Friday, November 21, 2014

An Amazing View

I just finished hanging the word Eucharisteo across my kitchen window. "Why...", you may be wondering, "would you hang that in the window?"

Well, for two reasons. First, to hopefully spark conversations, and second, to remind me to focus on the view God has placed right in front of me throughout my day.

Eucharisteo has become a very important word in my life over the past three years, as well as in the lives of many across the globe all because of one woman's obedience in writing a book with this as the theme. (One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.)

Voskamp breaks the word apart explaining that charis means grace; Eucharisteo means thanksgiving; chara means joy. When we return thanks back to God, we are grace-full, joy-full and thanks-full all at the same time. Just as Jesus was at His last meal on earth.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

On the night before the Word was about to be broken and spilled out, Jesus gave joy-filled and grace-filled thanks for the bread (representing His own body) and the wine (representing His precious blood), knowing what was in His immediate future; a horrific death on a cross as the sins of the world would be placed on Him.  He gave thanks for His divine purpose in stepping out of the glory of heaven to come to earth so He could bring His Heavenly Father the most glory, by becoming our sacrificial Lamb.

Eucharisteo has been seared into my mind and has affected the way I think about life, death, and what it truly means to be thankful to God in all things and for all things.

The Eucharist is what Christians receive during Communion, the Lord's Supper. It's a representation of Christ's body and His blood, willingly poured out because of God's unconditional, deep love for all mankind. A sacrifice beyond compare, Jesus, the Word, the Son of God, paid the ultimate price to set us free from the chains of our sin. He died for all. He rose again for all. Jesus is our all in all.

Amazing.  Grace.

Eucharisteo reminds us to be alert and grateful, and not just for those things we deem good, but being consciously aware of the good blessings, the joy in all things, even in death, just as Jesus did.

For in all things God is working for our good because He is good.

He's working in the obvious and the not so obvious.
He's working in the hard of life, the simple, and everything in between.

When we begin to examine life through the amazing lens of Eucharisteo, our view of God expands, becoming more vast, more grand, and more glorious than ever imagined.

My Pleasure,

Monday, November 17, 2014

Life Is Better In Real Time

As I've sacrificed Facebook for the month of November, so far I really haven't missed it. I haven't missed scrolling through what everyone's having for dinner, where they are, what they're doing, or where they're going. I've really enjoyed the freedom in not knowing everything about everybody.

I have a life that I love and I enjoy living it. I enjoy doing life in real time with people face to face. It's so much better than chasing people on Facebook to catch up.

I love to meet up with friends, family, or new friends over lunch, coffee, or just hanging out - that's what I'm talking about - in real time and real conversation. Real hugs, and visiting in real places.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Just good old fashion conversation is all it takes to stimulate and cultivate real relationships. I do enjoy "visiting" with friends who are far away or those who I can only meet with through technology, but I'm talking about the joy of spending more time pouring ourselves into our real-time relationships whenever and wherever we can.

Keeping up with hundreds or thousands of "friends" is not only frustrating and time consuming, it's impossible. We can't know everything about everybody and we certainly don't need to.

So this November, I'm spending a little more time with family and friends in real places, enjoying the freedom of being unplugged, and focusing on the sphere of influence God has given me to display His glory, His love, and His gospel in real time.

During this Thanksgiving season, why don't you give it a try?

My Pleasure,

Friday, November 14, 2014

Am I a Grown-Up Yet?

I loved being a kid. From running barefoot through the cool grass in the summertime, climbing trees, swinging as high as a kite on my squeaky, aluminum swing set, hanging upside down from the swing set bars, to walking atop the one brick narrow fence that surrounded our back yard. I was a fearless, spontaneous, fun and carefree little girl who lived life to the full.

As I grew up and went on to college, I was never one who fretted or was overly concerned about much. I usually went with the flow. I never in a million years would have ever dreamed I would become a control freak. But, as I have gotten older, I seem to be more concerned about being in control of things; things that really don't matter.

For example, I could have cared less early in my marriage as to how the dishes were arranged in the dishwasher. Now, almost 30 years later, I'm obsessed with the position of the dishes and especially the spoons in the utensil basket.

We turn our eating utensil handles down so the water can easily clean the portion we eat off of. There is a larger section in the basket where, if you put spoons in handle down, they slip, becoming wedged under the other section of the basket. It is very difficult to retrieve them and it really gets under my skin.  How crazy is that?

Just the other night as I was unloading the dishes, the spoon scenario occurred and I went into an under-my-breath rant about who and why would anyone put them in that section of the basket. My go-to voice when I'm irritated is "the growl". You know, the "URGGHHH", mom-is-irritated-voice?

I've also discovered I'm obsessed with my never-before-cared-about, 5 step process of washing clothes. First, I pour the aroma beads in, then turn on the water, pour in the detergent, put the softener in the dispenser, and THEN put the clothes in. If I'm around when another person in my family is washing clothes and they put the clothes in first (before the beads or turning on the water), I have to walk away or I'll have a spasm. What is wrong with me?

I should be grateful that somebody, anybody in my household would load the dishwasher, or do the laundry for goodness sake. I feel like I've stepped into the old black and white movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Who or what has invaded my skin?

And the worst is how I've become a terrible back seat driver, although I'm seated in the front seat. Just ask my husband. Bless him! (Wait! On second thought, don't.) It's like sitting on pins and needles every time we go somewhere just because I'm not the one at the wheel. Good grief! What is up with that?

Okay, I know what some of you are thinking. It's just part of the maturing process of a hormonally challenged woman.  Well, it may be.  But, we are not going there today, or any other day.

So how did this fearless, fun-loving little girl who grew into a carefree, never-sweat-the-small-stuff kind of wife and mother morph into an anxious, need-to-be-in-control, control freak?

Here's my take:

As the grown-ups in our lives, the people we've always gone to for a sense of security, advice and wisdom, begin to slowly slip away, I think we become anxious. We look around and realize that we are now the grown-ups in the room; the ones looked to for guidance, security, advice, etc. It's a very sobering thought.

I've always thought of grown-ups as being those adults at least 20-30 years ahead of me; full of wisdom; the ones who keep me from acknowledging that I'm getting older. Grown-ups are the ones in control. Right?

Wrong! Especially if I'm becoming the grown up in the room.  None of us are really in control and we definitely don't have all the answers.

At all stages in our spiritual life, we are children learning how to grow into the mature image of Jesus Christ; daily practicing how to let go of things that don't matter, and how to handle with grace the things that do, as well as, learning to be grateful for the unexpected, out of our control, sometimes messy moments of life.

Growing up begins with an attitude of gratitude; a heart of thanksgiving-for ALL things. I think I'm beginning to get it.

As I become intentionally grateful for the dishwasher and the people who help me with the chores, I spend less time having "rant-fests". Instead, I spend more time having "praise-fests", giving God glory for the family He has given me a lifetime to love and serve.

My grown-up attitude is always being tweaked. Through trials of trust and surrender, my faith is stretched. It can be messy and uncomfortable, but it's all slathered in God's amazing grace.

I'm still growing and learning to recognize and admit my ungrateful heart moments, and in the strength of the Holy Spirit, reel in the moodiness, the occasional, unexplainable rant, and even my anxious thoughts.

When ungratefulness invades our hearts, our homes, and our relationships, it interrupts the flow of grace in and out of our lives which stunts our spiritual growth. We need to bow the knee, ask for forgiveness from God and the people who experience our irrational behavior, forgive ourselves, and let it go.  Then, as we move forward, if we have truly learned from our past failures, we make the necessary changes which reflect the character of Christ. This is a clue that we are finally growing up.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23 NIV)

My Pleasure,

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Simple - Amazing - Everyday - Blessings

It's November 2014 and, as the Thanksgiving holidays approach, much attention is being given to the counting of blessings.

Remember the old hymn, "Count Your Blessings"? We always sang it in church during the season of thanks. Every year at our Thanksgiving family reunion my dad would have me go to the piano and play this hymn as our family gathered around singing about the blessings that our God had so graciously given to us over the past year. Sweet memories of growing up in the Cook family.

I've been intentionally counting the simple- amazing- everyday- blessings since the summer of 2012.  As I've mentioned many times before, I was challenged by the author of One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, to begin a "Thanks Journal". It has made the biggest difference in my attitude of gratitude.

The fun part of the journal is reading back over the jotted blessings from past years. What an amazing God we serve! If I hadn't been engaged in the search for all of the simple-amazing-everyday-blessings, I might have missed what God has placed right in front of me! My regret is that I didn't begin one earlier.

During this season of Thanksgiving, join me in this adventure by taking the Gifts Journal Challenge. Here's what you'll need to begin:

- a small journal
- a pen
- an alert mind
- a grateful heart

There's even an app for this if you'd rather use your I-phone. I choose the journal approach because it sits in my kitchen window in plain view, ready for me to hold and count. It also leads to conversation and is a reminder for my family as well. I hope you'll join me. Let me know if you do by commenting in the space below. Happy counting!

Count your blessings; name them one by one.
Count your blessings; see what God hath done.
Count your them one by one...
Count your many blessings see what God hath done.  
                                                                                        Words: Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1922
                                                                                        Music: Edwin O. Excell, 1851-1921

My Pleasure,

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November Sacrifice

But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? (I Samuel 15:22a)

Our pastor challenges us every year to sacrifice something during the month of November as we move toward our Thanks Service. 

I've been thinking about this for weeks and praying about what I should give up. Some people give up sweets, some give up soft drinks, some give up fast food, etc. Most sacrifices seem to be related to physical health.

The day after Easter, I gave up bad eating choices because I really needed to lose some weight, and I asked God to help me do it. He has helped me and I've lost 16-18 pounds.

To me, this was a common sense sacrifice; one I could not do in my own strength, but one that would benefit my physical health.

I'll confess that I haven't "sacrificed" anything in particular during the month of November since our pastor began the November challenge four years ago. I cannot sacrifice for sacrifice sake. I need to hear from the Holy Spirit when I need to give something up.  I'm led to sacrifice something I don't need through God revealing what I do need from Him.

My answer is clear.

This month, I need to spend more time with Him. To do that, I need to sacrifice something that is an unnecessary distraction. So, I'm sacrificing Facebook.

"To obey is greater than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (I Samuel 15:22b)

Sacrificing something I don't need in order to gain something I do need is why obedience is better than sacrifice. 

This month I hope to accomplish something that I believe I'm suppose to start. It blends together the spiritual gifts of encouragement and hospitality into one project.

Listening intently to the Spirit's voice through prayer and time in the Word is what I need to do this month. As I move forward in obedience with this project, I covet your prayers.

Of course, I'll keep you posted. (But not on FB!)

My Pleasure,