daily devotional

I once heard it said that we each of us have a God-sized hole only he can fill. We are designed to crave and need our Creator. We thrive in relationship with him. But, how do you have a relationship with someone you can’t see? Someone whose voice you can’t hear? Someone whose ways are a mystery. How exactly do you get connected with God?

I have a connection with the Almighty. I have a direct line with him. He speaks to me every morning and I feel his undeniable guidance. When I sit down to write, I form it as an email on my laptop. When I click on that “new message” button and the completely blank page appears, I get excited to see what God is going to share with me. Our connection is that literal. Our relationship is that deep.

But let me tell you, it wasn’t always that way. I grew up not knowing God. I didn’t know scripture, or even the basic Bible stories. My first memory of going to church was at 15 years old and the toddlers were invited to perform on stage with little instruments. They sang a song that said “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” I remember thinking I was too late. I’m no longer a little child and I’ve missed out on Jesus’ love.

Maybe you’ve always felt out on the outskirts of His love. Like you showed up late and missed the offering of a relationship. You’re looking in from the outside, wondering how in the world you get invited into the inner circle with Jesus. You’re not alone. Many others feel the same.

Last week I received a Facebook message from Bridget. She asked me how she could have the loving relationship I have with our Heavenly Father. How I could pray and know he is answering my specific prayers. I’ve never really considered “how” that happened, so I pondered on it the entire day. How did I go from the outsider who felt too late, to the girl who sits with Jesus every morning and hears from him through her fingers as she formats a devotional as an email?

How have I gone from just receiving information by reading the Bible, to intimacy with my Creator?

I have a one word answer. One word can tell you exactly how I stepped myself into the inner circle of God’s kingdom and boldly claim my position as his beloved girl in a real relationship. One word … here it is … GRATITUDE.

My journey has been fueled by gratitude. Gratitude has transformed my life, changed my perspective, and created a loving intimacy with God where I can say he is soooooooo sweet. He hears my every prayer. He moves on my behalf. His eye is always on me. He considers his good plans for me personally in his ultimate will. He loves me purely as his daughter and chooses me over and over again. He rescues me continually and sets me back on the right path. Oh yes, I have a relationship with the Almighty God, and it has been fueled by gratitude.

Gratitude has PROVEN his love for me every day. I have photo documentation of his direct and personal love for me. I can show you.

12 years ago this week, I began a practice of taking a daily gratitude photo. I intentionally searched each and every day for a moment that I most wanted to remember with deep gratitude, and I took a photo of it. Now this was before the day of smart phones with high tech cameras. It required me to literally carry around my camera with me. I didn’t carry a phone, but I carried my camera. Everywhere I went I had my blue, waterproof Olympus camera, as I was continually on the search for a moment to be deeply grateful for. I learned to not stop the moment and pose it perfectly, but instead capture the moment as it was happening and allow myself to feel immense gratitude for it.

Every day of my life since July 1, 2009 has been documented with a single gratitude photo. I’ve never missed a day. This means, every single day, even on the hardest days where life fell apart and tragedy hit our family, I found gratitude. And that gratitude is what led me to my deep relationship with God.

I’m always on the hunt for God’s blessings. I’m continually searching for his favor in the simplest moments. I look for his beauty. I find his fingerprints on the unfoldings of a normal day of life. And in a moment of taking that photo, I allow immense gratitude to carry me away, and I’m completely swept up. Swept up in his love. Swept up in his attention to detail. Swept up in his intimate involvement in my life.

Gratitude is the foundation of my intimate relationship with God. I seek all that is good, all that is right, all that is lovely, all that is admirable, and when I find it, I dwell in it for a moment. I don’t rush on by it. I capture it. Literally capture it, with a photo, and I am so deeply grateful.

Now, could this be easier for me because I’m one of those overly optimistic, glass perpetually ‘half-full’ find of people? I tested this theory on my husband because we have proven opposites do in fact attract. He is my opposite. While my mind immediately jumps to all that is right, his mind never leaves the land of what could go wrong. But this man too has an intimate relationship with God. A beautiful and undeniable connection that has grown over the years. What is the foundation for his relationship?

Gratitude. Yes, he too feels immense gratitude, it’s just colored different than mine. He is continually on the hunt for all that could be wrong, but it isn’t. He’s searching for how it could fall apart, and maybe even should fall apart, but somehow it’s being all held together. He’s looking for how it could always be worse. And he sees a loving, intimately involved, good, good Father who graciously keeps it from being worse, and he is grateful.

Psalm 23:6 in the MSG translation says “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.”

His love and beauty catch me with gratitude in all that is good and right, beautiful and perfect. His love and beauty catch my husband with gratitude over all that could be wrong, all that could be worse, but by the grace of God isn’t. God is chasing after you with his beauty and love. He wants to catch you and pull you in for a relationship with you. A real connection.

Has he caught you?

When we dwell on feelings of pain and hurt and thoughts of darkness, they pull us away from the light that is Jesus. When we turn ourselves in gratitude, we are pulled straight into the light and find intimacy.

Intimacy. It’s not found in information alone. It’s a relationship. Relationships have to be sought out. Real, in-person, deep kinda stuff, not book knowledge.

I’ve been pondering this revelation since receiving that Facebook message from Bridget. I wanted to answer her question on how exactly I have this crazy beautiful, real relationship with our Heavenly Father. Then this morning while braiding my hair into adventure braids and gluing on my luscious eyelashes (because I’m a balanced woman … I’m fun and adventurous, while classy and glamorous at the same time) I heard my favorite girl Lisa Harper talking on this week’s Elevation Church podcast. Oh, I love that woman’s witty way with words. She makes me want to run after Jesus with her in leather pants. But in the crazy way God works in the details that blow my mind, she literally said, “we’re desperate for intimacy, not just information.”

Reading your Bible is great. Yes, you should start there. But at some point you’ve gone as far as you can go because that’s just information. As a 19 year old stroke survivor, I decided I wanted to know this God who had saved my life. I wanted to know his stories and memorize his words. So I bought a green hard back Bible in The Message translation and I just started reading God’s word like the love story it was intended to be. I read and highlighted, I wrote in every margin, and I grew in knowledge of his word.

But it was a daily act of intentional gratitude that has brought me to an intimate relationship with my creator. It’s allowing his beauty and love that chases me to actually CATCH ME and continually bring me back to his arms.

If you’re seeking a relationship and you don’t know what that looks like, maybe start with gratitude. If you’re positively wired like me with the glass half-full, then look for all that is good and right and breathtakingly beautiful, and be grateful for it … that is God.

If you’re more like my husband and naturally a bit more pessimistic or realistic, then look for how it could have gone wrong, but it didn’t. Look for how it could be worse, but it isn’t, and be grateful for it … that is God.

Gratitude will lead you to the throne. At the throne you will find an intimate relationship with the Almighty where he welcomes you into the inner circle, and you can live the rest of your life on the inside. And that God-sized hole you were created with will be filled and you will no longer feel that emptiness. You will be complete in a relationship you’ve always craved and needed.