As many of my Facebook friends have already graciously acknowledged, today is my birthday. I’m honored by the outpouring of love and support. As I lay in a hotel bed in Austin, Texas, where I’m here to guide/speak at The Idea Camp, I am enjoying hearing from friends around the world. What an honor you have given me by allowing me to be part of your incredible lives. Thank you!
As I was praying for you all and praying over my day, a realization struck me as so many of you have written about “blessing”. I am thankful to you for considering me this way. That somehow I’ve been a blessing to your life or the lives of others. Others of you have written, “I hope you have a year of blessings” or “a blessed year”. While I know you mean nothing but the best, I am struck by how differently our partners and friends in Zimbabwe and Zambia view “blessing”.
I think I’d like to ask that you pray I have a year of “blessing”, how they mean it. I do so with trepidation.
When a mother is dying with no seemingly no hope, they surely want the mother to recover, but the “blessing” they ask for and often “receive” is the courage to have faith until the end. That God would sustain them during and after her death. “What a ‘blessing’ it was to have faith in God,” they say.
After the rains at the critical planting season never come, I hear them say “what a ‘blessing’ it was that all the crops did not fail.”
When my little (but now older) friend Peterson manages to navigate all the pitfalls of his life, it is considered a “blessing” that he was given perseverance.
Surely they pray for a year of abundance or prosperity or good health and see those as blessings, but my friends in Africa really do see the faithfulness in hardship to be a “blessing”.
I stopped myself from asking for this today because am I inviting hardship on my house by praying for this understanding of “blessing”? But then, I thought of the people who really matter in the Bible – the people I yearn to have a slice of faith like. Moses – stuttering Moses – liberating God’s people through the Red Sea was a blessed man. Noah – silly ark making Noah – was a blessed man. Job – bountiful and then tragic losses Job – was a blessed man with great faith. Daniel – don’t eat me, lions Daniel – was a blessed and protected man. Praying for “blessing” may invite good things and challenging ones, but certainly “blessings” should build faith in our God.
I want to pray for that. I want this year to grow my faith in God and my relationship with him.. Pray with me.
I’d surely love for this year to be different than last, arguably one of the hardest of my life. The loss of friends in Africa and here at home, the weight of a growing ministry, painful growth as a leader, learning (still) how to balance work, travel and home life with another baby in our house, 2 trips to the hospital for various things… But the thing I love about this year is that my faith grew. Or I think it did. Another wave of sorrow or loss or challenge will show my faith. I hope that this wave doesn’t come. But if it does? I still believe I can have a “blessed” year.
Challenges to our lives do not mean a rejection from God. In fact, this past year taught me the opposite. “To live is Christ; to die is gain.” If a child in Zimbabwe prays that the Lord blesses his family and keeps his mother alive, yet she dies, did God not “bless” them? My life today, looking back on the past year, is “blessed”, not just from the good stuff (baby, etc) but the tough stuff.
What a “blessing” to be molded by God, what a “blessing” to have and see faith in times of trial.
So thank you, dear friends. My prayer for you today and this year is that you have a “blessed” year, too. Surely, I want a year of so many good things for you. But I want a year for all of us where we learn to love God more deeply, cherish Him… desire Him more fully. A year of breaking of ourselves and becoming more like Him. A year of giving up the things that keep us from living intentionally or faithfully. A year of faith – as we let go of hurts or say goodbye to friends we don’t know yet we’ll say goodbye to, that we allow them to walk in heaven with our God.
Please pray for my family as I’m away for a few days from my 2 girls and wife, all “blessings” from the Lord – the way you mean it. Pray for my time at The Idea Camp, as I wrestle with other orphan care advocates about how we can better partner.
I’m honored to be helping others learn about orphan care on my birthday. What a “blessing”.
I love you all. Thanks for reading and for all your birthday blessings.
PS A lot of people ask for money for a cause. If you feel led to give to Forgotten Voices, you may and I’d be thankful. But I want to ask you this… If you read this and you would like to learn more about where my hope comes from, I’d love to talk with you about my relationship with Jesus. Please contact me and I’d be happy to talk with you about the greatest relationship in my life.