Tag Archive: Hope


We were driving to Maryland a few weeks back.  Since the family doesn’t care for my eclectic choice of music, I put the ear buds in and turned them up.  A few minutes in, one of my favorite groups, Carbon Leaf, was shuffled in.  It was “Life Less Ordinary.”  I sat back in the seat and enjoyed the ballad.  

Suddenly, my eyes popped open.  The line “live a life less ordinary, live a life extraordinary with me,” woke me from my long journey funk. While the song is talking about a human relationship, this line was like God was speaking.  

Often we as Christians try to figure out how to live a life with the least amount of disruption possible.  We kind of drag God along with us.  After a while of “ordinary” life, we begin to doubt the greatness of our God.  This allows thoughts and philosophies of this world to invade not only our daily function but our practical theology as well.  It ends up being an ordinary life that happens to hope Jesus is for real.

Open the Bible.  Seriously.  Open the Bible.  Every time God shows up there is no such thing as an ordinary life.  It’s full of crazy stories where man is always getting himself in trouble.  Why?  We weren’t made to be ordinary, and when God isn’t in our life, we will do all sorts of things seeking the extraordinary.  Did you catch the last word of the last sentence?  It’s the combination of two words, extra and ordinary.  We are made for the fantastic, wonderful, and not-so- predictable life with God. 

How ordinary was it for God to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden?  How ordinary was it for Abraham to abandon the security of family and, by God’s command, travel (not by car, bus or plane) to what we now know as Israel?  How ordinary was it for a young David to pick up a few stones and slay Goliath as he boasted his invincibility?  Was it ordinary for Joseph to go from shepherd boy to 2nd in command of Egypt and then forgive his abusive brothers to redeem his family?  Let’s go fast forward.  Was it ordinary for the disciples to drop their nets and life to follow Jesus?  Was it ordinary for Paul to abandon his beliefs to follow Jesus after he got knocked off his ride?  Was it ordinary as the women came to the tomb to find it empty?  Every time God shows up, life immediately goes to extraordinary!  An exclamation point doesn’t do the word justice.  

Here we are entering 2020.  I meet so many fellow believers who have no plans at all, even for an ordinary life.  They are struggling to survive the day, and others are waiting to leave this world since th- cultural shift has left them feeling disconnected.  They fear.  They live disappointed dream busted lives.  There is a lessening sense of purpose and hope.  The ordinary is swallowing them.  

We recently celebrated Christmas.  In Luke chapter 1 we have the angel Gabriel coming to the virgin Mary and announcing she would give birth to Jesus.  How ordinary was that one?  She questioned Gabriel as we all would have.  Gabriel gives her a response that remains true to this day.  He said, “Nothing is impossible.”  Hold on for a minute.  That is not Gabriel’s total response.  He actually said, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  

Ordinary leaves us thinking, believing, and functioning without the amazing.  We pray with no power. We wake up dreading the day.  The past holds us in it’s clutches, telling us there is no extraordinary and impossible.  Live a life for Christ?  Why?  

We tend to not have a life less ordinary as we cling to the ordinary.  As believers, we aren’t made for the hum drum anymore.   The vanilla, gray, mediocre life is for those who are not called by God to not just believe but to follow.  It gets scary to follow.  The ordinary talks to us.  We all hear it.  “God wouldn’t call me to do that?”  “You can’t.”  “God wants you to be comfortable.”  “It’s too late.”  “You are not skilled, talented or educated enough.”  “Live a life ordinary.”

This week we begin a new year and a new decade.  Maybe you are thinking about goals to achieve in the next 365 days.  Maybe you are thinking about the next decade and what there is to achieve in the next 10 years.  They will come plenty fast enough.  Join me.  I don’t want to spend the next 365 to 3,650 living a life defined by the ordinary.  I thirst for the impossible.  The only way to shake out of the ordinary is to have the response Mary gave Gabriel.  She said, “Behold I am a servant of the Lord….”  Her life was not so ordinary after she placed herself in position to serve the Lord God Almighty.  Interested?  I’am.  

The driver was not happy.  He hadn’t been happy for a long time.  The flat tire on the rear of his truck short circuited his plans.  As he approached the Chesapeake Bay Bridge the blow out would need to be changed.  Little did he know his plans were going to change more than the left rear tire.

He pulled to the side of the road.  For a few minutes he had to think where the jack might be and how the spare tire could be lowered.  It had been a long time since he had to use either one of them.  He was startled when a man knocked on his window.  He didn’t see the other pickup stop behind him.  “Do you need some help?” the Good Samaritan asked.  

He needed help, that’s for sure.  They looked for the jack and couldn’t find one.  He had no idea his son had changed a tire months before and left the jack in the garage.   Not only that, but his spare tire was flat as well.   His son didn’t tell him he never fixed the tire.

The Good Samaritan asked if he would like a ride.  He may as well.  His plans were totally disrupted.  Since they were already on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge approach, there was only one way to go…over to the main land.  About half way across, the disgruntled traveler looked longingly at the water below.  “Would you like to grab some coffee on the other side?” the gracious driver asked.  With little words to spare, he muttered, “Sure, why not?”

Once over the Bay Bridge, they found a local coffee shop waiting for weary travelers needing a cup of brew.   The driver noticed the seemingly weary man was not in a hurry to get a tow truck.  In fact, he was brooding over everything including ,his cup of hot coffee.  The Good Samaritan now turned into a potential friend when he asked, “Is there something you would like to talk about? You seem to have a lot on your mind.”  Again, he received the answer, “Sure, why not?”

After approximately two hours as they talked, the truth was revealed.  The weary and disgruntled man was driving to the top of the bridge to jump off and end his life.  His family was in disarray, and not much had gone right for some time.  His new friend told him his profession, “I’m a pastor of a church on the Eastern Shore.”  At this point, there was only one way to go.  “Do you mind if I tell you about the hope I have found?” he asked.  “Sure, why not?”

The Good Samaritan told his story.  It was a sad story at first.  Premature deaths, trouble with alcohol, and plenty more to send anyones life into a tailspin.  “But,” and there is the best word in the Bible.  But, Jesus had other plans.  After hearing his story, the weary traveler wanted to know more about Jesus.  To make a long story short, after about 5 hours together, he decided to follow Jesus.  

So, why did I tell you this story?  The pastor who stopped to help a man in need had a history of stopping his own life to engage others.  He had the reputation for looking around and reading people.  This was not his first flat tire engagement and it won’t be his last.  This would not be his only weary traveler on the road of life.  He saw them as people who needed to meet the One who promised life.  He also happened to be the pastor of the fastest growing church on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  

I was having breakfast this week with a good friend who is also a local pastor.  We had asked the waitress last month how we could pray for her.  She replied, “My son needs prayer.”  She didn’t give details.  This month another waitress we asked said she was going through a divorce and asked prayer not only for herself but for her soon to be ex-husband.  A few minutes later, the waitress from last month stopped by.  She asked us to continue to pray for her son.  He has a drug abuse issue.  Both the son and the mother needed prayer.  They got it.  

We talk about the demise of the modern day church.  We are pulling all the stops out in the book from shorter services, song selections, and programs upon programs.  We are looking in the wrong place.  Look outward.  

My friend commented how easy it was for the hurting waitresses to share their short stories.  “Hurting people are everywhere,” he languished.  Yes, they are.  They are in church pews every Sunday.  Only they have become conditioned to hide and avoid their pain.  

Jesus came across a lot of suffering people.  He didn’t hide in his office.  He didn’t make excuses such as, “I’m not here for that.”  No, he touched people all the way to the cross even giving hope to one who was on a cross right next to him. 

The main reason for the demise of the modern day Christian church is the inward attention trying to make comfortable people happy.  Instead, it’s time to change a spare tire, talk to a waitress, and get our heads up looking for those who can’t find a high enough bridge.  The gospel is good news.   When we look outward instead of inward we can see others.  They are looking for an answer.

Sometime I wonder what God thinks?  I know that is quite impossible to figure out what God is thinking.  Isaiah told us His thoughts are not our thoughts.  We are so limited.  However, as my mind wanders the far spaces of time I wonder what God thinks about technology, the current state of the church, my thoughts (how few there are at times), our culture, as well as our lack of culture.  The list could go on.  Maybe I’m going crazy.  

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about the Internet?  It can be such a wonderful means of communication and information processing.  On the other hand, it can lead us down a dark, dark path.  The ability to read this article as a blog post allows readers to never have to go out and get the newspaper in their bare feet.  Amazing if you think about it.  My guess is God gave us the ability to create it.  It remains the heart of the user that is the issue.  

I wonder what God thinks about air conditioning and garage door openers.  Yup, I’m really losing it now.  Before these great technological advances, we sat on the porch in the cool of the evening or left the widows wide open for a little breeze.  Once the night air began to change, the window fan sucked all the fresh air through the house.  In the process, during the open window age, we heard our neighbors.  We spoke with our neighbors.  We knew our neighbors and, probably, a little more than we liked.  Once the air conditioner came along, we no longer heard our neighbors and don’t talk with them either. 

The garage door opener allows us to get in and out of our car without going outside. Actually  I’m not sure that is possible here in the Lowcountry.  Garages have become our basements.  The cars are outside.  But, you get the point.  Our castle became a little more secure and if we want to, we can isolate ourselves a little bit more.  I wonder what God thinks about our isolation from a real neighbor but our tendency to allow a stranger to greatly influence our lives through a computer screen.  My guess is that, it remains the heart of the user once again.  If we care for our neighbor, AC and garage door openers will not separate us.

I wonder that God thinks about our relativistic, consumer driven, critical, narcissistic culture. That one isn’t too hard.  We like to think our culture is unique to Americans and our current place in history.  Wrong!  King Solomon, in all his wisdom, said, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  He was correct.  In the book of Judges it says, “Man did what was right in the sight of his own eyes.”  That fits relativism and the narcissism running the day.  All we did was label things.  Man has always wanted to be God.  That’s the curse.  We should be an extremely thankful people since God loves his man creation and set forth to redeem us.  His thoughts are wrapped in his love and grace.  

So, last of all, I wonder what God thinks about the current state of the church.  There will be many disagreements on this one I’m sure.  When over 50% of American churches hold to some form of health and wealth, prosperity teaching, the state of the church is far from healthy.  When pastors’ and priests’ evil sexual issues are brought to light, the church has serious issues.  It has been said that once the church responds poorly to a major cultural issue, such as sex abuse and harassment, the church has lost it’s ability to be heard due to its image being tarnished.  To quote a famous line, “Houston, we have a problem.”  Actually Apollo 13 had a huge problem.  It was only by the grace of God and men and women who worked overtime that it made it back.  

That is our hope as well.   The hope is not just to survive.  The hope is to see Christ in all His splendor and love.  The hope is to humbly love and express the grace of God to others beyond our computers, air conditioning, garage doors, self-consumed thinking and sin.  That is our hope in Christ.  It’s not what church we go to on Sunday morning.  It’s how we live the rest of the time.  That defines our heart.  It remains the heart of each person that consumes the thoughts of God. 

This week, yes the week before Easter, has been a rough one. Overall I’m fine and I don’t mean “Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.” While some would say I’m probably one or more of these, none are over the top. It probably has something to do with the Holy Week and Easter being right around the corner.
Easter is supposed to be the celebration that brings hope to our hopelessness. It is to be the pinnacle to a season of reflection about our weaknesses and failures. Jesus conquering death, slapping the evil forces in the face with his resurrection, is to inspire and move believers to life. But for some reason I have been reminded that good news of the resurrection is not always perceived in such a way.
Here we are going to talk about life beyond the grave. Explain that to a 6 year old who stayed up all night with his sick guinea pig only to have it die the next morning. He doesn’t necessarily understand the abstract spiritual life. He has to process that his guinea pig that he loved and only had for one month is dead.
Then the phone rings and you find out a friend from your past at the age of 35 had pneumonia, passed a blood clot and died. Spiritual talk, Bible verses and trite sayings don’t necessarily sooth the mourning soul. Proverbs says “Don’t sing song to a heavy heart.” The author of that one got it right. Sometimes we just sit and ask God, “Why?” We probably won’t get an answer we don’t already know.
The pains and sorrow so life won’t go away this week. We remember the Holy Week for the sufferings Jesus went through to pour out his grace upon mankind. I agree 100%. It is soothing to the soul to know the God I put my rest upon understands the thoughts and feelings that plague us.
A reader sent me an email a few weeks ago. He was talking about the hurt in his life. As I sit this morning trying to be encouraged in the resurrection of our Lord the song he sent to me in his email hits home. It’s the song, Grace by Rachel Platten. I’m not ready to have someone screaming at me “He is Risen” Sunday morning expecting the response “He is risen indeed.” Instead we need the soft voice of a Savior who says “my grace is sufficient.”
There is not enough space to publish the words of the entire song. It can be found on Youtube. Consider a few words:
Is this what I’ve become? Someone who gets jealous of someone?
Instead of open arms and honest praise, I’m closing doors and pushing love away
When did I come undone? When did the colors of my canvas start to run?
I can’t control the teardrops on my face, I know this ain’t the girl my mother raised
I used to wear love like an army I used to know nothing could harm me
Now fear got up all in my head, I’m all in my head, And I made a mess, I confess, I’m ashamed
Chorus: And I need grace To step inside my mind, help me be a better person
Or at least a better version of me, ’Cause right now, all I wanna do is scream
That I need grace,’Cause I’m running low on faith
And I really wanna change my heart,’Cause I’m falling apart these days
And what I really need is grace,Watching over my mistakes
Yeah I really wanna change my heart,’Cause I’m falling apart these days
And what I really need is grace.
Thank you Paul for sharing your cry for God’s gift of grace.
This Sunday, Easter Sunday, I don’t necessarily remember the resurrection so I can sit around and wait to die and go to heaven. I remember the resurrection this year as a sign of the hope I have in Jesus and the pouring out of his grace when my faith is weak and as Rachel sang, “I made a mess and I’m ashamed.”
Now, I can softly say, “He is risen.”