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Friday, December 29, 2006

Hope you (both of my readers) are having a great holiday season. The new year is always such a cool time because of the renewal of hope it brings for most people. It's as if we feel like we have a new slate to write life on. Hope your new year inspires you to great things and brings you many steps closer to your dreams.

I read an interesting story yesterday. I was reading the Atlanta paper on the internet as I do every morning (how else can a Georgia boy in TN keep up with his favorite teams?) Anyway, the story shared that the man who won the Michigan lottery in April, 2005 died this week from a heart attack at age 43. Left his wife with $125 million but...no husband. Think she'd trade every bit of it to have him back? I'd like to think so but, in our society, you never know. However, the story reminded me of a refrigerator magnet I've seen many times. It reads, "Just when I get it all together, I forget where I put it."

Put yourself in that man's shoes a year ago. He's worked all his life trying to get it all, to accomplish that dream of having everything he wants. Who knows how many lottery tickets he had bought over the course of his life while waiting for his ship to come in? Think about all those feelings he had this past 20 months--paying taxes, finding new family and friends he never knew he had, getting some cool things he'd always wanted and, surely, buying many things he never really needed in the first place. Now, put yourself in his place the first 5 minutes after he's gone. Can you imagine what he felt? Honestly, I can't. Was he angry? Was he sad? What was his relationship with God? Did he get to heaven and find out that all he had could not compare with all he was about to receive? Or, was his destination hell, where he would gladly trade it all and much, much more in order to have another chance to get it right?

I want you to think for this reason--you and I have the unique ability to "do over." You know what I'm talkng about? Like in the back yard basketball game when you make a mistake and you simply say, "My bad, let's do over." We get to do that. As long as we walk this earth, we have the distinct pleasure of starting every day new with a God who allows "do overs." All we must do is ask for his grace, receive his forgiveness, repent of those mistakes and move forward. We can "do over. " But only with Him and only by His grace. I know "Mr. Lottery" would do it all over again if he could. Who wouldn't? Honestly, who wouldn't choose to have a second chance to love deeper, live better, dance longer, sing louder or to make their life count for more than just a statistic in their 70+ years? I know I would. Perhaps you would too. And you can. Here's hoping your New Year is every thing you dreamed, everything He planned. And remember, you don't have to have the lottery to have it all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sunday evening I found myself sitting at the Pope’s Table. Okay, before you start to worry and think I may have hit my head while hanging mistletoe or something, I was at a local Italian restaurant with one of our church's LIFE groups enjoying a Christmas dinner. The table had enough room for 14—there were 19 of us. We were so close together, we had to take turns eating to prevent the crashing of elbows. There was this “lazy Susan” in the middle where they would bring out food and it would circle the table. I patiently waited for the low calorie options that never seemed to come. Instead, I dove into the Chocolate Vesuvia—a healthy dish despite its name (the sound you hear is the LIFE group laughing at that suggestion). It was about 3 tiny bites into “heaven”, er, desert that I sat back and began to ponder the situation. Around this table were people I had known for years. There were others who did not know I existed just a year ago. To my left and right sat two of the best friends I have and their exceptionally better-halves. The only thing I could think was, “Life is good.” I know it sounds like a beer commercial but can life get any better than when it’s done with people you love and respect? Is there any other way to live the God life than in the company of people you know and who know you—I mean really know you?

Let me be really transparent with you. Just an hour before that meal, I was trying to think of every reason in the world not to go. Not because I didn’t want to be there and not because I don’t love those people. Simply put, it was because I was in a place that Satan wanted me—tired, frustrated, whiny, and complaining about my lot in life and why I have to be “alone” this Christmas. As I took those last bites of chocolate, I was reminded that I don’t have to be alone—not at Christmas nor at any other time of the year. I have a God who loves me desperately. I have a family—physical and spiritual—that he has given to me. I have friends who would carry me as far as I needed them to. Life is so much better when it’s done this way. Let me encourage you with two thoughts. One, if my pre-meal mood describes you this season, decide now that you will not face life the way the enemy wants you to. You are loved by God and by others. Won’t you make a commitment to be in community with others who are following after the One who loves you most? Secondly, if you can’t relate to that mood, understand that there are others who do. Will you make every effort to extend your love to them this Christmas, to relieve their loneliness and to remind them in the most concrete ways possible that they are loved? Eighteen of my closest friends did that very thing for me last Sunday. I am a blessed man because of it. Thank you, God, for Ridgeview. Thank you, God, for friends and family. Thank you, God, for Chocolate Vesuvia.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wow. I can't believe it's been so long since I typed my last entry. For any of your who care, sorry that it took so long. I guess the holidays have kind of sapped a good bit of my time. Last month, I had the privilege of returning to the seminary I graduated from and delivering the message at the chapel service there (www.swbts.edu). I had the opportunity to share my story and challenge some of the men and women who are preparing for ministry there. I was kind of floored by the response to that message. Just today I received two more e-mails from people who had heard the archived message on the website. I have learned something from these last two years. This world is filled with hurt. It comes in all shapes and sizes and, honestly, no one is spared. I guess that's why I want to tell others about the peace that comes from knowing Christ. And that's why that message strikes home for so many who are on this journey through life. I promise to write more often if you'll continue to read. And hopefully, the words that I share will continue to offer some peace to others who are living through pain.