Tag Archive: Grace

Grateful

PREVENTION magazine calls it Vitamin G. Gratitude actually makes our bodies and minds work better. “Studies have linked living a thankful life to fewer aches and pains, better sleep, and more.”

There can be a significant difference between the “thank you” of a child, prompted by his parent in response to an unexciting gift; and gratitude, which wells up when we receive something unexpected, delightful, unearned. When my husband washes the pots and pans after I’ve made dinner, I thank him. But I am also grateful for his thoughtful partnering with me. So, I can be both grateful and thankful (which is the expression of gratitude), or I can be thankful without being grateful. Gratitude is from the heart.

Robert Emmons, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and author of The Little Book of Gratitude said “Gratitude is affirming the goodness in one’s life and recognizing that its source lies outside the self.” In a study he found that keeping a gratitude journal for only five minutes a day can increase your happiness by at least 10%. Emmons says, “The sense of well-being that washes over us in our gratitude tells our bodies all is well…Feelings of gratitude trigger the parasympathetic, or calming, branch of the nervous system.”

A research study completed after the 9/11 attack reflected that gratitude played a key role in building resilience among the survivors.

Practicing gratitude makes us more optimistic and giving. It reduces materialism and improves our relationships (can you imagine the difference between argumentative spouses and those who affirm their gratitude for each other?). It increases our social support by attracting more people to us. Gratitude improves work performance and satisfaction, and improves our mental and physical health. That’s quite a list!

Psychologist Martin Seligman asked 411 people to write a letter of gratitude to a person from their life who deserved it–and to deliver the letter personally. Those who followed through felt increased happiness and self-satisfaction, effects which lasted for a whole month. Think of it–a letter a month with quite an ROI!

Tim Wood, our pastor, challenged us yesterday to “Magnify our blessings and not our problems!” What a great way to develop an ‘attitude of gratitude’.

Israel’s King David was a man who expressed gratitude, along with his troubles (and they were many!). When the Israelites tried to bring the Ark of God back to Jerusalem, they did not follow God’s explicit directions on how to carry it. As a consequence, one man died. Fearing the power of the Ark, David refused to take it to Jerusalem but rather left it at the home of a man named Obed-Edom. During the three months it remained there, Obed-Edom’s family was greatly blessed by God (II Samuel 6:9-12).

When David heard about the blessings Obed-Edom experienced, he decided to bring the Ark to Jerusalem after all. He had learned how God wanted it transported, and his men brought the Ark to the capital city with great rejoicing. David brought together singers, dancers, trumpeters, lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals to accompany the Ark. And David danced before God.

I can make a long list of what I’m grateful for.

  • A loving husband
  • A loving and supportive family
  • Grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and greats, and the fun of watching them grow
  • Our sweet Paigey
  • The beauty of the incredible fall colors we see in the trees around us, and in the soft leafy carpets of those red, yellow, orange and gold leaves that have fallen to the ground
  • A sunset walk around the pond in our community
  • A sunshiny day with billowing clouds in a cerulean sky
  • Decaf, sugar-free vanilla lattes
  • Friends and neighbors we care about
  • Our church family
  • A nation where we can still worship God freely
  • Prayer support
  • Chocolate
  • Our home
  • Some of the difficulties I’ve experienced in life, because God brought me through them to a new place.

But my deepest gratitude wells up inside me when I think of God’s mercy,extended to me. Merriam-Webster defines mercy as

  • a. compassion or forbearance (see FORBEARANCE sense 1) shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power
    • also lenient or compassionate treatment
    • begged for mercy
  • bimprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder

I am a sinner, in a relationship with the God of the universe only by God’s mercy and grace (“unmerited favor”), through the death and resurrection of His Son.

David wanted to build a magnificent Temple to God. God told him he was not to build it because he was a warrior and had shed blood; but his son, Solomon, would build the Temple. Under God’s direction, David made very detailed plans for the Temple–its porticos, beams, altar, size, courtyard, the Holy of Holies.  He stored supplies for the building project–gold, silver, bronze, iron and wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble, in large quantities. Then David told his people that “in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple:  three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsmen.” (I Chronicles 29:3-5)

Then he invited the people to join him in giving to the Temple treasury, and they gave “freely and wholeheartedly” from their own supplies.

Afterward, David called an assembly of the people and praised God publicly, saying

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope...I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” (I Chronicles 29:14-15,17-18)

His gratitude overwhelmed him from inside out, because he recognized that the mercy, grace and blessing of God were worth far more than the gold and silver and precious stones he had. God’s mercy had covered him, protected him, blessed and led him through years of running from King Saul, who was threatened by David and tried multiple times to kill him. God had kept his Word that David would be King.

So how does this apply to me?

  1. I’ll start a gratitude journal.
  2. I’ll meditate on gratitude to God and to others I love.
  3. I’ll make it a point to express my gratitude, both to God and those who impact my life, letting them know how grateful I am for their presence in my life.

So, this Thanksgiving week, want to join me in one or all of these?

 

 

Costco Grace

We’d planned to go to Costco after I did some writing Monday. However, the audio department at the VA called to say they could get Don in that morning to switch out a part of his hearing aid that didn’t fit correctly.

person holding hotdog sandwich with ketchup
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

So, leaving Paigey with a Greenie to chew, we headed to the VA, then to Costco. After our shopping we stopped for hot dogs. Let’s not argue about what’s in them or whether they’re bad for you. Once in awhile, they are a treat!

Only one table was empty so Don approached it at the same time another man did. They agreed to share the table. I approached with my hot dog loaded. We sat across from, and met, Vivian and Ray, a paralegal and a pilot. Vivian was born in China but relocated to Taiwan at the age of two years, then came to the US for college. They were eating before shopping (a good idea, since when we’re hungry we sure add to the list!). We sat and talked about everything from Putin and Ukraine, to Taiwan, to our need for hope, to hearing aids. A delightful, relaxed conversation from which no one was in a hurry to walk away.

creative shot of human ears on dark background
Photo by shutter_speed on Pexels.com

I have some hearing loss in my left ear, and the audiologist had told me it’s better to adjust to hearing aids while your hearing is still decent than when it is further gone. I’d talked about making an appointment with Costco’s hearing aid center for a year. I have Mom’s hearing aids, which were only a year old when she passed away.

For some reason, while at Costco Monday, I felt a nudge and made the hearing appointment for Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday I drove to my appointment. Bonnie greeted me and thought they could make Mom’s hearing aids work. I’d tried to charge them but her charger didn’t work. Bonnie looked up the record of Mom’s purchase.

“Oh my,” she said.

“Oh my, what?”

“Your mother’s warranty is up in eight days. I can get you a new replacement charger for nothing.”

“Really?” I was skeptical. “Are you sure?”

“I am.”

So why did I make the appointment last Monday when I’ve put this task off for a year or more, only to find the warranty was still good for eight more days? Some would call that a coincidence. I call it a God-incident.

One of the songs we sang in church that morning was written by Tommy Walker. Some of the words go like this.

We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness

You’re our creator, our life sustainer
Deliverer, our comfort, our joy
Throughout the ages You’ve been our shelter
Our peace in the midst of the storm

With signs and wonders You’ve shown Your power
With precious blood You showed us Your grace
You’ve been our helper, our liberator
The giver of life with no end

We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness

When we walk through life’s darkest valleys
We will look back at all You have done
And we will shout, our God is good
And He is the faithful One

Bridge

…I still remember the day You saved me
The day I heard You call out my name
You said You loved me and would never leave me
And I’ve never been the same

We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness

The song reminds me that when my day feels dreary, when my heart hurts, when I lose hope, I will remember what God has done for me in the past–and there are so many times He has stepped into my situation for good. He has also walked with me along painful paths of sorrow. And as I remember His faithfulness in the past, I will trust Him for the present and the future.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

When is the last time you had a God-incident, an unexpected moment of grace that reminded you of God’s faithfulness?

The Astonishing One

Our own bed! No matter how good the trip, it is wonderful to be home again. Late Tuesday, Don and I crawled into bed with little unpacked. We missed our Paigey, who usually comes up to cuddle between us for a few minutes before going to sleep. But she was still at Mary’s, who cared for her while we were gone.

Wednesday we drove to Tracy to pick up our pup. She wagged her tail and was eager to get into her carseat (which Don built) to go home. Mary and her pups took great care of Paigey and, while she sometimes ran from the little pups who wanted to play (after all, in human years she’s 84!), her tail wagged at the same time. I think she was ready to be an only dog again!

Jet lag is still with us. But … we unpacked. Did laundry. Ate at Taco Bell. And started back into a normal rhythm again.

This morning it was rich to be in our church again – a fuller service, few masks, wonderful worship and a message about the exaltation of Christ. He was astonishing in so many ways.

“As many were astonished at you–his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind …”

Isaiah 52:14

This is a prophecy made about seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth. And it speaks of the agony Jesus suffered, the disfigurement of persecution, the thorn of crowns thrust down onto His head, the beatings He suffered before even being nailed to that tree which He had created!

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Isaiah 53:1

No beauty or majesty to attract us. Our culture is focused on beauty, youth, power. But Jesus had something else, something far greater than any of these. He was God, come to earth to redeem mankind. He held love in one hand, by which He gave his life for us; He held justice in the other, because justice had to be satisfied against this world that had turned its back on God. And He did this for you and me!

Song by John Newton

And His hearers either loved or hated Him. Men turned their backs by seeking power and fame and beauty and considering themselves their own god. “I will make the world what I want.” This happened in large and small ways–the rulers who required that men worship and adore them, men who included Caesar, Nebuchadnezzar, and others. The religious systems that required much (tithes, offerings, gifts, obeisance) while giving little or nothing in return. The common man and woman who tried to run their own lives, to “be good” in order to attain the kingdom of God.

black cross on top of mountain
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

But none of us is good enough for that! Scripture says we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And yet, in grace He also says “For the wages (payment) of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

God is not immune to the suffering of mankind, in Ukraine, in Israel, in Taiwan and in the hearts of men and women everywhere. He is very familiar with suffering; and He tells us to cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us! (I Peter 5:7).

As we move toward Easter Sunday, let’s rejoice that our God is still sovereign over the affairs of men, and that Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

PRAYER

“Father, we see so much evil around us. Anarchy, war, tensions between and within nations, fear, and the sin that so easily takes hold of us as individuals, even when we love You. We pray for Your wisdom for our leaders, for an end to the war in Ukraine that retains their freedom, and most of all, that many will grasp how high, how wide, how deep and how long your love is for us, no matter the situation in which we find ourselves. Bring hope to the hopeless, sight to the (literal and figurative) blind, rest to the weary. Thank you for the forgiveness Jesus brought through His death and resurrection. And may Your kingdom come.”

Seventy times Seven

Our granddaughter, Gabrielle and her boyfriend, Weston spent four days with us this week. What a delight. We cherish the time we spent together. This picture was taken at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz.

Floating $2 bill

We learned to know Gabrielle again after not seeing her for a few years. Learned to love Weston. The four of us laughed and talked as we prepared three appetizers for a larger get-together, each one doing his or her part in seamless completion of a task that would have taken me several hours longer on my own. We went to the beach (one day, fog; the next sunshine), enjoyed a few magic tricks, talked through some issues, shared our faith journeys with them. These are precious memories we carry forward.

I could go on writing about the ways God answered prayer this week, about times of laughter, but life isn’t one-sided. It is filled with joy and with sorrow, as most of us have learned by now.

I felt the barbs this week … again. You’d think after years of passive hostility I’d be used to it. We don’t see each other often but when we do it’s like I don’t exist. She moves away as soon as I enter the space where she is.

“I want to hate her,” I told Don, “but I can’t. That would not be Christlike.” (And that’s a choice, not a feeling.) And I don’t. But how do you or I respond when a hurt feels repeated deliberately, year after year. Somehow I don’t think I’m alone in this.

jesus saves neon signage
Photo by Patricia McCarty on Pexels.com

Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven. But forgiveness isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come cheap. It costs the forgiver, requiring letting go of the right to hurt back, releasing the sense of self-righteousness that can come with unwarranted animosity.

Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily happen immediately. It may take a period of time, of praying and talking and working through the issue with God’s help. Forgiveness is also a choice, not a feeling. And the choice may need to be repeated until it becomes reality. For me, the process starts with the God who tells me to:

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.  Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many

Hebrews 12:14-15 NLT
gray trunk green leaf tree beside body of water
Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

Bitterness hurts me more than it does anyone else. It blocks the free-flowing channel of communication between God and me. And then it transmits to others around us, just as these roots are spreading out beyond the base of the tree.

I think of the man I read about whose wife was murdered in cold blood. He was later able to forgive the murderer, and even to share God’s love with him. That is possible only by the power of God!

And I know my Father wants me to let this go–again. He has forgiven me for the times I’ve walked my own way. We’re told to confess our sins and be healed, so I requested prayer after church this morning. My sin was holding onto the hurt and, in the process, hurting my beloved husband. I’m still working through this one, but by God’s grace it is coming. And I realize I may have misread some of her actions this week. I hope so.

Who’s a difficult person in your life and how do you deal with him or her?

So … a week with precious memories and some hurt. Which will I allow to rule my thoughts and life? Hmmm … Amazingly, while on the Cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NLT) I know what choice he wants me to make. And after almost a week of struggle, I choose to obey.

But God …

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Like most of us, I want to live with purpose. And yet at times I find my purpose wavering … I need a rest; I’m not equipped to deal with that issue; that person’s pain is too much for me to handle. I’m overwhelmed! Do you ever feel like that?

I pulled out a post from six years ago because I was reminded of it in our pastor’s sermon this morning.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–

Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV

That’s the beauty of God’s empowering. Many challenges are too much for me to handle. I am inadequate. I don’t know what to do. But my God will enable me if I take one step at a time, believing He will meet me at the next one.

I experienced many God-moments when my first husband was waiting for an organ transplant in Florida. Three thousand miles from home, we needed housing, local support, and insurance approval. In one email to friends I expressed the challenges we faced, then listed some of the ways we had seen God’s love and grace. I wrote:

“We are in big trouble on our own (health, costs, housing, ongoing tests) … it isn’t a bed of roses …

BUT GOD … allowed Jerry’s test results Friday to be positive, removing a potential obstacle to transplantation …

BUT GOD … ensured final dollar authorization for the dual transplant …

crop colleagues shaking hands in office
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

BUT GOD … led our California pastor to connect us with Pastor X here in Gainesville, with whom we’ve already started to have wonderful fellowship and support …

BUT GOD … led Pastor X to follow up with us and to allow us to share with his church body, which is actively responding to our needs.

BUT GOD … has shown us His faithfulness over and over through people we’ve met, the kindness of strangers in antique shops who’ve offered us housing or suggested resources, and by giving us incredible opportunities to connect with people and share our lives and His faithfulness with them.”

Dr. Helen Rosaveare was a single missionary working in the Congo from 1953 to 1973. During the political instability of the 1960s she was brutally gang-raped by rebels. As she tells it, during that terror one word kept recurring in her mind. “Privilege.” She had the privilege of suffering for Christ. That is truly beyond one’s own capability, strength or adequacy.

But GOD empowered her to survive that and continue to minister for Him.

Grace. It’s all God’s grace. It’s not good when someone is raped, murdered, terminally ill, depressed, or insecure. But it is grace, the grace of God that shows up when we most need it, that empowers us to take one step at a time, experiencing His presence which then empowers us to take the next step. Sometimes I think I’ve done something of value … but then I’m reminded that it is all about the grace of God. He uses our availability even more than our ability.

Here’s the rest of that wonderful passage which speaks so clearly of the “But Gods” in our lives, and of the grace he gives us day by day. We were born with a sin nature, following our own desires and impulses. And then Paul writes this message of amazing hope.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV

So what are the “But Gods” in your life? I’d love to hear.