As part of my life’s routine, I begin my day with a view from the balcony. Recently I found myself gazing out into what appeared to be a sea of fog. It was a chilly December morning and as it so happens on occasion, what had been hovering over the Pacific Ocean’s coast during the night, I resolved, had slowly crept its way into the valley below.
My head rested on the cool windowpane when suddenly I began to meditate on two separate ongoing conversations that I had been having with two beloved and treasured friends. Our relationships are deep, and one spans a lifetime. Both have been and are suffering and struggling more often than not. Once the can opens for one issue the old broken heartaches come to the surface and what should be a single issue becomes a train of failures in the rearview mirror that add to their frustrations. No doubt they’ve legitimate reasons – completely valid and understandable. Both are believers, followers of Christ, disciples even! Both know God’s Word and can quote Scripture and identify countless promises that God has given to them. And they cling to them in rote repetition in hopes that if they say it enough, clench their eyes tight enough, grit through the pain enough until they get to the other side of unhappy surrender, that it will be enough to tide them over until the next fearful event. Both understand the importance of falling in line, taking up their cross so to speak, and denying themselves. They pray for God’s will in their lives, yet somehow or another there’s no joy in the journey. They are exhausted. I whispered, ‘What can I say, Lord? What can I do for them?’
That was the theme of my momentary meditation. ‘Why can’t they be joyful? What is clogging up their peace, their relaxed mental attitudes? Why can’t they have an abundant life? Why can’t they experience the sweet resolve? You promised, Lord. You promised.’ I felt a few tears trickle down my cheeks.
I walked away with that thought and it hadn’t left me until just two things happened. The first one came with a decision to call my dad. I love all things about my dad. Everybody and anybody that knows me knows that. At this stage in life I’m adding another thing to the list; he’s 96 and I can call him, and he is always there with complete clarity of mind. Not only that – we have conversations that continue to inspire, encourage, educate, enlighten, and guide. I know. I’m blessed. Believe me, I know.
Hoping to find a passage or an illustration that would speak directly to this issue he surprised me with this very simple and practical answer. “Honey, there are over 7,000 promises from God to us. Pick one and by faith believe it. Just believe it. It’s that simple.” I softly gasped. “Let me give you just one. Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am you God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” You by faith either believe that, or you don’t.” There was a short pause and I responded, “That’s the key, isn’t it dad? It’s remembering and believing. It’s faith. You can know it all you want, but until you show up with simple faith that God sees you, knows you, can take anything thing in your life, anywhere, anytime, any failures, any fears, any frustrations and still do what He says He will do – it takes faith to believe that He will.” “Yep. And faith is the only thing that pleases God!” All this trouble is nothing more than opportunities.
I surmised – we are responsible to believe. God can’t do that for us. It’s our job. Choose to believe. Take all that knowledge and by faith believe it and put it into action in your life. There’s that old phrase lifted from the pages of daddy’s notes, “Knowing what to do must be translated into doing what you know.”
Well, that’s one thing.
But there still seemed to be something missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. So our conversation was stored in a sweet and sacred place and I went about life. And then, this happened. It was trash day. I had an elderly widow that lived next door. Every week I made sure to go into her garage and tend to the trash cans for her. I’d been going back and forth with this routine for several years and yet it was this latest trip that I noticed a piece of paper thumbtacked to the wall. In bold letters, the headline read Attitude. Oh, surely this warranted my pause. On closer inspection, “by Charles Swindoll,” one of my favorite authors! “Oh, this is going to be good” I said aloud to no one.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past than education, money, circumstances, failures, and successes than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our attitudes.”
There’s a decorative concrete bench that snuggly sits in the small garden of our front yard. I took a moment to enjoy the peacefulness of the quiet place before returning to the chores of the day and contemplate the poignant words of Charles Swindoll. They began to weave themselves into that conversation I had with my dad and suddenly I came to understand the importance that is placed upon all of us to remember just two things: Faith and Attitude. Just two things that can keep us from joy. Just two things; faith and attitude.