Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

heart

How’s your heart?

That’s the question the minister asked on Sunday (we were visiting City Church in Charlottesville – loved it), and after talking about the “heart disease” that plagues us all (stuff like pride, envy, and lust), he said this: A healthy heart is a heart that is continually thankful.

As someone who is far more apt to find fault with what didn’t go “as planned” (like Tuesday’s blog, which appeared in your inbox without the accompanying photo—sorry about that) than she is likely to rejoice over any of the little things that go “right” each day, I found myself struck by his words. I am definitely not “continually thankful.” And with the Big Day just a week away, I realized I needed some help

Last Christmas, Annesley’s mother-in-law-to-be gave her an iPhone case that came with a built-in Taser. I know Ruth meant it for use against thugs and other ne’er-do-wells, but it wasn’t open for five minutes before my kids began trying it out on each other. And then on Hillary’s boyfriend, Charlie, who hadn’t been exposed to all that many of our family celebrations—and who, I might add, took it like a champ.

(Just another happy Christmas morning at the Berndt house.)

Thinking of that Taser, I found myself wishing that I could implant something in my brain that would go off like a shock whenever my mind started down a whiny, prideful, or otherwise negative path: I can’t believe Robbie left his undershirt on the bedroom floor again.

FZZZT!

(The idea, of course, is that after a few such gentle reminders, I’d start to be thankful for my husband—who actually did once tell me that I should be glad when I find his laundry on the floor, since it reminds me of him when he isn’t home. Love that guy.)

Anyhow, not having a mental Taser handy—and can we all just say, “Thanks be to God” for that—I decided to try the Bible, instead. A quick skim through the concordance reveals this about thankfulness:

It works like a VIP card to get you into God’s presence (Psalm 100:4).

It’s an attitude that encourages other people (Colossians 3:16).

It’s something that God wants us to be, regardless of our circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

You know what? I am good with all of those verses, and more. But knowing it in my head and feeling it in my heart are often two very different things. And, try as I might, I can’t always get there from here.

Fortunately, though, God can. In Ezekiel 36, God promises us a “new heart” and a “new spirit.”  He says he will “remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Isn’t that a great picture? Our stony, critical, complaining hearts (well, mine anyway; yours might be in better shape) can be utterly transformed—and God can make us thankful.

I don’t know about you, but that fills me with a world of hope. Normally, I’d be bellying up to the table next week, staring at the centerpiece and wondering if maybe it could have used another gourd or two, and wondering why my turkey was so dry (again). But now, with my heart securely placed in God’s hands, I have a shot at counting my blessings instead.

(Which is definitely better than getting tased.)

(Especially by your own kids.)

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Friday Prayer Verse ~ Psalm 5:11-12

Lots of people post “Friday Favorites.”  I’ve picked up shopping tips from Melanie Shankle, followed Kate’s pregnancy the eyes of new mom Elizabeth Robertson Williams, and snagged more than a couple of good recipes from any number of Friday bloggers.  But, not being much of shopper (or a royal watcher; has Kate had that baby), you won’t find those types of good tips here.  And while I might share a recipe once in awhile, I currently conducting experiment to prove to Robbie that eating out–if you find the right “deal”–might actually be cheaper than cooking at home, now that it’s just the two of us.  (Wish me luck.)

When I use the word “favorite,” it is often in the context of a Bible verse.  Some people have their “life verse,” and they can tell you what it means to them, and why.  Not me.  I have any number of Bible “favorites,” and they change almost daily.

For me, then, Friday is going to be the day when I post whatever principle or promise has captivated my heart that week.  And, banking on promises like John 15:7 (“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you”) and Isaiah 55:11 (which tells us that God’s word does not return empty, but accomplishes the purposes for which it is sent), I will offer these verses in the format of prayers, with blanks where you can insert your own name, or that of someone you love.

I hope you enjoy praying this way, and that these words will serve to strengthen your faith and increase your joy.  I hope they will transform your perspective and breathe fresh hope into weary or challenging situations.  And I hope, actually, that some of these verses will become your new favorites.

Here goes:

Spread your protection over ____ and bless him/her.  Surround ____ with your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:11-12)

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Power and Purpose in a Family Blessing

 

BlessingWhen my mother was a young girl, her mom used to send her kids out the door each morning with a charge: Walk with the King today, and be a blessing.

 

Whether or not my mom and her siblings knew it, these words—spoken regularly, and with the authority that comes with being a parent—shaped their lives. They served as a daily reminder of God’s presence (“Walk with the King”), and they injected a sense of purpose into even the most routine or unremarkable mornings: Your mission today is to be a blessing.

 

Robbie and I adopted the practice of speaking blessings over our children when they were very young. Sometimes we spoke or softly sang these words in the tender darkness of their bedsides; sometimes, we practically hollered them at the kids as the school bus rumbled up the street and everyone scrambled to find coats and backpacks.

 

We had a few favorites, all taken from the Bible. Today, our kids (now ages 18-24) might not be able to quote the chapter and verse, but these words are locked in to their minds:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you; may he make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you, and give you peace.

(Numbers 6:24-26)

 

The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. The Lord will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

 

And this one, which the children simply called, “Presence”:

 

Where can you go from his Spirit? Where can you flee from his presence? If you go up to heaven, he’s there. If you make your bed in the depths, he is there. If you rise on the wings of the dawn; if you settle on the far side of the sea, even there his hand will guide you, his right hand will hold you fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)

 

The Bible is full of verses that can be appropriated and personalized to create your own family blessing. You’ll also find rich words in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the Methodist hymnal, and even The Fiddler on the Roof. (Our kids had bit parts in that high school musical, and family blessings don’t get much better than the Sabbath Prayer: “May the Lord protect and defend you, May he always shield you from shame…” I could have sat through that number, with Tevye and Golda warbling about things like peace and strength and good marriages, 15 times. Come to think of it, I probably did.)

 

If you’ve never spoken a blessing over your family, start today. If your children are young, snuggle them into your arms as you speak. If they are prickly teenagers, a simple “The Lord bless you!” as they walk out the door can penetrate even the thickest shell. And if they are adults, consider writing a letter of blessing, or giving it to them as a gift for birthdays, Christmas, or as a New Year’s benediction.

 

A family blessing does not have to be eloquent, complicated, or long. Simple works. But I can’t think of an easier—or more powerful—way to speak God’s grace over your children, and to remind them that he loves them and that his power is active in their lives.

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