Gratitude, Day 11—Children


I’m specifically thankful for little children, toddlers, infants, preschoolers. Little people.

I spent over thirty years teaching the big kids, and I loved doing so. But the little people are the ones with no guile. True, they might be shy, but chances are, if you smile at a little person, he will smile at you. They haven’t learned the art of deception yet, and they aren’t looking for deception from those they meet. Other children are playmates. Other adults are question marks, unless we give them some attention. Then they giggle, and run, and sparkle.

Infants, of course, can do nothing but lie there and look cute. And that’s all great—because I’m not in a position to change diapers or give baths or get up in the middle of the night with a colicky, crying baby. But even when I was the aunt who took a turn doing those jobs, it was not burdensome.

There’s an element of hope. This little bundle of crying cuteness is a person. A wonderful person with all kinds of unknown potential. There’s joy in the discovery.

It’s great to watch children learn. The world is all so new to them and they want so much to do what the grown-ups in their lives do. That’s how they learn to talk—by imitating. That’s what makes them want to read or color or build with the Legos someone has given them.

They’re also filled with creativity and wonder and joy. Well, besides thinking the whole world revolves around them. But there’s just so much potential in little people.

But I have to admit, I also like little people books. The art, the simple wording, the unhidden point made on each page. Take Hannah C. Hall’s God Bless books, such as God Bless Our Fall, for instance. The first page reads

The trees are dressed in gold and red.
Their colors seem to call,
“God decorates what He creates.”
We say, “God bless our fall.”

Simple. Straightforward. Nothing too hard to understand there. And yet profound. That’s the kind of kid-book I like.

Of course there’s the very important truth that children are the future. They are! Which is why I don’t understand adults who don’t take time to build values into their children.

God told the people of Israel as they came out of slavery, to remind their children about God and what He’d done for them. They were to talk about God’s Law day in and day out. They were to display it visibly. They were to hold celebrations for what God provided, what He accomplished for His people. In other words, the children were to receive instruction from the adults about more than how to tie their shoes or how to make their bed.

Our culture has lost the importance of instructing children about morals, ethics, standards. At one point some noted psychologists taught that newborn were essentially blank slates and we could imprint whatever society wanted. Children are certainly NOT blank slates as the baby study at Yale showed. At the same time, they are not equipped with the experience, wisdom, and knowledge to make up their own minds about morality!

Interestingly, a series of commercials have popped up here in California urging parents to talk, read, sing to their children. It’s good advice, a needed correction. Because too many postmodern, and now post-truth, parents care more for what they want than they do for raising their children. Just recently I learned of a mom who essentially neglected her little one while she self-medicated with the drug of her choice. And her child? Delayed in speech, for starters. Who knows what else, given that so much of human development takes place in the first five years.

But we must not stop short with talk, read, sing. Content matters. At least to people it does. On the other hand, I can pretty much say anything to an animal—“You mangy, no good, ugly excuse for a dog. You act more like a cat”—as long as I say it with a winsome, engaging voice.

Children aren’t like that. They might not know what the words mean until years later, but if they receive negative values such as pride and selfishness and greed and division and hate and bigotry and abuse and dishonor and rudeness and such, long enough, their little hearts will bend with their sin nature. If they are neglected and left to devise their own values, they’ll bend to their sin nature.

Instead, children need to receive moral education along with the knowledge they receive that enables them to get through life.

But of course, that’s really on the adults in their world. Kids don’t usually cry because they aren’t receiving moral instruction. They don’t even understand that they need it. Unless the adults in their world harm them, children grow up filled with all kinds of laughter and curiosity and desire and expectation. They’re just waiting to be nourished.

When I see kids thriving like that, what a blessing. What a joy. It’s then I’m especially mindful of how thankful I am for children

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Published in: on November 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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Gratitude, Day 10—The Shepherd And Guardian Of My Soul


I suppose since I’ve already said I’m thankful for salvation and for God’s kindness, it’s probably apparent that I’m thankful for God Himself. But today I’m specifically thankful for these two aspects of who God is—my Shepherd and the Guardian of my soul. I learn about these characteristics of God from 1 Peter 2:

For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Years ago I read A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller. It gave me a much deeper understanding of that metaphor. The shepherd isn’t just hanging out watching the sheep graze all day. The sheep really do stray, and the shepherd really does hunt them down, steer them away from danger, rescue them from the holes they get in, check them closely for critters that get into their wool, protect them from snakebite, from predators that would carry them off and eat them alive.

The Shepherd of my soul looks out for me spiritually in much the same way.

He also stands guard, the way a watchman does from a city wall. He is ready to sound the alert because he is ever vigilant.

Consequently, I can get a good night’s sleep. I don’t have to worry or anxiously look about, wondering if the next cultural trend will irreparably harm me or my faith. I don’t have to wring my hands at the latest election results or what the new atheists are saying or the progressives who pose as believers, but are not.

Because I have a Guardian of my soul who will not let the evil tear down my faith.

It’s really peaceful to put my trust in the Shepherd and Guardian of my soul. I’m still concerned about the way the world is going, the way western culture is moving into a post-truth way of thinking. I pray for revival. But one way I know I have a Shepherd and Guardian of my soul is that just today I heard another radio sermon in which the pastor talked about praying for revival. He is not the first! Other believers, other pastors, are praying, too.

So yes, I pray. And I do all in my power to be an obedient sheep, following my Shepherd, not one of the other stupid creatures who jump at any loud sound and go running off to hide. I once was straying, but not any more. Now I want to get as close to the shepherd as I can get. I’m that thankful for Him.

Published in: on November 14, 2018 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gratitude, Day 9—The Internet


I know a lot of people now who bemoan the internet, who “fast” from the internet, who warn others about excessive screen time, and chastise users of the internet as shallow or contentious. Of course people can misuse any tool, so there can be people who have issues with using the internet. Major issues. Damaging issues.

But in truth, the internet is an incredible tool that has made the world accessible to anyone.

I remember the first time I realized I had an international follower for this blog. It shocked me! I could hardly wrap my mind around the idea that someone half a world away was reading what I was writing.

More than that, various preaching platforms have made their sermons available on the internet, so that hundreds of thousands of people are able to receive the kind of Bible instruction that would not have been available to them before the internet. Oh, sure, there were books, but these resources are free of charge and available to anyone with a smart phone, a tablet, or a computer. That’s incredible.

When I was younger, a group of Christians took seriously the idea that Christ will not return until there are believers from every tribe and tongue. Consequently they invested in Bible translation. But a new problem quickly emerged: literacy. It’s one thing for a person to have the Bible in their heart language, another for them to actually be able to read it. As a result, more missionaries focused on teaching reading. But then came the Jesus film in multiple languages, and audio platforms. Suddenly, technology was providing many different ways to provide the Bible and Bible instruction to people around the world.

Well, the internet is actually more of the same. It’s an awesome tool that brings people from all over the world together.

I’ve personally benefited from the internet. First, a site like Facebook developed that put me in touch with former students I thought I’d for certain lost track of once and for all. Then it also created writing communities, first through forums, then through blogs, team blogs, Facebook groups, and back to like-minded collections (some of which require a fee to join).

All of that came together when I had my stroke as a friend (a live, and in person friend) created a Go Fund Me account which allowed all these diverse people I know from various walks of life to learn about my situation and to contribute to my needs.

Every once in a while I marvel at the technological advances that have taken place in my lifetime. There are so many I couldn’t begin to enumerate them all. In a few cases, as with the VCR, I’ve seen advances both come and go!

All of them, like other parts of culture, have their advantages and disadvantages. And of course that makes perfect sense because we humans are a mixed bag. We are made in God’s image, which means we have great capacity for creativity and moral goodness. But we are also sinners, filled with selfishness and pride, using people and loving things instead of the other way around.

No wonder the internet has the capacity to be used for great good but also for great ill. It’s a device conceived of by humans, so we bring who we are to bear in the use of a device that is actually amoral. That has no goodness and no evil that is inherit to it. The internet simply is, and we use if in conjunction with our nature.

We can get in fights with strangers, and we can tear down people based on our prejudice, our hatred, our stubborn, willful heart.

Or we can speak with kindness and truth to people in walks of life that are far different from our own. Truly, the internet can be the source of great good, setting up sites where Christians can pray for someone afflicted with a serious illness, and for their family, giving encouragement and hope.

I haven’t even mentioned the wealth of information available on the internet. How many times have I been editing and stopped to research something for a client—did they get the name of that city right, was that weapon actually in existence when this story was to have taken place. I’ve checked manuscript formatting, I’ve researched agents and publishers. I’ve learned so much about writing from blogs put out by editors.

Should I mention videos and games? Yes, because of the internet we can also enjoy a wide variety of entertainment that was not available some twenty years ago. Yes, they can also require self-discipline, but books and movies and TV do as well.

Without a doubt, the internet has changed culture and changed life. Though I know some people use it for evil, I can only be thankful for it. Sure, one more thing to challenge our self-control, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to exercise that muscle.

Published in: on November 13, 2018 at 5:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Gratitude, Day 8—For The Written Word


At some point last week I thought one of my gratitude posts should be about reading. I mean, I love to read. It opens up the world, the past, God’s revelation. It’s perhaps the most awesome human experience ever. But I’m too late. My friend and fellow blogger InsanityBytes already grabbed that topic: “Grateful for Reading.”

Unlike IB, I can remember a time when I couldn’t read. My brother and sister could. So once, int the car one of my parents spelled out something, and I knew that only I was supposed to not receive this piece of information. That hurt! At other times, on Sunday mornings when we pulled out the best part of the morning paper—the funnies, also called the Comics—my brother would grab one section and my sister would grab the other. I remember that one day I pleaded with them to please let me have a section first, because after all, it took me much less time to look at the pictures than it did for them to read the whole thing. Well, that request got nowhere, so then I pleaded with them not to read, either. Yeah, that plan didn’t meet with success, either.

I have another distinct memory of not reading, too, but better are the ones of finally learning, finally being able to read. And then discovering the library and all the books available for free. Reading introduced me to new friends and old places. But reading was the key to education. Without reading I would have missed out on so much—math word problems, history, instructions on literally every assignment, science. We even had P.E. tests over the rules of the particular sports we played. At every turn, reading was a component in education.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

And now I’m a writer. So the idea of words on a page has expanded from me only being a recipient of information to being one who generates ideas for others to digest. Of course, I was doing that long before I became a writer. I mean, how many papers did I write in college? But one thing I learned back then, even when I would bemoan a professor assigning a ten-page paper or giving us an essay test: I always felt I learned more when I wrote out my thoughts. I remember them better, but I also understand them better. The writing somehow helps me to organize my thoughts better than any other way of interacting with material.

Of course, as a novelist who writes fantasy, I have a special place in my heart for creating worlds and characters that show what I think in a way that is perhaps more meaningful than simply coming out and stating the bald facts.

I may have learned that way of communicating from the Bible, because it’s a book filled with stories that illustrate. Yes, there are statements of truth, places the writers, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, simply declared what God wanted us all to know. But even more, there are people and places and events that show.

But that actually explains another reason I’m grateful for written communication. One of the best parts of Christianity is the written revelation, the unchangeable word of God, the word that is fixed in heaven, that endures forever. What God revealed four thousand years ago, for instance, is still true today. We have it in black and white. We don’t have to wonder what God might decide to do today as opposed to what He did yesterday.

I had a principal once who changed like that. School rules were not codified. They were in his head, and he could change his mind whenever he wanted. So you never wanted to ask him for money to purchase necessary equipment if he was in a bad mood. You never wanted to do something questionable because today it might be OK, but tomorrow you’d be busted for it.

God is not like that. He gave us His word so that we can know His thoughts. So when He said, Don’t commit murder as part of the Ten Commandments, that was a Law He adhered to in the book of James in the New Testament. He didn’t wave it or qualify it or reverse it. His word is dependable.

So I love written communication. It opens up the world, history, culture, an understanding of people. It allows me to express my thoughts and ideas and even to understand what I’m thinking more completely, and it enables me to enjoy God’s revelation. In His word He’s told us about His person, His plan, His purpose. I feel privileged to be invited in to know His thoughts in this way.

For sure, I’m so very grateful for written communication—both sides of it!

Top Photo by Tamás Mészáros from Pexels

Published in: on November 12, 2018 at 5:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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Gratitude, Day 7—For Veterans


I’m not a military person. And believe it or not—this is rare these days—I was raised as a pacifist. I had an uncle, for example who did not go into the service during World War II but chose to do an alternative service.

But as I’ve studied Scripture, I’ve concluded that pacifism applied to military service isn’t really something God teaches. I’m sure others disagree. Nevertheless, I’m at a point in my life that I realize how great the sacrifices are which our military personnel make. And their spouses and children, parents and extended family. So whether someone believes in the importance of a strong military or not, I think it’s right to honor those who have given their time and ability to the service of their nation.

These veterans need more than just a “thanks for your service.” It’s an easy line to give to a veteran, but it’s pretty shallow. I don’t have a better one.

What is better is friendship. I don’t know much about reaching out to someone who has lived with trauma, and is finally coming home, but it seems those who adjust the best have someone they trust and cam talk to. Someone who will be sure they don’t spend their birthday alone, that sort of thing. But more importantly, someone who will love them enough to listen, who will pray with them, who will open up the Bible and help them to gain God’s perspective. Because any veterans who have been in combat, and even those who haven’t, have seen an ugly side of life.

They need God’s perspective on what they’ve lived through.

The bottom line is this: where would the rest of us be without those who have served in the armed forces?

So as Veterans Day approaches here in the US, I want to thank God for given us brave people willing to sacrifice for all the rest of us, willing to defend our nation, our belief in democracy and free speech and freedom of religion. These are values that have shaped our country and spread to other places in the world. But they are not universal, and they do need to be defended.

That our service personnel are willing to put their lives on the line, to step up and do the work to defend what we all enjoy, means more than I can ever express. We are blessed to have brave Marines and infantry, seamen and airmen, the Coast Guard and all those special ops individuals. It really is amazing to think that so many people are willing to set aside a desire for fame or wealth or comfort or ease to step in and stand in the gap for the rest of us.

I am so very grateful for the veterans who have served our country.

Published in: on November 9, 2018 at 4:53 pm  Comments (4)  
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Gratitude, Day 6—Thanking God


Sunset on Fields near City

God is great
God is good
And we thank Him
For our food.

Amen!

I grew up “saying grace,” before meals. To this day I don’t know how that euphemism came about, and in our house, I’m not sure we used the term. I understood our prayer before each meal to be us offering thanks for the food.

By and large, however, it was a formality, though we didn’t use a formalized prayer. Despite the fact that there were lean years in my family, I was too little to realize how tight money was and how iffy our next meal could be. By the time I was in school, our “financially tight years” were behind us.

Consequently, not having known want, I didn’t have the overwhelming sense of gratitude that comes from receiving something you needed but had no means to acquire.

In other words, I mostly took my meals for granted. Not to the point of wasting food, certainly. My parents, especially my mother, saw to that. How could I, being so fortunate, throw away food that the poor children in China would be so happy to have. Didn’t I realize that they were starving and I was abundantly blessed?

Well, actually, I didn’t realize the abundance I enjoyed. Until I was seventeen. That year my family moved to Tanzania, East Africa, to a small town named Korogwe where there was a teacher-training college and a good road to Tanga. My dad, being a professor of education, took a position at the college, and I learned, among many other things, what abundance I had.

In Tanzania I saw most people walk barefoot or ride bicycles. Only the rich had cars. We had a car.

In Tanzania I saw men walk around with tee shirts so holey they barely had enough material to stay on their backs. I asked why people would bother to wear shirts like that which certainly had little function. Because, I was told, it was better to have a shirt, no matter how many holes or how big the holes, than to have no shirt at all. I didn’t own a single item of clothing with holes and I had many changes of clothes.

In Tanzania I saw children throw rocks and use sticks to knock unripe mangoes from a tree. They would rather have the unripened fruit than no fruit at all. I had the choice of whatever fruits and vegetables were in the market, all of which we could afford to buy.

In Tanzania ugali, made from cassava root, was the staple for most people’s diet. They pounded it into a flour and made a kind of thick mush they rolled into balls and dipped into broth. I enjoyed three meals a day, including a main meal of meat and vegetables, often with fresh, home-made rolls.

In Tanzania I saw sick children with runny noses a parent never wiped or distended bellies, some carrying bundles of sticks on their heads as they walked in the red dust of the African roadway. I had received a multitude of shots to keep away such diseases as typhoid and yellow fever, and I received a booster to protect me from the various forms of dysentery that plagued the African people.

In Tanzania I saw Masai children covered with flies, especially around their noses, eyes, and mouths, and they made no effort to brush off the insects, so used to their presence they had become. I slept under a mosquito netting and enjoyed a home with screens on the windows and on the doors. And still we had cans of bug spray and fly swatters.

There was more. That good road to Tanga, the second largest town in Tanzania at the time, which passed through Korogwe, made it possible to go to stores from time to time where we could buy some of the foods we would have considered staples in the US.

In Korogwe we enjoyed an abundant supply of water, no small feature in itself, but the water also made growing fruits and vegetables possible year round whereas in southern Tanzania, the dry season was very dry. People might find the only vegetable in their markets for months was cabbage.

I could go on. But the point isn’t to make a case for how poor Tanzania was or how much better Korogwe was than other parts of the country. The fact is, I could repeat a similar list for Guatemala where I spent three years or for Mexico where I spent a summer or for Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, even England and Japan where I’ve spent some short amount of time.

I could repeat the list for places here in the US, too.

But up until I was seventeen and spent that year in Tanzania, I didn’t realize I enjoyed abundance. I wore hand-me-down clothes and never owned a bike, though I wanted one desperately. My family drove used cars and bought furniture at Goodwill. We weren’t rich, but we had an abundance.

I think true thankfulness might not be possible until you realize what abundance you have. How many of us are thankful for our health . . . until we get sick? Or for our friends until they move away. Or for our jobs until we lose them.

Simple FieldNot having and then having, or having and then not having provides the contrast that wakes us up to abundance. Seeing others not have when we have can do the same thing. Or it can create a defensive, hording mentality—I never want to be without, like those people—in the same way that seeing others have when we do not, can create envy and greed.

All this to say, in our abundance, however great or small that may be, we have the opportunity to thank God for what He has given. Think about what Habakkuk said:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (3:17-18, emphasis added)

Even in want, there’s cause to exult in God. He remains the source of salvation, and that is God’s lavish provision for sinners who did not deserve His grace and mercy.

Thanks, and praise, and rejoicing are always the right response to God.

It certainly makes sense. If He is great, and He is, and if He is good, and He is, then why wouldn’t I give Him thanks?

This post originally appeared here in July, 2014.

Published in: on November 8, 2018 at 4:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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Gratitude, Day 5—Salvation


Well, duh, some Christians might say. I might say that too. I mean, salvation is not new to me. I’ve lived with it for most of my life. I’ve gone through the gamut: I’ve been unsure I was saved, so I prayed for salvation again, and again, and again; then I came to the place where I decided to take God at His word; until I questioned His goodness, heard His answer, and trusted in His wisdom, just trusted; to the point that now, things I don’t understand don’t disturb me . . . much. I’ve just recently started a note section for my daily Bible reading asking the question, Who Is A Christian?

All that to say, salvation is familiar and it would be easy for me to take it for granted. I’ve lived with it for so long—the ups and the downs, the doubts and the assurances.

But in the end, I realize, salvation is everything. Yes, it’s a gift from God. A free gift, based on His grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

But it’s also a gift I must receive. There are any number of pictures of receiving the gift of salvation. Jesus referred to Himself as living water, for instance, and said to the woman at the well,

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:19)

Ask, give, receive. It’s all part of what Peter calls being born again:

for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23)

Jesus also painted that new birth picture when He met with Nicodemus:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

Of course, another image Jesus used was that of a Father accepting His wayward son who returns and repents.

Throughout the New Testament there’s the association of Christ’s sacrifice with that of the pure and spotless lamb used in temple sacrifices. But Christ is portrayed as the sacrifice “once and for all.”

In thinking about why I’m thankful for salvation, these things come to mind:

I’m thankful salvation is free. It’s amazing to think that something so valuable is not something I have to pay for, that God actually chose to pay on my behalf.

I’m also thankful that it’s accessible by everyone. No one has to clean up before coming to God through His Son Jesus. He’ll take care of the sanctifying part, just as He has taken care of the justifying part.

Justifying simply means that I’ve been set right with God, so I actually have peace with Him. I’m thankful for that peace. I’m no longer God’s enemy. I’m not at war with Him. I recognize Him as the sovereign ruler He is.

The sanctifying part is me learning to get off the throne of my life and letting God be God. I don’t always want to.

Another thing I’m thankful for concerning salvation is the glorification that we who are saved will enjoy in the future. We’ll get better bodies—ones that won’t age or get sick; we’ll take our place in God’s kingdom as people who serve Him purely. I don’t know what all that will look like. Some speculate that we’ll have jobs in the New Earth that suit us. So I could possibly be a writer in the future, too.

The greatest thing about this glorification aspect of salvation is the hope it gives. So we Christians, when someone we love dies, we grieve, but we do so with hope. We will not be separated from each other forever. We will have a great reunion, first with God our Savior, and then with one another.

Pretty much salvation changes everything. That’s why Scripture talks about us being renewed, about us living in newness of life. Old things are passed away. All things are new. Definitely something I am thankful for.

Published in: on November 7, 2018 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gratitude, Day 4—Play


I have a neighbor who has a young dog, about two years old now. Another neighbor just recently got a puppy, and those two hit it off. They love to run and chase and play tug of war and wrestle, and then run some more. I have to say, it’s really entertaining to watch.

I remember a time when I was young that our cat had a litter of kittens and as they grew, they loved to play with each other. We used to sit in the living room and just watch those kittens jump and chase each other and wrestle.

Recently I heard someone describing a cruise they went on and this person said a school of dolphins chased them. Well, not chased, I thought. But play? No doubt.

And then it dawned on me. Animals of all kinds play. Mostly their young, but even older pets can play. In other words, play is something God built into His creation.

No wonder we humans like to play: board games and card games and video games. We like to horse around. We invent games like Mother May I or Kick The Can or Hide-and-Seek. We play games we turn into sports like skate boarding and skiing. We play because . . . we were made to love play.

I’ve wondered off and on if play is good. I mean, what does play accomplish for the kingdom of God? Aren’t we to be good stewards of our time?

Well, yes, we are. But “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” or something like that. Yeah, not from the Bible, I know. And I might be tempted to think play is something we should outgrow, except for those dolphins chasing the cruise ship. And the dogs frolicking in the snow. And kittens chasing rainbows. In other words, God gave the instinct to play.

Sure, just like anything else, we humans can misuse God’s gift. We can turn it into an idol. We can become addicted. We can spend time playing when we are supposed to be working or worshiping or serving.

But play when we don’t use it in the wrong way, is a great gift from God. It adds enjoyment and relaxation to our days. It takes our minds off problems and heartaches. It gives us opportunities to laugh and to celebrate and to make memories.

And like all God’s good gifts, He reveals something about Himself in them. God shows that He has a sense of humor, that He laughs. There are some verses in Scripture that back this up. Sarah, when she learned that in her old age she would give birth to a son, said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”

In Proverbs, this: “A joyful heart is good medicine.”

God shows a sense of irony, too, which is actually a type of humor. Take the Apostle Paul, for example. He was bent on chasing down Christians and doing away with them one way or the other. But God, in a great ironic twist, says, No, no, no. I want you, the Christian hunter to be the greatest evangelist FOR Christ in the first century.

There are others. Haman, for example, showing up in the palace to ask the king if he can hang Mordecai, and the king calling Haman to him to ask what he should do for the man he wishes to honor . . . which turns out to be Mordecai! Ironic twist.

One thing I know for sure from the book of James:

Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.

Praises. Sort of like thanksgiving. So, how grateful I am to God that He has given us play, which leads to laughter and cheer.

If you’re like me, you get a kick out of watching animals play, so here’s a video you might enjoy.

Published in: on November 6, 2018 at 5:48 pm  Comments (5)  
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Gratitude, Day 3—The Kindness Of The Lord


As you may (or may not) remember, I am doing a series of Thanks posts, sort of in protest to the fact that Thanksgiving here in the US is being squeezed out amid the candy and costumes of Halloween and the presents and lights, carols, nativity scenes, and Santas of Christmas.

I actually love Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that hasn’t been overly commercialized. It can’t be confused with any other holiday, the way Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, and Flag Day can be confused with each other. But the greatest plus is that the origins of the holiday have a spiritual foundation. The Thanks in Thanksgiving, is directed to God. And that fact gives me a good reason to love this particular day above other celebrations.

So, today, I am particularly grateful for the kindness of the Lord. A particular verse from the Bible came to mind when I thought of God’s kindness:

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5)

Clearly, God’s kindness is connected to His work of salvation—something another verse of Scripture spells out:

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

So, yes, God’s kindness and love save us, but a great part of the process is His kindness leading us to repentance.

Repentance?

Isn’t that connected to an awareness of our sin? I mean, how can someone repent if they don’t actually think there is something in their life for which they need to regret, to be remorseful about, to wish were different in regard to their actions and/or character? I mean, are people who can only see their strengths ever going to repent?

No.

And that’s actually the human condition. We want to think better of ourselves than we are, but when we can’t avoid the problems, we tend to blame others. It’s society’s fault. I didn’t get a good education. My parents didn’t love me the way I needed them to. It was the snake who deceived me. The wife You gave me tempted me.

All those things are true or might be. But that doesn’t change the facts: whatever the conditions, we gave in and sinned. We made the decision to do what we knew we should not do. We stand guilty. Condemned.

And it is the kindness of God that brings us to that point. Kindness. Because once we’re aware of our need to repent, we can repent. We don’t need to hide any more, to blame others, to carry the guilt.

God’s kindness brings us to the place where we can deal with sin once and for all. Not through works we do. But by accepting the washing, the cleansing, the being made new provided by God.

God is actually kind in so many other ways. He is kind to give us friends and family, jobs and meaningful activity, churches and Bibles, homes and entertainment. But His kindness is greatest when it leads us to Him. Because nothing is more important. Our lives in the here and now are, as James says, a vapor. The Psalmist and Isaiah talk about our lives being like a flower—here today, and tomorrow gone with the wind or the scorching sun.

But only the here and now part. The eternal part of our lives stretches out before us. Nothing could be more important than that we live that eternal part with God our Savior. So how kind of God to invest so much into directing us to repentance for our sin.

He could ignore our need for repentance and make sure that these brief moments are nothing but pleasure-filled. I mean, it isn’t comfortable to think about our sin, to admit that we are the ones responsible, that we have gone our own way and ended up in a mess of our own making. But God’s kindness won’t let us delude ourselves into thinking that we’re OK in spite of our sin.

He is too kind to let us live in that delusion. He’d rather lead us to repentance.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 5:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gratitude, Day 2—For The Beauty Of The Earth


As I said on Facebook today, the holiday that is getting squeezed out of existence is Thanksgiving. I want to keep the focus in November on what God has given, what I’m thankful for. So here’s the second installment in the Thankful series.

And today I’m mentioning something I think we can easily take for granted—the beauty of this home God has given us. I mean, all of it. Not the broken parts that sin has ruined, but the parts that allow us to see the beauty of God’s original design.

I’ll start with mountains because I love them so much. I don’t think there’s a better place in all the world than the land above timberline.

Maybe flatlanders don’t know that at a certain elevation, trees stop growing. That’s timberline. What does grow is grasses and wildflowers. But there’s also lots of rocks and glaciers and pools of icy blue or icy green water from melted snow. I’ve never, never seen anything so purely wild and beautiful.

But the ocean comes close. I love the ocean when there aren’t any people around. That’s usually in the winter or toward sunset.

And speaking of sunset, that’s another thing I am so grateful for—the colors of the sky. I love the oranges and pinks and yellows, but I also love the blue and whites and the black and dotted whites with the silver white peeking over the horizon. Yeah, I pretty much love the sky. Angry gray clouds are beautiful but so is misty fog.

But since I mentioned color, I’ll say, I’m really, really grateful for flowers and leaves that change colors. I mean, the wealth of color here is SoCal is off the chart. We have trees that blossom, bushes with flowers, and of course flowers themselves of every kind. Walking in SoCal is like walking in a rainbow.

So, yes, rainbows are certainly on the list of things for which I’m grateful. I mean, have you ever seen an ugly rainbow? Even a stubby piece of a rainbow is beautiful. The rainbows that come from the sun shining on the water spraying from a hose are beautiful. The prism rainbows flashing against a wall from a piece of jewelry are beautiful. Rainbows caught in the break of a wave, those are beautiful too.

But of course, saying rainbow makes me think of rain. I’m grateful for rain. So very grateful, and so longing to have a few days of much needed rain come our way. I don’t get to see it much any more except in pictures, but I also love snow. I mean, what renews the world better than a coat of new-fallen snow?

Obviously I’m not going into details about, say, the moon, or the beauty of the desert, which I rarely see, or any number of animals which are truly beautiful. The point is, I could put many, many more things on this list—things for which I’m grateful, and which illustrate just how beautiful this world is that God gave us to live in.

Above all, the beauty He created tells me a little about His own beauty. I’m grateful God showed us Himself through the beauty He created.

Published in: on November 2, 2018 at 5:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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