Things That Matter

I posted on Facebook a few days ago:

Some things only matter because they don’t matter. When we learn to not let things that don’t matter matter so much to us, we find more time to focus on the things that matter.

What does that mean?

I was getting on the interstate earlier that day. I was accelerating on the entrance ramp to get into an open space, but the driver coming from behind apparently sped up to close the gap and cut me off. I had to slow down and get in behind him. Often when I get frustrated with traffic, I eventually realize it really is not that important. This time it was almost immediate. As I felt my anger rising at this rude driver, it occurred to me – it doesn’t matter. When it is all said and done, getting cut off in traffic is not going to make my life any worse or any better. It’s a very short-lived moment in a long life, which in itself is only a short-lived moment in eternity. I started laughing, and thanked the Lord for the opportunity to be reminded of what really does matter.

Then it occurred to me – that brief irritation was a learning opportunity. It helped me remember to be thankful for all things. That makes me a better person, a more at peace person. So that little event that did not matter, did matter just in so much as it helped make me a better.

God really does use all things for our good – to mold us into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).

Some things only matter because they don’t matter.

How about you? How do you deal with things that irritate you? Do you let temporal problems and frustrations get to you? Or do you let them point you to a more eternal focus?

Time to Reboot

When I began this blog, my intent was to blog excerpts from my book. Though some have come from there, most posts have come from then current experiences. Even so, I have been careful to only post things consistent with the intended message of the blog. I feel like it is time to get back to the book. I hope this will be a prelude to publishing the entire book. I really would like feedback from those who are seeking to better understand, and from those willing to share their experiences that further illustrate the things I share. Usually, I will ask some questions at the end of each post to act as a catalyst for feedback.
I would love to hear your experiences with giving thanks. Most of what I have read on the subject encourages the reader to say thank you. Most deals with thanking other people, and God, too. That isn’t bad. It really does make a difference. Saying thank you can change our attitude. Saying thank you can change the attitude of the person to whom we say it. It can heal relationships. It can affect our physical well-being, and that of others. It can make bad situations good. In the comment section below: Share your experiences with giving thanks to others. What challenges have been overcome, what relationships have been healed, what other benefits have you experienced by saying thank you?
Mostly, though, the focus of this blog is on the incredible power of giving thanks to God. Where I’m headed with this is to encourage a more extreme level of thankfulness. It is not something I learned overnight, heard taught in church, or read in any one book. In fact, I am still learning it. It is a life lesson. It came out of trying to make sense of life experiences in the context of what I learned in church, classrooms, seminars, and personal Bible study. It resulted when a lot of lessons, suddenly meshed together and began making sense as a coherent whole. A lot of what I post may not speak directly to giving thanks up front, but it will lay a foundation that will help the idea of “Extreme Thankfulness” make more sense to others as well.
“How to” books, or self-help books, are often just based on pop-psychology. If it doesn’t stand firm on a foundation of Biblical truth, it won’t last. It’s just the latest fad to put a bandage on broken lives. I believe the message of Extreme Thankfulness is a powerful, life-changing message founded in the faithfulness of God. It is the result of knowing Him, understanding His atoning work, and learning to rest in His absolute trustworthiness.
If “joy is a flag flown high from the castle of my heart” as the praise chorus says, thanksgiving is the flag pole. If the “joy of the Lord is my strength,” thanksgiving is the fitness program that results in abounding joy, and strength.
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “consider Jesus,” who is “faithful as a son over His house, whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” Considering Jesus and His faithfulness enables us to give thanks. Giving thanks enables us to hold fast our confidence and hope. I believe faith and thanksgiving are inexorably bound. All I know of God is a basis for giving thanks to Him. I can trust Him, so I can thank Him. As I thank Him, I give expression to how much I trust Him.
So, I would especially like to hear your experiences with saying thank you to Him. What joyful experiences have become more joyful and meaningful as you thanked God for them? What Bible lessons have taken on new depth as a result of giving thanks to God? What crises have been averted through giving thanks to God? What crises have you walked through, that you would not have made it through, had it not been for faith? What crises have taught you life lessons as a result of trusting God enough to give thanks through the storm?

Just Almost the Best Christmas Ever

Large white flakes swirled and spun and painted the landscape a beautiful winter white. It started falling early on Saturday. The snow was supposed to be light – probably just flurries – maybe a little accumulation on grassy areas. Instead, it soon turned into a winter wonderland. Or, as I posted with a photo on Facebook – “Narnia, OK.” What made it even better was, our family had chosen Saturday to get together and celebrate Christmas. It was a beautiful snowfall. The weather had been warm for December the previous few days, so the roads were drivable. We had a beautiful white Christmas, and we were still able to get together with family.


Family dynamics do change when your children grow up. Our daughter, Sarah, with her family, in El Paso, would not be able to make the trip to Oklahoma at all this holiday season. Neither would our oldest grandson, Joshua. Our son, Tim, in Missouri, with his family, would not be here until Saturday. So we told our other two, Adam and Elise, to enjoy Christmas Day with their own families however they wanted. They all have small children, and we remember the delight of watching our children on Christmas morning in our own home. Besides, there is enough pressure around the holiday season without the added pressure of feeling like you have to load up food, presents, and children to be somewhere to please someone else. Christmas day, on Thursday, was a quiet day at home for Trish and me. But it was the weekend with family that made this one of the best Christmases ever.

Tim and most of his family, drove in Friday evening. Some of them stayed at my Mom’s house, where we would gather on Saturday. Granddaughter, Alisha, and her new husband stayed at Elise’s house. Grandson, Daniel, has fond memories of waking at Nana’s house to the smells of breakfast cooking and the sounds of music. We have two spare bedrooms now, he and his girlfriend each had a room at our house.

Saturday’s Christmas gathering was mostly typical for us. We started a little later by not all trying to make it to Grandma’s for breakfast. Instead each household did breakfast on our own. We got together at Grandma’s after breakfast, shared gifts, then ate lunch, and just hung out together. The older grandchildren went out for a snowball fight and built a snowman. Then we shifted from Christmas mode, and went to Adam’s house for his three-year-old’s birthday party. All-in-all, it was just a nice day.

Whenever your family asks what you would like for birthday or Christmas, there’s always “stuff” you could use. There are probably some things you might like to have, but wouldn’t necessarily just go out and buy. I’m like that. Problem is, stuff just doesn’t mean that much to me. What I really enjoy about Christmas is watching my family enjoy being with and interacting with each other. I enjoy seeing their joy. However, there is one thing I have longed for but never wanted to impose on my family. We used to sing together mainly as part of getting together with other Christians for home church. I would love to just sit and worship the Lord together. I just wanted the idea to come from them, to be something they wanted.

Sunday, Tim’s family was planning to head back to Missouri around noon. They planned to come to our house for breakfast. Tim had given me new guitar strings for Christmas. I got up early Sunday and restrung my guitar, and sang for awhile. Trish and I had breakfast with Daniel and Kaitlyn, and had just finished when the rest of Tim’s family arrived.¬†Adam and his crew came to visit, too. I was back in the den tweaking the tuning on the new strings.

As the family finished eating and filtered into the den, we began talking about what God’s been showing us, and about songs. We sang a few together, and it was truly sweet. To me, that’s what made this one of the best Christmases ever. Having the whole clan here would have made it even better.

But there was one more thing. One of the songs we sang, written by our friend, Dennis Jernigan, says:

I will run to the arms of my Father
Like a lost child gladly found!
Run with joy to the arms of my Father
As He lifts me from the ground!
And He throws me high and He catches me
Like He can’t get enough!
And He laughs with me!
And the look in His eye!
The look in His eye!
He just loves me!

Sunday night I had a dream. I was standing in front of God.. It wasn’t a clear image of Him, but it was God, and we were happy together. He picked me up and tossed me in the air like a father and child. I remember thinking, I’m a grown man, and here I am in the air, looking down, and free-falling. Then what vague physical image I had of God faded away altogether as I was falling toward the ground. There was an brief flash of “that’s not good.” That was immediately followed by, “It’s okay. It’s God. I don’t have to worry. He’ll still catch me. I can trust Him.” Then I felt His hands catch me, and we laughed together. And I thought, “That’s what faith is.”

Now that’s a nice ending to Christmas.