I just turned 44 years of age. It’s strange to say I am 44, especially since I feel more like 34. Since Thanksgiving is next week, and since I just celebrated a birthday, I want to reflect on 44 things I am thankful for:
- Good health
- Lori, my wonderful wife
- My three precious daughters
- Good friends
- Eternal life through Jesus Christ
- Maci, my dog (man’s best friend!)
- A church that loves and supports me
- My mom
- The godly legacy my father left
- Heat for when it’s cold
- AC for when its’s hot
- A cozy bed to sleep in
- The Bible
- Hot Tea
- Jan and Lisa, my two sisters
- Jenny, my mother-in-law
- My friendships/partnerships in Belarus
- God is using my story/book on depression
- The staff members I get to work with
- My children go to a good school
- My wife is healthy
- My children are healthy
- The gift of adoption
- My daughters’ birth parents
- My daughters’ birth families
- A reliable vehicle
- Jason, my brother-in-law
- Ways to communicate with others: Phone, e-mail, etc.
- The calling God has has placed upon my life
- The godly legacy my father-in-law left behind
- Hope through Jesus, no matter what
- Love through Jesus, no matter what
I have many more reasons to be thankful, but I often fail to stop and consider how blessed I am. I want to encourage you to take a few moments this week and list reasons you are thankful. List 44, 94, or just 4. The point is this – you are blessed. Reflect on it and thank God for it!
I had a brief layover in Amsterdam after Belarus. I stumbled upon the Red Light District, famous for its drugs and sexual “window shopping.” It was around 10 am, and I was in the area to visit a church – no kidding. The oldest building in Amsterdam is a church built in the 1300’s. It just so happens to be located in the Red Light District, which I soon learned. I walked down a side street and was startled by three windows, filled with prostitutes advertising their services. They were clothed, but in a highly suggestive way, like Victoria’s Secret mannequins posted in the storefront window. One tapped her nails against the window, trying to get my attention, imploring me to buy her services.
How did I feel at that moment? Honestly, I was sick to my stomach. I thought of my three daughters, hoping and praying they never take this path. How did these women get in that window, showcasing their bodies for purchase? What do their fathers think about this? I pray these ladies find Jesus and exit their window to a life of true joy and peace. I pray we are all on guard. We don’t have to be in Amsterdam to see immorality. The world is one big display window, whether through Netflix or Google, tapping on the window, luring us away from Christ.
I can’t believe my kid did that. Emma was playing in my wife’s car recently and put a dime into the CD/DVD player. This is my wife’s “new” car. She has this “new”car because her car was totaled while visiting her dying dad in the hospital. The wreck wasn’t her fault, yet we had to file a claim on our insurance. Needless to say, this “new” car is attached to lots of emotions, not all good. So, when Emma did this I was furious and snapped at her. She didn’t realize how serious this was. Maybe she thought it was a juke box! After settling down, I apologized to Emma and then spent two hours taking the radio out and dismantling the CD/DVD player. I was paid a dime for my labor! It fell out and thankfully the CD/DVD player is working again.
I’m sure your kid has done something similar. You know what, it’s not only kids that disappoint. Have you ever said this about someone, “I cannot believe so and so did this.” Maybe, like Emma, the person doesn’t really mean anything by it. Maybe they are upset because someone else has upset them, or worse, stuck a dime in their CD/DVD player. When someone frustrates you, show a little grace and patience. Besides, my sweet Emma is far more important than a car or CD/DVD player. The person you are upset with is far more important than whatever has you rattled.
My wife and I celebrated our 24th anniversary two weeks ago. (Not in Hawaii unfortunately. This was for our 15th!) Here are a few things I have learned along the way:
- There is no such thing as a perfect spouse, including and especially me.
- The tough times can bring you closer together, if you respond in the right way.
- You cannot change your spouse. You can make them a better person, but they are who they are.
- My wife has been the one true friend I can always count on.
- Even if you “win” an argument, no one really wins unless you settle the matter together and both of you are at peace.
- Your parenting styles will probably differ a little, and this can cause conflict and inconsistent parenting if not dealt with properly.
- In some ways, marriage gets easier as the years go by.
- In some ways, marriage gets harder as the years go by.
- People are watching your marriage. Just by sticking together you will stand out as a godly example for others to see.
- It is better to talk openly about a disagreement and get it all out rather than sit and stew, or give the silent treatment.
- If your walk with God is not right, it will affect how you treat your spouse.
- Every sin you commit drives a wedge between you and your spouse.
- Every confession you make to God diminishes a wedge between you and your spouse.
- Praying with your spouse is one of the most difficult and humbling things you can do.
- Praying for your spouse is one of the greatest things you can do for your marriage.
- Don’t try to make your spouse better, focus on how you can be better.
- Remember the cardinal rule for marriage, love covers a multitude of sins.
- Your spouse will not complete you, only Jesus can do that.
- Your spouse will not bring you true joy. Your spouse can make you happy, but only Jesus can give you deep and abiding joy.
- If you are not intentional in your marriage, you can grow apart from your spouse. When you do, Satan sees an opportunity and will do all he can to wreck your marriage.
- Dates are still important in a marriage. Take your spouse out to eat once a week or once a month.
- Children can become the center of your marriage. Don’t let this happen. Children are not the center of your marriage. Your spouse comes before your children.
- When you are married for a while, it is easy to run out of things to talk about. There is more to life than your kids and your job. Try to talk about something else at times.
- It is easy, really easy, to take your spouse for granted. Don’t do it.
It’s Father’s Day, a day to celebrate dads. I am so blessed to be a dad; however, I cannot help but miss my dad. He died 11 years ago. I would love to pick up the phone and ask him a few questions. I would love for him to meet my two youngest children and see how much my oldest child has grown. I would love more than anything just to sit with him and be in his presence. My wife is experiencing Father’s Day without her dad for the very first time. He died just a few weeks ago. She will soon learn, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Time seems to make wounds all the deeper. I miss my dad far more today than I ever have. If your dad is alive, give him a call, visit, tell him how much you love him. If your dad is not around, remember that you have a Father in Heaven, who loves and cares for you very much. It is to Him we can cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).
My sweet wife and her mom recently had a wreck in New Orleans. (Her car is on the left. The other car is on the right). They were in New Orleans visiting my wife’s father at the hospital. Lori was hit on the way to the hotel, and her car was totaled. I was glad she was OK but worried because we would have to file yet another claim on our insurance, though it was not her fault. This whole incident is a reminder of how silly it is to worry. For instance:
Our insurance premium just increased to a crazy amount. I actually called our company to ask about it the very day before her wreck. So, we needed that “expensive insurance” after all. It has definitely paid for itself.
My wife’s car was hit last summer in the front left bumper by a minor “hit and run.” So, I did my best to repair/paint the area myself. I spent hours trying to make it presentable. Well, in her wreck the other day, guess where the person hit her – the front left bumper – the very spot I so worried about – what a waste of energy!
I now have to buy my wife another vehicle. Though we will get money from our insurance, we’ll still have to spend several thousand dollars to cover the difference. Guess what? I don’t care anymore. Really, no worries! My wife is safe. Her mom is safe. Her dad is at death’s door. It helps keeps things in perspective.
What are you worried about? Does it really matter? Is it making your life any better?
These three jars of pennies stay on our kitchen counter. Each of our three daughters has a jar. What are the pennies for? Each penny represents one week until they turn 18. Notice the jar on the far right is our oldest daughter’s, her jar is almost empty. The middle jar is our middle child’s. The jar on the far left is our youngest’s. The jars are reminders of how precious time is. We have just a little time to lead them and influence them for Jesus. How much time do you have left with your kids? It’s not as much time as you think. Perhaps the jar is already empty, and they have grown up and moved on. Either way, consider how to make the most of your time and use it for Christ.
BTW I got this penny idea from a book –
My oldest daughter and I went to the movies recently. We saw Spider Man, the cartoon version. It was pretty good. Afterwards, we stopped and enjoyed some ice cream. It was a great daddy-daughter date. Then something happened on the way home. A large piece of metal was in the middle of the road, and I couldn’t avoid it. I heard a large thump and the tire light clicked on my dashboard. I pulled over and there it was, a flat tire. I wish that was the end of the story. It wasn’t just the tire that was gashed. The wheel was damaged, too. I put on the spare and notice it isn’t in the best shape either. We were able to get home, but the spare was too old and dry rotted to keep. When you add up the movie trip, the new tire, the new wheel, and the new spare tire, the cost exceeded $400. Yet, I am happy we went. Creating memories with your family is priceless. Besides, we were safe and that’s what really matters. Your day may not turn out as you imagined, but count your blessings. God is always good!
This is the back of my house with a cross in the background. The cross is part of the Methodist church in town, which is across the street from my house. This is a bit ironic since I am the pastor of the Baptist church in town. I have occasionally glanced at the cross and thought how neat it was to see, but I have never given it much thought. I was playing chase with my two youngest children a few days ago in the backyard. I looked up at the cross and thought, “I am so glad the cross is over my house.”
It is a reminder that I need the cross, not just over my house, but over my home. It is a reminder for me to die to myself for the sake of my family. It is a reminder that I need to show my family the very same love that motivated Jesus to die. It is also a reminder that the greatest need of my children is not to be good at sports, to have fashionable clothes, or to even get a good education. It is to submit their lives to Jesus, enjoying the benefits of the cross: Peace, Forgiveness, Love, and Joy, to name a few. You may not live across the street from a church, but is the cross over your home? Your family? Your marriage?
God is far more important than football. This is what I am reminding myself after the Saints, my favorite team, lost in heartbreaking fashion. Not only that, I was rooting for the Chiefs to defeat the Patriots for several reasons. That didn’t happen either. What a disappointment. This is a good time to pause and remember that life is not about who is or isn’t in the Superbowl. It isn’t about whether our team wins or loses. God must be the greatest passion and pursuit of our lives. Jesus must be the source of our joy and value, not who wins a ballgame. Perhaps we worship football a little too much. Perhaps we have made it into more than a game. We have made it an important part of who we are and how we feel. Maybe your team lost too. We need to ingest our humble pie and go back to God. Maybe your team won. Guard your heart. The source and joy of life is Jesus, not Tom Brady or Drew Brees.