MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude

Christmas Letter 2013

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How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!

~ Isaiah 52:7

This verse keeps repeating in my mind as I contemplate on the lovely Cordillera mountain from where I sit at a coffee shop situated on the top floor of a mall here in Baguio City.

Where does this serenity in the midst of turbulence come from?

You see, the past year has been a tumultuous year for Matthew and I. We were faced with so much stress that it has taken its toll on our health.  Twice, Matthew had to be confined in the hospital, while I suffered some setbacks as well (weakened by my hospitalization around this time last year).

However, although unpleasant, this difficulty we recently faced turned out to be a faith building exercise for us. We stand witness to God’s faithfulness as big and small miracles happened… before we knew it, our concerns were being addressed… issues resolved and very slowly but surely problems solved.

To say that we are awed and humbled is an understatement … Thank you, Lord!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our doctors who patiently and lovingly take care of us. In spite of Matthew’s stress related hospitalization, he recovers much faster now than before — a marked improvement.  I, on the other hand, am grateful for my home based work wherein I do what I immensely enjoy doing.

I cannot end this letter without mentioning this blog which is a source of joy for us.  As of this writing, we have 134 followers and have reached 192,963 hits. All in a span of 5 years. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine that we will be able to reach out to so many people through this blog. It excites us that we have developed friendships on cyberspace too.  We got to meet like minded individuals who share our beliefs, convictions and interests. A wonderful blessing!

Let me end this Christmas letter with a quote from one of Matthew’s favourite authors:

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.

~ Meister Eckhart

And we say, “Thank you, Lord” … Indeed, you are good!

Here’s wishing you a meaningful Christmas and a grace filled New Year ahead.

Matthew and Jojang

Written by MattAndJojang

December 16, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The Little Monk and the Samurai: A Zen Parable

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Photo: seamlessgem/Flickr

Photo: seamlessgem/Flickr

A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk.

“Monk!”

He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.

“Teach me about heaven and hell!”

The monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,

“Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dumb. You’re dirty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can’t stand you.”

The samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the monk.

Looking straight into the samurai’s eyes, the monk said softly,

“That’s hell.”

The samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.

The monk said softly,

“And that’s heaven.”

~ from the book “Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values”

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May 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

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Promise

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jeremiah 29_

 

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

~Jeremiah 29:11

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January 30, 2013 at 9:32 am

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

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Photo: CubaGallery/Flickr

For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

~ Walter Rauschenbusch

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November 23, 2012 at 9:42 am

Happy Birthday, Matthew!

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Matt

14 June 2012

 

Dearest Matthew,

God is so good that He gave you to me as my husband.

Indeed, we are just the perfect match! And to you, I am grateful…

…. For loving me in spite of my weaknesses

…. For constantly being there for me.

…. For understanding me, even when I can really be so silly.

…. For not mocking me for my fears.

…. And so much more.

Today, on your birthday, I sincerely pray that the Lord will grant all that your heart may wish for.

Looking forward to many, many more years together!

I love you…

 

With all my heart,

Jojang

Written by MattAndJojang

June 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Every Breath… Every Moment…

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Photo: mechtaniya/deviantART

Every breath we draw is a gift of God’s love; every moment of existence is a grace.

~ Thomas Merton

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May 9, 2012 at 9:10 am

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The Vision at Louisville

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Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were or could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream—a dream of my separateness, of the “special” vocation to be different. My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of men or put me in a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race, and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!

Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

~ Thomas Merton

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March 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Christmas Letter for 2011

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Matt And Jojang

Dear Family and Friends,

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow…”

~ Melody Beattie

The cool breeze and the slight smell of pine brushes through my face as I contemplate with gratitude the year that is soon to end and welcome with open arms the new year that is to come.

To begin with, this is the first time in nine years – since we got married – that Matthew was never rushed nor brought to the hospital. Sure, there were times when we almost did, but because he has already gotten stronger, we weathered the storm.

The past months, God is providing for us through a project in Baguio that I am currently involved in. It is also the first time in nine years that I regularly report for work in an office.

Matthew has always been tech-y. Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg communicating with relatives and friends through Facebook has made the world smaller for us. So don’t be surprised if you will notice that he has just posted a comment at your status and/or “like” it 🙂

This year end review will not be complete without mentioning this blog. We never expected it to have 100,000+ hits and 20 regular followers who have subscribed. It is a source of joy for us to know that we are reaching out to so many people.

All in all, I guess I can say it has been a halcyon year of sorts for Matthew and I. We can only thank God for making it so.

We look forward to the year ahead knowing that God is with us every step of the way.

May the good Lord bless you, our readers. May He make His face shine upon you and give you peace.

~Jojang

Written by MattAndJojang

December 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

Believers In Small Graces

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Photo: Joe Hang/Flickr

There are those who search God in the quiet places — no churches, no public displays of piety, no dramatic or flamboyant rituals.

They may be found standing in humble awe before a sunset, or weeping quietly at the beauty of a Bach concerto, or filled with an overflowing of pure love at the sight of an infant in the arms of its mother.

You may meet them visiting the elderly, comforting the lonely, feeding the hungry, and caring for the sick.

The greatest among them may give away what they own in the name of compassion and goodness, while never once uttering the word “God” out loud. Or they may do no more than offer a smile or a hand to someone in need, or quietly bow their heads at a moment of beauty that passes through their lives, and say a simple prayer of gratitude to the spirit that has created us all.

They are the lovers of the quiet God, the believers in the small graces of ordinary life.

Theirs is not the grand way, the way of the mystic or the preacher or the zealot or the saint. Some would say that theirs is not a way at all. All they know for certain is that life has beauty and a joy that transcends all the darkness that surrounds us, that something ineffable lives beyond the ordinary affairs of the day, and that without this mystery our lives would not be worth living.

I honor those who search for the quiet God, who seek the spirit in the small moments of our everyday life. It is a celebration of the ordinary, a reminder that when all else is stripped away, a life lived with love is enough.

~Kent Nerbern

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December 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm

A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day

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Photo: moel1/Flickr

The most psychologically correct holiday of the year is upon us.

Thanksgiving may be the holiday from hell for nutritionists, and it produces plenty of war stories for psychiatrists dealing with drunken family meltdowns. But it has recently become the favorite feast of psychologists studying the consequences of giving thanks. Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners. A new study shows that feeling grateful makes people less likely to turn aggressive when provoked, which helps explain why so many brothers-in-law survive Thanksgiving without serious injury.

But what if you’re not the grateful sort? I sought guidance from the psychologists who have made gratitude a hot research topic. Here’s their advice for getting into the holiday spirit — or at least getting through dinner Thursday:

Start with “gratitude lite.” That’s the term used by Robert A. Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, for the technique used in his pioneering experiments he conducted along with Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami. They instructed people to keep a journal listing five things for which they felt grateful, like a friend’s generosity, something they’d learned, a sunset they’d enjoyed.

The gratitude journal was brief — just one sentence for each of the five things — and done only once a week, but after two months there were significant effects. Compared with a control group, the people keeping the gratitude journal were more optimistic and felt happier. They reported fewer physical problems and spent more time working out.

Further benefits were observed in a study of polio survivors and other people with neuromuscular problems. The ones who kept a gratitude journal reported feeling happier and more optimistic than those in a control group, and these reports were corroborated by observations from their spouses. These grateful people also fell asleep more quickly at night, slept longer and woke up feeling more refreshed.

“If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep,” Dr. Emmons advises in “Thanks!” his book on gratitude research.

Don’t confuse gratitude with indebtedness. Sure, you may feel obliged to return a favor, but that’s not gratitude, at least not the way psychologists define it. Indebtedness is more of a negative feeling and doesn’t yield the same benefits as gratitude, which inclines you to be nice to anyone, not just a benefactor.

In an experiment at Northeastern University, Monica Bartlett and David DeSteno sabotaged each participant’s computer and arranged for another student to fix it. Afterward, the students who had been helped were likelier to volunteer to help someone else — a complete stranger — with an unrelated task. Gratitude promoted good karma. And if it works with strangers ….

Try it on your family. No matter how dysfunctional your family, gratitude can still work, says Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside.

“Do one small and unobtrusive thoughtful or generous thing for each member of your family on Thanksgiving,” she advises. “Say thank you for every thoughtful or kind gesture. Express your admiration for someone’s skills or talents — wielding that kitchen knife so masterfully, for example. And truly listen, even when your grandfather is boring you again with the same World War II story.”

Don’t counterattack. If you’re bracing for insults on Thursday, consider a recent experiment at the University of Kentucky. After turning in a piece of writing, some students received praise for it while others got a scathing evaluation: “This is one of the worst essays I’ve ever read!”

Then each student played a computer game against the person who’d done the evaluation. The winner of the game could administer a blast of white noise to the loser. Not surprisingly, the insulted essayists retaliated against their critics by subjecting them to especially loud blasts — much louder than the noise administered by the students who’d gotten positive evaluations.

But there was an exception to this trend among a subgroup of the students: the ones who had been instructed to write essays about things for which they were grateful. After that exercise in counting their blessings, they weren’t bothered by the nasty criticism — or at least they didn’t feel compelled to amp up the noise against their critics.

“Gratitude is more than just feeling good,” says Nathan DeWall, who led the study at Kentucky. “It helps people become less aggressive by enhancing their empathy. “It’s an equal-opportunity emotion. Anyone can experience it and benefit from it, even the most crotchety uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table.”

Share the feeling. Why does gratitude do so much good? “More than other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship,” Dr. McCullough says. “It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person. Gratitude is what happens when someone does something that causes you to realize that you matter more to that person than you thought you did.”

Try a gratitude visit. This exercise, recommended by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, begins with writing a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life for the better. Be specific about what the person did and how it affected you. Deliver it in person, preferably without telling the person in advance what the visit is about. When you get there, read the whole thing slowly to your benefactor. “You will be happier and less depressed one month from now,” Dr. Seligman guarantees in his book “Flourish.”

Contemplate a higher power. Religious individuals don’t necessarily act with more gratitude in a specific situation, but thinking about religion can cause people to feel and act more gratefully, as demonstrated in experiments by Jo-Ann Tsang and colleagues at Baylor University. Other research shows that praying can increase gratitude.

Go for deep gratitude. Once you’ve learned to count your blessings, Dr. Emmons says, you can think bigger.

“As a culture, we have lost a deep sense of gratefulness about the freedoms we enjoy, a lack of gratitude toward those who lost their lives in the fight for freedom, a lack of gratitude for all the material advantages we have,” he says. “The focus of Thanksgiving should be a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us.”

And if that seems too daunting, you can least tell yourself —

Hey, it could always be worse. When your relatives force you to look at photos on their phones, be thankful they no longer have access to a slide projector. When your aunt expounds on politics, rejoice inwardly that she does not hold elected office. Instead of focusing on the dry, tasteless turkey on your plate, be grateful the six-hour roasting process killed any toxic bacteria.

Is that too much of a stretch? When all else fails, remember the Monty Python mantra of the Black Plague victim: “I’m not dead.” It’s all a matter of perspective.

~ John Tierney

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November 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm