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.

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?


    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.


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

    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.

    In the Middle of it All

    “”Stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a complaining fool is worse than either” (Proverbs 27:3).  There’s definitely a place for bearing each other’s burdens; for talking over problems and getting things off our chests, but if we constantly complain, we’re not only a burden on the shoulders of those around us, we’re bad for ourselves too.


    “A quarrelling wife is as bothersome as a continual dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15), and if you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night to a leaking roof and raindrops coming in, you’ll know how bothersome that is!  All you want is an end to the problem.  If you’re the quarreller, perhaps all you can see is the problem and you want an end to it too.


    I don’t claim to have the answer in your situation, but there is a verse at the end of this chapter that might help.  “There will be plenty of goat’s milk to feed you and your family and to make your servant girls healthy” (Proverbs 27:27).  In other words, God’s plan is for us to have plenty to meet our needs – not our wants, but our needs.  Whether it’s a quarrel with your spouse you’re in the middle of, or another problem – big or small, why don’t you step back from it for a few minutes?  Try to think of ways God has met your needs – the clothes you’re wearing, the food on the table, etc.  We can overflow with thankfulness when we know that with God, we may not have everything we want, but we have enough.


    Just because I’m writing this, please don’t think I have it all together.  There are days I get really fed up with the doors that seem to slam in my face.  At those times, hearing other people’s unanswered prayers can discourage me and prayer can even seem pointless, but when I stop to think about it, when I think how God’s answered some of my prayers – how He’s brought someone along just when I’ve needed help, or got my mum through the chemotherapy, I know it’s not pointless after all.

    Steadfast and Firm

    “A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous cannot be moved” (Proverbs 12:3).


    Have you ever been walking through the woods and had to step over some tree roots sticking out of the ground?  If you’re someone who wants to follow Jesus, you’re like that; your roots can’t be moved or dug up.  It might not seem that way when you’ve made a mistake, or when you’re not as you’d like to be, but it’s certainly true in my experience.  When I’ve felt like giving up, God has shown me Himself.  God is love, and God is concerned with our welfare.  He’ll keep you strong; He won’t let you be tested beyond the point where you can remain steadfast and firm (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Surely we can praise Him for that?

    31 Days of Song: “This Love is Real”

    It’s the third Sunday of the month, which is the Sunday we have communion at church, so I wanted to choose a song about the cross – maybe one you hadn’t heard before.  I had planned a different song, but this morning I couldn’t stop singing this one.

    I’ve written before that I became a Christian when my friend was backing-singer in a worship group; what I haven’t told you is that the main vocalist was a lady called Sian Elson – and doesn’t she have a powerful voice!  She’s made an album called “It’s About Time”.  I couldn’t find anything about it online, or any of the songs on YouTube, but this is one of them.  I heard Sian sing it live on a TV-programme, but haven’t heard it for ages, so I’ll just write out some of the lines for you to think about:

    “Many waters cannot quench this love,

    “Nothing can ever stay its flow;

    “It keeps on coming though I don’t understand,

    “This one thing I know:

    “This love is real, and this love is true,

    “And this love has worn a crown of thorns for you.

    “Other love will let you down, constantly –

    “Never giving what it promises,

    “But this love is given unreservedly

    “To show you just how wonderful it is.

    “This love is real, and this love is true,

    “And this love has been through the fire for you.”

    Thank You Jesus for all You’ve done for us.


    This morning I read my usual devotional E-mail but wasn’t sure what else to read.  I saw a couple of things about Psalm 55 so thought I would have a look at that.


    The beginning talks about how David’s enemies treated him terribly and held angry grudges.  (Haven’t we all been there?)  Then he went on to say what really bothered him:  It was his close friend who was against him.  “We enjoyed being together, and we went with others to your house, our God. …  His words were smoother than butter, and softer than olive oil.  But hatred filled his heart, and he was ready to attack with a sword” – Psalm 55:14, 21.


    Verse 14 made me stop and think.  What would that be like – to have my close friend, someone I trust, the one I go to church with, turn against me?  I was so grateful I wasn’t experiencing that.  My first reaction was to say:  “Lord, don’t let what happened to King David happen to me”, but then I remembered:  It happened even to Jesus when He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, and Jesus says no student is greater than his teacher (Luke 6:40).


    We don’t know what’s ahead in our futures, but let’s thank God for the here-and-now.