I Was Such a Taker Yesterday

I felt like I was on the receiving end all day long.  I went to bed last night with a full heart and an overwhelming love and gratitude for God and His family.  Here’s a sample of what I got:

  • A sermon that served as a reminder of God’s merciful grace and His presence in my life.  It seemed tailor-made for me.
  • Lots of warm hugs
  • Some sisters specifically asked how I was doing with my boys leaving home.  They hugged me and told me they were thinking about me.
  • A couple of friends know of a confidential situation that is weighing on me.  They took the time to listen and assured me of their prayers.
  • A new Christian led a public prayer for the first time.  It was heart-felt and beautiful.  I was reminded of God’s power to transform lives.  I was filled with joy and grinned all the way through the prayer.
  • A couple of men responded to the invitation yesterday morning.  Others went up to sit with them on the front row to offer support.  I love that.  It makes me feel good.
  • Last night a godly, faithful widow responded to the invitation.  She mentioned a specific sin she struggled with and asked for forgiveness and help to overcome it.  I was so touched by her humility and courage.  My love and respect for her grew even more.  She went forward to ask for help but I wonder if she knows how much she helped me?
  • The fellowship seemed to linger longer yesterday.  We stood in the parking lot “forever” chatting.  No one seemed in a hurry to head home.  We talked about nothing overly significant…just flowers, school, our kids.  On the way home I told Neal how dear it is to just share LIFE with so many fellow Christians.

The tone of this post is completely self-focused.  And really, I left some things out that I was able to take away from yesterday.  The focus of our coming together to worship shouldn’t be “what can I get out of this?”  “Does it meet my needs?”  We are to gather together to GIVE.  We’re to bring our hearts to God (Matt. 15:8,9).  We’re to bring our sacrificial offering (2 Cor. 9:7).   We’re to encourage and exhort one another (Heb. 10:24,25).  We’re to offer up praise (Acts 2:41-47).  And yet, I couldn’t help but notice all that I GOT.

Yesterday wasn’t an isolated case.  I always “get” when I gather with fellow Christians to worship and learn and grow.  Even though my purpose and focus should be on bringing, giving, and offering, it’s amazing how I can leave with a heart so full of everything I have taken in.  It reminds me of the saying, “You can’t out-give God” (Luke 6:38).

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

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They Love Me, Too

One thing I love about the Lord’s church is the fact that we are family.  We are brothers and sisters united by the precious blood of Christ.  That means no matter where we go, we can find family.

This past week Neal and I have been with the Hollywood Rd. church of Christ in Houma, LA.  We both feel like we have been among true family and gained true friends.  In the body of Christ, it doesn’t take long to form heart connections!  The Christians here are warm, friendly, and giving.  It is obvious they love being together.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

It was easy for Neal and I to identify that common love in the church here.  We are Christians coming in among fellow Christians.  But what does the world see?

Tuesday night one of the members brought a guest to the gospel meeting going on this week.  The guest showed up early enough to enjoy the meal we had together first.  What was his impression?  What did his first glimpse of  the Lord’s church reveal?  I am so thankful that we learned the answer to those questions.  Last night we found out that this visitor went to work the next day talking about his experience.  He said, “Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.”

A higher compliment to the church here in Houma could not be paid!  Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?  Isn’t the goal of every church to be so loving that visitors walk away with the impression of being loved? This visitor knew that he was taken in and loved because the Christians here love Jesus.  What’s their secret here?  How did a one-time visit leave such an impression on this man?  I know the answer to that, too, because I saw it unfold.  He was greeted warmly, he was hugged, and he was served.  This visitor knew the Christians here love Jesus because they acted like Jesus.

I hope I remember this for a long time.  I am so convicted by this simple experience.  I am challenged to do my part in my home church to make visitors feel loved.

What impression are people left with when they visit your home congregation?  How do you make them feel?  May we all do our part to make sure others “know we are Christians by our love.”

Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.

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David & Kathy Jones, a couple who lives out the love of Christ here in Houma, LA!

 

 

 

When My Husband has a Sin Problem, part 2

“My husband views pornography.”

“My husband loses his temper.”

“My husband has a drinking problem.”

“My husband lies.”

Perhaps you’ve not only heard Christian women make these statements but you could say one of them yourself.   What can you do when your husband has a sin problem?  What should you do?  If you missed part one of this study, you can check out the first five suggestions here.

6.  Seek Outside Help If Needed

If the sin problem is some kind of addiction (like pornography or alcohol), it would be wise to get help from those who have experience helping others overcome these types of struggles.  Sometimes bringing in a third party adds an accountability factor that makes it easier for your husband to put away the addiction.

Just remember to check your motives before involving others.  If you want to publicly shame your husband because you’re angry, you’ll surely make matters worse.  If you truly have your husband’s best interests at heart, you can prayerfully seek help or counsel from a godly source.

7.  Study the Word

This can’t be neglected.  The world has their own opinions about marriage and much of it is not biblical.  Some friends or co-workers may encourage you to get revenge or to look out for yourself first.  Some, because of their indignation on your behalf, may suggest actions that just aren’t right.  The world promotes pride and selfishness.  The Word commands humility, selflessness, and putting the needs of others first (Phil. 2).  The world says you can give up on your marriage whenever you want.  The Word teaches that marriage is for life, with the exception of adultery (Matt. 19:3-9).

Without Bible study, there is confusion and that can be dangerous.  For example, some have decided that pornography is grounds for scriptural divorce.  “You have heard that it was said of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:23,24).  This verse is the reason some believe that viewing pornography equals adultery.  In Matt. 19:9, Jesus gives one valid reason for divorce.  The word He uses is porneia, which means “sexual immorality.”  This is unfaithfulness in marriage by having sexual intercourse with someone who is not one’s spouse.  While the adultery of the heart mentioned in Matt. 5:24 may eventually lead to the physical act of adultery, it does not carry the same immediate consequences as the physical act.

Pornography is still a sin and anyone guilty of it will give an account on the Day of Judgment, but it is not a scriptural reason for divorce.  In Matt. 5, Jesus was teaching that adultery begins in the heart, just as murder begins in the heart (v. 21,22).  But that doesn’t mean we can cart someone off to jail for being very angry with someone (even though it could lead to the physical act of murder if left unchecked).  Furthermore, there is the practical matter of determining how much pornography a husband must view in order to be guilty of adultery.  Just once?  Once a month?  For years?  With physical adultery, there is no guessing game.  A husband who has sexual intercourse one time wth someone who is not his wife is guilty of adultery, and the wife has the scriptural right to put him away if she so chooses.

Bible study is essential in knowing how to handle a sin problem in a way that pleases God.  Feelings can be strong but unreliable.  It’s important to see what God has to say about it.

8.  Continue to Be a Good Wife

It can be hard to respect your husband if you don’t feel he deserves it.  It can be hard to submit to your husband if you don’t respect him.  When your husband disappoints you, you may recognize that you must still take care of him but feel you don’t have to cherish him or treat him special.  You may even go so far as to let the house go or let yourself go and feel justified.  These types of thoughts fall under the category of “wisdom of the world” (James 3:13-17).  They may be natural feelings but they’re not biblical.  The Bible teaches that one’s good behavior is not dependent on another’s worthiness (as we saw in last week’s post).

You’re accountable for your own actions so you must continue to be godly, pleasant, and sweet.  You can’t refuse to obey God just because your husband has.   Continue to love and respect your husband because you hope for his repentance, no matter how long it takes (Gal. 6:9).  If you disrespect your husband, you will make it easier for him to justify his sinful habit.  And you will one day look back and regret your attitude.  If you continue to be loving and committed to a gentle, Christ-like sweetness, you will have no reason to look back with regret.  You will know you did the right thing (1 Pet. 3:1,2).

The final part of this series next week will deal with rebuking, shaming, anger, and convictions.

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Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

 

 

 

 

 

When My Husband has a Sin Problem

WHEN MY HUSBAND HAS A SIN PROBLEM

Part One of a 3-part Series

A couple of years ago I was assigned this topic for a lecture.  I thought I’d share with you some of the things I learned when preparing for the class.

There are some expectations from a Christian husband:

  • He’s to be the spiritual leader in the home (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24).
  • He’s to love his wife wholeheartedly (Eph. 5:25-33).
  • He’s to provide for his family (1 Tim. 5:8).
  • He’s to be Christlike in his attitude and behavior toward his wife (1 Pet. 3:7).

Some husbands try to live up to these expectations but fall short.  Some don’t care to try at all.  Some are really good in one area but weak in another.  Husbands are going to mess up and sin, as we all do (Rom. 3:23).  But what do you do when your husband is dealing with a sin problem?

  1.  Don’t Seek Revenge

Some sins are hard not to take personally.   When your husband’s sin hurts your heart, you may be tempted to hurt him back.  There’s more than one way to seek revenge.  You could say hurtful, cutting things.  You know where your husband’s insecurities are so you know where to strike verbally.  You could bring up sins from the past.  You could retaliate by engaging in your own sinful activity and then say, “Now you know how it feels!”  In your effort to make him pay, you become guilty of sin yourself.

For the Christian, revenge is not an option.  “Never take your own revenge.  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (Rom. 12:9,17).  “Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work'” (Prov. 24:29).  The gratification of vengeance is short-lived.  If you give your husband a taste of his own medicine, you will soon taste the bitterness of guilt.  Spiteful words or behavior will not make your husband want to quit sinning.  God says the way to overcome evil is with goodness (Rom. 12:21; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9).

2.  Don’t Give Ultimatums

In desperation, you may hope to threaten your husband into behaving.  “If you don’t give up the sinful habit, I will never sleep with you again.”  “Get your act together or I’m leaving you.”  But what’s the saying about “two wrongs”?  When you give ultimatums, you are promising punishment.  That’s not your role.  You are not your husband’s parent or savior.  You are his helper and lover.

3.  Don’t Air His Dirty Laundry

We all want sympathy when we’ve been hurt or mistreated.  But if you desire your husband’s repentance, you will protect his reputation by keeping the matter private (Prov. 11:13; 17:9).  No one deserves to have their private struggles made public.  Instead, practice the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12).  Do you want every sin struggle of yours shared with others?  Do you want your weaknesses to be the topic of conversation when your husband gets together with his pals or his parents?  Use wisdom in determining when/ if to disclose anything and with whom.

4.  Pray for Him

It’s true that you can’t make anyone do the right thing.  Praying fervently for someone doesn’t mean they will repent.  However, it’s important to remember that God loves your husband even more than you do.  You can pray for wisdom (James 1:2-4), patience (1 Cor. 13:4), compassion (Col. 3:12), and strength (Phil. 4:13).  Prayer brings peace (Phil. 4:6,7).

5.  Remember Your Own Shortcomings

Do you ever feel like your sin list is a lot shorter than your husband’s?  The Bible says that anyone who transgresses in one area has become guilty of all the law (James 2:10).  Make sure you’re not holding your husband up to a higher standard than you hold yourself.  Grace and compassion go a long way toward reaching the heart of a struggling husband.

(Part Two will cover when to seek help, how to continue being a good wife, and how to maintain your convictions.)

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Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

Revive Me #52–Hold Fast

Revive Me, Week 52–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Hold Fast

As we close this year-long study of ways to strengthen our relationship with our Savior, it seems appropriate to share the Hebrews writer’s plea.

“But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end” (3:6).

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (10:23).

These were written to Christians who were facing persecution and giving in to discouragement.  “Hold fast” comes from one Greek word which means “holding one’s course toward; bearing down for.”  It’s the same word used in Acts 27 when Paul and all the sailors had been tossed around in a storm at sea for two weeks.  They finally caught sight of dry land and verse 40 reads “they made toward shore.”  How determined were they to make it?  They had set their course and they were going to hold fast.

Will you determine to hold fast?  Will you help me hold fast?

Life is uncertain.  I know of three individuals who lost their lives unexpectedly this past holiday weekend.  I pray their loved ones will hold fast through the grief.

Life can be cruel.  We all know dear ones who can’t seem to get a break.  They barely make it through one difficulty when another comes along to weigh them down.  I pray they will hold fast through the hardships.

Life can be dangerous.  There are thrills all around and sometimes we just want a taste.  It can be so easy to give in.  I pray we will all hold fast through the temptations.

The God we serve is greater than any uncertainty, cruelty, or danger.  The God who loves us has already made it possible for us to make it Home.

  • “In this world you have trouble, but take courage.  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
  • “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
  • “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).

Determine now that, come what may, you will not give up or give in.  “Stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).  That is my fervent prayer for you.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Sit down with your family and discuss scenarios (potential hardships, persecutions, etc.).  Promise to God and to each other that you will “hold fast” no matter what so you will all be together in Heaven.
  2.  Meditate on passages about faithfulness through trials.
  3.  Pray for courage and trust.
  4.  Memorize 1 Cor. 15:1,2.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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I thank God for you.

 

Revive Me #51–Spend Time on the Mountain

Revive Me, Week 51– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Spend Time on the Mountain

Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the testimony of God and then “went down to the people to tell them” (Ex. 19:20-25).  Jesus “went up on the mountain and…opened His mouth and began to teach” (Matt. 5:1,2).  He took what Moses had shared and elevated it.  He made it a matter of the heart (5:21,22, 31,32, etc.).  What Jesus taught is easy, except for when it’s hard.

The “Sermon on the Mount” is a familiar text.  And yet there are moments when I realize I haven’t spent enough time on the mountain.  Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20).  The scribes and Pharisees knew the law and they looked the part.  They were seen as religious leaders.  But they had a heart problem.  They liked to tell other people what to do while not practicing it themselves (Matt. 23).

I can talk about the command to forgive but what about when someone really hurts me?  I can say gossip is wrong but what about when my loose lips blurt out something that never should’ve been shared?  What if a sister wrongs me and I go to her one-on-one and she humbly apologizes, but I still feel angry and keep thinking of more things to say to put her in her place?  What then?  Well, I need to spend more time on the mountain.

  • Be gentle, merciful, a peacemaker (5:5-9).
  • Turn the other cheek (5:39).
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (5:44).
  • Don’t just love those who love you (5:46).
  • Forgive others (6:14,15).
  • Do not worry about your life (6:25).
  • Don’t judge others harshly while overlooking your own faults (7:1-5).

What Jesus taught is easy, except for when it’s hard.  Does my righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees if I’m not practicing these in my own life?

Jesus said there would be those who stand before Him and say, “Look at all the religious things I did!”  But because they ignored the will of the Father, He will say to them, “I never knew you” (7:21-23).

“When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed…[and He] came down from the mountain.”

(Matt. 7:28-8:1)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Read the Sermon on the Mount every day this week (Matthew 5-7).
  2.  Underline or highlight anything Jesus taught on the mountain that you personally struggle with.
  3. Pray for God to give you the humility to see your own “logs” and the strength to remove them (Matt. 7:1-5).

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Revive Me #50– Elevate Your Marriage

Revive Me, Week 50– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Elevate Your Marriage

I’m tired of all the marriage bashing.  Marriage is honorable (Heb. 13:4).  No one will be happy in their marriage if they are caught up in the worldly mindset of pleasing self.  But those who put godly traits into practice, like serving, yielding, and giving, will find daily joy in their marriage.  In other words, when we lower ourselves our marriages are lifted up.

How can you elevate your marriage?

Accommodate Your Spouse’s Likes and Dislikes

  • Are you paying attention?  Are you listening?  Do you remember?
  • Look for various ways to prove it.  For example, if your spouse likes a cup of coffee after work, have a fresh pot ready.  Thoughtful gesture= love affirmation.
  • Keep your eyes open for new likes and dislikes.  We all change as we age.
  • Get in the habit of asking, “Is there anything I can do for you?”  This question should be asked in various areas of life (bedroom, work, ministry, etc.).
  • Do what you can to make your spouse feel like it’s a joy to serve them (using words, gestures, facial expressions, and touches).

Value Your Unique Marriage

  • There’s only one marriage exactly like yours.  You have your own history, memories, inside jokes, and traditions.  Relish it!  Protect it!
  • Don’t take it for granted.  Regularly point out specific things you love about your special relationship.
  • Don’t let anyone bad-mouth your spouse or your marriage.  Remember, it’s honorable.

Seize the Day

  • Don’t wait for your spouse to deserve to be served.
  • Keep putting your spouse first no matter how you feel and no matter what others say.
  • Replace excuses with acts of service.
  • Serve without hoping to be served.  Let genuine love and their happiness be your motivation.
  • Start now.   What can you do today to elevate your marriage through service?

It’s ironic that the world considers these types of things to be drudgery.  Those who practice selfishness are the ones with the dull marriages.  Christians know that serving is satisfying.  There is no regret.  We will not look back one day and think, “I wish I hadn’t been so thoughtful.”  Consistent service enhances marriage.  It feels good and it’s intoxicating.

“Serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13).  Doing things God’s way brings out the best in everything.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Brainstorm ways to include unexpected acts of service into your schedule.
  2.  Spend time meditating on Scriptures concerning humility, putting others first, and agape love.  Here are some to start off with:  Phil. 2; 1 Cor. 13; Rom. 12:9-13; John 13:14-17.
  3.  Pay attention to your heart when you serve.  Are you filled with joy and satisfaction?  Or is your service done resentfully and grudgingly?

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

 

Revive Me #49–See God at Work

Revive Me, Week 49–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

See God at Work

I love the idea of keeping a prayer journal.  At ladies’ Bible class this past week, Anthea Carelse shared how she does hers.  I thought it was so great that I plan to do the same thing.  Instead of coming up with New Year’s resolutions, Anthea spends time creating her prayer journal for the year.  She thinks of and writes down her list of major prayer requests/ concerns.  She adds to it throughout the year.  She said that her favorite part is looking back a few weeks or months later and seeing how many she can cross off the list.  Anthea said that at the end of the year, she looks back over her prayer journal and can clearly see how most of her prayers were answered or in the process of being answered.  How faith building!

Anthea’s idea is a great one because it’s a reminder to see God at work.  When we do that, we will be more thankful for His love and attention.  We can always grow in our faith and in our gratitude.  Acknowledging answered prayers is an easy way to do that.

And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.

–1 John 5:14,15

“Leave it all in the Hands that were wounded for you”

(Elisabeth Elliot)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Purchase a spiral bound notebook or pretty journal and be thinking about the specific prayer requests/ concerns you’d like to write down on January 1st.
  2.  Besides building faith and growing gratitude, keeping track of God’s work in your life can also keep complaining and the martyr complex at bay.  What other benefits can you think of that will come from acknowledging answered prayers?
  3.  Read the following verses and note the conditions mentioned for answered prayer:

1 John 5:14,15-

John 15:7-

Matt. 7:7-

Psalm 37:4-

James 5:16-

Luke 18:1-

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Image cred: Huffington Post

 

 

Revive Me #48–Go to Calvary

Revive Me, Week 48–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Go to Calvary

I’m fighting distraction.  I’ve been focused on whatever my current responsibility has been.  When I could check off that assignment or event, my focus would move on to the next one.  Yesterday during the Lord’s Supper, I was about to put the fruit of the vine to my lips when it dawned on me that my mind had completely wandered all through the partaking of the bread.  I lifted my head as I realized I couldn’t recall one single sentence mentioned in either prayer that had just been offered.

Paul lifted up the cross as his central focus.  For him, nothing else mattered.  “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1,2).  I can see that I need to clear away the clutter and focus on the cross:

  • It is my power source (1 Cor. 1:18).
  • It is my motivation (Gal. 2:20).
  • It reminds me of God’s love (Rom. 5:8).
  • It strengthens me against temptation (1 Pet. 2:24,25).
  • It helps me see what’s important in life (Heb. 12:1,2).

It is so easy to get pulled away.  When I wander off on my own, I need to revisit Calvary.  The purpose of the cross was to bring me to God (1 Pet. 3:18).  Jesus gave everything for me there and that should be the reason for everything I do here.

“He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:15).

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Read through all the gospel accounts of the death, burial, and resurrection.
  2. See how many of the rest of the New Testament books mention the cross.
  3. Sing songs about the cross this week:  “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Lead Me to Calvary,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” etc.
  4. Share the story of the cross with someone this week.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Revive Me #47– Give Thanks

Revive Me, Week 47–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Give Thanks

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”

(unknown)

“Be thankful” (Col. 3:15; 4:2).  “Give thanks to Him and praise His name” (Psa. 100:4).

When?

  • In all circumstances- 1 Thess. 5:18
  • In all that you say and do- Col. 3:17
  • In every situation- Phil. 4:6
  • Always and for everything- Eph. 5:20
  • Forever- Psa. 30:12

Why?

  • For God is good and His love endures forever- 1 Chron. 16:34; Psa. 106:1
  • Because it is God’s will for you- 1 Thess. 5:18
  • For the Lord is the great God, the great King- Psa. 95:2,3
  • Because of the kingdom- Heb. 12:28
  • Because everything God created is good- 1 Tim. 4:4
  • Because of grace- 2 Cor. 4:15
  • Because of the generosity of others- 2 Cor. 9:11
  • Because it is good-Psa. 92:1
  • Because of all of the Lord’s wonderful deeds- Psa. 9:1,2
  • Because God answers- Psa. 118:21
  • Because the one who does it glorifies God- Psa. 50:23

Expressing thanks should be easy for the Christian.  We are most blessed!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, readers.  May the Lord bless you and your loved ones as you continue to live for Him.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Memorize Psalm 100
  2.  Send handmade cards expressing thanks for several individuals who may feel unappreciated, unnoticed, or taken for granted.
  3.  Makes sure your daily prayers overflow with thanksgiving.
  4. Create a list of specific things to be thankful for.  Post it in a prominent place and add to it daily.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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