Grace in Gratitude

graceAlways give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)

Ponder It.

  • What are you thankful for today?
  • What have you overlooked being thankful for recently?
  • What gets in the way of your thankfulness?

Receive It. It’s a struggle to be thankful for everything. It’s counterintuitive to be thankful for some things: pain, suffering, loss. The list goes on. The problem is we think we should only be thankful for those things that make us happy. Happiness is circumstantial. Happiness is enjoyable, but it’s also fleeting. If circumstances are favorable, you’re happy. If not, you’re unhappy. Your happiness is dependent on what’s happening around you – and your perception of what’s happening around you. I imagine we all know people who seem “happy” even when what’s going on around them doesn’t seem happiness-worthy…and people who seem miserable even when they’re surrounded by fantastic circumstances. What we’re actually seeing isn’t so much happiness or unhappiness but joy or lack of it.

Joy is chronic. It’s a firm confidence that all is well regardless of the circumstance. Thankfulness is chronic as well. It’s the expression of joy, a confidence that all is well regardless of the circumstance. We can’t always be happy about everything, but we can certainly be grateful. We can appreciate something or someone around us. We can not only find thankfulness but also show it to someone. When we live out gratitude, it’s contagious. Let’s let others take a lesson from us. Let’s live out an attitude of gratitude.

Live It. Express your gratitude today. Show your gratitude to a stranger or acquaintance you encounter today. Dig deeper and contact a friend or family member and express your gratitude. Your gratitude will not be contagious unless you begin to share.

Grace in Preparation

graceHe waited with patience so that he could make known his rich glory to the people who receive his mercy. He has prepared these people to have his glory. (Romans 9:23)

Ponder It.

  • How often do you rearrange furniture?
  • What are three words to describe your organization style?
  • What is God prompting you to move in or out of your life right now?

Receive It. God gives us everything we need to experience the joy he intends for us, but we must be willing to rearrange our lives for him. When we prepare to host a slumber party or lots of company, we often rearrange furniture. We move aside the couch and chairs to maximize floor space for sleeping bags or video games. We set up folding or picnic tables to accommodate extra people. We rearrange the food in the refrigerator to store the additional goodies we’ve prepared or others are bringing.

In our daily lives, we need to move aside some things in preparation for what’s coming. We need to prepare. God isn’t silent about the preparation he intends for us to make. The issue isn’t lack of instruction—even though we often make that rationalization—but lack of attention and trust. We want to know the “why” of what we’re doing when God is giving us clear instruction of the “what.” He wants us to be obedient. He doesn’t need us to be all-knowing; he has that role covered. When we’re focused on the “why” instead of the “what,” we’re not focused on the right insight, so we think we’re missing out. Because our eyes aren’t honed on the proper focus, we think God isn’t giving us what we want, let alone what we need. We’re mistaken. God never leaves us uninstructed.

We might not understand why God is telling us to rid our lives of something, plant seeds of something new in our lives, or reprioritize responsibilities and relationships, but we don’t have to know the “why.” God wants us to respond in obedience. And really, isn’t trusting God by responding in obedience enough of a “why”?

Live It. Get rid of something today. Give it away. Move something today. Get out of your comfort zone. Plant a seed today. Meet someone new. Invest in a relationship. Apply for a new job. Explore an unfamiliar area of Scripture. Set aside your plans for God’s.

The Christmas Magnifier

8840292-christmas-magnifying-glass-over-background-with-different-association-terms-vector-illustration-stock-vectorChristmas is a magnifier. Whatever is going on in your life is probably amplified right now. That can feel positive, and it can feel negative. Regardless of how it makes you feel, you can choose to respond with honesty, humility, and a willingness to change. Our joy doesn’t come from our circumstances, so what feels like a magical Christmas or depressing Christmas doesn’t define your Christmas, and it doesn’t define you. It’s not time to place blame, dwell on the inescapable, or compare with others.

Our joy and blessings can be permanent. Yes, they seem to shift from time to time, and they certainly change us. The permanence doesn’t mean we feel the same all the time. It doesn’t mean all is happy and wonderful. It means we have a foundation, and when we let the magnifier be about the source of our faith, we amplify the right focus.

What are you magnifying today?

 

Weeping Isn’t Weakness

d2278391983000372506fe14410f2b22Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

When was the last time you wept? Why?

When was the last time you had a season of weeping? What was your reaction to it?

How do you respond to others’ weeping?

In today’s verse, we often focus on the second part more than the first. We want to know joy comes in the morning, that weeping is limited. But it holds a firm place in the seasons of our lives. We notice the joy in the morning more because it is a change from the weeping of the night. Perhaps we appreciate the joy more because of the difference between it and weeping through the night. The joy of the morning seems to be the hopeful part, but the hope is tied between the two.

Weeping can create a path to joy. Sure, we can have joy without weeping. We can have joy simply because God is who He is. But there is still a time and place for weeping. Sometimes it is because we are grieving or hurt or angry or confused or heartbroken at the injustice of the world. The night of weeping might last much longer than we want. And it might come and go, like the pattern of the night and day.

A season of weeping doesn’t mean weeping is constant, then it is done, as if we can turn it off and on like a water hydrant. Weeping reveals a wound that needs some healing, and healing often takes time. Weeping isn’t a weakness. It is an important part of life. Whether we weep inwardly or outwardly, it shows a vulnerability that only God can cover and bind, because only He truly understands. Even our own reasons are often guesses based only on the pieces of the puzzle we understand. We are too close to see it all. God is too close not to.

Sit in the dark in silence for at least three minutes today or tonight. You might have to find a closet or lock the bathroom door or wait until kids go to bed. What do you notice in the darkness and in the silence? What can you experience under those conditions that the light and noise drown out? How can you appreciate the darkness more?