Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cultivating a Grateful Heart

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever." (Psalm 136:1)

With so many bad news in the world, near and far, do you sometimes find it hard to give thanks?

There was a time that I was scheduled to give a talk in a support group. When the time came, I had reserved one morning to finish my handout. But that day as I was fixing breakfast, my back suddenly hurt so badly that I couldn't stand up straight.

Oh No! My sciatica pain has flared up again!

I carefully moved towards the wall and started doing the "Untwisting Your Nerve" exercise that I learned in physical therapy. But when it did not seem to work, I started to panic.

There is no way for me to prepare for the talk! May be I cannot even go!

I prayed and slowly walked to my home office in a crouching position. After sitting quietly for awhile, I sent an e-mail.

"Hi, I'm still planning to be there but I may not have handout.  Most likely I will send you the handout pretty late because my back is hurting and I have other responsibilities. Please pray for all attendees and me, especially for my sciatica pain. See you."

I sat quietly and accepted (not just enduring) the pain of the moment. Before I knew it, my back pain was gone. Two days later, I shared this most recent example in my "Dealing with Emotions -- How Emotions and Stress Affect Our Health" workshop. How could I not give thanks to the Lord?

Counting our blessings and giving thanks can take our minds away from troubles in our life and in this world. I like to use the following list to cultivate a grateful heart during Thanksgiving. Please try one or two questions.

1. What one biggest gift (tangible or intangible) have you received this year?
2. What two things changed your life this year?
3. What three incidents help you grow in your faith this year?
4. Which four blessings in your home are you willing to thank God for?
5. What five happy experiences have you had?
6. What six things created by God are things that we cannot live without even though we sometimes take them for granted?
7. Who are seven people, inside or outside of your home, for whom you are most thankful?

My biggest gift in 2019 is our fifth grandchild. After my daughter-in-law's mother took care of them for a month, I went to help for 24 days. I could hold the baby all day, even though I had to first sit down and wait for her parents to bring her. I also enjoyed spending time with the other grandchildren, often playing one game after another, or reading one storybook after another. Thank God that my son and daughter-in-law are responsible parents and they understand my sciatica. Going to bed early and taking naps, I was more relaxed there than in California!

There were many other incidents and changes that helped me grow in my faith this year.

One is regarding my sciatic pain. This time last year I told my primary doctor the recurrence of lower back pain. Once again she prescribed physical therapy and plenty of rest. Since I already tried Physical Therapy a few times without lasting outcome, I was skeptical. Nevertheless I made an appointment for December when I wasn't so busy. However, my back was hurting so badly the morning after Thanksgiving that I had to call for help.

Amazingly, they said I could see another Physical Therapist that afternoon. After asking me about my situation, she asked me to stand naturally in front of a mirror and put my hands on my hips. She showed me how my left and right sides were not leveled. She diagnosed the cause of my sciatica pain and taught me exercises and sleep positioning in the next few months. She even prepared me the right way to hold my new grand-baby.

The "Untwisting Your Nerve" exercise was so helpful that I was able to resume daily walk with James since the end of May. Thank God for His divine appointment for me to meet this knowledgeable, skillful and caring Physical Therapist!

I also experienced God's amazing grace with James' eyesight changes. In late July, his left eye suddenly had blurred vision. I was scared because that is his only functioning eye. After seeing a Retina specialist, an injection was given to his eyeball in early August to slow down the build-up of fluid in his retina. The off-label drug was normally prescribed for chemotherapy treatment. There was no guarantee for healing. "Perhaps we can rely on injection to keep his vision from getting worse. When his vision is stable, perhaps he can wear special glasses."

I sent out prayer requests pleading our merciful God to allow James to drive, read, preach, and lead Bible studies.

James remained calm. I tried not to be emotional but I was feeling very scared and worried, especially after searching the Internet and reading many negative reports. What if the shot had negative effects? What if James became blind? What if ...

Amazingly, James' could see clearly in just 2 days after the injection. In his September check up, even the doctor was surprised how fast his eye had recovered. James did not need another injection but had to be checked again to make sure his vision was stabilized. Imagine our joy when James tested 20/20 on his left eye in November! The doctor said, "All is well. Let's check again in December because we need to keep an eye on you." I could not help but say "Thank God!" Even the doctor nodded his head.

In 2007, James underwent surgery on this left eye to treat the macular hole in the retina. I was scared to death before his operation until I was comforted by the Word of God in our Thursday Bible study. 12 years later, the same eye needed an eyeball injection and I was scared to death again. Amazingly, a few days before the injection, in our Monday Bible study in a different city, God spoke clearly to me again using the same passage (Mark 6:45-52). Jesus said to me, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." How can I not thank the Lord?

Life is unpredictable but we can thank the Lord Jesus for saving us and walking with us. Please Click HERE to read my article titled "Giving Thanks While Bowing Down" to find out how James' left eye lost and regained central vision in 2007. Thank God for His love and faithfulness!

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

How are you? Let me listen to your gratitude and stress, and pray for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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