Tag Archives: god

An Attitude of Gratitude

Have you ever read a book that seems to mirror how you’re feeling? Recently I finished one called “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niquest (2010) that really spoke to me. Here is a brief excerpt:

“Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a silver lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness. Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and the soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the callouses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy” (Niequest, 2010).

This move has felt very bittersweet. There’s an excitement about change along with the sadness of leaving mixed with the anxiety that comes from the unknown. I’ve found that it becomes easy to focus on the bitter and forget the sweet that accompanies the journey. When we feel broken or shaken, we often fail to reflect on the goodness of God in our lives. All too often, I’ve wallowed in my own pity party.

My Bible reading journey has taken me to Psalms. I see so many wonderful themes in these passages. One recently has been God’s unfailing love, which I have highlighted over and over again. The other has been the word ‘tell.’ For example:

  • “Sing the glory of His name. Tell the world how glorious He is!” Psalm 66:2
  • “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me.” Psalm 66:16
  • Tell everyone about God’s power…” Psalm 68:34a
  • “I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, for I am overwhelmed by how much you have done for me. I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign Lord. I will tell everyone that you alone are just and good.” Psalm 71:15-16
  • “I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long…” Psalm 71:24

I believe God wants us to tell others what He has done and what He is currently doing in our lives. When we tell about God’s faithfulness, I think we begin to see the beauty and grace there is in having bitter and sweet together. We can tell of hardships and a God who saves! We can admit to our struggles and the perfection of Jesus. We can see what we have and compare that with who God is. I think telling of what God has done completely changes our perspective on the here and now, and I will add that it gives us a new appreciation for what God has done, even in the most difficult of times.

Moving has shaken up my ‘comfortable’ world, it’s true. But it’s also brought me a new appreciation for how much I need God every moment of my life. We had a situation recently that I can’t really share too much about, but we were fervently praying for God to help in a way that only He could. He was literally our only hope! And did God fail? No! His saving grace was evident in our lives. He has helped us in so many ways, including guiding us here and helping us find a home in just the right timing. We trust Him to provide us with what we need, and I am overjoyed to be able to “tell the world how glorious He is.”

This morning I turned off my alarm and skipped my run (boo!). My kids also slept in and it was just before my husband needed to be at work that we all woke up. We haven’t slept in that late even one day this summer!!! YIKES! We got ready in a rush, and as I was praying for the kiddos on the way to school aloud in the car, I thanked God that we were able to get more rest than usual. Joshua quickly asked, “Mom, did you just thank God that we’re running late?” I shared with him my favorite verses from the Bible: “Be joyful always. Pray continuously. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. I said there have been people whose lives have been saved from sleeping in (think of those who weren’t at work on 9/11/01!). We might have needed the rest, or God might have been saving us from something else. And as I reflected on my morning, I smiled that my husband didn’t just rush to get ready for work (like he should have) but also helped me get the boys ready for school because he is so loving and patient. It was totally my fault that we were behind schedule but he didn’t so much as raise his voice about it but instead was helpful and encouraging. I was able to give thanks for my spouse because I took the time to reflect on God’s goodness to us, even in “darker moments.” (Now, pray with me that he doesn’t get fired! Ha ha!)

A theme I’ve been recognizing lately is one of gratitude. Are we giving thanks, even in the hard times? Do we have enough or do we always long for more? Can we recognize that even bitter is good for us because it helps us recognize and appreciate the sweet all the more? Can we see that God develops character and His will in our lives through the difficult circumstances? Can we appreciate that He knows the big picture and accept what He allows to come our way? This isn’t an easy word. In fact, it’s downright difficult most of the time! But, can we choose perspective? Can we choose joy always? Can we choose to be thankful no matter what the circumstance? Can we choose to pray and keep in communication with God at all times?

I’ve had a hard couple of weeks, but I realize that there was so much sweetness I was ignoring as I’ve been getting pummeled by (and wallowing in) the bitter. So, moment by moment, step by step, I’m going to try to choose an attitude of gratitude. “Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and honor Him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing an ox or presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help live in joy” Psalm 69:30-32.

I’m anxious to hear what God is doing in your life! Do TELL about His glorious deeds as it will strengthen the faith of all who hear it! Encourage others with your unique story and how God is at work in both big and small ways.

Dear God, thank You for both the bitter and the sweet. Thank You for the good times and the bad. Thank You for Your plans and Your purposes. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to see things with Your perspective. May we always come before You with a heart of thanksgiving and praise on our lips. Thank You for all You do and for who You are. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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Saying Grace – the ‘Blessing’

Have you ever wondered why we sit down at meal time and bless our food?

I recently read an article that denounced meal time “blessing” with a good point that we’re often more focused on what we’re about to consume than the God who provided it for us. The article was worth reading and can be found here:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/why-food-matters-faith

Yet, I don’t think it’s wrong to pray before we eat. First, Jesus gave thanks before He broke bread with His disciples (Matthew 26:26). Likewise, we should thank God for providing for us the food we need to sustain our bodies. Food isn’t the ‘enemy’ in our desire to be healthy and thin. Our over-indulgence and self-gratification is really the culprit rather than the gift of God of something He gives us for our enjoyment and energy. Meal times can be a wonderful time of bonding with family, a reminder to come together and love on and talk to one another. Giving thanks to God for this incredible blessing is an important part of this ‘ritual.’

But, truly, the author wasn’t asserting that we shouldn’t be thankful. He was saying that there was no “magic” in blessing our food. And here is where I think the author is wrong (or maybe misguided is a better word). We ask God, the giver of all good gifts, to bless our food because of His promise in Exodus 23:24-26: “Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.” I think it’s wise to ask God to bless our food and water and make us healthy. He alone has the power to take sickness away from us.

The verses start, though, by reminding us to WORSHIP the Lord Your God (and no other idols). We can’t worship the food and expect God to bless it.

I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s assertion that we were created with a hole in our heart that can only be filled with God. Instead we try to fill it with any pleasurable alternatives we find, including eating food we don’t need, for sheer enjoyment. Yet, if we think about our actions long term, we certainly don’t enjoy the effects – the tight clothes, the muffin tops, the obesity and eventually for some the fall into diabetes or even death. Maybe if we take the time to pray before meals, we can search our hearts and ask God if we truly need the food we’re about to partake. We can give thanks that we live with plenty. We can also ask for Him to be our all in all – our center of worship and adoration as the One and ONLY true God – and that He will fulfill His promise to bless our food and water and take sickness away from us.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your truth in Your Word. Lord, we want to take the opportunity to pray to You at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17), with thanksgiving in our hearts. Thank You For blessing us with an abundance. We have so much wealth in our country that we struggle with eating too much. Please forgive our sin and help us fill the hole in our heart with more of You rather than the food we don’t need. We desire to worship You only, and we ask that You bless our food and water and make us healthy (and thin!) and give us a full life span. May we live to glorify and honor You in all we say, do and consume. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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How Big is God?

Lately I think I’ve forgotten how big our One true God is. I went on vacation and came back weighing more than I wanted to. But, more than that, I came back with the desire to overeat just as I had when I was away. As many times as I would tell myself that I’d start fresh in the morning making healthier choices, the next day I would give into temptation again. What was wrong with me?!?!

Last night, I was watching a Veggie Tales video with my kids called “Larry Boy and the Bad Apple.” In it, the bad apple (representing temptation) tried to render God’s people useless by tempting them with areas they struggled with, including vanity, electronics time and overindulging in chocolate consumption. As each one was giving in, I became a little more discouraged as I thought about my own inability to overcome temptation recently. I eventually left the room to put my youngest son to bed. When I came back to my older boys, the video was ending with an important lesson – no one can stand up to temptation on our own, we need God’s help!

How had I missed that? I’ve been on this journey for years, and yet I was once again trying to say no to food on my own and out-exercise my bad eating habits, as if my own works could save me from my own sin. This morning I had to repent of my pride and I once again humbly laid my struggles before God.

This morning my devotions were in Isaiah 36-37 when a king from Assyria threatened to utterly destroy Judah. Showing his previous triumphs against other kings, Sennacharib asked what god could save this people? When looking at just the circumstances, Judah didn’t stand a chance against this king. But, Hezekiah, king of Judah, humbled himself and prayed to God. The Lord’s answer included these verses:  “‘He [Sennachrib] will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 37:33-34). The passage goes on to tell us that “Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning – there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacharib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Ninevah and stayed there” (Isaiah 37:36-37).

God, with his all-powerful nature, displayed His mighty hand and fixed the situation that seemed hopeless. Did He act because of Hezekiah’s worthiness? No, as we see later in Isaiah how Hezekiah was selfish and full of pride (just as we are all sinners). The Lord acted for the sake of His glory and renown and because of the covenant He made with His beloved (Isaiah 37:35).

Friends, God can fix absolutely any situation you are in. He is a BIG God! I know friends who are struggling with physical ailments, the search for a mate, infertility, obesity, financial disaster, feelings of isolation, and other situations that seem downright impossible in the natural. But, no matter what the situation, our God is bigger. Our God is stronger. Our God is all-knowing and all-powerful. If He commands it, it is. Period.  And this all-powerful God is also loving. He is a compassionate and gracious God.

Let’s invite God into our situations to fix them as only He can for only His glory. I couldn’t lose weight on my own. I felt absolutely hopeless and absolutely ridiculous that I struggled with a temptation that many people don’t face. But, I’m giving it to the Lord. I’m proclaiming His victory in my life. I can’t take any credit for it’s God alone who helps me each step, each day. The more impossible your situation seems, the more we know that God is working a plan for His glory. Then we can only say, “Now that was God!”

How big is God? SO big! He is the One and Only true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the miracle Maker, the salvation Provider, the holy and awesome loving Father. Let’s turn to Him today!

Dear Lord, we believe that You are holy and righteous, the One and only God and worthy of our worship alone. We confess that we’ve allowed our focus to be on our problems rather than You, our solution. We can’t defeat temptation alone. But, we know that You can. We can’t overcome our problems no matter how hard we’ve tried. We ask that while we’re in the boxing ring, we can tag out and let you come in and do throw the knock-out punch. Then we’ll shout YOUR victory, for Your glory. We love You and long to honor You with our lives and even our problems. May You be magnified today! We ask that You make us healthy and thin for Your glory alone. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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Open Wide

“You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:9-10

Have you ever tried to fast for a day from food? While there are some days that I can skip eating breakfast and lunch and think nothing of it, the minute I say that I’m going to fast I feel like I’m starving. I get shaky and my head begins to ache and I feel downright awful.

But, have you ever had a day where you haven’t touched the Bible? I don’t think we feel nearly as physically awful as we do going without food. And yet we truly need God so much more than we realize!

As I began the process of losing weight, I realized that food had become a “god” in my life. I didn’t want to go without it, I wanted to eat what I was in the mood for (even if it wasn’t the best thing for me) and I used food to try to fill a void – whether it was in celebration, sorrow, anger or boredom. It had begun to rule my life. I planned my days around meal time, I was cranky when I had to do without, and my thoughts were filled with what sounded good and what pinterest recipes I should try to make, etc.

I’ll admit that I still struggle with these things. God says we are not to bow down to them. And He shows us in the above verses that it is God alone who leads us out of slavery to them and into a life set free for His glory. We don’t have to have food rule our lives. We can go without it! When I was sick a few weeks back, I didn’t eat for a couple days in a row. And I didn’t die! Most of what we feel I think is our mind playing tricks on us. Yes, we need food for energy and sustenance. But, we can go without it if necessary and if that’s what we’re being called to do. We can do without our favorite things for a time if we are supposed to do that to show God He is more important to us than any other things we’ve allowed to become our ‘gods’ or focus.

I love that the Lord knows our struggles. Just look at the end of the verses above – He says “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it!” What a promise! He will give us what is good for us. He will become what sustains us. He knows how badly we crave things that aren’t in our best interest. But, if we admit our sin and our struggles to Him, He’ll be our Lord and fill us with what we need.

These last couple days have been hard, I’ll admit. I’ve been eating once again like I’m never going to get a solid meal again and must fill up now. YIKES! I can’t seem to give it up. So, I go back to the goodness of God’s Word and ask Him for help. Since I read these verses, I have continually been praying “You fill me up, God, please. Fill me with something better than I would choose on my own.” The food that I’ve been ingesting is not filling me. I could keep going and going and going! I need Him to fill me and to let go of this stuff that is only going to make me feel worse in the end.

Are there things in your life that consume your thoughts? If so, may I humbly suggest that you also lay aside anything that has become a foreign god and ask God to fill you up instead. Open wide!

Dear Heavenly Father, You are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you (Psalm 86:5). You are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God (Psalm 86:10). Thank You for being merciful (Psalm 78:38). We know that we can trust You, that You love us even when we don’t deserve it, You are good and holy based on who You are and not based on what we do. We know that we can’t earn Your gift of salvation, we simply have to believe that You are a forgiving God and have made the way for us. We long to please You and ask for Your forgiveness for stubbornly going back to old habits and ways. God, this struggle to lose weight isn’t always easy. But, we believe that it’s right. And we believe that it is You who are helping us, for Your Name and for Your glory. Please help us. Please fill our mouths with good things and keep out anything that is not good for our bodies or honoring to You. We need You! We confess that we have let ‘foreign gods’ consume our thoughts – please take them away from us and let us bow down and serve and worship You alone. May the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart be pleasing to You. Thank You for understanding our struggles and helping us through them. May we please be healthy and thin for Your glory. We thank You and praise You for being faithful, awesome and amazing. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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