When are you aware of gratitude in your life? Can you find any reason to be grateful during this devastation in Florida? Are you grateful only a few times a day like at meals or when something special happens like a medicine takes away pain? Or, perhaps, see it in every moment …Just looking around. This question was proposed by my good friend Kayla Becker in a Jo-Yo session at a retreat recently. I take this question to heart and find that there are days when I really do find little to “cheer” about.
Certainly, the devastation caused by the storm Ian has provided a lot of destruction. I have several relatives and friends throughout Florida as in Orlando whom I was praying for, that they be spared from a lot of hurt and loss. Our concerns are legitimate and truly could make life a series of “What ifs”. I don’t minimize any difficulties anyone faces and pray often with deep pain in my heart for those lives and properties lost. Beauty in nature seems to turn to rubble or cause the rubble from the perspective of the storm itself.
People are torn from their homes or businesses, families broken, pets lost or hurt, innumerable situations arise. My nieces have often told me how their homes are protected by their structure and that they are willing to live in Florida because they love it there, despite the risks and possibilities. Perhaps the fact that they face these dangers makes them stronger and able to face the daily challenges of life. They appreciate the little things, the special moments of being together, sharing a lovely sunset, wonderment of creatures that appear in their yard, the antics of their pets and children…Having fun just being alive and together.
I reflect on recent moments, looking around through my heart, really seeing with Jesus’ eyes. Can I always do this? No, but when I do I see the look of love that comes from knowing everything, yes everything and everyone was made through God and by God in His Creation. Each precious molecule of life has a purpose and place in life, even for a short time. Sometimes, the “thing” seems ugly and vicious with no purpose. So why does a beautiful, Loving God who loves us more his own Son’s life create such things?
We ponder a lot of life’s questions like this and often come up blank, because truly, the whole story has not been written yet. Each day is new with the sunrise with each breathe we take opening the door on new adventures.
“Guardians of Being” by Eckhart Tolle reveals that animals are the true guardians of being in that they show us how to be. Just be. They don’t worry about bills, diet, job changes, retirement, speeches, sporting contests, future relationships, on and on. They see life as it is with each moment to be with their friend in their forever home, romp or fly or smell sweet fragrances. Look at the leaves turning color and the sky brilliant with stars and planets far away lending dreams of what is. Just seeing. Breathing. Being. Each moment.
Let us as Ann Voskamp in “One Thousand Gifts” maintains God re-members our broken places together with joy. Let us exercise our gratitude muscles. As the women in the Bible who took their musical instruments with them in Exodus to exercise their “tambourine of thanks”. God is with us.
Grow strong in joy. Don’t snap shut to grace. Live seeing God’s Love.
Everyone has their stories of moments they would like to erase. But the moments linger. For me, witnessing the death of my parents, my dear dad and dear mom holding my hand once full of life with a smile always on her lips and making everyone who was in her presence feel so special. My grandad dying after a life-struggle with polio as millions of people have suffered this disease, my young cousin dying with his fiancé in a moment in a car crash, another cousin killed in an icy cave in Alaska in front of her family who couldn’t save her.
A dear friend whose daughter never was able to sit up a day in her life with her beautiful spirit lighting up a room but never able to run and play and hold in an embrace and walk smugging her feet in the sand dying in her 30’s teaching school from a wheelchair. Her name was Joy. And no matter what, that’s what she was. Joy in the midst of pain. Seemingly senseless uncaring people hurting others after drink or deep emotional pain. Or as this week, a storm that snuffs out life in an instant. Hundreds of men and women without power, food or water on the street without a home.
Can we find the God of Love and feel grateful for everything? Are each of these things wished for? No, of course not. But they do make us stronger, if we choose to look at them that way and give your life to God. Read his Word. Follow his way. Support each other in fellowship.
I wish to say yes. I believe with all my heart that is true. God is good. Take one step at a time. One small step at a time.
Grab a piece of paper or just close your eyes and think. What do you see that brings you joy, gives you a sense of peace. A beautiful flower, a sunny smile, a kind word, a pet wagging his tail, an unexpected letter in the mail from a friend who loves you… Challenge yourself this day to find one thing, just one and reflect on it in your heart of hearts. God created it for you.
Will you try? Or simply remember God created you to bring joy to everyone to see Jesus’ face in theirs. To Love even when it hurts, through the hurt. Will you try?
A day care center I visit with Rascal dog has a beautiful practice of having a basket of simple stones by the door, lovingly colored and then hand lettered by the sweet, caring owners’ mom with simple loving words that little chubby hands clutch that simply says “a big hug for you”, Hugs…Out of breath, anxious moms or dads, sisters, babies come into this place and leave with a stone, a smile, and a heart of gratitude. Someone cares. They encounter each other in the day care clutching their rocks and the smile of a dear one who does care. Do they cry, have tantrums? Sure. They are human. But Love is there. Deep within them and all around them.
Will you try too? In the midst of pain, you will find joy. Hidden in the clouds washed clean by the rain, is a moment of sunshine you can bring. And please don’t forget the Word. To Love as He Loved you. No matter what. Because you can simply choose to do so.
Sometimes I wake up feeling grouchy, and really, really want to cover my head with my pillow and snuggle down, but I know down deep, that if the day is to go well, I know I must follow a routine doing exercise (like yoga) and reading Scripture, group prayer and a good breakfast.
But before all that, I will try to push myself to wake up by plumping my pillow, putting my hands on my stomach and just slowly breathing. As I take my breath in, I often say a favorite Scripture as I read like “This is the day the Lord has made, and on the outbreath, let us rejoice and be glad in it” several times…Whatever comes to my head through the grace of the Spirit. I thank God for this life, this day, my heartbeat, my breathing, the ability to use my senses…maybe not as well as I used to, on and on. Till I feel a smile of gratitude coming on my face, connecting me to the Lord who created me and every other particle of matter that exists.
And later, as I get out into the world to walk my dog, I often have a song come to my mind as I interact with nature around me in the stillness of the morning. One particular song of gratitude often comes into my heart and continues to fill me deeply with the way we can see the connections in the world today and must be to each other. All affects all. Everything comes from God. We love because God first loved us.
A nutritious question for your day: What serves to help you get past grouchy moments to starting a good morning? …to have a grateful attitude, remembering Christ’s abiding Love in and through us, the indwelling Holy Spirit who comforts and guides you? Perhaps an old song, a beautiful memory, a Scripture, the Spirit’s quiet words leading when you are tired, grouchy or just in need of an attitude change?