Perspective

“How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can’t I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in” (Ann Voskamp).

That’s it.

It’s all about perspective.

It’s all about giving thanks and being grateful.

It’s all about living in the present, thankful for what you have instead of envious and bitter over what you don’t.

God is always present to those who know where (and how ) to look. Those with open hands of both receiving and releasing of surrender, not with clenched fists that grasp and clutch.

Gratitude is a choice that I must make every single day. Every day I get, I must choose to pursue joy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control. For me, it’s not a “have to” as much as it is a “get to.”

Not that I always do. Some days, I let fear win. I let anxiety and envy win. It’s easy to do when you listen to all the other voices around you instead of the Still Small voice inside you. The voice of your Abba that sees past your scars and still calls you Beloved.

But each new day is a chance to choose again and make a new beginning.

So, make Monday count. Buck the trend that says that Mondays have to be horrible and bad because they’re Mondays. Even Mondays can be good if you choose gratitude and thanksgiving.

That’s what I’m choosing tomorrow. That’s what I hope I’ll choose every day after that.

 

 

A Deeper Dependence

“Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am.Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain. Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me, and guide me down Your path forever” (Psalm 139:23-24VOICE)

Some days are easy. I feel like I’m at the top of my game (whatever game that is) and everything I do comes easy. All my traffic lights are green and seemingly everything I touch turns golden.

Somedays just aren’t. Some days it feels like a struggle to do the easy stuff. There are days when I’m doing well to remember my own name, much less anybody else’s.

Every day, every path, every choice leads me closer to or further away from who I really want to be.

I’ve come to the decision over time that there’s not a day that goes by where I’m not completely dependent on my God. Good days, bad days, easy days, difficult days, all days are days where I won’t survive unless I lean on the Lord.

I think that’s success– a place where I am completely and utterly dependent on Jesus, trusting Him completely for every single need. That’s the place where I find the truest peace and the richest mercies.

That’s where I want to be.

But then that desire to be my own man rears its proverbial ugly head. The cultural idea of the self-made man who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps is a hard notion to kill.

Yet kill it I must if I want to be in a place where Jesus is all my heart’s desire, where I am satisfied with nothing more and nothing less than as much of God as I can handle (and then some).

I still wish Mondays didn’t have to start so early.

 

Thanksliving

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There truly is always something to be thankful for. Even on Mondays.

When you stop looking at what’s wrong with your life, what you don’t have, and start counting your blessings and finding reasons to be thankful, it changes your outlook. It changes you.

I like myself better when I live out of gratitude instead of comparison or envy.

As much as I look forward to all the food on Thanksgiving, that’s not the best part. It’s not what’s on the table that matters nearly as much as who’s around the table. And besides, people don’t go straight to my hips.

This year, I’ve decided to not just celebrate Thanksgiving, but also Thanksliving, which is a deliberate act of living out of a sense of gratitude.

As one of my new favorite writers says, eucharisteo (that is living out of thanksgiving and joy) always precedes the miracle. I hope so. Still, even without the miracle, gratitude and thanksgiving are the best ways to live.

“The very quality of your life, whether you love it or hate it, is based upon how thankful you are toward God. It is one’s attitude that determines whether life unfolds into a place of blessedness or wretchedness. Indeed, looking at the same rose bush, some people complain that the roses have thorns while others rejoice that some thorns come with roses. It all depends on your perspective . . . .

It does not matter what your circumstances are; the instant you begin to thank God, even though your situation has not changed, you begin to change. The key that unlocks the gates of heaven is a thankful heart. Entrance into the courts of God comes as you simply begin to praise the Lord”(Francis Frangipane).

 

Ahhhh, The Weekend

Part of me is always glad to see Friday. For me, Friday equals sleeping in the next day. And I do so love my sleep. Especially when Lucy the Wonder Kitty curls up on the pillow next to mine and purrs herself to sleep. I like that.

But I’m beginning to realize that every day that I wake up is a good day. Every day that I live through is a good day. Even Mondays.

The verse says that this is the day the Lord has made and to rejoice and be glad in it. That was the favorite verse of one of my old pastors, Bro. Livy L. Cope, and I still think of him whenever I hear or read this verse. In fact, I can almost see him as he used to stand behind the pulpit and proclaim that verse over us.

There’s a reason he liked the verse so much. It’s a reminder that you and I won’t find God in our past if all we do is relive glory days and bemoan missed chances and past mistakes. We won’t find Him in the future, either, if all we’re about is obsessing about possible doomsday scenarios and wondering about potential outcomes to all our problems.

God is here in the present. God is waiting for us, here and now, ready to speak to us and ready to show us all the blessings that He has for us right now. Blessings we will miss if we’re too busy living in either the past or the future. Most often, these will be the blessings that we can only see if we look with eyes of gratitude and joy.

True joy comes in seizing the moment, doing that carpe diem thing. True joy comes from being grateful for what you have and who you have.

But there’s still something special about Fridays. And sleeping in.

Good Times, Bad Times

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I had a really good day. In fact, nearly all my days are good days. It helps when you’re an optimist like me and choose to focus on the good instead of the bad. That helps.

But what about when you have bad days?

What about when you have those days when you don’t feel confident? When you feel like all those old fears and insecurities have crept right back into your mind and taken up residence again? When you feel like you’ve regressed back into the you that wasn’t very fun to be around?

Even as much as I, the eternal optimist, would like to say differently, you will have bad days. You will even have crappy days. You will have those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days (just like that Alexander kid).

Bad days do more than just take up the necessary 24 hour allotment of space. They give perspective. They help you see how good the good days are in comparison.

The good news that I need to remember (and I’m sure you do, too) is that God is just as faithful and present on the bad days as He is on the good. He may not seem as tangibly present, but trust me, He’s there. You just have to trust what you know of God and His promises rather than what you feel. After all, feelings lie. Feelings can be misleading. Feelings can be such fickle things. But God never lies.

Even when it seems like you’re having a month of Mondays, remember that all the promises of God still hold just as true for you as they did when you were having a good day.

And remember, you DID wake up this morning. You DID get out of bed. You ARE reading this, so you still have your mind. Even on a bad day, there are still so many things to be thankful for. Good things. Just you remember that.

 

 

Cold Rainy Monday Nights

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I don’t mind the rain. I don’t even mind cold and rainy nights. As long as I’m looking at the rain through a well-insulated window from inside.

Actually, I don’t even mind driving in the rain as long as it’s not dark outside. But that’s what I found myself doing tonight when I took my paycheck to my bank’s ATM on a dark, rainy Monday night. At least it was a short drive.

There’s something very peaceful about listening to rain hitting the windows and the roof. Especially if you have one of those antiquated tin roofs. It’s one of my favorite calming sounds.

It helps me to be still and be quiet. It helps calm my anxious thoughts (if I have any) and not be so prone to thinking ahead to the next day or the next week. I think I even pray better when I hear the rain outside.

I know I need to make time for those moments of doing nothing but being intentionally still and quiet and ready to hear God’s voice. It doesn’t have to be all day or even for an hour. It can be fifteen minutes where I don’t have any televisions or radios or iPhones to distract me from what God might be wanting to tell me.

Maybe we can encourage each other to cultivate those quiet moments during the day. I think it would make a huge difference toward getting my mind back toward spiritual things and my eyes refocused on Jesus.

So those are my thoughts on this wet cold Monday evening.

Ohhhhhhhh, Fudge– Yet Another Monday Morning in Perspective

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This was one of those kind of Monday mornings that make you want to say, “Ohhhh, fudge.” At least it did for me. And yes, I mean the kind of fudge like in the movie A Christmas Story.

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I was happily rolling along. . . well, at 5:30 am, it was more like sleepily rolling along to work. Then I looked up. It was either an 18-wheeler or large bus coming toward me, hugging the yellow lines. So I did what any red-blooded male would do.

I panicked.

I went to give the behemoth vehicle a wide berth and went too wide. My tires hit the edge of the pavement. It sounded like the whole side of my car was being shredded.

I managed to get to the side of the road. I was expecting to see gory car wreck carnage. Thankfully, all I saw was one fatally punctured tire.

I called AAA because I am mechanically challenged even when it comes to changing a tire. In my defense, those lug-nuts were on that wheel tight.

What was supposed to take 45 minutes or less took almost 1 1/2 hours. So I was late to work.

But after that, it got better. And I have to keep a few things in mind:

I’m sooo glad I had my AAA road service paid up.

I’m thankful I have a car to almost (but thankfully not) wreck.

I’m blessed to have a job to go to even if it occasionally starts at 6 am.

I’m grateful for a very understanding boss.

Most of all, I’m thankful every day that I don’t get what I deserve. I get grace instead.

PS  don’t suppose cussing in your head merits having to wash your mouth out with soap, right?

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Making Mondays Good Again

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At first, it may have seemed like a typical Monday. First, I locked my keys in my car at Starbucks. I knew the moment my hand went to shut the door that I had messed up. Sure enough, there were my keys, still in the ignition.

Then, after my trusty sidekick and savior of the day a.k.a. Mom brought my spare keys, I went to start the car. Nothing. Other than a very annoying clicking sound. I was beginning to get annoyed myself.

I had AAA, so I got them to send a wrecker who was able to jump start my car and get me running. I ended up needing a new battery.

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Sounds like I should write off this Monday as yet another in a long line of bad days. Right? As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast, my friend.”

I woke up this morning, a privilege many didn’t get. I breathed in and out fresh air out of my lungs, felt my heart pumping life through my limbs, and got to experience the gift of another day of living.

There’s still not a moment where I’m not sustained and held together by the grace of God. There’s never a second where I’m out of God’s sight or not in His heart.

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I know I have so many people rooting for me on both sides of Heaven. I know I have saints lifting up holy hands in intercession for me. I know Jesus never ceases praying for me and His Holy Spirit never stops translating my sighs and groans into petitions and praises.

I’m good. I’m more than good. I’m blessed.

If God never did one more thing for me, if He showed me my empty box of blessings because I had used them all up, I would be good. I would still have enough reasons to give thanks and be grateful for the rest of my life.

Eternity will be too short for me to express my thankfulness to God for who He’s been to me and how He’s proved Himself faithful over and over. I’ll never get tired of finding new ways to say “Thank you!” to the King of the Universe who is also my Abba Father.

I’d say that makes even Mondays blessed.

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Something Good to Remember on a Monday

Matthew 5:1 says, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.”

I’ve read past that a thousand or more times. I’ve rushed past those words to get to the Sermon on the Mount, the good stuff. But I think I’ve done myself a disservice by not paying attention to this verse, particularly the first three words: “Seeing the crowds.”

Did you catch that? He saw the people who came to see him. He didn’t see bodies. He saw faces lined with pain. He saw heartaches and anxieties and unrest. He saw people just trying to get through the day.

Just as he sees you and he sees me.

Do you ever feel unnoticed? Do you ever post on facebook and no one responds? Do you ever comment on someone else’s post and he or she responds to everyone else but you?

Do you often feel invisible in a crowd? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that no one would miss you if you were suddenly not there? Or like George Bailey, do you think the world would be better off if you’d never been born?

You may not feel like anyone knows you or the secret shame and pain you carry. Jesus does.

You may think that you don’t matter to anyone. You matter to Jesus.

You are not alone. You have an advocate, someone who is on your side, who fights for you, who roots for you, who won’t abandon you in the dark or in the storms. His name is Jesus.

I didn’t come up with this, but it’s still true: if you had been the only one lost and in need of a Savior, Jesus still would have gone through every bit of the cross just for you. He loves you that much.

If your Monday’s been awesome, that’s great. God rejoices with you. But if your Monday was horrible and couldn’t end soon enough, this promise still holds true.

This is from a ragamuffin who needs daily reminders of the goodness of God as much as anyone else. God is faithful, even when it seems he is absent. He is good, always.