Conditional Gratitude

gratitude

Gratitude comes from an attitude of acceptance

I was in group the other day, we were talking about struggles with anxiety and stress. I shared that the reality about my anxiety is that it stems from areas of my life that I am trying to “control” and I can’t. In my fear I turn to obsessing and worrying about the uncontrollable and it creates a lot of anxiety in my life.

That is why admitting my powerlessness is so foundational to me being free.

Recently, I have become more and more aware of my physical diminishment as I turn 60. This is about the age my Dad was when he got diagnosed with cancer. So now a stomachache makes me question, could that be cancer? I’m the age he was when he was diagnosed—am I next? I start to become anxious about something I have absolutely no control over. I can’t control cancer, or getting older, and the inevitably that someday I will get sick, and I will die, and there isn’t anything I can do about that. I truly am powerless over getting older and what will come as I age.

If I let worry take over I become resentful with the realities of life, and eventually depression creeps up to stop me from obsessing. I have always heard that if you are surrendering to self-pity or resentment, you are headed toward isolation—I really relate to that.

isolation

A good friend of mine who participates in AA gave me a surprising solution to my worry. He said that a heart of gratitude is the perfect antidote for the anxiety that we feel when we cannot control things. I can already hear your comments…Gratitude? That’s the big solution? But this gratitude always comes through the attitude of acceptance.

“Whenever I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”[i]

Interesting concept isn’t it? Learning to be grateful for whatever is going on in my life at this moment, because I know it’s a part of God’s plan and there is something good that is going to grow out of it. Only then can I become grateful for the growth of my character through the most unacceptable of circumstances.

Too often, our gratitude is contingent on our lives going the way we want.

Folks, God just doesn’t working that way.

Paul asked God three times to remove his thorn and God said nope, I’m not going to do it because, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”[ii] In other words, God is saying, “Paul, be grateful for where you are and what it is that you are dealing with because I have a plan for it. I am taking care of it.”

Be grateful my friends and accept life for what it is today knowing that our hope is growing on the ground that we are standing.

 

[i] Alcoholics Anonymous “The Big Book” Chapter ‘Acceptance is the Answer’

[ii] Bible 2 Corinthians 12:9, English Standard Version

The Vulnerability of the Mountaintop

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This week I was reflecting on my struggle with what I call the “mountaintop experience”. This is the place and moments where I can have great vision for my life. Vision is a great thing. Vision will make the difference between success and failure on the path to change. Oswald Chambers says “Wherever there is vision there is also a life of honesty and integrity because the vision gives me the moral incentive.[1]

I am vulnerable in the mountaintop experience when I’m living the vision I want because I cannot stay on the mountaintop forever. Next month I’ll be headed to Minneapolis where I have been asked to speak and train the next generation of facilitators. I’ll be in the middle of ministry, and in the lead role where people are seeking my wisdom—this is a place where it’s so easy to have purpose and vision. But I can’t stay in Minneapolis forever. After a few days, I’ll board the plane and come back home to Nashville, and dirty dishes and bills are waiting. Plain. Old. Scott. It’s easy to lose perspective, so in the valley of everyday life where it is most critical to have a vision for my purpose. Most of life is spent in the day-to-day grind of life. It is in the valley that I must not lose vision, or I will be distracted by all the voices around me.

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It’s in the day to day that I must ask myself, “What are the things I want to live my life by instead of what others have told me I should live by?” I must make the intrinsic choice to live out the values I believe in. I can’t be about the approval of others and stay on the right path in difficult circumstances. My vision can’t be extrinsically driven.

Being alone in the dull-drums of daily life, I lose motivation because I lose sight of my vision. I don’t believe what I cannot see. On the mountain I see it all clearly, but down in the valley, the buildings and trees blind me. I need a vision in my day-to-day routines because Christ has purpose for me there.

The bible says in Proverbs 29:18, “Without a vision the people lose restraint[2].” What is restraint? It is self-discipline while standing in temptation to say, “No, I am not going down the wrong path”. Even in that very moment my choices steer my course. On the mountaintop I feel so close to God but when I come down in the daily I lose vision.

How do we keep a fresh vision alive and in front of us? We must share vision together and be willing for vulnerability, inviting God to lead. God gives a picture of the future, which will motivate all my actions in the present, and I will no longer be stuck in the failures of the past. Being a part of a healing community keeps me inspired as it keeps God’s vision in front of me. This is the great gift of community.

Without a God-inspired vision, we are extremely susceptible. A vision based on circumstances will create idols and distractions that ultimately leave us feeling deeply uninspired. If we put Christ first, he will give us abundant inspiration—a vision of what he wants for our life. This vision will ignite purpose, and there we will find freedom.

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[1] From ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ by Oswald Chambers, May 9th

[2] New American Bible Revised Edition