Sunday, April 27, 2014

gratitude is good for me

Here's what's been going on at my house this week . . . and now they're off, home to Mexico City.
Can I tell you that my grandchildren have changed in 9 months? Josu reads smoothly in English, Selma has the sweetest sprinkling of freckles across her cheeks, and Malachai- soon he'll turn 11!
The visit seemed short- but everything about life seems short these days.
 I remember that  gratitude is good for me. . .

Like so much of life, what I do with gratitude depends on who or what I worship. . .

"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, I will recount all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exalt in you. I will sing praise to your name, O most High." (Psalm 9:1-2)

I love how the Psalmist gives clear context to gratitude - God himself is the object of authentic gratitude, He is the Giver!  Christians worship the Giver who gives meaning to human existence.

"God who made the world and everything in it. . .He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." (Acts 17:25)
He gives life- He gives breath- He gives everything-  He gives to all mankind.
I've been reminding myself, "Heart, God is a good Giver, He is the giver of every good gift!" (James 1:17)

"Be careful how you walk. . .always giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus."(Eph 5)
What God tells me to do always is his moral will for me, and since God's will for his children is always best, gratitude is good for me- like a cheerful heart is good medicine!

 Have you ever noticed how gratitude gives hope, drawing us close to the throne of God; one writer says it like this, "Gratitude puts us in God's living room!"
 I like to hold the picture in my mind- even when I squirm in my circumstances, that's exactly where I need to be. . .in God's living room.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

gratitude and worship

Christians agree, at least philosophically, that we ought to be grateful people- but then we struggle to mind the gap between theology and practical living. . .  I see the gap in me.

So, I dug deep and ruminated long over the root of two worldviews: What the world tells women and what God tells women about gratitude. 
Because the sin of man affects a culture, the world tells us that it's totally acceptable to gripe and complain when things don't go our way. The world tells women to be grateful when it's convenient, when life looks good, but on the whole, griping thanklessness, sporadic gratitude define the world's way. (just watch and listen in line at the grocery store, in the airport, inside you and me. . .)

But then, all humanity yearns for relief from the misery of sin; by and by the world has discovered 
that gratitude is good. At  "greater good-the science of a meaningful life" experts tell us that people who actively become more grateful in their every day lives are happier, healthier, sleep better; the world's expert on gratitude will teach you how to keep a gratitude journal that will create meaning in your life. A recent article asks, "Can gratitude help you thrive?"

hmmm. . .the world embraces a torn edge of truth- gratitude does produce a sense of well being, gratitude lifts our spirits because that's how God created us! The world mixes up good and bad, expounds the benefits of gratitude, tells us to feel good about being grateful.

Like so much of life, what I do with gratitude depends on who or what I worship.
(of course, there's more. . .)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Words. . .sweet, healing

My sweet friend gave birth to her baby boy . . .and a few days ago she moved with her husband and children- to a new home far away. I jotted down some thoughts on mothering in a tiny journal book with a scrolled lavender cover and left it on the table with a note.
Friend, I will miss you. . .miss watching how the Savior continues to grow and change you into his likeness- and here's a little bit of me. . .

What is desired in a woman is her kindness (Prov 19)

My children grew up- and I wish I had been a kinder woman; in Titus 2:3-5 older women are instructed to teach younger women to be kind! We almost miss it. . .to be kind, a little word wedged in between workers at home and subject to their own husband. Just be kind. You'd think we wouldn't have to work on this one, after all, we're mothers!

 The woman in Proverbs 31 opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue-
Friend, show kindness with your words. Scripture teaches that kind words are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones- words go deep. . .

Sometimes a mother is tempted to harshness or impatience when her children are weak, not mean or rebellious, just weak. . .maybe her children are sick or slow or forgetful.
Ahhh, slow, slow, slow squeezes our hearts. But then a woman can choose kindness, "I am so sorry this is hard for you, let me help you."

Friend, my children are grown up, but I'm still learning and practicing-
Kind words are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)

Monday, April 7, 2014

gratitude. . .it's personal

I came home to Texas thinking a lot about gratitude. . . grateful for my weeks in New York, for family and a sweet new granddaughter, for mounds of snow and ice encrusted fir trees, for deep conversations and tea time by a dancing fire, and much much more.
But mainly, my mind  fixated on gratitude because I was set to teach the woman at my church. . .

What does it mean to embrace a lifestyle of gratitude? why does gratitude matter?
I'd been preparing for months. . . If I get to teach, then I'd better be ready! But still I wrestled with how to teach about choosing gratitude when it's really hard- to teach truth with compassion. So, in the end, I decided to make it personal and last Monday I shared  this-

Sometimes we limit our thanksgiving to things that look good to us- even when we know that giving thanks in and for all things is God's good will for his children (I Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20).  We live in a broken world and experience hardships, sufferings, miseries and there are times when it's almost impossible to express gratitude to God.
 It's in those times we "offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord," (Psalm 116:17)
 The sacrifice is costly, it's a sacrifice of faith to "the Giver".
 I say, "Lord, I trust you based on your promises, based on who you've proven to be for me, based on truth that you do all things for my good- and I give you thanks.

In the past year I've faced the challenge to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord amid a painful circumstance- I admit it's hard. But I remember that my sacrifice of thanksgiving honors him and He is worthy. I remind myself that gratitude is good for me- if I don't offer a sacrifice when it's hard, I grow bitter, resentful, cold towards God.
And here it is. . .I don't want to be a hard, bitter old woman! I want to be gracious and sweet and tender towards the Good Shepherd to the end. Perhaps that's the path God is carving in my heart as I plant a seed of faith and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. A dear friend shared this observation:

I found myself being challenged. . .was I being thankful in my circumstances because they were smooth at the moment or because of who Christ is? Can I be just as thankful if the road is rocky? It is easy to be thankful when things are going our way but thankfulness makes the rough road so much more delightful. I wish I could be there. . .

(Ahh, me too sweet friend-and thanks for that)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

an airplane encounter

Do you ever wonder who you might meet on an airplane?

Last week passengers and luggage packed my flight from Atlanta to San Antonio. I buckled up in my window seat, waiting, as one by one the crowd passed my row.
Then an elderly woman, as thin and fragile as a curled leaf, shuffled one step and another along the aisle. I watched as a younger woman supported and lifted the tiny woman into the aisle seat; the younger woman sighed and settled into the seat between us.
We exchanged friendly nods, Hello. . .Hola
They chatted together in Spanish and after awhile I nudged in.. ."Are you going home to San Antonio?"
"No, we're from Venezuela," replied the younger woman kindly. "This is my mother-in-law; we're traveling to San Antonio to visit her daughter."

"I am Carbina!" the elderly woman called to me from her aisle seat. We chatted easily, sometimes I strained to hear Carbina's raspy words over the engine buzz. She dozed and startled awake; impatiently she wiped a string of saliva from the corner of her mouth.
 I learned that 50 years ago Carbina and her husband had moved from Spain to Venezuela seeking a better life- and now in her frail old age she ventured to Texas- to visit her daughter.

Once she was regal . . .now she is brave, I thought.

Then our plane was landing and Carbina insistently spoke to her daughter-in-law, "The Senora (me) must come with us into the airport, who will be there to pick her up, who will care for her?"
"My husband will pick me up. " I assured her, "but I will come with you!"
The entire plane emptied- passengers, a load of baggage, and then I  followed my companions as Carbina shuffled, shuffled. . .
Safe in her wheel chair, I scurried alongside Carbina, through the terminal to the baggage pick-up. I stood close, beside the wheelchair and Carbina squeezed my hand. John called my cell, "I'm here, almost at the curb!"
"Well, I'm here too. . .but Senora Carbina, I'm holding her hand."

Then a slender, regal looking woman approached us, "Ahh, it's your daughter, Carbina, you are alike!"
The daughter greeted me graciously. "Goodbye, Carbina!" and I kissed her wrinkled cheeks.