A Gratitude Journal
This is a picture of our son, Nicolas, and his beautiful Julia. They gave me a special present this year for my birthday – a Daily Gratitude Journal! In this journal there are only blank pages divided by a line in the middle and a space on which to put the date. You could use really any kind of notebook to do the same thing. The idea behind it is to get into a pattern of writing down your th(i)nkful list. At the end of the day you take a moment to reflect on what you were thankful for that day.
I started doing that after getting this book from Nick and Julia. Some entries are not so full. Some entries can barely fit all that I want to record. But the beautiful thing that I find happening to me is that, as I go through my days, I make mental notes of the things I need to remember to record that evening. This goes for easy days, as well has hard days.
In the Valley of Shadows
Recently, I have been hit with a lot of opportunities for wisdom. So many people I know personally have been ushered into a valley of shadows – getting better acquainted with cancer. I see in my own behavior that, although I know what the truth is and know my responsibility to act in accordance with it, I still can be overwhelmed with sadness and heaviness in my heart. I chide myself for not being stronger. The truth is, when I cannot understand God’s ways, I must hold on to His character. I must simply “hold on to Jesus.” Let me illustrate.
Song of the Orphans
A few years back, David and I had the privilege of interacting with some precious people in Shongwe Mission, South Africa. This neighborhood was filled with orphan-led households. In other words, both parents were gone and there were children caring for each other. One home with 6 children was led by a 12-year-old named Lalif. I remember being struck with such admiration and yet sadness and hopelessness.
I learned a gem that afternoon. Our group sang songs for them and in return they wanted to sing for us. They did a much better job. 🙂 One of the songs they sang was “Hold on to Jesus, Hold on, Hold on, Hold on.” I thought to myself that wow, that doctrine was so shallow. They should have been taught deeper truths. However, the gem I discovered was that the most important thing to do when going through horrendous difficulties and challenges is to “Hold on to Jesus.”
“Trust in Him at all times, you people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8).
I just can’t give way to the temptation to begin to doubt the Lord’s goodness and purposes. Trust. He is writing a bigger story that I could even imagine. He asks me to be filled with the Spirit in Eph. 5:18. A description of what that filling looks like comes in verses 19-20. I am to speak to myself in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I am to sing and make melody in my heart to the Lord. I am to give thanks always for all things to God in the name of Jesus Christ.
“I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord” Isaiah 63:7
When faced with difficulties, these are the things I can recount:
- God is God and I am not
- This life is a vapor and we are headed to a much better place if we have trusted in Jesus alone for our salvation
- God’s promises hold fast
- The Lord will never leave, nor forsake
- Somehow good will come out of pain and suffering
- My job is to respond to hardship with thinking thanks; like for example, just yesterday a music therapist came into the hospital room of my loved one and played her guitar and sang “Amazing Grace”
- God is trustworthy; He can deftly handle all my trust
- God will not test me above what I am able and will answer my cry to be Spirit-filled right in the trial
- God hears our cries for healing and will do what is best; teaching a myriad of lessons along the way
- I can be edified by singing; some good selections are Chris Anderson’s song, “I Run to Christ,” or Getty’s, “Still, My Soul Be Still, or Matthew Decker’s “Fullness of Joy” (Psalm 16)
- I can look for God’s fingerprints of grace and kindness along the way; they are there
When I choose to be th(i)nkful – a determined choice to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance that comes my way and express that thanks orally or in a written form – grace starts to spring up in my heart. It may just be a little trickle at first, but as my thoughts begin to meditate on all the Lord has done and is doing, it bubbles more and more. Being thinkful produces grace.