Tag: blessings

how do you give back a blessing?

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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.

stones

Why rocks “rock” for me.

I love rocks. Or maybe they’re stones.

If you really want to know the difference, you can look it up here. The upshot is this: All rocks are stones but not all stones are rocks.”  Hmmm.

For me, rocks have hard and rough surfaces while stones are smooth.

I love collecting “stones” of all sizes. I’m trying to make a border around the bunkhouse and the cabin.

bunkhouse

I like to write on stones and have them placed where I can see them.

stones

I love this big one in the middle. It’s almost perfectly round. I’m thinking of writing a verse reference on each one and then one word on the other side that captures the meaning. 

Sometimes I write a reference to a special Bible verse but mostly I write, “Remember”.

This is based on the Bible story where Joshua tells the Israelites to gather stones from the Jordan River for a remembrance of God’s faithfulness. It’s from Joshua, chapter four.

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.  Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.

Sometimes, especially when I’ve been praying hard about something and it doesn’t turn out the way I want, I get discouraged. I need to remind myself that for whatever prayers haven’t been answered, there have been more that are.

So if you need to have a visual, try it. It really works.

Another thought. I have read that some people carry around a small stone in their pocket, purse, etc, and rub it between their fingers when they need to remind themselves of all God has done for them. I’ve done this as well.

Now some of you may not need a reminder. But I’m just honest enough to admit that sometimes I do.

God bless and have a good day.

I can and I will

How God exceeds our expectations

(You are reading this post on Monday, May 15.  I’m writing it on Friday, May 12.)

My mom passed away yesterday and I haven’t stopped crying. I just know I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning and instead of a funeral to attend I am going to go over and have some morning coffee with her. I have to imagine that if I’m going to sleep tonight.

I’m going to share this grieving process on and off for the next few days and then I’m done except for the occasional reference.

When this journey with my mom began escalating last October, I prayed for three things.

First of all, wisdom. If I told you all the decisions I’ve made along the way you wouldn’t believe it. I look back and feel good because I believe I made all the right decisions. There were big ones like taking her out of rehab at a nursing home and bringing her home. It was a disastrous experience. We had no intention of letting her stay there anyway but another day would have completely put her over the edge. Within a few days, she was back to where she had been before we took her in.

There were little ones like….Come to think of it, they were no little decisions.

Secondly, I prayed we’d be able to keep her at home until the end. My brother and I had a few moments when we thought we might not be able to accomplish it, but, by golly we did. My brother lives with her so up until a couple of months before her death, he was able to handle the evenings. Then it came to a point where I felt he needed to sleep better so I hired nighttime help. Eventually, she had round-the-clock care except for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the late afternoon.

After my mom died and we could finally quit crying, my brother and I hugged, and said, “We did it,”

Third, I wanted to be there when she breathed her last breath. Maybe I should have re-thought that one. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I did it for her. My husband and I slept at my mom’s last week because I just had a hunch that things would move fast. They did.  If we’d spent the nights in our own home, we would never have made it on time. I should add here that my husband considered my mom his mom. They truly loved each other.

So all three prayers were answered but God took it a step further and blessed me in unexpected ways.

  • As my niece and I were bathing my mom, she opened both her eyes and made contact with me. It had been days since she had opened her eyes. I was the last person she saw before she died.

 

  • It turned out that she died shortly after that which meant that the Hospice didn’t need to bathe her which they usually do. I and my niece prepared her body. Do you know how good that makes me feel do know that a stranger didn’t have to it? I massaged her frail little body with lotion and I like to believe she felt it.

I went to the Funeral Home website and there were pictures of two other women who died last week. They were older as well. While I grieve my loss, their children are grieving their loss. While this is my mother and my pain, I know I’m not alone.  It was a reminder to me that other people lost their mothers this week. I share their grief.

Earlier today, we ordered some sandwich trays today at our local grocer and the woman waiting on us asked us what occasion we ordering for.  In the course of our conversation, she told me she had lost her mother a few years back and then her son. She told me I was strong and that, like her, I would get through this. Her words were particularly comforting. She “got” my tears.

I hope she’s right because I seriously question how I’m going to get through this. But I would imagine I’m not the first person to feel this way.

My grandson asked me last week how I was doing. I told him I’m pretty much crying all the time. I told him that’s what grieving looks like, that I’m supposed to cry.

Having just now thought of that conversation, I guess I am going to get through this.

I hope your day goes well and God bless you.

(Obviously, I won’t be posting for a couple of days but I may schedule some older posts.)

 

 

 

 

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