Home. Where peace and being should be synonymous. But when they’re not?
Home. The place where wounds are often felt the deepest.
Wherever you are in the Advent Christmas journey this year, please embrace this encouragement. Let Jesus enter the home of your 2021 heart and heal and restore all that this broken world has brought to your door.
The good news of the birth of Jesus is still the good news.
Jesus says, “I’ll leave My home. I’ll come to your home. I’ll take your place. I’ll make My home in you until I take you to My home.” You will always find a place at His table because He is awaiting your presence this very day.
If you’re happy and you know, you’ll get over it. Everybody eventually does. But if you have ever known Joy and suddenly step into a season where it seems to have vanished…. well, that’s unsettling. And some of us are in that season.
Last year, I found myself wrestling through a winter wonderland. In the process, I renamed the 4 candles of Advent to bring a little clarity to the end of a year I had yet to understand. And God did all the rest. And today’s word “thrive” surprised me the most. So, come, let us reason together. Grab a latte, sit a spell, and let God’s Spirit breathe over whatever you are facing this day.
Last year, I tossed the traditional Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace candles to help me make sense of a season that, at the time, I had little desire to celebrate. Perhaps you’ve been there before. Perhaps you’re there now or know someone who is. These special Advent episodes are for all who have wrestled or who are wrestling through this season of wonder.
Last week, instead of lighting the first candle of Hope, we lit the candle of eucatastrophe. Of the four traditional candles, Hope is probably the one most people still get. But today’s candle, Love, is probably the one that best fits the Inigo Montoya line from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
If you want to test whether love is real or not, ask yourself, “How close does it resemble the love of God?” There’s where you will find your answer. So today, we are lighting the candle of redemption at the table of redemption. And everyone has a place setting with your name on it. Let us begin.
Two questions I often ask: “Where are you hurting?” “What is your hope?”We live in a world where hurting seems more prevalent than ever before as hope keeps wearing thin. Welcome to Advent and not a moment too soon. For the next four weeks, many followers of Jesus will light candles of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace in anticipation of Christmas. Last year, I tossed Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace for words that helped me make sense of a season I had little desire to celebrate. Perhaps you’ve been there, too. Perhaps you’re there now or know someone who is. This table is for all who have wrestled through this season of wonder. Welcome.
Lunch and Conversation at Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Vestavia Hills, Alabama
Featuring Special Guest: Jordan Cox
Our cars are packed and the journey awaits. We move through the autumn cool towards welcome and warmth. We gather together and abundance overflows to every plate. We have a place at the table. For many of us, this is the Thanksgiving we anticipate or at least remember.
Not everyone will know that kind of day tomorrow. For some, that scene has never been. For others, shadows have fallen and our joy is stifled. Yet, gratitude still beckons for the claiming.
I’m excited for you to meet today’s Table Guest – Jordan Cox. Jordan is a creative, a percussionist, a servant, a writer, and the Director of Communications at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He is also a friend who has known his own shadow season. At age 27, Jordan was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma. To the glory of God, Jordan’s cancer is in remission today.
Here is a story of encouragement with perspective. And whether your Thanksgiving forecast be sunny or slight, chances are you’re about to hear a word that will increase your gratitude. We saved you a place at the table.
Think outside the box long enough and far enough, there will come a day when the box won’t let you back in. Think outside the box anyway. You’ll find Jesus out there. Not to say you won’t also find Him inside the box where you originally learned His story and His name. But eventually the box becomes the limiting confines of its own religious Truman Show. It cannot help but, for whether the flavor be Anglican, Baptist, or Roman Catholic, it ain’t no Jesus. But as Jesus warned Norton when Norton began to make fun of his former mentor, John the Baptist, in Grady Nutts’ wonderfully insightful The Gospel According to Norton, “The young idealist is frequently guilty of finding his Messiah and then spending his time belittling his Forerunner!” Older idealists, whom are surprising rarities unto themselves, fall into the same trap.
But back to finding oneself outside the box. I am there. I don’t belong anywhere. And yet, I find myself welcome everywhere. Funny how that is. I am not welcome enough to speak before them collectively, but I am welcome enough to worship the One True God alongside them. Jesus insisted they let my kind in. I am an outsider. I am Chuck Noland hanging with my beach volleyball. I am Roy Hobbs with a piece of silver still tearing inside while standing at the plate. I am Ethan Edwards in the final frame.
I used to rule the world Seas would rise when I gave the word Now in the morning I sleep alone Sweep the streets I used to own
How antithetical to be an outsider and an insider at the same time. How antithetical to live life at the 3-mph speed of God while sensing the planet spin full throttle in all its Mach 1.4 thunder beneath my feet. How antithetical to live life so fully every day that entire volumes would not hold the full weight of their glory or their story, while at the same time strung in tension on the lament of a single moment months prior whilst being stretched to the unknown of Kingdom come.
One minute I held the key Next the walls were closed on me And I discovered that my castles stand Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand
How antithetical to be spun forwards and backwards while grasped mid-gasp in Abba’s embrace, spun forwards and backwards like a kaleidoscope in the hands of an autistic toddler, spun forwards and backwards from breath of eternity to eternal breath. Time stands still and won’t stop spinning.
I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing Roman Cavalry choirs are singing Be my mirror, my sword and shield My missionaries in a foreign field
Life is a building of stories. Live 62 stories tall and, if you are wise, you will keep the windows open, for you never know what kind of heaven will float inside. Nor can you guess which clouds prophets use for chariots. Sometimes those prophets resemble Mickey Mouse conducting a band concert in a cyclone. They spin until they have spun the Truth long foretold by their own distinct voice. And if you can’t tell mouse from Malachi, here’s a helpful hint. Mickey’s not sporting a beard.
For some reason I can’t explain Once you go, there was never, Never an honest word And that was when I ruled the world
A lot has flown in and out the windows this month, this year, this decade. One can always find an abundance of onramps to redemption’s path and whack-a-mole. I dare imagine they are synonymous. Last Sunday night I found myself singing with children in a musical. There was one particular song I was not especially fond of, and it was my moment of truth solo. It wasn’t the words I objected to; it was the tune. It was bland. But the truth of the words, though simple, were solid. “God is thinkin’ about you. You’re on His mind the whole day through …. Of all the things that could fill His mind, of all the things that could take His time. How amazing to know that He – thinks of you – constantly!” As I began to sing that song to the children who were intently looking at me deeper than any congregation I’ve known this entire season – snap – something broke in me and I choked up. Ain’t it just like God to sneak up on you where you least expect Him.
It was the wicked and wild wind Blew down the doors to let me in Shattered windows and the sound of drums People couldn’t believe what I’d become
Later that evening, I sat down to watch a movie just because the title intrigued me – The Big Year. After the last two years most of us have been given, who doesn’t yearn for a big year to come along and restore all the crops the locusts have eaten. I had no idea the movie was about birds and birders and a real competition to see who can see and identify the most bird species in North America in a calendar year. What it was was pure delight. A story of innocent wonder, deferred hope, and controlling obsession. Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson play a trio of cuckoos after the coveted claim.
So now words are pouring through the window (“constantly!”) and birds are murmurating past my mind’s eye and then out of the blue drops this other song that I have yet to get out of my head. It’s driving tempo and words have led my fool’s parade this week. Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.”
Revolutionaries wait For my head on a silver plate Just a puppet on a lonely string Oh who would ever want to be king?
And thus the week spun. Constantly! Through autumn vibrance and a barbeque podcast, listening to a friend share his story and good conversation and deep insight. Through a monthly meeting with my therapist where I questioned if I am naught but a fool at a fork again. Through a drive to northern Alabama and a 39-degree morning where I stepped into a valley of hush so thick the earth surely must have been lingering in awe over the partial lunar eclipse from the night before. Trekking downward to the canyon floor and the Walls of Jericho and the singing of water cascading out of an underground choir chancel, processioning through and reverberating off an amphitheater of stone.
I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing Roman Cavalry choirs are singing Be my mirror, my sword and shield My missionaries in a foreign field
All week long these words have swirled around me like boards come loose from the side of a house in a storm and some of these lyrics have made their mark on my soul in multiple passings. Some of these words ring true. Not all, but some. Enough of the enigmatic makes perfect sense to me, so I keep on singing it. It’s kind of like staring into a glass darkly as it begins to thaw. I find that ironic, like irony sharpening irony. And so, before I preached the Word of God this morning, I danced these words before the Lord. What you can’t understand yet might hold more authenticity that what you think you already know.
For some reason I can’t explain I know Saint Peter won’t call my name Never an honest word But that was when I ruled the world
One would imagine that last line a spiritual dilemma for me. Yet it is true.
For some reason I can’t explain I know Saint Peter won’t call my name.
It’s mid-November. The season of gratitude and anticipation is upon us. Preparation for the celebration of the birth of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, has begun. The birth of God’s only begotten Son. The birth of God’s own fool.
Jesus is a fool!
If you have a pulse, those four words ought to evoke something besides indifference. And you might want to buckle up your seatbelt for this episode. There may be turbulence, or dis-turbulence before this Table stops spinning. Either way, we saved you a seat.
Dinner and Conversation at Oskar’s Cafe at Lake Martin, Alabama
Featuring Special Guest: Jeff Gore
I’ve watched today’s Special Guest live his faith in God for almost 40 years. His mustache is as wide as his smile and as big as his heart. He follows Jesus, loves his family, and surrendered to God’s call upon his life to cowboy ministry before the fad of cowboy church was even a thing. For 29 years he has ridden alongside working cowboys and performed everywhere from round-ups to sawdust tents, from sanctuaries to concert halls.
He won The Academy of Western Artists’ Male Singer Award in 1997 and has had significant roles in two western movies – “The Good Old Boys,” directed by Tommy Lee Jones, and “Nail 32” starring Brad Johnson. He has also recorded a corral full of albums and written one western novel – “Jingle In the Horses.
We live in a culture where “branding” has become trendy again. Your brand tells people who you are and what they can expect. It goes a little deeper than that among cowboys. For them, to “ride for the brand” means to be true and loyal to the rancher who hired you. Contrary to popular belief, there is only one brand of truth and His name is Jesus. He even said so Himself in John 14:6. Jeff Gore rides for His brand.
And one more thing I forgot to mention. Jeff is also one of my best friends. So grab some grub and gather round the chuckwagon. We saved you a haybale.
A Lyrical Conversation with Special Guest: Denbigh Cherry.
There’s nothing like a well written song – the perfect blending of notes and lyrics. It can lift; it can humble. It can set your feet to dancin’. It can drop you to your knees in prayer. The right song at the right time can alter the direction of your day. That’s the power of music.
We’re excited to bring back to the table singer/songwriter Denbigh Cherry. Denbigh is a worship leader in New Braunfels, Texas. He and I recently got together to share favorite song lyrics with one another. This conversation is pure fun. So put on the earbuds and get ready to add a few new songs to your playlists. We saved you a seat at the table.
Today we have not one guest – we have five. Five Smooth Stones. Many of us associate those three words with the famous David and Goliath bout. Little vs. big. Good vs. evil. Underdog vs. giant. And so, we imagine we already know where today’s episode is going.
Consider this though. What if the greatest giant you face is you? What if he or she lives in a cave inside your heart? What if the five smooth stones you need to subdue this giant are connected to thankfulness and gratitude?
The possibilities from this table are endless, as you are invited to join the fun and the whimsy and the wonder and the encouragement of gathering rock quintets of your own. So, take off your shoes and wade into the stream. There’s even an ever-changing Spotify playlist to inspire you. Let the Thanksgiving search begin.