Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Patrick Williams... A.K.A. Ladies Man of the High School Bible Study Christmas Party

Our Singing Father

When I was in college, I worked at an after-school daycare for Elementary school kids. We would gather them up after school, feed them a snack, read books, make crafts, play board games and help them with homework until their folks got off work and could pick them up. One boy that we took care of was named Danny. Danny had Cerebral Palsy, was blind and was confined to a wheelchair. We couldn’t feed him anything because he had a highly specialized diet and he couldn’t speak.

At first it was really hard to hang around Danny because I never knew if I was doing the right things… I didn’t know if he was having a good time or really liked the things we did with him because he couldn’t tell us. Occasionally we knew we weren’t doing the right things because he would just sorta lose it… kicking, screaming and crying. On Danny’s first day, his teacher told me that if he ever had a meltdown to go into her room and get this particular CD from her desk. The CD contained a track called “Good Morning” that she played first thing everyday for the class. She said that Danny loved that song…

After a few weeks of having Danny and after a few meltdowns (his and mine) I finally remembered the CD… I wheeled Danny into his classroom and scoured the desk for the CD and found it. I popped it into the player and advanced the tracks to the “Good Morning” song… and presto… it worked! As soon as that song started playing, he stopped shaking and crying and calmed down. He inclined his little head toward the CD player and just listened, breathing slowly in and out. When the song was over, he started to get upset again, so I played it again. We spent most of that afternoon in Danny’s classroom listening to “Good Morning” over and over again until his folks came to get him… The next day he was fine and didn’t have a problem for a while, but every couple of weeks Danny would have a “Good Morning” day and we would just sit by that CD player listening to that song again and again.

One of my favorite verses in the all of the Scriptures is Zephaniah 3:17 which says, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” I have always loved the thought of God singing… what must His voice sound like? How rich, haunting and beautiful must be the melodies of God? Well, the answer so far is, I don’t really know… I’ve never heard Him singing; but then again, in some ways, I have. That is to say, I’ve had Danny-like “Good Morning” type days where I am falling apart at the seams, kicking and crying and only one thing can calm me down… the songs of God.

I haven’t heard them with my ears yet, but I’ve heard them in my spirit, and on those days I do know somehow that He delights in me, and knowing that, He does quiet me with His love. I know that God rejoices over me with singing. I haven’t heard it with my ears yet, but one day I will and when I do, I’ll know then what I’ve always known about God’s song… it’s a love song.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dad and Karen... A.K.A. Mr. and Mrs. James Younger II

With Us…

Yesterday my dad got married. It was a sweet and Spirit-filled testimony to the faithfulness of God… as my sister prayed the night before, Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promises. What an awesome time to be married! Christy said that she was so glad they got married right before Christmas… For two people who have been alone, sad and hurting long enough, they don’t have to spend even one more sad Christmas without someone to hold onto… someone to be with.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading the Minor prophets… you know, all those obscure, tiny and sometimes strange little books with the dust all over the pages in between Ezekiel and Matthew… yeah, well in reading them, I feel I have been seeing the meaning of Christmas from God’s side of things. If Christmas is the keeping of the promises, then why not go back and check out the promises to see what our Lord thinks about the coming of the Christ?

In Zechariah 2, The Lord says, “I am coming and I will live among you.” In Zephaniah 3 He says, “The Lord, the King of Israel is with you… The Lord your God is with you.” Micah 5 says that He will stand and shepherd His flock and will be their peace. Micah 4 says that the Lord will rule over them in Zion and chapter 2 says that the One who breaks open the way will go up before them…their King will pass through before them, the Lord at their head… The promises tell us a King is coming. Our God is coming. He will gather us, assemble us, lead us out and redeem us Himself. He will be our peace and save us. Zechariah says He will remove our sin in a single day and He will live among us…

I think that for our Lord, Christmas is about ‘with.’ He did more than give us a set of principles and an example to follow… He came here… became one of us. He was and is with us. We don’t have a certain number of noble truths or a bunch of tenants or some eight-fold path to follow… we have Jesus. Our Creator who emptied Himself to come down here and be with us… and for all who believe in Him, He is always with us. Fulfilled prophecies and promises made good… that’s Christmas. “A virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel –which means, “God with us.”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Queen Anna...
To Rule or Be Ruled…

Last night, as we were about to sit down at the table to eat dinner, I asked Anna to go to bathroom and wash her hands. She was looking at a book and said, “Dad, I’m reading right now.” I told her that it was dinner time and she could read her books after she ate but that she needed to go wash her hands. She looked up at me and said, “But, I don’t want to wash my hands.” I looked back at her and said, “Anna, go to the bathroom and wash your hands.” She climbed down from her seat and started to walk to the bathroom and as she was walking away, I heard a very pouty voice saying, “I’ll go wash my hands, but I don’t want to wash my hands…”

And so is revealed in my sweet little daughter the major malfunction of every human heart… we all want to run our own lives. We want to be the ones calling the shots and having the final say when it comes to ourselves. We want to be the kings or queens of our own little private world, but there is a problem with that… none of us are very good rulers. You see, we weren’t made to be the rulers of ourselves and when we try to be in charge, we just make a mess of everything! We were made to be people ruled by God and there is no greater freedom than that of being a subject in His kingdom. I’m coming to believe that the number one issue in Christian discipleship is the concept of Jesus’ Kingship; His right to be in charge of my life. It’s what Christmas is all about…

When Herod found out that an infant had been born in his backyard who had the right to the throne of Israel, he freaked out! He became paranoid, angry, hostile and eventually insane with homicidal rage. He was so scared of losing control of his little world that he did something crazy… he ordered that every little boy two years-old or younger in Bethlehem be slaughtered… He murdered little kids out of fear of being ruled… out of fear of losing control… out of fear of having a King over him.

We’re all pretty much like Herod in some way… we may not have gone to his extreme, but we are all paranoid over losing our throne. We’re all trying to escape the rule of Jesus as our King in some way in our lives… The thing is; we’re not very good kings. We weren’t meant to have control and for good reason, because when we do try to run the show, we are our worst selves… we get angry, bitter, jealous, insecure and sometimes we even go insane. The worst mistakes and sins in our lives have been expressions of us wanting to seize the authority that only Christ has the right or the ability to wield.

When Isaiah foretold the coming of the Infant King, he said, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” -Isaiah 9:7. The kingship of Christ is something God Almighty is doing… it will happen and it is the only hope for the freedom and happiness of the human heart. So give up, give in and make Jesus your King today… it’s the best way to have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas-time Norah
From Nightmares to Dreams

I don’t put too much stock in dreams… maybe that’s because I can’t ever really remember my dreams or maybe it’s because the ones I do remember are usually pretty stupid… a few nights ago I remembered one in which this guy I know named Chase had my favorite coat on, but he wouldn’t give it back, so I chased him through the city streets for a while. Then I guess I got bored or forgot about him and the coat and wound up playing Frisbee… see what I mean?

I’ve been thinking about Joseph lately and how he had so many crazy dreams on that first Christmas. You know, until he had that first angel-invaded dream, Joseph must have felt like he was trapped in a living nightmare… being so in love and so excited about being married, only to find out that his fiancĂ© cheated on him and was now carrying the child of her infidelity. And he thought Mary was so awesome too… it must have left him brokenhearted and wondering, “Why?”

Sometimes when I think about my life, I wish it were only a dream because it sort of feels like I’m trapped inside a nightmare… I’m not talking about my family, my job or any of my friends or our money or anything… I’m talking about those moments in life when the curtain is pulled back and I really see who I am… when my selfishness, baseness, cruelty, pride and immaturity are exposed… when I see my sin for real. In those moments, when I really see what a mess I am, it feels like I’m stuck in a nightmare and can’t wake up…

Psalm 126 says, “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” It goes onto say that their tears were turned into songs of joy because of what the Lord has done… That’s what happened to Joseph. He laid his tear-stained face down one night to go to sleep and an angel showed up in a dream to turn those tears of sorrow into songs of joy, telling him that Mary wasn’t unfaithful but that the Messiah, the Son of God was growing inside her! His nightmares became like dreams and his heart was full of joy!

When I think of what God has done for me because of that little baby that was born to Mary and Joseph, it fills me with laughter and joy! Jesus has taken my sin, He has paid my price and given me new life, declaring me clean and righteous in Him and now He’s changing me, making me more like Him… He has done great things for us. He is turning our nightmares into dreams and our sorrow into song! Now we are forgiven and free, righteous and new, like people dreaming…

Friday, December 01, 2006

Christy and Anna over Thanksgiving
Your Best God Impression

Well, it’s only December 1 and I already feel like I’m in a December 27 state of mind. Let me explain… You see, Psalty, the Singing Songbook always says that Christmas is a time for love, but as soon as the packages are busted, the feast is digested, and the relatives are on their way home, (on the 26th or 27th that is) the tree may still be up, but most folks usually unwind and become their old Scroogy self again. And when I think back on yesterday, I wasn’t really in the Christmas spirit… I was more in the post-Christmas spirit. I was short-tempered and selfish… I can remember at least three toddlerish fits that I threw, and at one point I became so worried that if I could have called a Time-Out on the whole day and just gone to sleep, I would have.

It was awful! I was awful… I wish I could just take a ‘mulligan’ on the way I acted that whole day. When I think back on it, I know exactly what happened… it’s what always happens. It was an all about Lee day, and whenever I make my day all about myself, no one has fun… including me! This morning I woke up regretting yesterday and dreading today until I read some awesome verses in Ephesians 5… Paul says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us…”

I’m not supposed to walk around all day focused on myself, stressing about myself, protecting my own interests and clinging so desperately to my own opinions, but rather I should be walking through this day doing my best God impression… giving myself up for everyone around me, looking out for their interests, listening to their hearts and caring about their needs. I’m not supposed to live a life of Lee, but rather a life of love… the way Love Himself lived when He was here.

People always say the spirit of Christmas is giving, and if that means giving up your self for others the way Jesus did, then maybe that is true… He gave up the unwearied adoration and ceaseless praise of angels who continuously do His will without complaint or reservation to be a poor and unknown blue-collar worker in a small town. He gave up glorious bliss and unlimited power to become a human being with aches, pains, limitations and problems. He laid aside His glory because He ever lives a life of self sacrifice, giving up all to give us all. That is what Christmas is all about and that is what it means to live a life of love.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Norah's fall colors... Posted by Picasa

Getting Lost

Last weekend I was in Chicago for a Young Life camp at a hotel on Michigan Avenue and it was an awesome experience. I’ve never really been to many big cities and I’ve definitely never been downtown in a big city by myself. On Saturday morning, I decided to get out by myself and take a walk. This seemed like a simple enough thing to do and with all of the huge buildings as landmarks, I figured I would never get lost; but then again I am from a small town in Tennessee where our biggest building is only slightly larger than the Wal-Mart…

After taking in a ton of amazing sights and making more than a couple of twists and turns, I looked down at my watch and realized that I had a little over 18 minutes to be back at my hotel and in club with the rest of the Young Life folks. There was only one problem… I had been walking aimlessly for over an hour and had absolutely no idea where I was! I did an about-face and started booking it down the streets of downtown Chicago in a mad fury. Most people ignored me while a few people looked at me as if I was totally insane (which was not far from the truth) and my only consolation was that I felt like I was in a movie… Eventually, off in the distance, I saw the backside of a building I recognized as the Chicago Symphony and I just kept my eyes on that one structure until I made it back to Michigan avenue… I finally arrived at club exhausted and out of breath and no one had even missed me… it was my own private disaster luckily averted by a poster of Yo-Yo Ma.

When you try to live life walking with Christ, it is easy to feel lost. It is easy to look at your life, your achievements, ambitions, goals and motivations and feel like, “Is this worth anything? Is this it? Do I matter?” In fact, I don’t think I really know anyone who serves Christ who hasn’t dealt with insecurity and self-doubt. What I’m coming to realize is that getting lost in serving Jesus is not so much a problem with a person’s abilities or results, but rather a thinking problem. When we are thinking about our ministry and wind up feeling lost, it’s because we’re not thinking about the right thing. Hebrews 3:1 says “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.”

Our thoughts about our ministry need to be focused on Jesus rather than on our ministry. The writer of Hebrews says that we need to think about Jesus as our apostle and high priest. Apostle means “sent one” and the high priest is the one who speaks for the people… the one who stands in our place. When I feel inadequate, invisible unimportant and insignificant, what I need to be thinking about is that Jesus was sent for me and if I had been the only person on earth, He still would have come for me. I need to be thinking about how Jesus speaks for me… that He loves me, sees me and stands up for me even if no one else does. If my thoughts are on Him, the One who came for me and the One who speaks for me, I’ll never get lost in serving Him because even if His smile is all I ever get, it’s all I ever wanted in the first place.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No Trespassing in Cades Cove... Posted by Picasa

Sleepless in Heaven

I have always heard my whole life that God doesn’t sleep. Growing up, I never really thought this was very weird because I just assumed it was just part of His being God… Why would God need sleep? How could God ever get tired? In fact, when you come to think of it, it’s sort of weird that any of us sleep… Tom always says that if a person just collapsed in the middle of a conversation and went unconscious that everyone would be freaking out and calling for emergency help, but isn’t that what all of us do every single night? We lie down in our beds and pass out, going totally unconscious for hours on end every day and no one thinks anything about it… weird.

Some scientists think that we sleep because the pressure and confusion of all of our daily worries and problems cause our brains to overheat and as a result, we have to shut down daily to cool off and de-fragment our mind from all our troubles… If that is true, then I guess God doesn’t need sleep because He never gets worried… He’s always totally in control of every single molecule in this universe and doesn’t overheat, which means He doesn’t need to cool off or de-frag. Maybe that’s why God doesn’t sleep…

On the other hand, I was thinking the other day about the first time I met Christy and how I knew I wanted to marry her even though I was only a senior in high school and I remembered that I didn’t sleep very much that night… I just kept thinking about her. And then there was the night before our wedding… I was so excited that after all those years we were finally going to be together forever and I just couldn’t sleep… I was so in love with her and just couldn’t get her off my mind… I was too excited! I just couldn’t go to sleep.

“…He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3-4 Is it at least possible that the reason God doesn’t go to sleep is that He is just so in love with us… so crazy about us that He’s too excited to go to sleep? I can just imagine our Father tossing and turning, spurning sleep because His infinite heart is exploding with such intense affection for His kids… I know I’m speculating here and maybe I’m way off and maybe this has nothing to do with God not sleeping, but who knows? I do know one thing for sure… even if His sleeplessness has nothing to do with this theory, He does love us like that… and more.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Grandfather's Medals Posted by Picasa


My Grandfather (and namesake) was a Ranger Captain in the United States Army during World War II and growing up, I always knew that he was my dad’s ultimate hero. Whenever my dad talked about his dad, it was always with the utmost respect, awe and love. Granted, it certainly wasn’t hard to look up to my Grandfather… at 6’5” he was an imposing figure with a strong, deep voice. He fought from D-Day +4 through the Battle of the Bulge where a gunshot wound less than an inch away from his heart ended his war and almost his life… I only know three of my Grandfather’s old war stories, and while they are really awesome stories, I always wanted more. I recently found out from my dad that the reason I only know three of Granddaddy’s stories is that Dad only knows three of his stories. He says that Granddaddy never liked to talk about his war experience and that probably the only reason we know the stories we do is that Dad bugged him to find out how he got his medals.

Recently Dad tried to acquire Granddaddy’s service records only to find out that in the 70’s tons of U.S military records were burned up in a massive fire. He then sent out an inquiry to find out what some of Granddaddy’s unexplained medals stood for and a really cool thing happened… Dad opened up the mailbox one day to find that the military had actually reissued all of the medals earned by Captain James L. Younger to my dad. The crazy thing was that some of them were medals Dad had never even known about… stories Granddaddy had forgotten or neglected to tell. Dad’s mind was blown when he saw those long lost medals and learned that there was even more to his hero than he had ever known.

Hebrews 6:10 says, “God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him...” Is it not amazing to think that God will never forget the things you do for Him… the way you serve Him and the way you live for Him? Sometimes it is so hard for me to see where God is using me or how the things I am offering Him are building His kingdom. It is so easy to get discouraged and to focus on the ways in which we mess up, but God is not unjust like we are to ourselves. He sees absolutely everything you do for Him… every single movement of your heart that beats with His heart and beats for the expansion of His kingdom. He sees things we offer Him that we wouldn’t even count! He never remembers our sins and He never forgets our work for Him. Even if we forget, He never will. One day, when we see Him, we’ll realize that by His grace there’s more to us than we ever even thought!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Joe and Graham at 'The Bridge' in Chicago Posted by Picasa

When Insecurity Grows Up…

When I was a kid, I was super sensitive. People could absolutely crush me with their words… in fact, I’m pretty much still that way and I’ve discovered that it’s all about insecurity. I want to be cool, I want to be liked and I want to feel that I’m special and have value. When people say things or do things that hurt me, I can stand back and see my hurt from the outside and understand it. When I was little though, I wasn’t able to see it that clearly … I just knew it hurt and I wanted the hurting to stop, so I coped in the only way little kids know how… by saying, “I know you are but what am I?”

Do you remember doing this? We had all kinds of little things we said to help the pain go away… “I’m rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” And then of course there was, “You gotta be one to know one!” The only problem with those coping methods was that they weren’t really band-aids for our hurt, they were just weapons we used to hit back and hopefully cause as much hurt as we were feeling. Now we’re all grown-ups and I don’t think I’ve heard any of those old sayings in years and years, because as Paul said, “When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

But today I had a blast from the past because someone busted one of those bad boys out on me and I was wondering if I had been dreadfully transported back to third grade… then I realized that it was nothing at all like the old days. It wasn’t a defensive outburst against me, but rather a tidal wave of encouragement… See, I was talking to Graham who is teaching my high school Sunday School class this week. I was thanking him for his willingness to help me and teach the kids and I wanted him to know how awesome I thought he was, so I said, “Hey man, thanks for building into the lives of kids.” And then he hit me with it… “I know you are but what am I?”

It was so unexpected and so awesome… I hung up the phone and thought about what had just happened and realized that he had doubled my encouragement (meant for him) back on to me so fast that my head was spinning and my heart lifted as I realized the implications… “Graham thinks I build into kids lives… Graham thinks I’m awesome.” To be honest, my encouragement made my own day because those childhood coping methods had grown up into vehicles of encouragement right before my eyes.

People need encouragement like they need water… they need to be strengthened and built up. Even when Paul had to bust people, he still encouraged them… like Philemon, for instance. That letter was basically a tactful and masterful elbow drop, but do you remember how it started? After the greeting, Paul launched into thankfulness and prayers and then in verse 7 said, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

Friday, October 27, 2006

MJ and 'Air Graham' Posted by Picasa

I Wanna Be Like Reg…

I went to Chicago for the first time this week and met a guy named Elmer who (upon learning it was my first time in the city) shook my hand and said, “Welcome to the city that Al Capone and Michael Jordan made famous!” When I was a kid, Michael Jordan was the most famous person on the planet. Everyone loved Jordan. Even if you had no idea what a basketball was, you loved Jordan! I can remember being in 7th grade when I first saw the commercial of MJ playing basketball with a bunch of little kids while some folks sang, “Like Mike, if I could be like Mike… I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike…” We all wanted to be like Mike. Everyone I knew had a ‘Bulls’ jersey with ‘23’ on the back, and I saved every dime of my paper route money for four months so that I could buy a pair of Nike Air Jordan’s…

I admit that I too wanted to be like Mike… to jump like that and dunk like that, but it was not meant to be… in fact, I’m among the worst basketball players to ever taint the court, but that’s okay. I have a new goal now and a new hero. You’ve never heard of him, and you probably never will in this life outside of these short paragraphs. His name is Reginald, and he told me to call him “Reg.” He lives in the Lawndale community in downtown Chicago and this past Tuesday he worshiped God at a place called “The Bridge” for the first time.

The Bridge is a part of an urban ministry to gang members and prisoners in Chicago called Mission:USA. The folks at Mission:USA have been sharing the Gospel with gang members and prisoners for years and watching them not only come to Christ, but become strong and committed disciples of Jesus and evangelists to others like themselves. The Bridge is a meeting that takes place every Tuesday night where tons of these believers can go to worship together and get connected with local pastors who then invite them into a church home as they re-enter their neighborhoods. This week Tom, Joe, Graham and I went to Chicago to worship with, fellowship with and serve the folks at The Bridge with food, music and the word. It was awesome to meet them, hug them and be loved on by these sweet brothers and sisters who love our Lord so much!

At The Bridge there is a box for suggestions and prayer requests. They write down topics they want to hear sermons on and songs they want to sing, but they also write down things they are struggling with so that they can get prayer. Mike from Mission:USA was showing me the slips of paper in the suggestion box when I saw one that was from Reg. It read simply, “My name is Reginald, and I need all the help I can get.”

I needed to see that note… I think it is so easy for us who have every comfort we could ever want to remember that we are still so needy… that we need our Father for everything… and that we need to learn to cry out for help. I was reading different verses about how God is our help, how He saves us from trouble and provides all we need, and this one verse just jumped off of the page… “Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of Your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.” –Psalm 79:9 When was the last time you straight up cried out for help? When was the last time you had to beg God to help you praise Him in the middle of a trial or help you get rid of your anxiety or anger? Do you know today how much you need him? Reg does. He needs all the help he can get. That’s why I want to be like Reg… I want to be a pro at knowing my need for Him and crying out for help.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chillin' at Windy Gap Posted by Picasa


I am really bad at directions… I don’t know why, but I can travel to a place a kabillion times and still need directions. I think one reason is that if I go somewhere and I’m not driving, or even if I am driving but I am following someone else, I just don’t pay any attention to the roads or the turns. A great example of my lack of navigational prowess was my trip to Young Life’s Windy Gap a couple of weeks ago… Now, I have been to Windy Gap five times before this fall’s trip, but I have never driven by myself, so the only thing I really knew for sure was that Windy Gap was somewhere in North Carolina…

In steps Tom (who by the way is that guy who always has a short-cut or a scenic route that just has to be different than the widely accepted course) with some creative directions… literally, he drew them. Anyway, he gave me instructions that put me on some highway that carved through a few of the random little backwoods towns of Tennessee. It was, as he promised, a very beautiful route, and it might have even been a short-cut, but I’m so bad at navigation that I was nervous the whole time and calling him every five minutes… “Am I still going the right way? I’ve been on this road for ever! Are you sure this is right!?” He just said, “Keep going, dude… you’re fine.” And he was right. I didn’t know the first thing about how to get to Windy Gap and when he told me his way, I felt a little suspect, but he directed me right to where I needed to be.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just don’t know how to get my heart where it needs to be during the day… Sometimes my quiet time just doesn’t give me anything. Sometimes my prayers just feel shallow. Sometimes my day feels impossible and I just want to run away from everything. How can I get where I need to be? What is the exit I need to take and what route should I follow to lead me to a praise-filled, Christ-centered heart? I know I’ve been there before, but I just can’t always find my way… so how do I get there?

You know what Paul did? He asked God to get people where they needed to be. Included in tons of his prayers for other people are these little sections where Paul asks that God will intervene in their emotions and invade their attitudes, making them what they should be. One cool example is in 2 Thessalonians 3:5 which says, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” When I don’t know just how to get my mindset and attitude to where they’re supposed to be, God does and He’s the One who can direct my heart… steer it, change it and fill it up with the right stuff. If your heart’s headed the wrong way and you don’t know how to turn that thing around, just stop and ask for directions.

Friday, October 13, 2006

FROLF at Windy Gap 2006, Baby! Posted by Picasa

He’s Waiting…

My friend Allan and I were sitting there on Saturday night on the hardwood floors of the cabins at Windy Gap in a circle of thirteen freshmen guys, just waiting. We were waiting on them… waiting on them to stop cutting up, goofing off, screaming at each other and laughing their heads off for two seconds together. We were waiting on them to calm down long enough to hear the greatest news ever… we were longing to explain the message of the Gospel to them, but when you have thirteen guys that are all between fourteen and fifteen years old sitting in the same room, calm is not to be had.

This week we celebrated Anna’s third birthday. We asked family and friends to join us at the park for cupcakes and I urged everyone not to bring presents, but no one listened… the gifts were all so awesome, but Anna didn’t know. She was so busy tearing into one package after the other that she couldn’t stop long enough to know what each thing was before directing every ounce of her outrageous energy at the next colorfully wrapped box. As a result, Christy and I have no idea who gave what gift… it was all a tornado-like blur of scotch tape, ribbons and giggles.

I read in Isaiah 30 that God is waiting on us… waiting on us to wait on Him. This is what it says in verse 18… “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” Can you believe that? He longs to be gracious to us!? Sometimes I look at all of the messes, stresses and struggles in my life and ask, “What’s stopping you, Lord!? By all means, be gracious! Show me compassion! What’s the hold-up?”

You know what I think? I think my stressing and striving is the hold-up. I think He’s waiting, like I was in that cabin full of rowdy guys… waiting to bring the Good News. I think I worry and freak out at such high speeds that I can’t even recognize the gifts He’s giving me all of the time. If we could just trust Him enough… If we could just slow down enough… If we could learn to wait on Him, I think we’ll find that He’s been waiting on us, waiting to rise up in compassion; longing to pour grace on us, waiting on us to wait on Him.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Play Ball! Posted by Picasa


Anna’s grandparents gave her a tee-ball set for her birthday and for the first time in my life, I got to teach another person how to hold a baseball bat… It was sort of a milestone for Anna and me. I showed her where to put her hands, which one goes on top and where to hold the bat before you start your swing. I held her little elbows up and got the bat in perfect position and told her, “Okay Anna… swing!”

I’d like to tell you that she busted a homer into our neighbor’s yard, but it didn’t happen. In fact, after whiffing, she swung back the other way, then the right way, then the other way… eventually, she hit the tee-ball stand and the ball fell to the ground at which point she decided that she wanted to hit the ball all over the yard on the ground saying, “Look Dad… I play golf!” It wasn’t exactly baseball, but it was a ton of fun! I guess this should be super obvious, but that little scene made me realize that swinging a baseball bat doesn’t come naturally for kids, even if they are red-blooded Americans. You have to show them how; and if they are really going to get it, you have to show them how again and again. Anna actually had a few killer swings that day, but only after I held those little elbows up a bunch of times.

The other day I was reading Proverbs 2 and I noticed something else that should be super obvious but I think we sometimes forget… wisdom doesn’t come naturally. You have to call out for it and search for it. It is called a hidden treasure that must be mined for. We are not born knowing how to live, what to do, what to say or how to think and act. To live well and walk through life with skill, we have to ask God to give us wisdom. Proverbs 2:10-11 says that if you look for it and ask God for it, “…wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”

So often we protect and treasure our own opinions, ideas and instincts as if they were absolute truth, but the longer I live I’m realizing that I don’t need to protect anything of my own as much as I need to be protected from myself. We don’t automatically have wisdom inside us… it must enter us from the outside. It has to be looked for, searched for and given… only then will it enter our hearts. He has to show us where to put our hands, how to hold the bat and tell us when to swing, otherwise we’re just whiffing…

Friday, September 29, 2006

Anna Rockin' Out! Posted by Picasa

Holding the Moon

Last night we took the girls to Knoxville to eat and when we left the restaurant it was already pretty dark outside which made Anna pretty excited… See, all summer long she has gone to bed when it has still been light outside which means that she hasn’t seen any stars pretty much all summer. As a result, she is always talking about how she wants to stay up later so that she can see the stars and the moon. Well, last night, as we were on our way to the car, the sun was pretty much down and the moon was way up! Christy was holding Anna and telling her to look up so that she could see and when Anna looked up, she saw that moon and said the cutest thing… “Mom! I see the moon! I wish I could go up in the sky and hold it!”

Are you kidding me? How cute is that? Anyway, this morning I was thinking about what Anna said and it made me think about the One who really does hold the moon… The One who made the moon and keeps it spinning around this earth, taking us faithfully through our tides and seasons… In Colossians 1:16-17, Paul is talking about Jesus when he says, “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus sustains all things by His powerful word. He made the moon and He holds the moon in place…

The same is true for our whole vast universe. He made earth, the moon and all of the other planets in our solar system. He keeps them all spinning around our sun, making sure that while most planets revolve in ellipses around the sun, we go in a perfect circle so that life can continue… He does the same for all of the one hundred billion stars in our fairly medium-sized galaxy. And He does the same for all of the one hundred billion galaxies! Whoa… now that’s full-time job. Sometimes when I think of all the important stuff on God’s plate (such as running the universe) it makes me wonder if He has time for me… I mean, there are wars, nations and prime ministers to deal with down here on earth and that’s besides all the black holes and nebulas He has to handle outside our tiny little cosmic locality!

With all those celestial responsibilities of His, you might start to realize how small you are and it can make you feel like your problems are insignificant. But they aren’t insignificant to Him! In fact, no matter how many wars He makes to cease, no matter how many kings He brings to naught and no matter how many galaxies He’s out there spinning, He still has time for your problems. Check out what David said in Psalm 68:19… “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” You see, He goes up in the sky and holds the moon, but He also comes down here, right into the middle of your day… and He holds you too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

This thing rules! Buy it... seriously, buy it. Posted by Picasa

Daily Bread

I have a rule that I employ with every new piece of music that I buy… (unsolicited advice coming at you) and if you utilize this rule with your new music, you’ll be a much happier person. The rule goes like this: When I get new music, I pop it in the CD player and listen to every track, beginning to end, in order, from first to last, four times in a row. No matter how I feel about the music, I have four unhurried and uninterrupted listens. The rule is that I do not let myself make a judgment on the record either way until the four listens are over. Now, don’t let the seeming legalism fool you… this is a great way to give every record its due.

Well, Jill Phillips just released a new record called Nobody’s Got it All Together. I popped it in my car on Monday and today is Friday and this is a great record! I am always encouraged and strengthened by listening to anything that Jill and her husband Andy Gullahorn produce, and they didn’t let me down this time around… Well, last night Christy and I were driving to Lenoir City to speak and play at a Young Life banquet and listening to the song “Daily Bread” while she held my hand… Jill sang, “There’s a restlessness in the soul of man, nobody’s tamed it yet. You never fail to keep any promises, but somehow we forget… that You’re always right on time.” Christy squeezed my hand as our hearts silently and simultaneously swelled with praise and thanks.

The song goes on… “You feed us all with a silver spoon, and like Your foolish kids, we start worrying about what we’re gonna do when the hunger comes again… But You’re always right on time with an open hand. You have exactly what I need, daily bread.”

It’s been rough for us lately, but our Father knows right where we are and He just keeps providing everything we need… right on time. Christy looked at me and said, “This is our song, baby.” I was about to say the same thing. He has graciously rescued us out of so many troubles that His faithfulness has become the refrain of our lives. As we kept on listening to Jill and Andy sing our anthem Christy said, “It’s amazing… He has forced us to live a life of miracles.”

A life of miracles… a daily-faithful Father… this is the good life.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hail to the Victors! Posted by Picasa

How Sweet it is!

Alan Branch slams the arm of the former Heisman hopeful Brady Quin which ended in the Notre Dame quarterback's third interception of the day as the Wolverines handed the Irish their worst loss at home in 45 years... Go Blue!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The "Triple C" crew after tubing the Little River Posted by Picasa

Head Start

Okay, something crazy happened to me when I turned 27 this past May, and everyone said it would. I don’t know if I really believed them, but they were right. My metabolism slowed down and out of nowhere I gained 20 pounds… I’m not kidding. Now, I’m not a freakily obsessed person when it comes to body image or anything, but all of a sudden I realized I was carrying around the equivalent of all of my football pads from high school. The really weird thing is that I can’t really find these twenty mystery pounds… they’re just there, somewhere, giving me the general feeling of unidentifiable blah…

Well, I didn’t want to do it, but I have started jogging in the morning… …yeah. This is really tough for me because I have always hated running. I hated it in football and I hated it when I ran track. I tried to jog to stay in shape in college and only ran twice. But this time is different because I have discovered something awesome… even if you hate running, it’s a great way to get your day started. Running wakes you up, energizes you and gives you great time to think and pray. It gets the blood flowing and the mind going. I still don’t enjoy running, but as soon as I finish my daily laps around the civic center, I am really glad I did it and really ready for the day. I guess running is kind of my head start to get my body and mind geared up for whatever the day has for me.

This morning I was reading Psalm 59 and saw something that could be another awesome way to have a head start on the day… In verse 16 the Psalmist says, “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love…” What better way to start your day than praise?! If you start your day singing and rejoicing in God’s strength and love then you are waking up your faith and circulating your trust in Him! If you sing of His strength and love in the morning, you are going to be fortified against whatever problems, worries and doubts that come because your heart and mind will have already confirmed that God is able to handle your stuff and that He cares about you. Give yourself a head start… start your days with praise… you’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My girls... Posted by Picasa

Present Tense

One of the coolest things about being a parent is that you get a front row seat to something that is absolutely incredible… watching a person acquire language. Anna is almost three and is very verbal. She has been speaking for a long time now and becomes a better communicator every day. It started early… I guess from the time she was born. She listened to us, watched our mouths move, tried out sounds and then mimicked us. At some point she started to associate sounds with meanings and before we knew it she was speaking English… it was crazy. One thing that is really cute about watching a baby learn to talk is that they try on big words before they really grasp the concepts behind those words and it comes out sounding a little off and pretty funny. For instance, Anna heard us using the word ‘because’ all of the time and decided she would start to fit it into her sentences… she would say, “Mom, I not eat that carrot because, I eat it.”

At this point, Anna understands what ‘because’ is all about and employs it quite successfully. It is utterly amazing to watch her grow and correct her own linguistic mistakes just by listening to us talk and without even being told. And as amazing as it is to hear a two-year-old put together a coherent sentence, it is weird to hear an educated adult who can’t. The other day I was reading Psalm 52 and something about it looked funny, (and I know what I’m reading is a translation from Hebrew, but something seemed to stick out like a sore thumb) like it didn’t belong. See if you can catch it… “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.” –Did you catch it? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems weird that the Psalmist said, “I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.” Since ‘trust’ is an action that carries on from now into the future, shouldn’t he have said, “I will trust…” instead of just “trust?”

Now, there are two possibilities going on here… either I am just behind on my grammar (highly possible) or the psalmist is teaching us something cool about trust in God. Maybe trust is something that must exist in the present tense. Maybe you can’t say, “I will trust God tomorrow.” You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You are stuck inside time and the only thing you know about with any certainty is that which has gone and that which is. We live inside what is. Obviously we have enough information about God’s goodness and provision to want to say, “I will trust you for ever and ever…” but can we know that we will? I think trust has to be in the present tense because trust concerns the moment you are in. Trusting God is about making up your mind and heart to believe what is true about Him right now in this moment. I think the Psalmist is longing for a heart that will make that decision to believe, and to do it in each moment as it comes, knowing that it is a decision that will have to be remade with every coming moment. That’s the heart I want to have too… one that says, “I trust you right now. I trust you tomorrow. I trust you for ever.”

Monday, September 04, 2006

Joe Pendley is a beast... Posted by Picasa


Quick, try to think of the guitar riff at the beginning of the classic rock anthem Ironman. Now, how about AC/DC’s Back in Black, or Purple Haze by Hendrix… what about Day Tripper by the Beatles? How about movie music… can you hum the music to Indiana Jones or Star Wars? How about the beginning to Beethoven’s fifth… “Ba Ba Ba BAAAAA, Ba Ba Ba BAAAAAA.” Now surely in that vast list of classics some music just flooded into your mind, maybe even against your will as you read those words… you know what that was? Those memorable, hummable, singable little snippets of music that will now be stuck in your head for the rest of the day are known by musicians as the ‘hook’ or the ‘theme.’

A theme is just a musical idea… a melody or riff that keeps popping up in the music. It’s the signature of the piece… the part that let’s you know what you’re listening to… the thing that makes a song “catchy.” It’s the part you can’t shake out of your mind. Classical composers used to write pieces of music where the theme would appear a bunch of different times right in a row, but every time would be a little different. Maybe a different set of instruments would play the theme, making it sound different, or all the surrounding rhythms and harmonies would be varied so that you could barely recognize the theme, but the skeleton of that original, catchy little musical idea was always there right under the surface. The theme was the centerpiece, and no matter how crazy and dark the rest of the music got, the theme would always be there supporting and guiding the piece, and the theme would always come back in the end.

I have been reading the book of Job lately and one thing I have noticed is that pretty much everyone in that book (including Job) said a lot of stupid stuff. None of these guys knew why all those terrible things happened to Job and they all thought they knew. They took turns running their mouths for 37 chapters and most of what they said was a mess… Especially the young guy right at the end named Elihu. He is quite possibly one of the most arrogant people who appears in the Bible! He ran his big mouth like the rest of them, having no idea what was really going on behind the spiritual scenes. But as I was reading his egotistical rants the other day, I saw something good and true. It’s like my dad always says, “Son, even a blind hog will find the trough every now and then.”

In Job 33, verses 27-28 Elihu said, “Then he comes to men and says, I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved. He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.” Wow! That is awesome… when I read that I decided to make that my theme… the on-going, varied, but always-there hook of my life… I have sinned, but I didn’t get what I deserved… He redeemed me… I have been rescued because of Jesus. The days may get dark and stormy and everything in my life may have seemed to change or fall in around me, but this will be at the center… this will be the guiding, supporting melody of my life… that I have not gotten what I deserve, but have been mercifully saved and outrageously loved by Christ.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Norah's teething and we're sleepy... Posted by Picasa

Do You Have Eyes?

Whoa… we’ve had some tough nights lately! Our seven-month-old Norah is teething… bad! She is usually the kind of baby that just sits around cooing until someone looks at her, at which point she smiles like crazy. She is always so happy and full of giggling energy… or at least, she was like that. For the past few days she has been taking terrible naps, screaming a ton and not eating, which leads to more bad naps, tons more screaming and less eating which leads to… well, I guess you get the point.

So, the other night Christy and I were up with Norah way after midnight trying to figure out a way to get her to calm down enough to go to sleep, and I was getting pretty frustrated as each little baby screech brought my alarm clock closer and closer to the present. Then it happened... my sweet wife (who by the way had not yet freaked out, even though I was shaking and twitching like a crack-addict) said something which changed the whole situation for me… She said, “Can you imagine trying to go to bed with a toothache?” I stopped my own whining long enough to think about it and realized that I have never really had a toothache. I don’t even know what that feels like. I can’t remember my own bouts of teething, but I’ve never really had a tooth go bad. I know from Looney Tunes that it looks pretty painful, but I don’t really know what it feels like. Norah was experiencing all kinds of pain that I knew absolutely nothing about…

I have been reading the book of Job lately and boy, I’ll tell you what, that is one frustrated brother! Of course, he did lose all his property, wealth, livestock and children in one really crappy day (you just know it was a Monday). And in defending himself, Job complained to God… a lot. In chapters nine and ten he starts to form an argument against God that basically goes like this… “I haven’t done anything wrong, and if I have, show me what it is. You sit up there picking on me and I guess you think it’s easy to live life down here, but you know what, you don’t know what it’s like! You have limitless power and resources… you don’t know what it is to be weak and tempted. You’ve never been a human and you don’t know how hard it is for us.” In Job 10:4 he says, “Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees?”

The amazing thing about our God is that he answered Job… and all the rest of us. God’s answer was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger in a little suburb of Jerusalem called Bethlehem. When Jesus was born, God had eyes, just like us. God became a human baby to identify with all our weakness, endure all of our temptation, (only without sin) and then bear all of our wrong in His own death. God had to go through sleepless nights of pain and crying because He was teething. My Jesus knows how Norah feels because He has been there. He actually became one of us and He knows what it’s like down here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Anna, my little theologian... Posted by Picasa

When Lightning Strikes

My Anna is the happiest kid I know… she gets so excited about everything and runs around dancing and laughing uncontrollably most of the day. She doesn’t just like stuff… she LOVES every simple little thing! From stickers to peanuts to our shoes… she is pumped about everything! Everything; that is, except machines. She is scared to death of machines. Whether it’s the vacuum cleaner, the cake mixer or the hair dryer, if it has moving parts and makes some kind of motorized buzzing sound, she is crying for protection and comfort. The funny thing is that as scared as she is of the blender, she is not all that scared of storms… I think the first few times she heard thunder it freaked her out pretty bad, but Christy and I told her that God made the storm and since then, she is okay with storms, knowing that God is in control.

For a little while now, I’ve needed to take faith lessons from my two-year old. See, a couple of weeks ago our house got struck by lightning… no, I’m not kidding. Christy and I had just made it out of a financial crisis due to the gracious and surprising provision of our Father in heaven when she called me up at church to say, “Hey, you know that storm that’s been raging all this evening? Well, lightning just struck in our yard and knocked out our air conditioning and phones.” I have to admit that I was shocked... (no pun intended) I mean, the Lord had just gotten through saving our tails from one thing only to let us get struck by lightning! Are you kidding me?!

My buddy Joe from church told me that the board was fried on the A/C unit, so we called our heating and air guys. They came out the next day and told us that the board would cost almost $500. Great… We don’t have anywhere near five hundred bucks laying around for anything, so we just prayed. The heating and air guys figured out a way to get the thing to blow cold air until we could pay for the board, which they told us we would have to replace before winter. Check this out: Yesterday they called Christy and said, “Mrs. Younger, we need to set up a time to come replace that board.” Christy replied, “Uh… I was told we could wait to replace it until we could find the money…” The lady on the phone said, “Mrs. Younger, the payment has already been taken care of. Someone in your church loves you… So now we just need to come out and replace it.”

Christy called me at work and told me the story. She ended by saying, “Can you believe it?” To which I replied, “Yeah. I can. He’s been doing this so much lately!” My Father loves me. He sees me and He knows what I need. He hears us when we cry out to Him and He cares for us like the Dad He is. So, if you find yourself in the middle of a downpour with thunder rolling and lightning flashing, just remember what Anna always says to me… “It’s okay Daddy. God made the storm.”

Friday, August 18, 2006

Are you ready? Posted by Picasa

Water Breaks

Well, the field will soon be painted, the helmets will soon be striped, tickets will soon be selling and that marvel of ingenuity, ‘the hill chair’ will soon make its first appearance as the entire town shows up to cheer on the Oak Ridge Wildcats! That’s right folks, it is football season once again… I can still remember what it was like to strap on the pads, lace up the cleats and march down the stairs onto the field to the deafening cheers of thousands. It was awesome! At least, it was awesome on Friday night… Putting on pads and cleats the rest of the week for practice was a whole different story.

I hated football practice… especially in the sweltering heat. We were so hot and tired that sometimes the grass started to blur and ripple like green water. (I guess that was heat exhaustion) The coaches wanted us running everywhere we went… even for water breaks. The only word they seemed to know sometimes was “Hustle!” We invented a hundred and fifty ways to slack off and avoid detection. One of our tricks was to unbuckle our shoulder pads on the way to water breaks and push them up and down with our hands making the pads sound like we were jogging when we were only walking. And the coaches never knew…

In Nehemiah chapter 4, the Israelite workers who had been in captivity for seventy years were back in Jerusalem, rebuilding the wall around the city. It was hard work on a grand scale that probably seemed impossible some days. This problem was made worse by the fact that these workers were absolutely surrounded by discouragement! Some messed up dudes named Sanballat and Tobiah along with a bunch of hateful people slammed them with smack talk all day long every day. “You call that a wall? My kid’s tree house looks stronger than that!” If that wasn’t enough, even the men of Judah (their own people) said it was hopeless. Then the Jews from the surrounding counties came and said, “Because of you we’re going to be attacked! Thanks a lot!” The work was hard, the sun was hot, morale was low and a fight was coming…

But Nehemiah didn’t get discouraged. He told everyone to grab their weapons and get back to work. From that day on, half of the men worked while the others stood by them, swords and spears in hand. They were working and they were ready to fight. Nehemiah said that they even wore their swords and armor when they went on water breaks. In verse 14 he told them, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

We are in the middle of a war that is happening all around us. We cannot see it or smell it, but we can feel its effects. And the worst possible thing we can do is to pretend we’re not in a battle. Our enemies are after our discouragement and if we rest from fighting, we will be beaten. We need to live every day and all day long knowing that a fight is coming… knowing that discouragement is right around the corner. We need to be ready to meet this foe, remembering the Lord, continuing the work, and standing beside our brothers, encouraging each other and fighting together, even when we break for water…

Friday, August 11, 2006

Matthew Broderick back in the day... Posted by Picasa

Old-school Movies and Real-time Answers

A couple of weeks ago Christy and I were flipping channels and found “War Games.” Do you remember that Matthew Broderick classic from the 80’s? It’s a movie set in the extreme paranoia of the Cold War in which a high school computer hacker finds his way into what he thinks is a computer game but is really a simulation program for nuclear war. The kid signs into the ‘game’ as the Soviet Union and initiates a nuclear missile strike on the U.S. What he doesn’t know is that U.S. military defense tracking systems show eight incoming Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles from Russia! This kid playing around on his computer had no idea what his hacking was setting in motion…

I think that prayer is like “War Games” for lots of us. We don’t rely on prayer… we don’t pray any where near as much as we ought because when it gets right down to it, we don’t really know what prayer is and what it does. Do you know what actually happens when you pray? David did… In Psalm 18 he said, “In my distress I called out to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears.” First thing’s first… when you cry out to Him, God hears you! But look what happens next… “Smoke rose from His nostrils; consuming fire came from His mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under His feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; He soared on the wings of the wind…” David goes on to say that God thundered form heaven blasting his enemies with lightning like arrows and then rescued him because God delighted in him. Isn’t that awesome?! Did you know all that was going on when you pray?

This morning I was reading Nehemiah 2 about the exiled Israelites who got to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall surrounding the city. Well, before they got to go back, they had to get permission from their captors. It just so happened that King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer was Nehemiah who had been praying that the exiles would get a chance to go back… He showed up at work one day holding the King’s cup but looking long in the face because he was thinking about Jerusalem and how it was in ruins… The King looked at Nehemiah and said, “Hey Mr. Grumpy Gils! What’s your problem today?” Nehemiah told him about Jerusalem and how its destruction tore him up so much. Then the King said, “What is it you want?” Chapter 2, verse 4 says, “Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king…”

Did you catch that? He had about 2 nano-seconds to shoot up a little pistol prayer to heaven and then he had to tell the King what he wanted, and God heard him! He thundered down from heaven, riding angels and clouds like a couple of water skis and gave Nehemiah the answer he wanted! He got to go home and rebuild the city he loved. It doesn’t matter if you pray for days on end or just two seconds… He hears you, and He busts open the sky to come down and rescue you right when you need Him. Cry out to Him, He’s waiting…

Friday, August 04, 2006

My beautiful bride five years ago... Posted by Picasa

Learning the Steps

Christy and I celebrated our fifth anniversary yesterday and whoa… I sorta can’t believe it’s been five years. It’s gone so stinkin’ fast! Now here we are, with two little kids and us more in love than ever, laughing more than ever after five trips around the sun. The other day I was thinking about our wedding and how much everyone danced afterwards… I was pretty much tearing up the dance floor, having a blast and feeling totally free. Now, these facts are pretty amazing considering that most of my life I have been drastically afraid of dancing… especially in front of onlookers. But I wasn’t scared that night, and do you want to know why? I had spent the previous semester in college taking a course called ‘ballroom dance.’ That’s right… I learned to swing, tango, cha cha, rumba and waltz, and I wasn’t too bad either.

All her life Christy has wanted dancing after her wedding. She wanted to be swept around the dance floor in her beautiful gown by the love of her life on her wedding day. Before proposing to Christy, I have to admit that I had never really given any thought to what my wedding would be like, but I soon learned that I would be dancing. That was pretty much the most intimidating thing in the world to me! I was scared to death, but I wanted everything to be perfect for her. I wanted to give myself completely to her. So, what did I do? I learned the steps. I learned how to dance so that I wouldn’t be scared to do what she wanted most from me… so that I knew how to move and wouldn’t feel like an idiot in front of everyone there. On that night, I knew the steps and though I was nervous, I just started moving, and pretty soon, I wasn’t thinking about it… I was just dancing with my bride.

Way back when God’s people were going to the temple or the tabernacle to worship God by offering sacrifices over an altar of fire, there were many different kinds of offerings. The book of Leviticus tells us about all of those different offerings and the very first one it describes is called the whole burnt offering. This was an offering of consecration in which the whole animal was completely burned up… nothing was left. It was a way for people to say to God, “I am yours completely. Take all of me, I hold nothing back. Burn up all of my plans, desires and will and fill me with Your will.” In 2 Chronicles 29:27-28 when King Hezekiah gave the order for the whole burnt offering to be sacrificed, he also ordered the temple players and singers to bring the praise! It says, “The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the singers sang and the trumpeters played. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed.”

I think the idea of the whole burnt offering is so intimidating… are we ever really ready to offer God all of ourselves? Are we ready to say to Him, “Take all of me?” Yet, this is what He most wants from us… to give Him all. And this is why we need praise in our everyday lives. Singing praise songs teaches us the dance steps of consecration. As we sing the words of some great worship song, we teach our spirit step by step how to let go. Sing the words of some great old hymn like, To Christ the Lord by Samuel Stennett… “Since from His bounty I receive such proofs of love divine, had I a thousand hearts to give, Lord they should all be Thine…” and before long, you won’t be merely singing, but actually offering yourself completely to Him. You may forget your steps and yourself and just find yourself dancing.

Monday, July 31, 2006

me and my girls Posted by Picasa

Authority Figures

Have you ever been pulled over? Ever gotten a traffic ticket? If you have, you know the feeling I’m about to describe… you know, when you’re driving too fast around a curve and then out of nowhere coming toward you in the opposite lane is a cop… Isn’t that one of the worst feelings ever? As soon as you see that black and white car, you know you’re driving too fast, you know you probably deserve a ticket and your stomach flies into your throat as you attempt a discreet reduction in speed without looking too obvious. As the police officer drives past you, what do you do? You check the rear-view mirror to see if those brake lights come on… is he going to stop? Is he going to turn around? Just keep going, just keep on going…

I remember the first time I was sent to the Principal’s office in school. I was in seventh grade life science and I was acting like a total stooge. I was always loud, but this particular day I was in rare form. I interrupted the lesson again and again and was doing anything and everything to make the other kids in the class laugh at me. My teacher had put up with my ridiculousness all year long and was now over it. She sent me out of her class and to the Principal… Whoa. I had always heard of this form of punishment, but didn’t know it actually existed. That walk down the hall was one of the longest I’ve ever taken. I had been an idiot and I was on my way to the school’s ultimate authority figure. Once again, my stomach was in my throat.

I think the thing that seemed so scary about facing the police officer and the principal was that I was guilty. I wouldn’t have any problem facing some authority figure if I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I had! I was in trouble and I was going to get what I deserved! I was thinking about worship and reading God’s word and how, if you think about it, those could be the scariest things to do in the world… You see, worship and reading the word are basically all about meeting with God. When you worship, you are meeting with God, inviting the Holy Spirit to show up. When you spend time in God’s word, you are facing Him… facing His very words to you. Is there anything more frightening than that? Getting a ticket is one thing, and going to the principal’s office is another, but to face the Holy God… the Creator and King of the universe... who can stand this?

Now, it wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t guilty, but we are! Every one of us has an immeasurable debt of rebellion and disobedience that we can’t pay. To meet with God ought to be the scariest thing we could ever do in our whole lives! I was thinking about this the other day when I read something Paul said in Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship and by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” What Paul is saying is that although we are guilty, God has done something about it… He sent His own Son to pay for our guilt with His death, giving us the right (by faith) to become God’s own children! We are not facing some angry, spiteful God full of fiery vengeance, but our very own Daddy. When we meet with God, we meet with one who loves us like a Father, but like no father we’ve ever known, because this Father has perfect, infinite love and He governs and guides our lives with perfect, infinite wisdom. His Son has taken on, paid for and removed our guilt. There’s no need to fear. He’s not a cop or the principal, He’s our Dad.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My Martin... still bringing the heat Posted by Picasa


Eight years ago I took an insurance check from a car wreck (not my fault) and cashed it. It was for a thousand dollars. I was nineteen and about to start college, so I probably should have saved it, but instead I took the money to Ciderville Music and bought a Martin guitar. It wasn’t very flashy, but it was a good, solid, handmade guitar that was perfectly intonated and had a great sound. It was the first really nice instrument I had ever owned. I was in a band at the time and after playing my new guitar, the other songwriter/singer in the band went down to Ciderville the next day and used his savings to buy the exact same model Martin, two serial numbers away from mine. These two guitars were like twins in every way. They looked, played and sounded exactly alike. It was awesome. Now, our guitars may have been the same, but we were not. This friend of mine plays with incredible finesse and a soft touch, bringing the sweetest tones out of the instrument; while I play my guitar like a hammer, slamming a strong, low end.

Two years ago I got together with that friend after not seeing him in around five years to play some music. The really interesting thing is that after six years of being played by two completely different types of guitarists, these two instruments didn’t sound anything alike. I have always heard that a Martin guitar ages and changes with its owner, but its really true! It’s almost like my guitar was made for me and only for me, and it may have taken a few years, but you can tell it was made for me just by the sound of it. It was made for me and it was made that way by me.

I was reading the other day in 1 Chronicles 23 about when David was old and ready to die. He appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel, and he was getting Solomon all set up for office by making sure that everyone was in the right place doing what they were supposed to. He was telling all the Levites their jobs and in verse 5 he said, “Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.” David had specifically ordered the building of musical instruments for the purpose of praising God… that’s the only reason they were made. Did you know that you are like those instruments? You were made for praise! Isaiah 43:21 says that God formed you so that you would proclaim His praise… that’s why you exist!

I think God is building a symphony orchestra to proclaim His praise, full of all kinds of different sounding instruments. Now, everyone is different, with different personalities, gifts and abilities, and as we go through life, God takes us all through different things. Your life may be harder than another person’s but maybe that’s because God is looking for a certain timbre of praise that can only come from you… you trusting Him and praising Him through the tough things in your life. When it’s all over, we’ll all be there together joining our praise to the praises of those who have gone before us and we will all be His opus… His work of praise. When your heart is full of praise no matter what you’re going through, He has the instrument He wanted… made for Him and made by Him.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Anna and Norah kickin' it, yo... Posted by Picasa

The Guest List

Have you ever done that thing where you really thought you knew something for sure, (I mean, you would take it to the bank) but then, something out of nowhere made you doubt it? You know, like driving the same road to work or school every single day for years, and then one day the road sign’s been knocked down or blocked by some unruly tree branch and you just miss the street… you know where it is, but you just drive right past… Or picking up the phone to dial that number you’ve called seven hundred, ninety thousand times, hearing the radio station call numbers or something and then drawing a blank on the phone… ever done anything like that?

The other day, I did… but it wasn’t missing a street sign or forgetting a phone number. I had a friend who died at age fifty from brain cancer and many of us around here cried from missing him and celebrated the fact that he is now at home in heaven. I couldn’t stop thinking about how jealous I was that he was in a place of no more sorrows, sins, tears, worries or cares… jealous that he has now seen Jesus face to face. I have been waiting on that moment for years, and I’ve always been sure about it. From the moment I understood the message of the Gospel and trusted Christ, I have been ready to go home. I was always so sure about where I was going. Then I read Psalm 15…

It hit me like a Mack truck. The Message says it like this: “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on Your guest list?” Do you know what the answer is? Check this… “He whose walk is blameless and does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue…” It goes on and on about this person who does everything right and keeps all his promises even when it hurts… who gets to go to heaven? Only some perfect guy! When I read it, I freaked for a second, because I’m not like that and by the way, neither is anyone else! If that’s the requirement for getting on this guest list, then not even David (the guy who wrote Psalm 15) is going to be there! I was so sure about heaven, but according to this, only a perfect person gets to go… it seems as if the only person with an invitation is Jesus.

Then something else hit me… He’s the only one righteous enough to go to the party and that’s why He left heaven, became a human being, and died for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” God put our sin on Jesus and Jesus died to pay our penalty so that He could put Jesus’ righteousness on us. That means that if you believe in Him, it is as if you have lived a life that is just as righteous as Jesus’ perfect life, which means that you are on the list… you have an invitation to that heavenly banquet with your name on it! For a second there I was losing it, but then I remembered Jesus and what He went through to get me on that guest list… Who gets invited to dinner at God’s place? I do!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Men in Black... me and charlie at the Young Life Halloween partyPosted by Picasa


When I was in college, my friend Charlie and I not only roomed together, but ate every meal together. We took Tae Kwon Do together, worked at the same grocery store (for a while) and even had a class together. We watched, and were in to all the same dorky comic book stuff together. We even had the same haircut and facial hair most of the time… maybe it sounds a little weird, but it was one of the best times in my life. It was the first time I had ever had a best friend who knew, could understand and help me in my walk with Christ.

Everyone we knew in college thought we were brothers. For me, that was the highest compliment. The only thing better would be if that were actually true. I don’t have a mansion, ‘phat’ cars, a bloated bank account or a ton of investments, stocks or securities, but I am filthy rich… in friends. I have friends that would do anything for me (and have)! I have my wife who has been my sweetest and dearest friend for the past nine years. I have countless high school friends and graduates who support and encourage me in ministry. I have a church-full of sweet brothers and sisters who have loved and accepted me since I was in high school. I have my dad, with whom I have walked through the toughest moments of either of our lives, and the list could go on and on.

When I first started dating Christy, I lived in Knoxville and she lived in Cookeville (an hour and a half apart). During that two years, Christy’s sister’s boyfriend let this young punk come crash his apartment every weekend so that I could spend the weekends with Christy. Once, when Christy and I were driving from Cookeville to Oak Ridge on a Sunday morning for church, my car broke down in Crossville. My friend Tom (also the pastor of the church) drove over 50 miles to come get us and 50 miles back so that we wouldn’t miss church. One time Charlie stayed up till 4:00 AM putting a CD player in my old car just so that I would have some tunes. Now, 5 years later, he stole my car and (in secret) installed an unbelievable system in it! He has spent countless days off building and plumbing our bathroom, leveling and tiling our floors, installing light fixtures and helping me chop down and haul off unwanted holly bushes.

Everyone needs good friends, and I am rich in them, but more than that, I have friends like my boy Charlie that I can talk to. I have friends that are there when I need them, there when I’m struggling. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” I have friends that love me at all times… who are there when my car is making weird sounds and my ceiling is cracking and falling down. But more than that, I have brothers who were born for adversity… so that when hard times come up and I really need someone to help me see God and keep me encouraged, they are there in those tough moments saying, “I’m here man, I was born for this.”

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