(How sweet is this picture? The casual high school senior portrait pose!)
I'm sitting here at our blog site realizing that I haven't updated the content nor shared any news in a good while. I've been communicating via email and newsletters for the most part, but haven't utilized this site the way I'd intended.
Upon reflection, I know that I have so much to report, be thankful for, and 'soap-box' about, but my mind's a blank. Gabrielle, ministry, marriage/parenting, Easter, the newly discovered Gnostic Gospel of Judas, life-circumstances, team, relationships, conferences, upcoming events/travels, the start of the Major League Baseball season... all swimming around in my head furiously, but what do I write about?
I got a haircut the other day. I cut my thumb slicing an onion two nights ago. Just found out that the only couple on our team without kids is pregnant (that will bring our team total to 11 kids, all 6 or younger).
I think if there's one thing that the Lord has been impressing on my heart for the past two years it's to cultivate a thankful heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 has become my theme verse for this season of my life - "Be joyful always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Now I don't want anyone breaking out the violin to 'My Heart Bleeds for You,' or anything. I don't mean to sound forlorn, but when I think about my circumstances sometimes, I can see the value of this scripture passage. Don't get me wrong... I have a beautiful wife. I have a brilliant, healthy and gorgeous baby girl (just check out our online photo album). I'm a part of a ministry team committed to changing lives and changing the world as we try to usher in the Kingdom of God here on earth. Things could be worse...
but marriage is hard; parenting is hard; ministry is hard. I mean it... it's not like the Cosby Show. My wife needs all of me. Gabrielle depends on all of me. Sometimes ministry drags... then there's that fundraising thing.
So how do I rejoice always? How do I pray without ceasing? How do I give thanks in everything? The only answer I've discovered: BY FAITH! Hebrews 12 says that without faith it's impossible to please God. If 1 Thessalonians 5 states that doing these things is God's will for my life, then doing them is pleasing to Him, right?
I'm not usually one of those speakers that gives you a PowerPoint presentation with 5 points that begin with the letter P, but I do have a list on what happens when we give thanks:
1. We enter the presence of God
2. We start seeing our circumstances through God's eyes
3. We don't allow our perception of reality to be controled by our circumstances
4. We start to link our situation(s) with the promises of God
5. We see ourselves and others from God's perspective
6. Our relationships become healthier because they are shaped by faith
As I said, marriage, parenting and ministry can be and have been challenging. It would be easy to stay discouraged and focus on the difficulties and failures that we've been experiencing, but I am now convinced that whatever I might think are the best actions and scenarios for our lives and ministry, God's plan for us is to give us circumstances that will most purify us towards holiness and love, as He selectively gives us the things that will be best for the good of our souls.
"Don't be afraid."
"Cast into the deep."
These are the words of Scripture to inspire the people of God around the globe to trust fully in the Lord and to continue forward in their faith. Don't be afraid of the concrete, practical realities that God will bring your way in the future. If our plans and dreams go radically awry, God's hand is in it all. All for the good of my soul, my family and for all those around me. God loves our obedience, loving trust and surrender.
God just likes to broaden and deepen those who will allow themselves to be expanded because of their loving surrender, submission, and docility to His movements. I despise the darkness, but He desires me to learn to be at peace within the pitch black. I despise my crosses, but God desires me to learn to love each cross He asks me to bear in His name. He shouts to me loudest, I am learning, when I am in pain. I am continually learning how to listen.
My teammates have learned to ask me what I'm thankful for when they see me. I'm thankful that the Lord loves me enough to mold me in darkness and strengthen me with crosses.
Take up your cross and GIVE THANKS!