Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gratitude

I saw my doctor last week for the first time since my back surgery, and I got some really good news. My back is good, my blood pressure is good and my cholesterol is good. It's been a long time since those three things have been good at the same time.

It got me thinking about how much I really have to be grateful for, and I think I'm more thankful for good health now than I've ever been. When you're younger it's so easy to take good health for granted. I know I did. Last year was scarier for me than I probably let on to. In the back of my mind was always the question "What if this thing with my back doesn't get fixed?" Especially as it got worse, I wondered what I would do if my back never got better. So I'm really grateful that the surgery worked.

And even beyond good health I have a boatload of things to be grateful for that I sometimes take for granted. When I was getting sober years ago, one of the things I was taught in AA was the importance of developing an "attitude of gratitude." I hated that phrase. When my life sucked, as it often did in those days, my AA sponsor would make me write down the things I was thankful for- a "gratitude list." I frequently hated him too. But the thing is, those things worked. They forced me to stop looking at everything negatively and give thanks to my Creator for his blessings.

Life is good for me these days, but I can still fall into the trap of looking at things negatively. I lean towards pessimism by nature. So I find I still need to be intentional about reminding myself of all that God has blessed Vicki and me with. I love this passage from Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Peace or anxiety? The choice is mine!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Aaarrrrgggghhh

Some days I hate owning a home.

We came home today to find water on the floor in our basement. That's never a good sign. We traced the water trail back to our water heater. The good news: it's under warranty. The bad news: we have to empty it and take it to Home Depot to get it exchanged. Even though we had it installed through them, we have to bring it in. No options. The worst news: it's now 8:40 and the thing is still draining. Home Depot closes at 9:00.

So I'm going to have to get up early tomorrow, take a COLD shower, and haul it in before I go to work. If you work with me and you read this before then, don't be surprised if I'm less than chipper in the morning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Financial Peace

Vicki and I have been going through Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University.” After just a few weeks of the class it’s already had a significant impact on the way we look at and manage our money. And the things we are learning are really helpful to us regardless of the state of the economy.

Here’s what has surprised me about the current financial crisis: it doesn’t scare me. I’m not happy about it, and I’d much rather live in an up economy, but I’m really not worried about our future. And the real kicker for me is that I’m not trying to not worry, I’m not trying to somehow generate faith, I’m not trying to be “extra faithful” in the hope that God will take care of us.

Here’s what I think I’ve learned. God is more concerned about my character than he is about my financial well being. So if I have issues that need to be addressed regarding where I am putting my faith he’s not going to wait for the economy to tank to help me learn what I need to learn. He can put me in a financially difficult place regardless of what is happening on Wall Street if that’s what he needs to do to get my attention.

Of course that means the opposite is true as well. A bad economy doesn’t mean anything to God, either. He can provide just as easily in a bull market or a bear market, in a recession or a depression or in the crazy tech bubble of the ‘90’s when people seemed to be making money hand over fist every day.

So I really do have financial peace today. Vicki and I (more than likely just like you) have lost quite a bit of money over the past few weeks. So if anything, I have financial peace because I finally learned that my finances really have little or nothing to do with my peace. My peace comes from allowing God to have his way with me as best as I can. And money has nothing to do with that unless I let it become my master in God’s rightful place. And if that happens, God’s going to make me as uncomfortable and un-peaceful as he needs to regardless of the economic conditions until I once again allow him to have his rightful place as master in my life.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Florida Redux


This is our last day in Florida, so it’s my last chance to write from our balcony overlooking the Atlantic. It’s been a nice week even if nothing phenomenal really happened. Seeing the Kennedy Space Center was a lot of fun, but in general it’s just been very relaxing. I did get some reading done. I had started on a book by Erwin McManus called “Chasing Daylight” on our last vacation that I really like. I was able to skim back over the parts I had read and while I still haven’t finished it yet, it shouldn’t take too much time to get through the rest of it when I get back home.

It seems like every time I take a vacation I start out thinking that whatever the definition of Paradise is, it includes at least in part concepts of not working and living on (or at least very near) a beach. But more often than not by the end of a vacation I’m ready to go back to work, and this time is no exception. A few hours ago, I wasn’t ready, but now I am and I’m not even sure why.

I do know one thing for sure, and that’s that I’m blessed to get to do what I do on multiple levels. On the macro level I get to use what God has blessed me with towards the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) every day. You can certainly do that without working for a church, but it’s perhaps more pronounced at a place like the Vineyard. On the micro level, I get to do it with a fantastic group of people, both staff and volunteers.

But the coolest thing for me is getting to do what I do with Vicki. I’m incredibly blessed to be able to spend my vacations with her AND do ministry with her. I don’t think it gets any better than being able to go through life with someone who you really share a purpose and a mission with. And I happen to like her a lot, too…what a deal!