Freedom

It’s been more than 40 years, but the scene hasn’t changed all that much.  Downhill run, dirt road, just north of the family farm.  Back in the day I was driving my Granddaddy’s pickup and my grandmother was in the passenger seat. I don’t remember the occasion, but most likely we had taken Lucy or Dot or some other domestic help back to their house, and we were headed back.

Just as I cruised down the dirt road, flexing my pride in the manly art of driving, the pickup slipped off the road into a shallow little ditch.

“Ditch” is too harsh a word.  More like a little soft trough where rain water would gently ease down the hill. Really wasn’t that big a deal.

“Oh, no, we’re stuck,” Grandmother said immediately.

Ridiculous!  It wasn’t deep, we were doing downhill, and all I had to do was give it a little gas, turn the wheel, and…

Well crud.  We were stuck. [click to continue…]

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Highway

Imagine your life as various points on the highway.  Fast Lane, Slow Lane, Shoulder, Ditch.

And at any given time, in any given area, you can be in one of those four.

Living in the Fast Lane means you’re getting where you’re going. You’re fulfilling your purpose.

In the Slow Lane you have a lot of movement, but you never quite seem to get there, wherever “there” is.

On the Shoulder, your “engine” is running, but you’re not moving ahead at all.

In the Ditch means you’ve crashed or are stuck, and without help you aren’t going anywhere.

Having punched my card in all four locations, I can tell you we’re all a mixed bag. You can be idling on the shoulder in one area, cruising in another, and crashed out in a third. So let’s break it down a little more. [click to continue…]

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Young man sitting relaxing and enjoying the view from dock

Lately it feels as though you’re doing a tightrope dance with the devil himself. He seduces you like an angel of light in one ear and shames you for all your failures in the other.  Your life feels, even smells like a sulfurous war zone and it sure seems as though the casualties are piling up.  But in the quake and the fury, there’s one and only one thing you need to know…

God’s got this.  All you have to do is trust Him.  And say “thank you.”

 

Like a broken cash register, your money drawer only seems to open when it time to shell it out to somebody else.  From disaster salesmen to debt collectors, everybody’s standing with an outstretched hand.  There’s always another reason to fret over this thing called The Economy, and even a box of Girl Scout cookies feels like a sacrificial charitable donation. But in the fear and loathing-, there’s one and only one thing you need to know…

God’s got this. All you have to do is trust Him. And say “thank you.” [click to continue…]

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Couple looking serious

(A Conversation)

Stuck.

Stuck?

Yeah, that’s probably the best word for it.

As in, you’ve hit the ditch and can’t get out?

Maybe.  Or more like I get so far and every time I hit this wall I can’t ever seem to break through.

Maybe you don’t really want to break through.

What’s that supposed to mean?

Maybe you’d rather lose a thousand pounds than 20.

I don’t follow.

Isn’t it easier to lose one pound and gain it back, then repeat the process a thousand times, than losing 20 and keeping it off?

Okay now you’ve gone to meddling!  And yeah, maybe that’s true, but humor me.  Let’s assume I really want to lose the 20 pounds.  Or I really want to pray consistently.  Or I really want to stop feeling so insecure.

But you feel stuck?

I feel stuck.

Powerless to break free?

Yeah, that.

Tired of 1 John 1:9 being your life verse?

Yeah… Hey!  Wait a minute! Are we talking about me or you?

Well, let’s just say, to quote two former presidents, “Ah feel yur pain” because I’ve been “knee-deep in doo-doo” myself.

And what did you learn?

That I was a bad liar. [click to continue…]

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Fork in road 3

I.

There’s a word we use to describe a person who has never experienced the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s a word that describes the human condition in primal terms – a reflection of something we once knew as a race, a description of how vainly we attempt to find it again.

The word:  Lost.

To be lost is to experience some temporary goodness in this life – comforts, pleasures, and the like – and be clueless as to their Ultimate Source.

To be lost is search in vain for ultimate satisfaction in those temporary blessings and find only emptiness instead.

To be lost is to live in a material world that values life by gain and gold, and be blind to the sources of greatest joy and satisfaction. [click to continue…]

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PrisonIt’s one thing to feel a little distressed or stuck.  Jordan was way past that.  Jordan’s soul was imprisoned, and he saw no way out.  His winsome smile and kind eyes belied the addictive behavior that Jordan was powerless to control.

Haley had a soul prison of her own. Her chains bore the marks of a woman who felt completely alone and desperate for connection – any connection.  Her life zigged and zagged from trying too hard to living as a virtual recluse.

For Joni, the imprisoned soul took the form of simply assuming that her life would always be this way.  Her dreams long dead, Joni spends her days going through the motions of a life stuck in mindless ruts from which there is no escape.

How about you?  How free are you to dream, to feel, to choose? Do you have the power to choose joy, love, or paths to fulfillment? Do you still believe, with conviction, that it’s possible to live the live you have imagined, not just the hand you’ve been dealt?  If the answers to those questions are, well, questionable, maybe you, too, have an imprisoned soul. [click to continue…]

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IMG_7524I love photography for two reasons. First, I love capturing light and images and special moments that I can share and re-live. The one to the left is a recent sample.

Second, taking pictures puts me on the right side of the camera.  As long as I can stay away from that nosy lens, I can imagine that I actually look the way I do when I look at myself in the mirror.  No awkward angles. No unflattering poses. No ruthless inventory of how I really look.

The same kind of thing happens in the spiritual realm. There are plenty of ways to pose so that we get a flattering, but dishonest look at ourselves.  That’s unhealthy for two reasons. First, it can put us in denial of something that can really hurt us in the long run. Second, it can produce shame that blinds us to our great, great value to God and to the world.

How would you like a strategy for taking an honest inventory of your heart and soul?

Wait.

Maybe I should phrase that a different way…

Do you need a strategy for taking an honest inventory of your heart and soul? I don’t really care whether you want it or not.

Here are eight questions that can turn the lights on in your spiritual life.  They can be used alone or together. You can go through them in 15 minutes, or an hour, or an entire day. The questions are based on Paul’s energetic series of charges to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22).

Take a few minutes or however long you can. Get alone with a journal, legal pad, or an electronic tablet and write down some notes based on your first response to these questions: [click to continue…]

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American 1Of all the nations who have drawn some borders and set up shop, perhaps none has a shorter and more mixed (some would say mixed up) pedigree than the United States.  If the planet was populated by nothing but dogs, we’d be the mixed breeds – the hardy, loveable mutts who may not be able to point to a long pedigree, but will probably live the longest, love the hardest, and fight the fiercest of anybody in the pound.

To be an American is to be a delightful, maddening mix of contributions and contradictions, possibilities and problems.  We’re a living demonstration of what can happen when you let “the help” run the kingdom.

To be an American is to believe in the power of the people.  Your people, that is.  It is to believe that authority resides in the will of the majority, even though at any given time the Commander-in-Chief was elected by less than 21% of the population. Or if that doesn’t work, maybe power can reside in the rulings of some Federal judge who can see things your way until the majority gets with the program. [click to continue…]

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Rabbit and DaschundA good friend and I were talking the other day and he told me about an experience he had in Hong Kong. First I’ll tell you what he saw. Then I’ll tell you a story based on that.  Then I’ll apply it in one of many, many ways you can apply the story.

What My Friend Saw

As he and his group were traveling through the market in Hong Kong, he noticed someone selling rabbits. (Note:  I’m pretty sure they weren’t  being sold as pets.)

There was a cage full of rabbits.  Then on top of the cage there was a single rabbit, just sitting there, motionless.

My friend asked, “Why doesn’t that rabbit run away?”

The answer: Because he’s been in the cage so long he’s forgotten what life outside the cage is like. He assumes there is nowhere else to go.

My Little Rabbit Fable

Once there were two rabbits. Both were raised in captivity.  Both had only known a life within the confines of a cage or pen. But that wasn’t all bad. [click to continue…]

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No one prepared me for how empty the Emptiness could be…
How vain the attempts would be
To fill it with things and times and feelings
That were never designed to satisfy.
It was like dropping feathers into the Grand Canyon…
Always wishing for a little more time and a little less wind.
(A few more feathers would be nice, too.)
But I would never have known the deep satisfaction
That only Your love could provide,
Had I not known the void created by a life
I tried to fill on my own terms.
But I know now I’m loved
With a love that fills deeply and completely.
And in this satisfied life… I’ve been blessed. [click to continue…]

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