Perspective Unskewed

The other day my adult son was tearing out our bathroom fixtures and flooring for an upcoming renovation project. In the middle of his scraping and banging to remove the ceramic tile, he uttered a loud cry of distress. As my husband and I went running to check on him, I called out, “Are you okay?!?”” only to be answered with an anxious response of, “No, it’s bad!”

Anticipating a severe cut on Joshua’s hand, I nearly melted in relief when we opened the door to find our soaking wet son standing there in a panic, desperately attempting to staunch the shooting stream of a broken waterline. Despite the mess that was not only spraying upon him, but rapidly pooling across what was left of the floor and walls, relief was the only feeling I experienced. No frustrations at watching water jet like a fire hydrant, gushing across the room and pouring into open holes. No anxiety over the fact that we now had no running water in the house and I was unable to wash the lunchtime dishes piled in the sink or run a glass of water to drink. No qualms about my husband having to replace a waterline. I was too busy being grateful. I didn’t have time to ponder the pool of water seeping across the floor, because I was otherwise occupied with thanking God that Joshua was unhurt.

It’s amazing how expressing gratitude can pull things into proper perspective.

Had I opened the bathroom door with the assumption that nothing was out of place and instead found the spraying waterline, I imagine my frustrations would have loomed much larger than the situation called for.

So the question is: How do I keep my perspective inline with truth every day? How do I face each challenge before me with the thought that things could always be worse than whatever it is that momentarily seems so large?

The answer: Gratitude.

Gratitude in remembering that our God is present in every moment of our lives. Not only present, but actively involved in each specific detail, whether I have eyes to see Him working or not.

So today, I offer a prayer to our heavenly Father, and I invite you to join me in expressing thankfulness to the One whose ways are perfect and whose heart is kind in dealing with His children:

Father,

I am so thankful that all Your ways are much higher than the meager lengths to which this finite mind can stretch. Not just higher, but perfect, and this I know well because the truth of Your word and the wisdom of Your ways has been proven time and again.

There is no one who has my best interests at heart more than You do.

There is no one who rises to shield me from danger faster than You.

There is no one more capable of equipping me and fortifying me to persevere throughout this obstacle course of life.

For who is God, except You, my Lord?

While others rise to accuse, You rush to defend.

While governments shift and tumble, You stand firm; solid and capable throughout the centuries.

When men betray and desert, You remain loyal and constant; steadfast in Your love for those who trust in You.

When I’m bombarded with questions, Your truth shines forth its timeless wisdom, pointing me to a better way of living. Of being.

When life’s struggles threaten to wear me down, Your promises strengthen me to continue on.

When the journey dips into perilous valleys deep, You lift me to high places and grace me with power to dance upon those heights.

When violent storms rush upon me, Your gentleness quiets my spirit; Your right hand holds me secure and soothes the anxiousness of my soul.

When the ache of loneliness threatens to crush me with its heaviness, Your steady rhythms of mercy accompany the beat of my heart and bring joy, reminding me that I am never alone.

When the world is in the throes of upheaval, You deliver me from the strivings of men, infiltrating me with a peace that shatters all earthly limitations.

When nations curse Your name, I will continue to give thanks to You and sing praises to Your greatness.

When men glory in themselves, I will glory in the cross of Christ and find my hope in You.

And when things as ordinarily irritating as broken waterlines challenge me to become frustrated, I will choose to live with gratitude toward the One who does all things well.

For truly, there is no God except the Lord, the One who deals kindly with me and with my descendants both now and forever.

In gratitude, I stand redeemed.

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The Good News is…

This week I received an email from my adult daughter (slight pause while Mama attempts to wrap her mind around that seeming oxymoron – when did my children become adults?). In her typical storytelling fashion, my “little girl” filled me in on the most recent happenings of her life with a series of “good news/bad news” statements. Similarly to the famous Fortunately/Unfortunately word game often played, her sentences ranged from the disappointing to the humorous as she began each one “The good news is…” and finished with, “The bad news is…” As I read and rode the emotional roller coaster of her words, I couldn’t help but smile at her closing remark:

“The good news is… Jesus is taking care of me.

…And there can’t really be any bad news as long as that statement remains true.”

If I ever doubted proof of my daughter’s maturity, she placed all questions to rest with her confidence in a God who promises to sustain and carry her through life’s ups and downs. She knew the truth, and she was able to speak it over her life and hold onto it with a faith that is grounded in grace. God’s grace.

The perspective of a life held and kept by God’s goodness is what holds and keeps us through the twists and turns of this battered highway of living.

I’ll admit that sometimes it’s difficult to look for the seemingly obscured good when the bad is so glaringly apparent. It’s hard to hold onto hope when wave after wave of disappointment and hurt crashes upon the remnants of a solid foothold of faith, threatening to dislodge it completely. It’s a constant challenge to fix our eyes upon the One who remains a bulwark of safety and refuge through it all. But it’s necessary.

While the invitation to “seek the Lord” is general, the actual act of doing so is personal. Choosing to believe in God’s goodness above everything else in my life. Inviting His Presence to fill the present – no matter what seems to be warring against me. No matter how much I’m tempted to believe He has somehow “gone missing.”

Like the Psalmist in 27:13, the truth is: I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

When broken down from the Bible concordance and lexicon definitions, this verse can be paraphrased into the following:

I would have lost heart and fainted from exhaustion, had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  I would have languished from the madness of it all, unless I had trusted in the Lord’s support, positioning myself to behold and joyfully consider the beauty of my eternal God – Jehovah, the Lord – the One who nourishes and revives me.

Life can be exhausting. Relationships, circumstances, work-related stress, family crisis, sickness, abusive situations… the list is endless. The temptation to “languish from the madness of it all” faces us time and again as “bad news” continues to hit. BUT when we position ourselves to remember Father’s goodness and consider His beauty, our perspective is righted, and we are revived by the staying power of the Most High. Nourished by the goodness that remains in the midst of a world at odds with its Creator.

No matter your current circumstance, if you are in Christ, then you can join your belief with the truth of my daughter’s sentiments:

The Good News is, Jesus is taking care of me…

…And in light of that one solid truth, all other news pales in comparison – no matter how “bad” it may seem.

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Small Blessings That Aren’t

My kitchen windowsill is filled with treasures from the beach. There is a conglomeration of seashells, sand dollars, driftwood, sand, and even a sea star gracing my view every time I wash the dishes. All are a reminder of special times of refreshing alongside a coastal shore. And wistful dreams of returning again… hopefully, soon.

Today while washing dishes, my gaze came to rest upon a tiny sand dollar nestled among this myriad of seaside riches, and my thoughts turned toward the day I found it. That day was shared with a special friend, one who was brave enough to face a very chilly and windy walk along a February beach just so we could spend time together. As we walked, my friend Heidi chanced upon a tiny sand dollar hugging the shore. A few minutes later, I had the pleasure of finding an equally delicate sand dollar laid out before me. This tiny treasure was toted home and placed among my daily reminders of life at the beach. (Which is very much needed in what is often a cold winter season in Ohio.)

In noticing this sand dollar today, my thoughts and prayers quickly turned to my friend. I smiled in fond remembrance of our breezy walk and thanked God for tucking special treasures along the shoreline of my life. Heidi is one of those treasures. We only see each other once a year, but she is more frequently in my thoughts. And although I’ve yet to learn her entire life story, I enjoy sharing the bits and pieces of it when we have the rare pleasure of being together. She and her husband have servants’ hearts and a love for missions that drew us to them the first time we chanced to enter the church where Mark serves as pastor. Now one of the highlights of our yearly trip to the beach is worshiping together during a Sunday morning service, then gathering at the beach house for a meal and warm conversation.

Small blessings.

We’ve all experienced them.

People whom God joins to us in the most unexpected ways. In the most unexpected places. Just to remind us of His love.

And as I ponder the small blessings of this life, I realize that small blessings are really not very small at all. Often, they grow into something much larger than we originally anticipate.

Small blessings come and go, just like the ocean’s tide, but the marks they leave behind are noticeable and needed.

Small blessings keep things in balance as they remind us of a faithful Father who notices the details of our lives and delights in showering gifts upon us… just because.

Small blessings stem from an introduction and grow into a friendship that bridges time and distance, connecting us spiritually even though we may live miles apart.

Small blessings are found in the presence of a faithful friend whom you may not see for months at a time but know you can call at the drop of a hat for prayer and support.

Small blessings.

The very term is an oxymoron. Because when I think of all the many blessings with which my life has been graced, day after day, year after year, I realize that the only blessings I have received are BIG blessings. It’s just that often what is really too small is my perspective. Maybe yours is, too.

I encourage you to take a moment and set your gaze on the things that are before you – your health, your job, your family, your home, the meal you ate this morning, the bed in which you rested last night – all those seemingly little things we often take for granted.

To someone, the things you have are BIG blessings.

I hope that someone is you.

And if you’re feeling yourself still longing for blessings, keep your eyes open and your face to the wind, even when it’s blowing full force against you. Just like my precious sand dollar, there are treasures lying in wait to be discovered. Uncover them, beloved. Then carry them with you as a reminder of God’s grace and presence surrounding you always.

And remember… there’s no such thing as small blessings.

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Enjoy the Ride!

There’s a video that has recently gone viral depicting a car salesman taking a test drive with an incognito Jeff Gordon. Pretending to be a nervous driver, the professional Nascar racer hesitantly pulls from the car lot with the salesman riding shotgun, only to rev the engine and careen through the streets much like he cruises the racetrack. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting salesman is unaware of Mr. Gordon’s true identity. With terror-stricken expression and words filled with expletives (thankfully “bleeped out”), the salesman makes it known in no uncertain terms that he is not appreciative of the ride.

When the full-throttle joyride is finished and the car safely returned to its place in the lot, the salesman bursts from the vehicle intent on “calling the cops.” Gordon immediately begins to explain that it is a prank, revealing his true identity as he removes his disguise while assuring the man,” It’s okay. I’m Jeff Gordon.”

As soon as the salesman realizes that he has been “had,” he looks at Gordon with a large smile on his face and asks, “Can we do that again?”

Whether or not the video was staged (as some are claiming) or truly an impromptu incident, there is still much to be learned from the salesman’s recorded reaction.

My first thought upon watching this video was: It’s funny how quickly perspective can change our attitude.

Once the truth was revealed, the salesman immediately wanted to take another ride with the very man whom he had just seconds earlier accused of being an “idiot.” I can’t help but think that, given the opportunity, his second car ride would have captured an entirely different scenario.

Funny how our perspective changes when the Truth is revealed.

How quickly our mind is calmed when we realize Who is truly in control of our circumstances.

I must admit, there are times in my life where I have been duped into believing that God was absent, or at the very least, clothed in disguise. And I have ridden in the passenger seat screaming like the terrified salesman, certain that my life was careening out of control, while I prepared myself for a crash-and-burn ending.

Sometimes, God does seem to cloak Himself.

Sometimes He seems to come into my life in ways that are so unassuming, I assume He is absent.

Sometimes He shows up in ways that are so unexpected they are barely recognizable as being from Him.

Instead of simply stepping into my circumstances with obvious glory revealed, He seems to sneak in, subtly daring me to trust Him. And much like the panicked salesman, I plead, “Stop! Let me out!”

When I cannot see clearly, I don’t trust the One who is in control.

Would that I could always see Him as He is. That I could readily recognize His presence and note His hand at work, moving and directing all things for His purposes and my ultimate good. If I really KNEW He was there, if I really TRUSTED His ability to steer me safely through every curve, wouldn’t I be more apt to enjoy the ride?

Today is the perfect day to take God at His Word.

Though we may never fully learn to see God as He is on this side of eternity, we can still trust Him. Instead of holding on for dear life, we can loosen our panicked grip of control and ask for a second chance to “enjoy the ride,” knowing He is more than able to navigate safely through every obstacle confronting us.

The next time you feel as if your life is careening out of control like a runaway Camaro, take a closer look at the Driver.

Chances are, He bears a striking resemblance to a certain Savior you may know.

Then simply sit back and enjoy the ride with the full assurance of knowing you are safe in His nail-scarred hands.

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