Do We Deserve This?

Did you experience grace today? I’m sure most of you did, even if you didn’t recognize it as grace. Christine Hoover cited “receiving an e-mail that said, thank you for giving me grace.” She noted hearing that phrase “a thousand times but, for some reason, this particular time stuck with me for several days.”

Christine continued by saying she hadn’t done anything significant to receive a thank you of grace. As I shared previously, what does it mean to give grace to another. Recalling Chuck Swindoll’s words “to show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve and can never earn it”, so do any of us deserve grace? Have we been so special, so wonderful or outstanding that we deserve a kindness from others? Probably not!

Grace isn’t a free pass that allows us to throw off all restraint under the guise of Christ. Grace, the unmerited favor of God poured out on us by our faith in Christ, is a compelling change agent that, when received, teaches us how to live. Tim Keller says, “The gospel devours the very motivation you have for sin. It completely saps your very need and reason to live any way you want. Anyone who insists the gospel encourages us to sin has simply not understood it yet, nor begun to feel it’s power.”

When I went to the doctor yesterday for my post-op appointment, I mentioned to the nurse that I was so hopeful I could drive sooner than three weeks. She smiled and said, “did you think you were special?” That was a “gotcha” moment…no I know I’m not special, but I was hopeful.

I’ve done nothing special to have my friend from church transport me to the hospital and return me home which consumed her entire day. I’m not special that she again picked me up and took me to the doctor for my follow up appointment. Her grace for me was a gift.

Grace can be hard to give, if we don’t have a heart for giving and certainly don’t desire to forgive. Michele Mayer cites How People Grow by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend. Our ability to offer grace to others, “comes to us through the grace of God as He loves and forgives us.”

Michele continues, “most of us, even operating in our own inner strength, seem to have the ability to extend grace to someone we love, but who occasionally does something to upset us. Nobody’s perfect, right?”  Yet, there are members of families whom even though state they love another, refuse to offer that person grace. Grace and forgiveness are gifts we offer ourselves as much as the other person. It allows us to be free of the bitterness and resentment we carry toward another.

What would happen if every person opted to give grace to just one person that day? Can you imagine the impact it would make on our lives?

I Cor. 15:10 NIV, “but by grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect…”

Given or Received?

I prepared for the 2-3 week recuperation; off my feet totally. I built my “nest” of reading, writing and knitting, to fill the long days of being alone. Then “wham” as often happens with post-surgery recovery, there was a setback.  Now what? It’s time to watch the numerous recorded movies for a “rainy” day and in this case a “sick day.” When the recordings were depleted, there were the subscription channels.

“Feel good movies”! just what I needed when already a little melancholy about being in isolation for several weeks. There is always a lesson to be learned with every page of our lives. These past few days were no different. I experienced almost every emotion while viewing these quality movies; some based on true life stories, other movies reminding me of blessings of our lives.

One of my favorite movies was Grace Card. What is grace? We all hear about it and know the greatest gift of grace was from our Lord as He sent His son to give us eternal life. Yet our fellow mankind speaks often of grace to others. Bible scholar, Donald Barnhouse cited grace as, “love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops down is grace.”

Chuck Swindoll describes grace this way, “Jesus never used the word grace. He just taught it and, equally important He lived it. Understanding what grace means requires…going back to an old Hebrew term…to include the idea of “condescending favor.”

Chuck continues by saying, “to show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it. Every time the thought of grace appears, there is the idea of its being undeserved. In no way is the recipient getting what he or she deserves. Favor is being extended simply out of the goodness of the heart of the giver.”

Have you received grace? Do you offer grace? Have you spoken an unkind word against another and yet refused to apologize or seek their forgiveness? Yet, when you saw them, they chose to greet you with a smile and perhaps a hug. That was grace.

Perhaps on the contrary you have reached out to someone that harmed you physically or emotionally.  Less than two years ago, I became aware of someone who brought me tremendous, emotional pain eight years ago, by taking someone from my life whom I loved deeply.

I realized the relationship she chose to begin was not solely her choice, yet I desired to offer grace. I attempted to talk to her, to let her know I didn’t blame her alone for the unfathomable agony I was experiencing. After attempting to speak with her in person and on the phone, she refused all opportunity for me to extend grace. Is this still grace if the recipient doesn’t accept it? TO BE CONTINUED

I Cor 15:10 NIV, “but by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect…”

Even an Ingrate…

“Appreciation is the joy felt in seeing the good in something or someone. It is a mental state that imparts happiness and motivates you to act. Gratitude means, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” -Gustavo Razzetti

When queried, “is it rude to not say thank you,”, John Strecker a VP with his company noted, “in a word yes. For someone to do something for you is a gift and any gift should be both appreciated and acknowledged with a heartfelt thank you. To avoid expressing your appreciation, and or not being appreciative of a gift in the first place, reveals you as either a troglodyte or a Narcissist. Neither of which is generally considered a positive trait. On the other hand, to be kind and considerate enough to do something for another human being is exemplary human behavior and deserving of recognition. If someone is fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a kind effort, they should consider themselves blessed.”

As previously stated, research on appreciation, gratitude and the ability to readily offer “thank you”, could fill hundreds of pages. These are not only traits of appreciative and caring people, but a philosophy embraced by many as a component of a gratified life. Repeatedly, studies validate that cheerful individuals possessing self-confidence are most readily those willing to extend gratitude to others.

Dr. Susan Whitbourne, PhD cited “research on gratitude training shows even an ingrate can change.” Dr. Whitbourne, shares research from Ruppin Academic Center; Israel. “People who don’t express gratitude are missing out on an important potential source of fulfillment. As they note, gratitude correlates with positive feelings, prosocial behavior and physical health.” The study consisting of 150 participants was comprised of different types of situations which would cause varying degrees of appreciation or lack thereof.

The research validated what I have found to be factual with some of the individuals in my own life, “they’re high on entitlement, and they expect others to go out of their way to offer assistance.” However, realizing that people don’t owe us, and that each kindness is not required, is a gift which  certainly instills more peace and happiness.

I will continue to do for others and there will be those ungrateful and unappreciative individuals, who will offend me with their rudeness. However, this won’t negate me from doing what God instills in my heart. My acts of giving can be as simple as allowing a person to “cut ahead of me” in a shopping or traffic lane; to going out of my way to assist them emotionally and/or financially. I’m not seeking a “thank you”, but offering a gift. E. Hubbard quotes, “I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.”

I Thess. 5:18 NKJ “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God…”




What Is the Cost?

It need not be a grandiose gesture or gift which requires a word or note of appreciation. A simple kindness can be as cherished and with such value as an expensive gift. Why then are so many acts “expected” or “taken for granted?” Some of my most treasured gifts of thoughtfulness were those I never expected. Gustavo Razzetti, “life doesn’t owe you anything. Appreciation means stop taking everything for granted.”

For the past eight years I have spent holidays, birthdays and special events alone. A little past 7:00 a.m. on my birthday in 2019, the doorbell rang. I was perplexed as I was new to the area, residing in a small rental house away from all which was familiar. I had a few acquaintances, but no friends. When I opened the door, it was joy beyond measure. Someone I had met in church only a few months prior knew it was my birthday. She realized, I would be spending it alone and wanted me to know she was thinking of me.

She drove over 40 miles round trip to tell me she cared.  That single act of kindness has brought me smiles and exultation for over a year. It will last for years to come. Someone went out of their way to let me know I mattered. I was overjoyed to send my gratitude for such a magnificent act of benevolence.

As Peter Bregman cites, “saying “thank you” is mostly an emotional act. It connects one person to another. Saying “thank you” doesn’t just acknowledge someone’s effort, thoughtfulness, intent or action. It acknowledges the person himself.”

The person that chooses to disregard the kindness granted them by another, is indirectly saying “I have far greater value than you. You don’t deserve to be thanked.” Mr. Bergman also notes, “it doesn’t take long to say, “thank you”, but it does take caring.” I can’t agree more. If someone cared enough to proffer a kindness, the recipient should care enough to return a “thank you.”

Years ago, a relative informed me that I spend more time and money on a thank you note and stamp than was spent on the actual gift. Additionally, she informed me, she was taught you don’t have to offer a “thank you” to family. How the words of my mother-in-law, Alta echoed in my mind and heart when I heard that.  Alta noted, she didn’t believe in having things “only for guests”, as her family was more significant than any guest in her home.

Her words from over fifty years ago were imprinted on my heart and mind. Why then if we could thank others for kindheartedness toward us, would we not give our family the same courtesy? I agree there have been times the cost of the note and postage were greater than the gift. However, I have always believed when anyone does something “from their heart” it is a gift whose value is incalculable.

I Thess. 5:18 NKJ “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God…” TO BE CONTINUED!

The Power of Appreciation

My journey of gratitude and appreciation began at a young age; even before I entered school. My earliest memory of showing thankfulness was from my maternal, widowed grandmother who didn’t own even a home nor automobile. Her entire wealth consisted solely of a few dishes, pieces of furniture, clothing and accessories.  Widowed in her thirties with two young children, she instilled in her children and then her grandchildren that people aren’t obligated to offer kindness to others. When they do, such gifts must always be received with gratitude.

My grandmother’s financial funds were meager as a live-in care giver for a widower, residing in a rural OH community. During my infrequent outings to visit Grandma, occasionally a dairy truck making milk deliveries to the area residents stopped along his route to sell ice cream bars. If Grandma had an additional nickel; the cost of these treats, she would indulge me. However, I have always recalled the realization this treat might be rescinded if I failed to offer the two words Grandma was seeking. She looked at me with her stern, glaring eyes and said, “what do you say?” Initially, I was clueless.  When Grandma said, “you will get this ice cream only if you say, “thank you.” I rapidly learned the significance of this short, but invaluable phrase.

“Thank you”, two words which can impart tremendous power. When not granted, their absence can cause hurt feelings and emotions which may linger for years. As I began my research on the expectations of offering thanks, I was delighted to discern, my intense opinion of anyone not granting appreciation is embraced by many. Studies and research have been conducted by psychologists, sociologists, clergy and countess others as to the positive and negative effects of both receiving and withholding thankfulness toward others. Due to the vast information on this subject, this topic will be covered over several writings.

Most of us don’t extend kindnesses to others as a mode of receiving, “thank you”. Yet, we are frequently taken aback that our benevolence is expected rather than received as a gift. Recently, I presented kindness to an individual not once, but twice within less than 48 hours.  I purchased a ticket for this individual to attend the second event which resulted in receiving several lovely gifts. When she learned she would be receiving an additional gift at the conclusion, she rapidly departed to be the first in line for another “freebie.” Yet, now weeks later, there has never been a word of appreciation.

K. Deal when citing whether or not a person was taught such manners, noted, “saying thank you is a courtesy that one can learn. Secondly, why don’t you thank others? Are you too entitled to say thank you? Are you too lazy to say thank you?…not saying thank you is rude, unacceptable, and extremely irritating. Not saying thank you shows a lack of compassion and appreciation for the people around you.”

I Thess. 5:18 NKJ, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God…” TO BE CONTINUED

God’s Eye Drops

Raindrops keep falling from my eyes. Yes, for as long as I recall, my tears have flowed easily and abundantly. I cry when I’m extremely happy and certainly when I’m sad. I weep at weddings and cry when I see a newborn baby. I’ve shed countless tears over people being mistreated and when I see animals abused.

Are my tear drops a sign of weakness? Some would say yes, but I have thanked God countless times that He gave me the emotions to care so deeply for others. However, I recall being counseled upon accepting a new position at a small, family, owned company that tears would cause a prompt termination. It was cited tears were such a significant sign of weakness that the family’s church denomination forbade any of their members from allowing even one tear to fall.

Whenever I felt I might cry, I immediately removed myself from the room. I will forever remember receiving a telephone call while at work and being unable to control the tears. As the owner of the company and his mother sat a few yards away, I was fighting the tears as diligently as I could, but they fell. I was hoping by quickly wiping them away, it would save my job, but it didn’t. As promised, I was terminated instantly. To them, I was fainthearted. It didn’t matter what experience I had or that I had endured years of difficulty and was indeed a very strong and determined individual. They concluded those tears were a determent and I was a liability.

As I recently sat during my quiet time, Chuck Swindoll’s words in his devotion leapt off the page, shouting to me as I read them, “tears have a language all their own, needing no interpreter. In some mysterious way, our inner-communication system knows its verbal limitations and the tears come.  Eyes that flashed and sparkled moments before are flooded.”

“Tears are not self-conscious. They can spring upon us when we are in public or standing beside others who look to us for strength.  Tears may flow during the singing of a majestic hymn or when lost in some nostalgic memory or wrestling in soul searching prayer. Did you know that God takes special notice of your tears?”

“A teardrop on earth summons the King of heaven. Rather than being ashamed or disappointed, the Lord takes note when our hard times are oiled by tears. He turns these situations into moments of tenderness. He never forgets the crisis of our lives when tears were shed. One of the great drawbacks of our society is its’ reluctance to show tears.”

Thank you Chuck for this reminder. I have never felt shame at my tears. I have however been embarrassed at times that they flow as freely as they do, but most people understand these are truly God’s raindrops.

Psalms 56:8 NLT “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.”

Beautiful or Appalling?

Windows with bright sunlight reflecting off the softly colored walls, fresh, fragrant flowers, table top fountains bubbling with soothing sounds, captivating music, bottles of complimentary water or freshly brewed tea or coffee, numerous current periodicals, televisions viewing current inspiring programs and  warm, welcoming staff-could any environment be more hospitable? What if you were welcomed to a room void of windows, any sound except for voices among those also waiting, drab walls without a single painting or picture and disinterested staff?

Two different waiting rooms; two different experiences. The subject of God’s “waiting room” is a common theme in devotions and sermons. Even though pastors and authors are composing examples about God’s timing in our lives, there are paths to make the “waiting” more tolerable.

If we are waiting in a beautiful room; one which is filled with friends and family,  joy, rather than disappointment, the “wait” is more unobjectionable. However, if our wait for God’s time is in a barren room; one which is challenging, perplexing and filled with sorrow, the wait is more arduous.

Even though these are not physical rooms, but circumstances and times of our lives, we can accept the “wait” as a time of learning and blessing. While awaiting God’s calendar, we can seek the lesson to be learned during this wait. For every adult person, there has been a “waiting room” during our lives and perhaps there will be numerous others before our life ends.

We can complain, become angry, accuse others around us of our circumstances or accept the pause in our life and seek the consecrations of that time. Some of these delays are weeks, months or perhaps years. In some circumstances, God chooses to never remove us from the “waiting room.” It becomes permanent until death. I was in a waiting room for over four decades, always hoping, praying and believing. Then God removed me from His first waiting room to place me in another; now over eight years.

I’ve realized that no amount of pleading with God, crying out to Him in emotional and/or physical tears releases me from His desire to keep me in the “room” He has set aside for me. Sometimes we feel His “waiting room” is unfair and certainly far too lengthy for our desires. Even though we may have never been imprisoned in a physical jail, there are times the “waiting room” feels as constricting and offensive as though we were behind corporal bars.

When we learn to adopt this as a time for growth, increased understanding and grace the waiting room becomes a gift. I will be the first to admit, it isn’t undemanding. It is quite demanding. It necessitates our acquiescence during this time of waiting; whether in a beautiful room or one which is appalling. When God opens the door and frees us; there will be nothing but beauty awaiting.

Isaiah 40:31 NKJ, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”







Is Your Vision Clear?

We are now almost one twelfth of the way into our new year; 2020. Do we truly have clear vision? Did we make traditional New Year’s resolutions? Has the treadmill become a clothes rack? Is the bicycle gathering dust? Have we overindulged on foods we vowed to eliminate or reduce in our dietary intake?

Instead of making a resolution; a firm decision to do or not to do something, how about making a commitment to do something? We have over eleven months ahead of us to see clearly. What would happen to our self-worth if instead of trying to eliminate additional body weight, we eradicated the burden of anger and grudges against situations or persons that have been causing us disappointment, grief or unhappiness?

What would the outcome be if instead of vowing to increase our exercise regimen, we pledged to add  joy to someone’s life that was dealing with adversity? I recently watched a movie whereby the medical staff went above and beyond making a young dying patient’s last hours filled with exultation and happiness. Even though the patient didn’t survive long enough to have lingering memories, the medical staff had the realization and memories they brought tremendous bliss to this dying patient’s final journey.

Have you ever conversed with someone whom hours or perhaps days later was deceased.? This happened to me several years ago. I invited a young woman to lunch who had been in my life decades earlier. I realized she was unhappy and I earnestly tried to encourage her. Less than a month later, her life was over. I grieved for days over her loss; wondering if there were something I could have said or done differently which might have altered the outcome. However, I gave the gift of caring and compassion, even if only briefly.

What kind of impact do kind words make when someone is despondent?  Recently I sent a short e-mail to a member in my connection group at church. I didn’t understand the impact it would make until I received a return reply that I had sincerely encouraged them.

My life began at an early age with challenges and heartaches which many will never experience. It is my desire these hardships will be a testimony for God’s glory. I’ve queried Him often as to what He desires I do with the struggles He’s placed on my life’s path.

It may be merely no more than a hug or a compassionate word that you have empathy for another’s despair. I’ve been reminded frequently that we should never tell someone we “understand” their sorrows, for each of us endure our own unique grief. Yet we have 2020 vision when we show someone we care.

Instead of resolving we will lose weight, exercise more or even make more money, why not allow our 2020 vision to eliminate unkindness and anger and fill our hearts with concern for others? Proverbs 10:12 NIV, “hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.”


Trash or Treasure?

Recently someone was sharing the icon they have on their phone; a man holding his nose with one hand, while grasping a bag of trash in the other, labeled 2019. Some may feel the past year was worse than the one ahead. Whereas, that is a positive outlook for a new year, aren’t some of the memories of the past year ones which fill our hearts with joy?

Perhaps last year held the memories of a lost job, lost home, a lost marriage or lost loved ones. Yet you may not have lost anything, but only gained.  Additionally, you have memories of family outings, vacations, birthdays, graduations or weddings. You have your health and the freedom to enjoy your family, career, hobbies and interests of life. Yet why was the previous year one to be shunned?

Even if hardships were placed on our path, should an entire chapter of our life be considered refuse? What is God teaching us with these challenges? If we could re-write our life’s book, what chapters would we remove, and which would remain? When I think of my own life, there are many things when I would have used a mulligan; a do-over”, but others though painful had lessons God desired I learn.

My life’s challenges have allowed me to now volunteer to organizations and people dealing with tremendous obstacles. Specifically, thinking of the experiences of this past year which had an impact on my life, one was returning to a community I so greatly desire to leave. As I have shared in previous blogs when I moved to TX in the fall of 2018, I had remarkable faith my OK house would sell so I could remain there, but God said, “no.”

I returned to OK with a burdensome heart, but with the realization this was another component of my life’s book; God’s plan for 2019. I left my church in TX which welcomed me and became family during my six-month residency. I grappled with which church God chose for me upon my return. Even though I visited several where I had been a member, I didn’t feel it was “my church.”

As I attended a local community party, a fellow church member who had been in my home often in previous years, invited me to resume my role  at the church, I called “home” for many years. God gave me the answer; return.  Yes, God truly speaks to us through others.

If I looked through the “peep hole” of my door of 2019, there was some trash which needed to be discarded. I chose to look through the bright, picture window to see budding trees and flowers from 2019 that will burst forth in full bloom from the beauty of God’s plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Not Just a Cup of Coffee

Perhaps the chestnuts are not roasting, nor do you have a sleigh with ringing bells. It may not be cold or snowy for a white Christmas. For most however, you are with family or close friends. Some are totally alone today; their family lives too far away or are no longer with them. The friends are scattered, so they spend their holiday in isolation. What about those whose family live close by and yet choose to exclude their loved ones?

For over four decades, when the Thanksgiving table had been cleared and the annual football games began, I was well underway with my plans and preparations for the Christmas holiday.  Aside from the gift shopping and wrapping, there was the baking to share with family, friends and neighbors.

For many years, custom making Christmas gifts or holiday outfits for my children was as much a tradition as the sugar cookies and fudge. Although my budget was limited in those early years, my desire to provide “perfect as possible” memories was limitless. I have always believed my time and effort were the greatest gifts I could give to others, with my family being the largest recipient.

My desire to share God’s love with others is a gift I’ve offered graciously. It has allowed me to invite more than one guest to our dinner table when I realized they were spending the holiday alone. However, for eight years while my children, their families and my then husband, Charles celebrate with one another, I’ve been alone.

Because I had spent another Thanksgiving alone less than a month earlier, I began praying earnestly that God would not allow a repeat performance.  Countless times I have volunteered at homeless shelters or community dinners, but it has become emotionally difficult; always a reminder of my seclusion.

I didn’t know if my prayer would be answered “yes” or perhaps “dittoed” as the others. God hadn’t caused my family to exclude me, but He allowed it. I always realized there was a reason which only God understood. As my pastor reminded me last year; the more I’m alone the closer God and I become.

As I casually walked into Starbucks on December 17th and met a total stranger, he queried of my holiday plans.  Sharing I would be alone, his reply was more rapid than a cheetah chasing his prey. “Oh no, you will be with my family. There is no need to be alone.”

I was tearful, as I had given this gift to others and now God was giving it to me. I would spend Christmas with him and his family in a nearby town. I didn’t hesitate, even though I knew nothing about this man whom I had met only minutes earlier. I realized this was God’s reply, so no reason to be disquieted. Matt. 25:35 NKJ, “…you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in.”