contentment

How to Break the ‘Thankful’ Cliché

Copyright Creationswap. Image by Kevin Carden.

Copyright Creationswap. Image by Kevin Carden.

How many times have I heard the phrase ‘be thankful’?

Approximately 6,359,345,101.

Yes, it is a great philosophy. Yes, it is biblical.  Yes, it’s a wise way to live. But do you want to know why I’ve never tried very hard to apply it?

Because by the time I say, “Thank-you God for saving me, thanks for my family, thanks that I have food and a house…” I feel like I’m three years old, I’m bored, and I don’t see the point of what looks like an exercise in stating the obvious.

I know I take these things for granted. When I was in India, (and that was only a 2 ½ week trip), I was instantly thankful for my Aussie house, food etc. But when I live in Australia every day, it is difficult to sustain excitement over things I’ve always had and am likely to (well, hopefully) always have in the future. The worst part is, God gets lumped in with those things I take for granted.

So how do I practice thankfulness without feeling like a living, breathing cliché?

I think the God part of it could be tied to the idea of ‘longing for God’.

It’s a thought that came up at Bible study on Tuesday. Our group is doing a study on the end times and it mentioned how some Christians long for God’s return so that they can spend forever with Him. And I thought, ‘Huh?’

Sure, I look toward heaven with pleasant anticipation. But it’s mostly for selfish reasons, like how everything will be awesome there. It’s not really because I long to spend time with God. And a few of my Bible study mates said the same thing.

So how do I cultivate a longing for God? I think that would have a big impact on the thankfulness thing, because if I long for God then I’m definitely not taking Him for granted.

So…how do I do it?

This isn’t one of those blog posts with answers. It’s one with a question. I’m asking you.

I have a couple of ideas I plan to try. There are some beautiful Psalms (today’s was Ps 63) that talk about the Psalmist’s desperate desire for God. I’ll read those and meditate on them.

And I’ll put a sticky note on my desk so that I remember God during the day and think to myself, “God, I love being with you and I look forward to being with You forever.”

But the plan doesn’t extend far beyond that.

So what about you? Have you ever thought about this? Do you have any ideas? What do you do to be thankful in your own life? Share in the comments below!

Advertisements

Swallow Me Up

Obsessed with God.

Picture sourced from CreationSwap, by Sharolyn Newington.

What do you love to binge on?

For me, when the work week feels like it’s never going to end, (though I’ve never had that feeling with my new job 🙂 ) all I think about is sitting on my couch all weekend. I just want to read books and watch my favorite TV shows and movies.

Don’t get me wrong—I like to get exercise and spend lots of time with friends. But when I’m really worn out, that chill-out time is what I crave. And a lot of it.

By the time Monday rolls around, I’m counting the hours till 5pm Friday again. And I don’t enjoy my week, because all I want to do is zone out with a good story…but people keep making me do stuff like go to work.

This is the point where I’ve tipped from ‘healthy enjoyable hobby’ to ‘unhealthy obsession’.

Lately God’s been teaching me that it’s not the people who have amazing big ministries that please Him most. It’s the ones that chase after Him, and those who honor Him by putting aside their own priorities and obeying Him. Even when He asks them to do seemingly insignificant things.

Recently I felt myself sliding toward that tipping point, but before I swan-dived over the edge I came across these verses:

 

“I am always with you;

You hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

And afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:23-26 NIV

 

Awesome. When I read verses like this (and there’s a whole bunch of others like it), it helps me get God back in His rightful place.

And when He’s number one, I enjoy other things—like my hobbies—a heap more. It’s also much easier to stay content.

Another tactic I use to keep God right in front of my eyeballs is to make sure I think about Him. When most people are killing a spare minute playing Flappy Bird or Candy Crash, I’m usually plotting my novel or day-dreaming about a TV show. Every thought is filled with it.

Sometimes I intentionally push those thoughts aside for a minute so I can think about God. Purposely looking forward to the time I spend with Him helps me too.

You love what you think about.

You love what you look forward too.

And in this case, He loves me back far better than any book ever could.

 

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters

NO MINISTRY, NO CAREER, NO MAN. GREAT PLAN? PART III

Image sourced from CreationSwap.com, made by Mark Lauman.

Image sourced from CreationSwap.com, made by Mark Lauman.

A miracle happened today.

After finally starting my new part-time job in retail (in addition to my existing part-time gig at the boarding school) I got a phone call about another job. Another big decision. (That’s not the miracle. Wait for it.)

My last big job decision led to the contentment crisis I wrote about in Part I and Part II. It involved weeks of nail-biting stress and fear of making the wrong decision. It even triggered a hissy fit about cheese.

Today I hung up from the phone call which could lead to another major decision and waited for the sky to fall in. I was about to hit the panic button and ring Mum when I paused and prayed.

Then I waited. And all was calm.

MIRACLE!

What? Calm? After the soap opera-worthy drama that raged in my head last time? Yep. So far it’s been a whole hour, and I’m still doing pretty good.

What changed?

It wasn’t simply the fact that I prayed. I prayed last time. I prayed like I was drowning and using my last breath to squeal at God. I prayed with desperation, begging for guidance and not really expecting to get it. I prayed without faith.

God has since pointed out to me my shocking lack of faith. Really, you’d think I’d get it by now. Not only do I have numerous examples from my own life when God’s been trustworthy, there’s also a bazillion examples in the Bible of faith and faithlessness. Remember what happened to the faithless Israelites? Forty years of wandering! Yikes. But what happened when Peter had faith? He walked on FREAKING WATER!

So I’ve been praying for faith and wisdom this week. God’s also pointed out to me (again) these verses from Philippians 4:

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

So this time, when I prayed, I didn’t whine, groan or gasp. (Although for some prayers, that’s fine.) This time I surprised myself when I realized that I’m confident God will give me the resources I need to be content, whichever path I take, and that He will guide me when it’s the right time.

This confidence totally isn’t from me. Just ask my sister who listened to my complaints about cheese.

I think it’s safe to say that God’s holding up his end of the bargain with this whole ‘prayer=peace’ thing.

In my experience, peace and fear are major factors in contentment and discontentment. Even when I’m not making decisions about my job, I’m often plagued by fear that I’m missing opportunities. When I’m 40, will I regret not going overseas to work for a year like lots of people my age are doing? Even though I don’t want to do that, fear still hounds me that one day I’ll regret staying in Australia. My writing is another thing. Most writers are 50+ years old for a reason. Am I making a poor life decision by pursuing my novels now?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a new prayer God had given me.

“Thank-you for where I am, because it’s where You want me to be, God. And that’s more important than my own plan.”

It’s my motto for contentment. And it’s still holding true. I don’t need to worry about the ‘what-ifs’ because I’m following God. That’s all that matters.

Now I’m adding my new way of praying to that. Prayer with confidence. A conversation with God that’s still honest about my feelings, but contains faith that God hasn’t deserted me and knows what is best.

Who knows? Maybe next week I’ll walk on a puddle.

 

How about you? What’s the tone of your prayers? Have you experienced a link between faith and contentment in your own life?

Contribute to the conversation below!

 

 

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, All I Am. 

 

NO MINISTRY, NO CAREER, NO MAN. GREAT PLAN? PART II

 

God's been teaching me about contentment.

Photo by Tom Black, sourced from CreationSwap.com.

 

“Thank-you for where I am, because it’s where You want me to be, God. And that’s more important than my own plan.”

This is my new motto for contentment.

Even before last Tuesday happened, I’d been thinking about contentment. Whenever I had a less-than-awesome day I worried that I wasn’t living life the best that I could. Should I go work in America for a year? Move across the country to get back into journalism? And so on.

I also spent a lot of time day-dreaming about the day I become a published author or get married. It even affected my motivation for getting closer to God. There wasn’t a Christian event I went to where I wasn’t subtly scanning the audience for husband material or mentally plotting my next book. While I did want to be closer to God for God’s own sake, I also figured that the closer I got to Him, the closer I got to His purposes for me (i.e. marriage and novel-writing).

God showed me this attitude wasn’t helping my life, and gave me that prayer at the top of the page. For a few days, each time I wished I was at a different stage, or worried that I wasn’t grabbing life by the horns, I prayed that prayer. I remembered that I was exactly where God wanted me. And the day He wanted me somewhere else, He’d tell me.

Then last Tuesday happened. The rubber really hit the road. I didn’t react well.

But the prayer still stands true.

I might want a good job, a writing career or a family, but that might not be in God’s plan. And was I designed to live a pleasant life on earth, or was I designed to live in relationship with Him forever and accept His purposes over mine?

I hope that God’s plan does include a family and some form of writing. But my contentment can’t be dependent on that happening one day. God asks for my ALL my heart, ALL my soul, ALL my mind and ALL my strength. (Mk 12:30) My contentment should depend on Him alone.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not good at this. If I get tired, hot or hungry, contentment flies out the window. Yesterday I was stressed about my job, so I got mad because my housemate ate my cheese.

Yep, I got angry over cheese. And there was other cheese in the fridge, it just wasn’t the one I bought.  So I’m certainly not perfect—not even close!

And once I do get good at this contentment thing, what if my life gets easy for a while? I’m afraid I might slip back into the same bad habits when everything goes my way.

But God will be with me. I’m asking Him to remind me of what I’ve learned, to keep me accountable and to keep me moving forward. If I keep my heart open, He’ll keep the relationship developing.

And that’s what we were created for.

 

Thanks for reading! I’ve also got a guest post up today over at Ritty’s Adventures In Writing.

Here’s a peek:

Writer’s block, deadlines, falling sales, rejections, blog statistics, criticism…there’s plenty of things to freak out about in a writing career.
My recent concerns? 
I’m worried my marketing skills are inadequate and I can’t write fast enough to please myself.
A few weeks ago the self-inflicted pressure built till I resented any interruptions to my writing. But even when I was left in peace, I just couldn’t get everything done that I wanted to. It was taking me too long to achieve ‘success’. With my stress levels skyrocketing, I read this verse…
You’ll have to visit Ritty’s blog to see the rest!

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, All I Am. 

No ministry, no career, no man. Great plan? Part I

God's teaching me about contentment regarding my work, ministry and boyfriend situations.

Photo by Silas Nelson, sourced from CreationSwap.com.

Career, ministry or spouse.

I didn’t realize it till last week, but all my life I’ve judged people’s success against those three criteria. If you have at least one of these things, you’ve got something going in your life. Got two or three? You go, girl! (Or guy. 🙂 )

But none? What are you doing with your life?

Now I’m realizing that I’m one of those people.

I’ve always expected that the closer I get to God, the closer I get to meeting a great guy and God ‘doing great things’ through me. After all, that’s what everyone tells you. ‘Run hard after God and one day you might find someone running beside you’. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Phil 4:13 NKJV). ‘God has a great plan for your life’.

All good advice, when taken the right way.

I wasn’t taking it the right way.

In my mind, a great relationship with God + His timing = dreams coming true in one way or another, even if it’s not how I expect. I’d go to ‘God stuff’ to get to know Him better, but at the same time I was scanning the room for potential husbands and dreaming up the plot of my best-selling book. Suffice to say, God usually didn’t get 100% of my focus.

But on Saturday, as I joined with a group of 20-somethings on a mountain to seek God together, a question popped into my mind. What if my journey with God takes me away from the path of marriage and publishing contracts?

Everything suddenly looked a whole lot less glamorous.

What if God’s great plan for me involves boring everyday stuff that no one appreciates? It might accomplish great things from His point of view, but it’ll look ho-hum on earth. There could be no recognition. No one asking how I had the faith to accomplish such a thing. No career to be proud of. And no husband—or at least not for a long time.

Am I as motivated to seek God then?

Saturday showed me some big truths about my motivations. God told me I need to be content with just Him, and trust in His plan—even if I can’t see how it all fits together.

Then on Tuesday, God drove the point home.

I had been waiting to hear back about a job I’d applied for. I really wanted it, and I thought I was going to get it. And then they gave it to someone else.

With my current work situation, packing supermarket shelves is a very real option. One I don’t like. And still with no man. Still with no ministry. And with no indication that things will turn around.

What’s the point of that kind of life?

I’ll be honest, I had a mini meltdown on Tuesday. I cried on the phone for an hour to Mum, who told me to go get chocolate and watch my favourite TV show and not think about it for a few hours till I’d calmed down. Good advice. It worked.

After sitting on it for a few days, God’s reminded me of a few things:

1. He knows what He’s doing. He’s King. If he says I need to pack supermarket shelves for the rest of my life, I should pack them with a smile coz that’s where He wants me.

2. My pride runs deeper than I thought it did. (Which pride usually does. If we were humble enough to be aware of it, we wouldn’t be proud.)

3. Whether or not my life has meaning is not tied to how spiritually impressive my life appears. God may be more pleased with a pensioner than a mega church pastor (depending on their respective attitudes).

4. God knows what this feels like; He experienced the full spectrum of human emotion on earth. He understands, and He’s with me. (See Heb 4:15)

5. All things considered, it’s not the end of the world. A lot of people are far worse off. Suck it up.

So, here I go. Off to a life where I don’t measure up by my own standards. One where God keeps peeling my fingers back off my pride and my expectations.

One where I keep learning what full surrender to Him really means.

 

Keep an eye out next week for Part II!

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, All I Am.