Are You One of the Nine?

My husband and I hold services at two different assisted living facilities and I also give a piano concert twice a month at one of them.  Today my husband shared with the residents the story in the Gospel of Luke about the ten lepers that came to Jesus asking to be healed.  That story really got me thinking about my own attitude.

Ten lepers came and Jesus healed them all.  He told them to go to the priest to have the priest confirm they were clean and could now rejoin their families.

As the ten started to the priest they realized their skin was clear and they were healed.  How exciting that moment must have been.

After that moment of great joy, nine of the ten continued on their way.  But one man turned back and came to Jesus to say “thank you.”

His response:  “Were not ten healed?  Where are the nine?”

It seems our society is so attuned to the bad, the problems, the disagreements between groups.  We are so quick to complain.

During this cold and snowy winter I often heard (and I was often guilty too) people complaining about how cold it was, how sick they were of snow.

Seldom, if ever, did I hear people saying how grateful they were for their warm house, their warm coats.  Little thanks were given for the road crews who were out in the bitter cold spreading salt and clearing the roads.

Now comes summer and soon we will be complaining of the heat and humility instead of expressing gratefulness for air conditioning.

Why are we so slow to be thankful, to see all the blessings we have been given?

When my first husband died, I cannot count the times someone asked me how God could allow this.  They would say something like:

“But you are a good Christian.  How could God let this happen?”

But when God blessed with me with a good second husband no one asked me how God could allow this.  No one said:

“Why did God bless you so much.”

We take His blessings for granted but are quick to complain when we feel we are not getting the blessings we deserve.

Lord, help me to be like the one who came back and said “thank you.”  Help me not to be like the nine who accepted your blessings as if somehow it was their right and went on their way never to thank  you.

More Thoughts on Complaining

A few days ago I wrote about how easy I find it to complain instead of being thankful.  A friend responded some of the problem might be all the input we get today from media.

I thought about that and realized much of the information we get is geared to the negative.

  • We call a traffic light a “stop” light even though it is green as often as it is red.
  • The weather man says we have a 40% chance of snow instead of telling us we have a 60% chance of no snow.
  • The news channel reports the kids who commit a crime but seldom report all the many kids who make the honor roll, who help the elderly across the street, who visit the kids in the cancer ward, who teach the children on Sundays or participate in the worship team.
  • Most of our news is about the negative events taking place in our community instead of the multitude of good acts being committed every day.
  • And to wade into the dangerous area of politics, our political candidates run less on the positive things they have done or will do than on telling us how terrible their opponent is and all the negative things he/she has done or will do.

As I admitted I complain too often and I am too quick to see the negative.  I told my friend that when I get too carried away on the negative I found singing or listening to a good praise song really helps me get my focus back on the many positive things in my life.

These words from the prophet Habakkuk have helped me often when in a complaining mood:

Though the fig tree does not blossom
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there are no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;
I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!
The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];
He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my [a]high places [of challenge and responsibility].

I’m Good at Complaining

My husband and I are reading through the Bible this year in our devotions.  Right now we are working our way through the book of Numbers.

This morning I was thinking how the Israelites complained their way through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.  They would face a difficulty, God would intervene and meet their need, then when the next problem arose, they started complaining again.  My first thought was:

“How could they keep complaining?”  Had God not met each need?  What was wrong with them?

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Then I thought of how easy I find it to complain.

Example:

We have had a few weeks of bitter cold and lots of snow.  What is my first response?

Complain:

  • I can’t get out in this bitter cold
  • I’m afraid I’m going to fall on the slick side walks
  • The cloudy days are depressing

But why not be thankful:

  • I have a warm house with warm clothes, warm car
  • My backyard is beautiful – like a winter wonderland
  • I’m retired so I don’t have to get out in this terrible weather

Example:

We recently moved from a nine-room house to a five-room house wanting to downsize as we age.

Complain:

  • The closets are so small there is not enough room for our clothes
  • The bedrooms are so tiny
  • I don’t like electric stoves

But why not be thankful:

  • Having everything on one floor has meant not having to cope with stairs
  • Thank God I have so many clothes
  • Thank God I have a modern stove and other modern appliances

Why is it so easy to see the negative instead of the positive?

Looking at the story in Exodus and Numbers I think they complained because they were so quick to forget what God had done.

Is that my problem?  I quickly forget what God has done for me.

“Lord I know you have saved me from the consequence of my sins and you have promised me your presence and guidance in all circumstances, but it’s cold outside, the sun is hidden behind the clouds and my favorite TV show has been cancelled for tonight.”

Let me remember:

  • the wonderful children you have given me
  • a husband who is also my best friend
  • I’m still living almost 17 years after being diagnosed with advanced, aggressive cancer
  • you protected me when the car I was driving was hit head-on by a young man driving way too fast
  • how many friends you have given me through the years
  • how you provided financial help when my husband was out of work
  • how you allowed me to be born in a family where I was taught about God at an early age
  • that you loved me so much you gave your only son that I might be saved

How about you?  Do you see the glass half full or half empty?

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Do you find it easier to complain than be thankful?

 

 

Some Scary Thoughts During This Cold Snap

We Americans like to think how great and advanced our nation is – and we are.

But during this cold snap I had a few scary thoughts on just how dependent we are on our great advanced technologies – and what would we do if something happened to them.

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The energy company that supplies our heat sent an emergency text to all its customers asking them to turn down their heat to 65 degrees so that they would not run out of gas this week.

“Due to extreme temps, Consumers asks everyone to lower their heat to 65 or less through Fri.”

 

The cold temperatures meant everyone’s furnace was running more and the demand for gas was much higher than normal.  Of course, the company has reserves for times like this.  But, a fire at a compressor station in southeast Michigan had caused them to shut down the plants there.

Even the governor posted a video on her Facebook page asking customers to lower the heat in their homes as much as possible,

“so that we can deliver enough gas for everyone to have some heat, and to protect our most critical facilities like hospitals and senior citizens’ homes.”

General Motors shut down eleven facilities in Flint, Lansing, and Orion Township and asked thousands of workers at the Warren Tech Center to work from home through at least Friday.

Ford Motor Company lowered the temperature in its Livonia Transmission Plant and Van Dyke Transmission Plant to minimum levels and stopped heat treatment processes at Sterling Axle Plant, as well as the paint process at Michigan Assembly.  Many other big commercial users closed their plants or reduced their natural gas usage.

Normally in a shortage like this the utility could buy gas from other utilities in neighboring states.  But this cold snap covered all the midwest and there was probably little extra gas to buy.

Of course, the cold snap moved on and we are back to normal.

But some scary thoughts I had:

  • What if the cold snap had lasted longer?
  • What if another processing plant had a fire or other malfunctions?

Unlike Grandma and Grandpa who had a wood stove, we would have nothing to keep us warm.

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Since our power company also uses natural gas to produce electricity, that would probably mean no lights and even my electric stove would not work.  So how would I cook any food?

And our water plant would not be able to provide water and sewer.  Unlike Grandma and Grandpa we had no well and no outhouse.

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My thoughts went on and on.

I realized just how dependent we are on all the advanced technology we have.  I’m thankful for how much easier to makes our lives than our grandparents, but I also realized how quickly we could be brought to our knees.

I also thought how much we take for granted on things many in the world still do not have.

  • Clean, hot water by just turning on a handle on the sink.
  • Comfortable temperatures in the bitter cold of winter or the sweltering heat of summer.
  • Lights so that we can stay up late at night or rise early in the morning and not have to work by candlelight.
  • Refrigerators so we can keep enough food for weeks or months and not have to go to market every day for fresh meat.

I could go on and on about all the blessings we have today – but this episode of possible gas shortage has once again made me realize how thankful I should be for the life we Americans live.

And how dependent we really are on technology.

Conversations with Grandkids

Thanksgiving – a time with family.  Over the years the family gathering has gotten smaller as kids grow up, move away, have kids of their own.  But at this time of year I always remember some of the great interactions with my grandchildren.

There was Robert:No automatic alt text available.

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Growing up Robert loved to talk.  I always tried to give him my undivided attention.  Picking him up after school one day, I had a stressful day at work and all I wanted was some quiet time.  As soon as he got in the car, he began talking away non-stop.  Our conversation went like this:

ME:  Robert, Grandma has had a busy day and I just need some quiet time.  I really am not up to giving you my attention and listening.

ROBERT:  That’s okay Grandma.  You don’t have to listen.  I just want to talk.

And Abby:

 

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Sitting on our kitchen counter making cookies with her Aunt, Abby was chattering away non-stop (does talking a lot run in my family?).  Her grandpa came in the kitchen and gave her “the look.”  She responded:

ABBY:  Am I aggravating you Grandpa?

GRANDPA:  As a matter of fact, you are.

ABBY:  Good!

Then Matthew:

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The one that makes me still laugh so much is the conversation we had with Matthew after he came home from kindergarten roundup.

ME:  Matthew, what do you think?  Are you going to like going to school?

MATTHEW:  It is going to be great.

ME:  What do you think is going to make it great?

MATTHEW:  All the girls are going to love me!

These 3 are all grown up now (I just posted the pictures of them that I love best).

But our youngest granddaughter, Zoe, has given us some of the funniest conversations.

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ZOE:  Grandma, tell me a story about Jesus when He was a boy.

ME:  Okay.  When Jesus was a little boy.

ZOE:  No, Grandma.  Say “Once upon a time.”

And the one my husband loves the most is when she was only three years old.  Waiting for our food at a restaurant my husband excused himself to use the restroom.  As he was halfway between our table and the men’s room Zoe calls out in a loud voice:

ZOE:  Grandpa, it’s the one with “M” on the door.

Grandchildren, what a blessing.  Tomorrow I will miss being with most of them.  Living in Michigan, I have grandchildren in Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee and Missouri.

But my memories will keep me laughing.

And since Zoe will be at my house, I’m certain we will have some more interesting conversations to remember.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  If you are with family, enjoy and make lots of new memories.  If you cannot be with family, remember and treasure those times you had.

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What an Artist!!!

It’s Fall!  My favorite time of year.  This year I am experiencing Fall in a new home in a new town in a new state.  Talk about change!

And I think I have moved to the perfect location to see all the beauty that God creates for us in the Fall.  Let’s hear it for Michigan!  These were just some of the views my husband and I saw on our drive through the country yesterday.

One of my favorite trees is the white birch tree.  The bark is so beautiful even in winter when the leaves are all gone.   In our home in Illinois we had three white birch trees and two paper birch trees.  I really hated leaving them when we moved.

But on our drive yesterday we discovered Michigan has a lot of white birch trees and they are at the height of their Fall beauty.

Spring is wonderful when the first blades of grass and flowers peek through and the leaves begin to appear on the trees.  Summer is gorgeous with all the various flowers in bloom.  Even Winter has its beauty with the fresh fallen snow.  But I think Fall is when God shows off!

I understand the science behind the change in the leave colors.  But I think of the Mind that designed such a process that brings such beauty to the world.

…the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Though I am probably taking this Bible verse out of context, I loved to think as we drove by all the beautiful trees they were praising God with their spectacular colors.

Yes, God is an artist and Fall is when He shows off His talent!

Thank you God for the beautiful display you give us every year!

 

Seven Reasons to Ban the Lord’s Prayer

In 2015 the church in England had an advertisement which featured the Lord’s Prayer set to run before a Star Wars movie.  The cinemas banned the ad because they said it might be offensive to some.

In response Bishop Steven Croft wrote an article saying “from the perspective of the spirits of the age, there are very good reasons to ban the Lord’s Prayer from cinemas and culture and public life.”

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Here are Bishop Croft’s reasons:

  1.  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”   –  It opposes the myth that we are random specks of matter floating through space and time….We are created and loved and called into friendship with God who is our father and into community with our fellow human being who are therefore our sisters and brothers.
  2. “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  –  The world is not as it was meant to be.  It is distorted from its true purpose.  But God is at work to redeem and transform this world, to establish His kingdom.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us not to retreat from the world in fear and pain, to anaesthetise or indulge ourselves.  It invites us to join the struggle to see justice and peace prevail.
  3. “Give us this day our daily bread.” – This is not a prayer for more.  This is a prayer for only what we need.  It teaches contentment.  This one restrains our greed.
  4. “Forgive us our sins.” – This teaches me to live with my imperfections and the imperfections of others.  The Lord’s Prayer acknowledges human imperfection and sin, daily.  It offers a pathway to forgiveness, daily.  The way of forgiveness cannot be bought.  It is a gift.  Grace.
  5. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” – We are not meant to live in feud or hostity or rivalry.  We are meant to forgive and be forgiven, to be reconciled to each other.
  6. “Lead us not into temptation.” – When we say this prayer we remind ourselves that we are not living in a Disney fairy tale.  We are living in a real world of cancer and violence and difficulty, where bad things happen for no clear reason.  We live in that world confident in God’s love and goodness and help even in the most challenging moments of our lives.  We may not have the answers but we know that God dwells with us and in us.
  7. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen.” – The prayer returns as it begins to the praise and glory of the living God.  our hearts return to their origin and source, the one who created us.  Our lives are to be lived to God’s praise and glory, not to satisfy our own small desires.  We are beings with a higher calling and a greater purpose.

There are only 63 words in the Lord’s Prayer.  It takes less than a minute to say them.

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, reminds us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, built resience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator.

No wonder many want to ban them from our consumer culture.