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Why I love my Momma

There are few bonds that are forged tighter than a Southern boy’s love for his Momma. And this Southern boy is no exception. I am of the strong opinion that my Mom is the best Mom in all the world (it is also a strange coincidence that my Dad is of the strong opinion that his wife is the best wife in the world but, I digress.)

My Momma is the main reason that I am the person that I am. Looking back into childhood and that most horrible age of puberty, Mom really saved my bacon. I was a screwed up little kid (Sally is over my shoulder laughing “WAS? WAS?”)(I don’t know what she could possibly mean by that.)

Anyway, Mom was always there for me when life was giving me lemons. I was a shy, quiet kid. I still am very much so. And at that time in my life, I didn’t understand why my stepdad was so hard on me. I was a child with divorced parents. Not such a big deal to some, but for me, it was devastating. I had a great deal of trouble seeing that I was being used by my father to get at my mother and stepfather.

Living in the small house that we did, on Canyon Road in Raleigh, space was at a premium. My bedroom was actually the living room of the house. Mom spent a lot of time in the kitchen. When I was sent to my room, (a lot) in high school, it was just a few steps past the closed door of the den (where Dad(step) was watching TV before dinner) to the dining room, which was connected to the kitchen with a pocket door. I spent many days of my teenage years on a stool, in that doorway, talking quietly with Mom about everything.

It was right there in that tiny doorway on Canyon Rd. that Mom forged me into the man I am today. She chipped away, little by little, softening my anger at my Dad(step), showing me that he didn’t hate me, as I thought, he actually loved me more than my birth father. I didn’t learn that lesson completely for several more years, but she showed it to me first, but I was not ready to listen.

All throughout my 20’s I repaid my Mom with anguish. I flunked out of Ole Miss, flunked out of Memphis State, and tried to find my happiness at the night clubs and not in my church. I was adrift. Mom says she spent a lot of time prostrate before the Lord in prayer for me during that time. As I said, she really saved my bacon.

When Harry met Sally…no wait, when Jim met Sally, I think those prayers started to pay off for her. The day that Mom met Sally was unforgettable for us. We had come home for my brother, Dave’s wedding. And Sally was the girl I brought home to Momma. When we got there, Mom came running out the carport door to meet us with what can best be described as “googly eyes.” Later, Mom told me, “Jim, she’s the one. I just know it.” Sally and I had been dating for just 2 months. I didn’t even know it myself yet. 19 years later, I guess Mom was right.

Anyway, back to the point. Today is Mom’s birthday. I will not reveal the number, that wouldn’t be polite. I am still amazed at her wisdom, her love and compassion for her family, her ability to make cheese and crackers or chips and dip into something more, and still being able to talk with her about life and the lumps it gives us and continuing to be surprised by her ability to pull me away from the trees and show me the forest.

Happy birthday Mom!! Thank you for being one of the quiet, still voices that speaks to me in the many storms of my life.

In the Bleak Mid-winter

This hymn is rapidly becoming one of my favorite hymns. And ever since I found this video on YouTube, this rendition is my favorite rendition. It is not a hymn I grew up singing or hearing much. There is just something sublime about hearing this in an English cathedral, with an English boys choir.

In the bleak mid-winter / Frosty wind made moan, / Earth stood hard as iron, / Water like a stone;/ Snow had fallen, snow on snow,/ Snow on snow, / In the bleak mid-winter / Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him / Nor earth sustain; / Heaven and earth shall flee away / When He comes to reign: / In the bleak mid-winter / A stable-place sufficed / The Lord God Almighty, / Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim / Worship night and day, / A breastful of milk / And a mangerful of hay; / Enough for Him, whom angels / Fall down before, / The ox and ass and camel / Which adore.

Angels and archangels / May have gathered there, / Cherubim and seraphim / Thronged the air, / But only His mother / In her maiden bliss, / Worshipped the Beloved / With a kiss.

What can I give Him, / Poor as I am? / If I were a shepherd / I would bring a lamb, / If I were a wise man / I would do my part, / Yet what I can I give Him, / Give my heart.

I wish all my family and friends a very Merry Christmas! I hope you take the time in the midst of the final hustle and bustle of shopping, cookie baking, meal prep, football games, eating, sleeping, tacky light touring and parties to “ponder” what all the fuss is about.

Taz’s Lessons on Advent

ad·vent
[ad-vent]

noun
1.
a coming into place, view, or being; arrival: the advent of the holiday season.

2.
( usually initial capital letter ) the coming of Christ into the world.

3.
( initial capital letter ) the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world.

Taz Advent

This is my dog, Taz. Taz is 9 months old. This is one of his morning rituals since we brought him home as an 8 week old pup. He is sitting at the top of the back deck stairs, taking in the world. It is the first thing in the morning, I have just let him out for his morning wakeup bathroom break. He doesn’t race down to the yard and take care of business right away. Sometimes, well, often times, I sit next to him in this moment. We have just gotten up and moving, he is smelling the air, looking for the neighbor’s dog Callie, listening to the birds awaken and begin their serenades, often he watches the small planes as they begin their ascent from the small general aviation airport nearby. Today he was mesmerized by a small gaggle of Canada geese, flying in V formation, honking as they pass by.

As it is now December, my thoughts are upon Advent, getting out the Christmas decorations, making through another holiday season at work. This morning I was reminded of what has become one of my favorite verses of Scripture, especially at this time of year.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Luke 2:15-19

Verse 19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” I also love to ponder. Apparently, I now have a dog that loves to ponder too. What do you need to ponder? Take some time and let it wash over you.

Wrestling Match – Part 2

“So often I find myself wrestling my faith. I feel on the fringes of Christianity. I don’t think Abortion is an open-shut case, I feel like Homosexuality is no more grave than any of my own sins. I don’t care is the rapture is pre or post-tribulation. I don’t care to believe that my all loving God would condemn billions of people to Hell for simply believing in a God with a different name. I refuse to judge others and teach a turn or burn theology… I question the need for anything besides a core doctrine of Jesus and love.
I call myself a Christ follower, but yet when I look around at others who identify the same, I often ask myself… Is this what I am? Do I belong to this collective?”

Last post, wow, over a month ago, I wrote about what I felt it means to be a Christian versus a “Christ-follower.” My basic premise in that post was that Christianity, or rather American evangelical Christianity, has lost focus of the sovereignty of God. Life isn’t about you or me, it’s about God. God has to be the center.

This time, I want to focus on an all loving God. Specifically, if God loves you and you don’t love Him back, is He required to allow you to live in His house forever?

“I don’t care to believe that my all loving God would condemn billions of people to Hell for simply believing in a God with a different name.”

What’s in a name? Every one of us has a name, it distinguishes us from other people, we respond to it when we hear it called out, we smile when people remember it, and we get frustrated and angry when we have to keep reminding people what our name is. When we tell a person our name several times in the same conversation and it’s obvious to us that the person to whom we are speaking to isn’t intent on remembering our name, we walk away from that conversation thinking that person obviously didn’t care about us; they weren’t investing themselves into us. Is God any different? Is He?

My name is Jim. My name is not Mark, nor Phillip, nor George. If you call me that, I will not respond because it is apparent to me that you aren’t talking to me. Is God any different? Praying to Buddha, Vishnu, Mohamed and Allah isn’t praying to God, the Father. Praying to Jehovah or Yahweh and denying the full Trinitarian revelation of Himself as Father, Son, Holy Spirit is also not praying to God. You are praying to a god, just not THE God that has totally revealed Himself in the New Testament. He has a name. It isn’t Buddha, Vishnu, Allah, or Baal. Jesus went a step further, he said he is the way, the truth, the life; no one comes to the Father except through him. Do you not see the exclusivity, the one way street, the narrow path? There is one God, with one name, with one way to him. We don’t get to find our own way as we see fit. You aren’t in charge, God is.

There is a book about Hell by John Blanchard titled Whatever Happened to Hell? We seem to have forgotten it. We don’t talk about it anymore. That’s funny, because Jesus talked about it, a lot. Of the 1870 verses in the New Testament spoken by Jesus, 13% are on judgment and Hell. He spoke on this topic more than any other, angels second, love third. Of the more than 40 parables that Jesus spoke, over half relate to eternal judgment. For those who get their God is love mantra from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked more directly about Hell in that sermon than anywhere else. Do you see the trend here?

Hell is a real place and those that refuse to bow the knee to Christ will come to know it very well. Some of those will be in your family; some of those will be in my family. And while that hurts to think about that, in the end there is no one without sin, no not one. We all deserve to go to Hell. It is by the unmerited grace of God alone that He chose those whom he chose to be his children and be with him in heaven forever. It is not man’s place to determine who deserves God’s favor. Have you read Romans 9 lately?

God doesn’t condemn billions of people to Hell “just for the Hell of it.” They all deserve to be there, we all deserve to be there. God is also a jealous God. Not the green-eyed monster, jealousy. He is the Creator of all things; he created mankind to have relationship with him. The church is called the bride of Christ. God wants his bride to be faithful to him. He doesn’t want to his bride to be unfaithful, to whore herself to whoever will have her. Humanity’s problem, again, is one of sovereignty. Our problem isn’t that we don’t know if God exists. Our problem is that we don’t care for the God we know exists. We don’t like his rules, we don’t like how he wants us to worship him, and we don’t like it that because he is perfect and holy, that he requires us to be perfect and holy. We would much rather take it easy and live how we want, we would much rather be entertained and feel good rather than have our consciences pricked and sins exposed.

To Walk on Fertile Ground

This morning I was listening to a podcast by Michael Hyatt, a marketing consultant, former publishing executive, and public speaker. His podcast is titled “Why You—Yes, YOU!—Should Consider Writing a Book [Podcast]” . I am in no way announcing that I am going to write a book! (yet) It did make me think about my worderful cousin, Kristi Brown, who has written a book, To Walk on Fertile Ground, which you can order right now on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Walk-Fertile-Ground-Kristi-Brown/dp/1419695487

She also is a wonderful writer and blogs here.

She doesn’t know I am doing this for her. I didn’t know I was doing this for her until a few minutes ago. Maybe it’s because of this and how her team lost badly and my team triumphed this past weekend:

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Wrestling Match – Part 1

“So often i find myself wrestling my faith. I feel on the fringes of Christianity. I don’t think Abortion is an open-shut case, I feel like Homosexuality is no more grave than any of my own sins. I don’t care is the rapture is pre or post-tribulation. I don’t care to believe that my all loving God would condemn billions of people to Hell for simply believing in a God with a different name. I refuse to judge others and teach a turn or burn theology.. I question the need for anything besides a core doctrine of Jesus and love.
I call myself a Christ follower, but yet when i look around at others who identify the same, I often ask myself.. Is this what I am? Do I belong to this collective?”

I was on a message board the other night and this statement was posted. My immediate reaction was to respond with a long polemical post. After spending over 3 hours trying to wordsmith my thought vomit, I decided that I would do more harm than good to respond to this post. I have come to dread this kind of thinking, and my intention, even here, is to correct this in Christian love. I will be working from the end of this statement towards the beginning, hopefully you’ll understand why by the end of this. This is the first post of several on this, I hope you will stay with me to the end.

I have a very high view of God and who He is. For me, who God is has to be the first lens that I look at something through. Who man is, who Christ is, what sin is, end times, all are secondary lenses not the primary lens. My source documents for my view come from the Bible, not my experiences, not my feelings of who I think God ought to be. I believe that the Bible is the word of God, divinely inspired then transcribed by men. Therefore, it is inerrant, without error – it doesn’t contradict itself, and infallible, it is trustworthy and sure – the truths within it cannot change, they are true, always. It is my contention then that the entire Bible is important in discovering who God is.
As Christians, it is wrong to place our emphasis on living our lives out of only the New Testament, the Christian parts. It is even more wrong-headed to only trust the “red words” because those are the words of Christ. We Christians are “Gentiles,” not Jews. So it is true that we are not saved through adherence to the Law, but by grace. However, in order to understand that grace, it is important to know where God is coming from. God reveals himself fully in the Old Testament.

God created the earth and all that is in it. Why, is another post for another day. God created man and woman and the only restriction he placed on them was not to eat from 2 trees, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We couldn’t follow this simple request. We are still committing the sin that Adam and Eve did in the Garden. That sin is thinking we can be like God, we can do this on our own terms, in our own way. There are several instances, almost a constant drum beat, in the Old Testament where God calls Israel “a stiff-necked people.” We refuse to submit our will, to the will of God. We refuse to lower our heads in submission to our Creator, instead we shake our fists at him and demand he submit himself to us.

As for having anything other than a core doctrine of Jesus and love, Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry confronting the scribes and Pharisees. His doctrine was the whole word of God. His love was pretty much a tough love. Using his knowledge of the Scriptures he refuted the Pharisees and teachers of the law again and again. Judging isn’t a bad thing. Being a Pharisee or a fundamentalist and holding others to an extra-biblical standard is a bad thing. Correcting a believer on their sin in private, in order to bring them back into the Christian walk isn’t a bad thing, see Matthew 18:15-17. Being on the receiving end of said correction isn’t sunshine and lollipops, but knowing it is done by someone who cares about your spiritual welfare should ultimately feel like love.

Maybe before we demand so much from God, we should read the instruction manual and see what is required of us.

Join me next time when will all go to Hell, maybe even in a handbasket. Afterall, the way there is paved with good intentions.

On Being Eeyore

Every couple has pet names for each other. One of my wife’s farvorite names for me is Eeyore. And before you go getting all offended over how callous that sounds, she is right. The state of mind I live in is much like A.A. Milne’s description of Eeyore’s home in the Hundred Acre Wood, Eeyore’s Gloomy Place – Rather Boggy and Sad.

 photo WinniethePooh.jpg

I don’t know why I have chosen this gloomy, rather boggy and sad place to live. But, here I am, in classic Eeyore monotone saying “I’ll never amount to anything, this is as good as it gets for me.” “It doesn’t matter what I do, no one cares what a gloomy old donkey has to say.”

And yet, here I am on a blog telling people what it feels like to live with depression. I have depression, I have no doubts. What I don’t have is the good sense to get the treatment to fix it. It’s a fear thing, it’s listening to that little voice in the back of my head that says “If you go to the doctor and he gives you a pill to fix your brain chemistry, you will never be able to stop taking that pill, because really, you aren’t sick, you’re just weak.”And,”All you really need to do is quit moping around and do something with your life. You are depressed because you want to be depressed, you are playing the “Woe is me” martyr card.”

I am finding out a lot about those voices. “OK, Jim, what are the voices telling you?” – the orderly at the mental ward asks. Just kidding. Jon Acuff, in his book Start talks a lot about how fear is one of those voices. Fear tells us that life is safer living in average, fear tells us that any new venture we set out on must be accomplished with perfection and mastery of the task, fear tells us that we are the only one who has these thoughts and doubts, don’t risk it, you’ll just get hurt. The truth is, and I am finding it to be more and more true, I am not alone. There are a lot of people with far worse situations, my fears and insecurities pale in comparison to some. Humans aren’t perfect, no one learned to ride a bike without skinning his knees more than once. Figure out what you did wrong and try again. A turtle moves slow, but he never gets anywhere without sticking his neck out.

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