Don’t Just Be Thankful Today

ethical-ocean-thankfulSeveral years ago I was at a Sunday morning church service on either Veterans or Memorial Day weekend. I can’t remember which it was, but the focus that Sunday was to honor our military. One way they did so was by bringing in a veteran to speak. He told war stories and spoke of how God had worked in an incredible way in his life while fighting in Vietnam. The one thing I will never forget from his message is what he challenged everyone with. He said, “Whenever you meet someone who has served in our military, say ‘thank you.’” From that day forward I decided I would if I got the chance.

Not long after hearing that challenge I was in the gym at UNC-Charlotte. I happened to meet a guy who was now a student and formerly had served in the military. Once we had exchanged names and I learned his story, I casually but genuinely said, “Thank you for serving our country.” What happened next will never leave me. He accepted my thankfulness with a “you’re welcome” and went on with his workout. Several minutes later he came back to where I was working out. He had tears in his eyes and said, “No one has ever thanked me before today. Thank you.”

Here’s what I learned that day: “being” thankful is great. But saying it is better.

Why? Well obviously, nobody knows you are thankful for them if you don’t say it. But more than that, something special happens for both the one giving and receiving thanks when it’s said.

When someone receives a “thank you,” it gives them a sense of self-worth and affirmation. It encourages them in who they are and what they are doing.
When you give a “thank you,” it reminds you that it’s not all about you. You acknowledge your dependence on someone else and realize others’ contribution to you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Again, not just be thankful, but give thanks. Say it.

Whatever circumstance you find yourself in today you have a LOT to give thanks for. And most importantly, you have a LOT of people to give thanks for.

Parents. Grandparents. Mentors. Co-workers. Coaches. Teachers. Friends. Relatives. Police. Firefighters. Teammates. Waiters and waitresses. Bank Tellers. Starbucks Baristas. Business people. Receptionists. Employers. Etc.

Daily, someone invests in you.

Do they know you are thankful? Are you?

Instead of just being thankful or listing all the things you are thankful for on Facebook, find someone to say “thank you” to today. Make a phone call. Send a text message. Shoot an email. Write a note. Or be bold and tell someone in person how thankful you are for them. It will change them and you in the process. And oh yeah, it’s God’s will for your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pic Credit HERE

Grace and Tacos

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Several months ago I went out to lunch with a friend of mine to a tasty Mexican restaurant.
As we sat there talking and eating chips and salsa I had the thought that I should pay for his lunch. He had enough money to buy his own and he wasn’t expecting me to buy his, but I’ve had my lunch bought dozens of times by others and I wanted to “pay it forward.” So I decided I would buy, but I didn’t tell him. When the checks came at the end of lunch I was going to just pick up both checks and pay. You know, the smooth way.

Shortly after deciding I was going to buy, the waitress came to take our orders. I ordered some cheap lunch special. But my friend didn’t. He ordered one of the most expensive combination platters on the entire menu. Then I went in to “have-a-conversation-with-yourself-mode.”

It went something like this:

“I can’t believe it! Here I was about to be nice and generous to this guy and he goes and orders that!? Oh well. He can kiss his free lunch goodbye. I can’t pay for his now. It’s going to cost me way more than I had planned on spending. Good thing I never told him I was paying. He can just pay this time. Maybe next time I’ll buy his if he stays within a reasonable price range.”

After having the very normal, silent conversation with myself I immediately had a new thought—“I don’t like myself right now.”

Why?

Because my heart had just been fully exposed.

In that moment I was full of pride.

In that moment I was extremely selfish.

In that moment I loved my money more than my friend.

While pride, selfishness and greed are enough to make you feel bad about yourself, I realized there was a deeper issue.

In that moment I had forgotten grace.

Grace.

It’s at the center of the heart of God. It’s what separates Christianity from all other world religions. It’s beautiful to those who need it and offensive to those who don’t. It exposes the self-righteous and makes them mad. It’s living water to the broken sinner and makes them glad.

When we make a mistake in life we want it. It’s so easy to receive.
But when others make a mistake we don’t want to give it. It’s difficult to give away.

Grace is getting something good that you don’t deserve. It’s unearned by the one receiving it. And unconditional by the one giving it.

Jesus is the embodiment of grace. “While we all were still sinners He died for us.” Jesus didn’t wait to see how much we were going to sin and then decide if he would pay for it. He knew how much it was going to cost him and didn’t turn away. Even though we didn’t deserve it, he died in our place. That’s true love. That’s grace.

Maybe more than anything else, followers of Jesus should be known for showing people grace because we ourselves have been shown an immeasurable amount of it.

Currently I have a losing record showing it. I struggle at it. But I want to get better. I have a feeling you do too.

So the next time you’re cut off in line.

The next time somebody says something to hurt you.

The next time a waitress gets your order wrong.

Or the next time you have an opportunity to buy someone’s lunch…show grace.

And when you struggle to show it, remind yourself again of the immeasurable grace Jesus has shown you. And then show grace again. And again. And again.

It’s going to cost you. (Maybe even the price of a couple tacos).

And the other person won’t deserve it.

But that’s just fine.

That’s what grace is all about.

Do you struggle showing people grace?

Pic credit Here

Why do the unnecessary?

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photo credit Here

A couple of months ago my awesome mother-in-law flew down to visit from North Carolina. My wife, Rachel, and I along with our new baby girl, Avonlea, got in the car to go pick her up at the airport. On the way, Rachel decided she wanted to surprise her mom by greeting her in the lobby of the terminal instead of waiting to see her in the “arrivals” car pick-up line. And not just that, she wanted to take our 3 month old baby in to the lobby as well.

Now, I could have responded with excitement and support of what Rachel wanted to do.
Unfortunately, I didn’t.

I said something like this: “I would have to drop you and Avonlea off at the arrivals area and then go park and wait. How far is the parking lot? Avonlea is sleeping. Do we really want to wake her up?
And what difference is it going to make? We are going to see her for several days. Can’t we just wait until she gets in the car? Why do you need to go to the lobby? That’s a lot on you and the baby.”

And then I said these three words

That’s not necessary.

Without missing a beat Rachel responded:
“Just because it isn’t necessary, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.”

Boom. I had the wind knocked out of me instantly. I was convicted. I felt really stupid. I had missed it completely.

Rachel was trying to do something for her mom that was more than expected. She wanted to show her how excited she was to see her. I was thinking about the inconvenience. How it would affect me.

It wasn’t necessary. The success of my mother-in-law’s visit didn’t depend on Rachel going into the lobby.
But that didn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

One of the greatest examples of the unnecessary is God’s instructions to Israel in the construction of the ark in Exodus 25:10-21. The Ark was to hold the 10 Commandments. Some of the instructions were to use pure gold, a certain type of wood and precise measurements.

The unnecessary gets bumped up a notch in Exodus 25:11: “Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it.” Do you see that? Even the part that wouldn’t be seen, inside, underneath the cover was to be pure gold.

Isn’t that unnecessary? Couldn’t the people have just built a sturdy, wooden box to carry the 10 Commandments? And even the inside had gold? Come on. Isn’t that a bit much?

Maybe.

But what if the box that held the 10 Commandments mattered because even it represented God? What if God was just as concerned about the inside of the ark, which nobody saw, as he was about the outside that everyone saw?

The truth is, when it comes to honoring God and connecting with people there is no such category as “unnecessary.” But rather, just things that “seem” unnecessary.

Because only by doing what seems unnecessary…
the things that don’t make sense to most people,
that are different,
that seem extreme,
that focus on the details,
that examine your private and public life…
will you begin to fully honor God and connect with people.

It’s a life of excellence.

It’s what we were made for.

And it’s a life that deep down we all want to live.

How could you do something this week that seems unnecessary to most that would honor God or connect with people?