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Life as Thank You 51

dscn0257Dear Brian and Susan,

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by God’s grace and goodness in my life.  This is one of those moments as I reflect on you both and your role in my life.  I am working on increasing gratitude in my life and one of the ways I am doing so is writing old-fashioned notes to tell folks how much they mean to me.

This letter is hard to write, only because with so many things to say, I don’t know where to start and I know I will forget most of what I want to say. Having a good relationship with your cousins is something to cherish and work towards. Putting in the effort to spend time together is important, and completely worth it. The memories that I have made with you will last a lifetime, and I will never be able to thank you enough. I believe that God designed who was supposed to be in my family for a reason, and I wouldn’t wish to be related to anyone else. Brian, you are the closest in age to me and closest in my heart.

Thank you for your faith, your family and for your friendship.  Besides my siblings, cousins are usually the next category to us that we know the longest in life.  While many cousins are not close and don’t keep in touch, and we did not even grow up near one another,  we have a deep connection based on common faith and DNA. For many cousins, even with many of our first cousins, there is not a close relationship, but I want you to know that I would do anything for you and your family.  I am proud of you.  I am grateful you are my family. I love you.

May God always make his face shine on you and may you know His favor and blessings abundant.

PS Happy Birthday!

Psalm 22:3 God inhabits the praises of His people

Ps. 16:11 You make known to me the path of life: in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Prov. 118:24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

Prov 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

The opportunity of a lifetime is found in a grateful heart; it is the best way to draw close to God!  God actually lives the the place where we praise and thanksgiving ushers us into the very presence of God. Life is hard and is full of things that we don’t expect nor are we prepared to handle them.  We cannot predict the future but we can be ready to live fully and be prepared to thrive no matter what happens. How? By living today with joy and gratitude.  Why?  Because everything that will happen in my future shapes how I live today.  Think about it:  If I think I will need to survive after I retire then I need to set aside enough money now in light of that day!  I believe that eternity changes everything. The fact that we live after we die really should
profoundly influence how we live today!

Literally speaking, an Ebenezer is a “stone of help,” or a reminder of God’s Real, Holy Presence and Divine aid. Spiritually and theologically speaking, an Ebenezer can be nearly anything that reminds us of God’s presence and help: the Bible, the communion table, a cross, a picture, a fellow believer, a hymn – those things which serve as reminders of God’s love, God’s Real Presence, and God’s assistance are “Ebenezers.”

Each Thanksgiving I give thanks to God for the wonderful Ebenezers that God has given me in my life and ministry. On the altar of praise and remembrance this year, built with Ebenezer stones include:

  • Faithfulness
  • Thanks in Everything
  • Thanks for everything
  • provision
  • the Giver of good gifts
  • Amazing grace
  • lessons from lepers
  • today
  • blessings
  • lament
  • prayer
  • leap for joy
  • Jesus
  • as a habit
  • fulfilled plans
  • yielded hearts
  • forgiveness
  • God’s love
  • community
  • trials
  • treasures in heaven
  • eternal life
  • abundant life
  • God’s Word
  • promises
  • acceptance
  • mulligans
  • protection
  • peace
  • life

May each and every one of us always be blessed by the grace and peace of Jesus Christ through the Ebenezers that God has placed in our lives!

Col. 3:15  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful

Phil4:7 The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I think the Bible points out that the best path to peace is prayer with thanksgiving.  We can come to God in prayer, but when we come with gratitude in every situation, whether hectic, discouraging or in the time before we see the results of our requests, we find inexplicable peace.  It lives on the other side of gratitude.  Jesus said that we can have his peace in the middle of tribulation because He has overcome the world. We can be overcome with worry and stress or we can be overwhelmed with thankfulness that God is in control.  He can be trusted.

Lord, please help me to pursue what makes for peace to honor the Prince of Peace.

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

 Ps. 5:11

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

My stone of help and remembrance is God’s protection.  The word pictures include things that David and others in Bible times understood. God covering with His feathers, shading under the shadow of His wings, and holding in the hollow of his hand.  Since God does not have wings the meaning is symbolic, and while I suppose it references more than one image,  I am convinced that the reference is to the secret place of the Most High, which was the Holy of Holies.  The Shadow of the Almighty would then refer to the wings of the cherubim on the mercy seat.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross, he made a way into the presence of God and now He made it possible for me to dwell there everyday and not just once a year!

There is no safer place than living in the presence of God!  It is in that holy place that He offers protection; Not protection from life, from trials, from pain, but rather IN life, IN trials, and IN His will.  He offers protection during the storms of life; it is where we are safest.  I don’t mean to say that we go there to hide from trouble, but I do mean we go to hide IN God as our only refuge from the storm, and IN Him we find help and and strength.

The place of satisfaction is the secret place of the Most High.  It is here that God preserves his people, keeps us by his power, as the apple of his eye, and is a wall of fire round about us.

The Lord is our sure, eternal and good protector, which is a good reason why I should rejoice and shout for joy! 

Lord, thank you for allowing me to find refuge and protection in your presence and for letting me live there!

 

Anne Shirley  “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
― L.M. Montgomery

Micah 7:18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

Ps. 86:15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

I am grateful for do-overs.  God’s mercies are “new” every morning, not because God benefits by it, but because we do!  His love is constant but we have a fresh chance every day to grow in obedience to Him. Therefore, I choose to put my full trust in Him. He has never let me down! I may have messed things up royally today. But tomorrow, He’ll be right there for me, longing to forgive me, help me, calm me, strengthen me, encourage me and pour out His steadfast love and mercy upon me.

A mulligan is a golf term that means a second chance or a do-over. It is a shot not counted against the score. I do not golf and I do not believe God gives second chances!  Why not?!  Because He is not saying that I can do anything to prove myself, nor can I ever succeed at any other chance to try my best.  My best will NEVER be good enough, no matter how many chances I am offered. Instead, God gives me a spiritual mulligan, which is infinitely better than a second, third or fourth chance. It is called GRACE.  Apart from God’s grace and overwhelming love, I can only fail. All the “do-overs” in the world will not change a thing! Instead, Jesus golfed a perfect game and as given me his scorecard.

There are countless people in history and the Bible who have gotten a chance for a fresh start: A spiritual mulligan based entirely on unmerited favor and unconditional love.  Jonah, who had more than one. David, who became a man after God’s own heart. Moses who became a friend of God. Saul, who persecuted Jews, changed his name and wrote most of the New Testament.  And then there is Peter! Jesus said to him at the Passover meal, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32). Peter, after denying Jesus 3 times, was called back into the game in John 21 by Jesus!

So I lay down my Ebenezer of Grace with gratitude and relief!

Thank you Lord, for your righteousness and your mercies which are new every morning!

 

When I was in high school my youth group had a sunrise service at the beach one Easter.  There was a large wooden cross and we were challenged to write down some of our sins on a 3×5 card and nail them to that cross.  Later in that time of worship we were encouraged to go over to a large stone, cut from cardboard, and take a piece of paper to receive a blessing from the tomb of the resurrected Savior.  It was a very meaningful morning for me and I have never forgotten the word that I received: ACCEPTANCE.  That word was not very well accepted by me at the time, which is actually ironic, considering the impact it has had on me for my whole life.

1 Tim 4:4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

Accept with joy and a thankful heart is not so easy for people like me.  People who are high need for justice have a hard time accepting things that are unfair. And yet, Jesus really valued mercy, gentleness and meekness and claimed it was THE way we as believers are to behave.  We won’t always get our way, our fair share, or even have something work in our favor. Jesus said not only to expect that to happen, He went on and said the best way to handle life is with respect and goodness.  Actually, we are to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).  It is what should distinguish us.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be my own boss, make my own decisions, and choose my own way. Giving up control is just plain hard.Seems silly though doesn’t it? Our God knows everything, has all power, and in reality is in control of everything. “Surrendering” is simply acknowledging and yielding to the authority He already possesses. Besides, He loves me and wants what’s best for me. Oh, so simple. Yet hard to do because of my stubborn, selfish nature.

I am learning to accept that God is really the blessed controller of my life and His plans are better than anything I could have imagined.  Acceptance with joy is the best way to reconcile the love I have experienced, the sorrow and brokenness of loss, the beauty and horror of this life, and that I have been given a tremendous gift that I do not deserve and that I have not always valued or cared for. Acceptance with joy allows life to be what it is without justification or expectation of change.  It grants freedom to transcend as I sweetly surrender and live with an open hand. Surrender to Christ is sweet release. Surrender means no more striving or fighting. Just simple submission to God’s best for my life.

Finally,  People have been trying to figure out the key to happiness probably as long as humans have walked the earth. Today, I will toss my two cents into that discussion. In order to be happy I think there has to be acceptance and gratitude. When we accept life, we accept that it is imperfect. People who have accepted life’s imperfection know that it isn’t what happens to them that matters as much as how they handle it.

All to Jesus I surrender with acceptance and a grateful heart.

 

2 Cor. 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Do I trust God and His promises? The only way to know if faith is genuine is to see how it holds up under testing. If I buy a waterproof case for my phone and it never gets wet, it has not proven to be waterproof.  But if it falls in the toilet and still works, then it really is waterproof! Similarly, If I say I believe God’s word and trust in His promises, it isn’t proven until I really do lean in and trust Him even when my husband is dying of brain cancer, for example.  Only after struggles and trials do I know that I really do trust God and experience His hope and joy with a thankful heart no matter what.

I am glad when someone can keep a promise, but to never, ever break one?! Wow!  God’s promises reflect His own qualities and nature.  They are true. powerful. eternal. kind. good. guaranteed. They are for me!  They show the sovereignty of His grace. They find their certainty in Christ.

Thank you for promising good to me. Always.

 

Col. 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Ps. 119:143 Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.

I am raising my Ebenezer stone of remembrance for the Word of God.  It is trustworthy and will never let me down.

The Bible is God’s “love letter” to us, telling us not only that He loves us, but showing us what He has done to demonstrate His love. It also tells us how we should live, because God knows what is best for us and He wants us to experience it. Never forget: The Bible is God’s Word, given to us so we can know and follow Him

God’s Word is living. I often find myself reading a passage of scripture which directly addresses a situation with which I am struggling right at that moment. A few years later I can read that same passage and find a nuance I had missed that is perfect for my new struggle. The scriptures are not dead, but living and dynamic, and applicable to every aspect of our lives, now and always. And Jesus Himself is the Word made flesh, made alive!

God’s Word has a power that is supernatural. It is the Sword of the Spirit, the only offensive piece of our spiritual armor. It has proven the most effective way to thwart the enemy.

The Bible has changed my life.  I am grateful that God chose to tell me he loves me and gave me an instruction manual for how to best live.

Thank you for the Word; may it continue to shape my life.

Rom 5:17  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

There are many virtues and character qualities that people aspire to: merciful & compassionate, obedient, patient, possessing of faith that moves mountains, helpful, wise.

Usually, in spite of being trained from the earliest days to say thank you, we never move past the words to the actual heart behind it.  But, being thankful really is not optional.  Neither is it a secondary character quality.  Every other virtue is tied to a thankful heart.  It is impossible to worship without it, and trying to love, to give and serve without it minimizes the impact, making it hollow.  Gratitude is essential to life running as it should as it is one of the primary ways God infuses joy and resilience.

The key to abundant living is to develop and maintain Christ-centered, grace-motivated gratitude. Abundant life is not about what we have. It’s not about what we get. It’s not about what we claim. Ultimately, abundant life is about what we receive as a gift from the Lord and to live knowing we are stewards of the blessings of God. And then to return thanks for those blessings.  Stewardship of God’s grace is not measured by what we have received, but by what we have given.
At the end of the day, perhaps that is how we know we have an abundant life—when we have shared our life with others gratefully. When we have experienced God’s salvation and blessings of God and then share them generously, knowing that we are bankrupt on our own; that’s when we truly have abundant life.

I want to live my life to the full!  Grateful for your grace to do so!

Life as Thank You 50

me-and-tam

Dear Tammie,

I am writing old-school thank you notes this year to express my gratitude.  I am sure this will not be the last note I write to you nor will it be exhaustive, but I wanted to let you know that I love you.  I am so glad that we are related, even if only by marriage, once removed! I thank God upon my every remembrance of you.

I am thankful for your creative spirit. I am thankful for your thoughtful and detailed abilities. I am thankful for your listening ear, your honesty and your insights.

Thank you for including me in family stuff, as family, even after both Jim and Pops are no longer around. I love your kids, your friends and your Jim, of course. Thank you! I love your inclusivity.

Thank you for always being generous in hospitality and always hosting family events, cooking, decorating, sharing your space and time so generously.  It does not go unnoticed.

Thank you for loving my kids and for everything you did to make Emily’s wedding fantastic.

I am so happy that we share a love for the Lord, England, tea and Rainbows, to name a few.

I love you Tammie.

May God continue to bless and keep you and Jim, and may you know His favor and His pleasure.

Your sister in love,

Miriam

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