Monday, February 28, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home...

In I John 3, John says, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children and God, and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know him."

That is a love to be thankful for! It's only in one sense that everyone is born a child of God and that is in the sense that we are all children of Adam. Yet, sin makes of us estranged children. We are not part of God's family until God restores that relationship.

John 1 says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." To those who accept Christ, Jesus gives the right to become children of God. Accepting Him opens our hearts to hear how we might become so.

Ephesians 1 says of Christians that "God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will". Ephesians 2:10 tells us "Go then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God's households."

I Peter 1:14 gives this as a motivation for godly living: "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior.

In I John, John goes on to say that if we are children of God, the world will not know it. This is because they do not know the Father.

In the movie "An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, a young widow struggled to keep her family together. She and her children were treated poorly by the wife of their landlord. Likewise, few people in the town saw anything special about them.

Then, one day, the young woman's mother arrives in town. Through this event, the townspeople learn that the widow is the daughter of a wealthy and famous industrialist who died and left her mother a fortune.

Once the people learn who the woman's father is, their treatment of her changes. In particular, the landlady now is eager to be friends with her tenant. Nothing about the daughter changed to make people respond to her with more kindness. It was the people who changed when they learned who her father was. She displayed a fine character before people knew her position and a fine character after people knew her position.

In the same way, if we are children of God, the world will not recognize it. In fact, we may be mistreated. However, children of God do not lose their confidence in the face of mistreatment from the world. The true child of God knows that he or she has been called to make the Father known to as many as will listen and become children of God, themselves. The child of God knows that the Father, "is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9. We are also called to be made more like Christ and to purify our character in readiness for the day we are called to stand before the Father.

For the child of God, knowing God the Father brings security and humility, but not pride. The child of God understands that it's only because of God's magnificent love that he or she is adopted by Him. The child of God is ever-grateful for this gift made possible only through Christ's blood.

So, if we are truly children of God, we can live with gratitude in this world, even if, in this world, we face temptations, trials, and persecution. We know that our standing before God is not changed by whether or not people recognize us. We can be happy and content in all situations, as Paul says in Philippians that he learned to be. We can also choose to love others as Christ loved us.

Children of God rejoice with John when he says, "Beloved, now we are chlidren of God, and it has not appeared as what we will be. We know that when he appears, we shall be like HIm, because we will see Him just as He is." I John 3:2


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review -- Love by Calvin Miller

Love by Calvin Miller was one of Book Sneeze's Valentine's Day offerings. (I'm late in posting a review). I think it's a wonderful idea to give a book about God's love to honor the day. This book consists of scriptures references with illustrative stories and questions for a reader to ponder or a group to discuss. If I could have only one book about God's love, this wouldn't be it. I've read other works about this theme that are more captivating and more thorough. However, it is worth reading.

Gratitude in the Home...

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, "Just what I expected" if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying "Peace, peace," where there is no peace; if I forget the poignant word "Let love be without dissimulation" and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into self-pity and self-sympathy; If I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not, forgetting that my sinless Savior trod this path to the end, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitter toward those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; if I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given room there; if the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, if I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

That which I know not, teach Thou me, O Lord, my God.

From If (Calvary Love)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lovely thought of the day:

Sweet stream that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng:
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes;
Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass,
And Heaven reflected in her face.

To A Young Lady

By William Cowper

Thursday, February 17, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home -- day 14

Teaching children to be grateful for toys and possessions....

Too many toys can be overwhelming to young children. Instead of settling down for creative play time, they become restless. Plus, if they are given too many things at once, they often flit from one thing to another and scatter their toys about. Picking up thus becomes a chore that can be overwhelming to both mother and child. If a child is innundated with too much of a good thing, it's hard for that child to learn gratitude for his or her possessions. Deciding how many choices of play things to give to a child at one time is a personal decision best made by the parents who know their child's limits.

When my children were preschooler, another mother shared this tip with me. Her children would often receive several toys at Christmas and for birthdays. The givers of these toys -- i.e. grandparents -- meant well, but sometimes gave more than the mother thought her children could really enjoy. Instead of giving her children all of these things to play with at once, she divided the toys into thirds, bringing down only one third at a time in a year-long rotation. Thus, her children thoroughly played with and enjoyed a smaller subset of toys. When it was time for a new rotation, it was as if the children were receiving new things to play with. They were grateful and mother, children, and grandparents were happy.

Another mother shared with me that she was ruthless about culling down the toy chest by giving away toys that were no longer being used and disposing of items that were worn out or broken.

Letting a child pick a toy from among his own to give to a toy drive is another way of helping a child learn gratitude. This works best if the child thinks of this on his or her own because he or she sees your example of giving to others. It also works if the child is agreeable to the suggestion that each person in the family give to such a drive. Coercing a child to give when it's not in his or her heart is not as effective in teaching gratitude. Some children are not ready to give a toy in this manner, and it's best not to make the child feel pressured. Likewise, a young child may happily give things away without realizing that those things aren't coming back. In such cases, parents can encourage the child's giving spirit but ensure that the child retains things he would miss later.

Involving your child in the care of and clean-up of his or her own possessions is another way to help a child learn gratitude. Even young toddlers can help pick up toys and put them in containers or on low shelves. As the child grows, he or she can learn more responsibility for his or her own possessions.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Review

Randy Alcorn, The Goodness of God, gift size edition.

Randy Alcorn's book, The Goodness of God, is subtitled, Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering. The version I have, which is a review copy sent to me by Multnomah's Blogging for Books program, is abridged from a longer book dealing with the same subject.

The issue of suffering is a deep one. Alcorn points the reader to a deeper knowledge of and trust in the Lord, which -- in the end -- is what we cling to when going through trials. He says,

"In our times of suffering, God doesn't give answers as much as he gives himself. And already, in the bible, h has revealed more than enough of himself to give us solid reasons for faith -- yet not enough to make our faith unnecessary."

He also writes, "Because Jesus willingly entered this world of evil and suffering and didn't spare himself, but took on the worst of it for my sake and yours, he has earned my trust even for what I can't understand."

Alcorn doesn't ask the reader to accept suffering on blind faith, but offers perspectives about evil and suffering that help build trust in God's sovereignty and goodness. It certainly gave me some good food for thought. I read it quickly once and intend to read it again so that I can ponder some of his points more deeply.

This is the kind of book to read and study in those moments when things are going well in order to have a good foundation for any trials that might come later. I'm not sure whether or not I would give this book to someone who was in the throes of an acute tragedy. What helps people in the first moments of suffering or trial varies, and I would consider whether a particular person would find this book to be of comfort in such a time or not before giving it to him or her. However, I would more likely give it as a gift to someone who struggles with the issue of suffering in general or to someone who is facing a chronic trial or who is already past the first shock of suffering.

The book is written mostly for those who already have some kind of faith in the Lord. It does include a section at the end aimed to the person who has never come into a relationship with Christ. Here's my only criticism of the book: This little section is the standard presentation that occurs in many religious books. It assumes that the person can become a Christian simply by reading this book and "praying Jesus into their heart". My conviction is that this does readers a terrible disservice by 1) taking certain scriptures out of their context as written to Christians and using them -- wrongly -- as a basis for initial conversion, 2) failing to present the full truth and beauty of the gospel the way the apostles showed us throughout the book of Acts and 3) leaving out the personal relationships needed to help a person become a disciple of Jesus, to connect with Jesus' sacrifice for us and his grace, and to be nurtured in the faith. (See Matthew 28:18-20).


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gratefulness in the home....

Young people (and not so young people) often imagine that a cynical, blasé demeanor makes them seem more sophisticated and mature. In fact, one of the definitions given for the word blasé in the Free Dictionary
is very sophisticated.

I suppose this phenomenon has been going on for generations -- perhaps even back to Adam and Eve's progeny. There's always a set of young people who don't want to appear naive, and so they affect a cool disdain for everything and everyone they imagine falls short of their crowd's tastes and beliefs. If indulged in, this can form a habit of complaining, rather than being grateful.

In truth, not only is gratitude a godly virtue,
it earns more respect from others than complaints and disdain do. A sign of maturity is to be able to find something to appreciate in every person and in every circumstance. That's not to say that we always agree with others or that we are happy about every situation in our lives. There is a time to respectfully stand for our beliefs, even if it means hurting someone's feelings or losing their good opinion of us. Even in that, however, we can wish the best for those with whom we must disagree. We can choose to be gracious, rather than to be bitter. By the same token, we can look for the good even in hard times, and we can maintain our peace, as the well-known prayer says, by doing what we can to change what we can and accepting what we can't.

Consider what sages and celebrities have said about gratitude:

"Gratitude is the sign of noble souls", said Aesop.

Epictetus puts it this way: "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."

Writer A. J. Cronin said, "
Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much.
For on the smiles, the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation,
our neighbors build their philosophy of life.

Elsie DeWolf, style maven of the early twentieth century, used to embroider pillows with the motto, "Never complain; never explain". This saying, which has been attributed to a number of sources, has inspired several historical figures to avoid complaining and making excuses.

Audrey Hepburn, who was known for her graciousness to others and her uncomplaining attitude said, "
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived,
reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone."

"I firmly believe that in every situation, no matter how difficult, God extends grace greater than the hardship, and strength and peace of mind that can lead us to a place higher than where we were before," said Andy Griffith

Actress Renee Zellweger says, ""I'm very blessed with people who will go great distance out of their way to help not just me, but other people in their lives. I think that's a huge blessing."

Actor Michael J. Fox maintains gratitude in site of his battle with Parkinson's disease. "I wake up curious every day and every day I'm surprised by something. And if I can just recognize that surprise every day and say, "Oh, that's a new thing, that's a new gift that I got today that I didn't even know about yesterday," it keeps me going. It keeps me more than going. It keeps me enthusiastic and grateful."

Football analyst Michael Strahen says he is grateful for "life, family, and health."

These are just a smattering of notable people, past and present, who have publicly expressed gratitude. Of course, we don't look to people for our standard, but to God. However, those in their formative years do well to remember that there are many examples that prove real maturity and style isn't about complaining, but about looking to the best in life.


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Thankfulness in the home!

"God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame."
Elizabeth Barret Browning

Babies Don’t Keep

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.