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Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

This is for all my friends who are parents.  While it is written from the mom’s perspective, even dads can appreciate this humorous perspective.  [author unknown]

When I was younger, I remember receiving the inevitable homework assignment to write an essay on “something I am thankful for.”

Then I’d spend a lot of time sitting in my room trying to figure out just what in the world that could possibly be, and I’d end up writing down everything I could think of from God to environmental consciousness.

But after having children, my priorities have clearly changed:

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful to have been born the USA, the most powerful free democracy in the world.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for Velcro tennis shoes. As well as saving valuable time, now I can hear the sound of my son taking off his shoes — which gives me three extra seconds to activate the safety locks on the back seat windows right before he hurls them out of the car and onto the freeway.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for the recycling program that will preserve our natural resources and prevent the overloading of landfills.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for swim diapers because every time my son wanders into water in plain disposables, he ends up wearing a blimp the size of, say, New Jersey, on his bottom.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for fresh, organic vegetables.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for microwaveable macaroni and cheese — without which my children would be surviving on about three bites of cereal and their own spit.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for the opportunity to obtain a college education and have a higher quality of life than my ancestors.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful to finish a complete thought without being interrupted.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for holistic medicine and natural herbs.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for pediatric cough syrup guaranteed to “cause drowsiness” in young children.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for all of the teachers who had taught, encouraged, and nurtured me throughout my formative years.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for all of the people at Weight Watchers who let me strip down to pantyhose and a strategically placed scarf before getting on the scale each week.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for the opportunity to vacation in exotic foreign countries so I could experience a different way of life in a new culture.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful to have time to make it all the way down the driveway to get the mail.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for the Moosewood Vegetarian cookbook.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for the Butterball Turkey hotline.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for a warm, cozy home to share with my loved ones.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for the lock on the bathroom door.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for such material objects as custom furniture, a nice car, and trendy clothes.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful when the baby spits up and misses my good shoes.

BEFORE CHILDREN: I was thankful for my wonderful family.
AFTER CHILDREN: I am thankful for my wonderful family.

[author unknown]

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The author Scott Peck noted that the ability to appreciate pleasant, unearned surprises as gifts tends to be good for one’s mental health.  Those who perceive grace in the world are more likely to be grateful and happy than those who do not.  Grace is available for everyone.  God’s grace is evident everywhere: in the nurturing touch of a mother, in the hug of a father, in the provision from a job, in the help from a friend, in the fellowship of a church, in the emotional connection of a song, in the words of encouragement spoken into the midst of trials, in the beauty of art work, in the wonders of creation and in the rescue and relief from emergency services.  Like rain, God’s grace flows over the earth.  It falls on the just and the unjust.

There is a story of about a Yankee who, on a business trip, had to drive through the South for the first time.  He stopped at a roadside diner in South Carolina and ordered eggs and sausage for breakfast.  He was surprised when his order came with a white blob on the plate.  “What’s this?” he asked the waitress.  “Them’s grits, suh,” she replied.  But I didn’t order them,” he said.  “You don’t order grits,” she explained.  “They just come.”  And that is very much like grace.  It just comes to us.  Unasked for and undeserved, the blessings of God flow in, through, under and over our lives.  As author Scott Peck noted, happy is the one who recognizes it!

Eagle Creek Pool, Fall 2002

Eagle Creek Pool, Fall 2002 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

The Bible reminds us that God’s grace flows to those who are full of thanks and humble.  In fact James says, “God resists the arrogant, but gives his grace to the humble.”  Our attitude and posture are important in our relationship with God, especially when we are in need of his grace.  A good definition of grace is “God’s unmerited favor”.  Do you need God’s favor in your life today?  For what you are going through in life?  You can look to God, who will lavish his favor upon you abundantly.  However, it is important to be in a position of reception and readiness.  Otherwise, you may miss it.

I am thankful that God’s grace comes to me freely and most often when I do not expect it.  It reminds me that I am his and that he is still in charge.  He only asks that I remain humble and thankful before him.  This is a position of receiving something I do not deserve.  Why is this important?  Because arrogance shuts off the flow of his grace into our life.  It says, “No thanks.  I’ve got what I need.”  Self-sufficient pride closes our life to God’s unmerited favor.  Simply, our life or human vessel is already full – of our self.

Grace flows most easily toward humble gratitude.  Even as humans we find that it is much easier to be gracious and show favor to those who are humble and thankful.  An arrogant person repulses and repels the gracious help that is offered.  Is it any wonder then that God’s grace flows toward the humble?  So, in one sense, you may have your own hand upon the faucet handle of the source of God’s favor towards you.  Go ahead.  Turn it on with humility and thankfulness.  Let it flow.

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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Lutefisk Lessons

When the holidays come around, my mind immediately wanders back to the days our family gathered around my grandparent’s dining room table with a huge plate of steaming lutefisk set upon it.  My grandmother was from German descent, but my grandfather came directly from Sweden as a young boy.  So, my grandmother learned to cook the Scandinavian fish delicacy for the family.  We always ate it on potatoes with white gravy.  That is just the way it came.  I was told that it was because we are Swedes and that it was the only proper way to eat it.

My grandfather, Walter, took pride in finding lutefisk fresh in the Ballard, Washington, markets.  Ballard is a city just north of the city of Seattle, across the Lake Union canal, and sports more than its fair-share of Pacific Northwest Scandinavians.  My grandmother, Evelyn, took pride in complimenting the seasonal foods with all things Scandinavian – yulekake, krumkake, rosettes, lefsa, and kringla.

Now, lutefisk lovers all over the world have suffered ridicule at the hands of non-lutefisk eaters.  I do not know why there is such animosity towards us.  So, to better garner mutual understanding and perhaps greater dialogue on such culinary subjects, I offer below the recipe for cooking lutefisk from “Our Favorite Grange Recipes,” which was compiled and edited by the Home Economics Committee of the California State Grange with Gladys True as Chairperson and printed in 1965 by the Record of Yolo County:

  • Clean thoroughly and place in a wooden bowl or pail.
  • Add water to cover and set in a cool place for 5 to 6 days.  Change water each day.
  • Remove fish and thoroughly clean wooden bowl.
  • Make a solution of water, lime, and ashes and allow to stand overnight.
  • Drain off clear liquid and pour over soaked fish.  Set in a cool place for 7 days.
  • When fish is soft, remove from solution, scrub bowl well and soak fish for several days in cold clear water.
  • Cook in boiling salted water at simmering temperature for about 20 minutes.
  • Drain well and serve.

NOTE:  The Norwegians serve the fish with melted butter; the Swedes serve it with white or mustard sauce.  Allow 1/3 pound per person.

And that is just for the first piece of lutefisk!  Two things are made very, very clear when reading this recipe.  First, preparing and cooking lutefisk takes a lot of forethought and planning.  There is a good three weeks before one could eat this delicacy.  Also, I would like to humbly point out, this obviously takes a higher than average level of intelligence.  Secondly, at the end of the process, the cook has a very clean bowl.

I have recently lived in another lutefisk eating haven of North America. It is the Red River Valley of the North.  The beautiful thing about living there is that virtually every truck stop and restaurant serves lutefisk for the holidays.  Why, one could eat out at a different restaurant every night of the week from Thanksgiving until Christmas and have lutefisk every night!  It is obvious that this truly is the place of “Walhalla” – “the valley of the gods.”  These people are blessed.  Truly blessed by the divine.

Walhalla, Pembina Gorge, North Dakota

Walhalla, Pembina Gorge, North Dakota ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2009)

I consider myself to be a fortunate man to have such a rich heritage and life experience.  I am thankful that I live in the United States of America.  This is a rich and bountiful land filled with people from all over the world.  These holidays allow us to give thanks and celebrate the religious background that helped us attain such blessings.

However, if you are like me, as we enter into the holiday seasons, it is much too easy in the hustle and bustle to forget that gratitude and appreciation should be the greatest marks of the season.  Somehow this gets lots in the midst of frantic Christmas shopping, Thanksgiving meal planning and cooking, company Christmas parties, family gatherings, and decorating.  The greatest challenge to all of us is to not let the overindulgence of our materialistic society numb us to all that we are blessed with in this world.  I want to gently caution you as I remind myself:  Do not forfeit your future as collateral for fulfillment today with material goods that fade so quickly away into a closet, storage unit or Goodwill bin.

Americans seem to think that God will wink at our gluttony and overindulgent materialism in the face of the rest of the world’s needs.  I think we are wrong.  I believe we will be judged as a nation by how we treat the hungry, poor, naked and immigrant in the rest of the world.  Our expanded waistlines as well as overstuffed closets and storage units testify against us like the blood of Abel crying out from the ground.  How can we have and enjoy so much when so many have so little?

I want to challenge all my friends to consider the food you eat and the things you purchase in light of eternity and your eternal reward.  My family, for example, gave Christmas money this year to Gospel for Asia to help purchase a goat for a needy family.  This goat will provide milk and cheese for a long time.  We did this to remind ourselves how blessed we truly are in this world.  There are plenty of local and global ministries that help the poor and downtrodden.  I would recommend visiting the website adventconspiracy.org to get more ideas.  I challenge you to remember these ministry efforts in your giving during this season.  Remember what Jesus said, “In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me”.  Now, there is something that will last much longer than three-week old soaked lutefisk.

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2009)

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A surgeon was speaking to a small group of university students about his work in the Gaza Strip. He was reminding the students that we North American “fat cats” knew nothing about gratitude.  Nothing!

On one occasion, he had stopped at a peasant hovel to see a woman on whom he had performed surgery.  She and her husband were dirt poor.  Their livestock supply consisted of one Angora rabbit and two chickens.  For income the woman combed the hair out of the rabbit, spun the hair into yarn and sold it.  For food she and her husband ate the eggs from the chickens.

The woman insisted that the missionary surgeon stay for lunch.  She insisted on showing her gratitude to him this way.  He accepted the invitation and said he would be back for lunch after he had gone down the road to see another postoperative patient.  An hour and a half later, he was back.  He peeked into the cooking pot to see what he was going to eat.  He saw one rabbit and two chickens.

The woman had given up her entire livestock supply–her income, her food, everything – to say “thank you.”  He concluded his story by reminding the students that, as Americans, we know nothing of gratitude.  He wept unashamedly.

Old Abandoned Truck

Old Abandoned Truck ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg (2009)

There is another incident concerning gratitude that will never be forgotten.  It is about a woman who poured costly perfume over our Lord’s feet as she wiped them with her hair.  Make no mistake–the perfume was expensive, three hundred denarii, a year’s income for a laborer in Palestine.  Enough to keep a family alive for twelve months.  Also, in that culture, a woman’s hair was among her most precious personal possessions.

Some, who witnessed that event, including Jesus’ closest disciples, objected to such an extravagant display of affection in view of personal need – or even need of others.  Jesus asked a very pointed question, “Who loved more – the one forgiven much or the one forgiven little?”  Obviously, the answer was – and still is – the one who was forgiven much.

In view of what Christ did for us, how can we be stingy in our worship, our praise, our tithes and offerings, our time in his service or in fellowship with his body – the Church.  The vivid portrayal of Christ’s extravagant sufferings for our sins in Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” should move us to be just as extravagant in showing our gratitude and worship to our Heavenly Father and Savior, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  And yet, according to the surveys made by Barna Research, the average Evangelical Christian gives only about 3% or their income to the ministries of their local church.  Americans spend more on dog food annually than on giving to charities or mission work!

Perhaps it is time some of us got more extravagant in our worship.  It is about time we got radical in our display of gratitude for all that God has done for us and ‘sold the farm’ or ‘broke the bank.’  After all, how much do we really love Him?  How thankful are we?

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2009)

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