Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving....So, That's What This Is All About

I was out running a few errands a few days ago and had to run by the grocery store. Now, I don't know if you've ever experienced a grocery store a few days before Thanksgiving but let me see, what was the word I used to describe it? Oh yeah, "INSANE!" Wall to wall people with shopping carts fighting for space in the aisles and stretching, reaching, and grabbing for stuff. A complete mad-house if you will. This particular store had a couple of people with microphones wooing people to try some particular food item. Personally, I think it was just adding to the confusion. It took me several minutes just to navigate through the crowded produce section. And, of course, after I made it through, I realized I had forgotten something on my list so I had to fight my way back through. And that was just the beginning.

I noticed, as I made my way through the store, the looks on most of the faces I past. Not alot of holiday cheer I must say. I'm sure had I looked in the mirror, I would have seen the same kind of expression staring back at me. I was not having fun. Ok, that's a little understatement. Let's just say I could think of several places I would rather be.

As we head full throttle into the holiday season, I can't help but think with all the "stuff" we have to do, we have become so good at missing the point of it all. Think about it. I'm in the middle of a crowded store where people are purchasing their food for their Thanksgiving celebration and I can't help but think how many were missing the spirit of the holiday. I know I was for one. I remember standing there thinking, "Please, get me out of this store!" Yes, I admit it, Thanksgiving was the furthest thing from my mind. The noise, the crowd, the craziness of it all did a great job of helping me lose sight of why I was there in the first place.

I was there because of Thanksgiving. I was there because I needed to pick up some last minute things for our Thanksgiving meal. A meal that I'll share with family and friends. A meal that I'll eat in a free country. A meal that I can afford to prepare. A meal on a day that we set aside to give thanks to God for all that He has blessed us with. I'm not sure about you, but my life is good. Its extremely good. God's blessings overwhelm me constantly. I have so much to be thankful for. We all do. Even if we are surrounded by negative things right here and right now, we all have so much to be thankful for.

Our problem is that we are very good at focussing on all that is wrong rather than all that is right. I'm thinking God knew that when He inspired Paul to write, "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things." The truth is that whatever we focus on orchestrates our life. If we choose to focus on the inconveniences, the negatives, and all our problems, we will journey through life, depressed, upset, cranky, stressed, and critical. On the other hand if we can learn to focus on all the goodness that God has blessed us with, then all the negatives pale in comparison.

One of my closest friends is bringing his mother home from the hospital today. She suffered a massive heart attack almost two weeks ago. The doctor informed the family this week that 1/2 percent, yes .5 percent of those who have that kind of heart attack live. Not only did she live, but she is alive and kicking. Also, today a couple we know is bringing home a young daughter from Ethiopia that they have just adopted. Its been a long, drawn out process, but today that journey is complete and their family of 4 just became 5. Stories like that are going on all around us and it really helps to put things into perspective. I know that not all stories have happy endings. Let me rephrase that. I know that there are some events in our lives that aren't happy ones. The happy endings are the result of what we do when those difficult times hit us. The key is in that moment, in the middle of that event, we can still choose to set our minds on the goodness of God rather than our current circumstance. Yes, we can choose to look at all that is wrong, but there is so much more good surrounding each one of us. And, if we can make a practice out of focussing on that good, it will re-order our life.

God is good! He is always good. His goodness surrounds each and every one of us. Regardless of what is going on right now in your life, it doesn't change who He is and how He relates to you. True, genuine thankfulness, is birthed in the heart of those who really know that. Over the course of the next few weeks, you'll be challenged to lose sight of the important things in life. You'll be tempted to forget what this season is all about. My challenge to you is, in the middle of it all, to remember who God is and how He's blessed your life. Perhaps, you struggle to find His blessings in your life, but you can start with John 3:16. If that was the only thing we could find that was good in our life, that alone would be worth a lifetime of thankfulness!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thank God The Stink Is All Gone!

I went fishing the other day. I didn't catch a thing. Not sure of what kind of fish might be in this particular fishing hole, I tried several options. Lures, fake worms, and my personal favorite, stink bait. Hopefully, you can hear my sarcasm loud and clear concerning stink bait. I hate it. It stinks really bad. And once you touch it, your hands stink. You can wash and wash and wash and still the stench lingers. Its absolutely putrid. Why we humans would ever eat a fish that would devour this stuff is beyond me. Yet, I really like catfish.

This day though there would be no catfish. Just the stink. And like always I washed, I sanitized, and then washed and sanitized several more times. Then, I took a whiff of my hands only to smell the stink, mingled with the aroma of the soap. Yep, it was still there. I was stuck with it for a while. I could try covering it up, but trust me it was still there.

Not sure about you, but I've tried that same method when it comes to getting rid of the stink in my life. You know, that stuff that stinks in the nostrils of God. Diligently I've worked, trying to clean up the stink. I've attempted time and time again to get myself clean, only to find that nothing I do comes close to making me smell any better. Sure, I may cover it up, but truth be told, the stench still remains. My best falls so very short of any aroma that would ever be pleasing to God.

I just thank God that getting rid of the stink, isn't up to me. He saw me in my helpless state, and stepped in to remedy it all. The One Who knew no sin, and was never tainted with any kind of stench, chose to become my sin and smell like me. In doing so, He didn't just cover my stink, but washed it all away. Now, a perfectly pleasing aroma rises from this person I now am and I now stand perfectly acceptable to God.

As I write this the smell of the stink bait has faded away and for that, I am extremely thankful. More importantly though as far as God is concerned, my stink hasn't just faded away, it's as if it never was there. Though, I am not completely sure how God pulls this miracle off, one thing is for certain....I thank God the stink is all gone!