Thanksgiving 365

simon-maage-351417.jpgBe thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

When my wife and I first got married, I had this wild, romantic notion to keep a secret thankfulness journal for her. Here’s how it was supposed to work. Every day for a year I planned to write down one thing I loved about her. Then I would surprise her the next Christmas with a year’s worth of appreciation. I imagined when she opened it, she would swoon, kiss me and then cook me a really nice dinner.

Women love that kind of stuff, right?

So I went out one blustery January day, bought a pink, girly journal and began what I thought would be an easy way to score major points in my marriage.

The first week was awesome. On day eight, however, I had a slight problem. I ran out of material. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like my wife isn’t great, but after about seven days, I thought I had written it all down. I am a guy, after all. We’re not exactly wired for sensitivity and emotional intelligence.

My journal went something like this:

Day 1 – You’re pretty.

Day 2 – You’re nice.

Day 3 – You’re pretty nice.

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You’re Never Too Old

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But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

– 2 Peter 3:18a (NLT)

One of the worst moments of childhood is the day you realize you’re too old to trick-or-treat. It creeps up on you subtly. One year you’re scared the big kids are going to take your candy. The next year you notice nobody is bigger than you.

At school, you’re afraid to bring it up. Some of your friends are talking about going out and playing pranks. Others are making fun of the kids who are buying costumes. Still, there’s the silent majority who don’t know what to do. Sure, you’re growing up, but who wants to give up all that free candy? Who wants to miss out on masks and colored hairspray and the cool stuff that goes with it?

If only the government would set a legal limit, things would be simpler. We have an age for driving, an age for drinking, even an age for retirement. Would it kill Congress to establish a trick-or-treating age and put all the confused tweens out of their misery?

If you or someone you love is in the midst of this dilemma, let me offer some help. Here are seven tips to help you know when you might be too old for trick-or-treating:

  1. Every time you say “trick-or-treat,” your voice cracks.
  2. You drive yourself from house to house.
  3. You decide to save money by wearing your prom dress.
  4. Your Duck Dynasty costume doesn’t require a fake beard.
  5. You invite your fraternity brothers to go with you.
  6. Your wife makes you share any chocolate you get with her.
  7. You’re dressed as your favorite Bee Gee.

If any of those describe you, maybe it’s time to rethink your Halloween plans.

Eventually most of us make the transition from taking candy to giving it away. It’s all part of growing up. Or, at least, it’s supposed to be. But then again, sometimes we don’t always outgrow the things we should.

You ever do something just to impress your friends? That’s understandable in middle school, but a different story when you’re middle-aged. Have you ever bent the truth to avoid a tough conversation? That’s one thing when you’re four, but another matter when you’re 34. Ever jealous when your friends get new toys? Pout when you don’t get your way?

Well, you get the picture. Some of us may be too old for trick-or-treating, but unfortunately, we’re never too old to act immature.

On the plus side, though, we’re never too old to start growing up. The Bible is full of gray-haired graduates of the school of spiritual growth. Moses was 80 years old when God helped him overcome his fear. Abraham was over 100 when God taught him how to trust in his promises. And Zechariah was simply described as “very old” when he learned how to keep his mouth shut and listen to God (Luke 1:7 NIV).

That means there’s hope for any of us who are ready to hang up our candy buckets and ask God to help us take a step towards maturity today.

Journal Questions 

  1. Did you go trick-or-treating as a kid? How did you know when you were old enough to give it up?
  2. What’s one area of your life God has helped you to grow in over the years?
  3. Where do you think God may be calling you to do a little growing up today? Who is someone who could encourage you in this process?

Prayer

God, thank you for helping me to grow up in my faith. Please show me where I need to take a step toward maturity and give me the strength to do it. Amen.

Excerpt from Tales From the Leaf Pile, a Holiday Road Devotional, available now in paperback and ebook on Amazon.

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Teaching Your Children How to Lose

My daughter wasn’t crying because she lost the spelling bee. She was crying because she got knocked out in the second round. She’s smart. That’s her thing. So missing the word tofu embarrassed her. To make it worse, she knew every word after that.

The tears started just as I was tucking her into bed. “I didn’t want to win the whole thing,” she said, “I just didn’t want to miss one so early.” What was I supposed to say? Better luck next time? Just keep trying? No one likes tofu?

We spend so much time as parents preparing our kids for success that sometimes we do a poor job of preparing them for failure. We help them with homework, drive them to soccer practice and even arrange play dates to help them thrive relationally.

Yet, no matter how much we set up our kids to win, sometimes they are going to lose. That’s just life in a fallen world. Despite their best effort, they will sometimes fail tests, get clobbered in soccer games and struggle to make friends.

How should we react in moments like this? How can we help them deal with disappointment while also preparing them to handle failure as adults?

Thankfully, the night of the spelling bee, God led the conversation exactly where it needed to go, and in the process, I discovered three things I will repeat every time my kids are dealing with failure.

  1. Empathize

Our kids need to know that we see their pain, and we care. When my daughters are hurting, my first instinct is to fix it. I want to give them advice, correct them or coach them how to do better next time.   However, in moments like these, I’m learning that the first thing they need is kindness. So when I didn’t know what to say, I just hugged my daughter and told her, “I know it’s hard and I’m sorry.”

  1. Affirm their identity.

Kids need to know that their value isn’t based on their performance. They are loved because they are children of God. Failure messes with our identity because we all tend to build our self-image around activities that give us affirmation.

That’s why it’s twice as hard when the smart kid gets knocked out of the spelling bee, or the athlete loses a game. A big part of our identity is based on areas of life where we excel.

That night, I reminded my daughter that she is a child of the king, adored by her Dad in heaven and her dad on earth and no spelling bee could change that. I told her that her worth doesn’t come from what she does, but whose she is. She is a daughter of God.

  1. Talk about kingdom.

Our kids need to discover a redemptive view of suffering in the small things to prepare them to navigate more challenging struggles in life. That’s why we need to point them back to the Bible in small moments like these.

Earlier that day, my daughter and I had been talking about Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (NLT). It had just popped into my head, and I felt prompted to share it with her. At the time I had no idea why.

When the spelling bee drama unfolded, however, I had a pretty good idea what God was up to. I mentioned the proverb again and suggested, “Maybe this is an opportunity to trust God.”

Later she confessed, “As soon as you read that verse to me, I knew it was about the spelling bee. I knew it was about me trusting God.”

I reminded her that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). That means sometimes He says no to a desire of our heart because He has a better yes waiting for us in the future. It means sometimes He lets us go through hardship so we can comfort others with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:4). It means that even bad things that happen can give us an opportunity to minister to others and advance the gospel (Phil 1:12).

And that, of course, is the ultimate win.

By reframing my daughter’s loss with a kingdom perspective, God helped me remind her that her life is part of a bigger story and that her purpose goes far beyond winning a spelling bee. At the end of the night, it was that part of conversation that made the biggest difference. She finally had peace about the situation, and soon afterwards, drifted off to sleep.

When it comes right down to it, God’s definition of winning and losing is very different than ours. After all, we follow a Savior who died on a cross. The more we can help our kids see their failures and frustrations from His point of view, the more we can guarantee they will continually experience the only victory that counts.