Tennessee Seasons

“Sickness may befall, but the Lord will give grace; poverty may happen to us, but grace will surely be afforded; death must come but grace will light a candle at the darkest hour. Reader, how blessed it is as years roll round, and the leaves begin again to fall, to enjoy such an unfading promise as this, ‘The Lord will give grace” (Charles Spurgeon).

One good thing about living in Tennessee is not having to wait around to experience the different seasons of the year. Already this year, I’ve seen spring, fall, and winter weather– and a day or two that bordered on summer. And it’s not even officially spring.

I know that those afflicted with allergy and sinus issues are not fans of the rapidly changing weather. Mine are mild and bearable, but I know people who haven’t stopped sneezing since January. It’s been that bad.

The good news that I’m being reminded of again is that God is faithful through all the seasons, whether they come in one month or over the course of a year. No matter what befalls, God will continue to be faithful.

As the song I recently sang says, God is perfect in all of His ways to us. Always.

Those words may not always feel true, especially in the dark seasons when life doesn’t make sense and nothing seems to go right, but God’s promises are truer than my feelings. Even when they lie, He remains faithful and true.

 

 

Phone-Less in Nashville

For the first time in a long time (or possibly ever), I left my phone at work. At least I’m 98% sure that’s where I left it.

You never know how much of a hold something has over your life until you’re without it. Even in week two of my social media fast for Lent, it feels weird not to have my phone. I almost feel naked. Almost.

Maybe I need to institute a periodic phone fast where I go without my phone for 24 hours. I wonder if I could last that long– that’s just me keeping it real.

How many people can go 15 minutes without their phones, much less 24 hours? I get nervous twitches just thinking about it. I’m more than a little concerned about how addicted we are to smart technology and gadgets. If someone ever detonates one of those electronic pulse bombs that wipes out all electronic devices, we’re screwed. I almost think civilization would collapse.

The truth of the matter that I sometimes forget is that I spent the vast majority of my life without smart phones. I spent a good deal of my life without any phones at all.

I think I can survive without a phone until tomorrow morning.

PS I found my phone exactly where I left it. . . at work. I managed to not fall apart or spontaneously combust for 12 whole hours without my phone. Maybe there’s hope for us after all.

 

Being a Pray-er

I really believe some people have the spiritual gift of prayer.

I think that when some people go to pray, it’s as if words other than their own come pouring out and every word seems anointed and filled with power.

I know someone like that. He’s one of the fellow Kairos greeters that I’ve been blessed to get to know recently and he definitely has the gift of prayer.

Not everyone has that gift. Not everyone is as eloquent and poetic when they pray. But we’re all called to pray unceasingly in every situation.

I’ve come to believe that some of the best prayers come from people who aren’t the best pray-ers. Some of the best prayers don’t have words.

Sometimes, it’s prostrating yourself on the floor and opening up your hands in a gesture of complete surrender.

Sometimes, it’s silence and tears when the words won’t come.

Sometimes it’s a simple two-word mantra repeated over and over, such as “Help me, help me, help me” or “Thank you, thank, you thank you.”

Sometimes it’s sitting in adoration and basking in the glory of God without asking for anything at all.

You may not consider yourself a good pray-er, but you can still pray. You are still called to pray, no matter how fluent you are or whether you stumble all over yourself when asked to pray in public.

All that you need to pray is a sincere heart and a simple faith. That’s it.

That said, I still love to hear people pray who have the gift of prayer. I knew a guy in Memphis who had as dramatic a testimony as I’ve ever heard, and when he opened his mouth to pray in a group setting, the Spirit moved. He prayed with more authority and confidence in God’s sovereignty than I have ever heard from anybody else.

But I think the prayers that impresses and touches the heart of God the most are the ones you and I pray every morning and every night with a childlike trust and dependence that God is absolutely able to do whatever we ask of Him. Those are His favorites.

Peter, Peter, Peter II: The Sequel

“The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves.

‘What should we do with these men?’ they asked each other. ‘We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.’ So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

But Peter and John replied, ‘Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard'” (Acts 4:13-20, NLT).

I wrote something a while back about how Peter always gets a bad rap for taking his eyes of Jesus while he’s walking on the water and sinking. People point out how Jesus had to rescue him and rebuke him for his lack of faith.

Yet Peter remains one of the only two people in history to ever walk on water, with the other being Jesus Himself. At least Peter got out of the boat. The other 11 stayed behind.

Peter had a long history of good intentions mixed with some bad execution. I personally can relate to that quite well. He’s the one who made the profession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, only to turn around and try to rebuke the Messiah later in the same conversation.

What I love about Peter is that he never quit. Even after so many embarrassing failures and foot-in-mouth incidents, he kept going. Eventually, he kept his zeal and enthusiasm, but added some wisdom to it.

That same apostle who denied Jesus three times is the same one who preached the Pentecost sermon that saw 3,000 saved. He’s the one who stated that he wouldn’t (and couldn’t) stop talking about how Jesus changed his life. They could beat him, stone him, jail him, and even kill him, but nothing would deter him from sharing the Gospel.

That same apostle ended up (according to tradition) being crucified upside down for his faith because he felt he was unworthy to be killed in the same manner as his Lord. He kept his word and was faithful even unto death.

What made the difference? What made people sit up and take notice when he opened his mouth to proclaim the gospel? It was the time spent with Jesus.

I’m thankful that God still uses people like Peter. God isn’t looking for the best-looking or the most gifted or the most gregarious. What he wants are people who are available and surrendered. He can use the least and the lowliest.

What He wants is you and me.

 

Can I Get a Witness?

I remember my first band camp experience as a freshman in high school at Briarcrest. I remember how badly I wanted to fit in and be accepted. In other words, I was very much a typical teenager.

There was a junior named Rhett who took me under his wing, so to speak, and who didn’t treat me like the awkward freshman I probably was at that point in my life. He talked to me about music and even introduced me to some of his favorite bands. He didn’t talk down to me or treat me as an inferior. He treated me like a friend. That’s what I needed.

Most of us go through at least one season in our lives where we feel unnoticed and unappreciated. We feel invisible and wonder if what we do matters (or if we matter). We wonder if the world would miss us if we were suddenly gone (or maybe even if the world wouldn’t be better off without us at all).

We need that one person who will see us, that one person who will say in essence, “Yes, I see you. Your life will not go unnoticed, because I will be a witness to it. No matter what you’re going through, I’m with you.”

Maybe we need to seek out one person so that we can be a witness to their life. Maybe you can’t change the world, but for one person you can make a world of difference.

I know for me Rhett make a world of difference. I lost touch with him after my freshman year, but I’ve never forgotten how much his acceptance and friendship meant to me in a time when I desperately needed it. I wish I could thank him for that.

Hopefully, someone will say that about me one day and then turn around and pay it forward.

 

Trying Less and Trusting More

“Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer, Second Sunday of Lent).

Why is it that the harder you try not to laugh the more you end up laughing? It seems especially true when you’re in a place where laughter is completely inappropriate yet you just can’t help yourself.

I know for me sometimes that the more I try to do good and be good, the more I find the not so good showing up in me (or to use an old fashioned word that’s definitely considered politically incorrect, sin).

Christianity isn’t about trying harder and being more moral or keeping rules for the sake of keeping rules. It’s not about God helping those who help themselves (which isn’t even in the Bible– Benjamin Franklin said it). FYI, if we could help ourselves, we wouldn’t have needed God or faith or Christianity to begin with.

Christianity is all about those who know they can’t help themselves (in every sense of the word). It’s for all those who’ve tried and failed so many times they’ve lost count.

Christianity is about how Jesus has already done for us what we could never hope to do for ourselves. It’s His resurrection power that enables us to live right because it’s His life in us.

It’s about God promising to finish the good work He started in us long ago and keeping His promise because God is a Promise Keeper.

 

 

Wisdom from The Walking Dead

“Anything is possible as long as your heart is still beating” (Father Gabriel Stokes, The Walking Dead).

I love me some Walking Dead. I confess this season hasn’t been my favorite, but I tune in weekly to see what crazy post-apocalyptic antics will ensue with these characters I’ve come to know so well.

I never thought I’d get such a deep spiritual moment like the one I got when Father Gabriel said the above quote. In Baptist terms, “That’ll preach, bro.”

How true that is.

As long as you’re alive and as long as you have a heartbeat, you have a purpose and you still matter.

No matter what you’ve been through or are going through, no matter how messed up you feel, the reality is that God still has you around for a reason.

You may feel like giving up on God, the world, and yourself, but don’t think for one second that God will ever give up on you. While you still have breath in your body, God still has a purpose for you that’s uniquely yours and no one else’s.

On a side note, I love how Father Gabriel’s character has grown and matured since he was introduced on the show a few seasons back. He started out as a coward who essentially hid behind his clerical collar but has since evolved into someone who is able to not only contribute to the community but also make a difference. Plus, he had the best line of the episode, hands down.

Note to the reader: I realize that I’m a bit behind. I finally got around to watching the episode I recorded on Sunday and it was worth the wait. I’m actually beginning to have hopes that the season will end on a much higher note than it began.