New Year, New Voice

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
and next year’s words await another voice.”
-T S Eliot
He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace. But year after year you’re as good as new. Your servants’ children will have a good place to live and their children will… be at home with you. God says, “Pay close attention now: I’m creating new heavens and a new earth. All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy.” So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
-Isaiah 61: 2-3, Isaiah 65: 17,
Psalm 102: 28, Colossians 3:12-14

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Mercy Be Yours in Abundance

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time. Be merciful to those who doubt. Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy… Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.”
(Luke 6: 36; James 2: 12, 13; Jude 22; Matt 9: 12, 13; 1 Pet 2: 10; James 3: 17; Jude 2)

“Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” -CS Lewis (The Screwtape Letters)
Go bless people today with mercy and grace. And put your heart into it.

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Longing for a Better Country – a Heavenly One

To those of you who, like me, consider yourself an Ambassador of the King of kings who has entrusted us to bring the characteristics of Heaven to earth, I’d like to call your attention to a few words from Eternity that are on my mind. The words come from all across texts of the New Testament and I’ve placed their eternal purpose together here in a paragraph that should bless our days, fix our eyes and set our hearts on things higher:

“Admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there. Be sure as citizens to conduct yourselves in a manner of life worthy of the good news of Christ. Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. The wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere. When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Heb 11: 13, 16; Phil 3: 20; Phil 1: 27;  1 Pet 2: 13, Rom 13: 1, Titus 3: 1,2; James 3: 17, 18; Matt 5:9



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Garbage Bag Context

20120308-085310.jpgI was driving down 8th Street this morning; trashbags lined both sides of the street in the front yards. It struck me that if someone was visiting here who came from a country with no organized sanitation system, they would assume that we were a very very messy town. They would have no frame of reference or context that would explain to them that these trash bags weren’t a sign of messiness but rather exactly the opposite.

All of the trash bags being in the front yard the same day doesn’t show that we’re all messy alike. It shows that we’re organized in our disposal of the refuse even though someone from outside our context sees it exactly the opposite. The only hope that the on-looker has for truly understanding the situation is that he or she would take the time to ask the right questions to understand the context. Otherwise, it just remains a mess to look at.

I know, only a man would see garbage bags laying on the side of the road and ponder something deeper about them. But I really do think it begs us to ask how we judge people and situations. We are very good at gathering an initial bit of information from a glance and then passing our judgments on people in situations. How many things that are actually blessing people have we judged as bad because we haven’t taken the time to understand the context? And the opposite can be true; how many things do we assume to be good without asking questions about the context?

I know myself that I make too many snap judgments. I’d like to have the patience and long-suffering nature to understand context before I make assumptions and before I pass judgment. I hope you’ll join me in taking the time to understand people and situations before we assume that things are a mess. The exact opposite might be true. The trash bags laying out in clear sight might actually show an organized, intentional effort in improving things instead of the first glance appearance of messiness.

Dear God, give me the patience to see context. Open my eyes and open my heart. So be it.

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SlutWalk and Sex God

Well, that title should get your attention and keep you reading!

SlutWalk DC 2011 - click to enlarge

I glanced at Facebook just a few minutes ago and saw a post by my college friend, Kristina Korobov. It was of the picture you see here. It struck me as a very poignant statement about the culture in which we’re all struggling along; a culture that causes emotional baggage in all of us. I’m not going to attempt much of a social commentary here because sexuality and objectification of people is far too broad and intricate a subject to deal with fairly in a blog. But my prayer is that you have people in your life with whom you are talking about these things; talking about ways to bless people, talking about how to hurt yourself and others less, talking about guiding people younger than yourself, talking about being guided by wise people older than yourself.

Follow this link to read more about SlutWalk. Even with the many sides of the issue brought to mind by this picture, we can all learn something from this subject. And if you want to read what I consider to be good, Godly wisdom on the subject, then please check on Rob Bell’s Book, Sex God. He talks about the endless links between sexuality and spirituality. It’s worth your money, your time and your consideration.

At the very least today, think about how you value sexuality in your life and how you’re guiding and influencing the people around you. Be intentional in your example, attitude and guidance. The young people in your life will grow up to thank you for helping them have less emotional baggage to take into adulthood.

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No Small Redemptions

My connection with Centerville, TN in Hickman County started when I was a teen. A family from my home town of Paoli moved to Centerville, which started a long family friendship with Bill McDonald and his family. In fact, Bill has been one of the strongest influences on my narrative speaking style. During high school, I spent spring breaks in Centerville and made many great friends and memories in that little town. It was and is a good place with good people…

…which makes it interesting to me that it has been the scene of some controversy recently. A student at the county high school recorded 109 students saying two crude words. Now, they aren’t the most crude words that could have been chosen but it’s a bit shocking to hear them repeated 109 times in a row. On the video, some of the students repeat the words with great vim and vigor while others seem almost apathetic in their delivery. But the most striking thing to me was many of the students appeared reluctant to comply with the request to say the words. Yet, they did what they were told. I’ve attached the video in case you would like to see it. Watch at your own discretion.

As with any devaluing situation such as this, there is opportunity for redemption. And the opportunity was taken up by Chris Webb, youth minister at the Centerville Church of Christ. I assume the crude video would be more disturbing if I knew those teens personally. I also assume that the redemptive video would be more stirring if I knew those people personally. But even without the personal connection, the whole situation becomes a moving attempt at redemption. I’ll let you watch the video they created and you can judge the redemptive act for yourself.

But please, at least, let this video be a reminder that there are no small redemptions. Your actions and words, no matter how small they seem, can redeem situations, relationships and attitudes. And Christ has set the example and called us to redeem. So get to it.

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More Than Saved

Curt says I like to quote myself and I hate to disappoint him…

Salvation (God’s work) is not the same as discipleship (our work w/ God) so stop working to keep your salvation and get to work blessing people.   -Me, today on Twitter

And if someone has tweeted it, you can be sure that it’s the truth.

Collin at the petting zoo in Disney's Animal Kingdom. I made him pose with this picture because of his constant focus on remaining full.

I grew up worried about salvation. Not so much about being saved by God through Jesus; that seemed fairly straight forward. I was worried about staying saved. And I wasted immeasurable energy over the years working to keep myself righteous and moral enough to remain saved. It’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve come to the truth that salvation, both then and now and forever, is God’s work alone. I knew it intellectually much longer ago, of course, but in my heart, it’s feels to be a very recent reality.

Now that I’m free from the limitless work of salvation, I’m free to serve people. I don’t have to serve my salvation; I can truly love people as God loves people: with abandon, with extravagant love. I can live as God’s child and not as a groveling slave hoping for just enough of a blessing to live to see another day, not as someone seeking the approval of others; but like Jesus, with Grace and Love and Purpose.

God’s love and grace doesn’t allow me to squeeze into Heaven; God opened the door wide enough to relieve my worries.

My work with God now is to show people that door of hope, to feed hungry people, to talk with lonely people, to embrace cold people, to take unclean hands into mine, to sort through confusion, to lead through the maze of doubts, to speak calmly to the hurting, to speak plainly to the arrogant, to shelter others from the judgmental, and to sit often alone with my Maker to reflect on the purpose of it all.

Eternal God, in Heaven beyond us, help me to be so much more than saved.

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