Grateful, Courageous, and Cheerful

I see through new lenses these days. No, I didn’t get new glasses.

I have a new way of life. One that still consists of the family I treasure and work that I love—ministering to people. But one which now includes numerous therapies, doctors’ appointments, calculated outings, and even trips to be measured for the “electric chair.” Sounds scary—but I am referring to a motorized wheelchair, complete with accompanying accessible van. Bars and ramps have already been installed in our home as we live out our “new normal.”

I must choose how I view this change in life. An assortment of viewpoints and attitudes hover around my head and are readily accessible. Which lens shall I choose?20161121_150413

My husband no longer has mobility, and suffers from a progressive neurological disease. Yes. It’s hard and sobering.

However (for a completely none other than God-given reason) we have peace. And we have so much we are thankful for. I find myself surprised to feel this reality so keenly and deeply—but I’ve never felt closer to God, my husband, or my family. And, I’m extremely thankful as I approach my country’s Thanksgiving holiday.

This really doesn’t make sense. I am quite aware this contentment is only because of many prayers being prayed—and a commitment and prayer from my husband to live each day…grateful, courageous, and cheerful.

How do you do that when you lose your physical capabilities and/or when life radically changes?

By choice.  Choosing to be grateful this time of year. This day. This moment. Tomorrow.

And choosing to be courageous and cheerful.

Each day.

The alternative choice is to become bitter, fearful, and depressed…and that, dear friends, is not an encouraging choice.

My husband chooses the former, and it spurs me on to choose the same. The Bible calls me to this. It’s a vital way to think—and it’s possible. This way of thinking doesn’t mean I hide my head in the sand to all that is hard in life while whistling “Pollyanna.”  In fact, Jesus’ tells us we will have troubles in this world. Expect them. There are all kinds of troubles here in this “short minute” of life on earth. Yet, it’s the perfect and trouble free eternal years for which I live. Aaaahhhh.

If we are waiting for life on earth to be “fair” and to always make sense to us we are in for a long and impossible wait.

Despite our troubles, we can know we know and hold to someone who is all powerful and completely loving.

I can’t see what he sees. I also can’t deny the truth of the following scripture. God’s peace exceeds anything and everything I can understand.
4  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
5  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9 NLT)

Today, I feel grateful. The ability to stand, to walk, to climb, and to run feels very pertinent to me. To quickly “fetch” a drink of water when I’m thirsty is a privilege, and to take steps into a friend’s home is a blessing.  I may not always have these abilities, but while I do I’m thankful for them. My once fast and agile husband can no longer do these things, but he is a grateful man. He knows and lives love; receives and offers forgiveness; experiences peace in heart and mind; has the love of an amazing family; holds to a purpose and hope that nothing can destroy; and joyfully functions within a diverse church family that loves deeply and from the heart.

His attitude is contagious to me. And it’s a good contagiousness—no need for covering the mouth with a tissue here. This attitude shows in the big stuff and in the mundane. For instance: While pumping gas, I now stop to be thankful for the fact I have a car, and money to power it.  Each time I’m at the grocery store and slip that debit card chip into the proper slot I’m reminded of the amazing food I am able to buy, and I feel thankful.  I realize this is a luxury for many. I’ve seen, met, and spoken to many who would long for such an opportunity. I am truly blessed. Before this recent struggle, I felt less gratitude for such “mundane” things.

And who could have courage if they didn’t face fears?  Fearfulness has dogged me throughout my life, yet God has not let me down. Ever. This doesn’t mean I haven’t faced hard or even life threatening situations and felt fear. Yet, it was in those times of deepest fears God empowered me to feel the most courage.

Funny thing— this is what God’s promises have always told us. Just re-read Psalm 23. Maybe a more unfamiliar wording of this psalm will feed your soul:
4  Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
5  You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
6  Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalm 23:4-6 MSG)

And cheerfulness?

Deep down in the heart joy supersedes circumstances.

17  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18  yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19  The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

18  When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me.
19  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.  
               (Psalm 94:18-19)

And that is something to smile about. Cheerfulness begets cheerfulness.  It feels good, too.


22  A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
(Pr. 17:22)

Join us in a commitment to leave each day with gratitude, courage, and cheerfulness.

…And have a wonderful Thanksgiving day—and life!


12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
(Romans 12:12)

 

(If you wish for more blogs like this delivered to your email, please sign up to follow the blog.)

Which Letter is Yours?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving….

Whenever I read the short book of Philippians, I am struck by the apostle Paul’s gratitude and corresponding joy.  Whether or not you celebrate a particular day of Thanksgiving, take the time this week to read the short book of Philippians—focusing on Paul’s thankful attitude and the joy that flows from this attitude. Now, think about the circumstances he faced as he wrote, especially his imprisonment.

If Paul had not been a grateful person, I imagine his letter would have sounded more like this:

Chapter 1  It’s me, Paul.

So…I guess there’s not much to say…not much hope.  While you are enjoying your freedom, here I sit chained to a prison guard. This stinks… and there is nothing I can accomplish from here.

Not only can I do nothing to reach out to and share with people, but there are lots of people out there preaching wrong things, undoing the good I’ve tried to do.  It irks me, and I am totally depressed about this.

Chapter 2    Nobody really cares about me…everyone is just thinking about themselves.  Well, except maybe Timothy and now he’ll likely go to you and then you will “need” him.  Sheez…what else do you want?  Of course, I do have Epaphroditus, my one fellow worker and friend.  You might as well take him too while you’re at it.  Besides, while here trying to help me out he went and got sick on me. It’s just one lousy thing after another.

Chapter 3  You know I had a lot going on before all this.  I was somebody significant…but I’ve really lost everything now. God must hate me.  I’ve tried to give everything…and look where it’s gotten me. There’s really not much more I could possibly do ..it’s over …and besides–look where sacrifice has gotten me anyway.  In jail.  Just sitting here–shackled.

Chapter 4  And…if all this is not enough, my “friends” Euodia and Syntyche can’t even get along.  For cryin’ out loud…. All the whining.  Will someone tell them to shut it? Can’t anybody get along anymore? Problems everywhere.  And I’m tired, hungry and poor to boot.  I’d ask for help, but you’d probably just respond like everybody else has.  When I asked before, almost no one wanted to help.  Well, gotta go…not feeling so good.  And the more I remember all this bad stuff the worse I feel.   Maybe I’ll get lucky and die. Meanwhile, I sit here chained to a stinkin’ guard..

Now ask youself….what would your letter sound like?  This is a convicting and challenging question for me.  Would it be as you read the book of Philippians in your Bible?…Or would it be written more like the “rewrite” above?  The difference between the two lies in our attitude of gratitude—or lack thereof.  May you have a week (and life)  filled with gratitude and the overflowing joy that follows.  Happy Thanksgiving.IMG_2923

Today’s the Day!

This morning I thanked God that I got to have another day with him.  As my husband and I groggily (at least I’m groggy) roll out of bed each morning we like to tell each other, “I’m thankful to have another day with you.”  Since he was out of town, after I awoke I said these words to God.   I hoped these words would not only be pleasing to him, but would also help me to live “today”—which is not always an easy thing for me to do.  While saying those words, I let out a sigh of contentment…knowing these are words I can say to him every day—eternally.

It’s been a long while since I’ve visited this blog.  Meanwhile, a lot of life has been lived and miles have been traveled.  I even entered into a new decade since my last visit—I turned sixty. I now consider the mid-nineties officially “old”.  Since the last blog post I have a new book hot off the press—Prime RibExploring a Woman’s Value and Purpose and another is due to be released by IP in early June.  It’s called Spiritual Leadership for Women.  I’ve been so inspired by numerous godly women who I had the privilege to profile amidst the chapters.  I also have about a dozen blogs cluttering my files –yet they are incomplete.  Thoreau once said, “…my life had been the poem I would have writ, but I could not both live and utter it…” Boy, do I understand that.

I am tempted to go back and complete these blogs before moving on to current happenings (maybe I’ll include them in another book next year,) yet there is so much to be discovered today.   I might miss today—if I keep thinking about what I did or didn’t do in the past or am too concerned or worried about the future.  IMG_5051Today I want to be present in the present– in God’s presence.  (Chew on that a moment.)

Is it easy for you to focus on what is not going well, or what you don’t have, or how different life would be for you if only…?  For me, it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the day… or what was left undone yesterday or still needs to be done in the future.  So, I need to say these words again.  ”Good morning, God… I’m so thankful to have another day with you.”  I’m sure I’ll need to say those words again tomorrow.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. Psalm 84:10

 It is enlightening to note the number of times God speaks of “this day,” or Jesus speaks of our need to depend on him each day—even as he teaches us to pray in Matthew 6:11, Give us today our daily bread.  

Today’s choices can even make an eternal difference in our lives and the lives of others.  As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Today matters.

If I am not present in the present in his presence I fail to discover lessons God teaches me…whether through circumstances, his word, the urging of his spirit, other people, music, animals, nature, trials…really anything.  And I can become worried, self-reliant and ungrateful.

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:14-18

Today….seek to be present in the present in his presence.

De-Dreading the Dentist…and other things

I strongly dislike going to the dentist.  Yesterday was my semi- annual teeth cleaning appointment. (I was six months late scheduling this appointment, so it actually became my annual appointment.) It’s far too easy to procrastinate doing things I don’t enjoy.  Fortunately, thus far my teeth haven’t given me problems and I still have them – wisdom and all.  I’m grateful I didn’t have to go to a “tooth cleaning”.

When I’m dreading a task, I try to add some redeeming quality to make it better.  I think about the apostle Paul in these situations.  His attitude continually convicts and inspires me.  While in prison because of his faith, he wrote about continually rejoicing, encouraging others and finding the unseen blessings of his trials such as being able to share about Jesus with those he may not not have had the opportunity to meet were it not for the circumstances.

Philip. 1:12-14
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. [13] As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. [14] Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Philip. 1:18b-20

   Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, [19] for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. [20] I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Wow.  Do not those words call you higher? I wonder what “my” letter might have sounded like.

So, trying to learn from my brother Paul, I looked for opportunities to share, to encourage,  and to rejoice and be thankful in a situation I didn’t like. (Of course, the dentist and prison are not at all comparable, but I do really, really dread going to the dentist.)  Applying these scriptures to my more mundane situation still made the experience so much better.  In fact, I almost enjoyed the time.  My dentist practices in a town near the ocean.  So, before listening to the lovely metal-on-plaque sound I took a few extra minutes to pick up a cup of my favorite fish chowder in Gloucester, and then drove to my favorite prayer spot…to enjoy my chowder and pray.  This was the view from my car.

Truthfully, I believe God’s beauty can be found everywhere when we are looking.  Yes, this is a magnificent view, but so is the sky…and the trees, the flowers, the animals – everything He has made. I made it through my dentist appointment, and even determined to “enjoy” the few moments to close my eyes and listen to music (with the occasional instrumental accompaniment of the dental tools).

There are numerous other “tasks” I don’t enjoy.  I don’t like to iron or put away clothes. However, years ago a sister taught me to pray with thankfulness for the family member for whom I was ironing.  This helped. I don’t mind it anymore. Well at least not as much as I did. (Fortunately I don’t have to do it so often now.)   I tire of the daily ritual of washing my hair.  Yet, during this time I think about what I’ve learned and can share – thus this blog entry. For some reason, the thoughts come best then, so I’ve learned to look forward to it. The decisions I make about my attitude really do make a difference in my feelings toward necessary but unpleasant tasks I encounter.

May we all learn from Paul in the scriptures – and look for ways to rejoice, to encourage, to see God at work and to find new opportunities to share about Jesus as we sit in our “proverbial” dentist chair.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Ever wonder why some people, even amid dire circumstances, continue to be thankful, content and happy individuals while others, who have access to many good things, complain, are unhappy and easily annoyed? I have observed that there is a common theme with gratitude – lack of entitlement  Those who feel the most “entitled”, have the greatest difficulty finding the ability to be truly grateful. When we feel we deserve something, we are often left disappointed, annoyed or angry. At least that’s how it goes for me.  There is just no room for thankfulness.   Consider the challenging but eye (and heart) opening scripture in Luke 17:7-10
“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? [8] Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? [9] Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? [10] So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ “

This is challenging to me.  However, when I approach my service to God and others out of emptying myself… because of honor and appreciation for Him it changes the way I look at everything.  Though God treats me with incredible love and tenderness, it is often easy to get confused and think that these are things he “owes” me.  In my heart of hearts I know that what I really deserve is to die and go to hell.  That’s truly what I “deserve”, but I can easily forget this fact.  God’s graciousness, however, allows me to be treated not as I deserve, but with the gift of love, kindness and care. Whenever I forget this, I cease to be a grateful person.  Lost gratitude leads to a downward spiral described in Romans 1:21
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened….

The downward spiral that follows has its beginning with a failure to give thanks.  From there, our thinking becomes futile and we begin a plunge into a dark hole.

However, when I truly believe I have been given God’s mercy…forgiveness, purpose, the power to change, direction for my life, etc, etc…..everything changes, especially my mindset, or attitude.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. [2] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The world around me tells me that I deserve prestige, money, fast internet and even a good parking place.  However, when I live God’s will for my life (which is right, feels good and is all around fantastic!) I am then able to renew my mind and transform my way of thinking. Then I can give, serve and empty myself….only to find that in the meantime I am at peace, happy, grateful and energized.  Gratitude begins with our attitude,… and as the scripture below shows… it puts a song in our hearts and a pep in our step.

Col. 3:15-17
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Over the next few days I plan to think a lot about the incredible blessings of people, places and things for which I am grateful.  I expect to smile a lot, though I’m sure some tears will flow as I remember special memories of those no longer here.  May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and live with a joyful, thankful attitude…if you live on a trash heap or in a mansion.