Thorns in my life and the Power of God

…“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” -2 Cor. 12:9

I love this verse. I’ve loved this verse ever since the first time I heard it as a young child. I’ve always loved it because, even as a young child, I understood that I was broken and weak. You don’t have to live life very long before this realization becomes evident. What a great reminder that in the middle of our weaknesses, God’s Power can be made known in a real and tangible way.

A few nights ago, I was meeting with the Elders of my church for our usual time of prayer and accountability and this passage came up. Again, very timely as our church has been through many transitions over the past few years. There have been more times than one that we’ve felt weak and needed God’s Power to show up. One thing that hit me as we were studying this passage was verse 7. It’s kind of an important, and often time left out, part of this passage. It’s actually the explanation as to why “this verse is there”.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”

This verse is comforting, because we’re all broken. It’s comforting, because we all know that we’re weak. It’s comforting, because it reminds us that God is always with us and that His power is shown even more powerfully in our weakness, but it’s hardly comforting to be reminded how easily we can become conceited and feel like we can fix all of our problems.

…to keep me from being conceited,” is a big phrase.

con·ceit·ed

kənˈsēdəd/

adjective

adjective: conceited

You and I live in a place where we’re taught from young children to be self-sufficient. It’s who we are as Americans. It’s who we are as… people. It’s been a struggle from the very beginning. We have always wanted control.

How to be the “Perfect” family

Perfect Family

We’ve got this incredible picture that would hang over our fireplace of when the kids were younger. It’s one of those family photos that you see in magazines. It’s perfect! All of our kids (we had 5 at that time) are sitting perfectly and a row. They all have the most angelic smiles on their faces and if you look real close, you can see just a hint of sparkle in everyone’s eyes. I’m not kidding you… it’s that good! I loved seeing that picture hanging there above the fireplace. It brought a smile to my face every time.

Now, with that being said, you have to know something. The smile on my face had nothing to do with the photo itself. As a matter of fact, I gladly admit that I think “perfect” photos are boring. What makes me smile is fact that not only do I own that one “perfect photo”, but I also own the 7 “imperfect photos” that preceded it. Now these pictures are truly awesome!

They include:

One little boy picking his nose.

A dad lecturing him as to why this is neither the time nor the place for that.

A one-year-old girl making every attempt to exit the scene.

A little boy arguing his point as to why he had no choice but to clear his nasal passageway.

And the same dad threatening the little boy within an inch of his life that if he doesn’t “turn around, sit still, and smile, there will be no need for him to be in the photo.”

Now, those are great shots!

Seasons

Seasons

Photo Credit: jimcrotty.com via Compfight cc

 

This summer flew by! It seems like every year, our summer break is shorter and shorter. It was just yesterday that we turned off the 6am alarm clock and celebrated freedom from oppression… I mean school. Now, here I sit one week back into the pattern of school bus routes, sports practices, and homework. What happened to my summer? No more swimming. No more afternoon picnics… this stinks!

Now with the ranting over, I do want to say that I love it that we’re about to enter into one of my favorite seasons here in North-East Ohio, the Fall. In just a couple weeks the trees will begin to change color. The air is going to grow colder again and you’ll literally be able to smell Football in the air. I love the Fall! I love the change in season. Summer is great, but to be honest, it can drag out a little too long for my taste.

Guess what? I’ll have a similar rant when the Fall turns into Winter. I hate it and I love it. And then another when Winter turns to Spring. I hate it and I love it.

Seasons. They come and they go… and most of the time, there’s nothing we can do about it. Now if you’re like me, you love the change of seasons. I think I like the change of seasons, because I just like change. I love it when something new or unexpected happens. I love variety. I love newness. I love options.

This is certainly true with the seasons of the year, and it’s just as true with seasons of life.

Preschool, high school, new job, new home… new haircut, doesn’t matter- bring it on.

I understand that you’re probably not like me though. So let’s quickly look at three things that happen when we enter into a new season of life.

When we start a new season we always have the potential of:

Losing Something

You don’t change from something familiar to something new without losing a little. You’re always going to miss something of the past. I’ve even seen this when I moved to ”something better”. It’s amazing how after a little bit of time, I can look back at the past and forget so much of what drove me crazy. All of a sudden, things weren’t that bad.

One Crazy Summer

road trip

This is going to be one crazy summer for the McGinnis family. Last week was the only week all summer without a camp, mission trip, or major activity. So naturally, it became the best week for our annual Summer Vacation. Our family goes to Hilton Head just about every summer. It’s something we look forward to all year. It’s our one time to completely un-plug and just be together as a family.

Now, before you get this beautiful picture in your head of our six angels lined up on the beach standing perfectly still with smiles on their faces, just waiting for the camera to click, you need to get a slight reality check. Please understand that we have 2 teenage daughters, 2 over-active elementary aged students, and 2 preschoolers. Throw them all into a hot van for 12 hours and shake it all up… and that might look a little closer to reality.

With that being said, Aime and I work really hard at having accurate expectations of everyone. We expect our teenagers to act like teenagers and our preschoolers to act like preschoolers. It just goes a lot better when you remember that a 3 year old can’t (and won’t) sit still for longer than 2 minutes and that you’re going to get an attitude from time to time out of your teenager. When you keep a good perspective on the vacation you’re just going to have a lot more fun.

Every year vacation looks and feels a little different. Why? Each of us look and feel a little different than we did the year before. (Except for my wife who somehow has managed to look exactly the same for the last 18 years.) Although every year is a little different, there are a few things that remain the same.

 

Here are four phrases that we say every year… and mean.

“Stay with Your Beach Buddy”

This is one we picked up a couple years ago- It’s so much easier to keep up with everyone in the family when they’re together… looking out for one another. We want our kids to grow up always looking out for each other. One of our core values is Family First… and we mean it.

I Think Everyone Should Be a Christian… It’s Not Too Hard

Light in Darkness

I had a conversation the other day with a good friend about the Church (with a capital C) and Christianity here in America. If you know me at all, you can imagine that most of it was sarcastic. Though, thinking back over the conversation… I’m afraid too much of it was true… or at least could appear to be true. The conversation went something like this:

“I think everyone should be a Christian…”

Lately I’ve discovered that it’s a lot easier than I previously thought. You see, I’ve discovered that:

Christians don’t have to work on their marriages any differently than non-Christians.

You can still focus most of your energy on achieving “The American Dream”.

Whatever happens in the privacy of your home is really just between you and your spouse… oh “and God too, but He’s not going say much.”

You’re under no obligation to try to meet the needs of anyone other than yourself and your family.

You don’t lose the right to poke, jab, and /or criticize others who have hurt you.

You don’t have to even mention if something popular is wrong or considered sinful, after all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

You don’t have to worry about having to become a priest, pastor, missionary, or anything like that. There’s really only a few people who have to do that kind of stuff.

There are a few hang ups, but they’re not too bad:

You gotta be pretty good at looking “not so screwed up” on Sunday.

You need to continually work on the art of passive aggressive language and behavior.

You don’t need many, but a few Bible verses are always helpful to have on hand.

And you’ve gotta remember where you are and who you’re with because context is everything. (What might not be ok in one context doesn’t necessary mean it’s always wrong.)

But most importantly, here’s what YOU GET when you’re a Christian:

People are generally nicer to you at church.

If you can figure out the whole context thing, people are really going to think you’ve got your act together. (Especially if you’re willing to put a little “time in” and help out with the kids once in a while.)

You get start off each week fresh… almost like a clean slate.

Ok, enough sarcasm! You get the point.

Here’s the thing. I love Church. I really do. If you would have asked me a few years ago, I’m pretty sure I would have only been able to tell you all about my disappointments with it, but now, I can honestly say I love it. For starters, it’s God’s tool to change the world. He really doesn’t have a plan B… The church is it. Like it or not, Christians are called to live in this world as light in darkness.

The danger with being light in darkness is this though:My eyes get accustomed to the dark.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a sick child. I got out of bed, and helped my son. I then went down stairs and got water and made it all the way back up to bed. All of this was done in near pitch-black darkness. Now, while I was walking around, it didn’t seem too dark. There was the light from the outside lamps. The moon was also shining in pretty strong, illuminating the whole house.

…ok, it was dark, but my eyes had grown accustomed to it, and I adjusted.

I can’t help, but to look at my own Christian walk and ask the question: Where have my eyes adjusted? Am I still light? Or am I simply just not looking as dark as everything else. Am I living as though I believe that my life as a follower of Jesus can look the same as the world?