Archive for the ‘grateful’ Category

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The story of the lost key

In God's great love,grateful,Jesus,The Journey on September 18, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

key

 

Monday’s was soccer practice on one of the muddiest, wettest, afternoons of the fall.  It was a tough practice trying to refocus nine 7 year olds from the preferred activity (making mud angels and throwing mud balls) to the ideal activity (practicing for soccer).  By the end of the hour I was wet, dirty, and most certainly a tad bit crabby.  The kids all got picked up, I gathered up muddy balls and practice jerseys, and went to grab the car key.  Normally we use a key ring with lots of other keys but in a hurry that afternoon I had grabbed the spare key.  One spare key.  Gone.  The zippered rain jacket pocket I had placed the single key had been unzipped.  The whole practice.  One single key, one entire soccer field, with no way to get home.

I grabbed two muddy seven year olds (mine and another) and my 9-year-old spectator daughter, and we began looking.  We walked here and there, carelessly, searching the muddy grass.  It dawned on me.  We’ll never find it.  At least not like this.  Searching has to be more intentional.  We have to have a better way to find the lost key.

I gathered the kids and hatched a plan.  We got in a line- 3 feet between us- and began traversing the field meticulously.  I still had my doubts we would find that key but at last now we had a chance.  Holding hands- crossing the muddy Francis Anderson field- looking for one lost silver key.  What are the odds- on 600 cubic yards that we would stumble over the one-yard that mattered: the one that held the key.  Back and forth, trying to maintain straight lines with military precision in the post soccer practice mess of two 7 year olds and a big sister waiting to go home.  “Its no use, we’ll never find it.”

“Nope we won’t,’ I told them, ‘if we stop looking.” As we continued to search, I began to realize a few things about lost things:

1) We can’t find what we’re not looking for.

Umm…yeah, got it.  Seemingly simply but so true.  I’ve had friends in recent days on social media who are poo-pooing the trapping of modern Christian faith and advocating instead an invitation “to the mystery, to the dance”.  I love that.  I love mystery.  I love dancing.  But if I’m left to my own initiative to pursue God, I’m going to be pretty lonely on the dance floor.  Because on most days I don’t feel like dancing.  I’m crabbing or shallow or simple or ignorant.  But establishing rituals of connection with the God who is always there to connect with us isn’t boring religion; it’s like intentionally looking for the key.  If you never look for things, you’ll never find it.  I realized some time ago I needed to spend more time looking for God, intentionally, in ritual acts of connection.  Setting my alarm to rise early, to run around the neighborhood looking for signs of the creator and praying for my loved ones, and returning to the pre-dawn quiet of the house and over a cup of coffee, reading the bible to remember just how big God is.  I’ve used different tools, different bibles, and different devotionals in different seasons to mix things up.  But I keep making time to search for God.

2)  If you don’t really need anything, you’ll soon tire of searching.

Looking for the key, we had made a few trips back and forth across the muddy pitch when I got frustrated- “forget it.”  I’ll call Heather, bring a spare key down, and just forget this stupid search.  But then I realized this was our only spare key.  There was no other option than finding the key.  No way to bail out.  No way to phone it in.  I NEED TO KEEP LOOKING BECAUSE THERE WEREN’T ANY OTHER OPTIONS.  It reminds me that often it is those furthest from God who have the best salvation stories.  Why?  Because they had no other option than to pursue the God of all redemption stories: Jesus Christ.  Sometimes I look around at the people around me and wonder- do you even need God or have we gotten so used to living without God we don’t really need him at all.  Someone recently challenged me: “are you merely spoon feeding the already full?”  Or are we reaching out to people still looking for a key to their lives.  I want to be more like that.
3)  Lost things get found when someone is searching.

It would have been convenient to stop searching- but I couldn’t -and so I didn’t stop.  How much more than does Jesus pursue us?  Desire us?  And search for us?  Jesus tells this story to encourage his friends looking for truth:
 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15: 8-10). 

Much like the woman’s quarter in the story, my own story was that I needed someone to find me.  I was 17, looking for purpose, and wondering whether God was true.  Lucky for me, Jesus inspired some YL friends to come looking for me.  And I began to hear about Jesus.  And then, in August of 1992, I was found.  I prayed and asked God into my heart, confessed my sin, and started a new path of following Him.  A path, trust me, that has had many failings.  And some dark spots.  But through it all, I knew I had been found by a God who loved me through His son Jesus Christ.  Even writing this, it feels good to remember my story of being found.  But I wonder how often we tell these stories to our friends outside the faith?  Or do we often spoon feed those already full?  Do we feel found by God on a daily basis?  And are we helping others seek for Him?  We worship a God who never stops searching for lost people.  I don’t want to forget about that part of God’s nature.

And then, near the end of our search, pointed down in the grass was the one, single, key.  We found it.  Because after all, the bible tells us, lost things get found.

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thanks

In grateful on November 21, 2012 by scottsund


An elementary definition of the term thankful would be simply to be full of thanks.  How to be full of anything in days of derision and despair?  When bombs are flying in Israel and FB is full of hate and disdain for all that isn’t your exact philosophical or religious or political opinion?  What if we don’t always feel thankful?

Lord make us one.  Lord teach me to love.  Lord teach me to give thanks.

As a new parent again, I’m so mindful of all that a baby needs.  My son Skye is 2 months and whenever he needs something, he cries out.  Generally he’s a very happy little guy, but a baby is a baby, so when he’s wet- he cries.  When he’s hungry- he cries.  Whenever something is bothering him- he cries out.  He cries out- and we come running.  Because we love him.  We want his needs to be met.  We understand that he needs us too and that causes us to move towards him out of our love.

Do we cry out to God when we need something?  Do we cry out to God when our hearts aren’t full of thanks?  Do we cry out to God to fill us up?

At times life gets so full I just stop crying out.   I make myself busy with really important things, like errands, ESPN.com, and Facebook.  And I stop crying out.  I stop seeking a relationship with God as the top priority in my life.  It’s just so easy to stop seeking Him and stop crying out to Him when there is so much here in my midst to keep me busy.

And yet we’re called to follow Him and to be a people crying out to know Him more.  To see Him move in the lives of our loved ones and our communities.  Crying out so that we would be full of thanks for all He is doing here.

My life right now probably looks like many of yours.  I’m grateful for so much, and yet, carry so many other concerns and worries.  There is so much to celebrate, and yet I find myself weary or stressing at times.  And yet today, I’m mindful that like my baby son, God in Heaven wants to pick me up and hold me.  He wants to meet my needs.  He wants me to cry out for Him so He can fill me up.

Though life isn’t perfect, I can give full thanks for that.

Father God, teach me to follow you more.  Thank you for calling me Your own.  Thank you for letting me see you and know you.  Lord fill me up with your thanks.  Break my heart with what breaks yours.  And may I be fully capable of gratitude for all the wonderful work you’re doing in my life, in my family, in our church, in this city, and in your world.  There is much unsettled Lord, and yet You are alive. And You reign.  And you will one day make all things right.  For those things and many, many more- I give thanks.  I love you Jesus.

-Your son,
Scott

 

 

 

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Who am I?

In grateful,The Journey on October 31, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , , , ,

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:
“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family,
that you have brought me this far?”
-2 Samuel 7:18

When I was in college I played football.  Specifically I played for Whitworth College in the years that playing football at Whitworth wasn’t something to brag about.  We were smaller and less skilled than almost every team we came across.  In addition, it probably should be noted that I played receiver, a position reserved for people taller and faster than I was.  But there I was, a little guy with a big heart, playing football in college for a team that at best, was hoping to win a few games each season.

During my sophomore season, I proudly started the season as 3rd string.  Maybe 4th string…but definitely not any higher than 3rd string.  There were some awesome athletes and guys way more skilled than I was ahead on me on the depth chart.  Faster.  Stronger.  Just plain better.  But I continued to practice and have fun with my buddies that were on the team and hope for the best.  Our coach quit literally a few weeks before the first game and so we were coached by an interim coach that was pretty hands off and let most of the duties fall on his graduate assistants, guys just a few years older than I was who had recently graduated.  We had a few victories that season but a ton of losses- and we got POUNDED on some games.  But the strangest thing happened as the season progressed- I kept moving up the depth chart as guys in front of me got hurt.  One of our senior receivers broke his hand or his wrist in the first or second game.  Then another star hurt his leg (ankle?) during a game at Central Washington University where we pulled off one of the biggest upsets that we had ever accomplished (it was our first victory over Central in over 2 decades!).  The season progressed, guys kept getting hurt, I kept showing up, and before you knew it I was starting at receiver for the mighty Whitworth Pirates.  Keep in mind- I wasn’t the best guy out there- not by a long shot.  But I worked hard and kept showing up and an opportunity presented itself.

On the final game, we played Simon Fraser University, another overmatched and under skilled team that we actually had a shot against.  We had won 2 games that season, lost another 6 or 7, and were hoping to end the year on an upswing.  The weather in Spokane that week had been bonkers- we had a foot of snow the day before the game but by game time it had turned to rain. We were playing in 6 inches of mud in places.  I had a few catches (also dropped a wide open 40 or 50 yard touchdown grab…but that is a different story) and as the game finished I caught a touchdown that put us ahead to win the game.  When it was all over, the team had won its 3rd game.  And I had caught 10 or 12 passes for over 200 yards.  In fact, I was just a few yards off the single game record (but that is also another blog post).  It was an amazing end to the most improbable seasons I could have never suspected.  After the game, the team said some tearful goodbyes and I connected with family and friends in the stands before riding my bike back to the dorm room where I lived.  It’s not a very far bike ride from Whitworth’s Pine Bowl back to Stewart Hall where I lived, but I rode slow.  I had to ride slow, because I couldn’t stop crying.  Not just the odd tear in the corner of my eyes, but literally bawling my eyes out.  “Who am I, God?” I asked over and over and over again.

The reality that hit me on that bike ride home was that God had taken my very average athletic abilities and allowed me to do great things on the football field.  It was like an inside joke between God and myself, because we both knew I wasn’t very talented, but yet God was able to use me in such a surprising and incredible way.  I just slowly peddled and thanked God and asked over and over, “who am I that you would use me like this?”  It was a lot of fun.  I was humble, and very, very grateful.  It’s like King David in the passage at the top. I love this image, him going into the most sacred spot in the tent of worship and sitting before God and just smiling and asking, “why have you been so good to me God?”

When God uses your little bits of talent and does something huge with them, you can’t help but be grateful and thankful.  It becomes an inside joke when you see how God is using ways you never quite expected.  God delights in using us in unsuspecting ways, and He also delights in us being grateful.  And though football was fun, I’m grateful for much bigger things now.  Things like my kids, food, friends, God’s provision.  Its not all touchdowns and big wins; learning to be grateful is also being thankful when things get hard.  But this journey of gratitude is a necessary one to give us postures of thankfulness.  Because the very best people I know in my life are people marked by profound gratitude.  Gratitude that keeps people grounded and humble and reminds them that all good gifts are signs of an even better Giver. Psalm 92 says:

“What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks,
to sing an anthem to you, the High God!
To announce your love each daybreak,
sing your faithful presence all through the night.

 Yes, we are supposed to be full of gratitude for all that we’ve been given.  I’m reminded of this now writing from a warm house with forced heat and a fridge full of food.  Our friends and families on the east coast are in darkness as the hurricane has ravaged much of the eastern seaboard.  A team from my church is getting back tomorrow from Rwanda where they’ve been ministering to people who have so little.  The children of our church are collecting quarters and dimes and nickels to buy simple meals for children in Zambia.  Friends- don’t forget this- we have been given so much.  We have so much to be grateful for.  Personally, I’m reminded every day in the utter and joyful chaos of a family of now 6…God has been so good.  Though there are problems and things causing big challenges and lots of work on my horizon, I’m choosing to be grateful and keep myself grounded in the truth that God is the great giver of all gifts.  Who am I, God?  Who am I, to deserve all these good things?  Today is a good day to practice the fine art of gratitude.  Will you join me?  What are you thankful for today?

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The 38th Year

In grateful,The Journey on October 2, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

Tuesday was my birthday and sadly, I’ve reached the age where birthdays feel like less of a celebration and more of a memory test: how old am I again?  This actually happened to me earlier in the year when Heather had to correct me…I had actually forgot if I was 37 or 38.  Is it too early for dementia?

But birthdays, though at my age not marked with huge celebrations or landmark coming of age movements, are still incredible moments to stop, pause, look around, and do an inventory on how life is being lived.  It seems when I talk to people, there is often a notion that “back then was the good ol’ days.”  I don’t really think this is true anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I have great memories from the past.  But I don’t want to live in the past; I want to cling to the belief that life continues to get better.  Yes, these are good days.  Perhaps the best is yet to come.  Our head pastor Richard preached about this on Sunday: “Sentimentalism about the past leads me to disengage in the present.”  I’ve seen this happen again and again.  I often meet people who want to go back in time to be in high school again, or college, or before they had kids.  But this kind of thinking causes bitterness and aloofness for the present, and hopelessness for the future.  No, there is  a better way to live, living in the glorious present.  We only have today, tomorrow, and that which lies ahead; we can’t go back.

And though the days are sunny right now, with a new son and so much to be grateful for, I’m also mindful that others are struggling.  The reality is that yes, life is hard.  I have a friend who recently reminded me of this as we drove to the funeral of one of our closest friend’s father (who died much too young).   We drove south on I-5 and as he discussed the challenges of his workplace, of being the light of Christ in the midst of a very dark place, he said, “You know, life is hard.  And if you don’t see this, you’re either living with your eyes closed or you’re not paying attention.”  Yes, life is hard.

I was thinking of this as we sat through the funeral. The funeral was a very touching celebration of my friend’s father, a good man who had a big impact on those closest to him.  Midway through the funeral, a young woman stood up to play a song of tribute on her flute to her deceased grandfather.  The song was a religious song of some sort, I’m now forgetting the title.  But as she played, the emotion of the moment caught up to her and she began to cry.  But with both hands on the flute she couldn’t wipe the tears away, they merely rolled down her cheeks and puddled on the instrument.  And as she tried to keep her now sobbing breaths measured to exhale the notes into her flute, she would pause between notes and take a deep, sobbing, tearful breath, and play again.  This continued for the duration of the song, beautiful notes punctuated by deep breaths of tearful inhales.  Each crying inhale filled the church with her emotion.  I realized, with tears standing in my own eyes, these sobbing breaths were the real song, not the notes from the flute.  And don’t get me wrong, the flute playing was flawless, but the raw wordless emotion from this young woman conveyed more than words could convey, more than musical notes could convey.  For her crying breaths told the real story of her heartache, but also of her love, and of her hope in Christ to hold her in this difficult time.

For this man who passed, though his life had ended too soon, had lived a good life.  His life hadn’t merely unfolded; it had been sculpted.  In the program of the memorial they printed out a page from his bible that had all his favorite verses written down.  And then they read this verse, Isaiah 40:31, his favorite: “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I’m thinking of this today as I think of my 38th year.  Lord how will I sculpt a beautiful life out of the clay of my existence?  How will I allow God to help me build?  What greatness awaits?  Time will expire on us all…will I be ready?

In the book of Jeremiah, God sends the prophet Jeremiah to a potter’s house.  After watching a potter fashion a vessel, throw it away, and refashion another vessel the Lord asks: “as the potter molds the clay, can’t I do the same with the nation of Israel?”  The question is rhetorical; Jeremiah knows the answer.  Yes Lord.  You form our lives, collectively and individually, like a master artist forming mud into something useful, something beautiful.  The ability to be great rests not in the inner superiority of “my dirt”, rather, my value comes when I let God move over me, through me, within me to make me into something better than I could be on my own.  It’s not up to me.  My life rests in God’s hands.   This is good news for this means the pressure is off and I can live boldly into the future knowing as I follow God, He’ll be remaking me and forming me to do things for the Kingdom.

In the new Avett Brothers song “The Once and Future Carpenter”, there are lyrics that have been rattling around my brain all week:

“Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me,
and when I lose my direction I’ll look up to the sky
and when the black cloak drags upon the ground
I’ll be ready to surrender, and remember
well we’re all in this together
If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”

Yes, in this 38th year, I’ll live the life I’m given.  I’ll seek to live a life of integrity and purpose and rest and joy.  I’ll give thanks for all the good that surrounds.  I’ll rage against the darkness that I see destroying the joy and hope of those around me.  And I’ll cling to God.  And I won’t be scared to die.  I’ll be more scared of not really living.  That’s the danger facing many of us these days.

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Gratitude: The Important Choice

In God's calling,grateful,Spiritual Practices on April 18, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , , ,

Choosing to be grateful.  Sounds great- but often like a Hallmark card or a bumper sticker, without context and without framework, it feels annoyingly simplistic.  Choose gratitude?  “But I have so much anxiety right now.”  “But there is so much to worry about right now.”  “But there are real problems that need real fixes and simply “being grateful” isn’t going to fix anything.”  But…but…but.

The power of gratitude is that it can’t always whitewash the real challenges or heartaches or stresses in our life, but it helps keep those things at the periphery instead of in the center.  When we dwell in gratitude, we allow God to stay in the center of our focus and attention and keep those things that need worrying about on the edge, where we can actually keep them in their healthy perspective.  Because at least for me, when I center on my problems and my anxieties instead of centering on God, I become fairly worthless in regards to being a blessing in the world.

Being grateful is like choosing to dwell in the blessings of the everyday instead of drowning in the minutia of what’s not well.  Remember in Philippians…Paul says: God is near.  Yes God is near.  He is here.  It is the power of the resurrection we celebrated so mightily at Easter.  Jesus died and came alive to bring us real life here and now- not just when we die.  And because He left His spirit here, we know that God is in this place.  We see markers of God’s presence at every good and joyful thing on earth.  Anything good here on Earth?  That sunrise, the laugh of my two-year old, the kiss from a lover, the first beat of a new album…its all from HIM.

So choose gratitude.  Choose to be joyful.  Choose to look at the positive and not center on the negative.  Yes your life is an unfinished work.  Yes you have challenges.  Yes things are not ideal.  They never will be.  Not here on earth, because we live in an age that though the Spirit is here, God isn’t finished with this place yet.  Someday, the book of Revelation tells us, God will wipe every tear from our eye and there will be no more weeping and no more heartache.  But until then, we live in a real world that has challenges.  But the sooner you can be grateful for what you have, for who you are, for what God created  you to do here and now, peace will reign in your life.

The bible tells us to be grateful.  1 Thessalonians tells us “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Why is this God’s will?  Same reason I teach my kids to be thankful for their meals, or a gift from a friend.  Because gratitude becomes a gateway to thankfulness and thankfulness becomes a gateway to joy.  Want to meet truly joyful people in the world?  They are those that are thankful and grateful for each friend, for special day, for each small blessing in their life.  Simply put: gratitude teaches us to live richer lives.

Sunday our head pastor RD preached on this and showed this powerful clip from Louie Schwartberg’s TED talk.  The whole video is good but if you are in a rush, skip ahead to 3:58 into the video to see a short video piece on GRATITUDE.  Trust me…you will be thankful you spent the few minutes watching it.

May you be showered with good things.  And may you give thanks for it all.