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.”

Cluster Map