God’s Will in a Short Reminder

Most of the time, I’m not confused about God’s will for me. I don’t fret over what I”m supposed to be doing and how God’s going to use me. If I need to know about those things, I can go to his Word and find out. I can memorize scripture to help me remember those things as I go about my day. His instructions are explained in simple terms and usually take the form of simple acts.

As I become more familiar with God’s will for me, I learn that there isn’t anything mentioned that I cannot do, but often there are things I balk at doing. Having scripture like the one above helps to remind me to keep it simple.

Rejoice. Pray in all circumstances. Give thanks. Put those three together and they spell Worship.

Be a blessing to someone today.

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99 Things That Make Me Happy

Contentment and gratitude can come from some pretty simple things. Sometimes we just need to take stock. Not that you care about my life so much, but perhaps my list will provide the nudge you need to make your own. Mine is just short of 100. Yours can include as many as you like. And we can always add to them, can’t we?

What makes you happy? Here’s my list, not necessarily in order.

  1. Knowing I can be happy
  2. Belonging to a church community
  3. Serving others
  4. Hearing my son’s deep bass chuckle
  5. Watching my granddaughter dance
  6. Drinking a hot cup of tea
  7. Telling a joke well
  8. Laughing when someone tells a good joke
  9. Fresh sheets on the bed
  10. Being satisfied with what I have
  11. Farmer’s markets
  12. Eating dark chocolate
  13. Being in the groove when writing
  14. Reading the start of a new book
  15. Thunderstorms
  16. Experimenting with recipes
  17. When the recipe turns out
  18. Baking just about anything
  19. A good chick flick
  20. Drinking strong coffee
  21. The smell of coffee brewing
  22. Cuddling with my bunny
  23. Watching my bunny hop and run fast
  24. Receiving personal mail. You know, a card or letter
  25. Stargazing
  26. The scent of freshly mown grass
  27. Watching fireflies in the dark
  28. Browsing bookstores
  29. Browsing office supply stores
  30. Picking out just the right card for someone
  31. Receiving a card that’s just right for me
  32. Swimming leisurely
  33. Playing Scrabble
  34. Playing euchre
  35. Wearing cool bracelets
  36. Wearing any kind of earrings
  37. Getting a good haircut
  38. Reading my Bible
  39. That ozone smell after the rain
  40. When the movie screenplay comes out so close to the book
  41. Eating a quality steak cooked just right (a not-too-bloody pink)
  42. Waking up without pain
  43. Watching a herd of deer in a field
  44. Watching wild turkeys cross the road
  45. Encounters with any sort of wild critter
  46. Discovering something new on Netflix
  47. Discovering a good foreign film
  48. Recycling all that I can
  49. Watching a well-done documentary
  50. The smell of a quality lotion on my skin
  51. Sincere hugs
  52. Listening to Mozart
  53. Discovering a new musician whose music I like
  54. Sleeping in when I can
  55. Naps on Sunday after church
  56. Watching my blue betta swim around in his bowl
  57. Learning something new
  58. A cuddly sweater
  59. Things being in order
  60. Snagging a great photo
  61. Singing
  62. The sound of my mantel clock chiming
  63. Campfires
  64. S’mores at the campfire
  65. All my nails the same length
  66. My nails painted with no mistakes
  67. 75-degree weather with no humidity
  68. Worshiping God through prayer
  69. Going to a classical music concert
  70. Listening to “Carmina Burana”
  71. String quartets
  72. Carrying a cloth handkerchief in my purse
  73. Being within budget
  74. Increasing my vocabulary
  75. Watching blue herons
  76. Hearing children giggle, especially babies
  77. Wearing my multi-colored animal print dress
  78. The sight of storm clouds rolling in
  79. Watching bats circle overhead
  80. Finding a bargain
  81. When the bargain is something I need
  82. Writing with a pen that feels good in my hand
  83. Using doilies
  84. Listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio
  85. Watching the Tigers play at Comerica Park
  86. A successful workout
  87. Employing active verbs in my writing
  88. Finishing a long book
  89. When a book has a satisfying end
  90. Someone returning a smile
  91. When an editor says, “Yes”
  92. The availability of subtitles in a DVD movie “setup”
  93. Meeting with my mentor
  94. Solitude and silence when I need it
  95. My grandson’s youthful wisdom
  96. “Reunions” resulting from Facebook connections
  97. My general practitioner’s sense of humor
  98. Entertaining friends in my home
  99. Knowing my eternal destiny is secured

Be a blessing to someone today.

Foodie, Zucchini and Grace

Playing Hostess

Several years ago, when I was a member of our church’s choir, I invited four of my fellow choir members over for dinner. The main dish was Chicken Breasts Diane; I tried my hand at twice-baked potatoes for the first time; the vegetable was steamed zucchini; and the dessert was a sugar-free, fat-free cream-pie-thing I whipped up.

Everything was going well when my friends began to show up. I’d coordinated the cooking so that the food would be ready to set on the table hot from the oven and stove. The last thing I did was to steam the zucchini so it would still be hot when I placed it on the table with everything else.

You know how steamed veggies seem to get cold fast, right? I didn’t want them to be cold.

Backstory

Rewind to a couple years earlier. I’d been in a near-fatal automobile accident and came out of it with numerous injuries. One of those injuries was a fractured sphenoid sinus. (Say THAT three times fast.) The sinus was supposedly healed, but one residual effect was that I couldn’t smell odors unless I was right on top of them.

It’s caused problems more often than I like to admit.

Dinner, continued

As the zucchini steamed away, so did the water in the bottom of the pan. Carol, who had been watching things progress, said, “Paula, your pan is on fire.”

Yep, it sure was.

The pan had boiled dry and, well, it was time to turn the burner off. “Oh, wow,” I said. (Or something like that.) I took the pan off the stove, put the zucchini in a bowl and set it on the table with the rest of the meal. We sat down, said grace, and began to eat.

Everyone took a little of everything, I guess, including the steamed zucchini. Dinner conversation was a little stilted after a few minutes until I took a bite of my green veggie.

smelly-zucchini-lady“This stuff is burnt!” I said. “Why are you guys eating it?” I scraped it to the side of my plate. I apologized to my friends and, you know what? They were so kind to me. I was so embarrassed. My smeller didn’t catch the scent of burnt zucchini and no one said a word.

Now that’s love in action.

“Foodie Fail”

They sat there eating that scorched zucchini and extended grace to me. Every time I think of this episode in my life––and believe me, with a nose that doesn’t work like it should, there have been many such episodes––I laugh.

In fact, I’ve been laughing out loud the whole time I’ve been writing this blog post.

But I also feel extremely grateful.

We’ve all had our cooking failures. I have some that have nothing to do with not being able to smell.

Since it’s the day after Thanksgiving, I thank Amy, Carol, Brooke and Carol for the gift of grace. You know, of course, grace is unmerited favor. I surely didn’t deserve what they offered, and friends who love like that are worth keeping.

Next time, though, I’m going to nuke the zucchini.

Not Just For a Day, But Always

In the U.S. we take a day to recognize our gratitude for what we have. We call that day ‘Thanksgiving.’ Traditions have been established based on what we believe happened when settlers from Europe first came to the continent. happy-thanksgiving-always-gratefulWe didn’t even have a name for where we were yet. The land belonged to the natives. But we worked with them and showed gratitude for making it through a difficult time.

I don’t know the whole ‘thanksgiving’ story associated with our history. I’m sure my old school lessons had some focus on it. What I do know is every day there is something to be grateful for. Even when I feel frustrated and alone, I know what I see in front of me isn’t the whole story.

My vision is limited.

God has a plan for the days when that ‘abundant life’ seems a little too much. Despite my sometimes grumpy attitude, gratitude in an acknowledement of God prevails.

24/7 Thanksgiving

The Secrets in the Box

Scraps of paper with scribbling on them populated a lidded box which was a gift from a friend. Periodically, I would add another scrap of paper to the collection. Occasionally, I took the scraps out to read them. I should have been scribbling more often and reading even more often.

My scribblings were praises to God for answering prayer, for meeting a need just in time when I hadn’t even prayed for it, and for giving me the strength to get through a difficult time. I called it my God Box.

Last week, after submitting another scrap to the box, I realized it should be full and even overflowing. I was paying attention to God’s faithfulness, but not recording it as a visual reminder. That may not matter to some people, but since I’m someone who journals and likes a written record of what matters to me, it mattered to me.

A Solution in a Jar

I begin most days–or end the evening–by creating a list of things to do. Years ago I began the practice of writing in colored marker at the top of the list “Be Grateful.” The practice of constant praise also matters to me, but I’m weak and often selfish so I need a reminder.flower-wreath-thanks

Another way of reminder, which is solving the problem of too few scraps of paper, was to place the scribblings in a place where I was more apt to notice them. Now, on the windowsill near my desk sits a canning jar full of papers folded up with my scribblings on them. I can’t help but see that container. The open blinds let the sun in and the sun shines through the glass. I see the folded slips of colored paper and, voila, my gratitude and God’s faithfulness are in clear view.

Since placing the jar in the window, gratitude doesn’t seem to be so secret. For sure, no one else needs to know, but like I said, I’m weak. I need all the help I can get.

From the Little to the Large

Gratitude for what God gives and what he does in my life has slowly become a way of life. As I drive around town, I often say, “Thank you, Lord,” just for the joy of seeing wild turkeys or a deer standing in a patch of grass. Little things can make me smile and I thank God for the pleasure of seeing critters in the city. (You should have heard my squeal of delight the day I left church and saw a red-tailed hawk swoop over the parking lot grasping prey in its talons.)

I’m also convinced he’s at work behind the scene and aware of my needs. How else to explain the woman at the thrift store drop-off station asking me if I need a twin mattress? I’m not sure what the look on my face said when she asked me. I was simply watching her wrestle it to the door. But, yeah, I was long overdue for a new mattress. I answered in the affirmative and she and her son loaded a name brand mattress––one-year-old and in pristine condition––into the back of my van. Then a couple guys from my church wrangled it into my apartment and took the old one to the dumpster. I would never have been able to afford that mattress, nor do the lifting myself.

That was a big thing. I know I shouldn’t be amazed at this. But I suppose keeping a sense of wonder at God’s works reminds me that, yes, I’m weak. I can’t do it all myself and he’s taking care of me.

Any Time is a Good Time

The jar sits on the windowsill for me to see every day. God’s goodness and blessings stand for me to see daily as well. I just need to keep my eyes open. When I can’t see something tangible, all I need to do is remember his mercy, new every morning. I pray to not take for granted that every good and perfect gift comes from him. Not only the things I can touch and see but the abundant life that faith allows me to know exists even when I may not “feel” like I have it.

I strive for a practice of constant praise. To “Be Grateful” 24/7, and not just because it’s on my To Do List. After all, Thanksgiving time is coming here.

 

The Best Christmas Gift

Is it too early to talk about Christmas gifts? I think not. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. Those who celebrate the Christian calendar mark Advent with a variety of activities.  Advent gives us a chance to recognize the coming of the Savior and the gift that He is to the whole world.advent-candles-5

Today in my small group we talked about forgiveness. The subject always brings to the forefront various emotional responses.

Comments by my friends indicated that, like many other people, they sometimes have a difficult time forgiving. Some have a difficult time accepting forgiveness; especially the complete forgiveness of God.

During our last fifteen minutes we answered some questions from the book we’re studying. The final question asked us to compare one of the best Christmas gifts we’ve ever received with the grace we receive from God.

From our discussion and from what I’ve learned from scripture, here are some ways our traditional gift giving differs from God’s gift of grace.

One Size Fits All
When we receive a Christmas gift from a family member or friend, that gift was chosen specifically for us. On the other hand, God’s grace is for anyone, no matter who they are. The grace God extends to teachers, mechanics, CEOs, presidents, those in prison, people with disabilities, entrepreneurs, geniuses and baristas is one size fits all. God is no respecter of persons. The same grace that saves a blogger will save a movie producer. No kidding.

Shelf Life
Traditional Christmas gifts all have a shelf life. Even the most carefully constructed technology or the most expensive jewelry eventually shows wear. Rust and moths destroy. But the grace of God is never ending. His mercy is new every morning. God’s gift of grace will always be the same and will always be there when we need it. It never wears out.

Price Tags
That bubble bath, the golf clubs, your new iPad, her Barbie doll and the TV set as big as your living room wall come with a price tag you know is set in dollars, pounds or euros. However, God’s grace is immeasurable. The price tag attached to His grace is the life of His only Son. Who can put a price on a life? Who can put a price on the Son of God?

The Incomparable Gift
Anyone can bestow a gift we feel, see and experience with our senses. Only God can offer the perfect gift of His grace. Fur coat? Expensive cologne? Surround sound stereo system? No comparison at all to what God gave us in Jesus.

The Holidays All Come Together
As of this writing, tomorrow we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in this country where I live. Then Sunday is the first day of Advent. Christmas, the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth, comes soon afterward. Gratitude, expectation and anticipation, and worshiping the Messiah’s birth make this time of year special for those of us who believe in Jesus and what he did for us at the Cross.

It’s not too early to talk about and think of Christmas gifts. Especially if the gifts we’re excited about are God’s acceptance of us, His love for us, and His grace toward us.

Happy holidays.
And come, Lord Jesus.

That Elusive “Calling”

 cu man praying

 

 

God’s call often starts with curiosity. Curiosity leads to interest,

interest to information, then you get understanding.

Then understanding will lead to the meaning of what he is asking of you.

God will give you the assurance that this thing

is a real possibility for you.

Then you share your assurance with others,

look into the Bible, and pray for the Holy Spirit’s leading.

It will become conviction if, of course,

God wants this for you. Conviction will bring you to commitment.

Then there is no retreat unless of course, you decide to disobey.

Some do. Those that do not, receive what has been promised.

          Taken from “Gateway to Joy” with Elisabeth Elliot

woman bw praying

Being Found

“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country to go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15:4-6)

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

“Amazing grace–how sweet the sound–
That saved a wretch like Me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

Being found. It implies that we must have been lost. It implies we might have been lonely. We don’t know which way to go. Maybe we’re in darkness and we’re frightened.

Imagine being found by Someone who loves you deeply; without measure.

The truth is, God seeks us even as we may be seeking him. In fact, his Spirit seeks us out when we may not be actively looking for God. He knows we’re lonely, frightened. He’s aware that we don’t know where to turn next. Like sheep who’ve gone astray, we wander without purpose.

Once the Shepherd finds his sheep, he rejoices to have it in his arms, taking it home to green pastures.

What joy should fill our hearts knowing that he celebrates in having found us. What joy should fill our hearts knowing that we no longer need to be alone. We don’t have to be afraid; we know the darkness is gone. Forever.

Gratitude Breeds Contentment

Oy! My body aches. I had surgery six days ago and have two incisions in my back. Swelling in my feet and legs has stretched the skin so badly I can’t wiggle my toes without pain. Because of the pain associated with the incisions, sometimes I tense up. Then my shoulder and back muscles ache.

Not only that, but when I sit in my chair, I must take a deep breath and slowly lean back until I’m in the right position. Then, because I’m now monitoring my blood pressure every day, I must take some deep belly breaths and relax before I push the button on the cuff. It all hurts.

But–

The surgery I had has proven already to be a success. I know the incisions will eventually heal and won’t hurt anymore. I have medicine now to relieve the swelling in my lower limbs. I’m beginning to relax more when I move to avoid aggravating the site of the staples and stitches.

I can breathe. I’m able to cook for myself. I can climb the few stairs to get mail from the mailbox. I don’t need help getting dressed or bathing.

I’m grateful for those things that I might often take for granted.

During November I’ve been posting each day on Facebook and Twitter something for which I’m thankful. It would be easy to say I’m grateful for that parking space I got close to the grocery store yesterday. I could say I’m glad I have a good book to curl up with. The list of simple things like that could go on and on. I am grateful for those things.

However, I’m trying to post things I’m grateful for that are true promises of God or things which I know come from the truth of scripture. In fact, I’ve been including scripture in each post or tweet.

This time of year, people are thinking about Thanksgiving (yes, Christmas already too) and they’ll be more apt to look at a gratitude list. My practice is to include thankfulness in every day. At the top of my daily To Do list the words “Be Grateful” appear in a thick blue line written with a Sharpie.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God. (James 1:17) My breath, my healing, the ability to dress and cook for myself are only because God provides. I also know the pain and inconvenience I’ve experienced are allowed by him.

Knowing this, I’ve learned to be more content over the years. Of course, I don’t like pain and inconvenience. But nothing that happens to me is a surprise to him. He uses it to perfect me. How could I not be grateful, knowing this?

My prayer for you is a Thanksgiving Day spent in a way that you see all the goodness in your life. Praise God for it. Then look at the trials and inconveniences and praise God for those too. You know why. (James 1:2-4) Because through them you’ll realize you’re growing. One hopes to also be more content each day.

Be grateful for a good meal, friends and family if you celebrate with them, a warm home to live in and, most of all, for every promise God has made to you.