This trial has brought a lot of extremes. I've written a lot about the negative extremes in past blogs. Living in a world of total depravity will make avoiding negative extremes nearly impossible. My trial is one of them.
However, this time has also been filled with grace, and there have been so many positive extremes ... so many that life has been really intense! Lately, the displays of grace in our lives have left our family stunned. As you know, we wanted to create some special memories, and that included plans for Disney. Friends felt led to do a Gofundme, and the result has been amazing.
We're happy to tell everyone that between the site donations and various other donations outside of the site, the goal has been met... and exceeded!!
In fact, since the goal has been met, we are also grateful that there should be extra to help tackle some medical bills next year. It is a great relief.
Saying thank you doesn't seem like it's enough, but you have our sincerest thanks. We made a point last night to tell the kids that they need to remember this time. Things like this don't happen often. We challenged them that if they ever wonder whether God has helped them, they need to remember this time and know the answer. He has been clearly seen, and you have been His hands.
As I think about the extremes we have experienced over the last months, I think of my kids. They're little creatures of extremes, aren't they? They know the greatest joys and greatest tragedies over things we more ... ahem... seasoned ... (boring?) people see as mundane. A child's excitement over something like a butterfly has a pure and addictive wonder to it. And, any parent knows to what lengths they'll go to facilitate that enthusiasm. Something about witnessing it in your children makes you feel more alive.
After all, think about when you're trying to do something that probably isn't that important, (say, trying to fix something) and you get the "Daddy, look at me!" You want to sigh as you watch your two-year-old hop a couple inches. However, the look on their face like they just set a long jump record in the Olympics can soften even the foulest of words swimming in your brain (confession is good for the soul they say). It often leaves me envious of their awareness of life's joys. Yes, a child's life is an exciting life. They still possess an appreciation and awareness for things we have lost: that appreciation that makes life... well, full of life.
And, that leads us to a thought for this blog post:
Jesus came that we may have life and have it to the fullest: John 10:10. Through repentance and faith in Him, we can know an eternal life as a part of His Kingdom that is truly exhilarating.
The problem is we don't always feel that way. And, we don't feel that way because we've lost our awareness to what truly matters.
Jesus said it this way: "To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.'" Matthew 11:16-17.
I wanted to preach on this passage one day. If I had the chance, I would want to talk about all around us God is working doing amazing things in peoples' lives, and we're missing it. In my limited time of knowing Him, I've seen marriages repaired, newborns healed of cancer, disasters averted and person after person changed by the Gospel, turning from sin and then praising the Holy God. Just to name a few examples.
Yet, while these things happen, we still insist on consuming ourselves with worries and things that just don't matter as much as we think they do. Whether it's work or financial or physical, they may be trials, but we don't have to hand the reigns of our lives over to them. By the hope that comes in Christ, we can instead choose to fix our eyes on what God is doing and truly make Him the greatest joy of our life ... as our chief purpose and end.
As a family, we have been reading through the Gospel of Matthew, and the Kingdom of Heaven is a recurring theme. If we know God's forgiveness in Christ, we can enjoy that citizenship's benefits right now. And, with the right focus, we can develop a more refined awareness of God's Kingdom at work all around us.
Thanks to the generosity of many of you and others like you, our family gets to go visit the "Magic Kingdom." Thank you again. It's going to be a lot of fun, and we deeply appreciate your generosity enabling us to create some lasting memories.
However, I must confess, life in the Kingdom of Heaven dwarfs even the greatest of Mr. Disney's attractions. I'll go so far to say that while the "Magic Kingdom" is truly a fun place, whoever truly believes it is the "happiest place on earth" has never know the joy of forgiveness and life found this side of the Cross. That's the most abundant life.