Remember to Remember by Beth Smith

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I love the old song, “Count Your Blessings.” The lyrics tell us to, “name them one by one” in order to see what God has done. It’s so important to remember our blessings and to be quick to thank God for them.

Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Do not forget. We need to remember God, who he is and what he’s done for us. In Psalm 77, David was in a really bad way. He couldn’t sleep. He said his soul would not be comforted. He asked such questions as:

  • Has the Lord rejected me forever?
  • Will he never show me favor?
  • Is his unfailing love gone forever?
  • Have his promises failed?

Haven’t we felt that way? I certainly can identify with David. After those questions, though, comes the word “Selah,” which means pause. Then, as if a light bulb has just gone off above his head, a change occurs, and David says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77:11-14).

What a change in David’s attitude, his emotions and his outlook! We need our own Selah—a pause, an interlude to stop and consider who God is and what he’s done for us. Perhaps we need to write down our list of blessings so we won’t forget, or so that when we do forget, we can see that list and remember once again.

Even when we do forget about God and his blessings, he doesn’t forget about us. In Isaiah 49:15-16, God says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

That’s amazing! And here’s more good news, offered to you in the form of “homework.” I hope you will read Psalm 103, which begins, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2). Look at the rest of the Psalm to see how many good things David lists. Since God never changes, those same good things, those benefits, are not just for David, they’re for us too.

Consider making a list of the ways God has blessed you. You’ll be glad you did.

Thank You, God.

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Today I’d like to share two great Thanksgiving memories with you.

The first: Watching the Macy’s Day Parade as my mom’s turkey, dressing, and homemade pecan pie filled our house with a mouthwatering aroma. I’ve given you Kermit. You will have to come up with your own turkey and pie.

The second: Attending Thanksgiving services at St. Andrews  Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, Florida. We always sang these wonderful lyrics, published by Theodore Baker in 1894.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

We also had an open mike session, a time when all who were present were given an opportunity to proclaim God’s goodness and describe that for which they were thankful. I will begin. I am thankful to be healthy and to be surrounded by a family who loves me. (Of course, that’s just the beginning of my list.)

Now it’s your turn. What’s on the top of your “Thank you, God” list this year?

And to all of you, may this be a very Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

Careless

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I learned to care less about what didn’t matter. (I hope that lesson sticks!) My list of things that matter is much shorter than it used to be. Past decisions, other people’s choices or opinions, plans that don’t affect me, social intricacies, small inconveniences… This doesn’t mean I care less about others around me, but rather that I am careful to conserve my mental and emotional energy for that which I can affect. My feathers don’t ruffle quite as easily as they once did. Computer problems? They look pretty small now. Traffic? Unexpected chores or needed repairs around the house? They aren’t so irritating any more. My “Type A” has slipped, and nicely so.

At times peace and worry warred within me, but peace won out every time. More than one friend commented that she could hear the peace in my voice. I could neither explain nor take credit for that. I began to journal all the “small” miracles that were sprinkled into my days.

  • A good friend, a nurse with very particular views about local medical options, raved about the doctor who would be doing my surgery, as well as the oncologist who would be assisting.
  • The depth and breadth of care and prayer astonished me. Friends and family near and far encouraged me with gifts, cards, texts, and promises of consistent prayer.
  • Just one hour of shopping and $50 yielded four simple dresses I would need after surgery when my body swelled.
  • More than one “chance encounter” led to times of prayer with someone who cared.
  • I was hit with an intense bout of the flu just two weeks before my surgery. How could that be a blessing? It allowed me to see the gaps in my recovery plan. I learned what to buy and how to prepare for several days of limited mobility.

Then the day of surgery came. It was successful. I had very little pain throughout the entire process, astonishing all my caretakers. Many of the post-surgical discomforts I had been warned to expect simply never materialized. No complications arose. No further treatment was prescribed. I am well, and I am changed.

  • I am living more deliberately. I’m more aware of the blessing of tasty food, a soft pillow, a hug from my husband, time to rest and recover…
  • I am expecting less of myself and of those around me.
  • I asked myself why I wanted to be healthy—to keep living—and I’m acting on my answers.

I don’t take my healing as the promise of an easy future. On any day, life can turn in either direction. The gift of getting to stay alive will not be without its moments of pain. And so, joy can only come from trust every single day. Circumstances, no matter what they are, just don’t cut it. Life changed in a moment last July. That may happen again. I have no promise of a similar outcome. I do have the promise of similar peace. So do you:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Next Week: Care More

Taking No for an Answer

model-planes-1566822__480I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in a God who heals. However, I also believe in a God who sometimes allows us to walk a difficult path for reasons we may never understand. Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, while asking for an easier road, proclaimed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” I am fully convinced that when God says, “No,” he is still a good God, he still loves us, and he is still in control. I asked God decades ago to let me keep all my body parts and specifically included my reproductive organs in that list. As I write, I am recovering from a hysterectomy. I also prayed fervently that I could have that surgery done quickly, sparing me a long period of wait and see. That was not to be. God did not give me everything I asked. He gave me many blessings and miraculous moments. It’s my great pleasure to describe them here, but please don’t misunderstand. Even if he had said no to every request I made, he would still be worthy of my trust.

I’ll start with an almost whimsical blessing. The second half of 2016 was packed with plans: A wedding in Florida, a wedding in Wyoming, a reunion in North Carolina, and a writers’ conference in California. My diagnosis changed all that in an instant. Despite my plan-ahead nature, and somewhat to my husband’s surprise, I’d never booked flights to Wyoming or California. All I had to cancel were a couple of hotel reservations. We could still go to Florida, but needed to return several days ahead of schedule so that I could begin the many doctor visits needed before surgery. We were almost finished with the expensive process of changing our return when I remembered that our American Express card offered a credit that would cover a portion of the fees. When I asked if we could switch to that card to complete the process, the agent on the phone said, “I’ve already run the other card. I don’t think I can make the change, but I’ll check with my supervisor.” After a long wait, she came back on the line and said, “I’m sorry ma’am. I’m not able to change credit cards. The only thing I will be able to do is refund the full $400 in change fees.” Can I explain that? No, but I can tell you that call, which I made just ten hours after my doctor had called, became a reminder that God was going to carry me through this nightmare, no matter where it led. But wait, there’s more…

Our trip to North Carolina needed to be cancelled completely, and we hadn’t purchased flight insurance. I called the airline and explained my situation, expecting that this time I’d surely incur those heavy fees. I asked if there was anything we could do. The agent, clearly helping me from a call center on the other side of the world, did indeed show me where to apply for a refund (which was later granted.) But, get this, he quoted scripture (James 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”) and sang to me, “God will make a way…” Here I was, disappointed and in need of encouragement. Not only did I get my money back, but the Christian agent on the other side of the world preached to me. Weird, but wonderful.

Next Week: And Then We Danced

Basic Blessings, Part Two

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Years ago, I learned of the global water crisis. In much of the world, women will walk miles every morning, each bringing back a 5 gallon container filled with 40 pounds of dirty water. It will have to suffice for all their families’ needs until the end of the day, when they repeat the trip. Many who drink the water will fall ill, but they have no other choice.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that a great many organizations are working to help change the situation: Living Water International, charity: water, Blood:Water Mission, and The Water Project are just a few of the ministries changing lives every day, working to make the water crisis a thing of the past. Recently, a friend told me about Partners for Care, an organization whose mission is to provide salaries to Kenyans who carry out their work and vision there. Their health, sanitation and water improvement programs are led and accomplished by Kenyans for Kenyans.

One of the Kenyans, a pastor, came to the USA for the first time in order to meet with the staff of Partners for Care. As you can imagine, the cultural differences he saw here were astounding. His observations were both amusing and thought provoking. I’ve been given permission to share them with you.

  • “Is it illegal for people not to own a car?” (He hadn’t seen anyone walking.)
  • “Are you allowed to drive old cars in the US?” (By Kenyan standards all our cars are new.)
  • “Is there hot water in the shower, and is the tap water safe to drink?”
  • “I slept with my blanket over my head last night. I could not find any mosquito netting.”
  • “America is dollar country because it has everything. You can even sleep outside, because there are no wild animals to eat you. Americans have plenty of firewood, but most don’t even need it.” (He mentioned that he was expecting a call from his family soon to say that they had run out of firewood.)
  • “How can you throw food away?” (He had even eaten the little package of butter at a restaurant because he didn’t want to see it wasted.)

Today I will take a hot shower, drink clean water, eat plenty of food, ride in a new (ish) car, and go to sleep in a climate controlled, mosquito-free bedroom. And because of that Kenyan Pastor, I’ll be more keenly aware of those basic blessings! Happy Thanksgiving indeed!

I Broke My Toe

I broke my toe. At least I think so. It’s pretty ugly. Thus, no illustrative photo accompanies this blog. It doesn’t hurt as I sit here typing, but I’m not going to be doing any three mile runs for the next couple of days. Life’s lessons can be learned from even the simplest (and most painful) of circumstances. Here’s what my purple foot is teaching me today: I ought to be more mindful of my “basic blessings.” They’re not basic in the sense that they’re unimportant, but rather in the sense that they are nearly always there.

  • Comfort. Once my tiny toe stopped throbbing, I realized how often I am free from pain.
  • Mobility. I have a friend who cannot get out of bed. Her condition has changed the way I look at my daily chores.
  • Vision. My eyes are aging and gave me a bit of a scare last year. But I’m fine now, and once I slip those glasses on each morning I can see everything. What a gift!
  • Water. I’ve looked at countless photos of what much of the world must drink. I have six faucets in my home. And more outside.
  • Literacy. Not everyone in this world of ours has been given the gift of education. Imagine going through this day unable to read and write.

These blessings are huge! Yet they fade from my consciousness all too quickly.

In 1897 John Oatman Jr. penned these words:

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

It’s easy, in the midst of grief or disappointment or even just a very busy day, to forget our basic blessings. I hope you will take a moment to remember them, to thank God for them, and perhaps to share them with me. What basic blessing is astounding you today?