Don’t get caught up in holiday stress; challenge yourself to see how many things you can find to be thankful for today.
The Great Outdoors (Prayer devotional for the week of June 29, 2014)
What comes to mind when you think of summer? Even as blazing hot as it is, I still think of the great outdoors—especially anything having to do with water. I spent my summers on swim team and love the water! Playing in sprinklers and drinking straight from the hose, swimming in the lake and pool, collecting shells and rocks at the beach, going canoeing at church camp, having water balloon and squirt gun wars … there are so many fun things to do outside.
There is something about being in and around water that is so soothing, so inviting, so relaxing. Watching waves on the beach or listening to nature sounds at the lake seems to slow down time and re-center our perspectives.
And yet, water can also be unsettling … to the Gulf Coast resident bracing for another hurricane … to the adult at the pool party who never learned to swim … to the tent cities in Haiti during the rainy season.
I’ve often heard that even the poorest in America are far richer than the poor in many other places of the world. It is hard to fathom, but let’s try to think about it. I wouldn’t particularly want to bathe in Lake Waco or the Bosque or Brazos Rivers, but any of those options would be better than a sewage-laden, stagnant gutter. If worse came to worst, I could walk into just about any public building around town and take a non-toxic, free drink from the nearest water fountain. When I turn on the faucets in my house, I expect clear water to come pouring out. We may be under drought conditions, but we still have washing machines, dishwashers, sprinklers, bottled water and swimming pools accessible to us. None of us will die of thirst tomorrow.
Yet, some others will.
So, as you head to the lake/pool/river to celebrate during this holiday weekend, let’s turn our hearts to God in thanksgiving for the blessings of our freedom, to be certain, but also his creation. Take time to thank him for “little” things – like indoor plumbing and the fact that we can worship freely in church today – and lift up those who cannot.
Originally posted July 3, 2011
Miracle Mercy (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 1, 2013)
It’s no wonder why the holiday season is such a difficult time for those who grieve. Part of it probably relates to the weather: it’s often dreary, cold and dark, and seasonal affective disorder is a real thing. Perhaps a bigger issue, though, is that we’re “supposed” to spend time with loved ones around the holidays, so when they aren’t there, the loss is palpable.
I don’t need a TARDIS or DeLorean to transport me back to that night of racing down the highway nearly five years ago, trying to get to the hospital. The too-familiar fear and restlessness are just under the surface, and when the memories hit me unexpectedly, I catch myself at times staring at nothing, while scenes from that night flash through my mind’s eye like a horror movie that won’t end. He’s supposed to be here, sneaking bites of cornbread dressing before our big family dinner and then arm-wrestling me for the last slice of coconut meringue pie.
But he isn’t. And life goes on. It’s times like this when giving thanks is a deliberate choice, because wallowing in self-pity is a pointless endeavor. When you don’t particularly feel grateful for your lot in life, you have to take initiative to find things for which to be thankful. It’s easy to get bogged down in how we feel and forget that God is still on his throne; he’s still the Lord of the universe. And he still cares for you and me more than we can ever comprehend.
In Psalm 107:2a, the author says to “let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story” (NIV). The poem goes on to describe many of the ways that God intervened in the lives of his people, rescuing and providing for them, even when they rebelled against him. Four different times, the poem says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind” (NIV). In another translation, that same passage reads: “So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves” (MSG).
Miracle mercy, indeed! Friends, I don’t know what you are going through this holiday season. I hope that you are bubbling over with joy, but in case you are struggling (like I sometimes do), I urge you to make a purposeful effort to thank God for his miracle mercy in your life. Don’t focus only on the hard times; turn your attention to God’s goodness and let his peace soothe your heart.