No Matter What

29 11 2013

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” – Psalm 118:1

This comes to you with a prayer that Thanksgiving has been a day of joy, peace, and fullness. It is a day to reflect on all of the blessings that fill our lives and to count the good things which bring smiles to our faces and a warm feeling to our hearts. It is easy to overflow with gratitude when our lives overflow with bounty and beauty.

Not everyone had such a happy day. Some days find it hard to trace thanksgiving around the edges of hurt, pain, disappointment, or loneliness. Some days find us reeling, unable to find sure footing as our world slips and shakes. Health struggles, money problems, job stresses, and troubled relationships bring in the dark clouds of worry and fear. Counting blessings is tough when you are just trying to keep your head above water.

We all face those days. Maybe today. Perhaps tomorrow. But they come. Sometimes they sneak in and take us by surprise. Other times they hit with a ferocity that takes our breath away. That is why this verse in Psalm 118 is so precious. Our ability to be grateful doesn’t depend on our circumstances, but on God’s presence in our lives.When we can’t find anything else to be thankful for, we can be thankful that God is good. His character is unchanging. His heart is constant. Because of that goodness, His love is steadfast and enduring. Even in the most agonizing circumstances, the darkest days, and amidst the heaviest burdens, God’s love doesn’t go anywhere. It continues to surround you, lift you up, hold you close, and draw you near.

My Jesus Resolution today is to give thanks no matter what. Some days are hard. Those aren’t the days to skip thanksgiving. Those are the days when my heart most needs to count His blessings. It reminds me of who is in control, who is my anchor, and who will never leave me alone. The cross stands as God’s testimony to His steadfast, enduring, unshakable, nonnegotiable love. It stands silently on a hill reminding me that God is good, God is for me, God understands, and God loves me no matter what.





Living Gratitude

27 11 2013

“Thanksgiving is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” – Henri Frederic Amiel

For many, thanksgiving is a day, a meal, and perhaps a few words. For Christians, it is so much more. Thanksgiving is a way of living that both sees and proclaims the presence of God in the everyday.

What does a life of gratitude look like? In very practical terms, how will my life look different if I practice regular, daily, deliberate thanksgiving?

– There would be less worry, and more worship.

– There would be less panic, and more praise.

– There would be less independence, and more trust.

– There would be less stress, and more surrender.

– There would be less whining, and more waiting.

– There would be less jitters, and more joy.

– There would be less selfishness, and more service.

– There would be less complaining, and more celebrating.

– There would be less hurry, and more holiness.

– There would be less grumbling, and more grace.

– There would be less keeping score, and more keeping watch.

– There would be less tantrums, and more transformation.

My Jesus Resolution today is to live my gratitude. The list above is pretty sobering for me. The “less” list is a pretty honest snapshot of some of my days. I don’t want those things to define me, but they tend to be my default. I can go through whole days, weeks, even seasons that are painted with the “less” brush. God didn’t promise me a “less” life. God always stands ready to pour “more” into my days. The “more” list is who I want to be. The “more” list is who God intends for me to be when I allow my heart, mind, and soul be saturated with gratitude.





The Thanksgiving Magnifier

25 11 2013

Seventh grade science requires a strong stomach. In seventh grade, we were introduced to microscopes. Armed with the ability to look closely at things that we had not paid much attention to before, we clustered in small groups around the microscope and examined everything. Things came out of people’s pockets, were scraped off the floor, picked out of noses, and pulled from the trash and stuck under the lens to be scrutinized by inquiring seventh grade minds. Infinitesimal details became giant realities as we enlarged our treasures. Magnification gave us a whole new way to see the world.

“I will praise the name of God with a song;

I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” – Psalm 69:30

The act of thanksgiving is a magnifier. It changes the way we see. Our days can be busy, hectic, stressful, and overwhelming. When they are, the pressures of this world loom large. They cast long shadows, suffocating our souls in subtle ways. Cares seem bigger. Hurts are harder to bear. Loneliness grabs us, burrowing in next to fear and worry in our hearts. When we speak our gratitude, it magnifies God. It adjusts our perspective. It allows us to see the details differently. It helps us examine the pieces of our lives, realigning the realities with the truth of His goodness. Things that seemed huge and overwhelming are put in their proper context when we magnify the ways God pours Himself into our days.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pay attention to the way thanksgiving magnifies God. Every choice to be grateful has the power to help me see God more clearly. Today I want to magnify the way that God has worked in the details of my life. I want to see His grace with more clarity, His love with more intensity, His will with more humility, and His holiness with more awe. When God is magnified in me, the world becomes smaller. Its influence has less pull on my heart. I am able to focus more intently on the beauty I often miss when I let the world overshadow the cross.





Practicing Gratitude

22 11 2013

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. “ – Tecumseh

Learning to be people of gratitude is mostly about retraining our eyes. Thanksgiving is transformation in action. It is the process of looking into the moment and finding God’s fingerprints. Sometimes evidence of His presence is clear, distinct, and unmistakable. Other times, however, find us struggling to trace His goodness in the depth of our difficult days.

Thanksgiving isn’t about spin. It isn’t so much about having a positive, Pollyanna attitude as it is about adjusting our perspective to find the God-markers even when things are rough.

Every time that you live gratitude out loud, you declare three very important truths to the world.

1. God is in control.

2. You are not alone.

3. This isn’t the end of the story.

The practice of thanksgiving cements these three truths deep in our hearts. It allows them to fill us, shape us, move us, and change us. Expressing gratitude today will transform how we face tomorrow. The rough outline of these three truths take on dimension, depth, and deep color as we train our eyes to seek His face.

My Jesus Resolution today is to practice gratitude. Thanksgiving doesn’t come naturally. I am much more prone to whining, complaining, and criticizing than I am to being grateful. Practicing thankfulness is like coming out of a very dark room into the bright light. It takes time for my eyes to adjust, but when they do, the beauty of the world opens up before me.





The Thanksgiving Habit

20 11 2013

I love the Thanksgiving season. It is neat to listen to people talk about their blessings, record their gratitude, and, if only for thirty days, recognize that God touches our lives in personal and amazing ways.

This season of gratitude needs to launch us into a lifestyle of gratitude. Thanksgiving is the soil for deep living. It is the mindset that helps us pause rather than panic, worship rather than worry, and stay focused rather than becoming frustrated. Not because difficult things don’t happen, but because gratitude teaches us to trace God’s hand in all of our moments.

I have to admit to being partial to Daniel. His story holds some big headline moments – maintaining his integrity, interpreting a king’s dreams, being thrown into a lion’s den. I want to have that kind of faith – faith that is strong, sure, steady, and surrendered. But that kind of faith didn’t develop haphazardly. Between the big headlines of Daniel’s story, we read the key to Daniel’s focused faith.

“He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” – Daniel 6:10b

Three times a day for a lifetime, Daniel stopped to pray and be thankful. Daniel’s faith was rooted in the habit of gratitude.

My Jesus Resolution today is to develop a thanksgiving habit. What might the impact be on my faith, my family, my work, and my friends if I stopped three times a day and counted my blessings? Quiet, consistent, deliberate gratitude has the power to open our eyes, reshape our hearts, ignite our joy, fuel our courage, and root us in God’s presence. They say that it takes twenty-one days to learn a new habit. Following Daniel’s example adds up to sixty-three times of pausing, praying, and praising. I don’t want thanksgiving to be a season in my life. I want it to be my daily practice. Who wants to start a holy habit with me?





Gratitude’s Lessons

18 11 2013

Thanksgiving is more than the casual cataloguing of things that have been given to us. It is the recognition that God stands in the middle of all things. His presence permeates our lives, surrounds our broken hearts, walks with us through deep joys and wrenching sorrows, and declares His truth over and over for every soul willing to listen.

Here are ten things that being thankful are supposed to teach us about the heart of God.

1. Forgiveness is real.

2. Transformation is possible.

3. Love really does conquer all.

4. Hope is irrepressible.

5. The details do matter.

6. Joy is tucked into unexpected places.

7. Goodness is more powerful than we understand.

8. His plan is perfect.

9. His timing is always right.

10. Jesus is always the answer.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be a student of gratitude. Counting my blessings is not merely an exercise in listing what makes me happy, but of declaring how God’s goodness infuses every part of my life. Thanksgiving challenges me to look deeply at my circumstances, relationships, struggles, joys, and experiences and trace the hand of God at every turn. His presence is what ignites joy. His nearness is the catalyst for hallelujahs. My blessings are tailor made for my good and His glory. Each one is designed to open my eyes, stretch my soul, and impact the way I step into the next moment.





Hungry

15 11 2013

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6

 I have thirty Bibles. Those are just the ones downstairs. I didn’t go upstairs to count the Bibles in my kids’ rooms (or maybe I just didn’t want to see the mess). Anyway. That also doesn’t include the electronic Bibles to which I have easy access. Anybody with a phone, tablet, or computer can access literally hundreds of versions of God’s Word with the touch of a button. That is amazing. It should be humbling. Has it made us hungry?

This week I read a beautiful story about a woman with a deep hunger for God’s Word. Living in a village in northern Ghana, the young woman was given by her father in marriage to a man who savagely beat her. She escaped with her two youngest babies to a vocational school that teaches women basic skills they need in order to have a hope of providing for their children.

Every day while these young women are learning how to sew, they listen to an audio Bible and hear the voice of God speaking love and hope into their days. The young woman in the story is so hungry for God’s precious Word that she records it on her cell phone so that she can listen to His truth at night with her children.

I wept. Tears of joy that she is so hungry for God and He is answering her hunger. Tears of shame at my own lack of appetite.

My Jesus Resolution today is to grow a hunger in my soul. I want to crave God. I want to ache to hear His voice. I want to yearn to be in His presence. I want to want nothing less than the words of life. But it is an appetite that I have to feed. It is a hunger that has to be trained to settle for nothing less than the sweetness of His voice. Growing a hunger means emptying my soul of the “junk food” of the world. Today I want to imagine how the eyes of a young woman from Ghana would light up if she got to hold even one of my Bibles. And I want to look just like her.