How Do You Express Gratitude?

Jodie StevensI recently posted the question on Facebook: How do you express gratitude? Some people said hugs and cards. For others, it was through prayers and acts of service. And for many people expressing gratitude simply meant maintaining a good attitude regardless of their circumstances. No matter how you express it, it’s important that you do.

Grateful people are happier, healthier and friendlier. In addition, they are less self-centered, materialistic, and envious. Grateful people usually live longer, love better, and are more successful in their careers. I’m thankful for gratitude because choosing it over bitterness radically altered my own life.

Thanking God through my difficulties opened my heart to accept valuable lessons and to be teachable instead of resentful. Gratitude quieted my anger and calmed my fears, which made room for my self-esteem to heal. Its’ therapeutic power to transform my negative emotions was instrumental in keeping me sober.

God planted a seed of gratitude in my heart the day I invited Him into my life. Day by day it grows inside me and engulfs the bitter root that preceded it. I’m thankful for the lifesaving gift of gratitude and the knowledge, love and friendship of the One who gave it.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

The Cost Of Doing What Is Right

Jodie StevensIn one of his radio broadcasts Dr. David Jeremiah said: “It’s safer in the storm with Jesus in the boat than it is on the shore without Him.”

The problem is it doesn’t feel safe in the storm. I’m always tempted to take the easy way out when my circumstances become difficult. Often times I want to keep quiet instead of speaking up to avoid disagreement. It’s easier to let lies and gossip persist than it is to defend myself and face the conflict that follows. And compromise seems better than standing firm because there is less pressure and disappointment from others. Sometimes I manipulate myself into believing it’s the Christian thing to do.

The trouble is that in the bible I see that Jesus stirred things up everywhere He went. In fact, his words and actions made people so angry they killed Him. And in John 15:18 He said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

I’m amazed when people say Christianity is for the weak minded. Nothing in my life has been more difficult than doing what is right. Nothing. And when you do the right thing people will make fun of you. I know because I used to make fun of people like me all the time. You will also face conflict and adversity, often times these will come from other so called Christians. It’s the cost of staying ‘in the boat’ with Jesus. But the good news is that God is in the boat too and He’ll have your back in the long run.

Dr. Jeremiah goes on to say: “Sometimes the training for greatness is the ability to refrain from bitterness when you are not rewarded promptly for righteousness.”

And it’s most likely ‘in the storm’ that we will learn to navigate through what He has planned for us next. If we swim to the shore where it is safe we will miss that plan.

Yes Jesus stayed in the boat and He rocked the boat. But He also calmed the wind and the waves and walked on the water. It really is the safest place to be.

Jodie Stevens

Advice From The One Who Had It All

Jodie StevensIt’s been said that King Solomon was one of the wisest men who ever lived. In addition to wisdom, he had everything anyone could have wanted, and yet he is credited for writing Ecclesiastes, which is probably the most depressing book in the bible (and one of my personal favorites.)

In it we are told that everything is meaningless and the pursuit of it is like ‘chasing the wind.’

Why is our quest for money, status, and material possessions so senseless? Why do we have this constant nagging for something more, something new, something shiny, or something different than the thing we had before?

It’s because God has “planted eternity in the human heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

That God shaped hole was put inside us by our creator to draw us closer to Him. No amount of alcohol, drugs, money, or relationships will fill it. I’m not even sure God Himself can quench it while we are still living ‘under the sun.’

But I do know that for every believer it will be filled when we come face to face with “the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” (1 John 2:25)

So in the meantime what are we to do? How are we to live with this restless spirit inside us that keeps us wanting more of what we know will not satisfy?

In the end, King Solomon; king of Israel and the richest man of his time concluded with this:

“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Jodie Stevens

How Big Is Your Faith?

IMG_0048When we were in Israel we sailed across the Lake of Galilee. It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining through the clouds creating heavenly beams of light that illuminated the water. I couldn’t believe I was in the same place where Jesus calmed the wind and waves. Perhaps we were even sailing over the same area where He walked on the water.

Initially, the thought of taking a trip to a place so far away frightened me. Even though Jesus walked on water, I was sure our plane would sink after it crashed into the Atlantic. If that didn’t get me, I figured Ebola or a terrorist attack would. I was like Peter in the famous water-walking story, full of faith when there was no adversity.

“Lord, if it’s you,” said Peter, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” said Jesus.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said. “Why did you doubt?”

Perhaps Jesus was trying to illustrate what we would later read in James 1:6…“the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

If your faith isn’t stronger than the environment around you, it will take you down with it.
That ‘wind’ that distracted Peter and caused him to sink could be any number of difficult or fearful circumstances in your life making you doubt God’s goodness.

I witnessed His goodness everywhere in Israel and came back stronger in my faith, but I almost let fear stop me from going.

Put your faith in God who is eternal. The ‘wind and the waves’ are only temporary and they will pass.

Jodie Stevens

Am I Rich?

Jodie StevensI never realize how much stuff I have until it’s time to move it all. What used to fit in the back of my pickup now requires a moving truck the size of a semi. Sometimes my stuff seems almost as essential as food and water. I surround myself with it, I comfort myself with it, and it’s painful to imagine life without it. It’s my stuff. As I’m pondering how I should organize all of it, I recall the story in Matthew where the rich man asks Jesus what he is still lacking to inherit eternal life.

Jesus answers, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19:21-22)

In this passage Jesus is addressing this man’s weakness. His wealth is the one thing getting in the way of his relationship with God and Jesus knew it. If Jesus was standing in front of you now and you asked “what do I lack,” do you know what He would say? What is the one thing He would ask you to give up?

Maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship, and addiction to a substance, a job that defines you, or maybe it is your stuff.

When I was a little girl I was attached to a little stuffed dog I named Creampuff. One day I left him at McDonald’s and I never went back to get him. The sweater I had to have when I was 14 is probably at a goodwill store if time hasn’t disintegrated it altogether. The red truck I worshipped (that used to fit all my stuff) is in pieces at a wrecking yard somewhere.

Relationships that were so hard to give up have ended, jobs that defined me have come and gone, and I’ve managed to give up addictions I thought I could never overcome. And I know there is more I need to let go of that I just can’t face yet.

Jodie Stevens

Why I Believed My Feelings Didn’t Matter

Jodie StevensFor most of my life I was unable to identify my feelings. The times I did know what I was feeling, I didn’t know why.

Therapists, pastors, or friends would say things like: “…and how does that make you feel.” I would stare back blankly for several minutes and finally say: “I don’t know.” It never occurred to me not knowing how I felt was out of the ordinary. The belief that my feelings were insignificant was buried so deep inside me I didn’t even believe I believed it. To acknowledge I believed it would have given validity to feelings I unconsciously believed were unimportant (confusing, I know).

Maybe you experienced deep wounds as a child and your pain wasn’t recognized or validated. Perhaps you were told your feelings were wrong. Or maybe an adult figure projected their pain onto you and you internalized it along with the impression that your feelings were irrelevant.

At some point you stopped expressing your negative feelings altogether. You never consciously told yourself your feelings were meaningless since the belief of their insignificance was established long before you were old enough to process it. When you got older it became easy to let others make decisions for you because their feelings were more important than yours (by way of the fact they actually had them and they knew what they were).

If this is the case then how in the world do you get in touch with your own feelings? I don’t have a definitive answer because I’m not a psychologist or a theologian. However, here are a few suggestions I’m incorporating into my own life:

Pray and ask God to reveal your feelings to you, stop internalizing everyone else’s feelings so you can make some room for your own, and try to establish “where you end and someone else begins.” (Dr. Henry Cloud)

Jodie Stevens

When Fear Steals Your Joy

Jodie StevensMy mother’s piercing cries jolted me awake that fateful morning in 1977. A day of skiing turned tragic for my aunt and uncle the previous evening when they lost control of their car in a snowstorm on Emerald Bay Road in South Lake Tahoe.

Their bodies were pulled from the bottom of the cliff sometime during the night. Ben lived for an hour on life support but Debbie was killed instantly. She was only 22 years old and had already survived a battle with leukemia.

I was too young to understand the significance of him taking her hand despite her illness or to know the joy she must have felt watching my little hands scatter flower petals across the aisle at their wedding earlier that year.

That morning I lay frozen in my bed praying my mother’s screams were really laughter and I was just confused.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been startled awake like that, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Today I’m 42 years old and I still panic near cliffs, on turbulent airplanes, and any other time I feel a loss of control.

In his book “What Are You Afraid Of” Dr. David Jeremiah writes:

“When our pain leads us to see God as uninvolved in calamity, powerless to control it, or defeated by it, we saw off the limb that supports us and we plunge into fear. This leaves us without hope, for an all-powerful God is our only solace in tragic times.”

I became my only support system. Trying to ‘manage’ life’s ever-changing variables caused anxiety, self-doubt, and panic attacks. I sought comfort in alcohol, food, drugs, and anything else I could find to relieve the constant anxiety.

Real peace came when I accepted Christ and He taught me to internalize this simple yet powerful message from the Big Book of AA:

“. . . and acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.”

What are you holding on to that’s robbing you of peace today?

Jodie Stevens