Giving Thanks

As we prepared for the Thanksgiving holiday two years ago, we decided to have No Complaining Week. We wore green ribbons on our wrists to remind us to be grateful, to not complain. If someone did complain, however, he had to wear the Cone of Shame (modeled above by Maura) and could not speak for two minutes. You can read about our experiment and see photos here, here, and here.

While we’re not doing that again this year, I’m ever mindful that we have much for which to be thankful–and that I often fail appreciate it. I’m more sensitive to this now since our family has changed so much in the past two years.

This morning I read from Paul’s letter to the Romans. The opening verses of chapter 12 make an appropriate preface to Thanksgiving.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

Catching Up on Photos

A few things, photographically, that have taken place in the past few weeks for us.

The weekend following our return from Ethiopia with Kieran, Maura was baptized. Thanks to Liam for grabbing the photo since I was in the baptistry.

We took our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm to choose our tree. Kieran sat and I photographed him.

Kids ran around in strange costumes.

We helped at a food packing event at the church.

Even Eva helped in her own way.

Today is Orphan Sunday

Today, November 4, is Orphan Sunday. God’s Word consistently reveals His concern for those on the outside: the widow, the orphan, the needy, the downtrodden. As Christ’s church, we are His hands and feet, those who are responsible for helping His Kingdom come. That includes caring for “the least of these.”

Tonight at 6:00 PM, Lincoln Christian Church will have a special celebration service for Orphan Sunday. If you’re in the central Illinois area, you’re invited to come and see how you fit into God’s plan for caring for orphans.

God could do something amazing through you if you’re willing.

You Know What Your Problem Is? I’ll Tell You.

Have you ever heard (or said), “You know what your problem is? I’ll tell you…”

When a conversation (or monologue) starts like this, it’s not good news.

But, honestly, you have a problem. And I’m going to tell you what it is.

Or, rather, I’m going to let Andrew Osenga tell you what your problem is.

Andrew is a Nashville-based musician and he’s recently released a remarkable album: Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut. The record chronicles the emotional excursion of Leonard Belle, a man who lives 300 years in the future. Leonard, you see, was in the middle of a messy divorce when his wife died suddenly. Filled with regret, Leonard takes a job as a space trucker for a year and decides to work through his pain by writing a record in the cold, emptiness of space.

Leonard, The Lonely Astronaut by Andrew Osenga

Sounds like a crazy idea for a record? Yes, and it’s even more crazy. Andrew created a Kickstarter project so he could build the set of a spaceship, get inside Leonard’s head (and space suit), and record the album on the set.

That’s what he did, and the result is one of the best albums I’ve heard in years.

Andrew sings and plays almost everything on the record by himself (since, after all, Leonard wouldn’t have had anyone to help him make the record). The musicianship is stellar and the songwriting heart-rending, true to the theme. On his journey through the depths of space, Leonard also journeys through the depths of his soul. He reflects on his childhood, his love and loss, his shortcomings, the bad choices that pushed his wife away.

Which leads me back to the point of this post: your problem.

In the song “We Never Said Goodbye,” Leonard achingly laments

I told you we’d never be apart
and I’d never break your heart
but it was mine I kept choosing

There’s your problem.

It’s yours and Leonard’s and mine: the selfish (sometimes destructive) choices we make for ourselves over the good of others. The accumulation of these choices is what led Leonard’s wife to leave him. Fill in the blanks for your own story.

Mercifully, that’s not how the story has to end.

In Leonard’s case, the album takes a redemptive turn at the end. Your story—my story—can also take that turn.

Whose heart will you choose?


Two last things:

Here’s a video from one of the Leonard songs, “Out of Time.” Gives you a sense for the whole spaceship thing.

And if you’d like to pick up the album, get it here. Check the reviews: they’re all great.