Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lenten Gratitude

Lots of people give up something for Lent, but in recent years, I've tried to add something. This year, I'm going to send a handmade card every day because telling people you love them with happy mail is a good thing. Also, I'm going to keep a Lenten Gratitude Journal.

A great way to show our gratitude for Christ's living sacrifice on the cross is to acknowledge all that He bought for us. Of course we have our sins washed away, our salvation bought and paid for. For me, right now, in this season, gratitude for salvation overwhelms me because I don't deserve it.

Which is the whole point, actually. Jesus loved us that much!

But in this 40 days of moving toward the cross and resurrection, I want to focus on celebrating those little, daily blessings and beauties and bounty that we too often take for granted in a distracting world, and also those challenges and difficulties that, through Christ, lead us to growth, to love, to victory.

Lent calls us all differently. This year, it's calling me to send cards and wallow in boundless gratitude. How is it calling you?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Be an Encourager


My husband, George, and I were discussing how worthless movie critics are sometimes when we need help deciding what movies to watch. Several times, movies the critics panned ended up being enormously entertaining to us, while critically acclaimed films left us groping for some vague semblance of pleasure. At times, it feels like the critics go out of their way to promote depressing, serious movies and tear down light-hearted, warm-and-fuzzy movies.

Of course, sometimes they are right, and not listening to them gets you fifteen minutes into Aloha and a wistful fantasy that the cable company will refund your $5.99.

When it comes to our relationships, however, criticism rarely helps. In fact, it often wounds, sometimes viciously.

I've noticed, too, that criticism is a contagious disease and can spread like mange over a whole community. Once it sets in, the best treatment is a healthy, long-term course of positive encouragement.

The other day, I had lunch with an encourager. I felt so lifted up, so capable and psyched and positive. That wasn't how I felt when we first got together. She brought about that change.

With encouragement.

She inspires me, and I am grateful!

What do you do to encourage others? Are you too often the critic? How might you shift your words to encourage rather than criticize?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

God Never Left

A few days ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw a picture captioned, "With God back in this country, we will succeed. Share if you agree."

I'm confused.

When did God leave leave this country?

This sort of rhetoric--not to mention the theology behind it--bothers me. The implication is that a vague and unnamed enemy ran God out of America, and, given that it's an election year, if we just vote properly, God will come back.

Is the Almighty truly such a powerless victim of a fickle electorate? Or is He the fickle one, turning His back on us when the best fundraiser of the bunch wins office?

I don't believe either of these things.

For the record, I'm a political moderate. I lean left on some issues and right on others, but my butt is usually firmly planted on the fence. Consequently, the primaries horrify me. The rhetoric on both sides inflames, divides, tears down, humiliates, rages, incites fear. Statements like that Facebook post show just how far we have been lead astray by angry rhetoric.

God isn't about politics. He's not an elephant or a donkey. He doesn't prefer red to blue or blue to red. He's not on anyone's side. He is the Great I Am. He is His own side.

We should focus on joining His side, not claiming Him for our side. His side isn't limited to the narrow confines of political ideology. His is the side of love, compassion, feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, housing the homeless, healing the sick, seeking peace with our neighbors, showing mercy to those who trespass against us, forgiving others as we are forgiven, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.

And guess what? All of these good and wonderful things are happening in America each and every day. We are already succeeding with God. So many good, Godly acts happen all around us all the time, from small, unrecognized personal acts of kindness to government systems of support and care that may not be perfect but still do a lot of good.

How can anyone truthfully say God needs to "come back"? He's all over the place!

Sure, there are bad people doing bad things, and some of our systems are spectacularly broken, but that simply means we need to continue doing the good work God's already started of building a just, merciful, peaceful nation. We need to keep bearing spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And by we I mean each and every one of us as individuals and as a whole community, state, and nation.

God is in this country. He never left. God is in America because we are all His children and He loves each and every one of us, no matter how we vote or how ridiculous we are. And aren't we ridiculous to shout and yell and click "share" on Facebook to agree that we need to bring God back?

He never left.

Thanks be to God!!!