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Finding the Seeds of Gratitude

I find it fairly easy to give thanks when things go my way. I find it extremely difficult to do the same when my life careens into chaos.

This past week, one of our long-time, faithful members and former staff members, Jackie Long, was in a horrendous automobile accident, and even as I write this, her life hangs in the balance.

When I would see Jackie gracing us with her life-giving, joyful presence in the hallways, classrooms, and lobby at the church I serve, giving thanks was the most natural of all expressions.

When I think of her lying in a coma in ICU, giving thanks is not at the top of my to-do list.

But maybe it should be.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV). All circumstances? Cancer? Abuse? Addiction? Car accidents? Death?

Here’s the key, at least as I understand it: “Give thanks IN” not “Give thanks FOR.” Yes, I’ve heard people say, “I give thanks FOR my cancer, because it woke me up to the reality of my temporal life and my need to get right with God and family.” There may be times when even our wounds evoke a gracious heart.

But if we fail to find the seeds of gratitude FOR the broken soil of our circumstances, we can at least find those seeds of gratitude IN them.

How so?

First off, we give thanks, because we know evil does not have the final word. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:8). He had the last word on the cross of redemption when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and He will have the last word at the consummation of the age, “It is done!” (Revelation 21:6). For Jackie, and all who have experienced the wretched anguish of this world, one day we will all see “death swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). We give thanks IN whatever circumstances we face FOR God is bigger than our circumstances.

Second, we give thanks, because we have a Savior who is not withdrawn but who has entered into our world of tragedy and trauma. God is not an absentee landlord who is cold and indifferent to the plight of our lives. He chose to step out of the comfort of heaven into the chaos of earth through His Son, Jesus Christ. He is a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), and we are not alone. We give thanks IN whatever circumstances we face FOR God walks with us in our circumstances.

This Thanksgiving, may you and yours be filled with God’s peace through Jesus Christ by His Spirit, knowing that “He will quiet you with His love” (Zephaniah 3:17). And to Jackie Long and all who may need these words this Thanksgiving season, Requiesce in pace.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Balance and Boundaries

We live in a culture more connected than ever, yet more disconnected at the same time. We have hundreds of “friends” on social media but very few friends face-to-face. We wind up focusing more on conversations with people online than with people in the room. We pay more attention to someone we knew in college than those closest to us now.

Our phones buzz, beep, and ring reminding us (and others) how important we are that people would try to contact us at all hours. The incessant chimes interrupt vacations, family moments, and even taking a walk.

Don’t get me wrong. There are upsides to on-demand communication. I love being able to stay in touch with friends and family who live thousands of miles away. I love being able to communicate with pastors all over the world via Zoom or Skype. And that “Find Friends” app has definitely given me a lot of peace when I wonder where my kids are (and no I’m not spying on them).

But I never really stopped to count the number of things I use my cell phone for… until now. Did you know that:

  • Most people can’t survive one day without their cell phones.
  • People often take their phones everywhere, even to the bathroom.
  • Most people will check their phones without reason.
  • An average person checks their phone 110 times a day.
  • 95% of people have stated that they text or browse social media in the hour before falling asleep.
  • 1 in 4 people will not put their phones on silent before going to bed.
  • Cell phone addiction ruins relationships.
  • Many car accidents are due to cell phones.
  • 7% of individuals state that excessive cell phone use caused them to lose their job.
  • Treatment is now being offered for cell phone addiction.
  • Phone addiction makes people live their life through their phones.
  • Most people are not even aware they are smartphone addicts.

Did any ring true for you?

What we need are balance and boundaries. We need to live a balanced life where technology does not become an addiction and where we should never sacrifice relationships with people we can hug, touch or see face to face.

My oldest son, Will, showed me how he and his wife use a screen time app on their phones to help them discipline their social networking and app usage. They actually lock their phones after 8:00 pm so that they have no interruptions for their time together. Balance and boundaries. Pretty good words for many life applications, including those on your smartphone.

As we enter the Thanksgiving and Christmas season and have more opportunities to be together with family and friends, let’s intentionally put our cell phones aside. Better yet, leave them at home altogether. Purposefully look someone in the eye and have a healthy conversation. Learn to ask questions and listen. Isolation is possible even in a public place. As Carey Nieuwhof reminds us, “Solitude is a gift from God. Isolation is not—it’s a tool of the Enemy” (Didn’t See It Coming, 65).

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends” (Jesus, John 15:15).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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