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Archive for the ‘courage’ Category

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Yes, I’m well aware that I haven’t posted anything here in a long time. The guilt eats at my soul every day of my life (OK, that’s probably a bit of an overstatement, but occasionally I’ve thought, “I could blog about that .  . .”).

But this is an anniversary and I have something to say.

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ImageAs the years go, 2012 has been a good one personally and professionally. This year was a marked difference from 2011, which at times I would like to forget, but believe will ultimately go down as one of the more important years of my life.

On December 31, 2011 the new year was not looking so bright. Just 10 days before I had spent the night in the hospital because of chest pains related to a season of unrelenting stress. I limped through Christmas Eve—typically my favorite service of the year—and struggled to prepare for worship on January 1 (which was the first Sunday of 2012).

I went to bed on New Year’s Eve early (because that’s how I roll now that I’m past 40). And then a strange thing happened. I dreamed. And I learned an important principle: God will always conspire to remind you of the truth that He is not done with you. That the past does not determine your future.

I’ve never been a big proponent of “dream interpretation.” I had a friend in seminary who kept dream journals of every dream he ever had. He had rows and rows of journals and had trained himself to wake up to write down his dreams. He was a good friend, but I always felt like this was an odd quirk that he shouldn’t share with anyone.

Dreams are just dreams, right? They don’t mean anything. They’re just random images produced by neurological stimuli.

That’s been my take on dreams, at least. Until December 31, 2011. That night my dreams were vivid and clear. I’ve never had anything like them before and haven’t since. And I’m convinced that they were God’s desperate attempt to reach me at one of the darkest moments of my life. God conspired to reach me through a way that I could see and understand. And because of these two dreams when dawn broke on a new year, I truly believed I had begun a new year.

Dream One.

In the first dream I was back in my home church in Ackerman. The pews were out of order and the lights were off. And people kept telling me that I was supposed to preach. Which was terrifying to me because I wasn’t prepared to preach. I wasn’t even sure why I was there. Then behind me a voice came whispering to me, “Christ is alive.”

And the dream was over.

Dream Two.

I was wandering through a dark parking garage. I think there were others with me but never saw anyone. As I exited the dark parking garage, a strong voice told me, “No more fear.”

And the second dream was over.

When I woke the next morning, the dreams did not fade. They stayed with me. As I rose to preach that morning, I preached with the confidence that Christ was alive and that I no longer had to fear. In fact, I distinctly remember the joy of that morning. Probably the first joy I had felt in some time.

And here’s what I took away from that: Our God will go to great lengths to remind you of the truth of his love and grace. Maybe God won’t use dreams to speak to you (or maybe God will). Maybe it will be a great sunset, an unexpected conversation with a friend, that random quote you see at 2 a.m. on Facebook, a Bible Study, a sermon, an encounter with scripture. Who knows. But here’s the thing: I am convinced that our God will conspire to bring light to your darkness. And will use any means necessary.

That unexpected scheming of God gave me dreams that allowed me to begin again this year. My prayer is that you will have the eyes to see and the ears to hear as you enter this new year and new season of your life.

Happy New Year.

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Mr. Vaughn was my nemesis.

He taught me Biology, Biology II, and Chemistry in high school (and was also the faculty sponsor for the chess club). And, though I liked him, he drove me crazy–particularly in Chemistry.

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When the planes hit the towers on September 11, 2001, I was in a staff meeting. Jennifer Hart, on staff at the time, came into meeting late talking about radio reports of something strange happening in New York. After staff meeting, I went upstairs to lead a Disciple Bible Study. During the breaks I would go down the hall to watch the news. None of us understood the enormity of what was unfolding before us.

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“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Have you ever uttered those words? I have. All too often. Usually after a brutal miscalculation of cause and effect. Most of the time the outcomes are fairly laughable and have no long-term consequences. And then there was the time “a good idea” almost cost me and a couple of friends our lives.

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When I was 9 years old I thought Erin Gray was the most beautiful thing that graced television. She played Col. Wilma Deering on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The show was campy, silly, and all-around terribly written and produced (even to a 9-year-old’s sensibilities), but Col. Deering made the show worth watching. You can check it out on Netflix if you dare.

Until last Friday she was simply a random piece of memory floating around the gray matter between my ears.

Then, Friday afternoon, she called me.

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This is Part 2 of a series about discovering Pivot Points in life. Every journey comes to a place where you must turn. There are habits of the heart and soul that help us make the necessary turns. I call them Pivot Points. God, through the moments and experiences of life, gives us clues we need to discover and understand those Pivot Points. We simply have to pay attention. 

My family’s first trip to the beach was in the summer of 1984. I was 13 and Madonna, Van Halen, Prince, and the movie Footloose provided the summer soundtrack. Three families rented two homes on the beach in Gulf Shores (back when there were actually houses to rent on the beach in Gulf Shores) and we spent the week swimming, eating, and telling ghost stories on the beach at night.

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We’re approaching the end of the journey. In just a few days, I’ll offer the final post from my sabbatical journal. The end of the journal won’t be the end of the blog! I’ve got some great things planned for the weeks ahead. For those of you just stumbling into this, a reminder of what I’m doing right now:

Over the course of my 6-week sabbatical, I kept a journal of my travels and experiences. I’m sharing some of those to give you a flavor of how God spoke over the course of my time away. Sometimes I’ll share an entire day’s entry. At other times, just a partial/edited post. After the journal entry, I’ll share some of my post-sabbatical reflections on that entry. Each day I started with a quote followed by my reflections on the events of the day.

If you “follow” the blog (upper right on the home page), you’ll get automatic email updates when I post the next entry. You can find previous posts in the links to the right. At the bottom of each post, you’ll notice some “share” buttons. Feel free to share this with others if you think it would be interesting to them or help them.

July 1 – Day 40
9:15 p.m.
Home

To imagine things other than they are is the essence of hope.
It is also the stuff of revolution.
~Len Sweet

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We’re approaching the end of the journey. In just a few days, I’ll offer the final post from my sabbatical journal. The end of the journal won’t be the end of the blog! I’ve got some great things planned for the weeks ahead. For those of you just stumbling into this, a reminder of what I’m doing right now:

Over the course of my 6-week sabbatical, I kept a journal of my travels and experiences. I’m sharing some of those to give you a flavor of how God spoke over the course of my time away. Sometimes I’ll share an entire day’s entry. At other times, just a partial/edited post. After the journal entry, I’ll share some of my post-sabbatical reflections on that entry. Each day I started with a quote followed by my reflections on the events of the day.

If you “follow” the blog (upper right on the home page), you’ll get automatic email updates when I post the next entry. You can find previous posts in the links to the right. At the bottom of each post, you’ll notice some “share” buttons. Feel free to share this with others if you think it would be interesting to them or help them.

June 29 – Day 38
9:10 p.m.
Home

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
~ William James

Home. For good. My lunch date in Water Valley bailed on me today so I decided it was a sign to come home early. If my calculations are somewhat accurate, I travelled over 6,600 miles in 6 weeks. And every step of the way God was lighting the path, teaching me, holding me, and even fighting with me and for me. Never once did He leave me on my own (BTW, Never Once by Matt Redman is the theme song of the summer).

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Disclaimer: If the thought of a pastor (or particularly your pastor) entering a tavern/bar/pub is damaging to your soul, then you should probably skip this post. Maybe check out this or this. Or even this. Come back and visit tomorrow.

Background: My wife’s family owns a home in Water Valley, MS, just outside of Oxford, MS. We use it several times a year when visiting The School Up North. The entire time that I’ve known Water Valley, from college days to the present, it has been a dry town (for non-Mississippians: think prohibition. No alcohol sales). That changed a few years ago. And when I visited this summer I noticed that attached to one of the better restaurants in town (Doc’s Table–if you go, try the Chicken Bacon Cheddar Sandwich) was a tavern (Doc’s Tavern). Doc’s Tavern has the distinction of being the first and only bar in Water Valley. After eating at Doc’s Table one evening, curiosity got the better of me: Who goes to Water Valley’s only bar? So, I walked down the alley to the door of the tavern and had what I can only describe as the defining moment of my sabbatical. I met Elvis. This is the story of one unforgettable night in Water Valley.

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