Thursday, November 26, 2009

Attitude Of Gratitude

Even though today isn't officially Thanksgiving in Canada, in my heart it is. Not just today, but every day.

An attitude of gratitude is a choice. It is part of my daily choice to die to self, and to live for Christ. It is a life changing conscious decision to chose life, to breathe life, to speak life, to live life to the fullest. Most of us find it easy to be grateful when we are blessed with good news, a happy occasion, the sight of a beautiful sunrise... but how many of us make a choice to find the blessings in heartbreaking situations, in difficult circumstances, in strife? Is it that we chose not to see it, are we too comfortable in darkness... or that it takes too much effort?

Does it take effort to climb a mountain? To the one who has never climbed one, yes... but to the one who practices, trains for it, and is focused on climbing that mountain, the more the climber is experienced, the less effort it begins to take. Either way, whether you've climbed that mountain before or not, you have the power to chose to climb that mountain. The more you climb, the more it becomes second nature. And... like a healthy heart, body and soul... it begins to feel great. An attitude of gratitude is like a high impact workout for your spirit. Even better, there are no monthly gym membership fees, and everyone can join at any time.

Not a single one of us are spared hardship. Jesus, the Son of God, was not spared -- He had to learn obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8)... So who are we to believe that we should be spared suffering?

"I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble. But be brave! I have defeated the world!" John 16:33

So if pain is inevitable, if we have no other choice but to face battles in our lives, why chose to prolong the darkness, the bitterness, the anger, the disappointment, the pain? Each expression of gratitude is like a candle in the darkness. As long as we find one flicker of light, of gratitude, the darkness is lifted. The more light we find, the less power darkness has over us. Fill your heart with light, and it will no longer have room for darkness. Rather than being overwhelmed by the darkness surrounding us, why don't we make the choice to find the light? If we're not making that choice, then we are effectively choosing to extend darkness. Perhaps the pain, the suffering, wasn't our choice... but what we do from that point IS a choice.

It's not just a choice, but a command:
"Consider it pure joy my brothers--be thankful my brothers when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2-4)

When we face trials, God tells us that we are to be joyful because the testing of our faith develops our perserverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4)

Too hard to feel joy in times of sorrow? Start with the smallest flicker of light. It is there, in the shadows, waiting to be discovered. Don't stop seeking until you find it, and once you find it, don't stop seeking.

On my way home a few Sundays ago, I struggled to see the light in the darkness for a few moments, so I started with the smallest, silliest light I could find, and worked my way up. It sounded something like this...

"Well, God... it's just you and me now. Today was especially difficult, Lord... help me find some good in it... even the tiniest thing (which are often the biggest things)..."

The first thing that came to mind? "I'm alive." How could I not be grateful?

Second thing? "I am breathing. I am breathing in, I am breathing out, and I continue to breathe." It's hard to be grateful when you're not breathing at all.

Third? "I am not alone, God, You are with me." Always.

The more time I spent focused on an attitude of gratitude, the easier it became, and the less power the darkness had. I even got really creative... "Well, Lord... I didn't have to do dishes, housework or laundry today... not that dishes are a bad thing, it just means we have served food... same with housework, it means we have been blessed with shelter... as for laundry, well, one could argue that laundry is good, especially if you're Canada in the wintertime, because it is an obvious sign that you do not belong to a nudist colony.... yeah, about that, Lord... are there any nudist colonies in Canada? But even nudist colonies in Canada would be grateful, for they'd have little laundry to do..."

It's not to say that eternally optimistic people aren't faced with challenges that are just as difficult as those being faced by people who struggle with gratitude. They just make a choice to respond differently.

What will your choice be?

"A Christian is one who majors in appreciation." -- John Versteeg

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jesus Through Osmosis


On our way home from the Christian book store tonight, Jillian and I talked about Jesus and how important it is to keep Him in our hearts, and to guard our hearts so that He'll remain firmly planted there.

I always love asking Jillian about God or Jesus, her answers are so sweet. Today was no exception.

I asked her how Jesus got into her heart, and she said "When I was in your belly, He was in your heart, so that's where I got Him... and now He lives in me, and He just keeps multiplying. Sometimes, He spills out a little, but He always jumps back in."

She's so vivid in her descriptions, so sweet, my heart just melts.

She understands about Jesus, God, salvation, and heaven in such a pure, Jillian-like innocence, a pure simplicity... there was never a choice, her beliefs "just are". That innocence is precious to me, in so many ways. I treasure seeing her living for Christ every day through how she loves others unconditionally, gently, sweetly, patiently... she's one of my greatest inspirations.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

God's Sword


When we step aside and allow God to use our lives for His purpose, putting our entire life in His hands and giving ourselves completely to Him, it is much like becoming His sword for His battle. We don't always understand the battle, what He will ask us to do, where He will take us, or even His purpose, His plan.

We simply know that it won't be easy and that at the end of each battle, we may feel as though all we've gained is a chink in our blade...

Yet, we are to trust our Master, we are to fully die to self.

Does a sword ever question its Master? Does a sword ever hesitate in its Master's hands? When is a sword not brave, not willing, even knowing that its Master will not set it down until the battle is finished and won?

Inspired by Sunday morning's sermon at Living Water Community Church, Dalton, Ohio.

I have experienced the feeling of being God's sword in the last few months, especially so in the last few weeks, and it has been an awe inspiring experience. When I heard this message in church on Sunday, it took my breath away all over again. I had not seen it from this point of view, but it all fell into place and began to make sense for me in a way that was real, relevant, relentless...