5 Months in the Mirror

My friend Larry and I had breakfast yesterday. Without question, that conversation always includes sports and politics. But since being able to meet again after COVID lockdown, the conversation is more about what we’re observing and experiencing through these unusual times.

One thing we both agreed on: who people are is being exposed. 

  • If they are go-getters, they are still getting it. They may have to do it differently, but they are still going, still getting.
  • If they are glass-half-emptyites, they are having a hard time even picking up the cup.
  • If they are people people, they are figuring out how to stay engaged and connected.
  • If they are get-by-with-as-little-work-as-possible apostles, they may never vote to come back to an environment built on responsibility.

A reference was made that we’ve all been forced to look in the mirror. Some are fine with what they saw because they were already, for the most part, used to looking in the mirror and making adjustments. Others, well, they were taken back by what they saw. So they had a choice to make-which is the reality we all have when we look in the mirror. And good on us when we choose to do something, make adjustments, with the stuff we observe that needs improvement.

Larry stopped shocking me years ago; however, when he started a sentence with,”My favorite Michael Jackson song,” I thought he might be showing his first symptom of a new virus strand. When I let him continue, he made a good connection. 


So after five months of looking in the mirror, what are you doing with what you see? What conversations are you and God having about what you are both seeing?

Mountain Climbing State of Mind

Two weeks ago I completed a 14er. That’s what Coloradans call hiking one of their mountains that has an elevation over 14k feet. Not an easy feat for this Floridian. In order to get to the top, I employed several mind games; some worth sharing, others are none of your business. I roleplayed being novel characters, rewrote song lyrics, and said “Lord, have mercy” the most ever in one day. And my friend Danny, who suckered me into this adventure, witnessed it all. Well, most of it. (at the base) Danny is a native. Pretty disgusting how easy this was for him (some of that none of your business mind games). And he’s a Cubs fan. Seriously-who needs enemies with friends like Danny? All the way up and all the way down, Danny looked out for me. Sometimes right by my side, but most of the time yards ahead, usually within eyesight. It didn’t really matter, though, where he was. Knowing he was there somewhere was enough. I never felt abandoned. Not by Danny. Maybe by my lungs, but not by my friend, guide, encourager. I didn’t always have my eyes on him, but I knew he was around. (Danny capturing me ascending) If we humans can do that for each other, imagine the depth that God can. 
  • He’s everywhere simultaneously. He’s by my side, up trail, at the peak, and back in the parking lot, all at the same time.
  • He’s communicating constantly. Listening to my jokes, my whining, my singing, my doubting, my spoken and unspoken thoughts, and responding compassionately.
If anyone’s native, it’s God. Been around forever. Witnessing our everything. Created all those humans hiking up the mountain he spoke into being. Wise and discerning to give us Dannys. Whatever adventure he invites us on, the answer should be “yes.” You might call it a mountain climbing state of mind. (from the peak)

He’s Not the Dry Cleaner

I picked up my dry cleaning yesterday. It was actually two separate tickets, so that says something about the lack of urgency of my dry cleaning routine. When they say, “It’ll be ready tomorrow by five,” I courteously reply with thanks. If I wanted to reply in kind I’d say, “No rush. See you in a few weeks.”

There is the rare occasion when I realize I need something that quick. A wedding or funeral demands a quicker pickup. So I’m more in the “I’ll see you then” mode.  I’m in need, and I’m expecting them to deliver.

If we aren’t paying attention, we can treat God like the dry cleaner. We pull up in the drive-thru lane, drop off our needs, say thanks, and go about our day without much urgency.  No big deal. Unless it’s that rare occasion. Then we might actually be more demanding of him than we are the dry cleaner.

To be clear, He isn’t the dry cleaner.

He doesn’t say, “You tell me when you need it, and I’ll get right on that.” He’s not a business owner needing your business in order to keep the doors open. He’s not in the business of keeping you satisfied.

But here’s a question: What about those desperate times when you are truly in need of support, or connection, or at least an acknowledgment that He’s there? We understand in that moment He isn’t going to completely solve our issue, but can He at least let us know He’s on the job.  We aren’t an irate customer; more like a hurting son or daughter.

Recently I found myself torn between treating him like the dry cleaner, fully knowing He isn’t, and like my heavenly Father.  I won’t share all the dialogue, but suffice it to say it was more than a short conversation in the drive-thru.

And what He did was what He promises to do. He heard my cry.  He didn’t totally solve my issue, but He gave me what I needed to get back on the road.  His answer to my question, “What are you doing?” was, “Whatever it is, I’ll give you the strength for it.”

And that was enough-especially when I stopped acting like His customer and more like His child.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt

Justice Must Be Foundational

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; faithful love and truth go before you. Psalms 89:14 CSB
This week I along with some friends completed a youversion reading plan by Dr. Tony Evans answering the question “What is Biblical Justice.”  A couple of thoughts stood out to me:
  • There is no clear and right definition of justice that excludes God.
  • Biblical justice encourages freedom through affirming accountability, equality, and responsibility by linking the spiritual to the social realm.
The last devotional referenced this verse from Psalm 89. I’ve read it many times over the years, but never has its words been more powerful than when considering the topic of justice. The imagery of the throne of God being built on a foundation of justice is transformational. Before fulfilling his mission for which he left that throne, Jesus gifted one last act of justice by caring for the repentant thief, this while dying unjustly. That’s justice found in one’s foundation. As a citizen of God’s kingdom, I must align myself with that foundation. In order for the King to reign in my heart, mind, and soul, justice must be sought and preserved. That’s possible if it’s in my foundation. Photo Credit: Unsplash/Mirko Blicke

Straight Paths

“In all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:6 CSB
https://bible.com/bible/1713/pro.3.6.CSB

Often when praying for others, I ask God to make their paths straight. Other translations read that God will keep you on track or show you which way to go.

This blessing from God is preceded by knowing him in all our ways. Other ways to say that is to seek his will, to submit to him, and to listen to his voice.

How could this play out?

  • Listen for his direction about financial planning (purchases, saving, investing, charity)
  • Submit to his ways in honoring others (family, leaders)
  • Seek his wisdom and place it above anyone else’s (otherwise, you’re letting someone else determine your path)

Praying this for others clears the way for the start of their path. Interestingly, it also challenges me to do the same for myself.

Here’s to straight paths!

Repentance and Pride

You will never be done with repentance.

Did that quote get your attention? It did mine. It’s the first sentence of chapter 30 of Joe Thorn’s Note to Self, his book of 48 notes to preach to yourself.


It may be the best devotional I’ve read about repentance. Here’s more to explain why:

Repentance is both an attitude and an action. It will be helpful to think of repentance in three parts: revulsion, resolution, and repetition.

Revulsion is finding something offensive or distasteful. Revulsion will come only when you see the holy, just, and good character of God in contrast to yourself.

Resolution is purposing to walk in righteousness, delighting in God’s law, laying off the old self, and walking in newness of life.

Repetition is the ongoing nature of this work. Without repetition, it is all for nothing; for as long as you continue to sin, you need to repent.

Helpful, right? And because of the truth of that note, Note #34 entitled “You are Proud” demands sharing. Why? Because we all are prone to it and thus need to practice repentance of it. Thorn suggests that we struggle with pride because of comparing ourselves to others and because we disregard the work God is doing in our lives.

Pride is why you rage, lust, covet, steal, and lie. You do these things because you believe you deserve what you don’t have. This kind of pride denies God and others the place they should have in your life.

You must see yourself as you really are-creature, not Creator; sinful, not righteous; undeserving, not deserving; dependent, not independent; made for his glory, not for your own. And you must know God as holy, just, good, gracious, and merciful, who saves all who trust in him, and not in themselves. This is the theology that erodes pride, builds humility, and produces joy.

These two notes on repentance and pride have great content for self-preaching. I encourage you to get the book to hear the other 46.

Invitation’s Power

Recently someone shared how being included in an invite to a Bible reading plan on YouVersion had impacted them.

I grew a lot from being part of those groups.  Because I haven’t been able to attend church since October since I started working Sundays, being asked to be a part of a group reading plan meant a lot to me and gave me a way to grow and to stay connected.

Hearing that was great. But it also convicted me. Here’s why.

I’ve gotten so used to inviting folks to things that when I heard my friend say this I realized that I had lost appreciation of a simple invitation’s impact. Invitations carry power.

  • The Power of Worth – “I believe you belong.”
  • The Power of Inclusion – “I want to include you.”
  • The Power of Remembrance – “I thought about you.”
  • The Power of Value – “I think you have something to contribute.”
  • The Power of Connection – “I would like to stay in contact with you.”
  • The Power of Observation – “I realize this might be something you‘d like.”

We’ve all been on the receiving end of an invitation. We can relate to its power as a receiver. What if we balanced the power by extending invitations?

  • Want to go to lunch?
  • Want to go to a movie?
  • Want to join my _______ group?
  • Want to bring your family over?
  • Want to discuss what’s on your mind?
  • Will you be my guest?

These days we may feel powerless. I’m guessing this is a simple way to exercise personal power that we still own.

What invitation power could you share before the end of this day?

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Kate Macate

“Self,…”

Fear is exhausting. Well, at least misplaced fear can be. Proper fear can actually provide joy and comfort.

Several people have commented how that in spite of being slowed down since March they still feel tired, maybe even more so. Perhaps fear is to blame.

I started a new book this afternoon, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn. His book contains 48 devotionals written as notes to “Self,” reminders of what you know based on Scripture. Note #3, entitled “Fear,” includes these thoughts:

Worldly fear will lead you to toe party lines, compel you to try to live a safe life, and lead you to so prize the good gifts of God that they mutate into idols.

Your possessions can go up in flames, but you have treasure in heaven and stand to inherit the kingdom. Your reputation may be sullied, but you are justified in Jesus. You may be rejected by those who you admire, but you are accepted by God. You may be hated, but your Father in heaven loves you with an undying love.

The fear you need to maintain and cultivate is a fear of God, for in it you will discover wisdom and develop strength that enables you to persevere in faith to the end.

Somewhere in those reminders may you find rest from fear, whether you’re fighting your own or burdened by other’s.

What if you wrote your own note to self? What reminders would it include?

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Melanie Wasser

3 Things That Matter

In this read of Ravi Zacharias’s The Grand Weaver, three things stood out to me. They, like all eight chapters in the book, discuss what matters.


Your disappointments matter

In chapter two, he wrote this about the end of life:

One of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender.

He looks at the lives of David, Job, and Habakkuk to illustrate the importance of communion with God to carry us through pain, to make us “tender by that which makes the heart of God tender.” God’s presence is more essential than answers.

Your calling matters

In chapter three, these three statements can breathe life into any searcher:

When your will becomes aligned with God’s will, his calling upon you has found its home.

God often reinforces our faith after we trust him, not before.

No follower of Christ does secular work.  We all have a sacred calling.

Your worship matters

Chapter eight may be the best chapter you’ll ever read about worship. In it, he discusses the five main components of worship taken from the book of Acts: the Lord’s Supper, teaching, prayer, praise, and giving. This line speaks deeply to why worship matters:

When worship and praise lose their focus and purpose, the finite finds the Infinite boring and the creature finds the Creator insufficient.

Tenderness matters.  Trust matters.  Worship matters.

“Have Some Tortellini!”

Yesterday morning a group of our church leaders shared what we’ve learned from the last 13 weeks since we were forced to respond to COVID-19. It was helpful for us to share with one another. In the spirit of sharing, here’s something I learned, maybe was reminded about last week while in the grocery store.

A while back I came across this brand of chicken salad in the deli that I now consider a staple. It’s an every-other-trip-to-the-store item. So as I headed to the shelf where my tub waited for me, another staple-finder beat me. He stopped right in front of my chicken salad. No big deal. What’s a few seconds to wait?

Well, he needed more than a few seconds. So you know, I rarely need more than a few seconds on any aisle in the store. I was getting a little irked waiting, but keeping my cool and my distance. I told myself, “Take a look around right where you are. If nothing else, distract yourself. Maybe there’s something here worth trying.”

One of my favorite pastas is tortellini. You can stuff them with just about anything, and I’ll pass you my bowl. Oddly though, I don’t buy it to make at home. It’s not a staple, more of a restaurant-only choice.

So…guess what I discovered after listening to myself. Yep, deli tortellini that I’ve walked by dozens of times…clueless and unfulfilled. (Yes, that’s over dramatic.) I had stopped right in front of it, but only because I was forced to.

What did I learn in the deli? Waiting has benefits.

  • Respecting others
  • Looking and learning
  • Seeing what you’ve missed
  • Discovering a new routine or staple
  • God may smile on you with a surprise…”Good job, waiting! Have some tortellini!”

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Izzy Boscawen