I am a logophile, someone who love words.  I am also a lover of numbers.  Although I am not sure whether there is a special word for that, I do love to create mathematical equations of numbers and try to make sense of them.  I guess you could say that I’m a bit of a nerd.  Today, I decided to blog about the concept of gratitude. Here is what I learned about this trisyllabic concept.

Gratitude is one word, nine letters and three syllables.  According to Biblical symbolism, the number nine refers to divine completeness or finality.  Jesus died on the ninth hour of the day (3 p.m.).  Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.  The number three is also significant.  It’s the number of completion.  Jesus was placed on the cross on the third hour of the day (9 a.m.) and died at the ninth hour (3.m.). Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.

If I were to be completely honest, I didn’t really know the significance of these numbers until I decided to do some research for the post.  All I knew was that gratitude was nine letters and three syllables.  However, the revelation of the numerical significances was not lost on me.  As Christians, gratitude is more than being grateful for what we have, it’s about recognizing and appreciating Jesus’ sacrifice—his ultimate sacrifice, where he gave his life so that we could have freedom.  Yes, our Earthly possessions do provide us with some comfort, and we should be grateful for them, but more than that, we should be grateful for the opportunities that have been laid before us because of what Christ did on the cross.  Our lives on Earth is not just a gift of terrestrial gratification, it is an opportunity for celestial investments.  While on Earth, we not only get to enjoy the planet, but we also get to make preparation for our final destination.  This investment is only made possible by the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.  So, no matter what we go through in this life we should find gratitude in the fact that there is something to look forward to beyond our time in this world.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, NIV).

Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.  There is some finality inherent in the concept of gratitude.  Oftentimes, gratitude is the final step of introspection.  When many of us reflect on our lives, we often resign to a place of reconciliation where we realize that we have a lot to be thankful for.  Our relatively health and happiness are reasons enough for celebration.

Gratitude, that three-syllable word, also makes us complete.  It closes the gaping hole in our hearts and our spirits by allowing us to realize that we truly have more than we need and that we lack nothing essential.

Today, my challenge for all of us it to be grateful—express a little gratitude.  “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory,” (2 Corinthians 4:15, NLT).

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Greater success is often found in failures than in victories.  When we really think about it, what lessons do we truly learn from our conquests?  Our succession of wins simply makes us better winners, and in worse cases, sore ones.  Failure is where we experience the immensity of our growth. Our ability to reason, to reflect and to progress expands when we are faced with situation where the problems presented by our circumstances are beyond the scope of our current knowledge.  Those situations challenge us to learn and to grow.  If every action we took was executed with precision and perfection during the first pass, then we would be stagnant, and frankly, boring.

 

Our inclination to steer towards perfection is exhausting, and not to mention, impossible.  In fact, trying to achieve perfection is a waste of time and is one of the greatest impediments to growth.  The pursuit of perfection yield paralysis.  It creates a stumbling block in our minds.  The hypothetical what ifs have a tendency to fabricate and aggrandize the worse-case scenarios.  Oftentimes, the results of our actions are never as horrific as we have imagined, and so what if they were?  Short of doing something immoral or illegal, there is nothing wrong with stepping outside of our comfort zones—challenging ourselves.

 

Aside from the inherent fear of failure, many of us also get distracted by how we think others will react to and perceive our mishaps.  The truth is, most of us are doing the best we can, and no one is an authority on life.  Even the experts have achieved their portion of wisdom through trial and error.  Therefore, we should cut ourselves some slack.  We should be kind to ourselves.  There is nothing wrong with trying something new, even something scary.  We should now that we are flawed and imperfect, and that is okay.

Although this life can get hard sometimes, there must be at least one thing that brings you joy. On the days where the skies appear to be the darkest shade of gray, dig deep into the recesses of your mind and your heart, and find a reason to smile!  Close your eyes.  Inhale. Exhale, and smile from ear to ear.

“A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit,” (Proverbs 15:13).

 

My past two blog posts have been about prayer, particularly, praying in general.  I was going to move on to a different topic all together until I came across another individual’s blog on the topic (Pretty good read.  Check it out: https://themirific.co/2015/05/20/stagnant-christians-stagnant-enemies/ ).  In this post, the author wrote about praying for our enemies.  Yes, it is true, Jesus challenges and instructs us to pray for our enemies.  But have you ever wondered what those prayers should look like?  If I were to be completely transparent when it came to praying for my enemies, I would say that I preferred some of the move Davidic prayers found in the Psalms such as, “slap all my enemies in the face” or “shatter the teeth of the wicked,” (Psalm 3, NLT).  Those prayers speak to the core of my anger when I am hurt by my enemies.   I also figured, if it worked for David, it should work just fine for me.

While I slightly kid, I must say that the question of praying for my enemies did resonate with me this morning.  I discussed the issue with my uncle, and he provided some insight which I will share with you:

Our earthly battles all seem to come back to Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.”  In the Old Testament, David was waging war for a physical kingdom.  The sacrifices made in his day were physical in nature.  Today, we waging war for a spiritual kingdom.  Circumcisions in the Old Testament were physical, while today they are spiritual.  When we say those Davidic prayer, they should be prayed against the spirituals that dwell in the individuals, not against the individuals themselves.  When we truly understand that we are in spiritual warfare versus physical warfare, then we would realize that we should be praying for the deliverance of our enemies from the captivity of the evil one.  In the most rudimentary sense, the individuals who commit acts of evil are merely host to principalities.  Now, this does not completely absolve individuals of responsibly under the notion of the devil made me do it, for we all have free will.  However, it does allow for compassion towards our enemies.  For whatever reason, their free will has sent them down a path that has created a stronghold in their lives.  As we all know, bad habits are hard to break, and so are strongholds.  That is why we need to pray for our enemies.  We need to pray for their deliverance.  Notice that when Jesus prayed, he always prayed for others to be delivered from their infirmities.  Oftentimes, their blessings were found in the deliverance.

This whole topic of prayer brought me back to a previous blog where I begged the question: “How different would our world be if we simply prayed for things that weren’t already being prayed for?”  Imagine if we got to heaven and God told us that we could have dramatically changed the world, but we didn’t because those prayers were never released.  Would that knowledge change how we prayed today?  For me, one of the biggest frustrations, and even hesitations, with prayer is that I don’t always see the results of my prayers.  Sometimes, I feel as though God hasn’t heard me or that He is slow to act.  The Bible reminds us that, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient…” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  We have to remember that God is sovereign and that He might not answer our prayers in the manner and time we want, but He has His reasons for His approach.

Today, I challenge all of us to put on the armor of God:  the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12).  Let us pray for our world, our government, our enemies, our families and friends and ourselves.  Included below is a prayer of protection over our family and friends:

Today, Lord I pray an anointing over myself and my family.  I pray a hedge of protection around us.  I pray that the enemy and his allies would not be allowed to penetrate this fence, and that the gates surrounding the hedges are locked and sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ.  I pray that angels will be dispatched to the four corners of this fence and that they will protect and defend us from all attacks.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

When all else fails, pray, and then, pray some more. “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” (James 5:16, KJV).

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people,” (Matthew 3:1-5, NIV).

When Jesus hung from the cross, he pleaded with God, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34, KJV).  The evening news and the Internet are filled with stories of evildoers who do truly understand the weight of their sins.  They do not realize that the dirt that they heave upon their opponents is actually being poured upon their own heads—burying them.  If many truly knew the ramifications of walking the path of wickedness, they would immediately switch courses.  They fail to realize that there will come a time when each of us will have to give an account of all our actions and careless words.

Although the Bible foreshadows humanity’s depravity, it also reminds us of God’s sovereignty and goodness.  Ephesians 6:12 says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.  When we see displays of injustice and immorality in our world, we should pray.  “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NIV).  We might not be able to change hearts, minds, behaviors or outcomes by our accord, but God can!

One of the greatest and most humbling reminder on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is that we are not Jesus!  Yes, as Christians, we are meant to bare each other’s burdens, but we are not called to save, to fix or to restore anyone, including ourselves.  That’s Jesus’ job.  Some many of us in our quest to become Christ-like, or just plain liked, have resorted to becoming a receptacle for others to unload.  We allow others to dump all their “stuff” on our doorsteps.

 

Healthy relationships should be symbiotic, meaning each person should take turns serving the other.  There should be a healthy balance.  Our relationships should improve our lives and well being.  If we find ourselves giving more that we receive, we place ourselves in a position to become out of equilibrium, which puts us at risk for suffering emotionally, mentally or even spiritually.  Additionally, when we fail to set boundaries in our relationships, it sends the message that it is okay to not respect us. It tells others that our feelings do not matter.  That’s not only unfair, it’s also unhealthy!

 

One of the best ways to stop being a receptacle is to learn to love ourselves.  At times, loving ourselves might often mean putting ourselves first.  As Christians, we sometimes have a tendency to pervert the Gospel.  The phrase “die to yourself” has been misused and abused.  In fact, when asked by the Pharisees which of the Commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied that we should first love God, then love our neighbors as we would ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).  In that verse, Jesus commands us to love God, ourselves, and then our neighbors—in that order.  In order to love someone as we love ourselves, it is implied that we first love ourselves.  It is imperative that we love ourselves.  Oftentimes, this might mean saying no to others.  Additionally, it is important that we set aside time for ourselves to allow for a reset.  We will find that by doing so, we will also redefine the boundaries in our lives and have more healthy and productive relationships.

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Most of us are doing the best that we can.  At the half-way mark of our 21-day journey, I remind you to be kind to yourself!

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If we were to count the things in our lives that went wrong, the list could be endless.  But what about the things that have gone right?

Thank you, God, for waking me up!

Thank you, God, for making it through traffic!

Thank you, God, for not falling ill!

Thank you, God, for not falling!

Thank you, God, for protection against things I cannot see!

Thank you, God, for the rainy days!

Thank you, God, for the sunny days!

Thank you, God, for the birds!

Thank you, God, for provision!

Thank you, God, for family!

Thank you, God, for friends!

Thank you, God, for clothing!

Thank you, God, for shelter!

Thank you, God, for love!

Thank you, God, for laughter!

Thank you, God, for peace!

Thank you, God, for discernment!

Thank you, God, for revelation!

Thank you, God, for all the things that I should have thanked you for but did not!

Thank you, God, for being YOU!

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“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).

Life can be difficult at times.  There are some seasons in our lives when it feels as though we are living under a cloud of darkness and sorrow.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  Some days it takes all of our energy to just put one foot in front of the other.  We watch as the clock ticks, unsure whether we have the wherewithal to make it through the day—the hour—the minute.  In those moments, it’s easy to feel as though all hope is gone and that, somehow, God has made us the subject of His ire.  We feel overlooked—forgotten about.   It’s hard to take James, the brother of Jesus, serious when he instructs us to consider our trials and tribulations joy.  Where is the joy in death or loss?  How do we celebrate compounded failure or rejection?   All of these things suggest a world that is out of control—out of God’s control.  Yet, when we view the picture above, we capture a glimpse of a world that is structured and organized.  Not one cloud has fallen from the sky.  The lake has abided by its boundaries.  The birds are untroubled by the day’s woes.  There is a peace represented by the order.

On days where it feels as though life is falling apart, I challenge you to take a walk.  Go to the beach or the park.  Smell the roses.  Observe all the things that are still subject to the control of God and extrapolate those finding to your life.  If God will take care of the birds, he will take care of you (Matthew 6:25-34).