Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a day to be grateful and I am blessed beyond measure in all kinds of ways. But since today is not only Thanksgiving, but the 26th of November, one blessing in particular stands out: my husband. Today is Will’s 38th birthday!

Will is tall and handsome, smart and kind, hardworking and disciplined, athletic and fun. He is more than anything I could have ever dreamed up. No one makes me laugh like he does, and we can make a rip-roaring time of anything. And I mean anything. Grocery shopping is a total hoot with him. And yet he’s also a person of depth. He reads a lot, prays a lot and thinks a lot. He’s just a total stud. I can’t even imagine who I would be without him. He’s spurred me, loved me and encouraged me for nearly half my life. So this Thanksgiving I am so thankful for Will. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me such a wonderful mate.
So who are you thankful for today? May we be faithful in telling the people we love how thankful we are for them.
On a different note, I am going to start blogging on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Unlike Will, I am not a disciplined person so I need deadlines and commitments to keep me on track. Spur has proven to be a great tool for personal accountability, and my goal for the rest of 2009 is to start in the book of John and read through to the end of the Bible. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I’ll blog about something in the passages that I have read. For example, on Tuesday I plan to blog from John 1.
I would love to have some of you join me in reading this section. It’s a pretty ambitious reading schedule, but we can spur one another on, right?

Lessons from My Three Sons

I’ve been blogging about Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline for two months now, and although I cannot recommend his book highly enough and learned a great deal through blogging about it, I’ve really missed sharing tidbits of my family. God has blessed children with magical innocence, unquenchable curiosity, and surprising insight. I love hearing about the sweet and funny things they say and do, and I love recording a sampling from my own little guys.

A Lesson from Will

My oldest son, Will, turned eight last month, and at his school they observe birthdays by bringing the child up front and singing “Happy Birthday.” Then the child is usually posed some kind of a question like, “so what are you looking forward to doing while you are eight?” And my darling Will said, “Well, my Gramma is coming over today.” And yes, my mom practically burst into tears when I picked her up at the airport a couple hours later. But the point is that even though Will is spoiled in many ways, with toys and experiences galore, what he really looks forward to is hanging out with Gramma. That’s living in the present, and it’s such an admirable quality. How many adults do you know that are that relational? People for whom the real treasure of their hearts is people — not things, not status, not the next achievement or the next experience. Yet Jesus said we will be known by our love for one another. (John 13:35)
A Lesson from Nate
My middle son, Nate, is a smartypants. He has an unbelievable memory and loves to learn. Plus he artfully capitalizes on his good looks and engaging personality. He will talk to anyone of any age and he has interesting things to say because even though he is only six, he knows a lot about a lot of things, especially sports. He likes to ensure kids at school are kept fully abreast of the latest sports news, coach firings, team records, upcoming opponents, and amazing plays. He told me yesterday that he didn’t know if he could really give good updates at school for golf and tennis because he doesn’t really know many of the players. So that’s kind of an indication of what he does know — pretty much everything else! The problem with Nate is that he does no wrong. He is never to blame. Yesterday he was sent to “The Red Hot Spot” in class. And guess what? “It was for nothing! Maybe she didn’t think I had raised my hand but I did.” Yeah, right. That stubborn it’s-not-my-fault stance is so unattractive and yet so very common. Like Nate we all need to be reminded that none is perfect, and that a willingness to own up is imperative. 1 John 1:9 says, “That if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” But the verse and the promise turn on the word “if.” Is there something you need to confess today? I myself just made a phone call.
A Lesson from Sam
Often times when Sam toddles into a room, Daddy will yell out, “Big Sam!” It’s kind of like a Cheers thing, and we do it for the other boys too. Unfortunately, for me, Sammy doesn’t yet realize that I actually do not want to be in on this little charade. A couple of weeks ago I entered the room where Sam was playing and was graced with the animated greeting of: “Big Mom!” And then a few days ago, when I did something that especially met Sam’s two-year-old approval, he patted me gently and said, “Good boy!” Yes, being the lone female has its costs. But don’t you just love his enthusiasm? Many times each day he runs over to me with that huge, open mouth smile and arms spread like eagles, proclaiming, “So good to see you!” It is totally random. We may have spent every waking moment together all day, and he will still do it. Needless to say, I love it. I’m dreading that it will likely end. But should it? Maybe we can all learn something from Sam. Throw your arms around someone today and tell them, “So good to see you!” And mean it.

Celebration

Who doesn’t enjoy a good party, right? But what exactly makes a party good? Here’s my definition: engaging conversation with interesting people of depth and character and lots of laughter over hopeful and candid stories. A gourmet menu and intimate setting may provide great context, but the essence of a party is people–transparent, fun, interesting people. People who like to celebrate.


This last chapter of Richard Foster’s seminal work, Celebration of Discipline, is my favorite, because it’s a call to party. He says, “Without joyous celebration to infuse the other disciplines, we will sooner or later abandon them. Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong.” Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.191. Have you ever been to a dinner party or gathering, large or small, that invigorated you just the way Foster says? Did you leave feeling more energetic, stronger? I have. In fact, last month I had a dinner out with my beloved Miggno (Multi-generational Girls Night Out) and left feeling like I could lasso the moon.

But a true spirit of carefree celebration isn’t something that just happens. There are some prerequisites. First of all, worrying is not allowed. Worry is ruinous to a merry parade. And your everyday Joe is a worrier. The lack of security in today’s society is omnipresent from financial woes, to terrorism, to senseless and horrific crime, to broken families, natural disasters, widespread disease and a sense of meaninglessness. People who spend an inordinate amount of time watching every worrisome detail unfold in front of them cannot help but be affected. They don’t celebrate. They worry.

But a biblical worldview requires a very different perspective. In Philippians 4 we are commanded to rejoice always and to not be anxious. We are told that if we present our requests to God we will have the peace that transcends understanding. That peace doesn’t mean everything is perfect all the time, but it does enable a spirit of celebration. Without this spirit, parties mask anxiety and meaninglessness, and they are draining and depressing.

But a God-given carefree outlook is not the only requirement for a successful celebration, there is also the need for obedience. Foster makes this point as succinctly as it can possibly be made: “Joy is found in obedience.” Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.193. It’s the paradox of Psalm 119. We may think that God’s law is there to restrict us, to tell us what we cannot do, to strap us in so we can’t have too good of a time, but that’s a childish view. The truth is that there is joy in obedience. Restrictions are there for our own good. Remember God created us. He kind of knows what will make us happy and what won’t.

So how are you doing? When was the last time you observed some event or accomplishment with a true spirit of celebration? May we not discount the importance of celebrating, and may we live out the words of Augustine: “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!”

Guidance: Who Needs a Mentor?

I’ve taken a couple weeks off from blogging because my family traveled to San Diego last week and trips tend to set me back, way back. Even just the preparatory and post-vacation laundry is ridiculously consuming for me; I don’t know why. Not that it isn’t well, well worth it. We had a fabulous time, and I can hardly keep myself from dreaming up some scheme to get back there.

But I’m also excited to finish up blogging about Celebration of Discipline. This book has been consistently enlightening and challenging, and these last two chapters are no different. In fact, I’ve met a number of people who’ve told me they’ve started Celebration but never finished it, and that’s such a shame. Because, in my opinion, the last chapter is the best of all. So please check back on Thursday for the final installment: the discipline of celebration.
Richard Foster breaks this chapter into two parts, corporate guidance and individual guidance. I’ve not had the opportunity to experience guidance in the corporate form, but cannot overemphasize the importance of it on an individual basis. As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, I did the fellows program of the C.S. Lewis Institute (find out more here). A mentoring relationship is a vital component of the program and my two lovely mentors (Linda for Year 1 and Nancy for Year 2) were and are a blessing beyond measure in my life. They encouraged me, prayed for me, listened to me, gave me direction, held me accountable, invested in me with the love and compassion. They helped me set goals and implement truths we encountered in our study together. Everyone needs a mentor. The problem is identifying the right person to fulfill this need.
The best first step is to start praying about finding a mentor. I believe God wants us to have someone investing in us, and I believe He will answer this prayer. The verse that is, in essence, the mission statement of this blog is a call to “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) So if you know someone who might be able to mentor you, to spur you on, be bold and ask, and ask them to pray about mentoring you too. If you don’t know anyone, maybe start inquiring at church or at Bible study.
I’ll be praying that some Spur readers will be spurred on this week to seek out a mentor. I’ll be praying that just the right person is willing to share themselves with you and serve God in this way.