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.

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?

 

 

Are We Grateful?

I can’t take credit for this story.  I heard it somewhere along the way, but I don’t know who or where.  So – if anyone knows, please let me know.  But the story is so good as I think about how we fail so often to be grateful for our “every day” blessings.

coffee shop

One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break.  She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag.  She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read.  Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.   After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie.   As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too.  This put her off, but she did not say anything.

A few moments later she took another cookie.  Once again the man did so too.  Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.  After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie.  So did the man.  She was really upset by this – especially since now only one cookie was left.  Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left.  Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Was she steamed!  Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.

Recently my husband had a major surgery.  In recovering from that surgery he was reduced to having me do a lot of things for him that he would normally do.  That first week home I brought him medicine, put on his socks for him, basically waited on him “hand and foot.”

As he slowly regained his strength and began taking care of his own needs, we both thought about how we take for granted so much each day, how grateful we should be for the “little things.”

  • being able to get out of bed without anyone’s help
  • being able to put on our own socks and shoes
  • being able to walk outside and see the beautiful flowers
  • being able to get in the tub and have a relaxing bath

The list could go on and on, but we realize we need to be grateful for what we have instead of ungrateful for what we do not have.

“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm. 9:1

“O Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:1-3

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”       Psalm 103:1-5

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesus 5:20

Thank you Lord for waking me up this morning.  Thank you that I was able to fix my own breakfast, dress myself and enjoy another day of life.  Thank you that my husband is here with me to enjoy that cup of coffee.  Thank you that I can see the beautiful flowers starting to bloom.  Thank you for being able to speak to my children on the phone or share pictures with them on Facebook.  Most of all, thank you for your mercy and love to me.

What are you grateful for today?

The Best Thanksgiving Turkey

It was 1991 and my husband and youngest daughter were spending our first Thanksgiving on the mission field.  Homesickness was filling my heart as I remembered all the Thanksgivings of the past spent with family and friends.  A table loaded with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, biscuits and all the other goodies we enjoyed that time of year.  Visions of pumpkin pie, pecan pie and my mother’s delicious chocolate pie danced through my head.

But the thing I was missing most was  the loved ones that gathered around that table.  This year would be the first Thanksgiving for my youngest granddaughter.  How I longed to see her taste that pumpkin pie for the first time, to hold her on my lap and rock her to sleep.

At first we thought we would try to duplicate the American thanksgiving dinner.  However, it soon became clear that it would be difficult to find many of the ingredients for that meal on the island of Panay.  That did not mean our Thanksgiving meal would not be good – just not the usual menu.

As the holiday grew near one of the members of a Bible class my husband taught every week excitedly told us he had a turkey for us for Thanksgiving.  He knew it was an American tradition and he was so happy to surprise us with this gift.

How exciting for us!  A real turkey for our Thanksgiving.  The day before the holiday he arrived with our turkey.  For us crazy Americans we had expected a nice fat frozen turkey.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the gate and there he stood with a real, live turkey!

Questions immediately went through my mind:

  • how would we kill this thing?
  • who would kill this thing?

When I was a little girl my mother had raised chickens.  She would chop their heads off and then my sister and I would help pluck the feathers.  Mother would then cut the birds up and our freezer would be stocked with chicken for the winter.  However, I was not about to chop that turkey’s head off and one look at my husband told me he was not going to do it either.

  • how would we fix it if we even were able to kill it?

We had no oven, certainly no deep fryer.  Our kitchen consisted of two burners on a small stove with a propane tank for fuel.

Finally, the turkey looked like it had been on a strict diet.  It was the skinniest bird I had ever seen.  Even if we somehow managed to kill it and find a way to fix it I was certain it would be a tough old bird.

What to do?  We could not refuse the gift that this man was so clearly excited about giving us.  To do so would have not only been rude and hurtful, but would damage our relationship with the community.

We took the bird and said thank you.  After he left we held a family council.  What do you do with a turkey you can’t use?

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Our daughter leading the kids on our street in a song

Then the problem was solved.  The kids on our street were always in and out of our house.  That morning one of the young boys came by and when he saw our turkey, his eyes lit up.  You could tell he thought we were so lucky to have a turkey.  His family’s meal would consist of a small bowl of rice – just like they had every day.  To him this skinny old turkey looked like a gift from heaven.  So we asked his mother if she would like a turkey for Thanksgiving.

How excited she was!  I have no idea how she cooked the turkey but she assured me she could do it.

So we gave her the turkey and we fixed tuna fish steaks with rice topped off with mangoes and the most delicious watermelon I ever tasted.

I have often thought back to that Thanksgiving as I once again enjoy a table loaded with all the goodies we associate with this holiday.  I think of that family that rejoiced and enjoyed a turkey that we as Americans felt was not good enough for us.  Although I have had many delicious meals with turkey before and since then, I realize that was the best turkey I ever had.  Because it was given to us out of love and gratitude from a man who had so little to give.  Given to us who in comparison had so much.

My prayer this holiday is:

Lord, forgive me for taking my blessings at being born in this country for granted.  Forgive me for thinking more of myself and spending so much money on me while others in the world go to bed hungry every night.  Help me to reach out and help the homeless here in my own country and reach out to help the hungry around the world.  I cannot do much – but I can do something.  I cannot save every hungry child, but I can help one or two.  Help me to be truly thankful!

 

Can I Get An Amen?

blessings

Thank God for music!

I love music!  My best times of devotion are when I listen first to a praise song and sit and meditate on God’s presence before I pick up my Bible or my devotional book.  In times of great joy or great sorrow in my life I have often gone to my piano and played a song expressing that joy, that sorrow.

One of my favorite musical groups is Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  This morning listening to one of their songs, “So You Would Know,” once again my mind roamed back to all the times God has been there for me in times of great sorrow or tragedy.

Thank God for help in times of great need!

I have shared in other blogs many of those times God helped!

The Day That Changed My Life

Coincidence or An Act of God?

I’m thankful for those times when God’s presence and help were so needed – and He was there.  Those times when I was weak and He carried me.  Those nights when he wiped my tears away.  Those times when pain racked my body and He sent healing down to me.

When you walked on this problem
Didn’t I step right in on time
When you got weak along life’s journey
My angel carried you

When the pains were racking your body
Didn’t I send a healing down to you

How many days must I be a fence all around you
How many nights must I wipe your tears away
How many storms must I bring you safely through
For you to know just how much I love you

Thank God for the everyday blessings!

However, while I thank God for help in difficult times, sometimes I forget to thank Him for day-to-day blessings, the many things I take for granted.

Didn’t I wake you up this morning
Were you clothed in your right mind
Didn’t I put food on your able
Show UP! when your bills were due

So today I thank God

  • that I woke up this morning still in my “right mind.”  (And at my age, that is a blessing!)
  • that I was able to walk all by myself
  • that I was able to see the colorful fall trees
  • that I was able to hear as I watched the news and now as I listen to the music
  • that I had plenty of food to choose from for breakfast:  bagels, cereal, bacon and eggs
  • that I had a hot cup of coffee waiting for me fixed by my loving husband (and at our age, to still have my husband alive and well is a blessing!)
  • that I have a warm house and warm clothes as these fall days turn colder
  • that while I am not rich by any means, all my bills are paid
  • that I have clean, running water

And the list could go on and on.  Things I just take for granted.  Things that a majority of the world does not have.

Today can I get an Amen?

I want to encourage anyone who reads this to take a few minutes to think about all the things God has blessed you with.  And recognize how many times we complain about our very blessings.

  • We complain about our “busy” schedules instead of thanking God for the children we have or the friends we have that take up so much of our time.  That we have a house to clean or a grocery store and money to buy food for our family.
  • We complain about the weather instead of thanking God for the air conditioning and heating that makes life so comfortable on those hot or freezing cold days.
  • We complain about our jobs instead of thanking God that we have employment (if we are still young enough to work) OR
  • We complain about our aches and pains and loss of energy as we age in retirement instead of thanking God that we have lived long enough to be retired.

Thank God for the greatest gift of all!

But the greatest blessing in my life is not that He delivered me from cancer, He strengthened me when my husband died or all the material blessings He has given me.  The greatest blessing is that as a young child He helped me to see my need of Him and to understand how much He loves me.

When you were lost in sin and sorrow
I died to set you free
So you would know just how much I love you

Can I get an Amen?

Join with me in praising God today for His blessings – both the BIG ones in times of GREAT need but also the EVERY DAY blessings we take for granted.  And as you count your blessings, let it be a reminder of HOW MUCH GOD LOVES YOU!!!

 

Thanksgiving – My Favorite Holiday

happy-thanks

Before the costumes for Halloween are off the shelves, Christmas decorations are everywhere.  Now I’m not fussing about getting ready for Christmas too early – or listening to Christmas songs before Thanksgiving.  I love the Christmas season and understand how exciting that time can be.

But sometimes it seems Thanksgiving gets lost in that time between Halloween and Christmas.  What a shame!

I love Thanksgiving!  It makes few demands.

  • No shopping required.
  • No large decorating project required.
  • No large list of parties to attend.

Just a time to enjoy food and family!

Now I know for the one fixing the meal, it does require some labor-intensive efforts.  But, after the meal, what a great time to just enjoy family and friends.

No worries if everyone liked their gift:

  • Did it fit?
  • Was it the right color?
  • Was that the game they wanted?

No decorations to take down and drag out to the garage or down to the basement.

Most of all, I think it gives us all a time to reflect and count our blessings.  (Something we need to do more often.)

While it is my favorite holiday, I must confess it brings some sadness to me also.  Most of my children and grandchildren now live in other states and we are not able to always get together on this holiday.  I miss those days of a table filled with laughing faces.  Still, I’m thankful for the memories I have – and I know there will be more Thanksgivings ahead when we will be together.

So – I count my many blessings and take a moment to relax before I enter that busy Christmas season.

Just a few thoughts on Thanksgiving.

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. ”  Psalm 106:1

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

– WT Purkiser