Grumpy or Grateful?

Last week, I heard one of my wise kids say to my grandchildren, “Just because you can’t have something you want doesn’t mean you get to be grumpy about it.”

Those youngsters have pared down the rhetoric. Now they say, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” Thrown any fits lately? Gotten into the “grumpy gimmies” about your lot in life? Lest you think an occasional pity party is okay, check this out:

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2).

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).

And then this quote, uncredited but repeated by Jan Karon in The Mitford Bedside Companion: “In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”

SO, when life doesn’t give you what you want, deny yourself the easy choice of grumping about it. Choose, instead, to be thankful, because the Lord who loves you really does know best.  Gratefulness can make the difference in your day!

photo credit: Ben White via Unsplash.com

More about Mustard (by my mom, Beth Smith)

Back in my day, teenagers, including me, were wearing mustard seed jewelry, usually one tiny seed in a clear plastic ball attached to a bracelet or necklace. You were really in style if you had one! It came with a card that had Matthew 17:20 printed on it. Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Well, personally, I didn’t move any mountains, but the mustard seed and the verse did help me learn that faith is important and powerful. I grew up thinking if things went well, I had faith. If things didn’t go well, it was my fault for just not having enough faith. That’s not true at all! The Amplified Bible describes faith as, “trust and confidence that springs from our belief in God.”

Maybe you’re thinking, “I guess I just don’t have faith.” If you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior, you do. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” (Don’t get a big head about having enough faith to accept Christ. It was, after all, God’s grace that gave you the faith to believe.)

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” The New Living Translation puts it this way, “We live by believing and not by seeing.” The world says, “Seeing is believing.”  The spiritual world doesn’t work that way. First we must believe, then we’ll see. Our aim is to trust God and his Word without demanding any other evidence.

But how in the world do we do that?

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 KJV). When we really know who God is, we can believe. We find out who he is by reading his Word and spending quiet time with him in prayer.

In Matthew 14:28-31, Peter walked on water, but then he felt the wind, became frightened, and he began to sink. Jesus reached out and saved him and said, “Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” We waver for the same reason that Peter did. We forget who God is and what he is like. Sometimes we stop thinking about him altogether. We forget that:

  • He loved us before we loved him.
  • He loves us all the time.
  • Nothing can separate us from that love.

When we believe those truths, our faith becomes firm and grows just like the tiny mustard seed that, under the right conditions, becomes a mighty tree.

So, grow your seed! Be rooted in a healthy understanding of God’s love and grace, watered by the reading of his Word, and fed by a constant practice of faith.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2: 6-7).

photo credit: @jlanzarini via Unsplash.com

Strife, the Ugly Opposite

Last week I wrote about peace. This week, the topic is one of its ugly opposites, strife. (Once again I’m drawing in part from a talk by Joyce Meyer.) While peace is powerful, strife is terrible. We all want to (or should want to!) keep it out of our lives.  Remember this line from last week’s blog?

Avoid “acceptable sins” like jealousy and unforgiveness. How are you doing with that?

Are you jealous? Watch out! Read this:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight” (James 4:1-2).

Are you ungrateful? I believe that’s often a close cousin to jealousy. I’ll be writing about gratitude soon!

Are you good at forgiveness? Satan wants us to believe we have every right to harbor unforgiveness, at least in certain circumstances. That’s a big fat lie. Are you mad at somebody? Have you broken off a relationship because you refuse to forgive? We tell ourselves we’re justified and in good company, that most Christians are mad at somebody. But we are never justified in our unforgiveness.

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).

Can any of us truly say we have suffered a wrong greater than crucifixion? Dare we risk being refused forgiveness by our Father in heaven? Is there any excuse for blatantly ignoring God’s command to forgive? Maybe you want to forgive, but feel that you can’t. Love and forgiveness are not feelings, but decisions.

Decide to forgive. Pray for the person you need to forgive. Bless (and don’t curse) them. Be good to them. (Go on, make the devil mad.) Let God work, regardless of your feelings.

And when the bitter feelings come again, as they well might, start the process all over again.

Photo by Andre Tan on Unsplash

Pure Gold by my mom, Beth Smith

Early prospectors during the gold rush were fooled into thinking they’d found real gold instead of something called iron pyrite, worthless rocks with flecks of shiny material in them. So many were fooled that iron pyrite became known as “fool’s gold.” I want you to know where our real gold is—where we have a neverending supply of genuine gold—in the Word of God.

Remember the crippled beggar to whom Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6 KJV). What did the cripple do? He went “walking and leaping and praising God.” He received far more than he asked for. Would he have traded his healing for a truckload of gold coins? Of course not! Here’s a bit more from the Bible regarding gold.

  • The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:72 NIV).
  • I love your commandments more than gold, more than pure gold” Psalm 119:127 NIV).
  • Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable that silver and yields better returns than gold” (Proverbs 3: 13-14 NIV).

Are you a bit timid about mining gold from the Bible? If you don’t have a modern or revised version, I recommend that you get one and try it out. That can make a big difference.

Another important thing to remember as we go into our gold mine, the Bible, is that we do not go alone. John 14 says that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. Ask him to help you understand what you are reading! The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, which means “one who is called along side to help.” He will help us if we allow him to.

On more than one occasion, I’ve “just happened” to read a portion of the Bible that was exactly what I needed in that moment. God will do the same for you. The next time you read a verse that makes you think, “That was for me,” you can be sure it was God at work. Our gold mine is filled with power for living in God’s world, in God’s way. “Every Scripture was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well-prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone” 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 (TLB).

It’s time for us to think not “Thar’s gold in them thar hills,” but, “thar’s gold in this here Book.” (It hurts me as an English teacher to write that way.) It’s not fool’s gold, but the real McCoy. So pull out your Bible and read on!

photo credit: @zlataky via Unsplash.com

“What If?” to “Even if!”

Even if I don’t get well…  Even if I fail…  Even if someone hurts me… Even if…

Recognition of all the hard things life brings can be enveloped in the realization that we’ll never face any of those things without the surrounding love of our Lord. My fear of what might happen has been overcome by the assurance that, while most of the things my imagination drums up will never occur, even those that do will be managed by my King.

Last week I wrote to encourage you to trust in the face of tragedy. Today, I want to back those words up with the Bible.

  • Daniel 3:16-18 tells us, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”
  • Esther 4:15-16 says, “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
  • And in Matthew 26: 39-42, you can read this about Jesus: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’…He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

We’ve all been plagued by imaginary horrors, by the “What if?” that marches across the brain, pushing out peace. Fearlessness is not a matter of mental determination. It’s a matter of prayer first and obedience second. First, we make every worry a topic of our prayers because Philippians 4 tells us to. Then we begin to change the thought patterns that cultivate fear. I hope you’ll take up the weapon of “Even if!” to join Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and our Lord in defeating the enemy in his fearful ploys, finding the peace that passes understanding once again.

Photo credit: Adam Wilson @fourcolourblack via Unsplash.com

Stirring Spoons by Beth Smith (My Mom)

When you simmer stew, if you don’t stir the pot, food can stick to the bottom and ruin the dish. Stirring also lets you check on what’s in the pot, culling anything that doesn’t belong.

  • Oops! That carrot got too brown. It must have stuck to the bottom.
  • Too much flour. Look at those lumps! Out they come.
  • My goodness! What’s that tomato stem doing in there?

God often stirs us to keep us from sinking down to, and sticking at, our lowest level. Or he may allow us to be stirred in order to remove what doesn’t belong.

What does God uses as stirring spoons? People and circumstances. A stirring may go like this, in your head, that is:

  • “If she asks me one more time to clean the garage, I’m going to throw something.” What’s in that pot? Anger?
  • “If he doesn’t clean that garage, I’m not going to cook for a week. He’ll starve.” (Hmmm, is that a little revenge floating to the top?)

Try to find what’s being stirred to the surface in the life of this fictional lady:   

“I’m never early, never late. Jane always admires my perfect timing when I pick her up. Ugh! I told those kids to bring in their bikes. I’ll be late now because I have to do it. I’m going to ground them for a week.

“Hi, Jane. Get in the car. No, I’m not late. You must have come out early. Well, good grief! Look at that stupid, careless driver! He didn’t stop at that stop sign, and look at him on his cell phone, thinks he’s so important. Humph! Where’s a cop when you need one? Well, if we just had a good governor, things would be different. Man! Politicians! Lazy bunch of no good…I hate that guy on the City Council, you know the one who…”

Stir. Stir. Stir! What came to the surface, provoked by nearby people and circumstances? Impatience, judgmental attitude, meanness, self-righteousness, pride, covetousness, anger?  We surely don’t want those stuck in us. So…

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV) tells us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God uses stirring spoons, often those irritating people and circumstances to show us our weaknesses and to help us become more like him.

What do we do? Here’s a hefty starter list:

  • Thank God for whoever or whatever brought a sinful reaction to the surface. (We have to see it before we can get rid of it.)
  • Ask God to bless the person he used.
  • Give the reaction to Jesus with open honesty. Hatred, self-righteousness, pride…there’s no need to disguise it or analyze it. Just acknowledge that Jesus died for that sin.
  • Repent, be truly sorry, and desire to change.
  • Ask God to replace what the stirring spoon revealed with the fruit of his Holy Spirit.

This week when a stirring spoon comes along, let’s all follow those steps and rejoice that we aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. We’re getting rid of a lot of junk. God is working on us for our good, and that’s worth the stirring.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash