nancy williams

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Archive for February, 2009

Make Every Day Thanks-Giving Day

“Thank you.” Have you said that recently? To whom? How did you feel when you did so?

Two words: “thank you.” At times we toss them out casually, out of habit or obligation. Other times, we speak from a well of gratitude; appreciative that someone expressed care for us. When there’s meaning behind the phrase, do you notice how it makes our hearts smile? We feel uplifted in that moment as we recognize someone reached out to consider us, and we want to respond. Their kindness generates a spirit of thankfulness as we enjoy a taste of the goodness that can be found when people extend a helping hand. No matter what challenges we may be facing, an attitude of gratitude lifts our spirits, draws us closer together and fuels a spirit of hope that encourages us to look around for other blessings.

All too often, our minds dwell on problems not resolved, opportunities missed, relationships lost, promises not kept, faded dreams, fears of an uncertain future, regrets and longings. While life does bring its share of challenges and disappointments, it also brings us great joys: problems solved, opportunities seized, relationships built, promises kept, dreams fulfilled, hope that reassures our fear.

An attitude of gratitude provides a lifeline to carry us through the darkest moments and uncertainties of life as it reaches into the depths of our souls with awareness of God’s faithful provision for us. That same spirit of thankfulness causes our hearts to overflow with joy that spills over onto those around us as we celebrate the goodness of life that is ours. Such a powerful life benefit should be experienced far more frequently than merely on Thanksgiving Day. It costs nothing but a little time and attention; yet it brings richness and fullness to our lives and promotes our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Researchers have studied the impact of a spirit of gratitude on our physical and mental health. Reports suggest that feelings of thankfulness not only encourage enjoyment of life, they also have a significant positive value in helping people cope with life’s challenges.

A few years ago, researchers Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, and Davis and Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami, conducted a study on the dimensions of gratitude. Their report included the following observations:

In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.

Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based).

Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.

Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. The study noted that grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

The individuals surveyed who reflected routinely on their blessings experienced a healthier sense of well-being. While they knew quite well the challenges, disappointments and uncertainties of life, they took time each day to recall the goodness of life that was theirs.

Recently, I watched the passengers from the US Airways Flight that made an emergency landing in the Hudson River gather to express gratitude to the crew and to fellow passengers who helped them through that harrowing experience. After the rescue, each went on with their lives; however, they took time out to express their thankfulness to each other and to God for helping them through that challenging time. As I watched the exchange between them, I was reminded again of the power of gratitude.

No matter what challenges you are facing right now, take time to give yourself the gift of a thankful heart. Then express that spirit of gratitude as you touch the lives of those around you.

Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you.

Ready for Emergencies

January 15, 2009. ‘Seemed like one of those ordinary days. It began as most Thursdays do for me – quiet time to connect with God, a strong cup of coffee and warm shower to get my body, mind and spirit awake. Then off to the office. Nothing unusual, really. That is, until I headed home for the evening. I remember turning on my radio and hearing the news that stunned our nation. I was shocked. I was curious. I was frustrated that the traffic lights were stalling me from getting home more quickly. I raced into the house, turned on the television and saw the almost unbelievable pictures for myself.

US Airways Flight 1549 had made an emergency crash landing on the Hudson River in New York that afternoon. And there were no fatalities. We watched the scenes of passengers and crew huddled on the wings of the plane as it floated in the water, clinging to safety devices and to each other as they were carried to safety by rescuers on nearby boats. One hundred fifty-five people, 40-degree water, 20-degree air temperature, an emergency water landing; and yet no fatalities, no major injuries. Amazing.

Many called it a miracle. I’m not stepping into that debate about what does or doesn’t constitute a miracle. However, I do know this. From the passenger reports I read and heard, people were praying, seeking God’s protection and deliverance. They felt His presence and trusted Him to see them through a traumatic time in their lives. I believe He was with them every step of the way.

The captain of that aircraft, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, has been called a hero. Again, I won’t get into that discussion about heroes but, I do recognize that this is a man who takes his job seriously. He seems passionate about what he believes he’s called to do, and he’s dedicated to doing his life work with excellence. He trained diligently, learning his craft and preparing his mind for whatever might come his way in his role as pilot and captain of a crew. He was committed. He was skilled. He was ready to respond if an emergency came.

And what about his crew? The co-pilot and flight attendants also did their part to assist the pilot and passengers, from the landing to disembarking the plane that was taking in water, onto the wings and then to the boats and ferries that came to their rescue. They may have been in the background when it came to the news reports; however, they were also doing their jobs to the best of their ability in the most trying of circumstances. They were able to do so because they, too, were well trained and dedicated to being the best at their roles. When the crisis came, they were ready.

And don’t forget about the design team that equipped the aircraft to handle emergency situations, and the maintenance crew who took care of the plane. Consider, also, those unsuspecting rescuers who responded quickly and worked non-stop to get all 155 people to safety.

I’ve thought a lot about this event since that day. I don’t know about the spiritual focus of the captain, the crew, or any of those involved with that aircraft or its recovery; but I do think there are lessons to be learned – for all of us. We never know what life experiences we will encounter. We do know that God is with us and has promised to guide us through whatever comes along. We also know He has told us in His word that we are to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. We are to spend time with Him, read His word and learn about His desires and directives for us. And we are to guard our minds and hearts as we make careful choices about how to live our lives. Then, we’ll be ready to respond to whatever life brings our way. Commit. Prepare. Trust.

When Captain Sully told everyone to brace for impact, passengers positioned themselves as the flight attendants had instructed. Then many of them joined hands and called on God to see them through. And, my friends, I do believe He answered their prayers.