bills or make your struggling marriage work or find that job that makes you come alive.

As I’ve learned in reading books, you don’t put down the book when the characters run into hard times. You keep going with the hope that those struggles will lead to something better. As Corrie Ten Boom says, you don’t jump off the train when it goes through a dark tunnel. You trust the Engineer to get you through.

I don’t want to be that guy who says things like, “Hold on, it will get better” or “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” When you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or discouragement, bumper sticker quotes don’t really do the trick.

You need to know that God is still faithful to His promises. You need to know that the same Jesus who conquered death and the grave can conquer your circumstances. You need to know that He will finish what He started in you because He said He would.

That’s a happy ending.


Waving at Promises from Afar

“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

In my quest to read through the Bible in 2015, I’m currently in 2 Chronicles 32, and it reads like a tragedy. It seems almost from the start, the people of God fell short of expectations, rebelling against God and worshipping just about anything and everything but God. Even having the Kingdom split in two and the Northern Kingdom (Israel) taken captive and deported to Babylon didn’t help.

If the Bible ended there, it would be about the most depressing book I’ve ever read. But I’ve cheated and read the end of the story. I know how it ends. When you know that ultimately God and His people prevail, it makes the dark parts easier to stomach.

Sadly, I can relate too much to these people. They started off with brash promises and the best of intentions, but these promises and intentions lasted about as long as my New Year’s resolutions. Not long.

At this point, they’re coming to the end of a series of vicious cycles where 1) the people are living well, 2) the people forget God and try to be like all their neighbors, 3) God gets angry and punishes them by famine, war, and hostile takeovers, 3) the people repent, 4) God forgives them and restores them.

By this point, God has had enough. They’ve pushed Him too far. There’s no sign of the people wanting to change and God is totally just to write them off as a lost cause.

But even now there’s a plan. There’s always been a plan. There’s a Messiah in the works, promised all the way back in Genesis 3:16 to come and deliver His people. There have been prophecies and stories passed around for generations and the faintest glimmer of hope even in the bleakest moments.

That’s what Easter is all about– that long awaited and eagerly anticipated promise coming true at last.


Twelve Years Later on 9/11


“In honor of all those who have come behind…. in honor of Christ who lived like that: Go into a hurting world and live your life as a First-Responder.”


I still can’t believe it happened. Even 12 years later, it doesn’t seem real to me.


I googled 9/11 images today and found hundreds of pictures ranging from patriotic and stirring to emotionally gripping and heartbreaking to chilling and disturbing.


I still remember exactly where I was when my boss at the time called me into his office to witness replays of the first plane hitting the first of the World Trade Center twin towers.


Almost 3,000 people lost their lives that day. And yet it could have been much more catastrophic. Thanks to the heroism of first-responders, many who sacrificed their own lives, there were far less fatalities than there could have been.


The best in us rose to the occasion for when the worst in us showed its ugly colors.


Yet around the world, many people still face on a daily basis what we faced on one day twelve years ago. Many will lose their lives today simply because of their beliefs, their ethnic origins, their gender, or out of pure evil. Many will see loved ones massacred in many horrific ways.


I’m praying for us as a human race today. I’m praying for our nation.


But I’m not praying for God to save us from extremist Islamic terrorists.

I’m not praying for God to deliver us from President Obama and the liberal agenda or the Tea Party and its right-wing policies.


I’m praying this prayer today: “Lord, save us from ourselves. Lord, save me from myself.”


imageI’ve seen in my worst moments what I could have been apart from grace, and it is not pretty. I can be petty and vindictive and selfish and lazy and hateful and rude. Left to myself, there’s no telling what I’m capable of.


We as a human race are our own worst enemy. We have a worldwide pandemic raging through our population, affecting every single person who has ever lived called sin. Because of the Fall, we are fallen and broken people living in a fallen and broken world. Thousands of years of history has proven that we can’t save ourselves from ourselves. We are in desperate need of a Savior.

We have one. That pandemic called sin didn’t actually affect every single one of us. Jesus, the God-man born of a virgin, lived and died a sinless life and an atoning and sacrificial death on our behalf. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves– He came to save us.

So I remember 9/11 again on this day, but I also remember that one day Jesus is coming back to set all things right again, to restore what the locusts and the terrorists and the politicians and the narrow-minded pharisees have stolen. He’s coming to bring true peace and true joy and true life.

So I pray on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, but not just on this day: “Jesus, come quickly.”

Praying for Boston Tonight


“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

I, like so many of you, just happened to turn on the television and spent the next several minutes trying to figure out what was happening at the Boston Marathon. The more I watched, the more I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It felt like I was watching a disaster movie.

It was horrific. People being carried away with missing limbs and blood splatters on the streets isn’t what you normally see on the news, especially that early in the day. The same feeling I had on 9/11 came back, only this time it felt scarier even though the terrorist attack was on a much smaller scale. I thought, “This could have happened anywhere at any marathon or half-marathon or 5k. It could have been The Music City Marathon and one of my friends who got caught in the explosions.”

I still have trouble accepting that it really happened. Did some deranged lunatic really blow up a bomb, then set the second one to go off just as the first responders were arriving? Did he really put shrapnel int the bombs to make them more lethal? Did he target that 8-year old boy or did he just have the misfortune to be in the way?

I can’t fathom the logic behind something like this. This level of evil goes beyond anything my mind can comprehend. A part of me wants to see this guy caught and shown no mercy, the way he showed mo mercy to these victims.

Then I remember the story of Joseph. How he suffered atrocities at the hands of his own brothers. How he ended up sold into slavery, the first victim of human trafficking in recorded history.

I especially remember his words in Genesis 50. What people intended for harm and for evil, God turned it into good and to salvation for a whole nation. Not only did survival come out of these atrocities, but salvation came through the person of Jesus, from the lineage of David.

I don’t know how, but I do know God will turn this heinous evil into good– someway, somehow. I don’t mean the act itself was good or that the aftermath is anything worth celebrating, but a reason for all of us to mourn and weep.

Yet I do believe that there will be stories that come out of this that will glorify God. Stories of people who sacrificed their bodies and lives so that others could live. Stories of how people came together as one, running toward the carnage when others were running away, and giving a little glimpse of what the Kingdom of God looks like.

The most shocking part of all is that God offers forgiveness even to the very individual who plotted and carried out one of the worst acts of terrorism ever. No one is too low for God to reach and no one is beyond his love. No one.

So I’m praying for the families of the victims and for those who are suffering with wounds that are more than just physical. I’m praying for God to make this and every other act of evil right.

I’m praying more fervently than ever, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

Yet I know that one day someone’s testimony of faith will start out something like “I remember exactly where I was when those bombs went off at the end of the Boston Marathon and when God showed up to me in a very real way.”

PS Interestingly enough, today’s Bible verse of the day on my You Version app was Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Baggage Part I: Letting Go

Who doesn’t have baggage? I certainly know I do. I’m pretty sure anyone who is over the age of 5 and who still has a pulse has accumulated some kind of baggage over the years.

What is my baggage? Probably right now, I’m carrying around the constant need to be validated, affirmed, approved, and liked every single moment.

I find myself at the end of conversations thinking I’ve said or texted the absolute wrong thing and ruined the relationship. Things like, “Did I really just end the conversation with ‘Text me’? Is it even possible for there to be a lamer ending to a conversation?”

I think I let go of a little bit of my baggage tonight. I think I’ve finally come to the point where I may not trust myself to keep my relationships alive, but I know that God will keep the right people in my life for as long as they need to be there.

I’ve mentioned before that I am a work in progress. I’m 4o and my dating history reads like a black comedy or a tragedy (either one works, so take your pick). I haven’t had a real girlfriend since I was 5 (her name was Carrie, by the way).

I think I’m more comfortable with my own path and not trying to hijack God’s plan for someone else. I’m learning to enjoy the process and the journey and not be so OCD about the destination.

I think I’m learning that I don’t have to be clever or witty (or even overly coherent) for God to speak through me.

I’m finally learning to be patient with my own process and who I am becoming. I’m more patient with the shortcomings of others, because I’ve seen so much of my own and I’ve seen how very strong God can be in my weakness.

What is your baggage? You have a choice. You can either hold on to your shame and guilt and fear and anger or you can hold onto Jesus, but you can’t hold on to both. And yes, I borrowed that one from Mike Glenn.

You don’t have to carry that baggage forever. You don’t have to let it define you or be a pemanent part of your wardrobe. It all begins with saying, “I can’t do this anymore. I need you, Jesus, to take this and carry it for me.” It may be a process, but it’s so much fun to feel the weight fall off.

May you find that what you’ve carried all this time is one day no longer a part of you. May you find more and more freedom in Christ. May you hear and believe the words at this very moment that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Amen.

Why Fairy Tales Last

I saw Snow White and the Huntsman, based on the fairy tale, tonight in the theatre. I think for me there’s still something about a fairy tale well told that still tugs at my heart strings.

It’s more than just a damsel in distress. Or at least I think so.

We’ve all at some point pricked our fingers on a spindle or taken a bite of that apple. Suddenly, we find ourselves dead inside and out.

You and I need to be rescued. We need Someone strong and brave enough to fight for us. Someone who’s not afraid to die for us.

That’s the Gospel in a nutshell.

I love the story where Tolkien finally wins C.S. Lewis over when he tells him that the Gospel is a myth, but at the same time, a true myth.

I read a book recently that spoke of the Gospel as a tragedy, a comedy, and a fairy tale. The last third of the book made my heart come alive inside my chest. The idea of the Gospel being a fairy tale come true is something most of us have never thought or dreamed of, but that’s what it is.

We get the Rescuer. We get to be Princes and Princesses, royal children of the King of the Universe. And we get the happily ever after (read the last chapter of Revelations if you need proof).

That’s why fairy tales will never, ever go out of style.

The Titanic Mistake

What makes the Titanic disaster so tragic is that it was all so very avoidable. It’s very easy for me to sit back as I watch the movie based on the actual events and look on in disbelief at how so many were convinced of the invincibility of the ship Titanic. As one said, “Not even God could sink her.”

It’s easy to be outraged at the lack of preparedness in the event of an emergency, to think that they only had lifeboats enough for half the ship’s passengers. 1,517 people lost their lives that day, mostly due to negligence and poor planning.

It would be so very easy for me to sit in judgment and look down on those who could have and should have done better. But it wouldn’t be honest.

How many times have I felt invincible and trusted in the security of my surroundings? How many times have I clung to relationships or possessions or titles like they were life-preservers?

Inevitably, both you and I will have times in our lives when we find out our own invincibility is a myth and those relationships and things can’t save us. Whether it’s tragedy or just an epiphany that sobers us to our own mortality and dependence on God, we all have to face the music that we can’t save ourselves.

One of my favorite verses says it best.

“But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
   the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
   I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
   When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
   it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
   The Holy of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

Only one Love is strong enough to save us. Only one God is strong enough to hold us together when we feel we’re falling apart. That God has revealed Himself in Jesus and invites you to place your security in Him.

Will you?