Tag Archives: Gratitude

Numbers 34; Psalms 78:38-72; Isaiah 26; 1 John 4

You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in you,
    all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the Lord always,
    for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4, NLT)

I never would have imagined the events that have taken place in my life this year.

But for those who are righteous,
    the way is not steep and rough.
You are a God who does what is right,
    and you smooth out the path ahead of them.
Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws;
    our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.
In the night I search for you;
    in the morning I earnestly seek you. (Isaiah 26:7-9, NLT)

And I can’t imagine walking this road without the Lord. I praise Him on the path. I praise His provision. I praise His name. His Word woven in heart and mind these past ten years studying–I’m so grateful.

12 Lord, you will grant us peace;
    all we have accomplished is really from you. (Isaiah 26:12, NLT)

Mrs. Ward* was a sister at first sight. And even though she struggled to get her thoughts out (a stroke), her hands were quick to lift in praise at the name of Jesus, and her praising words spilled out fluidly when other thoughts stuck and jammed. She was discharged yesterday, and I’m thankful for the quiet moments before she left that we could say goodbye.

I never would have imagined the events that have taken place in my life this year, but through it all, I am vigilant to look for God. And He is there. Peace giver. Road smoother. Rock. I hand him the things that overwhelm, and He carries them. He gives me rest. And on days where the fight is an enemy speaking condemnation, defeat and inadequacy over me–he sends me a sister in Christ, who otherwise struggled in conversation, to speak love, blessing and encouragement over me.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. (1 John 4:9-17, NLT)

The sweet tears we shed, the joy. His Spirit, the proof. Her words, His love, lifted me on a difficult day.

Oh, thank you, God.

Courtney (66books365)

*Not her real name.

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Numbers 21; Psalm 60, 61; Isaiah 10:5-34; James 4

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[c] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

Selfish; self-centered; entitled. These are all words that came to mind as I read through these verses and the attitude of the Israelites.  They were complaining about God’s provision for them.  They were not satisfied with what God was doing in their lives.  They wanted what they wanted NOW.  Like any good parent, God nipped this bad behavior in the bud.  He sent venomous snakes into their midst and people started to die.  He got their attention!  Once the Israelites were confronted with God’s discipline, they sought out Moses to speak to God.  Moses prayed to God on their behalf.  In response, He had him build a bronze snake and put it on a pole.  If they were bitten, all they had to do was look at the snake and they would live.  God made it obvious to them that HE was in control, that HE was their source, and that HE would provide for them.  They had to continuously look to Him.  God didn’t take away the snakes, but He provided a way for them to be saved.

1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Selfish; self-centered; entitled. Again, these words come to mind.  This time, however, it is not the Israelites who elicit these adjectives, it is me as I see them apply to myself. There are times I have prayed for something and God has not answered the prayer in the timeframe I believe He should have.  I get in a bad mood, or start complaining.  I want what I want NOW!  I thought about how lately I have found myself dissatisfied with my life.  What are you doing God?  Are you even there?  What about me?  Selfish; self-centered; entitled.

Through time spent with him, I remembered who God is. He is God, and I am not.  He owes me nothing; I owe Him everything.  Even if I never receive another answered prayer or blessing, He has already given me the greatest gift:  His Son.  If He never does another thing for me in this life, He provided a way to live with Him forever in the next.  Every day I need to remember this.  Every day I need to thank Him.  Every.  Day.  I don’t have a bronze snake on a pole to save me.  I have an empty tomb and a risen Savior.  When I get outside of my self—my needs, my wants, my wrong motives—I see that truth clearly.  I can praise God with a joyful heart and lifted hands.

Father, I know I am selfish. I know I grumble and complain.  I know I am not always satisfied with my life.  Forgive me LORD for thinking I deserve anything more than you’ve already done on my behalf.  I ask for a changed heart—one of gratitude for who you are and thankful that you love me.  I ask for a humble spirit that I might look out instead of in and up instead of down.  I ask hoping my motives are right.  I do not seek pleasure, for that is fleeting.  I seek joy.  That comes from you alone.  In Jesus name, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

 

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Joel 1-3, Matthew 10

I was holding my mother’s hand the moment she died. I’ve mourned the loss of children I never named or held. I’ve felt the sting of losing a job. I’ve known the ache of betrayal. But there was one loss that lingered for years, one I couldn’t name at first, a sense of imbalance I couldn’t right, a futile pursuit that exhausted. It greeted me each morning with every sunrise, and gripped me with a pressure that bruised and suffocated–oh, how ridiculous it seemed when I named it: the loss of expectation.

It shamed and embarrassed me–how it tormented me–how could something so shallow (compared to death or destruction) sink me into a depressing heaviness of heart whose tablemates were rejection and mockery? I wanted to shake it off. Every day I determined to be bigger than it, toggling between pretending none of it mattered, and raging at how it dared to touch the tender places I couldn’t protect. It created such a fracture in my heart, that my life is marked by that time as before and after.

It was a spring in the after that God stuck a verse in my thoughts, a steady repetition of the words “I will give you back the years.” I was working in the yard that day, and stopped to get to a computer and search the scriptures for those words. They led me straight to Joel  (In more than one way–we purchased this land from a man named Joel.).

The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost
    to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. (Joel 2:25a, NLT)

The next sentence was totally unexpected. I stopped short.

It was I who sent this great destroying army against you. (Joel 2:25b, NLT)

And suddenly those years before made sense. The loss made sense. I was humbled and awed, truly, but above all, I was grateful.

Thank you, God, for showing me what life can be like when I lay down my own pursuits and seek your will. Thank you for bringing us here. Thank you for healing and hope restored. Thank you for changing my heart. Thank you for these five full years. Thank you for saving me from an even greater grief.

In life before, I never imagined that I would ever find myself grateful for heartache, dashed dreams, or loss of expectation. But in life after, I’m thankful for God’s intervention and the very hard heart work that changed my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 14-17; Luke 17

I noticed a pattern in (my) readings this year, a lot about warnings: to not harden a heart against the Lord, preparing lamps, leaders and followers, a kingdom focus. Luke 17 is no exception.

22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see the day when the Son of Man returns, but you won’t see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘Look, there is the Son of Man,’ or ‘Here he is,’ but don’t go out and follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so it will be on the day when the Son of Man comes. 25 But first the Son of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected by this generation.

26 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 27 In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.

28 “And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building— 29 until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day a person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return home. 32 Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! 33 If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. 34 That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.” Luke 17:22-35, NLT.

Clinging to life and losing it? Letting go and saving it? Why does God’s way seem so counter-intuitive?

Joshua 14, Caleb testifies.

“Remember what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me when we were at Kadesh-barnea. I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan. I returned and gave an honest report, but my brothers who went with me frightened the people from entering the Promised Land. For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God. So that day Moses solemnly promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.’ Joshua 14:6b-9, NLT.

God constantly causes me to evaluate my definition of success, failure, living.

Thank you, Father, for your loving provision, for denying me things I thought I wanted so that I could receive life I never imagined. Thank you for your word, reminders (of your love) and warnings (about my ways). I want to keep my eyes fixed on you–to follow you wholeheartedly–and not look back. Praising you, God.

Courtney (66books365)

This song came to mind during worship this morning.  The Hebrews verse tucked inside–pure treasure.

25 But first the Son of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected by this generation. Luke 17:25, NLT.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV.

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Deuteronomy 6-9; Luke 7

When he walked into the room and saw me, his face lit up. He walked into a room of family and friends and it was his birthday celebration, and yet when he looked at me, his face lit up. I saw it and held that image in my heart.

“Did you see his face when he saw you?” my husband asked. Oh, he had noticed it too! And then my tears.

It was my dear friend’s 75th birthday, and all I could do was cry. He made his way around the room, greeting guests, but he spent the longest time with me. He pulled up a chair next to me, and we were head to head, and he talked to me like I was the only one in the room. I cried because I loved him so much. I couldn’t hold it back, and I tried–I mean, who cries through parties?! He calls me his daughter, and he and his wife treat my family like we are their own.

I always thought the story of the woman crying at the Lord’s feet was unsettling. It made me uncomfortable.

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. Luke 7:36-38, NLT.

That day celebrating my friend, the tears that wouldn’t stop, the overflowing of love for him–I suddenly got it. I went home that day and cried some more and wrote him a letter from my heart, sat at a desk crying as I realized God’s deep love for me, modeled through a man who calls me daughter.

These Deuteronomy verses are dear to me, and I read them with fresh perspective, being on the other side of a promise–a promised land, with streams and pools of water, of grapevines and pomegranates, olive oil and copper in the hills. In my notes, I write down what stands out to me: (OT) teach kids, land (provision), remember God (praise, love, obey, fear), blessing, he makes a way; (NT) signs and miracles, healing and forgiveness, the woman’s tears, “Your faith has saved you.”

I remember His signs and miracles in my life, His provision, His love for me (adoption and forgiveness of sins).

For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.

“The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you …” Deuteronomy 7:6-7a, NLT.

Father God, thank you for loving me.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 59-61; 1 Thessalonians 4

lemon birthday cakeWe celebrated my oldest daughter’s twelfth birthday last night with lemon cake (so yummy that everyone wanted a second piece). The kids took off, sufficiently sweetened, and played. My husband and I sat at the table. A discussion on happiness ensued. And he’s either a patient man or a forgetful one, but he listened to me, as he has for years, tell the story of shame and God’s redeeming, restoring faithfulness.

I’ve heard snippets of these verses before, spoken to me or others in trial and mourning. In context, they were spoken in a different time, to a different people facing very different circumstances. Yet these very words are ones of hope and comfort to generations after–how can we grab hold of messages meant for others?

I told a friend once about a scripture in Deuteronomy that I felt was like a love note slipped to me by a Savior. I was timid to accept it, could I really be so bold to apply the promise to myself? How did I fit in that context?

“I wouldn’t put God in a box,” he said. “Who can know how God will use his Word?”

Living and active.

To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3, NLT

For his own glory.

Instead of shame and dishonor,
    you will enjoy a double share of honor.
You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours. Isaiah 61:7, NLT

My husband and I sat and talked about happiness and shame and freedom. My chest felt tight from emotion and gratitude for the journey. This morning I read these words, spoken to a different people in a different time and out of context of my own life. But I sort of wonder if I hear the Lord saying, “See, I told you so.”

Ashes exchanged for a crown. Shame replaced by honor. For his own glory–because he is that big.

Thank you, Father.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalm 142, 143, 144; 1 Corinthians 10:14-33

With my voice I cry out to the Lord;

with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.

I pour out my complaint before him;

I tell my trouble before him…

I cry to you, O Lord;

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

Attend to my cry,

for I am brought very low!

Deliver me from my persecutors,

for they are too strong for me! Psalm 142:1-2; 5-6

My struggles bring me low, mentally and emotionally. They often feel overwhelming, especially when they seem to be never-ending. Though they are nothing like David’s circumstances were, in exile, hiding out from his enemy in caves in the wilderness, my struggles still are demoralizing and frustrating.

I personally don’t think that God puts tribulation in my path, but I do believe that He uses the struggles of my life to teach me, draw out negative character traits, and help me grow as a person and as a believer. I also am certain that He uses them to show me more of who He is, more of His faithfulness.

Sometimes it takes me a while to get over myself and my disappointment at the circumstances of my life. Sometimes it takes me a bit to realize that the enemy is trying to convince me to believe his lies. But largely, I have come to learn that in the midst of a battle I have a choice to be overcome by the situation or to trust in Jesus.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;

give ear to my pleas for mercy!

In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!

Enter not into judgment with your servant,

for no one living is righteous before you…

I stretch out my hands to you;

my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

Answer me quickly, O Lord!

My spirit fails!

Hide not your face from me,

lest I be like those who go down to the pit.

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,

for in you I trust.

Make me know the way I should go,

for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143 1-2; 6-8

He really is bigger than any of my problems. He can handle my emotions. He can handle my anger, my desperation, my hopelessness. He just wants me to be honest and to call out to Him. He wants me to come to Him in my weakness, when my spirit is failing and I am feeling deserted. He wants me to lean into His love and be carried by His goodness. He wants me to stop looking at my surroundings; and instead, He wants me raise my hands to Him in worship, lift my voice in praise, and focus my eyes on His face.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,

who trains my hands for war,

and my fingers for battle;

he is my steadfast love and my fortress,

my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield and he in whom I take refuge,

who subdues peoples under me. Psalm 144:1-2

When I look back at past trials in my life, I can see that His hand has guided me, that He has taught me valuable lessons. I can see that He has been my rock and my stronghold of protection. I can see that He has never left me alone, but has helped me move through the crazy mazes of life with skill and with wisdom.

Yesappa, Blessed be Your name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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