the importance of gratitude

the importance of gratitude

My oldest daughter is a logophile – someone who loves words. Every day, before I begin work, she opens a tab on my computer for Dictionary.com for the “word  of the day.”

Today’s word? Thanksgiver. The definition, according to Dictionary.com is a person who gives thanks.

An appropriate word for all times of the year, but perhaps more easily remembered during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Why should we express our gratitude to God?

Below are a few of the many reasons.

  • He is deserving of our praise.

Psalm 9 1

  • He tells us to “…give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18a). Not always easy in those times of trial that we all experience. But His grace and mercy sees us through even the worst of times.

 

  • He gave us eternal life. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) 

 

  • When we have a grateful heart, we are less apt to complain or look dismally at our circumstances, no matter how bleak they may seem.

Charles Dickens

  • It reminds us how dependent we are on Him.

 

  • His love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

Psalm 136_1

  • It is a way to express worship to our Creator.

 

  • A grateful heart comes humbly before the  Lord and realizes all that He has done.

 

  • Gratitude reminds us of how much we have, not how much we lack.

Melody Beattie

One of the ways I have found to be especially important in showing thankfulness is by staring a gratitude journal.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Any notebook will do. At the end of each day, list the things you are grateful for. It’s amazing the things we forget.

How often do I thank the Lord for His many blessings? The gift of His Son? Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross? That He chose me to be His? For food on the table? Good health for my family and me? His protection? My husband’s job?

Speaking of His protection, how many times does God protect us and we don’t even realize it? The car accident that could have happened. The illness we avoided. The lurking, unseen dangers that He has saved us from. By His grace, we emerged unscathed from potential dangers we never even gave thought to.

Not only today, but everyday, be a thanksgiver. Come before the Throne with humility, thanksgiving, and praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

How do you express your gratitude to the Lord?


 

For another post about gratitude, see Thankful for the Small Things.

For more posts in The Importance Series, check out the following:

The Importance of Relying on God

The Importance of Friendship

The Importance of Compassion

The Importance of Honesty

The Importance of Avoiding the Gossip Trap

The Importance of Influence

The Importance of Kindness

The Importance of Voting

 

 

the importance of voting

importance of voting.png

As we embark on yet another election, I’m reminded of why it’s important to vote.

  • Voting is a right not every country has. We are blessed to have a say in who governs us. It is our chance to have a voice in the topics that matter most to us.
  • Voting is our duty to our country. We thank those who died for our freedom to vote by utilizing that freedom.
  • Voting is a privilege. A right. A benefit of living in this wonderful country where men and women have given their lives for this right. I have an old saying that I say each year: “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about the outcome.”

My grandma, Nanie, was the trusted investigator for our entire extended family, which included five families, all with the same political leanings. Months before the election, she would thoroughly investigate and see which candidates in all of the races, from local, to state, to federal, espoused our same belief system in the things that were important to our families. My mom and dad showed my siblings and me the importance of voting, as neither ever missed an election.

mom's voting blog 1.png

So how do you model the importance of voting to your children or grandchildren?

  • From an early age, let your children go with you when you vote if possible. My girls, from the time they were in our double baby-jogger stroller, accompanied me to the voting venue.
  • Express your beliefs and values with your children. Discuss the criticality of voting for those who share your morals and beliefs. What’s most important to you? Where do you stand on life vs. abortion? The Second Amendment? Religious liberties? Taxes? The role of government? What type of candidate do you want to see in the role of leadership? Why?
  • Encourage your children to ask questions. When they are adults, they will have their own opinions, but you can set the foundation for the values you hope they will emulate.
  • Don’t shy away from the hard questions. Your kids are growing up in an increasingly difficult and hostile world. Things we’ve never seen before have suddenly become commonplace. Don’t be afraid to open up the lines of communication, especially with tweens and teens.
  • Go over the sample ballot with them. Our local newspaper prints a sample ballot each election year. Our family sits at the dining room table and discusses the objectives of the candidates, based on public forums, debates, and their websites. Our daughters weigh in on who they would vote for if given the chance.
  • Engage in a mock election. When I taught Constitutional Literacy at our local homeschool co-op two years ago, we had a mock election on everything from president to the city council. We conducted it like a real election – discussing the candidates’ views on the hot-button issues. Each of my students voted in private. We then tallied the scores and watched in coming weeks to see how closely they resembled the real outcome.

importance of voting 2.png

Modeling truth and aligning your beliefs with the Word of God is critical. When your children are grown, they will make their own decisions. What they choose is not up to you, but how you give them the tools to make the right choices is.

Get out there and let your voice be heard!

 

 

the importance of relying on God

Relying on God

Everyday I rely on God for the big things: every breath, health and safety for my family, food, clothing, shelter, my husband’s job, help and healing for my mom, nephew, and niece for their chronic illnesses and pain; and the list goes on.

But what about the seemingly “small” things? The things that some people don’t even give a second thought to? What about relying on God for those things?

Take, for instance, my fear of needles. I have to prepare myself a week in advance for my annual wellness blood draw, and I have to lie down to avoid fainting during the procedure. It doesn’t help they can never find a vein, and that when they do, my little teeny selfish veins refuse to give up blood no matter how hydrated I am. Or the recent crown the dentist put on a cracked tooth. The several needles she used to numb me was traumatic.

But to others, needles are not a big deal. But for those of us with what I call “glitches in our systems” who have strange, but common fears like needles, relying on God to get us through the needle moments is huge.

Relying on God is an essential part of our faith. We need Him. Everyday. He tells us to trust Him, to rely on Him, that He will supply our needs and strengthen us.

Psalm 18 2.png

I’m thankful in a way that I do have needle phobia. When my recent crown was completed (my daughters called this my “coronation,” so I have officially been crowned, lol!) the gratitude and humility that washed over me was immense. Tears filled my eyes, as I praised God for yet again getting me through another “needle moment in life.”

Had I not struggled with the crown or the annual blood draw, or the times throughout my life when I’ve had IVs (pregnancy, appendicitis, and a dental surgery), then I would not have been overwhelmed with the gratitude of God’s provision for the small things as well as the big things.

So how do we show our gratitude to our Creator for all that we rely upon Him for?

  • Praise Him often. For everything we know about and everything that He has protected us from that we may not even have realized.
  • Praise Him with sincerity.  True devout humility to the One who gives us our every breath.
  • Praise Him with worship. Praise Him with a song and exalt His holy name. I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69 30

  • Praise His name when talking to others. Tell them of His wondrous works and how you relied on Him – and He came through for you.
  • Praise Him through a gratitude journal. Keeping track of answered prayers and the times you relied on Him is a good way to help remember all He has done.

What seemingly “small” things have you relied on God for lately?

the importance of friendship

friendshipSome of us have had friends since we were toddlers. Long, abiding friendships that started while we were still in diapers and continued throughout school, through marriages, and starting our own families. But just as precious are those friendships that we found later in life where it feels as though we have known each other our entire lives because we “just clicked.”

So, why is friendship important?

Life is hard. In today’s world, we face a myriad of difficulties from illness to job loss. One of the many blessings the Lord gives us is the blessing of friends. Someone to come alongside us when times are tough. Someone to be there for us, and to pray for and with us.

But it’s not only friendship, but quality friendship that matters. Proverbs 18:24 has much to say about that very topic.

Proverbs 18 24

What exactly is an unreliable friend? Here are some qualifications of being unreliable:

undependable, deceptive, untrustworthy, capricious, false, unstable, and fickle.

Not good qualities for a friend. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that if we have friends that exhibit those traits, we are in danger of coming to ruin. However, on the flipside is a friend who is loyal, steadfast, devoted, faith, constant, abiding, and true. We should also strive to be this type of friend to our friends.

In addition, Proverbs 27:9 tells us that a sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27 9In these days of busyness, chaos, difficult times, and so many unknowns, refreshment of the soul is more than welcome.

So, what are some qualities of a good friend?

  • They are avid prayer warriors and aren’t afraid to pray for and with you wherever and whenever necessary.
  • They are an ardent cheerleader and support you, even if your dreams are a bit crazy at times.
  • They gently tell you in the kindness and humility if necessary if there’s something amiss that you need to address.
  • They promote an evenly-matched (or close-to-evenly-matched) friendship (as we all have times when we are the more “needy” one). Meaning they are there for you and you are there for them and it’s not one-sided.
  • They are a good listener. We’ve all been around those folks that only talk about themselves or their problems. All. The. Time. Good friends talk as well as listen.
  • They have integrity. Nothing is worse than discovering a close friend has betrayed you.
  • They stand up for you in times of battle. When the bully is knocking down your door, your close friend is there to take on the enemy with you.
  • They help you strive to be your best self. In Proverbs 27:17, we are reminded that iron sharpens iron. A quality friend rejoices with you when you rejoice, and weeps with you when you weep (Romans 12:15). They spur you on and offer encouragement.Proverbs 27 17

Most of us have several friends and acquaintances, but who do we call in those times of need – those times of struggle – those times when no one else quite “gets us”? Those are the friends that God placed in our lives as gifts.

The ones we are blessed to have.

 

 

 

the importance of compassion

Compassion

I recently saw a quote that discussed how we are at times frustrated with someone for the things they cannot do (as in someone struggling with dementia, chronic pain, paralysis, or other debilitating struggle)…if we are that frustrated with them, how must it be for them knowing they can’t do the things they could once do, or would love to do?

It’s message was clear. We need to have compassion.

Our world is full of pain. Broken bodies, broken relationships, broken lives. How can we come alongside someone who is struggling?

In the past couple of weeks, I have heard from people struggling with the following:

Severe debilitating pain;

A son addicted to meth;

An uncle with Parkinson’s and dementia;

A cancer diagnosis;

A caregiver whose days are filled with exhaustion and concern for the loved ones in her care;

An older couple with marriage problems;

Someone suffering the loss of a loved one;

A missionary dealing with the aftermaths of a tsunami;

And the list goes on…

God calls us to be compassionate toward those who are struggling, no matter what those struggles may be. While we may not exactly understand the hardships others face, we can be a listening ear, a gentle voice, and a prayer warrior for those who need us most.

Zechariah 7 9

So, how can you show compassion?

  1. Offer prayer support. Don’t only offer to pray for someone, but actual pray at that time with that person. It wasn’t long ago that my daughters and I stood in our local Walmart and prayed with a woman and her husband after they’d received the news that he had cancer.
  2. Have a listening ear. When someone is going through a hard time, just having someone listen is crucial.
  3. Be engaged. How many times do we catch ourselves saying, “if you need anything, please let me know.” That’s a nice gesture, but how about saying instead, “what is it I can do to help you?” And then be sure to do it.
  4. Don’t offer a million “fixes.” A woman I know who has severe chronic pain says the most difficult thing is when well-meaning people tell her if she’d just take “this” supplement or “do this or that exercise”, she’d be healed. Those who are going through a tough time don’t need suggestions. They need us to be there.
  5. Be patient. If someone you know is struggling with something that is big to them, but you can’t understand the severity of it, be patient. We never know how things affect others.
  6. Put yourself in their shoes.

 

The God we serve is a God of compassion and mercy.  As we strive to be more like Jesus everyday, let’s strive to be more compassionate toward those in need of our tender care.

Romans 12 15

 

the importance of honesty

honestyI read an article recently about how phone scammers are trying a new tactic on unsuspecting victims. They are calling and telling the person who answers that their friend/family member has been in a serious accident. Of course, when the person hears this, panic arises. During this vulnerable moment, the spammer makes his move. He tells the person that he needs money for this friend/family member who has been injured.

Many will see the scam for what it is, but sadly, many will also fall for this deception.

This is wrong on so many levels: cruelty, callousness, hatefulness, and insensitivity to name a few.

It’s also dishonest.

Dishonest in that it’s a lie – the person’s friend/family didn’t really have an accident. The spammer doesn’t even know anyone related to the person whom he called.

Dishonest in that if the spammer does succeed in retrieving a bank account number/credit card number/ cash amount wired, they are doing it under false pretenses. Such action will likely destroy the victim’s credit in the way of identity theft and loss of life savings.

The above was an extreme example. But what about everyday dishonesty?

Dishonesty about another person, sometimes otherwise known as gossip (for additional info, see The Importance of Avoiding the Gossip Trap);

Dishonesty in attempting to escape consequences for behavior (“Wow, Officer, my speedometer said I was going 35, not 55”; or, “No, You’re Honor. I had no idea I stole someone’s wallet”).

gavel

Dishonesty when completing a job resume;

Dishonesty to avoid conflict;

Dishonesty when participating in sports;

sports

Dishonesty about money earned on taxes;

Dishonesty about calling into work sick when you’re really not;

Dishonesty during a doctor’s appointment – or at the dentist (well, yes, of course, I floss after each meal!).

dentist chair

And on it goes.

So what’s the big deal about dishonesty, and why should it matter?

Here’s what the Bible has to say about it:

Do not lie to one another… ~ Colossians 3:9

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.~ Exodus 20:16

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord…~ Proverbs 12:22

Proverbs 10 9

Even though it can be difficult at times, we need to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, seek to walk in integrity and honesty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the importance of influence

influence

A new believer in the congregation mentions to a friend: “Our pastor watches that movie, so it must be all right to watch.”

Overheard in the workplace: “I may not agree with my boss on the way he treats those under him, but I’m learning from him that sometimes it doesn’t pay to be nice.”

A young boy mentions: “Dad never wears his seat belt. Why should I?”

Overheard at church: “In our Bible study class, a member mentioned enjoying reading a book that teaches beliefs contrary to the Bible. If she’s fine with it, so am I.”

A teenager in the hallway between classes: “My friends were talking today about  a cool fad they want to try. I think I might try it too. Who cares if people say it’s dangerous?”

A new believer mentioning something she’s noticed: “The piano player for our church gossips constantly about others. Maybe I don’t need to take the command not to gossip seriously either.”

Overheard by a player on a sports team: “I’ve never been one to cheat, but since the coach says it’s ok, why not do it since winning is important?”

football coach

And on it goes…

Influence. We all influence someone. If we are a parent, we have a critical impact on our children. They are watching us constantly, and whether we choose to believe it or not, they will mimic what we do. Our actions are powerful.

If we are a supervisor, our leadership has great clout over those whom we supervise, whether for the positive or negative.

A pastor is perhaps one of the most influential among a wide scope of people. His congregation and those in the community constantly look to him for guidance and the way they should live their lives.

Friends make a huge impact on the lives of each other for the good and bad. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of  the friendships we keep.

Movie stars, music artists, authors, teachers, and coaches are also influential.

Those of us who are seemingly “common” and not in any real leadership role still have influence over people. We all influence someone. Everything we do has an impact on someone. People around us are watching.

What does the Bible say about our influence and leadership over others?

2 Timothy 2 15

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness~ James 3:1

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. ~ Philippians 2:3

Galatians 6 9

Whatever is trustworthy… because whatever we watch or think comes out and whatever comes out is being viewed and watched by others, so it’s a domino effect.

We all sin – that’s why we need a Savior. We all are capable of misusing our influence over others.

Instead, we should take our influence seriously and seek to protect and guard those in our sphere of influence.

Who is influential in your life?

 


the importance of kindness

kindness

The elderly man in front of my daughters and me at the grocery store appeared a bit panicked. “I forgot the papaya my wife asked me to buy,” he said.

“Would you like to go get it and I’ll hold your place?” I asked.

“I’ll just pay for this stuff and go back through the line.”

I took a glance at the long line behind us. If the man wanted to get home before his perishables perished, his plan wouldn’t work.

“Why don’t you go get the papaya? We’ll wait for you.” I hoped I hadn’t alienated anyone by being the spokeswoman for all grocery shoppers in Line 4. No one seemed perturbed.

“Ok,” he said, and dashed off toward the produce department.

Moments later he returned and profusely thanked all of us in Line 4.

Such a small act of kindness meant so much.

Kindness. The Lord tells us to treat others as we’d like to be treated. So, how can we show kindness to others the way the Lord commands us? And why is it important?

1.We don’t know what another person is going through or what they may be facing at this very moment. We never know if a stranger just lost a loved one, is struggling to pay their bills, lost their job, is struggling with chronic illness, and the list goes on… An ounce of kindness can make their day brighter.

What storm

2. Kindness doesn’t have to be big. Each morning, our family prays for someone to bless that day. God’s answers have come in all sizes…sometimes we find ourselves in lengthy service projects, other times, it’s a seemingly miniscule “assignment.” Either way, those kindnesses matter to the recipient and, more importantly, to God.

Colossians 3 23

3. We are examples for our children. Who better than parents to show their children by example what it means to treat someone with kindness? Even when we don’t realize it, they are watching us – and mirroring our actions.

4. What if your kindness isn’t returned? One of my daughters’ friends (I’ll call her Misty) smiled at a man in the library the other day. A simple act of kindness, right? The man asked her what she wanted. Misty told him she was just trying to be polite and friendly. He sneered at her and said, “Well, I wish you wouldn’t.” Although caught off guard by the man’s comment, Misty responded in kindness.

Tough when people deflect our kindness, but, like Misty did, we must keep on treating them the way Jesus would.

Ephesians 4 32a

What are some ways you show kindness to others?

 

 

the importance of avoiding the gossip trap

gossip trap

Gossip. If we’re honest, we’ve all either done it or have been tempted to do it.

But it’s ok, right? After all, it’s just a few “harmless” words shared with another.

That’s not the way God sees it. As a matter of fact, gossip and slander are more serious than we may have previously imagined. Several verses in the Bible command us to steer clear of this misuse of the tongue:

Proverbs 6 16-19

Wow! If you want a lot of bang for the buck, this is your verse. Of the seven things that are an abomination to God, three of them are tied to gossip. Gossip can and does cause strife among people. It can, and often does, become an embellished outpouring of words that can quickly turn into lies.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless ~ James 1:26. When we seek to use our tongue to spread “information” about others, we show the true condition of our hearts. For those watching, this is anything but an effective witness for Christ.

Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy ~ Psalm 101:5. God is serious about what He thinks about slander and the slanderer.

…Whoever utters slander is a fool ~ Proverbs 10:18.

Ever been betrayed by a close friend through gossip? Gossip ruins friendships.

Proverbs 16 28

Gossip isn’t something that just affects others superficially or minimally. It is something that affects others to their “inmost parts.” It’s hurtful and painful. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. ~ Proverbs 18:8.

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler ~ Proverbs 20:19. This is one of my favorites on the topic because it lays it out like it is…we aren’t to even associate with a “babbler.” How many times have we found ourselves listening to someone sharing gossip?

Perhaps this verse says it best: You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness ~ Exodus 23:1.

Finally, James 3:9-10 is perhaps one of the most humbling verses on the topic. With the same mouth, we both bless and curse people.

James 3 9-10

Beware of these gossip traps and seek, with the Lord’s help, to avoid them:

1. “Guess what I just heard…” these five words are usually a precursor to juicy information about someone. Information that can destroy a reputation, harm someone and/or their family, and even ruin a life.

2. “We really need to pray for ______. She’s…” Gossip can come disguised as a prayer request. But God knows our hearts – better than we know them. He knows if we are truly concerned about someone, or if we’re sharing with itching ears the latest “news” about someone, declaring in our judgmental attitude, that they need prayer.

3. She deserves my slander after what she did to me. Revenge. A topic for another time; however, super pertinent for this post as well. Sometimes people spread lies as a form of retaliation. When someone has hurt you, let that be their issue, not yours, as you seek the Lord’s assistance in forgiving them. Don’t become just as sinful as they are by seeking retribution with the sharing of spiteful words.

4. Churches can become Gossip Clubs. Unfortunately, churches, especially small ones, as well as Bible studies, can become clubs where gossip freely flows. Gossip shouldn’t be something we engage in period, and especially not in God’s house or at a function where we are learning about Him.

Gossip and slander are such an issue in today’s world that some homeowner’s insurance policies have “slander coverage.”

So, what if you are on the receiving end of gossip? Not an easy place to be. I’ll never forget the day we discovered someone was sharing hateful untruths about our family. The one good thing to come out of it was that it humbled me in knowing that was something I didn’t want to do to someone else. In a later post, I’ll discuss how to handle it when you are the subject of a gossiping tongue.