30 Days of Gratitude-Day 15-Hope

gratitude-journalI’m grateful for hope. 

This is the beginning of the Advent season and since I didn’t finish writing 30 things I’m grateful for in the month of November, I’m going to continue my journey of intentional gratitude into the Advent season. 

The meaning of the word “advent” is the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.  In Christian terms, it means the coming or second coming of Christ. We begin to celebrate the Advent season the fourth Sunday before Christmas. During this time four candles are centered in a wreath, and one is lit each Sunday.

The first candle is Hope.

Advent is waiting in expectancy for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have hope because he has already come through his birth, and we wait for his return with expectant hearts.

This morning in my reading of Isaiah 11:1-10, verses 1 and 2 caught my breath.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Jesse was the father of Kind David, who Jesus descended from. Isaiah has been prophesying that Israel would be judged, but that a remnant would survive it. By using the imagery of a chopped tree to describe Jesse, the author relates the judgment coming upon Israel to that coming upon Assyria.

The shoot that came out of the stump of Jesse is the promised Messiah, Jesus. 

That’s the context, but theres’ something in it for you and me.

Notice how these verses are FULL OF PROMISES! See where I highlighted the word WILL and the words that follow.

Notice the gifts that will be given by the Spirit of God upon the delivery of the promises; wisdom, understanding, counsel and might. 

Notice the final promise and exhortation in the final line; “He WILL delight in the fear of the Lord.” He will delight in obeying the Lord.

Have you ever felt like your life was cut off at the stump?

I have too.

But there is a greater reality, and that is our hope in Jesus. That no matter where we’ve been there’s hope in Jesus. It may be the smallest shoot in a smoldering stump, but it is mighty and green and bent on bearing fruit. Nothing will prevent hope from bearing fruit in your life. Nothing will prevent Jesus from overcoming the world in your life. When we hold to Jesus, we realize that we are grafted permanently into hope. 

Jesus IS hope.

And when we hold to hope, we experience gifts given by the Spirit of Truth; wisdom, understanding, counsel and might. And when we delight in obeying the Lord, we are empowered in our faith and we experience His gifts more powerfully, and our hope is magnified. 

This prophecy is about Jesus, but Jesus lives in us, so in my mind, this is about us too. Jesus in me and you. His hope, his gifts, his obedience to His Father. All of it in us, too.

I pray that you will use this Advent season to seek a close encounter with Jesus. That you will set aside time to be with Him, time to listen to Him and time to respond to Him.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13

May this Advent be unforgettable.

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Fourteen

emerson1I’m grateful that Jesus is my Teacher.

He never stops teaching. Right now He is teaching me about humility through a profound little book called, “Humility” by Andrew Murray. This book, steeped in biblical truth and and soul-ripping Scripture, has challenged, convicted and encouraged me and I’m not even half way through it.

Last year during our local IF Gathering, we were asked to write on a small stone a word the Lord had given us for the season we were in.

I wrote the word Obedience. 

That word has been seared into my heart as I have triumphed and failed and floundered and celebrated and failed again. 

Jesus is teaching me the heart of obedience is humility.

I think sometimes we get it backwards and think that obedience leads to humility. And maybe it does. But I think the Lord is showing me something deeper. Humility leads to obedience.

Not humility that is done, but humility that IS. Not doing humility, but BEING humble. And that state of being can only come from a life deeply rooted and established in Christ. A life that is emptied so that it may be filled with Christ. Pride and humility can not coexist. One is from the pit of Hell, and the other from the Heavenly of Heavenlies. I can not seek to build my reputation and further my agenda while emptying myself at the same time.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12

It’s so upside down to our natural way of thinking.

But our natural way of thinking is corrupted and flawed since the day Satan tempted Eve with the fruit of pride. We can not rest in our natural way of thinking, or it will lead us astray.

I must be nothing so that God can be all. I must lower myself, still lower, so that Christ can fill me with His power and grace.

“Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest places, so the moment God finds the creature abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.”

I have sought the character of Christ from the moment I accepted Him as my personal Savior. My heart’s desire has been to have a deeply intimate relationship with Him. But there is so much more. I have only begun to scratch the surface.

I’m so grateful for the grace of God that not only saves me, but empowers me to live out His life in my own life. We as believers must put our eyes on Jesus and study his life of humility. We must earnestly pray and seek the humility that not only saved the world, but transformed it. We must pray and seek with a singlemindedness and fervency to overcome the schemes of pride from the enemy.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. 

How can we live that out in our everyday lives?  In our leadership, our homes and our communities?

We need you, Teacher.

Lord, help us follow you. Help us live lives of lowliness even in the midst of leading our families, our jobs, our platforms and our ministries. Help me to get low, lower still, to live the life of this High Calling. 

What are you grateful for today?

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Thirteen

emerson1

Our Pastor has inspired me to use this season to improve my attitude of gratitude. I have committed to writing about thirty things I’m grateful for. Even the hard stuff. Gratitude is not about our circumstances. It is a choice. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today I’m grateful for my body.

Now that may sound really brazen. I’m on the thin side, so some may think that is easy for me to say. Some may even think it sounds boastful. But I assure you it’s not. You see, I struggled for almost twenty years with an eating disorder called Bulimia.

Webster Dictionary defines Bulimia as

“an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting.”

Let’s look at the word distortion. The definition is

“a change, twist, or exaggeration that makes something appear different from the way it really is.” 

I’ve always been relatively thin. It runs in my family. But because of childhood trauma my identity was defined by the emotional needs of others. That’s cause for a lot of dysfunction. In my case, I believed that if I was perfect enough, I could control the behavior of others. I believed that if people valued me as perfect, then I would finally experience the love I so desperately sought. 

I could never be thin enough.

At nineteen, I entered a fitness model contest. I was in amazing shape. I worked hard, denied my cravings and built the body I had dreamed of. But when I looked in the mirror I saw the same body I had always seen. One that was imperfect and disappointing. One that didn’t measure up. 

A year later I moved to New Jersey to pursue a modeling career in New York. I lost another ten pounds and got down to 111 pounds at 5’8″. I was so emaciated that my face just sunk in. When I returned home, my own family didn’t recognize me when they picked me up from the airport. Everybody commented that I looked like I had been sick. I deflected their comments, but inside I was pleased. I thought I had finally arrived. But when I looked in the mirror, I still didn’t measure up. 

That’s distortion.  That’s the lie we buy into. That we have to be perfect. That we are damaged goods. And as a therapist once told me, we spend the rest of our lives trying to disprove the lie that we are bad. 

I found something even more interesting about the meaning of the word distortion on the Wikipedia site.

“a distortion is the alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of something, such as an object, image, sound or waveform.”

That is profoundly true! What is our original shape?

The image of God!

We are made in the image of God! That is our original shape! But because of sin and brokenness and hurt and darkness, our original shape is altered and distorted. Since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden, man’s natural instinct has been to pursue his identity apart from God. That’s why we are broken! But there is GOOD NEWS! There is redemption in Jesus Christ!

As believers, we must understand our identity in Christ!

As people recovering recovery from eating disorders, I think we must pursue 3 key disciplines. 

  1.  Forgiveness of self and others. People with eating disorders keep standards that no one can meet.  It’s a way to stay in a perpetual state of disappointment that allows one to punish themselves and others. A person with an eating disorder will be served well by focusing on forgiveness, which leads to acceptance
  2. Communication. I was unable to communicate my feelings as a child because of fear and shame. For me Bulimia started as an experiment, and quickly led to an obsession. It became a way to not only purge my food, but symbolically to purge my painful feelings. Please talk with someone you trust. Reach out.
  3. Renewing our mind. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  When we focus on the Truth instead of our feelings, we are renewed. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of the world, we are renewed. We must learn who we really are. Who God made us to be. Who God says we are. Most importantly, we must learn who God himself is. That is a process. 

Eating disorders are mental disorders and they are complicated. If you have one, I pray you will get professional help. I’m not a trained professional, and only share my personal experience and beliefs. I have 7 years of recovery from my disorder without one single relapse. All Glory to God! I have been delivered and set free and I believe that is possible for every one of us. 

I’m praying that you will have the strength to look into the eyes of Jesus and see the absolute love and adoration He has for you. You are enough. He has a plan for your life. It is a good plan, because He is a good God.

What are you grateful for today?

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Twelve

emerson1

I’m grateful for the seasons.

Just a few weeks ago the color of Fall was muted and drab. It seemed too much for the dry leaves to change color. Then the rains came and watered the thirsty land and brought brilliant color to life. The intensity of Fall almost hurts to behold. It’s so beautiful, so passionate and alive. Festivals ring out across the land as the bounties of harvest are celebrated.

But soon, the burning yellow and ambers will give way to the stark beauty of Winter. The trees will strip bare and drop their leaves in gray piles at their feet. The sky will become dark and bruised and icicles will hang from our roofs. The instinct to rest will subdue our days.

Right at the point of desperation, Spring will burst onto the scene. Snows will melt and lakes will glisten. Emerald green will stretch across the hills. Once again, colors will burst as wildflowers dance and sing. Lungs will fill with the fresh wind of renewal and restoration. A time to plant begins.

Sun-drenched days will stretch into humid nights. Greens will fade to pale yellow. Creatures will look for a place in the shade. Shorelines will  bulge with laughter and play. The lands will crack and wither in the dry heat. Summer will provide a harvest of its own, and we will be grateful for its fruit.

These are the seasons of our lives. We will find peace and rest when we yield to God as He puts these cycles into motion. We must trust that this too shall pass as the next season is just around the bend.  What we have been given in this season will carry us through the next. What we have learned will prepare us for the next part of our journey. We shall not lack, for everything has been considered and given in its time. 

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

What are you grateful for today?

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Eleven

emerson1Man, I’ve got a lot going on in my life right now. And they’re not small things. Each one feels really weighty; really significant all on its own. And to be totally honest, I don’t know how any of it’s going to turn out. But I’m ok with that. I really am. I have this peace and confidence that I’m exactly where I need to be and that God is working it all out. 

Today I’m grateful I can trust God with the outcome.

Phew! That doesn’t sound like me. Well at least not the me that I lived with the majority of my life. You see, before Jesus, I was constantly sweating the small and big stuff. Outcomes were all I thought about. My mind would bounce back and forth over details and people like a volleyball. I had this consuming desire to know the outcome, control the outcome and worry about the outcome. I did a really good job of acting like I was ok with whatever was meant to be. But I didn’t really mean it.

Do you play that same game of mental volleyball?

I’ve learned the size of my peace is connected to the size of my trust in God. That’s it. When I trust Him, I’m at peace. 

How can we learn to trust Him more?

I think there are three key steps:

First, we’ve got to get to know Him. Think about the person or people in your life you trust the most. You trust them because you know them. You know their heart, their character and their faithfulness. That’s the same way we learn to trust God. We’ve got to spend time with Him in prayer. Prayer can be just a conversation with God. We’ve got to study His Word and listen to His voice. Just being in His presence fills us with peace and serenity as his Holy Spirit begins to minister to us. There is something very powerful in the ministry of presence.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Second, we need to thank Him. I am learning that one of the most powerful ways to connect with God is to start by thanking Him. When we thank God for everything in our life, I mean really go through the list of blessings, we magnify Him. And when we magnify Him, we realize how much bigger He is than all of our problems. We exalt His character over our challenges and we begin to worship Him. When we worship, there is no room for worry.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Third, we need to choose to trust Him. There’s a lot of things we choose to do. But when it comes to trusting God, many times we think it will just happen over time. As we mature in Christ, we do learn to trust Him more, but we also must choose trust. We can choose fear, or we can choose trust. Too often we choose fear, or we let fear have rule over our mind. In the book of Romans, Paul encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We must choose over and over to put our minds on Christ and to trust our Lord. The more we make the choice, the more we build our spiritual muscle of obedience. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I pray that you will begin the process of choosing to trust God. I’m praying with you.

What are you grateful for today?

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Ten

emerson1This is Day Ten of my 30 Days of Gratitude challenge. I have committed to writing about 30 things I’m grateful for in an attempt to improve my attitude of gratitude. Overall, I’m a pretty optimistic and grateful person, but God’s word tells us to rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. That’s convicting. I don’t give thanks in all circumstances. Do you? I think if I did I would be filled with more joy and peace. If it’s His will for us, then it makes sense that we would also experience more power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I’m down for more joy, peace and power.

Today I’m grateful for God’s conviction. 

Sometimes I do wrestle with resentment. I hate it when I feel resentful. It affects my relationship with God and others. It makes me want to withhold my love and find fault. In my seeking the root to my resentment, God has been faithful to show me some things.

There’s an old saying, “Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” That’s how it feels to wallow in resentment; like you’re slowly being poisoned to death.

I have learned there are usually three main reasons I feel resentful.

  • Selfishness-I have to admit, once in a while I can be a little selfish. Usually those times correlate with hormonal changes. Just like Frank Sinatra said, I want it my way. I want things done when I want them done. When I’m in that selfish mindset, then I become resentful when people don’t comply with my expectations. 
  • Blame-Rick Warren says to blame is to be-lame. Get it? Blaming only hurts ourselves. Most of the time the other person is going on with their life without a clue. Meanwhile, we are still trapped in the past. Or we make sure they know they are to blame, and imprison the both of us in emotional solitary confinement. Blaming is often a way to protect ourselves from having to take personal responsibility. But until we do so, we will never be free. The other person will always have control over us. The past will always steal the present. Let it go…
  • Unmet Needs-We all have needs; emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. When one or all of those needs aren’t met, we can become resentful and discouraged. I think this is especially an issue when we don’t communicate our needs in the first place. This can happen with close relationships as we almost believe that our loved ones should know what we want and need. We expect them to be mind readers. The key to a resentment from an unmet need is to communicate, communicate, communicate. 

This is a short list, as there are other reasons for resentment, but I think these three are key roots to the problem. Whatever is on your list, I encourage you to seek God’s wisdom and leading to help you understand and overcome the root of resentment. It’s through an intimate relationship with the Lord that we are able to be more than conquerors of the things that hold us back in our lives. Jesus came to give us life and to give it to the full. Let us throw everything that holds us down. Let us put others first in how we love and serve, just like Christ does for us.

Let us rejoice, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. 

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

What are you grateful for?