Are you amazed?

Many of us have found our attitudes radically altered by reading, and re-reading, Ann Voscamp’s One Thousand Gifts. But, whether from indwelling personality or past injuries, what can you do if you automatically see the glass as half empty?

Thankfulness and thanksgiving pop up everywhere I turn. In our church we can log into our website and add our blessings to those listed, with a goal of 10,000!

But how do we gain an attitude of thanksgiving? What if, like me, you are pensive by nature, and naturally tune into the pain and brokenness around you?

In a room full of people I can’t help noticing the uncomfortable one, the wall-flower, the one retreating with an unexpressed need. I imagine how the moth feels when it flies into a spider web. It has been a struggle to assert authority over my puppy, rather than dwell on her feelings.

It surprised me to realize that by allowing my sensitive nature to rule, I am, but default, viewing the world through a negative lens

looking at the world as if God doesn’t exist

or he doesn’t care

or doesn’t have the power

looking at the world without faith!

That is not a place I want to stay. My first step has been to take every thought captive.

…tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 MSG

Some days it is an every minute, constant battle to stop the negative mind-slant. I must simply freeze, and re-frame that view.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. Philippians 4:6-7

When I choose to notice it, even the tiniest detail can become a delight, an amazement—a natural state of thanksgiving. As long as I recognize that I am only the recipient of all the wonders, big and little, and give thanks to the One who made them, I go from wonder to amazement.

by Jack H Thompson Jr

Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. Romans 1:24 MSG

I won’t lie. It is hard to change a life-long way of looking at the world. My kids and husband sometimes still have to remind me when I launch into a tale of family woe.

Alone, when I recognize a negative thought slipping in, I speak thanksgiving out loud. It feels like it clears the air, and maybe it does.

The spiritual air.

Though I have worked hard to change, I’ve worked to alter patterns before that didn’t budge. The difference now is asking for God’s power, in the Holy Spirit, to transform me from the inside out.

And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. Ephesians 4:24 MSG

It feels so good now when I spontaneously speak thanksgiving, or my heart swells with gratitude.

by Jack H Thompson, Jr

Last week I drove across the middle of Florida. In the wide open expanse of sky, dark clouds billowed up and out – quite an impressive sight. After weeks of heavy rain, all the rivers and creeks were flooded way beyond their banks. I enjoyed the reflection of the clouds on bodies of water I never would have noticed at their normal levels. And on the return trip, after only one day of sunshine, the water had receded and exposed fresh green grass. A cow and two calves gleefully chomped on it. Those little delights made me smile.

clouds

Sometimes it’s a pair of sand hill cranes whooping over our house on their sunset trek to another pond. It can be as grand as the arrival of the roseate spoonbills or sunset on the water, or as simple as a butterfly or a delicate flower, or as striking as bare, weathered trees on a sand dune.

roseate spoonbills by Jack H  Thompson, Jr
Sandhill cranes in sunset by Jack H Thompson JR
Sunset on the water by Jack H Thompson, JR
Butterfly on Porterweed flower by Jack H Thompson, Jr
DSC_9084phalaenopsis orchid
dead trees on sand dune by Jack H Thompson, Jr

Today I enjoyed my Golden, Lily, and Sophie, who is staying with us while my oldest and her family are settled in a house, retrieving and swimming together, simply enjoying the process, no matter how many times I threw their toy.

happy Lily in the surf
Back home, tired from a busy day, they played on their backs.

Golden play
How can I not chuckle, and give thanks for the delight in these small things?

In The Power of Being Thankful, Joyce Meyer says,

I believe that if we’ll stay amazed at the things God is doing in our lives—even the little things—we’ll never be without hope. I encourage you to realize what you have, be thankful, and decide to live amazed…jaw-dropping, wide-eyed, “Wow! That was God!” amazed.

Some times are easier than others. Last week, caring for my granddaughters, I really didn’t feel well. I had way less energy than they did, so we built puzzles on the floor, then laid on top of them and snapped silly selfies together. We giggled at our photos, grateful for laughter together.

Grammi and A selfie
Grammi fun

When I’m dead tired, and everything in my body hurts, it’s hard to look around and appreciate what I see. But even then I can give thanks for a warm shower, dry towels and a sumptuously comfortable bed with clean sheets!

It’s always a choice.

Are you a half empty of half full person?
What is your struggle with keeping an attitude of gratitude?

Fine Wine

Among those who tasted the wine — the guests at the Wedding at Cana —  did anyone notice how special that wine was? Or were they too far gone after days of celebrating, or so busy with their friends and family, that they didn’t even stop to savor it?

When we run dry, do we dance to conceal our lack from others? Or turn to Jesus to see how he will meet the need, rejoicing in the refreshment he offers?

Are we aware of the times our Lord has met a need or lack in our lives, filled our everyday world with the divine?

Do we even know it’s available?

With two of my daughters, I’m working on The Healing Path. In chapter two, Dan Allender asks us to look at our desert places, times when we have experienced betrayal, powerlessness, or ambivalence, and their effects. He instructs us to talk about our silence, poverty, danger, or aloneness.

Although I’ve had prayers for inner healing for every area of my life, “desert” and “silence” smacked me in the face and brought me to a standstill. Supported with my daughters’ love, I took the journey inward.

After hours of thought and anguish — of silence — I picked up a pen. As the words flowed, I allowed that little girl to actually feel the agony — the rejection, lack of love, fear, and the lack of any acknowledgment of my feelings,

or that they mattered at all.

Janie  all rights reserved
Janie in Ocean City, NJ

For the first time, I suffered the pain as a helpless child in a cruel world, and I wept.

It became clear, like the flakes settling out of a snow globe.

Thanks to m_bartosch at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Thanks to m_bartosch at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I was overwhelmed as I child. part of my heart had run for safety, and frozen over.

Rather than live a full life, I then allowed my mind to assume the job of living.

I worked hard to take care of the family, and perfected co-dependent skills. As an adult, that made me a good teacher, servant, missionary, church worker, etc. (Inside, I’m adding: wimp, doormat, approval-seeker).

And even though the Lord has worked in and through me for years, I’ve been frustrated to keep banging up against the same obstacles in my emotional life. Deep inside, something was missing.

No wonder. How could I live fully with a partially frozen heart?

As I wrote, I hurt and cried, as should have when I was wounded as a child.

Finally, transparent and aching, I opened the Bible. I flipped through the Psalms, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Philippians and Colossians, reading verses I’d highlighted over the years.

And somewhere in those pages, Jesus turned the water of my tears into wine.

Now, I can see how he has been turning water into wine in my life all along.

Just like the guests at the wedding in Cana, I’ve been holding out my cup, happy for him to fill it up, unaware of how great a miracle he offers.

How fine the wine.

courtesy of James Barker ay freedigitalphotos.net
courtesy of James Barker ay freedigitalphotos.net

I Never Hear a Sound

church in Switzerland ©Jack H Thompson
church in Switzerland
©Jack H Thompson
church in the Alps
church in the Alps

Beautiful, historic churches tower over villages and grace city corners in Switzerland, where I’ve been visiting Middle Daughter and her family. The old buildings have lovely stained glass windows, intricate stonework and impressive construction.

church above vineyard
church above vineyard
©Jack H Thompson

church spire over lake
church spire over lake
©Jack H Thompson

grill work and altar
grill work and altar
©Jack H Thompson
ceiling frescoes
ceiling frescoes
©Jack H Thompson

However, though the country celebrates numerous Christian holidays, many traditional churches attract only a handful of regular attendees.

church bells
church bells
©Jack H Thompson

Church bells toll throughout the day, calling the faithful, but life goes on as if no one hears.

family by lake ©Jack H Thompson
family by lake ©Jack H Thompson

Here’s a video clip I took on a hill, looking down into the valleys.
(Turn up your volume to hear the bells from two different villages. Click on the arrow to start the video. It’s pretty wobbly, but it gives you a sense of the way the bells dominate the countryside. If you can’t see it on your phone or tablet, you may have to change a setting.)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fl7/12424359725/

The next day, walking through an alpine village, I stopped to listen to the peal of the bells. Busy shoppers hustled by me, school children giggled on the way home from school, and skiers stomped from the shuttle bus.


children from school
children from school
©Jack H Thompson

As often happens, a song began to play in my mind, this one about how Jesus sings all around us, and we never hear a sound. (Click on the arrow.)

How often do we rush through our day, disregarding the call of the Holy Spirit, the yearning of our God to engage us?

walking away ©Jack H Thompson
walking away ©Jack H Thompson

While we strive, he sings to us in the beauty of creation.

swan ©Jack H Thompson
swan ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson
tree on snowy landscape ©Jack H Thompson

moss and stream ©Jack H Thompson
moss and stream ©Jack H Thompson

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.” Psalm 19:1-2 The Message

While we struggle with loneliness, he speaks through the warmth of friendship.

Caitlin kisses
Caitlin kisses

friends walking in woods ©Jack H Thompson
friends walking in woods ©Jack H Thompson

MD and friend ©Jack H Thompson
MD and friend ©Jack H Thompson

And while we scheme and work to make life conform to what we desire, he whispers to our hearts.

What compels us to push on, ignoring that voice, avoiding that face?

Are we trying to do it right? Make it right? Get everything under control so we can bring our to-do list, all checked and fulfilled, to gain rights to his presence?

Do we hide from his gaze, like Adam and Eve in the garden when they became aware of what their choice cost them, unable to bear those penetrating eyes?

Are we turning away out of anger, shaking our fist at a God who would allow evil and pain such as we, or a loved one, have suffered?

Or are we so competent, so intent on doing it our way that this Creator God I speak of is irrelevant?

profile ©Jack H Thompson
profile ©Jack H Thompson

Whatever the source of our discontent, he continues to pursue us, dancing over us, singing to our hearts, seeking us,

    offering the only gift we truly yearn for, though we often mistake our need for something far less.

With open arms and eyes full of love, he calls our name.

    He offers all-encompassing forgiveness that we do not deserve and cannot earn, which cost him everything.

And with that forgiveness, comes hope. And with that hope, comes faith to trust that he is great and he is good.

To trust his love.

If we stop.

And listen.

“Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” Revelation 2:29 The Message