Last week my family was blessed to spend a week in Florida with everyone's favorite mouse. If you've ever done Disney you know that by the end of the week you can feel pretty wiped out. I rode my fair share of rides but in an effort to keep things balanced I also made sure to do my fair share of walking around aimlessly, people watching and of course my favorite Disney pastime, eating. In the midst of one of my wanderings I came across this sign located at Epcot just outside one its largest attractions. I stopped and read it (yes, I'm the guy that reads all the signs at the museum, park and zoo) and was struck by the power of the words. While the words were written in an effort to speak about the importance of properly stewarding our natural resources here on Earth, they could also be applied to our relationships with one another. Think for a moment about what a healthy God honoring relationship should look like. It's difficult to read in the photo but here's what it says:
Between the Land and Humankind
"Symbiotic relationships mean creative partnerships. The earth is to be seen neither as an ecosystem to be preserved unchanged not as a quarry to be exploited for selfish and short range economic reasons, but as a garden to be cultivated for the development of its own potentialities of the human adventure. The goal of this relationship is not the maintenance of the status quo but the emergence of new phenomena and new values."
Rene Dubos (1901-1982)
Pulltzer Prize Recipient
Powerful words that can and should be applied to our stewarding of this amazing planet God has blessed us with but let's look at this quote through the eyes of those looking to develop healthy relationships. When was the last time that we viewed our friendships as "Creative partnerships"? Even that term, "Creative partnership" communicates intentionality. Creating is something that is designed to accomplish a specific purpose. Do our friendships have a specific purpose? Not in a negative way like you're using someone but do your friendships push you towards your overall purpose? Are you being sharpened? Are you sharpening those you are in relationship with?
Too often we choose to surround ourselves with people that are content to leave us as we are. That sounds like a good friend right, someone who accepts you as you are? What if instead we chose to intentionally surround ourselves with people that wanted to us change, not for the sake of change or their selfish gains but for the glory of God?
What if we intentionally searched for friendships that could be defined as a "cultivating relationship" as one who cultivates a garden? When you cultivate a garden you work it, you weed it, you fertilize it, you break it down and then work towards building it back up. Does that describe your relationships? What if our friends weren't content with our status quo? What if we weren't content with the status of our friends? What if we had relationships where each part was cultivated into the emergence of something new? Not "new" in the sense that the current you or them isn't good enough but let's be honest and admit that we have much to learn from one another and when we intentionally surround ourselves with other God pursuing people we discover that we can be developed and sharpened to a greater God honoring level. My challenge is for each of us to look for and pursue relationships that are truly symbiotic. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
We've arrived at what some believe to be the greatest month of the year: Thanksgiv...I mean November. Thanksgiving is certainly the highlight of November for many. It's certainly a highlight in my family. For my high school sons, it's about the upcoming Thanksgiving break. For my wife and I it's about the opportunity to gather with family and of course our annual Black Friday recon mission. We're not big shoppers but we love watching people so every year we venture to some of the most crowded locations and just watch the chaos unfold.
Regardless of your favorite aspects of the Thanksgiving season, let's pause for a moment and reflect on a few areas where we would do well to remain thankful...since after all, that's kind of the point of Thanksgiving. I'm sure each of us is thankful for family, friends, our job, our kids, our stuff, etc. but let's look a little deeper than what floats to the surface.
Thankful for Trials: This seems like a ridiculous idea but let's not forget where our trials lead us. James says it like this, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." - James 1:2-4. Let's reframe our thinking and start the process of harnessing our trials for God's glory. Be thankful for what comes your way, the good and the bad.
Thankful for Instruction: I'll admit it: I don't like receiving instruction. I like managing myself, I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I'm sure I'm not alone in this thinking because receiving instruction is humbling. It communicates, sometimes verbally and sometimes nonverbally, that we don't always have our acts together...that's tough to hear right? As tough as instruction can sometimes be, it's vital for our development. Paul says it like this to his young protege' Timothy "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." - 2 Timothy 3:16. Instruction from those above you, around you and even below you is importantly but nothing is more important that receiving instruction from God's Word.
Thankful for Grace: The statement I'm about to make will come as no surprise to you: no one is perfect. I for one am in desperate need of grace. I need grace from my wife, my kids, my friends and certainly from God. Here's the risk we run in our constant need for grace, it becomes so common that we cease to give thanks for it. Grace, if we're not careful becomes commonplace and we forget the miraculous nature of God's grace.
Paul says it like this in his letter to the church at Rome, "We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins." - Romans 3:22-24
Don't forget about the miraculousness of God's grace and forgiveness in your life.
Thankful for Victory: Here's my favorite part. I have victory. You have victory. We have victory, true victory not in ourselves but in what God has done on our behalf. Paul says it like this, "But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 15:57. You and I can have victory when we fully grasp what God has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. Tough times will come but victory is yours.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.