R U Frustrated or Grateful?

God's provision

What’s Your Best Day?

“That was the best day of my life,” exclaimed a little girl to her parents.

Her blond curls bounced as she skipped down the gravel pathway in her cowboy boots.

And my heart skipped with her causing me to chime in, “Me too!”

Her parents turned around and nodded. We’d just listened to a free symphony concert in the park. Notes from the William Tell Overture twirled in my head.

sheet-music-944796_640

Like a keepsake rose, I pressed that “best day” into my memory bank.

Do you remember one of the best days of your life?

Those sweet spots on this earthly journey when your cup runs over and it feels great to be alive.

If only we could rejoice…be happy, joyful, pleased, glad…every day.

Even on those rotten tomato days when it feels like the worse day ever.

The Bible says we should rejoice. (Psalm 118:24)

  • Rejoice because God has made this day. And He is fully present, longing to be part of our day.
  • Rejoice because inducing happy thoughts changes our perspective and makes us glad.
  • Rejoice knowing that our best days on earth don’t hold a candle to one day in God’s house. (Psalm 84:10)

That evening, I sat beneath a canopy of stars, swaying to the melodic notes of that orchestra which reached a spine-tingling crescendo, and I envisioned God’s angelic choir singing “Hallelujah. Worthy is the Lamb.”

The image gave me goosebumps.

For if that symphonic high is a glimpse of God’s glory and the joy of being in His presence one day,

Then it’s possible to rejoice today and always. (1 Thess. 5:16)

The only sad thing is…no one can make us rejoice. Choosing to be glad is up to each individual. 

Even in this moment.

Thankful I Don’t Have

IMG_5310Although I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I also praise God for the many things I don’t have:

Terminal illness

Delinquent child

Empty food pantry

Rat eating my kitchen pipes…like a year ago

Some readers may be dealing with these issues, or worse. So forgive me if I step on toes. And yet, when I’m trudging through the messy circumstances of life, I believe….God’s grace pads my life in ways I can’t imagine.

Crises diverted. Grief avoided. Unspoken prayers favorably answered without my knowledge.

Doesn’t God deserve gratitude for covert blessings too?    

During imperfect days, sprinkled with more discomfort than joy, it’s natural to grumble, “Why me, Lord?” Then I hear the news, or receive a prayer request, and realize the multitude of evil and sorrow that God spares me from each day.

My perspective changed back in the day, when my five-year-old son fell from the Monkey Bars. While I kissed the bruised bump on his head, he whimpered, “Why did God let me fall?”

I responded, “Let’s thank God you don’t have a broken neck.”

It’s not just viewing a half-empty cup as half-full. It’s naming names.

Praising God that I have good health doesn’t have the same powerful imagery as thanking Him that I don’t have breast cancer when my mammogram comes back normal.

That’s because I remember driving my bald-headed friend to her chemotherapy appointment. I listened to her miserable groans afterwards. I’m thankful I still have my friend.

I’m also thankful I don’t have to walk in her shoes…at least, for the time being. But even then, God willing, I’d be glad I didn’t have to go through cancer alone.

Three weeks ago, I sprained my ankle. No big deal comparatively speaking, but rotten timing. I was scheduled to travel in two days to visit my daughter. As I lay on the floor, wreathing in pain, I wailed, “No! How will I drive to the airport? How will I get from my parked car to the terminal gate?   

I hobbled to my couch, placed an ice pack on my elevated ankle. The more I mused on my clumsiness and misfortune, the more gratitude bubbled and spilled over, soothing my taunt nerves.

Thank you Lord, I don’t have a broken ankle. As I massaged my bruised hip, I sighed, “I’m not a spring chicken. Thank you, Lord, I don’t have a broken hip bone.   

20141107_144337

A positive spin weaves threads of have and have not into a tapestry of thanksgiving. And gratitude enables us to look at life like a two-sided coin:

The blessings we have,

The battles we don’t have to wage in this moment.

It’s a win-win~~no matter how the coin lands.

What are you thankful for that you don’t have?

Slow Down, Don’t Move Too Fast

Stop and smell the flowers? Many days, it’s all I can do to slow down and notice them.

20140322_181603

I rush from home, anxious to accomplish my “tyranny of the urgent.”

But last week, circumstances forced my hand, made time stand still.

Or so it felt when the orange cones and yellow warning signs stopped my race against time. When I wasn’t at a complete stop, I drove at 5 miles per hour because there was construction work on the shoulder of the rural highway.

I glanced at the clock, no way to reach my destination on time. Excuses tumbled in my head as I envisioned walking breathlessly into the room. Not my fault. Road work prevented me from being on time.

But self justification was interrupted by a popular truism: Life’s a journey, not a destination.

DSCN2499

Like the gears in a car, I shifted my mindset to “enjoy” the journey instead of fret over something beyond my control

Relaxing my grip on the steering wheel, I turned my head to gaze out the window. Winter’s once dormant trees were bursting with new mint-green growth. Their branches cast shadows on the sunlit asphalt.

When I rolled down the windows, a warm breeze embraced me. The smell of fresh cut field grass tickled my nose. And I marveled as a yellow butterfly fluttered among the orange poppies and bluebonnets that adorned the hillside.

How many times had I traveled this highway with windows rolled up and radio blaring, unable to hear the chorus of birds twittering in the trees? Even the purring of my car engine couldn’t drown their song.

Most days, I move too fast, fixated on my destination.

I miss the journey because my mind is already there, or stuck on autopilot, rather than living in the moment.

But on this fine spring morning, forced to slow down, and intent on enjoying my journey…………

My heart felt light as air. Not unlike those calm mornings when I’m able to relax and enjoy God’s wonders.

IMG_4966

When the orange-vested man waved me forward, and the cars sped by me at 55 mph, I was singing, “Glory in the Highest.”

Because there is joy in the journey. It’s all around us when there are eyes to see and ears to hear every good thing that God has created for our pleasure and His glory.

Shout with joy to the Lord, O earth!

Worship the Lord with gladness.

Come before him, singing with joy.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are his,

We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

Go into his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and bless his name.

For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

And his faithfulness continues to each generation.” (Psalm 100:1-5)

No Thanks

Day after Christmas…

Colorful wrapping paper is crumpled in the trash can.

Gift cards are tucked in wallets, the new mug holds hot coffee, books wait to be read, and the air hums with “electronic toys.”

After weeks of buying, wrapping, mailing, and opening objects…meant to express love and bring someone joy…it is finished. At least the consumer in me.

Some folks rose early to find a bargain at the Day-After-Christmas sales, returned an unwanted gift.

I’m done with shopping.

Today, we write thank you notes.

That’s right…not a text, but the old-fashioned, handwritten note that comes via snail mail.

That’s how I was raised; passed it on to my children.

Say please, say thank you.

But there’s a harder lesson to learn than manners.

To give gifts or acts of service when there is no reciprocation; perhaps, not even a thank you.

To give without expectations.

Otherwise, my unmet expectations become kernels of resentment which “pop” into foul-tasting bitterness.

Perhaps, some might say, ungrateful people don’t deserve the gift.

I can judge people’s response, or the lack thereof, but

I can only be certain of my own heart’s intent. Am I giving out of love or obligation…expectation? 

I went to a Christmas party where there was a book exchange. Each guest could take an unwrapped book off the table or take one that someone else had opened.One woman clung to a book which looked appealing. I wanted the book, but instead I told her, “I’ll let you keep the book. Consider it grace.”

Then I laughed, “Don’t forget you owe me.”

The Holy Spirit poked my ribs, “Excuse me?”

“Grace” and “owe” are polar opposites.

Grace is mercy, a kindness; undeserved favor extended to others.

Owe means someone has to give or repay.

Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Christ; the WORD of God made flesh…a gift of love and grace to mankind.

God knew….NOT everyone would receive, or appreciate the Divine gift.

There’s no way to repay Him.

But the Lord gave His only begotten Son,

And STILL, HE loves and gives grace on a daily basis.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:13)

And by His grace, and example,

Learn to love and give to others even when there are no thanks.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

IMG_4473After two days of summer rain, the morning sun reappeared, chasing away the grey.

Birds came out of hiding. I watch them soar and dip through the clean air, chasing one another like children playing tag before landing on the bird feeder to holler, “Safe!”

Raindrops, glistening in the sun, cling to the emerald blades’ of grass and evergreen bushes. And the colors in my yard—green, fuchsia, and coral—are more brilliant after the cleansing rain.

On this blessed morn, I saturate my senses. And praise God for the drenched earth that was parched a few days earlier.  For it is the Lord who “brings the rain on the just and the unjust.”

 With a full heart, I open my Bible and turn its dog-eared pages until I find this scripture:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and breads to the eater;

 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:9-11)

IMG_4961

Like Moses, I  too have longed to see God’s glory.

But on this summer morning, His glory surrounds me, reflected in His creation.

How I long to linger in God’s presence, soak in His Word, but I have an appointment. At the risk of being late, I grab another morsel of scripture and trust God to accomplish what He desires.

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” (Is 55:2)

I listen.

I eat.

I delight myself in abundance.

Until I have no choice, but to rush out the door with dishes in the sink, towels that need folding. Chores left unfinished goes against my grain, my task-oriented brain. But the dishes and towels can wait.

I chose what is better, and it will not be taken away from me.

I am satisfied.

And I am ready to face the day.

“For you will go out with joy, And be lead forth with peace” (Is. 55:12).

Free on the Inside

The jail room’s cold concrete walls surrounded me like a stone tomb. Women inmates stood in their tiny cell rooms behind metal doors. They stared at me through thick-glassed windows in the doors. They stared at me like animals in a cage waiting to get out.

Without warning, a loud clicking sound echoed throughout the room as each bolted door automatically unlocked. The women emerged from their cells like the walking dead. Some of them sat down in front of the television. Others used the pay telephones.

One inmate, with tangled bleached hair and a tattoo on her forearm, timidly approached my table. “Are you the church lady?”

“I’m a volunteer jail chaplain. Would you like to study the Bible?”

She nodded and sat across from me. Dull eyes, hollow cheeks, and two missing front teeth belied her age. I’d seen her withered face on dozens of women addicted to drugs.   

We talked for a few minutes to break the ice. Then I opened my Bible to Mark 5:1-20 and read about a man possessed by demons. Although the townspeople tried to chain the man, he always broke free and ran around like a mad dog. He lived in the tombs of dead men. He gashed himself with stones.

But Jesus came to the man. He healed him, revealing God’s love and power.

I told the woman, “It’s the same unfathomable love that led Jesus to the cross to die for our sins. It’s the same incomparable power that raised Jesus from the dead, and gives us eternal life.”  

Hope illuminated the woman’s face. We prayed. And by God’s love and power, this shackled woman became my sister in Christ.    

Became like me, a sinner saved by grace.   

“But because of  His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4,5 NIV)