A Gratitude Challenge


Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.
Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.
Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
Colossians 3:16 NLT

After knocking over a half-full glass of water as I reached for my eye drops this morning, I could have chosen to complain. Instead, I chose gratitude.  What could I be thankful for?

  • Most of the water landed on the floor instead of my dresser top.
  • Not one drop of water fell into the open container of medication standing on my dresser.
  • When the glass hit the floor, it did not break or even crack.
  • I’m thankful for my generous-hearted sister-in-law who gave me that glass.
  • I can still touch my toes and bend over, so I easily cleaned up the mess.
  • My early morning accident provided an illustration for this blog post.

Gratitude, I’ve discovered, does not begin with feeling thankful. It starts with what I’m thinking. Words that gush out of my mouth flow from the hidden spring of beliefs I’ve stored in my heart.

Like the Psalmist, I want the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart to be pleasing to God. (Psalm 19:14) In order for this to happen, I must pay attention to my thoughts.

Here’s my challenge: In every situation where I’m inclined to grumble or complain, I will write a statement of gratitude. I will share these statements with someone on Thanksgiving Day.

That day is less than two weeks away. My challenge starts now. I hope you will join me.

  • Either electronically or with a pen and paper, write down each situation in which you feel angry, disappointed, sad, or stuck
  • Then, by writing down everything for which you can give thanks, turn it into an opportunity for gratitude.
  • Record any change in your attitude or energy level that results after you’ve done the first two steps.

NOTE: This is not an exercise in perfection. Don’t guilt yourself if you slip up; just get up and start again. Start building or, if you need to, rebuild a habit of gratitude.


 Get in the habit of gratitude;
 Cultivate that attitude.
  
 Practice it morning, noon, and night;
 Bless God for everything in sight—
  
 Everything beautiful, everything good;
 Focus not on the ugly, impure or lewd.
  
  Note everything true and commendable;
  See what has worth and what is expendable.
  
 Soon your soul will be filled with joy;
 Small imperfections will not annoy
  
 You anymore; you’ll be gracious
 To all--kind and courageous.
  
 Get in the habit of gratitude;
 Make it more than a platitude.
  
 Jane Ault 
 2/10/18 

 

This entry was posted on November 15, 2019. 16 Comments

Learning to do one thing


The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections . . .

Psalm 27:4 NLT

The deer in my neighborhood seek one thing: to eat the apples on my neighbor’s tree. In order to get to the tree, they need to cross the road in front of my house. They do not hurry nor (to my knowledge) worry.

They remain in the middle of the road and stare at my car. They model focus and boldness. Characteristics I desire. Characteristics I need if I expect to enjoy the presence of Jesus all the days of my life.

Though my mind wanders and I imperfectly focus, Jesus gently brings this to my attention. He shows me that my heart is never happy when I wander away, trying to do a multitude of tasks at the same time. In his presence, I am totally satisfied and unafraid.

I am learning to do one thing at a time. That thing is to focus on him.

What about you? What or whom are you focusing on today? How satisfied do you feel?

 I am doing just one thing,
 One thing at a time;
 It’s the task that God gives me,
 As I listen to him.
  
 In the morning, I remember
 To seek consultation;
 I need grace and wisdom
 Because  I’m  his creation.
  
 I am doing just one thing,
 One thing at a time;
 It’s the task that God gives me,
 As I listen to him.
  
 I return every hour;
 He reviews my direction
 And shows me quite clearly
 The next best selection
  
 I am doing just one thing,
 One thing at a time;
 It’s the task that God gives me,
 As I listen to him.
  
 In the evening, I ask him
 To help me review
 The things that I’ve done—
 Have I followed through?
  
 Have I done just one thing?
 One thing at a time?
 Was it the task God gave me?
 Or was it just mine?
  
 I, imperfectly stick to 
 One thing at a time
 God gently corrects me
 When I’m out-of-line
  
 I am doing just one thing,
 One thing at a time;
 It’s the task that God gives me,
 As I listen to him.
  
 Nov 2, 2019
 Jane Ault 

This entry was posted on November 8, 2019. 10 Comments

A Vision Adjustment


But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.
Psalm 5:11

Last summer, a mama robin built her nest in the gutter which is located underneath the edge of the roof above our large living room picture window. A friend of mine jumped, nearly panicking when she saw this robin flying toward the window. She thought the bird was going to crash against the glass and injure or kill itself.

My friend did not see that the bird was flying into a nest of safety because her vision did not extend high enough. How often in an uncertain and difficult situation, my vision has been too low!

Viewing my circumstances through the lens of humanity’s limited knowledge and wisdom, I become overwhelmed with worry. Jesus knows that is our tendency. So he reminds us, as his followers, to gain instruction from the birds.

“Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:26 NET)

In Psalm 84, David, the shepherd boy who became King, speaks of birds finding a home and swallows building a nest to raise their young in the protected and peaceful place of God’s presence.

Sometimes, instead of God’s presence, my eyes are on the storm. I fear that I will crash.


 Again, Jesus, my vision is too low.
 In this thing, which you allowed,
 I imagine only destruction. 
 Help me see above this storm.
  
 Or else, take my hand and walk me though it.
 In this thing, which you allowed,
 Let me not be blinded by deception.
 Help me see above the storm.
  
 Jesus, I need a vision adjustment
 About this thing which you allowed;
 My body shakes. I’m filled with tension.
 Your power’s greater than this storm!
  
 That I've said; there’s much knowledge in my head.
 In this thing, which you allowed,
 My heart longs to trust your intention,  
 to believe there is goodness in this storm.
  
 Jesus, you have earth’s and heaven’s vision.
 This is a thing you allowed
 Yourself to feel! So with compassion
 You will enter the storm I am in.
  
 Calm my anger, remove my confusion.
 Is there something I've allowed
 Myself to hide? With faith's perception, 
 Help me walk with you 'til all storms end.
 
 Jane Ault
 10/24/2019

  
 

A Little Bit of Humor


She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.

Proverbs 31:25 NLT

Embracing the writing I’m called to do doesn’t always excite me. Sometimes, I’d just rather play another game of Scrabble with my husband. After years of disinterest in that game, he recently took a liking to it. Now, playing Scrabble is an evening habit for us.

He plays to enjoy himself. I play to win. Would it be possible for me to enjoy myself if I did not win the game? So far, I’ve been winning most of the games. To tell you the truth, it’s not as much fun as it used to be. I’d like to see him win more often.

It’s easy to think so, but he scored 57 points in his last play (we are in the middle of a game) and I’m re-thinking my desire for him to win more often. I’m not making this up. I simply decided I would like to post something less serious in my blog this week.

So as much as I’d like to philosophize, I’m sticking to my write-something- less-serious goal. I will just share a humorous poem. Well . . . it does have a bit of philosophizing, I suppose.


 Laughter
  
 It’s really no fun to live with Depression;
 It’s really no fun to walk with Despair.
 I wish I could find a partner more cheerful;
 I wish I could find Laughter somewhere.
  
 Laughter will come if you invite her;
 Laughter will come if you open the door.
 Laughter's a child both wise and simple—
 To look in her eyes you must sit on the floor.
  
 Laughter is young but older than Fear.
 She doesn't read clocks but comes in a hurry.
 Trust is her guide and, though, she's imperfect,
 She sees in her mirror no reason for worry.
  
 If you want to know Laughter, you must change your position,
 Be prepared to look silly—people might stare.
 Yes, people might talk and people might leave;
 But when you’re with Laughter you really won't care. 
 
Jane Ault
@ 1996

This entry was posted on October 18, 2019. 4 Comments

About Grieving


Weep with those that Weep.”
Romans 12:15

As a counselor, I’ve had, and have, the honor and privilege of listening to others and assisting them as they’ve worked through grief experiences. I believe my ability to do this with compassion is due to the fact that I, myself, have had those who’ve been with me in my grief.

I’m particularly thankful for the excellent counselor who sat with me, as I worked through a long-standing depression and listened to me with the heart of Jesus.

It was from this counselor that I learned how to listen most effectively: to become present to both my own heart and to the Spirit of Jesus. In this quiet atmosphere of accepting grace and love, I found the freedom to grieve and the freedom to grow.

I’ve discovered that there is more for me to learn. I will not be finished until the day I breathe my last breath. However, I do not despair. Choosing gratitude always stirs up hope in my heart.

My poem, today, reflects some of what I’ve learned and am still learning.


 
 About Grieving
 
 Don’t go back to where you’ve been,
 Rehearsing failures and past sin;
 Repentance means you’ve made a change.
 Forgiveness means you’re not condemned.
  
 In faith, move forward into “Today”:
 Needing not to prove your merit,
 Listening carefully to the Spirit,
 Doing what seems wise and loving.
  
 Pay attention to your feet.
 Direct your steps; walk purposefully.
 Let routines guide but not control you.
 When you’re sad, let Christ console you—
  
 Don’t, instead, deny your pain:
 When unresolved, it will remain,
 Causing damage to your brain,
 Making thought unmanageable.
  
 Anxiety may rise within you,
 But it need not overwhelm you.
 Stop and breathe; relax your body.
 This will help you think more clearly.
  
 When you feel angry, just admit it:
 Not with shame upon your face,
 Hiding it will build up rage,
 It’s a part of healthy grieving.
  
 If you focus long upon your loss,
 Fear may threaten to undo you.
 That’s the time to take a walk
 Or call a friend and share your heart—
  
 Someone who will sit in silence,
 Not try to fix you but simply listen,
 Sometimes reflecting what they hear
 But not repeating what you share.
  
 Give thanks for all of God’s good gifts:
 The autumn orange, red, and gold,
 The happy memories your heart holds,
 The pleasures of the present day—
  
 You will find great treasure if you’re alert
 To what God says and how love works;
 Gratitude restores your hope
 So, with grief and sadness, you can cope.
  
 10/11/2019
 Jane Ault 

This entry was posted on October 11, 2019. 5 Comments

Fall to Winter . . .


For everything there is an appointed time,
and an appropriate time for every activity on earth:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NET

I returned, Tuesday, from a trip in which I celebrated a family wedding and, two days later during this same week, received the news of a family death. Joy followed by sorrow. In this life, laughter and tears pursue one another in unknown and unpredictable cycles.

Although the week’s October temperatures soared to mid-summer highs, I find courage and comfort in the still somewhat predictability of earth’s seasons, in the promises of Scripture, and in the presence of the Spirit of Jesus.

The following poem is my reflection about “Winter”.


 Fall to Winter,
 Winter to Spring,
 Spring to Summer,
 Summer to Fall—
 
 Fall to Winter;
 We, forever, recycle
 Until abruptly,
 Death ends our denial.
  
 Ashes to ashes,
 Dust to dust;
 Our spirit returns
 To God who is just.
  
 Fall to Winter,
 Winter to Spring,
 Spring to Summer,
 Summer to Fall--
  
 Fall to Winter;
 The cycle is ending
 For someone we love;
 We're still pretending
  
 Winter will come.
 Spring will soon follow.
 We hope for more time;
 Death’s hard to swallow.
  
 Fall to Winter,
 Winter to Spring,
 Spring to Summer,
 Summer to Fall--
 
 Fall to Winter;
 Too soon comes the call.
 We hear it with hope
 And still try to stall--
  
 Not wanting to leave,
 Not wanting to stay,
 There’s conflict within;
 We struggle and pray.
  
 Fall to Winter,
 Winter to Spring,
 Spring to Summer,
 Summer to Fall--
 
 Fall to Winter;
 The battle is over.
 Victory’s been won!
 We see composure--
  
 Peace on the face
 Of a loved one departed;
 The cycle goes on;
 Yet, death’s been outsmarted.
  
 Fall to Winter,
 Winter to Spring,
 Spring to Summer,
 Summer to Fall--
  
 Fall to Winter;
 Will I cycle once more?
 My question’s not answered;
 I cannot be sure.
  
 Grace upon grace
 Has been given to me;
 I wonder, sometimes,
 At the goodness received.
  
 Fall to Winter,
 Winter to Spring,
 Spring to Summer,
 Summer to Fall--
  
 Fall to Winter;
 In this moment of time,
 What will I do 
 With breath that is mine?
  
 I’ll not stay too long
 In my lament;
 I can never recover
 Time not well spent.
 
 Fall to Winter,
 Winter to Spring,
 Spring to Summer,
 Summer to Fall--
 
 Fall to Winter;
 I’m more peaceful this year.
 Though I may tremble
 And feel insecure,
  
 I know from experience,
 Grace will be sufficient. 
 In joy and in sorrow,
 God has been present.
  
 Fall to Winter,
 Winter to Spring,
 Spring to Summer,
 Summer to Fall-- 

 Fall to Winter . . .
 
 Jane Ault
 10/3/2019

This entry was posted on October 4, 2019. 9 Comments

Sometimes I want to pretend . . .


“Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
Psalm 82:3

Much of what is happening in the world brings me distress. I grieve over the lack of justice, the dishonesty, greed, and coverup of corruption in our government. Worse than that are the easy answers to complex issues, apparent blindness, or avoidance of issues which many fellow Christians seem to practice, along with the blindness we have to our own issues.

Sometimes, I want to close my eyes to it all. But I cannot. I’ve always been a questioner. I believe God likes us to ask questions. It’s a necessary part of growth. I never want to stop growing. These are some of my current questions.

What does it mean for me to live out my faith in today’s world? What is faith and what is not faith? How can faith become a solution, rather than a coverup of guilt? In what practical ways, does love overcome fear, giving me the power to reach out in compassion rather than hide? Where can I find hope strong enough to sustain us when I am misunderstood or attacked or abandoned?

These are challenging questions. I don’t presume to have all the answers. I’m attempting to address them in my current book. Because I need more time to focus on them, I am sending out blog posts less often. I hope you will pray for me, as I continue to work on this book.

God has given me the ability to process inner conflicts through journaling, writing poetry, and creating song lyrics. These are what I will most often post on my blog.


 Sometimes I want to pretend 
 That no one ever dies,
 That life is like a fairy tale 
 That ends with happy smiles—
  
 If trouble comes it will not last 
 More than a day or two,
 If I just have faith enough,
 That trouble soon will go—

 This doesn’t often work for me.
 Does that mean I lack faith?
 Or could it simply be the fact
 It’s impossible to escape—
  
 To flee from the realities
 Of injustice, hardship, pain?
 It’s true I can deny these things,
 But I child, I will remain.
  
 Wrestling with uncertainty,
 With questions long unanswered,
 Seeing desire, again, unmet
 While injustice has prospered—
  
 These are some issues I must face
 If I want to mature.
 Am I willing to take a risk,
 Or must I always feel secure?
  
 Sometimes I want to pretend 
 That no one ever dies,
 That life is like a fairy tale 
 That ends with happy smiles.

 A faith that can’t stand challenges
 Is not what faith’s about.
 The God I know and serve, today
 Handles my fear and doubt,
  
 Hears my ranting, sees my tears,
 And always stays engaged,
 Does not always tell me “why”
 Yet my sorrow is assuaged—
  
 Not by simplistic platitudes
 Or an un-thought rebuttal
 Spoken by some scribe of his
 Who sees me very little—
  
 Not by quick assurances
 That things will be “okay”,
 But by the presence of the Spirit
 Who never goes away—
  
 He is un-describable,
 Mysterious in his ways,
 No words can describe him,
 I can only give him praise.

 Jane Ault 
 9/19/2019
   

This entry was posted on September 20, 2019. 8 Comments

The Joyful Rest of GRACE

Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ, who through our faith has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we now enjoy.
Romans 5:1-2 NCV)

As a Christian, I’ve struggled for many years to overcome a tendency to live according to law instead of grace. Early in my life, I imagined it was possible for me to live according to God’s commandment to love him with all my heart, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. If I worked hard enough, I could do it with perfection.

Gradually I realized that I neither understood the meaning of that commandment nor the difficulty I would have in following it.

Today’s poem reflects my struggle, the understanding I’ve gained, and the joy I’ve found. It’s an ongoing adventure.


 I read in God’s word what he expected of me
 In my pride, I imagined I could do it.
  
 But the virus of sin took control of my flesh
 So when temptation came, I failed the test
  
 Every day, I fell short.
 In numerous ways, I blew it.
  
 I despaired until I learned this:
 I can rest in Jesus’ merit.
  
 Every day, I compose
 New songs of joy and victory!
  
 What was impossible for me to do, he accomplished
 To recognize this truth brings me freedom—
  
 As, with joy, I put aside prideful independence
 And align my heart with his word and his Spirit.
  
 Then, I can do what pleases God.
 It, also, pleases me.
  
 Every day, I compose
 New songs of joy and victory!
  
 I read in God’s word what he expects of me.
 And in the power of the Spirit, I do it.
  
 Not yet with perfection, yet sufficiently;
 I’m a child of grace and will keep growing.
  
 By his Spirit, God will bring me to maturity.
 This is the promise he’s given me.
  
 Every day, I compose
 New songs of joy and victory!
  
 9/5/2019
 Jane Ault 
This entry was posted on September 6, 2019. 6 Comments

How to Find Peace in This Troubled World


But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith
and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as
you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
(Jude 1:20-21 NIV)

At my church last Sunday, we had a special speaker who travels to many developing nations and has lived in one of them. He knows what life is like for 2/3 of the people in the world who live on an income of less than $10.00 a day. Speaking from the New Testament book of James, he encouraged us to remember that we are a global family and live in the light of Jesus’s return.

What does that mean? Very simply, this:

  • Instead of hoarding our wealth, we share it.
  • Instead of grumbling, we are thankful
  • Instead of self-protection, we rely on Jesus

As we, directed by the Spirit Jesus has given us, do these things, we will have peace of mind, no matter what is happening around us.


 In this world where sin abounds
 And devil’s work great harm
 There is a place of perfect peace
 It’s found in Jesus’ arm
  
 There is no pain he has not felt
 No trouble he’s not known
 He intercedes effectively
 Before our Father’s throne
  
 So let us work with confidence
 Give thanks and not complain
 All may change around us
 But Jesus stays the same
  
 He renews our energy
 He defeats our foes
 When we submit our hearts to him
 The Spirit’s power flows 
  
 We find that we are patient
 Slow to anger when stressed
 And if we suffer loss or pain
 We do not get depressed

 We find we are generous
 Money is not our treasure
 We release our goods to God
 And have joy beyond measure
  
 In this world where sin abounds
 And devil’s work great harm
 There is a place of perfect peace
 It’s found in Jesus’ arm
  
 Jane Ault
 August 2019 
This entry was posted on August 23, 2019. 8 Comments

HOPE for Abused Children


Forget-Me-Nots remind me of God’s love for his children.
This is how he describes his love in for them the book of Isaiah:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you! “
(Isaiah 49:15)

When I read stories of how children are abused in such destructive ways, I feel deeply saddened. Many of them believe they’ve been abandoned by God. Jesus assures us that this is not so. He loved the children. To him, they are precious lambs. When his followers pushed them away, Jesus rebuked them and told them they, themselves, needed to become like children–humble, trusting, and truthful.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, rescues lambs. He carries them in his arms and protects them from the “wolves” who would deceive and destroy them. He said, ” My Father gave my sheep to me. He is greater than all, and no person can steal my sheep out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29).

He calls those of us who are sheep in his church to come beside him in his mission to rescue the lambs who’ve been deceived and are temporarily held captive. He calls us to bring hope and healing to abused children.

The following poem reflects how a precious lamb might feel when rescued by Jesus. I hope it will encourage you to get ask him how he would want you to get involved in reaching out to captive lambs.


 When you rescued me, Lord!
 it was all because
 Of the love the Father
 Reigning above
  
 I am His child.
 He will never forget!
 His Spirit within me
 Assures me of that
  
 I'm no longer ashamed
 I'm no longer afraid.
 The lies of abusers
 I see and resist.
  
 Your power and love
 Fill my heart every day;
 So no one can ever
 Lure me away.
  
 Someday, you’ll return
 With a triumphant shout
 And my soul will be free
 No more tempted to doubt
  
 Never harassed
 And never in pain
 Lord Jesus, I long
 For that glorious day
  
 Jane Ault
 8/5/2019 

This entry was posted on August 9, 2019. 4 Comments