November is here! I always love this season. The leaves have changed, the weather is perfect for jackets, and the thanksgiving season is all around. I love what thanksgiving represents, not the whole pilgrims being murderer’s thing, but the mindset of being thankful for the things in our lives. Family, friends, passions, dreams; all of it have been given to us by a God that loves us. Sometimes, life pushes against this mindset. The enemy attacks, we enter hardship, and find it hard to have joy in our lives. We have blessings, but choose to have bitterness of what we don’t have. We have a choice to make. Do we let what we perceive as failures and setbacks as an excuse to live bitter? Or do we let these propel us into our future? This is something I have been wrestling through; walking through these rough moments that make me question what God’s plan in all of it is. The truth is, and this is a truth for all of us, God has a plan, we just have to trust him with a grateful heart.
It’s finally that time! Thanksgiving week is upon us (unless you read this early here!). Hopefully this means that you are enjoying the time and not stressing out, but let’s be real you probably are. Distant relatives might be coming over and that stresses you out. Maybe you have been stuck making the food (get some of the lazy ones to help out, yo!). You may be super anxious about the political debates that may happen. You might be killing yourself trying to have the Norman Rockwell image of thanksgiving dinner. Hold up. This doesn’t really sound like a “holiday,” it seems kinda like a nightmare. I want to pull the plug on the idea of having a picture-perfect Thanksgiving. Even though you may see tons of Instagram pictures of a feast, you don’t see the picture of the dishes to make the meal, the family arguments before and after the picture was taken. You don’t see the bathroom struggle later, the baby throw up on a tired mom, or the awkward comment that uncle four times removed made about you name it. I want to cut through the fake-ness, I want to look at what thanksgiving should be all about, and I want to look at the power of family.
This week marks my last week as a full time college student. Pretty weird but exciting at the same time. For one thing it marks a new start, a chance for me to get out of the mundane and into my passions. On the other hand it brings unknowns and uncertainties about the future. It’s all exciting and nerve wracking, but I can’t wait to see where God takes me. I’ve learned so much over the past four years during my time at university, but there was a moment about two weeks ago that taught me immensely about two things, love and family. I’ve written about these two things several times before, but I am taking a non-traditional approach to what it means to have family and what it means to love people. I want to talk about them because I feel like in our culture today, especially in a Christian spiritual culture today, we tend to see our family as just the people we serve alongside in ministry or flesh and blood. We also use love as a bargaining chip, saying if you do “x,” then I will give you love. That’s not what we are called to do, and today I want to talk about a moment that was a turning point in the life of someone I experienced not long ago.
This past weekend was fantastic. I had a chance to be involved with our children’s ministry event called FX (family experience). I was able to help re-write the script and help with the production, but I was also able to be in different aspects of the night itself. From the many costume changes I went through to the getting out of breath from being a wacky game show host, I loved every aspect of it. The feeling after that night was hard to describe, but the best way I can quantify it was that it felt like home. The feeling of being home is a feeling that you are in a place where you belong. It’s a sense of peace and comfort, where you can feel safe and secure. It’s the feeling I get in the presence of God. I think that’s a beautiful thing. We feel at home when we enter into our passions because God has given us these passions, and he calls us homeward.
The past few weeks for our world have been incredibly distressing. There have been mass killings, anger, and hatred from all over. In America we are in the midst of a presidential race, one in which both sides are fueled by hatred of the other, with us as citizens being caught in their crossfire. We’ve seen our own people turn on each other because of choices by sinful men. We see the media like CNN and Fox News have a constant stream of these events causing myself and others to fear, while they also push bias onto us. Our world is chaotic, it is a lost place, and it needs Jesus. I wish we lived in a world that was peaceful and we never had to struggle, but the truth is, we will never obtain that on our own. This all steams from the first sin, when Adam and Eve chose to live independently from God. That choice created a disconnect, one that separated us from God. In that, the world was introduced to sin, so God chose to send his son much later into the world. Jesus was fully man and fully God, and in so he died for us and rose again. Because of that act, we can enter back into a relationship with Christ. I hope you have made that choice, and if you have, it has left you with a responsibility. You see, while Jesus was on earth, he taught everyone he could about the word and how to act. His teachings on the way we should be, is the responsibility, and it is one we all must follow if we want to see change.
We are not made to be alone. This is a truth that God said about us in the very beginning. “It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18a).” That’s pretty straight forward, something I love about the teachings within the bible, simple ideas that radically change lives. I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, the idea that we are not made to be alone, and because of that, God gives us a family. This then lead me to think about what exactly a family is. Sure one way to view it could be your direct biological family, but I think there is more to it than that. One of the best definitions of family that I found while researching this idea was simply this, a person or people related to one and so to be treated with a special loyalty or intimacy. To be treated with special loyalty or intimacy. How powerful is that? Family is a factor that each of us needs in our lives, a community that is loyal to each other and can be there for us in times of need. The traditional idea of what a family is has changed. I used to think of the Norman Rockwell Freedom from Want painting, the one of the turkey dinner, all the family gathered around with big smiles. This simply isn’t the same, family goes through hard times. Families aren’t all white picket fence home owners, we are unique and different. We have families of divorce, children who have been victims of abuse, families that have experienced the death of a spouse, homes being combined after parents re-marry, and countless other looks of family. My family has stayed together, but we have seen what addiction can cause within the family and the death of grandparents. In these hard times of family it can be hard to see the essential factor in family, but family is so much more, and there is always hope when God is a centerpiece in your life.