Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Gift of Light

I received a Christmas card from a 90-year-old lady I’ve known over 30 years. She’s a tiny little woman with a lot of spunk. For example, even after battling cancer and undergoing the hard-to-endure treatments for it, she didn't let that and the permanent damage they created stop her from doing the things she loved. After the death of her beloved husband, she continued to live in the home they'd shared and to stay as independent as possible.

Her annual Christmas letter this year began with these words: "As we approach Christmas, let us remember how God has blessed us." Then she wrote about happy times and special people who had ministered to her. She also briefly mentioned several situations that surely had caused her much sadness and frustration, yet she did not whine about any of them, not even the malfunction of her computer and the loss of four years of data or her disappointment over having to miss an event she loved to attend. She spoke highly of the assisted living place where she now resides and expressed gratitude for the good care she receives there.

She concluded her one-page letter with these words: "I hope you have had a wonderful year and this Christmas is one of your happiest. Thank you for your prayers, love, and friendship. I continue to need your prayers."

I didn't immediately re-fold the letter and replace it inside the beautiful card she'd sent. Instead, I re-read it several times, allowing her words and her example to inspire and instruct me. I realized she was living proof that:
  • faith in God can remain and will strengthen us even in the most difficult circumstances
  • it's possible to remain thankful to God and others even (and especially!) when we're coping with great losses
  • prayers--our own and those of others--help sustain us
  • our light can (and should!) shine brightly for others even when we may think it's not.

I'm grateful to have received the gift of another letter from her, a gift that provided light for my journey through life.

...let your light shine before people,
so that they can see your good deeds and
give honor to your Father in heaven.
~Jesus (Matthew 5:16, NET)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving—Then and Now

When I read the Thanksgiving Proclamation written in 1863 by then President Abraham Lincoln, I was struck by how timely his message is for us today (Thanksgiving 2017). Please join me in reading and re-reading it thoughtfully and prayerfully.

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.1

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.2

1Abraham Lincoln. A Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day. March 30, 1863.

2Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. October 3, 1863.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A prayer found in Psalm 119, verse 35, NIV:

Direct me in the path of  your commands, for there I find delight.

(Photo taken by Johnnie Ann Gaskill on Sanibel Island, Florida, June 2016.)

Monday, October 2, 2017

A New Life

...anyone who belongs to Christ
has become a new person.
The old life is gone;
a new life has begun!
--2 Corinthians 5:17, New Living Translation

Friday, September 29, 2017

Take It In; Live It Out

As I journal, read the Bible, read devotional and self-help books, listen to podcasts by various Christians and self-help experts, watch TED Talks, etc. I receive an abundance of insights about how to live life better. However, I'm overwhelmed by all that I should think, feel, say, and do differently.

Having too much to focus on, I generally end up applying few, if any, of the principles that were presented to me. I'm like the person described in James 1:22-25, the person who looks into a mirror, sees the truth about what needs readjusting, but chooses to walk away from the mirror without dealing with problem areas. How smart is that???? 

Although I take in far more insights than I live out, I could experience BIG changes in my life if only I'd choose at least one "flaw" and apply the truth from God's Word to it. Even though I may not have the time or wisdom to do everything I'm shown every day, I'll certainly benefit from choosing to do at least ONE thing differently--and consistently.

How about you, Dear Reader? Do you need to learn to incorporate more of God's truths into your life? Will you choose at least one truth and start living by it? Will you begin to do it today? Will you continue to do it tomorrow and the next day, and...?

Father, thank You for revealing
truth upon truth, precept upon precept.
I humble ask You to help me "live it out."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

World Day of Gratitude

Had I not received an e-mail this morning informing me that today (Sept. 21) is World Gratitude Day, I wouldn't have known! Based on what I discovered later on the Internet, I've failed--for years--to celebrate this day, which started in 1965 in Hawaii when folks from many nations gathered together and decided it would be a good idea to have one day per year to formally express gratitude. On every Sept. 21st since then, folks all around the world have reflected on the good people and things in their lives. 

The founders of Gratitude Day believe taking time one day a year to reflect on the amazing things we have will increase our well-being and make us happier, more contented people. Since they're definitely right about the positive effects of feeling grateful, why, I wonder, shouldn't every day be Gratitude Day? Why limit expressing gratitude to only one day of the year (in addition, of course, to celebrating Thanksgiving Day with family and friends)?

Couldn't we change attitudes (ours and those of others!) by pausing many times every day to thank God for the many  blessings He showers upon us and to find creative ways to express gratitude to the people who enrich our lives in untold ways? The apostle Paul chose to write a letter to his friends to remind them of the love and gratitude he felt for them. Here's a bit of what he said:

He realized, as do we, that when people know they are loved and appreciated, that "makes their day" and inspires them, in turn, to express their gratitude to people who mean so much to them. 

Let's begin the gratitude chain today and continue it every day so that we can help spread gratitude throughout the world!