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Years back, my friend Todd and I hiked the Florida Trail. We traveled well over five hundred miles on foot, over the course of about six weeks. Even though youth was on my side, I was in no shape for the journey. The second day of our hike made this painfully clear.

The Everglades are a shallow, slow moving river, around fifty miles wide, pouring down from Lake Okeechobee. We were somewhere in the middle of this river. With fully loaded backpacks weighing around fifty pounds, we set out, sloshing towards the horizon. Walking through water for very long is difficult but with the added weight of our packs and no dry place to stop and rest, we faded fast.

After nearly a full day of hiking through the swamp, we stumbled onto the shoulder of Highway 41. I remember just lying there on the side of the highway like roadkill, wondering out loud if this is what it feels like to die.

I had put more strain on body than it could handle. What could have been enjoyable became excruciating because I wasn’t prepared. I never thought it would be so difficult.

Often, we find ourselves in this same place spiritually. We stop feeding our spirit and we are weaker for it. When pressure comes, we are not in shape to handle it and we crumble. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When we exercise daily in God, our mindset changes. Over time, our confidence in Him will become greater than our fears. Strength and hope will fill our hearts. And we will be fit for the journey.

“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 Message

 

 

 

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Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus’ mother told him, “They’re just about out of wine.”

Jesus said, “Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.”

She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, “Fill the pots with water.” And they filled them to the brim.

“Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” Jesus said, and they did.

 When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!”

This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. – John 2:1-11

So many days I’m tempted to believe there is just not enough to go around. It’s easy to believe, particularly if you have kids. The thought is ‘I don’t have enough for my own family, I’d like to help others but how can I when we’re barely making it? ‘

It’s not just financial shortage we feel. Often we hold onto our time with an even tighter grip than our money. And lending space in our hearts to someone else’s hurt feels like it might finish us off.

I think we’ve all been there. And it’s true, in some seasons we may not be able to give as much. If we are not careful though, we can adopt a Y2K mindset about our resources, where we hoard our compassion for fear there won’t be enough for our family to live off of.

I think it is no accident that the first time we see Jesus performing a miracle, he is taking not enough and making it more than enough. This act set the course for the rest of his ministry.

He made the sick well.

He brought the dead back to life.

He took our sins and brought redemption.

Where are some areas you have been holding back for fear of not having enough? What are some practical ways you can help others this week?

 

Your Words Matter

September 8, 2014

” I don’t like Taylor Swift. ”

I spoke these words just the other day while talking with my wife. She never asked me how I felt about Taylor Swift and honestly I have no idea how it came up.

I’m sure I’ve said this sort of thing hundreds of times about other musicians and celebrities. But this time, it was different. As the words left my mouth I felt strange, convicted even. How could I confidently pass judgement on a person I had never met? I realized in that moment what I meant was: I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift’s music. Which is different from my original statement.

I think this mindset is indicative of a larger problem. The anonymity of the internet has removed the bridle that used to keep us from saying dumb things. We’ve reduce people in the media and on our news feeds, into soulless products which we mercilessly critique like a poorly made gadget we bought off of Amazon.

But if we could see past all of the spin, through the smoke and mirrors, we would see a person. Someone’s precious son or daughter, husband or wife. Someone who is going through struggles not so different from our own.

No one, particularly those in the spotlight, are exempt from criticism. But it’s easy to go overboard. Often, if we are honest, our public rants have more to do with rallying people around us who will affirm our “rightness” rather than helping to bring positive change.

There are certainly times to stand up and speak out against evil and injustice. But that’s not really what I’m talking about here. I’m thinking about the Facebook friend from a different political party, the celebrity who’s life is spiraling, the Pastor who has fallen. I’m talking about people whom Jesus loved enough to die for. And people we have made the butt of our jokes.

My prayer is that leaving an encouraging comment or stopping to pray for someone I don’t know would become natural to me than cynicism. This verse is helping me:

” Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen ” – Ephesians 4:29

 

 

 

 

 

 
When I was a kid I went to a worship concert with the youth group from my church. The church that I grew up in was fairly traditional. If you would have asked me to explain what worship was, I would have told you that it was the that time in the service after hands were shaken and before the collection plates were passed. It was the part where we sang the first, second and last verses of our favorite hymns.
 
That’s what it was.

But somehow, I ended up at this concert – awash in a sea of programmed lights, bass that rattled my chest and people doing unusual things.

I was the last one from our group to fill into the row where we were sitting. There was one empty seat between me and the aisle. And seconds later it was filled by a crazy person.

He was very loud and wouldn’t sit still. He raised up his hands, danced and clapped.

I stood there awkwardly, inches away from his flailing limbs, trying not to stare and wondering to myself what kind of drugs he was on.

But as the night progressed, God began awakening something inside of me. And it started with the revelation that this man sitting next to me might not be crazy. And it occurred to me: maybe he knows something that I don’t. Maybe he has experienced something that I haven’t. And maybe that some thing is…good.

This was just a thought, a flicker. But I started thinking. And I started seeking.

I was a believer at the time. I had a relationship with God but I had no idea how to interact with Him in worship. And what’s more, I didn’t even understand why it mattered.

Honestly, I don’t think I’m alone in this. I believe a lot of Christians are stuck in this same sort of place.

The thinking goes something like this: “I love the Lord and I’m sure He knows that. I don’t really see the need for all of that singing and hand raising stuff.”

That’s kind of like saying “My wife and I have been married for awhile now and I’m sure she knows how much I love her. I don’t really need to tell her or go out of my way to show her.”

Which we all know would be a dumb thing to say. One that could result in a skillet-to-the-back-of-the-head related injury.

Revelation 4:11 says “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive the glory and the honor and dominion, for You created all things..”

We worship God first and foremost because He is worthy. He created us. He is our Father. And He is good.

Psalms 145:3 says “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised..”

This is an “If-Then” statement: because God is great, the way we praise Him should be great. If Psalms 145:3 said that God was mediocre.. small.. boring, then it would be fitting for our praise to be mediocre, small and boring.

This verse trumps all of our traditions, personalities and religious denominations. It’s bigger than those things. Which raises the question, is the size of our praise fitting for a God that is so great?

Interesting things begin to happen when we start worshipping God in spirit and in truth:

In this world Satan has a certain measure of power. Ephesians 2:2 refers to him as “the prince of the power of the air”. That is here, where we live. And the Bible says that for now, he is the prince of it.

He is our enemy. People are not the enemy – Satan is. And he is here to steal, kill and destroy. That is who he is.

However, God has not left us powerless against Him. Psalms 8:2 say “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

When we sing praises to God, we are releasing a sound that resounds throughout a kingdom that is ruled by our Enemy. We are declaring God’s Kingship over the earth. And that does very powerful things.

 First, it executes judgment on the Enemy. For him, it is a preview of hell. It’s a deafening ringing in his ears reminding him that he has already lost.

For us however, praise becomes a preview of heaven. Have you ever felt that way during worship? Like God was so close that you could reach out and touch Him? That’s because when the sound of our praise rises to heaven, God receives it as an invitation. One that says “You are welcome here. We want you here. We need You here.” And that brings Him on the scene in powerful ways.

Here‘s an example from the Bible: “And when they had laid many stripes upon them (Paul and Silas) they cast them into prison…And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God; and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all of the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” Acts 16:23,25-26

The doors could have opened at 11pm, when the prison was silent. But there was a catalyst. Something set those events in motion. It wasn’t until Paul and Silas opened up there mouths in prayer and praise that the doors of the prison were miraculously opened.

Real praise brings glory to God, judgment to Satan and in our own lives, just like Paul and Silas‘, it brings deliverance.

We are all wrestling with something: addiction, depression, sickness or maybe just uncertainty. Worry. We need answers and direction from God for very practical needs in our lives. When we praise God, our spirits enter into a special place of communion with Him. A place where this an abundance of:

Peace

Healing

Clarity

Answers

I pray that we don’t allow religion or fear to keep us from praising God as we should. We need it. And He is so worthy of it

The Welcome Wagon!

February 1, 2013

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Good day friends! I’m very happy to tell you that as of today I will be blogging at www.welcomewwagonblog.com.  I will be joined by two of my favorite people in the world: my sister Jenny Meaders and my good friend John Darnell. We will be tackling the same sort of hard-hitting issues that you are used to reading about here i.e. coffee wars, babies, awkward moments. But with new perspectives and great stories. We hope very much that you will join the conversation.

I will still be updating this site as well. So don’t be strangers!

The Blog Is Getting A Boost

January 24, 2013

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So things have been pretty quiet around the ole’ bloggery for the past few weeks and I do apologize for that. Some big changes are happening though so please stayed tuned…

What Child Is This?

December 21, 2012

The following post was written by my sister Jenny Meaders. It such a good read, I thought I’d share it with you all. To read more of Jenny’s stuff stop by her blog at www.jennymeaders.wordpress.com. Merry Christmas!

baby-jesus

Cue cello drone in minor key

What child is this, who lay to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherd’s watch are keeping.

Strings crescendo transitioning into a  major key.

This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring him laud!  The Babe, the Son of Mary.”

This is my favorite Christmas song!  It’s been sung by many artists, performed in different ways, and every arrangement is my favorite!  I was recently listening to a bluegrass group called “The Isaacs” singing this song and I was suddenly overwhelmed with this desire:  “I want my life to answer this question.”

Around Christmas time you will undoubtedly see many people dressed as Santa Claus.  They are in the mall with children on their knee, on the street corners ringing bells and on the television sliding down chimneys and flying a sleigh.  It can be hard for children to know which one is the “real” Santa.  As children get older, questions like, “How can he be in so many places at once?” and “Why does this Santa look different from that one?”,  usually lead to the fading of their faith and the final conclusion, “There is no Santa Claus.”  I believe this same process sometimes comes to those seeking to discover the “real” Jesus.

Many people talk about Jesus, describe Jesus, even claim to hear from Jesus.  But for those who have never met Jesus the questions arise, “How can Jesus be in so many places at once?” and “Why does this Jesus look different from that one?”  Sadly, many people come to the conclusion that just like Santa, “There is no Jesus.”  I want to change that!  I want to fan the flame of hope and help people believe, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus Christ.”

I can’t change the fact that there are many portraits of Jesus in the world, but I can commit to painting a most truthful one with they way I live my life.  The things I do, not only the words I say, daily answer the question, “What child is this?”  In his book, Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell compares our faith to a painting that displays our understanding of Christ and His message.  He admits there is a problem,

“The problem isn’t Jesus; the problem is what comes with Jesus.  For many people the word Christian conjures up all sorts of images that have nothing to do with Who Jesus is and how He taught us to live.  This must change.”

Just as children reason away their faith in Santa because of what they see or hear that brings doubt, our portrait of Christ can either strengthen or diminish another’s ability to believe and follow Jesus.  We must realize that Jesus is more than a list of rules, more than religious activities.  As Bell puts it, “The way of Jesus is not about religion; it’s about reality.  And God is the ultimate reality.  There is nothing more beyond God.”*

Jesus came to show us God the Father and to make a way for our adoption, our acceptance by Him.  As followers of Jesus we are called to do the same for others.  With the sad sounds of a cello playing in a minor key, the world is asking, “What child is this?  What God is this?  What Jesus is this?”  Will our lives, with the crescendo of a key change give the answer, “This, this is Christ the King!” and secure others’ faith in Him forever?

I believe it’s a good question to ask at Christmas and all year round.

 

A Reason to Sing

December 14, 2012

b-rat

Question: If a guy spent most of his life searching for meaningful relationships with prostitutes, do you think he would be disappointed if one day he found a woman who really loved him, who wanted to be with him? Would he complain about how tough it is to be in a loving relationship? Would we praise him for his great self sacrifice?

This question is rhetorical but the answer of course is ” No “.

Why? Because the life he has given up can never compare to the joy and peace and wholeness that comes from being loved.

It’s funny that so much coversation in the Christian community revolves around what we have given up to follow Christ. Just turn on the radio; every other song is about struggle and sacrifice. I’m not saying that following Christ is always a cakewalk. But in light of all that He has done for us and the freedom we have in Him, I think we could be a little slower in complaining about how bad we have it.

 The Christian Blues genre has stayed small for a reason. When you are in love with Jesus, all of your ” sacrifice ” is really just a beautiful exchange. You are trading sickness for healing, lust for love, phony for genuine. And that’s worth singing about.

…then you are not alone. In light of recents events, many prominent voices in our country are telling us that we should be afraid. Radio show hosts, politicians, even religous leaders say that the situation at home and abroad is grim and getting worse by the day.

And that is likely the truth.

Many of the things happening, especially in the Middle East, will be difficult for us to change. But not impossible. We may not have political power, influence or a ton of cash, but we all have one thing: choice. We get to choose how we respond to the turmoil around us. Both the real and the sensational. Wars and rumors of wars.

Fear is the first and most natural response. When things are largely out of our control, it feels right to worry, almost productive. But I Peter 4:7 shows us what a Believer’s response should look like in these hard times: ” The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray ” Fear clouds judgement. It distracts and is wholly unproductive. What we need now and what our leaders need is clarity and godly wisdom. And that does not come from running around like headless chickens. It comes from being still, listening to God and then acting in obedience.

Satan is the father of terrorism. And we are playing right into his hand when we adopt and spread the fears of a world without hope.

If you have read the book of Revelation you know how this Story ends. You also know that there is going to be a lot of pain before peace is restored. Knowing this, we cannot afford to be paralyzed by fear and worry. If economies and governments collapse in the coming years somebody needs to be standing. And it will only be those whose confidence is not propped up on the claims of men but  grounded in the promises of God.

Whose voice are you listening to?

The Great Coffee Compromise

November 9, 2012

I like coffee. A lot. I drink it everyday; so does my wife, Tiffany. My coffee usually looks like the cup on the right. I like for it to put up a fight as it goes down. Tiffany on the other hand, prefers weak, milky, dishwater, much like the cup on the left. And I’m cool with that. Around the house it’s no problem. We make our own coffee, the way we like it and drink in peace. But if we happen to stop for coffee while we’re out somewhere…well, that’s were the trouble begins.

Because Tiffany prefers weak, milky, dishwater, her coffee of choice comes from Dunkin Donuts. (Nothing against Dunkin Donuts, they do good work. Just not my cup of tea) I like Starbucks. But Tiffany says that Starbucks coffee tastes burnt and smells like it was brewed from a heap of garbage (Apologies again. It’s nothing personal Mr.Shultz)

For the past eight years, whenever my wife and I have gone out for coffee, we’ve asked this silent question: Am I going to get what I want today or am I going to suffer through something that I don’t like to make the other person happy.

I know this sounds petty. But learning to work through disagreements, even small ones, is what keeps the blood pumping in relationships. It’s easy to shut down emotionally at the first hint of conflict. We stop listening. We stop caring. And eventually, if we don’t change our pattern, we loose our ability to be reasonable. As long as we are wandering in the fog of selfishness, we will never find a solution to our shared problems. But when, by the grace of God, we begin to take our mind of our ourself and consider the needs of another, only then will our vision be restored. And when that happens, we may be able to find some common ground. Which will pave the way for compromise. And compromise allows us not only to get something we want, but also frees us to enjoy it with the ones we love.

I’m happy to tell you that after many years of tension, Tiffany and I have worked through our coffee crisis. Whenever we are at Starbucks, Tiffany orders something called a “Breve-Misto”. It’s basically hot water and milk, with a themble-sized amount of burnt coffee in the bottom. When we go to Dunkin’ Donuts, I just ask for a shot of espresso in my coffee, which gives it some backbone. It took some effort but we’ve made peace.

In your relatonships, where are some areas that you could be working towards a compromise instead of insisting on having things your way?

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