Blog

Gratitude

Gratitude

makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, creates a vision for tomorrow.

Melody Beattie

It’s sometimes surprising how many people don’t realize how important it is for us to be thankful and to express that gratitude. Thinking in terms of what you are grateful for instead of thinking about all the things that annoy you, can change your attitude, your disposition and help to reduce wrinkles. (I just made that last part up but I think it might be true. After all if you smile more and frown less you won’t have that deep crevice on  your forehead from all the frowning that you’ve been doing.)

I think there are two types of gratitude. The first one is gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life that we so often take for granted. This one is easy. Just think about how grateful you are for the great lunch you had with friends, or the new house you just moved into, or how sweet your children look when they are sleeping, or the anniversary you just celebrated.

But even though that one is easy to do we don’t do it as often as we should. I know I don’t. I don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about all the things I have to be thankful for. That is something I’m working on. I’ll start today with a gratitude journal. I plan to keep it somewhere handy so whenever I think about something that I am grateful for I can jot it down. Then, in order to really make it even more meaningful, I’ll read through each day’s list just before I go to bed.

The other type of gratitude is hard and sometimes seems impossible in the moment. This is gratitude for something that we didn’t ask for, didn’t want and would love to get rid of. This isn’t a Pollyanna type gratitude where you proclaim gratitude for your car breaking down in the middle of the street and you have to walk a mile in 95 degree weather to get help. (Almost nobody believes that it true,)

This type of gratitude usually comes later, after we’ve had time to process what happened. That’s when we realize that there were some blessings that came from it that w didn’t recognize at the time. Pastor Merle (PVBC) told a story about Corrie Ten Boom yesterday that beautifully illustrates this.

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch citizen who, along with her family were arrested by the Nazi’s during WWII for hiding Jewish refugees. All of Corrie’s family died while in the concentration camp, including her sister Betsie. Corrie was very angry about their situation and her sister Betsie kept telling Corrie not to let anger and hatred take hold. One of the things that Corrie hated while in the camp were the fleas. Their barracks were unclean, overcrowded with women and full of fleas. Corrie couldn’t stand the fleas biting and itching. After Betsie died, Corrie thought about all the horrors of their living circumstances but she also realized something else. Following a forbidden prayer group that Corrie was a part of she realized the soldiers weren’t coming through their barracks to search for forbidden things or activities. She realized that the soldiers didn’t come in because of the fleas. They didn’t want to pick up any fleas by walking through. This meant, that weren’t going to stop them from praying and they weren’t going to confiscate the few Bibles they had managed to hang on to. S realized that God had used the fleas to keep those women safe.

Corrie had learned to be thankful for the fleas. She also realized that God didn’t answer her prayers to get rid of the fleas for a good reason.

We probably all have had some type of “fleas” in our lives. A little reflection on those “fleas” might help us recognize some things we now know we should be thankful for.

Ruth: A New Beginning – Part 2

Yesterday’s blog reminded us of the story of Ruth and how she came to leave her country, her family and her religion. It took guts and courage to head off to a country and a people she didn’t know; all the while being fully aware that she could never go back.

That being said, the point of today’s blog is on what we can learn from Ruth.

  • First: She left the past behind her and she didn’t have an exit plan. She was fully committed. Ruth had given this some thought. She knew her options in Moab weren’t good. She saw goodness in Naomi and she saw hope in Naomi’s God. Our take-aways from this?
    • Compare the past with the future and if you decide to make a change, make it! Make it completely. Don’t look back. Tell somebody you trust what you’re doing and why. Then just go for it.
  • Second: Ruth listened to the advice of the person she had trusted her life to, Naomi. Find yourself a “Naomi” when you are making a change in location, job, relationships, etc. Share your reasons and your expectations. Then along the way go to them for support, guidance and input. And most important of all…LISTEN to them. When they give you a suggestion that will take you to the next level do it. Women err more often on the side of caution than they err on the side of recklessness. I’m not advocating that you be reckless, but I am suggesting that doing something new or different is not an act of recklessness. It’s more likely a step of faith which will take you closer to what you are hoping to achieve.
  • Third: Ruth wasn’t afraid to ask for what she needed. First, she asked the foreman in the field if she could pick up the grain that was left on the field after the harvesters had gone through it. That was risky but it turned out that it allowed her to be seen by the right person. Then, later in the story she lies down at the feet of Boaz, which was an offer of marriage. (Yes, that seems odd to us today, but it was appropriate in the Jewish community given her situation.)  Think of it as making sure your supervisor at work sees your work before you make an appointment to ask for a raise.
    • So, what we learn from Ruth in this situation is obvious: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need. You aren’t being pushy. You’re being assertive and yes, there is a difference.
  • Fourth: Ruth had also made a commitment to Naomi’s God when she left Moab. That commitment allowed her to follow a path guided by Naomi but was actually inspired by God. God honored Ruth’s commitment which not only provided her security and a place to live as the wife of Boaz but also allowed Ruth to have a son. That son’s name was Obed and he fathered Jesse who fathered David, the King and Jesus was born in the line of David. By following God’s direction for her life, Ruth became a key participant in the lineage of Jesus.
    • What do we learn from Ruth in this? We learn that when we follow God’s leadership we will experience His blessings. We also learn that God’s direction for us can come from many sources.
    • For example, I’d been wanting to write a book or something for a long time and just couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to do or how to do it. So, in a conversation early last spring with a “mentor” he said, “Why don’t you write a blog?” So, I did!
  • And that’s when this website was born!

Ruth: A New Beginning: Part 1

Ruth was a Moabite who started off living a fairly normal life. She was married and lived in the land where she was born. She worshipped as the people in her family and those around her worshipped. But life was going to become hard for Ruth. She wasn’t able to have children and in her world at that time, that was considered a bad thing. She was a wife and wives were suppose to have children and more specifically, they should have sons.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Ruth’s husband died. Now she is alone and she is barren.  She had become a burden to her family. She was now considered worthless in the eyes of her friends and family.

At the same time her sister’s husband has died and so has her father-in-law. That leaves three women who have been connected by marriage but are no longer connected. They are going to have to make some decisions and they don’t have many options.

Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law decides she will return to Judah, her homeland. She has no one left in Moab but she does have family in Judah. I can imagine Ruth watching, maybe helping, as Naomi is preparing to leave. “You’re really going to leave here, Naomi,” Ruth says. “But why? I’d hoped you’d stay here?”

“I can’t stay, Ruth. There’s nothing for me here,” Naomi replies. “My husband and sons are all dead. God has not blessed me here. He has taken them all away. I will go back to the land of our fathers and see if He will bless me there.”

I can imagine Ruth asking Naomi to tell her about the land she is returning to and asking about the God Naomi is seeking to bless her. She must have spent some sleepless nights thinking about this. And, at some point, when Ruth looks at what was in the past all she sees is pain:

  • the pain of being barren and criticized by the women around her
  • the pain of being widowed and alone
  • the pain of being a part of worship of a god that does not help her

But when Ruth looks at Naomi she sees kindness and understanding and she sees hope in a new place, new people and a new god.

Ruth makes a decision and runs to find Naomi as she is starting on her journey. When she tells Naomi she is coming with her, Naomi tries to talk her out of it. But Ruth has already thought it through and is determined to go with Naomi. Her response to Naomi is well-known

“…where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates  you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17 (NIV)

Ruth’s decision to go with Naomi is complete. Her commitment is to Ruth, to the people she will soon be a part of and to the God that Naomi worships. There is so much we can learn from Ruth and from her decision to go with Naomi. Too much in fact to get it in this post. So tomorrow, I’ll be back with “the rest of the story.”

 

Look Forward Not Backwards

I have a confession: “I don’t typically read the genealogies in the Bible. When I come to one I usually skip past it to the ‘good stuff.'” But the other day I did read the genealogy as written in Matthew 1:3-6 and I learned some very interesting facts I want to share with you.

  • Jewish genealogy almost always lists only the male’s names.
  • But…four women are listed in this one: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba and there are some interesting facts about these four women:
    • Tamar bore a son, Perez, fathered by her father-in-law.
    • Rahab ran a brothel in Jericho.
    • Ruth was a childless, widowed Moabite woman who followed her mother-in-law Naomi back to Judah and asked Boaz to marry her.
    • Bathsheba was the beautiful woman David slept with and who’s husband David later had killed in order to hide her pregnancy.

All four of these women had a past that would not have been acceptable to Jewish society. Yet, in each case God chose each of these women to play a major role in His plan to redeem His people. God did not look at their past, He looked at what their future could be if they followed His plan. When Matthew wrote his gospel He included the names of these women in his genealogy, not because of their questionable past, but because of the role these women played in God’s plan.

All four of these women played a key role in the lineage of Christ. Boaz was Rahab’s son and he was a descendent of Tamar’s son, Perez. Ruth and Boaz were the parents of Obed who fathered Jesse, the father of David. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah.

These women had questionable pasts. They could have felt sorry for themselves, regretting and perseverating on past choices and the difficulties of their lives. But they didn’t. They looked toward God and they took action. And, God gave them direction and support.

What’s the message in this for us? I think it is a subtle but important lesson. When we make choices that aren’t the best, or have bad things happen to us that we couldn’t control, we can stay stuck in them and keep looking at our past, but that doesn’t do us any good. We need to move on. And we do that by learning to forgive ourselves, or by forgiving someone else and accepting that God has already forgiven us.

Rahab chose a life as a prostitute but when Joshua and his men needed someone to hide them while they prepared to take down Jericho, Rahab recognized that God was behind these men and she followed her heart and helped them. Ruth hadn’t really done anything wrong except to have lived in a time when a woman without a husband and without any sons was considered to be worthless. But she chose to follow her mother-in-law and accept a new God. She left everything behind and started a new life.

So, the bottom line is this: we all need to make peace with things in our past that we can’t change. Perhaps we need to forgive ourselves or forgive someone else. But whatever it is “that was” does not have to define “what will be.” There is still much that we can do and much more that God has for us to do. Don’t make the mistake of being stuck looking backward. Just start looking forward.

P. S. I plan to take a deeper look into Ruth in a day or two. There is much more to her story and much that can apply to us today.

Love Is Fierce

Most of us know that chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians is considered the “Love” chapter in the Bible. We are also probably familiar with love being described as patient, kind and always hopeful. Which of course it is. But those same verses also say that love “always protects” and “always perseveres.” Sometimes that protection is fierce and hangs on like a pit bull once it gets its teeth into you.

Although women have been typically seen as the gentler sex, it is often the female who demonstrates the fierce side of love. This is especially true when it comes to protecting her child or another mother’s child. A woman is very capable of taking extraordinary measures and often dangerous steps to protect that child.

This is also true in nature. If you have ever seen a mother bear or lioness in action when something is even getting close to their babies, you will certainly see how fierce love can be.

God encouraged Jehosheba to take action and demonstrate fierce love by protecting Joash, the son of her brother, Ahaziah. Not only was the child’s life in danger but also the lineage of the Messiah. Jehosheba took the baby and his nurse and hid them in the temple right under the nose of the wicked queen Athaliah. Jehosheba didn’t weigh the dangers, she just took action.  (2 Kings 11:9-21)

God empowered Jehosheba, a woman, to act quickly and enabled her to keep the child hidden for six years. “All this happened as God empowered a woman to intervene.”**

In the Book of Exodus, (1:11-19) God tells us about two other women who also intervened in a similar way. Shiphrah and Puah, Jewish midwives, refused to carry out Pharoah’s edict to slaughter all Jewish boys at birth. When summoned to the Pharaoh to explain why so many Jewish boys were still alive, these two women lied and told the Pharaoh that Jewish women were “vigorous and gave birth before the midwives could arrive.” These women performed one of the first recorded acts of civil disobedience. An act for which the Pharoah could easily have had them killed.

Vianne, one of the main character’s in Kristin Hannah’s book, “The Nightingale” is confronted with a decision that could cost her her life and the lives of her children. When her Jewish friend suddenly realizes she will be taken away by the Nazis’ she begs her friend Vianne to take her son so he can be saved. Vianne is afraid and at first says “No” but as she looks into her friend’s face and sees her desperation and love, Vianne says goodby to her friend and then takes the child with her, without a clue has to how she will be able to keep them all safe.

The Nightingale is a fictional story but the characters are based on true accounts of women who lived during WWII and performed extraordinary acts of courage, keeping hundreds of children out of certain death in the concentration camps.

Women are capable of doing extraordinary things when they act out of love in order to protect others. These are just a few examples from the Bible as well as from other historical sources. Acts of Fierce Love are always a possibility when we are witnesses to injustice and social evils. When we realize that someone cannot protect themselves but we could, that is often a God appointed moment for us to act. It is a call to  step up and exercise our Fierce Love for someone who needs us to be fierce and unafraid.

** Quote from the book “Fearless Daughters of the Bible” by L. Lee Grady

 

 

What if…?

Do you recall what Mordecai said to Esther when she told him she was afraid of the king and couldn’t help him save the Israelite’s from mass destruction? His response was, “Do you really think you won’t be affected by this? Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for just such a time as this?”

Their world was in serious trouble. The king had signed a royal proclamation that could not be repealed. Mordecai was distraught with concern for his people. God told him that Esther was the only one who could help.

Mordecai listened to God. Esther listened to Mordecai and knew that it was God who wanted her to take action. So she did.

Our world today is in trouble in many ways. Political turmoil around the world and at home. Natural disasters that leave people homeless and without food and water. Trafficking in the sale of human lives, pornography, and racism. And that is just the beginning.

My first response to all of this is that it is so overwhelming I just want to go back into my house, turn off the TV and the internet, and pretend it isn’t happening.  After all, what in the world could I possibly do?

Well…that’s the question, isn’t it? What if there was something I could do? What if God wants ME to do something? Do I really want to ignore Him or tell Him “No”?(Never really a good idea!)

What if… as Mordecai said to Esther, “Perhaps you are in the position you’re in for such a time as this?” You’re probably thinking, just what position is it you think I’m in? What makes you think I could do something? Well, let’s consider what that might be.

  • Who do you know that you might be able to influence? A friend, a neighbor, your family, your church?
  • Are you a writer or an artist and you can create messages that inspire or challenge people?
  • Do you have the gift of hospitality and could open your home for various groups to hold informational meetings or provide a safe place for a needy person?
  • Are there injustices that just make your blood boil when you hear about them? (That’s called a passion and people with a passion about something that needs to be changed are often being spoken to by God.)

I’m inviting you to engage in a conversation with me about this post. I’d love for you to share what you believe needs to be changed? What is it that is holding you back? Or, what is it you have done or are in the process of doing? Or what ideas came to mind as you read through this post.

What if...you did something that made a difference or what if…your actions resulted in someone else taking an action that makes a difference?

And, What if…you don’t do anything?

What if… you start by responding to one of those last questions? I’m looking forward to joining in that conversation!

“WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?”

Today’s blog does not highlight a woman. It is about a man named Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers is deceased but he has a message for both men and women and while his contributions were in the latter part of the 20th century, his message is still applicable today and in fact, is very much-needed message.

Fred Rogers believed in the importance of making childhood a safe place and in helping children know that they could be loved just as they were. His songs, his TV show and all that he did throughout his life consistently reflected his belief that the strength of our society rested on the development of our children.

The following quotes from Fred Rogers offer great insight into what he believed and what he hoped to accomplish:

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”

“The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”

“In a way, you’ve already won in this world because you’re the only one who can be you!”

“We live in a world in which we need to SHARE RESPONSIBILITY.  It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, NOT MY PROBLEM.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond, I consider those people my heroes.”

Mr. Rogers was a Force of Influence throughout his entire adult life. He was soft-spoken, unassuming, and mild-mannered man. But that doesn’t begin to tell you who he was. He was passionate, and courageous, and determined to make a difference in the lives of children. He never gave up on what he believed and he didn’t avoid difficult situations.

A video clip of Mr. Rogers speaking to the senate Subcommittee on Communications in 1969 is well-worth viewing. The committee wanted to withdraw funding from public television. Fred Rogers won over Senator Pastore’ who had already stated he wasn’t in favor of the funding and all but said it would never be approved. It would be worth your time to look up the video on You Tube. Just do a search for Fred Rogers and the senate hearing for funding of public television. It’s about 6:30 minutes.

I also highly recommend seeing the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” by Morgan Neville. It’s in theaters now. The Kansas City Star carried an editorial on Sunday about the movie. This quote sums up the impact of the movie and the life of Mr. Rogers nicely,

“There’s nothing obviously moving here, and yet the audience is moved. The power is in Rogers’ radical kindness at a time when public kindness is scare. It’s as if the pressure of living in a time such as ours gets released in that theater as we’re reminded that, oh yes, that’s how people can be.”                            David Brooks, New York Times News Service