birthday party

Oh, the memories!
I had driven eight hours that day, a round-trip delivery of Grandma back home.
She had given birth just five days earlier to the little man in my arms and had a not-quite-two-year old at home as well.
(She has an amazing husband who is incredibly helpful, but there are some things only Mama can do.)

So we were both exhausted.
Her even more than me.
But it was my birthday that day so she surprised me with a mini-party, thrown in my honor.
And we had a blast. And this photo is a precious memory.
Because we both chose for it to be that way.

Life is all about choosing.
Choosing your thoughts.
Choosing your response to your emotions.
Choosing your attitude.
Choosing your actions.

So often, I am tempted to allow my emotions to run my attitude, which in turn runs my actions.
Or, if not my emotions, my physical circumstances.

I am sad. So I focus my thoughts on how bad everything is. And then I start complaining about everything.
I am hungry. So then I get frustrated. And I snap at a friend.
I am lonely. So then I throw a pity-party. And I turn to chocolate to sooth my soul.
And so on. And so forth.

But it is all about choosing.
Choosing to be thankful. In ALL things.
Choosing to control my emotions rather than them controlling me.
Choosing to respond in love, with gentle answers, no matter what was said to me.
Choosing to believe the best, and not the worst, about the person who crosses my path (even when that person is a stranger driving another car – or worse yet, a family member “who should know better”.)

One of my all-time favorite stories in the life of Jesus is in Matthew 14. It starts like this:
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.”

What had Jesus heard? It was the news that his cousin, the one who had been foretold by the prophets to prepare the way for him, had been slaughtered by King Herod. John the Baptizer had been in prison for a while for speaking the truth to Herod – that he was wrong to kill off his brother in order to marry his brother’s wife. But John’s prison term had ended when, driven by lust, King Herod made a rash promise to his stepdaughter to give her anything she asked for – and she asked for John’s head on a platter. Which she was given.

That was the news Jesus heard.
And his response?
So completely and utterly understandable. “…He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
He wanted time alone. Time to pray. Time to mourn. Time to be with his Father.
But he did not get what he wanted.
Instead, he got a massive crowd. A crowd that followed him out to the middle of nowhere.
And here, Jesus had a choice.
He could have sent them all away.
He could have raged at them, saying, “Can’t you people see I am upset here?”
He could have ignored them. He could have run from them.

But he did none of those things.
Instead, he chose love.
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (vs. 14)

In fact, he spent the entire day with them, ministering to them. It finally got to be so late in the day that the people were hungry. The ever-practical disciples came to Jesus and said essentially, “Hey, Lord, um, we’re out here in the middle of nowhere and it’s getting kind of late. You need to tell these people to head back to the villages so they can eat!”

But then Jesus once again chose.
He chose to allow these circumstances to bring an incredible teaching to his disciples about Who he was and how he could provide.
He chose to bless the people once more – all 5,000 men, plus women and children.

He responded to the disciples, “They do not need to go away. You feed them”.

And the rest, as they say, is history.
They brought Jesus a boy’s lunch.
And Jesus thanked God for it. And broke it. And gave it to the people.
And it just kept coming.
Until thousands were fed.
And there were 12 baskets of leftovers.

All this from a man who was grieving.
A man who was weary.
A man who just wanted to be alone.

But a man who was also God. And a man who knew the power of choosing.
He chose to bless the people.
He chose to heal them.
He chose to give away more than he humanly had, knowing that God would multiply and provide the increase.

And, by the way, after everyone was fed, much later that evening, he finally got his time alone with his Father. He sent the disciples on across the lake while he headed up the mountain.
And while he was praying, a vicious storm broke out on the lake, terrifying the disciples. But that is a story for another day.

But the fact is, Jesus chose.
And not just that day.
But every day.
He chose to do the will of God.
He chose to serve instead of being served.
He chose to love instead of hate.
And eventually he chose the cross instead of being rescued by legions of angels.

Paul put it this way in his letter to the church at Philippi (which is also his letter to you and me): “Have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2)

In other words, choose.

You cannot choose what others do or say.
And you cannot choose your emotions.
But you can choose your reactions.
And your attitudes.
And your actions.

And the best part? The same power that multiplied the loaves and fishes is at work in you. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead have given you everything you need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1) You have the power inside of you, not from who you are, but from WHOSE you are.
So you are able to choose.
And so am I.

Because life is a choice.
So what will you choose?


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