Between Jack Daniels and Jesus

Every year in April, our church hosts the annual Blessing of the Bikes.  It’s an event that started when 4 bikers from the church approached the pastor with an idea to bring their friends to church. The first year, there were 162 bikes, and our town wondered what in the world was going on as they all rolled through.  Over the years, that event has blossomed and is very well-known in the area.  Our town actually sends the Mayor and emergency workers now, and even shuts down traffic for a while, to allow the event to be held.  It’s a completely free event, because, in the words of our pastor, “so is a gift of salvation”.   This year, on the 20th anniversary, we estimated approximately 15,000 bikes piled in – to our parking lot, and the adjacent streets, and the parking lots along the highway.  Figuring many bikes had 2 riders, we’d say there were A LOT of people who turned out for the event.  For the past 13 years, I have had the privilege of participating in the music for the service.   This year, our good friend Dave Smith, sang a song called “Jack Daniels & Jesus”.   I’m pretty sure there wasn’t another church in the country that sang that song on Sunday.

(By the way, I think there’s a message in here somewhere about starting a “movement” – it doesn’t take something BIG to make something BIG – it just requires someone to dream it and make it reality).

I am watching life unfold for several young adults – some of them are making some very good life decisions, and some of them are making some incredibly bad life decisions, some of them very, very public, and some of them very private.   My heart breaks.   In almost all of the cases, I say to myself, (and I’ve heard their parents say), “but they were raised differently than that”   and then I remember the words, “somewhere between Jack Daniels and Jesus” and remembered that we’re really ALL somewhere on that journey.   I haven’t had Jack Daniels in over 30 years.  One REALLY BAD experience with it all those years ago, and I can’t even smell the stuff to this day…. And I was raised differently than that…. Still, I made some poor life choices along the way – hopefully, ones that I have learned from, and that have made me stronger.  By the grace of God alone, He brought me through those poor choices and gave me a second chance, or maybe a third and fourth.   And, by the grace of God, He will bring those folks through their choices as well, allowing U-turns to correct their course.   Pray for them, will ya?

 

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Thoughts and prayers

I read a tweet shortly after the reports of the mass shooting in a church near San Antonio, that said, “thoughts and prayers failed again.”  My heart is broken.

Did our thoughts and prayers fail?

I’ve spent evenings this weekend watching episodes of horrific real life stories on ID TV, which left me thinking about all of the evil that exists in the world.   Episode after episode, incredible stories of wives who murdered their husbands, boyfriends who murdered girlfriends, friends who murdered friends.  While I find the stories fascinating, I must admit that the sheer volume of stories of such violence is alarming.  These are only the ones they’ve publicized.  Our morning news is polluted with acts of violence. I can understand why someone could draw the conclusion that our prayers failed.

Just weeks after the Mandolay Bay shooting, once again the nation mourns a tragic mass shooting, this time in San Antonio.   We post photos on our Facebook profiles that say, “pray for San Antonio”.

The tweeter’s words are haunting.  Really haunting.  His words make it sound like God has failed us, that our prayers are futile. Have we become so calloused from continued exposure to such evil in our world that our words sound shallow?

Did our thoughts and prayers fail?

Is God turning a deaf ear to our prayers?  The Bible tells of growing evil in the last days.  Though we don’t know when it will be, the book of Revelation is clear that there will come a time that God will say enough is enough.  God is a just God.  However, God wishes that all would come to know Him.

Our message in church today was centered on 1 Corinthians 16:9 “because a great door had been opened and there will be many who oppose”.  As we do more of God’s will, we often face more adversity.  Conversely, in the face of adversity, there are often doors of opportunity to share our faith with others.

At the risk of sounding trite by saying “pray for San Antonio”, I know that the community is grieving this evening, just as the communities of Las Vegas, New York, Columbine, Paducah, South Carolina, Florida, and countless other communities who struggle to understand the evil that lurks among them.    Hard to understand, for sure.  We may never understand in this side of heaven the extent of hatred of the Evil One that permeates our world, but know this: your prayers are not futile, and they haven’t failed.

I will continue praying for the people who have endured evil in this world, that they may know the peace that passes understanding that comes only through our Lord  and Savior Jesus Christ!

I leave you with this challenge today:

As you listen to discussions around the water cooler this week,  keep you eyes opened for the doors of opportunity to open to share a time when God heard your prayers; not only heard them, but answered them; not only small ones, but big ones, too; perhaps even during a time of adversity when it seemed He wasn’t listening.

See, we are His witnesses.  A witness is someone who testified what they have seen.   As believers in Him, we have seen him answer prayers.  It is our duty not only to continue praying for a lost world, but to share with that world what He has done for us individually.

No, our thought and prayers have not failed. Let’s bless others this week with stories of how He has answered our prayers.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Restoration through Craigslist

I’ve mentioned before that one of my hobbies is buying things on Craigslist – I can’t really remember when it started, but probably a few years ago.  I think it started in the Goodwill  in our town– when my kids and I discovered that you can find a variety of awesomely vintage things there, really cheap – and it became a hotbed of project ideas for me.   My daughter tells me that it’s like I was holding my creativity in for so long that it’s all just kind of exploding now, like a kid with ADD. And I can’t finish a project without jumping in on something else – at least buying the raw materials, etc.

About a year ago, my mom told me that she wanted to get a new entertainment center for her tv… well, you know, people aren’t really using those much anymore, so they are plentiful on Craigslist – I said, “ooohh!  Give me a chance to find one for you on Craigslist”.   She said ok, but I think she thought I was crazy.   I got started right away, and it didn’t take me long to find an amazing oak entertainment center with these AWESOME claw feet on it.  It was located in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, which is kind of like a mini-vacation from where I live. Lol.   I contacted the owner and we made arrangements – it was the Thursday before Easter, and I had music rehearsal at church that evening, so I had to make the hour trip after work and get back in time for rehearsal (a tight squeeze, especially considering rush hour).   I asked for the dimensions of the furniture and measured my van, and thought it would be tight but would work.   I took a couple of screwdrivers with me, and a blanket, and set out on my trip.    I met the owner at her front door – a sweetheart of a girl, and together, we carried the entertainment center from her living room, out the front door, down the steps, and to the driveway where my van was parked.   I had all of the seats down, so we picked up the furniture and tried to put it in, and very quickly realized… it ain’t going.   We tried it several different ways, and I was thinking to myself, “oh my.. what will we do now? Do I have to carry it BACK into the house?  Make arrangements at a later time to come back with a truck??  What a bummer.   Just then, a guy in a truck stopped at the stop sign in front of her house and put his window down.  He asked if we needed help.   Normally, when someone asks me if I need help, my canned response is, “nah, I got it”.  Cuz I don’t really like to need help.   But I actually realized in this case, that I really DID need help.  ha.   So I just said, “yes, actually, I think we do”.    So he pulled over and got out – he was dressed in a fireman’s uniform – not the one they wear while fighting the fire – but their dressy one – he looked sharp.   He informed us he was just coming home from work, and was headed to his parent’s house for dinner.   (He looked to be mid-twenty’s, around the same age as the furniture owner).   After fiddling for a bit, he said, “you know, I think the feet have to come off”    (Ahhh, not the feet!   They were the whole reason I bought it).   “let’s look at how they come off”.   So we turned it upside down in her driveway, and, as it turned out, they were torq screws.  I had brought standard screwdrivers, but don’t’ even own a torq bit – neither did the owner.   So the firefighter says to us, “Are you going to be here for a while?”   (and really, where was I going to go?) “my house is just right over the hill, I can go home and get some tools”.    (Really?? He would do that??  how nice).  So, off he went, and the owner and I were standing there looking like damsels in distress.   We were laughing about the whole situation, and I said to her, “well, are you single?”   She said, “yes, actually I am, hahah”  and we laughed some more.   She said, “well, he IS nice guy, and we already know he likes to help people….. ”    I felt like saying, “I know someone who could play the piano for weddings”, but I thought that was pushing it.  Hahah.    So, in a few minutes, sure enough, he came back, with tools in hand, and took the feet off of the furniture – and it went right into the van.   I thanked him profusely, and off I went – I often wondered whether or not anything happened after that – I’d like to think it was the start of a beautiful relationship.  So, I brought it home, and started working on it that weekend – I made my own chalk paint (have you ever priced the real Annie Sloan chalk paint? Sheesh)   In just over a week, it was finished – and I was in love with chalk paint.  Mom was thrilled.     

ent center     ent center 2

I’ve made many CL purchases since then – most of the time, I take someone with me “just in case”.  One time, I didn’t have anyone to go with me to the town next to ours.  When I got to the address, I found it was an apartment building, and I was not super comfortable going inside by myself.   The owner of the object had just had surgery and couldn’t do the stairs, but was sending her boyfriend out with the object.   I texted my friend, Jim, who is a  cop in that town, and asked if he was in the area (he was on duty at the time).  I texted the address to him in case I went missing.  He texted back, “I’ll be there in 5 minutes”.    I said, “please no lights or sirens”.  😂 

Honestly, though, I’ve met all kinds of really nice people through my Craigslist purchases.  Last week, I bought these two awesome chest of drawers.  I don’t need them.  In fact, I have many of them.   But none are as cool or have as much character as these.  

 (I’ve been practicing some negotiation, too – especially since I don’t need them, I can offer really low price and if they don’t accept it, I don’t really care – and sometimes, to my surprise, they DO.)

On my way to pick up a CL purchase one time, I punched the address in my GPS (Google Maps on my phone) and it told me what time I’d arrive.  I had communicated to the owner via email, so I sent him an email to tell him what time I’d arrive.    I typed the email, “I should be there by 6:19, according to GPS”…   my phone auto-corrected the word GPS, so the email came out, “I should be there by 6:19 according to GOD. ”   hahaha     The guy responded, “you can’t miss the house – it looks haunted”.     Awesome.   And, indeed, it did.   Didn’t get a picture of it, but trust me.

As I look back on the projects I’ve completed, I realize one thing they have in common.  They started as junk and, through restoration, they got a new lease on life.   This similar to what Jesus does in our lives.   He takes the heap in junk that we are and restores us to an image of beauty for His glory. Indeed, no matter how broken, we can have restoration through Christ.

Revelation 21:5 Jesus says, “Behold I make all things new”.    

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Surviving or thriving? (thoughts to let simmer)

Are you merely surviving? Or thriving?

Good morning, beautiful readers!   I just wanted to check to see how you all are doing today?   Is it a good day so far?

For some, every day is a struggle – whether emotional, physical, or spiritual, some are facing battles difficult to win.  We trudge through life, barely keeping our head above water, overwhelmed by each new battle we face.  Often, the trials come at us so quickly, like bullets fired from automatic weapons, that we can barely duck fast enough.  Before we can address one crisis, another simmers on the stove beside us.

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For others, those i like to call the “thrivers”, life appears easy and effortless, as if there is not a care in the world.   To see them from the outside, it appears as though they have everything put together, not facing any battle they cannot win.   Sure, they have battles, but they move through them gracefully, unscathed by the barrage of artillery, and continue in bliss as if nothing happened.

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Sometimes, the “survivors”  begrudge the “thrivers” and accuse them of not living in reality.   (I know this, because I am one of them!)  I like to think of it differently, mostly because I am a survivor as well as a “thriver”.   I have enough battles in my life to know life is difficult, but i truly believe what Jesus told us in John 10:10.  “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly”.   I believe that God intends for us to live a life of purpose, and to be able to see beauty in the world around us.

It is my believe that the difference between merely surviving and thriving comes down to choice.   I choose to believe what scripture says and do my best to live as God intended, including wearing my rose colored glasses at times.   I admit there are times this is difficult.  It’s hard not to look at the events of the world or listen to news stories about people killing people, and hate, and ugliness that abounds. However, as I read the scripture above, I believe that God’s intent is not that we turn a blind eye, but rather that we don’t allow those bad things to change who we are.

My hope for you today is that you are not merely surviving, trudging through another day, but THRIVING!  If you are merely surviving, I challenge you to reflect on what it means for you to live life abundantly, and choose to take that thought captive to step toward thriving!

Blessings!

SB

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions!   You can contact me at sbjourneyforlife@gmail.com.

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Word of the day: Simmer

Metamorphosis 

In the quietness of this morning, as I reflect on God’s mercy, I’m filled with Gratitude that He loves me enough not to leave me where He found me.  You see, somewhere along the way, I realized that I didn’t like who I had become. I knew that.  I knew I wanted to change, to become something new, but I didn’t know how to start.

I was reminded of a butterfly, that emerges a beautiful creature from a cuccoon.  They start a creepy caterpillar 🐛 rather disgusting to look at.

In their initial state, they seemingly bring no value.   Their cocoon state is even uglier

But when they emerge from their cocoon, they are a beautiful new creature, with new abilities and a brand new outlook on life.

God is so cool that way!  He takes what is seemingly of no value, and breathes new life into it, shaping it into what He intended all along.

If you are feeling like an ugly caterpillar today, the good news is that you do not have to stay where you are.  If you are willing, He will take and shape you into a beautiful new creature with a new outlook on life!

For me, the first step was to acknowledge that I wasn’t who I wanted to be.   I found role models who exhibited traits I admired and began to emulate.   I Asked God to begin shaping me into who He wants me to be and began to listen for His voice. Spending time in His Word helped to fill me with new perspectives, and slowly I began to emerge from my cocoon of self doubt into a new creature.  I know that the metamorphosis is not complete but will continue to evolve as I allow Him to continue to shape me in His image.  For that, I am eternally grateful to the One who allows me to change.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

New International Version Philippians 1:6

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus