If you love me, keep my commands
1 John 1:6
1 John 2:4
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Don’t be a liar.
Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace.
One of the things most talked about, in regards to Christianity, is Grace, but to a lot of people this is nothing more than talk.
Grace, by definition, is unmerited favor. God’s grace is what saves us.
That’s fine and good, but it’s tough to believe in it or understand it if you don’t know what it looks like on a “me” level.
So why do I bring this up now? Oddly enough; School drop off. The bane of most parental morning routines. For a good portion of the parents I see every morning when I drop Lily off, this daily event is loaded with stress and anxiety.
Personally, I LOVE school drop off time.
I’m extremely fortunate in that I get to really enjoy the time I have with Lily in the mornings. Our drive to school rocking out to Switchfoot or Crowder is like a mini-concert. Once we get to her school, we spend a few minutes in my car with her on my lap talking about anything she wants to talk about. When we get into her school, there is time left over to read her a book or we play with her friends. In short, Lily and I have a lot of fun in the morning.
Most of the parents I come into contact with don’t seem to enjoy this time of day as much as I do.. I don’t know why that is and I’m not going to try to analyze it. I just know that for me, it’s a great way to start my day.
But I digress…
After Lily went into her class this morning, as I was dodging waist high linebackers on my way to the parking lot, I started thinking about grace… I don’t know why it popped into my head, but I went with it and started considering how God shows His grace and how we react to it.
I drove out of the lot and there are a few intersections you have to clear as you leave, and this morning the car in front of me slowed at an intersection to let one car in to the school and one car out of it..
This was a situation where there was nothing either of the drivers could have done that would make the driver ahead of me decide to let them in our out. They had made the decision to let them go well before they could see their faces and well before either would have an opportunity to plead their case via a wave, a pointing finger or a facial expression.
As I got closer I could see that the lady driving the inbound car was, by all appearances, stressed to the max (No none is letting me in!!!). The lady in the outbound car was frustrated to no end (No one is letting me out!!!).
The car in front of me came to a stop:
- The lady coming in got a huge smile on her face, waved frantically and turned into the school drop off line.
- The lady going out looked the other direction and pulled out with no acknowledgement of what was done on her behalf.
They needed mercy. They received grace. They accepted it. They reacted to it.
If you’ve accepted grace, do you acknowledge it with a smile, a wave and an appreciation for what was done? Or do you instead just go on like nothing out of the ordinary was done at all?
You see, it’s our reaction to God’s grace is what sets us apart.
If you are genuinely appreciative of God’s grace, you will acknowledge what He has done. If you’re not appreciative of it, you don’t acknowledge it and you just go about life as usual. It’s that simple.
We are all at God’s mercy. He shows grace. Do you accept it? If so, then how do you react to it?
The above is the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35. Two words that, when put together, are extremely profound… but I’m not about to be one of the countless people who have offered commentary on what those two words signify. I’m not going to go into the meaning, translation, setting or even the application of them.
This isn’t a post about Jesus weeping. This isn’t about the depth of sorrow which causes the weeping mentioned in John (whoa, I was about to go into context, but I remembered my purpose here). This is a post about the opposite of weeping.. it’s about gut busting laughter.
To suggest that Jesus didn’t laugh is ludicrous, but there is never any talk about this. He was wholly human and have you ever met a human who did not laugh? If you have, then I will take the position that you were meeting someone who was not well, mentally.
Jesus LAUGHED. Think about that. Jesus ENJOYED things. Jesus SMILED. Jesus, at at least one point in his 33 years on earth, CRIED from laughing so hard His stomach hurt.
Who are we, as followers of Jesus, to look down our noses at silliness? Who are we, as followers of Jesus to hold in disdain things that might seem trite or trivial.
I am not advocating that we wear propeller beanies and never take anything seriously, but I AM suggesting that we let our hair down and unbutton the top button on our shirts that is suffocating the “fun” element of our brains.
It is absolutely OK to be focused on ending world hunger, clothing the homeless and educating the poor. But if that is ALL you take time to do, then you are missing the point entirely.
If you are laser focused on the 3 things listed above (and those are but 3 of the major issues you SHOULD be concerned with as a Christian) then you are missing out on something that will give your life balance… laughter.. and by proxy, you’ll be missing out on fellowship as well, because NOBODY wants to be around someone who doesn’t know how to enjoy themselves and be goofy at least some of the time.
So YES, change the world thorough your love and concern for your neighbors… but have FUN doing it. And take the time to do something(s) absolutely silly and goofy, you never know… you just might like it.
This is by all means an incomplete thought, it’s just what came out and I KNOW there is more to this… If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments section. It’s been rolling around in my head for just about 18 hours and I didn’t want to NOT post this just because it wasn’t “just so”.. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
There’s so much to be said for the start of a new year, and so many terms we can use to describe it..
Turning over a new leaf, writing a new chapter, beginning the next act et al. All of these descriptive terms focus on leaving the past behind. It’s rare (but not unheard of) for people to say “I’m going to keep building on what I’ve accomplished in the past year”
Why is that? Why are we so consumed with starting over? Why are we, so often, actively engaged with escaping our past instead of embracing it and looking through it for hints of our greater destinies?
My own past is sordid. My own past contains a great many things I am not proud of. My own past contains things I wish had never taken place. But I don’t want to escape those things. To escape something means to run away from something and not deal with it, constantly being on guard to see if whatever you’ve escaped from is hunting you down.
That’s no way to live.
I want to do more than escape things… I want to deal with things and then move forward. I want to take from my past all that can help me, moving forward (always moving forward, though we can look back, we cannot go back). I want to learn from my mistakes and failures as well as build on my successes.
I want all of you who may read this to look back over the past 12 months and pull out everything you can and lay it on the table.. sort through the events and happenings.. sift through the people, places and things you’ve experienced and LEARN from each of them.
I just went through my closet (literal, not figurative) this morning in much the same way as we should go through our past.
I got rid of a LOT of stuff.. shirts, pants, socks etc; but before getting rid of it all, I took the time to attach a value and/or a purpose to everything I went through.
How can I use this? Do I have a plan for that? What on Earth did I ever get THIS for… and why did I hang onto it for 8 YEARS?!?!
In the end, I was left with the things that are useful and serve a purpose to me.. Things I can use moving forward to build on and make use of on a consistent basis.
I’ve done the same with my life over the past 12 months… while it’s true that the past does not and cannot change, it can absolutely change the trajectory of your life. but the neat thing is.. you’re the one who gets to pull the trigger and aim yourself where you want to land.
I was looking forward to talking to my friend, Donnie Carter. It had been a few weeks since we had last spoken, and I wanted to hear how things were going in Albany as well as share with him some of the things we’re seeing down here in Jacksonville.
Me: “Hi, I’m looking to speak with Donnie Carter.”
ARM: “I’m sorry, Donnie is no longer with us.”
Me: “Umm, ok? Where did he go?!”
ARM: “Donnie passed away Wednesday night.”
Me: “Wait… what?”
ARM: “Yes sir, Donnie had a massive heart attack Wednesday evening and he has passed away..”
Me: “…………. oh.”
I’m still kind of in shock over this…
Sometimes, when you don’t see or speak with someone on a regular basis, their passing away doesn’t become real for a while. It doesn’t resonate with you because no part of your every day life has changed.
Sometimes, when you don’t see or speak with someone on a regular basis, their passing away becomes real to you immediately, because you don’t realize how much a part of your everyday life a person is until they’re gone…
Sometimes, these two things happen simultaneously.
Donnie and I spoke on the phone somewhat irregularly, but our conversations were always good ones. I had a genuine interest in his life and he had a genuine interest in mine. We prayed for and with one another, we had numerous discussions on faith, the Bible, music, peer pressure, pit falls, love, family, friends and our savior Jesus Christ.
Right about now, Donnie and I are in our “talk to you in a few weeks” stage.. so nothing is out of the norm here. Minus missing last week’s call, there’s nothing different. And even that would happen once in a while, where one of us just couldn’t talk.
So in my mind, it’s situation normal… his death is not real. His death has not hit me.
Where it’s not situation normal, is in my heart.
This morning, I got in my car to take Lily to school, and within 30 seconds of us pulling out of the driveway she was clamoring for music for the ride. My little girl and her dolls wanted to WIGGLE.
I turned on the radio and without thinking skipped to song #5 on the CD. I knew it would get her and her dolls going.
That song was “Going Home“
I knew that Donnie’s CD was queued up. I knew that “Going Home” was song 5. I knew that Lily would just start cranking right along. I knew these things because that’s how we roll every day. In the morning on the way to school and in the afternoon on the way home.
My heart was wrenched in two this morning, because while in my head I still plan on talking to Donnie next week, in my heart I know it’s never going to happen again.
I have been honored and privileged to know a few really wonderful people throughout my life. Among them, Donnie ranks right near the top.
I keep coming back to a particular Bible verse when I think about Donnie and our friendship..
23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
So I was setting up the youth room yesterday in preparation for our Wednesday night small groups. We’re doing a 4 week study on Paul and his life (and times).
As I’m setting things up, I decided to try something new.. though I didn’t exactly know why. At first, I had some chairs all lined up in 1 long row and then one of my youth started putting others in arcs moving towards it.. that was kinda weird.. and it got me thinking..
Even in changing things up, we were keeping them somewhat the same.
I decided then to just put the chairs all over the place in no order whatsoever. I had chairs facing each other, the wall, the drums, the door, left, right, forwards, backwards.. They were completely random… by design.
I had some projector set up stuff to do when the youth and young adults filed into the room a little while later, and while I was in the middle of that I was watching and listening…
There were a few comments “What happened in HERE?”, “Are the chairs supposed to be like this?”, “Ummm….”
I gave no replies.
I heard chairs being moved and people talking.
I gave no direction.
When I was done with the projector, I looked around.. and there, in the middle of the room were almost all of the chairs in a loosely organized fashion. Somewhat resembling the “way it usually is” on Wednesday nights.
When left to our own direction, we will always do what is comfortable. We will always drift towards the known.
It’s tough to get outside of our comfort zones and do things without understanding them.
But that’s what we’re supposed to do.
God reveals his plan for us one step at a time. We don’t have the faintest idea how following step A will lead to step B. Truth be told, we don’t know what step B even IS, so how could we understand the process of traversing the two points?
When we apply our own comfort, reasoning and understanding to God’s plan we do nothing but get in the way and screw things up. God has been perfect FOREVER. I’ve been flawed for 35 years. Why would I insert my understanding where His plan is concerned?
Simple answer: Because I’m (we’re) human. And we like what’s comfortable and normal.
And if you’re comfortable and normal at the time you’re reading this.. then you’re following your own plan.
Next time you see a chair facing away from the screen.. sit in it and wait. It could be that it’s all part of a greater plan that you’re not even aware of.
Where do I even begin…
I’m going to do my best to explain the whole thing, I might not get it all in the right order, and I might not begin to do it justice; but as in all things, I’ll try my
The concept of the Rescue (Me)ssion exploded into my head back in September, and I mean the entire concept. It wasn’t just the beginning of an idea, it was the whole.darn.thing. locations, activities, logo, dates, meal planning… everything.
-Know this: I’m not smart enough to devise most of -or any of- that on my own-
I had returned from a mission trip to Albany, GA with 45 middle school students a few weeks prior, and had been elbow deep in some of K.P. Yohannan’s books when all this hit me and it was decided -for me- that the mission trip I was going to be putting together would not be about working or service projects. We were going to share our testimonies and the Gospel at every turn… and that was it.
To be truthful; I really didn’t know what I was getting into… and I’m thankful for that. Had I understood the battle(s) that I would face, I most likely would have dropped everything and just gone with the flow and kept up with the status quo; content to do things as they’d always been done.
One of the adult volunteers on the trip told me something last week, when I had mentioned to him some of what I had gone through, and how the last 10 months had all been an express train leading up to this trip.. he said “You can’t see the road that God is paving for you when you’re out front chopping down trees.” The entire time leading up to this trip I was led to preach on certain things and stress to my youth the importance of their testimonies. I was led to start shaping the youth and young adult programs according to God’s presence in their lives… not their lives in God’s presence. I’m not even sure I know what that means, but I know it looks like TRUE confidence. Not the confidence given to you by compliments or accolades heaped upon you by PEOPLE, but the REAL confidence that comes from the knowledge that God IS and ALWAYS HAS been with you. Truly, confidence does not happen by coincidence.
But I digress; we brought 18 people on this, the initial Rescue (Me)ssion trip.. and they were the 18 that needed to be there. Some dropped out and some were added along the way, but it ended up being the perfect mix of people. Some who went had some serious concerns about the trip before we left.. and I’ll admit, I was one of them.
I didn’t know how it all would go… I didn’t know what, exactly, would happen. And that tortured me.. you see, I’m kind of a control freak and I like to have everything panned down to the minute. I was corrected, however, the first day of the trip. I had planned an entire day with the Albany Rescue Mission, and part of that was to help them out in their thrift store. The delivery truck broke down and I had an empty afternoon now on the books. [insert massive internal seizing here] I had to make the decision, right then, to give the entire trip over to God and let Him work it out. I had done all I could and I was now, thankfully and blessedly, out of control.
The first day ended with us leading the Monday evening service at A.R.M. It was testimony night, and here we were.. the first time most of my kids had shared their stories with the world… and God showed up to help them along. I had been watching these kids grow in their faith over the last 10 months and now, here it was.. their faith unleashed upon the world. (I’m crying as I write this) Seeing them stand in the presence of both believers and non-believers alike and SOUNDLY declare their love of Jesus Christ was overwhelming.
Everything I had been led to teach, do, preach and put into play came to be that first night of this trip.. and we were just getting warmed up.
Bonds were broken, chains were shaken loose, lies were exposed, truths were revealed and we were COVERED with the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday we were back in action, leading praise and worship, speaking love into the lives of children, serving the homeless, sharing our stories and sharing the love of Christ. I have never, in my life prayed with, for and over so many people. I believe I speak for the group with that last statement.
And in the midst of all of this, in all of our designs on spreading the Gospel… we were so blessed to have it shared right back with us. We got to see the joy of having nothing but Jesus in one’s life. Truly, He is all you need.
It was Tuesday that the 18 people on this trip got it (myself included). It wasn’t about doing the same stuff you do at home. It wasn’t about being comfortable. It wasn’t about us simply sharing OUR stories… It was about eating when fed, because you don’t know when your next meal is going to arrive, or even if you’d like it. It was about being WELL outside your comfort zone. It was about sharing HIS story, in which we are all just bit players.
We shot off for Tallahassee on Wednesday morning and went to a boarding school for troubled girls. We played some worship songs for them, and some of our kids shared their testimonies between each. For me, that’s when the trip really started to get interesting.
One of my students.. a shy, underconfident and wonderful 12 year old girl got up and shared her story. And as she spoke, confidence appeared within her… for the first time ever. My mind was blown wide open and my heart broke for her and was healed with her. Her story of Christ within her, rescued (Me).
The rest of Wednesday is somewhat of a blur to me.. a lot happened that day, but it’s not my story to tell.. perhaps I’ll bring a guest blogger in to share his insights as to that day… but Wednesday ended with the most intense night of my life. A 10 year old lie that had been planted in the head of one of my kids was exposed. A serious root cause of unimaginable pain and suffering was destroyed and replaced with true love. I was led to speak words I didn’t understand in a direction I couldn’t make out… but those words led to the lie. If there wasn’t another person in the room with us, I might not believe it all happened like it did. I’m still in a state of disbelief over it all.. it was surreal. It was Christ alive. It was the power of the holy spirit moving through me and using me as His weapon of choice at. that. time.
And that’s all we are, really…
Thursday was a day spent with the homeless at Haven of Rest (link on the Stuff We Like page) where we served them, spoke with them, laughed and cried with them. A day we were changed by them.
We led them in praise and worship that night, and our students again got up and shared their stories.. and again, here comes my 12 year old girl.. now speaking with the command, confidence and authority of a 30 year old who can take on the world.. are you kidding me?!!?!? She owned a room of 120+ people as she spoke of God in her life. Show me another 12 year old with her history who can do that and I’ll tell you that is what being a Christian looks like. And is.
At the end of the service, Pastor Steve got up and was going to send us off with a song from their choir.. but before he did that, this happened.. “I’m being led by the Spirit here.. bear with me.. but we need to take up a collection for these young folks here who came and loved us so for the past 2 days. Let’s make sure they have gas money so they can get home.”
The HOMELESS took up a collection for US.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that feeling. I don’t think I ever want to. On a trip where we were bent on sharing the love of Christ with everyone we met, we found that we were just learning what it was we were trying to share.
We went back to the church we were sleeping at in a state of shock, really.. it was a fun night, with a lot of “wow” going on.. we had our final small group meetings that night, from what I hear, they all went great.. to be honest, I was mainly focused on the 4 kids in my own small group.. (one of them being my 12 year old.. man, she really did rescue me.. I just now see that)
Afterward, myself and my two adult guy volunteers were having a conversation (it’s when the awesome chopping trees quote above was laid on me) and we talked for at least an hour.. when one of my young adults came into the room just NEEDING prayer.. what we prayed over him was, almost verbatim, the conversation we had just had with one another.
I can’t explain that.
Friday morning arrives, and some of us had gone to breakfast at haven of Rest at 5:00 AM.. then we got back to the church and left AHEAD OF SCHEDULE for our return to Jacksonville, where we had a full day planned before heading to our homes.
We were running on empty. I seriously contemplated calling City Rescue Mission and Daniel Kids and telling them we just couldn’t make it,that we were spent.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t.
We showed up at CRM totally not ready to play music, or to serve anyone.. we had nothing left. We were emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically DONE.
We prayed, and asked for His strength, for we had none. And that’s when God said “I got this”
We were put in a position where we were forced to rely on God to sustain us. And He showed up in force.
The music was louder and more purposeful, the testimonies were raw and ALL God. Our energy was boundless. We finished up our time with City Rescue Mission and went to Daniel Kids.. We played dodge ball, we played kickball, we played more music and ran around with the kids there.. Had you seen us that morning, all we would have been good for was bedtime stories and perhaps a light snack.
Truly it was our own Good Friday, for He rescued (Us)
I am sure I forgot details or neglected to mention some of the things that happened on this trip, but I can honestly say it was the most difficult week of my life, but also the most rewarding.
I have never been under such spiritual attack. I have never been so depleted of energy or strength. I have never been so emotionally twisted and tortured.
Conversely, I have never been so lifted up, I have never been so full of the Holy Spirit, I have never felt more healed and redeemed.
This trip, without a doubt, Rescued (Me)
And now it’s all I can do to to all I can do to Rescue (You)
In His Service,
So yeah… I’ve been somewhat slacking in the blog department. I went away with my family on a little vacation to a small island in the Gulf and got away from my newly developed twice weekly blog habit…
It’s amazing how quickly we can revert back to the land of the lazy.
Granted, I’ve been very busy with work and family, but on the whole I’ve been somewhat disorganized since my return. A week in a hammock can do that to a guy, I suppose.
What I’m getting at is this: Christianity has to be something that we work at DAILY, if not hourly. Our natural inclination is to do whatever offers the least resistance. It’s why sitting on the couch is more appealing than mowing the lawn. It’s why winging it is more appealing than devoting time to preparation. It’s why checking espn.com is more appealing than reading the Bible.
But in truth.. what does our natural inclination gain us? Nothing. Nothing at all.
Adhering to the tenets of Christianity demands that we struggle against ourselves as well as against the world that seeks to be our undoing. And if you are losing the battle against yourself, you have no chance when it comes to fighting the world.
Can you do it alone? No. If you rely on yourself to be both the general and the private in this battle, you’re doomed to fail. It’s the truth. But if you allow the general to lead you, the private, you are destined to succeed.
Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
When I DO lean on my own understanding.. my road map looks like a plate of spaghetti, and I’m willing to bet you’rs does too.
I have a confession to make…
I CAN’T STAND unloading the dishwasher.
I can’t tell you why, exactly, that I feel this way. I mean, I love the dishwasher itself and all the amazing things it does. I love how with minimal effort on my part it takes something that was dirty and makes it clean. And I have 3 kids under 5 years old, so when I say dirty.. I mean REALLY dirty.
Green bean remnants, crusty mashed potatoes, applesauce and yogurt all over plates and on the outside of sippy cups.. it ALL goes away once it’s put in the dishwasher.
But then once it’s clean, I can’t stand the process of unloading the the stupid dishwasher.
Oooh, see what happened there?
Lets change a few words around and see where we can take this.
“I CAN’T STAND being a Christian.
I can’t tell you why, exactly, that I feel this way. I mean, I love Jesus and all the amazing things he’s done. I love how with minimal effort on my part he takes something that was dirty and makes it clean. And I had lots of skeletons in my closet, so when I say dirty.. I mean REALLY dirty.
Drug residue, lies I’ve told, personal misconduct, violence and scars from a life lived outside of His will all over my soul and covering my skin… it ALL went away once my faith was put in Jesus Christ.
But now that I’m clean, I can’t stand the process of living by the the stupid rules.”
As a husband and father, I’m called to do my part, to finish the tasks that I’ve started so that our life as a family moves along with relatively few hiccups. I’m called to do my part because it’s what I signed up for when i said “I do!”. I’m called to do my part because I love my wife and children so much I don’t want to imagine my life without them.
As Christians, we’re called to do our part, to finish the task that we’ve started so that our lives as followers of Christ move along with relatively few stumbles. We’re called to do our part because it’s what we signed up for when we said “I believe!”. We’re called to do our part because we love our savior so much we can’t imagine life without Him.
2 Timothy 4:7 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Simply put: It’s time to unload the dishwasher.
Saw a post from I Am Second, asking what’s your story.
You all know I’m huge on testimonies.. knowing them and speaking them and I usually suggest that everyone has a 5 minute, a 10 minute and a 45 minute version.
I didn’t have the space for all that in a Facebook response field.. so when asked:
“What’s your story?”
I can’t tell you my story and leave Him out of it. If He were left out of it, my story would be an obituary.