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Sunday grace

It’s been such a busy week. I already feel caught up in the vortex of coming end-of-year celebrations.

Thanksgiving is a few days away. December is on its heels, and the roller coaster wheels are turning. I see colored lights already blinking on porches and in windows as we push toward The Holiday Extravaganza.

Thanksgiving deserves its own day at least once during the year.

A local store mailed me an advertisement last week.

BLACK FRIDAY
FIRST PLACE TO STOP. BEST PLACE TO SHOP.
(IN STORE AND ONLINE)
STORES OPEN THURSDAY AT 6 PM

When did a day of thanks and a time to gather with family become a strategy to get the best deals, save the most money, and beat out other shoppers by camping on sidewalks until stores open?

Have we lost something in our 21 Century living? Are we more focused on accumulating additional stuff than on being grateful for what we have? What are we teaching the next generation about the value of human contact, the art of face to face conversations, and simple pleasures of enjoying being fully present at family gatherings?

Thanksgiving Day has been a federal holiday since 1863, proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,”

We have made it into something else.

The Almighty God is the originator of thanksgiving guidance, instructing His people to remember the goodness of God, to recall His deliverance and grace, to count the blessings He bestows lavishly on this earth.

Do we become more self-centered if we bypass being thankful? Shall we not pause to recognize that there is a Great Benefactor of all good gifts? We are not islands unto ourselves, making our own pathways through life, accomplishing our goals and becoming successful through our efforts alone.

There is a God who sends rain and sunshine, who causes seed to grow, earth and planets to revolve in their orbits, stars to shine, and seasons to comply with His plan and direction.

He gives the very breath we breathe, created the body to function like a beautiful machine, made our minds to think, reason, create, relate, and remember.

He gave His Son that we might become children of God. That alone is reason to thank Him.

As the week moves forward, can we give thanks to our great God? Can we pause amidst the  lines in grocery stores, the hurry of projects and the hustle of food preparation to remind ourselves Who is the source of our every blessing? Could we hug those precious people whom the Father has brought into our lives to love and cherish and remember they are gifts from a benevolent hand?

“It is a good and delightful thing to give thanks to the Lord,
To sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”  — Psalm 92:1 AMP

Sunday grace.

 

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Normal Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post 1943

 

 

 

 

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Grey days

It’s a grey day today.  Bright hues of fall have virtually disappeared and all that is left are browns and the few evergreen cedars.  Bare branches, ashen skies and rain falling steadily adds to the drabness.  It’s easy to let the weather dictate my mood.

I think about the coming holiday celebrations and how different they have become since the family, our dear ones moved.

Lists begin to take shape in my mind, things to do in the next few weeks, preparations, agendas, schedules.  They grow and take on their own shape inside me, creating tension.

Sometimes I can let pressure build like the cooker on the stove that spews its steam and juices all over the surface, smoking and smelling burnt.

Sweet William and I prayed before breakfast, naming names and seeing faces in our minds.  So many are still wrestling with disease, grief, worry.  Some are anticipating dates of testing with uncertain outcomes.   Others have written “surgery” in the square of their calendars.

The world has become a scary place.  Nightly newscasts make me wonder what we are coming to.

It’s all overwhelming to think about.

And it’s a grey day today.

I decide to put the tea kettle on the burner.

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Water heats as temperature rises.  Steam intensifies and pressure builds.  And the kettle starts to sing.  That five-dollar bargain I bought in Tulsa a few years ago at a yard sale that has not sung worth a nickle.  But today, it sings.

And when the days are grey and the stress levels are high, as the pressure builds and I wonder what life is all about any way . . .

When I remember a life recently passed from this world and how brief are the days of our lives on this earth . . .

When I consider that his world is not my home and I’m just a’passing through, that it is a preparing ground for something more glorious than I can imagine . . .

I decide to be like the kettle.

I will sing.

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Oh Joy!

November is already well on her journey, and the end of 2015 seems near.

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This week has offered me many opportunities for joy.  Monday I finished a Bible study by Kelly Minter, What Love Is.  It was my second time leading this study and well worth repeating.  Those little books of 1, 2, 3 John, near the back of the Bible, are large with wisdom.  A second take of the study brought a different group of women, and I am thankful for getting to know them better.  There is something about meeting in a home environment that breaks down walls and builds relationships.  It was a Joy-filled finale.

I was able to share some words on prayer with a group of my peers the middle of this week. Appropriately called JOY Group, these dear folk showed me their love and support by their attendance and expressions as I talked.  I cast my bread upon the waters and trusted the Father to provide nourishment to our souls.

Tonight I will attend a recital where my piano students, from elementary to high schoolers, will perform. The work we do together each week will shine brightly as they take the stage and play their sweet hearts out.  They will walk off stage afterwards, applause still ringing in the air, and my heart will swell with pride (the good kind) and fill me with much joy.  What other job could I have that gives this kind of reward?

Tomorrow Sweet William and I will attend a birthday celebration of an 80-year-old relative.  Family we don’t see often will be there.  We will be joyful at a life well lived and being a member of the family.

As I begin thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas just around a few corners, I am determined to list my daily thanks in my Joy Journal, the gifts given by a loving God.  I can easily get busy and distracted and allow stress to rob me of the vision of the beauty that surrounds me.  By counting gifts, looking for them each day, I remember that I am greatly loved and blessed beyond measure.

This week’s gifts included:

A beautiful fall pallete, though late in coming.  The trees showed off their splendor.

The few golden leaves still on the big maple tree, trembling in the breeze, looking like little hands waving.

A blue bird appearance and a pair checking out the house we put up this summer.  It’s the first time we’ve seen them show interest in it.  There is the promise of baby blues in our future.

Practicing a duet with one of my older and more advanced piano students.  Us playing in sync was pure fun.

We can enter the coming season with dread or we can enter with joy.  It’s a choice we all will make, whether we realize it not.  What will you do?

I choose joy.

Ending October simply

If you have been reading this month, you know by now that I used the thought of simplicity for my October posts.  I usually go with a theme in December leading up to Christmas and during the Lenten season before Resurrection Sunday (Easter).  But I’ve enjoyed writing about simple things this month and am considering a theme for November.  Stay tuned.

Here are some simple thoughts that are randomly running through my mind as October winds down and comes to a simple ending.

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  • As kiddos are dressing up tonight as some sort of favorite character or applying fake blood to look creepy, I remember when our one and only son was a Webelo in the Boy Scout troupe he joined.  There was a costume party, and boys and parents dressed up.  I donned a dark cape and flowing skirt, applied darkly shaded makeup and fake fangs to portray myself as a vampire of sorts.  When I looked in the mirror, I scared myself.  No seriously, I looked evil.  It’s the last time I ever did that.

And I wonder what happens to all that candy gathered tonight?

  • In our culture, the next couple of months will be anything but simple.  Christmas decorations have been in the stores for weeks.  The potential is there for us to overdo, overdecorate, overspend, overcommit, overeat, and before you know it Christmas is over, and will we have enjoyed it or just endured it?

I’ve looked at my list of gifts to buy for some folk who already have what they need.  Adults with enough sweaters and scarves.  Kids with enough gadgets and toys.  Friends who don’t want something else to sit on the shelf. And what would happen if I gave my Christmas money to those who really are in need and spent my time and energy on people and experiences and worshiping the newborn King?

  • I just discovered that tonight is “fall back,” the better part of the daylight’s savings plan.  And let me tell you I don’t like anything about the plan.  Just when my bodily system had adjusted to “spring forward,” time moves again.
  • I did my very first book review in October, Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I’m glad I did.  It has opened up another avenue of creativity for me and I look forward to doing another review.

The winner of the free copy of the book has been notified.  I appreciate all those who left their comments.  Your words matter to me, more than you know.  Sometimes I write and post and then wonder where my words go and is anyone out there.  Your comments let me know that, yes, you are out there.

  • October has been less frantic than September.  I am going to do my very best to move into the coming holiday season with the same determination to spend my time well, to be intentional about making commitments, to choose the best over the good, to seek God’s will where He wants me to use my gifts rather than giving in to every other choice that calls to me.

October ends simply.  November promises piano recitals, celebrations and memories, family gatherings with favorite food, time with friends, and sitting by the fire with Sweet William.

God gives good gifts.  I will take time to see them, receive them, and find pleasure in them.  I will walk into November with joy.