Tag Archives: gratitude

Never Forget the Good

Let all that I am praise the LORD;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the LORD;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
Psalm 103:1-2, NLT*

When I’m praising God, worshipping Him, I’m most at peace. Self is lost in the wonder of who He is.

Ingratitude gets in the way and steals my focus, like the snake in the garden. There’s so much to be thankful for, but I can forget it in the face of a perceived lack or slight.

Keeping a gratitude list helps, especially if there’s a (short) daily quota, because it keeps me looking for the good instead of the bad.

Reading back through the list helps too. Remembering warms me and helps me praise God.

God our Provider, You give richly: not just materially but gifts that heal and grow our spirits. Thank You for the many ways You touch each of our lives, sometimes so personally that no one else would recognize the love message in the touch. Grow us to praise You with all that we are. Let us thrive in Your care.

I know we’ve had a bunch of Matt Redman songs lately, but his 10,000 Reasons goes so well with this week’s verse.

*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.

Three Good Things

Today is gone, it was not fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day from here to there, funny things are everywhere.” (With apologies to Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish)

Certain Seuss-isms have lodged in my brain and pop out at times to bother my children. The good Doctor actually wrote “today was fun” and I tend to quote this one properly at the end of a good but tiring day. But the day in question had been stressful and I was glad to see the end of it.

Instead of his usual Seuss-induced eye roll, my 15-year-old stepped into my personal space, index finger outstretched, and challenged, “Name three good things that happened today. Fast.”

Umm.

There had been good things, not least being that although anxiety had hounded me all day I hadn’t crumpled. I was just tired of the repetitive battle.

He didn’t move. “Three good things.”

I don’t remember now which three I told him, but his moment of tough love is up there with the best things in that day.

How quickly we forget the good, or focus on the bad instead. And as Ann Voskamp says in One Thousand Gifts, even the bad can be a gift if we choose to recognize God there and continue giving thanks.

Gratitude has to be intentional. Deliberate. Radical.

For further reading:

At A Voice Crying Out into the Wilderness, Roger Tharpe reminds us of the importance of remembering the good.

At Other Food: daily devos, Violet Nesdoly affirms that gratitude is a choice.

And you’re bound to find something valuable about gratitude at Ann Voskamp’s A Holy Experience.

Relentless Gratitude

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23, NIV*

Last week, the day my Radical Gratitude post came out, I struggled with attitude all day. Shouldn’t have been surprised—after all, how can we learn to apply a lesson if there’s no practice? But practice is work and it’s easier to endure the crankiness and wait for it to go away.

When God finally got my attention and we did some business, I decided what’s needed is resolute gratitude. Even relentless gratitude.

Not just thanking God for His blessings, but thanking Him when everything inside us traitorously whispers self-pity, entitlement, discontent, blaming etc. When things are going wrong. Or when we’re just plain in a bad mood.

What’s the constant no matter how bad our circumstances?

God. He never changes.

For 2012 and forward, I want to learn to relentlessly, resolutely, regularly declare thanks for who He is. No matter what’s going on in and around me. That means not just focusing on the Light instead of the darkness but remembering what I know of Him and getting to know Him even better.

Amazing and unfathomable God, Your character alone gives us a wealth of reasons to thank and praise You. Help us set our hearts and minds on You and choose gratitude. As we trust You, open our eyes to see You more clearly in our lives. Thank You for the difference You make.

Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” expresses the intentionality of thanksgiving.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Radical Gratitude

And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].
John 1:5, AMP*

This is the verse that strengthened me after the terrorist attacks of 9-11. It’s the same verse that’s echoed in my spirit these past few Christmas seasons, each one leaving me more aware of the darkness in our communities and our world.

We think Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of year. But the darkness is why Jesus came. Israel of 2,000 years past was a pretty dark place, I’m sure, much like today.

His presence—Immanuel, God with us—still makes the difference.

As I’ve prayed for the people and situations nearest to my heart this season, at first the darkness was too much. This young girl—that young family—this elderly woman and her family… where they’re walking is unbearable. They’ve been heavy on my heart, and weighing down my spirit as I prayed. Reciting John’s words about Light in the darkness wasn’t helping.

A few days before Christmas God blew away the fog and let me see: I hadn’t been demanding why of God—that never ends well—but my discontent about what He had allowed said I didn’t think very highly of His management.

Judging God also doesn’t end well. And discontent is poison. Confession, forgiveness, and a fresh start work wonders, though.

Now I’m praying the same verse, but looking at the Light, practicing what Mark Buchanan calls “radical gratitude.”

Thanking God for what He will do in these people’s lives, instead of being dragged down by where they’ve been. Trusting that whatever His plans are, they’re for good. Not just praying for things to get better but for people to be made new and others to see the difference He makes.

Sovereign and holy God, who doesn’t tend to fix things, I praise You for how instead You re-create or make new. And the new is better. Stronger. Useful in Your hand. You waste nothing. Help us trust You. Show us how to pray in radical gratitude and praise, confident in our trust in You. Shine brighter in our darkness, until all will see Your glory.

Permit me one last Christmas song of the year: catch the hope and the assurance in the words to “Joy to the World,” especially verses 3 and 4.

*Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Celebration

Exodus 23:14-19 lists the three times a year that God tells the Israelites “you are to celebrate a festival to Me.”

They are:

  • Feast of Unleavened Bread: the anniversary of their deliverance from Egypt.
  • Feast of Harvest: the first-fruits of their crops.
  • Feast of Ingathering: when all their crops are brought in.

The Feast of Harvest is when they begin to see results from their crops—not when they actually receive the full harvest. It’s another example of praising God ahead of time.

While each celebration focuses on an event, past (Exodus), present (first-fruits) or future (harvest), they are celebrations to God.

I love how the Bible encourages us to celebrate, and the feasts sound like they’re whole-hearted events.

We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, milestones… but as I look at my own celebrations, I think they stop at recognizing the event rather than celebrating to the Lord who gave it.

Celebrating to the Lord…. Doesn’t that imply exuberant, abandoned praise? Like David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant?

It’s not just looking at the material and temporal, fine as they are, but looking to the Giver of the gift. Responding to Him in gratitude, love and worship.

Are we missing the fullest dimension of our celebrations?

I think gratitude is step one. How else can we celebrate to God without over-spiritualizing or turning everything into teaching moments?

Gratitude

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.

 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!”
Numbers 11:1-4, NIV*

The people complained… the Israelites started wailing… Numbers 11:10 says every family was “wailing at the entrance to their tents.”

The people had hardships, real or perceived. But look at all the good things:

That’s a lot of good! What if they’d concentrated on the blessings instead of their hardships? What if they’d trusted God to do what He said?

Mighty and rescuing God, holy and faithful, forgive us for the times we concentrate on the negatives and complain. The Bible says we’re welcome to bring You our pain, because You are our refuge. But You don’t want us spreading dissension and discontent among our brothers and sisters. Open our eyes to the gifts You give. Help us not to take them for granted, and not to prefer our own ways. Create in us grateful hearts to worship and to wonder at all that You’re doing in our world.

Here’s a gratitude song I first heard live in concert, and I fell in love with it on the spot: Geoff Moore’s “Saying Grace.” This is a live recording, the sound isn’t great, but listen for the words… and watch the love on this Christian’s face as he sings his thanks.

For more on gratitude, consider joining Ann Voskamp’s gratitude community.

*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.

Confident that God is at Work

Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

   “Give thanks to the LORD,
for his love endures forever.”

As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.
2 Chronicles 20:21b-22, NIV*

The attacking armies were overwhelming. King Jehoshapat cried out to God for help and received one of God’s more dramatic answers:

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. … You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give…. (2 Chronicles 20:15b, 17a, NIV*)

I love this story. Jehoshaphat led the army out with praise, trusting God to keep His promise.

We don’t often know when a crisis is approaching, and even then God rarely tells us what He’s going to do and how it’ll turn out. But we can know He’s always with us, at work and in control.

What if we went into each day, each situation, with praise going ahead of us? Expecting to see God working, even when we don’t know how or where?

As Violet Nesdoly said recently at Other Food: Daily Devos, “let’s position ourselves under the spout of God’s blessing … no matter what our situation looks like on the outside.” (see the full post: “God’s Blessings, Man’s Defraudings”)

God promised to never leave nor forsake us. We can go forward in confident praise and trust that He’s working—whether we see it or not doesn’t change the fact of His active presence.

I suspect that, in the looking, we  might be more likely to see Him at work and to respond with gratitude.

God who saves and shepherds us, help me rely on Your grace and power. Whether I see trouble approaching or think I’m safe, help me remember that You are with me. Help me trust Your plan. Train my spirit to step out in praise and to recognize and give thanks for Your touch.

Here’s Don Francisco’s song about Jehoshaphat. You can take the catchy praise chorus into your day and be blessed.

*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.

Pleasing God

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24, NIV*

I’m still thinking about “seek God first” and how that applies to my life. These verses talk about seeking His approval first—before that of others.

Motivation.

Why am I doing what I do, or not doing what I don’t? For His glory and praise, or to please myself or others?

If I raise my hands in worship at church… is it to please Him? Or to defy those who stay still? If I keep my hands down, is it sensitivity to my neighbour… or fear of what someone might say?

That’s a silly example, maybe, but we all know about small things and small minds…. Seriously, the little choices can matter as much as the big ones, because God sees the heart.

What am I thinking about when I’m slicing strawberries for jam? Grumbly thoughts about how such tiny berries make the job take longer, or thankful ones about fresh strawberries and how sweet the small ones are?

When I’m tired at the end of the day, does it please God if I slip into a mental pity party? Or does He still want me praising Him?

Father God, You know me better than I know myself. You see my heart and deepest thoughts. Help me to seek Your approval first—to want to please You most. Help me take every thought captive and to examine it to see if it’s pleasing to You. I can’t help what thoughts come in, but in the strength of Your Spirit I can evict those that aren’t welcome to stay.

Here’s a song that’s new to me, from a new-to-me Canadian group called Christ Our Life: “Search Me, Oh God.” This song and others from the same group are available for free download at Free Godly Christian Music.

*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.

Scattered Thoughts

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5b, NIV*

Take captive every thought…

Paul is calling Christians to live “in the world but not of the world” and not to judge by human standards but by God’s. He’s talking about spiritual warfare and tearing down everything that “sets itself up against the knowledge of God”.

There’s a fierceness to his tone even though he starts with “By the humility and graciousness of Christ I appeal to you.

For me, the idea of taking every thought captive has meant not allowing myself to dwell on negatives and other temptations, but choosing to think about good and positive things. In reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts I’ve come to apply the verse by choosing gratitude instead of ingratitude.

But what if there’s more?

Take captive every thought…

Sometimes when I’m tired, this means pulling my thoughts together and marshalling enough mental energy to carry on in His strength.

Far more frequently than that, it means not letting my thoughts skitter away in all directions. Some of them rabbit-trail, others try to get into the future ahead of me.

“Take captive” is a good picture of what’s needed: they can bolt like a herd of wild horses, and I need a firm hand to lasso them and get them back into the corral.

Father, I want to live in the present, grounded and aware, seeking You first. I can’t do this on my own. Help me bring every thought and focus in line with You. Help me take one thing at a time, walking with You, open to hear anything You might say.

Here’s Michael Card’s “In Stillness and Simplicity.”

*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.

Writers and Musicians

Fans of Canadian suspense writer Linda Hall will be happy to know some of her stories are available in various ebook formats through Smashwords. Currently there are two free short stories, one 99-cent short story and the novel, Steal Away, for $2.99. The short stories may not be suspense, but Steal Away is the first in a series featuring private investigator Teri Blake-Addison. I highly recommend it, and you can read my review of the paper version here.

A Better Way is a new blog from Canadian writer Jan Cox, reflecting on the “better way” Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen… and discovering how we can choose that way as well.

Part of living the better way–God’s way–is gratitude and praise. Check out Marcia Laycock’s excellent post, “Maybe it’s Time we Pay Attention,” on Grace Fox’s Growing with Grace blog.

The Barn Door Book Loft spotlights and interviews 3-6 Christian authors each week and hosts book giveaways.

I’ve been captured recently by the music of Geoff Moore, specifically his new album, “Saying Grace,” which is not yet widely available (you can get it at any of the stops on his cross-Canada tour with Steven Curtis Chapman). I wish I could share my favourite tracks with you: “I Believe,” “Saying Grace” and “The Long Way.” You can hear some of his other music on the Geoff Moore facebook page. Or searching YouTube will bring up older material including a duet with the legendary Larry Norman: “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?