Monday, March 28, 2011

Attitude or Gratitude?

I have been enjoying Nancy Leigh DeMoss' book CHOOSING GRATITUDE, and at the same time I have often been convicted by her "journey to joy."

I highly recommend this book for Christian women. It includes a 30-day devotional on moving toward an attitude of gratitude.

Now, like I, you probably already feel you are grateful. I thought so at the start of the book. On the other hand when I got to chapters about "giving thanks in ALL things," I started feeling more and more challenged. When the author asked that I go 30 days without complaining or whining (even about the SNOW on March 28), I failed miserably. The stories and scriptures are helpful as we journey toward daily joy in a life often filled with stress, worries, and heartache.

One convicting section tested me on our recent vacation. I realized what a bad example I was setting for my daughter as a result. In her "Whiners or Worshipers" chapter, she points out, "Ungrateful people tend to hold tightly to their rights. And when others fail to perform the way they want or expect them to, they feel justified in making demands and retaliating emotionally" (88).

Hmmmmm....I thought of the time on vacation when our table did not receive the warm bread and butter like all the other tables had...or when other tables were served first even though we had been waiting a long time...or the time the manager messed up our reservations at the hotel making us wait longer in line....What was I thinking? Paul wrote about the importance of having a servant's attitude rather than "I-deserve-the-best-attitude." What about the times I was cut off in traffic, or just the other day when a man cut in line at Panera Bread Company after a lengthy wait?

I was ashamed of what my rights revealed--a prideful, ungrateful heart.

So I apologize to the waitress in Sanibel. I should not seek revenge by giving a poor tip or complaining or sighing heavily or rolling my eyes. I apologize to the man in line at the bagel place. I should not give him that "teacher-stare" I have mastered so well over the years.

No, it doesn't mean you let people abuse you, but God's Word does illustrate over and over how much God wants us to let insult pass and not seek revenge or be "ungrateful."

How about you? Have you caught yourself expecting certain rights from those who serve? When people do not live up to our expectations, how we react reflects the depth of our grateful hearts.

May your heart and mine be filled today with thankfulness for a patient God who does not react like we do, but is slow to anger and filled with love.

For His glory,

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's a Croc!

The snow is melting quickly here in St. Louis after yesterday's strange blizzard of over six inches (seemed like at least a foot to me). The buds are still on the trees surviving winter's last attempt to stay longer.

As I continue to unpack and ease back into the routine of life after a wonderful spring break in Florida, I can't help but stop and review the few pictures we took while there.

I had always heard about the alligator problem in Florida, but being on the beach, I naively thought it would not be a concern. On the contrary, our first day in Sanibel, we stopped to see a strange sight for our Missouri eyes.

On a log next to the bike path rested a small alligator (unlike the large one in the picture). The strange sight was that it rested its head on top of two turtles. All three basked in the sun. I thought, in just a few minutes the turtles will turn into food for that alligator whose crooked smile seemed to mock the whole scene.

Later that day, I spied an alligator swimming next to our condo in the small pond where a once inviting hammock had beckoned us. No longer, I assure you. That is the small picture I took with my cell phone. He glided by eyeing me as cautiously as I did him, all six feet of him.

I saw signs everywhere warning tourists not to feed the alligators, or is it crocodile? Even pretending to feed one of these creatures would result in $600.00 fine and 6 months in prison.

On the local news, I watched the debate about what to do with these creatures in the Sanibel area after one local woman had been killed by one while trimming her bushes. Pros and cons were offered as people were encouraged to vote on the matter.

After reflecting on how the turtles seemed to be so nonchalant about their precarious position with the alligator (or is it crocodile), I realized how I, too, sometimes rest on what I think is so harmless in this world only to be in danger by it later.

For example, it seems so harmless to watch television shows that promote (and I do mean promote) world views on life styles I know God does not condone. It seems so harmless to pass on that juicy piece of information about a member of my community or church when I know if the person were in the room, I would not do so. It seems so harmless to eat that second piece of cake from the Bubble Room in Sanibel (I confess it was no mere piece of cake either) since I was celebrating my anniversary and had been so diligent on my new diet. I knew that overeating was a sin in God's eyes and bad for my heart and brain.

Like the turtles, I can naively assume I am in control of the situation and no danger exist for me as long as I just stay a little longer, enjoy the moment a little more.

Snap! It's a croc!

For His glory,

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Treasure Island!

We are back! Praise God for His safety and mercy as we traveled over 2000 miles by car to Sanibel Island for our 35th wedding anniversary and daughter's spring break! As I type this blog, it is snowing! I won't depress you by showing you the almost 4 inches that have arrived within the past two hours. The huge flakes are making an almost white-out condition.

Over the next few days I hope to share what God provided as my little family and I enjoyed His gifts in nature. Today's is short and simple.

The island is known for its many sea shells. I didn't know what people were talking about until I experienced it in person.

Each morning, little hills of shells were piled along the beaches by nature. Shells I normally would have thought amazing were now lieing in mounds by the hundreds, no thousands!

After a couple of hours combing the beach for "more special shells," my daughter and I prepared to leave. As we retraced our steps along the sandy path, I spied an older couple digging into the sand bank away from the ocean where throngs of people were wading or diving for shells.

Smiling, I said, "Are you digging for buried treasure?"

"Yes," she smiled and showed me her secret stash of goods. Lo and behold, there were much larger conch shells, whole, not broken by the pounding waves upon the beach. Tulip shells as well...all colors of the rainbow. She saw our faces and handed us two of them. "Here. Take these with you. We have plenty."

"You mean all you do is dig into the sand bank and find these? How did you know to do that? Have you lived here long?"

"This is our first year. We read a book, and it works like a charm every time!"

After thanking her profusely for her kindness in sharing her treasure, we left laughing at ourselves. We had spent hours pouring over the beach when all along the best shells were buried in the sand bank right behind us. Just a few scrapes with a shovel and the shells poured onto the beach, whole and beautiful.

Isn't that just like God though? I spent my young life looking for acceptance and approval. I never felt pretty. I thought I was fat and ugly. I compensated by studying and achieving degrees and position. How silly I was! My treasure was with me all along, a relationship with the Creator of the Universe! The creator of all the shells I so sought after loves me fat, slim, young, old... just the way I am. He sees me as His treasure!

In addition, I renewed again a deep appreciation for my family. Getting away from the business of life or even the simple routines of life forces a different perspective. Watching my 9-yr. old scream with excitment when she saw the giant crabs moving out of their shells at night, seeing her swim and race my husband daily in the pool, applauding her new-found confidence as she rode ten miles on her bike to the lighthouse and back...all of these I pray will be permanent memories for her and us as we age. I am learning my treasures are right here with me, right now.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt, but lay up treasures in heaven...for where your heart is your treasure is also." I am reminded of this verse as I carefully place our boxes of shells in glass jars around the house. These will fade, crack, be lost some day, but our experience of seeing God's great work in the ocean, knowing a new heaven and earth are even better, beyond our! What treasure awaits, Dear Reader! God's love never fades. It is new every morning! Great is His faithfulness!

Now, time to get out the snow shovel. It is over a foot of snow now. I must admit, while messy and hard on our spring buds, this snow that covers our yard like Sanibel's white sand, is also a treasure to behold.
For His Glory,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware the Ides of March!

March is an interesting month, isn't it? St. Louis has two St. Patrick's Day Parades, one on the weekend and the real one in Dogtown (yes, Dogtown, a small suburb of St. Louis). Chicago even turns its river green for the occassion.

Daylight Savings time, the first day of spring, spring breaks, and of course, the Ides of March also occur this month. In high school Latin class (in the old days, they taught Latin in school), we made much of going around saying, "Beware the Ides of March are upon you!" or "Et tu, Brute?"

Today, as I shared the Julius Ceasar story with my 9-yr. old, she was amazed how Julius Ceasar ignored all the warning signs and opportunities to save himself (according to the Shakespeare version, of course).

Yet, this morning, I wonder about my own warnings God has given me. He has clearly asked me to seek Him first, yet as I start my new part-time job, I admit, I have not been in His Word as often or even FIRST thing in the morning as usual. I do not want to slip back into old patterns of making God second in my life, or giving him less of my time. He has been so patient with me this past year. He is so good. He is so loving. I do not want to fail Him in this area.

Join me today, on the Ides of March, won't you, in reflecting on our own walk with Jesus and what warnings He has put in place for us to follow, for our own good, and not for evil.

For His glory,

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"But I Look Weird!"

It is 70 degrees outside as I type this.
We have not been outside to enjoy the spring day.
Instead, we are inside the house dealing with the aftermath of my daughter having 5 teeth pulled this morning at the oral surgeon's.

The laughing gas has had the opposite effect on our little girl. Instead of giggling as I witnessed other patients doing who were gingerly guided out the recovery room, my daughter is crying. She is crying about anything and everything. We have been doing this for seven hours.

In addition, she can only eat cold things. My daughter does not like cold things. She does not like ice cream, pudding, jello, applesauce, or yogurt. Those items I have never been able to get her excited about eating. She cries if I offer any of those items. She cries because she is hungry. She cries because the television is boring. She cries because the sun is shining. She cries because I am not rocking her. She cries if I am rocking her.


Just when I thought I could stop the cold compresses and thought she was coming around, she started crying again.
"Why are you upset, Honey?" (Yes, I actually was able to say, "HONEY," sweetly after a long day of tears.)
"I llllllooook weird!!!!!"

I have to admit, when she smiles, I see two large front teeth and a mouth now missing all the baby teeth surrounding the two front ones. It does appear a bit weird to see her smile change so drastically so quickly.

Of course, to me, she is beautiful! I tell her this is just for a short while until her other teeth grow in. Her mouth was just too small for all her teeth, and she needed room according to the othodontist. I tell her this is temporary. Some day she will have straight, beautiful teeth, and not even remember this day with all its pain and tears.

Then I hear the whisper, "Just like you, Gretchen, just like you and me."

Yes, I get it. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, "Another weird criss-cross of wrinkles has appeared on my face overnight. I look so weird!"

Like mothers see their children, God sees us as beautiful, so beautiful as we work to reflect Jesus' love and light, as we work to seek Him daily.

All these wrinkles, pains, and tears are temporary, aren't they? Some day it will be perfect, just like my daughter's beautiful smile.

For His glory,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Deer in Headlights!

Have you ever had that moment? That "Deer-Caught-in-Headlights" moment?


It happened to me today.

Today, my Bible study friends and I were celebrating the end of a 7-month journey through learning how to Break Free of strongholds in our lives. Isaiah 61:1-4 was our song. All dressed up (yes, I showered even) and ready for a last luncheon, I got comfortable in my chair, ready for Beth Moore's parting words to all the ladies gathered.

Then the call came. My phone vibrated (yes, I remembered to turn it off during the video of Beth). Picking it up, I heard news I had prayed would be delayed. My new temporary job was to start within an hour.

Within an hour?
It was not supposed to start until March 28th!

The teacher I am going to substitute for until the end of the year needed to go on bed rest NOW. She was experiencing labor pains.

I was not ready. I needed a little more time to be comfortable with the hardware, the software, the schedule, the names of the students, the system.... In addition my husband went out of town today. I have no help for the errands for my daughter. I have doctors' appointments scheduled, a kitchen being gutted in my appointments...all of this was going to be taken care of by March 28! How in the world can I do this on short notice?

Then it hit me. That whisper of a voice in my mind, firm, but loving.

"Gretchen, I have been preparing you for these moments for over a year. You like to control your life so much. You plan and plan. Haven't you learned anything? That teacher's baby is coming on MY time, not yours. You are ready, as ready as ever, because you are finally learning to trust in Me. Let me do this with you today. Let go of this stronghold. Trust me."

So I left the last luncheon celebration, not even able to say good-bye to the many new friends I had made over 7 months. I rushed to the school.

And you know what?

God did it! I was still standing at 3:15.
I can do this one day at a time.
It wasn't easy. It might never be easy.

-But God is walking me through it!

How about you? What are your deer-in-headlights times? Are you ready to trust Him?

I hope so. Also, please, pray for me and for the teacher and her baby as well as for the young people as I help them end their school year successfully.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Virus Attack!

Wow! It is so great to be back!
I can not tell you how much I realize I depend upon my computer until it is gone!
Here I was researching lesson ideas from a teacher website last Saturday night, and my computer shut down with a virus attack.
For the price of another computer and a 5-day wait, I am now able to have my "stuff" restored.
Ironically, guess what I was studying at the time in God's Word?
"Peace is his whose mind is stayed on Thee."
I was reading all about how important it is NOT to worry and to be anxious. I was feeling pretty sure of myself in this area. I had truly bathed in the Scriptures daily for the past several months. I talked to God. I sang to God. I felt like I had this "worry thing" under control.
BAM! "Your computer is being attacked. Someone is tring to find your identity. Shut it down now."

Do you think those words put fear in my heart? When I could not even turn it on without the virus popping up, I really had to pray, pray, pray. I prayed for God's protection, for safety for my family, for even healing of the computer (I mean He can do anything, right? Right!).

I then realized how prone to fear and worry I still was, no, AM. There was this stronghold, as Beth Moore would say, staring right at me. It was so ugly, too!

I prayed all night, every time my computer came to my mind. I read the Bible.

The next day, my study was all about the importance of giving THANKS in ALL things. Augh.
So I thanked God for taking away my ability to blog, see how others are doing on facebook, check e-mails, research more ideas, connect via technology.

On top of it all, my allergies started. For those of you without allergies, say thanks right now. It is like having strep throat for 8 long weeks. Every cold snap just prolongs the pollen reaction, too.

I felt like I was being hit by a virus in body as well. My allergy medications no longer seemed to work, and a visit to the doctor was required.

Again, each morning, I searched for ways to tell God thanks for the allergies. I thought, what if this is the way I am all the time, the rest of my life? Constant runny nose, chapped lips, raw throat, stuffy head, pounding temples, dry eyes....then I told God, OK. If that is the case, then I know He will help me through it and do my best for Him, somehow, some way.

So, here I am....sniff...sniff...cough...cough. Virus free though.
Praise God for revealing to me yet another area of life to give to Him as He prepares me for my continual walk with Him.

Praise God for spring with all its pollen because it is a reminder of hope of new life and beauty, even after the pollen has settled.

Praise God for you, Dear Reader. You are shining His light as you patiently read this little devotional.

May His peace be yours today as you fix your mind on Him,