Well, it's that time again. For those of you who have known me for more than a year, you know that I have a tradition of asking my friends to take just five minutes out of their super busy schedules (how did we all get sooo busy?) this week to read my annual message of hope and thanksgiving. Although I am sending this out to everyone I know, I hope it touches each and every one of you on a deeply personal level.
This year has been an especially difficult year for many of us. There has been the economic tsunami, the healthcare hype (note to anyone in government, it won't work unless there's more focus on wellness and prevention!), H1N1, terrorism, war and much more to deal with. I know more than one person who has lost a cushy job, a dream home and a marriage all in the same year. And just a week ago I flew to California to attend the memorial celebration of the life of of a dear friend who was killed in his own garage one month ago.
By many measurements, this has not been a year to celebrate. If we were rose bushes, most of us would appear as if we had been violently and callously pruned down near the ground. No flowers, no leaves, just scraggly branches and root. Not much to look at. No fragrance. No beauty. But if you know anything about roses, you know that pruning actually enables more life to spring forth.
My friends, I know some of you who are reading this feel just like that rose bush. I want to encourage you and ask you to use this time to focus not on what the world sees, but what lies beneath the surface. You see, the fragrance and beauty of a rose are just the outward manifestations of the strength of the root system and the nourishment the rose bush receives through those roots. What really matters is what people don't see. What really matters is what is on the inside. In the case of a family that has lost a loved one, focus on what that person has instilled in you that has made you a better person and share that gift with others.
Just like the rose, you may have lost some things of beauty and fragrance this year. A home, a car, a job, social status, etc. Those things, while beautiful, don't make you the person that God has called you to be. Things are nice, but it's what's on the inside and how solidly grounded our roots are in good soil that matter.
My friend who was killed was incredibly kind and selfless. Standing in that room and sharing stories with people, I found myself wondering how in the world did he find the time to help so many people. He lived a life of thanksgiving and he poured out his appreciation for life every single day to his family and friends. His family lost a great husband and father until they see him again in Heaven. But even in the midst of that tragedy of a life violently cut short, I saw hope. You see, he nurtured his family and planted the roots of his family in fertile soil with love and caring. When he was taken away, it was as if a branch of the plant representing their family had been pruned. His sons gave talks of honor, respect and adoration of their father. I shared with them that if they live out the things their father taught them, they'll make a tremendous difference in this world. He left a legacy of love, integrity, strength and caring. He impacted my family in a way that I'll never forget. I'll spend a lifetime paying it forward in his honor. I am thankful for having him in my life. I am certain that although it was very painful for his family to lose a great husband and father, they will do great things in the future because of the strong root system he made sure was in place for his family. The outward beauty of his life was because of the inner strength he possessed.
I share that story with you because his memorial celebration was a reminder to me that we are about our roots, not our outward appearances. That room was overflowing with people not because of what he did or had on the outside, but because of who he was on the inside and how he impacted others.
This Thanksgiving, I encourage you. If you are still here, it's a good day. No matter what you've lost or gained materially, it's about your roots and making sure you are grounded in good soil so that when pruning comes, you can dig deep and spring forth with new life that was even more beautiful and more fragrant than before. Hearing his sons speak made me want to be a better father, a better husband and a better son. He nurtured them and his daughter and I'm confident they will spring forth and multiply his good works.
If you are still here, alive, it's a good time of the year to give thanks and make a difference. I'll close with this. Less than a week before my friend was killed, I was pulling up to my mother's house in Maryland and out of the blue I had this strong feeling that I should call him just to tell him how much he meant to me and my family. We spoke and I shared with him how much we loved and appreciated him. He was, as always, very encouraging. That was the last time we talked. I'm so glad I acted on that urging by the Holy Spirit to make that call and tell him that I was thankful to have him in my family's life. I encourage you right now to reach out to anyone that has made a difference in your life, starting with God who supplies all of our needs and even the air we breath. Let's not take anything, anyone or any day for granted. If you're breathing, it's a day to give thanks. As always, let me know if you have any prayer requests or if you need someone to talk with about anything, I'm here.
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