Thankful Part 1

Jim’s Health Update – May 11, 2021

Hi friends, We’ve got some news to share with you about my health. I was recently diagnosed with a cancer called Multiple Myeloma. MM is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. We’ve chosen a targeted chemotherapy treatment. If I respond well to the treatment, remission is possible. This week I finish the first four-week treatment cycle. So far, side effects are minimal and manageable. I’m in good health otherwise, so that’s in our favor.

Jean and I are doing well. This caught us by surprise, but after a month and a half of blood tests, MRI scans, bone marrow biopsies, and treatment, we’ve accepted that we’re moving into a new season of life that simply isn’t going to be like it was before the diagnosis.

We would appreciate your prayers for healing and for wisdom and for God’s continued provision. Daily “GraceNotes Devotionals” will continue as will my Weekly blog post “Notes from My Journey”.

We’ll put a Health Updates tab on my blog site

Thanks for your love, prayers, and support. Love from Jim and Jean Stephens

Thankful – Part 1

We humans need someone to be thankful to! Some people thank their lucky stars, some thank the Universe, some thank “the breaks”, but we all realize that there are times when things go well, when it all seems to break our way, when we’re blessed so much more than we deserve, that we simply need someone to thank. I’ve heard that the saddest thing about being an atheist is that there’s no one to thank. It’s a glad thing for people of faith, for believers, that we can be thankful to God!

That coin has two sides, friends! There are also those times and seasons when things aren’t going our way and we are desperately looking for someone to blame! But that’s another story and we’ll deal with that later. For the next few blog posts, I’m going to address thankfulness and gratitude and it’s something we all need to think about.

As I’ve been thinking about Thankfulness and Gratitude (I think about those two things a lot!) there are a few things that have stood out to me very clearly and distinctly, and I’m going to focus the next few blog posts on what I’m learning (again, for the 1000th time) about the peace and power of learning to Simply Be Thankful.

Levels of Thankfulness – Stages of Gratitude

One really important thing as I’ve focused on Gratitude and Thankfulness is that I’ve begun recognizing levels or stages or qualities of Thankfulness in myself. It’s not necessarily a linear progression from one to the other. It can be parts of all or it can be one for one situation and another for another. And it can be most or all of these at the same time for me.

I’m talking about:

    • Circumstantial Thankfulness – Thanks for the blessings!
    • Comparative Thankfulness – Well, I guess it could be worse!
    • Thankfulness In All Things – In Everything Give Thanks
    • Whole Life Thankfulness – I’m Thankful for my life!

I’m learning that “Gratitude is an Attitude” (see what I did there?) of the heart, not a reaction to circumstances.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT)

The transition from Gratitude as a momentary warm, fuzzy feeling prompted by circumstances, to Gratitude as an attitude of your heart, a settled response to God and his goodness, is a process. It’s a process that involves joy and pain, blessing and loss, and it’s worth its weight in gold!

I’m learning that you can be thankful IN everything, without being thankful FOR everything!

No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT)

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV)

I’m learning that Gratitude doesn’t come through having what you want, it comes through wanting what you have.

Be consciously and intentionally grateful for what you have and don’t waste the moments of your life whining and complaining over what you don’t have!! Express gratitude and thanksgiving continually!

When I look back over the years the most thankful things I remember have not always been the easiest things! The greatest challenges have resulted in the greatest progress in my maturity, attitude, and character! The greatest challenges have resulted in the greatest Gratitude to God! I love it when things go smoothly, but when I face challenges and God comes through, sometimes the Gratitude is almost overwhelming!

So, here’s my plan: For the next few (three or four?) posts I’m going to dig into some of these things I’ve been learning about Thankfulness and Gratitude. I hope you’ll stay with me as we explore Thankfulness and Gratitude and I’m very, very confident it won’t be a waste of your time or mine! (And I’m torn between using the word Thankfulness and using the word Gratitude.) I like both words a lot, so I think I’ll use them both in these posts!

It’s not happy people who are Grateful, it’s Grateful people who are happy!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.




Not Disappointed Part 4 – Not Disappointed in the Life God has Given Me

May 4, 2021

I’m not disappointed in the life my Good Father has given me, and my Good Father is not disappointed in me!

I’m going to briefly review the three previous posts on disappointment before wrapping this up. I’ve included links to each of the other three and if this series has been relevant to your location on your journey of faith, I encourage you to read through them again.

Part 1 Personal Identity Statement: I am God’s beloved child and God is not disappointed in me!

The story of how God gave me my Personal Identity Statement: “I am God’s beloved child and he is not disappointed in me!”

Part 2 Very Disappointed: We get disappointed in each other and even in ourselves sometimes.

Disappointment is based in expectations. If we get our expectations right, we can avoid a lot of disappointment. Also we need to clarify in our own minds whether we’re disappointed in the person or in a specific action or attitude. In many cases our disappointments in ourselves and others means we’ve been judging! Not recommended by Jesus.

We can learn too much from a life lesson or an experience. I had an experience when I was 17 in which I learned that my dad and my mom were very disappointed in me. I thought the lesson was that they were ALWAYS DISAPPOINTED in me and actually they were TEMOPORARILY DISAPPOINTED in my immature behavior.

Was my dad disappointed in me that night? Of course he was! Or maybe actually he was more frustrated by my behavior. I had, in a variety of ways, failed to fulfill his expectations of me, of my attitude, of my behavior. But my dad loved me and even though he said he was disappointed in me, it was actually my behavior that disappointed him. I don’t think he was wishing he could trade me in for a different son. At least I hope not!

That experience so impacted me that I apparently stuffed it away and didn’t remember it until God helped me know fifty years later that God is not disappointed in me.

Part 3 Not Disappointed: Why God is Not Disappointed in You! (LINK)

Is God disappointed in me? No!

Here’s a legitimate question: How can you say God is not disappointed in me? I’ve done a lot of things I’m disappointed in! I’ve failed to do a lot of things I should have done! Here’s how, friends! God knew exactly what to expect of us, in advance, even before we were born! So if God knows what to expect of us, and if disappointment is based in unfulfilled expectations, how could God be disappointed in you and me?

    • God’s expectations of you are that you will do exactly what he knows you will do, and he loves and accepts you anyhow! Remember disappointment is all about unfulfilled expectations. God has realistic expectations of you and me.
    • God knows where you will stumble, where you will fall, where you will disappoint yourself and others.
    • God sees you on the other side of your disappointment and God works with you from that perspective.

Don’t miss this, friends! If God is omniscient (meaning God knows everything, past, present, and future), then God won’t be disappointed when the thing he already knows is inevitable happens. God has a plan that sees us on the other side of the failure, repented, converted, and moving forward in his purpose for us.

Part 4 Not Disappointed in the Life God has Given me.

    • We get disappointed in others.
    • We get disappointed in ourselves.
    • We get disappointed in God.
    • We get disappointed in the Life God has given us.

Disappointment is sourced in unfulfilled expectations. In order to avoid disappointment, we must develop realistic expectations. Short form: Get the expectations right, eliminate the disappointment. This is simple, but it’s certainly not easy! I’m working on it…

Friends, I’m not pushing you to reach the same conclusions I have about disappointment. I’ve been working through my relationship with disappointment for most of my 78 years of life, at least for the part of those 78 years I knew what disappointment felt like. From the early part when I learned from my mom that in a world of lack, if you don’t get your hopes up, you won’t be disappointed. From the part where I learned that my behavior had made my parents “very disappointed” and I thought that they were disappointed in me rather than in my behavior. From the part where my brand of the Christian faith taught me that God was pretty much always disappointed in me because God is perfect and holy and God can’t look on “sin” and I was pretty sinful. Following that line of thinking, it seems as if God must have been really inconvenienced by the conflict between his love for me and the reality that much of the time he couldn’t really stand the sight of me. (I’m smiling here! I know better now!)

Then, in my 60’s, my journey of faith took me into regions I hadn’t traveled before, and I discovered that God was, first and foremost, my loving Father. God is my Good, Good Father. I realized that in our attempt to eliminate the mystery of faith and to encapsulate a limitless God in a completely knowable and understandable box for safekeeping, we’ve been missing a lot! At least I was missing a lot! I’m finding more and more of what I’ve been missing. And my new reality is that when I find something more, in order to embrace it fully, I often have to let go of something. You know what I mean?

What has God promised you? Find God’s Spirit-inspired, Spirit-quickened promises that are relevant to the place in your journey you find yourself and wrestle with the application of those promises to your life. This is what must form our expectations.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. (Psalm 62:5 NLT)

My soul, wait thou only upon God; For my expectation is from him. (Psalm 62:5 KJV)

My identity (a gift from God, by the way) is “I’m God’s beloved child and he’s not disappointed in me!” I’m learning to live into that day by day. I rejoice in knowing that my identity is secure when I do well and when I don’t do well, when I succeed and when I fail. I see it more clearly, more often. I get there and connect with the reality that God is not disappointed in me more often these days and I stay there longer. Someday I’ll fully live in the light of the truth that “I’m God’s beloved child and he’s not disappointed in me!”

In the meantime, I journey through the valleys and along the ridges. Sometimes I rest in green pastures and sometimes I walk through the dark valley. But it’s still me, beloved of God, accepted and approved, doing the walking and the resting.

This “Not Disappointed” series of blog posts represents processes at work for more than half a century of my life and it’s still not finished! Enjoy the trip. Safe travels!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.