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When the Sun Rises

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

I want you to seriously consider this question. It says a lot about who you are – your priorities…and your identity. You might not be aware of routines that we follow every day.  For instance, when I wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my phone to turn my 6 o’clock alarm off and check for work emails. Then I usually turn over and snooze until my husband has to get up, and then I’ll reach for my phone – to check the time! – and  my email again, and probably Facebook. And then thoughts about the day start to take over and those few, precious quiet moments slip away.

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A Unique Creation

I look forward to listening to my pastor every Sunday. He just gets so excited about helping us learn about God and truth and how to respond to that. One of his favorite phrases is “responding to who God is.” He always seems to bring it back to the fact that no truth amounts to anything, and no relationship is healthy, if we don’t respond to it appropriately.

But I don’t want to talk about any of his sermons. Instead, I want to talk about something that a guest speaker talked about a few months ago that hasn’t left my mind. Along the journey of discovering truth, you will have to discover the truth of who you are in Christ.

This guest speaker put it in a way I have never heard it before. *Hint hint* If I had any artistic ability, I would jump on this example. It’s centered around Psalm 1.

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A Lifestyle of Thankfulness

I was desperately trying to catch up yesterday at the summer women’s bible study at my church. I missed last week and hadn’t been able to finish my “homework” in time for this week’s meeting. So I was nodding along and trying to catch up on the reading while everyone else was discussing their notes. I was zoning in and out while doing this when the conversation suddenly caught my full attention. The phrase “a lifestyle of thankfulness” sent tingles down my spine. It’s one of those things that you hear and think, I really need to pay attention to what I’m about to hear. It stopped me dead in my tracks for a few seconds and then sent me flipping through the pages trying to find what they were referencing.

Their comments weren’t necessarily new insights, but they hit me hard anew:

-An absence of thankfulness can explain why you aren’t feeling peace in your life, or it can point towards a sense of false peace.

-There is no sadness that cannot be quenched with a bout of vocal thankfulness. Just praising God for the little things in your life can make all of the shadows shrink back.

-Thankfulness isn’t just a feeling. Often times, it begins as a choice.

-There is no day you can’t get through if you start and end it with a prayer of thankfulness and praise.

Thankfulness is how I’ve been getting through my days lately when it just starts to feel so monotonous or the chronic pain issues I’m dealing with flare up and ruin my week. Thankfulness for the little things that brighten my day and the bigs things that make everything worth while. I rather you smile at your own memories here than flood you with mine.

But I’m not the poster kid for thankfulness. Having a continuous, infectious lifestyle of thankfulness isn’t easy. Sometimes, just mustering the self-control to hold back everything else and find that one thing you can be happy about is hard enough. I had an instance a few mornings ago while I was out on the trails. I knew that I was pushing myself and I had things to do. I couldn’t get my brain to shut off, but I wanted to try to take a moment to stop in the sun, lift my head up, and thank God for such a beautiful day and the gift of my relaxed morning. I succeeded in getting the words out, and I wholeheartedly meant them, but my brain was clamouring in the background that it was time to go and get things done and rush through the peaceful moment. In those kinds of moments, I just want to say, “Who invited you?!”

Am I the only one?

Thankfulness is not a distraction. It is a game changer. When I get distracted in these moments, it makes me realize that I need to have them more often.

The other women in my bible study gave similar examples and talked about the peace they received from periods of thankfulness wistfully. I agree that if we started each day with praise and thanks for God that our entire day, our circumstances, our trials, our attitudes, our relationships – everything – would be affected. We would be able to see things in a new light.

We need more thankfulness in our lives. I pray that whatever circumstances that we find ourselves in, that we wake up tomorrow morning with a prayer of praise and thankfulness on our lips and that we continue to find those opportune moments to give proper thanks to God throughout our day. And why I’m at it, I think I want to improve on how I show thankfulness to those around me. I think it might be time to start a thankfulness journal.

What do you have to be thankful about, and what has been getting in your way of having a lifestyle of thankfulness? Will you spend some time really think about this today?

“…transcends all understanding…”

Does the title sound like a familiar phrase? It comes from Philippians 4:6-7, a passage that has been underlined and highlighted in every Bible and study guide that I’ve owned. You’ll probably recognize it: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This verse is at once a comfort and a mystery to me. On some level, I think I do understand what it feels like to experience an all-encompassing, overwhelming, unexplainable peace that could only have come from the Father. At the same time, I feel that I will never truly understand it.

Isn’t that true for all of God? Here is what I mean. These verses below point towards aspects of God, and power that is available to His children, that are simply too wonderful for us to fully comprehend:

God’s Love – Ephesians 3:17b-19

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

The joy of the Lord – Nehemiah 8:10

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

God’s Strength – Isaiah 40:28b-31

He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not g row weary, they will walk and not be faint.

God’s Power – Mark 10:27

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

God’s Grace and Mercy – Ephesians 2:4-7

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus

God’s Forgiveness and Compassion – Psalm 145:8-9

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.

God’s Holiness – Samuel 2:2

There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

God’s Goodness – Psalm 107:1

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

God’s Steadfastness – Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is m rock and my salvation; he is my fortess, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

And, of course, God’s Peace – Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This brings to mind two questions: How can we ever think that we fully comprehend our God? and How can we ever think that we could do anything without Him, or that anyone/thing could bring us more peace, more love, more certainty, more strength…whatever?

I can be counted among those who have attempted to give the wrong answers to those questions. More than once, truth be told. They are common mindsets, but oh so dangerous. This train of thought has provided me more ideas for the prayers that I should be praying.

Are there any other aspects or verses that have popped into your mind? Please do share!