Gratitude: The Things We Get to Do

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’ve established many, uh, aspirations, I’ll call them. Not resolutions, because then I’d have to admit I’ve already broken most of them. Not goals, because I’d have to make them “S.M.A.R.T” — so all the productivity experts say, anyway — with plans and steps and deadlines for achieving them. Not happening. So I’ll just call them aspirations.

As long as you don’t turn them into resolutions or goals, aspirations don’t place a lot of demands on a person. But mine do seem to be making me more attune to things that would bring me closer to becoming the person I aspire to be. Case in point, this week I read an excerpt from James Clear’s Atomic Habits that got me thinking about how I think about my life.

According to Clear, we could all be happier if we changed just one word in the self-talk running through our minds all day. Clear says that instead of going through our days telling ourselves we “have” to do this or we “have” do that, we should say we “get” to do this or that. It doesn’t sound like a big deal; you may have even heard this before. But it got my attention because I do, in fact, often bemoan — in my mind, at least — all the things I think I have to do.

Such a little thing — changing that one word — but it works because there’s an element of gratitude implicit in approaching the daily tasks of life as things we “get” to do rather than things we “have” to do. It’s the gratitude — not the “get to” — that really makes the difference in our happiness. It would make an even greater difference if we added, “God gave me” — as in, I get to do these things because God gave me the strength or the ability or the opportunity — and recognized that we owe our gratitude to Him.

 

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A Kind Word Never Goes Unheard

I seldom listen to music when I’m in my car. A podcast is more my style. But on a recent errand-running day, I pulled out an old Oak Ridge Boys CD and slipped it into my car’s CD player. As I drove from stop to stop, I had a great time singing along to the old hits, but one in particular – “Everyday” – stayed in my head.

Everyday” has a catchy tune, so it’s no surprise it was a hit when it was released back in the ’80s. But it was the song’s message that grabbed my attention on my errand day. The second stanza begins, “A kind word never goes unheard, but too often goes unsaid. On the tongues of the old and the young, it’s swallowed up in pride instead.” So true. Whether out of pride, apathy, or just plain self-absorption we too often neglect to say the kind, encouraging word that could make a difference in someone’s day.

When Paul enjoined the Thessalonians to “encourage one another and build each other up,” his message was meant for future Christians, too. “With all the trouble and sorrow in the world,” as the song goes on to say, no one escapes heartache and pain. And everyone of us can use a kind, encouraging word “everyday.”

As this new year begins, let’s challenge ourselves to follow Paul’s instruction and the song’s plea to “take a kind word into the street and share it with everybody [we] meet.” Instead of letting pride and apathy keep us silent, let’s make the effort to make someone’s day with kindness and encouragement. After all, to quote the song one more time, for Christians, “it seems like the least we can do.”

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Defunding Planned Parenthood

I have a commentary, "Many see Planned Parenthood taking life, not saving it" in today's Roanoke Times.

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What God has Joined Together

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

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christianbed.com/Flickr  cc-by-2.0

Douglas Mainwaring, whose same-sex attraction broke up his marriage nearly twenty years ago, has a poignant essay in Public Discourse about the powerful witness of a faithful marriage. In his essay, Mainwaring describes how the marriage and family life of one of his son’s friends helped lead him to reconciliation with his wife and the recovery of his own marriage.

When his son would come home from visiting this friend, “All I had to do was look into Chris’s eyes,” Mainwaring writes, “to see that he wished he had a family like theirs—a family with a gregarious, big-hearted, and affectionate Mom and Dad who clearly loved each other. I knew that this was precisely what I had deprived Chris and his brother of.”

It was this very loving marriage,” Mainwaring goes on to say, “that first caused me to wonder if I had made a huge mistake in divorcing my wife and breaking our family apart.” Ultimately, the influence of this marriage and this family on his son caused Mainwaring to decide that he “had no choice but to find a way to bring our family back together.”

Mainwaring’s essay is entitled, “Your Marriage: You Have No Idea of the Good You Are Doing,” and this is the point of his essay. The parents of his son’s friend had no idea that simply by faithfully living out their marriage, they were having such a profound impact on Mainwaring and his son. By recounting this story, Mainwaring wants his readers to understand that their own faithful marriages can also affect the lives of others in profound ways they could never imagine. 

Take a few minutes to read Mainwaring’s entire essay, and you’ll gain a new appreciation for the power of an ordinary marriage.

 

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For Kings

I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. – 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Three weeks into the new year, and I’m just now writing a blog post. That after promising myself – we won’t call it a resolution – that I would get back to writing in my blog this year. I’ve never posted to this blog as consistently as I’d like – though I keep paying the annual fee to keep the domain name – but 2016 was a bad year for writer’s block. Between my husband’s continuing battle with cancer and the state of our nation, motivation to write has been hard to come by.

But just this week, someone new started following my blog, so if for no other reason, I figure I owe it to that kind soul to post something. But where to start?

We have a new president. Not my choice, though he did get my vote. I was a never-Trumper until the very last minute, when I finally decided that I couldn’t contribute in any way to Hillary’s becoming president, nor could I in good conscience abstain from voting. And I have to confess to enjoying a certain amount of unChristian-like schadenfreude at seeing liberals and progressives so flummoxed by Trump’s victory.

But I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve bought a pig in a poke, as the saying goes. And my schadenfreude may soon turn into a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

Still, as we well know, God is in control. Trump’s victory didn’t take him by surprise. And while I don’t buy the idea – as some seem to – that Trump has undergone some sort of religious conversion, I do know God can work through the ungodly as well as the godly. Our role now, whether we voted for him or not, is to pray that God will work in and through President Trump to bring about good for this nation and the world.

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They’ll Know Us by Our Love

Woodlawn, a movie that came out last fall, ended with a song I hadn’t heard or thought about in years, By Our Love, sung by for King and Country from A.D. The Bible Continues. Written by Peter Scholtes (according to Wikipedia) near the end of the turbulent 60’s, By Our Love reminds believers that being one in the Spirit means they should display unity and the kind of love the world can’t help but notice.

As I was thinking about last night’s terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, that song came to mind. The distinctive mark of the early Christian church was love. And the ancient world took notice. Love is still the most distinctive thing the church has to offer to a hurting world, and right now, the city of Orlando is hurting. While Christians can’t approve of or affirm the gay lifestyle, they can reach out in Christian love to the family and friends of those killed and injured in the attack.

If Christians take this opportunity to show love and grace to their LGBT neighbors in the aftermath of this terrible event, it’s possible that what Satan meant for evil, God can use for good. And just maybe the people in at least one city will begin to know us by our love.

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America’s Finest Hour

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.” – Winston Churchill

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D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA pixabay.com

Memorial Day is a day to honor all those who gave their lives for this country and for the freedoms for which it stands. But it’s those who served in WWII who are particularly on my mind today. Not only because my dad was a WWII vet (who, thankfully, did not die in combat) and a career serviceman, but also because, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, if the United States were to last for a thousand years, in many ways, I would have to believe WWII was its finest hour.

Many fine men and women have given their lives for America since that time, but WWII was the last war that most all Americans would agree was fought for the right reasons. The United States has never been a perfect nation – in a fallen world, no nation could be. But America has aspired to be a haven of freedom in the world – a testament to which are the millions of people who have emigrated to America over its 200 plus-year history – and victory in WWII was absolutely necessary to maintaining that freedom.

The WWII generation, however, may have been the last generation to really believe in that aspiration, to believe that America really was the land of the free. The generation that followed, the baby boomers – my generation – for reasons both justified and unjustified, began to see America not as the “land of the free” but as “the land of the oppressed.”

Today, despite the achievements of the Civil Rights movement and the immigrants who continue to pour into this country – both legally and illegally – in the hopes of finding a better life, the narrative of America the oppressive persists and grows, and victim groups multiply. To rectify these purported injustices, and in the name of tolerance, the fundamental freedoms the WWII generation fought to preserve – freedom of speech and religion, in particular – are being steadily consumed by freedoms no one of their era could have ever foreseen.

On this Memorial Day, I have to wonder if the men (and it was mostly men) who endured the unspeakable horrors of WWII and gave their lives for this country more than 70 years ago would think that the angry, polarized America their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have inherited was worth the terrible price they paid.

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