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?

Beyond the darkness

God doesn’t mind our brooding, aching questions. This week as I continued to ponder the darkness, I felt as if I were taken by the hand, behind the curtain, into the depths of the darkness. I comprehended in a deeper way why Jesus had to become a human being, why God become a baby, went through all we must to walk and talk and learn, and suffer. Why he had to spend so much time talking with his father. He wasn’t simply God in a transformer body-disguise. He really was a man. A man with choices.

YD talks a lot with her children about making good choices. Not much of right and wrong, obedience and disobedience. Not so much the rules and no-nos. “Did you make good choices?” she will ask to elicit a heart response from the child who obviously didn’t.

Jesus grew up with choices just like we do. Since he was also God, I think he had the God-awareness that made it possible for him to grab on to his father when the choices were hard.

When his cousin John lost his head.

When he saw in the eyes of Judas his betrayal was in place. And knew all his friends would leave him.

When he cried in the garden for a way out.

It really was his choice, a man deciding, every moment, to say ‘no’ to himself and ‘yes’ to his father.

I think the biggest difference between our choices and his was that he knew what was really at stake. Chalice by Jack H Thompson

When he broke apart the bread at their Passover Seder, his last meal with his close friends, he knew the depth of our brokenness, and what that tearing would cost him.

As he offered the cup it was no polished chalice he had in mind.

It was his own blood, drop by drop, poured out on our dry and thirsty world.

The last night in the garden, he looked into the darkness. In his agony of soul, he knew he must walk there.

Dwell there.

Release his father’s hand and go alone into the pit of evil.

He chose well, but it cost him.

Oh, how it cost him.

Cut off, by his “good choice” he gave up the light of the world.

Jesus hung on the cross and the world went dark for three hours.

For the first time since he was conscious of his own life as a human being, he felt totally alone.

“My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?”

He walked into the darkness of the sin of the world. Of the vilest and worst.

He didn’t just see it. He felt it. He “bore it upon himself.”

During those dark hours on the cross

He became sin.

The bullies at the bus stop, or in the home
The little ones abused by their father or another trusted friend or relative
The runaways trafficked for profit, purposely hooked on drugs so they have no exit
The parents losing their temper, again, this time throwing their baby across the room
All those babies, never knowing love or protection, experiencing only violence, and if they survive, becoming violence.
Alcoholics, drug addicts, food addicts, porn addicts, video game addicts, control addicts, religion addicts . . . all those who life focus is skewed and drained and draining, committing slow death and stealing life from those around them
The diseases destroying bodies or brains, and the hearts of those who love them
The slums of the world, teaming with hopelessness, one miserable wretch preying on another

All the sickness, hurt, pain, injury, violence, torment, greed, envy, jealousy, selfishness, pride, arrogance . . . and death.

Can you even imagine the weight of it?

When he cried, “It is finished!” he proclaimed the end of the power of darkness to destroy us.

Because he went into the darkness, and came out of the tomb, not one of us ever has to walk alone.

There is no place on this earth, no life too far from the presence of the risen Jesus.

He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
Isaiah 53:3-6, The Message