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Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude to God’

You probably know it, have even memorized it:

Such a statement begs the question: how does joy—of all things–translate into strength? Wouldn’t it be faith in the Lord that makes us strong? Turns out joy is an important facet of faith.

That phrase “of the Lord” holds the key. When we delight in the Author of joy–who he is and what he does–that’s when our spirits begin to grow strong.

To foster that kind of joy and delight:

Express Gratitude

Tonia Peckover wrote, “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving” [1].

Research has proven that keeping a gratitude journal works well to develop our appreciation muscles [2]. Just a few lines per day can get joy percolating in our spirits.

Another strategy: turn mindless tasks like folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc. into moments of thanksgiving. Go through the alphabet, perhaps, and thank God for one blessing for each letter.

You might begin with AFFECTION among family and friends, BEDTIME and that first BLISSFUL moment on the pillow after a challenging day, COFFEE—the most delectable flavor to start the morning.

For an extra challenge, you might focus on who God is. He’s ACTIVE in our lives, BENEVOLENT to us, COMPASSIONATE, and DELIGHTFUL—you get the idea. (For a sample of such an alphabet, see “God’s Goodness from A to Z,” a post from 2018.)

Meditate on God’s Word

Here’s another joy-inducing, writing-exercise:

In a journal or on a piece of paper, write your reason(s) for being distressed. Then conduct a scripture search (Online resources abound!) for specific promises and encouraging passages that address your concern.  

Praise God for each one as you copy it on the page. Express expectancy for the day when each promise is fulfilled, and feel radiant joy rise in your spirit as you do.

Martin Luther advised:

It stands to reason that something much smaller, our hearts, will also change when we pick up our pens.

That’s happened for me; the same will hold true for you.

Follow God’s Ways

Countless people through the ages have thought that following their own way—striving for success, accumulating wealth, and participating in self-pleasing pursuits—would bring them joy. But such quests never deliver, because that’s not where joy is found.

Joy is found in obedience to God’s ways [3]. He made us; he knows what’s best for us. Of course, we know that. So why do many of us balk at what will bring maximum blessing?!

Anything God commands of us is so that our joy may be full.

Beth Moore [4]

Note that glorious word, full–as in brimming and bursting at the seams.

And what does fullness of joy include? Beauty and bounty.

Beautiful encounters. Beautiful endeavors. Beautiful moments.

Bountiful blessing. Bountiful fruit. Bountiful satisfaction [5].

When we yield in obedience to God’s voice,

he yields a harvest greater than we can imagine.

Denise J. Hughes [6]

And so, joy becomes strength when we delight in who God is and what God does.

Joy becomes strength as we blissfully trust in the truth of his Word.

And joy becomes strength when we gladly follow his instructions.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, I do want to experience your joy in my life, to delight in you so my spirit might grow stronger. Help me to make choices throughout each day that usher me into your fullness of joy!

(Psalm 112:1; 16:11)


[1] Quoted by Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 176.

[2] https://cct.biola.edu/thanks-science-gratitude/

[3] John 15:9-11

[4] Values for Life, 169

[5] Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 9:8 

[6] Deeper Waters, 149

Art & photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.canva.com (3).

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A nail is driven out by another nail;

habit is overcome by habit.

So said Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch philosopher and theologian of the 1500s.

Desiderius Erasmus

Research in recent times has proven his statement true.  One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.

That’s why President Reagan replaced his cigarettes with jelly beans, dieters replace chips with popcorn, and late-night TV addicts forego talk shows to read calming books.

Some of the most stubborn bad habits are those that occur in the mind. It’s no easy task to shut down anxious, negative, or covetous thoughts—even when we know they contribute nothing to our well-being.

But if we apply Desiderius’ advice, we can retrain our brains toward healthy, even delightful thinking. For example, we can:

Replace anxiety with trust.

Worry spirals us downward into fear; trust-statements provide the way out–trust-statements such as these:

  • I can trust the One who died for me. He will thwart every plan that should be stopped and complete each one that results in his greatest glory and my highest good.[1]
  • God is with me and for me. His strength enables me, and his light guides my way.
  • Time and again I’ve witnessed God’s provision and protection, his miracles and blessings. “All that I have seen has taught me to trust him for all that I have not seen.”[2]

As other trust statements come to our attention, we can record them in our journals or in Notes on our phones. Then we’ll be prepared when the slide into worry begins.

Replace negativity with positivity and praise.

Continual praise is what changes the emotions,

lifts the darkness, offers hope, frees the mood

and blesses God so that evil is driven out.

Praise changes everything.

–Arnold Prater[3]

Throughout the day take a praise-pause now and then. Praise God for his power to keep this world on its axis, tilted just right to support life. Praise him for the proofs of his creativity in nature, for his goodness and loving mercy that prompted him to make a way to heaven for us.

Of course, the demands of the day often distract us from such thoughts. But if we post reminders here and there—around the house, on the visor of the car, at our places of work—we can jump-start this habit.

Replace covetousness with gratitude.

Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery;

it merely washes clean the glass you look through

so you can clearly see the colors.

–Richelle E. Goodrich

Too often our attention gravitates toward wants instead of haves, fostering discontentment and envy–emotions we’d do well to eliminate.

One helpful strategy is keeping a gratitude journal. Even brief entries can be effective. I only record one or two things each day, but discovered there’s benefit in the process of reviewing the day to glean the highlights. An added delight: rereading old entries and feeling grateful all over again.

Of course, developing good habits is not as easy as driving out a nail. What about those days when we fail? That’s the time to remember: even in failure there is progress.

Failure points to the inadequacy of striving on our own, and turns us toward greater dependence on God.

We learn, on the one hand,

that we cannot trust ourselves

even in our best moments,

and, on the other,

that we need not despair even in our worst,

for our failures are forgiven.

–C. S. Lewis[4]

We can begin our habits of trust-statements, praise, and gratitude right there!


[1] Based on a quote from J.H.M., Streams in the Desert (Zondervan, 1997) 295.

[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson

[3] Bonding with God (Marno Books, 2000) 78.

[4] Mere Christianity (MacMillan, 1952) 78.

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org.

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“Would you look at this?” my friend exclaimed. Her outstretched hand waved over a selection of magazines in our favorite place to meet, a local bookstore/cafe.

 

 

Do you see what caught Cindy’s* eye? That word “Mindfulness” or “Mindful” shouted from nine different periodicals.

After the initial surprise, we realized why mindfulness is such a hot topic.  These days many adults are under great pressure to push themselves hard, move faster and accomplish more each day. All the while electronic devices are demanding their attention.

Add to that the worries rasping in their minds: the mistakes and failures of yesterday, the tight schedule and uncertainties of tomorrow, and fears for the future.

The pace, stress, and anxiety take their toll in the form of health problems, sleep disorders, and relational strain.

 

 

As a result, many have embraced mindfulness—a pleasurable time-out to capture the joy of now–like pausing to savor the tart, crisp, juiciness of an apple, stopping to listen as small bare feet patter down the stairs, or taking a moment to study a chipmunk collecting acorns.

And according to the research, just a brief interlude of mindfulness can calm the nerves, reset one’s emotional equilibrium, and foster contentment—all to positive effect upon our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

But I wonder, how many people know God offers even more–if we augment mindfulness with gratitude and praise?

 

 

For example, while doing the dishes I can focus on the hot water warming my hands, the clean scent of soap, the rainbowed bubbles floating in a bowl, the burbling water cascading over glasses and cups–then add a short prayer:

Thank you, Father, for giving us five senses

with which to enjoy your world.

 

 

While traveling in the car I can take note of the late summer haze clinging to the hillsides, today’s cloud exhibition, and the leaves on the roadside performing pirouettes on the breeze–then honor the Lord of all things:

I praise you, Father, for your creative genius

on display everywhere I look.

 

 

While reading a book with my two-year old granddaughter, I can pay attention to the sensation of her little body snuggled into my side, the sweet sound of her toddler-voice “reading” some of the words, and the dimples on the back of her hand as she points to a picture–then express gratitude to the Giver of all good gifts:

Thank you, Father, for the delights to be found

beneath the surface of ordinary experience.

 

 

Each day I can pause to observe the rose-pink tint of dawn, the dappled treetops in the noonday sun, and the slow glide of shadows at sunset–then rejoice in God’s power and glory.

My mouth is filled with your praise, O God,

declaring your splendor all day long.”

–Psalm 71:8

 

 

Mindfulness may prod us to notice God’s gifts in the moment, and that’s good.

But mindfulness plus gratitude and praise prompt us to treasure him, and that’s transformational.

God’s presence becomes palpable (James 4:8), joy sings in our hearts (Psalm 92:4), contentment settles in our spirits (Isaiah 26:3).

And the Giver of all good things surely smiles with pleasure in response.

 

 

*Name changed.

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; ww.canva.com.)

 

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Consider what great things [God] has done for you,”

(from the farewell address of Samuel the prophet,

to the people of Israel–1 Samuel 12:24b, italics added).

 

I wonder if Samuel paused after those words, to give the Israelites a moment of reflection.  God had blessed them in numerous ways by:

  • Miraculously bringing them out of slavery in Egypt.
  • Sustaining them during their wilderness journey to Canaan.
  • Providing laws and commands for them to assure an orderly, pleasant, and productive life.
  • Giving them victory over their enemies.
  • Sending prophets and judges to guide and encourage (vs. 6-15).

 

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And what might have been the Israelites’ response as they remembered those blessings?

Were they whispering prayers of praise, because God had cared for them so attentively?

Did they resolve to reverence him more intentionally and serve him more faithfully, as Samuel suggested (12:24a)?

 

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Surely both responses were called for.

I also wonder if we might similarly be impacted by considering daily the great things God has done for us.

My own pondering made me realize my life includes parallels to those of the Israelites (although in less striking ways). Perhaps you, too, have had similar experiences.

God has:

  • Brought me out of difficult situations. (One small example: When a teaching job opened up nearby, I no longer had to endure  a stressful 50-minute commute.)
  • Sustained me with a heightened sense of his presence through the wilderness of hurt and emotional pain.
  • Provided his Word of wisdom for an orderly, pleasant, and productive life. (Not that I’ve always taken advantage of that wisdom.)
  • Given me the final victory over Satan, through his Son, Jesus. One day I will enjoy life in heaven with my Savior.
  • Sent spiritual teachers, pastors, and mentors to guide and encourage me.

 

A group of young women bow their heads and pray with bibles.

 

But perhaps you feel excluded from God’s blessings. Any consideration of your circumstances makes you shake your head in disillusionment. After all, the evidence seems clear. While others are enjoying marriage and family, a satisfying career, good health and/or _______________ (fill in the blank), you’re not.

Perhaps another point of view would provide alternative evidence. Consider your circumstances and the blessings they do provide.

For example:

 

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  • Not married? You benefit from greater freedom in your life.
  • No children? You can invest fresh energy and enthusiasm into children-not-your-own, providing the parents a much-needed break.
  • Struggling in a wilderness of emotional upset right now? Draw near to God and he will draw near to you in new, profound ways. Look for him in creation and in his Word. Listen for him in a song or in the encouragement of a mature friend. Be watchful, because he reveals himself in highly creative ways.
  • Is Jesus a part of your everyday life? Then you have a constant Friend who loves you, cares for you, withholds no good thing, and will never leave you.
  • Are there mentors and models in your life, showing you the way to a God-enhanced life? How splendid not to be struggling alone.

The bottom-line consideration is this:

Do I want to wear a shroud of despair or a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3)?

 

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Do I want to live selfishly or in grateful obedience to the One who has bestowed so much?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Amazing God, words fail to express my gratitude as I consider your countless blessings.  Nor can words sufficiently extol your grace that motivates such loving benevolence.  I long to be continually grateful and consistently obedient, as a love-gift back to you.  May thankfulness energize my obedience! 

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wallpaper.knowing-jesus.com; http://www.lds.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.fullsupply.org; http://www.americakeswick.org; http://www.transitionsabroad.com; http://www.crosswalk.com.)

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quote-there-is-no-sweeter-manner-of-living-in-the-world-than-continuous-communion-with-god-brother-lawrence-79-6-0625

 

“That does sound wonderful,” a young mother says, “but Brother Lawrence was a monk, working in the garden or kitchen all day. He could pray as he went about his chores. I work in a noisy office and then deal with three noisy kids when I get home. How can I experience continuous communion with God?”

Her dilemma is all too familiar, even for someone like me who’s retired!

So I began a list of possibilities to help me live in more continuous communion with God. Perhaps an idea or two will appeal to you.

  1. Begin the day with God–even as I get out of bed.  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” the psalmist urged (118:24).  OK, what can I rejoice in and be grateful to God for, as I anticipate the day?

 

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  1. Wear a reminder-bracelet—even a paper one! Write a scripture on it (such as Isaiah 26:3), or an encouraging statement, such as: “He is beneath me as my foundation, He is beside me as my friend, He is within me as my life” (Barbara Johnson, Women of Faith speaker).
  1. Copy a meaningful scripture on a 3 x 5 card. Post it on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door, the visor of the car, or the inside of a closet. Move it around every few days so the element of surprise serves to grab my attention.
  1. Sing to God (while driving quiet streets or doing noisy chores!)
  1. Keep my blessings journal more faithfully. (Even though I established the habit years ago, I still allow some precious gifts to go unrecorded. More attentiveness will add more joy to my days.)
  1. Get outside. Find at least one marvelous gift in creation, and praise God for his genius.

 

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  1. Follow this advice from Barbara Johnson (mentioned above): While using a household product, see if the name or its attributes remind me of God and my relationship with him. One example: Fresh Start laundry detergent. While loading the washer I can pray, “Thank you, Father, that every day is a fresh start with you. Your mercies are new every morning.”  (Interested in more products and their implications?  Click on “A.M. Attitude Adjustment.”)
  1. Post a verse on the bathroom mirror. Work at memorizing it.
  1. Each time I sip my coffee or tea, I can also “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) by savoring the blessings of the moment.  Thankfulness opens my heart to his presence and my mind to his thoughts.**

 

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  1. End the day with God, recalling his blessings or reciting his scripture.

 

Now if you’re like me, a bracelet on the wrist or a 3 x 5 on a cabinet door soon become such common sights, I barely notice them anymore. Perhaps if I rotate through some of the suggestions, they’ll retain their impact.

Sunday might be the day for an outdoor respite.  Monday might be Bracelet Day; Tuesday could be Taste-and-See Day.

You get the idea.

Bottom line: I want my mouth filled with God’s praise; I want to declare his splendor all day long, simply because he is worthy of praise (Psalm 71:8; 1 Chronicles 16:24-25).

But how glorious is this:  our all-gracious God chooses to bless us when we seek to bless him—blessings such as:

 

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So…

 

“…For a short time, fly from your business;

hide yourself for a moment from your turbulent thoughts.

Break off now your troublesome cares,

and think less of your laborious occupations.

Make a little time for God, and rest for a while in Him.

Enter into the chamber of your mind,

shut out everything but God

and whatever helps you to seek Him, and,

when you have shut the door, seek Him.

Speak now, O my whole heart, speak now to God:

‘I seek Thy face; Thy face, Lord, do I desire.'”

—  Anselm

(1033-1109, Archbishop of Canterbury, caring pastor, author)

 

   *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

What strategies help you to enjoy continuous communion with God?  Please share in the Comments section below!

 

**based on a statement by Sarah Young, Jesus Calling,p. 343

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.azquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.guilford.ces.ncsu.edu; http://www.zazzle.co.uk; http://www.ourdailyblossom.com.)

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