#Blogtober2021 Day 9: A Moment of Beauty

I learned something about hibiscus flowers yesterday.

My folks have a braided hibiscus bush in their yard. I noticed yesterday when I stopped by to visit my mom that there were multiple vibrant blooms on the bush. She said, “You know those blooms only last a day, right? They bloom once, close, and fall off. There are some old ones there on the ground.”

For some reason, that struck me as lovely. I know it’s a commonplace thing, and there will be several blooms on the bush each season. But knowing that these blooms I was admiring would only be there for a few more hours made the moment special to me.

I felt privileged, honored to bear witness to these blooms.

It’s so easy to take for granted how beautiful the world can be. We glide right past a thousand daily glories, distracted and dulled, blind to the wonder of creation.

I believe God made this world by the word of His power, by speaking this delightful globe into existence. Let it be. And it was. And He made it good. Not only good, but He made it better than it really even needed to be.

Have you considered the fact that all these delights are unnecessary? Vivid color, enticing flavor, delicious smells. All superfluous. Not that they don’t all serve a purpose—but they don’t have to be so enjoyable, so vibrant.

The tiny delights of daily life are gifts from a generous and creative God who has shown kindness to all His creatures—even the senseless, stubborn people who should recognize His grace and so often refuse to do so.

The next time you experience God’s superlative daily kindnesses—your child’s laughter, the smell of flowers, the sweetness of sugar or delicious aroma of coffee—take a moment and give thanks for His boundless grace, shown to humanity in these countless temporary gifts.

My valentine.

This weekend, I was reminded of several reasons why I adore my wife.

  • We’re about to have our 3rd daughter in a few weeks. You hear stories about crazed, hormonal pregnant women–not my wife. Not that she doesn’t get frustrated–she does, certainly–but other than a few times when the kiddos have driven her to her very last nerve, she has been incredibly easy-going and even-keeled. She’s flexible when things get frustrating, she’s gentle with irrational toddler behavior, and she’ll even remind me (in an undeservedly kind way) when I need to take a few minutes alone to pray and get my head right.
  • We moved into a new rental within the last month (the pic above was our first family meal in the new place–a Chick-fil-A “picnic” in the living room). The house is 70 years old, and we didn’t realize before we moved in that it had quite a few “kirks” (an accident portmanteau she coined–character + quirks). The doors and windows hang slightly crooked, the floors are uneven, the house has clearly been “repaired” often by folks who aren’t exactly professional-grade, the cold gets in, the water pressure’s weak, etc. etc. etc. But my beloved wife doesn’t complain or moan; she makes the best of it. She calls it an adventure. She comes up with reasons why she really likes the house every time I do my “Mr. Stormcloud” routine about something going wrong. Her optimism buoys my spirits.
  • On Saturday night, I was sharing with her some doubts I had about my ministry and concerns about my spiritual walk, and she had the wisdom to ask good, probing questions and make some direct but gracious observations. Rather than hammering me for my weaknesses or blindspots, she held up the mirror of Scripture to me. Then she took the extra step later that night of encouraging me to address those issues, but did so in a manner that was supportive and gentle. We ended the evening watching a sermon together and she looked over and said, “I’m really thankful you’re my husband.” She sees me in a way no one else does, and rather than attack or nitpick, she nutures and binds up.
  • Today, as our coastal southern city faces a wildly bitter and cold arctic blast, and some of our pipes (specifically the two bath/shower pipes) have frozen, my sweetheart doesn’t complain or pitch a fit. She takes some pitchers and carries hot water from the kitchen to the bathtub, like we’re in one of her British period-piece TV shows. When I mumble apologies for the weather (and my foolish mistake of not checking for a hidden third exterior water pipe!), she just laughed. “It’s fine, babe! I’ve dealt with worse. Besides, this is so much easier in this one-story house than it would have been in our last one! We’re good.” Seriously, who responds like that? My wife. That’s who.

I don’t deserve this woman, y’all. I don’t deserve the wisdom, the encouragement, or the joy that she brings. I’m profoundly thankful that she is my wife, that she’s the mother of and model for my girls, and that she’s the one I get to spend my years with. I didn’t get married until my 30’s (which doesn’t sound old to most people but for me was an eternity), but I’m so, so thankful that God protected me from many other relationship mistakes before I met my wife. She was worth the wait, a thousand times over, and the last almost-7-years of marriage have been a delight. May God grant us 50 more.

I praise my God for you, my darling, my bride; you are worth more than rubies, exquisite and beyond compare. You hold my heart in your hands; you steal my breath with your eyes. You bring honor and joy to me, instead of bitterness and shame. Your name is prized and honorable, and all who know you are blessed. For your good and your joy, I pledge all my strength and meager fortune and remaining days, if only for the privilege of holding your clever hands and being your companion until the day you enter the Great City of our King.

Happy Valentine’s Day, beloved.

Still Feeling Thankful.

Hey friends! Thank you for your patience. Over the last several days, I’ve been busy with husband/dad stuff that always must take precedence, along with a challenging sermon to deliver this past Sunday.

But you know what? God is faithful. My wife is feeling better, the kiddo is still a sweetheart, and the sermon turned out okay, praise God. I worked a long day Monday so I could take the rest of the week off, and today I’ve tried to help out where I could around the house and honestly just rested up a little bit–I’m running on low power myself this week.

I am thankful for how God continues to show Himself faithful and provide me with everything I need. I’m thankful for the encouragement of friends and brothers over the weekend and in the days since, regarding my preaching. I’m thankful for my amazing, patient, and kind wife, and for my brilliant, affectionate, and (generally) sweet-natured daughter. I can’t wait to spend time with my parents and siblings on Thursday for the holiday.

Never fear–#30ThankYous resumes tomorrow. For the rest of the week, I’ll be writing more personal letters for ThankYou’s #21-25. Interspersed among those, I’ll try to play catch-up and publish ThankYou’s #14-20 (which feature a pastor, a president, and a pro athlete). My goal is still to post all 30 letters by the end of the month, as promised.

So once again, thanks for hanging with me, and let the thanks-giving continue!

And if you are posting your own #30ThankYous, please let me know in the comments! I’d love to check those out!

The Kudos Challenge!


(Image Credit: Amazon.)

No, not that kind.

Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”

Sometimes, the easiest way we can love and serve others is by telling them (and others) that they’re doing a good job. Everyone likes it when their efforts are recognized, even if they’re just doing their job.

So if you’re reading this, I’m issuing you the Kudos Challenge: Every day for the next week, when you see someone who is doing a good job, thank them, publicly if possible.

If they’re a retail worker who has done their job with excellence, tell them. And then find their manager and tell them.  If your restaurant server is attentive, competent, and polite/friendly, then tell them, tell their manager, AND leave a good tip.

During the holidays, with all the rush and busyness and stress, a lot of people get grouchy. You can do better than that–especially if you are a believer in Jesus. You’ve been saved by grace, man! Lighten up!

So that’s it. No #FancyHashtags necessary, though I may use #KudosChallenge on Twitter.  No Kickstarter campaigns. Nothing like that.

Just go out of your way to tell people when they’re doing a good job. It costs you nothing, but that person will really appreciate it.

#ThankfulThursday (Part 3)

51.   Online friends who have been an encouragement and blessing to me. Too many to name, but I love you all.
52.   Webster Hunt, my sometimes-co-blogger and Twitter pal. You’re a good man, Web.
53.   The brothers of TeamPyro, who provide wise, challenging, and often quite funny content.
54.   My flesh-and-blood pastors, who are all men of deep faith and strong integrity and have provided a great pattern for their hearers to follow. I’m glad to serve under you.
55.  Athanasius, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Lloyd-Jones, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and so many other faithful men. Holy warriors on the battlefield of ideas.
56.  Matt Chandler, John Piper, David Platt, Al Mohler. Faithful men of our generation who will be remembered by future believers, just as we look back with gratitude to the faithful teachers of past generations.
57.  Jared Wilson–a faithful minister, loving husband, and powerful writer. I want to do what you do, brother.
58.  James Hammonds, my best man and one of my best friends. Probably the most loyal guy i know.
59.  Trevor Taylor, my old roommate, longtime friend, and the most sincere person i know.
60.  It’s Thursday, and while I didn’t want to come to work today, i am thankful for the people i work with. A great bunch of folks.
61.  I got paid today. God provides the ability and opportunity to earn a living. This is good.
62.  I’m looking forward to spending time with my in-laws in a few days. They’re really cool people and i’m looking forward to getting to know them.
63.  I’m also looking to extended time with my amazing wife. Man oh man, i am blessed to be her husband.
64.  I have generous friends. I put out a call last week, asking for someone to give me a cassette adapter for my van, so i coukd listen to podcasts. My buddy Edhiel came through with a still-new name-brand device. Huge blessing.
65.  I’m learning to just ask for things. There’s something kind of radical and fun about just asking.
66.  We love Jesus because He first loved us.
67.  In a world full of injustice, I have full confidence that all will be made right when Jesus returns.
68.  I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last 5 months.
69.  I have hope that i will keep losing and finally keep it off.
70.  My wife intentionally affirms and admires how i look, and helps me feel strong and handsome.
71.  I get to teach Sunday School regularly. That’s still really cool.
72.  As much as late buses frustrate me, I’m thankful that i don’t have to drive for 2 hours each morning and evening to commute. It’s nice to sit back and let someone else drive.
73.  I haven’t lost my hair. It’s definitely thinning, but it’s staying in, for the most part.
74.  I have good health insurance, available for free from my employer. That junk’s expensive.
75.  My van. She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.

#ThankfulThursday (Part 2)

26.  The smell of cold.
27.  Winter coat weather.
28.  The amazing meals my wife makes. (This week featuring 10-bean soup with honeybaked ham in it, and some incredible skillet-seared porkchops.)
29.  The Texans are less terrible than last year.
30.  My upcoming road trip with my lovely wife. Looking forward to some great time together.
31.  Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which is helping us get out of debt.
32.  Good coffee, in my favorite Christmas mug.
33.  Sleep. It’s a gift and a reminder that we are not all-powerful and that’s a good thing.
34.  When we are falsely accused and attacked, we have a Defender who is a Just Judge. Amen.
35.  Reading the Scriptures with my wife after a meal. Always a great encouragement.
36.  Listening to my wife pray over me.
37.  The bus is warm this morning.
38.  I have good cold-weather gear. Warm gloves and hat, two coats.
39.  Snuggling up on the couch with my true love on a cold night, bowl of popcorn nearby, watching a movie.
40.  Feeling hopeful about the future.
41.  I heard from a few people this week how they are benefiting from the current series of Sunday School lessons. I’m very glad God is using our discussions to challenge and mature people in th wwe group.
42.  A friend volunteered to dog-sit while my wife and i are away. What a blessing to have generous friends.
43.   Peppermint mocha. (In moderation, of course, and only if it’s in the budget.)
44.   My back aches–because I have bad posture as I sit at my desk, in my climate controlled office. I work in comfort. This is a blessing.
45.  All the little frustrations that pop up in my daily life are overwhelmed and melt away in the light of God’s gracious love for me. I have to keep reminding myself of this. God loves me. It’s gonna be okay.
46.   The library. Dude, they let you read their books…for free. That’s CRAZY.
47.  My wife kindly tells me explicitly what she’d like for Christmas, rather than expecting me to just figure it out. I really appreciate that.
48.  My wife loves and appreciates books.
49.  Today’s Augustine’s birthday. I’m thankful for Augustine. Consider this my confession.
50.  I’m thankful for you, reader. Thanks for sticking around. I hope the blog is useful to you.

Name them one by one.

First off, I want to explain something. The three of you who viewed Saturday’s post may have noticed that it said “Weekend Edition #1″…but there was no #2. (Heh. Sorry.) I was planning on doing a fun post to follow-up the serious one, after I got home from church and lunch yesterday afternoon. That post was never written because my plans for a productive Sunday evening fell through.

I’m sick. Nothing major. Just one of those bugs that goes around and produces uncomfortable and impolite-to-discuss symptoms. I should be back on my feet tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest.  Today, I’m working from home (three cheers for the IT department figuring out how to fix my remote-access issues!) and trying to keep still.

This kind of minor illness is usually just a nuisance. I can rest, do a little online work, take some OTC meds and water, and recover fairly easily. But once in a while, getting sick should make me stop and take stock of how blessed I am, too.  For example:

  • I have a job that a) I can do over a computer; and b) I won’t lose by not physically showing up today.
  • Hey! I have a computer! And an apartment! And internet access!
  • I have access to (what I consider) basic medicines and clean water.
  • I’m in no danger of life-threatening illness, violence due to civil unrest, or malnutrition.
  • I have food in the pantry and refrigerator (not to mention having *a* pantry and refrigerator) for when I’m feeling better and can, um, process it properly.
  • I have a compassionate fiancee who is bringing me soup later. I love her deeply. I love her soup almost as much. It’s so good, y’all.

The point is, I need to be grateful and not grumble about feeling a little less than okay. God’s been too gracious to me for me to dwell on that. And when I get back to feeling 100%, I need to be thankful for that as well. [I’m suddenly struck with the feeling that I’ve written something very similar to this post before. Weird. Maybe it’s just because I still need to learn this lesson.]

So there’s your challenge on this second Monday morning in February. Do what that old hymn says to do: Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Even if it’s not #ThankfulThursday, you can still take a minute to be grateful for God’s provision.

Your Turn:  What do you have to be thankful for today? Share it in the comments below.  

Coming Friday: Either a post about Don Miller and the importance of church community; or just some book reviews, if I don’t feel like ticking people off with that first post.