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?
Prayer is a vital part of life; It has to be or else we lose connection with God. It is true that people who don’t believe in God will sometimes pray because there is something in us that desires to see something powerful happen around us. Prayer is also a place that gets neglected in lives because it is perceived as something that needs to be done in a liturgical manner. I have heard often the longings of someone who says they want to pray more but just don’t have the time. My question to them is always: “How much time do you actually need to pray?”
The Bible tells us to “pray continually” and to “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions”. When people read that they get even more discouraged because that sounds like something nobody can ever accomplish. That leads to discouragement and a lack of connection with God. We tend to complicate things a bit with our ideas. I think it is helpful to look at the prayer lives of children in order to get a better sense of what it should look like. Yes, you heard me right – children.
We have taught our children to pray as they go about life and to be sensitive to when that needs to happen. No, it has not happened as much as it should, but it has happened more than it ever would have without our direction. For example, if one of them wakes up during the night because they had a scary dream, we will always remind them that God is bigger and pray with them. This has helped them to have the confidence to do this on their own when they have felt some fear. At other times there might be people who are hurting or need something and we will pray for them. This past summer my son and I came upon a scene of someone we know getting air lifted to a hospital after he fell while doing some roof work. I was pacing the house and my son looked at me and said, “dad, I prayed for him.” I was pacing continually and he was praying continually!
The other night I was driving with my 2-year-old daughter when she said, “Thank you God” a few different times just randomly. She was praying while we were driving back from the store. Every night we pray with her and thank God for whatever comes to mind. The other night she thanked God for “quack quacks” and “Jesus”. This simple activity before bed has been integrated into more areas of her life without our forcing it to happen!
I think we can learn something from the prayer life of children. There is no filter to their prayer; they are real. They are not afraid to just pray out loud. They pray with such faith and simplicity. It is no wonder Jesus told us to have faith like children.
The lesson for me is to pray for whatever, whomever, whenever the Spirit leads. It means to not simply go through a list of requests, but to pray as people come to mind. It means praying with people who need to find that connection with God. Above all it means making sure that prayer is a continual part of my life because without prayer we are powerless to accomplish God’s work!
Our journey with God continues to surprise us. The reason is mainly because I try to get ahead of God with the plan. God has better plans and I have had to surrender many times to His purposes. It is hard and stretching to be in that place. As a parent I have to tell my children not to do certain things because it will harm them. They often tell me to “chill out” only in nicer terms than that because they seem to know what will happen. Of course you will be shocked to learn that often the results of their disobedience is the very thing I was trying to help them avoid. Would I ever do that?
The thing is there is struggle in the process of obedience because on the surface I see one thing and underneath God knows what is best. We are not given the whole plan. We are given the option to trust. This works out fine when you look at who God is.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” – Romans 11:33-34
Thank you God for calling us, using us, and going before us. We are so grateful to be a part of your story!
There was a story in the news yesterday about a homeless man who found a whole bunch of money and traveler’s checks worth more than $40,000 and he turned them in. This has become a big deal because it is so unusual for people to show this sort of honesty today. He was quoted in one story I read as saying that God has always taken care of him. This time is no exception. It appears that through donations he will receive something like $50,000 all for being honest.
This reminds me of something that was written about in 2 Corinthians 9:8:
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
We should not lose sight of the importance of honesty in today’s culture. Sure it is nice to think that money will fall out of the sky and provide our needs, but how much better is it to live life knowing God will provide? This man proved that honesty still is the best policy.
Here’s the story — Homeless Good Samaritan (opens in new window)
I took my 6-year-old son fishing yesterday at a pond in town. The goal for him was to catch enough fish to have some sort of fish nuggets. We caught a handful of fish, but they were all too small to get any meat from. One of the joys in this for my son is to be able to cast. I have been trying for a long time to teach the boys how to cast into the water. The always manage to cast near the water, even if sometimes the hook goes backwards. This does create a lot of extra work for me, but I figure one day it will be worth it. Even with their shady casting record, I inevitably I hear “dad, let me cast.” I then hand the rod to them and get out of the way. Casting is a skill, a learned skill, and something that has inherent challenges to it. There are times when the wind is blowing too hard to cast with precision. There are other times when there are trees or other people around making it difficult to cast. Certain reels will get tangled up if you are not careful. Sometimes the location of your cast ends up being on top of lily pads or an unseen stump that will just get you hooked up to it.
In 1 Peter 5, Peter tells us to cast our anxiety on Jesus. We are called to cast our fears and heartaches on Him. Life is filled with unknowns. We live much healthier lives when we apply this truth daily.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
The same way there are challenges to casting a fishing line in the water, there are also challenges to casting our anxiety on Jesus Christ. We are people who look around and see all the challenges with an increased sense of panic. That is when the “what if” scenarios start in. “What if I make the wrong choice?” “What if the test results show cancer?” “What if I am not happy?” Yet, what does it say? Are we supposed to cast our anxiety on him just because that seems like the logical thing to do? No, we are to cast our anxiety on him because he cares. The God of the entire universe cares for you!
Today might be a great day to start your casting lesson. Sure you might hit some unexpected obstacles and forget how to cast at times, but soon you will find the joy in resting in the one who cares for you.
There are days when I look at my wife and say “isn’t this fun?” That sarcastic remark generally comes in the context of our children fighting with each other. My children, like all children I have ever met, have this intense desire to irritate their siblings. It is something that we do not have to teach to our children. When I was a kid I fought with my siblings as well and drove my parents crazy too! The good news it that summer is winding down, and I guess that is also the bad news as well.
We all learn how to have many different types of relationships. We have work relationships, family relationships, casual relationship, and formal relationship. Sometimes people irritate us and sometimes they don’t. There are even times when we irritate other people. (I know, shocking) The difference is that as adults we should be able to work things through with people in a way that honors God. This is in contrast to the complaining or screaming that kids might do. The key to this has little to nothing to do with our own skills; it has everything to do with the work of God in us. Let me highlight three examples of this as an encouragement to all of us who want to live as Christ calls us to live.
Sing Praise to God With Each Other
As churches we do this every Sunday because it lifts up the name of Jesus Christ and encourages each other to do the same. When we worship together our focus is placed solely on the Lord and away from our own potential issues.
This works in my home when the kids want to start fighting about something. We often turn on a song that they can sing along with. Singing to God diffuses those areas of conflict. Try it!
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,” – Ephesians 5:19
Be Thankful — Say Thank You
Being thankful is not an add-on to the Christian life; it is a core piece of a Christian’s life. Why? Because we realize how much we have been given in Jesus Christ compared to what we deserve. God is so good to us!
Try thanking someone for something they did and watch how it changes the relationship. There is something amazing and affirming about genuinely thanking someone. If there is someone you are having a difficult time with, it might be time for you to not only show them kindness, but also to thank God for them. It will change your heart.
“always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 5:20
The most compelling reason we need to really watch how we relate to each other is because it honors Jesus Christ when we love one another. We need to remain connected to Him in order to accomplish anything.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of this in our homes and churches. Jesus Christ deserves all our praise. He is exalted as we are united in Him. It could be time to set petty disagreements aside in favor of His glory.
“Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. ” – Ephesians 5:21
Relationships are not always easy, but we are called to serve God in the context of relationships. When we keep the focus on God and how He directs us through His Word we find a unity that brings honor to His name. As I tell my boys all the time, maybe it is time to calm down and share your Legos. At the very least it is time to stop and praise God with each other. He will work in our hearts when we do.
I have realized that over the course of time the Lego Jar posts have become a collection of pictures with my children in dirt. Now I understand that there are various types of dirt they can and do get into. My boys took it to a new level this week with their attempt to clean the dirt with water. No, I am not talking about the dirt on their hands; I am talking about the dirt in the yard.
It just fits right into the normal scene we have everyday. I look at the kids and wonder “how did you manage to get so dirt?”
While we are talking about her, she really likes babies. She has several of them, as seen in this picture. She recently discovered the baby albums and flips through the pages with glee at all the babies in there! The problem is she tends to rip pages out. Mom frowns upon that.
And the kids used the camera again.
Lastly, we celebrated my oldest son’s 9th birthday this past week. It is hard to believe. He helped make his cake. It was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips. Wow!
Have a great weekend! Stay clean.