Creating a Mindset of Gratitude

It is December. It is the Christmas season. As the song says, it is the most wonderful time of the year! But, it is also the busiest. It can be the most stressful. The most expensive. And the most disappointing. If this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, should we be feeling more gratitude? At Christmas we celebrate the Gift that God gave to the world. Out of His love, God gave everything He had. That seems to be cause for thankfulness. Busyness, debt,  disappointment, and much of our stress comes from trying to gain a sense of worth from things apart from God: Saying yes to all the commitments. Buying impressive presents. Portraying the happy image. (For the church leader, having more people at this year’s church service than last year’s.) Gratitude takes discipline. One of the ways our brains have be designed to function is the more you look for something, the more you will find it. For example, if you believe people will ultimately disappoint you, then you will process everything though that lens. Another example, if you perceive that people disrespect you, then you will see your interactions through that lens. Thus, the more your mind is set on being grateful, the more things to be grateful for you will see. Growing in your identity in Christ enables more gratitude. When you are not dependent upon roles, relationships, or results for a sense of self, you can be grateful for what God has placed in your life – not what you feel is missing. When your lens is no longer clouded by...

Thinking Good Thoughts

Not too long ago, I was watching my daughter play in a volleyball tournament. Her team is fairly capable and manage to stay competitive in most matches. During their matches, I noticed an interesting phenomena that was true of all the teams I watched. There was a time when one bad shot led to another. As a couple lost points were strung together, heads started to go down and shoulders slumped forward. Regardless of record or score, it would become contagious. It is so easy to dwell on the negative. Mistakes are easier to keep in the front of our minds than successes. In volleyball, this caused the players to lose energy and have trouble moving forward. And I thought that this is so true in our spiritual lives as well. It is so easy to get captured by our lies. When we make a mistake or do not meet an expectation or experience a failure then what were once distant echos can become louder. I am a failure. I am ugly. I am a disappointment. I am unforgivable. I am unwanted. And the list of the limiting beliefs and false narratives that we believe about our selves could go on and on. Ultimately, these lies are the result of your focus not being on the source of your true self, the identity you have in Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian believers and told them: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8...

It Was Not My Whole Life

For a golfer, it was a dream come true. In 1999, after playing 71 holes Jean Van de Velde led the British Open by three strokes. There was just one hole to play. This was a seemingly insurmountable lead. What awaited at the end of this hole was his name engraved in arguably the most coveted trophy  in golf and a hero’s celebration in his home country of France. Tens of millions of people worldwide instead saw Van de Velde collapse and finish the hole tied for the lead. He would eventually lose the tournament in a playoff. Recently, Jean Van de Velde was interviewed for a documentary about the work he has done in France in the intervening years. At the end, the interviewer leaned forward and in a solemn voice asked “Do you ever think about Carnoustie [the golf course the 1999 British Open was played on]?” You can imagine what the interviewer was hoping to hear. Here is how Jean responded: “Carnoustie was one day of my life, it was not my whole life.” Read that statement again. This man who had one of the most epic golf failures on its biggest stage had not allowed his failure to define him. This was probably not a quick or easy conclusion to come to, but it was the truth the he lived in. Jean realized that he was more than his failure. All of us have pain and failure that has occurred in our lives. Some have experienced worse than others. But, this truth is the same for all of us. Your past does not define you. Your circumstances...

Let It Go

Touch the hand of a newborn baby, and the infants reflexive instinct is to grab hold. When a person falls down, their instinct is to reach out and grab hold of something for support. What every human experiences physically is also the condition of the soul. The soul clings to something to cover shame and give a sense of significance and value. We all seek identity in something, whether is is a relationship, role, status, wealth, or something else. So, the advice to ‘let it go’ is not great advice when given by itself, because our instinct will be to grab hold of something. Thus, we either return to the familiar and comfortable for a sense of self, or we trade one thing for another. This has been my own experience. As a people pleaser – deriving sense of self from the affirmation of others – I spent years trying to please my spouse so that I would then feel worthy. When that failed, I turned attention to seeking affirmation from my role as pastor. One idol was substituted for another. Throughout the Bible, God has made himself available as the thing that we cling to for identity. Living in communion with him to have our basic questions of worth (see Why Do We Adopt an Identity). In Christ, we have both an example of what clinging to God looks like, and also an image of the invisible God – truth in the flesh. Truth that we can substitute for the lies that motivate us to cling to false sources of identity. As we take captive our thoughts, our decisions, behaviors,...

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