In All Circumstances

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

It’s an easy phrase to say, but a hard one to live out. Because what if those “circumstances” aren’t exactly pleasant. What if they’re painful? What if they’re, in fact, excruciating?

We like to sit around the Thanksgiving table and reminisce about the things we’re grateful for. And don’t get me wrong, I think that’s wonderful. I love that once a year, everyone comes together over a steaming, savory feast and shares what they’re grateful for. New babies, weddings, a job promotion, an exquisite vacation to Fiji, or what have you.

But have you ever heard phrases like this at Thanksgiving….

  • “I’m thankful for losing my job.”
  • “I’m thankful for the fractured relationships in my life.”
  • “I’m thankful for the financial difficulties this year.”
  • “I’m thankful for the insanely hard workload I had.”
  • “I’m thankful for the rejection I faced.”

The irony is that the things that were most agonizing for us, are probably the things that grew us the most. They’re the things that gave us a new perspective on life, showed us what our true priorities should be, and helped us become a more genuine, loving, and compassionate person.

(And just as a sidenote: I can legitimately say “thanks” for all 5 of the bullet points I wrote above…)

  • Losing my job led me to a much better job, where I can spend far more time with my family.
  • The fractured relationships showed me which relationships matter most, and where we should invest our “relational time,” so to speak.
  • The financial difficulties taught me to trust God amidst uncertainty, and helped me empathize more with others in similar situations.
  • The stressful workload taught me to manage my time better, work more efficiently, and create systems and routines to increase productivity.
  • The rejection kept me from taking on too many extra responsibilities, which would’ve created even more stress and hardship in our lives.

So yes… by all means, give thanks for the vacation time, the football, the deep-fried turkey, the pecan pie, and the butter-infused gravy (or whatever else you eat on Thanksgiving). But don’t forget to give thanks for the painful stuff, too. It’s what molds you into the person Jesus created you to be. It’s what shapes your character, changes your outlook on life, and helps you become a wiser, more generous, more gracious, and more loving individual.

Give thanks in all circumstances.

Not Enough Bread

“When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, ‘We brought no bread.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'” (Matthew 16:1-10)

When you’re going through hard times financially, it’s easy to get caught up in how much provision you have. You stress and worry and wonder how ends are going to meet. You preoccupy yourself with “having enough bread,” so to speak.

But Jesus seems to think there’s something more important than physical sustenance. He tells the disciples to stop worrying about how much food they have – and to instead make sure they’re listening to the right teaching. He wants their souls to be properly nourished above anything else.

Not on Bread Alone

Remember when Jesus was fasting 40 days and being tempted by Satan? He had a very similar rebuke for Satan: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Yes, it’s healthy and good to pay your bills on time, and put food on your table. Please do so, to the absolute best of your ability. But when times are tight and you’re worried about having enough bread, make sure you stay close to Jesus first. Stay close to his teaching — not the teaching of the world that says you need tons of fancy things to make you happy.

We’ve had 2 job losses in the last 3 years, through no fault of our own (the companies we worked for started to crumble). We also have 5 kids. As you can imagine, that can make for some serious financial strain. But God always provided. He always put food on our table even when we didn’t know how he would. The most important thing during those seasons wasn’t to stress and worry about provision. It was to be diligent to keep our faith. To keep trusting God. To stay close to him in the midst of the trials.

And this is exactly what Jesus is saying. He just performed incredible miracles to provide for people. He can make bread rain from heaven if he wants. But even more important than feeding us bread, he wants to feed our souls. He wants us to have the right teaching – the right understanding of who he is. He wants us to stay close to him. He wants us to trust him for the things that matter for all eternity – not just the next meal on our table.

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:27)

How I Design Websites

People often ask what my process is for designing a website. So here it is… It’s an extremely complicated and fancy combination of Himalayan unicorn dust and lots of really expensive software. Actually, it’s just 2 steps:

  1. Scribble a rough version of a website layout on a piece of scratch paper (often using large children’s Crayola markers)
  2. Design it in Sketch

That’s it. But it works like a charm. Here’s a quick example of what this looks like in practice:

Step 1:

Step 2:

And there you have it. Quick, simple, and effective. Sometimes the secret sauce only needs a couple ingredients.

On Comedy

I’ve apparently always been funny. I didn’t know this until about age 30, though. (I of course also realize the absurdity of personally saying that you’re funny, because now you have to live up to that, and it sounds a little proud, too – but alas.) People tell me I’m funny, so I’m going to go with that.

My parents said I used to crack them up at the dinner table. I even did a standup routine for a talent show when I was younger (which I forgot about until recently). I also received the “Funniest Kid in High School” award my senior year… no joke. Other people were most likely to become president, but I was most likely to tell some jokes. I guess I’ll take it.

So what does it take to be funny? I’m not totally sure and I don’t want to completely overthink it either. But I think it just means “looking at the world in a different light.” When I hear the word ketchup, I immediately think of the phrase “catch up” and want to make a joke about it. Same with the word “sweatshirt” or “fingernail.” I look for the silly amidst the common. The goofy sitting right under our noses (another comical phrase) – and then find a way to bring it out into the light.

That’s what comedy is. It’s mostly just a continuous act of observation. You do the finding and then share those findings with the world at large.

The world is a funny place (see: the octopus) – you just have to be looking for it.

A New Thing

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Sometimes you need to turn a corner. You need a way in the wilderness. A river in the desert. Sometimes you’ve been walking for years – decades, even – in the same direction. You’re stuck.

What do you do?

You look for the way. You look for the river. You look for the thing that God is already doing.

This verse doesn’t give us a list of things to do. It says that God is the one in action. We simply need to look – to “perceive it.”

So where is God already working in your life today? Right now. What doors has he opened? What rivers are there in your desert? What “ways” can you perceive?

Go grab a pen. Write down 5 opportunities that God has already given you. It could be…

  • a new friendship starting to form
  • a new job opportunity
  • a new career path you’re interested in
  • a new chance to make financial strides
  • a new skill you want to learn

Or whatever else. Take a look at these things. “Perceive” them, so to speak. Are there any that you can start moving towards more fully? Are there any that you can commit to? Are there any of these doors that you can walk through, so that you can begin to experience that new thing?

He’s already working. We simply need to look around and perceive it.