What Does It Mean to be Truly Thankful?


Bible-thankfulness-gratitude

It’s November and bloggers are writing posts about being thankful. Many are wonderful blogs and well worth reading. It is good to be thankful. The Psalms and many other places in the Bible command us to be thankful. Colossians 3:15b (ESV) states, “And be thankful.” But what does it mean to be truly thankful?

A few years ago I posted 101 Things to be Thankful For (November 24, 2016). I’ve been questioning myself to determine if I am truly thankful or is it that things are going well for me so I have nothing to complain about.

I thought I would start by making sure I understand the word. Dictionary.com explains that being thankful is a feeling, or expression of gratitude and it is being appreciative. Merriam-Webster.com tells us that being thankful is being conscious of a benefit received, it is expressive, and it also means well pleased. I turned to a Bible Dictionary and learned that Thanksgiving is an act of worship.[i] So, thankfulness is a state of mind; a matter of the heart. I also think it means to have the proper perspective in life.

It’s easy to feel thankful when surrounded by friends, and food and things are generally going well in life. But are we thankful in the difficult circumstances of life? Some people are struggling with health issues, or the mourning the loss of a loved one. Others are finding it difficult to pay bills, especially at this expensive time of year. Perhaps there are difficult, even toxic, people in our life. There can be many circumstances in life that cause you to feel anxious instead of thankful.

So what can we do to be truly thankful? I think there are several steps.

  • First, deliberately thank God for sending Jesus Christ as your Savior. Thank him for the people in your life and your material blessings. Also thank God for the trials in your life and his protection in the midst of them. Those trials develop your character and mold you into the wonderful person you are.
  • Second, count your blessings. A gratitude journal is one way to do this. I kept a gratitude journal years ago during a difficult season of life. While my circumstances didn’t change, keeping that journal changed me. I was more at peace and accepting of what was happening in my life. And I felt God’s presence daily.
  • Third, accept where you are in life. It takes spiritual maturity to stop thinking about yourself, and be thankful for all the blessings God has given you. God has control of your situation. You are where you are because of his sovereignty. Thank God for his constant presence and protection.
  • Forth, be generous. There are so many people who are less fortunate that we are. Realizing this and sharing helps rise above our circumstances and gain a godly perspective.
  • Finally, recognize that being unthankful is a sin. Romans 1:21 states, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Instead, remember to worship the giver of all good things.

May your hearts be filled with Thanksgiving.

Blessings on your day.

 

Sources:

Scripture: OpenBible.info

Image: Google Images

[i] Holman Concise Bible Dictionary

Advertisements

The Idols in Our Lives


32-goldencalf[1]

The women in my Bible Study recently had a discussion on the Biblical discipline of fasting. Through that conversation I became aware, convicted in fact, that food is an idol in my life. It has been for a long time.

Let me explain. We’re programmed to eat at various times, whether or not we are actually hungry. While food is necessary to sustain life, we think about food a great deal. In the morning the question is, “what do we have for breakfast?” (And don’t even get me started on coffee.) But that’s not enough. We often make dinner plans before we even have breakfast. At work, we look at our clocks wondering what we will have for lunch, and whom we will share the meal with. And there are so many snacks to choose from. We rush home, possibly making a stop at the grocery store first, where we usually buy more things than were on our list. We then rush to prepare a meal. But we have options. We could go out to eat, spending four to ten times the amount that it would cost to cook our own meal. A few hours later we follow that with dessert.

Food is big business.

Our minds revolve around food in some way: when to eat, what to eat, how to pay for what we eat, how good a certain restaurant is, and getting a copy of that really great recipe. Our minds seem to be consumed with food.

Realizing that food was taking up so much brain power, I began to consider the other things that have become idols in my life. I thought I was a good Christian. And I don’t worship idols, or so I thought. So I looked up the definition of an idol.

A simple google search explains that an idol is an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. The Bible is clear on this particular subject. In Exodus 20:3 God tells us, “You shall have no other gods before me” (English Standard Version). There is a footnote in my Bible that adds clarity to this verse. It reads, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” So God wants to be our only god.

We can consider ourselves safe on this matter because we don’t worship images. We don’t put anyone or anything above, or even equal to God.

Or do we?

What about our families, homes, cars, and jobs?

The next definition goes on to explain that an idol is, “a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered.”

Quite possibly I have many idols in my life.

I thought about that for a while and decided we can recognize an idol by looking at our calendars and bank statements. I pondered this for a while and came up with what I think are the top ten idols in our lives and culture, in no particular order.

1. Food
2. Money/status/possessions
3. Work/profession
4. Relationships – family and friends
5. Technology, including computers, internet, phones, and social media
6. Materialism and comfort
7. Self – meaning our ego, image, status, pride, and beauty
8. Entertainment/Escapism
9. Sports
10. Celebrities

Several others could have made the list, but I limited it to what I consider our top idols.

Ezekiel 14 is a passage in which God condemns those who have taken idols in their hearts. Verses 4 and 5 states (The Message Version):

“Therefore tell them, ‘The Message of GOD, the Master: All in Israel who install idols in their hearts and embrace the wickedness that will ruin them and still have the gall to come to a prophet, be on notice: I, GOD, will step in and personally answer them as they come dragging along their mob of idols. I am ready to go to work on the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom have left me for their idols.’ Therefore, say to the house of Israel: ‘GOD, the Master, says, Repent! Turn your backs on your no-god idols. Turn your backs on all your outrageous obscenities.”

Wow.

So the question now becomes, “How do I remove idols from my life?” Reviewing my top ten idols list, there are things on there that we need in order to live. We have to work to get enough money to buy food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. Technology is not necessarily a bad thing, neither is entertainment. And our relationships are very important. These things become idols when we love them more than God.

So that seems to be the answer to the dilemma of idols in my life – to love God even more. Be satisfied with God first, then enjoy the blessings He sends my way.

Consider Philippians 3:8. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

It’s up to me to seek God first; to pursue a more intimate relationship with him. To put Him first. Above all else. As I get closer to God, I pray to lose interest in the things I have held in high regard.

Blessings on your day.

 

“Good is the enemy of “Great”


good-is-the-enemy-of-great

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” – Jim C. Collins

I was reminded of Jim Collins’ quote this week, “Good is the enemy of great.” I was reading the story of Mary and Martha, and was convicted.

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was busy. What she was doing was good. But Mary took advantage of the great thing, sitting at the feet of Jesus while he taught.  There are a lot of good things we need to do, our jobs, household chores, etc. But when we get “busy” and focus on these “good” things, sometimes the more important things suffer, like family time or our spiritual lives. The laundry can wait. People are more important.

I’m guilty of this. I’ve been very busy lately and have neglected family time and intense Bible study. My devotional time has been superficial, because I was distracted with all I was responsible for.

How can we prevent “good” from hindering the “great” in our daily lives? “What is important is seldom urgent,” Dwight D. Eisenhower often said, “and what is urgent is seldom important. The Eisenhower Matrix is one tool we can use to determine what is truly important, and what needs to be delegated or eliminated from our lives. The matrix is a business management tool, but can be used in all areas of our lives. Take a look at the matrix:

matrix

The Matrix is divided into four quadrants to help you determine what is truly important, what can wait, what can be delegated or what or not at all important or useful.

Quadrant 1: Put tasks that are both important and urgent in this box. I include family time and my spiritual growth here.

Quadrant 2: Put important tasks in this box that can wait a while, but don’t put them off too long.

Quadrant 3: Determine what is not important, but urgent, and put those tasks in this box. Often these tasks can be handled by others.

Quadrant 4: Determine what is not important, and not urgent, and put those activities in this box. Perhaps some of these things can be eliminated from your life giving you room for the more important things in your life.

If you are also convicted that what is “great” has been usurped by what is “good” in your life, consider looking at this time management tool.

May your life be filled with what is truly important!

Sources used:

https://www.developgoodhabits.com/eisenhower-matrix/

https://www.biblegateway.com (English Standard Version)

https://images.google.com/

Storms


Powerful-Hurricane-Irma-Slams-Into-Florida.jpeg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

Yesterday was the first day of hurricane season. Now that we live in Florida we pay attention to the tropical depressions, wonder if they will become hurricanes and concern ourselves with where they make landfall. Last year two hurricanes came near our home in Jacksonville. These storms left immense devastation in their paths. The communities hardest hit are still recovering.

Hurricanes are similar to the storms of life. Often they start small and sometimes we don’t pay attention to the warning. Then, when they hit with full force they wreak havoc on our lives, and often on the lives of those we love.

If God loves us why does He allow such storms? The short answer is we live in a fallen world. But if we stop and look at the storms of life perhaps we can find a message in them. Consider these truths:

The storms will come, so prepare and head the warnings.

Mark 13:33

Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.

Know where to seek refuge.

Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

 Remember that God is greater than the storm.

Psalms 147:5

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Believe God will direct you if you will listen.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

God is in control.

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

God will see you through the storm.

Philippians 4:19

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

The storm will end.

Psalm 107:29

He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

 

During the 2017 hurricane season I read and heard about numerous accounts of people helping people. There were rescues, donations of clothes, money, and places to stay. Many people had to start all over in a new community, but they had help to make that transition. God’s grace is often shown through the love his people offer. There will be a new day.

Lamentations 3:22-23

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

 

Dear friends, I don’t know what storm you are facing, or will face, but I do know this, God is in control and will see you through. His purpose will prevail.

Philippians 1:6

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

 

May the Lord richly bless your day.

Sources:        Biblegateway.com (all verses are from the English Standard Version)

                        Google images

 

 

 

Second Chances


 

lam 3 22 23

I’ve been absent from this blog for a long time, and I’ve really missed it. But I had the opportunity to go back to school and finally finish earning my degree. That kept me quite busy, so I put blogging on hold. Now I have graduated and look forward to new doors opening.

God allows for the opportunity to begin again. There are many people in the Bible who had second chances, Peter, Jonah, and David for example. Receiving a second chance to do something is a testament to God’s grace. Lamentations 3:21-23 explains, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

While God provides for new opportunities, I think we tend to resist change because of a fear of the unknown. There’s a saying that goes, “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.” Remember that God is gracious and merciful towards us, and he is faithful. Everyday is a new day and a chance to begin fresh, because his love never ceases. Remember Ecclesiastes 3:1, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

So if you have something you’ve been putting off, consider doing it now. Go back to school. Have that conversation with an estranged loved one. Start the diet and working out. Begin the project. Change jobs. The results will take time, but they are worth it and in the end, God will bless you in a special way.

May the Lord richly bless your day.

Julie

 

 

100 Reasons We Love Mom



Most of us rarely consider the influence and impact our families have on us, and in particular, our Mothers. We start to realize that when we have a child or a loved one becomes ill, or they are gone. Our Mom’s impact us more that we really know (or want to admit). We are who we are largely because of our Moms. (For brothers, moms are critically important, but in a different way, but that’s another story.) My sisters and I decided to come up with a list of all the reasons we love our Mother, things she taught us, and the different ways our Mom has impacted us.  We believe most women will identify with these examples and come up with more for their own Mom.

  1. She gave birth to me.
  2. She is my sister’s mom.
  3. She loves my Dad.
  4. She always took me to church (whether I wanted to go or not).
  5. And Youth Group.
  6. She made sure I had a nice smile (braces).
  7. She made sure the Weddings were “over the top.”
  8. She was there (holding my hands) at the birth of that first grandchild (and      more).
  9. She loves all her grandchildren and treats them all “fairly”.
  10. She loves her son-in-laws
  11. She taught me to cook.
  12. She taught me manners.
  13. She told me to always act and look like a lady, and wear lipstick.
  14. There’s always a couple of dollars in every note/card she sends.
  15. She loved me even when I was a “pain in the butt” and endured my “teenage drama” years.
  16. She’s got great decorating advice.
  17. She always knew the families before I was allowed to play with the kids.
  18. When you really care about something she will also care about it.
  19. She will always tell you that you look very pretty / nice, etc.
  20. She taught me to always write thank you notes.
  21. She thinks I am creative.
  22. She still spoils us at Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.
  23. She taught me to look for a bargain, or buy “on sale”.
  24. She taught us to always take a hot meal to a new neighbor and sick friend.
  25. She taught me how to entertain friends and do it well.
  26. There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal.
  27. It’s ok to have a glass of wine.
  28. She taught me to do laundry, correctly.
  29. She made me change the sheets every week and how to do “hospital”      corners.
  30. She taught me to set a pretty table for holiday meals.
  31. Having a family dinner together (almost) every night is wonderful.
  32. Say Grace.
  33. We always had handmade Easter dresses (they were usually matching).
  34. Our Easter baskets always had a Chocolate Rabbit and at least one toy.
  35. There was always a Hidden treasure in Christmas Stockings.
  36. Always save room for dessert.
  37. Fresh bread is always the best.
  38. A little prayer sure helps.
  39. Spoil your dog.
  40. She’ll send you a postcard when she goes on vacation.
  41. Wash your hands before you eat.
  42. Eat breakfast every day.
  43. Shopping is a sport.
  44. She told us to play nice with the other kids.
  45. Always told me to be nice person (period).
  46. She gave us piano & flute lessons
  47. Swimming and gymnastics lessons too.
  48. Shoes don’t have to match your purse.
  49. Wear clean underwear.
  50. You can do almost anything with a hot-glue gun.
  51. Brush and floss your teeth.
  52. Always take a jacket, and often an umbrella too.
  53. She never forgets a birthday/anniversary or other holiday.
  54. Took me to see grandparents quite often – the trip was across country.
  55. She told me to always keep a few dollars in my pocket for emergencies.
  56. She’s proud of us no matter what.
  57. Be sure to send Christmas cards.
  58. You can never have too many photos.
  59. She always made me try new foods, and made me eat my veggies.
  60. Have a hobby.
  61. Look for the good in everything and everyone.
  62. She passed down Grandma & Great Grandma keepsakes.
  63. She taught me to darn a sock and sew on a button.
  64. She taught me to share, especially ice cream cones and M & Ms.
  65. She always found ways to surprise us.
  66. A sack lunch is great.
  67. Always make the time to have lunch with friends.
  68. We always got a little gift when she returned from trips.
  69. Carry 2 pens, someone might need to borrow one.
  70. Carry lots of Kleenex, someone will need one.
  71. She cooked over an open campfire and can pitch a tent.
  72. She took me to a dermatologist.
  73. She picked great clothes and jewelry.
  74. Be sure to get your hair done, often.
  75. She still remembers my favorite dinner and dessert from childhood and still prepares it better than I do.
  76. Photos of my kids are on her fridge.
  77. Goes overboard when we come to town.
  78. She sends cards for all occasions
  79. Her fudge and pumpkin nut bread are “to die for.”
  80. She always makes my favorite pie.
  81. She always took a picture of us on the first day of school.
  82. She made me do things myself.
  83. Plan a get-away with your spouse at least once a year.
  84. Have a savings account and don’t break into it.
  85. Take care of your skin, even when you are young.
  86. Nurture your friendships; motherhood can be very lonely sometimes.
  87. Vote.
  88. She made sure we always got to see fireworks.
  89. She pumps her own gas
  90. Know what the organization really does before you donate to them.
  91. She sent really great care packages to me when I was stationed overseas.
  92. Don’t complain.
  93. She taught us how to make a decision, there are consequences to everything.
  94. You can have a good time without spending money.
  95. Use sunscreen and chap-stick.
  96. She doesn’t understand my jokes but she still laughs.
  97. She taught me to go above and beyond in my career.
  98. Visit the gravesite of loved ones when you are in town.
  99. She backed me up when I was blamed for something that I swore I didn’t do.
  100. She put up with all my childhood shenanigans and loves to tell everyone about them.

The list could go on and on, but we are stopping at 100.  Life is a constant learning experience. Some of us are fortunate enough to have our Moms with us for most of the ride. We still learn from our Mother and so do our children. We are who we are because of her. How would our lives have been different if our Mom was not a strong, compassionate and loving woman? We’re grateful that we will never know.

Blessings on your day.

Earth Day


 

Since April 22, 1970 we’ve celebrated Earth Day annually. As I understand it, Earth Day is designed to make us more aware of how humanity is harming the planet and that we should to take better care of this world. Each year there is a different focus, but the ultimate message is, “stop messing up the planet.” I’m all for that. Let’s pick up the trash, recycle, care for the animals, and plant more trees. But, there is more to the earth than plants and animals.

God did command humanity to take care of the planet. Genesis 1:26-28 explains,

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

There are two words in this passage we might not use every day: dominion and subdue. I checked dictionary.com for the definition of both. Subdue means: to overpower by superior force; overcome. It also means to bring (land) under cultivation.

The word dominion explains further. There are several definitions of the word including:

  • The power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority
  • Rule; control; domination
  • A territory, usually of considerable size, in which a single ruler ship holds sway.
  • Lands or domains subject to sovereignty or control.

So, humanity has authority over the earth. We are to cultivate it, rule it, and take care of it. So yes, the focus of Earth Day is important, and grounded in Scripture.

 

I wonder how God feels about Earth Day.

It seems to me God has a special love for our planet. He created it – before he created man. But He did put man in charge of the earth, “over every living thing.” Perhaps we should remember that in addition to thousands of species of plants and animals, there are over seven billion people on our little planet. And God loves each one. Sometimes we forget John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” We should have at least an equal focus on people.

Let Earth Day include humanity as well. Let us show everyone the love of Christ and help them also become good stewards of the Earth

Blessings on your day.

Scripture: http://www.openbible.info

Image: Google Images