Tag: blessings

Christmas idea, stones, 2017

Another “almost free” quick Christmas gift idea

Hubby and I traveled north this past weekend to a little town where we used to live.

We wandered up and down the streets and in and out of the little stores. It’s so much more fun than malls.

I miss how Christmas used to be:

……….dashing in and out of the stores,

……….with the snowflakes falling heavily,

……….and the wind blowing.

I miss having to make frequent stops to have coffee.

I miss brushing off the snow as I walked into the stores and saying to the clerks, “Boy, it’s really coming down out there.” And, of course, they would respond, “It sure is.”

It sparked immediate connection and conversation.  A rarity today, don’t you think?

There is just something about trudging in the snow and carrying snow-covered packages and freezing to death because, God forbid, you dressed “cute”, translated, not warm.

It wasn’t as frantic either.

It wasn’t about checking off the list.

It was about looking and really shopping for that gift that caught your eye. It was about the snow and the cold and the greeting people across the street as they trudged along as well.

There was so much more gaiety.

Anyway, back to the shopping. We went to this one store I’d not been in before and I found this basket of painted stones on which various saying were painted.  I love stones.

I keep a stone in my bathroom that sees “Remember”. It’s based on the story in the first few chapters in Joshua. Sometimes I forget all the ways God has blessed me, so I like the visual reminder.

My Pinterest board has lots of ideas if you want to check it out.

But these rocks almost looked like a child had painted them, which made them all the sweeter in my eyes.

So if you are looking for a last-minute idea and you have some rocks lying around, try this out. I would suggest you use a fine-tipped paint marker for writing the words.  A black oil-based marker will work as well.

painted rocks Christmas 2017

There is something about holding a stone that immediately connects us with the earth.

God bless and have a good day.

grace

an alphabet of thanks “G”

(My originally scheduled post follows these remarks in italics.)

How do I even submit this post today after the horrific events of yesterday’s church shooting? How do I talk about God’s grace when, frankly, it seems like it wasn’t evidenced yesterday?  And yet I still believe God’s grace is real.

No, I know it’s real. 

I also know that this tragedy reflects a world that needs God’s love. And the only ways that anyone can know God’s love is when they see it in the lives of those who are already experiencing it.  It isn’t enough to pray. It isn’t enough to read our Bibles. It certainly isn’t enough to show up at church every Sunday.

We have to love. I’m not talking about sloppy sentimentality.

You know what I mean.

People who “say” the words but whose life doesn’t reflect it. And I’m not talking about overlooking situations that should be addressed. I’m not talking about lack of consequences for criminal activity. In fact, it’s when we don’t address these problems early on out of a false sense of what love is, that situations like this escalate. 

I’m talking about the smallest “little” acts of kindness: manners, smiling, offers of help, genuine attention to the needs of others, etc. There are all kinds of ways to show love. And these all reflect grace.

There are all kinds of “hurting” people we run into every day. People whose lives are in chaos. People who are depressed. People who are grieving. Etc.

Think about the last time you had a bad day. You went about your day feeling miserable. But you ran into someone who smiled at you.  How did you feel? I’ll bet it helped and I’ll bet you felt a little hope.

Now think of that same day. You went about your day and everyone you ran into ignored you. No one smiled at you. How did that make you feel? It made you feel worse, didn’t it?

We should never underestimate the power of a smile or a kind word. It can save somebody’s life.

And if we engage in a conversation, it’s even better. And there’s always a way to open a door to a conversation. 

Remember, grace is ours to give, as much as receive. 

And I’m not suggesting for one minute that such simple acts can stop all the violence. Or that things will change overnight. But don’t you agree that it’s a place to start? That’s it’s the one place we all can start? 

I have been praying for many years that I live my life as someone who is part of the solution, not part of the problem. If we all would work harder at permeating our little part of the world with love, then our little part of the world would be safe. If everyone everywhere did the same thing, then the entire world would be safe.

 There was a song from the seventies that is truly “schmaltzy”. It’s trite and simplistic but I think it reflects how we all would like to world to be.”

Today is easy. Grace, indescribable, undeserved, and unending. 

When I think of all the ways God has “graced” me, I am humbled. And not just me. I read Scripture and see God’s grace to the Israelites time and time again. I see God’s grace extended to others every day.  But the one thing about grace that needs to be said is this:

While God’s grace is free, it isn’t cheap. It was paid with a price. A big one.

When God extends His grace, we need to remember the price that was paid for it and to make sure we don’t just accept the gift too casually.

I don’t understand God’s grace.  I’m just grateful for it.

I wonder how many times God’s grace showers us and we aren’t even aware of it. The times, for example, when we say something we shouldn’t but we don’t suffer the consequences. The times we act foolishly and yet are spared the fallout. The times we miss asking for God’s blessing and yet He gives it anyway.

We all probably experience more grace every day than we ever recognize. Maybe that’s why it’s called, “grace”, and not something else.

I wonder how many times we confuse grace with good luck.

I only know that without grace, that undeserved gift from God, I wouldn’t make it through the day.

God bless and have a good day.

how do you give back a blessing?

google images

google images

My husband and I received a very big blessing today. An all-clear medical report for one of our children and for the other one a few weeks ago. Before I write anything else,  I want to share with you what Oswald Chambers wrote for his January 6th devotion in My Utmost For His Highest.

“Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love gift. Take time before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot………..God will  never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself, it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others.”

But how? Do I find a way to give back right away today? Do I wait and watch and listen for that prompt from God as to something specific?  How is it even possible to give a blessing back to God?

Some authors suggest an extra financial gift to a needy organization. We have done that in the past as a way of passing on a blessing.

There are times when saying “Thank you, God”, just doesn’t seem enough. For God, it probably is but do we always want to do just enough? Aren’t there times we want to do much more?Today is one of those days for me.

I have decided I will be alert for a special prompt these next few days but until then I want to do something today. So here it is.

First of all, would you thank God with me for this blessing we’ve received? I would love to think that the heavens are being inundated with praise. And secondly, as you go about your day, would you be alert to that stranger that might need a prayer? And would you offer one up for them?

Years ago when I was in Brazil, I sat poolside on the roof of our hotel and noticed an unusual bird flying nearby. I was feeling pretty alone that day as my husband was working and no one else was on the roof with me. I kept watching that singular bird and thought how much we were alike. Both of us by ourselves. But soon that bird was joined by a flock of birds and he was no longer alone. Other people showed up on the roof and I was no longer alone.

For some strange reason, I felt God “speaking ” to my heart that day telling me to pray for those people on the roof. I had never felt the urge to pray for complete strangers before, but I did that day. (I mean how does one pray for a stranger)? I found it far easier than I would have thought and even today, years later, I often find myself praying for people I don’t know.

And just one last thought. Remember, that prayer you offer up for that stranger today may be the only prayer that has or ever will be prayed over that person. That really puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it? We know that no prayer ever goes unheeded. God hears them all.

Notice that stranger today and let God lead you to the words you will pray. You will both be blessed and thus I will have passed on my blessing to you.

God bless and let me know how it goes.

Humility-what it is, what it isn’t

We were in Bangkok.

Bangkok skyline

There was a quiet knock on the door. It almost sounded apologetic.

I opened the door in response .  A timid young Thai woman bowed her head and mumbled some words. “Why was she bowing?” I asked myself.

She had on a uniform with the name of the hotel embroidered on it, so I knew her to be one of the hotel staff.

I let her in and in her broken Thai/English vernacular, she said, “Housekeeping, Madam.”

I understood what she said but still couldn’t figure out the “bowing” part.  My first instinct was to tell her to straighten up, but I knew I couldn’t make her understand what I was saying.

My second instinct was to gently place my hands on her head and lift it but I know better than to touch a stranger in a foreign country.

Over the next two weeks, I was bowed to so many times, I felt like royalty. My husband laughingly explained it was protocol for the staff at this particular hotel. I grew to like it a little too much, I’m ashamed to admit.

Fast forward twelve years later.

I’m at a motel chain in Atlanta, Georgia, a far cry from the Bangkok Hilton. On the flight there, I was reading a book by John Ortberg, entitled, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”.  It’s a book that focuses on spiritual growth and at the end of one chapter the author suggests we ask this question, “Am I becoming judgmental or exclusive or proud?”

That question is what prompted me to remember my experience in Thailand.

When my husband’s job transitioned to internal travel, we knew it was important that we handle what others would view as a “WOW” in the right way. We knew people can be impressed easily and we didn’t want that.  We knew we were the same people.

So we decided early on that we wouldn’t broadcast the bit about the international travel. I remembered the times I’d heard other women talk of international travel and how I felt I had nothing in common with them.  I always felt a little inferior. That was my fault, not theirs but I didn’t want others to feel that way about me. It’s too easy to get a big head. Besides, the glamor wore off after about the third trip.

Humility doesn’t mean we can’t feel good about our achievements. We all feel good when we’ve worked hard on a project and it turns out even better than we expected.  I feel a healthy pride when one of my paintings turns out good.

Unhealthy pride almost always leads us to think we’re more valuable than the next person.

 We can judge unhealthy pride in ourselves by how we treat others.  

We can enjoy the fruits of our labor without feeling we’ve abandoned humility. Physicians make the salary they do because they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education, years of internship and often hold a patient’s life in their hands. Respecting someone’s expertise is very different from elevating them.  My husband earned every one of his frequent flyer miles the hard way: cancelled flights, long layovers, being away from his family and friends, being sick In a foreign country, having to rush every minute when he was home to see the people he needed to see, and never getting any time to enjoy his own pursuits.

When God blesses us with something we need never apologize for it. As long as we acknowledge that God is the ultimate source of every blessing and show our thankfulness in meaningful ways, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of our labor. Pride rears its head when we twist our thinking to convince ourselves we did it all on our own. That’s when we cease to be humble.

Many people confuse personality traits with humility.  Some of the most humble people I know are extroverts. Some of the least humble people I know are introverts.  Further, humility doesn’t mean we never confront or share our opinions either.  Christ was humble but he wasn’t meek or timid acting. Hardly.  He often harshly addressed the hypocrites around him.  Even during his trial, he never backed down from the truth.

(Remembering my promise to myself to keep my blog “real” and to be authentic I share this personal bit.) There are days, when during my quiet time, I say to God, “God, I think I made you smile today and that makes me feel good.” I want to know I’ve made God smile. Why would I want anything less? I don’t feel the least bit prideful about saying that. Maybe that’s because on other days I have to say, “God, today, I think I made you sad and that makes me feel awful.”

If you can look in the mirror and once you look away forget about yourself, you are well on your way to humility.  If you can pick up someone else’s mess without complaining, you are well on your way. If you can graciously offer your place in line to someone behind you, you are well on your way.  If you can visit someone who needs a visit even though they’re not the most pleasant person, you are on your way.  I believe as with most aspects of life we have to be intentional or we simply will let things slide

Deliberately put yourselves in situations that keep you humble.

I want to tell you a true story. Your first thought may be that this woman I’m going to tell you about was less than humble by sharing her story. That’s not true. She’s one of the most genuine people I know. It happened in a Bible class I was teaching and the subject was relationships. Her demeanor in telling her story was gentle and sweet and I could tell she struggled with sharing it for fear she would bring too much attention to herself.

It happened in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  She has four children. She and her husband were struggling financially. This particular day everyone was getting on everyone’s nerves. Her husband was becoming frustrated with the children and with her. This was very much unlike him. This kept up for the afternoon and she was to the point of tears.  She was also getting irritated herself with her husband’s lack of understanding about a few issues that were transpiring that day. She went into a room and prayed.

She knew what she had to do.

Everyone was gathered in the family room sulking, no one talking to one another. She went into the kitchen, filled a large round bowl with water, and gathered some soap and a washcloth. She entered the room, and without saying a word she knelt in front of her husband. She said that everyone immediately became still and quiet as they watched what she was doing. Her husband was so taken aback, he just sat there. Without one word, she took off his shoes and socks and gently and lovingly washed his feet.  Her family was so struck by what she was doing, tears came to their eyes. (Mine, too, as I listened.)

She never said what happened next. She ended her story very quietly and none of us spoke, even the never-at-a-loss-for words teacher. As I recall, the silence in our room continued for quite a while as we took in what she’d done. I will never forget it. It is to this day the most graphic example of true humility I’ve ever heard about.

She would have been justified in nursing her wounded feelings but she knew her husband was upset with himself and rather than chastise him, she took the opportunity to humble herself before him.

Those of the Christian faith are beginning to celebrate Holy Week, the interval between when Jesus entered Jerusalem till the day he rose from the dead on Easter. During that time there were a few trials, many betrayals, and finally a crucifixion. In Philippians (a book in the Christians bible), it says that Jesus humbled himself.  Christians believe Jesus, being God’s son, had all the same power his father did. He could have stopped his own crucifixion but instead, he humbled himself and fulfilled prophecy. No one had to humble Jesus. He did it himself.

 Humility isn’t an intrinsic quality. Humility is an action. Humility isn’t something we claim’ it’s something we give away.

Christ was our example.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

 

Big storm, no power. Now what?

Major storms last night. The neighborhood is a mess. The power is out so what’s a girl to do? Especially when her plan included the use of electricity.

It got me to thinking about the children I sponsor in third world countries. This is the norm for them. 

Hot water? Wouldn’t they just love that? How about just water in general?

My cable isn’t working. My phones aren’t working. The garage door isn’t working.

I’ve had to throw away food.

When I write all this, it reminds me how pampered and privileged I am. It is only by the grace of God I live in this United States of Abundance.

I am humiliated.

I am humiliated that this even bothers me at all. Shame on me for being annoyed at absence of of what I consider a necessity that others 

But how do I get beyond it? Do I move to another country? What would that accomplish? Really?

I think what I do is be as generous with my resources as I can possibly be. I cease from acquiring or better yet cease from even thinking I need more.

And yet, next week I’m going to share some exciting news that is exactly about acquiring more.

Oh, to know the answers to some of these quandaries,

To find that balance.

I hope I’m not the only one that finds themselves feeling blessed more than they feel they have a right to be. 

What do you think?

How do you rationalize it all?

God bless and have a good day.

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