Cultivate Gratitude in Life

When we are little our parents are frequently reminding us to say thank you, whether it is for the lollipop given by a friendly cashier, or a birthday gift from grandma and grandpa, they encourage us to remember our manners.

Having a grateful spirit doesn’t come naturally, it seems so much easier to grumble and complain and even when we remember to say than you often they are just words without the heart of gratitude.

I want to cultivate a heart of gratitude. Not just saying thank you for sweet surprises and gifts from family or friends but being grateful to the Lord throughout the moments of my day.

I am finding that in choosing to be more present, I am recognizing more gifts in my day-to-day life. It is often easy to be grateful about large awesome gifts but the less obvious we frequently miss.

This week we had some snow, I woke up to see my yard look like a beautiful winter wonderland. The tree branches were covered with snow. The ground was white, and the snowflakes continued to fall adding to the inches that were down. I went out to shovel in the cool crisp air and marveled at the beauty of it all. I said “thank you” to the Lord. I thought, if snowflakes were blessings, I suddenly had become rich, but my thinking was wrong. The Lord showers me with many blessings everyday they just are not always as visible as the snow blanketing the ground. I miss them in my busyness. There is so much to be thankful for.

The Bible is filled with verses giving words for our thanks. Some of my favorites are:

1 Chronicles 16:39 “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Psalm 9:1 “I will give thanks to you LORD, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 107:8-9 “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

1 Corinthians 15:57 “…but thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

The themes for giving thanks that we see here are for

  • the Lord’s goodness
  • the Lord’s love
  • the Lord’s wonderful deeds
  • the Lord’s meeting our needs
  • the Lord victory through Jesus
  • good things
  • God’s grace

Think about how the Lord has shown His goodness and His love to you? What wonderful deeds has He done on your behalf? How has He met your needs? How has He given you victory through Jesus? What good things has He given you ? How has He been gracious unto you? I don’t know about you but just thinking about the answers to these question leads me to quite a list of reasons for thanksgiving.

I am realizing being thankful is something you have to be intentional about. This year I am choosing to do just that. I began highlighting verses in my Bible that spoke of thankulness. I also am keeping a gratitude journal, although, honestly, I am more consistent some days than others. It is also my hope to be more spontaneous with saying thank you to the Lord and others throughout my days. I am often not very observant, my husband will do something and two weeks later I will make mention that it got done, and then he will tell me it was done days ago. I want to do better with that.

It truly is the little things in life that matter, like the unexpected text from a friend or a call from my husband. Or the time taken to share lunch with a friend you rarely see. There is so much to say thank you for.

There are so many little things that can go unnoticed because we are focused on expectation of greater things. or because the negative things in life seem to loom larger than the positives that seem more trivial.

But taking time to thank the Lord for the gifts He bestows on us as well as thanking those around me is something I want to work on in 2018.

Is cultivating gratitude something that you are doing this year? Please share what is helping you.

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Cultivating Presence in Life

Test me Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness.”          Psalm 26:2-3

 

Where do you live in your mind? Is it in the past ruminating on the could-of-beens and should-have-beens? Or is it in the future, thinking about what you will do or where you will go?

I think it is rare that we live in the present, being mindful of the here and now especially of the here and now as we focus on the Lord.

Matthew 6:33 tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” The Lord doesn’t want us worrying and stressing about life, He will provide all that we need. He knows what we need before we even ask.

Robert Robinson wrote the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Public Domain). In this hymn he speaks of how his heart wanders, asking the Lord to bind it to Himself. The second verse states:”O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart O take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”

The functions of the mind are connected to the heart in the language of the Bible (Studylight.org) And it seems true that our minds and hearts are easily distracted and truly prone to wander.

I want to cultivate presence in 2018. First of all presence with the Lord. I want to keep Him at the forefront of my mind. I want to be aware of Him:

  • aware of Him being with me
  • aware of His acting on my behalf
  • aware of His speaking to my heart
  • aware of His impressing His will on me.

I want to keep in mind these things as well as have an eternal perspective. When my mind is focused on the temporal I can get pulled in all too many directions. Worry, fretting, and anxiety start whirling and soon tie me in knots. But when I keep my focus on the Lord, remembering His faithfulness, trusting in His sovereignty, I can rest, I can live in the here and now, in the present moment because I know He has it all under His control. Trusting gives me newfound freedom to live today and really be in the moment.

Paul tell us in Romans that we need to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (12:2)” so that we don’t live lives conformed to the world.

When you look at the world today, you see a lot of stressed out people. Anti-anxiety and high blood pressure medications are given out at an all time high. Unfortunately many Christians live in this group as well. And I have been there, living in an overwhelmed, stressed-out state. I have been on medication in the past and I know all of the struggles that go with it. I think that realizing this is what pushes me to want to make the changes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing medication, but what I observe is people taking medication to keep their heads above water rather than making the lifestyle changes that are necessary. I think that choosing transformation of heart and mind may help with the problem in some cases, possibly many cases.

I want to know more of the peace that comes in knowing God’s presence. I want to stop the rat-race and pressure of achieving and performing. And what I realize that I must consider is what really matters in the end. Living in a pressure cooker to get more stuff and knock off every item on a bucket list or a to-do list is not really going to matter on my death-bed. Some of it may give temporary pleasure, but the push, push, push of it all will inevitably tarnish the shine.

I want to be living in a way that I can really be aware of and take notice of the Lord’s gifts in day-to-day life– the song of the cardinal, the sweet taste of honey in my chai green tea, the aroma of coffee brewing in the pot, the beauty of an evening snowfall, the feel of the garden soil in my hands, the warmth of the oven baking sweet treats, or the delicious smell coming from the pot of taco chili. I want to be aware of what’s behind the sad words coming from my friend and I want to hear my husband’s excitement about the difficult job that he has been working so hard to nail and how he finally met his goal. I want to be present for all of it.

Too often it is easier to be overly self-focused about a personal problem, a future worry, or an irritating frustration and miss the moment, miss the gift and worse yet miss the Giver.

Look back to the beginning of this post and read Psalm 26:2-3. Are you always mindful of the Lord’s unfailing love and reliant on His faithfulness? I know I am not, at least not very consistently. I want to grow in these so I can say that verse knowing it’s truth.

So, now here in 2018, I am working to cultivate time in everything and really being present. Let me share some of the things I am doing.

  • I am using the ABIDE app and the Mindful Worship site on my phone to help me take time for short Scripture meditations before bed. My heart grows peaceful and I breathe deeply and fall asleep thinking on the Lord being with me.
  • I am journaling about beautiful moments throughout my days. Remembering God is good.
  • I am choosing to shovel the snow slowly and enjoy the crisp air and the beauty that surrounds me. My senses give me reason to give God glory.
  • I am seeing the Lord show me my self-sufficiency as He works with me to draw me into deeper reliance on Him. And feeling the precious intimacy is incredible.
  • I am trying to find places in my day to pause and breathe deeply. And in those times I purposefully think about and look for ways the Lord is showing His presence in my day.

All of this brings me to the same place. Do you see where it leads? The natural response to a being present in life is thanksgiving, a thankful heart, and that is what I will be sharing about in my next post. Because another area I want to cultivate in life this year is a heart of gratitude.

Do you have any special key thing you do to help you remain present, aware of the here and now? I would love for you to share them. I think it is great anytime we can help or encourage one another in growing in our walks with the Lord and throughout our daily lives. May you know more of the Lord’s presence in your life in 2018.

 

Cultivating Passion in Life

Life can grow mundane in the ho-hum of the daily obligations. The same things fill each day and suddenly years pass by and you wonder where the time has gone.

It is for this reason that in 2018 I want to cultivate passion in my life. I want to really work at putting my whole heart and soul into those things that are important to me and more than that I want to have passion for all of life.

First of all that means making some wise choices. Shauna Niequist in her book Present Over Perfect quotes Mizuta Masahide who says, “Barns burned down now I can see the moon.”

Cultivating passion in 2018 will mean a number of different things for me, but first I will need to burn down some barns. Burning barns and choosing what is important is just where it starts.

I have already begun to do that. I am choosing things to focus on that are life-giving to me, and leaving behind things that just eat time. It seems all too often when I finally fall into bed it has been with a sigh of realization  that I never got to do any of what I really wanted to do.  I did cleaning, laundry, cooking, responding to others, and their needs, but I set aside what I yearned to do.

Oftentimes that ends up meaning I set aside writing and being creative. These are things I love, things that are really important to me, yet they get trampled out of my life by other things.

Beyond burning barns, I need to plan to do what I love and make it a priority. I actually have to sadly admit that I have planned what I wanted to do but just never made it a priority or found the time to get it done. I am realizing that it is not so much about bad planning, rather it is more about getting distracted by time-wasting activities that pull at me. So, I went through my typical to-do-list for a day and timed it out so I would know how much time it should take to accomplish the things I need to do. As it turns out, it really shouldn’t take that much time. This made me realize how many hours I was really wasting. Wasting time by surfing the net, reading articles/blogs and getting pulled from one topic to another, and on and on. I also was getting sidetracked by other things that I saw which needed to be done. Things that were not on my list but instead things that took away from the time I should have been giving to my priorities.

So I realized that I really need to stick to a specific list of what needs to be done for that day. Also, as I go through my day, I need to be aware of anything that the Lord may call me to do.  I can’t just go the way of distraction and waste time, because that only leaves me very frustrated.

Now that I realize, in reality, there is time enough for doing the things I love, my passions are being placed as a priority.

But this is not just about “my passions.”  I want to cultivate more passion for life in general this year rather than just going through the motions. Thinking about this brings me back to Ann Voskamp’s idea of a “to love list” rather than a to-do list. Somehow doing things out of a heart of love brings on passion and gives new life to the activity. It fills your heart.

I need to get back to focusing on living out of love. For me this means living out love by working harder at consistently cooking healthy meals, continuing my never-ending task of decluttering, and especially, finding other special ways to show love to my husband. Most recently, showing love to my husband has been accomplished by baking stollen. His eyes light up and a big smile comes to his face when he sees fresh-baked stollen on the cutting board on the table.

I also want to become more present and available, first to the Lord, and then to my husband, but we will get to that in next week’s post.

I believe the Lord desires for us to live passionately. He told us to  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” in Matthew 22:37-39. He wants us to put our hearts and souls into living for Him.

This truth is also made obvious by the way the Lord rebuked the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. The Lord was revealing to each ancient church what pleased Him and what displeased Him. The church of Laodicea displeased Him in that they were “neither hot nor cold” but rather just “lukewarm” in their faith.

We live out the faith we hold in our hearts in our daily walks, so it seems that just going through motions in life is like being lukewarm, very little passion attached to life. The Lord wants us to live passionately for Him in touching others with His love, by walking in the Spirit, and in growing the fruit of the Spirit through His work in us as we abide.

I believe I can cultivate passion for life this year as I look to the Lord to live through me, abiding more in Him. Living half-hearted has to be giving a poor testimony about what life in Christ is like. I want to live a full life, a life-giving and love-giving life because I am abiding in Him more. I want to use my God-given gifts for His glory.  In order to do this I will need to continually seek  His wisdom in life for direction and guidance, because I am truly satisfied when I am walking in His will. He is my Life-giver and Love-giver in all of life.

Are you living with passion for life? Ask Him to help you live life with all of your heart and soul! We can be truly satisfied living in and for Him.

 

Cultivating Joy in Life

Happy New Year!

A new year, a new focus!

My new word for 2018 is cultivate. I chose that word because it describes what I need to do in my life.

When a farmer cultivates, he prepares the land to grow crops, breaking up soil to grow his plants. His purpose in cultivating is to get rid of the weeds and to loosen the soil in order to have the optimal retention and penetration of water, nutrients and air.

I want similar things to happen in my life in 2018. I want to get the weeds of busyness and clutter out of my life. And I want to grow joy, develop greater passion for life, have a heart filled with more and more gratitude, and live a life of presence, mindful of what the Lord wants for me.

My first four posts of 2018 will focus on how I will cultivate these in my life. So let’s get right to cultivating joy.

I have been realizing more and more that I allow too many things to steal my joy. And, you know, that is exactly what Satan desires. He wants us to feel discouraged and despairing. And with all that is going on in this world, one can easily have their joy stolen. But even in daily life it can only take a word, a frustration, or a disappointment to steal joy, especially in me, when I allow myself to repeatedly mull over these things in my mind.

I want this year to be different I want to celebrate and find joy in the ordinary. I began to share about this when I read the book Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue. She talks about celebrating how Jesus shows Himself real in life. And also how we can draw near to Him in all things. He is the one Who gives us joy.

One of the things I am choosing to do this year is to find verses in the Bible that speak of joy, gladness, and rejoicing and then highlight them in my Bible. I am doing one verse each day. I want to see what God’s Word says it takes to bring me joy. There are many verses in Psalms that speak of joy, let alone the entire Bible. A few that have given me insight are these:

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in him, and he helps me, my heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 94:19 “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 119:111 “Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.”

These five verses alone give me much insight into finding joy. They tell me that joy is found:

  • in the Lord’s presence
  • in knowing who the Lord is as my strength, my shield, and my help
  • in the Lord’s unfailing love
  • in the Lord’s consolation
  • in His Word/Statutes that are eternal.

Isn’t it funny (or actually sad), how we so often look for joy in this world; in things, in other people, in having our desires met?

I am not saying that the Lord doesn’t give us reasons for joy in all He has given us in creation, blessings, and relationships with others. I know for a fact that He does allow us to know joy in those things. But I also know that when my focus is in solely seeking joy in these areas I can become disillusioned.

So, in 2018, I want to begin to seek to cultivate joy in my heart:

  • by knowing His presence more, slowing down and being with Him more intentionally
  • by learning to know more of Who He is personally to me in my daily life. The Lord is a very personal God.  He leads us to know Him in amazing ways as we seek Him diligently.  He has shown me this in the past.  I must continue seeking.
  • by really looking for His love in my life and recognizing it, being cognizant of how it touches me in my moment-by-moment life.
  • by taking my pain, anxiety, hurt, fear, grief, worry, and sadness to Him so that He can comfort and console me. And then I, like the Psalmist, can also find joy in His consolation.

I want to celebrate joy and find joy in the ordinary because of my constant unwavering knowledge of the Lord. So, I must continually grow and rest in my knowledge of Him.

This definitely will take focus and time, but I am very much looking forward to knowing joy in my heart more and more as I go through 2018.

I would love to hear from you. Do you have word chosen for 2018? What is it and why did you choose that particular word?

Do you have any favorite Bible verses about joy that you can share with me?

Next week, I will be sharing about how I want to cultivate passion for life in 2018.

May your new year be filled with lessons and blessings from the Lord.