As Dad

As a dad, I watch all these stages of life in our kids. Our youngest just turned 21 and we are all together as a family celbrating Christmas and the coming of our first grandchild. My wife and I are with our three sons, two daughters-in-law, and one awesome grandson. (Have I mentioned I have a grandson yet?)

As a dad I have all these thoughts flow through my mind as I look at each one. I will sit in a corner of the living room at my oldest son’s home holding my new grandson and listen to the conversation going around the table a few feet away. A flood of memories come through as I remember holding each one as an infant. Remembering ball games and plays… times at church… vacations together… the highs and the lows.

As a dad I have a flood of thoughts remembering how badly I did things as a dad. So many times when my temper was too much or my focus was in the wrong direction… And how God graciously brought me back and the goodness of God overcame the faults in my life and there is joy around that table that evening as I sit holding my grandson. God’s grace overcame my bad parenting flaws to produce three amazing sons who love Jesus, two daughters-in-law who are the best to me, who also love Jesus, along with a godly wife carrying us all… and I am so thankful.

As a dad I have all these thoughts flood through me in what seems to be seconds… and then, when I finally the get the chance to actually say something to each of them, it comes out in about three words or less!

“I love you.”

“I’m proud of you.”

“Good job.”

Words that formulated in my mind… words I might be able to craft on a page… good grief! I can formulate a SERMON!… but when I get the chance to say something directly to my kids… I choke up. I am overwhelmed. Tears come easily. And all I can choke out is, “I love you.”

As a dad, I live my life praying they all know how much I deeply love them, how proud I am of them, and how thankful I am to God for the beautiful results that came in spite of a very flawed man trying to lead them.

A few years back I mentioned to a friend that with my two youngest boys getting ready to graduate high school I would probably spend the next five years just crying all the time because I was so proud. My friend said, “Only five years? Try the rest of your life.” She was right.

As a dad, I sit back and reflect on the goodness of God in the lives of these “kids”, tears come readily, and all I can breathe out is, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Great is his faithfulness. Even if I can’t say more than three words at a time.

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With Thanks

I try to read Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. This year seems even more appropriate. Lincoln make a Thanksgiving proclamation in the middle of the Civil War.

The Union had the victory at Gettysburg and the tide had turned, but the war was still raging. The outcome may have been hopeful, but there was a long way to go. And in the midst of that turmoil, he had the nation pause to give thanks.

These words bear meaning even today:

And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

While giving thanks, let us remain humble. We, too, find ourselves in perilous times. While war doesn’t rage on our shores, we are not a nation at ease. We fight battles within over race, poverty, justice, immigration, and more. We fight battles in other places, placing thousands of soldiers in harm’s way. We face an enemy in ISIS that wants to tear us down.

And in the midst of this time we give thanks. We humbly give thanks.

I jotted some things in my journal reflecting on this past year. Our church has gone through a tremendous transformation. My own family has gone through many blessings as we have added family, and a new grandbaby on the way before the end of the year. Through many trials we find the grace and peace of God. We find his provision. We find his strength.

The Lord is good to us, even if we don’t want to acknowledge it. His rain comes on the righteous and the unrighteous, so even if there are those who will not acknowledge, we draw breath by his grace and that is worthy of giving thanks.

We don’t know what is ahead as a nation, necessarily. We will continue in struggle over so many issues. But on this day, we give thanks.

If a nation in civil war can pause and give thanks, our nation on this day can pause to do the same.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

The Canticle of the Creatures

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,
who sustains us
with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.

We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.

We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility.

-St. Francis of Assisi

Dreaming about what IS possible

2 In the days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills;
peoples will stream to it.
3 Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”
Instruction will come from Zion;
the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
4 God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.

5 Come, house of Jacob,
let’s walk by the Lord’s light. (Isa. 2:2-5)

This is a day of thanks. This is also the week leading us into the first Sunday of Advent. The Old Testament text is the one above from Isaiah.

As I meditate on these verses, and look back at Isaiah 1, I am mindful that in our day we can focus too closely on Isaiah 1 and the current headlines. There is MUCH to be upset about.

But Isaiah chose to SEE something different. He saw what was POSSIBLE. On this day I am so thankful for what I do have in my life that God has brought. I am content. He is so incredibly gracious to me.

And on this day I want to also continue dreaming about what IS possible. I don’t want to dream my own dreams. I want to dream God’s dreams. Isaiah SAW what God could do. This wasn’t HIS dream. It was GOD’S dream.

Dreaming God’s dream today. And being thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Why, yes, I DO love this pope

Not being Catholic has never kept me from admiring good leadership. And this pope has such a pastoral heart.

“Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) was released by the pope today. I have downloaded it, but here are some choice thoughts:

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless.”

This Thanksgiving Week, I am thankful for a man who hears the Gospel so clearly. Lord, help us to have room in our hearts for the poor. Don’t let the stuff of life crowd out your heart!

 

Thankfulness

A great exercise on Facebook is thanking God for something every day in November. I don’t do it. I know I will miss something.

But I was thinking about people and WHO I am thankful for. I jotted down names in my journal, giving thanks for each one, and honestly thinking maybe I could just cover one post with 31 people I’m thankful for.

Well, that’s not going to happen, either.

The list quickly hit 54 65 without even trying hard. People who really make an impact in my life, and I’m not even down to the guy in the Caribou store in the skyway on my way into teach three days a week.

The list stays private because I know I WILL miss someone and sure as I publish something I’ll feel awful about who I missed.

But I’m thankful. It’s not the STUFF in life that makes the most thankful. It’s the PEOPLE. It’s those who have had input into my life, been there for me, shown me incredible examples of godliness, joy, trust, etc.

THANK YOU for so deeply impacting my life. THANK YOU that I don’t have to just thank God for “stuff.” I can thank God for YOU.

 

The ADHD Generation

13 But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold. (Psalm 106:13, NIV)

Our walk with God today sounds too much like this verse. It shows the short term memory loss of humanity in every generation. It’s not just our ADHD issues! Whew!

But it IS a problem as followers of Christ. We are quick to forget what God has done for us and we are too impatient to let his plan unfold for our lives.

We need a Spirit-filled walk with Christ that will keep us in an active listening, active waiting mode. It is a walk that will refuse to short-cut prayer and time in the Word. it is a walk that will pause to give thanks for all that God has done, so we remember his goodness. The enemy wants us robbed of the good things God has already done.

When Saul was king of Israel he was impatient. He couldn’t wait for God’s plan to unfold, and he lost his crown.

David waited years for God’s plan to unfold, and he gained the crown.

Remember his goodness. Reflect on his goodness. Thank him for his goodness. TODAY.

 

Being the Consumer Rather than the Producer

We successfully ventured out strategically yesterday on Black Friday. We targeted very specific needs: Tree, lights, a few grocery items. We hit stores that weren’t busy. Even when we ventured out a second time (cell phone, speakers) we found quiet little places.

Whew.

We go crazy on this stuff. Everyone has their strategy for Black Friday. Ours is laying low.

What we need to be mindful of is the temptation to allow a consumerist mentality invade our Kingdom allegiance. It’s a debate as to go crazy on Black Friday or not. What shouldn’t be a debate is whether or not we allow that same spirit into our lives as believers.

Too often we carry a consumer mentality right into church. That attitude is seen in Malachi.

13 “You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord.

“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’” (Mal. 3:14-15, NIV)

What good is it to serve God? That’s the question.

“Why serve him when it doesn’t serve us?”

That’s the consumerist mentality. We need to be careful.

Last week I spoke in chapel at North Central University and I mentioned that the danger of American Christianity is we are lazy. I don’t mean that ministers are lazy. I mean that, as ministers, we often work so hard to deliver a “product” that other believers can “enjoy” we feed into the system of making other believers lazy. They don’t have to do anything other than sit back and enjoy the show.

We need to be cautious in how we approach God. Serving the King isn’t about what he brings to the table and then we see if we like the offer.

Israel made the mistake of asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Let’s watch our own hearts in this season… and every season.