Category Archive: Thanksgiving

How do we Give Thanks – All the Time?

How we can stay up in a down world?” Good question. God tells us to “rejoice always;” to “pray continually” (or incessantly), and to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I sure don’t always feel thankful; nor do I give thanks in every circumstance.

How can we be obedient to God’s command to be thankful in every circumstance when:

  • We lose a loved one to death
  • Divorce enters our lives or families
  • Children rebel
  • Pain wracks our bodies or minds
  • Finances are a challenge, or
  • A spouse or child rejects Christ?

Not long ago, my two-year old grandniece fell through a screen, from a second story bedroom window to the cement below. Seeing this little sweetheart very vulnerable in her hospital bed, a soft brace on her neck, and a purple, very swollen eye, hurt me. Thankful that she fell? Of course not. Thankful as we saw God’s protective hand over her, with no neurological damage? Yes. And if she had suffered greater damage? It’s not always easy to give thanks and I don’t think scripture gives us easy answers; but it does challenge us to trust in the ‘God Who is There’.

Years ago, I was targeted by an employee. I did not appreciate her hostility or efforts to sabotage me. However, as I ate my lunch each day, reading the Psalms and looking at a beautiful oak tree across the road, God spoke peace to my heart. He assured me that He would care for and justify me. And He did, when she was later caught stealing from the company. And as I waited for an outcome that I couldn’t anticipate, I chose to trust that God would rectify a situation I could not correct.

In her recent sermon, Pastor Valerie Webb reminded us that we’re not told to give thanks FOR everything. But IN every circumstance we can give thanks. Why?

  • Because we have a God who cares (Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” I Peter 5:7, TLB).
  • Because our God feels with us in our suffering; He wants to carry our burdens (“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens”–Psalm 68:19); and
  • Because He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”–Hebrews 13:5).

And because He is ultimately in charge, we can thank Him–for His presence, His awareness of our need, His promise of faithfulness. God has a way for us, even in our pain, and despite the time and healing we may require to see His outworking.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 expresses the prophet’s commitment to praise.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

When I focus on my circumstances I can get very down, discouraged, despairing. But when I focus on God, I choose to thank Him because He is holy, loving, forgiving, and is WITH ME – Immanuel!

Where do you need Jesus to be your burden-bearer right now?

 

 

A Tearful Farewell

We said a tearful goodbye Wednesday morning. Our sweet, 14-year old Kelly has recently gone steadily downhill. It hurt to watch her stumble, her legs splay underneath her, her turn away from food, and sleep most of the day.

Don and I have prayed that God would give us wisdom as to when it was time to say goodbye. Several times we’ve thought we were there, but then she’s rallied. And Kelly has never been a complainer, so we watched her eyes, her walk, her food intake, her energy level. Monday we took her to the vet for blood tests. “I’m really not happy with what I see,” Kelly’s kind and competent doctor told us. It was time.

We took our Kelly-girl home for another day and a half to love on her and to say goodbye. En route home I said, “Don, I’d love it if we could take her to the beach one more time. But I know it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” Kelly slept on my shoulder for two hours that night, something I don’t think she’s done since Don and I married, when she retreated to the bottom of the bed.

My sweet number 1 girl

Rain was heavy Tuesday morning, but the sun peeked out about noon. “Let’s go!” Don and I took Kelly and Paige down to the beach, where we strapped Kelly into her doggie stroller. Paigey ran alongside. We walked over a mile in glorious sunshine, a lovely breeze cooling us. Kelly perked up enough to sit up and watch life around her. It was a wonderful time and the sunshine, a gracious gift from the Father to assuage my hurting heart, allowed us to do something special for Kelly on her last day.

This little beauty has brought a lot of joy and laughter to our lives over the almost ten years I’ve had her.

  • She came to me, a good gift from God, when I was alone and lonely. During a time of grief, she gave me a reason to get up every day because she needed me. During cold winter months I often wakened to feel her little body cuddled under the covers against my thigh. She sneaked under without waking me. I never knew how she managed to breathe underneath the blankets, but she did; and I loved waking to her warmth.
  • Kelly’s antics made me laugh. Early in our life together I went straight to my laptop in the morning. Kelly looked at me from across the room. She opened her mouth and chomped her teeth – I hadn’t fed her yet! Message received.
  • She was my buddy and sweet companion, and I took her along whenever I went somewhere dogs were allowed. She sat quietly and unobtrusively at my feet in Bible studies, lunches, and one-on-ones, never disrupting except with her sweet cuteness, happy as long as she was with me. And if I lunched with a girlfriend and left the table to use the restroom, Kelly stayed behind, remaining in one position, her big brown eyes fixed on the door until I returned.
  • She had grit. When Kelly was just a baby, she took on a big dog who broke her jaw. In the last few years, my girl’s tongue hung out to one side of her sweet, crooked mouth. I think her imperfection made her even more beautiful. And when we brought her grandpup, Paigey, to join our family, Kelly definitely let her know who was boss!
  • I acquired Kelly two months after meeting Don. When we began dating, Kelly was always happy to greet him, to sit with us, to go on walks with Don and his gentle German Shepherd, Ginger. I once waved my hand to include Kelly and said to Don, “You know this is a package deal.” He smiled. “Oh, I figured that out a long time ago.”
  • Our precious princess has left us and we miss her. I am so grateful for this good gift God gave me when I needed her more than I knew.

“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.” James 1:17a (MSG)

I love you, Kelly girl! Your imprint will always be on my heart.

Have you lost a pet? What did you love about him or her?

 

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Thankfulness, Out of the Mouths of Babes

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  I Chronicles 16:34, NASB.

Ephesians 5:18-20 says “… let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then you will sing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual psalms among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”   The New Living Translation.

I volunteered to teach preschoolers during our church’s Christmas program. We helped our 3 and 4-year olds make a nativity picture with stickers of the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men. The boys and girls slowly became comfortable with each other, and with us. Eric, who had a bruise on his forehead, pulled away quietly by himself. Sherry, a year or two older, was a bit bossy; there was adorable, sweet 3-year old Erin; and 4-year old twins Xavier and Justin, working hard on their pictures.

After making our crafts and reviewing our Bible verse, we walked to chapel for lesson time.

“Why do we celebrate Christmas?” asked the leader.

“It’s all about presents.”

“Well, not all … but God gave the best present when He gave us Jesus, and when we give presents we remember that best gift.”

Returning to our classroom, I handed out goldfish snacks and water. One of the boys piped up, “We didn’t pray!” Whoa, teacher!  “Right you are. Who’d like to thank God for our snack?” Several did, and then four-year Xavier began to pray.

“Thank you Lord for this wonderful food, and for Mom and Dad and for the sun and the stars and the moon–and more, and more, and more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

This precious four-year old thought goldfish were “wonderful food”, and his parents and nature worthy of praise. And he recognized that however much he could thank God for, there was always more, and more, and more!

I want to have a heart of thanksgiving like Xavier’s. How often do I stop to thank God for the many good things He puts into my life, whether large or small–from running water to sunshine to a hug from a friend or a smile from a stranger when I’m feeling low.

Lord, let my attitude be more like Xavier’s. Help me to come to you as a child, in faith, appreciation and awareness of your goodness, which is so much greater than I can possibly acknowledge in my simple language. Thank you for loving me…and for more, and more, and more.

 

 

 

 

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When it’s Hard to Give Thanks

Aargh ...Sometimes giving thanks is just tough.

It was hard for me this week. The cold I caught on Don’s and my flight home from Tennessee developed into a violent cough. Every time it hit I felt like I was tearing apart inside. I produced sticky, yucky green mucous, and lots of it! Tears streamed down my face during these coughing spells, which frightened me as well as any people around me. I was exhausted. Didn’t want to read. No energy to pray. Certainly did not feel thankful.

Oh, I knew I was thankful for the big things … God’s love, salvation, my husband and family; but I couldn’t seem to pull up any thanks in this illness that had overtaken me. This was the sickest I’d been in years.

Years ago I went through a time of pretty serious depression. I couldn’t give thanks then either. But there was a song by a wonderful male quartet that I listened to before going to bed every night for three weeks. With its chorus, I prayed:  “Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.” I’m so worn down, Lord, I have no strength with which to hold onto you. Please hold onto me.

And He did.

And this week, after days of being worn down, exhausted, emotionally empty, I had to take my laptop in for a repair. Our friend Sam worked on it (extensively) while I waited … and charged me nothing. And it was like the Lord said “See, I’m still looking out for you. I have not forgotten you or your needs. You are my beloved.”

II Timothy 2:13 says that “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” And that is reason to give thanks!

Are you able to give thanks this Christmas? If not, how can I pray for you during this time?

 

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Real Prayers – Gratitude

Gratitude opens doors to relationships. That’s one of the values Pastor Rene shared with us recently. I can’t control my circumstances, but I can choose my attitude. Some benefits of gratitude are improved physical health, reduction of aggression, better sleep and self-esteem, and increased mental strength. Those are worth a lot!

"Please, Sir, help us!"

“Please, Sir, help us!”

He told the story of the ten lepers who came to Jesus, hoping to be healed. (Luke 17:11-14)

“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” they cried.

“When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” The priests were the ones who could allow a cleansed leper to return to society. Interesting that Jesus told them to show themselves to the priests BEFORE they knew they were healed.  That required faith on the part of the lepers … looking down at finger stubs, missing toes, they may have thought, “Why? Nothing has changed.” But somehow they trusted Jesus enough to follow His directive, and ON THE WAY they were healed. They must have been overwhelmed with awe and joy. Being whole would allow them to return to their homes and families rather than living among the rocks and stones with other lepers.

leper-thanking-jesusBut wait. Ten asked for Jesus’ help. Ten followed his directive to go to the priests for a clean bill of health. But only one came back to thank Jesus. What about the other nine? Were they just so excited they rushed off without thinking of giving thanks to the One who healed their bodies? Rene said that people who don’t say thank you quickly often don’t say it at all.

Ten obeyed, but only one worshipped.

How often do I make a request of my Father, then not even notice when my prayer is answered? I want to be attuned to recognize His answers, to thank Him quickly, and often, for the graces He bestows on me.

“I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.” Psalm 118:21.

For what will you thank God today? 

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