Gratitude is an Attitude

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Thanksgiving Day 2014

Do you always feel like being thankful? I don’t. Sometimes life just stinks and I so wish that things were different, that I don’t feel thankful. This is a very self-focused and sinful attitude. One of those times for me was right after my best friend and husband, David, went to be with the Lord.

When there is tremendous blessing, such as a loving husband of 25 years, and that is taken away, there is tremendous loss. It isn’t wrong to grieve. It is natural  and necessary and it takes times. Even with the best biblical perspective, the human heart is broken. But, I believe we must move through the grieving process and not let Satan  or our natural tendencies prevail. I think at one point I was teetering on the border line.

I found myself in the pit of despair.  I remember driving down the dark road alone feeling like I had hit rock bottom emotionally and was pretty close spiritually too.  God seemed a million miles away. I felt desperate for relief.

I  began to mentally dig deep through my vast mental library of past sermons, quotes, poems,  memorized Scripture verses, etc., anything for help to escape what I was feeling.  Although I couldn’t see or feel Him, God was there and helped me climb out of that pit. He helped me find the ladder of thanksgiving and praise.

I was relieved to finally get an answer to my problem, but honestly, I didn’t want to exert the energy to apply the solution.  I didn’t feel like climbing.  In some sick way, I wanted to wallow in my pity.  It was easier to cry and be sad.

After a few minutes, I realized it would do no good to stay where I was. It’s not like it was a comfortable place to be. I hated it.  So even though I was wrung out emotionally, I made the choice to push past my feelings and sing.  Yes, I sang praises to God. It took a lot of effort at first and it wasn’t very loud.  It didn’t sound good either, but I knew God didn’t care about that.  He cared that I was being obedient to what He had shown me.

I didn’t feel much different at first and  it felt awkward, but as I continued, I began to feel better. Then I chose to thank God for His provision in my life.  I started counting my blessings. I realized I had been so busy feeling sorry for myself that I hadn’t thanked God for anything in several weeks. It’s no wonder I was depressed!

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Abigail demonstrating her napkin folding skills to Grandmama Hughes and Uncle Ismael Gullon

Gratitude is an attitude we deliberately choose in spite of how we feel. God has abundantly blessed most of us. Here are just a few reasons to thank God.  For….

  • living in still the greatest country on earth
  • plenty of food
  •  a warm place to sleep
  • people who love us
  • a place to freely worship
  • a Bible
  • clothes
  • peaceful living

AND if Jesus is our Saviour, we have…

  • the Holy Spirit who give us peace, guidance, and comfort
  • a promise of eternal life with Jesus
  • the knowledge that God loves us so much He sent His only son to die for us
  • a home in heaven without pain, sickness, or separation
  • the promise of being reunited with Christians who have gone on before us
  • the promise that God will never leave or forsake us
  • a tie that binds us to the hearts of other believers
  • been forgiven!

As we enter this Thanksgiving season, may our prayer be..

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

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Thanksgiving 2014 from left to right, Abigail, Anna, Nathan, Gaye, David

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

 

 

 

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When God Shows Up

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God’s handiwork beautifully shown in these ornamental cabbages

Have you had times when you stood in awe to see where God has been or is even working at that very moment?  I’ve had this privilege twice this past weekend! It always leaves me hungry for more. There is nothing like feeling the presence of God.

Two months ago I met a lady who had just been diagnosed with cancer for the second time.  Understandably, she was scared, but she was almost desperate with anxiety. She has now gone through radiation treatments and had some chemotherapy.

I saw her Saturday and she was totally different…not so much physically,  but in every other way.  She is now completely at peace with God and His plan for her life. What made the difference?  She found Jesus! She gave her life to Him and was baptized a few weeks ago.

I was moved to tears just watching her calm demeanor and hearing her confidently speak of God’s goodness and her faith in Him.  Her countenance is so different now.  I stood amazed knowing that only God could bring about such a change.

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And yesterday, I sat in a church full of people whose hearts were broken over the home going of a godly husband, father, friend,  and brother.  He was suddenly snatched from this life with a brain aneurism, leaving behind a wife, four young children, a successful career, and an effective ministry.  I’m so glad he lived a life that clearly  demonstrated his love for his Lord and that he was ready to meet his creator.

We sang praises to God for who He is ( a loving God who  provides for His own), what He has done (sent His only Son to bridge the gap between Himself and sinful man), and what He is going to do (reunite us with our loved ones to be with Him forever).  Although the singing was completely beautiful, I sat amazed at the power of God that enabled us to even sing at all under these circumstances.

In Psalm 16:11 David said,  “Thou wilt show me the path of life:  in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures evermore.” The Holy Spirit comforts us and gives us joy in the worst of times. It is amazing to feel God doing that for me and see Him working through others in the same way.

It is my prayer for you that even today you may see and feel His power in your life.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

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My daughter, Abigail, and I enjoying a sunny hike November 19, 2015

 

 

Running the Race of Life

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From left to right. Gaye- 2nd place for 50-59 Nathan- 1st place for 15-19 Bethany- 2nd place overall for women

 

This past weekend Nathan, Bethany, and I ran the Mayberry 10K (6.2 miles) in NC.  Bethany had won first place overall for the women two years ago so she was wanting to defend her title. Nathan hadn’t been able to train much because of work and school. I had been able to train, but I had the age thing going against me.

We were all in different circumstances, but in the same race. Isn’t that just like life?Comparing life with a race is so interesting to me.   As I was running, the analogies flooded my thinking, but I wasn’t able to write any of them down.  I’d like to share a few that I remembered.

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Chilly 42 degrees before the run!

  • We have no control over some of our conditions in life

After unusually balmy weather for November,  the temperature was to drop the night before the race.  We were hearing it would be 32 degrees the morning of the race. Ouch! This complicates things because it’s cold before the race and you want warm clothes, but as you get into the race, you warm up and don’t need the extra clothes heating you up and weighing you down.

In Hebrews 12:1 Paul said, “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…” Sin holds us back from living the abundant life God has for us.

Although we sometimes reap negative consequences due to our poor choices, often times while striving to live for God, we are thrown into circumstances in which we have no control. In these times, we must pray for God’s help, trust that He is in control, and seek to learn how to be a better person as a result of them.

  • Pace yourself

This has always been a challenge for me. At the beginning of a race, I am SO excited!  The adrenaline is rushing. I feel good.  When the horn goes off, I’m like a caged rabbit being released.

This is what happened Saturday morning. Bethany shot off like a streak of lightening and was out of sight in no time.  I was rearing to go, but Nathan was holding back.  He said, “Mom, I haven’t had time to train.  You go ahead!” It’s at times like this that I hate my competitiveness.  I wanted to stay with him, but I wanted to do my best. I decided it would make him feel bad to know I was holding back for him, so I ran on ahead.

At about 2 miles Nathan caught up to me. Now he was feeling good, and I was feeling tired.  As we approached a steep hill I glanced over at Nathan who was looking like he was just warming up. I said,  “Nathan, I’ve messed up.  I started out too fast. I’m afraid I’m going to run out of gas and not make it.” He encouraged me to keep going.

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Nathan finished one minute ahead of me. 🙂

He had been walking up the hills while I tried to jog up them. It had been a wise decision on his part.  Note to self: When life gets tough, you may not be able to keep up the speed you’ve been living life. Don’t give up. Give yourself time to recharge. Spend extra time in God’s Word and in prayer.

I’ve seen Christians really on fire for God.  They are impressive. They work hard in the church and serve God fervently.  But a few times I’ve found that some years later,  they no longer attend church at all.  Maybe they burned out. We must constantly make time to nurture our personal relationship with God and make sure we are being led by the Holy Spirit.

Then there is the aspect of spending lots of time in Bible study and church going, but neglecting to share that knowledge with others or practically apply what I’m learning. I must be careful to not equate church attendance with serving God. I believe God gives us opportunities every day to serve Him and love others.

  • Just do your personal best

Bethany had trained hard, but came in second place by 12 seconds. She did her best and had a great time of 45 minutes, but had to watch another cross the finish line ahead of her.  While we were all so proud of her, she was disappointed.  My mom asked me if I had known that I would miss first place by 1 minute, could I have done better.  I responded, “No, I actually did the very best I could.”

God requires our best….no more.  He has equipped each of us uniquely for the special purposes He has for us alone. It is not wise to compare ourselves with others. If we think others are better than we are, we get discouraged.  If we think we are doing better than others in a particular area, we tend to get prideful.  Neither is beneficial.

2 Corinthians 10:12 says, For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

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Part of our cheering section on the left… my mom, Mary Brewster and my son-in-law, Wesley Crews.

  • We need the support and friendship of others

My sister couldn’t stay for the race because of other obligations, but she came to encourage us before the race.  Wesley, Bethany’s husband, my Uncle Charles, and my parents came to cheer us on. What a blessing they were to us!

Their cheering reminded me of Hebrews 12:1 where it says, “Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…”

When we know others are watching and cheering us on, it motivates us to do our best. We have loved ones who have gone on before us.  I believe they are watching from the banisters of heaven and are cheering us on.

We need the help of others to get to the finish line in this life.

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Uncle Charles isn’t a runner, but he is a loyal supporter!

If you aren’t regularly meeting with a group of believers around God’s Word, please find a group you can join to do that. Nathan and I enjoy going to Community Bible Study as well as attending church.  It is vitally important that we continue to learn how God wants us to live and then be encouraged by others’ examples and have sweet fellowship with them.

  • “Why are you doing this?”

Along about mile 5 while climbing a hill in the race, Nathan and I passed some men at a shop. They called out, “Why are you doing this?” It is a legitimate question. It is hard for people who don’t like to run to understand those you do. And to be honest, as my lungs were screaming for air, I had to wonder too! Here is why I run.

I had cancer last year.  My grandmother died of a massive heart attack at age 67 and my daddy had a massive heart attack when he was around 45 years old.  By a miracle from God, he lived through it, but heart trouble runs in my family. I want to live life to the fullest. I want to be as healthy as I can be.

I want to make memories with my children and be a part of their lives.

There will come a day when I can’t run so I want to run while I can.

So that was a good question and it is one I try to ask myself often. “Why am I doing this?” My motives need to be good.  When it comes between choosing to please myself or meet another’s need, this is a good question to help me make the right decision.

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Aunt Denise Davis on the left crossing the finish line

  • Life isn’t always fair

My Aunt Denise competed in the Mayberry 5k.  When her only competitor in her age group fell, the true colors of my sweet aunt shone brightly.  She stopped to help her up. They became friends as they continued the race side by side. When the awards were given out, my aunt errorously received the second place medal. She crossed the line first, but the judges made a mistake. Was it fair? No. Did she deserve first place? Yes. Was she properly rewarded what was due her? No. Was she a winner? Definitely! Knowing she had earned first place, she graciously received her second place medal without a word. She made God smile and set a beautiful example for the rest of us.

  • My father’s at the finish line

As Nathan and I were in the last mile of the race, we could not see anyone ahead of us. Nathan asked me if we were bringing up the rear.  I knew we had passed a lot of people, but there were also several  half marathon runners going the same route so we weren’t sure where we stood in the race. That’s when I turned and looked behind us.

I instantly remembered what Jesus said in Luke 9:62, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  I felt like Lot’s wife in Genesis 19:26 who looked back while escaping Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt.

Anyway, there was no one in sight. So we just kept running. I was getting really tired and felt like walking, but then I realized that this race was different from any I had ever ran before.  My daddy was waiting at the finish line! I wanted to finish well and make him proud of me.

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Bethany, my dad, Cordell Brewster, and me

When life gets hard, it is helpful to remember our Father is at the finish line. I want to finish well and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

  • The end of life can be an uphill climb

The finish line was at the top of a hill. Ugggghh.  As I neared the end, I was tired and looking forward to being done…. but there was one more hill to climb.  As life here on earth draws to a close, it can get tough.  Sometimes the heartaches of life seem to increase and become more intense.  We long for relief.

Maybe God does this to help ease our hold on life here and make our transition easier.  As Christians, when we begin to see what is at the end of this race of life, we can be excited! We will forever be with Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. There will be no more pain, sorrow, or sickness. All will be well.

Along with the closure of pain and suffering though is also the end of opportunities to prepare for the next life. While we have breath and our being here, we need to seize the opportunities to lay up treasure in heaven. I believe what we do here will affect us in eternity.

May we run our race well by being obedient to what our Father has called us to be and do for His glory.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

I Corinthians 9:24-27  “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is self controlled in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown; but we an imperishable. I therefore run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”

A word I really don’t like

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Widow…I don’t like that word.  It makes me think of spiders. I don’t like spiders. Who came up with that word anyway? It sounds so…so…depressing.  I’ve tried to adapt the attitude to not gripe about something without striving to come up with a better solution.  But after stretching my brain for quite awhile I could not think of a better word.

I know this word (notice I’m not using it!) has been around at least a few thousand years because it’s in the Bible quite a few times.  It comes from the Latin word dividere which means to divide and can also mean vacant, to be empty of, void.  After becoming one myself, I’d say that is a pretty accurate definition.  This is a club no good woman ever wants to join. When I consider the meaning of this word, it’s no wonder it sounds so bad!

I have learned so much from reading the Epistles of Paul.  There is so much wisdom and practical help for Christian living in them! Thanks to my parents I can never remember not regularly attending church.  I’ve heard lots of sermons from I Timothy and I’ve read it many times myself, but shamefully, for years I glossed over the passages about widows because they didn’t apply to me. In these past 8 months I’ve taken a much closer look at what God says about widows and I’d like to share with you some surprises I found.

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Even in the early church there was a concern for the widows.  Evidently, there were many widows who needed help with their daily provisions.  The Grecians complained that the Hebrews were neglecting to provide for the widows (Acts 6:1-7). Jesus’ disciples met and explained that they could not quit preaching and praying to care for the widows and suggested other men be appointed to help meet these needs.  So seven honest, Holy Spirit-filled, wise men were chosen to fill in this gap.

About thirty years later, Paul writes a letter to his young pastor friend, Timothy, and informs him on how to conduct the business of the young church.  Included in this letter is a lot of wise counsel in dealing with the widows (I Timothy 5:1-16).

First of all, he says to give honor to the “widows indeed.” Hmmm. Is that opposed to the fake widows? I scratched my head at first but Paul goes on to define a “widow indeed.” It is a woman who has no family. If the woman has children, grandchildren or other family, it is first their responsibility to care for their widow.  Paul says,

let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable to God. (1 Timothy 5:4)

Webster’s Dictionary defines piety as fidelity (faithful) to natural obligations.

It is the churches responsibility to help the widows, but were you aware that there are 3 requirements of the widow? So the church would not be unduly burdened or taken advantage of, there were some guidelines to be followed.

Can I stop right here and comment?

I often hear “the church should….” and it is followed by a thousand different opinions.  Jesus defines “the church” has His followers. Those who have  repented of their sins, denied themselves and taken up their cross and are following HIM.  It isn’t a building made of wood or bricks. It isn’t a place with an unlimited amount of money piled up in a bank that should be given to anyone who ever asks for it. “The church” is believers and followers of Jesus.  If you are a believer, YOU are the church.

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(Deep breath…) Awww,  glad to get that off my chest.  I’d like to insert here that the local body of believers of which I am a part of have overwhelmed me with love, concern, emotional, financial, and practical support. They are obeying this passage in such a beautiful way.

Anyway, back to the topic…. There are 3 requirements for the church to help a widow. She must …

  • Be desolate which means alone with no family to help.
  • Trust in God. (obviously serious about her walk with God)
  • Continually, be earnestly and humbly talking and listening to God night and day.

Are you surprised by that? I was.  Is it reasonable? Absolutely! Paul goes on to say that if the widow is living indulgently, she is spiritually dead.  II Timothy 3:16 says,

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

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The Bible is God’s Word. So when Paul wrote these letters that are recorded in the Bible, counseling the early church, they are God’s words also.

God wants widows, their families, and the church to understand their responsibilities so they would do the right thing.

In verse 8, Paul says if families refuse to take care of their own widows, especially in their immediate family, they are worse than unbelievers who don’t even know God.

 If you haven’t been surprised by any of this so far, this might be what gets you. Paul said in verses 9 and 10 that a widow should be at least 60 years old to qualify for help from the church! She should have also been a faithful wife and performed good works such as…

  • brought up children
  • lodged strangers
  • washed the saints’ feet
  • relieved the afflicted
  • diligently followed every good work

Quite a tall order, wouldn’t you agree? Here are some of my conclusions about this passage…

  1. Just because I’m a widow, doesn’t relieve me from my responsibilities to other widows.  I have more empathy now for other women in this stage in life, as I should. I need to use what I’ve experienced to extend compassion to them.
  2. This should be a wake up call to EVERY married woman.  A woman never knows when she may suddenly become a member of this unfortunate club. It’s best she lives a faithful, serious life for her Lord so she can feel His comfort and qualify for the needed support from her family and church at such a difficult time.
  3. I need to be careful to not expect the church body I belong to, to meet needs God expects me to meet.
  4. God wants me to use the resources He provides me responsibly.
  5. I should welcome accountability.

Are you curious about the reason for the senior citizen discount?  Paul explains why a widow should be at least 60 years old to qualify for help from the church. He warns young widows of the snares of early widowhood. He advises them to be careful to live above reproach, stay true to Jesus, and not follow the devil and the world’s ways. He listed several temptations a young widow might struggle with…

  • She might get impatient and marry outside of God’s will
  • Have too much free time on her hands
  • Gossip
  • Become a busybody

Paul sums things up in verse 16…

If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve (assist) them, and let not the church be charged (burdened); that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.

I know this blog is quite different from my other ones. But one of the reasons for this blog is my desire to share what God is teaching me. I hope it has given you food for thought. I would love to hear your comments. Have a blessed day!

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

I’m sorry…..again

Nathan, Gaye, Abigail April 2015

When Abigail came home from work she was once again frustrated that her brother hadn’t left a note telling her where he was.  I was visiting with family and she had asked him to let her know if he decided to do something with his friend.  Although she could probably confirm his location with one phone call, she was perturbed that he hadn’t done as she asked.  “He always says he forgot and apologizes, but if he really meant it, why doesn’t he change?” Abigail vented to me. It was a reasonable question.

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Nathan and Abigail 2015

Does God ever feels that way about me?  When I come to Him for the hundredth or thousandth time asking forgiveness for a sin, I wonder if God says,  “Again? Really? How many times are you going to blow it, Gaye? Will you ever learn?”  Surely this gets old to Him.  It does to me.  Jesus died for my sin and through His resurrection He has given me the  power to be victorious over my sin.  But here I am yet again.

Thankfully, God is infinitely more patient than I will ever be! He is longsuffering and He remembers I am made of dust. And He does want me to come to Him every single time I’ve blown it. This is why sinless Jesus had to die for my sin.  Because I could never live up to my righteous God’s standards.

Psalm 103: 8-13 says,

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy, He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sin; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.  Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

But if I am really sorry, why am I not changing?  Could it be that I don’t hate my sin enough to do what it takes to change?  I vividly remember often crying myself to sleep as a young mother of three little girls under the ages of 3 1/2 as I thought about the events of the day.  I was too impatient, too snappy with my responses, too upset about the many spilled drinks, too tired…… too stressed to enjoy these precious moments with my little ones.

I would pray and ask God to forgive me. I vowed to do better the next day. More often than not, the next day was a repeat of the day before.

I memorized Bible verses like these.

Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

and Matthew 18:6 Whoso therefore shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him (or her!) that a millstone were hanged about his (her) neck, and that he (she) were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Romans 5:3 says tribulation works patience. I’m not sure if I finally had enough tribulation to make me patient or if the pressures of life eased up enough that my impatience wasn’t as obvious, but one day I noticed I wasn’t flying off the handle as often.  Although I have often been tempted to quit, with Jesus’ help I keep trying to do better.  Even though I have a natural bent to be impatient, I know with Jesus’ help, I can be an overcomer.

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:37)

The point is, my battle with sin has been a real struggle…something I won’t be rid of until I can lay this body of flesh down to enter into Jesus’ presence in heaven.  But thankfully, I serve a loving, patient God that understands me and loves me anyway.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

P.S. I would love to hear about how the Lord has helped you with your struggles. I’m sure it would be a blessing to others reading this too.  Please share with us!