Tips on Being Grateful

An author who really encourages me, Holley Gerth, wrote a blog-post about preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. I know this time of year leads up to Thanksgiving in America and it’s not really celebrated here in the UK, but gratitude is important to me as a Christian, so I guess her advice could be applicable all year round. I thought I’d write down her questions with my answers:

1. Who in your life are you thankful for? Think of one person.
Colin came immediately to mind, which won’t be any surprise to those who know me!

2. What is a memory that brings you joy? Look back and see God’s goodness in it.
There were 3 memories I thought of straightaway: The afternoon I spent with Colin’s sister and brother-in-law (they flew over from Spain and I was honoured that rather than spend time exclusively with his family, Colin invited me over to meet them), when I met Damon Hill (I can see how good God was in that I had the money to buy the tickets, and Mum drove us; getting there by train would have been tricky and would have meant paying for an overnight stay), and the time I met Brian May (I wasn’t a Christian then, but God shines out through the kindness of Brian and of my mum, who arranged it as an 18th-birthday present).

3. How have you seen God answer your prayers this year?
God’s put me back in-touch with a friend after several years. I’ve missed her and I’m happy we’ve reconnected. I’ve also prayed for another friend’s dad whose health hasn’t been good, and it’s great to hear his kidneys are functioning and his blood-results are normalising.

4. When do you feel joy? Pay extra attention to one happy little moment in your day.
I feel the most joy on Fridays when lunching at a local café, or when talking over the phone with friends I can’t see face-to-face. It’s a Friday as I write, and today I’m due to do both.

5. Where can you see God’s hand in your life? Consider one way He is taking care of you.
I’m so thankful that with the changeover in benefits, I haven’t ended up worse-off, but better-off! I feel like Paul, who said to the church at Philippi: “I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:12).

6. Why did Jesus come for us? Revisit His extraordinary love.
Jesus came because every one of us falls short of God’s awesome glory. Without Jesus choosing to take our imperfections on Himself, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy closeness with God, and I couldn’t have just answered all those questions.

7. Give thanks for all of the above.

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The Word

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). This was read every Christmas at my primary school, and my child’s mind couldn’t wrap around it. I never knew this Word was a person. The person called the Word, who was with God in the beginning and who was God, His name was Jesus. I never understood that, even though John explains it a few verses later. “The Word became a human and lived among us” (John 1:14). That’s the very thing Christmas celebrates: Jesus coming from heaven to earth.

But that’s not all; here are three other things the Word does:

  • He creates. “By the Word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth” (Psalm 33:6).
  • He controls. “The Son is … sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).
  • He cleans. “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
  • I’ve got Jesus to thank that I’m even in His church, being made holy before God. I’m so glad He came.

    31 Jesus-Benefits: Celebrating the Good

    “Always be joyful. … Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18).

    Day 5 of Write31Days and here’s an unexpected truth:

    Believing in God has made me more thankful.

    What I’ve found is that even in the bleakest of circumstances, there’s always something to be joyful about – the roof over my head, the chair I’m sitting on, the food on my table, the water in the taps …

    And why is joy important? Because “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). In contrast, “A crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). A crushed spirit will only make you weak, but celebrating the good in your life makes you stronger.

    The Absence of one Little Word

    “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Another translation says: “Give thanks whatever happens”, but have you noticed the word that isn’t there? Does it say to give thanks for all circumstances, to give thanks for whatever happens? It doesn’t, and I’m glad about that.

    I heard recently about Corrie Ten Boom when she was in a concentration camp during World War 2. She and her sister were placed in a dormitory infested with fleas, and her sister used the verse above to encourage her to give thanks – even for those fleas. As it turned out, because they knew the dormitory was flea-infested, the camp guards wanted nothing to do with it, so they got much more freedom than they would otherwise have had. God certainly works all things in our lives together for our good (Romans 8:28). Perhaps without those fleas they wouldn’t have survived, but if you ask me, being thankful for them was going above and beyond. They could still have been thankful in their circumstance without being thankful for it. “Lord, thank You that the fleas put the guards off coming to our door, but please help us because getting bitten all the time is a struggle” would have been my sort of prayer, and I think that’s all God asks. He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him – struggles, thanks and all.

    I don’t have to be thankful for the cancer my mum had, but I can be thankful that she got through the chemo with minimal side-effects. I can be thankful for all the care and support family, friends and neighbours showed her.

    I don’t have to be thankful for my blindness, but I can be thankful that God’s meeting my needs within that. I have a volunteer to read my post regularly; disability benefits are generous enough that I can have a good quality of life and book taxies if I need to; I have family and close friends in my life.

    I don’t have to be thankful for not being in paid employment, but I can be thankful for the volunteering opportunities I’ve had and still have.

    I don’t have to be thankful for my singleness, but I can thank God for friendship, for the privilege of spending time with someone and hearing their laughter.

    Have a think about some of the circumstances in your life. Are you thankful in them or for them?

    My One Word for 2015

    Do you make new-year’s resolutions? The people at OneWord365 pick a single word to focus on throughout the year. This can feel like it’s me setting the agenda rather than God, but this year, I was reading a post on (in)Courage about the topic. The author wrote about her word, and it lodged itself in my heart. I hope she won’t mind me sharing it because I really feel it would be a good one for me this year.

    And the word is?

    SAVOUR.

    The Bible says: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20). I believe the Bible, so I struggle when I’ve prayed and haven’t seen some of the yeses. I find I can get frustrated and angry at God, instead of trusting in Him fully. I don’t say I always get angry, but sometimes I do, and I want to do more savouring. Whatever my circumstances, I want to keep finding good in the ordinary and appreciating what God’s given me. Here are some of the things I want to savour this year –

    Scripture: I’ve decided to read the Bible from cover to cover this year. I did it once about 10 years ago and thought it was about time to do it again. I made a plan for the year, working out what to read when, and so far I’m managing it. If you’re interested in me sharing my Bible plan with you, leave a note in the comments.

    Almighty God: This links with what I wrote in my last post about being grateful for the time I spend with God, and appreciating the things He does for me.

    Volunteering: In 2014, I stopped working at an organisation I had volunteered with for a long time. I’m grateful for the years I had with them and want to savour the voluntary work I still do.

    Others: I don’t enjoy being in large groups; I’m much more a one-to-one person, and moments spent with loved ones are very special. God so loved the world that He sent Jesus, so if I’ve got no time for people, what kind of a Christian am I? I want God to help me savour the time I spend with other people, and give the best of myself when I’m with them.

    Unusual: I’ve discovered (this could be a good or a bad thing) that I thrive on a bit of excitement – some things to look forward to, and 2015 promises a few of those. I’ve booked my first holiday in 5 years. I’m looking forward to attending a friend’s wedding, and meeting Crystal and her family for the first time (my American friends who are stationed in the UK).

    Reading: I can’t speak highly enough of Kindle for iPhone; I only wish I’d got my iPhone sooner. My aim is to read 20 books this year, but hopefully I’ll exceed that.

    Scripture, Almighty God, Volunteering, Others, Unusual, Reading.

    SAVOUR.

    Are you new to the idea of one word to focus on for the year? What would yours be?

    An Elizabeth Barrett Browning Quote

    “I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.” What a beautiful quote.

    As I thought about it, I challenged myself. Can I say that about God? “I love You not only for who You are, but for who I am when I’m with You?” If I love God and put Him first, I ought to be able to. The truth is that I often magnify my shortcomings when I’m with God in private, and when I’m with Him in a church-setting, the effort of having to mix with so many people at once is probably on my mind more than intimacy with God, but I decided this challenge would lead to a much happier life, so would you like to join me?

    Let’s be filled with gratitude for the time we spend with God. Let’s smile when we hear Him speak into our hearts. Let’s want to bless Him and be always on the look-out for ways to praise Him. Let’s savour moments with Him and remember them for years to come, writing down important things He says and going back to reread them. Let’s truly say to God: “I love You not only for who You are, but for who I am when I am with You.”

    Now October is Over

    Can I start by saying a huge thank-you if you’ve read my life-story throughout October? Every like and comment was appreciated, and a special mention for Melissa who commented so regularly. Space didn’t permit, but what I’ve really missed has been giving a shout-out to others who were also writing for 31 days. That’s why I thought I’d highlight some posts for you now:

    I’ll start with Robyn. I’d never read her blog before, and she’s written what’s been my favourite series of the whole month (well done Robyn). Here’s a post from her adoption adventure.

    Not surprisingly, my blogger-friend Becky’s also included. She and her pastor-husband and four children make me smile through the videos she shares on Facebook, and having grown up a pastor’s daughter and become a pastor’s wife, who better to write 31 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor? Way 3 was one of my favourites.

    You’ll know from last month about my South African friend I’d love to meet. Because of her I have a growing interest in the country, so enjoyed Kate’s 31 Days of Life in South Africa. Who knew traffic-lights were called robots?! Kate also added an extra dimension to her challenge and wrote every post in 5 minutes, as did several others.

    Here’s a taste of the most honest series I’ve come across – Caiobhe’s 31 Days of Hope for a Messed-up Marriage, and the most fun? Definitely Caroline and Greg’s on Truth or Dare.

    I enjoyed these posts by Tobi and Annie in their series about books.

    Several bloggers featured people who’d impressed them, like Joseph or the 31 Dayers Facebook-group, but let me really recommend Barbara’s Inspirational Biography series. I love snippets about Christians from of old, and this post about Susannah Spurgeon made me smile because of the lovely quote from Charles about his letters to her.

    And the series I haven’t got around to but am looking forward to getting into? 31 Days of Writing as Worship.

    Hopefully, in amongst all those, there’s something you’ll enjoy too. Happy reading, and if I’ve missed you out and you think I might enjoy your series, please tell me in the comments.

    Saying What you Love

    Jill over at Compassion Family wrote a post this week about encouraging sponsored kids to praise and adore God – to tell Him what they like about Him.

     

    She explained that she sometimes used Bible-verses to do this.  I’ll choose one of my favourites as an example:  “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11).  Jesus, I love You because You’re not ashamed to call me Your sister (that’s praise).

     

    And a passage from Luke 6 that’s been on my heart this week:  “Give to everyone who asks you, and when someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back. …  If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get?  Even sinners love the people who love them. …  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back.  Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin.”  Father, I love You because You’re kind to ungrateful people.

     

    But we don’t only have to praise using Bible-verses; it can be prompted by everyday life as well.  I’ve been counting calories to try to lose a bit of weight, and sometimes when I’ve reached my limit and really fancy chocolate or biscuits, it can be frustrating not to have those nice foods, but I can praise God for giving me enough to eat.  There are plenty of people in the world who don’t have that luxury.

     

    Have you told God what you love about Him lately?

    Chasing it Away

    “Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has planned it?” (Amos 3:6).

     

    This may not seem like a very encouraging verse on one level, but it is when you think of it the other way round.  If when disaster comes God causes it, that must mean that when disaster’s averted, it’s God who chases it away.  When we lose money but still make ends meet, when we have things stolen but no harm comes to us, we can give thanks to God for His protection.  He’s kept disaster from coming near us.

    A Tribute to Bible Society

    Have you ever thought about Bible Society, and their work to get Bibles to Christians around the world?  After hearing yesterday about 10 people sharing 1 Bible, a man riding for an hour on his bike to get a copy, and the cost of a roll of paper that would print 600, I wanted to write this:

    You paid the greatest price – all the money you had saved;

    You treasure every time that you read those words:

    For you know they give you courage to live, when you see He is your Rock;

    You hold them in your heart as you give the treasure to another soul.

    How many people?

    How long must it take?

    How much does it cost you,

    And will you believe?

    You walk so many hours; you can feel the sacrifice,

    But he’ll treasure every time that you bring those words:

    You always want to share what you learn, to comfort and to heal,

    And in your heart you hope for the day those words will come to every soul.

    How many people?

    How long must it take?

    How much does it cost you,

    And will you believe?

    Suddenly from nothing,

    We see the words spill out;

    And for sure, there’s power in the ink on the page

    To touch so many lives.

    How many people?

    How long will it take?

    How much will it cost us,

    And will we believe?