So I did a thing today. Or technically, I did THE thing today. I got my Moderna vaccine booster shot. It’s something that I decided was right for me to do at the time. I don’t feel like I have the right to tell anybody else what they need to do regarding vaccines. Each person should be able to assess the facts and come up with a decision based on sound logic. Unfortunately, sound logic and common sense aren’t very common these days.

But I’m ready for this whole pandemic thing to be over. I’m praying for God to eradicate this coronavirus. I’m praying for no more new cases, no more hospitalizations, and absolutely no more deaths from this virus. I want the term COVID-19 to be a past tense thing.

Maybe I’m being naive and unrealistic. Still, I believe completely in the power of prayer. I believe that if God can cause a valley of dry bones to stand again as a living, breathing army, He can deal with a simple virus. If God can bring Lazarus back from the dead, then He can handle a pandemic. I’m trusting in the power of God way more than I’m trusting in any vaccines or boosters or shots. That’s where my true hope lies.

Thanksgiving Day 2021

I didn’t exactly eat my weight in food this time, but I managed to put away a good bit of turkey and dressing, as well as the other usual Thanksgiving meal staples. I even left room for some strawberry rhubarb pie with ice cream. It was a good day.

The best part was that I got to experience all this culinary goodness with my family. Good company always makes food taste better, especially when it’s people that you love who love you back. A meal shared is much better than a meal eaten alone.

I remain supremely grateful for my life. I choose to look at the blessings I have rather than all that the world says I need to have before I can be truly happy. Do I have everything I want? No. Do I have everything I need? Yes. I choose to do the most counter-cultural thing in this current culture and say that I am completely content. I won’t need a bunch of Black Friday deals give me any more peace than I already have.

But you know what’s better than a good Thanksgiving meal? Thanksgiving leftovers the next day.

Thanksgiving Eve 2021

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but Thanksgiving isn’t what it used to be. I feel like Thanksgiving is kind of the Pluto of holidays. Remember how Pluto used to be a planet? Then some bigwigs decided that it wasn’t really a planet, but a dwarf planet. Like it didn’t count as much because it was smaller? I believe in you, Pluto. I still think you’re a real planet.

I think Thanksgiving has also been demoted a bit. Now it’s a day to eat a lot and watch football. It’s not even considered a real holiday anymore. It’s more of a gateway holiday to Christmas when people start getting all their decorations down from the attic and preparing to deck the halls and adorn the Christmas tree.

Thanksgiving as I see it is a celebration of the original Pilgrims who came over in 1622 with little more than hope and faith in God. They took a day as a way of saying thanks back to God for having delivered them to a new land full of promise. Whether or not you believe that story or not, it’s good to take a day to reflect and give thanks. It’s good to take 24 hours to be intentional in your gratitude.

Obviously, thanksgiving should be a mindset that we keep all year round. Gratitude should be not an occasional act but a constant mentality that comes from focusing on all that God has blessed us with rather than seeing only what we don’t have that we wish we did. Thankfulness keeps us from becoming entitled and keeps up humble.

Tomorrow, I do hope you get a lot of good food. I hope the football games are competitive this year. But I hope more than anything else that you will take time to be thankful and to express your gratitude to those you love with words and acts of kindness. Above all, I hope you include room in your day to show gratitude to God for another year of providential care and grace.

Joy in the Journey

Tonight, Mike Harder spoke about what it looks like to live out our yes to God. He went to Abraham in Genesis 12 as the example of someone who left his home, family, and city without knowing the place to which God was calling him. Abraham said yes in faith to the first step of God’s plan without asking to see the rest of the journey.

God asks us to trust him in that first step of obedience. Often, we want to see the big picture before we commit to God’s plan, but God isn’t as much seeking our approval as He is our obedience.

I’m reminded of an episode of The Chosen where we see a man named Nathaniel sitting under a tree crying and yelling at God. He says, “Can you even see me? Do you even know I’m here?”

He doesn’t get a response in the moment, so the scene dissolves with him looking dejected and depressed, thinking God hasn’t heard him at all. Later, he gets invited by a friend to come and see a man who could be the Messiah. At first, Nathaniel is hesitant, but eventually he goes.

When Nathaniel meets the Messiah, Jesus says to him, “When you were sitting under that tree, I saw you.”

He was answering Nathaniel’s prayer. But Nathaniel would never have been in a position to hear the answer had he not made that first move to come and see. Nathaniel wouldn’t have known Jesus as the Messiah unless he was willing to literally and figuratively take that first step.

God doesn’t promise to tell us where we’re going, but He promises to be with us along the way. Abraham’s greatest joy was in the following as much as in the final destination. So it is with us. The goal is just as much about knowing and trusting God more and more as it is about reaching the place where God is calling you.

But Seriously

I’d like to think that I’d be the exception rather than the rule. You know that most of the people who win the lottery end up going bankrupt, right? That’s because they don’t have discipline with money so they overspend and throw money away and end up in debt.

I’d like to think I’d be different. Sure, I’d buy a nicer car and a modest mansion. Maybe a vacation island or two. Nothing fancy. And I don’t even have to be a millionaire to be happy. I think I could do nicely with $50,000. That would come in very handy right about now.

I’d even tithe my winnings. So everybody wins, right?

My All in All

I think the old adage is true — you never know Jesus is all you need until He’s all you have. I also think that most of us in America have Jesus plus a lot of other stuff. Jesus has become for many one option among many instead of being supreme in our lives.

I heard a sermon today where the pastor said that any circumstance, good or bad, can be God’s way of pointing us back to our deep need for Jesus. When God takes away what we hold dear, we then can find out that He is the one who truly does supply all our needs through His abundant riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

When we understand that everything we think is ours is really because of God, we can learn better to hold on to things with open hands. We can rejoice whether in plenty or in want because we know that God is our ultimate provision. We can be radically generous because we know that we have received the extravagant grace and mercy of God.

The way I see it, anything that drives me deeper into the presence of God is ultimately good. Anything that opens my eyes to my dependence on Jesus for every breath is a blessing. A famous writer once called his wife’s cancer a severe mercy because through it He saw the faithfulness of God at work in her and in him.

The simple truth is that if I have God and all the world, I have no more than if I had God and God alone. God is and will always be sufficient. God is enough.

A Refreshing Reminder

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8:31-39, The Message)

I’m a fan of the traditional translations of the Bible that closely follow the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts, but every now and then, I like a little bit of The Message to give new insights on old tried and true Scripture passages. Romans 8:31-39 is a good example of something I have probably read hundreds of times to the point where it can almost seem rote. But when you get Eugene Peterson’s unique rendering, it makes the words and ideas seem as fresh and new as the day Paul penned them.

My suggestion is to take these verses and read them over and over until you can say them from memory. Then read them again. Read them until they become embedded in your very being and will come to mind whenever you feel worthless or defeated or just no good. Read them like God is audibly speaking the words to you — over you — with compassion and love in His voice as a Father would speak words of love to his child. Then maybe, just maybe, if we did that we might actually begin to believe and live them out.

A Different Way

That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years. You can never go back and recreate a memory exactly like you remember it. You can go to the same places with the same people, but it will always be different. You are different than you were. So are the other people. Sometimes, even the places have changed.

What you can do is to live in the moment and appreciate it for what it is rather than trying to make it something it used to be, but isn’t anymore. You can look for God to work in a new way and to arrange each chapter a little differently than the one before.

The best moments, the ones you remember so fondly, were you having no expectations except that God would show up somehow and someway. The important part isn’t the details, because most of those didn’t happen quite the way you remember. The biggest part was that God was there and you saw Him moving and working.

Even now, let that be the song of your heart — an unfettered expectation that God will do what only God can do in a way that only God can do it.

From the Pit Not the Pedestal

I don’t know about any of you, but there are certainly days when I feel very much unqualified. I feel like someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and walk me back to some 4th grade classroom and say something like, “This is where you’re supposed to be. You’re not grown up to be in the adult world. Now get your big fat pencil and get to writing that essay on what you did last summer”

Some days, I don’t feel much like I’m successfully adulting, much less being a useful servant of God. It’s all I can do to get through the day without having to use the righty-tighty, lefty-loosey hand signals or singing the alphabet song to see which letter comes next.

But God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies those He calls and enables them to do what He asks. All that He requires from me is my surrender and my availability. What God wants from me is simply my YES to whatever He asks, whenever He asks.

The Bible is full of heroic moments and brave men and women. The Bible is also full of God’s chosen people choosing poorly and making incredibly stupid decisions. Or people who saw God move not because of them but in spite of them. They just simply happened to be in the room when God showed up.

One of my favorites is David, the one called a man after God’s own heart. Also, the one who lusted after a woman, lured her into his bedroom, slept with her, got her pregnant, and had her husband (and a few other good men) killed off to cover up his misdeeds. That one.

David is also the one who owned up to his sins, calling them for what they were. He’s also the one who never stopped trusting in God’s goodness, even when he couldn’t see it or feel it. He’s the one who never stopped seeking God because he knew that God was the only one keeping him alive.

May today be the day that you and I can offer an unqualified YES to God, even if we have nothing else to offer. All God needs is a place to start.

Impossible Standards

I saw a post that said what I wanted to say better than I could have ever said it, so instead of trying to paraphrase it or recreated it, I’m doing the old copy and paste bit and letting you read the original for yourself. It’s worth the read:

“Without the Gospel This Is Laughable.

‘Do everything in love.’ 1 Cor. 16:14

Heavenly Father, “Do everything in love?… seriously? There’s only one reason to take this admonition seriously. We love because you first loved us and gave Jesus as our perfect and complete Savior (1 John 4:19). We won’t love perfectly till heaven, but we are already loved perfectly by you. Now and forever, you love us without conditions, limits, qualifiers, or disqualifiers. It’s only because of your great love for us in Jesus we can risk loving when it’s not easy, won’t be reciprocated, and requires more than we want to give. Help us, Father.

• Help us love well when we’re tired, frustrated, and sleep-deprived.

• Help us love well when we get triggered by past wounds and broken trust.

• Help us love well when conflict is inevitable and necessary—like a boil-lancing.

• Help us love well by remembering the Gospel—more so than real hurts.

• Help us love well by taking back the power we gave people to shame us.

• Help us love well—not using kindness and politeness to get something.

• Help us love well during Thanksgiving. Holidays can be fun, tricky, and messy.

• Help us love well, releasing control, outcomes, and our fears to you.

• Help us love well—by giving grace, not getting even.

Father, keep our hearts alive to your tenacious, wild, outrageous, joyful, transforming love for us in Jesus. That will make all the difference in the world. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name” (Scotty Smith).