What If You Don’t FEEL Thankful?

This time of year everyone focuses on things they’re thankful for.  We post our thoughts on Facebook of what we’re thankful for. Our kids make crafts at school and proudly display what they’re thankful for. Maybe your Thanksgiving gathering will include a time for each person to express the favorite things they’re thankful for.

It’s usually pretty predictable what we’re truly thankful for: God, Jesus, our family, our friends, good health, employment, and of course all the food we will stuff ourselves with on Thanksgiving Day.

These are all wonderful gifts to be thankful for. I would be the first one to speak up that I am thankful for everything I just mentioned.

But what about those things we really are NOT thankful for? What about the things nobody would dare to mention on their top 10 things I’m thankful for list? What about those things that hurt deep inside us that we just couldn’t possibly imagine being thankful for?

*Your doctor grimly explains to you that you have cancer.

*Your boss informs you that you are no longer employed.

*Your check book balance is lower than the total amount of your bills.

*Your marriage is hanging by a thread and you are ready to call it quits.

*Your child does something that leaves you heart-broken and your stomach in knots.

*Your loved one is not here with you on this earth any longer.

*The sin that so easily entangles you continues to drag you down.

*Someone you thought was your friend has betrayed you.

*Your aging parents are needing you more than ever but it’s causing major stress.

*As a momma of young children you’re overwhelmed, spiraling into despair and depression.

Seriously….are any of these things on your top 10 list? Are any of these things gushing out of your mouth when it’s your turn to declare what you’re thankful for? I didn’t see any of these things on anyone’s Facebook status in the last 30 days. I’m pretty certain that nobody’s child came home with any of these things plastered on their Thanksgiving craft from school. Nope.

Why in the world should anyone be thankful for anything like this? Why would we even consider it?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we read the following words from the apostle Paul: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Really, Paul? What were you thinking when you wrote those words? You’ve got to be kidding me! Who is he to tell us the conditions under which we should be thankful?

He was beaten and stoned multiple times. He was shipwrecked multiple times. He went without sleep and food. He was imprisoned. He even spent an entire day and night in the open sea.

Yet he could still pen those powerful words in his letter to believers.

I’ve read and re-read that verse countless times, it still says the same thing. Give thanks in ALL circumstances. It doesn’t say give thanks only when things are going your way. It doesn’t say give thanks only when your marriage is thriving, your kids are well-behaved, your bank account is full, your health is stellar and nobody is saying anything offensive to you. (It would be MUCH easier to give thanks if everything were perfect in our worlds!)

So what is the secret of expressing thankfulness in our worst circumstances? How can we really do this?

Here are two things I’ve gathered from this challenging command:

1. The verse does not say to be thankful for these things, but to be thankful IN them. What’s the difference? It’s just one little word. To be thankful IN something is to trust that God is still good no matter what. It’s not a feeling, but an attitude of surrender. It means that although my heart may be full of hurt, my spirit is still full of hope. I don’t deny the pain I’m feeling, but I take it to the foot of the cross and thank God that He is still in control.

2. If you back up to verse 17, just one phrase before this command, you’ll see something that a lot of people skip over. I missed this for years! Here it is: Verse 17 says to pray continually. I used to think this verse was only meant for monks and nuns who lived in isolation from the world and could be on their knees in a continual state of prayer. But it’s meant for all believers! For me. For you. When I am in a continual conversation with Jesus throughout my day, talking to him about everything and being aware of his presence moment-by-moment, then my heart can focus on him in every situation….the good and the bad.

I can focus on Him when I feel hope, but also when I hurt.

I can focus on Him for the victories throughout the day, but also when I blow it and can receive his grace over and over again.

I can thank Him for the blessings, but also for the challenges that drive me crazy at times.

This is not an easy thing to do! It is truly a process. A process that builds character in us. A process that brings us to our knees….bringing us closer to the heart of God.

I want to encourage you to truly search your heart and not only express the blessings you are thankful for, but to offer up a sacrifice of praise for those things you wish to be thankful in, and see what God will do. His love is overwhelming. His grace is powerful. His mercy is never-ending.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, dear friends!

Crying

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Your Fruit Spoil!

Cleaning out the fridge is one of my least favorite tasks. Reaching into the fruit bin, I pull out some disgusting clumps of blueberries that had spoiled. My heart sank. How did I miss these? Blueberries are a family favorite! But somehow these once ripe, vibrant blueberries were now shriveled up and rotten. It disappointed me to drop them into the trash can. But it didn’t stop there.

A container with a handful of strawberries had been pushed to the back of the fridge. I slowly opened the lid and one-by-one investigated the condition of each strawberry. Three of them were covered completely in mold. They couldn’t be eaten. The other two were partially molded. Maybe I could cut off the rotten parts and save these two. But as soon as I held them in my hand I found upon closer inspection that the mold was more serious than I first realized. Into the trash they went. Plop! Right on top of the rotten blueberries.

It disturbs me to have to throw away spoiled fruit. We paid good money for that fruit and now it was wasted. Past their ripe period, this fruit could no longer be enjoyed.

During this mundane task, I felt God speak ever so clearly to my soul in that moment. Lisa, I have created my followers to bear fruit. I’ve given each one unique gifts and talents to further my kingdom, yet if these gifts aren’t used….they will spoil just like the rotten fruit in the bottom of your trash can.

Wow. What a vivid picture God gave me in that moment! It made me think of the verse we find in John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

The part that struck me is the phrase fruit that will last. Wouldn’t that be nice? To have physical fruit that would last? No more shriveled up blueberries. No more molded strawberries. But in this verse the kind of fruit Jesus is talking about is eternal fruit.

Fruit for His kingdom. Fruit that will point others to Him. Fruit that will outlast any edible fruit we could imagine.

So how are we doing with bearing fruit for the kingdom of God? Are we even aware of the fact that He’s given us this command? Are we using the gifts and talents He’s blessed us with to point others to Him? Are we getting out of our selfish worlds and stepping into the lives of others to encourage them in the name of Jesus?

If we are just standing still and letting time tick by, then we are wasting away like those shriveled up blueberries. If we are not letting the light of Jesus shine through us into the darkness around us, we are just like those molded strawberries in the back of my fridge.

I don’t want to be like that! I don’t want my heavenly father to open his fridge one day to evaluate what’s in there, only to find that I’ve let something go to waste that could’ve been used for His purposes. I don’t want to regret not making choices that would’ve brought someone closer to Him.

The reason we love fruit so much is because of the bright, vibrant colors that dazzle our eyes. The colors beckon us to pick up the fruit and indulge wholeheartedly. Fruit at its ripest tastes so very sweet! Fruit at its ripest is juicy and succulent. Fruit at its ripest makes our taste buds dance and satisfies us to the full.

But once fruit is past the ripe stage, it’s just a matter of time before it starts to decay. The once vibrant colors turn dull. What once was sweet now tastes sour and unsavory. Just looking at spoiled fruit turns our stomach and repulses us.

Dear friend, what kind of fruit do you want to be? Do you desire for your life to be vibrant, satisfying and full of light? A life that beckons others to run to Jesus? My prayer for us is that we would truly do as Jesus has commanded–to go and bear fruit…..FRUIT THAT WILL LAST!

fruit

John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Check out my book: Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul

 

 

 

 

When Change is Hard

This is a season of transitions. A new school year for my 5th grade daughter. A new school building in a different location.  A new job for my husband.  A new women’s Bible study. Everything…is…NEW!

Transitions are HARD. Even though you transition to something good, it can still be challenging. Why is that? After much reflection on this, I’m come to the conclusion that transitions are hard because you’re trading familiar for unfamiliar. Predictability for unpredictability. Same old routine for a new schedule.

What used to work doesn’t work anymore. What used to fit doesn’t fit anymore. What used to make sense might now seem chaotic.

Transition is the gradual period of time in between 2 seasons of life. Making the transition from one to the other involves CHANGE.

Change is HARD!

Just as the seasons change, so our lives change as well. But the seasons don’t change overnight. We don’t go to bed one summer night and wake up to trees completely splashed with vibrant fall colors the next morning. No. The seasons change gradually….one leaf at a time. You start to notice a little bit at a time. A tree seems to have one drop of paint on it that can barely be noticed. A few weeks later the same tree appears to have more colors than it did before. One morning you wake up and the weather is a bit on the cool side. Just a tinge. Not anything drastic. But you notice a difference. It’s very gradual.   And before you know it, the warm-humid days stop altogether and you realize the cooler temps are more consistent.

This is TRANSITION!

I’m so thankful that when God brings change He doesn’t expect us to completely change overnight. He shines His light on our heart to reveal something that needs to be addressed. Then He ever so gently whispers to our soul something that needs to change. These are some of the whispers I’m hearing lately from Him:

That behavior isn’t working for you. That attitude isn’t getting you anywhere. Those words aren’t building anyone up.

 We know something needs to change. But it starts with transition. Gradually we step out and trade a familiar behavior with something better. Maybe it’s just a tinge. Just a hint. Maybe nobody even notices anything different at first. But gradually over time as we genuinely surrender an area of our lives to Him, a new pattern emerges. And before we know it, we’ve transitioned into a new season of life. What was hard at first now comes natural. What seemed inconsistent now becomes a new norm.

With everything around us constantly changing, it points us to this simple, yet profound truth: Jesus does NOT change. Ever.

Our circumstances are always changing. He remains the same.

Our feelings frequently waver back and forth. He remains the same.

Our thoughts shift constantly throughout the day. He remains the same.

Our loved ones don’t respond the way we’d like. He remains the same.

Are you in a season of transition? Are you struggling with making a change in a certain area of your life? Be encouraged that it won’t happen overnight. Just like the leaves change gradually, your transition will take place one step at a time. Trust God as you navigate into the next season. Most of all, take courage in the fact that our God never changes! The same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us….. Today!

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever”

autumn leaves

The Things That Really Matter

It’s a home school day. What lies ahead? Will it be calm? Or full of drama? My daughter drops her pencil on the floor and by her response you would think the world was caving in. Drama……Really? It’s just a dropped pencil for heaven’s sake!

A few minutes later after recovering from the dropped pencil, she makes a mistake on her math paper. It’s only one out of twenty-five, yet by her response you’d think she had missed all of them. More drama….. Really? It’s only ONE problem! Why can’t she focus on the twenty-four problems she mastered?

Just when I think this girl of mine has exerted all the drama she could possibly muster in such a short time, we have yet another incident. She uses the wrong shade of blue to label a city on her map for geography class. She had meant to use light blue but discovers she’s used a dark blue. By her response you’d think she had used black scribbles all over it! More drama…..again.

With all these dramatic incidents, I plead with her to not get so upset over the little things.

“Focus on the big picture, sweetheart. You’re doing a great job, but you are absolutely exhausting yourself emotionally  when you get upset like this. Save your energy for the big stuff–the things that really matter.”

I shake my head and shoot up an arrow prayer before going about my day. “God, please help this child to stay calm with the trivial things! Why is she acting like this? She is wearing me out!”

Just a few hours later I am working on balancing our bank account. In the busyness of this season, receipts and bank statements have piled up and I am way behind schedule. I optimistically think that I can knock this out quickly. (First mistake…..I set up an expectation.)

I am plugging along at a good pace and then all of a sudden the computer locks up. It freezes. I can’t continue with this task. I yell at the computer screen as if it is a person and can actually hear me.

Come on! What is wrong with you!?

When it doesn’t respond the way I want it to, my frustration grows and I slam my fist on the desk. Wham!

In the still small voice that I know is God whispering to my weary soul, I hear Him say this: Really, Lisa? All this drama over a frozen computer screen? This is a little thing. Save your emotional energy for the big stuff.

A little later I head out the door to run an errand. When I retrieve my phone from the charger, I notice the charger is NOT working. My phone is still dead. Now I must go out of the house with no phone! My frustration level rises….again. By my response you would think the world was caving in.

The still small voice I heard a few hours prior is calling me….again. This time it seems a bit louder. Lisa, this is a little thing. You are too focused on this phone. The world will not fall apart without it. Save your emotional energy for the big stuff.

I finally let the reality of this profound truth sink in. Just as my daughter fell apart over trivial issues, I too squandered my energy on petty frustrations. Things that don’t really matter when viewed through the lens of eternity. From God’s perspective, these little things are really no big deal.

I need to be reminded of what the apostle Paul says about trivial things in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

A dropped pencil, a missed math problem and a map mistake? Light and momentary troubles!

A frozen computer screen and a broken phone charger? Light and momentary troubles! 

So what is this eternal glory Paul talks about? Well, that would be the big stuff.  The stuff that really matters.

Lingering a little longer in my daughter’s bedroom at night to listen to her and pray with her. Eternal glory!

Having coffee with a single mom who needs a listening ear. Eternal glory!

Planning a family night to just hang out and laugh together. Eternal glory!

Yes, these are the things that really matter. But if I exert too much energy on the little things, I’ll be depleted and won’t have anything to offer when it’s really needed.

What about you? What light and momentary troubles are you dealing with this week? If you’re like me, it’s easy to get focused on those things and lose heart. But I pray we will see these things for what they are–light and momentary–and save our energy for the things that really matter.

2-corinthians-4-17

 

 Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Check out my book, Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul

 

Time to Clean Out Your Clutter?

With school out and more free time on my hands, I’m in the midst of cleaning out the clutter in my house. Outgrown and outdated clothing, broken toys,expired coupons, junk mail and items I don’t even recognize! And this is just the beginning of the stuff I’ve come across. As I attempt to go through each room, closet and drawer, I have to decide which category the item in question needs to go.

Trash it? Give it away? Move it to its proper place?

So I literally have three plastic bins in which these items will be tossed.

Trash: These are obvious and don’t take long to figure out. Something that’s broken, used up or never should have taken up residence in our house. Where did this come from? Why did we not throw this away sooner?

Give it away: This takes a bit more thought. Maybe the item is still of value but it doesn’t fit anyone in our household. Wrong size. Not our style. Someone can get some use out of this! Maybe a single mom in need of clothing for her growing children. A toy for a child who has nothing. I feel relieved as I bag these things up, knowing I’m getting rid of the clutter in my home but passing on something useful for someone else.

Put it where it belongs: These are the things simply out-of-place and need to be put back where they belong. This screwdriver doesn’t belong in the laundry room; it goes in the garage. This book needs to go back on the shelf instead of under the bed. Sometimes I laugh at where things end up and I think How did this get here?

Similarly, I often find myself going through a season where my mind is crowded with too much clutter. And I sense some junk growing in my heart. I can decide which category these things belong in. The thoughts, feelings and behaviors in question can be filtered through God’s perspective before I intentionally put them where they go.

Trash: These should be obvious to me, but unfortunately I’ve often held on to things for way too long that should have been trashed. Ugly thoughts. Prideful actions. Selfish behaviors. Yuck! Into the trash you go. These are the sins Christ died for. These are things destructive to my life. They should have no place in my heart or mind.

Give away: Sometimes I have those thoughts that need attention, but I shouldn’t dwell on them. Issues requiring concern aren’t destructive. But when the concern turns to worry or anxiety, it’s time to give it away. Who am I giving these thoughts to? God tells us to bring every thought captive to Him. To bring them straight to the throne of grace. The concerns about my child don’t go in the trash. The pain in my heart over a strained relationship doesn’t get thrown out. I give it to God. And sometimes He uses other people to help us carry our burdens.Maybe after I pour my heart out in prayer I should call a friend and ask for support.

Put in the proper place: Now this is where I really need wisdom and discernment! Some thoughts, attitudes and behaviors don’t need to be thrown out or given away. But they most certainly need to be prioritized…put in the right place in my life. Spending time with my friends is a blessing, but if I put it ahead of my relationship with my husband, it’s not in its proper place. Date nights with my husband are a top priority, yet if I focus more on this than my time with God, it’s not in its proper place. Posting on this blog is important to me, but if I ignore my daughter consistently while working on it, my calling as a mom is not in its proper place.

So, what about you dear friend? Is it time to clean out the clutter in your mind? Time to get rid of the junk in your heart? Is God calling you to a season of honestly looking at your priorities through His eyes? Toss the ugly stuff in the trash. Give away the concerns weighing you down. And put the blessings He’s lavished on you in their proper place.

Freedom washes over me as I watch the garbage truck take my trash out of sight. Peace comes to me when I drop off the bags of stuff at Goodwill. Confidence perks me up with everything in its proper place in an orderly home.

But none of these compare with the JOY I experience when I truly put God first in all I do. This happens one thought, attitude and behavior at a time.

2 Corinthians 10:5 “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
clutter

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Under Construction

Ever been driving  steadily down the road while on a tight schedule? You have just enough time to get to where you’re going. And then you see it in the distance. No! It can’t be! Especially not now! We’re on vacation! Yep, there it is in plain sight. Traffic slows down and then comes to a harsh stop. You peer through your squinted eyes and see it as big as day…a huge bright orange sign, taunting you:

CONSTRUCTION AHEAD

Really? Why does this happen every time we’re traveling on a long road trip?

This is fresh in my mind because it happened just recently. We anticipated how close we were to our house…less than 45 minutes. Soon we’d be pulling in our driveway, our pets would welcome us home, and we’d crash into our own comfy beds. But no! In the distance we could see the cars backed up on the freeway. They weren’t even inching along. They were at a dead stop.

Now this is when the complaining started. See if any of these comments sound familiar to you:

Why in the world would they schedule construction work so late? It’s almost midnight!

Didn’t they know everyone would be coming back from spring break vacation?

How long is this gonna take?

Check the GPS for an alternate route…I can’t just sit here like this. (That one would be my husband speaking)

What a mess!

There’s not even a place to stop and go to the bathroom or get a snack!

We may never play the role of a construction worker, but as Christ followers we are constantly under God’s construction. From the time we commit our lives to Christ, we are essentially saying to Him, “I surrender my life to you. Have your way with me. Sanctify me and make me more like you.”

When road construction is going on, there are three things that always result.

Delays.

A huge mess.

Complaints about the inconvenience.

If we expect to be under God’s construction, then why are we surprised when things don’t go our way? Why are we upset when our predictable routine is suddenly shaken? Why do we complain when we have asked Him to help us with certain areas of our lives? Maybe you pray to be a more patient parent, yet when God gives you opportunities to practice this, you resist and express frustration because it’s causing too much delay. You pray for God to help you through a conflict with a loved one, but it just isn’t happening quick enough.

And what about the mess? When we drove past the construction site I noticed bull dozers, jack hammers, and debris strewn all over the place. It almost looked like a bomb had exploded smack in the middle of it all!

Sometimes certain areas of our lives have to get “messed up” before God can reconstruct it for something good. We ask Him to shine the spotlight of the Holy Spirit on our hearts and reveal any hidden sin. He shows us something in the light and the first thing we say is “Yuck!” But He can’t renovate and renew that area unless we are willing to humbly expose our sin, as messy as it looks.

As creatures of comfort and convenience, we are experts at complaining.

Why now?

This isn’t the way I thought God was going to answer that prayer.

 

I don’t want to come out of my comfort zone!

The reality is that God often takes us out of our comfort zones and plunges us into a construction zone.

We need renovation. We need a complete make-over of our heart.

After road construction is complete, we notice great improvement. A two-lane road has emerged into a four-lane road. A dangerous, bumpy exit off the interstate is now safely smoothed out. A much-needed traffic light has replaced an ineffective four-way stop where multiple accidents had occurred.

And it’s the same with us as God’s children. After construction has taken place in an area of our lives, we notice what God has done. Where we once had bitterness, it is replaced with forgiveness. Where we once were characterized by criticism, we extend more grace. Where we once clung with both fists to a besetting sin, we now claim victory with hands raised to God.

So the next time you realize God is putting up a construction sign in front of you, don’t resist. Don’t complain. Don’t worry about the mess. With Him in charge of the construction process, you can trust that it will be complete in His timing! We are His workers and He is the master contractor.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

construction sign

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett