Tag Archives: gratitude

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

Highlights of 2013

The best way to live is in the present, not dwelling on the past or straining to reach the future, and so we step prayerfully into a new year and into each new day and embrace what we find.

But there’s something about the frenzy of “out with the old year, in with the new” that seems… hurried. Ungrateful.

It sounds like “good riddance!” Some years, that’s how we feel. But even in the bad there may be some good.

Butterfly on lilac, with text "Thank You, God"Looking back over 2013, I find much to be thankful for:

  • God’s presence in the good, the bad and the miserable.
  • Good health
  • Family and friends
  • Stable finances
  • Good books
  • Joining GoodLife and discovering I can enjoy group exercise.
  • Fencing lessons with one of my sons. I’m older and slower, but I can still learn.
  • Another son’s graduation from university.
  • A few oil painting lessons – who knew? I hope we can schedule more.
  • Fun road trips
  • Publication of my first novel – acceptance, editing, promotion, and finally holding a copy in my hand.
  • Although some of my extended family have had health concerns, we’ve seen God working in the details and we’re seeing improvements.
  • God’s ongoing renovation in my life to replace anxiety and its ilk with trust and good things.
  • Full-time, pre-Christmas work I didn’t want to take, that gave me far more good things than a paycheque.

Entering 2014, I pray we’ll be blessed to see God at work in and through us, and that we will grow in gratitude, in grace, in faith and in a sense of wonder.

What are some of the things you’re thankful for from the past year? What are you looking forward to in the days ahead?

Counting Our Blessings

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT*

These may be my life verses, in part because it’ll take me a lifetime to learn to live them

It all comes back to trusting God and not ourselves – trusting Him with everything that we are. The NIV renders “Seek His will in all you do” as “In all your ways submit to Him,” and it’s the King James Version that nudges me today: “In all thy ways acknowledge Him.”

The other translations suggest the intent of “acknowledge Him” is “submit to Him” or “seek His will,” and again that needs to be part of the wholehearted trust the psalmist is calling for.

But “acknowledge Him” can be a little bit more. Let’s think about gratitude.

The other day a friend spoke about the value of starting each day with a prayer of thanks to God: for the new day, for family and friends, for so many things we start to take for granted. Then I read Carolyn Arends’ post, Worship Con Queso, on how the physical things we enjoy can prompt our hearts’ gratitude to the Giver.

God blesses us in so many ways, with good things and best of all with His presence even when things aren’t so good. (click to tweet) Whether we list them in a gratitude journal or simply whisper thanks, let’s notice.

God our abundant Provider, who lavishes gifts upon us, open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, our hearts to receive and to overflow with praise and adoration to You, the Giver of all good gifts. The Giver of life and hope and salvation.

Here’s a good reminder song: “Count Your Blessings.” I’m not sure who’s singing.

*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.

Benefits of the ACTS Prayer

Prism rainbow with prayer quoteOne of the simpler and most familiar structures for prayer is ACTS. Not that we need a formula to approach God, but it can be good to have a guideline to keep from forgetting anything important. I’ve been using this one lately to stay focused, and have found some other benefits as well.


  1. I have a bad habit of starting prayer in mid-conversation. I know we’re encouraged to develop the habit of praying unceasingly, but when I stop for an intentional “quiet time” prayer, just me and God, it’s worth going back to the beginning to remind myself Who He is. It’s polite, reverent, and it quiets my heart and puts everything in perspective.
  2. Thinking of God’s attributes and authority reinforces it in my mind so I’m less likely to feel alone and unprotected in the rest of my day. (How sad is it to need reminding of His care?)


  1. Looking at God’s greatness is a great way to notice my own smallness and failings. Not that He wants to put me down – He can’t grow me in His image if I don’t see the problems and ask for His help and forgiveness. Regular confession helps me recognize the “little” sins that are easy to gloss over and allow to fester.
  2. Receiving His forgiveness erases any barriers my sin has caused that might keep me from hearing or obeying Him.


  1. How can I be anything but thankful that He forgives me and wants to help and heal me?
  2. Gratitude is crucial to my well-being  and with all God does for me, it’s rude to take His gifts for granted. (Again, how sad is it that we forget to notice and say thank You?)


  1. Okay, “supplication” is too outdated a word for something that’s still current, so I call this part “struggles.” It’s the “prayer requests” part that too often we jump into without bothering with the other aspects. Coming after the other parts of the prayer, it’s in better perspective. By this point, I’m better focused on God, we’ve cleared up any communications issues, and I’ve looked at some of the ways He’s showed His care. I’m now in a good place to confidently bring Him needs: mine and others’.
  2. I suppose the S could also be for “surrender” because that’s the best thing to do with these issues. In bringing them to God, I need to release them with “not my will but Yours.” This is so much easier after spending a few minutes adoring, confessing and thanking, because I’m more aware of our relative positions and abilities. I’m less tempted to be sure I know best, and less tempted to doubt His care, integrity or power.


  1. We don’t really end with the “please help”. If we pray until we have peace about what’s troubling us, we end with confident trust in God’s care. Adding another letter would mess up the memory device, so I’ll end with a period. “Full stop,” as the British would say. For the purposes of intercessory prayer, the period declares “ I’ve given it to God and I’m leaving it there. He will deal with it in His perfect wisdom, love and time. I will not fret in the waiting.”
  2. The period also reminds me to stop talking and listen. Prayer is, after all, dialogue. If I fill the time with my yammering, I miss God’s quiet voice.

ACTS. As well as the way this format helps me focus, I love how it can expand or contract to match the time I have for prayer. It’s a great way to start the day, and it puts me in an attitude of prayer that carries with me when I’m back in the fray. I still mess up, but even then if I’ve started well with prayer it’s easier to turn back to God and carry on.

Transplanted to Flourish

For [the godly] are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just!
He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!”
Psalm 92:13-15, NLT*

Transplanted trees… usually they come from the nursery (or forest) with their roots in a ball of dirt. Scrawny ones may be pulled out of poor soil with bare roots, or their roots may even need washing before being plunged into good ground.

It’s amazing that God would take humans in all our messiness, clean us and label us “godly,” and transplant us into His own house — into His presence. May we not stand there, roots clenched tight into the clot of dirt they came with. May we consciously poke our roots into the wide, deep, nourishing ground of God’s presence. May we flourish. May we thrive.

God of grace and mercy, what can we say but “Thank You”? Help us grow into all You’ve designed us to be, with our confidence fully rooted in You.

With the thought of flourishing in the courts of the Lord, here’s Kutless with “Better is One Day.” This is a new version to me, and I like what they’ve done with it.

*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.