Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

You never know … but God does

Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Sometimes, it goes the opposite direction. Sometimes you end up stuck in situations you would never have chosen, and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. You didn’t break the rules or do something stupid. Life just happened, and boom! You’re stuck.

When was the last time you thanked God because you were stuck? When was the last time you thanked God because something bad happened in your life? Those occasions don’t usually call for a praise service. It’s escaping those circumstances that normally bring on the adulations and exultations. But the Bible says over and over and over again throughout the Bible that we are to be thankful and that we are to thank God for our circumstances, good or bad, when we’re through them or when we’re in them.

Why is that? Is it just for the sake of our perspective? I do think that plays a role. When you wake up and you choose to be thankful no matter what, it does something to your attitude. But is there more to it than that?

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Isaiah 55:8-11.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

Who gets God? Who understands Him? Who can wrap their mind around the way He thinks? Anyone?

I don’t know anyone who can claim that. Granted, I know people who do claim it without really saying that they claim it. But no one really understands God in the same way that people understand people. Why? Well, there’s no one like God. No one else even comes close. So why do we think that we can think they same way He does? Why do we think we can put words in His mouth?

Now, I do believe Christ-followers have insight into why God does what He does, and maybe even a glimpse into His plan through the power of the Holy Spirit. But there’s a difference knowing God’s heart and knowing His thoughts.

Here’s the thing about bad circumstances or unhappy situations: they might just happen sometimes but they don’t ever happen in a vacuum. When something bad happens to you, the way you react to it will set the tone of the circumstance as a whole. You can treat it like a curse, like a problem, like a punishment. Or you can treat it like an opportunity to get to know God better. The way you tackle trials in your life makes all the difference in the world.

But I still think this concept goes deeper than just perspective. I honestly think there’s a very practical reason why God tells us to be thankful for every part of our lives, including the bad parts. Simply because we don’t always know what’s good for us and what’s bad for us. Sometimes we see things in our lives, and we think they’re bad. But God allowed those bad things to cross our paths because He planned to make something good out of it. Sometimes we look at a bad problem as a punishment, when it’s really just God preventing something worse from happening in our lives.

This is a corny example but how many times have I gotten on the road later than intended? For whatever reason. Cats underfoot. Garage door broken. Can’t find my pants. I could get upset in those moments and take my frustration out on God, but what would have happened that day if I had made it out the door on time? I might have run across a wreck, a wreck I missed because I was running late.

There have been so many other examples like this, but you get the point. It’s quite practical.

Bad things happen. Horrible things happen in life, things that tear you up inside and rip you apart and leave you a shell of who you were. But just because a situation looks bad now doesn’t mean that it will always be bad.

That’s what’s so amazing about God is that He can take those bad situations and turn them into something we’re thankful for down the road. In some instances that doesn’t seem possible. How can the dark, horrible parts of my life ever be something I’m happy for? I used to think that; now I’ve lived it.

What bad thing has happened to you? What terrible trouble is hovering over your head? Stop looking at it like it’s bad. Yes, it may be bad, but just because it’s bad now doesn’t mean it will always be bad. God has a habit of redeeming the bad and making it better than good. Who knows? The bad in your life right now might be what’s keeping you from running into something worse.

You never know, but God does.

Advertisements
Twisted branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Live more, learn more, love more

I haven’t lived a lot of life. Some days I feel like I have, but in comparison to other people I know, I’m still one of the new kids on the block. I still have trouble considering myself as an adult, let alone that I have any sort of experience to share on how to live. But one thing that I have learned is that the longer I live, the more I understand how amazing God is and how undeserving I am of His grace.

Twisted branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Twisted branches of the old apricot tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Colossians 2:6-7.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

I made the decision to believe in Jesus when I was seven years old. I remember walking the aisle of Inwood Baptist Church in Houston. I remember stepping out in front of the whole congregation. And while I knew the choice I had made and it had been my choice alone, I didn’t feel any different.

How many sins can a seven year old commit? This was pre-1990. This was pre-internet, pre-cell phone. The era of mostly wholesome kid’s cartoons and classic Disney. So when I would hear in church or read in the Bible that I was supposed to be thankful that God had saved me from my sins, I was, but I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t quite grasp what that meant because even though I certainly wasn’t a perfect child, my life didn’t change overnight. I didn’t really become a different person, even though spiritually I became a new person.

I was thankful, but I didn’t know what I was thankful for.

Well, let’s fast forward 24 years. Isn’t it funny how living a little bit can change your perspective on so many things? I’m not old, but I’ve lived enough to make mistakes. I’ve lived long enough to be able to look back and wish I’d listened more closely to what God was telling me as a child.

The simple truth of the matter is that the longer we live, the more we have to be thankful for. Sometimes just waking up is something to be thankful for. Sometimes it’s just having enough to eat or having a car to drive or having a friend to talk to. When you’re young, you don’t have those things to miss. But there’s a big difference between having things to be thankful for and actually being thankful; it’s like the difference between having a car and having a car you drive. Being thankful takes living to another level.

I think it’s interesting that the passage for today connects our faith growing strong with thankfulness. Those two things don’t normally go together, if you think about it from our perspective. When your faith grows strong, it’s usually through testing, which means it’s usually a time of trouble or difficulty of some kind. So this verse is saying that the troubles in our lives will result in us overflowing with thankfulness.

How does that work? Because from our point of view, trouble is really just trouble. Difficulty and challenges are just frustrations that life throws at us. But remember as Christ-followers, we’re not supposed to live by our point of view. We’re not supposed to rely on our perspective. We are to look at the world the way Christ does. We’re to live like Christ lived. We’re to follow Him every step of the way, and when you look at trouble from God’s perspective, it doesn’t look like trouble. It simply look like an opportunity to grow stronger.

As a seven year old, I wasn’t really looking for those opportunities, and I didn’t really understand them when they came. But as I got older and I got to know God better, I realized that the troubles and challenges I faced in my life weren’t merely obstacles. They were a chance to help me get to know God better than I already did. They gave me the chance to dig in and search out who God is and what He wants from me and what He offers me as His daughter. And when you think about it that way, how can you not overflow with gratitude?

This is God we’re talking about here. The God. Through His Son’s sacrifice, I can come to Him and ask for anything. I can have a relationship with God through Jesus, and the more I get to know God and Jesus, the more I love them.

Stop viewing the difficulties in your life as obstacles. Try changing your mind about them. Try seeing them as opportunities to get to know God better, and He might surprise you. Build the foundation of your life on the truth from God’s Word and watch what happens. Even when the hard times come, even when you’re surrounded by trouble and hollowed out by heartache, if you’re living your life in God and for God, you’ll see life differently. And in spite of the darkness around you, you will bubble over with gratitude toward God because even though life is tough, God has chosen to be there.

Red rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden - Colorado Springs, CO

Undeserved

Do you ever wish that people could get what they deserve? Because many times it feels like they don’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been passed by a reckless driver when there’s no cop in sight. And then I get a ticket because I forget to signal a left-hand turn.  Or what about at work? It’s frustrating to watch people who don’t work receive the same benefits that you do when you’re killing yourself. Just like it’s irritating to watch people who live immoral lives prospering when you make all the right choices and are barely scraping by.

It makes me wish that people could get what they deserve because then maybe life would be more fair. But that begs the question: what do “bad” people deserve? What do “good” people deserve? And how do you define the difference between the two?

Because maybe someone is a good person but just tends to drive faster than is “safe.” Maybe someone is a good person and just has trouble concentrating at work. Maybe someone wasn’t raised to understand the dangers of an immoral lifestyle, but that doesn’t make them a “bad” person. The reverse is true. Just because you abide by the law, word hard and live right doesn’t make you a “good” person either.

When it comes down to it, I don’t think there are bad people or good people; we’re all just people. None of us are perfect, and if we’re honest about who we are and how we think and how we live, we’d understand that we really don’t deserve anything. At least, we don’t deserve anything from someone who is perfect.

Red rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden - Colorado Springs, CO

Red rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Romans 3:24.

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

I get trapped into thinking that I deserve good things sometimes. After all, I follow Christ. I obey Scripture. I live the way God says. So shouldn’t I deserve to be blessed?

That’s where the fine line between deserving and expecting comes into play. I don’t think any of us deserve any good thing that God does for us. But at the same time, we should expect good things. Why? Because God has promised to do good things for people who follow Him, whether we deserve them or not.

Remember, God is perfect. Truly righteous. How can Someone who is utterly perfect ever owe someone who isn’t? Because that’s what deserving is about. I was curious about the word origin of deserve so I wandered over to the Online Etymology Dictionary, and this is what I found:

deserve – late 13c., from O.Fr. deservir, from L. deservire “serve well,” from de- “completely” + servire “to serve.” From “be entitled to because of good service” (s sense found in L.L.), meaning generalized c.1300 to “be worthy of.”

If you’re not accustomed to reading dictionary entries, let me summarize. The word deserve comes from Old French, derived from Latin. Basically, the original word stemmed from the phrase “to be entitled to because of good service” which was generalized into “to be worthy of” later on.
 
To be entitled to because of good service.
 
Like a good waiter is entitled to a decent tip. Like an actor is entitled to a standing ovation after a brilliant performance. If you want to deserve something, you have to do something for the person who is rewarding you.
 
So tell me, when was the last time you did something for God?
 
The plain and simple truth is that none of us deserve anything from God, let alone kindness. Salvation, being made right with God through Christ, is a gift that’s greater than anything in the world. No one deserves it. No one can earn it. No one can change it. You can either accept it or reject it.
 
If God gave us what we deserved — what we really deserve — life would look a whole lot different. If God were truly fair, none of us would have salvation because none of us have done anything to merit it. Maybe we treat each other right every now and then. Maybe we put others first on occasion. Maybe we tell the truth most of the time. But all the time? Every day? That’s doubtful, even for the “best” person in the world.
 
In all of human history, there’s only been one perfect person, and God had Him killed so we could live free.
 
So how do you normally react when someone gives you something good you don’t deserve? Personally, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that I don’t know what to say. I just know I want to say thank you however I can. And that holds true with what God has given me too.
 
So that’s what I’m pondering today: how can I show God how thankful I am for what He’s given me?
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.