Muchas Gracias

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“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” Rabbi Harold Kushner

Gratitude is the discipline of being thankful for all the good things we have in life. And for most, the list of blessings is very long.

The problem is, as humans, we tend to focus on the things that are not going well in life.

Will Rogers once said, “The Pilgrims gave thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected. But now, neither government nor nature can give enough but what we think is too little. If we can’t gather in a new Buick, a new radio, a tuxedo, and some government relief, why, we feel that the world is against us.”

Our culture is consumed with having more and I think it has a lot to do with the philosophy that getting just a little bit more will bring us happiness.

QUESTION: “How much will be enough to satisfy our souls and fill our hearts?” How much?

There was a woman who went into a life or death surgery. She wasn’t sure she’d make it through. During the surgery she heard this voice say, “You still have 42 more years to live.”

When she woke up from surgery she called the surgeon over and said, “I’m going to live a long time now so while I’m here I think I’ll have a little extra work.”

She had liposuction, a tummy tuck, a face lift, some injections. She had a friend come by and color her hair. A few days later she was discharged from the hospital.

As she was walking out she was hit by a cab and killed.

She’s standing before God and said, “I thought You said I’d live 42 more years! How come You let that cab hit me?”

God said, “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you.”

The prodigal son was the story Jesus told about this young runaway boy. He shuns his dad, takes his inheritance and leaves his home with a pocket full of money and has a bar room full of friends.

If CNN had sent a news crew to that bar and asked the young man, “What’s life like? How are you now enjoying this life of rebellion, your plunge into decadence, in this moment?”

At that moment the young man would have said, “It’s the best decision of my life! In this moment my life is filled with pure pleasure.”

It wasn’t until sometime later – we’re not sure how long – the prodigal son’s pleasure ended. He ran out of money and his friends ran out on him. He was homeless, he was unhappy.

Living for pleasure only – pleasure at any price – is like jumping off a tall building. The first 95% of the fall might be sheer thrill but that last 5% is going to get you!

Pleasure is not bad. But even positive pleasure is temporary.

For example, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had? How long until you’re hungry again?

What’s the best night’s sleep you have ever had? How long until you were tired again?

What’s the best kiss you’ve ever had? How long until you needed to be kissed again?

Another thought about gratitude, is that it is hard to be grateful when you are holding on to grudges.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.”

Resenting other people’s success, your heritage, your economic status, your hurts and abuses of life will rob you quickly of any type of joy.

Comparing and resentment go hand in hand.

Celebrating your God given uniqueness allows you to be grateful for your irreplaceable gifts and distinct reason you were put here on earth!

Don’t let others determine how extraordinary you are. It’s up to you!

People are far more talented and brilliant than they give themselves credit for.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind
don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  

~ Dr. Seuss

Another thought about gratitude, is that to be truly thankful, it must be INCLUSIVE.

Job said, “If we take happiness from God’s hand, must we not take sorrow too?”

Author Henri Nouwen wrote, “To be thankful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only thankful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

I call it “Learning to find joy in the TENSION of life.”

We are taught that when we are without challenge and problem-free that then we will finally be happy.

Living in the tension means that we live every day facing and feeling the problems and hurts and challenges of life, while celebrating and thanking God for all the good things that are going on.

Stephen Covey writes, “Fish discover water last. They are so immersed in the element that they are unaware of it. So it is with many people who become so immersed in an abundance of blessings and opportunities that they are unaware of them until they stop, pause, and reflect and allow gratitude to emerge. Sadly, too often it takes the force of circumstance rather than the force of conscience to stir up our gratitude.”

Gratitude: A sunrise, a rainfall, the smile and embrace by someone special, a glass of red wine with your spouse, God’s amazing Grace, the food on your table, the laughter of children, the step you just took, the breath you just breathed, the wind blowing past your face, a celebration with friends.

Tony Campolo tells a story about getting on an elevator in the Empire State Building in New York City, “It was one of those express elevators that goes fifty floors without making a stop. The elevator was filled with briefcase-bearing, somber business men on their way to “heavy” meetings. As I got on the elevator, a feeling of fun ran through me. And, instead of turning and facing the door, as we are all socialized to do, I just stood there facing the people. When the elevator doors closed, I smiled coyly and announced, “We’re going to be traveling together for quite a while, you know.” And then I added, “What do you say we all sing?” The looks were amazing, but they all ended up singing. You should have been there as a dozen or so businessmen threw aside their put-on seriousness and joined me in a ringing rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” By the time the elevator got to the fiftieth floor we were laughing. Being a Christian on that elevator helped some men, made numb by the affairs of this world, discover a little joy that can happen when we celebrate together.”

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“Emit gratitude as though it was done”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Take the time to fill in the blanks:
I am grateful when…__________________________
I am grateful for…____________________________
I struggle with gratitude when…__________________

The #2 Reason We Don’t See Miracles

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Answer: WE MAKE EXCUSES

Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

The writer of Proverbs wrote, “The lazy man is full of excuses. “I can’t go to work!” he says. “If I go outside, I might meet a lion in the street and be killed!”

Try that one with your boss.

Soren Kierkegaard talks seriously how excuses damage our world when he says, “For like a poisonous breath over the fields, like a mass of locusts over Egypt, so the swarm of excuses is a general plaque, a ruinous infection among men, that eats off the sprouts of the Eternal.”

Excuses, we have all have them and make them.

There are 3 that stop miracles.

Excuse #1: What difference can I make?

The statistics seem overwhelming.
The problems seem insurmountable.
The odds seem to be against us.

There are more people in slavery today than in the 18th century:

Trafficking is the third largest illegal trade behind illegal weapon trade and drugs.

Every fourteen seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS.

500,000 children are in foster care in the United States; 118,000 are eligible for adoption.

Over 70% of sex trafficking in U.S. comes from kids who have aged out of the foster system.

Seemingly overwhelming statistics paralyze us and influence us to ask the question, “What difference can I make”, which ultimately then turns into an excuse to do nothing.

When Jesus told us to follow him for the sake of the hurting, the poor and those who are facing horrific injustice, he didn’t say to do it if it looks like you can make a difference.

He just said, “Follow Me.”

And when he did, people made excuses about why they couldn’t.

And his response to them was, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

Miracles happen when we seize the day and act in obedience to a need, against all odds, simply because it is the right thing to do.

We can and are making a much bigger difference than we think.

Dr. Scott Todd writes, “We can end extreme poverty in our lifetime and see God get the credit and we can do it engaging and practical ways of putting our faith into action to impact our world.”

In the last 30 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half from 52% to 26%. (Miracle)

Between 1990 and 2010, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%. (Miracle)

AIDS related deaths are down 24%. (Miracle)

But more miracles can happen if everyone of faith will change the question from “What difference can I make?”  to “How many miracles will happen if I choose to be obedient with what I’ve been given?”

The potential miracles are mind-blowing!

If 1 out of every 3 churches in America would find one family to adopt one kid there would be no orphans in America:

If the 138 million American Christians who attend church at least twice per month were to tithe, their income is 2.5 trillion, it would result in 250 billion dollars per year in philanthropy.

World renown economist Jeffrey Sachs says that we could eradicate stupid, preventable poverty with just 78 billion dollars a year.

Imagines the miracles, which seem insurmountable, if we are just simply obedient!

“No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

Excuse #2: It’s too hard

Helen Keller became deaf & blind at the age of 19 months, but grew up and became the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Sydney J. Harris says, “When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’”

Most things worth doing in this life are hard.
Most things that change the world are hard.

Miracles are God intervening when we are willing to do the hard work.

Dr. Troy Dickson and his wife Kim, she has a degree in global health, moved with their two daughters from their comfortable home and lifestyle in California, to the intense and difficult streets of New Delhi, India to help start, against all odds, a home for girls who can be rescued from the horrors of sex trafficking.

With so much government bureaucracy, red tape and a culture of ignoring this horrific injustice, Troy and Kim decided that no matter how hard and seemingly impossible this might be, they said yes to the challenge and within a year, Courage Homes opened and the miracles have begun.

This email came from the directors when the home had just opened: “Just wanted to rejoice and share with you, and beg for your prayers! Courage Homes in India just got EIGHT girls from a brothel raid on GB Road (big red light district in Delhi) yesterday! That puts us at 12 girls, which is our bed capacity right now. We have a high profile case right now, which has resulted in a lot of arrests of people in the trafficking rings and awakened the whole nation to the issues of trafficking – laws are even being changed because of it. God is definitely in the middle of what we are doing! Our licensing procedures are being sped up because the government is really recognizing the value of a home devoted to the healing of these girls, and only because the home has been so safe and nurturing have the girls been willing to testify against the perpetrators and tell their stories. It’s amazing!”

I heard a former FBI agent and now an employee of International Justice Mission who is on the front lines of rescuing girls from sex trafficking in some of the most dangerous places in the world say, “Find out the hard things God is asking you to do and do them. It will be the greatest thing you will ever do.”

Watch this 2 minute video before we get to the last excuse that stops us from seeing miracles.

Excuse #3: I’m too old or I’m too young to make a difference

The video you just watched ends this argument.

Throughout the history of the world, God has used the young and the old alike to bring about change and progress.

Anne Frank was 12 when she wrote the diary of Anne Frank.

God spoke through a little boy named Samuel in order to correct the evil religious leaders who were ignoring justice.

Nelson Mandela was 76 when he became president of South Africa.

Abraham and Sarah had been collecting social security for years when she gave birth to Isaac.

Albert Einstein was only 26 when he wrote the theory of relativity

Josiah became the king of Israel when he was only 8 years old, eventually purging Israel of idols and leading a spiritual revival.

Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat”

JRR Tolkien was 62 when the “The Lord of the Rings” books came out.

My friend, Eldon Bough, at the age of 86, serves 75 meals weekly with “Meals on Wheels” to the elderly and sponsors 22 children through Compassion International, helping to create a huge dent in eradicating child poverty.

Martin Luther King Jr. was only 34 when he gave the speech “I have a dream”

Jesus of Nazareth was only 33 when he saved the world.

It is never too soon and it is never too late to be a part of a miracle. It just takes eliminating the excuses.

What are some of the excuses in your life that are keeping you from being a part of a miracle?

“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something: Yet, just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can.” Helen Keller