“Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I can’t handle together (An old preacher’s greeting to each new day).” As I looked at the small green slip of paper, which had been carefully typed (on a “real typewriter”) and cut out by my mother, I thought of the positive attitude she had always shown in life. She was a great encourager, a strong support for my father and us kids.
Have you ever considered the tremendous impact our attitudes have on our thoughts, perceptions, and actions?… Positive attitudes lend themselves to a better approach on life, how we react to stressful situations, to resolving conflict, in interactions, and with any decision making. Negative attitudes do the opposite, as we struggle more in these areas and are more likely to give up.
But it is much more than that! What impacts our attitudes? From very early in life, perhaps even day one, our attitudes are being formed. My mom often reminded me to take one thing at a time when faced with an overwhelming task, like schoolwork or major decisions to make. An awareness of how our attitudes affect us allows us to look at and to approach life through a much broader lens and with greater understanding.
Have you ever just made up your mind that you are going to have a good day? While not knowing what each day brings, I have found that beginning with a better attitude helps me to approach things more positively. Do some people just “rub you the wrong way”? Instead of stewing about them, what if I decided to respond with a caring attitude and supportive actions or words that were not dependent on their response or lack thereof? Looking beyond sharp responses, unkind words, or silence requires some major attitude adjustments before they are encountered.
Attitudes are constantly developing and revising as we grow and mature and as life experiences occur, hence we hear admonitions to change our attitude or to examine our attitude when situations warrant. Phrases such as, “Watch your attitude” or “You need to change your attitude” come to mind!
As an early “attitude lesson,” I remember when a neighbor’s grandkids were calling unkind things across the fence between our yards. My mom encouraged us to respond with a positive and friendly attitude and when we did friendships were formed and we enjoyed our time together. “Attitude adjustments” are often needed in all ages and stages of life.
How much control do we have over our attitudes and what can we do about it? How can honest examination and understanding improve our physical as well as our mental or emotional health? What part does our faith background play in our attitudes? I ask myself these questions and think about how my attitude is helping or hindering my relationships, my level of stress, my openness to God’s call each day, and my trust in Him.
Just thinking about this and about life in general has already begun to shift things for the better. I have a feeling that I will be working on my attitude for the rest of my life, and that is not a bad thing! My prayer is for us all, as we dig in and take an attitude check each day. We may be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes!
• We choose to build up or to tear down • Consider your words before you speak, and you will not lament the after • Criticizing in condemnation shuts the door on growth and grace • A careless tongue is like a roaring volcano • An open mouth without consideration often spews flames of hurt • Words of encouragement sweeten the most bitter • What you say or don’t say reveals your character • Wise instruction is a great treasure • The words of others which you eat and drink, will come back up in your own voice • Harsh words shred our soul and tear our heart • Restraint is a strength, so cover your mouth when needed • Fresh air breaths light into a day like songs of praise • Friendship and respect welcome all words shared • Give heed to the eternal Word which is full of grace and might
When my daughter was very young, she would sometimes awaken at night, afraid and crying. I would go to her and hold her, pray with her, and just be with her until she had relaxed and was able to go back to sleep.
There is something about the physical presence of a loved one that brings comfort and joy. Whether a parent with a child, friends, or family, their nearness fills a deep craving and brings satisfaction through that companionship.
How many of us after long separation have spent hours talking and “catching up” or enjoyed activities together? In the case of illness or injury, the presence of someone sitting quietly close by can bring a sense of security or well-being. Words are not always necessary. What a gift one’s positive presence can be!
In the same way, God’s presence with us is a great gift. In all of life’s challenges, sorrows, and celebrations God is with us. His presence is strong, steady, and eternal even when our pain or busy thoughts and activities are unable to perceive Him.
The psalmist praised God and thanked Him for being with him.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. *
As David fled enemies and faced impossible odds, he was fearful, angry, and sometimes depressed. Where was God during all of this?! Later, there was guilt too, as he faced his own failures and wrong doings. When the prophet Nathan came to David after David wrongly took Bathsheba, David expressed his great need and desire for God’s presence. He pled with God, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” *
While I so greatly need my personal time alone to process and rest, the presence of others is greatly appreciated too. Throughout my life, I have welcomed the comfort, companionship, and support of my family and friends. What a gift it is to know that there are others praying for me and to have good positive relationships with people who accept me for who I am and with whom we can join in our journey to grow closer to God.
How humbling and awesome that God’s presence came to be with us, giving us the ultimate example and filling that need. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). *
I pray that we may take comfort and strength from Him and faithfully reach out to others, even as they offer their own presence in times of need and times of celebration.
I lifted my nose appreciatively as the scent of apples wafted through the house, creating images of years gone by. It was the season for apples, one I always looked forward to. In the town where I grew up, we had one large old apple tree and several smaller ones in our backyard. They were the best red apples anywhere! I still remember their sweet crisp taste, although the trees are now long gone.
Gathering and preparing those apples was a family affair. We separated the older apples that the bees, birds, and other insects were enjoying and brought the others in to wash and pare, setting some aside for eating as they were. A lot of preparation went into canning the applesauce, sliced apples, apple butter, and apple jelly, not to mention apple pie, cake, or other goodies. Preparing ahead of time made the work go easier and the results were appreciated during the months ahead.
Preparation is a part of life. Sometimes we are called to prepare things in advance of events, like setting the table for a meal or arranging items for a program. I remember the story of John the Baptist, as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.” * John’s words got the people who heard them ready to receive the words of Jesus.
While I have learned to “go with the flow” when needed and have enjoyed occasional spontaneous activities, preparation is important for daily routines as well as long-term future needs, goals, or hopes. It reminds me of the movie trailers released as previews to upcoming shows. Haven’t we all at some time, upon seeing a preview or hearing of the anticipated release date, said, “Oh, I’d like to see that!” The movie previews put the word out that something good is coming that we just don’t want to miss!
How can we prepare ourselves to receive the words God has for us? It has been easy in times past to let my good intentions slide away or my quiet time with God to be relegated to a quick, sometimes desperate, “Oh God, please help me today” as I rush out the door. I don’t want to miss the good things coming or the encouragement offered in a mad rush to the next thing.
Like those apple gathering seasons, to receive the full benefit and goodness God has in store for me I have to prepare to receive Him. Times for quiet, for worship, for study, for listening, for fellowship, for obedience, or for action must be intentional. Discovering what these are for us and making them a priority is part of the preparation.
I hope that we can pause to ask ourselves regularly, “How am I preparing to receive God and the blessings, love, guidance, and support He has for me each day?”