Thankful, Tender Hearts

I wrote the following post in 2016. Yet I feel it is just as important today when I think about celebrating all I have to be thankful for. May God bless you and yours this Thanksgiving.

“There are many people in our country and the world today that are suffering. The pain, fear,and loss they are facing leaves little room to be thankful.

Here I am, looking forward to the arrival of some of our children, grandchildren and friends tomorrow. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I enjoy the family gathering, the food, and the focus on being thankful.

Yet I know many are not blessed the way I am. Recently, friends from church lost their college aged son in a tragic accident. A school bus crashed this week causing the loss of five young children. What is there to be thankful for in these situations?

A dear young mother recently shared in our women’s Bible study group that she was dealing with reconciling the fact that –

God is good,

God is faithful,

Yet the pain of the loss of seemingly senseless death lingers.

We are studying Ezekiel, a challenging book heavy with judgement. Yet this young mother shared that she felt challenged by the following verse. Ezekiel 36:26 –

26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

“Do the situations around me cause me to harden my heart, or soften my heart?”

When my young friend said this – I realized – that is the challenge for me as well.

Will I allow situations around me, and personal suffering to harden my heart? Will I allow God to give me a new, tender heart that is able to see and feel His presence in the midst of suffering?

We have much to be thankful for, yet the suffering some face is very real.

The book Defiant Joy, the Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K.Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte recounts that during a period of utter despair, Chesterton “was filled with both an enormous sense of thankfulness, and an enormous need for someone or something to thank.” (p. 218) This insight caused Chesterton to embrace Christianity. He went on to become a critic and writer that greatly influenced the lives of C.S.Lewis among countless others. “The test of all happiness” he wrote, “is gratitude; and I felt grateful.” (p. 221) The defining quality of his life as described by his contemporaries was JOY. Thankfulness leads to joy.

Notice that it was “during a period of utter despair” that Chesterton came to the point of recognizing his need for God. He had a change of heart.

As we gather this Thanksgiving, let us remember to pray for those throughout the world who are suffering in loss and fear.

Pray that we would have tender, thankful hearts to experience God’s faithfulness and love in the midst of all we face.”

Thankful for Grace

Taking time to be thankful is an important task in maintaining spiritual health. It takes us away from “navel gazing”, focusing on what we lack, think is missing, or what we desire for ourselves, to thinking in a broader sense about all that has been given to us.

Much of what has been given to us we haven’t earned and, truth be told, we don’t deserve.

I think this is especially important in the climate of our current culture. So much of the discourse is negative, divisive, polarizing and unkind. The focus often seems to be on “what is best for me”.

My oldest friend (not in age but in years of friendship) Carol and I just returned from visiting our mothers who live in the same retirement community in Wheaton where we both grew up. Carol’s mother just turned 90, and my mother will be 90 in May.

Driving the 648 miles each way together gave us plenty of time to talk. (not hard for either of us!)

We talked about what God had been putting on each of our hearts recently. Carol is being impressed to practice the presence of God, sparked by a rereading of the book of that name by Brother Andrew. She feels that she needs to recognize every opportunity during the day to mediate or pray. Carol’s days are often filled with family responsibilities, yet she also realized that time slips away each day that could be used to sense God’s presence.

Instead of fretting over waiting in line, or delays in traffic, turning one’s attention to God and what He might want to impress her with, she wants to adjust her outlook on daily interruptions. Instead of becoming stressed and resentful, Carol desires to be thankful and aware of God’s presence.

Carol’s thoughts helped me refocus on something I need to do as well.

I shared that I was being impressed to practice GRACE. I realized I was being critical. My criticism was mainly directed toward people I think are critical. Critical of critical people. Really?! How hypocritical!

Grace.

I shared with Carol that as I realized how sinful my critical attitude was, I also realized the answer was – grace. I don’t know the real motives of why people do what they do. Their motivation might be a deep hurt or a lack of understanding.

God has given me SO MUCH grace. The older I get the more I realize how amazing that grace is! Just like the song says…..”Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”….

So, as Thanksgiving comes this week, I want to focus on being thankful for these two insights, as well as my dear family and friends – and

  • the opportunity to practice the presence of God day by day
  • the grace of God that allows me to sense His great love, in spite of my sin, and extend that love to others.

May God bless us with truly thankful hearts.

90 Years of Thankfulness

We had the privilege of celebrating a birthday Saturday with a dear family friend, Nana Kehrli. She is 90 years old, still lives in the home where she raised 3 lovely daughters, just down the road from where she was born on Stoney Creek in eastern Tennessee.

Nana, almost everyone calls her that, has slowed down some physically, but her mind is as sharp as a tack. She is an amazing cook – her Southern pork chops just melt in your mouth. Eating “farm to table” is a trend that is growing in popularity throughout our culture – Nana and her family have always eaten that way.

It could certainly be a factor in her 90 healthy years.

She and her sisters ran a grill, a small community restaurant several years back. It was very popular with local folks who knew they would get the best in home-cooking. They probably never made a lot of money because these Southern ladies treated their customers as they would guests in their home.

“Honey, did you get enough? Do you want some more?.”

“Here, take this plate to your mother. I hear she is feeling poorly.”

If Nana knew someone was recently widowed, she would send an extra meal home for lunch the next day. If she knew someone was hurting financially, she gave a discount.

Nana has seldom gone to the doctor in her 90 years, besides the births of her three daughters. “I don’t go to the doctor, he’ll just find something wrong with me.” she has often been heard to say.

Nana has been a widow since 1968 when her Air Force husband was killed in the Vietnam War. She raised her daughters with the love and support of her close knit family on Stoney Creek.

I told Nana Saturday that she could be so thankful for her 90 years of health and mental acuity.

“Gayle, honey, I get up every morning and thank God for all He has blessed me with. I didn’t know of anyone who is as blessed as I am.”

What a testimony of God’s faithfulness!

Colossians 2:6-7 says

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.

May Nana Kehrli be blessed with God’s grace and peace in her remaining days.

I want to follow her example – overflowing with thankfulness each day for God’s blessings.