Merry Christmas from Out of the Wilderness!

I was driving around town the other day and came across a holiday-inspired home and thought it would be the perfect picture to post on Christmas. So here it is:

Nothing says Merry Christmas like lights, music, and Charlie Brown. But let’s also remember the true “reason for the season,” the birth of Jesus. He did something he didn’t have to do because we can’t do something we need to do. And that something is make things right with God. He didn’t have to come down to earth for us, but he did. He didn’t have to start life as a baby, but he did. He didn’t have to face opposition, ridicule, and death, but he did.

He did it for you. He did it for me. So I ask you on this Christmas day, what will you do about it? What will I do about it? I always come back to one key thought regarding my faith in him. Where is his body? You might doubt everything about the Christian faith, the Bible, the church, pastors, people you know. But Jesus was a real man. He was born. He lived. He died. But where is his body?

Spoiler alert, you’ll never find it. Why? I believe it’s because it’s no longer in the grave he was laid in after his crucifixion. So that means everything. The entire story is a roller coaster, but one of the beautiful parts is when Jesus left Heaven to join mankind on the earth he created. This is Christmas, Charlie Brown.

Jesus did what he didn’t have to do.

So to sum up, if you’re going to put up lights and decorations, do it big! Also, Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

-Out of the Wilderness

Contrary to popular belief, no politician can ever save us

I was working on a different post (my favorite U2 songs) and started writing about “Where the Streets Have No Name.” As I wrote, and then watched U2’s Super Bowl halftime performance I was flooded with thoughts. I’m trying to write them down now but mostly I can’t shake the thought that no politician, no man, no woman, no Republican or Democrat, nor any government in the world can save us. It seems like (at least in an election year), we cast all our hopes and dreams on the person running for office… as if our future depends solely on him or her. Well, guess what? It doesn’t. No matter who gets elected, they can’t save you. They can’t save me.

The place where “the streets have no name” is Heaven, just to get that out there. To me, the song is about dropping our differences and longing to be in Heaven… with God… where being with Him is all that matters. But while we’re on earth we have differences with people. We disagree. We fight. We tweet. I’m guilty of all of it.

The current of division in America right now is strong because so many people think they are right and the other side is wrong. Having a media that plays up the division just for ratings doesn’t help, either. So often I just have to turn the news off and voilá, I’m calm. Take a look at the next newscast in your city… what colors are on the screen when they talk about the news? Coronavirus, voting issues, politics, these topics are often scripted in red or have red backgrounds. This is very much on purpose to remind us of fear, being scared, and ultimately maintaining unrest. OK, that’s a little bit of a side rant!

As I watched the U2 performance, I sighed because I miss the America we were in the weeks and months after the 9/11 tragedy. We were united. Surely on September 12th we still had political, faith, race, ethnicty, many differences but I don’t remember any of those mattering. In the weeks that followed the tragedy, people from all over were going to New York City to help clean up. People were donating blood. The heartbreaking events of that evil day out of us brought the best, and to the back burner we shuffled the rest.

I sincerely hope we can be there again but this time by choice. We don’t need evil people to remind us that we are all born with a desire to find good in the world. It’s in our broken nature to care for one another however we see that working. But I don’t really see that much right now, probably because it’s an election year. Politics seem to bring out the worst in us. A tweet from a woman I follow on Twitter said it so well:

@SassyFNP

If anything, watching the U2 performance and reflecting on the state of the union, I was also reminded of the lyrics of a song by The Avett Brothers:

Life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected…

“Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise” The Avett Brothers

Sure some things go this way and other things go that way but like I said at first, no one can make you happy about your life. A Democrat gets elected? So what. A Republican gets elected? So what. How is my heart? How is your heart? If we’re waiting for a savior to come and preside over our great country, it’s not going to happen. People are flawed. We are messed up. But the good news is there IS a place we can go to fill the void we often try to fill with celebrities or politicians or protests or riots or boycotts or whatever. It’s not church. But the answer is often there. I’m talking about God. He’s been the answer for thousands (or millions, for all you evolutionists out there 😉 ) of years for all people in all circumstances.

I have placed my faith in Him and the One declared to be His son, Jesus. No matter what happens in politics, the ups and downs and the victories and heartaches, I’m SO glad my hope isn’t in the man or woman elected. My challenge to you today is to think beyond the differences you have with people. Think beyond the person we elect to lead our community, city, state, country. Ask yourself, and I will ask myself, too: What is it I’m hoping this person will fix in my life? And if the answer is anything besides taxes and better roads, let’s pray to God for that and give Him a chance to come through.

What do ya say?

-Out of the Wilderness

This is rocking my world right now

51YZhSQhAjL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve written about a book I picked up from Thriftsmart here in Nashville, a book by William Barclay in the Daily Bible Study Series- the Letter to the Hebrews. You can read that post here but as odd as it may be, I can’t help but write about it again.

Just in the past few days I came across inspiring words from Mr. Barclay. Of course, the true greatness is the actual book in Bible- Hebrews- but just check out these thoughts from the study book:

Finally, the writer to the Hebrews says that our Christian duty to each other is all the more pressing because the time is short. The Day is approaching. He is thinking of the Second Coming of Christ when things as we know them will be ended. The early Church lived in that expectation. Whether or not we still do, we must realize that no man knows when the summons to rise and go will come to him also. In the time we have it is our duty to do all the good we can to all the people we can in all the ways we can. 

I took the liberty to make bold the last sentence because, as the kids say, that line hits hard. I love it, and in a sense that is the simplicity and yet the impossible challenge of Christianity. For me, it’s most difficult when it comes to drivers like this and this. But we all have areas we struggle in, right? It’s like Needtobreathe sings in their song, “Who Am I?”… (scroll down for more about the Hebrews book!)

While I’m on this road you take my hand
Somehow you really love who I really am
I push you away, still you won’t let go
You grow your roses on my barren soul!

The next line in the book by William Barclay is this:

The appeal of the writer to the Hebrews is one that could be made to every man. In effect, he says: “Be what you were at your best.” If only we were always at our best, life would be very different. Christianity does not demand the impossible; but if we were always as honest, as kind, as courageous, as courteous as we can be, life would be transformed.

Rocking. My. World. Hope y’all are having a great week!

-Out of the Wilderness

Is being a Christian really this easy?

There’s a talk radio host in Nashville I love listening to and one day he had this most simple yet profound thought summarized below…

As a kid, all you really need to do is get good grades and obey your parents.

If you do those two things, the world will open up to you in ways you actually really want. Is your friend having a party? Want to go on that trip with your friend and their family? Dying to get that new Playstation game? Well, those dreams can be reality if you just behave and do well in school. This sort of blanket statement obviously has exceptions, but just imagine the trust between parents and kids if this was the norm.

I often think of my beagle, Piper. If you have a beagle you will totally relate to what I’m about to say. She follows her nose. Sometimes that nose gets her in trouble. It’s why she absolutely must be on a leash outside if she’s not in a fence. I can call her all day long but she will not come to me when she’s hot on the trail of [insert animal here]. There have been too many times to count where she’s gotten out of the fence, or escaped from a place of safety and been gone for hours. What she doesn’t know is that if she were to behave, she would actually have MORE freedom, more time off the leash. But without a doubt, if she’s off-leash, she’s off and running. I wish she knew that if she obeyed, she’d have a lot more freedom.

It’s a simple statement about Piper, and about a child getting good grades and obeying their parents. For each one, a lot of their life would be better and more fun if they just follow a few rules. It sounds so simple.

Then I connected this thought with the Christian life. God knows we are people prone to complicated webs of rules and jealousy and bossiness and selfishness and, well, I could go on and on… but in the Bible He laid it out in such a way that’s easy to grasp:

Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind… and love your neighbor as yourself.

Now I know that’s not as easy as it sounds but isn’t it pretty amazing that there isn’t a gigantic rule book to follow? Heck, even the Old Testament only had 10 rules (which were easy to break, might I add).

Even these two commands, loving God with our whole selves and loving our neighbor, is hard to follow because of our human nature but it’s a lot easier to give ourselves a chance and some grace knowing that with a bit of submission and trying to obey, we can actually have more freedom than if we try to do things our own way.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love for you to share in the comments below, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

-Out of the Wilderness

 

Jesus, The Risen 1k -aka- The Empty Tomb Trot (3 years running)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running…

That’s from the book of John, chapter 20.

For the last few years, I’ve made a point to run/walk what I think is the same distance they travelled that morning. More on the distance and how I came up with 0.75 miles can be read here. I’ve been calling it the Jesus, The Risen 1k but after a great idea from a friend, it’s now also called The Empty Tomb Trot 🙂

Today I was torn because I wanted to run as a symbol of this blessed morning, but also, it’s 56° and raining sooooo yeah. Before I started the run, one of my dogs, Asia, hinted she wanted to come along.

Asia in the morning

She didn’t know how wet it was going to be. Look at the screen shot below to see how far we made it before she was like, “Nope. Not happening.” Yeah, .05 of a mile. She basically went to the mailbox and back!

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 12.14.15 PM

In her defense, I can be little bossy while we’re running, so maybe she just wasn’t in the mood. Either way, I was doing this one alone. While I ran, I thought about the experience from the perspective of Mary and the disciples. Running through town, dodging food carts, grabbing their clothing so they wouldn’t trip over it. In the rush of the moment, did they think to even put on their sandals? Was one of them thinking, gosh I shouldn’t have eaten such a big breakfast? How far off were they when the large stone covering the tomb entrance was in view? They must’ve had a million things going through their minds until they got to the tomb… and then…. Yes, it’s empty. But how? Where is His body? What in the world is happening?

Running this distance in my neighborhood helped to give me a more vivid picture of that morning for them. The sound of feet pattering on the ground. Adrenaline. The town just waking up and people out for their morning errands. In just a few short minutes everything they ever heard Jesus say becoming more clear… and His words, His life, His death, His resurrection, changing the course of history forever.

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What a beautiful morning.

-Out of the Wilderness