The Peace of Christmas

Romans 15:4-13; Isaiah 11:1-13
December 4, 2016
Stockton Presbyterian Church, Stockton, Missouri

One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. The plaque was covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side of it, with a title over it reading, “Rest in Peace.” The seven-year-old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside him and said quietly, “Good morning, Alex.”

“Good morning, Pastor,” replied the young man, still focused on the plaque. “Pastor, what is this?” Alex asked.

“Well, son, it’s a memorial to all the men and women who have died in the service.”

Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little Alex’s voice was barely audible when he finally managed to ask, “Which service, 9 or 10:30?”

Of the four traditional themes of Advent, Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love, I find peace to be the one of the most elusive personally.  It isn’t that I don’t believe God is with me—I’m good with that.  And it isn’t that I don’t believe God has a plan—I’m there.  I suppose it is because I can’t see those things.  Sometimes I can’t see God in my life without looking very closely, and sometimes I’m not quite sure that God’s plan and my journey are on the same path.  You have probably all heard that saying that “God is always on time, although he may act on the 11th hour.  I joked a few weeks ago, as I have been on this journey seeking employment, “God, I know your watching is always on time, but mine is saying it is past midnight right now!”

We approach the peace of Advent as personal peace, of a personal journey and something we hold to ourselves, for ourselves, and maybe a few good friends.  In America we practice a “personal” faith.  Me and Jesus!  And while there is some validity to that concept as we’ll discuss later, the peace of Christmas is so much more than personal peace.  I suggest to you today that while each of us can have peace within ourselves through our faith in God—The peace that is declared by the angels is peace on earth—peace with others—peace that is infectious and changes this world.

Unfortunately, the peace of Christmas, of Christianity, the peace that tells each of us that God Is with me and will take care of ME, and protect ME from THEM is only a very small portion of the promise, of the peace of Christmas.  Peace isn’t just a lack of fighting or a serene group of people who smile and meditate and never fight—outwardly.  The peace of Christmas is the presence of God around us, protecting us, sure, but the purpose of that peace is not to contain us and our worries and anxieties, but to change us and flow out from us, so the peace of God can envelop and transform those around us, like the waves emitting from the rock dropped in the pond.

Prayer

  1. Peace gives us endurance
    1. Anyone who lived through this past election season can testify that there was no peace anywhere, and that condition threatens to continue indefinitely. Democrats were afraid of the Republican candidate, Republicans were afraid of the Democrat candidate, and the Libertarians, well, they just didn’t like either of them.
      Beyond the election, civil unrest occurred, causing cars to be overturned and burned, people shot, buildings looted and destroyed, citizens attacked and hurt.
    2. 4—everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
    3. Many of my friends wanted to just give up in October and into November. They felt they couldn’t endure—what with the commercials, the news broadcasts, the phone calls!  Oh yes, the phone calls!  They were just sick of the whole mess and wanted it to go away.  No peace, no desire to endure.
    4. Yet Paul tells us that the writings, the Bible, teach us endurance and give us hope. There is no peace without hope.  There is no peace on earth without hope for peace.  So what is Paul trying to tell us here?  Is it enough to carry my big Bible to church and read along with the pastor once a week?  Will that give us enough hope so we can experience peace through the week?  Hopefully!  But no, Paul’s intent in this passage is that we learn from the Scriptures, from “what was written,” that we be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  Sure, this can happen without the Bible to read.  Testimonies all over the world tell how the Spirit and even visions of Christ have brought people to faith and to change.  But they did not have the Bible.  We do.  Don’t pray to God for peace if you aren’t spending time in the Word of God, if you aren’t allowing time for God’s Spirit to speak to you and bring you hope.  It is that transformation to hope that will bring you to peace and to be a peacemaker.
  2. Peace helps us accept one another
    1. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    2. Peace in myself, without love for one another, isn’t God’s peace. You see, these four themes of Advent, hope, peace, joy, and love, are integral to one another.  It isn’t a pick-and-choose kind of shopping event, but a cohesive way of life.
    3. The same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had: John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  Jesus’ words.  WHOEVER believes, not whoever thinks like me, acts like me, looks like me.  The heart of God reaches out to everyone.  There is a farm on 96 west of Springfield.  On their mailbox is nailed a sign—“God is angry with the wicked”  An OT passage used to say “we are different, and you need to be like us.  Our Dad is bigger than your dad, and our Dad doesn’t like you.”  No, God sent His Son for everyone. God may be mad at their actions, what they do, but God extends divine love to all.
    4. That you may glorify the God and Father. You see, our faith, our relationship with God isn’t just for us, it is for God, it is for the purpose of glorifying God.  It isn’t to make us comfortable and happy, but to challenge us to grow and reflect God even when we’re uncomfortable, even when it’s storming, even when things don’t go our way.  God’s peace, the peace of Christmas, is an outflowing transformation that chases away darkness by its infectious light, helping us to be a servant, as Christ served, despite pain, hardship, persecution, and hatred.
  3. The Peace of Christmas belongs to everyone.
    1. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews[a] on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
    2. If I have peace, God’s peace, I cannot continue hating my neighbor, the immigrant (illegal or otherwise), the atheist, the Buddhist, the Muslim. The peace of Christmas teaches us to accept one another, not for their good alone, but to bring praise to God.  It doesn’t teach us to simply accept each other’s actions or beliefs or attitudes, but their souls, the creation God made so they can glorify God for his mercy.  Do our worship, our fellowship, our lives reflect God’s grace and mercy to others, especially to those who are different?
    3. Isaiah 15:12 “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations;  in him the Gentiles will hope.”
    4. When we choose to live in real peace, God’s peace, we find ourselves able to love one another, even the “gentiles” in our lives. The drug addicted.  The thieves.  The homeless.  The arrogant.  The hateful.
    5. There is a teaching in psychology, in systems theory, that when I change, it changes the system in which I live and function. God’s love in us, as it transforms us, also transforms those around us, which eventually has the possibility of transforming the world.  That small band of believers after Jesus’ resurrection changed their world.  How can we?

God sent Jesus Christ, not to make us feel good about ourselves, even though that happens.  God did not send Jesus just to help us feel secure and protected, even though that happens when we follow God.  God did not send the Babe of Bethlehem to make us better than anyone else, but to make us like Jesus.

As we share from the Table today, I ask you to meditate on the peace of Christmas.  Are you fearful or experiencing anxiety?  God is with you and will make a way.  Are you struggling?  God will carry you through.  Are you finding it hard to love your neighbor, family member, those who are different?  God will transform you so that the peace in your heart will allow you to love and accept others.  But this only happens through relationship, through time spent in prayer, in meditation, in reading and learning from the Word of God.  Will you make a further commitment today to spend a few more minutes this week—in spite of the hurriedness of the season—in the presence of God, letting God’s Spirit soak down into your spirit?  Take a few moments, while we prepare for the Lord’s Table, to make a mental list of those with whom you do not have peace, those whom you do not accept, asking God to fill you with hope, peace, joy, and encouragement, so that you can glorify God in your life, and so they will glorify God for His mercy toward them.

Benediction

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Being Light in the Midst of Turmoil

High school was an amazing time.  We lived in a row house in a blue-collar neighborhood (steel town) in the early 70s, with a tremendously varied population, mostly Eastern European Catholics and a growing African-American population.  The parochial schools I attended through sixth grade were small and pretty narrowly filled.  One was a Slovak congregation, and the other Lithuanian.  Imagine my awe and fright when in 7th grade I entered South High School, 7-12.  To me it was huge and amazing and scary all at the same time.  Thankfully I had my older cousin and her friends to help me make the transition, as well as my closest friend and cousin, the same age, to walk the journey together.

As the years passed, I did what I am still known for doing–I worked hard to get the top grades, joined organizations and tried to create new ones, and I made friends, lots of them, from all over the population of the school.  There were kids from Catholic school, the high achievers, the “I’m here, but don’t ask too much more” group, and the “yeah, so I’ll show up from time to time” group.  It was interesting keeping the balance between all of these and keeping up my grades, but a few things hurt me during that time.

All teenagers want to “fit in.”  My parents understood that, but they were very protective, and they kept pretty good tabs on where I was going and who I would be with.  Helpful.  On the other hand, to fit in with my rarely there or sometimes there friends at school, I started skipping classes from time to time.  We never did anything to get in trouble outside of the building, just hung out at the park or the candy store or pizza shop.  And I worked twice as hard to be sure I finished all my school work and kept my grades up.  Not really helpful.  During my senior year, while still carrying all As for my work, two of my teachers decided to make an example of my absences and dropped my grades to the bottom of the range.  It wasn’t fair, I cried.  My parents considered making me quit my after school job at McDonalds.  I really wasn’t allowed out with friends anymore.  And I lost my bid for valedictorian.  For the next semester I worked extra hard to bring those grades back up, and by the time I graduated they were As once again.

Why do I share this all now?  Because I’m still that person.  I’m still a high achiever, wanting to do the best I can in most things I do (sans housekeeping and yard work!).  I’m still a creative thinker and problem solver.  And I still have lots of friends from many areas of life, by whom I am blessed constantly.  There are my friends and colleagues from all over the religious and political gamut, nationality list, and racial spectrum; lower-, middle-, and upper-class, and every age you can think of.  These contacts, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, fill my life with information, energy, laughter, sometimes tears and frustration, and challenge, and help God form me into the person God has planned for me to become.

But just as in high school, navigating this stew of organizations, individuals, backgrounds, and ideologies can take its toll.  While they stretch and challenge me, there are times when I find myself drawn into ideas and movements because of energy without taking time to think them through. I have realized that before I take a step, speak out, I need to find my center, my balance, the place where I am faithful not to my network, but to where God is leading me.

If you take a look at my Facebook feed, you’ll see evidence of that stew I talked about earlier–all over the spectrum.  It used to be even more so.  At first I was hesitant about blocking people or posts.  I didn’t want to offend anyone.  I wanted to stay friends so my faith and life might affect others as they affected me.  It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t working, and I found ways to block certain posts that contained hateful or sexual or just not helpful items.  Then my “friends” started arguing with one another about posts I made or shared, you know, the right and the left and the in-between.  Yikes!  What to do?

I like living in this place of mixture, of blending, of movement, bringing the neighborhood together, starting conversations, looking at all sides of the argument.  Even so, I’ve been reminded about foundations, starting points, presuppositions.  I’ve examined myself and decided that these are mine.

  • I am a believer in Jesus Christ and in the Bible.  I find guidance and strength in the words on those pages and through the voice of the Spirit of God leading and guiding me.
  • My thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and I find it necessary to step back and compare mine to what God has expressed.  “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV).
  • My way is not the only way to live, although I am steadfast in my faith beliefs. There are other lifestyles, faiths, and approaches to life that I might not find helpful to me or choose for myself, but which I must respect and seek to understand.
  • The Bible teaches that every person has value and significance.  Black or white or yellow or anything in between, rich or poor or just doing good, highly moral, addicted, criminal, or profane, etc., no person is more or less valuable in society or to God.
  • Hatred, for any reason, is not a fruit of the Spirit or an acceptable approach to any person or group, regardless of their beliefs, political stance, or actions.   This political season is evidence of that.  Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV):  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
  • Anger might be an honest response, but acting out on anger without reasoned thought (see above) or injuring persons, groups, or communities verbally, physically, or economically because of my anger cannot stand.
  • I cannot give dignity back to one person/group by taking another’s.  The only way to equality is to bring everyone up, not tear others down.  While there may be a struggle to get there, movement must be forward, with the goal of helping all, not hurting some.
  • Fear is not a place to live, especially in community.  Are there things to fear?  Definitely.  Is there danger?  Sometimes, yes.  However, living in fear of others not only hurts me, it entraps me into non-reasoning, reactionary thinking.  Fear is not my ally but only an invitation to think through a problem and find a step forward.  1 John 4:18, in The Message, says, “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”
  • By my example and my words, I will not spread fear, but hope, even when it seems there is none to be found.  In the face of devastation and unfairness, I will hope in the work of God in individual hearts to turn to love, to peace, in spite of what I see.
  • Answers will never be instant.  All journeys take many steps, ups and downs, turns right and left, and even back for a season.  I will try to stay calm, to listen and think, then act.  I want to look at all sides, gather all the information, and even then take my time in moving to be sure that my steps will not cause harm.
  • I am not the Savior.  Period.  The world and its ills do not rest on my shoulders alone. I am only a piece of the awkwardly shaped, strangely designed puzzle, albeit an important piece, as is every other person and every other thought.  I don’t know everything, and again, my perspective isn’t the end-all.
  • First and foremost, I will use my voice to share the message of faith and hope, but in that message, I must speak for all that the Bible calls for:  love of God’s creation, care for my neighbor, freedom from fear and hopelessness, and dignity of the person.
  • While I may be used as a voice for others, I will remember that I cannot be an effective voice for others if I have not heard from them, if I am taking their pain as my own and reacting in frustration and anger, if I make it about me and not about the other, and if I segregate those who disagree.
  • Finally, I will choose to live in hope and faith that each day will bring another step toward God’s kingdom, toward peace.  Though each step may be small, I will not despise small beginnings or steps, but strive to live in faith instead of dread, hope instead of fear, love instead of hate. “Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!” (Zechariah 4:10, The Message).

I suppose if I boiled all of these down to one thought, it would be my feeble and often-failing commitment to love, not just my spouse, my family, my friends–however varied they may be, but to love my neighbors, nearby and across the world.  Love like that isn’t mine, but something God is working in me, day by day, moment by moment, decision by decision.

I’m thankful for all of my friends, and I hope you all will stick in there with me, continuing the conversation, seeking out ways to make the world better for everyone, not just our side or group.  You see, in the end, it isn’t our politics that will make things better, though it might help.  It isn’t just our protests or votes that will make the difference, although they are important.  We can keep our own beliefs and ideologies while accepting others and treating them with respect, consideration, forgiveness, and partnership to find a better way, even if they treat us badly. This country, this world will only change when we love one another with the love that God has shown to each of us.  “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh [thoughts, feelings, ideologies, backgrounds, emotions]; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:18, NIV, expansion mine).

 

Words of Wisdom . . . Thoughts of Hope Kindle Sale! Four Days Only

Wanting to purchase a Kindle version of the book but waiting for a bargain? This is it!  Purchase Words of Wisdom . . . Thoughts of Hope for Kindle today for $0.99!
Sale lasts for four days
September 28 $0.99
September 29 $1.99
September 30 $2.99
September 31 $3.99
October 1 back to full price — $4.99

A little nibble :

Simple Faith

I was about ten years old, maybe nine, when I heard the “angels’ songs.” Alone in our row-house kitchen on a warm summer afternoon, I heard some kind of music through the window. Stepping out on the back door stoop, I looked around to find the source of the music. In the back of my mind I knew they were wind chimes, but there, in the alleyway between the houses, to me the sounds were divine, angels playing music in worship of God. Enraptured by the song of the chimes I stood there for several minutes, singing to God myself and enjoying God’s presence there in my backyard.

Children have an awesome way of recognizing the miraculous and the beautiful in life.  They see with different eyes and hear with different ears—senses that have yet to be tainted by the world’s harshness.  Children simply believe.  . . .

New Book! Words of Wisdom . . . Thoughts of Hope

Now available on Kindle and Amazon.com, my new book of meditations, poetry, and inspirational image:  Words of Wisdom . . . Thoughts of Hope!  Click here for a free preview.  Black-and-white and Kindle versions are currently available on Amazon and on CreateSpace E-Store.  Full color version should be available shortly.  And because you are my friend, you can get a $2 discount on the black-and-white edition at the CreateSpace store using this code,  74LJKB5M, for the next two weeks.

Kindle EditionWords of wisdom icon

Black and white icon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A collection of original meditations and poetry, along with inspirational images, this book brings hopeful and comforting thoughts, along with encouragement and challenges to faith.   Available in three editions:

  • Full color edition.  This edition, priced at $18.99, contains full-color illustrations and would be a wonderful gift or coffee table book.
  • Black-and-White Edition.  The same as the full-color edition, but in black and white, and at a lower price.
  • Kindle Edition  Full-color Kindle file.  Also available in Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks for checking out this new work and for posting a review.

Blessings!

Mary Kay

 

 

What Do You Say? How Do You Live?

Sermon: What Do You Say? How Do You Live?”
Luke 17:11-19
November 22, 2015
Woodland Heights Presbyterian Church
Rev. Mary Kay Glunt

Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, “Certainly the preacher won’t think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this.” Much to his surprise, however, Whyte began by praying, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.” Daily Bread, August 26, 1989.

Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it.
Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!”
John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.”
“But you must!” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.”

“All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'”

Source Unknown.

Thanksgiving. For many it is the name of a holiday, a time to gather with family and/or friends, and a time to get ready for an insane shopping experience. Like many other holidays in our society,–Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July, etc., the background and meaning of the observation has been greatly lost on us.

We’ll gather together, eat our favorite foods, maybe watch football and laugh, or even argue, but in many cases, prayer and thoughts of God will be forgotten.

The first recorded thanksgiving meals on this continent were in the newly established colonies. We are all familiar with the meal the pilgrims shared with the Native Americans in 1621, when the latter helped them plant indigenous crops and so saved their lives. But even earlier, in Jamestown, the winter of 1610 had decimated their group of 409 settlers to 60. They prayed for help, and when it arrived on a ship filled with food and supplies, they had a prayer meeting to give thanks to God.

Over the years Thanksgiving has taken many forms. Each home has different traditions and different menus. But will we, this week, be like those who took time out to thank God for their blessings, or will we be like modern society, enjoying our blessings with no thought of how we received them?

In our gospel reading today, Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem. He came upon ten men in a camp outside of the village. They were there because each of them had leprosy. These men would have had bandages and wounds because of the lack of sensation caused by the disease. They may have lost appendages, noses, ears, because of the disease. Whatever it was, they were ostracized from common society to prevent spreading it to the healthy. Today we would call them “marginalized.”

Each of us, at one time in our lives, has found ourselves in a place where we are on the outside, feeling left out, abandoned, outcast, whether by friends or family, or even by God, we felt as if we had nothing, no strength, no help, no hope. Until we heard about Jesus. Until we realized that God just might help us, and we called upon Him. Likewise, these men had heard of Jesus, and they called out to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (v. 13). They approach Him because it was forbidden for them to approach the healthy, but Jesus heard their call and He told them: “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” Now I can imagine these men struggled for a moment with that command, because they weren’t to go to the priest or to be in the village at all. What to do? Trust in Jesus and be healed, but take the chance that by approaching the priest they would break social conventions? In faith, they started off in obedience, and as they went, they were cleansed, healed, delivered.

How many times have you prayed for God’s help in your life? How many times has God blessed you beyond what you were able to achieve? When have you recognized God’s hand in resolving a situation you couldn’t rectify? As they walked they realized they had been healed. I can see it now. They were dragging their feet, stumbling, perhaps using crutches, hunched over and weary. They were wondering what they were doing. Then one foot was easier to pick up. An arm no longer drooped to the side. One man stood a little straighter. Another was able to drop the crutch. Soon they were all walking without impediment or pain, and they probably jumped around, rejoicing and celebrating, as they did what Jesus told them to do.

On realizing he was healed, one man disobeyed and took a detour, first coming back to thank Jesus for the miracle. This man was a Samaritan, and he was so grateful that he set aside his own gladness, his own restoration to a normal life, in order to give thanks to Jesus.

There is an old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. But sometimes, there are no disciples in victory. Let me explain. When times are tough, we pray. When we can’t see a way out, we call on God, sometimes shouting to be sure He hears us! When we have needs, we take them to the Lord. We make commitments: Lord if you do this, I will . . . “ But sometimes, when the answer comes, we get so involved in the blessings that we forget about the One who blessed us. We forget how bad it was and how needy we were, thinking ourselves to be strong on our own once again and in no need of anyone else.

What does it mean to be thankful? Dictionary.com says it is feeling or expressing gratitude, which is defined as warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received. We are thankful, perhaps, and we shoot off a quick prayer of thanks to God and continue on our way, unchanged by the blessing, still going our own way. We forget to give God the glory He is due. I believe being thankful is more than just saying “thank you,” as if God had just opened the door for us, but being truly thankful is being changed, letting God’s mercy and grace change who we are as we go forward doing what Jesus has asked us to do.

Why did only one cleansed leper return to thank Jesus? The following are nine suggested reasons why the nine did not return:
One waited to see if the cure was real.
One waited to see if it would last.
One said he would see Jesus later.
One decided that he had never had leprosy.
One said he would have gotten well anyway.
One gave the glory to the priests.
One said, “O, well, Jesus didn’t really do anything.”
One said, “Any rabbi could have done it.”
One said, “I was already much improved.”
Charles L. Brown, Content The Newsletter, June, 1990, p. 3.

All of the men were healed. They were doing what they had been told, but one returned because the gift was so great, so amazing, that he had to give thanks to Jesus. The man who returned was not only healed physically, but upon returning he received a second blessing from Jesus, that of salvation. “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

In three of the four chapters of the book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul links being thankful with our relationship with God, how we live the Christian life.

Colossians 2:6-7–6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 3:15–Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 4:2–Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

So being thankful is so much more than a quick prayer, but it is a lifestyle that expresses gratitude to God for not just the answer to prayer, but for the mercy and grace shown to us.

And there’s more. You see, being thankful to God should flow out in our interactions with others. The Apostle Paul also modeled this when he said to the Ephesians: 15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Some call it, “an attitude of gratitude,” a way of living that looks for the good instead of the bad, an attitude that seeks honor instead of punishment, one that lifts up instead of tearing down.
G. K. Chesterton once said, I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

According to Dictionary.com, “gratitude” comes from the word “grace,” and so living with an attitude of gratitude is living a grace-filled life, a life so full of grace that it cannot help but pour out on those around you. It isn’t indebtedness to the other. It isn’t just appreciation either. Gratitude includes a feeling of awe, of wonder, as to why God or that person did that for me. Gratitude takes our eyes off of what is wrong with our lives and fixes them on what we have received. Psychology Today says that gratitude opens us up to connect with something that is fundamentally good and reassuring and inhibits painful emotions such as anxiety, heartbreak, loneliness, regret, and envy. It changes our perspective. It changes us.

This Thanksgiving week, I challenge you to consider which of the ten lepers you are. You may be following the directions, but are you thankful? You may be healed and moving on in life, but are you being changed by the grace God has bestowed upon you? Be ye thankful, not only to God, but to one another. Let God’s grace change you.  Look for the good in those around you and affirm it, as God has affirmed you.

Link: Josh Groban, “Thankful” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5nNckK5Tmc

A Message To The Church of The Hurting

john pavlovitz

Crowd
Everyone you meet is broken.

Whether you realize it or not, every single day you rub shoulders with people in great pain.

They are among the growing multitude of walking wounded in your midst, many presently laboring as they try to take that most excruciating of steps: the next one.

Most of them don’t wear their damage so that it can be easily seen, though. To be vulnerable like that is to risk further injury, and so they gradually learn to conceal and cover the tender, throbbing, torn-up parts of themselves from others. Though they surely suffer in the solitude and silence, at least there they find some illusion of control, some measure of safety.

And if you aren’t really looking closely at people as they cross your path, you might likely mistake them for the confident, together, secure, unaffected successes that they so desperately want to be seen as. You might well be fooled by their carefully crafted veneers of…

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