Tag Archives: gratitude

The Importance of Contentment (Guest Post)

Girl in hat and sundress, picking daisies in a sunlit field.
[Image via Pixabay]

The Importance of Contentment

by Steph Beth Nickel

Why do you do what you do? Complacency, contentment, or conviction?

An onlooker might not be able to tell the difference.

Sometimes even we can’t tell the difference.

It’s what I’ve always done. That’s complacency.

I believe this is right, and it has been confirmed over and over again. That’s conviction.

But what about contentment?

It may look like complacency, but then again, it just might be conviction.

Contentment is my word for 2020.

As you may know, I am eclectically interested and eclectically involved. Too often I’m distracted by the Oo, Shiny! Books, online courses, careers …

Do you think it’s time to stop buying books (or at least slow down) when you have over 1,000 physical and ebooks you haven’t yet read?

Most of mine are accessible on my phone. <sigh>

And what about courses and lifetime access to online conference sessions, some of which were inexpensive, others … not so much?

I’ll buy this healthy living annual subscription and access to this library of workouts, and I’ll be healthier by the end of the year … if I access them and put what I learn into practice that is. (We won’t mention the fact that I was a personal trainer and know what I need to do to get healthier.)

Of course I’ll maintain my doula certification while writing, editing, working as our church admin, and helping my hubby clean the church each week. Sleep? Who needs it? (That would be me.)

To be honest, my whole life might be a case of FOMO, fear of missing out.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

In 2020, I will seek to live by my conviction that I have been called to contentment.

I will read 24-36 of those books I already have.

I will complete at least 12 of those online courses I’ve purchased and put into practice those things I learn from my paid subscriptions.

I will devote myself to writing—and publishing—the books I’ve begun.

I will maintain my doula certification because this is something I’m passionate about, but I will pace myself and not leave the requirements of my recertification to the last month or so.

I will stop becoming distracted by the Oo, Shiny! and look for the sparkle in the opportunities and possessions I already have.

Plus, I will regularly give thanks for my life as it is in the Here and Now.

How can you grow more content in the year ahead?

Do you have a word of the year? If so, what is it and why did you choose it?

All the very best in 2020!

Steph Beth Nickel is eclectically interested and eclectically involved. She is an author, blogger, a regular contributor to the HopeStreamRadio online radio station, a freelance editor, and birth doula. Steph brings her interests together under the Nurture and Inspire umbrella. Ladies, you’re invited to join her Facebook group by the same name: Nurture and Inspire

Noticing. And Remembering.

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.
Psalm 40:5, NLT*

We recognize the truth in verses like these. And yet we forget.

We forget who God is – how strong, how full of love and mercy, how trustworthy.

We see the troubles and stresses in our lives and in the world around us, the looming danger and darkness, and we lose sight of the truth that God is bigger.

Remembering what God has done helps us keep perspective. Look at what He’s done in the Bible and in the lives of Christians around the world. Think back on how He’s moved in your life, the lives of friends, in your church.

For every big thing God does, how many small ones might we overlook? A parking spot when it’s needed most, a lost item found, a phone call at just the right time?

To know and rely on His love (1 John 4:16, NIV**) we need to notice and remember the evidence.

O Lord our God, Your power and goodness are beyond human understanding, and truly we could never list all that You have done. Teach us to remember, and open our eyes to see what You’re still doing. No matter what the day brings, help us to be secure in trusting You.

This week’s song is “The Goodness of the Lord,” by Travis Ryan.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

** New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Saying Thank You

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!”
Luke 17:15, NLT*

Ten lepers – contagious, shunned and ritually unclean – had called to Jesus from a respectful distance, begging to be healed. Their faith must have been strong, because Jesus didn’t invite them nearer, touch them, or tell them to do anything particular to be healed (like wash in a specific place – see John 9:7).

He simply told them to go and present themselves to the priests. That was the step for after they were healed, so the priests could confirm it and permit them back into the community.

Luke says that “as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” (Luke 17:14b, NLT*) Their act of obedient faith allowed them to receive what they’d pleaded for.

Only one came back to say thank you. And he was a Samaritan. Not that a Samaritan shouldn’t have come back, but where were the Jews that Jesus had just healed?

Jesus made a point of showing that those who’d had the most exposure to Him, the most benefit from His teaching, responded with less gratitude than the man from outside Jesus’ main teaching focus. There are a few other examples of this throughout the gospels, and it’s not to put down the Jews. It’s to show Jesus’ wider focus, and to call us who have been blessed with hearing Him to not take Him for granted.

What have you asked Jesus for today? Or what have you seen Him do? Remember to say thank You. (click to tweet this)

God who saves us and restores us to Yourself, if You did nothing else for us we could still never thank You enough for the gift of salvation. But You do so many other things for us as well. Open our eyes to see Your hand in our lives, and give us sensitive spirits to respond with heart-felt gratitude and praise. Thank You for all You do, and for who You are.

Our song for today is Kathryn Scott‘s “How Could I Ever Say Thank You?

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

When God Does Something Good

“How kind the Lord is!” [Elizabeth] exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
Luke 1:25, NLT*

North American culture today doesn’t equate a woman’s worth with her fertility, but for women in Bible times, failure to produce a child – especially a male heir – was a source of shame.

What strikes me here is Elizabeth’s response. She’s old by this point, well past natural childbearing age. God surprises her with a miracle pregnancy as announced by an angel to her husband, Zechariah. (Luke 1:5-25)

Elizabeth is purely grateful. She alludes to the long disappointment in her life, but she’s not bitter. She sees how God’s gift is meeting that hurt.

She sees the power of God. And she accepts His timing. There’s no hint of asking why He took so long, let her be barren for so many years, waited until she’s old and feeble and has no stamina to chase a toddler all day.

“How kind the Lord is!”

If God chooses to meet our unmet longings – or if He chooses not to – He is still kind and good. He is still enough. He still does good things for us.

How do we respond?

First of all, let’s keep our eyes and hearts open to notice what He does. Let’s respond like Elizabeth, with gratitude and trust. Not with “well, it took You long enough!” Not with complaints to taint the thanks. Neither with mindless acceptance or casual indifference – nor a sense of entitlement.

Let’s respond with mindful worship and gratitude, acknowledging God’s goodness and mercy, and knowing that while He doesn’t owe us anything, He loves us enough to give His own Son to rescue and redeem us.

Our Father God, how good You are! How kind indeed. Grow in us an awareness of Your care and a humble gratitude for Your many gifts. Teach us, like Elizabeth, to respond with praise, adoration and trust.

I don’t have an “Elizabeth” song, but here’s Christy Nockels singing a “Mary” song of praise: “Magnificat” (from one of my favourite Christmas albums, Do You See What I See? by Todd Agnew & Friends).

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Fixing Our Thoughts

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8b-9, NLT*

It’s so easy to dwell on the negatives. The hurts or injustices. Sometimes we do it because we’re sulking or just plain cantankerous, but I think it’s often out of fear (what’s this world coming to?) or discouragement. After all, we see so much, so often; it wears us down.

The Christians in Philippi were experiencing persecution, and their beloved Paul was in prison. His letter encouraged them to keep focused on Jesus as their help and their hope. With Christ as their anchor, they needed to keep their broader focus positive and filled with gratitude.

This verse doesn’t ask us to deny the bad things in our lives. The context of Paul’s letter makes that clear. But after acknowledging the circumstances, bringing our needs to God in grateful prayer that He cares and will help (Philippians 4:6) we’re not to stay focused on the needs or the waiting.

We’re to cultivate an awareness of the good, in the middle of the struggle. If we focus on the darkness, it swells to fill our vision. If we focus on the light, with our Saviour at its centre, the darkness reduces to its true size. A size which is smaller than God.

Mighty and compassionate God, protect and deliver us from spirits of discouragement, despair and hopelessness. Remind us that You are greater than our hardships, and that Your creative grace can take even the worst and bring something positive from it. Doubt would tell us that’s impossible, so please help our unbelief.

Hillsong’s song, “The Potter’s Hand,” is a lovely way to refocus our thoughts.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Every Morning, New!

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Lamentations 3:22-23, NLT*

Remember childhood, especially in the summer, when each new day meant another chance to play and have fun? We’d pop out of bed early, eager to get started.

I have some vague memories of this, but I’ve certainly changed. Waking is neither easy nor exuberant.

Instead of morning bringing thoughts of opportunity, it usually comes with a desire for a bit more sleep and with a list of responsibilities. At least that’s how mine start.

God and I have talked about mornings over the years, and I don’t dread them anymore. It’s still a work in progress, though. As I type this, I realize I’ve forgotten to begin each day with “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

Choosing gratitude is key. Because each day is a gift—and an assignment—from God. (Click to tweet)

This week He reminded me of a fictional character who loved Mondays. She said they were “like mini New Years four times a month. A chance for a fresh start.” (Regina Beswith, in Rachel Hauck’s Princess Ever After). When I reviewed the novel, I picked this as a mindset I needed to learn.

And soon forgot.

Chatting about Mondays on Facebook, my friend Deborah said “The Lord’s mercies are new every morning just in time to forgive us for being ungrateful for the new day!”

His mercies are fresh every day. To cover our ingratitude and other sins, and to provide what we need for the day.

Merciful and gracious God, forgive our ingratitude and short-sightedness. Restore to us the joy of our salvation, the joy of living each day with and for You. Help us embrace Your daily mercies and live for Your glory.

Here’s a song from Christian rock pioneer Randy Stonehill: “Celebrate this Heartbeat.” The video shares the lyrics in ASL, and I found it interesting to see the subtle changes the translator had to make in the wording.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Gratitude. And Hope.

I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising.
Isaiah 63:7a, MSG*

I confess I’ve lost track of counting God’s blessings. Even if I hadn’t, it would only touch a small sample of what He does and has done.

My gratitude journal has mostly entries of things that blessed me personally, like seeing a pheasant or a sparkly ceiling. Or bubbles. Small gifts from God to make me smile.

He gives so much more.

He gave His Son to save us. He gave us life and breath. He designed this beautiful planet and the cosmos. Gave us imagination. Invited us to work with Him in growing His Kingdom.

He draws us into relationship with Him, to worship and to flourish.

These days, world and local news makes it look like God is silent. Or absent. I think He’s waiting. Which means my job is to wait with Him, but to wait in trust. That can only happen when I remind myself of His ways and His unchanging nature.

I need to pick up that journal again. Record those evidences of His care. I need to keep reading the Bible. See the evidences of His intervention in the lives of His people. Remind myself that He’s got this.

Sovereign Lord of creation, we see so much pain and devastation. We confess that human choice has caused much of it. We confess how easily we can get discouraged or frightened by the circumstances. Remind us of Your love and power. Of Your justice. Help our unbelief, and help us to anchor our spirits in who You are. Open our eyes and help us to see what You have done and what You’re doing now. Help us trust what You’ll do in the future.

Our song is from worship leader Kathryn Scott: “How Could I Ever Say Thank You?

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Continual Praise

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4, NLT*

The psalms we most often hear in church, and many of our Christian hymns and worship songs, ring with praise and gratitude to God. It’s a big part of how we respond to Him, and rightly so.

That’s how I usually interpret verses like the one above, but this time it reminded me of something else as well. When the Israelites went to the Temple, they brought sacrifices: animals, birds, grain, oil, wine.

They were giving back to God through a variety of offerings. We bring our financial gifts and sometimes ministry gifts. We bring our hearts. But our thanksgiving to God, our praise of His character and His deeds, are acceptable sacrifices as well.

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. (Hebrews 13:15, NLT)

A continual sacrifice… not just when we go to church.

Just like the animal sacrifices were to be pure and without blemish, we need to offer God our best praise, our best thanksgiving. That means spending time with Him in prayer, reading the Bible and keeping our eyes open to spot the good things He does in our lives.

It means offering the sacrifice when life is easy, and when life is hard. Not that we pretend everything’s rosy, but that we’re honest about the pain while continuing to declare God’s unchanging nature and His unfailing love.

David did this, in many of his psalms. It’s a “required” sacrifice, but not to stoke God’s ego. It’s required for our sakes—as an antidote to how quickly we let the blessings or trials block our sight of the One who loves us. Praise and thanksgiving ground us, restore our focus and our perspective.

Jennifer Slattery offers some excellent suggestions in her blog post, Cultivating a Thankful Heart. And if you haven’t yet read Ann Voskamp’s excellent book, One Thousand Gifts, it’s an excellent jump-start in the spiritual practice of gratitude to God.

God our Creator, Saviour and Sustainer, we could never thank You enough for all You’ve done, and there aren’t enough words to tell how great You are. Please move our hearts to praise and gratitude as part of our worship. Remind us this isn’t optional, and we thank You for the benefits we’ll receive in our spirits as we draw nearer to You in obedience.

Matt Redman‘s song, “Blessed Be Your Name,” is a great anthem for praise and worship in all circumstances. This version is sung by Robin Mark.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Imogen’s Chance, by Paula Vince

Imogen's Chance, by Paula VinceImogen’s Chance, by Paula Vince (Even Before Publishing, 2014)

Imogen Browne is a 20-something American with painful memories of Australia—painful because of the hurt she unwittingly caused the Dorazio family. She knows it’s time to try to make amends, and returns to Australia in search of short-term work. Marion Dorazio invites Imogen to board with them for old times’ sake.

Marion’s twins, Asher and Becky, are Imogen’s age, and their brother Seth is a few years older. It looks like the family has moved on from the accident that injured Marion—and from the second source of pain that none of them know Imogen had a part in. Why reopen old wounds?

When Asher is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, each family member’s turmoil begins to surface. Imogen, as the impartial visitor, can offer the support that the family are too emotionally involved to give. She doesn’t expect to fall for Asher in the process, and if he knew what she’d done, he’d never speak to her again.

Asher, Imogen and Marion carry regret over things they’ve been afraid to say—things that have caused hurts and misunderstandings. With Asher this has a flip-side, because he learned this behaviour after a childhood of saying too much.

What stands out to me is Asher’s health and the quest he and Imogen begin together. Should he accept the doctors’ prognosis that he’s likely to die, or dare he risk what he begins to discover the Bible says about healing?

Asher and Imogen both come from Christian backgrounds but neither thinks God is particularly close to them. Their search is organic to who they are and the situation they’re in. It’s not a sermon or an author-driven agenda. Essentially, they come to believe that God can heal Asher and that whether or not He chooses to do so, they need to trust in His strong love each day.

This is what I took from the novel, the reminder to rest in God’s love and to not be straining to see the good or bad the future holds.

Lest this sound too serious, I’ll mention that one of Asher’s methods to get his mind off the negatives that have filled his life is the practice of daily gratitude, which he doesn’t do like your or I might, in brief lists or even in a journal. Asher writes thank-you notes—very quirky thank-you notes.

Imogen’s Chance is a story of relationships and reconciliation, forgiveness and love. It pulled me in, to the point where I’d be irritated when I had to stop reading and attend to daily life.

Paula Vince is an award-winning Australian author. Imogen’s Chance is her newest novel, and it’s available worldwide as an ebook and in print from most online retailers. For the month of April 2014 she’s running a blog tour with multiple prizes. Details here. You can learn more about Paula at her website, and check out her blog, “It Just Occurred to Me.” You can also read an interview I did with Paula in 2012, as well as a recent interview with Imogen herself.

[Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Remember, and Give

Don’t for a minute forget that you were once slaves in Egypt and God, your God, redeemed you from that slave world.
Deuteronomy 15:15a, MSG*

Context: Moses instructs the people to release any Hebrew slaves after six years of service. They could only be slaves in the first place if they had fallen on hard times and sold themselves.

Moses says the owner is not only to set the slave free after this period, but to send him or her off well-provisioned from the owner’s personal wealth.

Today’s verse tells us why. It also gives us perspective for our own lives.

Remember Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians, to remember their humble origins? (1 Corinthians 1:26) His point was that we can’t boast in our own abilities—we’re saved and empowered by God.

Moses uses the same “remember your past” to say something different yet related. His focus here is more on gratitude, and on generosity.

Because we’ve been given much, we’re to freely give much. (You can tweet that.)

This isn’t about remembering past bondage and dirt to weigh us down. That’s the enemy’s tactic, but it’s never God’s plan. It’s about remembering what God has done in freeing us from that past.

We need to remember what God has done for us… steep in it… let it shape and change us… so we can live grateful lives trusting God and giving to others as He has given to us.

Having been set free, we are to set others free.

Having been given much, we are to give much. We can do this secure in the knowledge that  He who provided for us will not run out of provision.

Heavenly and holy Father God, we need fear no lack, because You are the God of abundant supply. You have saved us and treated us well when we didn’t deserve it. Warm our hearts with love and gratitude, and help us to treat others as You have treated us. Help us remember and rely on Your goodness so that we can live as givers, not as hoarders.

Take a few minutes to enjoy the Rhett Walker Band‘s song, “When Mercy Found Me.”

* The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson