The Crossroad of Gratitude – A Poem

DaddyLarissa

#bestdaughterever 

I am thankful for today, it’s a gift not deserved
It allows me the privilege to humbly serve
I am thankful for the poor who teach me real faith
They teach me how to walk, in more eloquent ways

I am thankful for the pain that I try hard to avoid
It draws me to the only One who can fill my heart void
I am thankful for my tears that sting my blood shot eyes
They bring healing to my hurt and expose the lies

I am thankful that man is not perfect, as not to depend
It reminds me to put my hope in the One without end
I am thankful for my mistakes, for my sins and disgrace
It keeps me from religion and makes me run towards Grace

I am thankful for the journey, life’s ups and downs
Living fully in the moment,  possibilities have no bounds
I am thankful for friends, who put up with my foolish ways
“He is a stubborn mule, but we love him anyways!”

I am thankful for the beauty, that never goes away
Looking at her smile, that is offered every day
I am thankful for her brown hair, brunette I’m told
It was that way from the beginning, it never gets old

I am thankful for two gifts, their eyes deep vivid blue
They have grown up wisely, I am enjoying the view
I am thankful for their passionate, selfless hearts
Their maturity comes from the side of their mother’s parts

I am thankful for the two who brought me into this world
They allowed me to dream, to make my life unfurled
I am thankful when they would say, “Follow your passions”
It has brought me to difficult places full of God’s fashion

I am thankful for my creator, who wonderfully made me
He makes me walk boldly with a sense of great responsibility
I am thankful for his patience, his utter sense of waiting
For me to grow up, get on board and become consenting

I am thankful for children, showing hope for tomorrow
They teach me to trust, play, love, laugh and marvel
I am thankful for children, who have no limitations
They teach me to dream, to ask, and not to question

I am thankful for forgiveness, a gift offered freely
Makes me let go of past grudges and do it more quickly
I am thankful for the Sacrifice willing to be punished
My life is based on Him saying, “It is Finished!”

Muchas Gracias

gratitudejournal-e1359688676693

“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 Generosity of the Poor

The Canyon

“You say you care about the poor? Tell me their names.” ― Craig Greenfield

The life expectancy is 40 years.
The lucky live on $2 a day.
The hope is one meal a day.
The dirt is their floor and the stars their roof.
The smell of methane fills their lungs.
The lack of choices interrupts their dreams.
They live 10 minutes from the richest country in the world.

These are the lives and challenges of the children and families in the closed garbage dumps of Tijuana, Mexico known as “The Canyon”.

As an American, many things are confusing and unsettling in “The Canyon.”

1. The Mexican government closed the dump, covered it with a couple feet of soil, marked off lots and sold this land back to its poorest citizens knowing that the health risks are devastating.

2. The desperateness of the situation attracts drugs and gangs leading to some very dangerous neighborhoods.

3. The lack of education(most have at best a 7th grade education) drives families to collect trash, burn it and take from it the few precious metals it leaves behind and sell it to the local multi-million dollar recycling company.

4. Children get caught in a vicious cycle where education becomes more difficult to continue as they grow older due to the cost and the need for a birth certificate by the 6th grade, while at the same time, parents need their kids to burn trash to look for income generating metals or watch over their younger siblings while they go off to work somewhere else. These are all obstacles to a higher education.

All of this is the definition of injustice. The first time an American takes a tour of “The Canyon” numbness, sadness, anger and guilt are the emotions that come flooding forth.

But the longer an American hangs out in “The Canyon”, other emotions and observations come forward.

1. There are heroic organizations, private schools and churches that have dedicated their resources and purpose to serve this forgotten community.

2. David Lynch started a school on a blue tarp and 20 years later, almost 100 children, ages 3-5 are getting an education, in a beautiful facility, learning English and computer skills, the two things that will eventually get them out of the canyon creating more options of making and living a decent life.

3. Dave Hessler, a retired American, has an office at the Blue Tarp school and is the unofficial community leader and connector of resources to needs. He meets with families and connects them to food, medical help and better home construction, while advocating for school child sponsorship and newer and bigger computer labs. Dave is a connector but most of all he is a conduit of hope as he listens and prays with each family, and though he can’t meet all the needs, people know he cares and that they are not alone.

4. One of the residents of “The Canyon”, Javier, a father of 6, with his 7th on the way, who lives in a 10 x 20 home, a large home for the canyon, advocates for the less fortunate in his community, having families stay with him while their smaller homes are getting first time roofs or dirt floors are being replaced by cement or walls are being expanded. Javier has so little yet his smile and gratitude is very humbling. Surprisingly Javier’s attitude is representative of many of the residents in “The Canyon”.

With all the injustice and heroism you see in “The Canyon”, as an American, the biggest thing I took away from “The Canyon” was a sense of my own poverty. My life lacks so much.

My lack of gratitude.
My lack of contentment.
My lack of caring for my neighbor.
My greed, ignorance and self-focused priorities exposed my poverty.

As I think of ways to help fight poverty in “The Canyon” I am also thankful for how they are helping me with my own poverty.

This is the way God works. He confounds the seemingly strong and successful by teaching us through the seemingly weak and forgotten.

John Steinbeck in the “Grapes of Wrath” wrote, “If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.”

The times I have spent over the years in the canyons of Tijuana, Mexico to the valleys of La Mission and Guadalupe, Mexico, Mr. Steinbeck is exactly right.

The generosity of a meal given by a single mom who has nothing, the working along side a father who is struggling to make ends meet, who is helping his homeless neighbor build his house, to a young child wanting to give back to me a portion of the candy I had just handed him is counter-intuitive and mind sheering to an American who never has enough, is constantly worried about the future and holds on to things way to tightly.

As you decide to fight injustice and care for the poor, AND YOU MUST, it is God’s mandate, brace yourself for the lessons you will learn and the freedom you will experience and the strength you will discover through “the least of these.”

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Letting Go of Old Identities

identity

Life’s too short for drama and negativity,
Pointing out the problem doesn’t take much ability.
Saturate the day with encouragement and optimism,
It’ll take focus and work, the opposite of passivism.

Only you can go to places that will stretch & grow you,
It will be scary, difficult, but it will reward you.
No one will cheer you, but go there anyway,
Few will understand, it’s the price you must pay.

The sign of maturity is to become less dramatic,
Being the victim has now become anti-climatic.
Energizing those around, you’re no longer a drain,
Hope is your new choice, like the smell of spring rain.

Jesus came to remove the sin of exclusion,
The Pharisees felt threatened like he was an intrusion.
Gandhi was puzzled by the churches prejudice,
He stayed Hindu because there was no difference.

We create our own boxes, it’s time to get rid of them,
We’re far more creative than we can fully comprehend.
So don’t get caught up in main stream philosophies,
The world needs your uniqueness with no apologies.

The only prayer you need is a simple “Thank you”,
Gratitude’s the answer, and miracles are the clue.
Thankfulness leads to joy, it’s the obvious fruit,
Waiting for perfect conditions is a destructive pursuit.

As we grow older we gravitate towards safety,
Talk is cheap, where have you gone lately?
To see justice we must run towards the unknown,
Uncertainty and discomfort, it’s where faith is grown.

His love is unconditional, no grading on a curve,
A stunning faithfulness, it’s not what I deserve.
It’s easy to forget, I strive for perfection,
I’m vulnerable to fail, but grace is my protection.

I have more pants than days in the week,
My 4g is slow, it’s new products I seek.
Lack of sanitation kills, statistics show it,
More people have mobile phones than a simple toilet.

Too many people choosing not to forgive,
It’s become their story, the way that they live.
I must let go of old identities, it’s a matter of will,
I’m canceling the debt, it’s paid in full.

 

A Gratitude Poem – Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I am thankful for today, it’s a gift not deserved
It allows me the privilege to humbly serve
I am thankful for the poor who teach me real faith
They teach me how to walk, in more eloquent ways

I am thankful for the pain that I try hard to avoid
It draws me to the only One who can fill my heart void
I am thankful for my tears that sting my blood shot eyes
They bring healing to my hurt and expose the lies

I am thankful that man is not perfect, as not to depend
It reminds me to put my hope in the One without end
I am thankful for my mistakes, for my sins and disgrace
It keeps me from religion and makes me run towards Grace

I am thankful for the journey, life’s ups and downs
Living fully in the moment,  possibilities have no bounds
I am thankful for friends, who put up with my foolish ways
“He is a stubborn mule, but we love him anyways!”

I am thankful for the beauty, that never goes away
Looking at her smile, that is offered every day
I am thankful for her brown hair, brunette I’m told
It was that way from the beginning, it never gets old

I am thankful for two gifts, their eyes deep vivid blue
They have grown up wisely, I am enjoying the view
I am thankful for their passionate, selfless hearts
Their maturity comes from the side of their mother’s parts

I am thankful for the two who brought me into this world
They allowed me to dream, to make my life unfurled
I am thankful when they would say, “Follow your passions”
It has brought me to difficult places full of God’s fashion

I am thankful for my creator, who wonderfully made me
He makes me walk boldly with a sense of great responsibility
I am thankful for his patience, his utter sense of waiting
For me to grow up, get on board and become consenting

I am thankful for children, showing hope for tomorrow
They teach me to trust, play, love, laugh and marvel
I am thankful for children, who have no limitations
They teach me to dream, to ask, and not to question

I am thankful for forgiveness, a gift offered freely
Makes me let go of past grudges and do it more quickly
I am thankful for the Sacrifice willing to be punished
My life is based on Him saying, “It is Finished!”

4 Things You Should Do Every Day

These 4 things, if you do them every day, will raise your level of joy, lower your level of stress and frustration and raise your level of purpose and significance.

First, learn to GIVE THANKS every day.

We think that once we experience joy, then we will be thankful, but the truth is, when we are thankful, joy is the byproduct.

Being thankful does not necessarily change our outside circumstances, but it does change our attitude and our perspective at how we look at things.

Experts say that practicing regular gratitude can change the way our brain neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns.

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”

Show me a person who practices gratitude, and I will show you a hopeful and joyful person.

Show me an ungrateful person, and I will show you someone you want to avoid.

William Arthur Ward wrote, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you?”

The psalmist wrote, “Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”

Make a list of all the things you are thankful for. Read them every day. Thank God for them every day. Tell the ones who are on your list how thankful you are for them. Read Psalm 100 every day.

Second, learn to practice CONFESSING YOUR SINS to God daily.

We were not made to carry the weight of our mistakes.

It robs us of energy, it leads to depression and it can beat down our souls.

David wrote in the Psalms, “When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. …My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Our bodies were not designed to hold on to sin.

Confession is God’s gift to us.

David goes on to say, “Finally I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. … And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone”

Another part of confession is having someone in your life who you can share your sins with. This person is someone who is safe, confidential and wants what is best for you.

In the New Testament James wrote, “When we confess our sins to another human being, it brings healing to our minds, hearts and bodies.”

Practice this confessional prayer from Psalm 51 each day:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Third, learn to CRY OUT TO GOD every day.

We all have fears, dreams, frustrations, questions and hurts that are swimming around in our soul.

Holding on to them can lead to all types of strange emotions and dysfunctions.

It is cathartic to tell God every day how you are feeling and what you are thinking about.

And you don’t need a filter with God.

You can tell God everything! The good, bad and the ugly.

It is interesting to me that David who was known as a “man after God’s own heart” wrote a lot of the psalms which I consider the original blues.

David in one moment was telling God how great He was, and the next moment was yelling at God for abandoning him.

One moment he was thanking God for his faithfulness, the next moment doubting if God would come through during difficult times.

I encourage you to read the psalms and learn from David.

I encourage you to talk to God more honestly throughout the day.

Tell Him your fears, frustrations and dreams.

Find a secluded, safe place to be unfiltered with Him.

Watch your energy and clarity increase.

C. John Miller says, “Honest prayer unmasks your real need and puts you in the presence of a rich Christ who wants to meet you as you really are.”

Fourth, I would encourage you to be a DEFENDER OF THE POOR every day.

Psalm 82 instructs us to, “Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”

You can do this in large and small ways.

The key is to look for opportunities.

Jesus said that offering food, clothing, shelter, water, fighting for justice and visiting the sick and imprisoned is where you meet Jesus.

Imagine what your life would look and feel like if you met Jesus every day.

No wonder Jesus said that we are happier and more blessed when we are giving rather than receiving.

He also said that what we have been freely given(Grace), we should in return freely give away(Grace).

I encourage you to try these 4 things every day for a few weeks and see how your life changes.

I would love to here your responses!
Just hit the “Leave a Comment” button and feel free to share.

Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.

It was on a hot summer day, in 1971, where two care-free 8 year old girls, one with blonde hair, the other brown, were running, playing, laughing, and doing what 8 year old girls do, in the basement of the brown hair girl’s home.

As they were playing, they found an abandoned freezer that opened from the top. They thought it would be fun to make that freezer their own little hideaway. So they climbed in and giggled and laughed and told scary stories and told each other who they thought the cutest boy in school was. It was their own little world where no one else knew where they were.

When they had had enough of the dark, and when it began to get a little warm and stuffy, they decided it was time to get out, but when they tried, the latch had shut and these two little care-free girls were trapped in an airtight freezer with very little oxygen left.

They screamed and yelled and screamed and yelled…and when they began to get weak…they prayed and sang Sunday school songs and then prayed some more.

The little blonde girl had asthma, and she was struggling breathing and she began to pass out, so the little brown haired girl would sing and pray louder while she was pushing her back as hard as her little 8 year old body could push against the top of the freezer, trying to get precious air for her best friend.

The blonde girl’s asthma overcame her and she passed out, while the brown haired girl would pass out and then wake up and start to pray and sing again. And then she would pass out once again.
Meanwhile, the brown haired girl’s mother, who had been frantically searching for them with no luck, heard an audible voice from God saying, “Go to the basement!”

So she did. She heard the cry of her daughter and lifted the freezer door to find her beautiful dark haired girl barely breathing, while the little blonde girl was not breathing at all.

They could not revive the little blonde girl, but the little brown haired girl lived. It is a day she will remember the rest of her life. She will never forget her best friend with the beautiful blonde hair. “Safe with Jesus” was the theme of her funeral.

She does not know why God wanted her blonde haired friend to come home to Him so early. She doesn’t know why God wanted her to stay. But she does know this. Every day is a gift from God to be lived fully.

You see, that little brown haired girl is my wife.

There is a prayer in the Bible by Moses that says, “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.”

Here are some ideas to live wisely:

Stop and thank God, right now, for the gift of life.

Call, text or email someone who has positively impacted your life and tell them how they have blessed you.

Forgive someone who has hurt you.

Smile, laugh, sing…in front of a mirror.

Breathe deep.

Tell your kids how awesome they are! (Even when they drive you crazy.)

Listen to a song that brings back great memories and dance.

Turn off the T.V. and computers and play cards or board games with friends and family.

Pray for those around you and around the world who are less fortunate.

Look for someone during the day to compliment and encourage.

Serve at a local food giveaway.

Go on a mission’s trip to a place that is different culturally than where you live.

Exercise.

Eat a bowl of ice cream without feeling guilty.

Invite someone over for dinner who never gets invited anywhere.

Take a cooking class.

Visit a nursing home.
Tell someone, “Jesus loves you.”

Do something that is hard, not putting it off until tomorrow.

Sponsor a child through “Compassion International”

Be a father or mother figure to those who need a positive parental example.

Stand up against injustice.

Wake up every day praying the prayer of Moses, “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.”

These are just a few ideas, but you get the idea.

Never take a day for granted. Live fully. Live passionately.

Don’t let a day go by without telling those who are close to you how special they are.

Don’t let a day go by without telling God how thankful you are for His Grace.

I think often about how that brown haired little girl has been the greatest gift of my life, and 27 years later I thank God for speaking to her mother about the basement, and my wife looks forward to the day where she will meet her blonde haired friend once again, this time, serving and laughing and celebrating for eternity.