Tag: gratitude (page 1 of 2)

When You’re Tempted to Compare this Christmas

A week from today we celebrate Christmas Eve. Until then, many of us will experience a whirlwind of activities. Wrap the presents. Many of us still have to buy the gifts. Attend whatever party or function left in the schedule. Travel to our Christmas destination. Perhaps, clean the house and cook a meal.


In the midst of all the exhaustion, we will hear about our friend’s Christmas celebrations. Then you might see the pictures of the perfectly wrapped present under the tree or the neatly set table for dinner. One friend may get the Lexus with the bow on top. We will face the temptation to compare:
They create the greatest traditions for their family.
Why won’t my kids sit and smile during the pictures?
Their decorations far exceed my own.
They got invited to this party and I did not
Look at the gifts they gave their family.

Luke 1:39-45 depicts Mary and Elizabeth sharing their news of expecting children. It seems like one of the least talked about Christmas stories. Both women have a radical visitation from God. Elizabeth old years will have a son John, who will prepare the way for Jesus. Mary will have Jesus, the Savior of the world.

I think I have tended to focus on the fact, that John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrives (vs. 41). We consider the miracle and the celebration of each of their birth announcement. Leon Morris in his Luke Commentary makes this observation:

We should not miss the absence of all jealousy in Elizabeth’s attitude to Mary. The older woman, who had received a blessing from the Lord, might well have tried to guard her position jealously. But in genuine humility, she recognized the greater blessing God had given Mary (pg. 83).

In the midst of Elizabeth’s joy for her own child, she did not miss the coming of Jesus through Mary. She could have asserted her own position with God. Rather, through God’s presence, she could see that Immanuel was to come through Mary.

Through the next week, we will face the temptation to compare, envy, and think jealous thoughts. What would happen if we began to take the attitude of Elizabeth? We would then rejoice in other’s rejoicing. Even more so, you and I could see Christ at work in other people.

Contentment and gratitude oppose comparison because they remind us of the grace God has given us. In this season, the Good News of the Gospel communicates to us how Christ has given far more than we could ever deserve by coming to earth. Through His death and resurrection, we have received life.

Let’s consider Elizabeth in this season; recognizing how Christ blesses us and others. How will you guard against comparison this Christmas? How can you see Christ in others this Christmas?

Photo credit by Chelsea Francis.

Reads of the Week | 11/28/2015


I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. This installment of Reads of the Week feature the five guest bloggers. Each one of these posts provided a remarkable insight into gratitude, perspective, and relationships. If you missed any of them, click the links below to check them out.

The Tin Man Drops His Axe by Janna Moss

Your Life Will Never be the Same by Elaine Englert

What Do You Say? by John Iamaio

A Thanksgiving Reflection by Michael Keys

I’m Thankful for Dental Floss…Really! by Robyn Englert

What were your reads of the week? Share the link below in the comment section.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

I’m Thankful for Dental Floss…Really!

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from my wife Robyn Englert. She practices as a mental health therapist and loves spending time with her nieces and nephews. Additionally, she loves to walk and hike.

I have become increasingly thankful for dental floss over the years. The relief that follows the floss removing unwanted food particles is not always instant – at times there is more pressure, bleeding, or it takes more than a mere attempt for relief – but it comes. Additionally, the benefits of regular care have helped to prevent further damage and significant pain in my mouth. It is daily maintenance that seems tedious at times yet yields greater oral health.

Dental floss also serves as a metaphor for relationships in my life over the last ten plus years. The transitions from lifelong student to full-time employee, the journey from single woman to meeting the love of my life and not getting too freaked out, and many more that have passed and will come, are supported by trusted loved ones to help navigate.

These relationships help me to remove the particles that threatened complications, long-term pain, and distance. At times, I didn’t want to hear what these loved ones were saying but I knew they might have a point. The most challenging step for me was to begin to be vulnerable with safe people. To be known, I had to take healthy risks of sharing myself and moving beyond the image I wanted them to see.

Over this last year, I have participated in a book group with nine courageous women that highlights the value and significance of authentic relationships in my life. One of the books we just finished is Scary Close by Donald Miller (I highly recommend).

As we ventured into the materials I was challenged to be real, face the “grit” I have held on to and have been getting stuck on, and was encouraged to move through the gunk in my life by being authentic with these women.

One concept from this book is that we project an image of ourselves and who we want people to see based on our experiences. When there is a lack of authenticity, we are playing a part. After working through the book and life with these women, I have come to 100% agree with Donald Miller. He said:

Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us (pg. 22)

While this is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining relationships, I am very thankful for these women and this opportunity to floss through life.

Photo credit by Maria Kaloudi.

A Thanksgiving Reflection | Guest Post by Mike Keys

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from Mike Keys. He’s married and a father of three. You can find him mentoring young leaders at Browncroft Community Church and cheering on the Buffalo Bills.

What an incredible year. Our sons will finish college. Our daughter got married to a remarkable young man, and my son Jeremy will get married this spring! So much to be thankful for, so much to look back on and so much ahead. I often reflect on the past and see the twists and turns my family and myself have experienced.


The hand of God is everywhere once we start looking. Many decisions along the way have shaped, prepared, and changed me through the twists and turns of life. What college to attend, who to date, who to marry, drugs or no drugs, what career path.

What is most amazing is how at each turn there were significant people in my life to guide me and influence me and help me find the right path. To think all these individuals were coincidental is just fantasy. God providentially placed them in my path at each critical juncture to move me along.

It is for these individuals that I am most grateful. Their support, their honesty, the way they lived their lives.
At 12 it was a man named Bill who told me never to feel sorry for myself.
At 15 it was Herb, my biology teacher, friend and mentor. He took the time to know me and included me in his family. His influence kept me out of trouble when trouble was everywhere around me.
At 18 it was Mr. LaPre, another teacher. He believed I would do great things and told me so. He had more faith in me than I did at the time.
At 21 it was my two closest friends Andy and Andy, yes both my best friends are named Andy. They encouraged me to take chances with my career and gave me the confidence to follow my dreams instead of what I always knew.
At 25 it was my bride, supporting me as a young father to get more involved with our children. 

I could go on and on and on. These people and many others have significantly impacted my life. Someday I will write a book about My Great Friends.

Yes, it is people at the end of the day that I am most grateful. It is people that motivate me to be better but more important they motivate me to invest in others. I am at my best when I am pursuing relationships and encouraging others.

My hope for each of us today is that we begin to see all the gifts God has bestowed upon us through others. God Bless you. Happy Thanksgiving, Mike.

Photo credit by Abigail Keenan.

What Do You Say? | Guest Post by John Iamaio

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from John Iamaio. He’s married with two kids living in the Rochester area. Besides avidly following the Buffalo Bills, he serves as an Area Director for Cru Rochester. Follow him on his blog at https://johniamaio.wordpress.com/.

Since becoming a parent ten years ago, I have realized there are certain phrases locked into my subconscious that could only understand once I became a father. Who knew I would be the guy saying “If all your friends jumped off a bridge…” or the classic “because I said so, that’s why!”

One of the first times I could tell this part of I unlocked this part of my brain is when I started asking the question “What do you say?”


There are two occasions when I utter these words. The first is after an egregious error on the part of a child (i.e., they hit another youngster with a blunt object). I want my kids to realize the pain they have caused. Their appropriate response in this scenario is “I’m sorry”.

The second time these words leave my lips is when someone has been gracious to my child. Perhaps their aunt has just crocheted them a brand new Snoopy sweater. Regardless of what the child is feeling inside, I instantly find myself asking, “What do you say?” In this case, the goal is to create a spirit of gratitude.

Does forcing your kid to say “Thank you” actually inspire inner thankfulness? Ummm… I have no idea! I’m not thinking when I say the words, remember?! The real question is “Why do we need a reminder to be thankful at all?”

Upon casual observation, it would seem that we are not naturally grateful people. Thankfulness is learned. It is something cultivated in our lives.

As we mature, many of us become accustomed to expressing thanks for gifts we have received or acts of service performed for us. This is a good thing. Having someone over your shoulder repeating the phrase “What do you say?” could get annoying.

Over the last few years, I have realized there is another level to thankfulness. It goes beyond being thankful for the “good” things in my life. It’s an ability to ask myself the question “What do you say?” even in difficult times. Every weakness, every trial, every failure is an opportunity to express a grateful heart. In the end, those experiences have shaped me as much as all the blessings and any success.

Dealing with a seizure disorder when I was young, made me keenly aware that life can be out of control. Working for uncaring bosses developed a sense of what it is like to feel unappreciated. Experiencing broken relationships, taught me that loneliness hurts. The list goes on and on.

In each of those cases (and many more), the negative circumstances I experienced gave me a slight appreciation of the deep hurts and wounds that people carry around in their lives. They have also shaped me into the person I am today.

Maybe our parents were right. Perhaps our lives would be happier if we learned to ask the question “What do you say?” a little bit more.

Photo credit by Arthur Rutkowski.

Your Life Will Never be the Same | Guest Post by Elaine Englert

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from Elaine Englert, my Mom. She and my Dad reside in Endicott, NY. You can find her teaching water aerobics at the YMCA and blogging for them at http://ymcabroome.org/blog/.  She’s the Mother of my brother, sister, and myself along with our spouses, most importantly the Grandma of my niece.

“Your life will never be the same!” Those words still ring as clearly in my ears as when I heard them in 1988. My six-year-old daughter’s oncologist’s eyes filled with compassion, as he described the pineapple-size tumor on her kidney, the treatment plan, and her future.
A few days later, I stood facing the hospital window to shield my daughter from the tears chasing down my cheeks. Way down on the sidewalk below, I saw people bustling about the ordinary events of their ordinary day on a sunny late April day.


My ordinary days ended on Monday, a week and a half earlier in the pediatrician’s office. It was just a fever in a little girl who only once needed antibiotics. The doctor examined her and slipped out the room. He returned holding a stack of orders for the hospital across the street. When he pressed them in my hand, I saw “STAT” written on top and deep concern etched in his kind face. I held tight to Susan and took the last steps in the safety of the familiar. I tried to swallow dread as hard as a rock as we walked through the hospital doors. After hours of tests, someone told me they were admitting her. My husband rushed back from a trip and arrived soon after. Thursday evening I viewed the scans that gave the cancer a name, Wilms Tumor. The doctor sent Susan home the next morning and instructed us to have her at a hospital an hour away on Sunday afternoon to prepare for surgery on Monday.

Susan endured countless pokes and needle sticks during her 11-day stay. On the 10th day, Susan had her first round of chemotherapy. My confident little girl grew withdrawn and rarely spoke. Nothing in my 30 years prepared me to watch my child suffer so intensely and feel so helpless to help. When we got home, we returned to a daily routine, but 60 weeks of chemo cycles stole the ordinary. I was a wreck.

During this time, the Lord and I had many tear-filled conversations. I entrusted Susan and my fears into His care only to grab them back in the next crisis. Though I directed most of my anger at myself for missing a 4-pound tumor and for my spiritual shortcomings, one night I called God out as my daughter writhed in pain that could not be soothed, “I am her parent; as her parent how can You allow your little girl to suffer?”

The Lord waited for my honesty and brokenness to reveal His Father-heart for me. He called me to journal one gratitude daily, no matter how many difficulties filled those 24 hours. On the days I struggled to find anything, I often found the blessing in the ordinary. I scribbled down a word that my 23-month-old added to his vocabulary. I celebrated all five members of our family sitting around the dinner table. Other days, I journaled about His mercies when the doctor discovered Susan’s cancer. In only 10% of Wilms cases do patients run a fever like the one prompting me to make a doctor’s appointment. Susan’s surgery was delayed a few days because the surgeon was attending a conference on Wilms. We had people praying literally around the world for Susan. Friends, neighbors and church family, stepped in and met needs for food, rides, child-care. Our pastor called a day of fasting and prayer for Susan shortly after that sleepless night. From that day on, things improved for Susan.

The most enduring entries included verses others shared to encourage me or verses the Lord pointed out to me in my daily times with Him. They anchored my soul in the storm and revealed His desire for a relationship with me, his daughter. My life was never the same when I finally found rest in his “chesed,” the Hebrew word, often translated, as his steadfast love.
Psalm 107:28-29, 31 (ESV) best expresses my thanksgiving to Him:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still….
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love….”

On an extraordinary day, this past March, nearly 27 years later, Susan married her beloved, Ben. Tears of joy chased down the cheeks of many…mine mixed with tears of gratitude to my Father.

Photo credit by Alex Jones

You’re Invited, You’re Included

Fifth graders have a few awkward moments. Remember in gym class the agony of picking teams. We hoped we make the cut before the last pick. Another moment came at the end of the day. The whirlwind of leaving school wreaked havoc. You could see one of your classmates with a stack of sealed envelopes. He or she would subtly pass them out. You and I would play it cool by taking extra time zipping our backpack while anxiously waiting to get our card.

kaboompics.com_Cute dog sitting under the table

Part of our childhood experience does not change. Even with a calm demeanor on the outside, we wait, anticipate, and hope for the invite. The verbal gesture or the sealed envelope says to us, “You’re included.”

One of the most powerful scenes of the Gospels comes from Matthew 9:9-13. The writer of the book recounts the moment Jesus called him. An unsuspecting and looked down upon tax collector leaves his both to follow Jesus. Not only that, but Jesus eats at his house. Someone who the religious leaders would deem non-invited and non-included, Jesus welcomes.

In this moment in scripture, consider what Matthew says to all his readers. The grace of Jesus invited and included me in my brokenness, so to Christ invites and includes you. When we experience the Gospel, we not only recognize how Christ has invited but how He has called us to include others.

Brennan Manning in the Ragamuffin Gospel titled a chapter “Grazie, Signore,” Italian for “Thank You.” He makes this connection of our thankfulness for Christ’s grace and our relationship with others:

Each encounter with a brother or sister is a mysterious encounter with Jesus Himself. In the upper room, the Man like us but ungratefulness spelled out the game plan of gratitude: “Love one another as I have loved you.” To Peter on the beach along the Sea of Tiberias, He said, “If you love me, Simon Son of John, tend my sheep.” Quite simply, our deep gratitude to Jesus Christ is manifested neither in being chaste, honest, sober, and respectable, nor in churchgoing, Bible-toting, and Psalm-singing, but in our deep and delicate respect for one another (pg. 123)

Gratitude for the grace of God moves us far beyond answering the question at the table, “What are you thankful for?” Our response of gratefulness to the Gospel calls us to invite and include others. When we encounter people, grace reminds us of what Jesus has done for us which leads us to see what Christ has done for the people He brings into our lives.

In this season of Thanksgiving, who has God brought to you to say, “You’re invited. You’re included”? The momentous invitation from Christ has brought us into His grace, and He calls us to extend this to others.

Photo credit by Kaboompics.

Making Good Interpretations: A Mindset Towards Contentment

Contentment seems unnatural. You might point to every message that calls us to more money, success, and stuff. Comparison seems natural. The competitive bent of humanity sizes up each person rating ourselves against each other. Also, some of us have lean into over criticalness of ourselves and each other. At times, we ratchet up the flaws in practicing feedback without ever reflecting on the positives.


November marks an occasional pause for us. Though the zenith of consumerism in Christmas comes right around the corner, Thanksgiving calls us to gratitude. And gratitude invites towards contentment; the realization we have more than we can ever imagine. You and I know when we experience a sliver of contentment. The moment we can step back with peace and thankfulness to look at what God has given us.

What blocks us from experiencing contentment? We interpret every event, situation, and interaction with people in our lives. Our interpretations, assigning meaning to our lives, feed our mindsets. Thank of these messages we tell ourselves:
That should have been better.
I should have gotten more out of that.
They could have done more in this area.
I deserve more recognition.
Why do I have to be here or experience this?

Those interpretations creep into our souls without adequately process them. Ultimately, they end up tainting our view of God’s grace in our lives. Without even realizing it, when we suffer from discontentment we can fall into the mindset of blaming God. Rather than viewing God at work in us, we murmur and complain.

Experiencing contentment invites us to evaluate the interpretations of our lives; to look deeper at God’s work within us. The Puritan writer Jeremiah Burroughs encourages us in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment:

If any good interpretation can be made of God’s ways towards you, make it. You think it much if you have a friend who always makes bad interpretations of your ways towards him; you would take that badly. If you should converse with people with whom you cannot speak a word, but they are ready to make a bad interpretation of it, and to take it in an ill sense, you would think their company very tedious to you. (pg. 223)

Many of us know the experience of those who make negative interpretations of us. It seems we can do no right. So this affects us in experiencing contentment. Bad interpretations can misinterpret the way God is working in our lives and can tire our relationships because of our assumptions about others.

The mindset of contentment starts with good interpretations. Attempting to recognize how Christ might work in our hearts. Where He might call us to mature. Seeing people made in His image and looking to offer them grace. Even more so, looking at all that He has given to us as a gift.

What interpretations have you made of your life? How are they leading you to see God’s grace in experiencing contentment?

Photo credit by Aaron Burden.


How do we experience transformation? The last few months of year signal a time of evaluation. November causes us to look back at our lives in gratitude. December and January invite us to plan how we want to live next year differently. In a moment of reflection, you and I could make the list of changes we would like to see in our lives over the next few months.


Consider your list of changes or ask someone about their list. Many times those lists include such things as:
I want to lose weight.
I want to pray more.
I want to engage scripture.
I want to spend more time with my spouse and family.
I want to become a better friend.
I want to start a budget.
I want to manage my schedule more efficiently.

True transformation goes beyond our actions and behaviors understand our hearts. When we just deal with behaviors, we deal with the surface and symptoms. Searching our hearts brings us to ask the “why?’ behind our behaviors and to identify the reason the deeper desire to change.

Jesus in Matthew 23:25-26 illustrates this point. He speaks of cleaning a cup. You can clean the outside of a cup, but if the inside could still have filth and stains. When you clean the inside of the cup, you cannot help but thoroughly deal with clean the inside and outside. Dallas Willard in Divine Conspiracy make this comment about Jesus’ parable and transformation:

Actions do not emerge from nothing. They faithfully reveal what is in the heart, and we can know what is in the heart that they depend upon. Indeed, everyone does know. That is a part of what it is to be a mentally competent human being. The heart is not a mystery at the level of ordinary human interactions. We discern one another quite well…

It is the inner life of the soul that we must aim to transform, and then behavior will naturally and easily follow. But not the reverse… (pg. 144)

Jesus calls us to the Gospel in experiencing transformation. The Gospel starts with our hearts. Because of Christ’s redemption, reconciliation, and resurrection, transformation starts with our inner life moving to our behaviors. Understanding the Gospel not only helps recognize our deep motivations but invites the Holy Spirit to change our hearts.

What does this look like? Take, for example, you want to lose weight. Let’s say you successfully deal with your behaviors. You start exercising and dieting. The weight comes off, and your health increases. Soon you start looking at others with mild judgments of what they eat and their lack of exercise. You begin to compare yourself, and you have a level of pride. We can make the right behavior changes without actually experiencing transformation.

On the other hand, your hope to lose weight and you ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart. It might lead to asking about how you have used food as a source of comfort and security. Not exercising might be a result of fearing people watching you. When you recognize the heart issues, you can begin to see how others can support you. In the end, the transformation of your heart affects your behaviors. Then the grace you have experienced changes how you relate to others.

Jesus Christ invites us to experience a full life of transformation. Understanding the Gospel causes His grace to bring transformation starting with our hearts and moving then to our behaviors.

What transformation would you like experience in your life in the next few months? What might heart issues might the Holy Spirit reveal to you, where you can experience Christ’s grace?

Photo credit by Jakub Sejkora.

Reads of the Week | 11/14/2015


These five reads from this past week challenged, encouraged, and provided perspective for me. Check them out for yourself.

The State of Joy by Jamie K.A. Smith

Jamie K.A. Smith speaks of the missing aspect of joy in society. He outlines what blocks joy in our lives and moves to how to find joy.

3 Surprising Ways to Feel Less Busy by Christine L. Carter Ph.D.

Do you feel busy? Christine Carter provides three ways for us to dial it back on the busyness.

Walking in the Darkness with Jesus by Jeff K. Clarke

Jeff K. Clarke give a powerful post on how Jesus walked with others in darkness and in turn how He calls us to do the same.

The Rainn Wilson Guide to Success by Andy Meek

Fascinating exposé on the actor Rainn Wilson, who recently wrote the book The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy. Learn a little more about the man behind Dwight Schrute.

How to Avoid the Unhelpful Question by Shannon Gianotti

Shannon Gianotti processes with us when we ask the question, “Am I spiritual enough?” She offers some more helpful questions for us to grow.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit to Mikhail Pavstyuk.

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