Take Up Your Cross

“Jesus called the crowd together with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake and the gospel’s will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God]” (Mark 9:34-35, Amplified Bible).

Don’t get me wrong. I do love me some social media. I love being able to connect with new people and reconnect with old friends that I haven’t seen in years.

I also have noticed lately that social media has a way of turning people more and more myopic and narcissistic. It becomes all about “me and my,” as in my life, my spouse, my family, my home, my career, etc.

I’ve also noticed that people can very easily become thin-skinned and defensive if there is even a perceived threat or criticism of how they behave or talk.

I confess I’m guilty of being way too inward focused. The old saying about humility remains true– it’s not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.

Jesus’ call to take up the cross and follow remains as true as ever. That’s the only true way to find yourself and what you were meant for — namely, by losing yourself and your preconceived notions of how your life should go. By losing the notion that you are in control of your own destiny.

I hope that my life’s purpose will echo the call of John the Baptist– that I must decrease so that Jesus may increase and be glorified and magnified in my life more and more with every day that passes.

 

The Comforter

There’s a great book by Francis Chan called The Forgotten God. The gist is that so many pay little heed to the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

I’m learning more and more of what the Holy Spirit’s role is and how He affects my life on a daily basis. He is called the Paraclete, literally one who walks alongside of us to guide and encourage and comfort and convict and challenge us.

One of my favorite aspects of the Holy Spirit is that when I am at a loss for words, He takes my sighs and groans and tears too deep for words and interprets those into prayers that God hears.

There have been lots of times when I simply can’t find the words. Many times, I just can’t corral my mind into any sort of coherent prayer. Even in the middle of stress and panic, the words that are buried in my heart can find their way to the throne room of Heaven, thanks to the Holy Spirit. Often, the prayers that God answers are far better than any that I could have thought up on my own left to my own devices.

So many are on their knees tonight with sighs and sobs and groans and tears as their prayers. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, their prayers are heard and God is with them in the midst of their anguish and grief and pain.

Holy Spirit, be near all those who cry out in pain and all whose grief is too deep for words. Be their Comforter and Advocate in their darkest hours. Be their voice when they can’t find their own.

In case you’re interested in the book I mentioned earlier, I’ve provided a link for you to follow and purchase it if you want:

Ryan Adams for the Road

I’m officially a fan of Ryan Adams. Well, his music anyway. I don’t really know Ryan Adams the human being, so I can’t really comment either way, but I’m working my way toward owning his entire music catalog.

I was listening to Heartbreaker in the car tonight. It’s one of those that I consider worthy road trip music. I almost felt like I needed to hit one of those open highways, roll down the windows, throw the road map out the window, and just drive.

I didn’t. Plus, I don’t really have an actual road map to throw out the window.

Ryan Adams is one of those rare artists whose music feels crafted rather than manufactured. It feels more like art painstakingly created by people than a commodity that’s mass produced by machines.

I’ve stopped caring whether the music is rock or country or jazz or pop or indie. I only care that it moves me on a deep soul-level and paints images in my mind and speaks to my condition.

I have a wide variety of musical tastes, not all of which fall into the hipster category (and some of which probably fall into the “I know, please don’t judge me” category).

I’m eagerly anticipating the new Ryan Adams album, due to arrive very shortly from the good people at Amazon. It will immediately go into heavy rotation in my Jeep.

I also look forward to the next Patty Griffin album, which I hope will arrive sooner than later. Fingers crossed.

 

 

No More Panicked Worriers

“Hey Soul? No matter what?
God’s leaning over, taking your hand, & handing you just 3 words for today: DO. NOT. WORRY.
‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now —
Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen…
God will help you deal with WHATEVER hard things come up when the time comes.’
Matthew 6:34, MSG.
God’s so got you & This Thing covered —
This Thing is so not going to take you down.
Just for today, just end this week real strong:
Be a prayer warrior–not a panicked worrier (Ann Voskamp).”

I confess that I am too much of a panicked worrier and not a prayer warrior. I think a whole lot of us are.

I read recently that worry says that everything that you want and that is important to you has to happen right now or it won’t happen at all.

God’s timetables are rarely in sync with ours, but as I’m still learning, his timing is always much, much better than mine.

Worry is a lie with just enough of the truth thrown in to make it more convincing.

God is 100% truthful in everything and His promises are always guaranteed.

Worry shows you an outcome without God in it.

God shows you an outcome without worry in it.

Even in the face of all this, why is worry such an automatic response? What makes it almost like the default setting that I revert back to when my world gets shaken even the tiniest little bit?

I think it’s because I’m still a work in progress. You and I are in the process of becoming who God has already declared us to be in Christ, and God is the one doing the molding and shaping.

So don’t fret if worry creeps in. Just repent and refocus and remember that God is faithful even in the midst of our most anxious moments. God’s promises will always outlast whatever it is we’re worried about.

The end.

 

 

Taking a Break from Reality

I had some quality old-school music playing on my trek home this afternoon. I have the smooth, velvety baritone voice of Johnny Hartman singing me home.

I confess I know next to nothing about this artist. I know that he made a fantastic album with John Coltrane and apparently had a lengthy recording career that started around 1947 and lasted until his death in 1983.

I’m all for staying current with world events and being informed when it comes to issues and politics, but I firmly believe that occasionally we all need a break from reality. As in a good fantasy novel or a fun movie or, in my case, old school jazz crooner music.

I suppose if I had to pick between music, books, and movies, I’d go with music. Nothing seems to calm and quiet my soul quite like the right song at the right time. Especially when driving on a warm summer night with the windows rolled down and the volume cranked up. It’s magical.

There’s also the therapeutic effect of having a cat (or a dog) camp out on your lap. If you don’t have one, you should definitely look into it. They’re great for lowering blood pressure and reducing stress and generally helping you to find peace.

My advice is to limit your news intake. First of all, I’m not convinced that what you’re seeing is accurately represented of what’s actually happening out there in the real world. Second, a steady dose of it can only serve to stress you out and make you angry.

Find your medium that relaxes you. Set aside time for to read or Netflix and chill or to put on the headphones and let the music carry you away, even if it’s only for when you’re driving to and from work.

You won’t regret it.

 

I Got Nothing: 2017 Edition

In the process of writing daily blog posts, there inevitably will come those days when you simply can’t think of a single thing to write. The well of creativity goes dry and that spark of inspiration has a wet fuse. In other words, I got nothing.

Well, not exactly. If you read last night’s blog post, you know that I actually have quite a lot, like a roof over my head, a full stomach, clothes on my back, a job, a car, etc.

Most of all I have God. God plus nothing else trumps everything else this world has to offer without God.

I also have a purring geriatric cat on the pillow next to mine who is having a birthday in 5 days (and my own birthday coming up in 13 days. Hint, hint).

Hopefully your normally scheduled blog posts should be up and running by tomorrow evening.

 

 

Happy February 14!

It’s Valentine’s Day aka Single Awareness Day aka The Day Before Chocolate is 70% Off. In other words, this day is loaded with expectations. And chocolate.

For those of you in relationships, congratulations. Don’t take them for granted. The good relationships aren’t the ones where the two of you settle but where each of you is still trying to win the heart of the other and outdo each other with acts of love.

For those who are not, the temptation to cynicism and envy and anger is very real. Especially if you’ve reached the point on giving up for any kind of romance of your own.

The key is to get out of yourself. It’s to seek out the unlovable and serve them with acts of love. It’s to focus on the Author of all loves, the one who made us lovable when He set His love on us in the first place.

That’s how Valentine’s Day exists. We love at all because He first loved us.

It’s important to remember that love at its core is not an emotion. While love does involve the emotions, it is ultimately an act of the will. When you stop feeling in love, you still choose to act in loving ways. That’s real love.

No matter where you are on this Valentine’s Day, remember above all that you are loved. God demonstrated His love for us in that while you and I were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still enemies with God, Jesus chose those nails for us.

You are the beloved of God. That trumps every other identity and that’s the best way to define yourself and to see yourself on this February 14.

Plus, there’s always chocolate. Chocolate never judges. Chocolate understands. Chocolate will always be there for you.