A Cup or Two Of Pure, Black Delight

I’m sitting here drinking my first cup of coffee of the day. There will be several more cups before the day ends. I love coffee. I love everything about it. I love the smell of freshly brewed coffee, no sugar or cream, just straight black hot coffee. But, what I love most about coffee is its effects.

Coffee, believe it or not, helps relieve my headaches. It helps keep me alert and focused. And, finally, it helps to calm my anxious mind.

I realize that for each of these benefits, some would argue that coffee does the exact opposite of what I claim to be the benefits of consuming the potent black concoction. Some might even say it is a cruel, evil, and addictive drug. Some might say such things, but not me!

Excuse me for a moment, while I pour myself another cup of pure, black delight! Hey, would you like a cup while I’m up?

Coffee or no coffee, have a great day!

Miraculous

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote concerning the miracle of a successful marriage, “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow-this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”

For twenty-eight years, Jennifer, my wife, has demonstrated the miraculous. She has seen me at my best and loved me. But, more than that, she has seen me at my worst, and still, she has loved me.

Thank you, my sweet Jennifer, for showing me that miracles happen every day! Thank you for loving me even on my worst days! You are truly Miraculous!

The Value of Nothing

“There is never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” I love that quote by Bill Waterson. There is great value in just sitting and doing nothing, while your mind runs free. For a few hours yesterday, that was me. The others were out, some at Splash Mountain, and others away playing putt- putt and shopping.

It had been my intention to get some writing done while everyone was out, but, it didn’t happen. I just sat down and did nothing. It was quite and absent constant movement. The opportunity to write, without interruption was there, but, I just sat and did nothing. I admit that for a moment, I felt guilty and anxious, but only for a moment. I soon found myself enjoying “Nothing.”

This joy of doing nothing was short lived, a few hours at the most. The others soon returned and the “Nothing” was gone. As I reflect on yesterday’s Nothing, I realize that the great value of doing Nothing is found in the great abundance of our always doing Something in our life. There will never be enough time for doing Nothing because life has a way of forcing you to do Something. That’s just the way life is. Maybe that is why the Psalmist said in Psalm 46: 10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Just think about it, while doing “Nothing.”

The Only Disability

As I reflect this early morning on yesterday’s events, they can only be described as wonderfully difficult. We went as a family to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The day before we spent the day at Dollywood. My body ached and it still does. I was struggling with my balance and I still am. My thought process was slow and still is. As we stood in line to get our tickets for the Aquarium, it began to rain. I confess, my attitude by now was not the best, and that is putting it nicely. I began thinking, “This is supposed to be a vacation, a time to enjoy and relax, but here I am standing in the rain, getting wet and my muscles are tight and aching and I am hungry and I just want to go back to the cabin and chill!”

Finally, we made our way out of the rain and into the aquarium. But we were then made to wait again, due to the rules concerning the number of people who could enter the aquarium at any given time. “Great!” I thought, “I just want to go eat and go back to the cabin, I mean, a fish is a fish, what more do I need to know?”

We did finally make our way through the exhibits, how-bit-it very slowly! We then went to eat, but it took a lot of walking to find a place that wasn’t too crowded! My son, Garrett, sensing my somewhat negative attitude, made the suggestion that those who wanted to stay and shop could while I and whomever wanted to could go back to the cabin, since we had come in two cars. “Amen!” I thought; I knew there was a good reason for having kids. My daughter, Kayla and son A.J. agreed to go back to the cabin with me while the others stayed to “enjoy shopping.”

When the three of us got back to the cabin, I poured me a glass of Milo’s Sweet Tea, and sat down in the lazy boy recliner and thought now this is more like it! But, dang-it, just as soon as I thought everything was as it should be, my wondering mind began to echo a quote I had read earlier in the morning. It was by Scott Hamilton, and said, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” Man, was I crippled! I remember thinking and praying, “God, heal me from my disability – not so much the Parkinson’s as My Bad Attitude!” I’m told, healing is often a process and takes time. God is still working on me and I am getting better. My family says, “Amen Lord, work a little faster, please!”

The real disability in anyone’s life is a bad attitude, everything else can be overcome or compensated. I wonder, are you disabled – handicapped by a bad attitude? If you are, do you want to be healed? The first step is confession and the second is prayer.

Here’s to a new attitude!

Rejoice In It

It’s Three in the morning, and I can’t sleep, just another night in the life of an insomniac. One of the reasons, I think, I have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep is that my mind never seems to quiet down. I have found that my thoughts are louder at night than in the day. I suppose it is the result of the noisiness of the day versus the stillness of the night.

This night has brought to my mind the repeated refrain, “Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is yet to be, but today is now!” It’s a good thought, isn’t it – the idea of living in the now rather than yesterday which has past and tomorrow that has yet to come. So often, I’m guilty of allowing possibilities that are offered by today’s dawn, to be clouded by the successes or failures of my past, and the longings of some grand future.

The danger in living your today in the trappings of your yesterday, or in your yearning for tomorrow is that the blessings of your today go unnoticed and unfulfilled. Maybe you can identify with my frustration. I’m always telling myself, and perhaps you do as well, “One learns from the past and wisely plans for the future, but one must take hold of the now and drain it of all that it offers.”

As a pastor, I’ve often started the morning worship service by quoting Psalm 118: 24, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I’ve never really noticed the last two words – in it. This may be no great revelation for you, but for me, it is significant. It is on this day, and at this moment that I will be glad and rejoice. The focus is not on yesterday or on what tomorrow might bring but on the possibilities of – Now!

So, my blueberry coffee is now ready, and a new day is dawning, and I declare that “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” How about you?

A Blessing In Disguise

Dinner was almost ready, or so I thought, when my wife, asked, “Would you mind going the store and getting some more spaghetti noodles, I don’t think there is enough.” I was a bit irritated, thinking, “why are you just now asking me to go to the store when dinner is almost ready, and I’m hungry?”

So, with a bit of an attitude, I got up and went to the store to get more noodles. On my way back to the cabin, as I was about to turn, blocking the street was an old pickup truck and a small pull behind camper. An older gentleman was frantically trying to hook the camper to the pickup. The camper had come unhitched, and the humble older gentleman, who was alone, was obviously unable to reattach the camper. I remember thinking, “Come on! I’m hungry, and you are in my way!”

I reluctantly put on the emergency flashers, got out of the car, which was in the turning lane of a hectic road, which leads to Dollywood. I got out of the car and carefully made my way to the old man. The old man said as I approached, “I’m so sorry, I just had it welded, and the shop didn’t hook the camper securely. I’m sorry!”

Still, with a bit of an attitude, I responded by saying, “It’s okay, may I help?” Like I knew anything about hooking up campers. With eyes that were a bit watery, he looked at me a softly said, “Please.” As traffic rushed by, we lifted the trailer hitch on the camper and, with a great effort, pulled the trailer forward and lowered it onto the ball, securing the camper to the old pickup. With that, the old man said to me, with a soft and humble voice, “Thank you, son, thank you. You are an answer to my prayer.”

I made my way across the busy road, got into the car, and began making my way up the hill with the all-important noodles. But something had changed. My attitude had changed, it had softened, and a pleasant sense of peace had filled me. “Thank you, son, you are an answer to my prayer.” Wow! If he had only known what I had been thinking.

As I continued toward the cabin, one of my favorite quotes came into my mind. “Open your eyes, I’m a blessing in disguise.” (Young Jeezy). This old man, who had blocked my way and interrupted my day, had, in fact, been a blessing in disguise! Thank you Norman, Thank you!

Childish or Childlike?

Seth Godin states, concerning the difference between being childish and childlike, “There is a huge difference between being childlike and being childish. When we embrace joy and look at the world with fresh eyes, we’re childlike. When we demand instant gratification and that everything will be ok, we’re only childish.”

I remember when our firstborn son, Garrett, as a little child, first stepped on the thick Saint Augustine grass at Epworth-by- the- Sea, on Saint Simons Island. He was tiny, just learning to walk. I remember he was barefooted, and when he first felt the grass beneath his little feet, his eyes lite up, and his face had this look of utter amazement about it. I remember he kept lifting his feet high as if marching, each time looking to see what was on them. He finally bent down and touched the grass, pulling at it, and then he plopped down on his little bottom and began to eat the grass.

As I watched him, I remember thinking, “You know, this is the first time he has ever experienced the feeling of grass beneath his feet.” I remember delighting in the joy of his new discovery and thinking how great it would be to experience life with the same sense of wonder and amazement.

It’s sad but often true that we are guilty of allowing the everyday stuff of life to rob us of wonderment. We become so focused on getting ahead that we grow cold and indifferent to the splendor and beauty of God that exist all around us. As a result, we become demanding and insistent on getting our way. Instead of maturing, we become more infantile in our behavior. We become childish rather than childlike.

What would you say to the idea of letting go of childishness and rediscovering the magic of childlikeness? I, for one, intend on saying yes! How about you?

Hurt Me God; Please!

It was A. W. Tozer, who once said, “God cannot use a man until He hurts him deeply.” I’ve heard others quote this statement in the past and must admit, found it offensive. On the surface, it seems to stand in direct opposition to my understanding of God’s nature.

In 1John, we are told that God is love. In Jeremiah 29: 11, we read, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the loving nature of God is revealed. Yet, A. W. Tozer speaks, at least upon first glance, of God being vengeful and sadistic – inflicting pain upon those He claims to love.

However, I have now come to embrace this very idea I once found abhorrent. I now find myself praying that God would “hurt me deeply,” so that he may use me mightily. I’ve come to understand the single obstacle which stands between God and man is pride. Until one dies to one’s self, he will always be the focus of his life, and that is why God cannot use him.

It is only when a man is raised up to new life in Christ, that his heart, his thoughts, his actions, his very life are transformed from selfish motives to selfless service! And so, I now pray, break me, Lord, “Hurt me deeply,” so that I might be useful as an instrument of your grace and love to a broken and hurting world.

Bird Song

It’s early morning, around 5:30 in the morning. I’ve been up for a while, unable to sleep again.

As I sit at my desk and look out the windows in front of me, unable to see much of anything because it is still very dark outside. Everyone is sleeping, and it’s hushed. The silence is broken by the sound of a little bird singing …

It’s been five minutes now, and this bird is still singing! As I listen to the bird singing in the darkness, I glance down and see a quote scribbled on a tablet. It’s one of my favorite quotes, written by one of my favorite authors, Max Lucado. No kidding, here’s what the quote says, “Faith is the bird that sings while it is yet dark.” Now y’all, call me crazy, but there’s a message for me here. God is trying to tell me something.

I’m the kind of person that likes to know what to expect. I really don’t like surprises. But my life has been filled with the unexpected, some of it good and some not so much. But as I reflect, I realize that even when the unexpected has not been what I would have wanted, the melody of God’s grace has always pierced, even the darkest moments.

As a result of God’s grace, I have always come to the place of the sun rising. I have ever come to the dawning of newfound hope, realizing that God has been and is ever-present, even in my darkness.

That little bird is something, he’s still singing right in front of me in a tree outside my window. The light of a new day is beginning to pierce the darkness. Again I read the quote, “Faith is the bird that sings while it is yet dark.”

Today will be a good day, I’m certain of it. It will be a good day, not because of any action on my part but simply because I am keenly aware of God’s grace. I’ve heard its melody penetrate my darkness and I’ve seen the dawning of hope.

I pray that when you are uncertain of what is ahead when darkness hides the light of hope that the bird of faith might sing for you too. But, there is one thing required of each one who would hear the song of grace and hope. You must be quiet and listen to, intentionally listen for it, and if you do, you will overhear the bird of faith singing, of that I am sure!

Climbing Companions

The sermon on the mount has often been referred to as “The ordination address to the twelve.” I have been called “The compendium of Christ doctrine, the Magna Charter of the Kingdom; The manifesto of the King.” All are agreed that in the sermon on the mount, we have the essence of Jesus’ teachings to Jesus’ inner circle. We see the pouring out of his heart to those who were his closest companions.

The text begins, “When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.” (Matthew 5: 1-2, MSG).

It’s clear from Matthew’s account that not all in the great throng of followers chose to ascend the hill. In fact, only those who were truly committed, those who were a part of His inner circle became His “climbing companions.”

It is to these climbing companions, the truly committed, that Jesus sat down and poured out the vast reservoir of HIs heart, telling them the secrets of the kingdom life.

Jesus knew that to the casual follower, the uncommitted, those unwilling to climb the mount, the secrets of kingdom living would be nothing more than a series of strange riddles, explained away by a flowed logic fueled by the desire for self-gratification. In other words, Jesus knew that the masses would not be transformed by one sermon or one miracle, but rather people, and therefore culture is changed through relationships.

The kingdom life is not so much defined by a set of percepts or doctrinal statements, although they’re essential, rather the Christian life, the kingdom life is about a relationship. It’s about commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice. It’s about death, experience, and climbing; it about a quiet place. It’s about listening to the heart of Jesus. It’s not about a sermon or flashy miracle but rather a connection with Jesus!

I don’t want to be a causal follower; no, I want to climb the hill. I want to sit in a quiet place and learn the secrets of kingdom living. I want to be a climbing companion! So, what does a climbing companion of Jesus look like? First, he seeks quality time with the master. Second, he hungers for the master’s words. And, Finally, he tries to obey the masters’ teachings.

Today, I invite each of us to come to a quiet place and be transformed, not by a sermon but by being in a relationship with Jesus Christ!