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Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

 

 

A number of years ago and for the span of a decade, I commuted a half hour each way to and from the school where I taught.

Needless to say I saw all kinds of drivers: the speed demons and poke-alongs, the weavers and squeezers, the distracted and multi-taskers—each one an accident waiting to happen, each one confident that he or she was not.

One day a young man on a motorcycle whizzed by, darting between vehicles left and right in search of the fastest lane. This was not in near standstill traffic; it was on a stretch of Florida Turnpike where the speed limit is seventy.

Oh, Lord, I thought. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. That boy has no idea the danger he’s creating for himself and everyone else in his path.

 

 

A few minutes later I reached my exit and gasped aloud. Lying in the grass in the middle of the cloverleaf turn-off was that young motorcyclist, far separated from his twisted bike.

A few people were already hunched over him, perhaps from the nearby tollbooth area. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw his leg move.

Every now and then that scene comes to mind. I imagine that young man as he straddled his cycle that morning, anxious to be on his way for another exhilarating trip of engine revving, speed, and clever maneuvering.

No doubt a trip to the hospital never even crossed his mind.

The young often do live in a fantasy world of invincibility. And those of us with a bit more life-experience shake our heads at their carelessness.

But fast-lane living isn’t the singular domain of speeders and teenage boys on motorcycles.

Even a retired schoolteacher like me can forget: life is fragile.

 

 

Not that I drive recklessly or take foolish chances.

But I am very capable of rushing through a to-do list and missing an opportunity to provide joy in someone else’s life. I can breeze right past the blessings-of-the-moment because I’m focused on something down the road.

I can even forget the values I hold dear, including attentiveness to God and loving compassion for others.

It is downright foolish of me to live in a fantasy of invincibility, as if there will always be plenty of tomorrows for attentiveness and compassion, while cruising along in the fast lane of frenzied activity.

Instead, I’d rather cup my hands around each day and:

 

 

  • Find the wonder in the common. “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribable, magnificent world in itself” (Henry Miller).
  • Take note of the everyday miracles. “Looking is the beginning of seeing” (Sister Corita Kent).
  • Hug often. “Hugs are one of the reasons God gave us arms. So stretch out your arms to someone today…It will warm the heart of the giver and give light to the soul of the recipient” (Unknown).
  • Laugh easily. “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God” (Karl Barth).

 

 

  • Value every person. “The way we treat others is more about who we are, not who they are” (Unknown, emphasis added).
  • Forgive quickly. “Forgiveness isn’t about letting the other person off the hook. It’s about keeping the hooks of bitterness from getting into you” (Gabrielle Bernstein).
  • Avoid negativity. “Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity” (Unknown).
  • Choose joy. “True contentment is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it” (G. K. Chesterton).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Lord God, I have so much to be thankful for, including this cloudy, cozy day and the welcome chill in the air. I thank you for this moment, complete with winking candle, hazelnut coffee, and soft music to keep me company as I write.

Thank you also for the designated purpose you ordain for each person.   Because I am still alive, you still have plans to fulfill through me, especially to bless others. And for that I am grateful as well.

Keep me mindful, I pray, that fast lane living is not only foolish, it is dangerous to my soul.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 19:21; Ephesians 2:10)

 

What will you cup your hands around today?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.lawofficer.com; http://www.medienwerkstatt-online.de; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.quotesvalley.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift which is why we call it the present.”

–Bill Keane

(creator of the comic, Family Circus)

 

During my years as a fourth grade teacher, I used this Bill Keane quote to review with the kids the basic three tenses of the English language. The humor added a bit of fun; the truth of Keane’s statement added a bit of wisdom.

Even nine- and ten-year olds can benefit from the realization that:

Yesterday is past. We’re better off if we choose not to hold on to the hurts and disappointments of days gone by.

Tomorrow is a mystery; ‘best not to dwell on worrisome possibilities that most likely won’t happen.

Today is a gift from the ultimate Gift-Giver, God himself, and there is much to savor and appreciate.

 

 

The problem is, I forget. Those moments when I’ve marveled, laughed, or sighed in contentment are lost by day’s end in the blur of busy-ness.

So over the last few months I’ve been recording small blessings worthy of celebration—at least one per day, sometimes more.

For example:

  • While I was exercising, a bustling little wren nodded and bobbed from her log-perch outside the window. She cheered me on.

 

 

  • A glowing pink sunrise in the east greeted a crescent pearl moon to the west. Beauty shouting praise into the silence of dawn.

 

 

  • Our four-year old granddaughter, Elena, found an instant friend at the playground. The two girls gleefully ran back and forth several times across a field, holding hands. They perfectly illustrated Celeste Palermo’s observation, “Children are high-energy guides from Heavenly Tours, Inc.” (1).

 

 

  • A woodpecker extravaganza occurred in the backyard when three different species congregated at the same time—a flicker, a red-bellied, and a hairy.

 

(Hard to tell this guy is a red-bellied woodpecker.)

 

  • I spent a quiet hour reading on the deck one evening, reveling in heavenly weather and a bowl of sublime strawberries. All senses were happily engaged—mind and spirit, too.

 

 

You’ll notice there’s nothing particularly exciting on this list. No exotic locations, no momentous adventures.

Just affirmations that right now is good and quiet moments afford their own distinctive treasures.

It’s been great fun collecting these small snippets of surprise, exhilaration, and solace each day. I’m learning to carve the extraordinary out of ordinary and find the holy among the humdrum.

The Gift-Giver himself resides among his gifts. And as I savor selected moments of my days, I taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for this moment, right here, right now, that includes happy trees outside my window, clapping their hands in praise to you. I thank you for the soft cloak of quiet around me, and the nest of memories surrounding my desk, woven from things old, bestowed, and beloved. “The earth is full of your loving kindness, O God”—even in my little office.

(Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 33:5b)

 

What moment from today will you savor?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Note 

  1. Celeste Palermo, The Coffee Mom’s Devotional: A Rich Blend of 30 Brief and Inspiring Devotions, (Revell, 2009), 154.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pexels.co; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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While waiting for the coffee to brew Monday morning, I peeked out the kitchen curtains. To the east, a glowing red band rimmed the horizon. Slightly to the west, a clear, dark sky provided backdrop for a gleaming crescent moon.

 

 

Thank you, Father, I prayed, for prompting me to look out the window just now. Your handiwork never ceases to thrill me.

I wondered what further delights God might present as the day progressed? I decided to begin a list, just for the fun of seeing how many moments I could record. The glowing horizon and bright crescent moon became #1.

#2.  A completed workout.   Thank you, Lord, for helping me eat a live frog–yet again!  (Yes, that’s a perfectly logical prayer for those who know what Mark Twain said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” For me, exercising is about as distasteful as eating a live frog!)

Moments later, as a bowl of oatmeal spun slow circles inside the microwave, I chose to window-gaze again. This time a squirrel caught my attention as he scampered along a treetop branch, then leapt across a wide chasm to the next tree.

 

 

How do squirrels jump like that without falling? Such astounding abilities you’ve given some of your creatures, Lord.  

#3 became:   A gravity-defying squirrel.

#4.   Oatmeal—with cinnamon, berries, walnuts, and milk. Thank you, Father, for the endless combinations of ingredients we can put together to make our taste buds happy! 

#5.   Coffee.  The most exquisite flavor to start the morning.

 

 

I was on a roll now as the praiseworthy moments continued:

#6.   A dropped contact found.

#7.   Sunshine pouring through the windows.

#8.   The drive to our son’s house along the edge of Mount Airy Forest. Spring is in evidence: bright green undergrowth portends the imminent leafing of trees.

 

 

#9.   Clear, rain-washed air–fresh and crisp. Just breathing is a supreme pleasure.

#10. Holding four-year old Elena’s soft little hand as we climb the stairs together.

#11.  Snuggling two-month old Maarit on my shoulder while taking her on another slow, bouncy tour of the living/dining, and kitchen area. Her bright eyes seem to study every object, any sign of movement, every play of light.

#12.  Reveling in Maarit’s smiles, each one a delightful surprise.

#13.  Making her laugh for the first time.

#14.  Watching Elena complete a 48-piece puzzle, with very little help.

#15.  Catching one of Maarit’s smiles on camera–well, almost.

 

 

#16.  Listening to a symphony of birds upon arrival home, as I walked from car to house.

#17.  Soaking up the warmth of sunshine on the deck while reading my Bible and journaling a bit.

#18.  Enjoying a refreshing salad, all the more delicious because Steve made it.

 

 

#19.  Receiving blessing and challenge while reading posts from bloggers I follow.  (See the list in the right column!)

#20. Resting with a pleasurable book.

 

    *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

It may not be practical to record such moments every day, but I can see great benefit from keeping a list now and then.

It’s grateful eyes that get to see God’s goodness and glory everywhere–all day long.

 

 

(“It is good to praise the Lord…

…to proclaim your love in the morning

and your faithfulness at night…

…For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord,

I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

–Psalm 92:1-2, 4)

 

What commonplace moment brings you uncommon joy? Please share in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.farm7.staticflickr.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of,” said the wealthy, well-known actor.

Of course, I thought. He’s loving the high life—for now—and maybe feels guilty that 97% of humanity will never live the dream he’s privileged to enjoy.

But what he said next shocked me.

They should do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.”

Who made that startling statement? A man just about everybody in America recognizes on sight: Jim Carrey.

I wonder if Jim knew how close he came to echoing the words of King Solomon?

 

 

(“When I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

nothing was gained under the sun”–Ecclesiastes 2:11 NIV.)

 

From ancient times to today, man has strived to find happiness by obtaining the next desired possession, experiencing the next enticing adventure, or pursuing the next enthralling relationship—even though any success is short-lived.

When will we learn?

Contentment results when we:

Want what we have.

 

(“The things you take for granted someone else is praying for.”

— Anonymous)

 

When our children were eight, eleven, and thirteen, my pastor-husband was appointed to a church in an area of South Florida known for its golf courses, beaches, and wealth.

That last characteristic was most challenging for our children. Many of their classmates arrived at school in expensive cars. They wore clothing with exclusive labels, owned all the latest gadgets, and traveled to exotic locations.

Though Eric, Heather, and Jeremy could see that consumerism did not guarantee happiness, they still struggled with the inequity.

The younger two, Jeremy and Heather, were thirteen and sixteen when they joined a crew of teens and sponsors for a one-week trip to the Dominican Republic.  Their responsibilities included painting at an orphanage and interacting with the children.

The next summer they repeated the trip. And as a result of witnessing true poverty, their outlook on life was dramatically transformed.

 

(Heather is the blonde on the left, in case you weren’t sure!)

 

Months later, Heather and I were riding together in our van and stopped at a red light. We weren’t even talking about those weeks spent at the orphanage. But a decked out sports car pulled up next to us and after a pause, Heather wistfully said, “The cost of that car would feed so many people in the Dominican.”

Such a dramatic shift of perspective had occurred in her heart.  Jeremy’s too.

However, over time contentment easily fades. We must:

Find the positives of each day.

I’ve started a new section in my quiet time notebook:  “A Celebration of Small Things.”  Maybe you’d like to join me?  Each evening I’m recording at least one thing that gives me a sense of contentment. The first entry on Monday was daffodils.

 

 

You see, last week a bitter cold snap here in Ohio ruined much of the early spring flora. Even the hardy daffodils lay bowed over to the ground.

However, they were not defeated! When the temperature rose above freezing again, most of their floral stems stood tall once more. Fluted cups remained open and delicately ruffled; petals fanned outward with only a slight curl at the tips.

I’m so very grateful a soupçon of spring has survived.

 

(“Sweet are the thoughts that savor of content.

The quiet mind is richer than a crown.”

– Robert Greene, English author, 1558-1592)

 

I’m discovering Robert Greene was right. Sweet thoughts do produce the treasure of a quiet mind.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

What a delight, Father, to give you thanks and praise for your abundant gifts—the beautiful, the pleasant, the heart-warming, the humorous. Every day is filled with blessing because of your love, compassion, and faithfulness.  My heart overflows with gratitude as I contemplate your goodness!

 

(Psalm 9:1-2, 103:8; Colossians 2:6-7)

 

 

What small thing causes your heart to overflow with thankfulness?  Share your choice in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.truevined.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.oldquotes.com; Myra Johnson at http://www.picturemythoughts.com.)

 

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Lots of folks will be trekking to the grocery store today or tomorrow, picking up ingredients for their traditional Thanksgiving feast: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and more.

But that’s probably not what the Pilgrims and their Indian guests ate in 1621. According to the two primary sources that survive, their feast included wildfowl (wild turkey among them, for sure, but those taste nothing like a Butterball), waterfowl, cornbread or corn porridge, and venison. Perhaps vegetables from their gardens were also on the menu, but they received no mention.

Soon after that first Thanksgiving, our American forefathers added a custom to the meal: putting five grains of corn at each place around the table as a memorial to those first Pilgrims—a people of strong faith who had faced persecution and even imprisonment in England.

So the small band left everything—extended family and friends, jobs, homes, and goods—to establish a colony for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith (according to the Mayflower Compact).

 

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“Embarkation of the Pilgrims”

by Robert Walter Weir

 

You may remember a late departure from England delayed their arrival in America by two months. To complicate matters further, they were blown off course by a storm. Instead of arriving at Jamestown, Virginia where other colonists already lived, they landed at present-day Massachusetts.

In numbing cold and deep snow the Pilgrims began the overwhelming task of building a colony from scratch. Shelter was their highest priority, and construction of a common house began immediately.

At night the men stayed on land while the women and children returned to the Mayflower, thanks to the captain, Christopher Jones, who anchored the ship a mile offshore. Jones knew that if he left, they would all die.

But even the ship offered little relief from the frigid temperatures. To keep their children warm, the mothers would actually sleep on them.

 

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“Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor”

by William Halsall

 

It’s no wonder that severe illness decimated the Pilgrims. At one point, only seven colonists were strong enough to care for the others. Half of the original 102 colonists died, many of them the women who had protected their children from the bitter cold. Most of the children survived.

The trial of rampant illness was compounded by the lack of food. During that first dreadful winter in America, corn had to be carefully rationed. Each person received just five grains at a time.

And thus began the custom among early settlers to put corn kernels at each place for Thanksgiving—in memory of those resolute and persevering men and women who suffered so much to live for the glory of God and share the good news of Jesus with the American Indians.

 

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William Bradford

 

Sometime later, Governor William Bradford of the Massachusetts colony wrote, “We have noted these things so that you might see their worth and not negligently lose what your fathers have obtained with so much hardship.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Forgive me, Lord God. I do forget these things and become focused on the delight of gathering with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day. I neglect to soberly note the worth of the Pilgrims’ sacrifices, that they might live for your glory. Their perseverance, courage, and passion put me to shame.

Help me to be a voice of remembrance to those around me. May we not negligently lose what the Pilgrims and other heroes/heroines have obtained for us with so much hardship.

 

Sources:

 

The Higher Happiness by Ralph W. Sockman (1950), p. 45.

The Founders’ Bible by Shiloh Road Publishers, pp. 95-104.

http://www.eagleforum.org; “Thanks-living Time–The Extraordinary Example of the Pilgrims.”

 

(Photo & art credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org (2); http://www.biography.com.)

 

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For a number of months, the pastoral staff of our church has been preaching from the gospel of Mark. Yesterday the text was chapter fifteen, the account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

Pastor C. graphically described the flogging, the nailing of limbs to the cross, and the slow death by asphyxiation so we might better grasp the appalling circumstances of Jesus’ death and appreciate, at least in part, the supreme sacrifice he endured for us. Tears kept burning my eyes as I contemplated Jesus’ physical pain and emotional suffering—for me.

 

jesus-crucifixion

 

Next Sunday, the sermon text will come from chapter sixteen of the same gospel—the description of astounding events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, his escape from a sealed tomb, and his sudden appearance to a group of men in a locked room.  (Further details are described in the other gospels.) The wonder and splendor are in sharp contrast to the preceding horror.

 

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Now according to the traditional church calendar, such sermons in November are terribly out of sync. Usually we save the sobering remembrances of Christ’s crucifixion for Lent. And it’s Easter morning we celebrate “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” with euphoric joy.

But my husband, Steve, noted after church, “It might seem strange to some people that we’d focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection at this time of year, but actually, I see it as the perfect time. Next week is Thanksgiving Sunday.   And of all the things we have to be thankful for, nothing is more precious than Christ’s sacrifice in our place and his gift of eternal life.”

 

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So true, I thought and nodded in agreement. How dreadful my life would be if Jesus had not taken my sin upon himself and provided the God-enhanced life I’ve enjoyed all these years.

 

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“I also find it fascinating,” Steve continued, “that Mark fifteen would just happen to be the text for today. Pastor C. couldn’t have known months ago when he planned this series that a lot of people would be distraught and even angry about the presidential election. Other issues have folks divided too—from racial tension on the national level to family concerns on the personal level.

“But there is one central fact that should overshadow everything else and help us keep a proper perspective: Jesus’ death and resurrection and all the incredible implications.”

 

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Smart man, that Steve.

The crux* of our lives is the cross, because it put on display the wondrous love of our God and Savior (John 3:16) and his omnipotent power over sin and death (1 Corinthians 1:18).  All matters of our day-to-day lives are secondary — including disappointments, irritations, and frustrations.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, Jesus, keep me mindful it was my sin you took upon yourself that dark Friday. Every selfish deed, every outburst of anger or hurtfulness, every unkind, impure, or prideful thought—you paid the price.

That price included torn flesh, spilled blood, and excruciating pain beyond my ability to imagine. Yet such unthinkable suffering resulted in hope and healing for me.

Remind me to let go of  petty irritations, and prideful self-centeredness, to live instead in continual gratitude, awe, and celebration of you, precious Savior!

 

 *In Latin, crux means cross.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.christiannews.com; http://www.desktopnexus.com; http://www.pinterest (2); http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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(“Every day we should hear at least one little song,

read one good poem, see one exquisite picture,

and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.”

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1838)

Author and lawyer, von Goethe, was much too easily satisfied.

Yes, a day without music would be dreary.

Poetry does feed the soul and intellect in ways that prose does not.

An exquisite picture does lift the spirit.

It’s also true that sharing a few words of wisdom can be satisfying.

Yet, is that enough for one day?  What about:

  • Offering the music of “thank you” or “you go first” or “I love your smile?”
  • Reading and pondering several verses of scripture?  That will feed the soul and intellect even more than poetry.
  • Creating an exquisite picture of kindness by finding ways to be helpful and engaging?  Such artful living often impacts people more than we realize.
  • Speaking a few sensible words of encouragement, and feeling uplifted ourselves?

But beyond von Goethe’s suggestions of music, poetry, art, and wisdom are many more possibilities for a day full of delight.  We can:

 

scooter-girl

 

  • Savor a pleasurable moment or memory–better yet, when the two happen back-to-back.  Just today a neighbor girl whooshed by on her scooter, and I was reminded of happy, long ago days doing some whooshing of my own on bicycles or skates.  I smiled.
  • Make a discovery or learn something new.  Read.   Listen.  Think.  Recently in C. S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory (Eerdman’s Publishing, 1949), I came across this statement:  “Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality” (p. 36).  Well deserving of some careful pondering, I think.
  • Celebrate at least one small miracle of nature:  a magnificent cloud formation, bright green growth on the tips of evergreen boughs, a cardinal’s song echoing through the woods.
  • Engage the creative side:  draw (even if it’s doodling), paint (even if it’s adding color to someone else’s art), or write (even if it’s in a journal that no one else will see).
  • Offer a smile–wherever we are.  “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.  Peace begins with a smile” (Mother Teresa).  Better yet, add words–a cheerful greeting, a compliment, a bit of gratitude.

 

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  • End the day by counting blessings.  Drift off to sleep in an attitude of prayer–a prayer such as this:

*     *     *     *    *     *     *     *    *     *

Thank you, Father, for your gifts that offer daily delight–gifts like the warm pleasure of childhood memories bubbling to the surface unexpectedly, discoveries that challenge the mind and inspire the soul, and miracles of nature that amaze.

Thank you, oh God, for creating us in your image, including the ability to imagine, design, and produce.  Thank you for the deep satisfaction of the creative process.

And thank you for the astounding privilege to be a positive influence in this world, an ambassador for your Son.

 

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(Art & photo credits:  www.doublequotes.net; http://www.beactive.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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