Devotion is hard work

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Colossians  4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

Devotion is not something that comes easily to me.   

The definition of devote is “to give all or most of one’s time or resources to a person or activity.  

I see devotion as discipline which is driven by deep desire or moral calling.

I find for myself, that I can be deeply moved and desire to be devoted, but I find the daily grind of choosing to show up and then actually showing up requires great self-discipline and persistence.  I would love to get up early each morning and pray, but showing up every morning and actually praying takes way more self-discipline and persistence that I imagined.

Human nature seems to naturally take the path of least resistance.  I try to remind myself that nothing great has ever been accomplished by being mediocre. 

That it is actually in the mundane of choosing to show up daily, when the greatness happens;

When the breakthroughs happen;

When overcoming bad habits happen;

It is here when the change happens.

We do not one day wake up having achieved our goals.  If anything, we wake up and realize that we have done nothing to achieve the goals we desire and have wasted so much time on a course of least resistance.

It is my desire to be woman of faith, who wholeheartedly seeks God, and who is known for devotion to her God.  But the world’s pull is a strong one.  It pulls my heart, it pulls my thoughts, it pulls my time, it pulls me.  I really believe this is why Paul says, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”  Paul knew the pull of the world was strong.  We have to make a stand, we have to deliberately walk again popular culture and choose devotion to God and prayer.

And we have to choose an alert mind.  This means being quick to notice any unusual and potentially dangerous or difficult circumstances; vigilant.  I have written about this before, but it still amazes me.  I have found this in myself, I can be pursuing the right course, and before I realize, I have completely lost focus and wondered off the path I was pursuing.  Being ALERT is incredibly important if we are choosing to live a life of Godly integrity.  The devil is our enemy, and he would love us to fail, and will use the most innocent looking bait to achieve that. Be alert!

And the last part of this very short verse is….a thankful heart.  Do not underestimate the power of gratitude.  It has the power to completely change your heart, your outlook and your perspective.  Gratitude is being thankful, showing appreciation and returning kindness.  I make this a regular practice in my life, especially if I am noticing myself grumbling or becoming bitter.  I stop, take a moment and thank God for 5 good things in my life. 

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I suffer from back pain, and there are days I am hurting and bitter.  These are the moments I must realign.  I choose to thank God for the health I do have.  I thank Him that I can still lead an active life.  I am grateful that my longstanding injury is not worse for it sure could be.  I thank God for resources that help me with my back pain. Gratitude changes bitterness to joy; it changes hopeless to hopeful; it changes sour to sweet.  Gratitude does not make us unrealistic or unaware of reality, instead it allows us to find peace and be fully present and aware in our current reality.

Today, I challenge you and myself to devote yourself to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

The struggle with contentment

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Over a year ago I was having a conversation with a friend while we were walking.  We were talking about a certain fashion label and how much we loved their jackets.  Our conversation ended up with us both admitting that no matter how much we had, we always want more.  We were talking about wanting more stuff. New furniture, designer hand bags, new clothes, etc.

This candid conversation has always stayed with me.  It exposed a part of my heart.  An insatiable desire for more. I am incredibly blessed; I have more than most.  And yet, I find my heart wandering into discontentment and a desire for more.

Allowing my heart to be discontent is a dangerous thing, because where does it end?

Discontent with my appearance?

Discontent with my stuff?

Discontent with friendships? 

How about discontent with my marriage? 

It is easy to recognize the danger when you are looking at it from a removed situation.  The problem is not my things, the problem is my heart.

After the conversation with my friend, I did some soul searching.  I most certainly did not want to become a woman who always needed more.  I recognized that my life was great and that what I had to work on was choosing to be content and see that what I have is great; and not allow my heart to always see what I want or think I should have.    

How do I combat my moments of discontentment? I purposefully and intentionally thank my God daily for all that I have.  I choose to see the blessings that I have, and not the things that I do not have.  I choose to see the good in my life and have a heart of gratitude to my God.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Philippians 4:6,7.

I have come to realize that this instruction is in the Bible because it is so easy to be discontent; to default to a heart that is selfish and greedy instead of thankful and grateful.   We must seek our God with a heart of gratitude for all the good if we are to overcome our discontentment.   This is an action that takes intention, work and practice.

“…for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything, I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13.

You have a choice to make. You can choose to want more. Or you can choose to take a step back and see all the blessings in your life.

Try it. Right now I want you to list 10 things you are grateful for. Thank God for each of those 10 things. And each time you catch yourself with a heart of discontentment, make a choice to replace it with 5 things you are grateful for. Do that each time. And slowly that heart of discontentment starts to change to that of gratitude. And I promise, you will be much more pleasant to be around when you choose to see the good in your life.

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