Maintaining An Attitude of Gratitude - Day Two

For the rest of this week, the Daily Devos will be centered around what it takes to maintain an attitude of gratitude each and every day.  Spoiler Alert:  It's not as easy as it seems!  

In the ancient Japanse art of Aikido, there is a unique way of describing someone who is able to keep from overreacting to a sudden, unexpected outside stimulus.  In Aikido you would say of such a person that they have "soft eyes."  

In other words, they have a wider field of vision that isn't hardened and narrowed.  They are able to see what is on the periphery and are not just reacting to what is immediately in front of them.  

Author and theologian Parker J. Palmer describes it like this:  
If a stimulus is introduced to an unprepared person, his eyes narrow and the flight/fight response takes over.  If the same unexpected stimulus comes to someone with "soft eyes," the natural reflex is transcended and a more authentic response takes its place--such as thinking a new though…

Attitude of Gratitude - Week Three: Enduring Love

All good things must come to an end.

Have you ever heard that before?  Maybe you've even repeated it on occasion. Probably when something good was coming to an end.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to get away for a couple of days--just the two of us.  We relaxed, sat by the beach, wandered around Key West, watched the sunset, ate unbelievable meals, slept in, read some books, laid in a hammock...

What? I should tell you everything?

At any rate, as we came to the end of our time away we both found ourselves saying over and over again---"just one more day... if we had just one more day..."

I remember the last football game of my oldest son's high school career.  He re-injured his surgically repaired shoulder throwing a forty yard touchdown pass, and then a few plays later got concussed on a running play.  We all knew that it was over.  His season had ended, and a promising football career with it.  I remember my wife and I sitting with him on the si…

Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude - Day One

For the rest of this week, the Daily Devos will be centered around what it takes to maintain an attitude of gratitude each and every day.  Spoiler Alert:  It's not as easy as it seems!  

Today I thought I would focus on how retelling the stories of our past in more constructive and life-giving ways can give us the opportunity to live more fully in gratitude.   

My wife and I have been married for nearly twenty-seven years.  We've actually known each other for thirty-seven years, however, and were boyfriend/girlfriend for three out of the four years we were in high school.  

We broke up after high school and were apart for many years before finding each other again.  Both of us had terrible things happen to us during those years--hard experiences, difficult life lessons.  

For years I beat myself up about what I considered all of that "lost" time.  I tortured myself with all of the "what-ifs" that I could imagine, thinking that if only I hadn't been so irres…

How You Talk About Yourself Matters

It's a terrible feeling to discover that someone close to you has been talking badly about you behind your back.  The feeling of betrayal in those moments is enough to take your breath away.  We all know that feels like, sadly.  

But over time, I've discovered that the person who spends the most time talking trash about me and tearing me down is none other than the same person who I squint at in the morning when I brush my teeth--namely, me.  

Debilitating and defeating self-talk is one of the most bruising and awful things that we do to ourselves.  It often sounds something like this:  

"I'm not good at those kinds of things..." 

"This always happens to me..." 

"I'm so stupid..." 

"Why do I always get myself into these messes...?" 

"That's the story of my life: one bad thing after another..." 

You can probably come up with a few of your own that you've heard yourself say from time to time. My own list is a lot longer m…

When Your Plans Are Thwarted By Others

Not that long ago, I was trying to leave the parking lot of a shopping center during rush hour, and get turned around in the right direction for home.  

This meant that I was going to have to navigate my way to a narrow median and then wait for a break in traffic before flooring it to get into the desired lane. Suddenly, I saw my moment--things were going to work out perfectly with the oncoming cars moving just in the right sequence. 

Everything was perfect until one of the drivers decided to make a turn, and the whole sequence fell apart.  

"Aaaaghhh!" I exclaimed.  My wife Merideth sat quietly for a second and then asked, "Did you seriously just get mad at the person for making a turn?"  "Yes!" I exclaimed, "They messed up my whole plan!"  "You're ridiculous," she told me.  I knew she was right, but I didn't admit it.  

Until now, that is.  

I once read a quote from the Roman Emperor and Stoic, Marcus Aurelius that spoke right int…

You Were Made To Worship

I believe that the Spirit of God within us creates a longing to connect not just with other people, but with God, who knows us better than we know ourselves.

We long to know and to be known.  We long to truly feel.  To not give in to the despair that comes from the resignation that this is all there is, and there is no Creator or Designer, no plan or purpose.

Because when we resign ourselves to this--even slightly--we end up trying to fulfill our longings with other things, other feelings or even what some might call other "gods."

But when those longings are met for real. We know it.  When we realize (sometimes surprisingly) that there really is a God, and that God is actually connected to us.  It draws out emotions, feelings we didn't know we had.

And when we respond to these emotions we often sing... or pray... or weep... or stand up and dance... or we fall down to our knees or on our faces...

This is called "worship" by some people--a full-on, emotionally-charged…

The True Meaning of Gratitude

Yesterday I was feeling a little raw and got vulnerable here in this space about the challenges that my family has been facing this past week.  It wasn't the first time, and I imagine it won't be the last.   

So many of you responded with stories of your own, words of encouragement and offers of help, prayers, and positive vibes.  It meant a lot to me because as a pastor it's not easy to be vulnerable and to admit that things aren't always hunky-dory.  

I am grateful for the grace I receive from you, dear reader.  I can actually feel it sometimes if that makes any sense at all.  It fills me with such gratitude.  

I'm actually preaching on gratitude this month, and so I've been reading and thinking about it for a couple of weeks.  

I'm learning that being able to feel and express gratitude is one of the most vital aspects of experiencing what the ancient Hebrew writers referred to as shalom or the peace of God.  

But I'm also learning that it's not always…