Walking the Tightrope of Gratitude

Thirty-three years ago, I traveled to San Antonio to celebrate my first Thanksgiving away from my family. The attraction? Fort Sam Houston and a young PFC named Lisa who was three weeks shy of a name change for her and a life change for both of us. We made it to Galveston, Texas where we saw the sea waves crashing and ate our fill at the Holiday Inn’s all-you-could-eat buffet. Put it on my dad’s credit card, not thinking he might want an explanation of a pre-nuptial hotel charge. I suppose Shoney’s would have required less explanation. Up to that day, I had never celebrated a Thanksgiving Day marked by so much – love, hope, joy, and anticipation – and so little – money, certainty, security, and peace. Looking back, the balancing act between hope and fear, abundance and lack, joy and anxiety could not have been more stark. That tension, held in tow by large amounts of love, wonder, and trust in God and each other, proved thank-worthy in and of itself. Still does. Three-plus decades, two sons, three grandgirls, seven churches, and four states later, we are abundantly blessed and thankful. We just have different things to be concerned about and new blurry futures waiting to find focus.

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Reaching Deeper

Can I let you in on a pastor’s open secret? We ministers really do not like to talk about money. So says most every member of the clergy I know, including the one who weekly writes under the headline “Money Talks.” We shy away from it often for fear of misrepresented motivations. Truly, there are no shortages of Christian charlatans out there, but the bulk of pastors I know just want to lead their people to be faithful and financially enable the ministry God has called them to lead. Often we hold back out of fear of criticism or deflection of the message. And we are more sensitive than you know to people of more limited means who have been exemplars in stewardship – and these solid saints are the first to feel bad that they cannot do more. There are many reasons to leave this subject alone.

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Thanks & Giving Sundays

It is not often that, as your pastor, I ask you to do a specific thing with the expectation that God will prompt you to respond in a way that honors him, emboldens our people, undergirds our mission, and alters the way we feel about our calling and our capacity to give. This is one of those. After much prayer, reflection, and conversations with our leadership, I am asking you to mark November 19th and 26th as “Thanks & Giving” Sundays. In short, I am asking that on the weeks that surround Thanksgiving our people reach deep and bring forth an offering that rises far and beyond our expectations. The need is there. But so is the capacity, and I believe, the will. On these weeks, I am asking you to respond as God leads with your giving, but let me offer some specific encouragements:

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Winding Down

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We are winding down the last three Sundays in our series “What Kind of Church Are We?” We have walked our way through being Christ-focused, well-connected, ageless, generous, growing, and joyful. That’s a pretty good list to date. The thing that has struck me in the preparation of these sermons is the way there is so much overlap with the designations. Focusing on Christ seems to enhance and undergird all the areas. Generous and joyful seem to work well with each other. Well-connected and ageless logically feed on each other. Growing works pretty much the same way. You have heard me say that bigger isn’t necessarily better, but better usually gets bigger.

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