Category Archives: Thankfulness

The S Word

"The S Word" written on a lemon tree.by Lydia Floren

One of our favorite family phrases comes from the movie Aladdin.  The little parrot, Iago, gets all upset and starts venting to his boss, the evil Jafar.  Jafar’s response is simply this: “Paaaaatience, Iago. Paaaatience.”

What gets us so riled up, that we lose our patience with ourselves or others? For me, it is the S word.  No, not the four-letter S word….the six-letter one:  “should.”  When “should” creeps into my thoughts and makes its way into my conversations, patience goes out the window. Joy is replaced by restless discontent.  I start focusing on what is wrong instead of what is right.

“They should be doing this. I should be doing that.”

“They should fill all of these potholes.”  “I should get more respect.” “The computer system should always work perfectly.” “I should be able to manage my time better, or be a better person.”

Should is a toxic word. It poisons our peace and eats away at our patience. Shoulds stress us out and put stress on those around us.

Cure for the S word

The cool thing is, there is a cure for the S word–the “should” infection. It’s the T word: thanksgiving. The practice of giving thanks in all things stamps the shoulds right out of our life. Gratitude banishes discontent, restores our joy, and replenishes our patience.

“Thank you Father, that we have paved streets, and that these potholes will eventually be filled.”  “Thank you that You respect and value me, and are teaching me to respect and value myself.” “Thank you that the computer system works 99% of the time, and there is a great team of people working on keeping it that way.”

It doesn’t come easy.

Replacing the “S” word with the “T” word takes some practice. It doesn’t come easy.  In fact it can feel quite awkward and contrived, especially at first.  But, it is incredibly powerful at restoring our perspective and our joy.

“Thank You that every single one of us is imperfect and in process, and You love us right where we are.” “Thank You that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made.” “Thank You that I don’t need to do anything to earn your love, and there is nothing I can do that will change it.” “Thank you that You are always present and at work, and working things to good.”

“Thank you that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for.”

When we cultivate a grateful heart we quit “shoulding” all over ourselves and those around us. Our words and actions are motivated by love instead of driven by discontent.

How has the “S” word invaded your life?  What happens when you replace it with the “T” word?

"patience" on purple petunias

 

Father, Thank You

Woman on pier.  Text reads "Father Thank You"

by Lydia Floren

The following prayer is on the first page of my thanksgiving journal. It blesses me, and I thought it might bless you too.

Father, Thank You…

  • You give me identity. You made me and gifted me with all the wonderful qualities I possess.  You have helped me see them and explore them. To understand them better. To cement them into a better understanding of who I am. 
  • You give me belonging. My place to belong. With no judgment or condemnation. Just acceptance, love, arms open wide. This place/home is

– with You. Every day. Where I am, there You are as well. And where You lead me to be is where I belong at the moment. And I am safe wherever that is.

– with other true believers, including those who have gone before, (like Nouwen, C.S. Lewis, Solzhenitsyn, St. Francis, Brother Lawrence, Hannah Whitehall Smith), and those in the Bible. And those in my life right now.

– And in eternity, my forever home.

And because of this true place that I belong, I can be content in the place that I am, wherever You have led me to be that day.

  • You give me immeasurable value, an innate sense of true worth that has nothing to do with any accomplishment. Just with the reality of who I am – my inherent and unique spirit. You didn’t come to save me for my usefulness, but simply because I am important to you. I was worth coming for and dying for, simply for the joy of my company with You forever.
  • You give me a sense of significance. A unique place of service and influence in this world. You invite me into the world every day to love people, and to serve them and minister to them. To be a part of what You are doing to redeem the world, and to restore it.  In Your power. By Your direction. With Your wisdom and discernment. And because it is in Your power, and by Your direction, I don’t need to fret about the details. I can just trust the process and the plan I have prayed thru with You, knowing that You will adjust and redirect me when needed.
  • You give me safety and provision. Protection. Safe passage wherever You lead me in life. And the understanding that You will provide everything that I need, including contentment in whatever circumstance I find myself. And the ability to face pain and walk through it. And You give me the security of knowing that You will come find me if I wander off the path, and will lead me back in the direction I need to go.
  • You give me guidance, and fellowship/company along the path You have set out for me, every day practical guidance in healing, in ministry, in growth, in self-care, in tending what I have been given. Even guidance in how to plan, to strategize. Guidance in the spontaneous. Guidance in how You want to work thru me to bless others.
  • You give me Yourself.  The greatest and best gift, and the most enduring one. The ongoing joy of knowing that I am continually in Your presence/company. Continually loved/cherished. Continually wanted, and included. Continually protected. Continually supplied with everything that I need. Continually being healed, renewed, empowered, challenged, encouraged.

Father, thank You for the joy of knowing that I can trust You with my whole heart and my whole life. 

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.  John 16:8 

Lifeline, by Lydia Floren

Lifeline

by Lydia Floren

I have spent a lot of time, over the years, learning how to experience and live in God’s love. I have read books, scoured the scriptures.  I have prayed. And I have written articles and launched a website, and spoken to groups on this topic. And prayed some more.  You would think by now I would be living a life where I experience God’s love all the time, that it would come naturally to me. But, often it doesn’t.  Yes, there are times when I “live in the presence of accepted tenderness”, as Brennan Manning calls it.  In those moments or days, I feel like I am in a speedboat skipping over the waves, grinning from ear to ear.  My heart overflows.

But how quickly my world can shift!  I get caught up in the little things, which somehow morph into big things. Or I get blindsided, suddenly lashed by a severe storm. One minute I am atop the water, the next I am up to my chin in choppy waves, struggling for every breath. My natural reaction, of course, is to flail, to fight with all my strength to keep my head above the current.  In my panic I have lost sight of Jesus’ steady gaze.  I no longer see his strong hand just inches from my own.

My lifeline

In the middle of the tempest God often whispers (and his whisper can be very loud, believe me!)

“Give thanks.”

“What? can’t you see I’m drowning here, Father? There is no time for this.”

“I see exactly what is going on, Child.”

“Give thanks. Now.”

I have learned through hard experience that I had best pay attention to that oh-so-kind voice. To take a gulp of air and give thanks right where I am.  When I do, the whole tempest around me shapeshifts into calm. The storm isn’t gone, of course.  I have just found the calm in its center. So I begin…

Thank you…

Thank you that you are going to make something wonderful out of all of this, and work it all to good. thank you for your goodness. Your care. Your constant presence in my life. thank you that I can trust you to give me strength to do what you are calling me to do. thank you for teaching me not to avoid the fire, but to walk through it under your protection. Thank you that you are not, and never will be, ashamed of me. That you know and have covered, not only my past mistakes, but also the ones I will make in the future. Thank you that you love me more than I can imagine. And thank you that I can trust you to guide me, and protect me. 

Thanksgiving changes everything. It is like opening the valve to a fire hydrant on a hot day.  Or turning on the light in a dark room. Or…or meeting God’s gaze in the middle of the storm, and then clutching on to his hand with all my might.  Terrified one minute, and content the next.

Are you in the middle of a storm? Overwhelmed with mounting bills, a deep hurt, or a scary diagnosis? Or an oppressive sense of failure? Are you fighting for your life?

Maybe it’s time to stop reacting to the problem, and start looking toward Your Lifeline.  To quit flailing.

Take a deep breath.  And then whisper these simple words: “Thank you….”

Once you start, He’ll help you fill in the rest.

Christmas Stories

Christmas Stories

by Letitia Suk

I have a large pile of Christmas books, because I like to read other people’s stories. Usually, they center on a situation with a sticky problem. then a miraculous solution that shows up, at almost the last minute. Do you like those, too?

You and I have our own tales of Christmas, too, like the “Ghosts of Christmas Past.” Maybe not as dramatic, but no less precious. I started keeping a “Christmas Journal” about thirty years ago, as a place to hold all my stories, but the best ones I know by heart.

Some of my memorable Christmas moments didn’t start out all cozy, but more like crazy, or even disastrous. Quite a few, in fact. Sometimes, the solution was a little slow to show up. Funny, how we don’t remember the uneventful ones nearly as well!

Some Christmas memories are almost quirky.  Like my earliest and best Christmas memory is a smell:  the plastic-y smell of a new doll, as every year one showed up under the tree. I still love the smell of new shower curtains, because it is exactly the same scent!

But there are different kinds of memories we can pull up this time of year…

In the great Magnificat, or Mary’s Song, as recorded in Luke, that we read or hear every year, there is one lin, that melts me every time: “For the Mighty One has done Great Things for me, Holy is His name.” ( Luke 1:49)

“Great Things He Has Done,” wow!  I can say with Mary, great things He has done for me, too. I bet you can, too.

What great things are in your storybook? Not just from Christmas-time, but from all times of your life.

The Bible reminds us often to remember. “Only be careful and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart, as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deut 4:9)

Do you have memories of God’s power?  His faithfulness?  His provision?  Great things He has done in your family? I hope you are nodding your head.

Can you remember the first thing God did for you? I wrote about my first memory in “Getaway with God.” I’ll give you a hint, it is about a bird.

At an Advent retreat years ago, the facilitator sent us for an hour of alone time, to answer that question: What are the “great things” He has done? Turned out to be one of the most powerful lists I have ever made.

Try something fun this season, and set aside some time to name all the things God has done for you, in this last year, month, day, so far. If you’ve got a little more time, go back as far as you can.  You can even sit by your tree and sip hot cocoa while you compose your list ☺

Maybe your memories won’t end up nicely packaged on someone’s coffee table (they might!), but you can re-read your own favorite storybook anytime. It is always right at hand.

And this story never ends.

Letitia Suk, author of  Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat.          c. Letitia Suk 2016/Letitiasuk.com

Thank you, Tish, for “guest blogging” this week! Merry Christmas, all! May God’s love fill your life to overflowing in this coming year!  Lydia

The Extraordinary Ordinary

1:15:16 Extraordinaryby Lydia Floren

We spend most of our lives doing ordinary tasks.  We may be stirring a pot, or bandaging a scrape, or commuting to work.  We may be taking a class, or hammering a nail, or tending a sick patient.

God is in these moments.

The secret of contentment is to celebrate God’s presence in our ordinary lives.  When we welcome Him in to our every-day, He blesses even the most mundane activities with a transcendence that is akin to worship.

Our ordinary is extraordinary.

How have you experienced the extraordinary ordinary?

1:15:16 Sunray

Celebrating Immanuel – God With Us

12:4:15 Immanuelby Lydia Floren

I made a new friend at a conference last summer, a writer named Letitia Suk.  In her wonderful book Rhythms of Renewal,  Tish mentioned her practice of recording a few things everyday in a thanksgiving journal.  I was inspired.  I started a thanksgiving journal of my own.  (I’m still a bit spotty, but the habit is taking hold.)

As I mentioned last week, it is easy for me to forget to actually give thanks TO God.  In the same way, I can also neglect to give thanks FOR God.  Like the prodigal and his brother, in focusing on the Father’s gifts, I can overlook His greatest gift:  Himself.

So I have an idea for advent:  each time I write in my thanksgiving journal, I will try to include at least one attribute of God that I am particularly thankful for.  For example:

Thank you Father, for


  • Your kindness
  • Your wisdom 
  • Your sense of humor
  • Your beauty
  • Your grace 
  • Your strength 
  • Your consistency
  • Your faithfulness
  • Thank you for the ways I have seen You and known You more this year

Thanking God for Himself.   What a wonderful way to celebrate Immanuel – God with us!

What a wonderful way of welcoming in advent!

Share with us:  What qualities of God are you particularly thankful for?

Giving Thanks At Thanksgiving

11:25:15 Giving Thanks

Every good and perfect gift is from above. James 1:17
I just got back from an amazing trip literally to the other side of the world.  I was invited to come and speak at a women’s conference, the first one specifically for women that the hosts had ever organized.  I was humbled, and frankly a bit afraid; I was speaking 7 times in 2 days, and to folks from a completely different culture.  I prayed.  And prepared.  And prayed.  And others prayed with me.  And God showed up.  Every day.  And in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share a bit more of what I saw and learned, but today I thought it would be appropriate just to write on one topic from the conference: “Be Thankful.”  I know, I know.  To those of you that follow my blog, you know how much I have written about giving thanks.  Nothing new there.  But the reason I keep circling back to thanks-giving is because this habit has had such an impact in my life.  The more I focus on giving thanks to God, the more I find my life transformed.  And so, there is often something new I am learning about thanks-giving.

Here’s what I mean.  On Thanksgiving Day, of course we Americans are reminded to give thanks.  Amid feasting and family and football, we often stop and think—and even verbalize—some things we are thankful for.  In our family, this happens during The Big Meal.  (Might I add, the only meal I truly cook the whole weekend!).  Sometime between turkey and pumpkin pie, we all lean back in our chairs and take turns mentioning things in the past year we are particularly grateful for.

It’s a good thing to do.
But it is easy to emphasize blessings, more than The Giver of those blessings.  When it is my turn at the table, I will say what I am thankful for.  But, I can often forget to mention Who I am thankful to.  I often neglect to actually say the words, “Thank you God.”  Like the eleven lepers, I am thrilled with the gifts, but I’m not expressing gratitude to The Giver.

Thanks-giving has a point.  A person on the other end.  A person that we are thanking.

To truly give thanks, there must be a recipient:  someone we giving thanks TO.

So, this year as you rejoice in your blessings, remember WHO you are thankful TO:  the Giver of every good and perfect gift.  And then take a little time to actually say the words to Him.

Say, “Thank You God.”

It’s a good thing to do.

This season, what are you especially thankful to God for?

Morning Joy

Morning Joy

God gave me a beautiful gift this morning, as I was driving down the interstate.

It was 6:30 a.m., and I was in a hurry – it was going to be a long day.  As I rounded the final bend before my exit, a spectacular vista met my eyes:  a pink/purple dawn spread out over a distant blue ridge, which was draped in wispy clouds.  It reminded me of the Smoky Mountains – of home.

“Quick, get out the camera and snap a picture!”, I told myself.  No.  Not a good idea at 70 mph.  Just enjoy.  Soak in the beauty of the moment (and try to keep an eye on the road)!

That sunrise was a gift at the beginning of a difficult day.  It was as if God was saying,

“I am here.  All is well.  Enjoy.”

He says that to me a lot, actually.  In all kinds of ways.  Too many times, I don’t see.  Or I see, but I don’t stop to give thanks.  (I’m a slow learner.)

You know, on those days that I do notice God’s ever-abundant gifts, and choose to thank Him, something wonderful happens.  JOY settles over me like mist on a mountain.

In Your presence is fullness of joy!  Psalm 16:11

Morning On The Marsh

Morning on the Marsh

by Lydia Floren

For so much of my life, I brush past the magnificence of God’s creation. One day this past week, I stilled myself enough to absorb a bit of its wonder. Andrew and I were wrapping up a visit to South Carolina. We spent our last few days with dear friends in their Georgetown home, situated on the edge of the Edisto Marsh. Our final day, I woke up early and wandered out on the back deck. The boards were still damp from a nighttime rain. The breeze was uncharacteristically cool. I settled into a chair and tried to soak in the sights and sounds of my beloved South one last time before heading home. Here is my attempt to put into words a morning’s beauty in the Low Country:

Morning on the Marsh

Crickets hum.
Trees rustle.
Birdsongs echo.

Sound surrounds.

Thump-thump, thump-thump.
Wind-stirred leaves spill staccato drops.

Sparrows flit between moss-draped branches.
Tall pines brush a dusky sky.
Waters glimmer amid cattail reeds.

Seagrass ripples.

A snowy egret glides across
the flat expanse of gold-tipped green.

Wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

What are you noticing about God’s beauty this summer?

Related Posts:  Spring In The North Woods

Recent Post: Encountering God Our Father

All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided

AllIHaveNeeded

by Lydia Floren

Can we really count on God to meet all of our needs?

YES.

Really?   How can we know this?

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. 

                Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.

Thomas Chisholm wrote these words, and sang them with confidence because he made a habit of remembering.  He chose over and over again to recall all the times that God had provided for him.

When doubts creep in, make a habit of remembering.   Choose–and then continue to choose– to bring to mind God’s past faithfulness in your life, and in the lives of others.   And then choose to thank God for His consistent loving care.

The longer we follow God, the louder we sing

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. Psalm 37:25

thelongerwefollow

Related Posts: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Recent Series: NOMB Part I, NOMB Part II, NOMB Part III