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Sunday grace

It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving and also the first Sunday of Advent. They greet each other today.

The admonition in my devotional book points me to a continuing path. “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The few days of the holiday leave memories lingering, thoughts of my family, my precious ones, gathered around tables of food and fellowship, the conversations as varied and tantalizing as the recipes we prepared. Love for one another overlooks our differences of opinion.

Laughter rings from room to room. Children relish time with each other and lay forth a challenge to jump in cold waters of the swimming pool as adults stand around and remember being this young and adventurous.

There is much for which to say “Thank You” to my Father in Heaven. Not just on Thanksgiving Day but every day of my wonderful wild life.

We press forward toward year’s end, the compulsions of Christmas pursuits weighing upon us.

Giving thanks is followed by the invitation to look for the Christ child. The coming of the Promise rides on the heels of a grateful heart. Is there a message for me here?

As I look for joy, count gifts, acknowledge my  blessings from a benevolent God, my heart opens to the prospect of what will come. A good, good Father gives good to His children. His word is true and faithful. What He says He will do indeed.

I will anticipate the season of Christmas with gladness for it is the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. He didn’t come as expected in robes of royalty. But He came none the less, in humble attire and amidst uncertain ways.

My gifts often come disguised. They are still gifts. And I will be thankful.

Sunday grace.

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On this day of giving thanks

It’s early morning. Gentle winds blow the chimes on my deck and I hear music.

The house is quiet except for the popping of the gas longs. The window close to where I sit is open slightly. Even outside there is a stillness on this Thanksgiving Day.

My house is full, all beds and some couches nestling warm bodies in sleep. Three dogs still doze in the darkness of the yet unbroken new day.

I am thankful they are all here, all snuggled in, us together on this special occasion. I have been broken and grief-stricken on other holidays throughout my life time. Death and distance can wreck havoc on a heart.

But today, loved ones are here. And for that I am filled full with joy and gratitude.

I have not always been thankful in all my circumstances. In the dark place of the not knowing, in the wondering how good can come from my trial and my pain, in my own house of self-pity, I have been doubtful and fragmented.

I have coddled my misery too much and sat in my despair too long.

Life is not always an easy, flower-strewn pathway. It is often rocky and rough, the climb steep and foreboding, the night dark and long. We work muscles, reach for every ounce of strength, and learn endurance as we press on to the new dawning and the green pastures in our vision.

For there is always the hope of God’s Presence, His Word of promise of His never-forsaking love for us. He is our Immanuel, the with us God. We do not have to do this life on our own.

He calls me to a mature mentality of praise and thanksgiving, even in the hardest of circumstances. Even when loved ones are not gathered around a table. Even when death takes one held so dear. Even when pain is my companion.

He calls forth hope in Himself, asking me to focus my gaze on His beauty, to see glory, to see everlasting love, to remember His faithfulness always.

This is His will in Christ Jesus, to give thanks in all circumstances, to see Him in every situation, One who is working all things for my good, One who is redeeming every heartache and disappointment, One who is planning on bringing beauty out of my ashes.

He is a good and loving Savior who makes all things new. He mends our brokeness, filling us with Himself and shining through the cracks of our humanity so that the world may see Him in us, His children.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.  — Psalm 118:1

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The memento box and Thanksgiving

I’ve had a box in the garage for a long time. When I stored it away, I wrote on the box an identifying mark, MEMENTOS. I’ve added to the box through the years.

memento – 1. something that reminds one of past events; souvenir (thefreedictionary.com)

Perhaps some of you will understand. I’m a saver, a keeper of memories. Often I keep things too long and end up with a banker’s box full of cards, letters, notes, etc. that were just too precious to throw out at the time.

So I tossed them in a box. And now it’s filled to the brim.

During my semi-annual clean-out-the-garage day, I determined I really should go through the box of mementos. I would look at the things saved one more time and throw them away. After all, one can only keep so much stuff.

My children will thank me one day.

As I am going through each item and reading hand-written messages, I travel back in time. There are birthday cards, valentines, and thank you’s, the happy sentiments with sweet messages of endearment. I smile as I read.

Then there are the other messages, ones sent during sickness, operations, long months of illness, and seasons of tribulation common to us all. These take me back to a different occasion, the difficult times when the prayers of others held up my hands during the conflict and the struggle.

I linger over the handwritten words, remember each precious individual who took time to choose a card, write their thoughts, address and stamp the envelope and mail it to the Wright House. I consider the effort and cost.

I am reasonably addicted to the quick email, the Facebook message, or the text sent on the run. I appreciate the quick way of notification and staying in touch. Often those messages convey appreciation and care.I like sending and receiving those fast and efficient communications. But I can quickly loose them as the phone memory gets full or other messages take their places in chronological order.

So to be able to read again the thoughts of those who cared enough to send their very best, I am touched anew by their demonstration of love.

I chuckle at some of the cards. One particular couple sent Sweet William get-well cards regularly during the years of suffering with his knee. So often they were funny quips with the wife’s dry wit of humor thrown in for extra emphasis. We needed a reason to laugh. And so I do laugh again as I re-read them.

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There are notes from piano students now grown up and pursuing adult endeavors. The “thank-you” for being a good teacher from young students is rewarding.

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Some of the cards were from the grandchildren when they were small, their childish scrawl and penmanship evident of their different ages. Those unstructured letters spell more than words. It took effort for those tiny hands to hold pencils and crayons and write a few simple words or draw pictures. They are love to me.

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I read beautiful prose from my daughter-in-love, her artful way of using language. Short notes written in my one and only son’s familiar script are equally dear.

Sweet William’s cards were always well-chosen, him looking for the perfect printed words that conveyed what his heart wanted to say.

A faithful friend’s remembrance of me shows up in the annual birthday greeting. Another friend wrote a note on half of a card, making it a post card. I love that about her. She and I like to re-purpose, re-use, and as she wrote “re-mail.”

I discovered a copy of a nomination for Mother of the Year written by my one and only son when he was a teenager. I cherish his tender words even now.

I dug down deep into the bottom of the box looking for the oldest of the contents. The treasure hunt produced the funeral book when my mother died over 30 years ago. It contains a record of people who paid their last respects, people who loved my mother dearly. Inside the book was a poem by Martha Snell Nicholson that was read at mother’s funeral. I have wondered where that poem went, and it was pure delight to find it.

This isn’t death – It’s glory! It is not dark – It’s light!
It isn’t stumbling, groping, or even faith – It’s sight!
This isn’t grief – It’s having my last tear wiped away;
It’s sunrise – It’s the morning of my eternal day!

As I read again this treasured poem, I am aware that some who wrote me have died. They also have seen their eternal day.  At 30 years past, I am nearer mine, and it does not seem fearsome at all but pure glory.

I’ve just touched the surface of the box of Mementos. This is going to take a while, because I simply must read each card again.

I consider these people represented by saved mementos, some who came into my life for a season, and others who came to stay. Both are vital to us as human beings. Relationship is the gift God offered in Eden and once again at the cross.

As Thanksgiving week implores me to remember my blessings, I count my friends and relations. I am blessed indeed to have people who care about and love me. I am equally blessed to be able to reciprocate that love.

Jesus told his disciples, “I have called you friends.”

Friends walk with us in this journey of life. They help us carry our burdens. They laugh with us, cry with us, pray for us, and sit in silence with us when there are no words. Without them we would be poor indeed.

I am thankful for God’s gift of people. They show me how to love.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Sunday grace

Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of the Lord.

I remind myself of it often, this giving thanks is not just a guideline or a suggestion. This is the will of the Lord for me.

And His will is always for my good.

Giving thanks turns my eyes from the disappointments to the grace, from the heartbreak to the lavish love, from the pain to the process of healing.

God gives good gifts. He will withhold no good thing from those who love Him and follow Him. He is the sun and the shield.  He bestows favor and honor.

So I will count my blessings; I will name them one by one. I will see what the Lord has done as I look for His goodness in my ordinary, everyday life.

It’s a discipline I need to practice, repeat and rehearse. It is like a music piece that I stumble at in the beginning but becomes beautiful as I perfect it.

In the good times praise His name. In the bad times do the same. In everything give the King of kings all the thanks.

When the sun shines and when the storm gathers. When I am warm and when I am cold. When friends are near and when they cannot be found. When I am in good health and when I am sick. When money is plentiful and when I wonder how to pay the bills. When I am full and when I am empty. When I am bursting with joy and when my heart is torn wide open.

God is good no matter what. He will take what is hard and hurtful and redeem it, make it a time to teach me and draw me close to His heart. In His own miraculous way, He can bring beauty from ashes.

So this morning, I practice Eucharisteo when it is easy and when it is not. The giving of thanks is grace and it is joy.

This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for me. And Jesus is the best reason to be thankful for He is the greatest gift.

Sunday grace.

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Seeing God

“What if gratitude is more about seeing the face of God? Of locking our eyes on his and remembering where our help comes from? Perhaps gratitude is not only a discipline but also a gift, one we are given in special measure just before we pass through the door to suffering.”  — Roots & Sky, Christie Purifoy

Give thanks in all things for this is the will of God. I practice it regularly as a discipline. I am commanded to do it.

Perhaps at times I felt like I was doing God a favor by noticing the beauty around me and saying “thanks.” Maybe hoping to chalk up points for good behavior.

Spiritual disciplines are good. They are not rule-keeping or legalism. I understand that. But sometimes I wonder if I discipline myself for the right reasons.

We walk, exercise, push away from the table and eat less sugar and salt. It’s good for the body. We learn to do something new, work Sudoku and word puzzles, read good literature instead of consuming so much internet or television. It’s good for the mind. We practice prayer and Bible reading, attend church and participate in mission projects. It’s good for the soul.

So daily giving thanks is good for something, isn’t it?

What have I really expected from it as I list my three or more gifts of the day? I’m not sure. I read the words by Christie Purifoy and ponder them. Seeing the face of God and locking my eyes on His? Does gratitude do that for me? Not always.

I want to see the face of God instead of the petty things I focus on too often. I want to lock eyes on my Savior and behold His beauty instead of allowing the things of this world to shadow and cloud my vision.

It happens easily to me. I can’t seem to get over myself. It’s something someone says or doesn’t say. It’s an expectation I have that fizzles like a wet match. My plans, the way I wanted things to turn out just didn’t. And before I know it, I’m less than grateful and my eyes began to look downward. I didn’t get the attention I thought I deserved or the reward for my labors. The world will simply not revolve around me.

My vision darkens as I look inwardly at myself. I am blind to the gifts and the Giver.

Being thankful for every good and perfect gift can bring my heart back to the center if I do it consciously, intentionally and for the right reason. The discipline of it lifts my eyes upward. Even when trials and trouble appear and it is not perfect at all, this is a gift if it turns me back to the face of God. Once again I know He is enough for me.

I have sought for and fought for contentment. It is an on-going struggle. I have prayed for Him to be all I need. My mind knows He is. I want it planted deep in my soul also. I want to be consumed with His utter completeness. I want to be filled with the Spirit. I want to know Emmanuel – God with us – so sufficiently that other things have no room to dilute my satisfaction with Christ and Christ alone.

I’m not there yet. I will continue to lift my eyes unto the hills and beyond the horizon, past the moon, sun and stars, to the heavens where His throne is. And I will remember He has come to me, to make His home with me, to be with me and in me.

Perhaps I will glimpse His face and it will be enough.

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Photo by Elena Walls

Sunday grace

Give thanks.

It’s not just a November suggestion.  It’s good for February too, and all the other months in the year.

How easily I forget.  Giving thanks releases me from the worries that threaten my peace.  Giving thanks turns my mind toward the God who gives all good gifts.  Giving thanks can set my heart free.

And so I will do just that.  I will be thankful for the small things, like a flock of cranes flying overhead and the promise of spring.  I will give thanks for the gigantic blessings of salvation through grace and the Word of God which is my light in a dark world.

Give thanks.  It’s not just a suggestion to make us a little happier.  It is a command.  Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.

It releases strongholds of anxiety and fear.  It increases my faith and trust in the One who has provided and will provide.  It brings peace.

And who couldn’t use a little more peace.

Sunday grace.

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