After 29 years of marriage there are many things to be thankful for. Carol became my best friend just over thirty years ago, so I married her. That’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give to any couple. Marry your best friend!
As I look back there have been long walks, cross country vacations, hikes, eating out, lots of conversation, skiing, kids, five kids (which have been an absolute blast), house building projects, and more.
Of course, anytime you make a list off the top of your head you will undoubtedly leave something special out.
However, let me add one that often gets overlooked.
Not mine, but Carol’s.
We have five kids, but I always wanted just four. So after Savannah, our fourth child, I was done. Carol was not. She really wanted a fifth, but she recalls me being adamant about not having another one.
So what did she do? She could have nagged, badgered, and pestered me, but she didn’t. She prayed.
Gabe has quite a heritage. I am not saying we did not pray for our kids prior to their coming into this world. But Gabe was different. In fact, it brings to mind the story of Samuel in the Old Testament.
Hannah was a Jewish woman who desperately wanted to have a child but was unable. She was barren for years, but during that time she continued to pray and ask God for a child. She prevailed in prayer, God heard, and she had a boy named Samuel. (It’s a great story in 1 Samuel chapter 1).
I’m thankful that I have a wife who prevailed in prayer. I often wonder how many times Hannah thanked God for her boy Samuel. I even wonder how often Hannah’s husband thanked God for a praying wife.
Yes, there have been many incredible memories and great times over the years. Yet Gabe is a constant reminder that I have a praying wife.
That’s a lot to be thankful for. 29 years of marriage and counting. In fact, we have already planned our 30th wedding anniversary. Can’t wait!!
Before you know it you have drifted so far up or down the beach nothing looks familiar. Or you have drifted so far out that you begin to panic.
In life it happens all the time. We tend to think drifting only happens at the beach. Yet that is not the case at all.
One of the most noticeable types of drifting is marital drift.
Ask any crowd of married people who is planning on getting a divorce and few hands go up.
So why is the divorce rate so high? Because couples drift until they grow so far apart that very little is left to the marriage. Typically by the time a couple senses that they have drifted, they have drifted so far away from the shore it’s almost impossible to paddle back in.
Let’s use the acrostic D.R.I.F.T. to describe and better understand the deadly affects of drifting. You may be drifting now and not know it. Here is what it looks like.
Distraction – Sometimes I feel like the king of distraction. I’m watching a ball game and get up to go do something. Then I get caught up in a project and do not return to the game for thirty minutes. In marriage couples get distracted by work, kids, activities, and television.
Rearrange – Soon our priorities change. A couple who used to go out for dinner once a week no longer makes it a priority. Something else has taken its place. The couple who used to take long walks has allowed time on the computer to take precedence.
Immune – Sadly it no longer bothers us. No dinner date for six months and no sign of remorse. Yet it is typically at this point that we live in denial which leads us to the letter f.
Fake it – However, as we venture out into the public eye everyone thinks we have a great marriage. In fact we so good at it that when a couple breaks up it is not unusual to here, “Wow, I had not idea their marriage was in trouble.”
Top it off – In marriage it may be an affair. In one spiritual life it may be that he bails on God.
Here’s the question. Do people have affairs all the sudden? Do people bail on God overnight? Do we become obese in a week? Does our house fall apart over the weekend?
We all know the answer, but how many of us are asking the real question: Am I D.R.I.F.T.ing in my life, in my marriage, or in my physical health?
Often it is easier to drift than paddle back to shore. However, it’s time to quit drifting and start paddling!
Most of us are probably somewhat familiar with the origin of our Thanksgiving holiday. We could trace its history all the way back to the Reformation, the decline of biblical values in society, and the desire of some Christians to be able to worship freely.
However, what is most familiar is the story of the Pilgrims. They started out in England and from there went to Holland. They felt that God was leading them to plant a colony where they could worship and live their lives as the Bible taught. Because they separated themselves and moved in 1608 to Holland they were called “Separatists.”
After twelve years in Holland they packed up again once again in search of religious freedom and a desire to expand their Christian faith. Later the Separatists became better known as Pilgrims which means travelers or wanderers.
That led ultimately to a voyage to America in 1620. The Mayflower landed late in 1620 with only about one third of its passengers considered to be Separatists. Upon arrival not everyone was interested in working to his full capacity and for the first couple of years food was in short supply.
It was at that time William Bradford decided to divide the land and let each household be responsible for meeting their own needs. It turned out to be a very wise decision, as production in the colony went way up. As Bradford later writes he is careful to give God all the credit for numerous events, the decisions that were made, and for leading them in specific ways.
While we have read about the first Thanksgiving in 1621 after the Pilgrims’ first growing season how often do we stop and give thanks for how God has led us? Let’s not forget that that first year was not incredible. One third of the colonists died during that first winter because of malnutrition or disease. The point is we don’t simply thank God when life is overly bountiful, we also thank Him in lesser times. That means we all have a story to tell where God gets the credit.
Carol and I built our first house and lived in it for several years as we added on and finished the basement. Our house was simple and small, but our lives were about to change. We went out on a date on a Friday night. Right after we dropped the kids off at some friends Carol suggested that we take a look at a piece of land she had seen advertised on the highway.
At this point I was in no mood to build another house. After all we had just finished the one we were in. For some reason (I believe God led me), I said ok, “Where is the property?”
We drove by and by Sunday evening we had a deal on five acres of property. It was there that we built our second house and from a financial standpoint it turned out to be the biggest turning point in our lives.
Like William Bradford, I hope to be able to always look back and see how God has worked in my life. Too much happens that I simply cannot take the credit for. What if Carol and I had not gone out on that Friday night? We learned later that another buyer had the money to buy it at 8am on Monday morning. What if Carol had not gone out that day and seen the sign?
The bottom line–God is at work in your life. Have you noticed? Have you taken the time to recount how He has led you?
This Thanksgiving, take some time to review God’s providence, His working in your life, and thank Him.
Thanksgiving: Give God the Credit!
Growing up my dad was a strong proponent of hard work. Physical labor was always admired and held in high esteem in our house.
Now while I was more than ready to work, I also had a fondness for reading. Even as a kid I would sometimes sit and read in an encyclopedia. In fact, back then our family would purchase the yearly update to the World Book Encyclopedia. I would always find time to read part of that yearly volume.
Now that I am in the ministry I continue to read, about 500 pages per week. I am always reading, researching, and writing.
One of the hardest mental concepts I have had to overcome is that I am really working even when physical labor is not involved. Ministry includes things like reading, writing messages, meeting with people, and praying. And while the apostle Paul said that he labored in praying, most people cannot identify prayer alongside hard labor.
Abraham Lincoln grew up in an agrarian society in which physical labor was highly valued. Yet Lincoln found himself reading.
Of course, in his day, reading was somewhat frowned upon. His own cousin considered him lazy, actually very lazy. To the cousin all Lincoln wanted to do was read and write poetry.
However, it was his reading that eventually paved the way for him to seek the presidency of the United States. Somewhere along the way he became comfortable challenging the old concept that placed a high value on physical labor and a low value on reading and writing.
Somewhere in the recesses of your mind you are holding on to a concept that may be holding you back from being who you were meant to be. Whatever your vision, it may not be encouraged by your peers.
Recently my 98 year old grandmother passed away, and I shared a few thoughts at her funeral. Never underestimate the power of influence you have in others, especially younger children.
If you are like me you can look back at an unfavorable circumstance that ultimately worked out in your favor.
Stories like this abound in the Bible. There is the story of Jonah who ran from God. That is not the brightest thing to do. Eventually Jonah found himself on a boat in the midst of a violent storm. Then the men on board threw him into the sea and Jonah winds up inside a large fish. God used all of those unfavorable circumstances to accomplish His purpose which was for Jonah to bring revival to the city of Nineveh.
Joseph was loved by his father, hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, cast into prison in Egypt, and forgotten. Yet God used the positive and the negative circumstances, one circumstance after another to bring Joseph all the way to the position of Prime Minister of Egypt.
Your life will likely be the same (excluding the Prime Minister part). Circumstance after circumstance, good or bad, will be used by God to accomplish His purpose in your life. It takes all kinds of circumstances to produce the person and the outcome God is after. God has a particular design in mind for you, and He will work through each one until He arrives at the finished product. His personal development plan for your life will be multi-faceted, but you will like the finished product.
Circumstances. At times you will wonder what’s going on. Your patience may run thin as you speculate as to whether God is actually in your court.
In fact, God is right in the middle of your circumstances!
In my recent post, Life Can Be Cruel, I mentioned three things that seem to compound the intensity of our sufferings. Joseph experienced all three and stands out in the Bible as one who maintained a positive attitude and reflected a kind, and uplifting demeanor through it all.
For many of us it is much more natural to become angry when we do not get our way. Or we become very impatient after a ninety second wait at our favorite fast food joint. If someone really ticks us off or highly offends us then we get bitter.
Our series of misfortunes and mistreatment run the gamut. When we survey Joseph’s life I wonder if we just gloss over it figuring he must be the exception.
But the Bible is clear that the stories were written to encourage us and give us an example to follow. With that in mind, three words come to mind as we take a closer look at Joseph’s life.
1. Walk. Joseph knew that he was walking with God. There was no obvious sin in his life which brought on his personal hardships. While he was not perfect, he was not living under a cloud of guilt.
2. Willingness. One of the hardest truths to accept is that God often uses suffering to refine us and shape us. In the NT Peter mentions this in one of his letters. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” Yet how many of us find ourselves willingly suffering and trusting in God’s purposes?
3. Witness. This no doubt gets overlooked way too often. One reason we keep singing and smiling is to show God’s strengthening grace. You can’t explain it, but you can experience it, and expose it. What a testimony to those who do not know the Lord. What a testimony to fellow Christ-followers. What an example for our kids.
There is too much at stake to allow the hardships, the unjust cruelties, and the slander of others to get us down and keep us down.
Three simple words to keep you smiling when life is down.
I can still recall playing outside with one of my best friend in third grade. His brother was also playing with us, and for a reason I can no longer remember he picked up a rock and hit me upside the head. I do recall he that he got in a lot of trouble.
Rocks hurt. They hurt worse when coming from a friend.
Reminds me of Joseph. He seemed to love his brothers, but their feelings for him were just the opposite. In fact, they hated him. So much so that one day as the opportunity presented itself the brothers sold Joseph into slavery.
Joseph’s story includes three things that often occur in our own lives, and all three seem to intensify the pain. You can read the whole story in Genesis 37 and 39-50.
1. Indifference. Later in the narrative the brothers are discussing how they heard his cries, but they ignored them and continued to eat their lunch. Let’s be honest most are thinking only of themselves. There were many Saturdays when I was the only one to show for work. They weren’t too worried as to how their absence affected me. People quit their jobs without any notice at all, being totally oblivious to any hurt they may cause. Friends hurt friends, spouses hurt spouses, and employees hurt employers and never stop to consider the hurt they cause. Indifference hurts.
2. Injustice. Joseph was later thrown into prison by his master after he was falsely accused of attempted rape. There he sits in the cell thinking, “What good does it do to be good?” I can imagine a wife feels the same way after her husband leaves her for another woman. How many times does life appear to go well for the guilty husband. It just doesn’t seem fair, or just. And injustice intensifies the hurt.
3. Ingratitude. After some time in prison, Joseph gained hope. He gave the interpretation to Pharaoh’s former cupbearer’s dream. Three days later the cupbearer was released from prison and forgot all about Joseph. So after Joseph requested that the cupbearer remember him, he forgets him. It’s as if he is not thankful at all for the interpretation of his dream. That had to hurt. Ingratitude.
If you are Joseph how do you maintain hope? If your dream has been dashed by family and friends how do you keep hope alive? How do you keep smiling? Is it possible to persevere with a positive attitude?
It is, and in my next post I will give you three keys to surviving the cruel encounters of life, because life can be cruel.