Monday, May 27, 2013

A moment of wonder

Today I was walking along the South Bank of the Thames River with four of my favorite people. It was a gorgeous day with absolutely perfect weather, and we were on our way to ride the London Eye. It was a perfect day to be lifted high above the city and get some great pictures.

It was packed! Today was a British holiday, school was out, and there were a ton of people there from other countries. There were people everywhere. People of all cultures and backgrounds.

And suddenly I was overcome with a sense of awe. In the midst of trying to get through all those people and spend as little time as possible in the "queue" for the Eye (yes, I can use the correct local term for a line), I somehow noticed all those people and thought of them as individuals. Like me and my family. I thought about how the God of the universe who put all the stars and galaxies into place knows the story of every single one of those people. And he loves each one of them deeply, whether they know it or not. I looked at person after person and thought, "What's his story?" "What's her story?" And I realized that in every single case God knows the answer.

It was a moment of wonder in the midst of chaos. We serve an amazing God. And I am so thankful.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Does it show?

Tonight here in London, there was apparently a pretty big soccer match. Two German teams were playing for the Champions League championship, and from what I could tell it was THE game for this soccer-crazed culture. The equivalent of the Super Bowl or the BCS Championship (Roll Tide!). All day long there were fans in the colors of both teams everywhere we went. and several people asked me if we were going to the big "football" game tonight. (Don't worry, I didn't tell them that football season doesn't start for another 96 days.)

And then the oddest moment of the day occurred. We were standing outside the Hard Rock Cafe waiting for a table and a guy dressed in his team colors came up to me. He asked, and I do not lie, whether I had any tickets for sale to the game?

I was like, what?? What was it about me that led you to believe I had extra tickets to a soccer game?

So apparently, the sports fan in me just radiates. Somehow people look at me and think, "He has football tickets!" Even if it's not what I would call football.

And so now I know. Interesting.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A shimmer of light

Have you all seen the CBS video of the woman from Moore,Oklahoma who survived the absolute leveling of her house, but whose dog was somewhere in the rubble? If you haven't check it out:

What an amazing thing! I know that so many people were lost in the storm and, well, it's just a dog. But still... As a dog owner it brought tears to my eyes to see someone who thought she had lost her only companion and discovered, live on camera, that her dog was okay. This dog has a purpose in God's creation, and I believe it is to bring comfort to this woman who had just lost everything.

This is a just a glimpse, a shimmer, of the surprises that await us who choose to follow Jesus. Just when everything is at its worst, the Father comes along beside us. He doesn't take away the pain (yet), but he does  give us what we need to endure it. And then one day, when things are at their darkest, when we face the ultimate enemy death, a wonderful treat is in store. Eternity in his presence, in our restored creation where the rubble of this decaying world is made new.

Finding her dog brought this woman a glimmer of light in the darkness of destruction. How much more grand it will be when we see the true Light.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A new wave

Last night was awesome. I spent the evening hanging out in Tallahassee with my friend Steve. But instead of going to a movie or a ball game, we went to listen to some live music. It was at a coffee shop called Redeye sponsored by his church. The music was excellent - there is a lot of talent in that community of faith. There was praise music, love songs, and songs that were just plain fun. But what struck me was the reason for the music. They were helping support one of their own in a major decision - a young lady maned Lindsey who has chosen to spend a year of her life following God's leading to the ends of the earth. It's called the World Race.

If you want to know more about her upcoming adventure and even support it, she can describe it a lot better than me, so check out her blog. Basically, she'll be spending 11 months of her life living in 11 different countries spreading the love of Jesus everywhere she goes. It's worth digging into.

But what really struck me is the wave I'm seeing in today's young adults. I am seeing an amazing enthusiasm for following Jesus and caring for the poor and oppressed of the world. Everywhere I go, it seems that I encounter another young person who is consumed with the desire to disregard their own comfort, pleasure, and even safety so they can be ambassadors for God's kingdom. It is so encouraging to see!

So I was happy to be part of an evening devoted to helping this one young lady, whom I had never met before. Yes, I enjoyed the music and the coffee. But more than that, I loved the energy and enthusiasm in the room for reaching the world.

And yes, the music was fun. One of the artists, Sydney Simpson, has a youtube video of a fun song that went, you might say, semi-viral. It was fun (especially for us Star Wars geeks), so here's my part in maybe getting rid of the "semi" part. Enjoy:

And check out Lindsey's blog. And support her or some young person you know who is following God's call. We are the verge of great things from these kids.

And I can't wait!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

All quiet

This is a strange post. I was just doing a little online surfing a realized something...I've gone a little dry on stuff to post about. Either that or I've been a little too busy living life.

Nothing wrong with that. As I've posted before, there's no point in blogging just to be blogging. It should only be when we have something to say or show.

Still, it feels kind of strange. I guess it's a good picture of how we should live too. There are several Proverbs advising us not to talk just to hear ourselves talk. If we save words for when they actually mean something, people might actually listen.

So for now, I got nothing.

And that's okay.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Missing the obvious

Yesterday I read with some sadness the story of a young lady who died at a Chicago Cubs baseball game. If you didn't hear about it, here is the story.

Maureen Oleskiewicz
It seems she died doing something she truly loved, as the article indicated she was a huge Cubs fan. And she was at the game with her brother. I can identify with that, because going to games with sisters has been a big part of my life. And it's probably also why the story really grabbed me.

One thing that shocked me was the way it all happened. It seems that when Ms. Oleskiewicz choked on a hot dog, she was so unable to breathe that she didn't make any noticeable choking sounds. Or screams. From what I can tell, she just passed out from the lack of oxygen and fell over. That was the first her brother knew anything was wrong. By the time they got medical help, it was too late.

It's hard for us to understand how that could happen. How could he not know anything was wrong?

But you know, I think I walk around like that every day. I try to care about people - love my neighbor as myself. But I sit next to people at work, at a restaurant, at a movie, and yes, at a ball game...and don't have a clue what trouble might be brewing in their lives. There's got to be some, because I know I've got my share. And so do you, right?

How great would it be if I were sensitive enough to know when someone was throwing out subtle hints that they want help? Instead, I cruise along in my own little world making sure my own needs are met. But that's not what we were made for. We were made to love each other - pray for each other, help each other, listen to each other. And whatever else might clear up some of one another's personal darkness.

Should the young lady's brother have been able to tell she was choking? Perhaps, but I understand how he missed it since she was able to cry out for help.

May I be willing to cry out when I need help with my life...and listen for others who might be wanting to.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Turning point

Today is kind of an important day for me. A milestone. You might even call it a birthday..

On this date back in the 7th grade, I made a very important decision - the most important decision of my life. For it was on this date way back then that I gave my life to Christ and began a personal relationship with my Creator.

Yes, I had been a good church kid growing up and for the most part stayed out of trouble. I knew the facts. But that weekend our church had what was them called a "Lay Ministry Weekend." Church members from another church in Dothan came and shared with us their personal stories - how knowing and following Jesus had changed their lives. Several young people about my age and shared on Friday night and Saturday.

One of them, Jon, made an especially strong impression on me. Several months later he died from a head injury in football practice at the age of 14. In his short life, he made a tremendous impact for the Kingdom of God and his impact .continues today.

But I digress. As these new friends shared with me, I realized that just going to church and trying to be good was not what God wanted from me and was not going to get me anywhere. He wanted me to know him. So on the afternoon of May 6 I prayed, told God I wanted to be his, and put my faith in Jesus.

There have been a lot of speed bumps, trials, temptations, and out-and-out failures. Heck, I've messed up several times just today. But he has been there with me through all of them and continues to work in my life to conform me to the image of Christ.

 There is not a moment in my life that was more important. Because of that I was changed. For good.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Iron Man 3 - demons

"We create our own demons." - Tony Stark, Iron Man 3

For me, the summer movie season officially opened this weekend with the release of Iron Man 3. A blockbuster with action, explosions, humor, and all the things we guys expect from our summer movies.

This one was a good start. It was fun, fast-paced (although in my opinion the climactic action scene ran a little longer than it should have), tense, and had an interesting storyline. And yes, it even made me think a little.

 The line quoted at the top of the page was from the opening narration. It refers directly to one night in 1999 when Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) made a couple of choices that led directly to the mayhem that takes place over the following two hours. Both of them, depicted in the opening scene, were dismissive of others and obviously festered over the next 14 years. It refers more indirectly to the heroic choice Stark made in New York (and thus is intertwined with last summer's The Avengers) that saved the world but left him with anxiety issues.

I believe we all can identify with Stark's dilemma. How many times have I mistreated someone, either by being dismissive, short, angry, or condescending? Sometimes even with good intentions. Those choices affect relationships, shape people's lives, and have consequences. Granted, for you and me the consequences are unlikely to affect the fate of the whole world. But they affect our world...and they affect the worlds of those around us.

Yes, there is a devil and there are demons - Jesus said so. But there are also "demons" in the figurative sense that can be just as destructive. So when they come back to haunt me, I don't think I should be quite so quick to blame forces beyond my control. Like Stark, I should look in the mirror and see what I have done to create them.

And then face them.

And that's where the redemptive love of the Father through Jesus the Messiah comes in. He forgives and showers us with mercy. He will not remove all the consequences for us, but he will give us the power to face them and bring us through. And help us to stop creating them.

There was a lot of power available to Iron Man in his fight to put the genie back in the bottle. Gadgets, suits, technology. There is even more power available to us. And so our demons do not have a chance.

And oh...a tip. If you go to see Iron Man 3 (and I recommend that you do), don't leave before the credits are done like 2/3 of the people did tonight. Good grief people, have you never seen a Marvel Comics movie before?? Nope, you don't want to miss the last scene - "See, I have told you." (Matthew 28:7)


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Congratulations, Macy!

It's time for another graduation in our family and I couldn't be more proud. My niece Macy is finishing her undergraduate work at the University of Alabama, and will be graduated tomorrow night with an Engineering degree. I am so excited for her.

If I let myself I could get a little bit sad about her and her cousins moving on with their lives. But it's the way it's supposed to be, and so I am looking forward to watching her grow into the woman God wants her to be.

So, in honor of the occasion, here are a few pictures:

"Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then..."

In her element, with the kids in Ethiopia

Dinner in Addis Ababa

20 years old!

The day of her last graduation 

Looks like this building needs some there a civil engineer around?

Bama vs. Florida State

Wow, I could have loaded pictures all night. What memories.

Congratulations, you! Looking forward to the rest of the journey!