Friday, August 29, 2014

Psalm 76

Psalm 76 
Contemporary English Version (CEV)

  There's a scene in an old Sean Connery movie where Nicholas Cage is describing a fearsome chemical and encouraging Sean Connery to respect it.  Cage says, "The minute you don't respect this, it kills you."
  When we recognize the awesome power of some things, we treat them differently.  Knowing how dangerous some chemicals are, we treat them with great care.  Rachel and I encourage the kids to be careful around the house, and we put things in the outlets to protect curious fingers.  Knowing how dangerous kitchen knives can be, we treat them differently than little spoons.
  It's important for us to recognize and respect the awesome power of God.  God is not some minor figure to trifle with, some lowly person just begging to be your friend and hang out when you've got a minute.  He's the Lord of the universe, the holder of power and wisdom, the God of power and might.  We come to God with respect and admiration.  We bow before him as Lord, and proclaim his might to the ends of the earth.  He invites us to know him intimately, as friends, but we are able to approach him only because he has reached out in love and forgiven us of our sins through the blood of his son, Jesus Christ.
  We do well to remember to worship and admire God.  We need not fear God, but let us not forget how powerful God is.

May you feel comfort knowing God uses his power for you

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Psalm 75

Psalm 75
English Standard Version (ESV)

  I can't make sense of a lot of the stuff going on in the world.  I don't understand the violence sweeping across Syria and Iraq, the rockets launching back and forth between Gaza and Israel, the virus sweeping across Africa.  Some of it is purely tragic, while much of it is attributable to the evil that lurks in the hearts and minds of humans.
  Through it all, though, I trust that God is indeed keeping the pillars of the earth steady, no matter how badly we may bash ourselves into them.  Through it all, I will choose to praise God, trusting that one day, I will understand all of this.  Through it all, I will let his name be praised on my lips, and I believe that evil will one day be no more, and all that will remain is God, and God alone.

May you focus on God today

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Psalm 74:12-23

Psalm 74:12-23
New Life Version (NLV)

  It's important to remember how powerful God is.  (Although I'd like to talk to God about winter...)  When we remember how strong and mighty and courageous God is, we then remember how amazing it is that God laid down his life for us.  This was no small thing--it was a merciful and mighty act of love and grace that was poured out upon us.  God freely gave himself up, not because he had to, but because he wanted to.  God doesn't need us, but God freely chooses us, in love and mercy.  Don't believe in the lie that God is too big to notice us--God is so big and still notices us!  That's love, a deep love that should astonish and amaze us.

May you be filled with awe at the size of God's love for you

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Psalm 74:1-11

Psalm 74:1-11
New Life Version (NLV)

  What did you have for dinner last night?  How about last Tuesday?  What about three months before that?
  We forget things.  Many of the things we forget aren't very important, like what I ate for dinner last Tuesday.  Our brains are actually required to forget things--we take in so much information each and every second that we would be overwhelmed if we remembered them all.
  We even forget important things, things that we never thought we'd forget.  We forget about friends from years ago, or events that we assumed we would always remember.  We forget.
  God, however, doesn't forget.  God doesn't forget his people, and God doesn't forget his promises.  God remembers his promise to be with his people, and God will never, ever, ever forget the promise to be with you always, even in the valley of the shadow of death, even when it appears that God's enemies have triumphed and that you will face destruction.
  God will remember you, and God will be true to his promises.

May you lean into God's promises

Monday, August 25, 2014

Psalm 73:21-28

Psalm 73:21-28
The Message (MSG)

  Sometimes, it's enough just to be led.
  So often we want to know the way, to know what the next steps are, to figure out what lies ahead.  Often, this leads to frustration because we're so determined to get the bigger picture nailed down.
  Instead, we often need to let God lead us, to rejoice in his gracious love and mercy that is poured out on us.  Just rejoice in the presence and love of God, and know that his leadership will not let you down.

May you feel God's Spirit leading you forward today

Friday, August 22, 2014

Psalm 73:15-20

Psalm 73:15-20
The Message (MSG)

  I've gone round and round and round with some problems, never able to make heads or tails of them, always ending up more flummoxed than before, certain that my own mind is unable to come to a result.
  God knows, though.  God knows the best path for us, and when we lean on God, we can trust that the next step is the faithful step.  When we try and make it on our own strength, we discover how weak we are, but when we lean into God, we find a reservoir of wisdom and delight.  It might not make our problems diminish, but it will certainly shift our focus and help us trust in the big picture of God's redeeming grace.

May you lean into God today

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Psalm 73:6-14

Psalm 73:6-14
The Message (MSG)

  6-10 Pretentious with arrogance, they wear the latest fashions in violence, Pampered and overfed, decked out in silk bows of silliness. They jeer, using words to kill; they bully their way with words. They’re full of hot air, loudmouths disturbing the peace. People actually listen to them—can you believe it? Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words.
  11-14 What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch? Nobody’s tending the store. The wicked get by with everything; they have it made, piling up riches. I’ve been stupid to play by the rules; what has it gotten me? A long run of bad luck, that’s what— a slap in the face every time I walk out the door.


  The wicked get away with it.
  Seems like it's always that way, doesn't it?  The wicked succeed wildly while those doing the right thing struggle to get by.  Inside our hearts, we steam with disappointment as we watch this happen.  We wonder when God will take care of it.
  Friends, God promises to set all things right.  If we place our trust in him, we shall not find ourselves disappointed in the end.  We may not understand everything in the meantime, but by the end, it will make sense.  The good will triumph.  Evil, and those who stubbornly cling to it, will be destroyed.  Christ will emerge victorious, and this victory shall be shared with the faithful.  The wicked will discover that their 'victories' here on earth were hollow, shallow, fools' gold that will vanish under light.

May we choose wisely, and not let our jealousy and disappointment drive us into the snares of the devil.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Psalm 73:1-5

Psalm 73:1-5
The Message (MSG)

  What are you paying attention to?  Wandering through the grocery check-out aisle, there are plenty of things vying for your attention.  There's celebrity news, crises aplenty, and all sorts of other flashy headlines.  You can spend your life chasing such news.
  Or, you can focus on God.  You can focus on his goodness and the grace he is willing to pour into your life.  You can choose to let him fill you up, that you may not have the time or energy or desire to focus on all the chaos swirling around you.  You can be a vessel of peace in the midst of the world, or you can let the chaos grab you and pull you down into your level.
  Choose wisely what you attend to.  It will shape your life.

May the grace of God command your attention today

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Psalm 72:15-20

Psalm 72:15-20
The Message (MSG)

  15-17 And live! Oh, let him live! Deck him out in Sheba gold. Offer prayers unceasing to him, bless him from morning to night. Fields of golden grain in the land, cresting the mountains in wild exuberance, Cornucopias of praise, praises springing from the city like grass from the earth. May he never be forgotten, his fame shine on like sunshine. May all godless people enter his circle of blessing and bless the One who blessed them.
  18-20 Blessed God, Israel’s God, the one and only wonder-working God! Blessed always his blazing glory! All earth brims with his glory. Yes and Yes and Yes.


  May all godless people enter his circle of blessing and bless the One who blessed them.
  Now that's a prayer.
  It's easy for us to pray for ourselves.  We love praying for our friends, families and neighbors, and we certainly offer up prayers for other situations that we hear about.
  But here, the Psalmist is praying for everyone who doesn't know God, that they might not only be richly blessed by God but also bless God in return.  Everyone.  Our prayer is that the whole world learn the language of praise to God, that we might join our diverse voices together in praise to God.
  May our vision be expanded and may we have a heart for all the world to come to know and praise God

Monday, August 18, 2014

Psalm 72:1-14

Psalm 72:1-14
The Message (MSG) 

  It's easy not to care.  We have so very much to care about and are confronted with more and more each day.  When we see news about Syria or Afghanistan, it's easier to just turn off the compassionate part of our brain because we're so overloaded with all the other news going on.  It's easier not to care.
  The amazing thing about God is that he continues to care, day after day after day, life after life after life.  God never stops caring about a single one of his precious creations.  From the most powerful man in the world to the overworked stay-at-home mom in the suburbs to the child living in a trash dump, God cares deeply about each and every one.  Nothing will ever stop this.  God cares about me and he cares about you, and his love is never ending.

May you trust God's love today

Friday, August 15, 2014

Psalm 71:12-24

Psalm 71:12-24
Amplified Bible (AMP)

  Ever been so hungry you couldn't think of anything else?  Or been so focused on a certain objective that you didn't pay much attention to what else was going on?
  It's easy to be consumed by anger or bitterness or a desire for vengeance.  We can become so focused on getting even that we forget everything else in life.  Here, the Psalmist has plenty of reasons to be bitter, but instead he chooses to praise God.  Rather than let anger get the best of him, he opts for praise and worship.  This is surely the better path, for in doing so we focus ourselves on God and let ourselves trust him to take care of our enemies.  We release the stress, and are free to be built up by the love of God.

May your enemies fade from view as you focus on Almighty God

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Psalm 71:1-11

Psalm 71:1-11
Amplified Bible (AMP)

  I expend a lot of words.  I write a bit, I talk a bit, I text a bit.  Throughout every day, I'm using words.  Some of them are mundane conversations, some of them are exciting and fast-moving, some of them are yelped in pain as I pick up an acorn squash that's been sitting in the oven for 45 minutes.
  The question I am left with in this Psalm is this:  How many are directed towards God?  How many are in praise of God?  Is my mouth filled with his praise all day?  Or am I too caught up in other things to remember to whisper (or shout) words of praise to God?  Am I praying while I am working?  Am I trying to redirect my vision towards God while in the midst of so many other things?
  Or do I forget to praise him for most of the day?

May our mouths be filled with praise songs and constant prayers to God

Slow Jogs

  Yesterday, I went out running.

  Which is strange, because on Sunday morning, I was an award-winning runner!  That's right--age-group champion at the local 5k!  (It helped just a bit that there was a 10k and a half-marathon at the same time, meaning all the seriously fast runners were competing in those, leaving just a few of us in the 5k.  I finished 10 minutes ahead of the 2nd place runner in my age group, and it wasn't because I was running quickly.
  But I ran much, much faster on Sunday than I did yesterday.

  I can almost hear you cry out--'Why did you run so much faster on Sunday?'

  I had someone to pull me along.

  When I was racing on Sunday, there were people in front of me to set a pace, to keep me accountable, that served as motivation when I was running.  I wanted to catch them, and I knew that if I slowed down, I'd be caught by those behind me.  That was a powerful motivator.

  When I was out on my own yesterday, there was no accountability.  If I slowed down, nothing happened.  There was no one to catch me, no one for me to catch.  I could have walked and no one would have known.  I was all by myself.

  Life is harder by ourselves.  When we're alone, and accountable to no one, there often aren't consequences for slacking off.  When we don't have partners to walk with us, we drift, because it's hard to keep yourself disciplined.  We're made to be together, to encourage and support one another, and slogging through alone, without a community, is tough work.  Much tougher, and it's so much easier to stop when you're doing tough work alone.

  So may you find a community.  It often takes work to find and create one, but I truly believe this initial work pays off many times over, as the rest of the journey is much, much easier when someone else walks with you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Beating back the darkness

  Darkness lingers.

  If this awful news of Robin Williams has taught me anything, it's that darkness lingers at the threshold of every single human life, and darkness is never content to remain a safe distance away, to dance on the perimeter of the human life.  Darkness scurries in under the cover of night, infiltrating our minds, hearts and relationships despite our defenses, and seeking a foothold from which it might enlarge its influence in our lives.  We may try and cast it out, destroy its influence upon us, but no matter how hard we try, it seems to linger in the shadows, on the perimeter, in long forgotten places, to re-emerge at 'a more opportune time', which is when the Devil decided to return to tempt Jesus after being rebuffed by Jesus in the wilderness.

  We like to think of ourselves as strong, but none of us are strong enough on our own to beat back the continual infiltration of darkness.  No matter how many resources we may have, be they financial or emotional or relational, we eventually find ourselves weakened, through life circumstances or choices of our own, and over time, if we do not discover others to help us bear the load, we weaken, and no longer able to stand up straight, we begin to forget what the horizon looks like as our heads become lowered to the ground, our eyes become fixated lower and lower until all we can see is the next step, and eventually we become so low, so overburdened by the things we are carrying, we begin to doubt if we can even take the next step, and it begins to be so tempting simply to lie down where we are, to stop moving forward and let the weight and darkness that hammer away at our defenses consume us.

  Each and every one of us, I believe, need to bear light for another.  The light of love and hope that shines within us needs to be shared, for in so doing we help bear one another's burdens.  This is true community, when we stand beside one another and help lift one another's vision back to the horizon, to encourage and support one another in the next step and the possibility that lies beyond that.  It's so easy to forget what hope looks like when it is shrouded in the clouds of darkness, when that despair has taken hold of the human heart.  We need a brother or sister to remind us, to help us forward, to help shake the mire of hopelessness from our vision. 

  And when we have been encouraged, we need to remember to share that encouragement to others.  Just as we ourselves are in need of ministry, we have a responsibility to one another to be selfless, to minister to others.  We do not simply receive, but in a complicated dance that does not always feel natural, we give and take, sharing our resources, sharing our strength, sharing our hope and helping one another go forward in life, acknowledging the reality of the darkness to break in to any of our lives, but pledging to do all we can to beat it back to the perimeter, rallying our defenses to the weakest point, letting our collective care for one another be our strength, just as the Israelites rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah's time were always ready to run and assist the ones who were in danger of being attacked.  At the sound of the trumpet, each one was ready to go.

  So will we run to one another to share our strength and light?  Will we listen well enough to one another to be ready to respond to genuine crises?  Will we be willing to sound our own trumpet, to reach out and let another share our burdens?  We are all vulnerable and broken in some way, but we need not be ashamed of that, for our brokenness can bring us together and make us stronger if we allow it to be shared.

  Revelation promises that in the end, light will conquer and destroy darkness.  One day, there will be no darkness left to linger on the periphery, to steal into our hearts and slowly tear down what we seek to build up, to bend our backs with cares to the point that we no longer can see the sun shining in the sky.  Christ alone can achieve this victory, but until then, we must allow the light to shine through one another and do everything we can to help one another take the next step in hope.

Psalm 70

Psalm 70 
New Living Translation (NLT)

  Searching is usually filled with frustration and angst.  I lost my grocery list at the store the other day and was rather frustrated--not so much that I had lost the list, but just at the idea of losing something.  I frantically looked around for a bit, but I still don't know where it got to.  My search was disappointing.
  Here, though, we read a prayer that a search for God will be filled with joy and gladness.  Our search for God isn't like a search for a lost grocery list or the car keys--our searching always draws us closer, and we will not be disappointed.  We will seek and we will find, for God is with us always.  May we draw closer and shout, 'God is great!'

May you search and find God near you today

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pictures of the Kids

Psalm 69:22-36

Psalm 69:22-36
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

  Verses 29 and 30 don't seem to go together, do they?  First, the Psalmist cries out that he is lonely and in pain.  Then he praises the name of God in a song, magnifying him with thanksgiving.  What, we might ask, does he have to be grateful for?
  This is where we step back, waaaay back, and remember the big promises of God.  God doesn't promise that life will be easy.  God doesn't promise that our enemies will stay quiet forever.  God doesn't promise that all will always feel warm and fuzzy.
  When we remember that God's promises are to abide with us always, even in the valley of the shadow of death, we can realize that God's strength and ultimate victory are not swayed by present circumstances.  God's plan will not be derailed by evil.  God will not be defeated by hardship.  No, God will win, and in him we, too, shall be triumphant.  We will have to endure some difficulties, but the end is not in doubt.

May you have confidence in God's total victory

Monday, August 11, 2014

First day of school, part XXI

  For the 21st time, this is my first day of school.
  You'd think, with that much practice, that this would be easier.  You'd think I'd be ready and enthusiastic and eager to begin a new phase.
  Instead, I can't help but question whether I've gone completely out of mind and taken a large step off the deep end.  I've spent most of today trying to figure out exactly how I ended up here, why we moved 7 hours north to embark on a 2 year journey of new beginnings.
  I think what it comes down to is that I, like so many others, get trapped into thinking that I'm not good enough.  I look to all these external places to get my validation, when ultimately some part of me knows that it doesn't matter how many other people affirm me, that it doesn't matter if Ohio State thinks this is the right decision--what matters is whether I'm willing to look in the mirror and accept that God loves me no matter what.  Until I'm ready and willing to accept God's perspective on things, I'm going to struggle to find other people and other things that will tell me that I'm good enough.  Until I accept God's grace as the final word on my status, I'll wrestle with the sense that I'm a fraud that doesn't belong.
  It's tough.  I was comfortable in the pastorate.  I was pretty good at it, and growing at some of the not-so-good parts.  I loved the people I served dearly.
  But I do believe that God was calling us into the next step, and I desperately want to give Rachel the option of working part-time so she can spend more time and energy with the kids.  I believe that we are being faithful (although I also recognize that just because I believe that doesn't always make it right).
  Change is simply difficult, and some part of the psyche always resists change.  On the evening before my next first day of school, I am nervous about new places and new people and a whole world of unknowns.
  So I breathe in, and I breathe out, and I remind myself that God will use this, that his sovereign will can lead us into a new day, where a new pattern of life might help us live and grow in discipleship in a new way.  I am a child of God, and nothing that happens tomorrow or over the next 2, 20 and 200 years will change that.

  And when people ask me what I did on the eve of 21st grade, I'll tell them that I made some pretty impressive looking muffins:

Stuff, part II

  So there I was...

  Rachel & I visited a nearby church this morning, and let's just say the sermon left my mind wandering a bit.  (I have no problem at all with people who preach from a manuscript.  I do, however, have a problem with people who read their entire manuscript devoid of any passion or energy and use the exact same tone of voice throughout the entire thing)

  Over the last two weeks, I've been dealing with our stuff.  Some of it has been going into a storage shed.  (I hated to do it, but that piano wasn't going into our second story condo, and there was no way I was getting rid of that.  It's got history.)  Some of it has been given away.  Some of it has been stared at as I've tried to figure out what to do with it.
  I've been trying to figure out why I have such a problem getting rid of some of it, and then I realized that it was rather simple:  this stuff belongs to me.  It's my stuff, and we have a history, a relationship.  To get rid of it is to discard that history and relationship, and that's almost never easy.
  The reason this occurred to me in church is this:  if I hesitate strongly to get rid of my stuff, some of which needed to go years ago, how much harder it must be for God to get rid of what belongs to him--the people he has created.
  Some people will paint a picture of a God who seems almost eager to condemn.  When I read Scripture, the overall witness seems to be that God is eager to save.  I get the feeling that God is never eager to cast off the people that belong to him, that God has a hard time letting go.  C.S. Lewis says it so beautifully when he offers the suggestion that the doors of hell are locked from the inside.  Lewis is reminding us that it's not God who rejects--it's people who reject God.  Those people, I believe are beloved by God, and God laments at having to let go of them, laments allowing their rejection of him to become eternal.
  I believe that we belong to God, and surely God longs to keep us close, to bring us back, to embrace us with the fullness of God's love.

Psalm 69:13-21

Psalm 69:13-21
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

  If you're standing in the middle of the grocery store and have money to spend, you're probably not worried about starving.  The most difficult decision is trying to know what to buy in the midst of all that food.
  On the other hand, with the same amount of money, if you're standing in the middle of the dessert, you're probably very concerned about starving, even though you have plenty of money.  Money doesn't do much good without food to buy.
  One of the recurring words in this section is 'abundant'.  God's love is abundant.  His mercy is abundant.  There is more love than you can ever need or want--God is ready to pour it out upon you.  All you need to do is open your heart and your life to receive it and let is transform you.
  On the other hand, if you live with an attitude of scarcity, you'll be surrounded by the love and grace of God but so terrified that there won't be enough that you miss the splendor around you because you're paralyzed by fear.
  There is more than enough grace, more than enough love, more than enough wonder.  Let God's abundance overwhelm you.

May you be in awe of how God loves you

Friday, August 8, 2014

Psalm 69:6-12

Psalm 69:6-12
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

  What are you zealous for?
  I've read a lot about how football seems to be a religion in certain areas.  If you were to follow certain people around, watching to see what they seemed to care most about, listening to what they talked about most, you'd think the central factor in their life was a football team.  We can also be zealous for riches, zealous for relationships, zealous for being right.
  Are you zealous for God's house?  Is love for God consuming you?  If not, are you working towards that, or settled into a comfort zone where God has a place in your life but not much of a role?
  We all have room to grow.  May we pursue God and grow our passion for the things that glorify Christ.

May today be a day in which you have energy to love God more

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Psalm 69:1-5

Psalm 69:1-5
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

  When we come to God in prayer, it is folly to pretend that we are blameless.  Considering that God knows even the secret thoughts of our hearts, it is best to come to God as we are, broken and contrite, hoping for forgiveness.
  We can do this because we know there is grace for us.  We know that God is eager to forgive, ready to welcome, open to receiving us in spite of our flaws.  God loves us as we are, rushing to the prodigals with open arms, ready to give even his own Son so that the relationship might be restored.
  God loves you.  Nothing can stop God from loving you.  Do not come to God worried you aren't good enough--come grateful that God loves you even though none of us are good enough.

May you cling to God's grace

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Psalm 68:11-23

Psalm 68:11-23
The Message (MSG) 


  Tomorrow, I'm driving to Ft. Wayne, Indiana to spend a few hours there.  Along the way, I'll be fairly oblivious to the fact that I'm sitting in a vehicle weighing several thousand pounds traveling down the highway at a high rate of speed driven by thousands of explosions occurring a few feet from where I sit.  All the while, my primary concern will be what's on the radio.
  We're often oblivious to the power around us.  Plugging a hair dryer into the wall, we forget that the other end of that outlet might be a mighty, rushing river or a nuclear reactor.  We are simply grateful to be able to flip the switch and have the lights come on.
  In the same manner, we forget that the Almighty God, Creator and King of the universe, is for us, on our side, pushing all of his power to fight for us against the forces of evil.  God has such power, but we forget about it, focusing on ourselves so intently that we forget to offer our problems and milieus up to God, forgetting the power God has offered to use for us.
  God is for you.  God saves.  God is mighty and powerful, and we should cling to him.

May you trust in the power of God

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Psalm 68:1-10

Psalm 68:1-10
The Message (MSG)

  God is on the move!
  Moving has been an interesting process.  We've discovered lots of things we don't use, possessions we forgot we had.  Perhaps now we can put them to good use, taking advantage of such things.
  With God, we don't have to worry about his power and sovereignty being wasted,stored away in the back of a drawer somewhere.  God is on the move!  His power will be used to vanquish his foes and rescue his beloved.  Even now, God is at work in the world, stirring hearts and tearing down evil.  Perhaps you get overwhelmed and despair at the work of evil, and while it can be frightening, trust God that he is tearing down evil's house, plank by plank, and one day not a trace of it shall remain.
  God is on the move!

May you trust in his power and join in his victory march!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Psalm 67

Psalm 67 
Amplified Bible (AMP) 

  What does it mean for you to be blessed?
  If we restrain our thinking of blessing to one particular avenue, such as money or good relationships, we limit God and make our understanding of God very dependent upon one outcome.  If I end up without money or a relationship falls apart, suddenly I'm left wondering if God is still good.
  If, however, I simply believe the Bible when it says that God is pouring blessings into my life and I trust that God will do the wisest thing for me, I'm free to understanding blessing in new ways and also to search for blessings in every situation, even the bleakest of times.
  By believing that God is always blessing us, we no longer let the world set the terms for how God loves us.  We allow God's wild and undefinable love to consume us each and every day in new and wondrous ways, and we can cry out in hope that the world might come to know such great love!

May you sense God's blessings today

Saturday, August 2, 2014


  Well, that was different than I expected.

  In preparation for the big move, we got a quote or two from a full-service agency, but going on the assumption that I could drive a truck in a straight line without hitting anything, I rented a 26 foot moving truck and hired folks in Chattanooga & Columbus to load and unload the truck.  I couldn't rent anything bigger than a 26 foot truck, and about a week after arranging the rental, I started wondering if there would be enough room on the truck for all our stuff.  Brad, the head of Bizzy Bee Movers (They were really, really good, if you're in Chattanooga and looking for movers), said it might be close as to whether or not everything would fit in the truck.

  When moving day came, it wasn't close.

  Not even by a little.

  Fortunately, Penske offers unlimited mileage.  So I drove to Columbus.  Then drove back to Chattanooga.  Then back to Columbus.  1,400 miles in all.  (Big thanks to John Brandon, who did the first two legs of the journey and a whole lot of work on either end.  I don't know if I would have made it without him.)

  In the end, I'm left with one clear, overwhelming fact:  we own too much stuff.

  It's odd.  We didn't think we had an overwhelming amount of stuff.  We don't spend recklessly.  We try not to buy extra things.  But over the years, it just accumulated, and we didn't throw much out.  Much of the stuff comes from having small children, and I had a lot of boxes of books, but so much of it was just stuff, stuff that wasn't particularly meaningful to either of us, stuff that we weren't in a big hurry to get rid of but that we didn't necessarily use.  Rachel and I both had a prevailing sense of shame when we looked in the back of that first truck and realized that it wasn't big enough for everything we own.  We thought about the kids we sponsor in Africa and South America, wondering what they might say about our over-abundance of stuff.  I wondered if Abraham debated what size truck to rent when God called him into the unknown.  I wondered what Jesus might say to the disciples who showed up with two 26 foot trucks in tow.

  So what do we do now?  We've talked a lot about seriously evaluating the amount of stuff, about giving a lot away and being very careful about how we accumulate in the future.  The 2 boxes of books I have to give away are a trifling amount, but it's a start.  The move was eye-opening for us, and we hope that it will create some momentum to live more simply, that our stuff might not become a burden to weigh us down and prevent us from moving forward into the future God has prepared for our family.  May we not be so concerned about stuff and be more concerned about having open hands for what might come our way.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Psalm 66:8-12

Psalm 66:8-12
21st Century King James Version (KJ21) 


  This reminds me of the passage where Jesus is talking about good vines being pruned.  We like to think that God's love means nothing bad will ever happen to us, but I don't think that's true.  It certainly doesn't follow with most of Scripture's teachings.  It's an easy thing to think, but what the entire witness of Scripture seems to teach is that the bad things that happen will not triumph over us, they will not overcome, they will not be our end.  Silver is tried in the fire to burn away the impurities, and God will use adversity in our life to bring us to a place of total dependence on him.  The idols will fall away as they prove unable to prevent calamity.  Only God will remain, faithful as ever.

May you depend on God's strength alone