Thursday, June 30, 2016

All I Have - All I Need

Quote credit:Mary Davis  Image credit:
Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 182: Today, I am grateful that "All I have is all I need.". 

This gratitude thought with the gorgeous rose image was exactly what I needed today.  "All I have is all I need." 

This is gratitude in a nutshell. 

Think about it. Gratitude changes doesn't change God, it changes us! 

The constant bombardment of "stuff" on the TV and internet are a tough cross to bear. (Some of the happiest and most creative people have no TV.) 

The "Stuff-mart" on every corner keeps us constantly tempted. I am guilty of coming home with more than I intended and more than I need, just because it was there. 

We enjoy some television programming at our house, but have to remind ourselves that it is not real least not our "real world." It is not our real income level. One of our God gifted powers is the power to think for ourselves and make choices (choices that defy instinct and human nature). To choose to be content with what we have is practically a super power. 

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength." -Phillipians 4:11-13

To continually long for more than our resources provide sets us up for a cycle of despair and a cycle of debt. I believe debt leads to soul bondage...and perpetuates more poor choices. Again, look to the media for one story after another.  

There is a reason that God included "Thou shall not covet" in the 10 Commandments. Not because he doesn't want to bless us with good things.  He does. Still, when the "stuff" becomes what we love "with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength", then we break the first four commandments.  When love of stuff keeps us from loving our neighbor, we fail at the last six commands from the mouth of God. 

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” Exodus 20:17

House envy. Spouse envy. Jealousy over another person's stuff plants the seeds of trouble into lives and relationships. 

There are examples where God blesses good stewards. And, excellent stewards can do much with little. The secret lies in making good choices and being content with what we have. Now, we can make mistakes and the market is volatile, but God knows our hearts. For some, it takes a financial crisis to bring them to the foot of the cross. 

I once heard this thought, "The greener grass on the other side of the fence still needs to be mowed."  We can be grateful we have green grass...and a yard...and a mower... and a home to call our own. Dissatisfaction can lead to self-destruction. 

In Genesis 3, the serpent planted the seeds of doubt, discontentment and jealousy. He awakens in them a sense of "you should have more and you can be more."  Eve and Adam grew it right into sin. 

Jesus, when asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, Jesus said this, "Give us this day our daily bread."  Not bread for the week, or the month but our manna for the day. Trusting him for our daily needs. Then, there is the unique joy that come from taking that "daily bread" and sharing it with someone in need. 

When all that I have is enough...and that "enough" is shared it becomes abundance. It is the miracle of the loaves and fishes in our daily lives. 

Today, I am grateful that "All I have is all I need.".

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Reality Check and an Off Button

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 181: Today, I am grateful for a reality check...and an "off button" on my TV. 
"We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge."
"He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!" Psalm 111:9-10

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction." - Proverbs 1:7

(Feel free to stop it has gratitude value. If you read on...the rest is a personal response to world events. My opinion... my thoughts personal response to scripture.. and not intended for debate.)  

Less than 24 hours ago, terror struck the global community, again. We are on the eve of a presidential election that feels more terrifying than exciting. You know political posts are not my thing here...but I am in awe of the signs of the times. 

Like so many others, I have watched the news of another airport attack. There is so much repetition and no real new I have decided to turn it off. I can get summaries later.  We need to be informed, but we have to make a choice to not be consumed. My time is better spent praying for the wounded, the grieving and the world leaders trying determine a response. 

"We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge." The media bombards us with the firestorm of man's inhumane acts toward other men. The media frequently twists reports to the personal agendas of the owners and power brokers. We receive tons of information but not much knowledge or wisdom. 

History so often repeats itself. What have we learned from the past? How will we make changes in the future? Are we living in the last days? Only God knows the answer to that last question:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. "-Mark 13:31-33 (Matthew 24 has very similar text recorded from Jesus teachings)

We are told to "be on alert", but we are also instructed to keep calm and carry on until His day comes. What seems like a long story on our that stretches out over centuries and a blink in God's eye. A blink!

I have new eyes for old Testament passages that talk about God's response to a nation who rejected him again and again.His people... who only sought him with obedience when they are in trouble or need something. They prayed to him in times of terror but lived in bold defiance of his laws in their normal, every day lives.  It is a scenario that sounds so familiar. 

2 Chronicles 7:14 rings loud and clear: "if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 

"His people"...with an "if" and an "I will". Who or what will we choose?

Hosea 2: It is filled with defiance, disobedience...and then restoration. Do we long for restoration or do we prefer to deny his deity and insist on our independence?

"He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." -Psalm 46:10 

"I will be...."  Maybe not today, but the day is coming. He is present today...but not exalted by rulers and nations. The television reports seem to indicate that like in the Old Testament days, we have lost our way. He is a patient God, but he is just and holy, too. 

"I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." He will be exalted. Prophecy or promise? Both.

"I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you." -Isaiah 44:22

News nuggets can give us a snapshot of the state of the world. We hear the economic assessment and implications, but not the spiritual ones. I find my mind returns to the fictional...but full of facts... novel, "The Harbinger", by Jonathan Cahn. 

There is peace in the storm. "Spoiler alert: God wins." 

If you have never explored that the Bible might be true, let me point you to  A police detective, Jim Warner Wallace,  takes his crime scene analysis skills to prove or disprove Christianity. Once a second generation, a believer. based on in depth research using cold case detective skills. 

"Be still and know I am God." 

Today, I am grateful for a reality check...and an "off button" on my TV. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Good Mystery

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 180: Today, I am grateful for a good mystery. 

I will never forget my first mystery. "The Secret of the Wooden Lady" by Carolyn Keene. It was my first Nancy Drew mystery and I received it for my birthday in 2nd grade. I was hooked!  I couldn't get enough. Thank goodness the school & public library had a great collection. 

The books always included learning, too. I knew nothing about ships when I started reading "The Secret of the Wooden Lady". The story line was educational beyond the fun of the young investigators solving a puzzle. I still enjoy a good mystery with twists, turns and even a red herring. 

Because we were given creative minds, we can enjoy solving a puzzle. Doctors call it diagnosis. Artists call it exploring different mediums. Carpenters and builders use math and measures...which are a mystery to me. Chefs make and bake a recipe with endless tweaks until they solve the mystery of what makes something "The Best Ever" whatever. Gardeners dig into everything from soil type to ph balance to discover the perfect combination for food or flowers. Mysteries allow us to discover. Discovery is thrilling. 

One of the great mysteries of this life is God's grace. After all of these years, I still find it amazing and awe evoking.  I found a new quote: 

"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. - Ann Lamott 

Christ meets us where we are but doesn't leave us there. God is the father who runs to the prodigal. "The God Who Sees" a hurting, thirsty and scared Hagar and calms her fears. He was Esther's courage. He was David's restraint when he could have killed Saul, his enemy, in the cave. He is the God who rescues in the storm...the one the wind and waves obey. 

He meets us in the messiness of life and patiently picks us up, cleans us up and leads us on from there. We are works in progress and He is patient. The mystery of His grace can be investigated, but why he loves us with such a crazy, relentless love and passion...this is beyond my understanding...but by his grace, it is not beyond our experience. 

I love the passion of Paul.  He had to appear a little crazy, until you get to know him. Okay, after you know him better, he is still a little crazy, but in the best way possible. He has a fire in his soul that a prison cell can't dampen. He did some great evangelism with his jailers... who were a captive audience to the captive Paul. God does have a sense of humor. So does Paul. Paul's transformation is so radical that it is a mystery to many. He tries to solve the puzzle for them:     

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.  Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;  so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,  in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory. - Ephesians 3:7-13

Paul, in his days as "Saul", was ultra and passionately religious. Religion was his excuse for his bad behaviors as he threw his weight around in religious and political circles to stamp out Christianity. Enter, Jesus. Confront Saul. Blindness leads to clear vision. Paul changes from the inside out. 

Who was this man, Saul or Paul? Both. God used Saul's knowledge of the laws in scripture and his position as a Roman citizen to Paul's advantage. I will forever be awed by a God who met him on that road to Damascus and "traded him" to the Jesus team. He saw his passion not his problems. When Christ revealed himself to Saul/Paul, the man could not deny the truth. The question of what made men willing to die rather than deny Jesus was solved for Paul at that moment. 

Conviction, crisis, confession and a change. That was Paul's path. The mystery of the Messiah was revealed and Paul embraced a truth he could not longer deny. As Saul, religion had driven him to murder those who believed differently. 

As Paul, he had been freed from religious chains through Christ and found new life. Abundant life. Relationship beyond religion. He was free to such a point that prison changes were not distressing to him. No big deal! He would and could love his neighbors... Jews and Gentiles(Non-Jews). His soul experienced a freedom that earthly chains could not contain. 

Today, I am grateful for a good mystery. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Color Yellow

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 179: Today...I am grateful for the color yellow. 

How can I not dedicate a day to the color yellow? And...I think this is a first time. How have I been so remiss? There are so many shades to celebrate.  We all recognize "unmellow yellow" as the color of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese... the color of comfort food.  

Without yellows, there would be a sense of sadness on the landscape and the sun could not shine as we know it. If colors represent emotions, then yellows are warm and happy. 

From the humble dandelion to the richness of gold... there is yellow. Butterfly wings and birds that sing wear yellows with daily splendor. When I "consider the lilies of the fields"...I see day lilies in shade of yellows. Remember...without yellow to mix in the red, we would not have orange. 

Our farmer's markets are filled with yellows from tomatoes to summer squash and my personal favorite...corn on the cob. Yellows can be so majestic. Think of the warm yellow light at daybreak and magical light between daylight and dusk. Yellow makes my soul sing. 

Yellow roses are my favorite rose. Gebera daisies, zinnias and moss roses, too. Our neighbors in Pekin celebrate the marigold every in yellow hues. The most common of daisies is white... but it is the pop of lemon yellow in the center that gives it personality and brings on the smiles. 

Yes...yellow takes me back to sunny days with Big Bird and friends on Sesame Street. Remember how the show would end each day with Big Bird reminding us what letter and color had been highlighted on the show. Imagine Big Bird's voice:  "Today's gratitude is brought to you by the color yellow!" Have a sunny day. 

Today...I am grateful for the color yellow. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

He Sees Me

Image from

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 178: Today, I am grateful for "a God who sees me" the good times, and in the messes. 

Today, I studied in Genesis 16-19.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen[c] the One who sees me.” -Hagar, Genesis 16:1

This passage is not one I have spent much time studying. I was grateful for notes, commentaries and other study aides. Had Abram, Sarai and Hagar had Facebook relationship status..."It's complicated" would be the best choice. What a mess they made when they chose to hurry God.  

Earworm is singing, "You Can't Hurry Love". Well, trust me..."You can't hurry God, you just have to wait." 

Oh, how we twist the path when we take matters into our own hands. In some ways, my heart bleeds for Hagar. She did not ask to be a surrogate for Sarai. She was a servant doing as she was commanded, but when she conceived a child, she was unkind and disrespectful to Sarai, her Master's wife. It is a narrative..set in a culture with cultural rules... and some things are hard to wrap our head around. One thing is sure. Had Sarai and Abram obediently waited on the Lord, they would have spared themselves loads of trouble and heartbreak.  

Abram (who would later be called Abraham) and Sarai (who would later be called Sarah) lost sight of "the God who sees". They failed to trust and believe God could... and would keep His promise to Abraham to have many offspring as time lapsed between the promise and God bringing it to fruition. . They, took matters into their own hands and did not "wait on the Lord". What a mess they made with that decision. Many would suffer...and the consequences would ripple through generations to come. 

Sarai's impatience guided her down a path that could not be undone. Abram failed to lead Sarai spiritually on the matter. Hagar was caught in the middle.  Hagar found herself  
bound by duty, but human enough to gloat when she succeeded at child-bearing where Sarai had failed. Sarai brought trouble this trouble on her family and the house of Abraham with her impatience. Abram listened to Sarai when he should have led her to wait on the Lord. Hagar did as directed, resulting in her pregnancy with Ishmael. Complicated? This is the stuff of modern television dramas. 

When the child was born, a jealous, still barren Sarai was harsh with her servant, Hagar. Hurt, angry and scared, Hagar fled with the Ishmael into the wilderness. Hagar ran with Ishmael until she was spent, literally dying of thirst and feeling overwhelmed.  There, an Angel of the Lord confronted her.  He knew who she was, her circumstances...and he had another plan.  I think it interesting that he meets her at the spring - where her thirst can be quenched.   

The Angel of the Lord instructed her to return to Sarai and Abram with Ishmael. Hagar was shocked that the Angel of the Lord knew her exact situation and her secrets. Ishmael was not the child promised by the Lord, but he, too, would bear twelve offspring, but his would not be a peaceful existence. Ishmael's descendants were not promised the land normally given as the birthright of the first born, but he was not cursed. No, indeed, he was promised many descendants, too. Yes, "it's complicated" speaks volumes. 

I do love that God needs no explanation when we blow it. He is not oblivious to our sins. He sees us in the places we think are secret and hidden. He is omniscient. We can make excuses but he knows our hearts. We cannot hide from El Roi, the God who sees.

Today, I am grateful for "a God who sees me" the good times, and in the messes I create. I am grateful His mercies are new every day. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Secret Gardens

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 177: Today, I am grateful for secret gardens.

Who doesn't love the idea of a "secret garden". A private place of beauty, restoration and refuge. Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote the book "The Secret Garden that was published in 1909. It found it's way into movie history in 1987 & 1993. A beautiful story to tell and tell again. 

A tree-house provides a similar sanctuary. A private the beaten path...or perhaps above. We loved the weeping willow...or the "monkey tree" in the back of Grandma and Papa Chet's back yard. It was just right for climbing.  Most of our trees at home were too tall ... or we were too short to reach the lowest strong branches. That weeping willow was our secret garden at Papa and Grandma's. 

The joy of a special place, shared with a few,  is precious. 
I've always wondered what Gethsemane was like in Jesus day. It must have been special. It was a place Jesus went to pray, rest and rejuvenate. Sometimes alone...sometimes with his closest friends. 

There is a popular quote among gardeners: "Life began in a garden.". It is, of course, referring to Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. The imagery our minds create is quite beautiful. Their arrogance, disbelief and disobedience changed everything. Our unique, God granted gift of choice resulted in sin. Nothing was hidden from God, though they tried. The fall of man is recorded in Genesis 3. God knew their sin, but he made them confess to bring them out of hiding so discipline and healing could begin. 

The relationship would be different, but they could and would find forgiveness. God had invested his own breath in this creation called man. Discipline and consequences were inevitable... yet, ultimately they were granted forgiveness. Some things can't be undone. They can be forgiven, but not undone. It is why we are implored to "choose wisely" whom we will serve.

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. -Jeremiah 23:14

The fact is...the earth is the Lord's and there is no secret place to hide. There is no "cone of silence" and no place he cannot see. Awesome...and terrifying all at the same time, right? There is not darkness so deep He cannot bring us light. No path is so unknown that He cannot meet us at our point of recognition of his Lordship. He knows our naked, innermost thoughts and dreams. 

"...choose this day whom you will serve" - Joshua 24:15

He longs for us to meet Him in the secret place. To walk with us, talk with us and simply enjoy the friendship. He says "Love me."  and let me restore your soul. Then, "Love others". "Love others and let that love carry them to me."  It is the purpose in fulfilling and at the heart of "The Great Commission". 

Today, I am grateful for secret gardens.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Sword & A Song

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 176: Today, I am grateful for a sword and a song. 

Ever feel like the day ahead is a battle waiting to be fought? The weight of the impending tasks, chores or daily requirements seem overwhelming. 

I have discovered some new courage rendering quotes and some great thoughts from Lisa Bevere, author of "Girls With Swords". This quote went so well with my verse of the day that I had to think about them both for a bit.  

Here is my morning verse: 

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.-2 Thessalonians 3:3 

He is faithful.
He establishes you.( Not self promotion...but He establishes you)
He guards you (Take that Satan!)
He keeps the balance and tips it in your favor. 

This combined with "A sword is balanced like a tuning instrument. Sometimes, all it takes is a song to tip the battle in your favor." Lisa Bevere. and connect that with another passage from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah:

 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. -Zechariah 2:10

Look up sisters (and brothers)
He comes.
He dwells.
He declares. 

We cannot believe for even a minute that we are alone and unprotected. Yes, there are battles to be fought and we may suffer some wounds along the way.  still, we have no need to be shrinking violets. We are covered by his grace, equipped with His Word and promised a victory. Again and again...we are told, "Fear not"...but fear creeps in uninvited... diminishing our courage, our impact and our outcomes. 

Word play slips in and I hear His Word - that beautiful passage from Isaiah 40:31:

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Do I remember to wait on the Lord? Do I let him balance my sword with His weight and His word...or do I go rogue in fear or in a frenzy?

It is easy to run to Him when I need a shelter and a hiding place. Waiting on the Lord... to provide proper guidance and balance is not as easy. It requires pausing to listen for His lead. 

Do I blame Him for my tongue...or my inability to trust His purpose at times? Do I jump into the fire blame Him if I get burned? 

When we "wait for the Lord"... He becomes our sword and our shield.  Our hearts begin to sing a different song. Our courage grows and our endurance build. We find peace in the valleys, in the shadows, in the storms and in the heat of battle. No matter the trial...we discover a sword and a song to get us through. Hope does float. He is faithful in the the storms...and in the quiet moments of rest. 

We can pick up our swords and sing! 

Earworm has taken a liking to Crowder's "Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)". He has me singing along. I have to look up lyrics. 

Lift your head weary sinner, the river's just ahead
Down the path of forgiveness, salvation's waiting there
You built a mighty fortress 10, 000 burdens high
Love is here to lift you up, here to lift you high

If you're lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

Today, I am grateful for a sword and a song. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Heart Guards

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 175: Today, I am grateful for kindness at home...and the ones who guard our hearts. 

Let's face it. It's a jungle out there and choosing to be intentionally kind is not always easy. In fact, the real tragedy is that we often spend out our kindness and daily love offerings on perfect strangers (or the challenging relationships at the workplace) - neglecting to save the best for the ones at home. 

The ones at home are priceless and precious. Treating them with kindness, humility and gentleness changes the climate at home. Sure, we need to be kind and loving in the world...salt and light and all that good stuff... but we need to save some honey for our honeys at home. Our tribe should not get our leftovers, if we have any left. 

One of the great joys... and challenges of long, healthy excessive comfort levels. How good it is to be with the ones with whom you can completely be yourself.  It is the "for better" and the "for worse" part of the the deal. It is sweet. And, it is always something to carefully guard and fiercely protect. We need to safeguard the hearts of the ones who guard ours. 

Mutual love is exhibited through daily acts of kindness. Not just pouring love out...but pouring love into the relationship. Not just a covering...but a sweet filling of the "good stuff". I guess love is like a chocolate truffle(and my guy brings truffles from Candina Chocolatiers from Madison, WI). It is what is on the inside that counts. 

By God's design, we don't have to be big, skinny, smart or strong to love fiercely. We do have to be courageous enough to commit to imperfect people...the same imperfect people who are courageous enough to commit to the flaws and imperfections in us. 

One of the most destructive forces in marriages, homes and churches is "the need to be right".  The need to make another person in a relationship feel like less... so we can feel like more. Being "right"... is it really that important? Now, I am not saying we should never have conflict and disagreements... it is human nature. Still, there is wisdom in choosing our battles. Will engaging in conflict result in valuable, personal growth...or in one person winning? If it is only about "winning" - choose kindness and let love win. Love always wins.

A prime example: There is only one right way to hang the new roll of toilet paper. The toilet paper should come over the top. Right? But, does it really matter? I need to be grateful if someone... anyone...replaces the roll, no matter how it is hung! I do not need to exercise my "spirit of correctiveness", as that is not one of the fruits of the spirit. I need to celebrate that there is...indeed... toilet paper in place when it is needed.  

The pastor at last wedding last weekend reminded us that "God didn't give us marriage to make us happy, but to make us holy." (Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas) Christ committed to us with a love that took him from heaven's splendor... to a humble manger ... and ultimately nailed to the cross. Love won against temptation in the desert. Love won when faced with betrayal and capture. Love won when he spoke Mary's name not far from the tomb where he conquered death. Love won when he said to a shame-filled Peter, "Do you love me. Feed my sheep." So many times, he could have turned his back, on imperfect people and situations...but he never did.  He raised them up with his words, with his actions and with his love. 

Jesus...a tough act to follow. But, he believes in us. Isn't that crazy? He gives us directions to help us be more like him.  Paul makes note of some big ways we can pour His love into our relationships to create better living in Him, for Him and through Him. 

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." -Ephesians 4:1-3

Today, I am grateful for kindness at home and in community...the ones who guard our hearts.