Sunday, February 2, 2014

Grace Parenting

Our friends visited a doctor last week and heard a heartbeat.  Wonderstruck, they listened to new life growing.  The best days of their lives are ahead.

I remember when our oldest was our youngest, just born.  My wife and I arrived at the hospital with life already figured out.  My memories of that time are fading at the edges.  I remember the panic that enveloped as I stood ready to enter the surgery room and the same panic that faded as I entered and my attention turned toward caring for my family.  I recall the awe of meeting my son, MY SON, for the first time.  I remember watching, as my wife and son slept nearby, Tiger Woods win the Master's with a miraculous putt.  Upon leaving, I remember telling the nurse that I knew how to change a diaper (although I did not), but she taught me anyway. 

Years later, we welcomed another son into this world. The miracles repeated in the same and different ways.  We were fully living this life of parenthood, all grace.

I think about what advice, if any, I might have for our friends.  Here are a few thoughts...

  • You don't know, what you don't know.  My perceptions of all that matters most are quite different than pre-kids.  God's teaching and renewing me.  The changes in me have only been to the degree I've been able to get out of my own way;  letting go and letting God.
  • Parenting is mentoring and trusting, not controlling.  Author John Lynch writes, "No matter what I believe, each of my children have their own relationship with God, finding their own way, in their own choices.  I do not have control over that.  It's a mistake to make myself responsible for the choices of anyone else, even  my own children." 
  • Until you've been there, don't judge.  Further, don't judge.  I used to looked at other families and their kids with their messy faces, Cheerio strewn trails, scattered toys, and disheveled cars and wonder why they just couldn't clean the whole act up a bit.  I write this on a table filled with Legos in a room will finger-smudged walls and next to a dog that sheds (which I had warned against).  All perfectly messy.
  • You have to receive grace before you can give grace.  Just this morning, a tooth was removed from underneath a pillow and replaced with a gift.  It should have happened last night.  When our son wondered aloud this morning why the tooth was still there, I told him to go back to sleep.  Sometimes, the Tooth Fairy is late.  On another occasion, the Tooth Fairy was a no-show due to the heavy snow.  It happens.  The Tooth Fairy, our parenting, our kids, and life itself isn't perfect.  And there is no getting there.  There is only grace, received and given.
  • Parenting gives new context.  So many lessons of faith, trust, and of God's love for us have come alive as I related them to my own experience of Fathering.  God, I'm so thankful.
We told our boys at dinner last night that we had big news about our friends.  Our six-year-old asked, "Did the baby hatch?"  We laughed, told of the new heartbeat, prayed, and thanked God.

My six-year-old just arrived with the sunrise and laid the money he received from the Tooth Fairy on the table with a smile.  When he awoke earlier, he had worried the Tooth Fairy had forgotten.  Although sometimes it's later than we expect, the gifts always arrive.  Grace is always on it's way.     

Monday, January 20, 2014

Imagine That

Recently, I ran into a kid who I had coached last year in Y basketball.  I asked him how he had been.  He didn't talk much.  After a few minutes he came up to me and said, "You were the best basketball teacher ever."  I needed no praise from my wife that day nor an 'atta boy from the boss on Monday.  The affirmation of a First Grader carried me for a week. 

A recent article stated that we remember more of an event when we aren't taking pictures.  A study noted individuals attending a museum who were snapping photos remembered 10 percent less objects and 12 percent less details about an object versus those who were not taking pictures.  "When you press click on that button for the camera, you're sending a signal to your brain saying, 'I've just outsourced this, the camera is going to remember this for me," said Linda Henkel, a professor, who led the study.

Years ago, a supervisor asked what I wanted to do in my career.  I wasn't sure.  I knew that I wanted to get married, have sons, and coach.  I've realized my dreams and have coached both of my sons in many sports.  I love coaching.  It's a stress release for me.  Coaching offers one of the few times that I can be fully present with others.  I'm immersed in the moment. 

My wife and I have hard drives filled with photos.  We don't always look at them as often as we'd planned.  We stumble upon the photos on our computers more often than we do the printed ones boxed in our damp basement.  I wonder why we take so many photos but rarely see them.  Professor Henkel says, "Photos are trophies. You want to show people where you were rather than saying, 'Hey, this is important, I want to remember this."  That's sad, I think.  I don't want any of my photos collections to be a presentation.  When I look at them I only want to remember the sights, sounds, and emotions of those moments.

When I'm not coaching, I'm that parent.  I have videos and stills of every Christmas pageant.  I proudly avoid the scrum of parents jockeying for territory at any given event by strategically choosing my picture-taking-position pre-event.  I take a lot of pictures.  On a good day, the tally of pictures are a photo journal of gifts received.  They are snapshots of grace for which I'm thankful..  On a bad day, the pictures represent desperate attempts to hold onto these passing moments.  The fear of scarcity drives the click-clacking of the camera; me snapping frames to store in the warehouse for when these wonderful moments end.

Author Shawn Achor said that we can replicate the neurology that occurs in our brains when we journal a positive experience.  He said that our brains have difficulty distinguishing between the reality of the event actually occurring and the journaling and recollection of the event.  The same positive endorphins are released.  It's in the remembering.

I'm thankful that I can coach.  The kids often teach me more than I could possibly teach them and it allows me to be fully present.  I can remember my sons first hits, first points scored, and the boy that said, "coach, this is the greatest day of my life." 

Pictures can draw us into a moment we experienced or help us imagine a new one.  Yet, pictures will never be a substitute for the real thing.  They'll never replace the opportunity for us to be real, wholly present, and completely immersed in the joy the of moment.  Imagine that.   



Monday, December 23, 2013

Splashing Grace

A few years back, inspired by a book she was reading, my wife began naming and counting the gifts.  The book read that everything is Divinely gifted to us and it's easy to miss the extravagance of them, these gifts we're given. We miss them when we're distracted by the clanging cymbals of prime-time news outlets stirring up fear frenzies.  We miss them when we're distracted by the rush of shared online calendars.  We miss them when they're lost in the extraordinarily mundane.  The book calls us to see differently, to see the beauty of this life, to identify the fingerprints of God on our everyday.  My wife first began scribing her own Gratitude Journal during  a cold winter;  the entries looking beyond the dreary and calling out the red cardinals of her days.  She dared me to do the same.

The call came on a calm evening.  Our friend and his family were hit by a drunk driver.  Some were okay.  Others were in critical care.  I drove to the hospital and hugged this big, burly, biker-man limping about the lobby, all frantic with concern and hope for his family.  The kids were being evaluated.  The wife was awaiting scans and reports to summarize the extent of her head injuries.  My pastor friend and I joined biker-man in the elevator to check on his wife.  And then grace happened.  As biker-man recounted the horrific details of the crash, he thanked us for responding to his call for prayer and for our presence.  And this, "The [drunk] driver... he's in bad shape too I think..."  Biker-man continued, "Let's be sure to pray for him... and for his life leading up to the crash and what will be after."  As this large man lumbered toward the ICU to hear the extent of his wife's inuries, he called us to pray for the man that caused the crash."  This is grace, amazing.

As we entered the dark room with the monitors sounding cadence, biker-man's wife was responsive.  They recalled the scene of the accident.  She asked about the kids.  She stammered through the pain medicine she was given to tell him, "I love you."  He said, "I love you too, honey."  The kids were discharged. 

Control is such an illusion.  We structure our worlds and our days to try and manufacture it, but it's always fleeting.  As we said our goodbyes to leave the hospital, biker-guy reflected, "I am just so thankful.  Wow.  It's just like that... in an instant."  And it's just like that.  In an instant an unexpected event crashes into our comfortable lives, we are wrecked, and the fallacy of control is revealed.

And this morning on Facebook, I read this post from biker-man.  "The man who hit us is in the SICU bed next to [my wife]. HIPAA laws prevent knowing anything about him, even his name at this point, but I hope to be able to pray for him and tell him he's forgiven in the morning. May he be as shocked at grace as I always am, and may he feel love instead of shame.  May the miracle of Christmas be with us."

Ann Voskamp writes,  "... Christmas can't be made, like people can't be self-made, like dreams can't be force-made.  Everything is given from heaven.  Everything is a gift.  Your life becomes a masterpiece the moment you see it as a gift of grace to willingly receive."  And that's the secret, yes?  To be humbled to know that everything is a gift from heaven, to celebrate the extravagance of it all, and to share the miracle by jumping boldly into these puddles of grace so that they splash indiscriminately into the lives of others.

This morning I write, I name the gifts, and I count. 

#4,466  My friend and his family were spared and cared for and safe after life turns on a dime and an accident changes everything

#4,467  The grace of Christ shining through my friend as he calls for his Facebook community to pray for this man who hit them.

It's two days until Christmas.  I pray that above the noise loud, tragic crashing, questions unanswered, and hope hushed, we hear the still small voice of The Greatest Gift, whose light dispels all darkness and whose perfect love casts out all fear.  I pray that grace splashes.  And I pray for my friend, his family, and the man who hit them - that they'll each have a deeper understanding of the miracle of Christmas.   

Monday, December 9, 2013

Turning Off the Smartphone

I recently sat at a Board of Directors meeting.  This particular meeting was held in the home of one of the Directors.  The host and his wife honored the team with a lavish holiday meal while the group worked through the business of the Board.  It's a relationship-oreitned group, rooted in the ministry of the Gospel.  It's also a group of leaders and decision makers who are looking daily at high-level organizational strategy and plotting the appropriate course.  I enjoy the balance, a fovused attention to the business functions of the organization while circling everything back to its reational core.

I'd consider myself mindful of meeting etiquette.  My phone is always on vibrate.  I rarely take a call in a meeting, whether it be a meeting with only one indidual or one with a more formal larger group.  However, I do keep my phone on and available as I'll often need to check my calendar, research a particular topic that's brought up in the meeting, or - admittedly - to occasionally check the score of the game.  Overall, I'd say that others consider me respectful with my smartphone use in these types of settings.

During the holiday meeting, my phone vibrated multiple times with text messages.  Each time, I glanced at the status bar to get a quick summary of the message.  None were emergencies. Some were important. All could have waited for my response at a later time.  I quickly answered maybe four or five of the messages with a simple response.  For a few, I received a follow up response saying that they were sorry to interrupt the meeting and that they'd connect with me later.  I don't believe that the texts were intrusive to the meeting, although each text did capture my attention for a moment.

The meetings are quarterly, so when a meeting does occur much content is covered and it can be quite lengthy.  This meeting was coming to a close at just beyond three hours.  As folks began closing their file folders and placing their paperwork back into their work bags, I noticed something.  Throughout the course of the entire meeting, I had not noticed a single person checking their phone.  In fact, I couldn't remember even seeing anyone with their phones in view.  The leader of the meeting did have his phone available, however he noticalbly restricted checking the text message only during a  break in the meeting when he wondered out loud whether something was urgent because his phone had been buzzing with texts.  Yet, he waited until the break to check it.  There was another gentleman who did take a call.  When he removed himself from the meeting, he not only stepped out of the room, he left the house.  And, at the end of the meeting, he met the facilitator with a handshake and an apology for taking a call during the discussion.  In short, there was a very intentional effort by all involved to be completely present, wholly available, and fully respectful with the group. 

Our attention and, in turn, our full presence to any given situation is a finite resource.  We only have so much to give.  And, science shows that the more multi-tasking that we do, the less focused and effective we become at each thing.  While it's viable to participate in a meeting, check text messages, and jot down our to do lists;  it's not ideal, effecient, or very effective.  And, just as it's possible to answer emails while also waking up to the weekend routines of our families, it's not fair. 

While the advantages and convenicnecs of smartphones and other technology are significant, we must also hold tightly to maintaining margin away from them.  I've realized that while a brief update from my phone may not directly interrupt family time, it does - despite my best efforts - effect my moods, if only subtly.  I've embraced a few practices to guard against this including turning my phone and other technology completely off for at least 24 hours during a family vacation and starting my daily routine with quiet time before God prior to jolting my brain with information delivered via my phone. 

Lance Morrow, columnist, says, "The telephone is one of those miracles one can discuss in terms either sacred or profane.  No one has yet devised a pleasant way for a telephone to come to life. The ring is a sudden intrusion, a drill in the ear.. The satanic bleats from some new phones are the equivalent of lasers.  But the ring cannot be subtle.  It's mission is disruption... The telephone call is a breaking-and-entering that we invite by having telephones in the first place.  Someone unbidden barges in and for an instant or an hour usurps the ears and upsets the mind's prior arrangements."  (A Minute of Margin, Richard Swenson). 

I started writing this post on vacation, pre-dawn, and as I finish as my family wakes.  My boys and my wife arise eager for a new day and for my full attention.  I'll close the computer, turn off the phone, and welcome the day with them - those I love, fully deserving of every ounce of presence I can offer.  And to my collegues at the recent Board meeting, I apologize for the moments of attention that I offered elsewhere, after committing them to you.  The updates from my phone (even the score of the big game) are never worth the attention given them; certainly never to be elevated above the opportuninty to be fully present with another.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What's Right With This Picture

Centuries ago, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Philippi.  St. Paul was facing a myriad of struggles in both his life and his ministry when he wrote this letter.  Paul also carried the responsibility of encouraging an early community of believers in Philippi who were trying to figure out if Jesus really meant what he said when he called us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Paul gives detail to a number of specific issues that the church was facing.  However, he calls them beyond a prescription for righting all that's wrong to a description of what life could really be like.  Paul writes, "Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies." (Philippians 4:8, The Message paraphrase) 

Recently, TIME magazine ran a story noting that the perception of those living with autism is shifting toward a focus on the unique strengths and skillsets of the autistic mind rather than a narrow view of its limitations.  (TIME, What's Right About the Autistic Mind).  In fact, depending on how those with autism were evaluated, the perception of the limitations ranges from significant to non-existent.  Temple Grandin and Richard Panek write, "In 2007, researchers at the Rivièredes- Prairies hospital at the University of Montreal published a study showing that the measure of autistic intelligence depended on what tests the subjects were given. When children with autism took a test that depended on providing information they could have learned only through social interactions, one-third qualified as "low functioning." Yet when the same subjects took a test that depended on providing only nonverbal information, only 5% were labeled low-functioning. What's more, one-third qualified as having "high intelligence." "We conclude," the Montreal group reported, "that intelligence has been underestimated in autistics."  The dichotomy begins in the focus.  Imagine a child with autism walking along a path and coming upon two roads.  One road begins with testing that labels them low functioning and leads them to education and support that spends a lifetime on working on overcoming weaknesses.  The other road begins with testing that shines a spotlight on their uniqueness but invites them into countless opportunities wherein their unique strengths might be utilized.  The latter filling minds with what's possible. 

Paul's words to the church in Philippi and the authors of the article on autism weren't burying their head in the sand nor were they Pollyanna in their encouragement.  Paul was facing daunting legal battles and a culture increasingly intolerant of his message.  One of the authors of the article in TIME lived a life that begged her to be defined by her own autism.  Both aggressively, rebelliously, and passionately refused to be drown by the daunting dark clouds of negativity.  They filled their minds with things to praise, not things to curse. 

Kobe Bryant is 35 years old, has logged more minutes on the court than most basketball players cumulate in a lifetime, and tore his Achilles in a game last April.  He has five championships and nothing more to prove.  Coming back from that injury at his age to a team that's in a rebuilding stage is all work and limited reward.  Though famous for his relentless attitude, Kobe, like the rest of humankind, carries doubt and a temptation toward focusing on worst potential outcome. "I have self-doubt," Bryant says in Sports Illustrated. "I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I'm like, 'My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don't have it. I just want to chill.' We all have self-doubt. You don't deny it, but you also don't capitulate to it. You embrace it. You rise above it. ... I don't know how I'm going to come back from this injury. I don't know... Then again, maybe I won't, because no matter what, my belief is that I'm going to figure it out. Maybe not this year or even next year, but I'm going to stay with it until I figure it out."  Bryant considers the challenges of his past only as hopeful indicators of his future. "I'm reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward," Bryant says. "I reflect with a purpose."  Bryant may become the greatest player of all-time through filling his mind with what's purposeful and compelling.

It's finding the bright spots.  See what's right, focus on it, and find ways to do more of it.  Chip and Heath expound on this the concept of bright spots their book, Switch.  Find a bright spot and clone it.  That's the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there's a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot -- a ray of hope.  (Fast Company, Made to Stick).

This is counterintuitive to many of us.  In ancient Philippi, local church leaders were frantic for answers and direction among divisive communities.  Conventional wisdom says that we can best help those with autism by focusing on the gap between their minds and a typical functioning mind.  Kobe Bryant has every reason to call it a career and slowly heal his heel in the soft California surf.  There is a better way.  Our minds want to focus on what's wrong, yet what we need is to see what's right.  It's how we see that changes everything.  It's how we see that builds churches that withstand 2,000 years of challenge.  It's how we see that allows an autistic mind to be identified by its gifts and flourish in a world that doesn't understand her.  It's how we see that pushes Bryant to spend countless hours in physical therapy, passionately working to get back on the court, again and again. 

Engage Community Church recently tweeted, "See people as valuable rather than useful."  Indeed, it's in how we see that changes the world, both for us and for others. 





 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Choose Wisely

Recently I had a day off from work that fell midweek, a rarity.  I scheduled this particular day off as my wife was also to be home and I thought we'd capture an opportunity to spend some time together.  I told her that I would not plan anything for the day, rather the open day was free for her to create.  I would do anything that she wanted to do.  While I idealized and dreamed of all this might entail, she informed me that we'd spend the first half of the day cleaning.  My job was to scrub the bathroom.

After bleaching the bathroom and wondering aloud if our boys ever actually hit the toilet, I started to replace the soaps and shampoos in the shower.  I counted my shower accessories at two.  I counted my wife's shower supplements at twelve.  Admittedly, my wife is beautiful and soft but I wondered if it really required twelve half empty bottles of soaps, lotions, shampoos, and conditioners to accomplish this.  I wondered how she even chose which to use on any particular day. 

Psychologist Barry Schwartz says that too many choices actually can increase our anxiety.  He says, "...freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically" (The Paradox of Choice, 2004).  I wondered if this is why my wife is sometimes cranky when she gets out of the shower.  Perhaps she was wrought with anxiety over which body soaps to use.  On the other hand, she might just be annoyed at me standing in the bathroom asking her why she has so many toiletries when she is simply longing to experience some quiet time in the escape of the shower. 
 
At times, I believe that we seek God's will to relieve us from the anxiety of choice.  If God would only make clear His divine will then we could just walk in accordance.  If only He would just tell us what to do, it seems so much easier than us frantically trying to discern His mysterious preferred way.  We just want God to take away the hurt, from the deep pain of tragedy to the pricking pain of an unclear choice. 
 
This isn't always God's way.  My pastor recently summarized a video by author Brene Brown in saying, "God is not an epidural.  God is the midwife waiting with you, aware of you, delivering something better that is yet to be born in you."  God's in it with us.  Another friend recently described her past view of God as the expectant parent offering their child a choice and disappointed if the child doesn't choose the preferred.  She contrasted that with her current view of God which is an excited parent eager for their child to make a choice as they know there are just so many joys and opportunities within many of the options - they can barely wait to journey with their child in uncovering what's next along either path.  God's like a midwife, experiencing with us both the acute pain and intense joy of our circumstance. 

Pastor and writer Winn Collier says, "Freedom comes when we stop the loony delusion that we’re a match for God, when we stop pretending that we have the resources or the skill or the knowledge or the tenacity to pull our life into clear space. It’s a beast of a job trying to hold the world up on our shoulders."  Freedom doesn't come from certainty or in the elimination of choice. Instead, freedom often comes from a deep understanding that, ultimately, God's got this.  Collier continues, "[when we lay down our prideful resistance, there is] nothing to do but drop the weight and the fight and say yes to joy."
 
I recently had a significant decision in front of me.  I staggered under the weight of trying to do what's right - for God, family and country.  I wrestled with God with increasing intensity as things didn't seem to align.  And then, like the new day driving off the fog, I saw beyond the decision immediately in front of me and into the horizon.  "From now on every road you travel will take you to GodFollow the Covenant signs;  Read the charted directions"  (Psalm 25:10 MSG).   My decision wasn't going to change the course of the world.  My anxiety in trying to discern God's preferred choice resulted only in wrestling with myself.  God wasn't pacing the floors of heaven worrying and hoping that I'd make the right call.  God was relaxing in a lounge chair smiling at the thought of what we'd experience on either side of my current decision.  He couldn't wait to go there with me.  Or there.  Or there.   I'm now free from the anxiety of choice and excited at the notion of heading in a new direction, with God's arm around me as we journey.
 
I suppose that it doesn't matter what soaps or lotions my wife chooses.  Many are appropriate for her skin type and any of those will enhance her natural beauty in a special way.  And so it is with us.  God knows what's best for us.  And at the same time, we must make choices in this life based on what we know of ourselves, of others, and of God.  Among the many appropriate choices we might select, God's redeeming grace will always be at work - washing away the grit of life and exposing all we were created to be - this, a wonderfully unique becoming.
 
 
 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why We Work


I have a friend that has a big garden. He doesn't have enough land of his own, so he shares the land of another.  He drives 25 minutes multiple times a week to till, plant, nurture, and harvest two massive garden plots.  He cans and jars food to preserve his family through the winter.  Yet, he purposefully doesn't use all of the crops that he grows.  He invites others to come and harvest.  When he was on vacation, he invited our family and others to visit the garden and take all that what we wanted.  This, after he had recently taken a truckload of harvest to a friend who couldn't get to the garden in time to pick.  He could sell these excess crops at market or on a roadside stand, however he chooses to invite others into his abundance, the harvest always a reflection of God's growing new life from dark spaces.

I know of a local man who opens his medical practice one evening a week to serve those who cannot afford to pay for medical services.  My friend coordinates with other medical professionals to offer an array of opportunities for those without to come and be made well.  To assign a dollar value to the time invested by these three medical professionals and to the opportunity cost of the practice being open to patients who cannot afford to pay is significant.  Instead, they're leveraging their gifts and blessings of talent to the sick and broken - and, aren't we all sick and broken in our distinct ways; limping about, always seeking the One who can make us well in spite of our inability to pay?

My colleague told me a story of a local businessman who shut down his home improvement service for three weeks this summer to lead a landscaping initiative at a newly constructed church.  The man works tirelessly at his business with the goal of getting ahead - not to keep up with the Jones' but to get ahead enough so that he can stop and give it back or pay it forward.  He works to generate revenue so that the margin can spill out all around him blessing others in countless ways - from landscaping churches to volunteering his musical talents at youth events. 

There was a wise old man sitting in a pub.  My friend talked to the old man about being stuck in getting his innovative, transformational nonprofit off the ground.  The old man said that my friend should create a path to get there.  He said that he might consider leveraging what skills and opportunities that he has to generate income to provide for his short-term while developing reserves to fund the nonprofit initiative.  Said differently, to do the work of today in order to create opportunities for tomorrow.  My friend rerouted his life course and now focuses his efforts on sacrificially supporting, equipping, and encouraging others to live lives more fully and purposefully.  Both the old man and the friend are using their resources to change the world through imparting their wisdom and experience with others.  They're mentoring, as they've been mentored.

This may sound like the "pull yourself up from the bootstraps" mantra that is often idealized and rarely entirely true (particularly the idea that this type of success occurs only from individual striving).  It's not.  Each of these stories represent great, life-changing, world-improving, community-building initiatives that might crumble under the weight of unrealized ideals and end in a smoldering pile of burnout if they are put forth in prideful isolation or with selfish motivations.  Dramatically, these stories are being written in a different way.  These folks are not creating change on only the merits of their own efforts.  They are looking around their unique worlds for the blessings and opportunities that God has placed before them.  They are seizing opportunities, plowing through fear, working large while remaining small - humbled to be a part of a supernatural story of which they only catch glimpses.   They're opening themselves up to the infinite possibilities of what God might do with our work when it's surrendered to something bigger than ourselves. 

In a historic letter that we call the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote that, "[instead of stealing, they] must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need."  The theme of sharing evolves throughout the Bible from sharing our excess to sacrificially giving and always looking to intentionally love and serve those living in the margins of society.  This is why we work.

I am thankful for the friend who shares his garden that others might benefit from his harvest.  I am thankful for the medial professional who works to share his practice with those who have not.    I am thankful for the businessman who forgoes three weeks of additional profit to support his church.  I am thankful for the old man in the pub who shares his wisdom.  I am thankful for the friend who puts his own nonprofit on hold to help other leaders succeed in their respective organizations.  And, I'm thankful for a God who puts these amazing, inspiring people in my path that I might aspire to be used by God as they are - leveraging my blessed opportunities to share His love and grace with the world.