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Taking A Cue from Paul

Be-Grateful-a-mission-for-michael-drug-alcohol-rehab-orange-county“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”

Philippians 1:3 (NLT)

When you are reading through the New Testament there is one phrase that seems to have a constant presence within the text. It is especially seen in one author in particular, who uses this verse at the beginning or the end of almost every epistle he writes. That author would be none other than Paul of Tarsus. Paul is notorious throughout his letters to be thankful for people and to let them know about it. This has been something on my heart for quite some time. Something that the Lord and I have been discussing and I think I’ve finally (and conveniently) come to some form of understanding why Paul does this as frequently as he does. In America, it is very easy for us to lose sight of the things that God has given us. It is easy to forget about the people and circumstances that he has orchestrated for our good to bless and love us. As we go through our lives those things…and those people become fixtures and soon we forget just how amazing and how much of a blessing they are to us. I am actually going to now embarrass a few people who have become fixtures in my own life, people who I have come to trust and sounding boards, confidants, and coworkers in the Gospel. So here I go.

First, I’d like to thank my parents. They have been beyond supportive of my wife and I, both morally and materially. When we’ve needed help, they’ve been there offering assistance and support at a moment’s notice. My parents have taught me a lot, (as parents generally do). My mom made it a point to introduce us (both me and my brother) to the Lord. It is because of her that I have come to where I am and it is by His grace that I was born into a home that made him the focus. My dad taught me what it was to be a man, to be a person willing to sacrifice yourself for others and your family and to make the hard choices when no one else would and in it all to hold tight to integrity, honor, and truth. My parents taught me this not just with words but in how they lived their lives every day and for that I am grateful. To them I would like to say this…mom, dad everything you have taught and instilled in me are things that I have done my best to put into practice. I am beyond thankful to have parents as supportive, and loving as you two and thank God for the both of you. I do not know who I would have been without you…and to be honest…I don’t want to know.

Second, I am thankful for my sounding boards and confidants in my friends Calvin Moore, and Wes Morris. Each of these men calls me to the floor when I am in need of it, from screaming at me over the phone (Calvin) to waiving their hands in the air like a crazy person in the middle of Big Boy (ahem Wes). These men show their love for me and my ministry by their constant vigilance and ruthless confrontation of my faults. These men allow me to get away with very little and for that, I am grateful…both to them and to God. Both men have been fixtures in my life over that last years, but most recently, both were pivotal in beating me into place when my marriage was on the rocks earlier this year. Both were pivotal and both are greatly cherished by me and my wife. If it were not for these two men intervening and speaking truth, I honestly don’t know what my life would look like right now.

Calvin, you and I have been through a lot…both in ministry and in sharing our lives with one another. We have shared punches, beat each other to a pulp and in the end loved each other as brothers. I appreciate you, your ministry to me, and your support beyond anything you will likely know. Our friendship is one of the most important things to me and for as long as God seeks to nurture it, I will be thankful for it.

Wes…I have not known you for as long…but you, Calvin, and I all share a love for Superman…and we’re all helpless dorks. Now this is different and to differing degrees between each of us…but it is a common thread throughout. I have appreciated your friendship and blunt honesty. Your discernment, wisdom, and humility amongst it all are a wonder to me and I truly hope that the Lord instills within me those same characteristics while I work within ministry. You truly are a titan among men, both in your character and in your heart towards God. Your friendship has not only been invaluable to me, but it has taught me what it looks like to see God at work within people that he has truly chosen to lead his people (something I had yet to see in all my years as a Christian). It helped me to see the Spirit at work within the Church again…and for that, I am eternally grateful.

The next two people are a couple that have become near and dear to my wife and I. They have become out best friends, and out family. When we need something, they will literally drop everything and are there…no matter what. Joel and Brittney Duncan have become our closest friends and in all honesty have become our two favorite people on this planet. In being friends with these two, I have learned what Paul means when he wrote the words above, because this is how I feel about these two. An example…Lisa was in an accident in early October late September. I called Joel so that they could pray for her because we were on our way to the ER to make sure that the baby was ok. Brittney called Lisa immediately and let her know they were on their way. Mind you…this was Brittney’s birthday and she had family over. She just about booted all of them out of her home to come and make sure that Lisa and I were alright. Going out to get them in the waiting room, they looked as worried as I was. Lisa and the baby ended up being ok…but in that moment (and many, many others), they have proven to us that these two are friends that we will have for the rest of our natural lives. What is amazing…is that these two are almost 7 years younger than we are…and still are teaching us what it means to be a good spouse to one another and how to be good Christians who genuinely love people.

To Joel, bud…your work ethic, your frame of mind, and your ability to see situations for what it is are all gifts. Gifts that many people do not have and that you not only have but have honed, shaped, and put to good use. I know who to come and talk to when an idea in my head becomes overly complex, or when I am struggling with a personal issue. While you and I are very different in a lot of ways, where it matters we’re almost the same person (which is still funny to me). Our thought process to simplify and speak truth even when it isn’t popular is something that both of us have an uncanny knack for (to the detriment of our wives and ourselves at times). Your insight, prayer, and friendship to me are…well I’m at a loss for words to be honest. It’s not just that though…it is also your friendship to my wife, and your respect for her that is truly awesome. You hold me to a standard and become the voice of Lisa at times when I need it the most (and sometimes I hate that). But, it is needed, and in hind sight, it is one of the things I am most thankful for.

Brittney, your friendship to my wife is amazing. My wife isn’t the most…trusting of people. She has been hurt, betrayed, and abandoned by people, and in all of that has come to trust and rely on you in ways that I don’t think she even relies on me. You have become her closest friend and have loved her unconditionally, always seeing the best in her and encouraging her in that. I love my wife when the two of you are hanging out because afterward she seems to be even more ready to take on the challenges of life. Thank you for instilling the best in her…for seeing her like Christ sees her…and for encouraging her in that.

In all however, what I am most thankful for about our friendship is that it is a friendship between all four of us. It is not just Lisa and Brittney, and Joel and I…but it is a friendship that each of us has with one another both individually, and as a whole. God has truly blessed us with your friendship and for that, we are beyond thankful to God.

Lastly and certainly not least…is my wife. Lisa is for me a stabilizing force. She anchors me, helping me to see the little things that I have a tendency to miss. But most of all…she has become my partner in ministry and in life. There is not a person I trust more on this earth with the things that I hold most dear than her. To be honest…it has been her consistent faith in me, and her affirmation of my calling that has kept me going. If it was not for her…I likely would have given up on ministry and decided to pursue other things. She is my best friend and the love of my life, a person so totally and completely a part of who I am that to think of not being with her or of losing her makes me feel as though the very fabric of my being were torn in two. I know that may sound dramatic…but it is still true. I thank God for you Lee…every single day…every time I look at you (yes even when I’m upset with you). I still cannot figure out what I have done right to earn the privilege of being your husband, but I am planning on trying my hardest to continue to earn that role. Love you babe!

Ok…so why is this a blog post…a really long blog post? Because in doing this I am hoping that, others will follow suit. That during this season others will take the time to thank God for the people he has put in our lives and to let them know we are thankful for them. This is something that we as Christians should be making an earnest effort at doing on a constant basis, letting God and each other know that we are thankful for who God has blessed us with. Peace and Blessings.

In Christ’s Love

Justin (AKA The Nerdy Theologian)

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