Tag Archives: gratitude

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.

Adoration:

  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?)

Confession:

  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.

Thanksgiving:

  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?)

Supplication:

  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.

Period

  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.

Wise Words on Negative Thoughts

Cloudy thoughts block the Light

Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

God’s been challenging me lately about negative thought patterns. It’s no surprise, then, that I’d start noticing other posts on the subject. Here are a few that have spoken to me this week:

Gladwell Musau points out that indulging in our own thoughts and opinions can actually quench the Holy Spirit. (Rainbow Gulf of Love: The Problem of Self)

In a post about the power of Scripture, Violet Nesdoly shows how “our own plans, ambitions, and the ways and means of achieving them (even at unspoken levels)” can keep us from God’s rest. (Other Food: daily devo’s God’s Paring Knife)

Melody Roberts gives a stiking visual illustration of the “trail of bad-attitude ooze” we can leave if we’re not submitting our thoughts to Christ’s control. (Melody Roberts’ Blog: Can I Get a Replacement for That?)

Carolyn Watts asks if we’re hurting God by the thoughts we think about ourselves. (Hearing the Heartbeat: A Surprising Way to Love God)

And Mark Shields reminds us of our weapons for this spiritual battle. (This Day With God: Weapons Against the Competition)

When Joy is Scarce

You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
. . .
Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 63:5,7 NLT*

Joy has been scarce in my heart lately, and I’ve felt more like David’s “parched and weary land.”

These two verses from Psalm 63 are my antidote, if I can let my mind and spirit truly believe them.

God satisfies. He is enough, and abundantly more than enough. That negates the joy-drain of discontent. I need to practice intentional gratitude, not just for His gifts but for who He is.

God helps. He is our ever-present helper and sustainer, and His strong hand holds us securely.

That truth eliminates anxiety, if I really believe it.

God who is all that I need, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me realize, accept and rely on the truth of who You are and what that means in my life. Help me live confident and secure in You, aware of the many ways You satisfy and delight. 

God used the Newsboys’ song, “The Letter,” to challenge me about believing what He says

*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.

5 Good Posts on Gratitude

Butterfly on lilac, with text "Thank You, God"

Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

Gratitude is more important than we realize. Here are five posts on the subject that have encouraged me recently.

Michael K. Reynolds tells us about The Easiest Way to Thank God.

At Reflections in Hindsight, Elaine Marie Cooper writes about Dwelling on the Good.

At Under the Cover of Prayer, Judith Lawrence reminds us of the value of prayers of appreciation.

At Hearing the Heartbeat, Carolyn Watts reminds us to look for God’s gifts in the moment.

And at Hope and Humor, Bob Hostetler gives us the prayer-poem, For the Day’s Graces.

Thankfulness as a Sacrifice?

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
Psalm 50:14, NLT*

Usually our thanks is a spontaneous response to something that delights us. It’s sincere and heart-felt. It costs us nothing.

But is there more? In Bible times, the people of Israel had a regular schedule of sacrifices and offerings. You didn’t just sacrifice when you felt like it, although you could bring extra if you were especially thankful.

I keep a gratitude journal, but I don’t write in it every day. Not a very regular sacrifice, and it’s not that God isn’t active on those days. It’s that I forget to take notes, or more often that I forget to take note. I don’t see what He’s doing. I’ve forgotten to look.

There’s another aspect to this sacrifice: the Apostle Paul tells us to give thanks in all things. Even in the ones we don’t like and wish we’d never experienced. Ann Voskamp calls this the “hard eucharisteo” and her book, One Thousand Gifts, shows how important this intentional, teeth-gritted or tear-streaked thanksgiving is.

We may not be able to thank God for the pain, but we can always thank Him for His presence with us in it and for His power to make it count for something.

God our Shepherd, our Provider and Protector, forgive us for our ungrateful hearts and for the times we take Your gifts for granted. Open our eyes daily to see the many opportunities to give You thanks. Delight us with Your presence. And strengthen us to thank You in the hard times too.

Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” reminds us to praise in the good times and the bad.

*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.

Where Our Hope Is

Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
for our hope is in you alone.
Psalm 33:22, NLT*

How often can we honestly say our hope is in God alone?

We rely on what He’s given: jobs, doctors, physical strength and mental abilities. It would be silly not to make full use of them—after all, isn’t that why He provided them?

But let’s remember to look deeper and see where we’re really anchoring our hope. If some or all of our resources are taken away, God will still be God, still here, still loving and powerful.

Father, help us remember to put our hope and trust fully in You and not in what You give. Teach us to recognize Your hand at work, and give us grateful, praising hearts for all You’ve done.

Robin Mark’s song, “My Hope is in the Lord,” is a good reminder.

*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.

butterfly

Trust

My friend Jan Cox has dubbed this the Year of Trust.  I’m focusing on relentless gratitude, and there’s a definite cross-over. Gratitude to God reinforces trust in God.

Here are some links I’ve found helpful:

Carolyn Watts’ posts at Hearing the Heartbeat often bless me.  Here she offers a simple reminder of what trust can look like.

At Something About the Joy, Ginny Jaques shares Four Things About God that Make Life So Much Easier.

At Dreaming Big, Heather Boersma encourages us to let our words affirm our dependence on God and speak life, not death. That sounds like trust to me.

At Promises for All Who Are In Christ, Natalie Gidney lists several promises from God that define who we are in Christ. Good to memorize for when the doubts fly.

And Janice Dick reminds us of God’s protective hold on us.

Trust

My friend Jan Cox has dubbed this the Year of Trust. I’m focusing on relentless gratitude, and there’s a definite cross-over. Gratitude to God reinforces trust in God.

Here are some links I’ve found helpful:

Carolyn Watts’ posts at Hearing the Heartbeat often bless me.  Here she offers a simple reminder of what trust can look like.

At Something About the Joy, Ginny Jaques shares Four Things About God that Make Life So Much Easier.

At Dreaming Big, Heather Boersma encourages us to let our words affirm our dependence on God and speak life, not death. That sounds like trust to me.

At Promises for All Who Are In Christ, Natalie Gidney lists several promises from God that define who we are in Christ. Good to memorize for when the doubts fly.

And Janice Dick reminds us of God’s protective hold on us.