Tag Archives: Gratitude

Psalms 98:4-102:7

Many years ago, I read a book about gratitude. I started to keep a list of things I was thankful for, and that list was like a buoy on my roughest days. In my old, cold house, the warmth of wool socks on my feet was a true treasure. When I felt lonely, a friend at the table was a reminder that I was loved. Even noticing light framing a cloud was a glimpse of beauty, made special by the brief encounter, and that I was lucky enough to see it before the moment vanished.

I started one of my daughters with a thankful journal when she was in elementary school. Before I presented it to her, I flipped randomly throughout the notebook and wrote verses on gratitude. I remember this one especially:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalm 100:4, NIV)

My girl is grown now and still keeps a thankful journal. She even reads old journals and still delights in the snippets of goodness of the past.

Reading this group of psalms today, I felt washed over by God’s goodness. Verses that speak of his enduring love; of how he heard the cries of specific people and led them; of his love for justice; of his holiness.

I kept returning to this one:

Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[b];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3, NIV; the [b] notes: and not we ourselves)

True treasure. Loved. Beauty I was lucky enough to glimpse today, before the moment vanished.

The Lord is God. He made me. I am his. I am his (people), and he watches over and cares for me.

Thank you, God.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, 7-day reading pln, Bible in a year reading plan, Cover to cover

Leviticus 21-23; Hebrews 8

Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.

And since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law. They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:1-5, NLT)

Leviticus goes into description about offerings, cleanliness, worthiness. It lists the festivals and holy days, the reasons why and the ways they should be celebrated.

Growing up, holidays were commercial, and the traditions were meaningless, self-serving pleasures. When I read about the how and why of these holy days, they are rich with meaning in a way I was unaware of for at least half my life.

As an adult, I remember one year our friends David and Anita invited us to be guests at their Passover dinner. Anita lined up tables and covered them with beautiful tablecloths, giving an impression of one long table to seat over twenty people. It was spring. The sun set later in the evening and lit the room with a golden glow. I looked around at the faces of their family and friends and felt grateful to be counted among them. They explained the reasons for everything to us, and there were opportunities for each one of us to contribute to the evening’s celebration and remembrance.

When my kids were in their elementary school years, we read a book called All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. Other holidays and traditions came to light in this story–costumes, games, merry making–that, today, in the reading of Leviticus strike a chord of memory and curiosity. Of value and tradition.

I wonder if we sometimes forget the why of tradition in the focus of the what and how. I didn’t have a personal religious context for the Old Testament readings today. But I sat with the outline of what, how and why, and it reached my heart–it spoke of community, worship, honor and gratitude. It spoke of remembrance, celebration, humility and submission. So when Hebrews 8 mentions this is only a copy, a shadow of the real one, I am deeply moved.

Majestic God in heaven, thank you for holy days, tradition, community and worship. Thank you for reminding me that it’s about you, your sovereignty, love and power. Thank you for a challenging read today, to draw me closer to you. Thank you for glimpses of goodness in the copy of now.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 5 day reading plan, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan

Nehemiah 7-9; John 17

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, of course. I love the family all around. And I love having a day designated to reflect and remember the previous year and all that God has done for me.

This passage in Nehemiah fits so perfectly with Thanksgiving. It’s all about remembering. It’s all about recounting. And it’s all about repenting.

It takes place right after the great victory of finishing the repairs of the wall. The people are celebrating by reading God’s word and feasting! But then came the time of repenting and mourning over their failures.

In chapter 9, the Levites cry out to God, recounting all that God had done for them from the very beginning.

You made the heavens… You chose Abram…. You kept your promise… You saw our suffering… You heard our cries… You divided the seas… You led us day and night… You came down and spoke… In our hunger, you fed us… In our thirst you gave us water… You gave us the land…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

But God!

You are forgiving… You are compassionate… You gave your Spirit… You did not withhold… You sustained in the desert… We lacked nothing… We prospered… We were victorious… We reveled in your great goodness…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

And a cycle unfolded. In crisis, they cried out to God. In rest and relief, they rebelled. Even so, God was patient with them. And in this moment, they recognize their failure. They recognize their arrogance. And they recognize God’s righteousness as He was faithful to them even as they were unfaithful to Him. And so they repent. And they ask God for deliverance one more time.

Thanksgiving is all about looking back. And as much as I’d like to be able to say that I look back on the year with only joy and gratitude, I have to admit that there are also moments spread throughout the year where I did not act in a way that honored God. I can see times when I gave in to discouragement and failed to believe His promises. I recall moments of failure that followed success.

When I look back, it’s easy to see God’s hand in every situation. But when I was in the moment, I admit I didn’t always choose to see God’s hand in every situation. Far too often I gave in to fear. And I still catch myself doing that, even after seeing God come through for me every time.

So as I look back over the year, I see some great things God has done. But I also can recognize the not-so-great things I’ve done, and it gives me an opportunity not just to be grateful, but to be humbly repentant as I move forward into the new year to come with fresh vision and fresh goals, letting God lead me step by step into the freedom He has for me.

Father, thank you for your great kindness and patience towards me. Forgive me for not believing you. Forgive me for forgetting all the things you’ve done for me. Forgive me for taking you for granted. Help me to live in constant awareness of your love and goodness so that I can experience the freedom you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Filed under Nehemiah, Old Testament

Esther 8-10; John 13

It was November a lifetime ago, and I was driving to the library. I was weighted down by deep disappointment and grief. Sometime in preceding months, I had read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, and I began to keep my own thankful list. That November day, I remember specifically the golden light sweeping across the farm fields, the flocking behavior of birds like a sheet shaken in the wind. I purposed to be grateful for those things in that moment, but I didn’t know how to be grateful for the broken expectations and crushed hopes in my life. I wondered if maybe the point was to be grateful in trial, not necessarily grateful for trial.

Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples.

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1-5, NLT, emphasis added)

Jesus shares a meal with them (including Judas, who would betray him). Jesus knew. He knew his purpose. He knew where he was from and where he was going. His purpose was not thwarted by the destructive intentions of another–his purpose was propelled by them.

Esther found herself in the middle of a purpose–a time such as that. Haman’s destructive intentions propelled her into a purpose she had not imagined.

On that same day King Xerxes gave the property of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther. Then Mordecai was brought before the king, for Esther had told the king how they were related. The king took off his signet ring—which he had taken back from Haman—and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed Mordecai to be in charge of Haman’s property … 15 Then Mordecai left the king’s presence, wearing the royal robe of blue and white, the great crown of gold, and an outer cloak of fine linen and purple. And the people of Susa celebrated the new decree. 16 The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere. 17 In every province and city, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. (Esther 8:1-2, 15-17a, NLT)

Haman’s hatred led to his own death and justice plays out in an unexpected way: Queen Esther is given Haman’s lands; Mordecai is given the king’s ring and wears royal robes, a fine cloak and a crown of gold.

On Earth, Jesus would be tortured, mocked and crucified by betrayal in a crown of thorns. But he knew. He knew why he was here. He knew what was going to happen. He knew where he was going.

A recent reading in 2 Peter 1 refreshed my kingdom focus. I am thankful for God’s Word. It helped me to understand that God has given me all I need to live a godly life. God gives me a focus and a purpose, and while I still experience heartache and heartbreak here, He prepares me for a grand entrance into His kingdom. An enemy wants to see destruction–but God will use that to propel (us) into a purpose. And now I’m learning to give great thanks for the trial.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Uncategorized

Isaiah 60-63; Colossians 3

How do we live out Colossians 3:23?

Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.

First we work from the heart. We put our whole heart into what we are doing. If we are cheating at work we are really cheating God. If we slough off at home it’s really God we are dissing.

Second, don’t be a man pleaser. You are not doing your job for your boss, you are doing it for God, so don’t be looking to that person for your meaning and affirmation. Be looking to God. Yes, of course we want to be pleasing our family and friends, but it’s because we are first seeking to please God and follow His Word.

Third, work and serve without grumbling. God sees your situation and knows what is happening. Remember He has you right where He wants you so what you are going through right now is based on where He has put you. If you are grumbling about your situation you are grumbling about God.

Fourth, work without comparison. Remember Jesus giving Peter a mission for his life and he wanted to know about Jesus’ plans for John. In John 21:22 Jesus basically said it’s none of your business. Judge your progress on where you have come from, not on the other person. Do your best and forget the rest!

Fifth, we should be working to hear the words, “Well done” spoken to us by God our Father. He is the one we are pleasing. Keep those words in your mind. That’s our goal in the end.

Sixth, thank God for every circumstance in which He has you. In those times and situations remember you are God’s ambassador and work and live to please Him and thank you for the journey He has you on.

Father God, thank you for the opportunity to serve you in all that we do. Help us to keep our focus on you and work in a way that shows You and others that we long to hear those precious words, “Well done!”

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Filed under Colossians, Isaiah, Uncategorized