Aug 13, 2017

Start Each Morning with a Grateful Heart

I was filled with anxiety that kept me up at night and buzzed around my head throughout the day. It knotted up my stomach and made me want to simultaneously fix the problem and hide under my the poor comfort of my blankets. (It's hard to find any comfort at all when one is anxious.)

I made a mistake, due partly out of ignorance, and it diminished my sense of self-worth. I began to see a recurring pattern of failures in my character. Hating this self-loathing, I began to work on counter measures for the future. As much as I worked, however, I couldn't shake away the feelings of worthlessness.

With these feelings in mind, I reluctantly closed my computer at the end of the week and went out to serve with my intern group. I returned a renewed person with a firm resolve not to dwell on the past but to work towards the future. I had been filled with living hope (1 Peter 1:3).

Serving with my intern group, I was made to turn outwards, and in the process, I found myself thinking less about my own concerns and more about how I could build similar connections in my church's neighborhood. In seeking to bless others, I finally began the process of letting go of my anxiety and embracing gratitude.

  • Gratitude for the sunny weather.
  • Gratitude for the opportunity to bless others.
  • Gratitude for the wonderful people with whom I've been blessed to work this summer.
  • Gratitude for having the capability to serve my local community.
  • Gratitude for the work I've been privileged to do and continue to do.

. . . the list goes on.

There's nothing wrong with planning for the future. In fact, it can help us steward our time wisely and give more to others. If we plan too much, however, we run the risk of making an idol of the process and forgetting our true Lord.

My best of plans couldn't save me because I don't have the power to save myself. Only Jesus has the power to do that, and he already did. In trying to take care of my problems, I turned inwards to myself and became blind to the outside reality—that God is in control, and He wants me to turn to Him before all else.

We need to keep in mind is that we can't rely on the self alone. I can make the best plans in the world, but in the end, God is in control (Proverbs 16:9). If my plans don't align with His will, then nothing will come of them. This isn't because God hates me and wants to see me fail. Far from it. More than anyone else, He understands my weaknesses, and He wants me to trust Him with my concerns. He will bear my burdens for me. As Jesus says, his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30).

When I recognize God's sovereignty, I can let go of the burden of trying to do everything my way and am free to follow His good path. I can let of my anxiety and find joy in His blessings. I can let go of selfish desires and live with gratitude for what I have been given.

In embracing gratitude, my problem hasn't gone away. In fact, I'm still working to do something about it.

What has changed is my attitude.

Instead of dwelling on the negativity, I accept that I have failed in the past, but it doesn't define me; my identity rests in Jesus Christ. I acknowledge there is a problem, and I can do something about it. I understood that I am a flawed human, but God will give me the wisdom to discern His ways. I am a sinner, but I am also a child of the One True King. And He has the power to make something wonderful out of my life.

While at the store the other day, I saw a planner with the following words printed on its cover:

Start Each Morning with a Grateful Heart

Gratitude has tremendous power.

When we allow gratitude to fill our hearts, it opens our eyes to the many ways we've been blessed. It burns away the negativity taking root in our hearts. Recognition of our blessings points to God's grace. He has freely given us countless gifts. And when we have God's grace, what can we have but abundant joy?

Only when my heart is filled with gratitude can I make any plans for the future because only with gratitude can I begin to understand God's awesome power. Only with gratitude will I trust in His provisions.

With Him by my side, I need not worry about the future. He is in control, and He will give me the fortitude to walk content through the storm.

Therefore, let us start each morning with a grateful heart that sings praises for our Lord and Savior.

Jul 24, 2017

Who or What are You Loving? {And Where Should You Be Giving More Time?}

Pet me. Pay attention to me, my dog seems to be saying as he sits in front of me. His bottom is firmly planted on top of my computer's charging cord—a challenge to what has been and what should be taking priority in my life.

A line from my theology reading comes to mind: "God speaks through his creation."

Hasn't my dog been proving this point to me?

This summer, my dog has been holding me accountable to our prayer walks. Every morning, when I come down the stairs, he runs over and prances about, pushing me to hurry up and take him around the neighborhood. Since I've started these morning walks, I've been following them up with jogs (without the dog), and I'm beginning to greet neighbors during these morning excursions.

None of this would've started had I not received the inspiration to take my dog out on a morning walk and kept at it.

What could God be trying to tell me now? What has He been trying to tell me over the hundreds (thousands?) of times my dog has sat before me, trying to command my attention, over the past twelve years?

Jun 24, 2017

Humble Hearts and Self-Serving Attitudes

"Give me ten minutes. I'm finishing this . . . ?"

Have you ever said something along those lines to someone?

In the moment, the task we're doing can seem like the most interesting task in the world. Especially when someone asks us to do something that we really don't want to do. I recently found myself in the latter situation.

Apr 4, 2017

Back to the Basics: Simplifying Fashion and Life

My closet is filled with clothes. Finding lack of hanging space, out-of-season clothes have moved into boxes to be unpacked when the time comes. I have no pressing need for anything, yet during a recent conversation with a friend, the two of us discussed the irresistibility of purchasing one more item that we find lacking in our already crowded closets.

This habit has been carefully bred and developed over time by an increasingly materialistic and consumeristic culture. No longer are we satisfied with the basic necessities, but we are taught to need more and more. Many clothes are fashioned with a specific occasion or season in mind. When their time is up, they either sit in our closet collecting dust until the next year or in the trash or Salvation Army bin.

Every year, my family throws out bags filled with perfectly good clothes. We feel good donating these items to the Salvation Army, but we don't actually know what happens to them. Will they find a home, or will they continue to collect dust somewhere? In the end, we're still generating more waste and still unsatisfied with our closets.

Instead of purchasing another item for the closet, what if we gave away a piece of clothing we wear only once or twice a year? What if we learned how to piece together new outfits from the items that we already own? What if we learned how to be content with what we have?

Mar 24, 2017

Afraid of Missing Out or Afraid I'm Not Good Enough?

"Aren't you afraid that you'll miss out on something good?"

That's the general reaction that I get when I tell others that I don't watch R-rated movies. Some wonder why I would willingly forsake any potential pleasure in life. Others believe some R-rated movies may include content needed for history or culture to be portrayed accurately. Such content is not always PG.

For example, Schindler's List takes place during the Holocaust and The King's Speech features a lengthy scene filled with cuss words. However, both films feature uplifting messages. Aren't these movies worth seeing?

Why not keep myself open to determining whether a movie is worth seeing on a case-to-case basis? Why set boundaries in the first place?