What Do You Say When Someone Loses A Loved One…

Psalm 116:15

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.

Last week, one of my co-workers experienced the unexpected death of a close family member.  He shared with me that he was on his way to work and got the text that no one wants to get.  Another family member texted and said, “Call me as soon as you can.”

We chatted about what happened to the relative, how the family is dealing with the news, and all that goes into settling one’s estate after an unexpected passing.  He did most of the talking, I did most of the listening, and am I ever glad it happened that way.  I was at a loss for what to say.

What do you say to someone that you genuinely care about who is grieving such an tremendous loss?  How do you make them feel better?  What are the rules of etiquette regarding conversations after a person passes away?

I personally have no idea.  I think that sometimes people just want to be heard, to have their feelings and their thoughts validated.  I tried to do that for my coworker.  I tried to give him the time and the space to let it all out.

I may never know how to answer the question about what to say to someone who is grieving.  But I do know the One Who can console the hearts of those who are grieving.  He says the death of His saints is precious in His sight.  I am so glad to know that He cares about every aspect of life.

I Wasn’t Going To Say Anything, But…

I normally try to steer clear of the political and entertainment news on this blog because I have dedicated this blog to the glory of the LORD Jesus Christ.  I want to honor Him, and I want this to be a safe place for believers to come and read posts that they know will not be vulgar or hateful.  I have made sure over the years that I have been posting on this blog that none of the above is true of my efforts here.

Today, however, I want to veer a bit to the left and post about a situation that is going on in sports news that has caught my attention.  I have had very strong opinions about the situation with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  I watched him as he bowed on his knee instead of standing for the national anthem as it was being played during the opening minutes of the football games in which he played.  I heard on sports talk shows that he was bowing to bring attention to police brutality.  I have strong opinions, as I stated before, so here goes.

I remember after one of the football games in which he bowed on one knee, I talked to my boss about it the next day at work.  We joked with each other that if either of us wanted to protest some social injustice, we better do it on our own time or we would be fired.  That is exactly how I feel about Mr. Kaepernick.  If he wants to protest something, I think he should protest it when he is not being paid the entertain fans in the stands and on television.  I think he should take a knee in front of the police station where the latest incident of racial injustice took place.  I think he should protest in the streets of the cities where he thinks there are crooked police officers.  I think he should protest anywhere he likes, except on the football field on Sundays.

Because of his protests, many believe he has been black balled from the NFL.  I don´t know if that is true but I will say this:  he does not deserve a job after his behavior.  All of a sudden it is so important to him to play football, but all the time he had the chance he was too busy worrying about other things, like taking a knee when he should have been focused on the game.  I hope he never plays again.

His latest stunt, to my understanding, is that NFL teams were actually going to give him a workout in Atlanta at a state of the art facility there.  If my understanding is correct, he changed the venue at the last minute and decided to have his own people record the event.  That says it all to me.  This guy does not want to play football.  He wants to be a diva and play the victim.

I wasn´t going to say anything about this but I could not resist.  Colin Kaepernick has done a good job of alienating himself from the NFL and he is getting what he deserves.  I would never sign him if I owned a team.  He would either play by my rules or he just would not play.  I guess there are some team owners who would agree with me.

Power Is Given Only By God

Romans 13:1-7

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

I am amazed at how much hatred is spewed toward leaders today, whether in government or in church.  At this moment, I am thinking of two prominent leaders who are always on the lips of people who want to bash them.  The first of these two men is our President, Mr. Donald J. Trump.

I remember Mr. Trump prior to his bid for the White House.  I became familiar with him during his time hosting the realty TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice”.  I looked forward to watching the tasks that each team had to perform, watching the contestants team up with each other to eventually turn on each other in order to win the title of “Celebrity Apprentice”.  Mr. Trump, on that show, was a stern business man, but he was always fair in his assessment of which persons needed to leave and which ones could remain.

Even before his stint on reality television, his name was a household word, synonymous with wealth, privilege and business acumen.  His name was mentioned in scripted situation comedies and movies.  He was well known for good things and some not so good things, but the world loved him because he had money and power.  He was his own man and no one could control him.  He basically did what he wanted to do and he was respected because of that.

Fast forward to November 2016.  The same man, Donald J. Trump, was elected president in one of the most controversial elections to date.  He won his bid for president against Hilary Clinton. I admit, I was shocked.  I thought that the “dirty pool” that Hilary played during her run would have won her the presidency, but thank God, He spared us from her!  Anyway, this man, Donald J. Trump, is the same man that was admired and respected before November 2016.  He is doing and has done, since he became president, the same things that he did before and now he is hated for those things.  It is the craziest thing I have ever seen in my life.  He is a stern business man, so he has been able to create jobs, raise the stock market, and stabilize the economy the way no one else could.  He inherited a mess from the former president (who made the mess) and he has done a great job.  He has also been great in foreign affairs.  I most admire the fact that he moved the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the rightful capitol of the nation of Israel.

The second man whose name is always on the lips of those who want to bash him is Dr. John F. MacArthur.  Dr. MacArthur is the pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California.  Dr. MacArthur is also the Chancellor Emeritus of The Master’s University and Seminary.  I became familiar with Dr. MacArthur in the late 1990’s.  I listened to some of his sermons on a third party website.  I shared the website with my best friend.  We both started listening and discussing what we had heard from him, which was much different from what we were hearing in church.  At that point, we because restless and discontent with the lack of Biblical teaching we were experiencing in the church we were attending.  We both decided that it was time to find a new church.  Our spiritual growth began with our introduction to Dr. MacArthur’s teaching via a simple search on the internet that led me to a third party site.

Over the years, I have collected and read most of Dr. MacArthur’s books.  My favorite books are “God’s High Calling for Women”, “Charismatic Chaos”, “Strange Fire”, “Divine Design”, “Twelve Unlikely Heroes” and “Twelve Extraordinary Women”.  My best friend gifted me with Dr. MacArthur’s commentaries and they have been an incredible blessing to my study of God’s Word over the past six years.  I can only think of once when Dr. MacArthur said something that I did not agree with, and it was something very insignificant…nothing to do with salvation or the sufficiency of scripture.  I have listened to nearly every sermon that is uploaded onto the Grace To You website, and in so doing, I feel as though I know Dr. MacArthur personally.  His teaching style exudes humility and Biblical integrity.  I can tell he is a man who loves the LORD and teaching God’s people.

Being a man of integrity in 2019 comes with its challenges, and Dr. MacArthur has had his share.  During a conference at his church recently, he made a comment about a woman who is a false teacher, and instead of going to God’s Word to understand the gist of what he was saying, Christians on social media took on the pattern of the world and started raking him over the coals.  I guess I am a little biased because I have listened to so much of his teaching that I knew immediately what he meant when he said what he did, and I knew the context from which he drew his opinion, but it appears that many others in Christendom failed to see the truth of God’s Word as the backdrop for Dr. MacArthur’s comments.  Astonishing.

I give all this introduction about these two leaders, one in the political realm and one in the body of Christ, to point us back to the scripture where Paul reminds us that these men are only in place because God placed them in their respective roles.  Before the beginning of time, God knew that Mr. Trump would be an astute business man.  He knew that He could place Mr. Trump in the White House and use him at this time in history to complete his purposes in America, whatever they are.  God knew that Dr. MacArthur would be the fifth generation pastor in his family who could be trusted with the Word of God and stand on it regardless of the hatred spewed in his direction.  God knew He could trust Dr. MacArthur with the handling and teaching of His Word and with shepherding His people.  As believers, it is our job to remember that God is in control of these placements.  No man is placed in power without God being in total control of it.  And just like the scripture says:  when we buck up against that power, we are not bucking up against that person, but we are bucking up against GOD.  Not only are we resisting what God has ordained, but we are heaping God’s wrath upon ourselves by doing so.  God will be obeyed.  We can do it on our own, or we can suffer the consequences of our disobedience.

Paul teaches us in Romans that leaders are only a threat to those who are planning to do evil.  There is no need to fear a leader if you are obeying God’s Word and living a holy life.  God placing leaders in place is not a consequence for those who are right.  Paul plainly says in this text that if you do what is right, then you shall have the “…praise of the same…”

Paul goes on to say that if you do evil, then you ought to be afraid.  God does not allow the leaders to yield power for nothing.  God can and will use leaders to execute judgment upon those who do evil.  In light of that passage, my thought was that I can see how Mr. Trump could possibly be used to execute judgment because he has the power of government at his disposal, but how could Dr. MacArthur execute judgment?  Well, Dr. MacArthur is armed with the Word of God which is called the “..sword of the spirit…” in Ephesians 6:17.  Hebrews 4:12 says the Word is “…sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit…”  By teaching God’s Word relentlessly for more than 50 years, Dr. MacArthur exposes the works of darkness and those involved in them.  God’s Word being preached pierces the hearts of those who hear and know they are wrong.  It reminds me of the story of the first martyr for the faith, a young man named Stephen (Acts 7).  As Stephen was being stoned to death, he preached the gospel and the hearers could not bear to hear his words.  They grew increasingly angry because of the truth to which they were being exposed.  John MacArthur is just the same.  He is making those around him who are disobedient to the Word of God angry, and they cannot bear to hear his words, which come directly from THE WORD.  Like it or not, that is the wrath of God on the hearer.

Leaders in government and in the body of Christ are to be respected.  The respect that they are due has nothing to do with whether we like them or agree with them, but has everything to do with obedience to God’s Word.  Do I believe that Mr. Trump is a Christian, my brother in Christ?  I would have to say no.  But I do know that he is the President of the United States, and according to God’s Word, there is a certain honor and respect to which the holder of that office is entitled.  There is no loophole that allows me to disrespect the office of the President just because I do not like the person.  There have been several presidents in my lifetime prior to Mr. Trump that I did not care for that much and did not vote for, but because they were in office I respected their position until they were no longer in office.

Do I believe that Dr. MacArthur is a Christian, my brother in Christ?  Absolutely I do!  I believe that he is grounded in the Word that he teaches; I believe that he labors over the study of God’s Word; I believe that God is pleased with his efforts and his obedience to the Word for more than fifty years.

If you are a Christian, take heed to Paul’s words in Romans 13.  If you do, you are rising up against God.  God is sovereign, and rising up against God will not end well for you.

Adoption: The Loving Choice

Romans 8:15

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Galatians 4:4-6

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law,  To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Ephesians 1:4-5

According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will…

November is National Adoption Month.  This month the spotlight will be shined on one of  the most loving earthly institutions known to man:  adopting into one’s family a child who needs a loving forever family.

Adoption is possible through many avenues:  private adoption through a licensed agency,  international adoption, or foster-to-adopt, where licensed foster parents are allowed to adopt children in their care at little or no cost to them.  Either of these methods are a blessing to the child who is in need and to the family who gives them a home.

Ten years ago I adopted my two youngest children.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  They bring joy and love to our home that we would not have experienced without their presence.  They have had their challenges, but walking alongside them as we dealt with those challenges has only made me love them more.

As I look at scripture, I see how the Christian is also the recipient of the blessing of adoption.  God chose Abraham to start a nation, the Israelites, or as we refer to them now, the Jews.  The Jews were and still are God’s chosen people.  They are His family.  He loves them with an everlasting love.  But there were times in Biblical history where the Jews rejected the God Who chose them.  So God, through His Son Jesus, opened the “door” so that any who would believe could become part of His family.  All those who believed but were not born Jewish are known as Gentiles.  Any Gentile who put their trust in the LORD were “adopted” into God’s family.  Without adoption into God’s family, our destination would be hell for all eternity.  I am so thankful that God decided to adopt me!

During the month of November, when the spotlight is on the subject of adoption, consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent.  You do not have to be perfect, or rich, or educated…you only have to be willing and patient.  There are so many children out there who need a forever family.  Could your family be the one they are waiting for?

Trials And Triumphs

John 16:33

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Romans 5:3

…but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience…

This week I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I don’t experience this every week; some weeks are better than others.   But this week, I struggled greatly in my mind due to the circumstances in my environment.

This week I found myself in a tug of war between two co-workers.  One co-worker is domineering and headstrong, needs to be in control, and sweats quite a bit of the small stuff.  The other co-worker is more laid back, level-headed, and realizes that there is much he cannot control, so he just goes with the flow.  I had to broker a deal between these two men to get a project done and it was no easy task.  After making the deal, I began to question how much longer I would even be able to do this.

Last week I found myself exasperated because of another person at work.  I was having bad dreams.  I called a prayer partner and she told me that I had allowed that person too much control over me.  She told me to stop it!  I did.  I asked the LORD to help me focus on HIM and not on the person.  God is faithful and did just what I asked.  I pray that I do not pick that burden back up again.

A few weeks ago I had an overzealous employee who worked my last nerve.  My flesh wanted to get rid of him, but instead I pulled him aside and tried to encourage him.  I told him that I understood his frustration, but just calm down and let things work themselves out.  He shared with me at that point that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he needed meds to keep his temper intact.  He said he would try to work on it, and even before he got the “meds” that he said he needed, I saw a change in his demeanor.  Fast forward three weeks and he wrote a letter to a family member apologizing for his behavior in the past, and sharing with them that I had helped him so much with his attitude.  His words brought me to tears.

These are some of the trials that I have experienced over the past few weeks, but at the same time these are the triumphs that I have enjoyed over the past few weeks.  I am so thankful to the LORD that His Word says in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not…”  I have had to call on Him, and each time He answered me in ways that I would have never expected.

If you do not have a relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ, and you do not live in the confidence that you can ask Him to do what you need and He will answer, do not let this moment pass without repenting of your life of sin and asking Jesus to be the LORD of your life.  He will not turn you away when you come to Him in sincerity.  He will welcome you into the family of God, and heaven will be your home for all eternity.  Every trial of this life will be worth eternal triumph!

 

From the Archives…

This is a blog post I wrote about six years ago.  I am re-posting it because my theology has not changed in six years.  Hopefully it was a blessing then, and I pray that it blesses someone now…

Qualifications for Pastoral Leadership

Timothy 3:1-7

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Titus 1:5b-11

…ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake…

This issue has stirred up my spirit more than once in the year 2012. I have watched the sacred desk be disgraced by more than one person who says that he is “called” by God to pastor, but then I have watched his life exemplify everything except a calling from God.

I cannot understand how anyone does not see that God made it very clear in His Word who was to shepherd His people. He said through Paul to Timothy that if any man desired this work, he desired a good work. Shepherding is a good work for those who are called and qualified. God loves for us to have pastors because He said “And I will give you pastors according to Mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15). God gave the pastoral qualifications in accordance with His Word and His will for us. He knew that leading his people would be an influential  task, and He only wanted the influence of someone who exemplified His leadership to be in that role. We have, however, followed and tolerated men who do not exemplify these qualities at all. In the last two years alone, the news has been full of so-called pastors who have been caught in all kinds of scandals, from extra-marital affairs to financial impropriety. Paul warned us that this would come. Now it is here.

I am reminded of a situation in the national news where a certain pastor was crowned in his church pulpit. I know of another situation where a pastor verbally threatened a blogger who called him out for fleecing the sheep in his church. Another nationally known pastor was thrown off of a commercial flight for his behavior and language. Another nationally known pastor got married and within three years of getting married, he fathered two children with young women in his congregation, and one of them was a minor! Yet another nationally known pastor renounced the gospel, began teaching that there is no real hell, and that we are all saved by the blood of Jesus. He said that gospel made him feel better about his unsaved grandparents who died without a relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Locally, a pastor killed his wife, went to church and lied in the pulpit about her whereabouts. Another pastor was involved in an extramarital affair, and while he was with his mistress in another state, he had some health problems that prevented him from getting home on his own. He actually had to call someone from the church he pastored to come and get him and take him home! Another pastor began an affair and left his wife and children while still pastoring his church. Another pastor’s teenage son got his girlfriend pregnant, and instead of being ashamed, he and his wife flaunted the fact that they were going to be grandparents. They forced the young man and his girlfriend to get married, and then the young man left the church and joined the nation of islam.

I will not even touch the subject of women “pastors”.

All of the above-mentioned men have disqualified themselves from pastoral leadership. The Bible says that the bishop must be blameless. If I know about an affair that you are having, then you are not blameless! I don’t even think we consider the blameless quality because everyone is so defensive about someone falsely accusing them. Being falsely accused and being blameless are two totally different things…

The pastor is to be the husband of one wife. Every man who involves himself sexually with another woman has joined himself spiritually to a harlot (1 Corinthians 6:16). When a man enters a sexual relationship with a woman, he is joined to her spiritually, which is why God reserved the sexual relationship for a husband and his wife. It is a covenant relationship, and when he breaks that covenant, he is disqualified from pastoral leadership. (Bible scholars differ on how long he is disqualified. In my opinion, he is disqualified forever. Others suggest that if he is repentant and has lived a number of years as a Godly example, then he can be restored.) How can he lead men in marital relationships that honor the Lord when he cannot keep honor the Lord with his own marriage?

The pastor must be one of good behavior. Remember the pastor I told you about earlier who got thrown off of the commercial flight because of his language and attitude? That was not good behavior. Remember the pastor who was crowned in his church? He was also accused of taking indecent liberties with several young men in his church. That is not good behavior. Remember the pastor who left his wife and his children while still pastoring his church? That same pastor tried to destroy his wife and ruin her reputation in the community. That is not good behavior. Remember the pastor who fathered two children with women in his congregation within three years of getting married? He had the audacity to go into the pulpit and use David’s indiscretion as his excuse to tell the congregation “I am STILL the man!” while the congregation clapped and cheered him on.

We have tolerated this kind of behavior in the church far too long. No one is willing to call the pastor out on his behavior.  The church has replaced the worship of the Lord Jesus and replaced it with worshiping the pastor. But you better hear me, church of the Living GOD! This nonsense has got to stop. You have got to stand on the Word of God. God’s Word is truth and there is no one or nothing that is excused from obeying God’s law. James even went so far as to say that people ought to be careful in taking these teaching positions in the church, because they come with greater condemnation for those who take them lightly. I guess the church thinks that God does not mean what He says. I think we have gotten comfortable here in this world.

Jesus is coming back sooner than we think. When He returns, all of this nonsense that the church is “getting away with” right now is going to stop. The Bible says that He is coming back for a people that are without spot or blameless (2 Peter 3:14). The church today is not only spotted, but we are not without blame and neither are our leaders.

I will continue to pray for pastors, teachers and leaders within the body of Christ. I pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will capture their hearts and draw them back to God’s Word, where I am sure they all started.

Dear Lord,

Please draw your people back unto Yourself. Please fill our pastors and teachers with Your Spirit and give them the desire to shepherd Your people to the best of their ability. Fill Your church with Your people who live by Your standard and are ready to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the lost people of the world. Help the pastors live a life that shows the love and holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ, because You said in Your Word that without holiness, no man shall see the Lord…

We thank You and praise You In Jesus’ Name…

Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

This is one of my favorite verses in the New Testament.  I love this verse for many reasons.  It is such a broad verse.  I love the way it encompasses so much meaning in so few words.

“In every thing…”  Every thing means EVERY THING.  Good things. Bad things.  In between things…in all things…nothing excluded.  Wow.  I know that sounds crazy, but even in the situations that don’t feel good to us, we have to remember that God has a plan and a purpose for us.  He is allowing it either for our good or His glory.

“…Give thanks…”  Sometimes I don’t feel thankful.  I didn’t feel thankful as I watched loved ones pass away.  I didn’t feel thankful as I watched my marriage fall apart.  I didn’t feel thankful when I realized that my mother never really wanted me.  But God has taught me that in each of these scenarios, there is something for which I can reach back and be thankful.  When I lost three of the most supportive people in my life to various illnesses, I looked back on the time I spent with them and the blessings that they were to my life, and I had no choice but to thank the LORD.  When I thought about how I would not have my beautiful children were it not for my marriage, I had to give God the glory.  When I realized that my mother’s cruelty towards me shaped me into the mother I have become, I had to praise the LORD.  I have learned to give God thanks in some of the most difficult situations.  I work for a ministry that helps addicts get their lives back.  Sometimes there are success stories, and other times there are devastating results.  Either way, I have to thank the LORD that He used me as an instrument of righteousness in the lives of the men who come through our program.  I have to give God thanks.

“For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you…”  It is God’s will that you and I glorify Him with all that we do.  Nothing is for our glory….all is for His glory.  1 Corinthians 1:29 says “…That no flesh should glory in his presence.”  It is His will for us that we thank Him for all that He has done in our lives.  And there is so much to thank Him for!  If you can’t think of anything at this moment, think of the fact that Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, came to earth clothed in flesh, after leaving His throne in glory…lived a sinless life, but died a criminal’s death to redeem you and me from the penalty that our sin would have brought us, which is death and hell and the eternal grave.  Jesus paid our sin debt on the cross.  The punishment that you and I should have received, Jesus took on our behalf!  That alone is something that I thank God for every single day.  I feel that I am dishonoring the LORD if I miss a day thanking Him for taking my punishment.  It should have been me up on that cross, but instead of me, Jesus went up on that cross.  One of my favorite hymns says this:

“Jesus paid it all…all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain…He washed it white as snow!”

Another song comes to mind that says:

“He paid it all, up on the cross.  He bled and died, ’cause I was lost.  So here I am, surrendering all,  LORD hear my cry…on my knees I fall.  He paid it all, He paid it all, He paid it all…”

Make it a point to have an attitude of gratitude today.  There is so much to be thankful for.  Thank the LORD for all that He has done.