Born On The Eve of Thanksgiving — Most Grateful or Big Turkey?

“Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son …”

I still remember those words from a song we often sang at the Good Counsel Friary and Light of Life community at St. John’s in Morgantown, West Virginia, where my new life in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) began in 1977.

Officially, I was born on the eve of Thanksgiving in 1958 when, according to my mom, there was hardly any hospital staff on duty … everyone was home preparing for the holiday. But nearly 60 years ago, I came into the world born of two New York, Jewish parents who tried their best to give my brother and I a life filled with hope and promise. However, life got in the way and our home (like many) was filled with tragedy and despair.

Becoming a God-follower more than 35 years ago changed all of that – slowly, sometimes painfully, but completely – and now I share and speak and write (in any and every way I can) about the goodness and totally transformative Love of God for us. And so, it is only fitting at this time of personal and national Thanksgiving that I share why and how we can give thanks in all circumstances!

How often do you say thank you – either in spoken or written word? Would it surprise you to learn that scientific research has shown that people who have gratitude also have greater happiness?

Gratitude helps people:

Feel more positive emotions;

Enjoy good experiences;

Improve their health;

Deal with adversity; and

Build strong relationships.

The word gratitude comes from the Latin word, gratia, which means grace, graciousness or gratefulness. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what a person receives. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, has done much research on gratitude. He writes, “A decade worth of research on gratitude has shown me that when life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness.

“But what about when life goes badly? I have often been asked if people can – or even should – feel grateful under dire circumstances? My response is that not only will a grateful attitude help – it is essential. In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.” He adds, of course, that gratitude will not come easily or naturally in a crisis.

No one feels grateful that he or she has lost a job or a home or good health. But it is vital to make a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. We don’t necessarily have control over our emotions. We cannot easily will ourselves to feel grateful, less depressed, or happy. But feelings do flow from the way we look at the world. Being grateful is a choice, he states, a prevailing attitude, a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. Yes, he admits, this perspective may be hard to achieve – but his research and the research done by others – says it is worth it to make the effort.

Ironically, trials and suffering can actually refine and deepen gratefulness if we allow them to show us not to take things for granted. Thanksgiving was born and grew out of hard times. The first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression. Why? When times are good, people take prosperity for granted and begin to believe they are invulnerable. But in times of uncertainty, it becomes much harder to take for granted all that we have. So crisis can make us more grateful and research shows us that gratitude can actually help us cope with crisis.

Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall. There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress. To say, however, that gratitude is a helpful strategy does not mean that we try to ignore or deny suffering or pain. Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. Instead it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity.

You can do this by thinking:

What lessons did the experience teach me?

How am I now more the person I want to be because of this experience?

What ability did the experience draw out of me that surprised me and that I will now be able to use in other ways in life?

There are also medical advantages to gratitude. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks. Studying people who had experienced a heart attack, the researchers found that those patients who saw benefits and gains from their heart attack, such as becoming more appreciative of life, experienced a lower risk of having another heart attack.

Grateful people will:

Have 10% fewer stress-related illnesses;

Be more physically fit;

Have blood pressure than is lower by 12%;

Will have a strong bond with the local community;

Will have a roughly 7% higher income than others.

Grateful youth are:

20% more likely to get good grades;

10 times less likely to start smoking.

Overall positive emotions can add up to 7 years to your life! So how do we actually do this?

1. Change your self-talk. We all carry an inner dialogue that is often called self-talk. When the inner conversation is negative, our mood is usually low. Research has shown that we can change our mood by changing the tone of the things we say to ourselves.

2. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Record several things that you are grateful for. The important thing is establishing the daily practice of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events and write them down. Did you hear the birds singing this morning? Did you see a beautiful sunrise? Are you feeling good? Is there money in the bank? Do you have friends and family with whom you share your life?

3. Write thank you notes. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationships with others by writing thank you notes. You remember how good it makes you feel to receive a thank you note. Think how happy you will make someone to receive one!

4. Hang around with people who are grateful and make a commitment to be one of those people!

Here are just a few quotes on gratitude:

“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.”

Neal Maxwell

“Life isn’t fair, but it is still good. It is never too late to be happy. But it is all up to you and no one else. However good or bad a situation is, it will change. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.” – Regina Brett

“What we appreciate, appreciates.” – Lynne Twist

Unknown Authors

“There is no key to happiness. The door is always open.”

“Do the math … count your blessings.”

“Laugh every day, it is like inner jogging.”

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall outlast everyone and not be bent out of shape!”

The Bible

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,”

1 Thessalonians 5:18.

And my mom’s life verse which has now become mine:

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever!” – Psalms 118:1.

Advertisements

Sex and the Presidential Election – Why It Matters

The recent revelations of Donald Trump’s perspective on women and sexual license have caused yet another firestorm in this divisive presidential election. Why, as a nation, do we erupt at sexual scandals (Joe Paterno, Penn State; pedophilia in the Catholic church) like no other cultural phenomena?

Perhaps it is because every one of us has, in some way, been affected by sexual abuse. Statistics reveal that one in four women and one in six men have been sexually molested by the age of 18. That number is, no doubt, significantly higher because most people who have been abused don’t ever talk about it and never report it for public scrutiny.

But why?

Why do we, as a culture, glorify sexuality and yet abhor sexual indiscretions? The answer lies within ourselves.

Our self-hood, self-esteem and ability to love ourselves is built upon the foundation of affirmation and unconditional love from outside sources. Once a person’s sexuality is wounded, our ability to love ourselves is removed or reduced. And let’s be clear – sexual abuse refers to any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually that they do not want to do.

In every case of sexual abuse, the beauty and dignity of the soul is violated. Most tragic of all, those who have been abused often blame themselves, believing that he or she should have or could have prevented the abuse. The attack we wage against our own souls is often more vicious than the original abuse. No one can be trusted, especially ourselves. This shame and contempt plays out in different ways in different people – all of which is intended to gain some sense of control over what has been lost.

As a sexual abuse survivor, it took nearly my entire adult life to come to terms with the sexual abuse and on-going threats of public humiliation that I endured throughout my childhood. Once revealed, it seemed as though my entire life had been a lie – having completely buried the memories that were so abhorrent to me. What eventually brought them to the surface were incredibly bad life choices – all done (unknowingly) in an unrealistic attempt to protect my own child from anything negative in life.

I was wildly successful professionally (sexual abuse victims often are as we strive to control every aspect of our lives and live from a position of strength and power); yet I had created a completely false sense of reality; that ‘life was perfect and that all would always be well’ mystique for my family. My hovering, helicopter, controlling behavior hit its full stride during my daughter’s teenage years when she, in the natural course of adolescence, was trying to define herself. Chaos ensued and all semblance of our “perfect” world collapsed.

It was then, through spiritual counsel, that all of my past was uncovered. I had already come to terms (with God’s help) with much family dysfunction (including other sexual abuse) in my childhood, but this newfound, additional revelation of sexual abuse needed immediate and absolute attention.

Here are the steps I took towards healing:

  1. Revelation of the abuse;
  2. Realization that I was IN NO WAY responsible for the abuse;
  3. Awareness and acceptance of the fact that the abuse had damaged my soul;
  4. Confrontation of the abuser so that the rightful person would take responsibility for the abuse;
  5. Forgiveness of self, the abuser, and God; and
  6. Accepting the pure and holy love of God and others for healing and restoration.

And, for me, an essential, additional step has been:

Allowing the redemptive healing of the abuse to help others.

Based on my experiences, I have established an entire healing ministry that encourages and helps others come to the place where they can allow themselves to be loved completely. You can read and learn more about it at www.hisloveenduresforever.net.

If you are interested and if you live in the Akron area, please tune in to WDLI TV-17 (Akron TBN station) for my “Joy in Our Town” interview on sexual abuse on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m., or Monday, Oct. 24, at 5 p.m. Once aired, the interview will be posted on my facebook page (Deborah Markowitz Solan) and my website as well.

Finally, if you are curious about my thoughts on the upcoming presidential election, my deepest hope is that all of the sexually inappropriate comments, actions and revelations regarding the candidates will, once and for all, enable us to have a healthy discussion about the abuse that so many of us have experienced which will lead to an even greater discussion about the beauty of every human soul and ways that we can COME TOGETHER to restore that in each of us.

Big Cats in Heaven

Is heaven for real? Yes, says Colton Burpo, who, at the age of 4, says he visited Heaven during a critical illness and surgery. In the book and movie, “Heaven is for Real,” Colton sees things in Heaven he could not otherwise have known (a sister who died in her mother’s womb; a youthful ‘pops,’ his dad’s grandfather); angels singing to him, and Jesus’ beautiful eyes and multi-colored horse.

Why has this book and movie gained so much attention? Could it be because it comes from the perspective of a young child, too young to be tainted by our adult cynicism or maybe it is because most of us know so little about Heaven and, somewhere in our deepest psyche, we NEED to know what might lie ahead of us following our death.

In his great book, “Heaven,” by Randy Alcorn, of Eternal Perspective Ministries, Alcorn states that “we have failed to explore and explain the Bible’s magnificent teachings about Heaven,” and that is so true!

The New Testament is filled with examples of what happens after death to those who know and love Christ Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. Jesus told the thief on the cross – ‘TODAY you will be with me in Paradise,’ Luke 23:43.

Paul said that to die was “to be with Christ and to be absent from the body was to PRESENT with the Lord,” 2 Corinthians. 5:8.

I found the book, simply called, “Heaven,” shortly after my mother passed away about three years ago. To say that my mother and I were close would be a tremendous understatement.

God had drawn me to Himself in 1977 at a spiritual retreat in Morgantown, West Virginia. The fact that I was there was nothing short of miraculous because I had grown up Jewish in Brooklyn, NY. But questions to the deeper meaning of life (and death) plagued me since childhood and, having tried everything else, I was led by God, through a series of miraculous events, to the retreat.

There, after much wrestling with “what would my Jewish mother think?” I came to realize and understand that Jesus is truly the Jewish Messiah and I surrendered my life to Him, hook, line and sinker. My mother was devastated and immediately flew to Morgantown to deprogram me from the cult she thought I was in.

But after 10 years of prayer by me and many others, my husband and I had the awesome privilege of praying for my mother to receive Jesus as her Messiah as well. So our lives were intertwined deeply as mother and daughter and sisters in the Lord.

And although she was sick and suffered with chronic pain for more than 30 years, her death still hit me like a ton of bricks. I implored God to teach me about Heaven and to show me where my mother was after her passing.

God immediately spoke to me through Hebrews 11:4, which, speaking of Cain and Abel, states, “By faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.”

God told me that my mother – even though dead – would still speak. And so that is what has happened as, now knowing what it feels like to lose a parent or other loved one, I have shared the love and comfort of God with many others who have lost loved ones. And I have shared the miracles of Heaven that God subsequently revealed to me.

I implored God, “I NEED to know what my mother is doing right now,” and was led to a verse in the Song of Songs 4:8,  in which, God, speaking to His beloved, says,

“Come with me from Lebanon my bride, descend from the summit of Hermon, from the lions’ den and the mountain haunts of leopards.”

For those who may not know (I didn’t!), Mount Hermon is a cluster of very high mountains in the Golan Heights in Israel.

Why was this so miraculous? It is because my mother’s maiden name is Herman (just a slightly different spelling from Hermon) and because she (and I!) love cats of every kind – little cats, big cats, fat cats, pretty cats, and every other conceivable variation of cats! In our lives together, we had given each other dozens of books and DVDs on cats.

So I believe that God showed me that at this very moment, my mother is hanging around with the big cats! Man, do I want to be there too!

Alcorn states that, “Biblical Christianity does not give up on humanity or the earth. We long for what the first man and woman once enjoyed – a perfect and beautiful Earth with free and untainted relationship with God, each other, animals and our environment. “

He goes on to state that the Bible is filled with clues to the nature of the Eternal Heaven: Heaven is a city. Cities have buildings, culture, art, music, athletics, goods and services, events of all kinds. Cities have people engaged in activities, gatherings, conversations and work.

Heaven is also described as a country. God promises us a New Earth – where we can expect to find earthly things – atmosphere, mountains, water, trees, people, houses, cities, buildings and streets.

“The Biblical doctrine of the New Earth implies something startling – that if we want to know what the ultimate Heaven, our eternal home, will be like, the best place to start is by looking around us,” Alcorn states.

In fact, Alcorn has a whole chapter dedicated to animals in heaven.

And so for now I just tell my mom every day – pet, feed, play with and love on those big cats for me! Can’t wait for the day when we can do so together.

 

 

 

 

Children Are Not Disposable

I have been a teacher for many years, in lots of different settings, and have come to realize why I love children. Children are transparent, trusting, caring, and genuine.

If I had a dollar for every coloring page, small gift, and hug that I have received from a child, I would be a wealthy woman.

And I do consider myself wealthy based on the opportunities I have been given to share my life and love and God’s love with so many wee-ones, children, and teens.

Sadly, I am faced with the daily reality that my love may be the only love some children will ever know. We live in a society in which children have become disposable, like yesterday’s newspaper.

Continue reading “Children Are Not Disposable”

Christian or American?

At what point did evangelical Christians in America determine that their rights as Americans trump their calling as Christians?

Weekly news reports bring a tidal wave of attention to social ills, most of which stand in direct contradiction to Biblical values espoused by Christians. Social media explodes with Christian commentary reminiscent of the famous quote from the 1976 movie, “Network,” in which Howard Beale rants, “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore.”
Continue reading “Christian or American?”