Creative Thankfulness

Hey everyone! How are you doing?

Life has been in the fast lane lately for me as the holidays roll in and my son grows more daring. In my sparse moments of pursuing Facebook, I came across this post from my friend, Jared.

For those of you who don’t know. He is the very one I wrote about in my previous post titled: A Thief in the Night. In a nutshell, Jared and his family (friends with our pastor for many years), felt called to move to Ohio and join our church.

They sold their home and came up, Jared, his wife, Rachel, and their, at the time, 2 year old son, Isaac. We were overjoyed to have them as part of our church family—but it was short-lived.

The devil, like a thief in the night, took Rachel from us suddenly. From there our church struggled through a time of grief and loss, while Jared and his son struggled all the more. He had to keep smiling for his son, pick up the pieces of their lives, and overcome the biggest hurdle of all…continue trusting in God.

His journey of healing and hope has inspired hundreds. And now, a-few years later—Jared and his family continue to inspire.

Here is his most recent post I really wanted to share with you:

Creative Thankfulness

My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!

James 1:2 The Passion Translation

Yesterday, I went for a drive, the first in a while that I didn’t have to feel rushed or have my mind on the next task (it’s good when we get these moments). I started to pray with a request, then I remembered to bring out my thanks first. There’s a lot to be thankful for in this season of life, things have gotten to a place of normalcy for Isaac and I-to the point where you think after describing a week’s glance to a friend, “gee, that’s a little boring.” I know not to fall prey to that as a father, nothing is ever truly “normal” as a parent haha.

One afternoon this last week, Isaac and Jess stopped by my work after school was out and Isaac proceeds to walk through the parking lot like a cowboy. “Why you walking like that bud?”
“My pockets are full of cuh-kahns.” (Pecans…y’all can fight over the “proper” pronunciation amongst yourselves…I’m going with this one from now on lol).
No joke, he had cuh-kahns alright, two pockets full. A tree on the edge of the playground at school has been dropping them steadily and Isaac had been loading up while at recess.

A day or so later after dinner, he whips open a small box to reveal his new treasure, “daddy can we open these?”
Being in a new house (okay…it’s been 3 months, but it still feels new), the kitchen is so well organized (not my gift, but the wife’s), I can’t locate a nut cracker or remember if we even had one haha.
To the toolbox!


I give Jess a c-clamp and I get out the pliers. We proceed to launch cuh-cahn shrapnel all over the room. We hear a hull rickashay off some metal, isaac ducks, he pops up still smiling (Jedi reflexes), it’s our kind of chaos.
“I got one!” Jess mastered the c-clamp and got a perfectly cracked one. I had been pinching my fingers with pliers, but this wasn’t my first rodeo, as Isaac and I used to do this at my parents house; with Jess this was the first time . All that pain and torment of cracking things open was worth it for what was inside. When Isaac sees pecans again, you know his pockets will be loaded and our little cowboy will be leaking them as he gets in the car at school.

When I looked at the pecan in this scenario, the meat inside holds such a high value to us that we will invest our time, energy and resources into a single nut to gain what’s inside (or we will pay the $$ for them already shelled haha).
My pinched finger, the first few pecans that obliterated by the c-clamp, that all gets forgotten, in a sense we are thankful for what we go through to gain what’s inside. If sometimes we could only see what lies inside the pecan of our situations, troubles, fears and heartaches.


It says in Hebrews 12:2, for the joy beset Him, he endured the cross. Jesus saw the cross as that un-cracked pecan, and said to Himself, “for joy I embrace this torture, because I want them (us).” It took all that He was, and then some, to do what He did. It wasn’t just those three days, but the preparation, looking into the eyes of the ones He healed, enduring his trade as a carpenter and praying to His father and perfecting His daily faith. He did that for you and I. The cross is symbol for what was done, not a PTSD reminder of what he had been through.


This takes me back to one of His earlier
appearances in the book of Daniel.
In kids class at church, the funny sounding names of three believers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego endured a great phenomenon called the fiery furnace. If you’re rusty on the story, it’s a great read in Daniel 3. We have a crazy king wanting everyone to bow to a statue of himself, and these three guys will only worship God and end up being thrown in a fiery furnace as a result. Only they didn’t burn…they walked right out and the king’s heart is changed as a result and he declares God as “the god.”


One day I read this story and scratched down like three pages of notes. There’s a lot of details in there, I don’t chew gum anymore because I overchew, and I think my mind runs the same way lol.
There’s a lot of credit to be mentioned to these guys (I mean they made the Bible), they were living in a Godless land, maintaining their relationship with God, but also being at peace and a good citizen. Their character was excellent enough, that the king hired them to work where they were, so obviously they were in a place of influence. Their belief in God was a asset for the king…until it became his liability.
We don’t ever see these guy’s faith deviate. The scriptures do not say, but I believe that they prayed for the kingdom that they lived in. They prayed for their king, on his behalf and as political climates go, they don’t just change overnight. As things would ever increase, this furnace gets thrown into the mix, and the leadership I’m sure got pretty fond of using it or at least threatening with it.
That had to wear on these guys minds daily. Yet they maintained.


One of my favorite quotes when they get brought before the king, “do not do this thing,” as if to warn the king out of a place of care. Who does that? Only someone who speaks from a place of confidence in their
God that they could potentially be persecuted for. They were tied up and thrown in (brute forces were ordered in just for fun). Once inside-surprisingly they are seen walking inside this fire with a fourth guy (Jesus). They were called back out of the fire by the king, and they walked right out, not even smelling of smoke and they get promoted in their work and God is made “the god.”
So much awesomeness.


There are so many great details here, keep in mind, this is pre-crucifixion, pre-day of Pentecost and the Bible is still on scrolls down at the temple someplace else. The spirit of Lord was still not upon believers (only in certain instances), Jesus was just a prophesy and the Bible wasn’t widely distributed. In spite of all of that, S. M. & O. (Yeah I’m not spelling them out haha) still expected God to show up in their situation and didn’t try to dodge duck or dive when they were tied up or talk their way out of it (other than issuing a warning). God had destroyed whole cities that were deemed evil, yet His goodness would save a whole city if He only found a few faithful. The furnace that was meant to consume, God used to disintegrate what bound them and display His power to a king. That king was given the ability to see the men in the fire, call out above the flames and be heard (big fires are loud) and for S. M. O. to exit.
S. M. O. were in the presence of God in that furnace.


God wants to use the furnace that you’re in. He’s just as present at your lowest low as your highest high, He’s in the step that you are on. The difference between us and S. M. & O. is that we carry God’s indwelling spirit within us. When we accepted Christ as our savior, our spirit became alive unto God. We carry that with us, but I believe when we come into those furnace situations, God’s comfort and grace are available to us, He doesn’t abandon us.


You may feel bound by your situation, without a next move, but He’s gonna give you a pivot. In basketball (I’m not good at it…I went to camp in high school and got most improved even though I was worse afterwards lol), the player with the ball can pivot one foot without a dribble and change directions. God wants to pivot your situation, whether past or present.
The same spirit that is upon us is the one upon Christ in Luke 4:18…we are given the ability to proclaim our liberty and the liberty of others.
What the enemy (John 10:10) sent to do harm for my family, I’ve allowed and expected God to turn for our better.


It wasn’t always easy.


Many days we spent trying to crack that pecan. We pinched fingers. We broke things. But we didn’t give up.
Now, I’m at a place in life where I’m blessed to be able to proclaim that there will be no smell of smoke upon me and my son’s life and that grief and trauma will not haunt our path
.
That gives me the ability to give thanks for what would normally harm me. I can give thanks for the sweet memories, for the 1997-2001 Honda CRV’s that I work on (my first wife’s was 1999).


I give thanks for her life. I give thanks for the opportunities that arose after her death. The hurting people I was able to share my grief with. The bond that was strengthened between my son and I.

We can do that because we possess creative thankfulness. We can be thankful for our furnace, for the cross.
That’s how death loses its sting
.

What are you thankful for?
Be creative.

Let your light shine bright, JesusBright

JesusBright

DeathWhereIsYourSting

Follow the Rules

I love being a mother, but 79% of the time I feel like a broken record. Repeating my commandments (rules), and divvying out proper punishments when they aren’t followed.

“No! We don’t play in the dog food, it’s yucky!”

“Please! Stop making a mess, you’ll have to clean it up!”

“No, we don’t hit, son, that isn’t kind!” ….

In the face of a child we see the very raw form of mankind. It’s rebellion and potential for both good and evil, even whilst we are innocent to what is good and bad. We learn very quickly how to lie and manipulate. As if it is second nature to us.

As parents, we have our jobs cut out for us to remove such nature, to restrain it and teach our children to do the same. In order to function as a society, rules and restraints are necessary. Upholding morality and the rights of others is in line with the Will of God and breeds peace and prosperity. And in fact, it also does the body, mind, and spirit good!

Without learning self control we would indulge in our every whim. Drinking what we wanted, eating what we wanted, spending what we wanted, never truly satisfied. Our bodies would suffer from such a selfish lifestyle, and those we love would also suffer for it. Our prisons are full of people who simply couldn’t control their primal urges, who placed their selfish wants above the welfare of others.

As Christians, we know the importance of rules, obedience, and submission most of all. The world views us as “enslaved”, “held back” by our self control. Ironically, they do not see that their selfish (undisciplined) life style is doing that exact thing.

They are chained down by sin, unable to break free of their addictions and selfish impulses, a slave to their flesh and its desires. Is that really freedom?

True freedom comes through self discipline, surrender to God, and following His commandments. When we fast, for example, we are forcing our flesh back into its proper place where it cannot rule us. As creatures of worship we WILL worship something, even if we are atheists! Something will always rule over us—but if God rules over us we will be truly free.

God merely wants a relationship with us, as His children. His commandments and His discipline are done so that we may be free of sin and live a full/prosperous life. As I discipline my son, I do so because I love him and want him to be free to make choices and be independent someday.

What is unpleasant for him today, will reap joy for him in abundance tomorrow as he begins to make the right choices automatically. As other parents struggle with their selfish teens, trying to force them to comply, my son will have already learned and “earned” the fruits of obedience which in turn would lead to freedom.

I see it all around me. People who need set free but do not see it. They come to church wanting a band-aide, someone to fix their problems (the outcomes of their life styles) but unwilling to submit to self discipline, thinking: where’s the fun in being good?, what do I gain by submission to God and His rules?

Such lost souls never really grew up. They hate authority and anyone telling them what they should do, just like children who despise rules, unable to see how they exist to protect them and their rights.

Today, churches are caving for the sake of filling their pews. They want their buildings full and their tithe boxes fuller. They’ve lost the way…they’ve cutaway all the aspects of God that convict the heart and soul to change. The Jesus who flipped tables now is the Jesus who doesn’t really get angry about anything.

We cannot forget our mission! Why we exist! It’s not to pat everyone on the back and say “you’re doing fine,” meanwhile they are not doing fine! They’re on a highway to hell! And if we cared about them at all we would risk telling them! We would give them a choice and let me tell you no matter how you put it to them it is a hard choice! It requires self death! A severing of what our flesh craves for the sake of Christ and redemption—eternal life!

Just as the parent who spares the rod HATES their children! So does the church who spares the rod of truth—HATES the children of God!

The church and many of us, care more about what others think of us more so than what God thinks. We’ve grown afraid and insecure, selfish even about our image and our identities (which are wrapped up in church and our positions more so than as children of God).

We worship the image of church, of modern Christianity. We’ve made it an idol—removing the true God from and replacing Him with something of our own liking.

If this makes you feel sick to your stomach good!! That is a feeling every Christian needs to feel again, that convicting spirit that discerns what is righteous and what needs cut away.

I say all of this because we are living in unprecedented times. Very soon we will all have to take a side. We can no longer sit on the fence (the grey area) between the world and God. As persecution rises the church will be pruned and many “churches” will fall away. We need to re-evaluate what we believe and to what extent we are willing to stand on those beliefs.

Would you be arrested for Jesus?

Would you be beaten for Him?

Martyred?

Would you stand on the whole truth (the Word of God from cover to cover)?

Will you clearly say to evil, “this is wrong!” Even as the world attacks you and labels you for it?

As I look at my sweet son, after an ornery episode, I think to myself, “I love you too much to let you stay in that place of disobedience. You’re so much more than that! You have a very good heart and future ahead of you.”

The same goes for all the children out there and adults, who are lost or struggling with their faith. I see them and, if you ask God He will show you what He sees when He looks at them. I see the image of God, I see all the amazing qualities that make them unique and loved, and it’s just all muddied over by sin and deception, like buried gold waiting to be found.

No one is truly whole. Their complete selves. We are only seeing a glimpse of who they are. And it’s God’s joy to help each of us become who He created us to be.

Submit to Him, let go of your “self” and you might actually find yourself.