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

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The Idols in Our Lives


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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.

 

So Much To Be Thankful For


Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

During this season of thanksgiving I thought it would be fun to make a list of some of the things to be thankful for. This list is really quite short – there are countless blessings to thank God for. I challenge to you add to this list. May you be richly blessed today and everyday. Happy Thanksgiving!

  1. A Bed
  2. A Home Cooked Meal
  3. Ability to Choose
  4. Animals
  5. Aquariums
  6. Art
  7. Babies
  8. Baseball Games
  9. Beaches
  10. Bicycles
  11. Books and Libraries
  12. Braces and a pretty smile
  13. Bubble Baths
  14. Candles
  15. Candy
  16. Cards and Letters
  17. Chocolate
  18. Christmas Lights
  19. Christmas Stockings
  20. Christmas Trees
  21. Church
  22. Clothing
  23. Coffee and Tea
  24. Color
  25. Creativity
  26. Curiosity
  27. Cute Shoes
  28. Desserts
  29. Dishwashers
  30. Doctors and Dentists
  31. Education
  32. Family and Friends
  33. Family Traditions
  34. Fireplaces
  35. Fireworks
  36. Five Senses
  37. Good
  38. Fountains
  39. Four Seasons
  40. Forests
  41. Freedom
  42. Fresh Bread
  43. Fresh Water
  44. Gardens
  45. Gentle Rains
  46. Glitter
  47. God
  48. Good Manners
  49. Google
  50. GPS
  51. Hairstylists
  52. Holidays and Vacation
  53. Hot Showers
  54. Hugs
  55. Imagination
  56. Jesus
  57. Jewelry
  58. Language/Communication
  59. Lipstick
  60. Medicine
  61. Mementos
  62. Memories
  63. Military and First Responders
  64. Movie Theaters
  65. Music
  66. My Home
  67. My Job
  68. Naps
  69. Pajamas
  70. Parks
  71. Pastors
  72. Paved Roads
  73. Pedicures
  74. Pets
  75. Photographs
  76. Prayer
  77. Puzzles
  78. Rainbows
  79. Right to Vote
  80. Salvation
  81. Saturday Mornings
  82. Second Chances
  83. Snow
  84. Spell Check
  85. Spices
  86. Stained Glass Windows
  87. Stop Lights
  88. Sun, Moon and Stars
  89. Sunshine
  90. Teachers
  91. Technology
  92. The Beach
  93. The Bible
  94. The Ocean
  95. The Radio
  96. Theme Parks
  97. Today
  98. Travel
  99. Trees
  100. Wildflowers
  101. Wine

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

Images: Google Images

Scripture: Biblegateway.com

In The Eye Of The Storm


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Psalm 91:2

I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” 

My family moved to Jacksonville, Florida a little over a year ago. When we made the decision to move I never considered that we would deal with hurricanes. For the second time in as many months, a huge storm drew near to us. Herminie came through Jacksonville as a tropical storm, but Matthew passed dangerously close to our coast line as a category 4 hurricane.  Schools and businesses closed in preparation for the storm. Meteorologists warned of the danger of the storm and explained it could reshape parts of our coastline. We stocked up on supplies and water and made provisions if we lost power. Millions of people living right on the coast were evacuated. As the hurricane drew near to us the wind and rain became frightening, and lasted for hours. I made several Facebook posts with storm updates and asking for prayers. I felt those prayers. Our Heavenly Father saw us through the storm. As I type this blog the storm has passed. We are waiting for morning to survey the damage.

We also face many metaphorical storms in life; job loss, illnesses, infertility, not getting that promotion, betrayal, and death to name a few. We try to control these storms, but we cannot. In some cases we just prolong the pain. The storms we experience leave different kinds of marks on our lives. Some of these storms will change us forever. But the one thing that will never change is God’s love for us. He will see us through these storms; He is faithful and in control. Psalm 33:4 tells us, “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.”

I don’t know what storm you are facing, or the severity. All I can tell you is to put your faith in God, and let Him have control of the winds and rain. Something beautiful awaits you on the other side of the storm. I’ve always experienced an unexpected blessing when the storm passes.

The events of the past few days remind me of the song “In The Eye of the Storm” recently released by Ryan Stevenson. May it bring you peace.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?hsimp=yhs-att_001&hspart=att&p=youtube+eye+of+the+storm+ryan+stevenson#id=4&vid=047eeca0aa8530c95519b676266aa85b&action=click

Psalm 107:29  He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Image: Artist Unknown – found on Facebook 10/7/2016

The Gift of Another Day


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Psalm 90:12

Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.

Once every four years the calendar gives us an extra day. There’s a scientific reason – the earth rotates around the sun every 365 ¼ days. Those who created our calendar added an extra day every fourth year to make up for this. There’s actually more to it than my brief explanation, but you get the idea – we have the gift of another day this year.

How will we use the extra day?

We take so much of life for granted, especially those of us blessed with families, jobs, and good health. We race to get our commitments completed, then complain that we have too much to do – work, errands, children’s activities and the like. We don’t stop often enough to enjoy or appreciate life’s many blessings. I am guilty of rushing through life like there is always tomorrow.

But life is brief. We don’t know how much time we have. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Our extra day falls on a Monday this year, so how about celebrating our “leap day” this weekend? Leave your watch in a drawer and unplug for the day. Think about how you can enjoy – really appreciate – the many blessings our God has given to us. Connect with your friends and family and hold them tight. Savor each moment with them. Go on an outing. Gaze at a landscape, or a sunset. Take a nature walk. Stop to really look at flowers, or a lake, or the clouds. Become aware of the gifts we so often overlook. Live.

Psalm 118:24

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Blessings on your “leap day.”

Scripture: www.biblegateway.com (The Living Bible Translation)

Images: google images

Acts of Kindness (and 100 Acts of Kindness Ideas)


 

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 Proverbs 21:21

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.

 Proverbs 11:17

A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

My life has been touched many, many times by simple, unexpected acts of kindness. Those instances include receiving unexpected notes from friends, flowers, and meals when I was a young mother. There was the couple who helped me with my bags when I was traveling alone, and countless times someone has held the door for me. There was the time someone stopped to help me change a flat tire and the time I was not charged for a service call. Such a simple gestures can really add to someone’s day. One simple act of kindness can spur another on to do the same thing.

The opposite is also true – it’s easy to aggravate someone by being thoughtless, rude, or just insisting on our own way. Maybe it’s because we are in a hurry, or are thinking too highly of ourselves, or perhaps we are reacting to a bad situation – but there is really no excuse for being rude. Sometimes we just don’t show emotion because we don’t know someone we are interacting with – like a cashier. Keep in mind that a simple act of kindness can derail a thoughtless act.

Yesterday, someone bought lunch for everyone in my office. What a pleasant surprise! I watched how faces lit up when given the news. Everyone was smiling and enjoyed pleasant conversation with the welcome diversion from our usual busy Friday afternoon. Later I noticed one of the lunch recipients holding the door for not one, but three coworkers. Someone else held the elevator door. The lunch act of kindness was passed on.

God expects us to act with kindness towards one another. Kindness is a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It is also mentioned several other places in the Bible. Consider the Prophet Zechariah’s words: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:9-10). We are commanded to act kindly toward each other.

If we listen to the news it would be easy to become cynical and assume no one is kind to each other anymore. However, we have all experienced acts of kindness at some point. Pass it on.

 Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 The following list is just a few ideas to show kindness to someone. It’s so easy. I’m challenging myself to act more kindly to others, especially those I don’t know.

  1. It all starts with a smile. Look people in the eye and give them a big smile.
  2. Open the door for someone.
  3. Bring flowers to a friend or neighbor.
  4. Buy a co-worker their favorite soda or treat. Leave it on his or her desk with a smiley face sticky note.
  5. Drop off toys, a game, or stuffed animals at a homeless shelter.
  6. Introduce yourself to neighbors and bring baked goods or sweets.
  7. Pay the toll for the car behind you.
  8. Wash someone’s car for them.
  9. Send a card or handwritten note to someone you hardly know.
  10. Help an elderly person cross the street.
  11. Help someone carrying a lot of stuff.
  12. Pay someone a sincere compliment.
  13. Leave a nice note for your spouse/child/friend.
  14. Open the door for someone.
  15. Help a younger sibling with homework.
  16. Let a car merge in front of you and do it with a smile.
  17. Participate in a park or beach cleanup.
  18. Exercise patience.
  19. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
  20. Help someone with their bags or luggage.
  21. Offer to take a picture for tourists.
  22. Pay for the coffee for the person behind you.
  23. Share your class notes with a classmate.
  24. Help a friend move.
  25. Strike up a conversation with a stranger.
  26. Make your sibling/child/roommate’s bed for them.
  27. Help a lost tourist find his or her way
  28. Mentor someone.
  29. Give a generous tip to your waiter.
  30. Bring a welcome gift to new neighbors.
  31. Befriend a lonely person.
  32. Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
  33. Compliment a stranger.
  34. Let someone take your parking spot.
  35. Don’t honk at cars (or people).
  36. Bring baked goods to the office to share.
  37. Donate your blood at a blood drive.
  38. Sit with someone who is eating alone.
  39. Go visit strangers in a nursing home. Read to them.
  40. Let someone go in front of you at the cashier.
  41. Bake cookies for the firemen.
  42. Donate clothes and shoes to the needy.
  43. Clean up after someone in the lunchroom or cafeteria.
  44. Recommend your favorite restaurant to a tourist.
  45. Do your sibling’s or roommate’s household chore.
  46. Praise a child to the parents while the child is present.
  47. Hold the elevator door for others.
  48. Text a friend to say you’re thinking of them.
  49. Offer someone a piece of gum or a mint.
  50. Bring misplaced shopping carts back to the designated area.
  51. Organize a study session for your classmates.
  52. Offer to babysit your friends’ kids for free.
  53. Donate your locks of hair.
  54. Tell someone you’ve fought with that you’re sorry and that you forgive them.
  55. Sign up to be an organ donor.
  56. Leave extra time in a parking meter.
  57. Pay for your friend’s tab.
  58. Give a blanket or umbrella to a homeless person.
  59. Be kind to someone you dislike.
  60. Encourage someone who is working hard at the gym.
  61. Vacuum the floor for your roommate.
  62. Take a shorter shower to save the hot water.
  63. Make a donation to a charity you care about.
  64. Bring homemade food to a new mom or single mom.
  65. Teach a child how to ride a bike.
  66. Bring a homeless person some food and a drink.
  67. Send a care package to someone in the military.
  68. Email your boss or professor and tell them how much you love learning from them.
  69. Be sure to say “good morning” and “thank you” to all service workers (bus drivers, police officers, mail carriers, and firefighters).
  70. Help a friend look for a job.
  71. Let your friend vent and listen to her problems.
  72. Make a playlist for your friends.
  73. Let someone else take your seat on public transportation.
  74. Praise the work of others.
  75. Let someone cut in front of you in line.
  76. Donate $1 to the next tip jar you see.
  77. Tell a street performer how amazing he or she is.
  78. Share your umbrella with someone who didn’t bring one.
  79. Help someone carry groceries to the car.
  80. Offer to work late for a co-worker who needs to leave early
  81. Donate books to the local shelter or hospital.
  82. Volunteer at an animal shelter during adoption events.
  83. Sponsor a child in a developing country.
  84. Write a letter to your former schoolteachers and tell them how much they influenced you.
  85. Help someone change their tire.
  86. Sign up for a bone marrow donation.
  87. Volunteer at a disabled student’s learning center.
  88. Shovel someone’s walk or driveway.
  89. Rake your neighbor’s leaves.
  90. Bring in a neighbor’s trash bins.
  91. Offer your seat on a plane so a family or couple can sit together.
  92. Support your own and your friends’ kids at their recitals and games
  93. Participate in a fund-raiser or donation.
  94. Offer to pick up your friend’s children after school.
  95. Offer to pet-sit for your friend for free.
  96. Pay someone a compliment.
  97. Bring a treat to share with your coworkers.
  98. Send someone a small gift anonymously.
  99. Leave a nice comment on a blog.
  100. For no particular reason, hug someone you love like you mean it.

Colossians 3:12

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience

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The Faith of my Daughter


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Rising up a child in the faith is a constant thing. We can’t just let Children’s Ministers and Youth Group leaders be responsible for the spiritual training of our children. Parents must also cultivate a deep faith in our children and constantly set an example. I’ve tried to do that, by answering my daughter’s questions, and keeping our faith alive at home. In addition to regular church attendance, my daughter watches her parents pray, attend Bible Study, and listen only to Christian music. Sometimes I wonder if I am being successful. Monday morning I got my answer.

My 10 year-old daughter had knee surgery yesterday. I spent quite a bit of time in prayer leading up to her surgery, asking God to guide the surgeon’s hands, keep the medical staff alert and accurate, and for my daughter to not feel significant pain. I prayed for quick and complete healing. I alerted my church and posted my prayer request on Facebook; many friends lifted my daughter up yesterday morning. I knew she was covered in prayer.

After my daughter was prepared for the operating room she asked for a moment of privacy – to pray. A 10 year-old asking for privacy to pray! My heart leapt for joy!

Children surprise us sometimes, don’t they? Just when we think they haven’t heard a word we said, we find out that they have been listening – intently. Proverbs 22:6 tells us “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This verse tells us that what we do as parents does matter and should give us encouragement to continue set the right example and to train up our children in the faith.

That my daughter’s faith is growing should not come as a surprise to me. During the summer of 2014 my daughter asked for a Bible and a cover. She wanted to pick a Bible that was meaningful and useful to her. That trip to the Christian book store was a wonderful experience. We prayed she would select the Bible God wanted her to have. I watched as Elianna opened different versions, read some verses, and finally selected a simple, NIV Bible. She still uses that Bible frequently and has highlighted numerous passages. She was only 9 at the time she chose it.

My daughter knows the words to most of the Christian music we listen to, and often signs along. She knows my favorite songs and has a knack for knowing when to play a specific song for me. Until yesterday I didn’t realize what a big deal this was. I just thought she was playing music like any tween would. But when we drove her home from the hospital, it was Christian music she wanted to listen to. It calmed her and gave her peace.

My daughter’s story of faith goes back to when I was pregnant with her. I had prayed for a daughter for many years, but had lost several precious babies to miscarriage before I became pregnant with my daughter. To honor God for this special, precious gift of a baby, we gave her a name that would also be her testimony: Elianna. Elianna is a Jewish name that means “The Lord has responded, or God has answered my prayer.”

I have prayed other prayers for my daughter: for her safety, her spiritual growth, to do well in school, to meet and marry a godly man, and to have a career that will bless many. Parents, prayers for your children are powerful, and our great God hears them all. Won’t you pause for a moment and lift up your precious child (ren) to Him right now?

Father God,

We lift up the child(ren) You entrusted to us. As parents, we ask for wisdom to guide them to You and be godly examples. We pray earnestly for them to know You and accept Salvation through the precious blood of Your Son, Jesus. We pray for them to be obedient to You. We pray for our child(ren) to trust You fully and grow deep roots of faith. We pray for them to gain spiritual wisdom so they can make the right choices and follow the perfect path You have for them. Lord, we ask you to protect our child(ren) from every harm. Grant them wisdom to recognize the tactics of the enemy and flee from every temptation. Help them be strong in this broken world, and grant them the ability and courage to share Jesus with many others. Amen.

May you recognize how the Lord has richly blessed you and your precious children!

Scripture: www.biblegateway.com

Image: Google Images