Saturday, October 24, 2009

Choosing Gratitude Part 2

Honestly, the reason this blog follow-up has taken so long from the previous one, is because this book got tucked away in a bag and I just now found it.
Well, here are some quotes from the newly released Nancy Leigh Demoss book, Choosing Gratitude. I have definitely loved and benefited from this book and already recommended it to many ladies. One random benefit is if I wake up in the middle of the night or am having trouble falling asleep - I choose to be thankful and start listing things in my head. Good way to fall asleep.
"I've seen that if I'm not ceaselessly vigilant about rejecting ingratitude and choosing gratitude, I all-too-easily get sucked into the undertow of life in a fallen world. I start focusing on what I don't have that I want, or what I want that I don't have. My life starts to feel hard, wearisome, and overwhelming." (p. 16)
"Its a choice that requires constantly renewing my mind with the truth of God's Word, setting my heart to savor God and his gifts, and disciplining my tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace - until a grateful spirit becomes my reflexive response to all of life." (p 17)
I love her word choice of "choosing". We can choose what we want to do. We can either live a joyful hectic life or we can choose to live a bitter life. Take our pick. So often its our outlook on life that makes all the difference in the world.
She starts with a look at the base of our gratitude: the cross. Our only hope in this life of being grateful is the cross of Christ. She then presses us to be grateful and honoring of Christ to others:
"Forgive me for the many times and ways I reflect negatively on Your character and Your goodness, by verbalizing discontent and murmuring to others." (p 58).
I think about this now. Do I cause You grief to others - do others get a wrong picture of Christ because of what comes out of my mouth? Think about it. You interact with non-Christians throughout every day: whether its the checkout lady at Walmart, the bank teller, co-worker, neighbor. If its raining out and your neighbor says something negatively - you can either react negatively back or you can "I thank God for the rain, it makes everything shiny" or something about the full parking lot at the new Target or the mall during Christmas time. They can comment on how hectic it is and you can say, "its providing good business for the stores and I was able to get extra walking in because of having to park way out." Just think of little ways you can choose to be grateful.
"Gratitude does become a reliable measure for where our hearts are with Him." (p 69). I know if I am bitter and critical - I haven't spent much time in the Word or praying because my heart becomes very much like the world. Turn. Stop. Be grateful. Repent. Praise.
She has a saying in here that her dad used to say "I'm better than I deserve!" when people asked him how he was. A friend of mine that I worked with in seminary, Bryan, used to say this too. It was contagious. Everytime he said it it brought me back to thinking of my salvation and the grace that God graciously bestowed on me because of His good favor and kindness.
"Grateful people are loving people who seek to bless others, while ungrateful people are bent on gratifying themselves." (p. 84) Another great test of motivation and purpose.
Dt 8.11-14 - such powerful verses! Meditate on these!
"The guilt-to-grace-to-gratitude model we talked about earlier is not only keeping with a biblical theology and lifestyle, it is crucial to our joy." (p. 147) I'm reminded of John Piper's book When I Don't Desire God.
"I believe that a humble, grateful woman who walks in community with other believers will become increasingly gracious, warm, large-hearted, and yes, beautiful - inside and out." (p. 155) I am thankful for women in my life who live this truth and choice out every day. You can tell a difference in their lives and attitudes, jobs and marriages, and families. I love being around them. Thank you ladies for being a witness and life model!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gratitude Part 1

I just finished Nancy Leigh Demoss' newest book, Choosing Gratitude. My thoughts on that book will be part 2 of the Gratitude blogs. (I'm very thankful that it was a free book - thank you!)
This weekend has just been grand. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to share with you (whoever you are) some of the blessings that God has poured out on my life this wknd.

1. Work on Friday night. I work in the housing office to get some money taken off my rent each month. This easy, do-nothing job has been great. And it has given me opp to see some Boyce girls and buid a better relationship with them.
2. Whole Foods - I've gotten to go twice this weekend. What a great place. I'm not rich enough to buy all my groceries there, but I do buy a few things there each week.
3. Fall weather. This is one thing that I like better in both KY and NC rather than FL. I like waking up on crisp fall mornings. Then, I am ready for Spring. Yes - I'm fickle!
4. Apple Picking with a sweet friend. It worked out very well to only have one lady be able to go apple picking. One of the joys of being at Crossing last year was to meet Ben and Cynthia - Cynthia is wonderful (Ben too). She juiced all these great fruits and veggies to go along with the pumpking muffins I brought for our breakfast. She is an encouragement to me, and pushed me for the sake of the gospel. And we just had FUN!

5. Cooking. God has given me talent and enjoyment in this - and having fun stuff to bake and cook for others is such a pleasure to me.
6. Football and friends. I love FLORIDA football. And I love my friends, Brad and Lindsay Weldy. We have moved 3 states together. They have 3 of the most darling kids. I got to hang out with them last night while they had a date. I loved on the baby, then watched football in HD. What a blessing. They are amazing friends - ones I can be completely honest with and let down my guard around, one who encourage me, ones who love me, ones who let me love on their kids, ones who display the gospel boldly in the lives and home and marriage. They are the biggest blessing in this city to me.

7. Down Comforter. When my brother and sister in law moved to Africa, I got their down comforter. I love it. It is so warm and comfy and weighted. I love to snuggle under it. Unfortunately - I didn't get enough time under it last night.
8. Serving Communion. Communion in and of itself is amazing. But, serving it is a joy as well. Sojourn is a fairly big church, and I definitely don't know tons of people. This morning, the quote from Princess Bride came to my mind before I served "Love her, as I love her, and there will be peace" - from Prince Humperdink announcing his choice of a bride. I got to serve a faculty member and his family, a friend who does everything at Sojourn including waving the magic parking wand, a dude from the Summit whose birthday is today, a new friend from the seminary. The wonderful thing is - folks looking you in the eye when you say "the Body of Christ, broken for you", claiming it, accepting it, and voicing it back to you. Behold, the family of Christ!

9. Beautiful weather. It was cool and clear and sunny today in Louisville. So, I got my camera out and sauntered down Frankfort Avenue - snapping pictures, and just enjoying the weather.

10. Friend for a good lunch. I love friends. One of my dearest ones here, again from Crossing, is Sarah. Sarah has been a fantastic friend, we go to lunch about once a month, and text encouraging things to each other. We share prayer requests, and the joys that God has in our lives. And we ate at a new fave of mine in the Ville - North End Cafe (locally grown, great food, warm fun atmosphere - perfect for sitting for 2 hours for a relaxing lunch).

11. Fresh baked bread. A friend who give me a bagel recipe - and then smelling the yeast as it rises and then baking it off.

12. A laptop with a strong battery. I love my little Samsung portable Netbook. Its great. I carry it like a book - and it is perfect to use while sitting in Mullins checking ID. (Thanks Dad!)
Learn to be grateful in and for all things. Voice these praises! Ok - more from NLD later this week.
So, even though I am praying about many things: future, relationships, control issues, - God is so good.
"I will bless the Lord at all times - His praise will continuously be in my mouth." - Ps 34.1 (again, I am thankful for Chris Gaynor who got that verse drilled into my head at the Summit.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Cast Net Fishing Prayers

A few weeks ago I traveled to the beautiful part of Western North Carolina for a prayer retreat. Many things are happening with family, friends, personal, etc and hearing Mary Kassian definitely was a highlight (as well as just being in North Carolina).
My brother is a fantastic writer. I love how he writes about another good state, Florida. I know he loves to fish with my grandfather, so I asked him to write a little blurb about cast net fishing. You'll soon see how the two tie together:
Cast netting is an art form from making it, to throwing it, to eating the treasures that lie underneath. My grandpa and his fishing buddies taught me this art form. It wasn’t easy, but I was motivated to learn it because it was one of those traditions that unless my generation learns it will be gone forever.
Making a cast net is hard work. There’s no other way to put it. Your fingers cramp. Your back aches from hunching over the linen net. You mind wanders causing you to screw up a knot and then have to either cut it out or spend the next 30 minutes untangling the knot. It is tedious. But once you are finished a sense of satisfaction follows because now, as a fellow cast netter said, you’ll be able to put food on the table if the need arises.
Throwing a cast net is something beautiful to behold. I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the best at it. Others that go on mullet fishing trips have such a fluid motion that they look akin to a grungy camouflaged Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It—which in our case should be A Back Bay Runs Through It. The nets sings off their shoulder, down their scrawny forearms, through their sinewy fingers, and onto the salt water in the likeness of making pizza dough.
Once the net hits the water the weights drag it to the bottom covering what you hope is a few black mullet. And you’ll know right quick if they are under there, because they’ll begin jumping just like they do without a net over them. From here, goodness and excitement seep into your bones like a warm Florida night. You gently kneel in the water grabbing each mullet with your cramped hands, and break their neck so as to drain the blood hereby preserving the meat and preventing it from getting a strong odor. Once you’ve done that to all the mullet under the net, you’ll place them on a stringer that is hopefully getting full.

Although the mullet are still now, your stomach is jumping knowing that soon and very soon you’ll taste their scrumptious meat after a long day of mullet hunting.
Cast net fishing for mullet is much like prayer. And the weights and burdens. Here are the similarities:
1. Its hard work. It is a discipline. My fmr pastor, J. D. Greear, always says that no one brags about their prayer life - but if you really wanna know how someone is doing spiritually - ask them about it. I know a couple good "pray-ers" in my life - and they have been a blessing to me - but they also know it is hard work.
2. Prayer is a weighty thing. This is where I camped out for a while. The weights and burdens I carry are heavy - not as heavy as some, but these things are important to me and to my family and friends. Hymns of old speak of this:
Leave it there, leave it there,
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out.
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
Scripture speaks of this: Ps 55.22a:
Cast your burden on the Lord,and he will sustain you.

3. Prayer is an exciting thing. I remember well the thrill of catching fish. I also remember well the thrill when God answers prayers in such dynamic ways. Yes, of course, I like it better (at the time) when God answers the way I see fit - but how much better it is in the long wrong when He answers as He sees fit.
4. Prayer is a continual thing. I remember when my Papa and his friends would bring home tons of mullet to smoke. Those mullet didn't come from one casting. They came from casting after casting after casting. What rang true with me that wknd at the prayer conference is that God does not grow weary of my asking. He will never tire of me coming to him with my requests. He doesn't think it too large of a thing for him to manage: my cares, burdens, and weights.
I do not pray like I should. I have tried to be more Ps 34.1 in my prayers lately. Even driving across town this morning - the sky dark from looming storm clouds at 7:30am - just voicing praise that the skies declare His praise.
I wish I prayed more - but that requires hard work. And when I don't see answers (I've been praying some prayers for over 10 years now and still have gotten a "no"), I grow weary or just stop altogether.
Right now, I'm praying specifically for 3 personal matters, 1 family matter, and 1 friend matter. Those are the big things - then there is the daily stuff.
I am so thankful that my God is so much bigger than me, stronger than any net to catch mullet in, and that He never grows tired of hearing (or reading) my prayers.