Rare and Priceless

I admit it. I geeked out quite a bit when I read about the recent rare baseball card find.

In case you missed it, a family going through their great-grandfather’s belongings in his run-down house found a wadded-up brown paper bag that looked like trash.

Inside, among other things, they found seven identical Ty Cobb baseball cards, dating from 1909-1911.

Why is this a big deal? Before this find, there were believed to be 15 of these cards in existence. That’s it.

Because of the extreme rarity of these cards, their worth is probably estimated to be anywhere to the high 7-figures to north of $1 million.

If only I could be so lucky.

But think of this. As rare as those baseball cards are, you are rarer still. So am I.

Don’t you realize that there is (and will always be) just one of you. There has never been– and will never be again– another you.

You are a one-of-a-kind work of God, not mass-produced or rolled out on an assembly line but crafted in love, soul-signed, and unique.

You are not only priceless, but twice priceless. God not only made you but also took on human flesh in Jesus and died for you. He paid the ultimate price that forever defines your worth.

Perhaps you’re feeling beat down by another week of work or by family and friends who don’t recognize your true worth. Maybe your soul feels battered by bad choices and unfortunate circumstances.

That doesn’t change your worth. That doesn’t change how God sees you. You are priceless and beloved for as long as God remains faithful and true. And that’s forever.

In case you want to read more about the baseball cards, here’s a link to an article with more information. If it were me, I’d sell six and keep one. But that’s just me. You decide for yourself.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/03/03/469035302/a-collectors-dream-7-rare-ty-cobb-baseball-cards-discovered

Those Facebook Quizzes

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If you have some down time, I recommend trying out one or two of those Facebook quizzes. Or if you’re a bit OCD like me, you’ll try them all.

Sometimes, they can be quite revealing. Some are spot-on. Some are not. But nearly all of them are entertaining.

I’ve taken more than my fair share of them. I even took one about who my Disney best friend would be (it was Abu, the little monkey critter from the movie Aladdin).

The most unexpected result was when I took the “Which Friends Character Are You?” quiz. I was expecting maybe I’d be most like Chandler or Ross, but it turns out I am most like Phoebe.

Some results weren’t as accurate. Apparently, the states I should live in are Wisconsin, Kansas, and New Hampshire. And yeah, I took that one three times. I was hoping for somewhere with a warmer climate (especially in winter).

I can’t remember all the results from all the quizzes I took but most were fairly accurate in describing my personality. And the best part is that they were all free.

It’s nice to have those family members and friends who really know you and can gently point out to you when you’re not acting like yourself. Sometimes, they can even tell you the hard truth in love. Even if you don’t exactly want to hear it.

I’ve said it before but the best thing you can do for the world around you is to be the best you that you can be. You have your own unique take on life, combination of skills and talents and passions, and personality traits. There will never again be another exactly like you. That makes you unique and special and valuable.

Now for me to find out what Simpsons character I’m most like.

God Loves Even Hot Messes, Right?

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I confess. I am a mess.

Ooo, I was just a poet and didn’t know it.

But I am a mess.

Sometimes, I frighten people with my friendliness. It comes across too strong a little too early. I am an acquired taste, a bit odd and unusual. And sometimes I confuse someone who is friendly and nice to everybody with someone who genuinely wants to be my friend.

In other words, I’m unique.

So are you.

Maybe you’ve tried way too hard to make someone like you or be your friend.

Maybe you’ve wondered why all the people in your life seem gradually withdraw from you and go away after a while. Maybe even family members. Or spouses. The ones closest to you who you thought would always be there.

Here’s the thing. To God, you’re beautiful. To God, you’re a priceless work of art. To God, your worth is more than the very lifeblood of His only Son, all the agony and torture of a painful death on a cross. You matter.

I’ve come to believe the right people will see your mess and stick around anyway.

The right people will call out the good they see in you and help you to see it in yourself. They will help you remember that song in your heart when you’ve forgotten the words.

Even a Van Gogh painting probably looked like a mess when it was still in progress. And that’s what you are, dear friend.

A work in progress. A masterpiece in the making. Heaven’s poetry etched onto lives, as one translation of Ephesians 2:10 puts it.

Don’t despair. Don’t give up or give in to the pressure to be someone else or (perish the very idea) try to be normal.

Take courage, dear heart. God made you to be you. He delights in you being you. He’s even helping you find your truest self, the “youest” you.

Christmas is all about messes. Do you think the manger scene was pristine? Do you think the place where Jesus arrived was a 5-star hotel? It was not.

If Jesus arrived in the middle of a messy manger, then He above anyone understands what messes look like and how to make them clean. Not better, not improved, but new.

Celebrate that you’re you and no one else. One day, you’ll find out that your part in God’s Story might not have been the leading role, but it was vital to the Story and you made a difference in the outcome.

These are just the thoughts of one hot mess directed to all the other hot messes out there.

Random Bits of Advice

It's only moderately tacky but it was also only $5.

It’s only moderately tacky but it was also only $5.

I had a very interesting and unusual day– in a good way. No one died or got laid off or broke any part of their body. I did get off work a bit early and spent some time thrift shopping.

I found some stores on Charlotte Ave near 49th Ave in Nashville. I went in search of THE ultimate tacky Christmas sweater (with moderately successful results) and came away with a few unexpected treasures. Thrift shopping is like that. Life is like that.

I’ve come away with a few tidbits of wisdom I’d like to share:

1) Gravitate toward the people who love you for who you are, who are always happy to see you, who actually want you around, who live out the Gospel in actions and attitudes that reflect the heart of Jesus.

2) Never pass up any opportunities to visit old bookstores. There’s just something magical about being around lots of old books with their musty smells and rich histories that does my heart good. I love my iPad, but nothing beats the feel and smell of a good old book in your hands.

3) When it comes to getting things done versus spending time with people, remember how fragile life is. Chances are very likely most of your to-do list can wait, but those people may not be around tomorrow.

4) Give yourself a break. Objects in your mirror, i. e. you, are not nearly as ugly or goofy or clumsy or hopeless as they appear. There has never and will never be anyone quite like you ever again. That alone makes you special. Unique. Beautiful. Priceless.

There are probably more, but I’m too tired to think of any of them at the moment, so I’ll save them for a later post.

Good night to all my favorite people. That’s means you. Thank you for making my life blessed and amazing and a miracle every single day.

A Good Weekend

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As I stepped into my car to head home from a Sunday School class party, I could hear the hypnotic drone of cicadas and felt 10-years old again and ready for the next big adventure. That’s what life really is. At least for those who have their eyes open to appreciate the mystery and wonder in each gift God unwraps daily called life.

I still fondly remember running through the streets of downtown Nashville with my friend Katie to catch the next act at Live on the Green, Michael Franti. It was a moment I never imagined happening, yet if you were to ask what my all-time favorite moment was, this one would be climbing the charts. And no Gatorade ever tasted better than the ones from the Exxon convenience store on the way home.

How can I forget an impromptu Starbucks session of great conversation and good coffee drinks? I can’t remember two hours flying by that fast. It was yet another in a long line of unexpected treasures and blessings God has showered on me lately.

I remember Friday and Saturday in downtown Franklin, seeing some of my favorite McCreary’s people and savoring yet another beautiful summer night visiting my usual haunts and trekking my familiar path up and down Main Street. I especially recall how quiet it was in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as I sat silent and still and expectant, waiting on a Word from God.

I finally fell asleep at 4:30 this morning after another night of tossing and turning. I think I’ll sleep better tonight. At least I hope I do. But even that time awake gave me time to reflect on all the little gifts that eucharisteo had opened my eyes to see.

I remember something my Sunday School teacher Derek Webster said. He said, “God believes in you even more than you do.”

I have to write that down somewhere. Oh yeah, I guess I just did. But I need it in a place where I can find it and see it every morning, because I know some mornings I’ll wake up and not be as excited to be alive. Those old self-doubts will creep in. The enemy will whisper, “See? Nobody really cares about you. No one would notice if you weren’t around. You don’t make one bit of difference to anybody.”

That’s when this Truth of God comes in. God says differently. To me. To you. To anyone who heard and followed the voice of Jesus. God said you do matter because I made you. Jesus said you matter because I thought you were to die for. You have a gift and a purpose that no one else ever in the history of mankind has ever had. Only you can play the part God wrote for you in the Great Romance He’s written out in history.

You being you makes God smile. You being who God created you is what the world around you needs to see more than any Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. You coming alive to your gifts and talents will be the ripple in the ocean whose effects will last far beyond your own lifetime.

Yep. All that from four days in August.

Back to Loving Being Me

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It really is okay to love yourself. After all, the Bible does say to love your neighbor as yourself and you can’t very well do that if you’re not too fond of you. I think there’s a kind of false modesty that gets passed around where we have the “aw shucks” mentality and downplay any compliments that come our way. I can tell you for certain that kind of thinking doesn’t come from God or the Bible.

God made you. He created you exactly how He wanted you to be and no matter how many scars and breaks and bruises and messes you may have accumulated along the way, He still loves the work of His own hands– you. No matter how you may have been rejected or friend-zoned by girls or guys, God is enraptured and enamored and captivated by you. He is completely and totally crazy in love with you.

I’m loving being me. I can say that I’m not like anybody else out there. That doesn’t make me odd. That might make me eccentric. What that does make me for absolute certain is unique. There is no one in the whole wide world quite like me, and I like that.

I love that I can be socially awkward at times. I love that I can be overly enthusiastic in my friendliness and sometimes be perceived as coming across a little creepy.  That’s okay. Aside from maybe needing to visit Decaf-land from time to time, I’m fine if not every single person likes what I have to offer. Many people were turned off by Jesus.

I love that when God sees me, He sees Jesus. He sees beauty and perfection and wisdom and strength beyond measure. He sees my very best self, the one only hinted at in my best moments of selfless devotion. He sees the finished product of who I will become.

As of this moment, I refuse to take on myself any names other than the ones He has given me. Not from family or friends. Not from co-workers. Not even from me. I don’t have to be defined by words spoken in frustration or anger or resignation. I am no longer the mistakes I’ve made or the chances I’ve missed or the good intentions coming up short.

I am Forgiven. I am Set Free. I am Redeemed. I am A New Creation. I am Blameless.

Of all the names God has given me, my favorite is this: I am His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.

My hope and prayer for you tonight is to let go of all the names you or anyone else has called you out of hate or anger and embrace the name given in love by your Creator and Redeemer and Savior. Listen to Him calling you His Beloved Child. Hear Him singing His delight over you and smiling over you. Let your life be defined by God’s pleasure over you instead of people’s disappointment in you.

I truly hope and pray that you will come to the point where you can truly and honestly say that you love being you.

Things I Love 43: It Is Well With My Soul

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“Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing–and are filled” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

“When we lay the soil of our hard lives opened the rain of grace and let Joy permeate 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? The clouds open when we mouth thanks” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

At another Kairos Night of Worship, I was reminded of just how much in control and how good God is. Even when prayers seem to go unanswered or don’t get answered the way we wanted. Even when life wounds us by loss and pain. Only when the seed is wrecked can new life emerge and the resurrection take place.

1,331) A night of singing old hymns with some very creative arrangements.

1,332) The rhythmic pattern of rain hitting my bedroom window at night.

1,333) Pictures of big dogs and little cats being friends with each other.

1,334) My USAA car insurance.

1,335) Testimonies of how God brought transformation and healing out of deep sorrow and pain.

1,336) 900 people singing as one a Kairos.

1,337) Bananas, which were the only fruit I would eat for a long time.

1,338) The lack of 100+ temps so far this summer.

1,339) Not having to worry about drought conditions this year.

1,340) That God doesn’t just love good little children. He loves even the ones who can’t seem to get their acts together.

1,341) Not being in a legalistic church.

1,342) FInally getting the time zone thing right on my WordPress settings after only 3 years of blogging.

1,343) Appreciating people who think differently than me, i.e. left-brained, logical, liberal, etc.

1,344) How laser printers are so much quieter than the old dot matrix.

1,345) Remembering that life is more of a marathon than a sprint.

1,346) Jumping in the occasional puddle of rain water.

1,347) Browsing (and not stalking) other peoples’ facebook pages.

1,348) The No Crop app that lets me post full pictures on instagram.

1,349) Being reminded of truths through friends’ facebook posts.

1,350) No more pop quizzes ever.

1,351) Being able to cheer and be happy when my friends find their true loves and get married.

1,352) Family and friends who keep encouraging me to keep believing that I will find my own true love.

1,353) Knowing that a chicken coop only has two doors because four would make it a chicken sedan.

1,354) That my 18-year old car still works and runs good.

1,355) Sending Facebook birthday greetings.

1,356) Boxers. No more whitey tightys.

1,357) Getting the room cool so the bed feels extra warm.

1,358) My own unique brand of logic.

1,359) Me.

1,360) The way God sees me as I am, loves me as I could be, treats me like I will be, and is making me more like Jesus.

Rainy Thursday Night Reminders

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Side note: I thought about titling this “The You-niqueness of You,” but decided against it, because I actually want people to read it.

I think sometimes we have a “one size fits all” theology when it comes to how God operates in people’s lives. Testimonies have to be bloody and dramatic and have a pivotal moment when the main character hits absolute rock bottom and has no where to go but up.

But not all testimonies are like that. Some people grow up around church and get saved at an early age, but it took just as much of a miracle to save them as it did the drugged-up alcoholic who comes to Christ after a near-death experience. Both are equally valid testimonies and both can reach people.

Jesus never healed people the same way twice. Every call for people to follow him was as different as the individuals he called. God’s plan for your life is as unique as you are.

Don’t ever let people force God’s call on their lives on you. Don’t let other people define your life by their (or some other arbitrary) standard. Your life and your ministry are your own.

I love a story I read in Johnny Cash’s autobiography. He relates a story about how a music executive was looking for the next Randy Travis. Johnny Cash basically told him straight up, “What’s wrong with the Randy Travis you have?”

You are not called to be the next Billy Graham and save millions of souls. You are not called to be the next Mother Teresa. You are called to be you, just as I am called to be me.

Honestly, sometimes I get discouraged because my life doesn’t look like someone else’s. But God’s plan for me is my own. It may not look like your’s or anybody else’s, but it’s still mine.

The only question is this. Will you be faithful to God’s call on your life? Will you obey what you know God is calling you to do right now at this very moment? Will you accept where God has you as a gift and an opportunity to reach out to the people he’s put in front of you?

Why I Am a Fan of Henri Nouwen

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“In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received” (Henri J.M. Nouwen).

Henri Nouwen wrote that every single person ever born deals with aloneness, because every single one of us is unique and no one else will ever have our exact problems and issues and hang-ups and phobias.

He said we can either see our aloneness as a wound and thus turn it into loneliness or view it as a gift, where it becomes solitude. In solitude is where we can learn to be still and quiet and know that in truth, we are never really alone. God is with us.

Solitude makes us better people, better neighbors, better friends, better spouses, better lovers, and better disciples. We’re not clinging to each other out of a desparate need to not be lonely, but because we are finally comfortable with who we are in the times when we are alone with no noise to drown out our own thoughts.

That is my own wording of what I’ve been reading in The Only Necessary Thing, a compilation of Nouwen’s thoughts on living a prayerful life. Seriously, if you don’t read another one of my blogs, but read one of his books, I will be supremely happy. He’s that good.

That’s all for tonight. Let me know what you are reading that touches you deeply at the soul level. Maybe it’s a book that will do the same for me. And may the God of the earthquake and the God of the thunder also be the God of your silence and the God of your solitude. Amen.