Wednesday Randomness

So far, I’ve gone 22 days in my fast from social media for Lent. So far, so good. Apart from feeling completely out of the loop in terms of what’s going on with my friends, all is well. I most definitely have not missed the running political commentary on the new President, whether pro or con.

I had another thought about courage. It isn’t always the absense of fear. Sometimes, courage is being afraid– even terrified– and stepping out anyway. 

Fear isn’t always bad. If you have absolutely no fear, it may be because you live a safe life with no risks involved but also no growth. When you finally decide to step out of what’s familiar into the unkown, there’s always fear that can paralyze you or motivate you.

I picked up yet another Bible translation over the weekend. This one’s the Williams translation. It’s somewhat similar to the Phillips translation in that it was done by one individual and isn’t strictly a word-for-word reading but more of trying to capture the original authors’ intent.

Life is good, God is great, and all is well.

Courage

“But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm'” (Exodus 14:13-14, New Living Translation).

I think that we live in a culture where we are programmed to fear. A lot of advertising is based off the notion that you need a particular product or program if you want to avoid a dreaded catastrophe and if you want to stay safe and secure.

We live in a society where many fear what they don’t understand. Much of the time, that fear expresses itself in anger and outrage and putting up a wall toward anyone who has a different viewpoint than us.

But Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I.”

The way I look at courage has changed over the years. I used to see courage as bravely charging into a fearful situation or boldly standing up for an unpopular cause.

Now, I see that sometimes courage can be that quiet voice that tells you to try again tomorrow. Courage can be as small as taking that next step when everything in you is crying out for you to quit.

Courage can be showing up every single day, regardless of how bad the day before was or how bleak the future looks. Courage knows that while I myself may be at my weakest, what lies ahead of me is no match to what dwells within me– namely, the indwelling Spirit of Jesus.

Courage may indeed sometimes be bold and decisive, but often it’s continuing to be obedient in the minutiae, knowing that every little step matters. Sometimes, courage looks a lot like perseverance and patience.

My prayer is for courage for all of us not just in the dramatic moments but in the ordinary minutes and hours of every day humdrum. May we heed that quiet voice to always try again tomorrow.

 

My Cat Is Older (and Probably Smarter) than Your Honor Student and Other Thoughts


For those who are new to me and my blog posts, I have an elderly feline. Her name is Lucy and she’s 17. I realized while I was volunteering yet again for the Youth Evangelism Conference a couple of weekends ago that my cat is probably older than most of the students who were in attendance there. She may or may not also be smarter.

Think about it. She doesn’t have to get up at a ridiculously early hour to go off to work. She doesn’t run around like a headless chicken in order to feel productive. She does what she wants when she feels like it. At this point, that consists of mostly napping with the occasional snack and poop thrown in to keep things interesting.

I confess that I’m a bit jealous sometimes. I wish she could go to my job and I could stay home and do some napping. After all, she’s old enough to drive, right?

I refuse to engage in the debate about whether cats are better than dogs or visa versa. I like both. Right now, I have a cat and I love the fact that she’s super low-maintenance, as well as the world’s best lap cat. I also love dog sitting and hanging out with all manner of pups.

I think life’s better with pets. Unless you’re deathly allergic, I highly recommend one. They’re great companions and their love isn’t based on your looks or money or personality or anything other than you exist. Plus, it keeps you humble when you realize they love sniffing their own butts just as much as you.

So go get a pet if you don’t have one. Take care of it. Don’t abandon it when it gets old and less cute. If you’re going to have a dog perpetually chained up in the backyard 24/7, don’t get one. You’d be better off with a lawn ornament. But that’s definitely another topic for another blog post on another day.

 

Lessons from the Book of Judges

My church is currently going through a sermon series on the book of Judges. It’s not the kind of book when you want to feel good about yourself or the people of God. It’s a book where God’s people failed miserably and repeatedly, continuing a vicious cycle that involved them being hounded by a foreign people, crying out to God for deliverance, and God sending a judge to do just that.

I realized something today. In the book of Joshua, God commanded the people of Israel to utterly annihilate the enemies in the land they were claiming. At first, all went well, but further in, they fall into idolatry and are no longer able to drive out all the peoples in the lands they are taking.

These people are the very ones whose idols will enslave the people of God. These are the very ones whom Israel will serve as a result of that idolatry. Disobedience and sin always have consequences.

I also see that God never spurns the cry of His people. At some point, He probably would have been justified in bailing on them. After all, they did turn their backs on Him and run after other gods. They even forgot what He had done to bring them into this Promised Land.

God is faithful to His promises even when we’re not. God’s faithfulness often makes up for our lack of it. I’m thankful that God’s mercy isn’t dependent on my spiritual fervor or His grace dependent on my obedience.

All those judges that brought deliverance were pointing toward a coming Deliverer who would deliver His people once and for all. My pastor pointed out that while people may recoil from all the violence and bloodshed in the Old Testament, there is just as much of that in the New Testament. It was all directed at one man– the promised Messiah and Deliverer Jesus– who endured a very violent death on the cross for us.

That still doesn’t make for an easy read of Judges. I’m glad to be past it and into the book of 1 Samuel.

 

I Lived to Tell the Tale

Some days are great and some days are terrible. Some days just are. This was one of them.

It wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible. It just was.

Still, it’s got a few things going for it that make it a good day in my book.

I woke up this morning, so that’s a win.

I managed to breathe in and out and my heart kept beating all day. Another win.

I didn’t go hungry or thirsty or naked or cold. Still another win.

I woke up to God’s new mercies and I’m going to bed under His everlasting grace.

I’d call it a very good day, wouldn’t you?

 

A Quick Thought Before Bed

I had a thought. It’s completely unoriginal and by no means profound, but I think it’s something we all could do well to remember in these days ahead.

Prayer still works.

When you’re tempted to talk about somebody negatively, try praying for that person instead. That goes for political leaders, too.

I heard something recently that struck a chord with me. Instead of so much speaking out against the President, maybe we should try praying for him instead. That’s true whether we have an Obama or a Trump in the Oval Office.

None of us knows all the facts, but God does. None of us knows the best possible solution, but God does. None of us has the power to effect change in our circumstances and in the lives of others, but God can and God does all the time.

So pray a lot and gossip a whole lot less. Pray more and criticize less.

That’s it for tonight.

 

To All Those Bracket Busters

I love this time of year when the season known as March Madness descends on all those who love college basketball (or just good competitive sports in general).

It’s the time when people fill out brackets of who they think will win each and every one of the 67 games all the way up to the national championship game. Mostly, it’s just for fun and mostly it’s akin to throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded.

This time around, I filled in 11 brackets, hoping that maybe one might actually win me something– if nothing more than a good sense of pride in finally having a decently picked bracket.

This is also the time of year when at least one team will come out of nowhere to pull off the monumental upset that will wreck just about everybody’s brackets.

Last year, it was Middle Tennessee shocking Michigan State and rendering a lot of brackets as birdcage liner or recycle bin filler.

Four years ago, Florida Gulf Coast knocked off Georgetown and managed to break into the Sweet Sixteen before being unceremoniously ousted by Florida.

A lot of us know what it’s like to be the underdog. Many feel like outsiders and outcasts in a world where image and style are everything.

Yet in God’s economy, those are the ones He picks to advance His kingdom on this planet. Those very underdogs are the ones He calls more than conquerors through Christ.

So far, every one of those NCAA Cinderella teams eventually get kicked out of the ball and end up going home short of being champions. Just about every time, it’s one of the power programs who ends up winning it all.

With God, it’s a different story. It’s the last who are first and those outcasts who end up with the victory. It’s the nobodies who are the ones God calls His beloved.

So far, my brackets are still in the running, for the most part. I still have an outside shot of ending up with a respectable outcome. If I win any money or fame, I promise to remain the same humble blog post writer as always.