Sorry for the lay-off.  Life keeps getting in the way of my plans!

Have you ever been around parents or grandparents when they are trying to “train” little ones to use their manners? “What do you say?” “What’s the magic word?” “Try asking again, this time use your ‘nice words’!”

Karrie and I are still saying some of those things to Avery and Sadie! But here’s one phrase our girls have learned very well - thank you. Hopefully they have learned that from our home where, after almost 14 years of marriage Karrie and I still say “thank you” for every little thing that we say and do for one another.

Giving thanks is tough sometimes, especially when you need to show appreciation for something that didn’t quite turn out the way you wanted it to.

Let me explain …

Every Tuesday we have a staff meeting for over an hour. Much of our conversation centers around the first question we ask - what can we celebrate about his past weekend? It is an exercise in gratitude and accountability. We give thanks to God for all that HE accomplished through Live Oak the previous week and weekend, and we celebrate the moments where we have lived out our mission of loving God, loving people, and bringing the two together. It is my favorite time of the meeting.

Over the last few weekends we have had a lot to give thanks for - great weekend services, a fantastic group of middle school and high school students, a thriving children’s ministry, new members to the church, powerful stories about God’s working in the lives of His people … great stuff!

Last week we celebrated something that I want to pass along to all of you to celebrate too. In the midst of our current economic crisis as a country, Live Oak has been blessed. For this first time ever (as far as the staff could remember), we actually transferred a few thousand dollars from our spending account to our savings account! It may seem like a small thing, but it is HUGE in light of where we have been.

Here’s where the confession comes in. As each weekend passes by Cindy Tessmer, our office administrator, and I have a conversation on Monday morning about the offering from the previous day. For the last several weeks, the actual collection on Sunday mornings has been very low, off by around $2,000 per week. But during each week someone or a few “someones” have given large gifts bringing us over budget for our giving. God has been faithful to provide! I am so thankful to God for His provision through all of you!

But if I’m being honest, I have struggled - not with God’s provision, but the way God has provided. Can’t He just give us huge offerings every weekend? Can’t we have our needs met from the collection and then receive the gifts on top of that? Why doesn’t God meet my needs the way I want Him to?

Sounds like a kid in “manner training,” doesn’t it?

So God is teaching me to give thanks for everything, especially the way He provides. Usually, rather than what God provides, it is in the way God provides that He builds our faith. Fully trusting in Him to provide a miracle. Fully trusting in Him to show up and do what only He can do. Fully trusting in Him to show me His faithfulness rather than showing me His provision.

So for the last few weeks the staff and I have been thankful for all that we have and the way God is providing it instead of worrying about what we don’t have. Truth be told, that sounds like a great lesson for most of us to learn through this economic struggle. Maybe this recession is God’s “manner lesson” for the U.S.

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