reflection (3)

My Boundless Gratitude -- in Retrospect

This Thanksgiving was a chance to reflect once again on my “Gratitude Quotient.” I concluded that I’m happier and more grateful than I’ve been in many years.

However, I uncovered a blog I wrote several years ago admitting two disturbing things: (1) I’m still not nearly as grateful as I should be for how God has blessed me; and (2) Many of the things I’m now MOST grateful for are past events I wasn’t grateful for at all when they were taking place.

I call this second point “gratitude in retrospect.”

Perhaps you can relate. Have you gone through difficult times when it was extremely difficult to give thanks? But now, as you look back, you see that God was at work through it all. Gratitude (finally!) rises in your heart as you see how the painful events have been beautifully woven into the fabric of your life.

  • Maybe you had a relationship breakup that tore your very heart…but it paved the way for the Lord to provide someone much better in your life.
  • Maybe you faced a severe trial in your health…but it caused you to make lifestyle changes in your diet and exercise – and now you’re feeling better than ever.
  • Maybe you lost a job you thought you’d have until retirement…but God opened (or will open) a new door that’s a much better fit for your gifts and passions.
  • Maybe you’ve experienced a financial meltdown, such as foreclosure or bankruptcy…but you learned vital lessons that eventually put you on the path to prosperity.
  • Maybe you went through some other difficult experience that has now given you a platform to help others.

These are just a few examples of how “gratitude in retrospect” can occur. I first noticed this in my life a few years ago, when a friend suggested that I write a book about church splits. “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,” was my initial thought. “Even though I’m an expert on church splits, who would ever be interested in a book about that?”

But my tech-savvy friend pointed out that 8,000 people every month do a Google search on the subject of church splits. “Wow. There must be a lot of people dealing with this,” I concluded.

As a result of that conversation, I wrote The Complete Guide to Church Splits: Prevention, Survival, and Recovery (which I can send you upon request). This event was a great example to me of Paul’s statement that we can comfort others with the same comfort we received from God during our own times of affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

Working on my book about church splits sparked something much bigger in my heart than just a new book project: I discovered that God had been a lot more faithful than I had given Him credit for. And I became much more grateful for the difficult things I’ve experienced in life – even though my gratitude was too often in retrospect.

I’m still troubled by my struggle to be grateful at the same time as my trials are occurring. The Bible instructs us to give thanks “IN everything,” not just AFTER everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I’m also sad that although I’ve given lip service to Romans 8:28 for decades, God’s amazing promise there is still not rooted as deeply in my life as it should be. Paul had gone through incredible trials (2 Corinthians 11:22-28), yet he said, “We KNOW that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

As the truth of Romans 8:28 becomes more a part of my life, I hope to become more grateful all the time – not just in retrospect. I want to become increasingly aware that God is always working to “connect the dots” in my life, creating a masterpiece I could never have imagined during my times of adversity.

So I pray you will join me in being grateful TODAY – no matter what the day brings…no matter what you may be going through. You may not understand it all today, but you can be confident the Lord is working out His wonderful plan nevertheless.

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Reflecting for Spiritual Growth

If you're like me your day is most often a whirlwind. Alarm goes off.  Shower.  Quiet time.  Dress.  Work.  Lunch.  Work some more.  Go home.  Chores/homework.  Dinner.  More chores/homework.  Bed.  Repeat process. 

In the transition times between the various stages of the day my thoughts are mostly consumed with the next thing that has to be done.  Most days the topic of my quiet time is swept up by the various tasks of the day within a couple of hours.  This often led to frustration in my spiritual life.  I just couldn't get why I wasn't making any discernible progress in growing to be more like Christ; for instance, why I was still struggling with my attitude when I identified it as a problem to work on 6 months earlier.

Several months ago I made the decision to intentionally slow down my day at points and reflect on a passage of Scripture, or a truth of some sort, or simply an adjustment in thinking or behavior that I felt the Lord wanted me to make.  Even though these were short moments of reflection, only 2-5 minutes apiece, the effect on my spiritual growth was immense.  The Lord began to connect the dots between the truths of Scripture and my attitude, my behavior, and my actions in a way that I had not experienced in a long time. 

Taking a few moments to reflect provides a unification point for your day.  It provides an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to bring the truth of Scripture to bear on your life in increasingly applicable ways.  Reflection makes you more sensitive to spiritual realities and the struggles of those around you because you are intentionally reflecting on spiritual things.

Reflection can take several forms:

1)Praying through Scripture-- this is the method I use most of the time.  Weekly, I identify a chunk of verses to memorize that use as the focus of my reflection times.

2)General prayer-- taking the time to bring "mundane" elements of your day to the Lord.  This allows you to begin to discern spiritual realities behind events you don't normally think of as having spiritual components.

3)Journaling-- provides an opportunity to reflect on the day as a whole and what the Lord is teaching you in a manner which is easy to reflect on even months down the road. 

What other forms of reflection have you found to be helpful in your walk with Christ?

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Ever hear a song or jingle and just not be able to get it out of your head? Not too long ago, I attended the Fall Leadership Conference at Jack Hayford's Church on the Way. The worship leader led us in a worship song called, ONE WORD FROM GOD.

One word from God can make everything new again...everythings better with one word from speak Lord and I will listen, show me your me today.

That song has blessed me SO much. I have it on my iPhone and on a CD in my car. I have about worn both completely out.

Reading the letter from Paul to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, I was impressed by a verse (2 Tim. 1:13):

"Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith, and love which are in Christ Jesus."

The "one word" that is speaking to me is RETAIN. As a disciple of Christ, I see so much erosion of "sound words" in the Body of Christ. Everything is done like an "Etch-a-Sketch." We rapidly sketch a worship song, sermonette, and a quick prayer we copied out of a book somewhere and then, shake-shake-shake, we are ready for the next "hit" of spiritually. The Church seems in need of a constant "fix" of the latest, greatest. Nothing seems to "stick." No stamina, no continuity, no cohesion.

I read a quote somewhere that said, "When everything is amplified, nothing is heard." I guess that is why the Scriptures tell us..."Be still and know that I am God." In the silence, in the "unplugged," unamplified moments of life, we can pause and catch that still, small voice and ONE WORD for us, for you, for me...

JESUS, Name above all names...
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