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Home is more than an address

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I think about home a lot.

Especially since moving away.

 

Home –

“the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.”

 

I like this definition better than some of the others online; it includes that one word, the adverb ‘permanently’.

The image seems truer somehow, even if it’s not the reality you (or I) experienced.

If you’re like me, the word home seems more distant now than it ever has.

 

If you’re from southern Kentucky (specifically Wayne County), you know exactly what Monticello-born author, Harriette Simpson Arnow meant when she said this about her mom’s view of home:

… she (Mama) knew most of the families … in Wayne County. If Mama didn’t know at least who their grandparents were, she considered them strangers. Because she’d grown up that way with the Denneys. There was Denney’s Gap and a Denney post office and two Denney graveyards, and Denney’s Store. And she’d grown up surrounded by her Denny kin. I don’t think she ever felt at home after leaving Wayne County and her close relatives.

 

The sentiments ring true for me. They make the world so much smaller. In my head I think, I’m from where she’s from, my grandparents still live in Denney’s Gap, I know where those graveyards are and that store. I feel what she felt.

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Have you connected with a place like that before?

A place that makes the world suddenly smaller, more intimate?

Do you travel home as much as you’d like?

Is it home like you remembered? Or, do you find yourself longing for another home?

Something C.S. Lewis once surmised, saying, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

It clicks in my head and my heart, as I write this blog in Tennessee. The world isn’t too large to make the trip back, but the miles seem endless staring at this electronic screen. The years busier, and the friends older. While I might not be able to stop time and make my hometown exactly as I remember it, I smile when I think of that one word, and the notion of eternity for all of us.

Not here in Chattanooga. Not there in Monticello. But, another world – permanently.

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How to Break Free

Jim Burgen’s, No More Dragons, from Thomas Nelson Books.

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(on shedding decades of gnarly scales)

 

His sermons (while at Southland Christian Church in Kentucky) were instrumental during my college years, and this book has taken it a step further with messaging that centers upon curing a hardened heart.

Jim challenges the reader saying: becoming a dragon is a dangerously sneaky process.

He uses the C.S. Lewis novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as a fitting example of a boy becoming a dragon unawares. The boy finds treasure, falls asleep on it, dreams, and awakens as a dragon concerned for his treasure hoard. Upon awakening, he discovers he cannot remove his dragon scales without the help of Aslan the lion, protector of Narnia.

Once the scales have been cleansed from his back, Eustace’s friend says, “You have been – well, un-dragoned.”

This is a status most of us (if we’re honest) would like to reach at some point in life: un-dragoned.

Have you ever felt this freedom?

Free of the past. Hopeful for the future. Very much alive in the present.  When we can look in the mirror and not see a monster staring back, is a good day.

What will get us there?

Is there a moment when you can assuredly say you’ve arrived?

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How one album can change your world

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Think about your favorite album of all-time.

From lyrics and liner notes to catchy choruses and amazing guitar solos.

Got it?

Now, think about the memories attached to each track on the album.

That road trip you wish never ended. The youth group church van. That one time you were grilling out with friends.

Kumbaya.

A lifetime of firsts took place with that revolution of ten to twelve tracks.

If you’re older, maybe it was vinyl (or eight-track). Slightly less old, a cassette tape deck with worn rewind buttons from playing the favorites again and again. Even newer folks, a compact disc with scratches all over the disc not because you weren’t careful with your favorite but loaning it to that one careless joker caused the disc harm and now it skips every time. Millenials & beyond, maybe the mp3s and iTunes and streaming gadgets have profiled your favorites as a result of playing the same album tracks so many freakin’ times. Regardless, we all have the album in mind and we know the track progression like we know our own souls.

For me, it was a small, Nashville-based band and a self-titled album with a couch on the front of it. My peers in school were immersed in this disc non-stop. I still remember picking it up from a Christian bookstore and sitting in a blue van on my birthday. Mom asking if it was the right one. Me telling her it was the only one.

That album got played to death. (I’ve replaced is more than twice.)

Fast forward to 2008, my wife walks down the aisle to the final track from that album, What Will Your Anthem Be?, done up in a beautiful piano rendition by a best friend.

Move on to present day, my church grants me access to create music playlists and of course the couch album is featured more than a couple of times on the intro and outro set list.

Two decades later and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to my obsession with it. What about your playlist? What still provides goosebumps every time it’s cycled through and you’d never imagine hitting the ‘next’ button? Why is it so important to you?

Here are the lyrics to What Will Your Anthem Be?:

When the glitter fades, It fades so fast
What really lasts, what will the anthem be?
Did we sing of rock and roll?
Did we sing if sacred souls?
Has the heart and the harmony met pleasingly?

When the flicker fades, it fades so fast
Nothing is left. What will be legacies?
Cause guitars burn you see
Recollect no memories
Of the lights and the cheers and the human vanity

Should I give?
Should I sing some rust?
Pity me for my golden lust
This one’s for the lily
And this one’s for the rose

Here it is, let the truth be told
Here it is, we would like to know
Here it is, what will the anthem be

What will your anthem be?
What will our anthem be?
What will the anthem be?

 

 

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Why Our Work Matters

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“Utterly alone, at the bottom of a fourteen-foot trench filled with water so thick with silt he literally couldn’t see his hand in front of his face, William Walker laid twenty-five thousand bags of concrete, slitting each bag open so the concrete could spread out as it set. He then used 115,000 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks to shore up the national treasure we know as Winchester Cathedral.

Every morning, five mornings a week, fifty weeks a year, for six years and one month, from 1905 to 1911, Walker would climb into his diver’s suit and wait while his tenders loaded forty-pound stones over his shoulders and placed a fifty-pound metal helmet over his head. Then he would step into eighteen-pound metal shoes and descend into the depths of the trench around Winchester Cathedral to work for three-and-a-half hours.

After an hour for lunch, he would go through the ritual again in order to work another three-and-a-half hours in the pitch dark completely alone.

Incredibly, the majestic structure that thrills people even today with its remarkable architecture had been built on a bog, floating on what Sir Francis Fox called a “raft” of massive beech timbers. As the timbers rotted, the mighty building started to sag.

It isn’t stretching things at all to say William Walker single-handedly saved Winchester Cathedral.

Since the water swirled in and out of sites where bubonic plague victims had been buried centuries earlier, Walker also had to worry about exposure to life-threatening infectious materials and the possibility of encountering floating skeletal remains. His response: “I try not to think too much about that.”

So day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, Walker fought to save a structure built by long-dead humans to honor a still-living God.

In a perfect world where happy endings always happen, William Walker would have lived a long life bathed in the adoration of the English people for his unseen labors. In a perfect world, a famous sculptor would craft a statue to sit in the halls of the Cathedral to honor Walker’s name. In a perfect world, visitors to the tombs of William the Conqueror and Jane Austen would see and remember the face of the man who saved an irreplaceable part of England’s history.

Alas, to use the king’s own English, ’tis not a perfect world we rest in.

William Walker would be one of the millions and millions of people felled by the flu pandemic that swept the world in 1918. When the sculptor sat down to craft the monument to Walker, he used a photo of the wrong man, and the Church of England, embarrassed by its error, refused to correct it for almost 90 years.

But William Walker knew something most of us need to learn or, having once learned it, need to be reminded of again and again and again.

It isn’t adoration or statues or even the satisfaction of a job well done that is God’s gift to His children.

It’s the work itself!

Hard as it is to imagine, even those things we do in the places nobody can see, even when we’re weighed down by heavy trials, even when we don’t have the joy of the company of coworkers, the labor we’re engaged in is God’s gift to us.

Let the coal miner rejoice. Let the bond trader exult. Let firefighters and architects and school teachers glory in their labor, for God in His infinite wisdom has given them the chance to play a role in shoring up the foundations of a creation built to last forever.

One day, when every knee has bowed and every tongue confessed that Jesus is Lord, every dark hour, every tedious task, every ounce of effort given by God’s children to the tending of His cathedral will see the light of day, and we will know and count it as great treasure that God let us be a small part of His big work.”

– from Randy Kilgore’s Made to Matter

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Stranger Things at a Stop Light

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One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen occurred on my commute to work yesterday. Something I hadn’t seen before and the epitome of what many might call a Hallmark moment. But, for me it was something else. It didn’t come off as cheesy in the slightest.

It distracted my driving, but in a good way.

I was driving in the slow lane listening to Weezer, and the traffic was stop-and-go. And I was belting some lyrics from the white album, and I came to another red light and immediately looked in my mirrors to see if I’d been caught in any direction. Then I glanced left and the car next to me offered this aforementioned Hallmark moment.

It was a beat-up, rusted Buick with the front bumper held together by what looked like bungee cables.

Inside was a young couple who looked younger than my wife and I when we first got married (19 & 23). The young lady was in the passenger seat, and she was reading aloud from a book I couldn’t see too well – to her boyfriend, husband, fill-in-the-blank. (I’d like to say it was a Bible, but I couldn’t confirm the text.)

And what spoke volumes to me was their passion. She was reading and he was locked in with two hands on the wheel. (Imagine a young Johnny Cash with hair swiped to the side nodding and listening.) She would read, pause, and wait to see the man’s reaction. He, meanwhile, listened and encouraged.

The light turned and we all were set in motion again. As I turned Weezer down, in my rearview I saw the old Buick go left. I replayed the image in my mind, their passion-

It was 7am. The car wasn’t new. Their dress and style didn’t suggest wealth. And, they had what many call zest. I could see it all in that brief window of time stopped together.

[Imagine what an image of our grandparents joyriding around town might’ve looked like 50-60 years ago.]

This was something unexpected, and I got a better sense of what the word ‘contentment’ ought to mean.

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Dedicated to a Brave Maine Coon

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(Kujo, circa 2004)

It’s difficult to lose a pet.

I got that call yesterday.

When you experience it, it’s difficult to respond.

How do you respond without feeling foolish?

It was a pet. An animal.

I’m working through it, but I know it’s been even harder to lose one that had such personality.

With me throughout middle & high school, college & graduate school, work & marriage and until yesterday.

The memories of returning from trips and seeing a Maine Coon saunter out to greet us in the driveway. The van still ticking and hot to the touch from miles upon miles on I-75.

Kujo. Such an ill-suited, ironic name for so lovable a cat. But, I laugh thinking about the day my sister named him. Stephen King would be proud.

Mom called last night to confirm that he’d been sick for a while. She took him to the vet. Kidney failure & a host of other problems. The knowledge of him being sick as heavy as the absence of him on the back porch today, I’m sure.

Mom said she buried him where the plum tree once stood. He’d like that, I know. Always one to follow her out to the garden and watch her weed & water the squash and peppers. A country cat. Indoor / outdoor. Super smart and always aware of when tuna cans were being opened.

I’m happy he’s at rest. As I’m sure you’ve felt the same about pets and friends and family.

My heart goes out to those who’ve lost loved ones. (Pets or not.) It’s amazing the memories they can provide. How pets can bring warring parties together. If you told me a Maine Coon could’ve helped deter arguments fifteen years ago, I would’ve laughed. But now I know, even pets, can be agents for good.

Take this sappy entry today and use it, if you’d like. I hope it brings you closure to issues you might be wrestling with this year. God wants us all to live fully, freely, and passionately. All of us. Even pets and animals like the ones Lewis wrote about in The Chronicles of Narnia. They too serve a purpose. Even if it’s to be a daily reminder that it’s okay to let our guard down. It’s okay to love and be loved.

 

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Finding Contentment in a Busy Age

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Notes from yesterday were so spot on I had to share them today!

Regarding priorities in 2016:

Journey Church
August 28, 2016
====================================
Welcome to Journey Church, Chattanooga!
Philippians, Part 8
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6 Basic Questions (good no matter what book of the Bible is being studied)
Who is writing the letter?
Who is Paul saying it to?
What is Paul Saying?
Why is Paul saying it?
What is the transferable principle?
How do we apply this principle to our lives today?

Philippians 4:10-20 ESV
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

  • Paul knew how to be content.

 

Contentment is determined by what is most important to you.

  • Paul knew that his relationship with Christ was the greatest prize and his reason for joy rest in a relationship that could never be taken away.

 

Philippians 4:14-20 ESV
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

God designed His community of followers to help take care of each others needs.

Philippians 4:17 ESV
Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

Caring for others is the “fruit” of a life that is focused on following Christ

Philippians 4:21-23 ESV
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

What is the transferable principle?

  • Our satisfaction must be in our relationship with Christ instead of our circumstances.
  • We demonstrate our faith by caring for each other.

How do we apply this principle to our lives, today?

Philippians 4:12 ESV
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

  1. Develop a grateful heart.
  2. Keep your circumstances in perspective.
  3. Develop a discipline of moderation.

Philippians 4:13 ESV
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

    4. Trust in God’s grace and the goodness of His will.

Philippians 4:18-19 ESV
I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

  5. Look for opportunities to meet the needs of others.

Joy is found when we know that our prize is in Christ and we will be with Him for all of eternity.

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KFC promotes inedible, extra-crispy sunscreen, and I want it

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Because I can’t make this stuff up. I’ll just include the link to verify it (and you can thank me later).

Yes. YUM brands powerhouse, KFC, has introduced “extra crispy” fried chicken-scented, SPF 30 sunscreen.

You heard that right. Sunscreen that smells like chicken.

Did I already try to register as one of the first 3,000 recipients of a FREE container from The Colonel?

Yes.

Were they looooong gone?

Oh yeah.

But there’s always next…wait a minute.

When did retailers start promoting across such odd boundaries?

Was Kentucky Fried Chicken the first to do it?

Does anyone remember the Flavor Radio tactic by Dunkin Donuts in South Korea a few years back? Issuing a commercial jingle which prompted the release of coffee scents into the bus space air and driving store visits up 16% where the “smell-technology” was being implemented.

I laugh, but it’s true. Smell-technology.

Any others?

I know smell is considered the strongest sense tied to memories, even from our childhoods we can attest to it.

Do you remember Mr. Sketch scented markers?

I can still remember the powerful, potent aroma of lemon and orange flavors blending together. Our teachers encouraging us to not sniff too much for fear of brain damage, addiction, or worse, ending up like this guy.

If senses are tied to memories, why doesn’t every company try these peculiar tactics? Maybe they do, and we just haven’t noticed them. Marketing is sneaky.

But, one things for certain: the odder the idea the more likely it seems to stick with us.

Remember Snapple’s “Real Facts“?

Where we learned that jellyfish are 95% water and Maine has 62 lighthouses.

While we didn’t need to know this, the company provided it to us anyway free-of-charge. And these obscure little tidbits gave us conversational pieces all throughout the 90s and beyond. (I’m still talking about them.)

Again, oddity rules the day.

If you see some advertising brilliance on your commute today, be sure to share it. I’ll post it on here. BTW: Chicken-scented sunscreen will be a hard one to top.

Ps. Here’s a picture of Leah and me dressed up as the Colonel (and a bucket of beautiful chicken) from last Halloween:

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(Marketing so strong, the Colonel got us to dress up and go bowling like this.)

Fun times! Anyways, enough of this. I’m getting hungry.