Wheat ready for harvest at sunset - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving 2012, and we all have a lot to be thankful for. I was thinking about trying to make a list, but I have too much to write down. When I sit down to think about it, I’m overwhelmed with all the amazing things God has done for me and for my family and for the people I love.

This post isn’t long today, mainly because I’ve got to get downstairs and start cooking. But I needed to focus first thing this morning, and nothing helps me get my perspective right better than a statement from David. Not a Psalm, but close enough to it.

Think on this for a little while before you eat, and I guarantee that it’ll give you a different perspective on your turkey and dressing.

Wheat ready for harvest at sunset - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat ready for harvest at sunset – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s passage is 1 Chronicles 29:10-18.

 Then David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly:

“O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.

“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.

“O Lord our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you! I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously.

“O Lord, the God of our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make your people always want to obey you. See to it that their love for you never changes.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

No wonder my heart is glad

We have a lot to be thankful for. We have so many good things. Even on our worst day, even when we are experiencing stress, even when we are overwhelmed with all the tasks we have to accomplish or our responsibilities, we still have more than enough good in our lives that we should be thankful.

So why are we grumpy? Why are we focused on the negative? Well, it’s human nature. But if you follow Christ, you aren’t subject to your human nature. You have two natures now, and you also have a choice which one to listen to.

I love the Psalms of David because so many times they speak to me in a way regular Scripture doesn’t. Whether it’s because they are mainly about praise or maybe because David was a fellow artist, I don’t know. But the Psalms incorporate statements that rock my world.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s passage is Psalm 16.

Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of their gods.

Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.

So much of our attitude comes from our perspective. If you focus on the negative in every situation, you’re going to have a negative attitude. Granted, if you only focus on the positive, you’re going to annoy the crap out of anyone you talk to and you won’t be realistic or relevant to anyone. Why? Because we don’t live in a positive world. And being falsely happy and cheerful all the time isn’t helpful or encouraging. We can’t ignore the negative elements in our world, but we don’t have to focus on them.

David had issues. He had troubles in his life. Where do we even start with the troubles in David’s life? Even this Psalm starts out with him asking God for protection, asking God to be his refuge. But then it quickly moves into praise. David talks about his relationship with God, who God is to Him, what God has done for him.

And that’s what we need to do too.

Recognize that God is our refuge. He is. He’s our shield and the One who protects us, and as the days grow darker that protection will be very much needed.

But He’s more than just our refuge. God is our joy. Every good thing we have comes from Him. He is our future and our heritage all at the same time. And the good things He has given us now pale in comparison to what’s coming. And as we wait for that day, He won’t leave us. Ever.

No wonder David’s heart was glad. And our hearts should feel the same way. If they don’t, stop focusing on what you don’t have or what you don’t like or what has made you unhappy and focus on the God who is both your protection and your light. Think about what He’s done, think about what He’s doing (because He’s never still), and even if the day is dark and your life is full of struggle, you’ll be okay because as long as we can see Him, we can remember what we’re living for.

Waterfall in Sedgwick County Zoo Jungle Exhibit - Wichita, KS

You can’t thank Him enough

Do you ever wake up and just feel the need to be thankful? I don’t know about you, but I get caught up in all the picky little details of life so often. You’d think maybe I’d know better by now, but it seems to be instinctive. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. It’s so easy to stress out over things I can’t control. And then, when I get my head back on straight, I look back and wonder what I was thinking when I was freaking out over nothing.

This is one of those mornings where I can clearly see how much I fret over things that I can’t control anyway, and I wonder what’s wrong with me. And I marvel at how patient God is with me, especially when I always go back and pick up the same worries I promise to lay down.

So today, I just want to spend some time being thankful, readjusting my perspective. Honestly, that’s what being thankful is–understanding that someone has done something for you that they didn’t have to do and recognizing it.

God is so good to me, so patient and so kind. He’s given me so much, and He’s got big plans. And that’s not just the case for me, but for everyone. And it’s easy to forget because the important things God has for us to hear are often said in that still, small voice, and that still, small voice can get lost in the loud, noisy chaos of ordinary life. And we need to slow down and be quiet if we want to hear it.

If you feel like you need to say thanks to God, do it. If you feel like you don’t need to? … Do it anyway. Because you still need to. And after a few moments of thanking Him for what He’s done, I’m willing to bet that you’ll move from needing to thank Him to wanting to thank Him, especially after you really see everything He’s done for you.

Waterfall in Sedgwick County Zoo Jungle Exhibit - Wichita, KS

Waterfall in Sedgwick County Zoo Jungle Exhibit – Wichita, KS

Psalm 138 (The Message)

 Thank you! Everything in me says “Thank you!” Angels listen as I sing my thanks.
   I kneel in worship facing your holy temple
      and say it again: “Thank you!”
   Thank you for your love,
      thank you for your faithfulness;
   Most holy is your name,
      most holy is your Word.
   The moment I called out, you stepped in;
      you made my life large with strength. 

 When they hear what you have to say, God,
      all earth’s kings will say “Thank you.”
   They’ll sing of what you’ve done:
      “How great the glory of God!” 
   And here’s why: God, high above, sees far below;
      no matter the distance, he knows everything about us. 

 When I walk into the thick of trouble,
      keep me alive in the angry turmoil.
   With one hand
      strike my foes,
   With your other hand
      save me.
   Finish what you started in me, God.
      Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now.

Friends - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Saying “Thanks” isn’t the same as being thankful

How many of us have good things in our lives? And how many of us are good about recognizing where those good things came from? I’m part of the crowd that recognizes my good things come from God, but I’m not very good at actually saying thank you as often as I should. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because part of me knows that He knows I’m thankful already.

But there’s a big heart difference between feeling thankful and actually thanking someone.

Friends - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Friends – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Psalm 103:2.Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.

I live a busy life. I’m always running around so crazily that I’m never sure if my head is still attached. I don’t know if I just get busy because I refuse to say no, or if I just get busy because life is busy. I can’t figure it out. But I should never be so busy that I forget to be thankful.

I have an awesome family. They’re nuts and silly and wonderful, and I don’t know what I would do without them. And even though sometimes I think we drive each other more bananas than we already are, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

I have a job. It drives me crazy, and it’s making me turn gray. But it’s a job, and I can show you the things God did in my life to make it possible.

I have amazing friends from every walk of life, at every stage of life. Some old. Some young. Some in between. Some single. Some married. Some married again. Some with kids. Some without. Some very country … and others very Italian. =)

When was the last time I really stopped to say thank you?

When was the last time I stopped and praised God for bringing these awesome people into my life? When was the last time I stopped to thank Him specifically for everything He has done for me?

Thanking God for what He’s done is like prayer. He already knows that we’re thankful, just like He already knows what we’re going to pray. Asking God for things isn’t for His benefit, it’s for ours. Just like thanking God for what He’s done in our lives isn’t for God’s benefit either.

Praying to God gets us to the point where we recognize that we can’t make it through life on our own. Thanking God for what He’s done helps us remember that we didn’t accomplish things by ourselves.

The greatest, most awesome things in my life aren’t things I did for myself. They are gifts God gave me. And I want to be thankful for them.

So this is me taking a moment to say thank you.

It can be difficult to remember to do in the hustle and bustle and shuffle of everyday life, especially when you feel trapped by your circumstances. But even on the days when you feel cornered and alone, and you feel like all you’ve ever tried to do has failed, remember the things that God has given you. Make a list. Write it down. And you will be shocked to realize just how much He’s done for you already.

I always am.

God has given me everything I need and just about everything I want. And it’s not because I deserve any of it. It’s because He is good. And He wants to do good things for His children. And even on the days when He doesn’t give me the things I want, I want to be thankful for how He’s provided for my needs.

God is my refuge, my safe place, my biggest fan, my hero, and my best friend. He’s given me a beautiful home, a wonderful church, an amazing family, and supportive and hilarious friends. And He gave me a dream that He’s helping me achieve (slowly but surely).

And on the difficult days, He doesn’t leave my side. And that’s worth more to me than anything else because I know no matter how badly I screw up, I can’t screw up enough that He’ll ever give up on me.

In short … be thankful. Praise God. It’ll get your perspective right. And once your perspective is straight, your day will get a whole lot better.

Honey bee in the red bud tree - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Can we ever praise Him enough?

God has done amazing things in my life and in the lives of my family and friends. I’ve been able to witness how He’s changed people. I’ve seen things happen that have no explanation without Him. I’ve experienced those little “coincidences” of life too often for them to have been coincidental. He has done so much for me and for the people I love, how can I ever doubt that He has our best interests in mind? How can I ever express adequately enough to Him how great He is?

Honey bee in the red bud tree - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Honey bee in the red bud tree – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 106:1-2.

Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?
    Who can ever praise him enough?

Actually, all of Psalm 106 is pretty awesome. It’s something of a memorial to the awesome things God did for the people of Israel. No matter how many times they turned their backs on Him, He never stopped loving them and never stopped taking care of them. Why? Because they were a perfect people? Or because they were always right? No. God never stopped loving the people of Israel and never abandoned them because He promised that He wouldn’t.

Verse 8 says, “Even so, he saved them—to defend the honor of his name and to demonstrate his mighty power.”

God had made a promise to be their God and to take care of them. And He honored that promise no matter what the people of Israel did. Granted, taking care of them didn’t always look like they thought it should, but God always worked their circumstances together for the best.

And He is the same God who wants to take care of us today, whether we are Jewish or not.

I posted last week about how we need to remember the things that God has done for us. But the point of that post was to never forget because that will help us remember that God can do anything. And if He could bring us this far, He can bring us the rest of the way. But there is another reason to never forget the things that God has done for us: we need to remember so we can worship Him and thank Him.

I am the most ungrateful person in the world. I get so busy, so wrapped up in my own little world, that I forget to thank Him. And even the times when I remember to thank Him, it’s usually just in passing. Or it’s just me working down a list, checking off items to do. It’s less intimate and more automatic. And that’s not how you show real gratitude. And by that same token, if I can’t thank Him for real, how can I hope to worship Him for real?

Every one of us has a story, and God is at work in that story. He has done things in all our lives, whether we recognize it or not. And if you belong to Him, He has promised to never abandon you no matter how far you might fall away from Him–not because you are a good person but because that’s what He promised. And because He loves you. But even if He didn’t love us the way He does, even if He hadn’t done half the things He has done for us, He would still deserve praise because of all He’s given us. But He has gone so over and above anything we actually needed and has given us so many of the things we want, like the Psalmist asked, how can we ever praise Him enough?

Everything good in my life has come from God. The only reason my talent and my abilities have been able to make a difference or provide a career for me is because I first started using them for Him. My family is strong and in one piece because of God. I am healthy and still alive because of God. There is nothing I have that He didn’t give me, and there is nothing He has given me that I deserve. I want to recognize that every day, that God didn’t have to do all these amazing things in my life, but He has because He loves me and because He’s keeping His promises to me.

I want to give Him all the credit because He deserves it. He doesn’t need it. Worship and praise and credit isn’t something that He needs, but it helps me to remember where I stand. And I stand because of Him.

If you’re feeling sad or discouraged today, make a list of all the things God has done for you. And then praise Him for all He’s done in your life. It will get your perspective straight.