Category Archives: Giving Thanks

Cultivate An Attitude of Gratitude

 

gratitude-journal

The last few months, as I have struggled with a badly damaged back, I have had to work hard to appreciate our wonderful world.  Darkness has been lurking on the fringes of my world and at times has been encroaching closer and closer to the center of my thoughts. Pain does that.

Whether physical or emotional, pain can change our perception of our lives.

In order to cope I’ve focused on living an attitude of gratitude. Each day, I seek out the good things in my life. I’m choosing to focus on the beauty and wonder of the stars, rather than the weight and stickiness of the mud beneath my feet.

Whether or not you are in the midst of struggle, I encourage you to:

Begin a gratitude journal.

Choose a notebook that feels good in your hand and appeals to your eye. Begin by giving thanks for this book and the people involved in producing it. Express your appreciation for your ability to read and write. Already you have listed three things in your journal. Use this journal to give thanks for at least five persons, things, events every day.

Over time, you’ll discover that you do indeed live in a wonderful world. Even in the midst of your pain, disappointment, grief, you are surrounded with abundant opportunities to be grateful. Try it for a month.

Make the choice. Enjoy your blessings. After all, you are blessed with the gift of being a Canadian and living in this wonderful country.

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19)

For More on Living a life of Gratitude go to: http://dougkasper.com/self-help-articles/create-a-gratitude-attitude

 

 

The Mystery of Money


When my children were young, my husband and I both returned to university. For three years, the five of us lived on student loans and bursaries. Money was extremely tight. We had no extras: no movies, no coffees at the cffee shop, no dinners out.

Still, I wanted to be able to share with others. We looked at our meager income and decided to give a tenth to Missions. Faithfully, at the beginning of each month, we set the money aside. Some went to our little church, some to the cancer society, some to others in need.

The strangest thing happened. We never missed that money. I still scrambled to stretch the dollars, but by the end of the month, the bills were paid and we had enough to eat. Giving didn’t destroy that. Yes, the loans piled up, but they would have anyway.

Just when I thought we weren’t going to make it, an unexpected check from a friend arrived usually for more than we had given away. At Christmas, we received the benevolent offering from our home church. Maybe those extra funds would have arrived anyway. I don’t know. What I know for sure is that being able to share gave me dignity. I learned the mystery of giving.

Over the years, because of that education, my life circumstances have changed. Ten percent of our income today amounts to much more money. Still, I don’t miss it.

When we face a charity canvasser or the offering plate with our wallets open searching for leftovers from our week, we seldom have much to give and often we’re resentful. Once we’ve made the commitment and set the money aside, we find pleasure in giving and there is enough left over for us. When caring for others becomes a priority in our money or our time, what’s leftover is enough. That’s God’s mystery.

“He brought us to thi place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the first fruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.”

(Deuteronomy  26:9-10)

 

Young children sometimes make poor choices. They run across the road without looking. They follow their curiosity down to the lake without supervision.  Sometimes, they just plain defy us by picking up a china knick knack they’ve been told not to touch, or a crayon and scribbling on the wall. Occasionally, they throw temper tantrums, screaming and hitting, Whether the misdeed is done by mistake or on purpose, once it’s revealed, our children come to us seeking and expecting forgiveness. Because we love our child, most of the time we have that forgiveness ready even before our child requests it.

With adults forgiveness isn’t quite so easy. We hold grudges. We judge and sometimes even crucify. The person we find hardest to forgive is ourselves.  It’s good that God is wiser, stronger and more loving than we can ever be.

Good Friday, the name we use to describe the day Jesus was crucified, gives us an amazing illustration of God’s forgiveness. Hanging on the cross, in excruciating pain, the human Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23: 34), because he knows we need forgiveness. And hanging on the cross, Jesus, God with us, offers that forgiveness, freely and with love.

Of course, we identify that sad day as “Good”. It’s the day we see and hear God’s forgiveness for our intentional and unintentional, individual and communal misdeeds. Each year, we tell that horrible story of Jesus’ crucifixion because we need to be reminded that God loves us even at our very worst.

We are called to receive God’s forgiveness and offer it to others not because anyone deserves or has earned forgiveness, but because we are all God’s precious children. God, the parent and lover of all, has forgiveness ready as a free gift even before we request it. This is “Good News”.

 

How Do I Give Thanks Today?

For more than twenty years, I’ve had to write something for Thanksgiving. Often, I’ve used the Biblical story of the “Ten Lepers” for inspiration. If Jesus wondered why only one leper was grateful for his healing, what must God think of us when we take our blessings for granted? This year, I’m beginning with Tom’s words, “Every time I turn around, there’s another pleasant surprise from God.”

As we left for Tucson last month, our minds were riddled with worry and sadness. Our grandson had been injured playing rugby and needed surgery and the day before we left my nephew was killed in a car accident. Staying home was out of the question. I was conducting my mother’s memorial service in Tucson. We packed our bags and drove first to my sister’s home six hours away and then back to Buffalo Airport. The next morning, Tom opened the drapes in our hotel room and said, “Every time, I turn around there’s another pleasant surprise from God.”

What was he talking about? He pointed to the idyllic country scene just outside the hotel window and began ticking off the list of blessings we had received over the past twenty-four hours. He started with the previous night. When we crossed the bridge at Niagara Falls, we needed gas immediately. He asked a taxi driver for directions to the nearest gas station. That stranger not only led us to the nearest open gas station, but also all the way to the Buffalo airport. He even paid our toll as we crossed a toll bridge. As he disappeared into the night, we gave thanks to God for his kindness. Tom finished his list with the unexpected Jacuzzi tub in our hotel room.

Yes, God had given us little blessings here and there, as we set out on this journey, our hearts full of sadness and worry. I needed to give God thanks. I offer you this tip. God offers small blessings, surprises, even on the worst days. We can follow St. Paul’s instructions, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)

Canada Day

 

Our family always gathers at my son’s home on Canada Day to celebrate the birthday of Vanessa (our oldest granddaughter). When Vanessa was little, I’m sure it seemed to her as if all those fireworks were just for her birthday.
As Canadians, we have lots to celebrate. The travelling I’ve done in my life time has only reinforced my love for our beautiful, peaceful, safe, caring nation. One of our Canadian characteristics is our ability to criticize ourselves, especially our politicians. Finding fault seems to be a national past time. Being human, our M.P. and prime minister have faults, one of which often is (for many of us) that this leader represents the wrong political party – whichever one that is.
The Bible gives us the story of the nation of Israel as it develops politically. First, it is ruled by priests, then Judges, and finally Kings. If we think our political system is adversarial with four main parties and several lesser ones, Israel in David’s time had twelve tribes, each with its own strong leader. The story tells us that when David was anointed King, the twelve tribes let go of their differences and focused on the security and unity that they hoped would come with David’s rule.
On this Canada Day, I intend to pray for our political leaders. I may not agree with the decisions that they make, or the party they support. The bottom line is that in the last election, for whatever reasons, these men and women were selected as our leaders. For their term of office, they are the custodians of our peace and unity. As such, they need our prayer support. Compassion, caring, honesty, justice, and wisdom are all gifts of God’s Spirit. I want our leaders to be open to God’s Spirit.
This Canada Day and every day, let us not forget to hold in prayer the leadership of our country. Remember, there is power in prayer.
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

My Flight Home

A Day Filled With Angels.
Today I left Tucson after six weeks of caring for my Mom who has cancer. I dragged myself onto the full plane this morning, exhausted after six weeks of little sleep. Emotionally depleted, I wanted desperately to go home, and desperately to stay. I didn’t want to give up the privilege of caring for Mom, yet I knew it was time to share with my aunts. I worried that the next time I came would be for her funeral.
I stepped over two absolute strangers, and dropped into my seat for the first leg of my day long journey. Never doubt that God will give us, who and what we need. Those two strangers, Sherrie and Dick were wonderful. Starting with identifying our destinations, the three of chatted about our lives. In three and a half hours we built relationships. Some people would say, that I just happened to sit beside two outgoing people. It was just a coincidence that Sherrie was a woman of faith, and Dick a man of ideas and questions.
I believe, our meeting was a God-incident. I was blessed by God with exactly what I needed today. We talked of our past and our future. I received affirmation and peace. As the plane landed in Atlanta, Sherrie said she would email me about her trip to Milan. Dick asked, “What plane are you flying to New York?” It turned out that we were once again on the same plane. We had only forty minutes to our next flight. “We may have to go to a different terminal,” Dick said. “I’ll help you figure it out.” And he did. We caught the shuttle train, and were at our gate with nearly 30 minutes to spare.
            What had felt like climbing Mount Everest when I got up with Mom and Aunt Shirley at 3:45 a.m., had been transformed into joy. And it didn’t end with that first leg of the journey. On the second plane, I overheard the stewardess telling a mother and young boy that she would try to find them two seats together. This time the seat beside me was empty so I volunteered to be moved. The stewardess found me a place beside a pilot, commuting to work in New York. In the midst of our conversation, he described the La Guardia Airport in New York so that I was able to find my way easily to a second terminal and my third plane of the day. The other passenger in that seat was a woman my age, whose mother had died within the last year. Once again God had given me the people I needed to find joy and peace.
            On the final leg of the journey, my fellow passenger was a young mother who as the CEO of a large investment firm, was flying to Buffalo to welcome a new company into their organization. As she talked about her family and the struggle that comes with being a working professional as well as a mother, I listened and truly cared. This time, I felt not only cared for by God, but also that I had a purpose in being there for her. In addition, she read and loved my book, “A Place Called Home” and bought a copy as well. My trip home has been amazing.
            Jesus said, “I will be with you always.” Today was not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that God carries me through a tough time. I could easily have buried myself in my computer and ignored all five of those wonderful people. I certainly had every reason to withdraw from the world to lick my wounds and sleep, but I didn’t.  I give thanks to God for a life time of expecting God’s presence. I believe that expectation opened me to receive God’s love and care today.

Instant Connections

“Just text me, Grandma,” I’m told. Technology keeps us connected. Letters have been replaced by instant e-mails. We celebrate being able to Skype our children in China and see them as we talk. My daughter calls home on her cell phone, as she walks to the remote parking lot where her car is parked. We like the illusion of safety it gives her. Today’s connected world is expensive, yet we are willing to accept the cost, for we know the advantages it brings.
From the beginning of time, God has been offering this instant connection ability.
Look around you and soak in God’s Word offered through the extravagant gift of nature. Experience the wonder of God’s healing power, every time you see a scrape heal, a broken arm mend. With the invention of the printing press, God’s message through the printed Word reached an ever widening audience. Always, God’s ear has been tuned to our prayers; God’s voice has spoken in our minds and through other people. Connection with God requires no monthly internet fee, but it does cost. To benefit from our ever-present connection to God, we must invest our time and attention. We have to plug in. We have to open our eyes, ears and minds to our God channel.
            In 2012, I challenge all my readers to open up every connection possible with God. Begin each day with a simple prayer like, “Open me to see, hear, know the blessings you have for me today.” End each day with God, identifying even the smallest joys and giving thanks. That’s one minute, twice a day. Over time, you’ll find yourself consciously searching for God’s messages of affirmation, guidance, joy. Connect to God. It’s easy. No battery required. Connection guaranteed.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See? I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)