Tag Archives: gratitude

Finding Ways to Celebrate

We all know that life is like a box of chocolates. Not every chocolate can be as delicious as the next. Sometimes you bite into something that looks sweet, and instead it is bitter. Does it mean we stop figuratively biting into life? Or do we just spit out what’s bitter and keep on looking for the sweet stuff?

This last month has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, and I can tell by the forecast of life that it will likely continue. That’s what happens when you are moving. You are bound to get hit with something unexpected. What I have found to be helpful, is to celebrate the little stuff. Recently I counted how many churches I have photographed, and it’s very close to 50. To celebrate I had some of the photos printed on nice paper with my website on the back. They turned out very nice, but then I couldn’t decide what to do with them. Who would want a bunch of pictures of random churches? Probably the people that don’t find them random, like the people that actually pastor these churches. So this week I have written a letter to encourage each pastor, I inserted their photos into the addressed envelopes, and I have decided to pray over each one.

Now suddenly, my personal celebration of my photos has turned into a way I can give back, and when I give back, I feel like I can do anything. Think about it this way. Have you ever seen anyone looking all doom and gloom, but when you say hi they perk up a bit, maybe even say hello back? Do you know that feeling like you have just conquered the world? You made someone smile and it made your day and perhaps theirs as well. When we give, even out of our complete spiritual, emotional, physical, or even financial bankruptcy, we feel energized, encouraged, empowered. It changes your perspective, and can hold the power to change the world.

We will always have times in life when we feel totally at the end of our rope no matter how much faith we claim to have. I have felt that way at times lately even though I have so much to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family, an enjoyable job, great coworkers, supportive friends, a warm place to live, and a car to drive. That’s more than much of the world can say, but somehow I let Satan suck the gratitude out of life. Fortunately I believe in a God that is more powerful than that thinking, and he always pulls me out of the miry clay and sets my feet on rock (Psalm 40:2).

What can you do for others today to also help you remember your blessings? You may not have much, but I guarantee you have enough to help someone else.

Realistic Goals

First, I would like to say that any goal is realistic if it is God’s will and you humble yourself to depend on Him even when things don’t seem to be going right. Lately there has been a lot of talk about goals, especially in my career and blog and other more personal areas of my life. Over the years I have learned one of the major keys to setting goals is a willingness to keep trying even after you have not met one of your stepping stone goals.

In 2014 I successfully became debt-free. I’m ecstatic about that! But I haven’t been so successful at other financial goals after becoming debt-free. Despite the little hiccups along the way I have still kept trying, and become a little more successful every month. Here are a few little reminders that have helped me along in goal setting.

  1. Avoid piling on too many goals. People have a tendency to pile them on during the New Year or around their birthday. Make one goal, and when you start to find success in that goal start considering implementing new goals.
  2. Find an accountability partner, someone that will check in with you on your goal. For me, my mom made a good accountability partner, but for others it could be a mentor, pastor, or close friend.
  3. Pray constantly. When I was working on my goal to be debt-free, I continually thanked God for His gifts and prayed that God was in control of my finances, that I would use His gifts wisely and be mindful of my spending.
  4. Make stepping stone, shorter term goals that will ultimately lead to your big goal. Becoming debt-free is a big goal for most people. Setting smaller goals really helped me achieve my big goal. I set timeframes for when I wanted each debt paid off.
  5. Do your research. Read up on how other people have achieved their goals. Make sure that your goal is the right goal for you. Perhaps you are aiming for a degree in a field you are really not that interested in or isn’t a best fit for you. It’s okay to adjust your goal even after you have made it.
  6. Don’t give up. Keep at it even when you stumble, and look for the opportunities to learn from those stumbling blocks.
  7. Thank God and your accountability partner every step of the way. Giving gratitude encourages, not only the person you are thanking, but also the thanker.

Remember even the best fail, but it is the transformation that happens with the failure that really pushes you to succeed.

Happy New Year!

His Calling in this Moment

A friend of mine recently challenged his Facebook friends to share five minutes with a homeless person next time we are asked for change. On top of that he also suggested that we give them all our change and then ask for half of it back. Explain that you ask for half back so that you have something to give the next person and so that they have a part in giving to the next person. Upon making this exchange he also suggested praying for the person. Now, I must admit, I have not mastered this whole process in the last three days since he posted that, however I have tried parts of his suggestion. One experience is chronicled in the below reflection on tonight’s experience.

His Calling in this Moment

Fairy tales paint my childhood memory,
Not in black and white, but vivid color.
With age the colors seem to fade
And fairies disappear into the clouds
That transform our tales into life stories.
It seems all too apparent that this journey
Called life can wind up and down and around
As if there is no destination
No final purpose, no reason for being
However pastors, preachers, priests, teachers
They all tell us that there is purpose
And a unique plan and reason for each life.
You can choose to toss that idea out the window,
Or you can wait for that plan to be revealed.
But there is another technique for identifying
Your unique calling.
Looking for it.
Unlike in the movies or what religious leaders might tell you
Sometimes, most times the blindfold of human nature
Will not magically be pulled away,
Revealing a divine purpose that all at once shows you
The story of your life end to beginning
But what if as you are looking,
The eyes of your heart refocus
And bring about a perfect moment of meaning
Of purpose to touch even a single life?
Wouldn’t that make all the other uncertainty worth it?
Often I get so wrapped up in the thinking,
The wandering, the working at a purpose
That I forget that my purpose could be staring me in the face
With long beard, sad eyes, worn shoes, cracking skin.
I fail to remember that Jesus found purpose in every step
Every thirst, every broken person.
What makes me think I am above that?
So today, I make the usual call to my mom as I walk to my car.
I look down to find a crisp ten-dollar bill lying at my feet.
I pick it up, sliding it into my pocket.
It feels so smooth against the pocket lining.
I reach into my other pocket,
Which reveals I already had ten dollars there.
I’m reminded of the things I take for granted.
I complain that I have to go to the store to get more lunch foods.
How can I complain when there are people starving a block away?
As I exit Target I see Panera Bread in the distance.
My mouth waters, longing for my favorite broccoli cheddar soup.
Strangely, even though I am tired from my long day at work,
I decide to walk across the parking lot to Panera for a bowl of deliciousness.
Out of the corner of my eye I see that man,
The one that looks so much like Jesus I have to stare,
And at that moment he stares back.
Our eyes are locked, but I’m not scared.
I pull that crisp, fresh ten-dollar bill from my wallet,
Place it in his hand and say “I found this.
You need it more than me.”
I wait briefly for a response as he looks down at the bill.
There isn’t a smile, a “thanks”,
Just utter speechlessness, a look of shock.
“God bless,” I say as I walk into the Panera distance.
Perhaps he was just a homeless beggar,
The kind Jesus tells us to serve,
Or perhaps he was Jesus in a not-so-good disguise.
Whichever he was when I got to Panera and turned back
He was gone, as if vanished in his disbelief.

Cultivation of a Memory

I’ve been going through the book Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden for the past five weeks with a small group at my church. Lesson 5 is on prayer. Frankly it was a difficult lesson for me. Many questions arose regarding supplication, however what I want to discuss tonight is the T in the ACTS format of prayer. ACTS is an acronym for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. In short, adoration is thanking God for who He is. Confession is, of course, admitting to God the sins we have committed, asking for forgiveness, and repenting (turning away from that sin). Thanksgiving, I’ll get into in a minute. Supplication is interceding for ourselves and others to ask for God’s will to be done.

In his book Ogden describes the reasoning behind why we should give thanks to God for not only WHO He is but for WHAT He has DONE. He says that by recalling those things God has given us or done for us we cultivate a memory. The definition of cultivation is to try to acquire or develop. Like putting together a photo album we are repeating, sometimes aloud, all the good things God has done. And like a photo the memory sticks a little better when you reflect on it. Several years ago my family, primarily my mom, interviewed my grandparents so that we could put their story down on paper. As they recalled fond memories you could see the expressions of joy, hear the laughter, and get a true sense of the emotion behind the story. When we reflect on the good God gives us we not only cultivate a memory, but we prolong the joy and the gratitude.

There is a reason why we thank God before we intercede for ourselves and others. As one of my small group members said today the ACT in ACTS helps us shift our focus to God’s perspective. By the time we get to Supplication our perspective is changed and our prayer is more in line with God’s will. So I will end by asking, what are you thankful for today? Tell God and see what memories you can cultivate.