Spiritual Manners

Why does it so often seem that when blessings abound our immediate reaction is not to thank our Giver?

 

As children, we’re taught proper manners and etiquette. As we pass someone on the street, we nod and smile. Someone holds the door open for us, so we say “thank you.” We order a drink, and we slip in a “please.” We meet someone new, so we shake hands.

 

It’s basic human principles. We’ve been trained to behave in such a way for so long that we often don’t even think about what we’re saying or doing. These actions have become automatic.

 

Until, something bigger happens.

 

We see an old friend, and we run to them with a huge smile and swaddle them up in a bear hug. We receive a gift so meaningful from our parents that we can barely whisper “thank you.” We try to put a fussy  child to rest for hours and murmur “please” again and again as we rock them in our arms. We meet our potential-next-boss and skim wikiHow articles with the heading “The Key to a Good Handshake.”

 

Lately, I can’t help but to realize that our worldly habits affect our spiritual practice.

 

Time and time again, I have fallen into the routine of giving thanks for my food without truly being grateful. I’ve rambled off the liturgy and the Creeds in worship services while planning out the rest of my day in my head. I’ve gone to the Lord’s Supper and haven’t properly prepared to meet with my King.

 

My thanksgiving has become automatic. It’s routine. It’s habitual. It’s thoughtless. It’s careless.

 

And yet, even when God dumps a huge blessing directly in front of my face, I still don’t immediately thank the Giver. I bask in the glory of the material blessings of this world and therefore forfeit the opportunity to glorify the Giver.

 

 

Over the past six weeks, I have lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s cliche to say, but it has been the experience of a lifetime.

 

I’ve learned the history; I’ve been dumbfounded viewing magnificent art pieces; I’ve tasted delectable food; I’ve communicated with strangers and teachers  in Spanish; I’ve become a city girl with a city life; I’ve made once-in-a-lifetime friends.
 

Today, I’m landing back home in Colorado. It physically hurt to say adios to Argentina, but it’s so comforting and exciting to go home to loved ones. I absolutely cannot wait to share stories, pictures, and memories with friends and family.  As I hop from plane to plane and airport to airport, all I can think about are the countless adventures I had over the last forty days.

 


 

But, in re-living some of the most fun and unforgettable moments of my life, I realized how few times I thanked God for blessing me with such a treasure of a trip.

 

How come we can’t stop saying thank you to the parent who secretly pays off this month’s car loan, yet when our heavenly Father quietly piles on the blessings we don’t run to him shouting his beyond-deserved praise and singing thanksgiving?



How come we are so quick to thank the people and things of this world, but so much slower to express gratitude to the Source of it all?

 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.
— James 1:17

 

And yet, ever the faithful Father, even though I am so rude and self-centered as to not express my thanks to my God, my Creator, my Savior, He continues to bless me and care for me. He never gives up on me. He spoils me with worldly joys and blessings. So much more, He has marked me with his Son, the best gift I will ever receive.  

 

And if that doesn’t make you want to shout out thanksgivings from the mountaintops, what will?

 

So, the next time something good happens, big or small, expected or not, take a moment to say thanks to God, the Giver of all blessings.

 

The next time you’re downtrodden or distraught, take a moment to reflect on the blessings your Father has already given you and the way He will use these difficult moments to bless you, His child.

 

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
— Psalm 34:1

 

And I’ll bet you the more you thank Him, the more meaningful, valuable, and treasured the blessings He so generously grants  will seem.
 

Let Your Crown Shine Today.
Rev. 3:11

 

Day 28

I hope you’ve heard about or have been following along with our Grateful to God challenge here at Holy Hen House for the month of November. If you missed out, no worries, you can make any day “Day 1” of the challenge to think and meditate on some of the blessings our wondrous God so freely gives to us. Regardless, here is today’s blessing to consider on “Day 28” of the challenge.

Strength (noun): the quality or state of being strong; capacity for exertion or endurance

Strength is one of those words I consider to be “loaded.” What can be portrayed and communicated by those eight letters is so much more than that simple definition from Merriam Webster. In all honesty, there were actually nine different definitions for that one word and still those descriptions feel like they fall short.

How does one describe the ability to stand up when you’ve been knocked down over and over again? How does one give thanks for the motivation to “keep on keepin’ on” in a life and world that is anything but easy? How often do we stop to think about whom that motivation and desire even comes from?

Life is hard. It is so often filled with challenge after challenge - a difficult co-worker, a family member that no longer values a relationship with God, a personal health crisis that makes you want to doubt everything you’ve ever believed. Challenges that beat day after day on that weathered door leading to your heart and soul. Will the wind and rain ever stop?

You know, the beautiful thing about God’s blessing of strength is that it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the outside. It doesn’t matter if that storm stops or if the wind finally calms. With God and with His promises, we can know and trust and believe in everything (and I mean everything) working out for our best whether or not it looks or feels that way right now. Having that faith, that trust, and that hope in our extraordinary God certainly does renew our strength and it is that blessing of strength through and from our Lord that continues to help us face any trial.

Thank you Lord for strength.

Are you thriving? Got contentment?

Fill in the blank from the following word bank:____________________________________________

new job         married            baby         new car          new phone

new outfit      fewer bills        vacation    promotion      new house ____________________________________________

“When I get (a) _____________, then I will be happy. I won’t need anything else for a while.” We’ve probably all said this…and probably more than once.

What happens? How come the thing we wanted so badly can’t seem to satisfy our needs for very long?

You and I were born to live in perfection; we were originally designed to live in paradise, in the Garden.

This side of heaven…this side of perfection, there will always be a gaping hole that we are longing to fill. Nothing is going to be quite right, no matter how blessed we are.

The only thing that can fill that hole and make us whole is keeping our eye on the ONE thing needful, our Redeemer.

Contentment Bench

Contentment Bench

He gives us the strength to do his work and to find contentment.

Apart from Jesus, there is no contentment.

Looking to “things” for contentment is not the only way we take our eyes off of the prize. Sometimes we spend too much time looking at ourselves and comparing ourselves to others.

“I wish I looked like ___________.” “I wish I could ________ like _________.” God has given us the gifts and abilities we would need for his work.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Pastor Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Drive Life suggests that, “Some animals run, some hop, some swim, and some fly. Each has a particular role to play, based on the way they were shaped by God.”

Each of his creatures is well equipped for the work He has in mind, and that includes you and me!

What gifts do you have? What comes easy for you? This can be a clue to how you can best serve God by using your gifts and can also lead to being content with your gifts.

Remember when you were in speech class and you were told to act confident until you became confident? The same principle holds true here.

Each day, I encourage you to take time to reflect upon your life and say, "I am content."

Contentment is a primary characteristic of those who are not just surviving, but thriving!

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-12

Rhoda Signature

Rhoda Signature

Dr. Rhoda Wolle is an educational psychologist who serves as the Dean of Student Success and Associate Professor of Education at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI. She is an international speaker on the topic of student success and thriving. She also enjoys travel, music, sports, and walks with her dog, Kipper. Her life purpose is to celebrate Jesus and encourage others in using their God-given gifts!

A Little Bird Told Me So

The frigid air stole my breath as I opened the back door on that morning not long ago. It stung my eyes, clung to my nostrils. I could not believe the blast that hit my face as I headed out to start our minivan.

It had been a rough night. I think I maybe managed to catch a combined three (four if I was lucky) hours of glorious sleep in between trips to my twin boys' bedroom. I had pulled out all of the stops: gas drops to calm the gurgling tummies, Orajel to sooth the hurting gums, and even a 4am feeding for one little man who just wouldn't take “no” for an answer.

Winter_Moon

But alas, just as it always does, the morning had broken and found me. Broken into something unbelievably brutal. Negative 16 degrees is what the thermometer had read -- not even taking into account the wind chill.  This incredible cold snap -- the second of the  season -- had again meant the closing of many schools in the area, including the school of the other family’s children who our regular babysitter watches. Of course, this also fell on one of the two days during the week that I work. Long story short, this meant that I would be taking my four children to the sitter’s house, instead of her coming to us as she had taken to doing ever since the boys were born.

Frigid_Scene

So waking up on this morning -- a morning shrouded with a cold that seeped into my bones and easily chilled me from the inside out -- I knew I had to be at the top of my game despite the lack of sleep. The moment my feet hit the floor I was moving from one task to the next. I walked with purpose through the house, dressing my 3 ½ year old daughters, making them breakfast, setting up bottles for the day ahead for the boys, dressing and changing the boys, feeding each of them, packing the diaper bag, packing my lunch, getting myself dressed and finally filling my own empty stomach with some Cherrios and orange juice. I quickly placed the girls’ coats and boots on the floor in front of them and instructed them to get themselves dressed for the cold adventure to the sitter’s we had ahead of us. After securing both little man in his car seat, I headed for the back door to start up the minivan which had sat outside all night due to our lack of a garage.

As I grabbed my keys and stepped over the threshold into that icy morning my skin felt raw, almost instantly numb. The moisture from my nostrils seemed to evaporate immediately. I felt as though I had to consciously tell my legs to move me closer to the van. And that’s when I heard it.

In fact, at first, I wasn’t even sure I had.

But there it was again. A bird. Singing.

It was a chickadee to be exact. “Hel-lo. Hel-lo.”

Really? A bird, smaller than my fist who had spent the entire arctic night outdoors was singing. As I stepped back into the house to round up the children, I smiled to myself. And in that moment, I wondered just where did that bird sleep all night. And what in this present minute was making him sing?

Chickadee1

Chickadee2

I turned the corner back into our living room to find both girls right where I had left them, one with her coat on upside down, one with her boots on the wrong feet. Both with smiles. The little men still sat snug in their car seats, each peering out at me under their still-too-big knit hats with gigantic grins on their faces.

And suddenly, my heart began to sing, too. I glanced out the window at our minivan -- it had started. It was warming up so that we could make the ten minute drive to the sitter's in cozy warmth. I had a husband at work. I had spent the night in a warm house, even if that night didn’t consist of as much sleep as I had wanted. I had a reason to leave the house today: my job. I had four grinning children who were looking to me for what to do next and loved me no matter what that was going to be.

And most importantly, I had a Savior who loved me more than He loved that little bird. I had JOY.

That’s when I realized it didn’t really matter what the thermometer said: my heart was full and I had every. reason. to. SING.

You see, that chickadee may have been singing simply out of habit. But that’s just the thing: God had kept that small bird safe through the night, through the cold, to live out his life that next morning just as he had every morning before. My heavenly Father, the Creator of all things, had protected this tiny, seemingly insignificant part of His creation and sustained him. And He had done the same for me.

Psalm 145

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. 10 All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. 11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, 12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. 14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you,     and you give them their food at the proper time. 16 You open your hand     and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. 18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. 20 The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

If the Lord had watched over this little bird, if He had cared about him that much, how much more must He care about me, my husband, my children, all people, as the crown of His creation? In fact, He loved all of us so much that He had sent His only Son to die a brutal death on the cross. Why was this ever not reason enough to sing?

As I continued to load everyone in the van and backed out of the driveway, a true sense of peace and gratitude washed over me. And in that moment, my heart couldn’t have felt warmer.

MelBioEdit