Nothing Shall Be Impossible

I can hardly believe it. The Nashville Predators are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals.

This is like a movie script for one of those inspirational films like Rudy or Remember the Titans. I don’t think you could make up something as unlikely and improbable as this.

I confess. Halfway through the NHL regular season, I had given up on these Preds. I wasn’t sure they’d make the playoffs, much less do anything when they got there.

When I found out their first round opponent was the Chicago Blackhawks, I said we’d be lucky to win one game at the most.

Never have I been happier in all my life to eat my own words. I’m thrilled that I was not only wrong, but way off.

I’m still dreaming of the Press bringing the Stanley Cup back to Music City. That would be awesome for the city of Nashville as well as for professional hockey and the NHL. It might not be realistic, but then again, them being in the finals wasn’t either.

Maybe this is a God-wink for some of you to never stop believing in the impossible. Truly with God all things are possible. Or, like one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite pastors, with God, what seems impossible to us is not even remotely difficult for Him. Not even close.

Keep believing. Keep pursuing that dream. Keep praying for that loved one. Keep pulling yourself up out of bed every morning and making each day a new start.

Above all, keep trusting that God’s promises are truer than your circumstances or your feelings or your gut instinct or anything else or anyone else who tells you differently.

The old saying goes something like this: if it is to be, it is up to me.

I like this version a lot better: if it is to be, He is up to it!

 

 

Living Letters

“Does it sound like we’re patting ourselves on the back, insisting on our credentials, asserting our authority? Well, we’re not. Neither do we need letters of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.

We couldn’t be more sure of ourselves in this—that you, written by Christ himself for God, are our letter of recommendation. We wouldn’t think of writing this kind of letter about ourselves. Only God can write such a letter. His letter authorizes us to help carry out this new plan of action. The plan wasn’t written out with ink on paper, with pages and pages of legal footnotes, killing your spirit. It’s written with Spirit on spirit, his life on our lives!” (2 Corinthians 3:1-6, The Message).

Two questions continue to haunt me from this morning’s sermon by Sean MacNally at The Church at Avenue South: 1) What kind of letter are you? 2) Who is reading you?

I can only hope that my letter is a letter full of both grace and truth. I hope that people who read my life will know that their stories don’t have to end with ashes and tears but that there is hope for a new start and a better ending.

As for the second question, I believe that there’s always someone watching you. Someone out there hears you say that you’re a Christian and pays attention to see if your lifestyle matches your testimony. What are they seeing?

I still love what Dwight Moody said. For every one person who picks up and reads a Bible, there will be ten who will read the Christian. What kind of gospel will they find? What will they learn about the Jesus– not the Jesus you talk about but the Jesus you emulate by your daily words and actions?

These are questions that I hope linger in my mind for a while. May they be more than nice sentiments but the keys to real and lasting transformation.

 

Sorry, I Got Distracted

I was scrolling through Facebook looking for something to inspire my newest blog post, but instead I got distracted, thanks to my ADD kicking into high gear.

Then I thought to myself, maybe this is the topic. How many of us get distracted on a daily basis from what really and truly matters most? We let the tyranny of the urgent keep us from focusing on what’s most important.

Checking off all those tasks on the to-do list is a good thing but not if it keeps us from spending time with loved ones. Especially not if it keep us from spending time with God. This culture celebrates being in a hurry and being busy all the time, yet it feels like so many of us are failing where it really counts in terms of being connected with each other and finding true fulfillment.

None of us will automatically drift into spiritual maturity. We will not obtain holiness through osmosis by sleeping with a Bible underneath our pillows at night. It takes deliberate effort and discipline.

I can’t remember how many days it takes for an action to become a habit, but it takes doing something every single day for it to finally take.

The lesson we need to learn is that if you completely mess up and get distracted, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that tomorrow is as good a day as any to start again. That’s the beauty of new mercies every morning.

Additional note: I got distracted again and decided to research how many days it actually takes to form a habit. The answer they gave is not 21 but 66 days. The answer I’m telling you is to keep at it for as long as it takes until it becomes second nature.

In other words, don’t give up.

 

T.G.I.F. (Thankful Grace Is Free)

I really wish I could claim credit for that. I stole it from Scotty Smith, who posted it on Facebook earlier. I’m always grateful for Fridays, but I’m much more thankful for the free grace that saves and sustains me every day.

I’m more and more convicted that those who have received much grace will be the ones who show it to others the most. Even to those with whom you disagree politically.

I love grace because I know I need it. I see my need of it more and more the older I get. Grace is everywhere if you only have eyes of faith to see it with.

Your mission is to extend more grace to others and to yourself. As the saying goes, always be kind because you will probably never know what the other person struggles with on a daily basis.

Remember, when in doubt, give grace.

That’s it.

The end.

A Prayer from Seven Years Ago

“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt. Send me where Thou wilt. Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever. Amen” (Betty Scott Stam).

I think that prayer is still very much applicable for me right now. I hope and pray it becomes the desire of all of our hearts from here into eternity.

Amen.

Simple Pleasures

It’s easy to let life overwhelm you and get you distracted by all that you didn’t get done today or how much awaits you tomorrow. You can get so focused on the big picture and what will happen five years from now that you forget to find joy in the simple pleasures.

Right now, my geriatric feline is sleeping on the pillow next to mine. Occasionally, she snores. I suppose when you’re an 18 year old cat, you’re allowed. Still, it never ceases to amuse me.

I still love the feeling of driving at night with the windows rolled down and the breezes blowing. It works best in spring and fall, but there are the occasional summer nights where the air is slightly less hot and humid.

In case you forgot, the very act of breathing in and out and being alive is itself a miracle and one of the greatest joys for those who are able to appreciate it. None of us are entitled to the next day, so when it comes, it comes as a gift.

Your assignment is to take time out in your busy day to find the simple pleasures and say a quick prayer of thanks for each one. You might be surprised how it changes your perspective.

 

Sadness and Joy

“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life).

It seems like lately there is so much sadness. So many people I know are grieving over loved ones who have passed away. So many are heartsick over those they love who have received bad news from the doctor in the form of a cancer diagnosis. So many who see those close to them slipping away from Alzheimer’s or some other kind of dementia.

The sadness can feel overwhelming at times.

But there’s joy, too.

It can be hard to find, like trying to catch a glimpse of the sun on a cloudy, rainy day, but it’s there.

Joy is knowing that God can take the worst imaginable circumstances and transform them into the best possible outcome. He can truly work all things together for good, including grief and loss.

Jesus endured willingly all the shame and sorrow of the cross for the joy set before Him. So you and I can endure the seemingly unendurable because we know that in the end, death and sadness and loss and pain will not have the last word.

Joy will. Love will. God will.