What Can I Offer Him? {30 Days of Gratitude, In the Middle, FOR the Middle...No, really!}

Being a "Blogger" is humbling.  Lots of people enjoy their favorite blogs, but most would never write one - and who can blame them?  What kind of person can deal with hitting the "publish" button on all that work and vulnerability, only to hear...


 In all honesty, some folks wonder if there is much value in blogging.

If you are a good writer at all, you are much like the violin virtuoso,  homeless and playing for dollar bills in the subway tunnel instead of Carnagie Hall.

Only - I don't even get dollar bills for what I offer to all who pass by this place.  (Never fear - you won't see a "donate" PayPal button suddenly appear in the sidebar...)  So why do I do it?

Because in offering my encouraging words to you, I am offering them to Christ.  

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' "  

~Matthew 25:40

I happen to notice that it does not say that unless the impact is HUGE, my offering doesn't count.  In fact, it seems to be the opposite.  The more "downwardly mobile" we are, when we offer our gifts, the more God notices and takes the offering very personally.

It is the giving away what I've been given, to whoever is there to receive it, that counts.

And no one even has to come back and leave a comment, saying "Thank you."  In fact, studies show most don't.  Ever.

Here is what I know:  If the quality of the artist is measured by the gratitude of the audience, then God Himself is no artist at all.

I am here to today tell you that I am grateful for the chance to use my gift(s) in whatever capacity, and I want you to feel the same way.  The hard truth is this:  forget about "building a platform" or "building a ministry".  Because the smaller your venue in the exercise of your gift, the more like Christ you are.  (Find me someone else who is saying these things...seriously.)

He left his status and the glory of heaven, to enter the womb of a woman. In His whole life, He built a platform of 12, and gave His gifts of healing and deliverance away to all who were oppressed of the devil.  The cross was His thanks.

To Be Mid-Life Modest, or To Gratefully Shine - Your Choice {30 Days of Gratitude, In the Middle, FOR the Middle...No, Really!}

"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

~Matthew 5:16

I want to learn to stay in the middle of not flaunting my gifts, yet not hiding my gifts.  I want to learn to be very, very comfortable with being better than someone else, and I want to be very, very comfortable with the fact that so many are better than I am.  Where did we get the mistaken notion that, as Christians, we shouldn't "be flashy"?

I don't know.  Turning water into wine is pretty amazing.  Healing blind eyes will get you noticed.

We are meant to flash glory-light - we are reflective image bearers of the God of light.

No one crosses the street for shadowy mediocrity.

Let your light shine!  Let it shine in such a way that men can see your accomplishments!  That is the inherent meaning of the Greek word for "good works":  accomplishments.   We get our English word "ergonomics" from this Greek word.  God fits us to certain tasks, so that they become a natural extension of who we really are - and we can work without injury or undue stress.

It would be one thing if the Scripture stopped right there:  ..."Let your light shine before men in such a way as they see your accomplishments..."

But it doesn't end there.  The next phrase puts the whole concept in sharp perspective, "...so they may see your accomplishments, and glorify your heavenly Father."

For heaven's sake (literally), be an accomplished person.

Be grateful for the opportunity to shine in mid-life.  God knows, our younger generation needs to see us taking risks and accomplishing our God-assignments.

Between the "Not Anymore" and the "Not Yet" {30 Days of Gratitude In the Middle, FOR the Middle...No, Really!}

My definition of the "middle":

Being suspended - floating in grace - somewhere between the "not anymore" and the "not yet".

Always, the middle is the present moment.

I began making visual art just over a year and a half ago.  Making it has helped me deeply understand the art of words.  With paint, you just have to gather courage and start.  You have to throw some paint on that canvas.  Then, once you do that, you work (and work...and work...) with what is there.  You trust the process.  You trust that this present moment, this muddley-middle stage, will begin to take shape.  And the outcome is never what you first envisioned.

So it is with words.  A word-artist has to dig deep, and toss her heart onto a page, and work with what is there.  A writer has to trust that all this messy vulnerability will take shape into something beautiful for someone.

See, if I were to hate the transition stage, if I were to become overly uncomfortable with the middle, the finished product will have no soul - because I will compensate for my discomfort by forcing my version of perfection onto the piece.

All art is a product of love, and all artists must learn to embrace the middle, and feel gratitude for what is.  I am learning to thank God for living between the "not anymore" and the "not yet".  Where else can a girl practice her art of contentment?

Every moment is the present moment and must be sanctified by gratitude, else we risk losing the next present moment to that destroyer of the art that is your life - angst.

No More "Making Do" {30 Days of Gratitude ~ In the Middle, FOR the Middle}

Precisely mid-way through life, I believe you and I start to get negative.  Yes, even you.  I know I have the tendency, and that I am more prone to it now than I was in my 30's.  The longer we live, the more jaded we become, and the more we identify with our mistakes.

The longer we live, the more we feel like we have to make do with what we have - play the cards we have been dealt, and all that stuff.

No more delusions, past 40, right?  We see the harvest we've reaped thus far, and not all of it is beautiful and not all of it is good.

I want to challenge you with the idea of an Autumn Planting.

Farmers and gardeners do it all the time.  Cold weather crops are some of the best crops you can partake of.

It is never too late to plant new and radically different seeds.

Because you see, while we sigh and try to "make do" with what we have, we serve a God who "makes" and "does" with what He has!

He can take the seeds you offer, here in this season of your life, and give you a winter crop that will knock your socks off and bless you to the very, very end of your days.

He makes all things new.  He does all things well.

Stop "making do" with a harvest that is less than you hoped for.  Start over with new and different seeds - because your God makes and does.  And that is something to be vastly grateful for.

Nothing is impossible with Him!

The Accountability of the Middle {30 Days of Gratitude ~ In the Middle, FOR the Middle}

"Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

~Martin Luther

If you could see me, spiritually and metaphorically speaking, I look like that...that right up there.

Sort of Braveheart, sort of middle-age woman who abuses Photoshop.  (I know, it's kind of creepy.)

I am a sword-wielding-warrior-woman who has won many battles.  And I am in good company.

Lots of middle age Christians come to church on Sunday with a long list of past accomplishments in their heads.  At least, I would hope we 40-somethings (and older) would have a lot of stories to tell...

...about that season when we found out He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, and He is enough...
...about that miracle we believed God for...
...about those times we shared Christ, and saving faith happened...
...about those times we shared Christ, and it seemed nothing happened...
...about that time we completely laid down an offense, and lavishly forgave someone else...

We have lots of stories from those days.  The temptation is to stop creating the atmosphere in our life that allows new stories to be told.  The temptation is to get bored and slack off in the middle.

Please don't.  If you will allow me, I am crying out to you, Braveheart Style - right here, in your middle - to dig in and do battle.  To stay the course.  Past victories do not present victories guarantee.  You have to fight the good fight in every season.

To fail now, is to possibly fail ultimately.

Because Beloved...we are simply running out of time.

Let's make the middle-to-latter end of this thing more glorious than the first!

The Humbling Middle {30 Days of Gratitude for Middling Things}...because you asked for it...

Much is being said about the "downward mobility of Christ", and it is all true.  Yet, I am being struck broadside these days with the  middling-mobility of Christ.

I am grateful for a God who split time down the middle by coming to middle earth as a human being.  I am encouraged by a God who waited to perform His first miracle until middle age.   I am saved by the God who died in the middle of two criminals, suspended on a cross mid-way between earth and a sky that He made. I am daily blessed by a God who appears to us as the "middle" of the Godhead - between the Father and the Spirit. I am humbled by a God who, though highly exalted, is even as we speak, making intercession for us who are in the middle.

Christ Jesus embraced the humility of the middle.  Because of this, He is given a name which is above every name.

In this grasping, struggling-to-move-up Western world I live in, no one really wants anything mid-size.  I believe part of the feeling of our infirmity is the painful fact that we are all in the middle of something...we are in that place where the freshness of the small beginning is long gone, and the dream of a grand finale is not yet in sight.  We are in the plodding-place.

We feel vulnerable, and sometimes even naked and ashamed.

Friend, God...very God...is in the middle with you and I.  He created the middle of your story and sustains it to the point that you will discover the middle to be the best part of your story - because the tension of the plot only seems unresolved. You can be fully present to the story line, with all its loose ends, knowing that in the final chapter - it is all made beautiful.

We may live in a fallen world, a middling-place where regret is part of being alive - but we, of all people, are confident of an eternity that will carry no regrets whatsoever. All of them, gone. This is forever both the end of your story, and the beginning of "You: The Sequel".

Please take 30 days with me to feel around inside your heart for the gratitude that can sweeten this middle-time of life.

There is so much to be thankful for!

{30 Days of Gratitude ~ In the Middle ~ FOR the Middle}...because you asked for it...

I know it's cliche, but giving thanks really is transformative.

I can think of another cliche, and it's the one about "mixed feelings". Not only is that cliche phraseology, it is a half-truth at best. The real truth is that we feel what we focus on, and we focus on what we feel. What we choose to pay attention to, and how we choose to pay attention to it, is a choice...a choice that will dictate to our hearts how we feel.

The real truth is that we cannot feel truly thankful and unhappy at the same time. If we focus on all the reasons to be grateful, we feel what we focus on. If we focus on the faults of others, or on what we perceive we lack, we feel what we focus on.

You and I can feel our way right out of boredom or discouragement. We can feel our way right out of anger or anxiety. The miracle antidote is the feeling of gratitude. 

So here is our {30 Days of Gratitude ~ In the Middle ~ FOR the Middle}...

...because I want to feel what I focus on, and I need to focus on what I feel. The warmth and joy that ensues from giving thanks brightens my November afternoons, and makes me feel tranquil and privileged. I really am a daughter of privilege. My Father has given me an unfair advantage called Grace. There is nothing "balanced" about that.