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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

I drove home from Memphis in silence today.

This was a long day that began with news of the death of a church member and then ended with the experience of being with another family while they said good-bye to a 15-day old child (the father has written a stunningly beautiful reflection on his son’s brief life here).

So, at the end of this painfully long day I made the 90 minute trip home in silence. My soul could not bear one more word, note, voice, or sound. Even the rhythmic bumping of tires against the pavement on I-55 seemed to blur into the grief that encapsulated the drive home.

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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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Rearview Mirror Moments

Rearview MirrorBack in December I talked in a sermon about the importance of remembering the ratio of the windshield to rearview mirror in your car (you can listen to the entire sermon on Simeon here). The windshield is exponentially larger than a rearview mirror because you don’t drive a car in reverse. You drive forward and the car is created for you to do that. In the same way, we live our lives forward. We don’t move forward in life by constantly looking back. I passionately believe that.

But (and I said this, too) the rearview mirror serves the important purpose of giving us perspective on what is behind us. Sometimes we need to look back and remember the difficult times in life and the significant places and people who made us. We need to look back at the events that helped move us forward in life. We need rearview mirror moments.

This weekend will be a rearview mirror kind of weekend for me. A pastor friend is taking a sabbatical so I offered to preach for him one Sunday while he’s away. It just so happens that he’s at Clarksdale First United Methodist. That’s the church that hired me as a 19-year-old freshman at Ole Miss to be their summer youth director. I went on to work there for three years before heading off to seminary.

These past few weeks have been full of messages, phone calls, and emails from people I haven’t heard from in 20 years. And, it’s been amazing to remember all that God did in those three years. At Clarksdale FUMC, God confirmed my calling into full-time ministry. I experienced the grace of Jesus Christ through a Walk to Emmaus Weekend because some of the men from the church sponsored me. The youth group was full of kids that were eager and excited to grow in Christ. I took my first mission trip with those kids. And, when the car I drove became a victim of my parents divorce, the church at Clarksdale raised the money to buy me a Mercury Tracer.

The pastor I worked under at Clarksdale First was a man named Richard Hunter who taught me more about pastoring than I learned in three years at seminary.

And I still remember the occasional lunch with a 90+ year old lady named Polly Ligon who hand stitched me a picture that still has a place of honor in myLigon Cross Stitch office.

I’m looking forward to this weekend because it’s giving me abundant reason to look back–to take a glance at the rear view mirror.

We all need rearview mirror moments. They don’t need to dominate our lives. But they continue to give us perspective on life, on faith, on the goodness and faithfulness of God over time.

This week, spend some time looking in your rearview mirror. Say a prayer of thanks for the good and the bad you’ve experienced. Maybe make a call, write a letter (on paper), send an email, or just bask in the memory of where you’ve been.

And then, with joy and comfort and peace, look forward again and move into the future God has for you.

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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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The news came via text message in the middle of staff meeting on Monday: AUNT JOAN DIED. My father likes to text in all caps so when the message flashed on my phone I immediately knew who sent it.

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This is part 4 of a series on finding Pivot Points in your life. In life there are moments when we need to turn and find a new direction. I believe that God sends us clues to those pivot points in the every day moments of life. So, I’m offering a few that I’ve discovered along the way.

I’m not a fan of errors. In fact, that’s why I’m now an Apple guy instead of a Windows guy.

My first real computer was an Apple IIe (technically my first computer was a Timex, but I’m not really sure that counts) and an Apple Macbook got me through seminary. So, I’ve been familiar with Apple products for a long time. When I graduated and started working, however, I joined the dutiful-cubical-drone-gang and got a Windows-based PC.

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Seven years ago tomorrow (August 29), we spent my daughter’s second birthday cowering in the laundry room as Hurricane Katrina blew through and uprooted trees, destroyed homes, and flooded the coast.

This year, we’ll spend my daughter’s 9th birthday riding out Hurricane Isaac—hopefully not in the laundry room.

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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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Well, here we are. The final day of the journal from the final day of the sabbatical. Over the course of sharing these journal entries, I’ve edited most posts for length and content (some content was extremely personal; some would’ve been utterly boring to you; some was redundant). But today’s post you get in its entirety, only edited for egregious grammatical errors and clarity.

Thank you for sticking with me in this journey. I’ve appreciated your comments and encouragement along the way. But the truth is I did this for my own soul. I needed to relive and revisit what God did to me and for me in these weeks. 

This isn’t the end of the blog (more on that tomorrow). But for now, here’s the final entry. Enjoy.

July 3 – Day 42
10:05 p.m.
Home

A leader can’t lead until he knows where he’s going.
~ John Locke (to Jack Shepherd)
Lost, Season 1, Ep. 5

Forty-two days ago I was on a plane heading to New York. The adventure was beginning. The walk-about commenced with a hug and kiss from Audra at the Gulfport Airport. I knew these weeks were going to be important. I just didn’t know how important.

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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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