What are you thankful for?

thanksgiving It is Thanksgiving week and I am taking this week off of writing and of work.  I am looking forward to being present with my family and with my friends.  As you enjoy your Thanksgiving and wade into the joys and dysfucntion of family gatherings, may we all be extra aware of the blessings that we have been given.  "Every good and perfect gift is from above." James 1:17.

In the comments would you be willing to share what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving week?

Blessings!

The perfect cure for apathy, bitterness, and selfishness.

20121117-155550.jpgIt seems to be a youth worker's favorite past time to complain about the state of our students. We work so hard to put together a ministry that is relevant, meaningful, and deep, only to experience that they could care less. In fact, it actually seems like they don't even care about anything. They are apathetic, selfish and entitled.

If not a moment too soon, Thanksgiving is this week and this is the perfect opportunity for us to teach on the topic of thankfulness. Because of the sorry state of our students, there could not be a more relevant and important topic.

Except for one important point . . .

This lesson on thankfulness is not a lesson that only our students need to hear.

It is actually a lesson that we need to hear. Complaining, bitterness, self-centeredness seem to be the character traits of youth workers way more than they are for students. Whenever I hang out with or talk with my colleagues, it often spirals into a gripe session. And in some ways, there are plenty to gripe about; our salaries, parents, lack of participation from students, our bosses not respecting us, feeling stuck professionally, being just the youth guy, fill in the list.

What would happen if we took our offense at others not being thankful enough for us and the great ministries we provide, and didn't hide our self-righteous rebuke in the form of a lesson and used it to actually correct ourselves, and actually allow space for God to tune our heart.

James says that every good and perfect gift comes from Jesus. Every single one. Every gift, every blessing, every thing in our life is from Him. And how cool that even the garbage that gets thrown on us still can be used and redeemed by Jesus and used for Him and His glory.

The truth is that this kick in the pants is actually not from me at all. I love being self absorbed and bitter. It is my wife, who gave the lesson at youth group this last week that God has been using to reveal this hidden part of my soul. She has been reading this book called, A Thousand Gifts, and it has been rocking her world as she has made it a goal to come up with her own 1000 gift list over this next year.

How long is your thankful list?

She had the students write up a list of 25 things they were thankful for in just a few minutes. When the time was up, many students had not come close to completing their list. We can all come up with lists of things that bother us, but can we really come up with things we are thankful for? I am one of those who have a hard time listing it out. This quick test reveals a lot about our heart. Thankfully for hearts that have atrophied a little bit, thankfulness is the fastest remedy. As this week unfolds and we lean into Thanksgiving, I for one, am going to make it a spiritual practice to list out all the ways that I have been blessed.

So, instead of bashing on our students, maybe we can start this Thanksgiving week doing the spiritual work of actually being thankful for the multitudes of blessings that have been given to us. This is an important spiritual discipline, because thankfulness is the best and easiest cure for apathy, bitterness, and selfishness. Thankfulness grows our heart for God and for those around us. And a bigger heart has been my prayer for the past year!

Happy Thanksgiving! May you grow in true thankfulness as you enjoy time with your family and friends this coming week!

thankful for being broken

as thanksgiving approaches i am closing the door on a flurry of thanksgiving themed youth groups and sunday schools.  i have taught our students everything they need to know about how every good and perfect gift comes to us from god, and how we are to be thankful for all our blessings, big or small.  with my due diligence behind me, i can now reflect on what i am thankful for.  but this is turning out to be more difficult then i expected, because of the main event itself, the actual thanksgiving family dinner. my family's thanksgiving dinner is revealing to me an entirely unexplored area in my spiritual development when it comes to being thankful.   this is being thankful for my brokenness.  coming from a broken home, thanksgiving brings an incredible amount of stress and anxiety.  there are sophisticated negotiations  just to keep the many families appeased.  then, once we are together there is the awkwardness of us young adults regressing to the childhood roles we played decades earlier as we struggle with new ways to relate.  the fancy facades we have been perfecting throughout the year, gets stripped down to reveal the broken and wounded kid underneath.  (and we haven’t even sat down at the table yet)

my family is just one area of brokenness in my life, and one that happens to get drudged up every thanksgiving.  but i have plenty of brokenness to go around. some of this brokenness comes form people in my past who have wronged me.  much of it comes from the poor choices i have made and still make.  and the result of all of this is a weak and wounded mess.  and it is in this place where the gospel comes alive!

the ministry of jesus christ is the ministry of reconciliation and healing.  these are the two things i always need more of in my life.  i need the power of jesus to forgive those who have wronged me and to accept the forgiveness of jesus for the many ways i have wronged others, including him.  and in the process of reconciliation there is healing.  jesus takes our wounds, our brokenness, our sin, and exchanges them with his wholeness and righteousness.

the truth is that all of us are broken.  the more we are aware of it, the more we can allow space for jesus to get in there and heal us.  and the more we are healed the more we become whole.  and it is in our brokenness and weakness when jesus’ power is made complete.  it is in this place where we are the most human and can connect with other humans on the deepest of levels.  this seems to be the most true of the students i work with.

brokenness is the easiest character trait for students to identify with.  their entire lives are in chaos.  some of it has been done to them, and some of it they are doing to themselves.  my  brokenness gets to be a point of connection with them.  with all the differences between us, it is the main thing we have in common.  and because of this common brokenness, we can share in the common healing christ offers as well.

this thanksgiving, i recognize it is my brokenness that has created depth and character.  it is my brokenness that has shaped my faith and revealed my need for jesus.  it is my brokenness that allows me to connect with students in an authentic way.  and it is my brokenness that god has used and is using to transform me into his masterpiece created for good works, which god prepared in advance for me to do.  and for that, i am truly thankful.