Monday, November 20, 2017

Shattered Glass and Learning to Give Thanks



The day started like any other day off. The To-Do list penned. A load of laundry begun. Heading out the door to a dentist appointment.

In a rush, I slam a cupboard door. Because even a day off can feel urgent.

Instantly, I regret my hurried attempt to get one more thing done.

I hear a loud crash—the sound of a day’s To-Do list suddenly altered.

Carefully, I open the door and find a 9 x 13 casserole dish sparkling in a heap of tiny glass particles.

New tasks for my day get jotted down.

“Clean up every piece of glass.”

“While you’re at it, organize the cupboard.”




The day before, I’d been listening to Ann VosKamp’s book, “One Thousand Gifts.”


“The real problem of life is never a lack of time,” Ann writes. “The real problem of life is lack of thanksgiving.”


As I started on my new “To-Do’s” for the day, my list was altered again.

With the shattering of glass and the day’s reorganization, my heart found a place of thanks that spilled on to a new list—an enumeration of gifts.

“Finding a pair of scissors I’d given up looking for.”

“Items to be recycled, removing the clutter.”

Life is full of the shattered. The urgent. The waiting to be found. The unplanned.

But when we find in these a way to give thanks, they turn from joy-stealers to joy-initiators.

Giving thanks isn’t a round-the-table game on a holiday filled with enough. Thanksgiving is a daily way to find joy.

When life surprises you with the suddenly shattered, pick up the pieces and make a list.

In every loss, thanksgiving will open the door to joy.



“Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.
For the LORD is good.” (Psalm 100:4,5)


Monday, October 9, 2017

When God Asks 'Why?'



A few months ago, I found myself pouring my heart out before the Lord in a way I hadn't done in a very long time. A long list of trying circumstances and the question “Why?” characterized that prayer.

But as I prayed, I sensed God asking me the same thing.

Why?

“Lord, I’ve been working so hard!”

His answer thundered in a quiet rebuke: Why? I clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven. Will I not much more clothe you? (Matthew 6:29)

“Lord, I’m exhausted.”

Again, Why? Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

“Lord, I want to fix him/her.”

Why? And like His words to Peter, “What is that to you? You follow me.” (John 21:22)

“Lord, I can’t do this task You’ve given me.”

Why? Your help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)





That day I learned a valuable lesson about prayer and faith.

For every complaint we pour out before the Lord, His Word holds a promise, laced with God’s character that beckons us to trust.

When your prayers become filled with “me” and unbelief, let His answer be, “Why?”

And trust a promise.



“Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)


Monday, June 26, 2017

The Best Thing to Tell Yourself in the Mirror



Ever talk to yourself? Ever talk to yourself in the mirror?

We usually have one thing in mind when we look in the mirror.

Ourselves.

What we look like. What others will think. Whether what we do while we’re looking in the mirror will make us look better.

It’s all about us.

This is why the mirror is the best place to talk to ourselves.

It’s the best time to consider what our lives are all about.

Or Who they’re all about.

Looking in the mirror is the best time to practice turning our thoughts on Someone Else.



Each of us came into the world thinking we were the center of the universe. We were treated that way for the first few weeks of our lives. We went through years of growth, awkwardness, and trying to find ourselves.

Then we hit the age when we knew everything.

Right now, all of us are either at the place where God has shown us this isn’t the case, or He’s about to take us through something that will teach us this lesson.

If we were the center of the universe, we’d know all the answers, and the answers wouldn’t matter.

The best thing to say to ourselves in the mirror is this: “God is the King of all the earth.” (Psalm 47:7)

Kings reign and die. Subjects live and learn.

You and I live our lives. We eat, we work. We love, laugh, buy, and sell.

We look in the mirror.

But the sooner we realize our lives aren’t all about us, the sooner we’ll learn to cast every trouble, need, heartache, and question on the One who knows all the answers.

He is King over all the earth.

Let’s tell ourselves that every time we look in the mirror.


“The LORD reigns. . . Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.” (Psalm 93:1,2)


Monday, June 12, 2017

What Jeremiah Did When He Couldn't Stop Crying



My grandma was one of thirteen children, and a twin. You can imagine the squabbling, the joys, and the challenges of living in such a large family.

My great-grandparents were wise. They knew how to curb complaining. Complaining was reserved for only one day a week and only at the prescribed time. No griping or pouting was allowed any other day of the week. All complaints could only be addressed at the complaining hour.

The book of Lamentations sounds like a written documentation of the day of complaining for Jeremiah. Known as the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah cried much over the troubles of his people Israel.

He had much to cry about. Lamentations spells it out. Read it in one sitting, and you might not think your challenges and problems and temptations are worth putting in a book, as his was. He had reason to complain. His crying was justifiable.

But, though Jeremiah seemed to cry without stopping, he discovered the key to not living in the spirit of his book of Lamentations.

After enumerating his complaints in three chapters, he discovered an action that eased the weight of his trials.
This I recall to my mind. . .”

He did something unusual but vital.

He brought something to mind.

Truth.

“This I recall to my mind,” he wrote.  “Therefore I have hope.” (Lamentations 3:21)

He looked up when his world shouted at him to look down.

When he couldn’t stop crying, he brought this truth to mind:


“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentation 3:22,23)


When every day seems to be a justifiable complaining hour, remember the weeping prophet.

When he couldn’t stop crying, he looked up.




“When my heart is overwhelmed, 
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)



Photo courtesy of Tony Morrell Photography


Next Post (June 26):  
“The Best Thing to Tell Yourself in the Mirror”


Monday, May 29, 2017

Looking Up When It's More Natural to Look Down



Four months ago, I started working with a personal trainer. Having health challenges and not purposely exercising for over fourteen years, I’ve discovered muscles I didn’t know I have.

Once a week, I hear things like, “This will be challenging, but you can do it!”

And once a week, my brain talks to those muscles and says, “Val says you can do it. You have to do it!”

“Brain to Leg. . . “

This is the conversation that goes on in my head once a week.

It doesn’t feel natural to purposely use a muscle I don’t have to use very often or to make myself move in ways I don’t move on a regular basis.

It’s more natural to just live life as it comes.

But the more I work those muscles, the more Val pushes me to do the challenging thing, and the more I have these conversations with my brain, the stronger I’m getting. Those muscles are starting to work properly.

The unnatural is becoming more natural.




Life's the same way.

We waste our lives if we just take them as they come.

When we forget what they’re all about.

Or Who they’re all about.

The only way I can make certain muscles move is if my brain tells them to move. If I concentrate and make them do something completely unnatural.

And the only way to look up to God when it’s more natural to look down is by having those same kinds of conversations.


“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:2))
“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)

To exercise those muscles that turn our eyes to the One who rules over all, we have to set our minds on God’s truth and not let life come as it will.

We have to tell ourselves to look up.

Not once a week.

But every time we begin to look down.

This world is distracting. Our busy lives are distracting. It’s more natural to just take life as it comes.

But God gave us a Book—not to give us something to do five minutes every day—but to guide our lives and to renew our minds.

We have to be exercised by it.

We have to let its truth move our lives and turn our eyes upward instead of downward.

It’s the only way looking up will become natural.

It’s the only way our lives will be characterized as unwasted.


“The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters.” (Psalm 93:4)





Next Post (June 12): "What Jeremiah Did When He Couldn’t Stop Crying"