Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category


Well it’s my birthday again today.  I say again because it seems like it was just yesterday I was celebrating the day of my birth last year!  While I usually share articles dealing with counseling issues here, today I want to ramble a little and share some of my thoughts about life as I know it pertaining to birthdays.

First of all I have noticed a tendency over the past several years to get a little melancholy on my special day.  Not sure what is behind this but I suspect it has something to do with the people who at one time I was close to who are not in my life anymore. 

I have, of course, lost some to death.  This past year my brother-in-law Hal Fletcher, who has always inspired me, lost his battle with cancer on December 10, 2010.  I will miss seeing Hal at family gatherings.  I also lost the third lady in my life that I thought of as grandmother.  Lucille Bowman Cooper Denham, “MaMa” passed away on July 1, 2011, at age 98 She made a great pot of gumbo.  Thirdly, a loss that is still very painful, my sweet sister, Lanae McCormick passed this summer.  She was in the habit of bringing joy wherever she went.  To say that she will be missed is an understatement.

I have also lost some friends because of relationship breakdowns.  My prayer is that somehow I can restore as many of these relationships as possible.

Then there are those dear brothers and sisters in Bushnell, FL. who I will miss seeing on a regular basis.  While I know the move to Mississippi was God’s plan for Larke, me, and Wahoo Church, it has been one of the hardest transitions of my life.

On a brighter note, as I look around, it occurs to me that I am blessed light years beyond what I could ever feel worthy of.  I am surrounded by so many friends and family members who mean the world to me.  I am married to my best friend.  I have four wonderful kids who make me proud every day.  And grandkids… don’t get me started!

I sat down recently and made a list of my goals for the coming year.  I share these with you because, well, that’s what we are supposed to do.  I ask you to pray for me and hold me accountable by asking me how I’m doing with my goals (I will gladly reciprocate if you would like).  Here they are:

  • To maintain at least 10 counseling relationships.  Counseling is my passion.  I love helping people find God’s answers to the difficulties in life that we all face.
  • To read at least 2 books each month.  I read slower than most so I am being a realist here.
  • To improve my writing skills.  I want to be a better blogger. I would also like to write a book.
  • To write and record at least one song per month.  Got to get back to my music.
  • To read through the Bible.  Currently using the One Year Bible on my IPhone You Version App.  This is a great Bible program for free.  I like that it is portable.  I can read it in line at the WalMart Pharmacy (There is always a line at WalMart Pharmacy!).

One final thought: I don’t think it is coincidence that I woke up with a song in my head that I haven’t heard or thought of in years.  This song is what I want whatever time I have left to be about:

One day Jesus will call my name

As days go by, ‘hope I don’t stay the same.

I wanna get so close to Him that it’s no big change,

On that day that Jesus calls my name!

 


Nouthetic counselor Jay E. Adams writes that under the roof in his backyard hangs a hummingbird feeder that he keeps filled with sugar water. There are four openings in it from which birds may suck the nectar. Yet, day after day, from early morning until after dusk, the feeder is the source of the birds’ war – one bird chases all the others away. “As I said,” Adams writes, “there is room for four birds at a time, and fully that number attempt to feed. But the stronger one, who now ‘owns’ the feeder, will not let them. All day long he sits on the branch of a nearby tree guarding ’his’ feeder and defying others to transgress on what he has established as ‘his’ territory.

“This ongoing slice of life confronts us throughout the day as the war rages on – the hummers streak across the yard, the king hummer in hot pursuit of an intruder; and while the chase is on, others sneak a sip or two, only to be driven off when he returns. This is the lesson we learn: “I bought the feeder; I supply the sugar water. The birds do not earn it; they receive it all by grace. Yet, day after day, they fight over who may enjoy it.

“How like the people of God! All we have or are that is worthwhile is the gift of God’s pure grace. And yet we are proud, self-centered, envious, and quarrelsome. Often we fight over God’s good gifts rather than expressing our gratitude in humility and sharing what we have been given with others.” 

There are some things we can do to develop an attitude of gratitude in our lives.  These steps, if embraced and practiced will move us in the direction of having a thankful heart:

1. Learn to celebrate life.  I can’t remember the year but I do remember the teams that were playing, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos.  It was the fourth quarter and things were not looking particularly good for the Chiefs.  This was during the John Elway quarterbacking era for the Broncos.  80,000 Chief fans probably were thinking, “I’m sitting here freezing, and Elway’s gonna do it to us again.  Somebody remind me again why I do this to myself.”   As time clicked down to the last seconds the Chief fans (that were left in the stadium) held their breath as their kicker booted the ball through the crossbars to win the game.  The place went crazy. People were high-fiving and hugging and kissing. Every single Chief’s fan was thankful they had come, in spite of the cold, in spite of Elway.

Here’s the point: everyday, find something, anything – no matter how trivial – that resembles a last-minute, game-winning kick – and celebrate it.

2. Count your blessings often.  Set aside some time every day, or at least one day a week to brainstorm a list of what you are thankful for.  Each time add to the previous list.  Reflect on this list regularly.

3. Just say it – “thanks.”  Say it for everything you can think of. The more you do it, the more you’ll develop an attitude of gratitude. Of course you want to thank God, but also thank the people who have made positive contributions in your life.  Tell them face to face; if this is not possible send them a note.  Too often we feel grateful to others for what they have done but never return to those people who have helped us to say thanks. 

There is a story in the Bible about ten men who had the disease of leprosy.  One day Jesus passed through the area where these men lived and they called out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  They were well aware of the reputation of this healing rabbi.  Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests, and as they were going, a wonderful thing happened. Their skin became clean and free from leprosy! We can just imagine the joy they felt. 

Nine of the men continued on to go see the priest, but one man turned back and came to Jesus. He was praising God with a loud voice, and he fell at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. 

Jesus asked the haunting question, “Where are other nine men?”  Ten were healed, but only one came back to say “Thank you.” The obvious question that fits right here is, “Which of the ten men are you more like, the nine ungrateful or the one who returned to say thanks.    

4. Start today! Don’t be guilty of reading this, giving it a nod of affirmation and then quickly getting busy with your life.  Take one of these steps today.  With that in mind let me thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

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A poverty-stricken woman was found on Christmas Day eating a dinner that consisted of a piece of bread and a small fish. A visiting friend was pitying her because of her poverty.  The old woman with face aglow, replied, “Poverty? Dear heart, don’t you see that the Lord has created the land and sea to feed me this blessed Christmas Day?” This woman owned the earth, though she ate only bread and herring for Christmas dinner.

So where does that type of gratitude come from? Like any other attitude this one comes from what’s on the inside of a person.  So, what is on the inside of a person who has an attitude of gratitude? What’s in the heart and mind of a person that keeps overflowing in “thank-you’s” to people and to God for the gift of life? I know there are more but let me suggest a few that I’ve observed.

#1 There is an understanding that the doorway to gratitude does not hang on the hinge of good circumstances.

People with this attitude believe that it’s possible to do exactly what the Bible says: Give thanks in all circumstances [good, bad or ugly], for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

They don’t believe the lie that life has to be on the upswing before they can be satisfied. Even in the middle of the most difficult situations they truly believe they can find something to rejoice over.

I have a friend on Facebook named Kebo.  I kind of hope he doesn’t read this blog because I didn’t get permission to use him as an illustration.  Kebo is one of the most upbeat people I’ve ever met.  You never see him writing things like, “Ugh, it’s Monday again.”  He never uses one of those frowny colon-slash-opening parentheses icons.

I really look forward to reading Kebo’s posts on Facebook because they are always uplifting.  I want to be like him when I grow up. He seems to live with the attitude that he has everything he needs to be joyful regardless of the circumstances.

 Do you believe that about your life? That you have everything you need – right now – to be joyful? That’s the key to an attitude of gratitude.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about a Pollyanna approach that says “well, let’s just close our eyes and pretend that everything is ok even when it’s not.” I’m talking about a realistic approach that freely admits that “the situation is not good right now, but I can find something to appreciate about it, and I choose to make that my focus.”  I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do but it is the healthiest way to live.

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I have found myself saying the words, “Thank God” a lot this week.  It probably has a great deal to do with the fact that my first grandbaby, Charlie, was born Tuesday, September 7.  I kept looking at him and his dad and mom, saying, “thank you, thank you, thank you, God!” 

My mind sometimes travels down some strange paths at the most unusual times.  I was standing at the hospital nursery window and I remembered the following story:

Back in the days before automobiles, there was a traveling salesman who acquired a mule for use in his business. He was so appreciative that he would begin each trip by thanking God for providing the mule. Eventually the animal learned that “Thank God” meant to go. When they reached their destination, the salesman would again give a prayer of thanks, concluding with “Amen.” And so the mule learned that “Amen” meant to stop.

Before long, the business prospered and the salesman was able to upgrade to a horse. Having no need of the mule, the salesman sold him to another businessman in town. He explained the necessary commands and with a “Thank God”, the mule and its new owner were off.

Well, it was such a nice day and the ride so enjoyable that before long the businessman forgot everything else, until he suddenly realized that he was heading for the edge of a high cliff.

“Whoa!” he said to the mule, but the mule did not whoa. “Stop!” he commanded, but the mile did not stop. Frantically pulling on the reigns, the man yelled out a desperate prayer: “O God, please save me!–Amen.” With that the mule came to an abrupt stop, just in the nick of time, at the edge of the cliff.

Breathing a sigh of relief, the man said, “Thank God.”

Perhaps you can go overboard with saying it but I’m not so sure you can overdo the attitude of gratitude for a God who moment by moment pours out his blessings on undeserving people like me.  There are just some times when one “thank you” won’t do.

Baby, Mom, and Dad did an amazing job with the birth thing.  I was having contractions in the waiting room but thank God, I pulled through also.  Thanks again God!

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