On Gratitude…again.


Have you ever had a really good day or week and STILL felt like a complete and utter failure?

Ok, you know me already…you KNOW I know those feelings are just an illusion…False Evidence Appearing Real.  I know that I am a most beloved child of God.  I know His love surrounds me, His heart is for me, His eyes are upon me, His arms hold me and His hands provide for me. As long as I am doing the things to which He’s called me with all I have in me, I am a resounding success, no matter what it looks like or feels like.

Yeah, all of that is cool and everything, but what do you do with the FEELING?

The feeling that produces mournful isolation; that kicks at your hope; that bypasses all of your progress and positive actions to focus on and blame you for the things over which you have no control.  What do you do with THAT?

I punch it out with heavy-handed thanks.

I have had a particularly vicious attack against my soul this week.  Nobody in particular.  As a matter of fact, nobody at all.  It’s been in my head.  The great battlefield of the mind.  I’ve been frightfully lonely and insecure.  Too many things that ‘should have been’ have made heavy foot traffic in my imagination. Too many internal suggestions as to why things aren’t happening fast enough they way I had hoped were weighing heavily upon me.  I have had conversations in my head so out of control I literally had to say aloud, “No, I DO NOT believe you just said that!” A co-worker had to look around to see who I might be talking to! My spirit was having a really hard time with it all.  People who love me dearly have checked me and checked on me with care and concern.

Side note:  This is one of the reasons why living a transparent life and being prayerfully selective about who you let into your ‘inner court’ is so beneficial.  When you aren’t being quite ‘yourself,’ those people pray for you and they talk to you (as opposed to talking about you). There are a few people that came to me and asked me about my tone of voice and my verbage, or took the time to kindly express that I had value to them. Let me take this moment to say a simple thank you to Miranda, Virginia and Tim.  They may have seemed like simple words, but to me they were apples of gold in pitchers of silver.

My responses to them were knee-jerk thank yous, right in those moments.  And in those moments, I realized how much more there was to be grateful for. (Ironically, as I am typing, my mp3 player pops on Yolanda Adams, singing “Thank You.” Yeah…God’s got jokes.)

It then occurred to me how Elijah must have felt hiding in a mountain cave, wishing to die. He just needed something to be grateful for.

Gratitude is infectious.  You start to find things to be grateful for and you will feel the sting of what seem to be failures less and less.  You may even begin to recognize those occasions of failure as opportunities for growth. So much so that you may find yourself sharing those things that made you feel like a failure with those around you, not out of arrogance or shame (which, incidentally, are two sides of the same coin), but out of gratitude for what you learned from the experience.

Do you know how hard it is to be miserable and grateful at the same time?  There is something to be said for gratitude as form of spiritual warfare.  It is, in fact, an awesome line of defense. It works very well in conjunction with laughter.  I have had laugh out-loud moments this week with the dynamic duo (my sons), I’ve done some things at work, in the middle of my misery, that have made my coworkers laugh out loud.  Which, in turn, had me laughing at myself!  It’s amazing how funny your own behavior can be, when looking from the right perspective.

I have had some really awesome days at work, I have had some pretty heady personal and professional experiences apart from work. I have needed people and they’ve been there for me.  People needed me and I’ve been there with a word in due season.  None of that would have been possible if we all had not made it through some difficult times with the help of God.  The point is WE MADE IT OUT ALIVE and now we can help each other through the next phase.  That alone is something to be grateful for.

Hold onto your gratitude.  The life you save may be your own.

The Trouble With Jonah


Ok, so…you may have noticed that I did not make any effort to mention Mother’s Day in any way recently.  That’s because I have an unnatural aversion to the holiday.  Unlike with Father’s Day where I could pull together familial references to create an image of what might have been, I don’t have to wonder with my women folk.  While I can count the positive matriarchal references in my family on one hand, I have LOTS of negative ones.  The killing part is they are some of my most immediate kin.  There are visions I can scarce escape of indentured and unappreciated servitude, prophetic words of encouragement coupled with justified reasons why I will never see those prophecies come to pass, tools and tricks of their power wielded equally against those most loved and loathed.  I have been victorious over such influence, by the Gracious hand of God. But the second Sunday in May is the one day where their presence still overwhelms me. I’m always so grateful to be on the other side of it.

This particular holiday was further complicated by an intrusive call by one of those women.  There was a message left on my pastor’s phone.  It made sense, as there is no other way for her to contact me (good fences make good neighbors)…I still didn’t appreciate it.  The timing, however, was questionable at best. Wanting nothing more than to find out why it was so imperative that I be contacted, I returned the call as soon as possible. While ascertaining that there was absolutely NO real purpose for communication, the call lasted all of about 45 seconds.  I spent the better part of the afternoon seething.  That is, until I got home from church where I had waiting for me a pot of home-made chili that was accompanied by an extra large chocolate ice cream float.(Did I tell you how FANTASTIC my sons are?)  I went to bed as soon as I was able.

Spending an entire day under the influence of 150 proof rage leaves one with a MASSIVE hangover! I woke up Monday desperate to go back to bed, knowing that it was not an option.

This is why I LOVE working at a ministry like PASS network for life!  I got compassion and friendship from women that get God and get me.  I got unsolicited words of kindness and kinship from men in that same frame of mind.  It was better than aspirin or any other hangover remedy. Somewhere in the middle of my 12 hour day, I realize…I’m okay. I actually had a FUN day at work that ended with a few answered prayers and everything.

Still, it wasn’t until Tuesday that I got my resolution; the consolation and challenge that gave me rest that I will take with me from this Mother’s Day into every holiday or challenging ‘relative’ encounter from this day forward.

The nice thing about looking for God everywhere is you’re not surprised when He shows up…you’re just tickled.

God showed up on Tuesday in the form of a volunteer-in-training by the name of Mary.  Sweetest young lady you ever want to meet! And it wasn’t anything she said that day.  It was her presence that reminded me of a conversation we were having a week before.

We were manning the phones at the front desk, talking about something… (What I love about people with whom I enjoy chatting…we talk in random and varied trains of thought.  Nobody gets offended if the other goes off and jumps a track.  If we get back to the original conversation, it’s cool.  If we don’t, that’s cool, too!) and for some reason, we got on the subject of a bible study she had just been a part of.

Mary sits back in her chair and announces in this matter-of-fact voice, “You know, the trouble with Jonah is that Jonah thought the story of Jonah was all about Jonah.”

I fell out laughing.

That was something that had never occurred to me!  The thing that infuriated Jonah about the prophetic assignment he had been given is that He KNEW God’s intention was to correct and forgive the people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted Nineveh to FRY.  And when they didn’t, he got so hacked off (Pastor Andrew J. Willis, I borrowed your phrase) at God that he threw one temper tantrum after another. God still didn’t let Him off the hook. He even gave Jonah shade, so he wouldn’t stroke out while he was acting like a new fool. Even THEN the point was not about Jonah!  To the very last chapter of HIS book, He was merely a force, NOT A FACTOR!!!

So, that is how I shall perceive the women in my immediate family (along with a few other people), from this point on.  They were merely a force, a catalyst if you will, to push me to a place where God would get the glory and enable me to make a difference in the lives of many others. And I will not become like Jonah and demand some sense of justice or vengeance for self-satisfaction.  They are God’s children, just like me.  My fences are secure…they cannot cross them without my permission.  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME, ANYWAY! Whatever God does to them or for them is His business.  I’m gonna bless Him by blessing them (from a safe distance) and move on with my life.

That’s Not My Job


God is really clear about the simple boundaries and expectations of a relationship with Him. We are simply to  Love, Trust and Obey. In turn, He promises to Love, Guide and Provide. God will always do His part. That is what enables us to do our part. 

God said, “Everyone will know you love me by the way you love one another,” John 13:35 And, “If you love Me, you’ll do what I’m telling you,” John 14:15 (my own paraphrasing).  “If you do what I’m telling you with the right attitude, you will live well wherever I place you,” Isaiah 1:19 (my translation). So, “If you trust Me and seek after Me HARD, despite what your circumstances, senses and associations tell you, I will be well pleased and you will be well rewarded.” Micah 6:6/Hebrews 11:6 (personal favorite mash-up).

 

All of this is a direct result of how much God’s love is for us. He KNOWS how He made us and what we need to do as He instructs. As we do our job, we will have provision, wisdom, skill and ability to do more as He asks us to.

Anyone who has ever taken the time to look at the Ten Commandments for themselves (and not just watch the movie), will discover that the sum of everything in them is in the paragraph above.

I bet your little seeker-friendly buds never told you that, huh?  How He cares for us is a mystery…that’s none of our business.  THAT He cares for us is evident on a daily basis.  Trying to figure out what He’s up to and where it fits in the big picture (or the little picture for that matter) is not our job.

 Sometimes, trusting God can be a pain in the BUTT and it feels like the ‘waiting game’ is SOOOO over rated.

BUT…since I understand the TRUTH about God, I’m okay with the wait.  Sometimes, it HURTS.  I cry.  Sometimes I cry A LOT. I get scared and I worry sometimes. Many times, nothing looks like I would have imagined it. Having walked this long with God, many times I don’t understand God (I said I understand the truth about God, not God Himself), but I know that I trust Him. So, I wait…and continue to walk this walk of faith in relationship with God.

What I DO know is this. I told Him I would trust Him when I was 12 years old. In 32 years I have never been forsaken. I have always had what I NEEDED (not always what I wanted).  I have seen the desires of my heart manifest before my eyes without having had one hand of my own in their making. And everything that I haven’t seen yet, I know is coming in a way that will be for my total good and beyond my wildest imagination. All because I know who He really is and He knows who I really am…and still calls me friend.

You can’t make me doubt Him. I know too much about Him. That’s RELATIONSHIP. Can you say that about the God YOU serve?

Because He is so real to me, it’s easier for me to not question what He’s doing when I don’t understand.  I know that’s not my job. So, yeah…the waiting may be a pain and the pain may seem like it will go on forever. But I know in Whom I believe. I know His ways. I’m gonna do my job and trust Him to do His.

Which God is Yours?


I have been trying to write this for the last THREE WEEKS.

I have a hard time with Christians that come off with that sickly, saccharine-sweet tone, talking about how wonderful God is and that He gives you ever thing you need whenever you ask.  You know…the “seeker friendly” types that just want you to get you in the Kingdom so they can say they won you to the Lord.  Not that it matters if they never sold you on the ‘fine print.’ GEESH!

From the foundation of FAITH, all the way back to Father Abraham, there are a couple of factors/FACTS that are in direct, inevitable correlation with walking by faith:

*The enemy (the father of LIES) is not happy with your relationship with God.

*The enemy will provide you will ALL MANNER of resistance to that relationship.

*The enemy will attempt to use every other relationship you have (with people, places AND things) to prevent you from going deeper in that relationship with God.

*The enemy’s best tool against that relationship will almost always be YOU!

When you go into your relationship with God (your walk of faith) with unrealistic expectations, it magnifies anything that could ever possibly go wrong.  Then you feel betrayed by the God that failed you…which in essence was not the God you were sold on.  And that, in turn, causes the wholesale rejection of God based on false advertising.

Why do you think there are so many atheists and agnostics that are former Christians?  There are many (I do not assume to speak for all) that are disappointed and confused by the many troubles that they and people they know have faced. From the time that they accepted “Christ”, they just figured certain things should not have happened because of their belief in the “loving God” they were told about.  I have known and met a few.  It always saddens me, because at that point, there is really no talking to them about a relationship with God.  They don’t want to hear how they got hoodwinked.  It burns me.  It makes me white-hot mad because if they had been told the truth, they most likely would have been on fire for the Real Jesus.

It all goes back to one of my favorite adages: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. God is very clear about what His relationship boundaries are. And He is very clear about who His is and who He is not.

God is NOT a doormat.  Nor is He Santa Claus. Nor faulty (like we humans).  Nor manipulative. Nor unrealistic. He will never demand of you what you are incapable of (apart from Him).

God IS LOVE, so whether or not He loves us should never be a question. God is good…ALL THE TIME.  He is also soveriegn. And jealous.  And righteous. And holy.

And this is where the hang-ups kick in. Because, if you’re relying on other people to inform you of who God is and how He works, you are subject to an influx of SEVERE misinformation. A lot of the qualities that people attribute to God do not come from Bible.

Do you remember a grade-school game called “Telephone?”  The teacher would tell one student something to pass along to the next student. Each student would tell the next student until they got to the last kid, who would say what he was told and it NEVER sounded ANYTHING like what the teacher said.

That’s kind of what happens when you don’t take the time to discover the God of the Bible for yourself. You will always be disappointed by the God you have made of other’s imaginations.

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