Lesley (Dahlseng) Rieland

Children's Book Author and Christian Blogger

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Intentional Optimism


Children usually offer a fresh perspective. I had been brushing my youngest daughter’s teeth when out of the blue she asked me: “Mommy, do we have an easy life?”

Life doesn’t always feel easy, but I didn’t want to answer negatively and squash her preciously childlike sense of comfort. On the other hand, I also didn’t want to give her a false impression that life never has its challenges. Sometimes it’s appropriate to just get down to the basics:

“What do you think?” I asked. “Do you ever have to worry whether you have enough food?”
“No.” she answered.
“Do you ever have to sleep out in the cold?”
This question seemed to strike a chord.
“No. I have a nice warm bed . . .”
She wrapped her arms around herself in a warm self-squeeze sort of way, then continued with dreamy appreciation:
” . . . it protects me from frostbite . . . and from tarantulas . . . and from being run over!”

Now, Frostbite I can understand since we are Minnesotans . . . but tarantulas? Being run over? Though these never would have occurred to me, they were obviously an important matter to my then six-year-old daughter, and I could only conclude that she was better off because of it – after all, she had two extra items on her list of thanksgivings than I had considered. She bounced off with renewed joy and contentment in this newfound revelation. Life really is a matter of perspective.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

Life isn’t always easy. Whether it be in our health, our careers, or our relationships, we will have seasons in which joy seems far-off. These are not the times to retreat into our own self-pity, as fun as that may be. And if you’re not dead, then these are not the times to roll over and play as though you are. Rather, these are times for battle. As the enemy tries to gain territory in our thought-life, our choice weapon should be thanksgiving.

Thankfully, God is an optimist. Though He is not ignorant of our shortcomings, His focus is on both our current progress and our potential. Likewise, we need to rein in any negative thoughts and direct them toward anything and everything for which we can give thanks.  Optimism identifies both the present and the potential blessings in our lives.  Optimism is a choice.

I realize that others’ circumstances can be far more trying than most.  And I do not mean to whitewash every situation with a wrong Christian idea that we should remain in a harmful situation, buck up, and give thanks.  If your situation is destructive then please ask God if, when, and how to remove yourself from it.   The prescription does not change even in this, however.  Finding something to be thankful for will give you the strength you need to move forward by nurturing and supporting HOPE.  

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  Similarly, Ephesians 5:20 states, ” . . . always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Again, this is not to say that we should be thankful for everything in and of itself. Gratitude is not intended for anything outside of God’s will. While we may not be thankful for each circumstance, we can choose to be thankful within each circumstance.

After all, sometimes it’s appropriate to just get down to the basics! My daughter was thankful that she had a warm bed which protected her not only from frostbite but also supposedly from tarantulas and being run over. I can be thankful for that and so much more!  Even if all else fails, I still know One who loves me. I know One who listens to me, One who leads me and never leaves me, and One whose joy is for eternity – Jesus Christ.  That’s enough to fill my jar more than half full!

” . . . my cup runneth over . . .” 
(Psalm 23:5)

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The Christian Battle

ArmorChildren always offer a fresh perspective, and it can be especially interesting when hearing their perspective of YOU.  I’ve heard many descriptions of myself from my children.  A couple of my favorites are that I’ve been aged at 100 years old on a kindergarten Mother’s Day questionnaire and I’m supposedly famous, since my picture is on both Facebook and my website.

 Some descriptions I never want to forget.  Some I’d prefer to forget, but should own up to and learn from.  Others just make me laugh.  Take this description of me, for example:

 “You are a woman of war, Mom!”
Me: (?????) Umm . . .huh?
“You are just so strong.”

Had I been in workout gear pumping some serious iron, moving something large like the refrigerator, or coming in from a long run then maybe I could see the correlation.  I was doing nothing of the sort.  It just so happened that I was able to . . . drink cranberry juice.  Yes, that is quite the feat and I’m proud to accept my strong warrior title for it!

I had a good laugh.  At the same time, it revealed a longing within me for that description to be true.  I want to fight for something meaningful.  As a Christian, I want to fight for God’s kingdom.  When Paul calls us “more than conquerors” in Romans 8:37, I yearn for this to be lived out in me.

I admit, my personality is a bit on the aggressive side and this probably lends to me being drawn to the dramatic warfare elements within Scripture.  I love the psalms of David which speak of the destruction of his enemies, of course knowing that it applies now to our spiritual enemies (see Ephesians 6:12).  When I read that Christ has given us authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19 ) and that we shall “trample the great lion and the serpent” (Psalm 91:13), I have to contain myself from stomping around the floor in symbolic declaration.  Maybe I’ve read too many Frank Peretti novels?  

In all seriousness, the spiritual enemy is very real and 1 Peter 5:8 warns that our “adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”   On the other hand, the righteous are equipped not so that we should simply flee to safety, for God has also declared us to be “as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).  The church is meant to have a roar as well.

As exciting as this sounds, in actuality, the majority of our practical warfare is far less dramatic. While our warfare should be within prayer, if many of us are completely honest, it can be a battle simply to pray at all – especially unceasingly, as Paul encourages in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  Though we may war against powers and principalities, our captives must often be our own thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5).  The most important war we’ll wage will be against our own temptations (Galatians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:11, and Romans 7:23) and, ultimately, our fight will be the “good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).  I may have imaginings of leading a cavalry charge against the enemy, but I must remind myself of this: the little things DO matter.  As Jesus claimed, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10) and “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21).

Therefore, I will set my battle to do ALL things – both great and small – as unto the Lord and for His glory (Colossians 3:23, Ephesians 6:7, and 1 Corinthians 10:31).  May my “strong woman of war” title carry far beyond a cranberry juice feat!  As dear as my daughter’s description of me is, I long so much more to hear these words:

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”
(Matthew 25:21)

To view more articles written by Lesley, simply Click Here!