A Grateful Heart: My Prayer

Gratitude is on my mind today. I’ve been wondering why we find it so hard to just be thankful. When did gratitude go out of style, become so uncool? Every day we are so “ate up” with what we think is wrong in our lives, with what we think is insulting or offensive, that we can’t see past the negatives to the abundance of positives.

We obscure our lives with so much wanting, confusing desire with need, that sometimes, it seems, we forget this uncomplicated truth: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” We live in a time that is unprecedented in all of recorded history. We literally have almost anything we desire at our fingertips, at any given moment, and while there seems to be great disparity between those who “have” and those who “have not,” even the poorest among us still enjoy a standard of living greater than all but a handful of other countries.

We are blessed, more than any other people at any other time, and the simple act of counting your blessings makes all the difference in the world to your attitude about life, turning your attention away from the “don’t” haves and toward the “do” haves. Even on our worst days, when we we’ve gotten a rotten diagnosis, or we don’t know how we’re ever going make it another day, we still have more than we came with. We can still “count it all joy, when we meet trials of various kinds, for we know that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness,  letting steadfastness have its full effect, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  And, we can still “give thanks in everything: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.”

So, here’s a prayer for a grateful heart:

Instill in me a grateful heart that I may know Your ways and live by them. That I may be thankful for all Your gifts, even when those gifts appear to me as trials, for it is through adversity that You draw me nearest to You, that You teach me of Your faithfulness and love, that You show me the meaning of perseverance, of trust, of faith.

Instill in me a grateful heart that I may see humanity through Your eyes. That I may be thankful for Your love, Your compassion, even when that love feels miles away and I cannot see it, knowing that each person I see faces the same fears, insecurities, and battles as I, for it is Your love which connects us all, which teaches us of hope, of tolerance, of compassion.

Instill in me and grateful heart that I may walk with you in love and joy. That I may be thankful for the tranquility of Your presence, even when I’m surrounded by chaos, and strife is the theme of the day, trusting that Your yoke is easy, that Your guidance will see me through, that I may find solace with a prayer on my lips and peace in my heart.

Amen

~ SLM

1 Timothy 6:7, James 1:2-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Shemitah

eclipse_sunset

Sometimes, what we need doesn’t exactly line up with what we think we need. Our lives are filled with highs and lows, with straight paths and twisting, rock-strewn passages that take more stamina and fortitude than we are even aware we possess. It brings to mind Ecclesiastes chapter 3. The one that starts with “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time…” 2015, for me, was a time to be silent, to be reflective, in short, Shemitah.

As we count down the end to 2015 and look forward to the New Year, I’d like to share a few thoughts on my time-out, my Shemitah year.

  • When you promise God that you’ll do something, it’s best to be faithful to that promise lest he force you to keep that promise by any means necessary.
  • True forgiveness is a very hard pill to swallow, but once you’ve choked it down, I mean really let it go, there is such freedom in it, compassion, love, and joyous peace.
  • Trusting in God is something that has to be actively practiced EVERY day. It’s hard sometimes to give it over, but every time you do, it turns out to be soooo much more than you could ever have imagined.
  • Actively loving others is hard, very hard, and without God’s help, we pretty much suck at it!

Shemitah is a time of respite from your labors, a sabbatical; it’s about the space in between, the quiet void that speaks more loudly than the words that surround it, about what we learn through contemplation rather than action, about faith in God rather than our own earthly wiles and abilities, and why we are needed instead of what we need.

I look forward to resuming my postings in the coming months, and wish all a happy and fruitful new year, and may your 2016 be blessed beyond measure.

Shalom

~SLM

A Matter of Faith

And Christ said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

What is faith? The Webster’s defines it as:  sincerity of intentions, complete trust, and a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. It’s a word we all use every day in many situations without really understanding it. Many times we say we have faith, but our actions belie our inner belief. We simply use it like a paper plate, something that is useful for the moment, only to be discarded when we don’t need it anymore.

Faith implies loyalty, commitment, conviction. It’s a hope, a belief, and an expectation of surety, and as such is an act of reverence.  Matthew 18:18-19 says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[a] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” But, so many times we let other considerations and influences encroach upon what we say we believe, and we decide that we, not God, have the answer, the solution. We take matters into our own hands, forgetting completely about our faith, about how whatever we bind on earth is also bound in heaven.

Sometimes (and honestly, often times) we are with God as teenagers are with their parents. We roll our eyes and say, “what do you know old man?” Not understanding, or perhaps willfully forgetting, that He does know, He does have a plan, and his resources are greater and more substantial than we can even comprehend! We get impatient; we discard our faith, never understanding that when God tags someone out of our lives, and replaces them with a new player, a fresh player, it’s because of his understanding, his comprehension, and his plan for our growth. We have to take it on faith, no matter how difficult or upsetting, no matter how painful it is, we must hold fast to the knowledge that God is trustworthy, that God is binding us to what we have asked of him.

If we dissent, if we show no conviction, it’s as if we are like Adam; we tell God “NO, not your way, my way!” But, if we keep our faith, hold fast in our belief, then we are like Christ; we tell God, “If this is my cup, I shall drink all of it,” trusting that through his guidance, we will become better versions of ourselves.

~SLM

Proverbs 3:1-8 It’s a Matter of Trust

At first glance, this chapter seemed to me a repeat of the first 2, a rehashing of the concepts previously discussed. I’m not fond of covering ground twice, so I glanced ahead a few chapters, and I discovered that chapters 1-10 cover a lot of the same principles. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent girl, and I’m not opposed to expounding on a theme, but, on the surface, the reiteration looked rather excessive to me, and had this been a novel, I’d have stopped right there. But this is not a novel, and I have committed myself to this study. I wondered what could be so important. There must be a reason that Solomon found it necessary to repeatedly stress the concepts of faith, love, and the fear of the Lord. I decided to take another tack.

I find that writing verses in my own words can provide insight into their meaning. So I set about writing the verses, praying over their meaning, asking to be given awareness, knowledge, and comprehension of their deeper meaning. And then I slept on it, as is my habit when I’m really engrossed in trying to understand.

This morning, it dawned on me (quite literally, in fact), it’s a matter of trust. Verses 5-6 cover trust, and what my closer look showed me is that until you really, really get the concepts of faith, obedience, love and “fear of the Lord” embedded into your very being, it’s very hard to really, really trust. When we’re children, it’s so easy to trust, but as we grow and mature, we tend to get the trust “experienced” right out of us. We learn to be skeptical, suspicious, and faithless. We have to get the ideas expressed in verses 1-4 so ingrained in us that they are “written on our hearts, as if they are written on stone,” before we can move on to trust. Verses 3-4 are about love and faithfulness, but before love and faithfulness, we have to learn to keep the teachings of wisdom, the commandments of God, which must first be written on our hearts.

Verses 1-2 look more closely at wisdom’s teaching. It’s through the keeping of God’s commands, by writing them on our hearts, that we can remember the teachings of wisdom, and by following wisdom’s guidance, we can live long and prosperous lives. Such a simple concept: Live by God’s commandments, remember them, write them on your heart, and by doing this you open yourself to God’s wisdom, and opening ourselves to wisdom enables us to practice discernment, helping us to consider who we associate with, and how we can live honestly and fairly. Living this way leads to prosperity, not just physical prosperity, but more importantly spiritual prosperity, brought to us through love and faithfulness.

Verses 3-4, to me, convey a very good description of what Christian thought is all about – Love and Faithfulness. They are core concepts and you should be so attached to them that you and they are inseparable, that they become second nature to you, that you express them in everything you do. They are an outcropping of keeping God’s commands and the remembrance of wisdom’s teaching, a natural result listening to the voice of wisdom. By showing love and faithfulness in everything you do, you will find favor with God, and be held in good esteem with him, and by your friends, acquaintances, and mankind.

And all this leads to trust. It’s all about trust. Trust God with all your heart, with all your being. What does this mean? I think that it means to be able to say “Lord, I know you see this situation, and while I have no idea how it could ever resolve itself, I know that you do, and I’m putting the ball in your court, you take, because I know and have faith that you can and will provide for it and work it out according to your plan.”

And, after all that, verses 7-8 warn us about the importance of keeping our own greatness in perspective. It reminds us that we shouldn’t think too much of our own genius, because when we get caught up in our own idea of how brilliant we are, we are usually setting ourselves up for a little slice of “humble pie.” We should reverence the source of our “wisdom” and give credit where credit is due. By humbly acknowledging that we are merely the channel for God’s spirit, we bring sustenance and strength to our very beings.

It’s funny how, when you really take the time to study something, how much more that can be seen, than when you make only a cursory glance, like seeing the individual threads in the tapestry, and how they work together to make a complete picture, an image that would not appear the same, if just one of the threads were only slightly different.

I guess I had a lot to say about it afterall! 🙂
~SLM