Posts in gratitude
Riding waves and climbing trees
I took this picture near Santa Cruz in April.

I took this picture near Santa Cruz in April.

“We ought not leap in prayer and limp in praise.”

This quote from Charles Spurgeon paints a vivid picture for me. Can’t you feel the vast difference between the two descriptions of movement? Steps where your feet barely touch the ground, your arms swing high, neck craned upward to make sure you’re heard, versus dragging your feet slowly, moaning and groaning while staring at the ground.

The quote came to mind earlier this year as I traveled to both U.S. coasts and found myself noticing the lack of limping in nature.  

Do the waves reluctantly make their way ashore while wishing they would never crest? Definitely not. In February, I was mesmerized by how the waves off the Florida coast rolled in beautiful rhythm and seemed to take joy in crashing ashore. It’s almost as though they happily trip over one another in anticipation. Each one breaks and gives energy to the next. It’s a wonderfully collective chorus of praise.

Do the impressive Redwood trees cower and slump? After visiting Northern California in April, I can confirm they would dare not do such a thing. They stand tall and confident like they’re stretching for the sun. Their branches spread wide and overlap as they seem to pat each other on the back and plead with each other to reach higher.

It was like a gratitude adrenaline rush to see the water and trees and how they speak of, and to, the Creator. I found myself wanting to jump in the ocean despite the cold temperatures - toss me a wet suit already! I had the strong urge to climb a Redwood despite the fact that I couldn’t fit my arms around half of one - strap me in whatever they strap you in to climb those beautiful, bigger-than-life trees!

To leap or to limp

On days like the ones in my travels, I think I follow somewhat in nature’s footsteps as praise and gratitude readily roll out of my heart and off my tongue. Other days it crosses my lips a little more reluctantly, or gets stuck altogether in my throat and never registers a sound wave.

If I regularly seem to have enough energy to ‘leap’ and devote most of my focus and effort to asking for what I want and think I need, and then find myself depleted to a ‘limp’ when it comes to praising, I know I’m headed for trouble.

Why is that? I think it’s because saying thank you and marveling at who God is and what he’s done reminds me that I am, in fact, talking to a living being. He is a kind and caring God who hears, moves and responds, not a vending machine, concierge or genie. There is no relationship in those transactional type of interactions. I’m talking with the God of the universe who knows me and wants me to know Him.

Sometimes we need a running start

It’s been a bit of a challenge this past month not to drag my feet and glance down when it comes to praise. Some unexpected health challenges arrived on my doorstep, and I’d like to label them return to sender and be done with them. Even though I’ve seen God show up in these unsettling circumstances, being grateful and praising can just be harder when facing frustrations. It may require a running start, but it’s worth the effort.

One of the things I’m praising God about is how he scheduled a doctor appointment for me, literally. When I called to make an appointment, at first they told me it would be a two month wait. I wasn’t concerned about the time frame and was going to take whatever was available. While talking to the receptionist, she interrupted me and said they just received a cancellation for the next day at 2 p.m. In the days and test results that followed, it was clear the sudden opening in the schedule was the Lord taking care of me. How is that for evidence that God can handle the details?

I would say I’m at a steadily increasing praise leap right now as I continue to focus on God’s love and faithfulness. And this effort has in no way diminished my leaping in asking for full resolution. In my mind, Spurgeon’s quote is not a reprimand for bringing persistent, spirited requests to God; it’s a call to apply just as much heart, soul and time to thanks and praise. It’s a check and balance on my motivations and view of our Heavenly Father when it comes to prayer and praise. The admonition doesn’t dwindle my asking, it stokes my praising.

So, I’m leaping pretty high in my requests right now, and by God’s grace, will leap just as high with thanks and praise. I aim to ride some legit barrel waves and swing my way through Redwood branches reaching higher and higher for the Son.

What about you?

Are you leaping or limping in praise right now? What do you think about Spurgeon’s quote?

Up next: Next week, I’m excited to share that something I wrote is being posted on a friend’s blog. I’m looking forward to introducing you to her and her site. She is a joy and has so many helpful things to say.

Catch up: If you’re new here, check out some of the previous blogs. We talk about verbal processing, finding comfort in God, and His incredible love, along with several lighter attempts at humor.

Gratitude handed me a shovel

I walked the store aisles in January looking for a new journal and a calendar. The bulletin boards, decorative pictures and notebooks seemed to shout at me, “Dream it, plan it, live it! Crawl, walk, run! Make it happen!”

Set Goals Pic.jpg

The jury is still out on whether I attended my own personal pep rally or was mocked by the home and office decor. Based on the facial expressions of others nearby, they too were trying to determine if we were surrounded by friends or foes. Except for one woman wearing red glasses and denim capris. She was definitely feeling the love from the peppy action verbs and happy fonts. It was like the items were waving pompoms, jumping up and down excitedly and calling her name. She may have even fist bumped a sequined file organizer that said “Ready, Set, GO-AL!” as she plucked it off the shelf and put it in her shopping cart.

At the start of each year emotions and mindsets range from enthusiastic and hopeful to defeated and discouraged. And then there’s the realistic optimist who shoots for the stars nearest the earth’s orbit with one foot firmly on the ground. This person seems to effectively split their gaze between the sky, which we all know is the limit, and the ground-level challenges that exist.

A close friend of mine has a very practical outlook on self-reflection and yearly goal setting. She reasons that even if she’s waving a white flag of surrender by the end of April, she’s still had four months of moving forward instead of backward. She doesn’t let the uncertainty of whether the course can be perfectly stayed through all four seasons keep her from going after good things. This approach invites progress, even if intermittent, and appears to keep the all-or-nothing paralysis at bay.

The all-or-nothing approach can be the carrot that pushes us to surpass all expectations or the stick that tempts us to create our own Pit of Despair, as endured by Buttercup’s sweet Wesley.

All-or-nothing goal setting (and keeping) doesn’t work for me. It seems to cause anguish during the goal setting process and require sackcloth and ashes when progress is not made as planned. Plateaus serve as goal obituaries and determined, all-or-nothing types gladly play the role of funeral director, mortician and all eight pallbearers. And we can do this all by ourselves, thank you very much. We’ll wear black for the rest of the year, even if the sounds of Auld Lang Syne have barely faded.

When setting personal goals for 2018, I wondered if it was acceptable to resurrect ones from past years and simply change the date. Because I have a graveyard of goals to choose from, a new notebook with a shiny cover that says “I’ve got this,” and, most importantly, Gloria Estefan’s Get on Your Feet is on my new playlist.

What is it that keeps us from try, try, trying again if at first we don’t succeed? A paragraph in a goal planning workbook caught me by surprise this year because it described a beast I thought had been tamed. A wild thing that often keeps me from trying again.

“Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy, it’s the thief of everything. Keep your eyes on your purposeful path. Celebrate others. Celebrate progress, not perfection. Cultivate gratitude over comparison.” Lara Casey, Cultivate What Matters

Comparison growls softly at first and often goes unnoticed when we scroll through social media feeds, talk to neighbors, coworkers or fellow church goers. It bares its teeth a little and arches its spine when news spreads of promotions, houses, raises, book deals, relationships, weddings, baby bumps or whatever it is that isn’t ours. It circles and waits to see if we’re what’s for dinner. Will we put aside the sting of what we lack and choose to celebrate progress even if it’s not ours? Will we choose gratitude?

As I tried to set goals for the year, it was clear I was putting myself on the dinner menu. There were tears of self-pity, jealousy and defeat. I may as well have poured Emeril’s homemade steak sauce all over my head and curled up on a large white plate. After the tears eventually subsided there was another decision to be made.

Gratitude was still an option. It’s always an option because we can rest in the love of God which David tells us endures forever (Psalm 136). And that love is available even on the days when we’ve chosen comparison over gratitude. That love is unconditional and soothes the wounds of comparison. In fact, when we step into God’s love, it is sure to produce gratitude in us.

Gratitude is a secure place from which to dream and set goals. Gratitude brings freedom from keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths or whoever it is that seems to have it all or be able to do it all. Gratitude slays the beast of comparison and hands me a shovel to raise long buried pursuits from the dead and try again.

Gratitude tempers all-or-nothing and finds joy and purpose in the midst of plateaus. Gratitude celebrates progress and lets go of perfection. Gratitude celebrates others and builds camaraderie where there might have been rivalry.

Thank God for gratitude.

The perfect choice for home office décor this year might be a wall of bulletin boards dedicated to gratitude, a shovel hanging above my desk, and an empty bottle of Emeril’s homemade steak sauce. Because dinner is no longer being served.

This content originally appeared as a guest post I wrote for Leslie Farthing’s website. She is a talented writer and a great friend. Check out her site! I enjoy guest authoring posts for other sites and publications. You can request me as a guest author here.

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