“Lord, You sure do tell it like it is — You said in this world, we will have trouble, hard weeks, heartbreak.
You said straight up that we’d have to carry a cross, and You said ‘we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’ (Acts14:22)
But You said this in the midst of the madness:
‘But take heart!’
We take heart —
that You have our heart,
that You have our hand,
that You are our peace,
& that You have overcome the world & the dark and whatever overwhelms us.
We take heart — we take Your heart
and we pour a brave and willing love like Yours
over all the open wounds of the world…
that the world may even now
In the name of Jesus, the only One who loved us to death
and back to the real & forever life….
If I’m honest, I have to confess that I’m not highly excited about the prospect of another week looming ahead. I’m not jumping for joy at the thought of waking up at 5 am for 5 days straight.
But I know that good things are ahead as well as the unpleasant and the annoying. I know that despite whatever my fears and anxieties tell me, that Jesus will be there and if I fear God, there isn’t anything or anyone else that I need fear.
I don’t mean me going around shaking in terror that God’s going to strike me down with a lightening bolt. I mean me having a healthy, reverential respect for God that helps me remember who’s in charge of the universe (God) and who’s not (me).
Plus, there will be coffee, which is always a nice perk for having to be grown up and do grown up things. See, it’s not all bad, right?
“Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control, let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper a surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy’s flame. Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).
Five years ago, I read a book that changed my life. It changed the way I look at my circumstances, allowing me to seek joy and to always be on the lookout for those 1,000 small daily gifts for which to give thanks. There’s always, always something to be thankful for.
I still have moments of grumpiness and days where entitlement and bitterness seem to win out. I go through seasons of complaining and comparison, unrest and envy. I can Debbie Downer with the best of them.
But the best days are still the ones where I give thanks and live out of gratitude and awe. That’s where I see God at work in me and around me. That’s when others see Jesus in me.
Regardless of how well or how poorly I lived out my thanksgiving, tomorrow’s always a chance to do better or start over or simply surrender and let God have His way. I think door number three sounds best.
As the old saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. Nothing robs your peace and contentment more than falling into the trap of comparing your life to someone else’s and letting jealousy take over.
I confess that I get a little envious from time to time. That’s when I notice that I’m less joyful and more stressed. That’s when I start believing that all the good things in my life that I’m waiting for must happen immediately, and I must be the one to make them happen.
The antidote is still gratitude for your own life. Giving thanks goes a long way toward helping you from seeing life as a competition and making it easier to celebrate other people’s victories instead of letting bitterness set in.
God’s will for your life is still to “rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV). If you make those a daily habit, you won’t have time to play the comparison game or to be overcome by envy.
I just found out today that my car has been deemed a total loss.
I was in a fender bender last Wednesday on my way to work, and apparently the damages exceeded they value they assessed to my car. That doesn’t take much when you drive a vintage vehicle.
But to me that red Jeep is worth more than a numerical value based on age and wear. I’ve been through a lot of life in that 1997 Jeep Cherokee.
I’m not ready to let go just yet.
So I’m praying.
I don’t know if it’s theologically correct to pray about things like cars, but I’m praying. I believe that God says to come boldly to the throne of grace in time of need. Not just for what you and I consider the major events and the important stuff.
I think it means to come all the time. To pray without ceasing until praying is as natural and automatic as breathing. To bring my need to the God who cares for the lowliest of sparrows.
I can’t imagine how this scenario with my car will play out favorably, but I will bring my request before the Father in heaven and let Him do the fighting.
I’m more than a little stressed at the moment. It’s my default setting, and try as I might to pray verses and claim God’s promises that perfect love casts out fear, I’m still worried sick.
I’m taking my mustard seed-sized faith and trusting that God will do not what I want but what’s best. In the end, I always find that God’s best is what I would have wanted from the start had I been wise enough to look from a broader perspective. God’s best easily surpasses the wildest and biggest imaginings of my heart.
Now I will wait and see and trust and hope.
“God is at work. He does not slumber.
Christ intercedes. He does not fail.
The Spirit comforts. He does not forsake.
Be at rest. Be at peace.
Your name at the end of the day is Beloved” (Ann Voskamp).
You and I can be at rest and have peace, even on those Mondays when our devices aren’t working, when our circumstances don’t cooperate with our plans, and when fear and anxiety seem to have the upper hand in our thoughts.
We can rest because we know that our identity is not what we do but who we are. Or whose we are.
All the diplomas and titles and honors and rewards in the world count for nothing apart from Christ, and nothing is lost if you lose everything and still have Jesus.
That is peace. That is rest.
Absolutely. There truly is always something to be thankful for.
Today, my list includes a good church service at The Church at Avenue South that saw the dedication of several parents and babies, a commissioning of missionaries for a short-term trip to Honduras, and another great sermon from Aaron Bryant from John 21:15-17.
The weather was anything but spring-like, but you can’t always have everything. Supposedly, all this April rain is bringing some May flowers, but I’m not sure what all the cold weather is supposed to bring.
I did have my old and trusty Jeep to get me everywhere I wanted to go today. I had a comfy jacket to keep out the drizzle and chill.
Plus, there’s all those little details that I routinely take for granted– good health, eyes to see, ears to hear, two legs to take me where I want to go, etc.
I’m learning to be grateful for every new day. It doesn’t always work. Some days I’m grumpy and feel entitled. Some days I choose to see the grey clouds instead of the sun peeking out behind them.
Yet on the days I choose gratitude, it’s always worth it.
Every single time.
I have absolutely nothing to add to this. I think it says it all rather perfectly.
This little reminder showed up on my Facebook memories from 3 years ago. It’s funny how these things remain very much appropriate and needed, no matter how much time goes by or how circumstances change.
Whatever mess I’m in, Jesus will carry me through it. He won’t, as a pastor once said, pick me up and toss me over to the other side of it. He will go through it with me. He will carry me through it.
Some of you needed this. I pray you feel the strong and everlasting arms of Jesus underneath you when you have no more strength to stand. When your faith is weakest, Jesus is still strong enough for the both of you.
Even at 11:04 pm on a Monday night with a full week ahead of you, you really can exhale relief knowing that the God who never slumbers nor sleeps is watching over you.
With only two more days left in 2017, one resolution I intend to restart in 2018 is to pray bigger and bolder.
I’m not so much praying the impossible for myself (though I will be bold in my own prayers) as much as I’m praying it for family and friends.
Maybe our new motto, modified from the original Star Trek slogan, is to pray boldly where no man (or woman) has ever prayed before.
So pray big. Pray boldly. Pray in such a way that the answer can only be explained by God– and nothing or no one else.
Pray, knowing that the Holy Spirit still helps us when words fail and only groans and sighs come. Even if it seems you get it wrong, the Holy Spirit always gets it right.
Pray as much and as often as possible.
“… so yeah, amidst the noise of everything, that’s what it comes down to: Be silent stress, be silent worries, be silent fears,
just hush all worry, hush all hurry — & hear Him in the stillness:
“Know that I am God … Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at Me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Ps.46:10, MSG
Sadness is never the end of the story. Jesus is the end of our story – and the beginning of our story and the best part of our story.
Above the pressures, above the pace, above the politics, above the news, above the rushing, above the deadlines, above everything — take a long, loving look at Him — your High God who is above all that is pressing in on you — & press into Him.
The Lord God Almighty is here among us, the Lord is Here —
so Peace is here among us,
& brave praise rises from amongst us,
& there are arms to carry us through all this here
because knowing that He is God means knowing we are His Beloved and we will always be held” (Ann Voskamp).
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to read the above paragraph at least once a day for as long as it takes to sink in and become reality in your mind.
Also, to drink lots of egg nog (or whatever substitute you choose if you’re not an egg nog fan) and have a Merry Christmas!