Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)…Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Every person in Christ has important teachers that are sent during the journey home. I’m no exception to this, and one of those teachers has been a Southern Baptist preacher in Nashville, Tennessee. The funny thing is? He has no idea I even exist. “Pastor Mike” at Brentwood Baptist has taught me one particularly valuable lesson: Authenticity. Through a friend, I’ve visited his church several times, and I’ve watched countless of his sermons online. It’s a large place, so I’m just another face, but he’s meant a great deal to my growth.
As a Southern Baptist leader, Mike is expected to talk about America’s secular culture and its threats to the Christian community. Too many of his peers uphold that responsibility by snarling and gnashing their teeth at the people not going along with the biblical game plan. Mike doesn’t operate in that fashion. For one thing, he never snarls…at anything. However, I’ve learned to understand his body language and his vocal cadence, and I know when he’s gnashing and who it is directed at: His congregation. Us. The Christians.
Mike spends every sermon series doing one thing – Teaching his people how to be authentic. He understands that snarling and gnashing only gets back in return…the same. For a Christian to be the lighthouse that draws in the weary and broken to Christ, they actually have to BE a lighthouse. So Mike is always building lighthouses. He’s a construction manager more than anything else. God put my eyes and ears onto Mike to teach me a thing or two, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
In that spirit of authenticity, I’m starting what I’m simply calling – The Grateful Series – in which here on Oak Tree we will move through the 5 senses God provided for us to experience his creation, as well as a 6th that we’ll call, “the mixed bag of unique gifts,’ and I’ll list things I’m personally grateful for in that particular sense. It’s my belief that when we are teaching or leaning a new thing, such as authentically being what you claim to be, the only place to start is to go back to the basics. The fundamentals. There is nothing more fundamental in belonging to Christ than to be – Grateful. I’d encourage and hope that you’d make your own lists after reading mine. These type of exercises might seem silly, but they’re highly effective in helping to instill things that will stay in your mind and heart. Gratitude in your heart? That’s a splendid gift to possess.
Here are 10 Things My Eyes Love to See.
1. The way the morning sun coming through our windows falls gently on the skin of my wife. I truly love that moment. It gives a sense of pureness and true beauty. It’s a gift.
2. A fresh and whole Dungeness crab sitting on plate before me. It’s a beautiful blessing and a rare treat from his bountiful ocean. My favorite meal. Concerning my love of this crustacean, I often say to friends and family, “If I ever found myself on death row, the first thing I’m asking for as my last meal…is Dungeness crab.” True story 🙂
3. The way my oldest daughter navigates with expertise places she’s never been. It’s unreal. I’ve put that girl on the streets of NYC or Boston, and I’ve taken her on backwoods trails and rocky cliffs. She sets a faster pace than me so she’s always ahead, and I love to just walk behind her and watch her go. Once in 2016, I watched her learn the entire London Tube System in like 10 minutes. It’s impressive to see.
4. A chilled, crisp bottle of Pinot Grigio being opened by my wife. When I see this, I know that soon to follow we’ll be having some type of great conversation that twists and turns. We’ll laugh. We might cry. But whenever the wine cork is lifted up from the bottle…a special time with my wife is about to happen.
5. The way my wise-for-her-years youngest daughter looks at me when she is trying to settle my anxiety. For many years I’ve referred to her as “my handler.” She understands me. Makes me better, because she’s so good. If I’m in a tornadic bluster of emotion, or riddled with an anxiety attack of some sort? Call for Marissa. She’ll fix me.
6. A weight scale reading lower than I was mentally prepared to see. Yes, I know this is a bit of vanity to care, but I’m working really hard on my health in general, and it’s great encouragement when you get a surprise reading lower than you thought it would be. I’ll take that sight all day, everyday 🙂
7. The view from a mountain summit after spending a large amount of energy and spunk to get to that spot. Hiking has become a deep passion of mine in my 40’s and now early 50’s, and I find the visual rewards of the places God has brought me to be some of the most beautiful things I’ll ever see in this life. One of those moments is pictured above. That shadow is me. I had just conquered the longest, most difficult trail I’ve done at this age – Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain, NC – and I was elated to say the least 🙂
8. The first glimmer of the ocean coming into sight after a long drive to get there. I grew up with a mother who loved the beach. We lived roughly 175 miles from it, and there was no quick interstate to get us there. It was a long haul to a little kid to get to the beach, and she took us a lot. It was all worth it when you’d finally see the ocean coming into view as you turned off Hwy. 17 in South Carolina and headed for the sea. Most of my entire generation of Carolina kids get that same warm feeling when they see the Atlantic. It feels like home. It feels like family.
9. My friends. All of them. Their faces, their laughs, their personalities. I love my friends. And I love to see them coming.
10. Anything in the natural world that reminds me that God actually did create all this, and it’s certainly no accident. You see him in the trees and plant life. In the flowers and bees. In his wild animals. In the clouds. The storms. He’s everywhere. An unimaginable system of chaos becoming perfection.