Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gratitude is the Greatest Gift

I've had a very lazy morning...sitting up in bed with a hot cup of coffee, reading magazines, doing my morning Bible study, catching up with email, FaceBook and the Sunday paper. I've been reminded repeatedly this morning, that gratitude is indeed crucial to happiness.

A friend from afar posted a sweet and simple video on FaceBook today, recording for all the world to see, the simple things she was rejoicing in. Hot coffee, a beautiful view outside her window, her pooch staring out the window and moments of peace and quiet while her loved ones still slept. Overwhelming joy was what enveloped her.

It is an imperfect life we live, and most certainly, in a world that started perfect but has declined with the passage of time. I fully understand how one can be tempted to give in to the despair and hopelessness that may surround us. But, I still believe that gratitude is the best possible option, in every situation, and, that when we choose the course of gratitude, we are the beneficiaries of the unspeakable contentment that flows from it.

Psalm 124 reminds me that God is with me, for me and beside me. That said, it follows that there is no storm that can consume me. I can, even in the midst of the waves crashing over my head, the raging tides pulling me under and taking my breath away, be grateful that He is with me. He is for me. He is going to carry me through. I am devoted to that simple truth.

Even so, gratitude, like love, is a decision we must commit to, long before the storms of life assail us. I read an article about the actress Kyra Sedgwick in the newspaper. She spoke openly about her 23 year old marriage and confessed that she and her husband had endured their share of hard times. One argument had lasted an astounding six months! But, they came through it, because they had, early on, made a decision that there would be no walking away. The power of a choice, displayed. Others would have given up at about day 62. But, they held firm. They chose to press on to the other side. Well done!

I have been on vacation for the last 8 days. I have also been dreadfully sick for the last 8 days. This morning a friend sent me a text saying she was sorry I was still not up to par, but wisely remarked what a blessing that I was not encumbered with the responsibilities of my work. Much of what I had planned to do in this time had to be postponed or shelved entirely. Many things were scaled back. But, in the end, I can give thanks. Thankful that while I didn't know I'd be sick this week, God did. He knew I'd need this time to rest, relax and let me body recharge. He knew it would also cause me to sleep longer, sit more and relax, guilt free. I've been able to do all of these without worrying about the concerns of my job. Truth is, I am blissfully unaware of what awaits me come Tuesday when I'll return to work. As the Bible says, "each day has enough worry of it's own."

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love that our busy world honors Christ by the very acknowledgement of the celebration of His birth. I love that people are generally kinder, more generous and more patient. But, I know that it's also a season that makes many of us melancholy. It can be a time we focus on sorrowful things-loved ones gone, relationships broken, disabilities unhealed and broken hearts not yet mended. Even so, we have a choice. We can choose to focus on loss, or we can choose to be frateful, sometime even for what we have lost. We can be thankful that we had the blessing to begin with. When I think of my Dad and am tempted to despair that he is forever gone from this world, I remind myself that I am blessed to have had him for the better part of my life. I am grateful that the light of his love still shines brightly in my heart and mind. Blessed.

The apostle Paul had what was referred to as a "thorn in his flesh". He repeatedly prayed to have this "thorn" removed. We don't know what it was, but we know it hindered him from living as he would have chosen. We know it was humbling and that it was a chronic, physical problem which was debilitating. At times it kept him from work. He was clear that he wanted it gone. The Bible tells us that God refused to grant Paul's earnest plea. Instead, God reminded Paul, that His grace would be sufficient for Him. Paul was able to acknowledge that this thorn kept him from being full of himself, or from taking credit for what only God could accomplish. Paul learned to delight in his weakness, knowing that God was using it to draw others to Him. Onlookers saw God at work in the life of someone who could have chosen bitterness, but chose gratitude instead.

There is no doubt that our enemy, who is constantly prowling around us, will seek to defeat and to discourage. He will remind you soon and often of your failures, who has wronged you, your imperfections, your disabilities, your dysfunctional family (whose isn't?), and of course, your "rights". It is his aim to make you bitter, angry, unforgiving, unwilling to reconcile or to humble yourself. He knows this is often a brutal life and he wants to bring you to despair. He wants it to embitter you. He will bring to mind all the toil of this journey...the missed flights, the wrong turns, the flat tires, the one star accommodations, the lack of leg room and all the scary turbulence along the way. But don't be deceived. It's an amazing trip we're on, filled with sunrises and sunsets and breathtaking scenery in between. We are promised a future and a hope. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

And be very grateful.

You'll have a Merry Christmas. Guaranteed.