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4 Reasons to Give Thanks
The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 to thank God for bringing them safely to the New World. After that, individual colonies and states frequently declared days to be set aside to celebrate and express gratefulness for particular things.
In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” It was a strange time to declare such a holiday—a time of great turmoil and division. But, maybe that is the very reason President Lincoln proclaimed a national holiday of Thanksgiving and Praise.
When opposing sides can’t seem to settle their differences, it helps to take time to acknowledge what you have to give thanks and praise for. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a divided nation, opposing clans, or warring couples, there is always something the two sides can both be grateful for if they’ll just stop and think about it.
President’s Lincoln purpose for declaring a holiday is also in line with the Lord’s will for us. He said, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Th. 5:18).
Why is it important for us to give thanks to God? What difference does it make? Three things come to mind.
First, it turns our eyes and our hearts toward the Lord.
We tend to take our blessings for granted and not remember that all good things come from God. When we give thanks to God, it redirects our focus, and shifts the source of our hope as well.
Second, when we recognize the Lord and give Him credit for what He’s done, it honors Him.
We are so busy and preoccupied with our limited life, that we rarely—if ever—give adequate glory and honor to the One who is truly worthy of it. However, giving thanks also honors Him because it recognizes Him as the Source of the good things in our lives.
Third, when we look at positive things, life seems brighter and more encouraging.
It’s easy to begin to think that we deserve the good things of life. But, then we’re disappointed and negative if we don’t get what we expect. If you want to be happy, begin by being grateful. Thankful people are happier.
Fourth, it’s more pleasant to be around someone who is thankful.
Recently, I had a conversation with someone who is caring for elderly parents. She and her husband tend to his widowed father and her widowed mother, giving regular care to both. They go the extra mile in their serving, at great inconvenience to themselves.
However, this friend commented that it was much easier and more of a joy to help one than the other. The reason? One has undue expectations, is never satisfied, and is always demanding more. Rather than do what he can for himself, he demands that others serve him. The other is “grateful for anything we do.”
The person I was talking with delights in serving others, but constant caring for an ungrateful person has worn her down. She no longer wants to spend time with her own parent.
It isn’t just good to be thankful, it is detrimental not to be. Ungratefulness destroys relationships. Gratefulness draws people together.
Our nation needs more good will and something to bring us together.
This Thanksgiving, we have much to be grateful for. I hope that as individuals and as a nation, that we do more than gather around the table and eat turkey, I hope we offer “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
After all, He is the source of all good things, including good will and unity.
Maybe this year, we can work at learning to live a lifestyle of gratefulness. It makes life more pleasant for everybody.
Have a wonderful week of Thanksgiving—and make note of the difference it makes in your life and in those around you.
Question: When have you been blessed by someone being grateful to you, or when have you noticed that gratefulness drew you closer to someone else?
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What to Do if Your Holidays are Not Times of Peace and Joy
Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us, the season of family, celebration, and joy. It’s also a time of great stress because of busy schedules and tight budgets. When relationships aren’t healthy, disharmony frequently erupts during times of stress, destroying dreams of family fun. Even if relationships are solid, family tension builds as a direct result of holiday stress.
You probably can’t change strained relationships overnight—and you certainly can’t change the other people involved, but there is something you can do to make the holidays more pleasant for yourself—even when the situation doesn’t change.
Focus on the Positive
Choose what you think about concerning the person—or people—that seems to be the center of the tension. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things (4:8-9).
As you choose to focus on the positive, the negative will fade in importance. However, don’t just think about those things, look for opportunities to tell the person what you find in them that is worthy of praise. Words of appreciation build accord.
As you tell them what you appreciate about them, it will encourage and build them up—and might even help to heal the relationship. Following those verses, Paul tells the Philippians to follow the things they’ve learned from him—such as thinking on whatever is worthy of praise— “and the peace of God will be with you” (Phil 4:9). Having peace during holidays is worth the extra effort of focusing on the positive in those around you.
As you find and focus on the positive, work at being grateful for that person. Paul told the Thessalonians to give thanks in everything. He went on to say that it’s God’s will. (1 Th. 5:18).
I find that when I’m truly grateful for a person, it’s very difficult to be angry at them.
If I’m grateful, it’s easier to overlook their shortcomings. Consequently, there is more peace and joy in my heart. I find peace and rest in the Lord even if the situation doesn’t change. However, it usually translates into greater peace in the relationship.
Both are simple and are commanded in the Word anyway. If the relationship is really strained, it may take time to train your mind to think on the positive things and for your heart to be grateful. But persevere.
It’s Thanksgiving. That’s the time of year when we stop and make time to be grateful. There is no better time to try it. Test God and see what happens if you obey these two commands from a sincere heart.
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord. He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7).
Question: What have you done to bring harmony in family relationship during the holidays? I’d also love to hear what happened when you sought to focus on the positive and be grateful this season.
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3 Steps to Anger Resolution
Anyone who has struggled with anger can tell you that they don’t want to manage their anger. Instead, they want resolution. They want to get rid of it. They’ve found that anger management doesn’t work.
Indeed, that’s what God wants too. He tells us “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you (Eph. 4:31).
How do you manage anger if you’ve put it away? More importantly, how do you put anger—in all its forms—away?
In God’s Word, I found answers for how to get rid of anger, instead of managing it.
Three steps to resolve anger.
- Self control.
Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” The first step is to control yourself when you do get angry. Once you release your anger, it becomes even more difficult to manage—i.e. you lose your temper. It gets out of control. In contrast, a wise man holds it back.
- Deal with it.
Ephesians 4:31 says that when you are angered, you need to settle it quickly. You should not let the sun go down on your anger. There are specific ways to deal with it.
a. Forgive the person who offended you. This is important. Jesus tells us, “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Mt. 6:14-15). Unforgiveness creates a barrier with God as well as with the other person. If we don’t forgive, we won’t have grace to move on because it blocks our relationship with God, the giver of grace.
b. Get rid of bitterness. Bitterness grows out of unforgiveness and creates negative feelings and thoughts. It also blocks the grace of God, and “causes trouble, and by it many [are] defiled” (Heb 12:15). (Uprooting Anger gives clear steps to overcome bitterness if you don’t know how.)
c. Don’t judge others. We cannot see other people’s hearts and motives and are thus unable to judge justly. Psalm 50:6 tells us that “God Himself is judge.” We will not find grace to get rid of anger while we sit on the seat reserved for God.
- Ask God to transform your heart.
a. Cleanse your heart. Ask God to reveal additional areas that are blocking your ability to receive God’s grace. Cry out with David, “Search me, O God, see if there is any wicked way in me” (Ps. 139:23). When you see unrighteousness, deal with it quickly, before you get distracted. (Note: Uprooting Anger not only helps identify different roots of anger, but also gives steps for dealing with them.)
b. Ask the Lord to love through you.
Your love is inadequate, but the living God can love through you.
Love is the ultimate antidote to anger. However, you can’t manufacture it. Such love comes from God. As you get rid of unrighteousness and surrender to Him, He will then transform you and conform you to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29, See also Rom. 12:2 and 2 Cor. 3:18).
Question: Have you found another path that leads to freedom from anger?
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For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.
—2 Corinthians 4:15
How to Find God’s Grace When It’s Lacking
Robert and I are caregivers for his 90-year-old father. As I mentioned last week, on October 10, he fell backwards all the way down a flight of steps. Fortunately, he didn’t break anything, but he’s still in the hospital from complications that developed after the fall.
Because he was put in rehab and expected to improve with therapy, we didn’t have help from other family members with his care the first week. But, the improvement only lasted a day, then he seemed to lose ground rather than gain strength. By the end of the week, he needed total care, and his condition is changing little.
The first week, when we had full responsibility, God’s strength and grace were amazing, maybe even supernatural. In every way, we experienced the Lord’s strength carrying us through the week.
We were exhausted, however, and very grateful when family came from other towns and states to help. They filled in for the weekend and stayed with us during the second week to help out as needed—both in the home and in the hospital. We were graciously and abundantly blessed by family.
However, a strange thing happened in my life. The second week, when we had plenty of help, I didn’t experience the same level of grace that I had the first. I was more on edge internally, fought constant headaches, had less peace within, and less patience with those around me.
Some of that could be attributed to accumulated fatigue and long term stress, but it seemed bigger than that.
I identified my problem in church, during the third verse of the hymn “He Leadeth Me.” As we sang “Lord, I would place my hand in thine,” I saw that during the first week, my focus was on the Lord. I was constantly aware that I was learning to lean on Him. I placed my hand in His and I kept it there.
In contrast, during the second week, my focus slipped. I was thinking about what I needed to do, planning menus, and interacting with house guests. None of that is bad. In fact, it was good—except that it became my focus.
In order to stay in abundant grace, I need to be deliberate in placing my hand in the hand that gives me grace. When I don’t, I begin relying on myself. My hands get busy and my focus follows.
It’s clear that, without God, my strength is not adequate. He is with me all the time, so His strength is always available. I am the one that takes my hands out of His.
When I recognize my dependence on God, His grace is sufficient. I need to constantly lean on Him and keep my hand in His.
We’re beginning week three. More family is coming and will be staying with us, so I’ll be tempted to be distracted again. But that is true of life every day, isn’t it? It’s a gift when He helps us see so clearly how much difference it makes when we stay connected with Him.
If you’ve found God’s grace lacking in your life lately, I’d suggest you focus on the giver of grace, slip your hand in His, and purpose to keep it there. That’s my plan for this week and the weeks to come. Life is much more pleasant when everything doesn’t depend on me!
Question: What do you do to be intentional in keeping your focus on the Lord during busy, stressful times?
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To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.
—1 Peter 3:8
The Secret to Maintaining Harmony During Crisis
When stress and fatigue build, relationships are usually strained too. It seems inevitable. However, this week, I’ve experienced the opposite, and it has been refreshing.
On October 12, we returned from a ten-day speaking trip. We were exhausted from time change adjustments, a busy week of speaking, and a thirteen-hour return trip. A day of rest seemed a must.
However, we returned to a 90-year-old father who had fallen backward down the steps and was dependent on us for his care. Consequently, for the past 10 days, our lives have revolved around all-day stays at the hospital.
Hospital vigils are wearing even on the best days. Tending an elderly patient who is confused, in pain, and unable to care for himself or communicate clearly compounds stress and fatigue.
Everything is in place for relationships to be strained and tempers to flare, especially since other responsibilities also demand attention.
However, in the last ten days, instead of tension, the relationship between Robert and me—the only care-givers on the scene—has grown sweeter and more tender. We haven’t been impatient with each other, much less getting short or angry.
Consequently, in the midst of the stress, fatigue, and ongoing uncertainty and demands, life is sweet. I feel secure and loved.
I’d like to say this is normal for our household–that we’re always in harmony in the midst of stress and uncertainty. But it isn’t so. I’m loving the change and have asked myself what is different this time.
I see two reasons why things are going so well between us.
1. We’re more concerned about each other than about ourselves.
To spare me, Robert has taken the brunt of staying at the hospital with his dad all day long every day. I’ve relieved him only when he had responsibilities elsewhere that he needed to take care of.
Likewise, because of my concern for him, I’ve done everything I can to serve him and make his life easier and more pleasant.
In short, we’ve loved each other more than ourselves.
Without a trauma to get our attention, we tend to be more aware of our own needs than the needs of each other. Self-centeredness destroys rapport. Other-centeredness does wonders for a relationship, especially when it’s mutual.
2. We are desperately aware of our need for God.
We need the Lord’s mercy and power for Dad’s healing. We need His strength to be known in our weakness, physically and spiritually. We also require the Lord’s wisdom for the many decisions we face. The list goes on. I think the constant awareness of our dependence on the Lord is the foundational reason we are enjoying each other in the midst of stress.
We often remind each other, “God’s grace is sufficient.” We gain peace as we remember that He is with us and we are not alone.
We are learning to lean on Jesus. I haven’t sung it for years, but recently I find myself constantly singing the chorus “Learning to Lean.”
Jesus is our source of righteousness, peace, and joy. If we lean on Him, we will have harmony in our relationships.
What I don’t understand is why it takes a crisis for me to be cognizant of our total dependence on the Lord. Intellectually, I know that without Him I am nothing, but I don’t always lean on Him throughout the day.
Jesus is with us always, and He wants such fellowship with us. I hope I can make a lifestyle of leaning on Him without needing a crisis to drive me to His side.
Question: How have you learned to walk in awareness of your moment-by-moment dependence on the Lord so that you consciously lean on Him?
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