An Attitude of Gratitude

I have always admired the blind and deaf woman, Helen Keller. She did not let her disabilities defeat her. She used them to become a champion for the rights of women and people with disabilities. I also admire people who have experienced abuse as children who, later in life, have been able to use their experiences to help others affected by a similar thing. They have turned their misfortunes into good. The Lord is always with us to bring good out of every situation, no matter how bad. I’m not saying we shouldn’t grieve over our hurts and sorrows but that we should have an expectation that the Lord will bring¬† about some good from it.

It’s so easy to get bogged down in negativity, dwelling on the state of the world and the things that are going wrong in our lives. But every situation has something to teach us. The key is to look for the good that can come out of it – how it can be turned to good – to look for the lessons we can learn and the opportunities to bless others facing similar difficulties.

No matter how bad things are, there are always things we can be grateful for. There are so many little things that we take for granted, so many ways that we are blessed. The more we recognise our blessings and appreciate what we have, the more we nurture the desire in ourselves to reach out and help those who do not have. There are so many in the world who are in need, many who are struggling to survive in the face of disaster. There are always people worse off than we are. Rather than focusing on what is wrong in our lives or what we haven’t got, we could be thinking about what we have got that we can give. Let’s celebrate what we have got and show our appreciation by givng back to the Source in any way we can. And let’s rejoice in the many blessings that we enjoy everyday that we often take for granted. As Helen Keller said, “I am sure that if you faced the fate of blindness you would use your eyes as never before. Everything you saw would become dear to you. Your eyes would touch and embrace every object that came within your range of vision. Then, at least, you would really see, and a new world of beauty would open itself before you.”

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy is forever.





Abundant Life

I once read an account of a well-known American psychotherapist, who went to visit an elderly client in her home in Milwaukee. The house was dark and dreary except for one thing Рthere was a greenhouse attached to the house where the woman had spent many  happy hours working with her plants. Her most recent project was to take cuttings of African violet plants and grow new plants from them.

Unfortunately, the woman was very isolated, being confined to a wheelchair, and no longer actively involved in her church. She relied on others to transport her around and did not like to inconvenience people. Loneliness and depression were her everyday companions.

After hearing the woman talk about her life, the therapist pointed out what she had going for her – plenty of money, time on her hands, and green fingers. He recommended that she get a copy of the church newsletter and keep up with the news of births, deaths, graduations, engagements and marriages – all the happy and sad events in the lives of the local people. Then he suggested that she get some African violet plants well established and when they were flowering she could gift wrap them and have them delivered to the people who were affected by those happy and sad events, along with her congratulations or condolences and comfort, whichever was appropriate. The woman agreed to this plan.

About ten years later, an article appeared in the local newspaper with a headline that read, “African Violet Queen of Milwaukee Dies, Mourned by Thousands.” The article detailed the life of this incredibly caring woman who had become famous for her potted flowers and her charitable work with people in the community.

When asked why he had chosen to focus on the African violet plants as apposed to the depression, the therapist replied, “I thought it would be much easier to grow the African violet part of her life than to weed out the depression.”

Sometimes life can get pretty tough. You may have grief or pain to bear and, like the woman in the story, find yourself in a low place. You may need to grieve, seek healing, be ministered to. But if you are stuck in that place, the Lord wants to lift you up, to show you your worth and how He can bless you. He called Himself the Good Shepherd and said of His sheep, “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” An abundant life is not about having material riches. It’s a fruitful life of love and purpose, following the Lord’s leading.

Each of us is unique and we each have unique gifts to use and ways we can enrich the lives of others. The Lord wants us to “grow” our gifts and use them in His service. As the woman in the story became occupied with doing something useful and good, focusing on bringing happiness or comfort to others, her depression was lifted from her. As the prayer of St Francis says, “It is in giving that we receive, and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.” As we die to our old self – our old way of living solely for ourselves – we are given new life, abundant life, a taste of heaven.


God of Love

If God is love, why is the God of the Old Testament often pictured as an angry, punishing, controlling God? Because that was how the people saw Him. They saw the consequences of their actions as God punishing them. Think of it this way: if you are a criminal, you will fear the police. If you are law-abiding you will look on the policeman as your friend. God is love (1 John 4:16). He does not make demands and then punish us if we do not comply. He sees each of us somewhere on the path to Him. He watches our progress as a parent watches their child go through all the stages of growth from infancy onwards. God would no more punish us than a loving parent would punish their toddler for tripping and falling. The child may experience the pain of falling but that is not a punishment. Rather, it is a consequence. The child learns from this experience, is comforted and moves on. What we call “sin” actually means falling short or missing the mark. Sin has its own consequence but it is not God punishing us. God is never angry. He longs to comfort us and draw us closer again. It is comforting to know that our heavenly Parent is watching over us, while protecting our very life – our freedom to be who we choose to be. He has lovingly provided us with the blueprint (the Bible) for the way to happiness, but will never force any one along the path against our will.