Five Years Later

Five years ago today I decided to see how long I could go without drinking carbonated beverages. At the time, I had no real goal other than to see how long it would take before I finally gave in.

Well, it’s been five years later and I still haven’t caved. I do occasionally have dreams where I have a coke, but post-REM, I have no desire for one.

If you want a moral out of this, try this one on for size. You accomplish any goal one step at a time, one day at a time. You move mountains one handful of dirt at a time.

The deciding factor is how badly you want to change. If your desire for change outweighs your desire for comfort and for familiarity, you will change. If not, you won’t.

Not deeply profound, I know. Dr. Phil probably said it better. I’m here to testify that I’m living proof to what happens when you take that first step. If I can change, anyone can change.

All it takes is that proverbial first step.

Watch me dream about having a Dr. Pepper tonight.

 

Never Say Never: The Musical

Once again, I’ve found myself in a place I swore I’d never be in a thousand years. I found myself driving home from work with Roy Acuff playing on the car CD player.

For a second there, you probably thought I was going to say I spent the night in jail or had a lost weekend of partying and drinking. Nope. I’m not that exciting. I like to remember the good parts of my life and I also like to not have to fear for my life or my masculinity when bending over in the shower to get my soap.

I did say once that I’d never listen to country music. I was fairly adamant about that. I believed that Conway Twitty was the gateway on the path to dating your first cousin and dipping snuff.

Thankfully, I’ve matured and broadened my horizons. Still, Roy Acuff is about as country as you can get.

I’ve been reminded yet again that more often than not, it’s best to refrain from saying never when it comes to new experiences and trying new things, especially when it comes to music.

The life of faith is all about getting rid of expectations and learning to trust moment by moment. I’ve decided that God always leads me where I would have originally decided to go had I known everything that He knows.

It really is just as much about the journey and the process as it is about the destination. It’s about who you’re becoming along the way as much as where you’re headed.

Roy Acuff was great. It felt like I slipped back to a simpler time and place that by and large doesn’t exist anymore except in music, movies, and books. And no, I have no desire to date any of my close relatives or go anywhere near chewing tobacco, thank you very much).

 

Yet Another Borrowed Prayer

“You are the God from whom no secret can be hid, and we are a people with many secrets, that we want to tell for the sake of our lives, that we dare not tell because they are deep and painful. But they are our secrets… and they count for much; they are our truth… rooted deep in our lives. You are the God of all truth, and now we bid you heed our truth, about which we will not bear false witness… The truth of grief unresolved, the truth of pain unacknowledged, the truth of fear too child-like, the truth of hate, as powerful as it is deep, the truth of being taken advantage of, and being used, and manipulated, and slandered. We trust the great truth of your wondrous love, but we will not sit still for it, UNTIL you hear us. Our truth – heard by you – will make us free. So be the God of all truth, even ours, we pray in the name of Jesus, who is your best kept secret of hurt. Amen” (Walter Brueggemann).

I have absolutely nothing to add to this. May it be as much your prayer as it has been mine.

Finding Rest for Your Souls

“We overvalue nonessentials like a nicer car or house, or even intangibles like the number of our followers on Twitter or the way we look in our Facebook photos. As a result, we neglect activities that are truly essential, like spending time with our loved ones, or nurturing our spirit, or taking care of our health” (Greg McKeownEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less).

Tonight’s topic at Kairos was keeping the Sabbath.

It was not the usual guilt trip about how you shouldn’t go to Wal-Mart on Sunday or how if you skip church you must be a heathen pagan.

It was more about how God designed the seventh day for rest. Not merely sleeping in one day a week (though that is a good thing in my opinion) but truly resting in body, mind, and spirit.

Chris Brooks, the Kairos pastor, pointed out that we don’t rest from our work as much as we work from our rest. Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for work can also be translated as worship, so even our labors can have an element of rest in them if we view our jobs as offerings of worship rather than just tasks and to-do-lists.

I still love what Macrina Wiederkehr said: “Work is love made visible.” When we see that our job isn’t something we endure to get to Friday, but an act of worship and a demonstration of love, then it becomes less of an ordeal and more of a joy.

In a world where busyness is glorified and justified and promoted, God says to rest. God says that you can get more done in six days with a day set aside for rest than you can by charging ahead full speed for seven days without a break.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).

Thoughts on God’s Great Grace

It’s Monday. My brain is shot. I can’t come up with anything remotely inspiring or creative, so I decided to let one of my favorite writers express some powerful words about the grace of God:

“He saw you cast into a river of life you didn’t request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your own garden of Gethsemane and he didn’t want you to be alone.

He wanted you to know that he has been there, too. He knows what it’s like to be plotted against. He knows what it’s like to be confused. He knows what it’s like to be torn between two desires. He knows what it’s like to smell the stench of Satan. And, perhaps most of all, he knows what it’s like to beg God to change his mind and to hear God say so gently, but firmly, “No.” For that is what God said to Jesus. And Jesus accepts the answer.

At some moment during that midnight hour an angel of mercy comes over the weary body of the man in the garden. As he stands, the anguish is gone from his eyes. His fist will clench no more. His heart will fight no more. The battle is won. You may have thought it was won on Golgotha. It wasn’t. The final battle was won in Gethsemane. And the sign of conquest is Jesus at peace in the olive trees. For it was in the garden that he made his decision. He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you” (Max Lucado, The Gift for All People).

Now go buy all of his books.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

  “When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm;
        you will not be engulfed in raging rivers.
    If it seems like you’re walking through fire with flames licking at your limbs,
        keep going; you won’t be burned.
    Because I, the Eternal One, am your God.
        I am the Holy One of Israel, and I will save you” (Isaiah 43:2-3, The Voice).

I never thought I’d say it, but I’m actually relieved that the weekend is just about over.

It has rained literally all weekend long and Monday promises to bring sunshine, so I say bring on Monday!

All this rain reminds me of nearly seven years ago when Nashville had a long period of substantial rainfall that turned into a flood that significantly impacted the city and surrounding areas.

I still remember not being able to get out of my subdivision due to the road being flooded. I remember seeing parts of the city underwater and seeing portable school buildings floating down the interstate.

I remember above all a promise God made to never again flood the world, accompanied by the sign of a rainbow given to Noah and all who would follow after.

I remember that God told us not to fear even when the waters rise and the flames come because He said He’d be with us no matter what.

Thankfully, this weekend hasn’t been nearly that dramatic. No floods or flames, just rain. The worst I had to deal with was getting wet while walking to my car in the rain.

I take great comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, even the worst case scenarios that we all occasionally fear, nothing can separate me from the love of God. I have a Redeemer who knows how to walk on water to get to me.

 

Courageous Kindness

“…the world needs us to belong to each other, to hear each other, to hurt with each other, to be kind to one another.
Kindle us with kindness, Lord, keep us with kindness, kiss us with kindness.
Please, resurrect us all with a courageous kindness
that heals countless hurting wounds
with a Brave Giving Love like Yours” (Ann Voskamp).

In these days of social media, it’s so very easy to sit behind a computer screen and tear into someone else verbally. It’s easy to berate and belittle those who dare to voice a dissenting opinion.

Those who proclaim the loudest to be the most tolerant are often the quickest to pounce on someone whose words could be construed in any way to be offensive (regardless of whether those words were taken out of context or not).

Kindness is harder. It’s not the automatic response for most of us when people do and say things we don’t like. Sometimes, it takes tremendous courage to be kind when everyone else expects you to be just as nasty as the people who hurt you.

Kindness is also the better way. It’s Jesus’ way. Jesus modeled kindness and forgiveness throughout His earthly ministry.

Choose kindness. After all, you never know what secret battles people are facing or how far they’ve come. You know enough of what you’d be apart from the grace of God to know how much you needed kindness and how much others need it from you.

Choose kindness.