Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Being Thankful

The last couple of years someone came up with the great idea on Facebook to post something you are thankful for every day during the month of November. I love the idea! I have participated in this the last 2 Novembers. This November however, as the end of November was approaching, I really began to think, "How thankful are we? Really..."

As I say that, I don't mean to take anything away from everyone posting things they are thankful for everyday. I LOVE the fact that so many do this. I love the way it makes me think everyday about things I am thankful for. But it also reminds of how many times I am thankful and yet don't acknowledge or praise God for His blessings.

There are so many things we take for granted every day. Things like water, food, shelter, clothing, even breathing. We tend to forget to thank God for these things. And I find that we sometimes sadly forget to thank God for the bigger thinks as well... when someone's surgery goes well, when that new job or promotion comes through, when a baby is born, etc. I know that we all pray and ask God for His direction, His strength, His courage, His ... fill in the blank; but when those things come to pass to do we always remember to "thank Him" for the outcome? Sometimes we get so caught up in our moment of need, that in the moment of relief or success we are so excited we forget to thank God.

So many things in our life, especially our spiritual life, have to be intentional. We live in a busy world, with lots of places to go, people to see and things to do. If we want to pray, we have to intentionally set aside time to pray. If we want to study God's word, we have to intentionally set aside time to study. And after this month of being thankful for something specific every day, I think it's time (for me at least) to start being intentional in my conversations with God to thank Him for something in my life every day. We are always thankful for the necessities... food, shelter, etc, and while those are wonderful things to be thankful for, I want to be more intentional in my thanks. I want to dig deep and find meaningful things to be thankful for. There is so much that goes on in our lives that we simply take for granted. I want to become more aware and learn to recognize those things daily so that I can be thankful to God daily instead of waiting until next November rolls around.

Even when days or times are tough, there is still so much to be thankful for. I think it's time I start acknowledging God more for those things, blessings and people that I am thankful for!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks
in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you
in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Seeing As Jesus Sees

I'm reading the book, "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning. I'm only about a third of the way into the book, but I read something a couple of days ago that I have continued to think about. He says... "The outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, neither the drunk in the doorway, the panhandler on the street, gays and lesbians in their isolation, the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust of employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception."

While those are words that as a Christian should come as no surprise to us, why is it that we seem to look at people and make a determination about them based on what we first see. I think most of us when we see someone on the street, in a restaurant, in a grocery store and even in our churches base our first impression of someone on what we initially see. On whether they are dressed right, whether they look "proper", who they are with, and on and on. But how often do we look at someone and have our first impression be... Jesus loves them too!

After reading that a couple of days ago, I started "noticing" people when we went out to lunch. I looked around the room at all the different faces, all the different types of people, all the different races, all the different clothes and started trying to see each of them with the eyes of Jesus. I found myself wondering as I looked at their faces and their expressions, what was going on in their lives and reminding myself that Jesus loved them no matter what that might be.

We like to think we are always trying to imitate Jesus. And I think that most of the time we probably do a pretty good job. But when you think of the list of people described above, you probably don't think about those people actually being in our churches. But whether we realize it or not, they are already there. And those are the people who are coming to our churches to see if the people inside really are like Jesus. Do they walk the walk or do they just talk about it. And they are looking to see if we really will love them like Jesus loves them. And if we are supposed to be the representation of Christ, how are we going to show God's love to them if we don't see them as He sees them? How will they feel welcomed and loved by Christ if we are judging rather than loving?

The next time we look at some one who we think doesn't dress appropriately, I hope we remember that Jesus looks at them and says "they are beautiful no matter what they are wearing". When we look at someone whose lifestyle might not be what we would choose, I hope we remember that Jesus looks at them and says, "I love them even so". And when we see people, even in our churches, who may look or act differently than we think they should, I hope we remember that Jesus sees them and says, "I love you and I'm so glad you are here!"

I pray that we can all remember that Jesus excludes no one; we therefore, should not exclude anyone either. And I pray that we will see everyone through the eyes of Jesus and remember that He loves them, just as much as He loves us... no matter what.

Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
I John 4: 7-8