Season of Thanks!
So, yesterday was my birthday. Birthdays are generally a time when most of us are looking extremely introspectively into our lives. We think back over where we have been and we anticipate where we would like for our lives to go. My birthday is always some where around the Thanksgiving holiday, so I am generally around lots of family and friends who’ve traveled home to be with their families as well. Yesterday, I shared with a few friends at brunch that this year I had so much to be thankful for and in fact I was the most thankful this year than I ever have before. As many know, Nov. 25th was the day four years ago that I hopped on a plane to travel back to Dallas to get my non-profit organization moving forward. It is truly amazing that in the same week four years later, that God would allow for our organization to be featured on CNN. The day that the story aired, I received so many text messages, Facebook posts, calls and Tweets. All I could do in response to the positive feedback was to say thank you to the friends, family and strangers that were commenting on our coverage.
As I shared with family and friends at brunch, I spent the entire day saying thank you to all of these messages. As I responded, “Thank you!” “Thank you so much” “I appreciate you.” I recognized that though I was responding to man, I was actually responding to God. And once I recognized that I was saying thank you to God, the level of thanks and gratitude became so much deeper. I understood what we say in church, “If I had 10,000 tongues, I could not thank the Lord enough.” In this case over the last few days, due to both the CNN coverage, the Thanksgiving holiday as well as my birthday, I literally could not give enough thanks to God. He is so worthy of all of the praise, adoration and honor, not for what he has done but for who He really is.
My God is masterful. He has organized the calendar of my life such that I could never deny His work in my life and the power of His will. I also recognize that perhaps I have not said thank you enough to God for what He has done. It is easy for us to say thank you to God when we get major media coverage or a meeting goes extremely well, but are we thankful for the people that He has placed around us. Are we thankful for our friends and family and the small gestures of love that they show to us? Are we thankful for the individual that checks us out at the grocery store? Are we thankful for the fact that we have the ability to even go to the grocery, both in our financial ability as well as our physical ability? Are we thankful for life in general? Or to personalize it, am I, Lincoln Christopher Stephens thankful for ALL that God has blessed me with? And am I showing God gratitude by my actions and how I live my life. If I were to be honest with myself, I would have to answer and say no. But what I do know in this season, especially, is that I have an increased knowledge of the responsibility and stewardship of the blessings. It is how you treat both the gift and more importantly the giver that is important.
And as I learned yesterday in an amazing sermon from my pastor, Bishop T.D. Jakes, it is about focusing more attention on giving love (#TheUltimateGift) rather than receiving love. Here are a few highlights from that sermon:
- A gifted person has a tendency to define themselves by their gift.
- You cannot help people that are not willing to understand.
- God will it make you love against your will you have a choice.
- You cannot fast away a decision that you have to make
- You keep failing at life because of it but keep on doing it. Attitude.
- What will last the longest is not what you gave to them but what you put into them.
- We are all experts in what we want, but have you put energy in what you give.
- We all know the language of how we want to receive love.
- If I ask you to write an essay on how you give love are you as articulate with how you give it as you are in how you receive it.
- If you see a love giver you will always see a crowd!
- You can’t spend what I have for you until I give it to you.
- Love only works when you give it.
- You have to be strong to love!
- If you don’t understand His authority, all revelation stops.
It could be easy for one to take all of the love that has been received in someone saying Happy Birthday to you, but what do you do when it is their birthday? It is easy for someone to do a favor for you, but do your return it?
As I looked back introspectively, and truly got honest with myself yesterday, I realized some points of selfishness in my own behavior. I recognized that though I thought that I was living the bulk of my day giving back, that perhaps I was not giving enough love, or enough love to the right people. How do you treat your family when the going gets tough for you? How do you treat your family when things are going better than you can imagine? Do you make the same amount of time for your friends as they make for you? How much time do you spend on the phone talking versus listening? How much love do you give and show to strangers? All of these questions came into play as I was celebrating my day yesterday. The answer. First and foremost my birthday was not my day, it was God’s day. Everyday is God’s day. Now onto showing more appreciation and gratitude to God through my actions, language and the way I GIVE l-o-v-e.
With thanksgiving in my heart.