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A grateful and appreciative heart

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Now that the traditional day of Thanksgiving is over, I thought I’d follow up on my last post with a bit more on what it means to me personally to be both grateful and thankful, particularly in regards to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I feel it is very important to maintain a grateful and appreciative heart for the things I have received in this life. Notice that I said the word maintain. That means we have to work at it, otherwise it’s not going to happen. Maintaining a grateful and appreciative heart is all on us, and it doesn’t happen automatically. If you’ve ever slipped into one of those moments when you just don’t feel very thankful, you know what I’m talking about.

By the same token, that I am able to say I am a child of God often leaves me nearly speechless. If you could have seen the person I used to be, you would have numbered me with those who were destined for the scrap heap of humanity.

How God can find something useful in any of us leaves me scratching my head. Have you ever felt this way?

Even today, over 40 years after accepting the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I marvel at God’s unique ability to see past what we were and slowly bring to fruition what we are destined to become. Seriously, who but God can do such things?

I made so many mistakes in my early Christian life that I sometimes wondered why I should even bother trying to live for Him. Comparing myself to other, more mature Christians left me shaking my head wondering how in the world they do it. How could these people never make mistakes? How could they always be so faithful?

Well, as all of us know by now, none of us are perfect are we? Neither do we always have it all together like we want others to believe we do. You see, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian for four days, forty days, or forty years, we still live in a fallen world that is wrought with one peril after another. Everywhere we turn there are challenges and obstacles in our path.

Some days remaining faithful to Him seems more like a dream than a reality. Can you relate? Can I get an “Amen”!

I will be forever thankful for what God has done in my life. After much work and countless hours spent upon the Potter’s wheel, he has slowly transformed me from a wild, bitter, and angry young man into someone who is now almost unrecognizable from the person I was. I say that knowing full well that He still has much to do to help me to reach my full potential.

No one needs to remind me that I am a man who has been blessed far beyond what I truly deserve. The Lord has taken me from being a blasphemous, proud, and unthankful heathen to a man after God’s own heart. [1]

How could I not praise him for what he has done?

For all that the Lord has done in my life, nothing compares with how that in an instant He changed the course of my eternal destination. I who was once on the fast track to Hell and eternal separation from all that is good, has had his soul re-routed to a destination where joy shall never end.

As my friend Bill Sweeney says, it may sound corny, but I actually believe that one day I’m going to a far better place because of Jesus. [2]

I would be remiss if I failed to mention how thankful and how grateful I am to have by my side the most wonderful wife anyone could ever hope to have. The mere fact that she’s still here is a testament to her abiding love for me. When I think of how much she has had to put up with through the years, I am presented with a clear picture of love, dedication, sacrifice, and commitment.

This may surprise many of you, but I lean towards being very strong-willed(insert smile here). I suppose that comes from being raised the way I was, that and being in positions of authority and responsibility for a large part of my life. My point being, sometimes it isn’t easy to live with someone like me, yet my sweet Princess somehow manages to keep me in check.

She is the calming voice of reason when I want to take a situation in my own hands to right a wrong that may have been done. She is the great communicator in our home when at times I want to clam up, satisfied within my own mind that I know all there is to know about the situation.

I am convinced that God brought us together in a Divine manner at just the right time. Two broken and shattered lives, neither looking for or ever expecting to love again. Yet God somehow orchestrated things so that we would meet one day in the foyer of a church, a church she was visiting only because of a friends invitation.

I could never have imagined that this shy young lady who wouldn’t even make eye contact with me when we were introduced, would one day complete me in a way I never thought possible and that together we would write our own Love Story.

These are just some of the reasons why I am a thankful and grateful man today. And yes, it is true, there are days when I need to be reminded of all of this. When I am, I’m humbled once again at the realization of where I’ve come from and where I’m destined to go.

For all of this, I am forever grateful and appreciative to my Savior.

Have a blessed day everyone!

Ron

[1] 2 Timothy 3:2 (KJV)

[2] For more of Bill Sweeney’s story of how the Lord has sustained him through a long battle with ALS, check out his website here: https://unshakablehope.com/about/

 

 

 

If my choices are between happy or sad…

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I choose Happy!

Of course, we don’t always get to choose, do we?

Life, in its continuous ebb and flow of emotions, will sometimes throw difficult challenges our way, leaving us to deal with them as they come. When this happens, and it happens to all of us, “Happy” seems a long way off doesn’t it?

For example, I’ve been dealing with a seemingly endless array of car troubles lately, troubles that are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Just today, I had to call a tow truck to take the car back to the garage (it was just there last Friday!).

Of course this unnerved me a bit, as I have already sunk considerable money into this vehicle and the prospect of spending who knows how much more seemed to set my head to spinning.

The more I thought of it however, the more I realized it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I mean it could have died earlier today while my daughter was driving it on the interstate. If that would have happened the outcome could have been disastrous.

So while I am not pleased at having to have more unplanned work done on this car, I am extremely thankful that my daughter is safe and no harm was done.

All of us have these kinds of issues to deal with, what some would call “1st world problems”. In the big picture, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Unless something drastic happens, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow, the birds will sing their beautiful songs, and I have family that loves me, including a wife who is a constant source of encouragement to me.

The Apostle James had something to say about the trials and difficult situation we might find ourselves in from time to time. See if you agree with me that his perspective is a little different than most.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  James 1:2-3  ESV

Did you catch that? When life throws you a curve ball, he said we should rejoice! That seems strange to our carnal minds, doesn’t it? Can any of us truthfully say that when we’re up against a struggle that our first inclination is to rejoice?

It’s when we read the second part of the scriptures that it begins to make sense. James says that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. The King James renders this as “worketh patience“.

That’s what these challenges do to us; they cause us to learn to be steadfast, or patient in the midst of the trial. When we fully grasp this truth, we begin to better understand that God can use even our trials as part of the refining process all of us are going through.

And that my friends, puts a smile on my face, and dare I say it….

 

Happy bird french fry

Be blessed!

Ron

Thanksgiving Memories

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Thanksgiving Day has always been my favorite holiday of the year. When I think back to my early childhood, Thanksgiving Day was always the holiday I looked forward to the most. Aside from getting out of school for a few days, the expectation of seeing Aunts and Uncles, and cousins my own age to play with was something I looked forward to with great anticipation.

Well, that and knowing there was going to be a mountain of great food to eat! Even today, my wife believes the food is the real reason I love Thanksgiving. Me, I’m not saying one way or another.

Those happy times are forever etched in my mind, and as another Thanksgiving approaches, I enjoy remembering the laughter and non-stop chatter around our crowded kitchen table. I remember how that all of us kids who had to sit at the “kids table longed for the day when we could set at the grown-up’s table and join in.

For days and days my parents would be preparing special things that were only served on Thanksgiving Day, and I know that they always brought home the largest turkey the store had. We could also count on any visiting relatives to bring along even more goodies, and could my Aunts ever cook! I think I could write an entire blog just about my mom’s turkey and dressing, and my Aunt Marlene’s chocolate pie made me wish I had eaten nothing else but that!

The men in my family always went hunting on Thanksgiving morning, and being a young boy I wasn’t allowed to tag along because I would either slow them down, get hurt, or some other made up reason to keep me home. I was forced to stay behind and endure the heavenly smells coming from the kitchen, which, I can finally admit, wasn’t so bad after all.

At long last the dinner hour had come, and everyone gathered in the kitchen. I honestly don’t remember if anyone said Grace before the meal, as none of my family was particularly religious. If they did, I’m sure it fell on deaf ears with me as I stared at a turkey leg, or a large ham, knowing that very soon I would be enjoying a heaping plate of delicious food.

After dinner, the family would all find a place to sit in the living room, where we would spend hours reliving the important things that had happened in our lives over the past year.

Back then, we might have been able to get a football game on one of the three TV channels our old black and white TV pulled in, but no one ever thought of turning it on. Why spoil such wonderful family time by inviting a football game into our home? Our family was the main attraction after all!

Late at night, when everyone was tired and had to leave to return to their own homes, we knew that for at least one more year our family was, well, still a family. It’s funny how that even after all these years, I can still remember the feeling of security I had just in knowing that we were family.

Today, my own small family celebrates Thanksgiving in much the same way as I did as a child. Sure, there aren’t nearly as many people around the table, and the amount of food is a lot less than what is needed for a huge family. My wife cooks a pretty awesome turkey, and her baked beans are legendary around our house, so we have plenty and then some.

The most important things are there however. A deep, abiding love for one another, a home built upon the sure foundation of Christ, and the knowledge that no matter what comes our way in this life, we are family.

As my family gathers around the table this Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for. God blessed us to make it to retirement, He brought me through a very serious health issue, and my family is healthy and prospering. To say we are blessed just doesn’t seem adequate.

My prayer is that all of you will have a memorable Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by those you love and care about. I hope everyone slows down a bit and takes the time to create some memories and new traditions that can be passed down to the next generation. Talk to one another. Enjoy one another. Make time for one another.

The Bible describes this life as but a vapor. It’s gone before you know it, so live each day to the fullest.

Most of all, be thankful. Be thankful for one another, and thankful that you can enjoy this time together as a family.

Be thankful to God for His many blessings.

Ron

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.   Psalms 75:1

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!   Psalms 107:8

So Thankful

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Feeling incredibly thankful and blessed this Sunday for all of the blessings in my life. Having just turned another year older this week, I’ve been reflecting upon how that it’s been nothing short of amazing what God has been able to do in my life.

God is good friends, God is good.

No one but God could have scripted such a life. Now,to a lot of people that would mean that I was referring to a life of ease and continuous blessing. That would not be my life however.

I have learned that when considering one’s life,you must consider all of it,not just the good,with the sum total of all of life’s experiences determining whether or not one considers themselves “blessed”. And I am certainly blessed!

Looking back, it’s easy to see that it’s been His hand that has guided me through great times as well as through the storms that tried to destroy me. Getting to experience the thrills of mountain top experiences is a thrill like no other,just as experiencing the lows of the lowest valley is an experience like no other. As I said,only God could author such things!

What a mighty God we serve!

God has been my Provider, my Healer, and a friend that sticks closer than a brother. I give Him praise for all the goodness and mercy that has been poured into my life. Each and every time I wanted to give up on myself,there was an Unseen Hand that guided me to calmer waters,allowing me opportunities to call upon Him to steady the ship.

My prayer for each of you today is that these words will resonate with you, and that they will be a source of encouragement in your life.

So Thankful!the_light_end_tunnel

So Much To Be Thankful For

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Seeing that Thanksgiving will soon be here and (hopefully)the thought of thankfulness is on a lot of people’s minds, I wanted to offer this post as a way of expressing my gratitude for several things.

First and foremost I am thankful to know Jesus Christ as my Savior.In my life,this is the starting point of every good thing that has come my way.Everything I have or enjoy is because of His provision.No one ever needs to tell me that I am nothing without Him,I know this to be true.

The story of how God interrupted my life as I traveled my own Damascus Road is one that most would find hard to believe.To say I was headed for Hell would be a gross understatement,and the power of God’s Love,Forgiveness, and Grace makes my story all the more remarkable.Suffice it to say that to whom much is forgiven…

I am also thankful that God has blessed me with a loving and caring wife.When I listen to other men tell their “less than flattering” stories about their wives it only increases the gratitude that I have for my wife.While the Lord may indeed be my Rock,she is my soulmate and the greatest source of encouragement a man could have.

I cannot remember a day that she hasn’t said something to me of encouragement,hope,and love.She prays for me without ceasing,both for physical healing and also that I would continue to seek the Lord’s direction for our family.She is strong in her convictions and will not be swayed by popular opinion,be it a spiritual matter or otherwise.In this we are identical.

She is a praying wife and mother yet she is also very sensitive to the needs of others.She loves the elderly and I lover her heart for them.Like me,she roots for the underdog and those who society disregards.She loves deeply,and also hurts deeply.

I am thankful to have a great job,material blessings,and pretty much anything I need in this life.I have made many,many acquaintances through the years that I have been involved with in ministry as well as working at a secular job.My friends can be counted on but a few fingers (what does that word really mean anyway?),yet I consider myself highly blessed.

In spite of how I may feel however, the scriptures remind us that there would come a time when people would generally be “unthankful”and it’s pretty safe to say that we are living in such a time.While many wonder why or how things are so out of control in our world today,anyone can find the answers to their questions in God’s word.Which makes me want to say “wow! this Bible stuff that was written so long ago is amazingly accurate isn’t it?”. But that’s for another time.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”  2nd Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV

The awesome thing is that God has made a way that we do not have to be like those described by Paul in his second letter to Timothy.We can choose a different path,one filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for what He has done in our lives.

It really is that simple.God has set before us a door that He invites us to walk through.On the other side is a peace and contentment not found in the world we have created for ourselves.

Won’t you join me this Thanksgiving? Be thankful to God for His many blessings.

Ron

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Thankfulness Can be Short Lived…

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Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year.I hope everyone paused a few moments to reflect upon the blessings we’ve been given.I’m thankful every day (not just one day) for a roof over my head,a warm house,plenty to eat,and a good job to go to every day.

I am very much aware that compared to the majority of this world I am rich beyond measure.I also believe that if you live in America, you most likely share in these riches at some level.We are truly blessed.

To have the unparallelled freedom to worship God and to have a Bible in my home are treasures I do not take for granted.These things are gifts from God and God alone, and I am both humbled and thankful.

Which brings me to the second thought of this post,which is our tendency to be less than thankful,even greedy at times.

Have you noticed?

We turn “thankfulness” on and off like we do our TV’s. We go from heads bowed around the family Thanksgiving table to within a few short hours joining the mad rush to the mall.Only this year it’s been made even easier so we can start earlier than ever before.After all, no sense wasting precious shopping time setting around with the family when there are bargains to be had.

I wonder if we can see what has happened to us in America? Do we comprehend the breakdown?

We bemoan what has happened to the family unit in this country but in truth we contribute to it by our own greed.Think about that for a moment.

We will get up hours earlier than normal to stand in a line in the freezing cold to get that perfect gift,but we won’t spend a few extra minutes in the company of our loved ones getting to know what’s going on in their lives.

Now,lest you think I don’t like saving money,rest assured that I most certainly do like saving money. But at what cost? I hear people all the time speaking about their busy schedules and how there doesn’t seem to be time for the things that matter,yet these same people are the ones clamoring to be first in line when the doors open!

I guess I’m getting old because “things” don’t excite me much any more.I place a higher value on things that cannot be bought in the stores.Things like quiet evenings at home surrounded by loved ones.There is a blessedness in that like nothing else.

I love listening to my daughter laugh out loud,the sound of which brings an enormous smile to my face each time.I love talking with her,listening to her opinions about things that I didn’t even know she understood! I am so very thankful for the times I have with her.

I love the home my wife has created because it is an atmosphere of peace and love.Try buying that at Macy’s!

I’m thankful that I am married to a woman who understands me and let’s me be me,as I do her.There is no price to place on a home where the love and peace of God dwells.

I am beyond blessed,and for that I am so thankful.

In spite of the ills of the church,it’s failures(that’s us folks),it’s many shortcomings…..I have a sure Foundation in Christ Jesus.He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Can’t buy that at any price.Sorry,that price was already paid.

And for all of these things I am thankful….. and I endeavor to remain so.

Be blessed,

Ron