Everything seems to revolve around social media now. We send messages on Facebook and text messages for everything. Phone calls are rare and handwritten notes are fading away. The personal touch seems to be lacking at times.
So this morning I wrote my three boys a note. There was nothing all that earth shattering about any of them. I just told them about how much I loved them and how I am proud of them. I shared something about how I pray for them and left it at that. This is so meaningful for them.
Therefore I want to encourage you to do the same for people you love. This week is Thanksgiving. Maybe there is someone you have been taking for granted. It could be that a handwritten note would encourage someone’s day in ways you don’t realize. This is true even if you have horrible handwriting like me!
Pick up that pen and write one to someone and watch how God blessing in that!
We take a lot of things for granted each day. I know this because I take so much for granted myself. It seems like the month of November comes and suddenly people remember to recognize how thankful they are. This is a healthy exercise because we all have seen how quickly circumstances change and how quickly we forget all that we do have. I was pondering this at breakfast this morning as I read an article about the typhoon in the Philippines. Can I adequately wrap my mind around the devastation? Can I look outside my own little world to recognize the hurting masses on the other side of the world? What should I do about it from where I sit in the United States?
It was important for me to understand the human side of it. We all saw pictures of the storm and were amazed at the power. I know I saw it buried on some news website and thought how incredible it looked. I know I was mindful of the people, but I don’t know anyone there. Last year when we experienced a blizzard we lost power for a few days in the winter. Our house got down to about 40 degrees and we were greatly inconvenienced. That was a big deal to us despite the fact that no one was killed. We went to a friends house and slept by their wood stove. It was an inconvenience, but we lived. Now there is nothing wrong with recognizing the problems right in front of us. I just wonder if we all need to take a step back and consider some of the life or death challenges people are facing each day. Maybe the day that my coffee grinder failed to work was not as big of a deal as it seemed at the time. I did still have a home to live in and breath in my lungs, albeit no coffee.
I read a story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about a 20-year-old woman who had a baby only to watch it die as a result of this storm. This child suffocated to death because they had no electricity to insert a ventilator. The story talked about how she sat in the hospital chapel with her first-born baby’s body in a bag next to her. Can we even understand what sort of grief this woman is experiencing? That is just one of many.
This year I am making a new effort to be thankful to God for what I do have and to look around for ways to bless others within that. I think that is what Jesus meant when he told us to look after ‘the least of these’ around us. Each year my family has given to some sort of need as a Thanksgiving offering. It has never amounted to a large amount of money that was given, but it was never really intended to be. We have our kids give something to help people around the world because they need to look outward, as we all do. Last year it was for Hurricane Sandy relief and this year it will go to help those impacted by the typhoon in the Philippines through CAMA services. It is my hope that when we look at what we have and give it away that we get a vision for how we need to be willing to give that blessing away to other people. It starts with something small and grows to something much larger. We all have a part to play and we all have so much to be thankful for.
How do you highlight thankfulness during this time of year?
There is section of Scripture that comes up often because it hits at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. There is a practicality to it that is challenging, probing and affirming at the same time. Last night at bedtime one of my boys was reading a new Bernstain Bears book that had Matthew 25:40 in the front of it.
The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (NASB)
I read the verse to him and started to talk about what that actually was referring to. It is a verse that is in the context of kindness showed to people and how that translates to the same being done for Jesus. I told him that if we were to give someone water because they needed water it is just like giving that water to Jesus. At the same time, if we ignore a need like that when we can help, it is like we are ignoring Jesus.
“Dad, if you were at the grocery store around dinner time and I saw that you only bought milk, I would buy you more food. If you only had milk you would be hungry. I guess I need to bring my wallet along with me and give some dollars to people who need it, right?”
Once again my 6-year-old son has summed up Bible passage for all of us in a way that makes sense. He has maybe a dollar in his wallet, but he would give it away. This begs the question for all of us: Would I give away something I have, even if it is the last bit of something I had? Would you? Who are the people right in front of us that could use some help today? We might need to open our eyes a little bit more and ask God to bless others through us. One thing I know: When we bless others, we are also blessed and, more importantly, Jesus is honored.
My kids never forget the things I tell them I will do. They have gotten so good at it that they even imagine things that I said and then convince me that I said them. It is quite the gift. As it turns out, my kids enjoy spending time with me because they view it as precious time. Often at dinner one of my boys will ask me if I have a meeting. If I say yes, they will groan as if I am going away for two weeks. There are days I find myself wishing they would just leave me alone only to step back and realize that my children want to spend time with me with no other gift required. How precious is that!
What a bonus it is when I tell them we are going to be doing something special. Last year I traveled to Minnesota with one of my boys, and I took another to Six Flags. When I go to the grocery store, or anywhere, I always have a bunch of offers to join me. They don’t require these things, but I love to do this with them. They, in turn, look forward to them with incredible anticipation.
When it comes to God, we also enjoy being in His presence, but He does not stop there with the blessings. He makes it possible for us to participate in what He is doing. He gives us precious promises in order to equip us for this journey of life we are on. We need this because the world is full of corruption, beckoning us to join. Our flesh tries pulling us away, yet God provides a way out.
“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” – 2 Peter 1:4
Here is an excerpt from A.B. Simpson’s Book “The Cross of Christ” which I think illustrates this very well:
“Someone tells of an old man who was riding through a country district when he was accosted by a native who asked him for a ride. He soon began to talk to the man and found that he was not saved. The natives asked him after a while what his business was in those parts. He said, ‘I represent a very large estate that has just been divided by the will of the testator and some of the heirs lived around here, and I am looking for them. Their family name begins with the letter ‘S.’ and they are a very large family.’ Immediately the man became greatly interested.
‘Why,’ he said, ‘I know some of them; they are the Smiths, are they not?’
‘No,’ said the man, as he looked him earnestly in the face. “Their name is ‘Sinner,’ and I think you are one of them, and I have come to bring you a fortune.”
We are in a season leading up the Resurrection Sunday. This is what it is all about! There are only two other times this word precious is used in the Bible. It is used to describe the faith of believers, the blood of Christ, and then the promises here in 2 Peter 1. These are not just some small token of God’s grace, they are Himself! We have been given Jesus Christ because in Him we find the answer to sin’s grip on us and our only way out of it.
May you find joy in the very presence of God today and comfort in the provisions made by His promises.
One of the best parts of a loving church family is their desire to invest in other people. I know I have been blessed as I have taken time to interact with some of the youth at some sort of school event or other outside activity. Just showing up speaks volumes. What has started to happen now is my own children are finding themselves on the receiving end of this. There are various adults who will give up time to show my children some support. It has made me understand the value in that all the more.
Tuesday night I took all four children to the high school for something my oldest was doing. He is involved with uni-cycling and they were going to be performing at half time of one of the basketball games. What a joy it was for me to see some of our church people there to watch him. One of them even asked him for an autograph. You should have seen his face.
The church is about more than showing up on Sunday. We live in the context of community. We love each other, cry with each other, and celebrate the life of faith we have. Having more people who love the Lord coming alongside my children is a blessing that means more than I can adequately articulate. I guess what goes around does actually come around. If you don’t believe me, check the video out.
This leads me to a challenge for me and for you. How are you intentionally investing in other people? I know that might sound scary. But it is not just the role of pastors to come alongside people. This is the job of the entire church. It is not too difficult, but it does take time. Showing up at something that is meaningful to a student, or a family, will make an impact.
Here is a short video I shot of the event. Keep in mind that I was wrangling a couple of children as I shot this video. My son is the one that comes around the far side at the two second mark and then comes closest to us as he makes the circle.
Today I want to give you five days that changed my life for the better.
August 2, 2003
August 18, 2004
March 7, 2007
October 15, 2009
September 27, 2011
Our entire family picture from this past week