Monday, October 16, 2017

Butterfly Lesson

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 289: Today, I am grateful for the butterfly. 

Early fall at our house means swarms of butterflies meet me at the mailbox at the end of my work day. The seem to love the sedum blooms. The sedum is not my favorite plant in the landscape but it is hearty and comes back each year. Then, the butterflies remind me that we all see things differently.

Butterflies are attracted to the sedum. I am attracted to the butterflies. I find myself simply watching them for the weeks they are there... and now, they are gone. 

Butterflies are a beautiful lesson from nature about life's changing stages. In their caterpillar youth, they can eat what they want and they survive munching on the leaves. They work to produce the cocoon that will be their changing place. In the dark season, they change. 

What we think is dark and painful can be part of the blooming process. In time, they emerge different, beautiful and find sweet food in flowers blooms. 

Sometimes, being uncomfortable is an important part of the the process. Being uncomfortable is better than be lost. 

I find so much good stuff this "Sorry, not sorry" passage in Paul's 1st letter to the church in Corinth. He has spoken some hard truths and some are unhappy with him for that reason. He holds firm to the gospel truths. He challenges them to bear the discomfort and change. Be free of the darkness and cocoon of the old life.  

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.-1 Corinthians 7:8-10

The have had their season of "milk feedings". In their first real struggles to live out their new life, the struggle. He wants them to press through the challenge and come out new creatures. He doesn't want them to give up. They can be mad at him, but the truth remains the truth. 

Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge? The first flight after the wings are dry and ready to go. It is a miracle. So is spiritual growth, however it comes. 

Don't fret the darkness... embrace the metamorphosis.  Find hope in new wings. We were meant to fly. 

Today, I am grateful for the butterfly. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Life Starts Over...

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Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 288: Today, I am grateful life starts all over again in the fall.

This morning, a cool breeze is blowing in my open window with the crisp of fall in the air. It is truly fall.

In the past week, there has been the collection of seeds for next year's bean vine, acorns are dropping, squirrels are making winter nest preparations, prairie grasses are seeding and summer's plants are being cleared away. 

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall. -F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

Perhaps I have given spring too much credit, for in truth... the seeds for the spring are gathered in autumn. For the seeds that rest in the ground, winter is a season of rest. Yes, Fitzgerald says it well. Life starts over again in the fall. 

"a land that the Lord your God cares for. He watches over it through each season of the year!" -Deuteronomy 11:11-13

Fall is one of my favorite seasons in the Midwest. Still, for all of the glorious colors of the leaves, it can feel a bit sad. I must choose gratitude for the life cycle completed and the seeds that will start it all over again. In the midst of the colors... seeds are falling. 

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." - Ecclesiastes 3:1

Do not lament the fall.. but celebrate the seeds of promise and hope that are being thrown by the winds and find shelter in the soil for winter's rest. 

Today, I am grateful life starts all over again in the fall.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

We Can Overcome

"'Then comes the end when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.' (1 Corinthians 15:24)  How far does the reign of Christ extend?  The next verse 1 Corinthians 15:25 says 'He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.' The word ALL tells us the extent.  So does the word EVERY in verse 24: 'Then comes the end when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.'  The

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 287: Today, I am grateful we can overcome. 

Martin Luther King, Jr cried, "We shall overcome." Another powerful quote from his arsenal is speeches is this on regarding nonviolence: 

"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

There comes a time in every life when we find ourselves shaken to the core of all that we know, trust or believe. MLK was a man of faith, who did his best to honorably battle the injustice of prejudice and inequality between all God's children. He longed not for his race to be superior to another, but for all men and women to see themselves at brothers and sisters. To have people judged by their character and not the color of their skin. 

He longed for a nation where character, choices, knowledge and willingness to work hard and learn would be enough to be offered the American dream. As fellow Americans... brothers and sisters in Jesus... and in this land of the free and the home of the brave... MLK believed. In his memory, the dream echoes. 

All of us have something to overcome. Feelings of unworthiness. Spirits broken by criticism. Ideas of ugliness placed on us by cultural and societal standards. So many have encountered abuse and neglect... in unexpected places. If most are truthful, we have had seasons we feel like the walking wounded and wonder how Christ can love us so sacrificially, when we are such a hot mess. 

Yet, He did and He does. Even before our first heartbeat, Christ died for us. As recent as our last sinful moment, he covered us. He came to smash the Enemy. 

"There is no bad habit, no weakness, no pride that Christ does not aim to overcome as the enemy of His honor. -John Piper

That is a thought provoking idea. 

Bad habits. We all have them.
Temptations. We all have weaknesses.
Pride. Prideful choices led Adam and Eve... and me... to sin. 

Christ came to empower us to "crush the serpent's head". 

Look what Paul wrote: 

"But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."-Romans 16:19-20

Obedience leads to Satan smashing. His presence in this world is real... and there is still evil, but we can overcome. James backs him up on this:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. -James 4:7

When we humble ourselves before God, we are filled with His strength to face whatever the world holds. The devil can't stand it. He flees. We must simply and firmly remind the evil one that "Jesus is Lord." Lord of our lives and our hearts. No room in the in for him. 

Today, I am grateful we can overcome.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Empty Hands

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 286: Today, I am grateful  for empty hands.

"Don't go to God with options... go to Him with empty hands." - Max Lucado

This was just what I needed this morning. Instead of filling up schedules, my home with stuff or obsessing about what I wish for... I can trust that the biggest joys and adventures come from standing before him with empty hands. 

It reminds me of a verse that is often quoted, but it can easily be taken out of context. It just happened to be my "Verse of the Day.". I don't think that is coincidence. 

11.For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 

12. In those days when you pray, I will listen. 

13. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 
-Jeremiah 29:11-13

So often we forget that verse eleven is spoken in a promise with verses 12 and 13. When you pray... and if you look for me wholeheartedly. The heart and the hands of the seeker matter. 

God isn't Santa Claus. He is the holy, mighty, designing deity who created the universe with all of it's wonders. If we seek Him, we can find him. He knit within us the need to be productive and full of purpose. 

He longs for us to kneel before him, offering our life as an offering to His plans and His purpose. Not our own ideas.  At the very times we feel worthless, useless or have nothing left to offer... perhaps, that is exactly where He needs us to be. 

When we offer empty hands... or He empties them... a new adventure is waiting. He didn't design us for boredom... but for relationship. The things we cling to outside of his purpose can be too distracting. Empty hands are beautiful. Callused, wrinkled, weathered, stained, scarred or bruised... empty hands are precious in his sight. They are... indeed... a special offering. 

How many times do I try to direct God's plan? Too many. Time after time, we see that he uses whom HE chooses and those most useful arrive with empty hands and no agenda. 

Today, I am grateful  for empty hands.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trade Worry For Worship

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 285: Today, I am grateful for we can turn worry to worship.

Don't we all need the reminder to check worry and anxiety at the foot of the cross? The best antidote to anxiety I know is worship. 

"Turn your worry into worship and watch God turn your battles into blessings." 

We can thank God for this day of plenty. If we have food to eat and water to drink, we have enough. Moses spent 40 years in the desert trying to get the people to truly grasp this idea. 

40 years. Water, manna and quail provided in desert conditions. Still, they didn't fully trust. I try not to criticize them. I might likely have been one trying to save the manna for the morrow. 

We choose worry. Some of us are more programed than others, but there is choice, too. You can't worship and worry at the same time. Worship is all consuming. There is no room for anything else. Planting our feet in the firm foundation of His Word provides what we need for the journey here. Trusting the in His wings gives our soul flight. 

Every once in awhile, scripture gives us "Don't you know how precious you are?" Here is a great one. Jesus said:

"And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven." - Matthew 10:30-32

Another passage that compliments it comes from Nehemiah. For Israel, it is in a season of true repentance and reconciliation with God. The people are told to celebrate God's faithfulness and forgiveness. "Stop weeping. God knows you are sorry. Now, celebrate and be joyful in your forgiveness and God's faithfulness." 

"And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” -Nehemiah 8:10 

The joy of the Lord is your strength. You have to let go of the sorrow, fear and worry to embrace the joy. 

Don't you know how precious you are? I think we all forget. I do.

Watch the birds as they sing, dance and fly, if you need a reminder. They do the work of gathering food and nest needs, but never forget to sing and hop around in a dance nature designed them to perform. 

We, too, can be free of the frets and the fetters. Sweet freedom.

Today, I am grateful for we can turn worry to worship.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

15 Minutes

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 284: Today, I am grateful for 15 minutes.

Time moves faster and faster as the years go by. Blink and you find yourself in a new season or experiencing new firsts. There is a beautiful piece of poetry that I memorized as a teen. I remember it running through my head on the long walks from the end of our lane at the end of a school day. 

"Though nothing can bring back the hour, of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; we must grieve not, rather find, strength in what remains behind." - William Wordsworth

In this life we live at warp speed, this poem reminds me of the importance of reflection. We remember to keep loved ones close. Yesterday, my little sister would have been 50. Instead, she is forever 28. 

Our last conversation was under 15 minutes. It was expensive in 1995 to talk from Kadena AFB,Okinawa to the USA on a landline. Our sisterly chatter was full of love, excitement, life and hope. I will be grateful for that 15 minutes for all of my days on the planet. 

There was no complaining... just girly sharing and laughter.That last call is forever etched in my memory. Unexpected loss is a quick reminder of the value of 15 minutes.

15 minutes can be a catch up conversation at an accidental encounter (many are God appointments)... or a missed opportunity. 

15 minutes can encourage a heart or tear down an already wounded soul. 

15 minutes can be a savored cup of coffee, a word from His Word, a prayer and a grateful spot. 

15 minutes can make all the difference. 

The scripture that I hold to with regard to this matter involves angels. 

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! -Hebrews 13:2

Have I missed angels in my hurry? When presented with the choice of showing hospitality, kindness or the gift of 15 minutes, which do I choose? 

15 minutes on the cross was agony. Our suffered so much more so that we can be forgiven and free. A prayer of confession and surrender to a sovereign God takes less than fifteen minutes but provides a lifetime of adventure. 

We can wrap a whole lot of gratitude in one quarter of an hour. We can make some memories that will strengthen us for harder times. We can celebrate a chance encounter.

Today, I am grateful for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 283: Today, I am grateful for re-direction. 

I love 2 and 3 year olds... one at a time. They are full of purpose, questions and wonder. The best thing about them, is that most can be redirected to something better and safer if we choose to offer more than a "No". There is nothing they enjoy more than something new... on their own terms. 

I am not ignoring their very real fear based responses to new faces and new places. But for most, their agenda can be halted and redirected. It is how we keep them safe when they are too young for a rational and reasonable conversation. "No" is valuable and they need to learn it is for their well being and safety, not to quench their zest for life. 

I wonder if God feels the same way when he redirects us? There are times we get a flat out "no" for our well-being. Other times, it seems he is redirecting. What we believe is good... God knows is not the best route to take. Only he knows how the big picture... and how each of our "short stories" impact His plan for reconciliation and restoration. 

Look at this quote:

"As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought i was being REJECTED from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better." - Chip Ingram

Solomon supports it with this scripture. 

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.-Proverbs 19:20-11

"But the Lord's purpose will prevail." God is good.Still, I must remember that while I am making plans, HE has a purpose. It is kind of like the game, "Good, Better, Best". You can make a trade... and he gives us free will... but in that free will we have the responsibility to figure out what it good, what is better and what is best.  

It takes us back to submitting daily to his direction that is offered through his Spirit. (Romans 12:1) Then, being willing to respond to redirection that is clearly from His hand. How we respond... with pouting or with joy ... is a choice, too. 

Oh, yes. I've pouted. And, I've accepted new adventures with joy. My pouting doesn't change his goodness or his purpose. Choosing gratitude unlocks the storehouse of all he has to offer. My sight is limited to what is in front of me. He sees eternity.   

Today, I am grateful for re-direction