The attitude of difference

Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here … If you don’t recognize those leading words to an old hymn, don’t worry.  It was written in 1865 by Karolina Sandell-Berg – ancient history, but read the words again. The next line continues “Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment; I’ve not cause for worry or for fear.”  Have you watched the news lately? Opened your mailbox overflowing with countless charities, all worthy of your benevolence, imploring you to ‘Please give’? We live in the land of plenty, in communities we consider safe, there are med stations, hospitals and doctors scattered across the country, yet the pipeline of need surges on.

Because I’ve worked all day for many years, I’ve been spared the daily phone calls from organizations asking for donations, it’s easy to ignore mail from unknown senders, but not so easy to push aside requests from agencies whose ideals I share.  Maybe it’s that time of year when fund drives are at peak, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve actually watched the news more, maybe taking this sabbatical from work has given my human mind time to wander away from how to write the best procedures or express an innovative idea.

I’m suddenly fully aware of the incidents of road rage, devastating illnesses, senseless accidents caused by speed and alcohol, schools on lock-down while officials check out suspect packages, missing persons whose families are desperate to be reunited with their child or other loved one.  “Day by day and with each passing moment …” how often do I find myself praying for someone affected by situations that are outside our control?

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you are probably asking right now “Who’s writing this? It doesn’t track with the normal tone.” In fact, I’ve hesitated to post this topic because it strays from what I love to write and where is the encouragement?  Stick with me here.

A few weeks before the accident that forced me on this sabbatical, my daily prayer – well, let me be honest – my exhaustive daily begging of God was, “Lord, please change me. I know there are barriers getting in the way of being all you want me to be. I’m at an impasse, God. You have to do something so obvious I can’t miss your message, because right now, I’m struggling to find your will for my life.”  A near death accident is not what I had in mind when I prayed that prayer over and over, day after day.  Be careful what you pray for.  Isaiah 55:9 spells it out pretty succinctly “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This wasn’t what I had in mind, but I’m learning what it means to entrust everything to God’s power and sovereignty.

When I hear a siren, I stop everything and pray for the first responders, the victims who need care, and people who are standing by to tend to them.  The incidents of road rage and gun battles scare me like no other – but my best defense is to pray God’s protection over my family and friends, “Please Lord, protect innocent people from dangers and violence.”  For the homeless and agencies that serve them, for other charitable organizations that will fail without monetary support, I read their newsletters and pray for discernment in making wise choices.  I wonder how Jesus would handle these incalculable numbers of requests. There’s a little insight in Matthew 9:36 “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Even 2000 years ago, there were more needs than workers to supply them.

I’ve always claimed that I wasn’t given the worry gene.  If you haven’t read Psalm 139 for a while, you might want to take a few minutes and give it a glance.  It starts out “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” Those are powerful words!  Then along about verse 13 it recognizes “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  I believe my penchant for seeking the silver lining and pushing worry down the elevator shaft are gifts formed in the womb.  I could be wrong, about that.  But here’s one thing I’m not wrong about. I decide every moment of every day what my attitude will be in every circumstance.  When negativity and fear creep in I remember where those feelings come from.  Here, let me help you discover the source too.  1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  You can’t get clearer than that! If a lion is looking for you RUN!  How much better to run toward the light and seek shelter in commitment to God.  2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Fear, sadness, anger, sickness, greed, selfishness, pride – all byproducts of a fallen world.  But there is hope.  Do you remember the song from a few years back “Let peace begin with me.”  As it turns out Psalm 139:24 shares a similar thought. “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  I’m just one person and there is very little I can do to change anything, but I can pray and I can guard my attitude and I can make a difference – however small the scale.  We don’t hear much about Hezekiah in the Bible. I have to think he also operated from a small scale platform, but these verses impressed me.  2 Chronicles 30:18-20 “Hezekiah prayed for his people, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone  who sets their heart on seeking God— even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”  Day by day and with each passing moment … Trusting in my Father’s sovereignty… I can live above fear.

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