More than hot dogs and summer

united-states-flagIsn’t it interesting that the people who really ought to be able to celebrate Memorial Day are not able to?  There are those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom we honor on this day.  They have already paid it all giving up promising lives for freedom.  There are those who are currently serving in combat zones for our freedom right now.  They fight so that we don’t have to.    They are not able to take a break from their work to have hot dogs with their families.    We are thankful for them and for their families.

We take a lot for granted as a society.  We might have a great experience at some restaurant 100 times and never pay anyone a compliment.  Then on visit 101 there is an issue with the food and every social media website hears about it.  We will make them pay for their sin. How about the freedom we enjoy?  Do we ever take it for granted?  I know some parts of the world don’t live in such a peaceful environment.  And with our recent terrorism we are all the more mindful of how quickly things can change.  May we never take it for granted.

So, while we love the official start of summer and all that goes with that.  We must also remember that the freedom we enjoy was not free.

Of course we can’t forget about the sacrifice made for our eternal well-being without which all of this world wouldn’t matter anyway.  It was Jesus Christ who  paid the ultimate sacrifice in dying to set us free from the power of sin.  We owe Him everything.  Every morning we are alive should be another opportunity to praise His name and live in Him.

Summer begins
Summer begins

So, today as you celebrate, thank God for this great country we live in and the people who fought for what we have,  but don’t forget about Jesus.  He died for us and now we are called to live for Him.   Make this memorial day about more than eating hot dogs and dreaming about summer.  Make it an opportunity to praise the God who saves!

What ever happened to thank you?

From NSTAR's Facebook page
From NSTAR’s Facebook page

In preparation for the snow storm we were expected to get, we fully anticipated we would lose power.  In fact, given the amount of wind and wet snow expected, I would have been shocked if we did not lose power.  All night long, and through much of the day, the wind roared with enough force that it broke things off our house.  Finally, early Saturday morning the power went off.  Yes, our house got very cold, as did many.  But we were inside and sheltered from the storm.  Yes, I was frustrated with the amount of time the power was off, but I was able to stay warm by a wood stove.  It is difficult to lose power when we rely on it for so much.

In the aftermath of this storm, the power company was out there in force working to restore power.  They were assessing damage while we were all inside.  There were a lot of power lines down and that is only part of the issue.  There is wind and snow.  There are obstacles.  Our response to them should be “thank you for your hard work.”  Yet, if you look at social media right now you see a lot of complaining.

I understand the complaints.  We went for nearly 5 days without power after Tropical Storm Irene.  It was hard to live that way with our children, but it was summer and we managed.  I know winter brings with it cold weather and can be dangerous.   Our house was 39 degrees at one point this weekend. However, don’t you think that the utility companies are aware of that?  I don’t understand the raking over the coals that so many people are doing.

There are many things we take for granted.  Everyday I turn on the light and make my coffee without much thought.  Then one day it is off because of something that no one could have avoided and we berate the utilities.  What happened to our manners?   What happened to our willingness to thank people for working in harsh conditions in order to bring power back to communities?  Yes, it is their job.  But they do still deserve at least some appreciation in the midst of all the complaints.

After our church burned down we took plates of cookies to the local departments as a thank you.  (story) There were 7 different departments involved at that fire.  We took them a card and some cookies.  They were shocked by our gesture.  One of them even said they should be giving us something.  Some wondered why we would do that since it was their job to respond to the fire.  The reason is simple — people are more than their job title.  People care for each other and show concern when something happens in the community.  People look out for their neighbors and appreciate the hard work of community members to fix important parts of our lives.  We should not take that for granted.

gnomeFor those still without power, I hope it comes back quickly.  For those of us with power restored,  we really need to consider who we know who might be in the dark still.  Rather than complain, let’s help each other.  Thank you!

Thank You for Your Thankfulness

Thanks for the picnic

We have now entered a season where we are suddenly thankful.   Why isn’t thankfulness a more prominent theme through-out the year?  A grateful heart does make for a more content life.   It does make me wonder how many more ‘thank yous’ would be given out if they would exponentially increase the amount of that item you received.  For example, let’s say that you have just received a bonus from your employer.  You appropriately thank your boss and are immediately given another bonus!  That sounds like a good deal, right?  Of course, the human heart is inherently evil, so that would just set us up for abuse.  Then are you really thankful for that, or are you just doing what you need to do in order to get what you want?

Alright, well what about non-material things?  Your spouse comes home after a long day and you notice that they are a little glum.  You, appropriately, go over to them and give them a hug.  They say ‘thank you.’  You then give them another hug.  This sounds nice, right? Sure, but  I guess that could be manipulated also.

What about if we approach this with a real heart of gratitude?  What if we all appreciate each other?  What if we express gratitude to each other as a way of life with no strings attached?  That way no one expects to get anything in return, but are even more exited to be appreciated in return.

You see, thankfulness is not about what you get, it is about what you give.  If each person is thankful, then the world naturally becomes a better place.  If I appreciate my kids more, then I also show them I love them more often.Then they learn it and do it themselves!   If I wake up each morning thanking God for a new day, then my attitude might be just a little different about that dreaded activity I need to do that day.  If I thank God each night before I go to bed, then I recognize each day as an important part of God’s plan for my life.  It all matters!

Having said all of that, here are a few things I am thankful for right now.

Arriving Home Affections — I love coming home to my kids.  They come running everyday.  My daughter will say “dah” and hold out her hands.  This is something I don’t want to see end, even though I realize it will.  I sit down and kids come to sit close to me.  My daughter will back herself into my lap.  It is something I am thankful for everyday.

Leaving Home Affections – When I leave in the morning, I get all kinds of hugs.  I have mentioned before the “one more hug” scenario at my house.  My kids just love to give me hugs before I leave.  I always have time for just one more.

My Wife- She does more than she gets credit for, even after I nominated her for a gold medal.  That being said, she puts up with a lot with all the boys in the house.  I am thankful for her willingness to stay home and invest in their lives.  It will pay off in huge dividends.

A Job- I do not take my job for granted.  In youth ministry there is often a significant amount of turnover.  I have been here 6 years now.  I thank God everyday for the opportunity to be a part of what He is doing.

A Hope-  With many people’s lives spiraling out of control, I am thankful that God has given me hope for a future.  Salvation is more important than any piece of material wealth I could accumulate here.  As one who follows Jesus, I would encourage everyone to follow Jesus.  There is no sin you have committed that is too big for Him to forgive!

This is just a sampling of what I am thankful for.  I know that everyday is filled with small blessings that are overlooked.  I think we all live healthier lives when we stop doing things in order to get something we want, and instead take time to appreciate all that we have been given.

 I guess  you could say that I am thankful for thankfulness, and I hope we never run out.