Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hoedown at CCC!!

Here's Christy and Jack all ready for the Bluegrass Breakdown!

Tom, Austin and me after the square dance! (it was hard work playing two chords for twenty five minutes!!)

Jack with his great grandma... NAN!

Rosie and me, complete with overalls!

Where The Fish Are

I know I have been frustrating Norah lately. It’s not really my fault and it’s not really hers either… she’s just three years old, you know? Sometimes at naptime she wants to simply sit in her bed and play around instead of sleeping. When I go back in that room and tell her she had better lie down and sleep, she freaks out; but hey, I’m right! If she doesn’t sleep, it’s bad business for everyone including her! She only thinks she wants to stay up. The truth is, she needs to sleep and would be a million and five times happier if she would just get a little rest (as would everyone else). Norah is also lactose intolerant. When I tell her she doesn’t want seven gallons of ice cream, she doesn’t believe me. And look, I know she thinks she wants seven gallons of ice cream, but she’s wrong, because when she has a bunch of good ole cow’s milk, she starts feeling terrible on the inside which comes right on out to the outside! I know it’s frustrating, but the rules we set up aren’t just arbitrary standards intended to make Norah miserable, they are designed (and tailor-made) to make her happier.

This past weekend was our fifth annual High School Bible Study Retreat. My friend Devon spent the weekend telling kids what it means to really follow Jesus. On the first night He shared with them the story of the miraculous catch of fish from Luke 5. This guy Simon and his business partners had been up all night fishing but had caught nothing. They were professionals who had the best gear, experience and knowledge of when and where to find fish and how to bring them in; however, that night they came up empty handed. They came into shore, tied off the boats and got out to start washing the fruitless nets. At the same time a crowd was forming around Jesus, waiting for Him to speak to them. He stepped into the boat belonging to Simon and asked him to push off a bit so He could preach to the crowd on the shore.

Luke says, “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” I know how Simon (later called Peter) felt. I’ve had people stand over me and tell me how to do something musically who didn’t know a minor triad from a major seventh. You just politely smile and pretend to take their advice while you are thinking and want to say, “Let me handle this, okay? I have been doing this for a living for years now and you don’t know what a pentatonic scale is.”

Whatever he was thinking about this strange command, Simon did put out into deep water and he did let down the nets. What followed changed his life… The nets were so full of fish they began to break! Just listening to Jesus even when he didn’t understand wound up being the smartest thing Peter ever did. Jesus doesn’t just randomly make up things for me to do and He doesn’t arbitrarily take me through hard times… no, He doesn’t tell me to drop the nets over here or over there simply because He wants control, but because He knows where the fish are. Everything He takes me through is part of the perfectly worked out plan of the one who knows absolutely everything… Or, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 1:11, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Old Wells

The past couple of weeks have been a trip for me… my dad is back home in Oak Ridge coaching high school football! In some ways I feel like a little kid again seeing him out there in cardinal and gray on the practice field training a new generation of Wildcats how to block and tackle. In some ways it feels just as it did in the old days; and then again, in some ways it doesn’t. You see, Dad is having to start over from scratch with these guys he doesn’t really know yet. Back in the day when I played, we all learned the system in the third grade, so that by the time we got to high school and were under Dad’s coaching, he knew that we knew what to do. Nowadays guys are having to un-learn everything they learned and re-learn it all his way. It’s like going back to the basics and redoing things that should have already been taken care of.

The basics should be second nature, but they aren’t. These guys ought to know at certain times what to do and where to be. They ought to get in certain positions and respond to certain circumstances automatically, but they don’t, so Dad’s having to go back the basics and re-teach the stuff they ought to have down by now. The other day I watched him tell one of his boys over and over again that he was coming off the ball too high… that he needed to get his body down low. These are football fundamentals I remember learning in the fourth grade when I blocked so low that my coach nick-named me “Toenail.” I can’t imagine getting to be a high school junior or senior without knowing how to block low!

Then again, I think I can imagine how that feels… I know how it feels to be so far along that you ought to have the basics down but you just don’t yet, and you’re constantly having to re-learn the same old lessons again and again. I’ve been reading through the book of John again and the thing that keeps blowing my mind is that I am getting so much out of the very basic things… Like in chapter 3 when Jesus told Nicodemus that you can really start over again... how did I forget that?! Or like in chapter 7 when Jesus told everyone at the Feast of Tabernacles that if you’re thirsty, you can go to Him and believing in Him will make streams of living water flow from within you… that’s so basic! How in the world am I still learning that lesson?

Then there was today… I was feeling low and just totally disconnected from Him and I turned to John 10 and read again (as if for the first time) those peerless verses where our Lord said that I am His… in His hand and no one can snatch me out of His eternal grip! How did I forget the most basic thing? That’s why it’s always good to ground your heart in the Word… to mine the fields of the fundamental truths of our faith so that even if you forget, you remember again. Genesis 26: 18 says, “Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.” That’s what it’s like to go back to those basic things… you may forget, and they may get buried, but dig them back up… keep reopening the old wells so you can have their refreshing water once again.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Right now I am in a season of just loving Jesus so much! I don’t really know what has brought it on or if this just means I’m growing, but I find myself loving Him so much… just thinking about Jesus when I wake up, when I’m driving, reading, doing the dishes or just whatever. When I have conversations with people, I find myself thinking about Him and sort of talking to Him in the back of my mind. The other day I had a chance to lie down and take a nap and as I was drifting off to sleep, I was looking forward to a time later that evening where I wanted to just curl up with this book on Psalm 23, so I said to Him, “Lord Jesus, I’m gonna go to sleep for a little while, but I can’t wait to hang out with You later on! Okay, see you then!” Look, maybe it’s just a season or a phase and in a couple weeks I’ll come back down to earth, but it’s like something has come over me and I just keep hoping the change is permanent!

But then again maybe I do know what’s come over me… maybe I can put my finger on a change or two. For one thing, last week I read the book of Ruth at the same time as I started reading the book of John; and if you’ve never read those two books together, you’ve simply got to try it! You see, in the book of Ruth, this foreign girl marries into a situation that becomes pretty broken-down and hopeless. All the men in the family died, leaving the women destitute and hopeless with no prospects, when along comes this man who is able to help them and save them and change their whole lives, which he totally does! His name is Boaz and He is such an awesome picture of what Jesus is like for us… the way he swoops down like a superhero of the heart and saves the day!

The thing that struck me when I was reading Ruth was the tender affection and sweetness of Boaz toward Ruth… When she and Naomi arrived back in Judah, they had no money and no food. Ruth went to the grain fields of a relative of her dead husband and gathered the leftover stuff that had been dropped on the ground so that they could have some bread to eat. The field belonged to Boaz and his workers told him Ruth’s story. When he saw Ruth for himself, he liked her. In Ruth chapter 2, He found her and said, “Whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” At lunchtime Boaz found her again and said, “Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.” After lunch, as Ruth got back to work Boaz told his men, “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up and don’t rebuke her.”

Boaz offered her water for her thirst, bread for her hunger and protected her tender heart right where it was from embarrassment and humiliation. As I was reading this alongside the book of John, I couldn’t stop thinking about Jesus and the way he said to a woman at a well who was down and out, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you Living Water.” I thought about the time He fed five thousand hungry people with a sack lunch and then told them, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry.” And I thought about old Nicodemus who came to Jesus at night because he was afraid to let his friends know how he felt about Jesus, and how Jesus went ahead and met him at night. He didn’t make him face up at high noon at the temple, but met Nicodemus right where he was. When I looked at the tenderness of Boaz alongside the sweetness of the One he represented, I just fell in love all over again. Jesus is the sweetest, the most tender and gentle lover of the wounded and broken heart… what’s not to love!?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Here's Anna at her end of the year pre-school concert...

Tempering the Extreme

I have a tendency toward dorkiness… I can’t help it. When I was in about the fourth or fifth grade, my dad bought me a comic book for a long road trip and it changed me forever. I became totally obsessed with comics, sci-fi movies and all things fantasy. I know the history of every X-Man, can tell you which characters were in both Star Trek the Next Generation as well as Deep Space Nine, and I do a pretty mean impression of Chewbacca. I mean, I’ve even read The Silmarillion multiple times… I know, that’s a little ridiculous, but hey, I’m a dork. Here’s the thing though, I know I’m a dork. I’m not in denial about it. I’m fully aware of my condition, unlike some folks out there…

You see, this week the new Wolverine movie came out and today Charlie and I are going to go watch it. I am inordinately excited about a movie that may in fact be terrible. The thing is, I’m so excited that somewhere in the back of my mind there is this temptation to totally geek out… but I guarantee that this temptation will be held in check by the presence at the movie theater of some guy who has no idea that he’s a dork. I just know that at theaters all across this country there will be guys who have spiked up their hair, grown struggling little beards and even tried to fashion some claws for their hands. It’s like the time I got so excited to see the new Star Wars movie a few years back that I could hardly contain myself and then there he was… some uber-dork at the theater brought his light saber and a Darth Vader mask, which calmed me down in a hurry. There was a part of me that wanted to completely geek out, but seeing the extreme tempered my geekiness.

This week started out pretty crappy and there was this huge temptation welling up inside me to be extremely grumpy and complain about all of the stuff that’s not going well in my life, and then I read the first chapter of Ruth and changed my mind… Basically Ruth starts out telling the story of this one little family from Bethlehem. There was this dude named Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons. There had been a severe famine in Judah, so Elimelech packed up his little family and moved to Africa, where his sons met these two really cool girls and married them. Not long after that, Elimelech and the two boys died, leaving Naomi a widow along with her two widowed daughters-in-law. Naomi decided to go back home to Bethlehem, so she told the girls to stay in Africa and make their own lives. One of the girls did just that, but the other girl said, “Nope. I’m with you. Wherever you go, I go.” That was Ruth.

So Naomi and Ruth headed back to Bethelehem with no husbands, no money and no prospects. When they arrived, everyone was like, “Hey! It’s Naomi! She’s come back home!” In Ruth chapter 1 Naomi said, “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” You see, ‘Naomi’ is a word that means, ‘sweet’ and ‘Mara’ is a word that means ‘bitter.’ She was so angry with God about all the hard stuff in her life and it made her gross. She used to be called ‘sweet’ and now she was complaining, hardened and bitter toward God and life in general. When I read that little speech Naomi gave, it helped me snap out of my funk! I don’t want to live like that! I don’t want to be running around telling everyone who’ll listen how terribly God has treated me when the truth is, He’s been so very good! When things are going rough, it’s tempting to get frustrated and complain, but in the end, you’re only mad at God and it just makes you bitter… I decided right then and there to have a day filled with praise for God and love for Jesus and I did! It was the sweetest day ever, and I gotta tell ya, life’s a whole lot more fun that way.

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