Giving great gifts is underrated. If you’ve ever given a really good gift and seen the recipient weep, then you know what I’m talking about. Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and I gave Tim a great gift, and he received it with great joy. Many of you know that we named our son after Tim’s grandfather, Russell Potter. So for Tim’s first Father’s Day as a dad, I created a framed collage of photographs of Tim as a baby with his grandfather (the first Russell Potter) and then some photos of Tim with our son, the second Russell Potter. Tim was overwhelmed upon seeing the gift. He got all welled up, and then I got all welled up and he just kept looking at all the pictures with so much love in his eyes. I was so happy I could not stop smiling and crying. It feels wonderful to give a great gift, to catch someone off guard with surprise, to overwhelm them with a little thoughtfulness, to show in some small way that you love them. And even though it may be true that it is better to give than to receive, the reality is you need someone to receive the gift if it’s going to bring you or them any joy at all.
Gifts from God are all around me every day, and lately I have felt a particular desire to soak them in – to notice them as gifts – and to receive them. Author Shauna Niequist said on her blog recently, “One of the biggest challenges in modern life is sensing God’s presence in the midst of the crush and swirl of daily life.”Birds singing, swamp coolers cooling, ducks in the Platte river swimming, the city looking back at me from the view on my roof, family and friends laughing together – these are all some of the countless little things I usually cruise right by while driving my little efficiency train. But how sad God must feel to offer these gifts only to have them ignored. Receiving a gift is part of blessing the giver.
May you notice and receive God’s gifts today,
This Sunday is Fathers day and for the first time in my life I have two fathers to celebrate – you and Tim. Since I’m raising a boy now I have been thinking a bit about what makes a great man and what it is I hope to instill in Russell as he grows up. I am grateful for the man you are and the father you have been.
I know that we all have regrets in life and that one of yours is that you spent the first 40 years of your life running from God. But I want you to know how grateful and glad I am, as your daughter that you have spent the last 30+ years strongly seeking after God’s heart. I respect the courage that it took for you to humble yourself at age 40 and do a complete 180-degree life change. I admire the strength that it took for you to stop drinking and change so many of your values, priorities and habits. I have a foundation of love and hilarious memories today because of the sacrifices you made for our family. I remember that time when I was in 5th grade and you turned down that promotion in Chicago because it would’ve meant too much time away from your family. Very few men choose to prioritize their families in the working years of life, and it is one of the qualities I so appreciate about you. My life is full of laughter today because you taught me how to laugh hard, be silly and keep on finding ways to smile even in the storms. Thanks for all those “Fury” rides, family vacations, “lucky” prayers before bed, and for adjusting and learning to pack your own lunch when mom went back to work. Thanks even more for making your marriage with mom a priority and for showing me what a loving relationship really looks like. Thanks for being strong enough to admit when you were wrong. Thanks for modeling the love of Christ and a life of service. Thanks for showing me the Father-heart of God. Thanks for being my dad.
In 2005, Tim and I bought a big ole tri-plex that in so many ways we really have no business owning. At the time, banks were giving mortgages to anyone who was breathing, with little to no money down and interest free, if you agreed to the “adjustable” terms of that loan. We were arrogant and stupid enough to agree to these terms. I remember when we closed on the place, one of the guys at the table said, “Just wait, that place is going to be worth a million dollars in a couple years because this neighborhood is so hot.” When we drove away from that closing, I wanted to roll down my window and start waving to everyone, blowing a few kisses, because I felt so smart, soon-to-be rich, and powerful for scoring such a great deal. I’ve heard a phrase that says, “Experience humility today before you experience humiliation tomorrow,” and wow, did we get humbled! A couple years later, the market changed, and we had a $700/month increase in the mortgage, and we could no longer re-finance it! I was scared and overwhelmed. Our options for help were limited. I turned to God.
I had prayed about our decision when we first bought the house. But, I really prayed when the bottom started to fall out! I prayed more fervently, more honestly, and more desperately than I had during the early decision-making process.
I think my story is fairly common. We usually pray the most when things are the worst, or when we have nothing else to do, or when we have no where else to turn.
This Sunday, we are continuing our new series called “White Flag: a study of the book of Jonah.” White flags are the universal symbol for surrender. This week we’ll look at Jonah’s prayer of surrender from inside the belly of the great fish – when he had no where else to turn and nothing else to do. It’s a whale of a tale, and I hope to see you there.
A couple years ago, I co-opened a business called Sipping n’ Painting; my partners and I recently signed a lease to expand to a second location. Several people in my life have warned me about “managing my risk” in opening the second studio. I consider this wise counsel, and I also consider it only one side of a double- sided coin. What about “managing the opportunity?” or better yet, “stewarding the opportunity?” Last year, Sipping n’ Painting received a small business grant, and I think it is just as important to steward the opportunity of that grant and the gift of current momentum in this business as it is to manage the risk involved in expanding.
The same is true for you. God has given you gifts. You can lead, or teach, or pioneer new things, or host, or serve, or sing, or play, or innovate, or create, or come alongside. Are you stewarding that gift? Are you stewarding the opportunities in your life today? Jesus told a story where he cautioned his followers not to “bury [their] talents” in the ground. We can bury our talents (or bury the talents of others) when we become so risk-adverse, so consumed with “managing the risks,” that we lose sight of the opportunity we need to steward.
Has the Spirit led you to venture into risky territory? What steps can you take today to wisely manage the associated risk AND courageously invest your talents?
My birthday is July 13 (so you can start shopping now) and summer has always been my favorite season. Memorial day weekend feels like the kick-off to my favorite season. I’m not sure why it’s my favorite – maybe it is the backyard BBQs, the slip-n-slides, pools, after dinner walks while its still light out, or the fireworks for the 4th of July. This year we’re starting summer right with a weekend full of people! First we have Brandon and Lisa’s wedding tonight, then Simon’s graduation party tomorrow, then Jean and Pilly’s for dinner Sunday, and then Gary and Melanie coming over for drinks on our roof on Monday. It’s the perfect start to my favorite season – a weekend filled with the presence of friends. I know all you introverts are thinking, “please just shoot me now!” in thinking of a weekend full of people, but for Tim and I this works and we love it.
I wonder when we think back on summer 2012, what is it we’ll remember? Will it be the flowers planted, or the house projects, or the events, or the work? I hope we’ll spend time with each other – sharing life and laughs and good food. But what I hope makes the top of the list is how we lived the summer soaking in the presence of God.
Cheers to the start of my forever and ever favorite season, may it be a summer you remember because you live it in step with God and basking in his love.