Maybe Today

Maybe today, I will do something great

Maybe today, I will write something that changes the way someone thinks… and lives

Maybe on this day, I will speak an encouraging word that lifts the spirits of someone who is carrying the weight of the world

Maybe, before I sleep tonight, I will invent something that makes life easier for those all around me, or create a melody that energizes a generation

Perhaps today, I will identify an opportunity I have been missing or give away something someone has been needing

Maybe today, I will start a habit that redefines who I am, or what I believe

Maybe today will see the answer to the prayer I’ve been praying, release from the burden I’ve been carrying, or a solution to the problem I’ve been facing.

Maybe today, I will find it in my heart to finally forgive… and forget

Maybe this will be the day I meet a person with whom I can share my heart, hopes, and fears

Maybe today, I will find the courage to take that big leap… or the next small, systematic step

Today, the door to opportunity may swing wide open, or the door to failure and heartache might close… and lock!

Maybe today, I will recognize God’s still, small whisper in the noisy traffic of life

Maybe the clouds will clear, the fog will lift, the silence will break…

Maybe today will be the day that changes everything!

…His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! (Lam. 3:22b,23 HCSB)

I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

What If All Those Fairy-tales are True?

We all heard them as kids,

and then we grew up and paid handsomely for the chance to take our kids to the animated versions: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Rip Van Winkle, Jack and the Beanstalk. Story after story, they have filled the imaginations of children for years. Then we got a little older and were told that life is no fairy-tale. In fact, we were told, fairy-tales don’t come true; so (fill in your own line here) keep your nose clean, keep your head down, and work hard.

Just about every fairy-tale follows a similar script: a beautiful prince or princess is placed under a curse by an evil being (witch, usually) and is enslaved by this curse. The king, whose daughter or son is the one enslaved, sends people to try and free her, all of whom fail, as the enemy is too clever. Finally one charming prince comes, whose love is true, and breaks the curse. At its heart, every fairy tale is a story of redemption. Whether it is a princess kissing a frog to release a prince from a curse or a prince kissing Snow White to break the spell, the moral of the story is always the same: pure love overcomes any evil. Why do you suppose our hearts are so drawn to creating and reading these kinds of stories? Because that’s our story.

The Bible is a complicated book to understand, but the entire narrative hangs from two dramatic peaks. After God has created His beautiful prince and princess, the first peak occurs in the Garden of Eden. The evil being tricks the princess into eating a forbidden piece of fruit (echoes of Snow White, anyone?). This places our star-crossed girl under a curse.

The King sends a brave man named Abraham to rescue them. Abraham takes a few hundred years to develop a great army named Israel, whose mission will be to defeat the enemy and release the princess from the curse. Alas, this army is crushingly defeated by the evil being (we’ll call him satan), with many killed and most of the others enslaved.

However, a small rag-tag group escapes and stumbles home to lick their wounds. One of this remnant bears a Son, whose heart is pure and whose strength is magnificent. This Son is also completely devoted to the princess who is enslaved. After some time passes, the Son goes back to confront the evil being and to win back His princess. He tricks the enemy into committing the one act that will reverse the curse, which is to kill the Son. This is the second dramatic peak on which the story hangs. Just when things seem utterly hopeless, the Son returns from the dead, having robbed the evil one of all of his power and authority. The Son then breaks the curse that enslaves His princess, allowing her to live again! Of course a wedding will follow shortly thereafter.

Deep inside of each of us, these stories resonate; because (as King Solomon put it) God has placed eternity in our hearts. We know that we were the one under the curse and could only be set free by a hero driven by pure love. We also dare to dream that we could be the one who goes on the next mission to free another prince or princess who is still under the spell of death. Our story, in its simplest form is about a King, a curse, and a cross… redemption! So, don’t be too quick to tell your kids that fairy-tales don’t come true. Yours did!

Going Under the Hood

I’m not talking about the hood of a car. If you know me at all, you know the last thing I should do is to try to repair a car… or even open a hood. No, I’m talking about going under the replay hood. In the NFL, when a call on the field is questionable, they review the play via instant replay. The process goes something like this: the referee announces that the call on the field has been questioned and then he walks to the sideline and “goes under the hood.” He puts on a special headset, which gives him an open line of communication with the press box, which is situated far above the action on the field. Then he ducks his head underneath a cover (the hood) to look at a special video screen.

First of all, the hood shuts out the other noise and distractions, allowing him to focus. Second, underneath the hood, he has access to the view of every camera in the stadium, giving him entirely different perspectives from the one he had on the field. On the field, he can only see from one angle, and he is very close to the action… meaning there may be elements involved which are hidden from his view.

Another aspect which makes the official’s job difficult is the speed of the play. World class athletes are competing and colliding at nearly inhuman rates of speed. This means that he only has a split second to make a determination about what he thinks he saw. Underneath the hood, the referee also has the luxury of slow-motion, and now with HD video, he can even use what is known as “super slo-mo” or he can completely stop the action on a single frame of video (to see if a player’s foot is in bounds or on the line, for example). To the TV viewer, it can seem like these replays last forever… almost like the official doesn’t want to come out from under the hood. Can you blame him? In the middle of an afternoon of violent collisions; thousands of screaming fans… some of which are for one team, others are for the opposite team – so you can’t please both of them; and immense pressure to make the right decisions the referee gets to spend a moment with only one voice in his ear and he gets to slow everything down for just a second and get a different, crystal-clear perspective on things.

I had an “under the hood” moment, today. We keep our house somewhere between brisk and “I can’t feel my fingers and toes” at night, so when I first got up for my prayer time, I wrapped myself in a quilt. As I sat talking to God about the violent collisions, the screaming voices, and the pressure in my daily life, I pulled the quilt up over my head and said: “God, just give me a glimpse of Your perspective.” For just a few minutes everything slowed down. The outside noise seemed to stop, and I only heard one voice in my ear… a voice that came from far above the action. My perspective changed. Suddenly I could see a bigger picture and all the different angles and factors involved. . It reminded me of the way Jewish people use their tallits, or prayer shawls… often covering their heads when they pray.

To be honest, I didn’t really want to come out from under the hood, either. How about you? Could you use a little time “under the hood,” today?

The Best Reason You’ve Never Heard for Going to Church

Do you have to go to church to be a Christian? That question is repeatedly debated, it seems. When confronted with “the question,” many of us in the regular-attending camp whip out Hebrews 10:25, which tells us not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves.” That is our go-to response. Now for those in the “you should go to church” camp who are especially crafty (and some of us are pretty crafty), we will begin to list all the reasons that going to church will help you.We might talk about what you’ll learn (or to be spiritual-sounding: “how you’ll be fed”) or we might talk about how you’ll be comforted in times of need. We might even go for our big guns and mention how you will experience the presence of God. Those are all legitimate reasons; however, none of them have anything to do with this verse. In reality, Hebrews 10:25 gives us an altogether different reason for attending church. Sadly, it is one that is rarely used in this discussion.

Now, for a quick refresher on elementary school grammar (which Ms. Costello, Erwin, et al will be glad that I actually remember): sentences begin with a capital letter, and do not end with a comma. Armed with that powerful bit of knowledge, let’s look at the verse in question: not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,” (Heb. 10:25a – NIV). Since it is neither begins with a capital letter nor ends with a period, it is only part of a sentence. Why don’t we look at the entire sentence? It begins in the preceding verse: 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24,25 – emphasis mine) Did you catch the difference? While many of us use this verse to espouse the personal benefits of coming together for worship, this is entirely out of context with what the writer of Hebrews is endorsing. While we talk about the benefits to you, this sentence tells us that the reason we should not neglect meeting together is for the benefits our presence there provides to others. Our presence “spurs one another toward love and good deeds,” and “encourages one another.” In addition, while the invention of TV, internet, etc… has made the gospel more accessible (thereby, seeming to strengthen the argument against church attendance), this passage tells us to be even more committed as time goes on. Committed to what? To having our name on the roll? To hearing a challenging message? Committed to reaping all the benefits we can receive from a good church service? No… committed to one another: to motivating one another to love and do good things, and to encouraging one another. In other words, the one who suffers when you “forsake assembling together” isn’t you; it is me… and every other “one another” that sure could have used some encouragement and motivation. So, next Sunday, when you are debating on whether or not to attend church, remember: we sure could use you!

What’s Blocking Your View?

Debbie and I recently returned from vacation in New England. This was the third time in the last four years that we have chosen to go there. There isn’t any one particular place we go; in fact, we have gone to different parts each year. There is just a quaint, small, isolated feeling about the whole area. As we were driving through Maine along Interstate 95, I was remarking about how much it felt like you were part of your surroundings… even on the interstate. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was scenery and wildlife. There were rocky coastlines, sprawling farms, and grand mountain vistas.

All of these things exist in the south, where I live. I live just a stone’s throw from the Great Smoky Mountains. I pass farms on a daily basis; and I am barely a half-day’s drive from the ocean. Yet, it doesn’t feel the same… I don’t notice these things, or appreciate them in the same way. As I struggled to put my finger on the difference, it hit me: there were no billboards along the road! Billboards have been banned in Maine for 30 years, now. The last ones were knocked down in 1984. On the other hand, on my daily commute I am inundated with opportunities to sue people who make bad medicine, go get some fast food (because my “fry gauge is almost empty”), choose the Chattanooga Airport for all my transportation needs, sleep at Hampton (or La Quinta or Holiday Inn Express), and to “eat mor chikin;”just to name a few.

The best I can determine, billboards serve two major purposes: they block our views of the natural beauty around us, and they distract us from the main purpose of our trip by inviting us to stop and do something entirely unrelated (i.e. grab a Frosty).

I have realized I have billboards in my personal life. They are distractions that produce the same undesired results in my own life: First, they block my view of the good things around me. Some of the billboards in my life scream out the things I don’t have: a new house or car, a better job, more money, the right mate (just an example… right honey?). The problem is, these perceived needs block out the view of all the things I do have – the natural beauty all around that God has placed in my life: the ocean of love, forgiveness, and grace He has given me; the sprawling farms of family and friends with which I am blessed; and the mountain peaks of joy and success that He has provided for me. I find myself unable to look past the billboards of what I don’t have to enjoy the scenery of what I do have.

The second thing these billboards do is they knock me off course. They lead me on rabbit trails that divert me from my main purpose. These are the billboards of the urgent… the things we think have to be handled right away. Some of these are good things (like a Dairy Queen Blizzard), but they rob us of the best. The urgent is often the enemy of the truly meaningful. True happiness in life is not plucked from the tree of instant gratification; it is grown in the soil of a life of purposeful living. We are most fulfilled when we invest ourselves in a truly significant cause. Billboards of urgent phone calls and demanding text messages scream out their message of “it must be done now” or, “your fry gauge is almost empty.” However, the things that truly matter whisper the words: “this is why you left home in the first place.” I think it is time to knock down some billboards… care to join me?