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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Best Year of My Life

About a month ago I went to a speaking engagement for a well-known Christian speaker / preacher. I had heard a little about him before, and my main reason for going was that one of my friends who had recently started going to church with me seemed to think a lot of him. She had seen him on TV, and her family had also told her about him.

His message was a positive one…filled with hope and joy. But, there was something that bothered me about it. As I listened to the praise music, and then listened to his wife, and finally to him, I found myself wondering if he had ever faced true adversity. If he has, he didn’t mention it. And, praise God, I hope that’s true. But what that led to was my questioning if his message was “real”. Did it have substance? Could this really be the “best year of my life” as he indicated it could?

Candidly, no…this isn’t the best year of my life. And for some of you reading this blog, this wasn’t the best year of your life either. I can think of other years when my kids were really young and I saw the world with wonder and awe through their eyes. The year I was baptized (which was a number of years after realizing Christ as my Savior) was one in which I was on fire for God and incredibly close to Him. The year Kriss and I got back together after being separated a year and a half was a really good year…even before we reconciled, because we had become friends.

Every year that I can remember had its blessings and its heartaches. But, some were definitely “better” than others as a whole. God was in the midst of every year, and my faith does become stronger every year – so in that way, each year is better than the last. But, when it comes to the “best year of my life”…well, this year just doesn’t quite measure up.

Today’s message at church really summed it up – it comes from John 16:33, “In this world, you will have trouble”. But, in spite of that, “Take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world." Things will happen to us that we can’t control, but certainly we can control our response to them. As Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I recognize that is easier said (or read) than done. In the midst of turmoil and pain, it is incredibly difficult to not be anxious and to continue to have a heart of thanksgiving. So this is an area in which I agree with that positive preacher – if we focus on the negative, that means we have taken our eyes off of God and His perspective, which will only move us away from His perfect will and His plan for our lives. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from Me, or seen in Me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9) We cannot “name it and claim it”. The “Law of Attraction” has some Biblical truth as shown in this Philippians passage, but many take it too far in believing that if they just think hard enough, focus enough, or even pray enough, they can cause something they want to happen in their lives. Reading the book of Job will show you that just isn’t the case. We are not ultimately in control. But Job does provide us a model for praising God in all circumstances, and that He will work all things together for good for those who love Him. Job 42:12 says “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first.” I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me and my family, as I continue to trust Him and place my hope in Him, in spite of this year not being the “best”. I guess in terms of having something to hope for, it is the best after all…

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Shriver's Christmas Letter

December 2007

Merry Christmas to our Family & Friends!

C. S. Lewis once said, “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” Time is such a great equalizer, isn’t it? You can’t buy more time or spend more time than anyone else. So, here we are at the end of another year, reflecting on how we spent our time this past year, and anticipating what we will do with it next year. Hmmm…this doesn’t sound much like a Christmas letter does it? But, we do pray that you have come to this time of year thankful for the past and hopeful for the future. And, that’s what our Christmas letter is about this year.

The Shriver family is thankful for:

  • We’ve had some ups and downs this year, but the end result is a family who spends more time together, parents who are much more in tune with our kids, and a renewed appreciation and admiration for how we can handle adversity.
  • God blessed us financially this year, and we were able to buy a rental property that had 40+ inquiries on it within the first month. Our renters seem to be good people (and they signed a two-year lease)!
  • Cody received his driver’s permit this year – and since Michelle hates to drive, she now has a built-in chauffer.
  • Kriss had the opportunity to be an assistant coach for Justin’s baseball team, and they went to the State Tournament in Keystone, Colorado (and played some really good games there).
    Michelle took ski lessons for the first time…and though she’s not very good at it, she did have fun. And, there were no broken bones this year from the boys’ snowboarding!
  • Kriss’ sister Erika, her three boys, and his mom are all coming up right after Christmas. The boys haven’t been to our home in Colorado before, and we are looking forward to a fun (and chaotic) time.
  • Michelle’s parents adopted their three great-grandchildren – Alora, Devin & Dillon. While it isn’t always (or even often) easy, we are thankful these three beautiful kids have a home together and with family.

The Shriver family is hopeful for:

  • Michelle has been offered a new position at Ameristar’s corporate office in Las Vegas. While we are incredibly sad to leave Colorado, we are thankful for this new opportunity for Michelle and that we’ll be within driving distance of much of our extended family. (We’ll be moving around June 2008.)
  • Kriss had to take a break from college this year, but he is looking forward to taking more Graphic Design classes in Nevada next year. He already produced his first printed piece, which was a direct mailer for a local company – and it turned out GREAT!
  • 16-year-old Cody will be a Junior in High School next year...can you believe it?? We’re going to have to start looking for colleges soon (and a great baseball program in Las Vegas to continue to enhance his skills so he can get a scholarship! He did show up in a local newspaper this year for his pitching skills.)
  • Justin is now a teenager (age 13) and we look forward to seeing how this kid uses the gifts God has given him – whether it be academics, sports, music, humor or even cooking – what a diverse and talented kid!

Most of all, we hope and pray for a blessed 2008 for you and those you love, and we are thankful for you in our lives. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Do Not Worry...

So, I had a blog post written and ready to go last week, and something (Someone?) told me to hold off on it. As I thought about it, I realized it was pretty “whiney”. I was having a little pity party for myself, which would have been pretty ironic to post right after my “Thankful” blog.

Why is it our mood so often swings back and forth? In one moment I can be filled with awe at God’s hand in my life, and then just days (sometimes hours) later feel despondent about relatively small problems. How can we have such seeming clarity to help others with their issues (or worse, become judgmental about what others can/should do about their problems), but answers to our own seem to allude us or appear insurmountable?

My mom is a worrier. It seems to be in her DNA to worry about all manner of things. Whether it be things she has control over or not, she worries about them. Whether they even impact her or not, she worries about them. I pray for my mom often. I pray for her health (as I believe the worry is wearing not only on her soul but on her body). I pray for her spirit (as her worry clouds her view of her world and she primarily sees what is wrong rather than what is right). How I pray that the mother of my youth would return – the woman who had people wait in line at the bank she worked at, just so they could go to her window. The mom who attended all of my gymnastic meets and enthusiastically clapped and cheered for me, and told those around her, “that’s my daughter.” (By the way, I wasn’t that great.) The aunt who joyfully sent birthday cards, holiday cards, congratulations cards, and all-occasion cards to her nieces and nephews for every occasion in their life…she always remembered, and even more, she cared so much for others’ happiness. Even back then, she worried about so many things, but it didn’t consume her thoughts and she seemed to enjoy life in spite of that. But today, I see her bitterness and resentfulness growing, which I believe is primarily a result of her worried spirit. When you are so focused on the negative, it’s hard to see through the darkness to the light. Oh how I pray for my beloved mom to find that light. And, candidly, I pray that I never allow that light to become dim in my own life. (I sometimes fear that I have that “worry DNA” from my mom…as it’s so easy for me to slip into the pity party and a sense of foreboding, as I mentioned above.)

Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” 2 Samuel 22:29 says, “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” The Book of Isaiah is filled with references to the Lord being our Light, and that He will light our way. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

But, it goes further than that. We are called by God to be His light. In Acts 13:47, Paul instructs, “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Why? 5:9 says that “for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.”

God’s Word and direction is always meant for our benefit. His commandments are not meant to restrict us but to set us free. Just as He told His people exiled in Babylon, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11) He went on to say, “’You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” (29:12-13)

Lord, I call upon you. I pray You will lead my mom back to the Light. I pray that you will remove from both her and I the spirit of worry, and may we focus on Your Word and follow Your commandment to “not worry” as You instruct us in Matthew 6. Lord, I seek Your will. I desire to follow the path You have set before me. May I always walk in the light of that path, rather than stumbling through the darkness to find my own way. Lord, You know the many decisions I have coming up. May I choose wisely based on Your guidance and leading in my heart. Lord, most of all, may I live out your commandments to be a light to others. Give me opportunities to do just that. May I use the gifts You have given me to serve others. Wherever my path (Your path) takes me, may I always take the time on that journey to be Your hands and feet along the way. I praise You Lord for the blessings you have so graciously given me. I praise You for the opportunities You have placed before me. All that I have, and all that is yet to come are Yours…may I always remember that and may the decisions in my life reflect that Thank you, Jesus, for Your perfect plans for me. Thank you, Jesus, for your love and care of my blogging friends, and I pray that You will light their path so brightly that their way is clear. I pray blessings on their lives, clarity for their decisions, and a spirit of joy and not worry each day.