The Seat Saving Savior

I have this routine every morning of pouring my cup of coffee, grabbing my Bible, and sitting in the same exact spot on the couch. (On a side note, I’m kind of like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory when it comes to my spot on the couch.)

My dachshund-mix, Rooney, loves curling up right next to me. My other dog, Finley, truly doesn’t have a preference as to where he curls up on the couch. He’s just happy to have a place to call home. Occasionally, Rooney takes his time getting to the couch and Finley is the first one to plop himself down beside me…unaware that his decision is about to cause a disturbance in the force.  When Rooney shows up (he’s kind of like Sheldon Cooper too) he is never satisfied until he has claimed the prime spot right next to me. And, I always end up accommodating this desire too.  If you know dachshunds then you know it’s not really worth arguing with them. They’re a stubborn breed and their determination will eventually wear you down. So I gently push Finely down to the center of the couch to make room for “King” Rooney.

Yesterday, it happened again. Rooney showed up late and Finley took his spot.  As he stood at my feet waiting for me to fix the issue, these words came out of my mouth:

“You can’t be late to the party and expect to get the best seat in the house.”

As the words tumbled out of my mouth, I immediately recognized that our natural tendency as humans is to live with a first come first served attitude and with this belief that promptness gets praised while tardiness gets punished. It dawned on me again how totally opposite to Jesus’ nature and character this tendency is. Jesus’ way of loving people looks nothing like our first come first served or the early bird gets the worm attitudes. In His kingdom, the last will be first, the weak will be strong, the poor are rich, and the humble and the gentle are embraced.

We see it in the prodigal son story when the squandering son comes home and receives a loving welcome not a lecture about being late. You’re the honored guest. I never gave up hope that you’d show up. I was watching for you. Come, let’s celebrate!  I saved you a seat!

We see it as Jesus responds to the thief hanging next to him on the cross. The thief, a broken man with eyes that were finally willing to see Jesus for who he was and then humbly make a request of him:  Please, Jesus, remember me.  And Jesus responded,  of course I’ll remember you in paradise. You are the reason I left it in the first place!

I then thought about these words from a Sunday message from a few years ago.

“God is a missionary God…and God is on a mission to get his kids back.”

And what truly amazes me is the lengths a Holy God will go to rescue his kids. His grace, His forgiveness, His mercy shouts truth into our distracted and discouraged souls: You’re not too late. You haven’t run too far in the wrong direction. Come home, I’ve saved you a seat! 




Truth and Nothing But the Truth

Do we desire to know the truth even if truth looks nothing like we imagined it would or should look?

Do we desire to know the truth even if it makes us uncomfortable, even it doesn’t fit neatly into our paradigm or our own agendas?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this lately.

There’s a part of me that thinks I would have loved being a news journalist or a criminal investigator.  I like getting to the truth.  There’s something inside me that desires accuracy. I can work with truth. I can’t work with deception.  Truth, no matter how hard it might be to swallow sometimes, is at least, a sure foundation on which to begin.  But deception, no matter how attractive, is built on a shaky, uncertain foundation…which means that anything you pile on top of it is tainted.

I think this is one reason I love hearing the stories of skeptics or atheists who come to know and love Christ.  They don’t arrive at that decision to be a Christ follower, half-heartedly. They don’t stumble into it. They have done research (regardless of whether or not what they discover makes them uncomfortable or ends up prompting more questions instead of less). They have examined and studied all the evidence and have made a decision based upon the most accurate information they have. It’s certainly not an easy route. It requires humility and a heart that is willing to be broken or shaken to the core.  BUT, it is a productive and worthwhile route because the end result is a sure foundation on which to stand.

Jesus came and announced that He was “the way the truth and the life” and that “no one comes to the Father except through Him” John 14:6.  He didn’t claim to be someone who simply pointed us in the right direction. Instead, he claimed to be THE direction, the path.  He’s not just the compass holder, He’s the actual compass.  He is not just a truth teller. He is truth.  He is not just a life giver. He is life.  He’s not just the bread giver.  He is the bread.


After writing these thoughts down yesterday morning, I noticed a couple of common threads woven throughout the rest of the day.  My coworker read the first few chapters of Hebrews 1 during a morning prayer time.  

“Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe[a] through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (1-4)

A few portions resonated with me as I was still reflecting on the thoughts I jotted down earlier in morning about this deep desire to seek truth, to know truth and to live truth.  These verses in Hebrews reminded me that God made the universe through Jesus and that Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory.  I like how the verse says that He is the “exact expression of his nature”  It’s that phrase “exact expression” I love so much.  It reminds me of why I like getting to the truth of things.  When you know the truth about something then you know the “exact expression.” You can rest assured that there are no errors or falsities in that expression. I was curious to see how other translations worded that verse too.

the exact representation (NIV)
the express image of his person (KJV)
the exact imprint of his nature (ESV)
expressed the very character of God (NLT)

The “exact imprint” I like that!  It reminded me of how fingerprints can help investigators identify a suspect and help get to the truth of a matter.


Then later in the day on Twitter I saw this quote that had been tweeted out by Lee Strobel

“Either we conform our desires to the truth or we conform the truth to our desires.” –Os Guinness

This made me smile because as I was writing earlier in the morning about this desire to know truth and how I love hearing about the journey of skeptics and atheists, I actually thought about Strobel’s journey of becoming a Christ follower… a former investigative journalist and a former atheist.  

I love the quote Strobel shared:  “Conforming our desires to the truth”  leads to a firm foundation.  “Conforming the truth to our desires” leads to a shaky, undependable foundation.”Conforming our desires to the truth” takes a ton of humility, courage, objectiveness. “Conforming the truth to our desires” will not stand the test of time. It results in deceiving ourselves as we attempt to create God into our own image instead of allowing “the exact expression” of God to shape us and our lives.

Plant Seeds of Significance

I finally watched the movie Wonder last night.  It was a good movie about a young boy born with a genetic issue that caused significant facial deformities. August “Auggie” must navigate the pains of being rejected, insulted, teased, bullied and ignored as he makes the transition from being homeschooled to attending middle school.  The story also gives the audience a glimpse into the lives of several of the other characters and we get to see the story through their perspectives as well.

The part of the story that seemed to resonate most with me was when Auggie’s older sister experienced rejection from her best friend. I ended up pausing the movie and sharing with my teenage son a time back in 9th grade when I had to navigate through a similar hurt.  It’s amazing how deep the pain of rejection can cut us.  It’s also amazing how pains like that can fill us with a drive and a passion to fight against and do what we can to minimize such pain for others.

Pains can reveal our passion and our purpose.

On the days when I’m tempted to make my life and my work about something else…I want to remember.

How did I make the people who crossed my path today…feel?

Did I cut them down or did I lift them up?

Did I make sure the people I met today felt seen, accepted, and included?

Did I make sure they left this place feeling assured that this was a safe place…that this was one place where they are welcome, where they belong, and where they are loved?

Did I leave another scar on their wounded soul or did I plant seeds of significance and beauty?

Friends in the Boat

Recently,  I recalled a comment a friend said to me shortly after my dad dying. This friend and I are both in the “no more living parents” boat. I know there are a ton of folks in this boat with me. My friend shared with me how losing her parents made her feel a little bit like an orphan.  At the time, it didn’t feel that way to me personally. I lost my mom when I was 18 and my dad when I was 44.  Maybe I didn’t feel like an orphan because I was little further along in the adulthood journey when I entered into the realm of parentlessness.

Yet, I do feel something all the time: grief. It’s not the kind of grief that paralyzes you like when a pain and loss is fresh. It’s a different kind of grief. It’s that kind that resides, hidden, under the surface. It ebbs and flows, rises and falls, but never goes away completely.  Most days, I’m okay with this. Each chapter has helped to shape me into who I am today. Most days, the hope of glory and the joy that comes with knowing Jesus and being a part of His family far outweighs this chronic presence of grief.  I’m so grateful that the hope He offers us is infinitely bigger than the despair all around us and the sorrow that sometimes hits us personally.

Yet, there are still those days when the reality wave will hit me again and I’m deeply aware of a loved ones absence in my life.  As I was driving home from work yesterday,  I told the Lord exactly how I was currently feeling about all of it…death, grief, pain, sorrow, separation.   You know Lord, this sucks.  And you know what?  I felt like I heard Him respond to my statement.  I felt like I heard Him say.  You’re right… it does. 

And Jesus wept.  (John 11:35)

I like that I have a Savior in my life that can sympathize with me, that climbs in the boat with me for a bit and reaffirms the suck that I’m feeling.  It’s like having that wise spouse or good friend who doesn’t try to fix it all or explain it all away right then and there…but rather they just sit with us in the darkness and simply listen to our pains and allow us to throw some tired tantrum punches.

I can relate to the Psalmist’s words

When I became embittered
and my innermost being was wounded,
 I was stupid and didn’t understand;
I was an unthinking animal toward You.
 Yet I am always with You;
You hold my right hand.
 You guide me with Your counsel,
and afterward You will take me up in glory
Who do I have in heaven but You?
And I desire nothing on earth but You.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever. (Psalm 73: 21-26)

“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” Hebrews 4: 14-16


Looking for Hints

Yesterday I went for a much needed run. It’s been unseasonably warm this week in Georgia and I wanted to seize some outdoor time in the sunshine.  As I ran along and listened to music the song “What Do I Know of Holy” by Addison Road began to play. I’ve always loved this song. The lyrics are beautifully honest. Yesterday, it was the word “hint” that lingered in my mind as I journeyed up the road.

“Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
the slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees.”

I thought about the hope tucked into the word hint.

Lord, maybe I’ll write about that word tomorrow.


Last night, I had dream after dream. However,  I’m having a hard time remembering any of them.  The only thing I remember is that during the last dream this lady looked at me and said “Did you know…”

And, then, the alarm went off on my phone and the dream ended.

“Did you know…do I know what???”  For someone who likes to be in the know, a dream that ends like this is torture.  I jumped out of bed a tad disappointed that I would now never know if I know.  Nice timing alarm…way to ruin a good dream.  I started my morning coffee and then took my dogs out into the yard to do their morning business.  I stood there under the stars and thought more about the abrupt ending of my dream and then I suddenly remembered the song from yesterday, “What Do I Know of Holy” and the word hint that lingered for a bit.

“the slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees”

Hints keep us on the look out for the more or the rest of the story.  Hints keep us in a state of anticipation.  When someone says to us “I’ll give you a hint” it automatically triggers our brains to go into seek mode.  We are eager to discover the answer.  Folks are often drawn to games like crossword puzzles, Jeopardy trivia games, and mystery type shows and movies.  These clue-filled activities keep our minds and hearts engaged as we seek for all the possibilities and scenarios.

I love that, on this journey with Christ, the hints of who He is and how great His love is for me are never-ending. And yet, the more I journey along, the more I realize I’ve barely scratched the surface.  What do I know of Holy?

A hint is like a beautiful taste of His love. And it only takes the slightest taste of the Holy One to make our mouths water for more…and the clues to His greatness never run dry.  Every day is a new day to look for them again, to catch glimpses along the path.

Look for the hints today.

YOU are the reason

Lord, the king finds joy in Your strength.
How greatly he rejoices in Your victory!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not denied the request of his lips.
 For You meet him with rich blessings;
You place a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked You for life, and You gave it to him
length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through Your victory;
You confer majesty and splendor on him.
 You give him blessings forever;
You cheer him with joy in Your presence.
 For the king relies on the Lord;
through the faithful love of the Most High
he is not shaken. Psalm 21:1-7

Read through Psalm 21 this morning before flipping over to the book of Mark.  I emphasized every place that reminds me of who gets all the glory, honor, and praise.  This was the secret to the king’s victory. He showcases the Lord and says: You are the reason.  I owe everything to You!

I then read Mark 5 and was reminded of the same thing in the three stories shared.

First, there is the man who had been tormented for years by a demon. He encounters Jesus and Jesus does for him what the man was never able to do for himself…give the man victory over that which was holding him prisoner.  And the man spends the rest of his days shouting the praises of Jesus, the Man who gave him true LIFE.  You are the reason. I owe everything to You!

Second, is the account of the lady who must push through crowds (and the chaos all around her) in order to reach Jesus. She relentlessly pursues Jesus. It was this lady’s faith in the same thing the Psalmist sings about in Psalm 21. You, Jesus, are my only chance for healing and restoration and victory.  I need Your power in my life! And the result:  peace, freedom, and healing. We don’t hear the post story but I can only imagine the praises this lady sang for the rest of her days. You are the reason. I owe everything to You!

Third, is the account of the young girl who dies while Jesus is delayed by the lady who was bleeding. He tells the synagogue leader. “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”  Jesus wasn’t late. He was right on time. His glory and power is showcased when He takes the girl by the hand and says to her “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”   From death to life. We see Jesus give victory over even our graves.  And, again, I have to wonder how the rest of the story played out. When hardships and struggles came up in this family’s life, would they pause long enough and remember the miracle. When all hope seemed lost, would they pause and allow the sweet words of Jesus to reassure their weary souls again:  “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” 

I think of my own life.  Shackled by addiction, pushing through the chaos of lies and deception, touching the robe of the great Healer, and hearing Him say “Don’t be afraid. Only believe. I will take you by the hand and breathe life back into you!

Second Mile Service and a Front Row Seat to Hope

“When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home.  So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying.

Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:1-5

A few thoughts came to me the other day while reading through this account again of Jesus healing the paralytic brought to him on a mat.

How creative will we be to remove barriers so people can get to Jesus and hear the message?  To what lengths are we willing to go?  It wasn’t the faith of the man needing healing that caught Jesus’ attention, but rather the bold faith of the men going the extra mile for the man needing healing. 

Might it be the same thing that sometimes catches Jesus’ attention today?  Are we willing to go the second mile for people to make sure they can get to the feet of Jesus?  Will we help remove barriers that often keep people from positioning themselves in the places Jesus can be heard?  Do our hearts send a loud and clear message:  You belong HERE and we will go out of our way to prove it to you! 

Because the truth is, there are people on mats all around us…broken hearts and paralyzed lives… in need of the healing words of Jesus.  Will we boldly grab hold of a mat and proclaim in our hearts: “there is hope and we are determined to go to any lengths possible to assure you get a front row seat to it!”

From Suffering to Something Else

Heard this song for the first time last week and went back to listen to it again this morning. What a beautiful song. Think these are my favorite verses:

“O it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.”
“When I was your foe, still your love fought for me.”

Love the reminder that His love pursues.

I saved the above words in a draft post yesterday morning after listening to this song again.

And then, yesterday afternoon, I hear the news of another senseless massacre at a high school in Florida. It’s atrocities such as this that prompt us to question and doubt the goodness of God. And yet, His goodness, in the midst of tragedies like this is the only thing my heart is certain of, the only pillow on which I can rest my head.

When evil abounds, it’s the hope of redemption and the promise He will redeem all things and make all things right that seems to hold the pieces of my heart together. And the only way I’ve been able to trust that this promise is true is by seeing how God has taken the grief and pain in my own story and has somehow someway transformed it into something…else. This something else takes all that is in vain and reveals to our souls something more. He is capable of taking the pain and the suffering, the rubble and the wreckage and restoring it into something. He takes dead souls and broken hearts and breathes life back into them.

In times like this, this knowledge is the only certainty and the only hope that makes sense to me and brings peace to my spirit.

Lord, comfort these families in Florida. Pursue them with Your reckless love. Overwhelm them with Your unexplainable peace. Help them to make sense of the senseless in a way that only YOU are capable of doing. Take the pain and the grief and make something more. Do it again, Lord.  Redeem this…redeem even this. 

Lyrics That Lead Us Home

I’m not sure how many other people do this but a couple of years ago I started writing down songs in the front of my Bible that I wouldn’t mind being played at my memorial service.  Now, obviously, I won’t actually be at the event to listen to them in person but, still, I’ve felt compelled to jot a few down over the years. This morning as I wrote down another potential song, a thought crossed my mind and it made me chuckle.  One day, a few years ago, a coworker of mine asked me if I was “micro-managing” him when I came along to check to make sure a task had gotten done. He said it in a humorous way but there was definitely a thread of truth woven through his comment. I tend to be a “all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed” kind of person. Maybe.. this song suggestion list is my last effort to micro-mangage. 😉

However, it’s much more likely this urge comes from finding a goodbye note and list of songs tucked away in my mom’s Bible the morning after she died. Discovering that note and that list of songs was such a gift in the midst of grief. I guess I just want to make sure I leave behind gifts for my family to unwrap too.  In fact, I want to leave behind lots of “gifts” for them.  And, it is my hope, that each gift will point them back to the Giver of life Himself.

I want them to remember Who to run to when life gets hard.  I want them to remember to cling unswervingly to the hope we’ve been given.  And if they ever find themselves misplacing the  lyrics that will lead them home, I want them to remember the amazing grace that eagerly waits to serenade a forgetful heart over and over again.

A Decisive Mission and Some Whoa, Dude Moments

I was reading through the familiar account in Matthew 14 of Jesus walking on the water and Peter getting out of the boat to walk on the water too.

What stood out to me this morning was how the word “immediately” was mentioned three times in just ten verses.

Immediately was the description of how quickly Jesus instructed his disciples to leave after the feeding of the 5000. They had just witnessed Jesus take five loaves and two fish, look up at the heavens, bless the food, and then break the bread for the hungry crowd. The disciples had been charged with the task of being the servers, distributing the meal and then collecting all the leftovers so that nothing was wasted.

Scripture says that immediately Jesus made them get into the boat, without him, and move on.  For some reason, this abrupt transition from being witnesses to such an amazing scene one moment to being instructed to leave the next moment captured my attention. Personally,  I think I would have wanted to recline in the grass for a bit and reflect on the glory of it all.  Whoa, Dude!   But just as Jesus didn’t waste any of the leftovers, Jesus didn’t waste any time moving on to the next faith building lesson that was waiting out on the sea for his disciples.

Here’s my thoughts.  Jesus didn’t see the need to dwell on one moment of glory because wherever He was, His glory would be too. Life with Him would be one glory filled moment after another…not because His disciples’ circumstances would be perfect or without struggle, but because holy moments are possible whenever Jesus is present. And Jesus knew that another one of those beautiful and unforgettable moments would be waiting for his disciples out in the middle of a dark sea. His disciples left one whoa, Dude moment in order to be positioned smack dab in the middle of another whoa, Dude moment.

And, as we can tell from how quickly fear wrapped around their hearts again while they were all alone on that boat and suddenly placed in a position of uncertainty, they needed yet another lesson reviewing the fundamentals of their faith again:

Who should you depend on for all your needs?  Jesus
Who can calm your fears in times of uncertainty?  Jesus
Who does the rescuing? Jesus

Immediately was the description of how quickly Jesus spoke to his disciples when they became filled with fear at the figure walking towards them on the water. I love the urgency Jesus used to reassure them with His voice. Peter’s response makes me smile too. It’s so human. He essentially challenges Jesus.  If you are who are say you are…then prove it. And so Jesus does!  And then what happens? Even after Jesus “proves it”, Peter takes His eyes off the “proof” and looks at his circumstances again.  Can anyone else relate?  

Immediately was the description of how quickly Jesus reacted when Peter began to sink and then cried out for Jesus to save him. I love the knee jerk reaction of Jesus. He instinctively does the one thing He was sent to earth to do…rescue.  

This moment wouldn’t be the last time Peter would need rescuing from his fears and his failures. Jesus knew Peter. Even as He stretched out His hand that night to save him, Jesus had full knowledge that this same man would one day deny Him, run away in fear, and need rescuing again.

But thankfully…

Jesus’ mission is to rescue. Despite our indecisiveness, our apprehensions, our fears, our doubts, and our failures, Jesus’ mission never changes.

It’s His character and nature to rescue us, redeem us, and restore us. 

Every decision He makes, every direction He sends us, is perfectly timed and strategically planned to teach us, yet again, Who we must depend on.  

I take comfort in this Truth.

” Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Well into the night, he was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was already some distance from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. Jesus came toward them walking on the sea very early in the morning.  When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and they cried out in fear.

Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter answered him, “command me to come to you on the water.”

 He said, “Come.”

And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strength of the wind,he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those in the boat worshiped him and said, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14: 22-33