Tag Archives: attitude of gratitude

Freedom within

Independence Day.

A day of celebrating liberation from oppressive forces, and of remembering with bowed hearts the unthinkable sacrifices made to secure that very freedom we enjoy today.

But can you imagine a scene where the liberating troops came marching home to find those for whom they fought remaining in bondage? In fact, insisting on living war-torn lives even after their freedom has been won?!

After all the wars that have been fought, so many do continue to live such defeated lives. On the surface they might appear normal, even productive. But if you were able to look a little deeper into the dark crevices of their minds or could hear the silent cries of their hearts, you would at once come to know the terror of their imprisoned lives. Maybe this is a picture of your life right now, free but still at war within yourself.

Who are their invisible oppressors? What are the names of these terrorists who war against us? They are called by many names: worry, anxiety, irrational fear, underserved guilt. Their cousins are apathy, greed, bitterness, and selfishness. How many other of their names come to your mind?

Our eternal victor has flung open the prison doors, having won for us peace, joy, calm assurance, real purpose for living meaningful lives, and satisfaction beyond what we could imagine.  But here we remain imprisoned alone in our self-locked cells, insisting the war rages on within us. It is as Pascal said: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Jesus has won the war over our sin. He’s overcome the grave. He’s given us his own Spirit to teach, comfort, convict, and empower us, and to remain within us always. And yet we sit in a cell as if we were all alone.

He has given us what Victor Frankl called that miraculous and wondrous “freedom within.” It is the freedom to allow a space between what we see with our eyes and what we know in our heart. It’s the freedom that allows a space between what happens to us and how we respond.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

No longer does a hurtful word spoken in haste have the power to demand my own hurtful response. No longer do past hurts dictate my future joys. No longer does worry and constant anxiety command authority over the self-chosen peace afforded to me by the assurance that God really does hear my heartfelt prayers. He does in fact see us where we are. He has truly written our names on the palms of his hand. He catches ALL our tears in a bottle and so pain, while it demands our attention, is not wasted.

True, it sometimes appears as if I’m losing the battle, but even the pain that wars within my body this very moment cannot silence the truth and grace that our good and loving God speaks to my spirit and soul. My desire for a comfortable life of having everything my way is strong, but it cannot compete with the desire to see others experience this same freedom within – to choose to be thankful and find hope even when circumstances offer only sorrow and despair.

Today can be your Independence Day. Believe the victor Jesus for all he has accomplished, not only the forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation, but also for your present and future joy.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1


More blessed now than before

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Psalm 103:1

Eleven months after being diagnosed with Leukemia, I find that I am more blessed, even still with a life-threatening disease than perhaps when I was healthier. “How can that be?” you ask.

Have you ever noticed that when the sun comes out on a cloudy day you can see more clearly than before? Have you caught yourself realizing the rare value of loving and being loved unconditionally? Even where bubbly joy may escape you, have you found instead a lasting and contented joy that circumstances can’t shake? If in the presence of adversity you dig deeper to find a heart that has been conditioned to give thanks in all situations, then you have found a treasure. There is always reason to give thanks for the one who trusts our merciful and faithful God. A thankful heart, an attitude of gratitude, is one of the keys to enduring and thriving in the midst of struggles! Along the difficult journey, sometimes surrounded by despair and worry, a thankful heart discovers unspeakable hope and a ‘fully persuaded’ faith that is a firm and secure anchor for your soul. In fact, it is not a new discovery but one which has sustained you all along your path. Only now, it lifts you to greater heights. Its light shines brighter to reveal that your path of trial does not go on forever. If you find these things, you have found immense treasure.

All good news and no bad? Are there no struggles and heartaches? Ones that sometimes wear you down? Oh for sure there are; and certainly more to come. But where there are those, there are blessings all the more. Especially the blessings of faith, hope, and love. These are blessings that are always available to us. In the face of adversity, we always make a choice; perhaps not a conscious one, but a choice none the less: we choose to surrender either to our circumstances and to the impotence of own attempts to overcome them, or to the real power God offers to be victors. Whether your struggles are large or small, whether you have carried them for a short time or much of your life, TODAY is the day you can choose to respond with faith, with hope, with love. Cultivate a thankful heart that learns to rise above the circumstances and rest in the presence of God’s love for you. Be more blessed now than before.

“I Own You!”

My sister sent me an interesting article written by a person with Meniere’s Disease. The comment that grabbed my attention in the article was the author’s observation that her disability sometimes screams to her, “I own you!”

Have you ever felt that way? That something in your life, your health, your personal relationships, your job, your debt, perhaps a destructive self habit…something cries out to you, “I own you.” Marcia and I were tempted by this thought at the very beginning of our journey with Leukemia. Even now we are periodically attacked with this thought. The ongoing demands of the very real symptoms insist on being attended to. They will not be ignored and we cannot escape them. But do these challenging realities really OWN us? Just because thieves continue to survey your house, that is not the same as breaking in and stealing from you or taking you hostage. And certainly you don’t leave the house unprotected.

A servant cannot serve two masters. We cannot be owned simultaneously by peace and fear. In an earlier post we looked at 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which tells us “You are not your own. You were bought at a price.” (This may be an affront to those who think they can give part of their life to God and have the right to call all their own shots.) If you are a devoted follower of Jesus, your body (and mind) belongs to Him and His care. It is a temporary dwelling for an eternal and divine purpose. That is why we are able to persevere in faith through difficult trials (and you can too). We know to whom we belong. “We have this faith as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)

We are not owned by our troubles unless we willingly surrender to them. What is the antidote for this? Developing an attitude of gratitude, praising God, for who He is, for what He has done, what He will do, and what He is now doing on your behalf. I would be glad to be healed of Leukemia, and believe I will be one day. At the same time, I am thankful I do not carry a heavier cross. I am thankful I do not bear this alone. I am thankful for a loving God who never abandons me. Even for a sense of humor that sometimes gives me a break from becoming too serious.

When the devil tells you about your troubles, you tell him about your Great God! Your troubles, whatever they are, do not have to own you. Say it out loud. “You (name the affliction) do NOT own me.” Draw close to God and He WILL draw close to you. It’s a promise.

Cliff Barrows: Rejoicing Always – Even Through Difficulty

Cliff Barrows, long time Crusade song leader for Billy Graham has faced a number of physical challenges in the latter part of his ninety years on earth: “Part of the reality of aging,” he reflects. But what is different about Barrows from many folks, and one of the keys to aging so well is his indomitable joyful spirit. Many folks allow aging, and any number of other life circumstances to steal their joy, but Barrows knows the truth of this verse well:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

This truth allows anyone who trust Jesus to fulfill it to live life with a deep sense of thankfulness. Barrows says it all goes back to believing, claiming, and continually reciting God’s promises.

“Expectancy is a great word,” Barrows said. “Expect great things from God.

He strongly encourages everyone to read and think about Jesus’ promise of heaven, found in John 14:1-2.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (NKJV)

“And boy that brings great comfort,” Barrows offers. “And that’s how believers, in the midst of grief, in the midst of loss, even the loss of a loved one, can know that Jesus is there. He said, ‘I will never leave thee or forsake thee.’ ”

But such an attitude of gratitude doesn’t just come upon us. Like any fruit, it must be cultivated and nurtured to grow in our hearts. “Expectancy is a great word,” Barrows said. “Expect great things from God.”

Of course, Barrows can’t help but sing hymns throughout the day, no matter what circumstances rise to meet him:
“There is joy in serving Jesus, every moment, every day.”
“The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
“ I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!”
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God.”

“What do we expect God to do?” Barrows asks. “ I’ve experienced so much with Mr. Graham because he’s a man that has a joyful spirit, a joyful heart.” Barrows offers one more word of encouragement—one that’s just as true whether you’re 19 or 90:

“God has a plan for your life,” he said. “You don’t need to step outside of the will of God to find it.”

How is your joy meter doing these days? Do you require a ‘good day’ to find reasons to be thankful? Or are you cultivating and nurturing a joyful spirit in your heart that transcends and sustains you through all of life, even the painful and difficult times?