Why giving thanks is not optional…

Throughout scripture we are commanded to approach God with gratitude and thanksgiving, and given so many reminders of his goodness. Here is one from Ps 100.

Psalm 100:4New International Version (NIV)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.

Have you ever stopped and asked why? What does thanksgiving do for a person? Psychologists tell us that gratitude is an incredibly healthy emotion, but why does it seem so hard to maintain? I have learned that gratitude and discontent do not coexist well. One will cancel the other out. While mere mortals, like you and I, do not control so much of our own lives, we do control what we choose to think about our lives.

In Philippians 4:4-7, the Apostle Paul (who was in a prison at the time) wrote the following:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (regardless of your circumstances—see above). 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but IN EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There is a connection between choosing gratitude/thanksgiving and experiencing peace. The lack of gratitude only fuels discontent, leaving it difficult to enjoy life. Like dominoes falling, choosing to rejoice (find joy again) in the Lord, which comes from thanksgiving—reminds us that God with with us regardless of circumstances—-which reduces anxiety and fuels our ability to experience the peace of God.

Gratitude is one the best and healthiest habits of the heart. On this “Thanksgiving”, don’t miss the soul filling exercise of expressing thanks to God first, and to those who are a blessing to you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Why do you paint cows?

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At coffee this morning, I had someone ask “why do you paint cows?” For the record I was not involved in 4 H in school, nor did I grow up on a farm or have cows in my backyard. I got started because of my wife, which happens to be the inspiration behind most of the good things in my life. Once our youngest graduated from high school and was successfully transported to Baylor, I thought it would be a good idea for Kim and I to take a short trip to celebrate, rather than return to an empty house.

Our travels took us to Santa Fe, NewMexico, en route to Colorado. While shopping, Kim pointed out a pairing of cows, and said she would like a cow or two (painting that is) for the house. I boldly stated “I could do that”… which led to her buying me some acrylics and an easel—-and my defending my pride with paintbrush in hand. I am glad she did. I find the process of creating art satisfying for a number of reasons. I enjoy the challenge of trying to create on canvas what I envision. Since our God is infinite in his creativity, I like to think that my feeble attempts reflect something of His nature. As I take pleasure in the art I create, it reminds me the recurring statement in the Genesis creation account—where at the conclusion of each day, God declared it good. What a marvelous thought that God delights in us—His creation. To the degree that I open my heart to His, and pursue his purpose for my life…I reflect what He envisioned when He created me. So for now, about all I can manage is a cow or two. That’s why I paint cows.