THANKFUL FOR GOD’S GRACE……… PERIOD.

In pondering what should be written for you today, I have come to the conclusion that my mind is cluttered with the needs of the gift shop that I manage here in this retirement village, and all the music that needs to be practiced and memorized.   Whoa….has my precious time with God been pushed aside because of “busyness”? Forgive me Lord.  I am so thankful, not just at this season of thankfulness, but every moment of every day for Your unfailing Grace!

What better gift of life words could I give you than the words from the Book of Life? So glean strength from these words of encouragement.

Romans 5   We have been made right with God because of our faith. So we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through our faith, Christ has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we know enjoy.  And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory.  And we also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts  God gave us His love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

Christ died for us while we were yet sinners and weak.  We were living against God, but at the right time, Christ died for us.  Very few people will die to save the life of someone else.  But Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  In this way God shows His great love for us.

Sin came into this world because of what one man (Adam) did.  And with sin came death.  And this is why all men must die …. because one man sinned against God.  But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift.  For the sin of this one man brought death to many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.  And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin.  For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.  Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners.  But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.  So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

PERIOD

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Grateful For the Hard Times

Have you learned how to have a heart of gratitude? According to researchers, there are specific things you can do daily to cultivate a grateful heart. Some are obvious. Some not so obvious. But all are oh, so important.

Like learning to recognize God’s presence in everything. And by everything, I mean EVERY THING. The good, the bad and the ugly. No matter what, you have never walked alone.

Think back. Look for it. You’ll see.

A few years ago, my son was in the hospital for brain mapping for his seizures. I was there with him for a week, because they needed a family member familiar with his seizures to press a button every time one happened. Little or big. I loved getting to know my young adult son on this intimate level. We talked, we laughed. When he had visitors, I’d step away for a break. For the most part, we were captive room mates. It was a strangely enjoyable time.

We had spent family time with my older brother just a few days before entering the hospital, and he had promised to visit Chris that week. It was quite a drive, so nearly every day I would leave him a message describing the traffic, say I knew he had to get up so early for work, and he should wait until the weekend to come visit. All was well.

Except it wasn’t. When my brother didn’t show up to visit Chris by Friday evening, I called him several times. No answer. I called his neighbor, who said the car was in the driveway, but lights were out in the house. I called my nephew, a police officer, to ask what I should do. He immediately drove there, and looking through the window, could see my brother lying on his bed. He was gone.

I know what you’re thinking: WHAT could possibly be good about this situation? How can you be thankful for your brother being found lifeless in his bed?

Clearly, I’m not thankful for the death of my brother. What I am thankful for is the orchestration of all the surrounding events:

* God chose to call my brother Home in the gentlest of ways. He simply took a nap after work, and didn’t wake up. I’m grateful.

* I was helplessly locked in to a commitment of being in the hospital with my son. If I hadn’t been there, I would have driven out to my brother’s house and I would have found him. I’m grateful to be spared from that.

* My nephew is a police officer in the adjoining city and when he called the dispatcher, he knew her. He knew the protocol of what to do in this situation and said to me, “Tami, God arranged for this to happen when I could take care of it for you.” I’m grateful for him and his good heart.

* Officers arrived & they had a common ground with my nephew. When they looked through the house and found no evidence of foul play or suicide, they reported it as such and the mortuary was called to pick up my brother, and not the coroner. This never happens in Los Angeles county. I’m grateful.

There is more, but I think you get the picture. As I think back on that night, I see God’s handwriting all over the situation, and I am grateful.

Since then, I’ve entering into times of beautiful blessing as well as hardship. I see God’s hand in that, as well. And I am grateful.

So very grateful.

Look at your life. Think back. Take some time to see how God connected the dots in your helpless and even hopeless situations. Never once, did you ever walk alone.

I hope you’ll see.

There is so much to be grateful for.

THANK YOU, LORD

In reading the Scriptures listed under the thanksgiving title in the concordance, I notice that most of them begin with an admonition to be joyful and sing!

Well…….I like that for sure!!!

When I am weary or discouraged and I start singing, or listening to praise music….the joy and thanksgiving in praise wells up within me.

I love God’s creation of animals and natural places in our world. Do you think they thank God for their existence? Ha! That may be taking it a bit too far! However, the “trees of the field clap their hands”  in praise to God, and, if we don’t praise Him, even the rocks will cry out!!! He provides food and water for His animal creations! The seas roar and the stars sing!

These alive plants and animals……all of earth and the heavens know who their Creator is. And God cares so much for His creation He even knows and cares about the little sparrow that falls.

HOW MUCH MORE HE CARES FOR YOU!!!

GIVE HIM THANKS…..FOR HE IS GREAT, AND GREATLY TO BE PRAISED!!!

Psalm 100  “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name, for the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

the WOW factor

I was watching a show on NatGeo channel the other day called “Animal Dances.” How could you possibly scroll past that title without checking it out?

So, there they were. All these different animals in different parts of the world showing their “stuff” in mating ritual dances. The females watch the males display their grandeur and stamina before they choose a mate.

One particular bird, from the middle of the jungle, did a dance that you would not believe. He was an interesting looking black bird of paradise with long antennae-looking spires coming from the top of his head. He looked normal enough to me until the females came to watch. Not only did he toss some red berries about on his “stage” for decoration before his dance, but he placed them “just so.” Then, he stood up and his feathers fanned up and out like a huge black skirt as he paraded back and forth, eyes open wide. His spires flowed this way and that with his movements. And perhaps most interestingly, he had a patch of different feathers on his chest that were bright, shiny and colorful like sequins that caught the light to dazzle the ladies.

What a display! All this just to perpetuate the life-cycle of this little bird out in the middle of nowhere. I just thought…. WOW  (expressing astonishment and admiration)! This bird perhaps has no other purpose than to just be amusing to God, and now that we have captured it on film, we humans can also enjoy this amazing bit of nature.

I began to think about it. There are so many bugs, plants, birds, reptiles, sea creatures, and mammals on this planet. In the past several decades, due to technological advances, we have observed and discovered many new species. This means that for hundreds of thousands of years and more, creatures and species like this have existed even without our knowledge. God did it for His own pleasure!

How many little patches of flowers are out in a field that no human eye ever enjoys? But there they are. Part of the cycle of life that God set into motion. My Mom always says, “What a Creative Creator!”

Indeed! What a planet He created for us to enjoy.

The Psalms are full of verses about the beauty and wonder of God’s great earth. For example, Psalm 104:24-25: “How many are your works, O Lord? In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.”

Photo by Kristin No. Cal. Coast

Photo by Kristin ~ No. Cal. Coast

I say, don’t get so caught up in life “stuff” and “schedules” and “work” that you let days, weeks, months pass without noticing the little things. The random wild flower amongst the thorns. The tiny ladybug going about her daily routine. The variety of flora and fauna in your local park. The sweet call of a bird as it flits around through the trees.

Life brings it’s ups and downs, but there is always beauty in the world that God created for us. Never cease to be amazed and grateful. Do your part to take care of this amazing earth. Spend time out in nature. Be still, watch and listen. Let it renew your soul.

Never cease to say….. “WOW!” and thank God for all His creative gifts!

Love And Thanksgiving

Citizens of the United States are running around today, the day before Thanksgiving, to be sure they have everything they “need” for family and friends to enjoy food and fellowship tomorrow. What a wonderful time of year to pause and give thanks for everyone and everything in our lives.

But, with all that is going on in the world, I can’t help but think of the millions of people who have so little to be thankful for on this day. War. Famine. Disasters. Terror.

The fact that I have time to post this, and you have time to read it means that we are in a position of peace and wealth compared to most. Have we become so wound up in our own little world that we think that we are the only ones who deserve this kind of life?

We complain so much, and point our finger at others. We want to shut people out due to their color, creed or station in life. We may pretend as though we are “welcoming” to all, but as a collective society, ARE WE REALLY?

This post comes on the heels of my Aunt Tami’s wonderful post last week. I have struggled to come up with a post for this week because I have been so disgusted in general with humanity, the “Christians” chief among them.

So, at this time of joy and jubilee (and, I am not saying there is anything wrong with this – we have MUCH to be joyful about!) – I am sure it is a bit dark for me to post this…but do try to walk a mile in the shoes of a terrified refugee. Imagine fearing for your life, and trying to protect your family. Imagine having to flee. Imagine seeing blood and death, and hearing crying and screaming. Imagine just wanting some peace, and then being turned away by people who say they represent a loving, caring God. Imagine feeling as if no one wants you and somehow you are worth less than others.

WHAT IF IT WERE ME? WHAT IF IT WERE YOU? No one chooses to whom or where he/she is born. We are all human. WE ARE CREATED EQUAL. We all have the same basic human needs, desires and feelings.

Let us open our hearts and arms. Let us show love to others. Let us let God do the judging. LET US NOT LET FEAR outweigh LOVE.

Today I received a beautiful picture from the Arms of Love Children’s Home in Andhra Pradesh, India – which is the orphanage that I started 13 years ago through AndyBooks Outreach. (visit andybooksoutreach.org for more info). Here you see 12 beautiful young children who had no hope. Abandoned. Starving. Lost.

We took them in, and they are thriving, despite the hand they have been dealt in life. It’s a beautiful thing.

Arms of Love 2If we all take time to be kind and loving to one person at a time, the ripple effect will spread. It starts with each one of us. Let us be the good Samaritan. Let us not pass one in trouble on the road because we are too fearful, or in too much of a hurry to tend to ourselves.

Let Thanksgiving Day be just a starting point for each day moving forward: to love, to show compassion, to be grateful by sharing what we have with others. Let us not tire until EVERYONE has the opportunity to live a life of peace and gratitude.

TO ALL, A HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

There’s Still Grace

Grace

There’s Still Grace

When I fall so far I can’t get up,

He comes along as I lift my cup

He forgives and fills me

There’s still Grace.

You can’t fall so low but what He’s there,

If you will let Him, He’ll answer your prayer.

Your own failures don’t limit Him.

There’s still Grace!

Grace that will lift you out of your sins.

Grace that will give you His Peace within.

Because of His cross and the Price He paid,

There’s still God’s Grace.

This isn’t good…I know it. Just doodling around one day, and thankful that for all of us, He has unlimited Grace.

(Note from Tami: Oh, mama! We think this is just beautiful & we are so happy you showed us the way of grace and love with how you lived your life.)

There’s Still Grace was written 4/4/2005, when Gladys was age 86.

Timing Is Everything

I have been trying to write something for today for a while…but I have to be honest. It just wasn’t happening.

I’ve had a rough few weeks, as I found out my best buddy, my sweet pup Lacey had cancer. I spent every moment with her as we enjoyed our last couple of weeks together – and then the time came to let her go. I just haven’t been able to focus enough to write about that, or anything else for that matter.

So, here I am. Sitting in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas at a convention for my new business. Still dazed by the trauma of my loss.

BUT, as my cousin Nikki (who is here along with me and my Aunt Tami too!) reminded me today…God’s timing and attention to detail is truly remarkable.

See, I almost had to cancel this trip that would allow me to see my sweet family and friends from the West Coast and allow me to learn more about growing my business. I was planning to do that to spend that precious time with my little Lacey.

BUT GOD, in His infinite wisdom (as my dear Mother Karen reminded me yesterday), allowed me to be free to make this journey. Plus, He allowed me to have a week to grieve. He gave me a sweet last two weeks with her – but then He gave me time to pull it together and get to Dallas. To get a change of scenery and ENJOY the company of my family and friends.

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How kind our God is to us – even amidst our trials – He is there.

Life will always ebb and flow with the good and the bad – but, if we truly look, we will notice God’s grace and blessing in the details of it all. For that, I am thankful.

Here I am in the midst of a trial – but able to be surrounded by people who care for me and love me through it.

His timing is truly superior to ours – even when we don’t see it right away. I am learning to trust God’s timing, and to have faith that He is the one ordering my steps.

Do you trust Him with His timing in your life?

THANK-FULLNESS

We are taught as children to say “thank you” when someone gives us something. We see them…..we see and hold the tangible object given to us, so it’s easy to remember to say thank you. But, what about our thankfulness to God for all that He gives us every moment of every day?

The “Thanksgiving Day” has passed last week, but the Scriptures teach us to be thankful every day, in every circumstance! Easy to say…..hard to do…right?

An eighty year old friend told me a few days ago that she searched for God’s will for her life for years. Then one day as she was reading I Thessalonians 5:16-18 she understood what God’s will for her was in all of life’s trials and joys. And, even though she is in a wheelchair now in a nursing home and her future is filled with pain and the uncertainty of quality of life for her days on this earth, she rejoices in knowing God is with her…..and she is FULL OF THANKS.

These words of wisdom affected my perspective on dealing with the seasons of life….The good and the bad. So,as you read this scripture today…be encouraged that God’s will for you is to be thankful…no matter what!!!

I Thessalonians 5:16-18  “Be joyful always;  pray continually; GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, FOR THIS IS GOD’S WILL FOR YOU IN CHRIST JESUS.”

Thy Word

A Grateful Heart

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On my personal blog I’ve been writing this month about being grateful. And not just being grateful sometimes, but about how to cultivate a grateful heart in this whiny, self-absorbed world we live in.

It’s tough sometimes, isn’t it? We want what we want, when we want it & whine when we don’t get it. At times we think the world revolves around us, and we whine when it doesn’t. We gaze at the new (fill in the blank) the neighbor has, and think, I should have that, too…

No? Just me, then?

I am truly so grateful for my life. But when bad stuff happens, or things don’t work out as planned, or, or, or… sometimes a swell of mopey overcomes my normally good-natured, grateful self. And I cringe.

I cringe at the silliness of it all. I cringe at how childish I am. I cringe to think of others I see daily who have a reason to be moping about, but aren’t. I look around at how stinkin’ blessed I am, and I want to slap myself upside the head and say, “STOP IT!”

So I’m working on it.

Let’s work on it together. One little change daily will turn your heart around. Think of one thing. ONE THING you are thankful for today, and write it down. Do it again tomorrow, and the next day. And the next.

I’m not a journal-keeper. Believe me, I’ve tried. But this I can do – I keep a gratitude journal where I write at least once a week the things I’m thankful for. I leaf through the pages and look back on it often.

And you know what? It always produces a smile. And a change of heart in that moment.

I could go on and on about how there are studies to back this up, but let me just leave you with these wise words:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

 

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 106:1

 

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

Colossians 3:15

What are you doing to cultivate a heart of gratitude?

 

Reflection Connection

I have a little 800 gallon 12′ x 3′ pool that I set up in the summer-time. It’s not much, but it’s an oasis during the heavy heat of summer in the South.

I lie back and relax on my lounge raft, stare at the Carolina blue sky and dream about having a real pool someday. What will that be like? I’ll be so happy when that day comes. Until then I’ll just bide my time with this silly kiddie pool. I want bigger. I want better. Sigh.

Last weekend I decided to take a selfie lounging in the pool. When I looked at the photo later, I noticed the lovely reflection of the sky, clouds and trees in the water surrounding me. This started me thinking….

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Calm water reflects whatever stands above it. Perfectly. No matter what size the body of water is. A puddle can show a flawless reflection when undisturbed, just as well as a pond or a lake.

Do you ever find yourself wishing for something “bigger?” Thinking that maybe you’ll be a better giver, or a better volunteer, a better friend, a better Christian – once you get more income, that better car, that life you’ve always dreamed of having? Do you bypass being an impact right where you are because you are waiting for something else? Or, do you feel like your position in life isn’t meaningful enough to make a difference?

All lies. None of it’s true.

We should all dream and strive to be better. But many times we miss where we are RIGHT NOW. After all, right now is all that is guaranteed.

As I reflected (ha), I realized how grateful I was for that little private 800 gallon oasis. I realized that is where I am right now in life, and that it is good. Maybe that “real” pool is in my future, and maybe it’s not. But right here, right now, I have this one. And it’s pretty awesome. I stopped longing for something else and made a decision to enjoy the present.

You can be the same reflection of Christ no matter what your current position in life. Whether you are self-employed, one of thousands at a corporation, a stay-at-home Mom who drives the carpool, or standing for hours in the unemployment line – you can still reflect and live the character of Christ.

We are all made in His Image. We all have the same capacity to reflect Him – and we all have the same power and potential to be Christ-like in our daily lives. Our character is worth more than our “position,” and others are watching our reflection.

So, be still and KNOW that He is God. Stop thrashing about, disturbing the waters, distorting the reflection. Be faithful in the little things, so that He can trust you with the bigger things He wants to give you.

Be present. Be still. Be bold. Be grateful for who you are and where you are.

Be the best YOU by reflecting the One who made you YOU.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 NAS