Category Archives: Christianity

Rethinking Thankfulness

For the past few years, I have noticed a trend of people posting thankfulness posts on Facebook in November.  One thing is named each of the thirty days in November for which the writer is thankful, from having a good job to living in a warm home to enjoying the company of many friends.  I have nothing against this practice.  In fact, I am delighted that so many take the time to count their blessings, even if it is mostly just for the month and is usually seen as a challenge instead of an act of true gratefulness.

I propose a twist to this practice.  What if each of us still express our appreciation for our blessings in a more tangible way?  As my friend Kevin states, “Faith on your fanny is useless.  It’s faith with feet that matters!”  How about professing our gratitude with action in addition to our words?

Are you wondering how this could work?

What can I do

How about:

I am thankful for the home I live in and the comforts it contains.

Express your thankfulness by preparing some “Blessing Bags” to distribute to someone who doesn’t have a home with or without its comforts.

I am thankful for my place of employment, a great supervisor, and wonderful co-workers.

Show your co-workers and your supervisor recognition by bringing in some baked goods or other treats to share during breaks.

I am thankful for my children and family.

Help out a single parent by offering a baby break while he or she gets a little “Me time.”  Sometimes just a trip to the grocery store without littles means so much!

I am thankful for food on my table, in my cabinets, and refrigerator, and the ability to get more whenever I need or want.

Volunteer in a soup kitchen or a hot meal line.  Remember, these places and people can use volunteers year round, not just at the holidays.

I am thankful that my children get to participate in various programs, such as soccer, dance, music, basketball, and so on and son (and so on)…

These programs can always use support, in helping to teach or coach, in providing snacks or meals, in monetary support (besides fees), and in word-of-mouth advertising and appreciative words of praise.  Talk to program to see how you can help out.

I am thankful that my children or grandchildren have toys to play with.

Sort through the children’s toys and donate some that are in excellent shape with a distribution center for the less fortunate.  Some locations here in Indiana are found at Indy With Kids .  A personal favorite of mine is located in Lawrence County and is called Santa Joe

I am thankful for my health, whether it is fabulous or fatigued.

Monetary donations are always appreciated by many health organizations, but there are other ways to help.  Volunteer, participate in a fundraiser, spread the word about the services provided – sometimes it takes no money to make a big donation toward a worthy cause!

blessings

These are just a few ideas to get you kick-started on your own campaign of thankfulness!  Share your own ideas in the comments below.  I am thankful for my readers!

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Resolution Revolution

2014 has been a rollercoaster year, and my memories more easily tend to the downs instead of the ups.  Thirteen deaths of family and close friends, including the untimely death of my beloved son-in-law at the age of 26, have skewed my vision toward the difficult moments.

I am thankful that life is not always dark and dreary.  The birth of my seventh grandchild, a beautiful little girl, and my graduation from college (at age 47 years and 11 months!) have helped to balance the scales with joyful positives.  As time goes on the, the pain of the losses will become less sharp and the beauty of new life and new conquests will become the focus.

As in all circumstances, I can choose to become bitter because of heavy happenings, or I can choose to become better by learning from these experiences. My success at surviving life and its challenges thus far is pretty good, but I want to do more than just survive.  I want to make a valuable difference in my life, in the lives of those around me, and in as many lives as I can possibly touch in any way.  I can use the situations in my personal history to help others in their personal situations.  I must remember that I am stronger because of coming through times when I was very weak.

Against the current

Because I want to make a difference, I must become more intentional about how I live my life.  I have three simple resolutions this year, all directly from God’s instructions.  I am sharing these ideals for two reasons: by sharing my goals with others, I am held accountable for upholding my actions to these goals by many other people, creating a large support group, and by sharing my goals with others, maybe they will be spurred on to good deeds by my example.

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Goal one:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ” (from the passage found in Matthew 22:34-40).

Love God, love others.  How hard is that?  Apparently, not as easy as four little words should be.  When I pay more attention to my iPad than to my husband, am I loving others?  When I lose my temper because a volunteer musician waited until Saturday to look at the music for Sunday, therefore they did not practice a new song, am I loving others, or even loving God, whom I am supposed to be worshipping through those very songs?  When I am driving and another driver cuts me off so I start yelling at him or her, am I loving others?

Lord, help me love like You love, without any ifs, ands, or buts.  Make my love for others be unconditional and freely given.  Let my love for You shine through everything I do.

Love others

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Goal two:  “Do all things without complaining…” (from the passage found in Philippians 2:14).

I used to think that I did not complain much, that I was fairly easy-going, and went with the flow without much dispute.  I thought that way until my husband said to me one day, “You complain an awful lot.  Are you just unhappy or what?”  So I stepped back and listened to myself and my words.  I was surprised by just how much I grumbled when plans don’t go the way I think they should, and how critical and, yes, judgmental I could be.  This is a goal I have been working toward for quite a while, and who says a resolution has to be completely new?  If you still have not perfected a habit, why not keep practicing?

Lord, help me to remember that when I grumble and complain against others that I am grumbling and complaining about Your creation.  I want to see to see people and circumstances as You see them, as beautiful masterpieces and opportunities for growth.

attitude

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Goal three:  “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” (from the passage found in Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I am adopting this goal in connection with my personal calendar and activities.  I often find myself wasting my time on a game for hours, while the laundry and dishes need done, or a paper needs researched and written, or I should be sleeping.  I often find myself up against a deadline when I had plenty of time to complete the task.  I also find myself saying “no” when I should say “yes” to an invitation, and saying “yes” when I should really say “no.”

Lord, help me to make your priorities my priorities, and help me to remember that You created a day of rest for a reason.

urgent or important

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Finally, I would leave you with this thought:

Did I offer peace today

Self-Help Sermon

Instructions for Christian Living

Ephesians 4:17-24.  So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

 How do I do this?  

How do I put on a new self and put off the old?  

How am I created to be like God?

1 John 4:8.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

What does that mean, “God is love”?  

Replace the words “love” and “it” with the word “God” in the following passage.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Since we are to be created to be like God, we must strive for these attributes.  

Now, replace the words “love” and “it” with your own name.  Does each description ring true for you?

  • Are you patient?  Then practice patience.
  • Are you kind?  Then practice kindness.
  • Do you envy?  Then practice thankfulness.
  • Do you boast?  Then practice modesty.
  • Are you proud?  Then practice humility.
  • Do you dishonor others?  Then practice respect.
  • Are you self-seeking (selfish)?  Then practice compassion.
  • Are you easily angered?  Then practice gentleness.
  • Do you keep a record of wrongs?  Then practice forgiveness.
  • Do you delight in evil or rejoice with the truth?
  • Do you protect others?
  • Do you trust others?
  • Are you hopeful?
  • Do you persevere?

You will fail.  You are not God. 

When you strive for these characteristics of God, you will still fail, but you will fail less and less as you practice more and more. 

When you do fail, ask wholeheartedly for forgiveness both from God and from others.

attitude

My conversation is the simplest place to begin this transformation.

Colossians 4:6.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We need each other.  People were not meant to be alone, but to interact and care for each other.  When we connect, we should remember that our actions and words travel farther than the immediate surroundings.

Ephesians 4:29-32.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

...and perhaps, mostly importantly of all…

Proverbs 27:17.  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

…we need to hold each other accountable, build each other up into the likeness of God, and love each other unconditionally, no matter what.

Lifegroup Love

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This also stands as my definition of my Lifegroup.  A Lifegroup is a small gathering of people that meet weekly for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship.  I am involved with a wonderful group of fellow believers that I am happy to also call my friends.

       Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

                                                                                                     Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I can only imagine how strong the cord would be made of two dozen strands, like my Lifegroup family.

Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.  I have experienced each of these extremes in my circle of friends.  I Corinthians 12:26 reads if one part suffers, every part with it suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. We have celebrated marriages and births, and we have mourned deaths and divorce.  My Lifegroup has carried me through some low times, such as when my brother attempted suicide, an extended bout with unemployment, health issues, and depression, and through other hard times, such as my difficulties with college and wanting to give up.  They have not only encouraged me through these times, but they also let me know when I am screwing up without making me feel like a screw-up.  Proverbs 27:17 teaches that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  I know that I have received some excellent sharpening through sharing with my friends.

These are the words of Jesus to His disciples:

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”                                                                                                            Matthew 18:19-20

I know that I feel His Presence when I am in the presence of the loving and caring members of my beloved Lifegroup.

I would like to encourage each of us to do as the writer of Hebrews 13:1 prompts:  Keep on loving one another as brothers.  I am grateful for each and every one of my friends and my family.  Thank you for being my Lifegroup.

Fearfully and wonderfully made…

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

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A few months ago, I learned that I have three compressed discs, two in my neck and one in my lower back. There are a host of other issues that are also going on health-wise with me, that it turns out are likely interrelated. I have discovered that our amazing bodies are created in such intricate, interdependendent, and interwoven ways that I honestly never really gave thought to until very recently.

Having a compressed disc in one’s neck is linked to many ailments, including headaches/migraines, neck pain (obviously!), arthritis, muscle strain and spasms, pinched nerves, carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ, fibromyalgia, fatigue, numbness in hands, and low back pain. I have endured many of these issues over the years without knowing why they were happening, just that they were happening.

Having a compressed disc in the lower back can cause back pain (again, so obvious!), sciatica, leg pain, and nerve damage, along with contributing to bowel issues, like IBS. IBS and similar digestive issues can increase the instance of weight problems, like unexplained weight gain or weight loss.  Both of these compressed disc areas can interfere with sleep, with energy levels, with mood disorders, and so on.

As I was thinking about all of this new information, and being thankful that I am able to get treatment for these issues in my body, I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 12:13-27, where Paul compares the human body to the Body of Christ.

Unity and Diversity in the Body

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

 

The suffering of one part affects all of the other parts! We need to care for one another as a part of the same Body. It is so easy to say, “I really don’t give preferential treatment to myself over others,” when in reality we do. We sometimes claim that, “I care for others, I just don’t care about myself,” which is also a wrong attitude. We are all important pieces of the whole. All the parts of the Body need special care and treatment, and all the parts of the Body are lessened when one part is ignored, hurting, in need, or glossed over.

Do this. Search out the hurting parts. They are interconnected with the Body. Befriend them, encourage them, help them heal. Search out the rejoicing parts. Befriend them, encourage them, celebrate with them. Get connected, get healthy, get real, get loved.

Get it?