While celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with my family I was struck by how beneficial gratitude is to my heart, soul, and mind. This blog entry will be closely related to the last one, in that, a heart of gratitude both enables us, and requires us to notice our current situation. Anxiety about the future is greatly diminished as we experience God’s goodness in the moment. The Apostle Paul gives us this antidote to worry in his letter to the Philippian church.
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Phil. 4:6 NLT
Through the years, I have spent so much time looking for the next experience, or expecting God to behave in certain ways. I end up disappointed with God, or with my circumstances instead of seeing God’s hand at work in the context of my daily life. In her best-selling book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp compiles a list of “the little things” in her day-to-day life that are reminders to her that her Father in Heaven is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Squire Rushnell has written The Godwink series of books that is another great collection of moments captured by men and women who were touched by “coincidence” in their lives. Rather than attributing these occurrences to random chance, these people saw them as loving “winks” from a sovereign, loving, Father.
Over time, I have come to recognize that God is working all the time to show me that He loves me. As I referred to the passage in James above, every good gift is from our Father. When anything good happens, it should direct my heart toward my Heavenly Father as He is the one from Whom it comes. I am learning that God is loving me through His body, the church. He is loving me through sunrises and sunsets. He is loving me through my own laughter and smiles as well as from my family and friends.
The more I see that every good and perfect gift is from my Father, the more grateful I am. I recently had a conversation with one of my daughters that reminded me of my own tendency to miss God in my daily life as I don’t have my eyes and ears attuned to His activity. I was telling my daughter how much her mother and I loved her, and that we truly want good for her. She honestly responded that “sometimes it doesn’t feel like that.” I understood exactly what she meant. God winked at me in that moment as He gave me the answer to her truthful response. I told her that throughout my life there were times when, “I just didn’t feel like God loved me.” I told her that my feelings didn’t diminish the fact that God did, indeed, love me. And, He had given me the greatest evidence of this through giving Jesus to take my sin away so that He could have a relationship with me. I told her that, though we don’t do it perfectly (only God does!), her mom and I have spent her lifetime, from the time she was conceived, providing evidence that we love her. Whether she feels it or not doesn’t change that. And, the more she looks for the evidence in her life, the more she will know it to be true.
My prayer is that God would continue to give us eyes, ears, and hearts to see the evidence of His love in the “little things” He is doing in our lives every day. As we see His love for us, let us grow in gratitude and let it transform our hearts, minds, and souls.
There is a funny scene in the 1983 comedy hit Vacation where Clark Griswold is tempted to steal money from an open cash register at the El Tovar hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon where he and his wife and kids spent the night in route to Wally World for a family vacation. Various unfortunate and humorous events have led to a situation where Clark feels that theft is his best option. Clark's obsession with his destination, Wally World, a Six Flags-like Theme Park, has caused him to completely lose perspective on where he is, what he is doing, or what is truly important to him. Having arrived the night before, he and his family have not even had the opportunity to take in the majestic view of the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. After he steals the money from the register, Clark runs out of the hotel to find his wife and kids taking in the panoramic scenery as they look out from the south rim of the canyon. He quickly ushers the family away as his wife tries to get him to experience the spectacular vista right in front of him. Unfortunately, Clark needed to flee the scene of his crime which occurred due to his obsession with his destination. He missed what could have been a far more enjoyable vacation if he had slowed down and enjoyed the trip instead of focusing on the idea he had of his journey's end.
The Apostle Peter reminds his readers (the church) that they are strangers and aliens just passing through this world. Unlike Clark Griswold, however, we are encouraged in scripture to make the most of our time. Instead as we focus on our eternal destination, we are to be grateful for where God has us right now. James reminds his readers, Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14 The journey itself matters.
Our lives are a mist that appears for a little while and vanishes. Each day is a gift. And, every person who crosses our path is an opportunity for us to fulfill the purpose for which we've been created. We are called to be salt and light. Every "chance" encounter is an opportunity for us to bring God's radiance and flavor to those with whom we interact. I am confident that as we live with this aim, we will find that even the mundane, day-to-day, "random" meetings will become a part of a bigger story that brings purpose, peace and joy to our lives.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.