Positive Attitude

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Research Project on Gratitude and Thanksgiving was a study of 300 people to determine the role gratitude plays in a person’s life. The participants were divided into three groups. The first group kept a diary of daily events. The second group recorded their unpleasant experiences each day. The third group made a daily list of things for which they were grateful. The researchers found that those who were grateful experienced greater life satisfaction than those who recorded neutral or negative events. Those who kept gratitude records exhibited higher levels of energy, were more generous, and experienced less stress than those who didn’t focus on the positive aspects of each day.

Focusing less on the negative aspects of our lives and more on the positive aspects can help us to better cope with daily living and bring constructive changes into our lives. Helen Keller serves as role model for positive living and is known for her courage against overwhelming odds. Despite her handicaps, frustrations with learning, and numerous setbacks, she chose to move forward by focusing on what she could do instead of what she could not do. Keller chose to re-frame her negative situations and focus on the positive. As a result, she’s recognized for a life devoted to helping others and always looking forward. She said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened before us.”

Her inspiring attitude is powerfully expressed in these lines from her poem, “On Herself."

They took away what should have been my eyes
(But I remembered Milton's Paradise)

They took away what should have been my ears

(Beethoven came and wiped away my tears)

They took away what should have been my tongue

(But I had talked to God when I was young)

He would not let them take away my soul---

Possessing that, I still possess the whole.

Let's remember to have an attitude of gratitude as we approach the hectic holiday season when our patience will be tested. A positive attitude changes everything!

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24


Thursday, November 20, 2008

In early fall of 1621, 53 surviving Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest. A traditional English custom, the celebration was a time to thank God, who had made possible their survival and provided the bounty of their harvest. It was not just a secular occasion; it was a religious observance.

Americans have officially celebrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday since 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared a Thanksgiving Proclamation. This day is not just a day to give thanks (we should be doing that every day!), but it’s a day when we give corporate thanks - thanks as a nation, as a community, as a family. I recently reviewed Lincoln’s Proclamation and was struck by the boldness with which Lincoln urged the country to show thanks to God. In the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln still expressed gratitude for the many ways God had blessed the nation. In his concluding statement Lincoln implores God to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it according to God’s purpose so that America would find “peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

Isn’t that sentiment appropriate for us today? Our nation has just concluded a harsh presidential campaign. Many families are feeling the effects of the struggling economy. Nevertheless, God has blessed our nation and us as individuals in many ways. He has promised us that he will provide. His name Jehovah-Jireh means just that - The Lord will provide.

Let’s take some time this Thanksgiving season to count our blessings and name them one by one.
Let’s use Lincoln’s words as inspiration to pray for God to heal our wounds and restore us to his purpose so that we all can find “peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

The Message version of Psalm 100 calls us to be active in our expressions of thanks to God. You might want to read this at your Thanksgiving table as you and your guests share expressions of gratitude.

Psalm 100 - A Thanksgiving Psalm

On your feet now - applaud God!

Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.

Know this: God is God, and God, God.

He made us; we didn't make him.

We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

Enter with the password: "Thank you!"

Make yourselves at home, talking praise.

Thank him. Worship him.

For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love,

Loyal always and ever.

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation is found below:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,Secretary of State


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Last weekend Christ Church’s Open Door Singles Ministry, along with First Centenary’s Positive Christian Singles, held a singles conference with the theme Wholly Single. We were blessed in two general sessions and three breakout sessions with music, messages, and presentations that focused on being whole in body, mind, and spirit.

I was fortunate to deliver the afternoon keynote address and shared my journey of faith. I spoke about our search for wholeness by examining our brokenness.

The word brokenness can mean fractured like an arm or incomplete like a broken set of books. It also means that something is not functioning or out of order like a broken dishwasher. When words are spoken with gaps and errors, we call it broken English. A broken cell call is one that has conversations with intermittent starts and stops. For the most part, we know whom to call on to fix these broken things.

But we as human beings experience brokenness too.
When vows aren’t kept, we experience broken promises.
When we become weak or ill, we experience broken health.
When we are crushed by grief, we experience broken hearts.
When life seems to overwhelm us, we cry in broken sobs.
When we are torn apart by divorce or separation or desertion, we have broken homes and broken marriages.
When our finances spin out of control, we are “broke.”
When we don’t take special care of our bodies, we feel broken.
When we don’t feed our minds with positive thoughts, we act in broken ways.
And when we are totally humbled, we have a broken spirit.

I think we’ll agree it’s hard to fix human brokenness. Our brokenness comes in two primary ways: by choice or by circumstance. Sometimes we make bad choices that lead to our brokenness. Sometimes other people’s choices lead to our brokenness. And then finally, sometimes the circumstances of lives over which we have no control cause our brokenness.

The only real healing is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He alone will make us truly whole. He takes our brokenness and our weakness and gives us strength as Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

To listen to the audio recording of me speech, click on this link http://www.christplace.org/dev/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=793:first-annual-singles-conference&catid=94:articles&Itemid=102


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Last weekend a friend and I enjoyed a drive to Raccoon Mountain to see the beautiful fall colors. The state-designated Wildlife Observation Area on the mountain is home to deer, foxes, and raccoons, of course. A beautiful whitetail deer allowed us to drive right next to her before she leisurely trotted to the edge of the woods. While the trees were not yet at their peak color, we were still able to see some rich and vibrant hues. The maples were starting to turn golden, and the dogwoods were already a vivid red. The farewell summers, a small wild flower, offered a delicate contrast of purple and white amid the autumn shades of the fallen leaves.

Raccoon Mountain is the home to a Pumped Storage Plant, TVA’s largest hydro facility. At night, water is pumped into the reservoir while electrical demand is low and then released during the day when power demand is higher.

Peering over the observation deck at the facility, we viewed the waters of the Tennessee River where we saw several boats cruising the waterway. I also noticed some large cylindrical shaped concrete structures lined up along the river’s edge. I learned that these are baffles that prevent turbulent water from entering the main channel of the river during power production. They serve as a safety net to keep boats from being swept away by strong currents when the water is released. It is reassuring to know that these sturdy, immoveable structures provide protection for boaters as they traverse the river commercially and recreationally.

We too have a baffle to protect us. God is our baffle. When we fear that troubled waters are about to overtake us, we can turn to him. He promises to be with us as we navigate the currents of life. We learn of God’s faithfulness in Isaiah 43:1-3. God promised to be with Israel when they passed through the “fires” and “waters.”

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

Let’s be careful to note that God doesn’t say that he will prevent troubled waters from coming in to our lives and he doesn’t promise to make them less terrible. He does promise us companionship throughout the journey.

Thank you, God, for the beauty of autumn.

Thank you for being our baffle.

Thank you for your gracious assurance that in all the experiences we face, you will be with us. Amen.

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