Thanksgiving

I am writing this on Wednesday November 23rd. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. So I figure this week would be a good week to write about gratitude. And more specifically what I’m grateful for.

In retrospect, I find it interesting that some of the things I’m grateful for, I definitely didn’t see them as something I could or would ever be grateful for at the time it was happening. I know I am stealing this concept from WAY-FM’s Brant Hansen. When he asked listeners to call in with their stories, I started to think about things in my life.

As I started to cthanksgivingome up with things, I realized how ungrateful I can be during hard times, ungrateful toward God especially. It’s always when I’m on the other side that I can see some of my struggles as blessings. I think this tendency is why the Bible commands us to give thanks.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I wish I was thankful in all circumstances, but like most other humans, I sometimes find this next to impossible.

My losing my ability to speak is a good example from my own life. I was anything but grateful. I was downright angry. I was angry at God and, unfortunately, I took that anger out on quite a few people.

adaptive deviceBut now I can be grateful for losing my speech. I may have lost the ability to speak clearly but now I communicate more than I ever have with my blog, and with my specially equipped computer.   With my  new tools, I can speak with more people. It wasn’t until I lost my ability to communicate easily that I truly began appreciating communication.

For this I am truly grateful. Having said that, I have to be intentional about showing gratitude, especially during hard times. Actually, I need to always be intentional about showing gratitude both to God and other people. It is way too easy to go through our daily lives without taking the time to be grateful.

thankful-peopleIt is easy to be thankful on Thanksgiving. Well, it’s easier than the rest of the year. I personally am thankful for my family, my friends, my church and my brothers in my recovery group. That is just a few things. I’m sure if I sat here long enough the list would go on and on.

How about you? What are you grateful for?

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. – Psalm 100:4-5

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There is more to this world than what we see…

I find it amazing that so many movies have aspects of the gospel. Doctor Strange is one of those movies even though it is dealing with the metaphysics. Despite this we can draw some parallels that apply to our lives as Christians.

mordoIn the movie,  when they first met, Mordo, a master magician who helps train Strange when he first arrives in Tibet, tells Stephen Strange  to “forget everything you think you know”. In a way, this is what we have to do when becoming followers of Christ. Jesus flips everything this world says and believes on it’s head.

The world says to do whatever it takes to get ahead. Put yourself first. The bible says to think of others more highly than yourself.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4

The world says if you aren’t rich, famous, highly intelligent or a somebody then you are nothing. The world says if you don’t have a perfect body you have no value. The bible says God uses the things the world thinks are unimportant to do His work.

Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. – 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

doctor-strange-posterThere is a point in Doctor Strange’s training where he is getting in his own way. After telling him he needs to surrender, the Ancient One says “The Mystic Arts involve drawing energy from dimensions and channeling it for your own use”.

Obviously we don’t control God, the spirit realm or the universe. But in order to follow Christ we need to surrender our wants and desires to Him. Even Jesus Himself tells us this.

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23

The statement by the Ancient One about drawing energy points to the fact that we are in a spiritual battle. While we can’t control God, our prayers and what we choose to focus on have a very big impact on what happens in our lives and the lives of others. And it reminds us that we have to have an active relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – 6:18

It always amazes me when I see the message of the gospel in movies that are obviously not thinking about Jesus. It is nice to see God’s hand in things. Even in Hollywood.

God Has This!

I have been given the opportunity to see how much I have grown over the last year. Unfortunately, it is at someone else’s expense, physically at least.

My dad is (hopefully it will be in the past tense by the time anyone reads this) in the hospital because of high blood pressure and A-fib. Basically, A-fib is an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating (Wikipedia). If it goes untreated it could lead to a stroke.

In order to stop this irregularity he is going to have an ablation where they are basically going to burn off the cardiac tissue that is causing the abnormal electrical activity in the heart.

If someone who knows more about this is reading this, please correct any inaccurate information I may have given. If you’re really that interested you can find information on Wikipedia.

Revolving WomenAt the beginning of last year both of my parents took turns being in and out of the hospital. They should have installed a revolving door. I didn’t handle things too well, internally at least.

I put up a good front but inside I was filled with worry. With each hospital stay I drew further and further away from God. I wasn’t conscious of it but I began to not trust Him.

I kept my mind busy but it was by vegging out on TV, junk basically. I had one person who would talk to me when they could. Unfortunately I looked at some porn and indulged in fantasy to numb the pain and worry. There is nothing wrong with keeping your mind off of things with TV and friends but not if it’s at the expense of your relationship with God.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  – Matthew 6:33

I don’t think I did one thing to stay close to God. The first hospital stay or two I did do a little bible reading but not much.

It was during this time that I needed Him the most but I turned my back on Him. Things were not going the way I wanted. Things weren’t getting better fast enough for my taste.

biblical-wisdom

I forgot some important truths about God. I forgot that His ways and His timing are not like ours.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Ezekiel 55:8-9

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. – 2 Peter 3:8

keep-calm-because-im-only-a-phone-call-awayWhat is different now? Don’t worry I’m not going to retell the story of my hitting rock bottom and starting recovery. If you didn’t read that post you can find it by scrolling down after this post. It was sometime during the last month.

I no longer am polluting my mind with lustful thoughts and pornography. I have numerous people to hold me accountable. I can also contact these men if I begin to struggle. Most importantly I have a strong foundation in Christ.

As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” – Luke 6:47-49

The above is a perfect explanation of why things are different this time. It is always scary when a loved one is in the hospital, especially with cardiac issues. Concern is a natural and healthy reaction but worry can cause all sorts of physical and spiritual problems. It is only the realization of God having things under control that can keep our concern from turning into worry.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31

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. – Philippians 4:6-7

How God Sees Us

I want to share two songs that have been helpful to me when I start to feel sorry for myself. They are also helpful when all I can see is my mistakes and past pain but can’t seem to see the progress I’ve made. Can you relate?

The first song is Dear Younger Me by Mercyme.

I like these lines:

Do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me

I don’t know if I’ve thought of my choices as making me until recently. I’ve always thought that the situations I’ve gone through as shaping who I am, especially my disability. Actually, I think when I was a kid, at some point I made my disability my identity.

I don’t see things that way anymore. There is so much more to a person than the package they come in.

The part that reminds me of how God sees me and how much he loves me is near the end.

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed

I’m holy, set apart for god.
I’m righteous, made right with God.
I am redeemed, Christ died a torturous death to make it possible.

What says love more than dying for someone who deserves to be condemned.

The other song is Mended by Matthew West.

You see your worst mistake
But I see the price I paid
And there’s nothing you could ever do, to lose what grace has won

I have to remind myself that God doesn’t hold my past against me. He sees me through the lens of Jesus’ sacrifice. He sees all of us who believe this way.

I see my child, my beloved
The new creation you’re becoming
You see the scars from when you fell
But I see the stories they will tell

I have the gift of seeing the negative sometimes. If I don’t keep my mind on God all I see is the negative. I have to remember that I am a new creation. But at the same time, I have to give myself grace (He does) because the change is a process.

I think the most important thing to remember is that God uses our stories. No matter how ashamed you are about parts of your past God can use you and your story for His purposes.

Sometimes people think they have to do something grand to be used by God. God uses everyone of us in the small, everyday things.

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