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Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

 

 

The first time I saw the above painting by Richard Schem, Times Square in New York City came to mind. If you’ve ever stood at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue at night, you too may have been overwhelmed by the cacophony of color produced by thousands of neon lights.

But Richard’s painting is titled, “See the World.” That provides a very different perspective.  Now I see the colors of the sea, the brilliant hues of silken saris from India, the verdant hillsides of Ireland, the rich crimson of Chinese lacquer, the terracotta and ochre tones of the Grand Canyon.

 

 

In one painting, he’s captured the glory of color that pervades much of our world.

Of course, Richard Schem isn’t the only artist who sees the world with fresh perspective and provides a delicious moment of discovery for those who pause long enough to experience a work of art, not just view it.

I wonder what would happen if we became artists of our days—pausing long enough to find fresh perspective now and then? Might we make a delicious discovery or two? Might our days explode with colorful moments, like Richard Schem’s canvas?

If that sounds enticing, the next question would be: How do we become artists of the everyday? I’m thinking the following strategies might provide a good place to start.

 

1. Paint the day with positivity.

 

Why let the drab colors of disappointment, difficulty, and frustration shroud the day when we can choose the cheerful hues of optimism, opportunity, and blessing?

 

 

“A joyful heart makes a face cheerful.”

–Proverbs 15:13a

 

Just this morning (It’s Monday as I begin to draft), Steve and I had to go to the hospital for his weekly blood draw. Unfortunately, Mother Nature played an April Fool’s joke during the night: the SUV was covered in frost. Not being quite tall enough for the job, I attacked the ice on the windshield with some difficulty, and was soon huffing and puffing.**

Well, at least this is good exercise, I thought. And listen to the birds, happily trilling and chirping, not the least bit deterred by the chill this morning. My frustration began to subside.

 

2. Weave gratitude from morning till night.

 

(This photo taken last September)

 

Recent threads in my gratitude tapestry include: hot coffee in a thermal mug, sunshine streaming in the windows, a trio of deer feasting on the backyard hillside, candle-lighting time each evening, and a delightful book intertwining mystery and humor.

God’s goodness comes in many colors and textures.

 

3. Mold moments into sanctuaries of joyful worship.

 

 Instead of just waiting for joy to find us, we can create it. Here are a few possibilities:

 

 

  • Celebrate the prize of a smile from each person you meet—especially if you’re the one to smile and say hello first.

 

  • Savor virtual snapshots of delightful observations: a squirrel perched at the very tip of a branch, feather duster clouds sweeping the sky, the dimples on the back of a small child’s hand.

 

  • Find richness in the commonplace: the miracle of crocus blooming through the snow, fire flames leaping on the hearth (never the same way twice), and raindrop jewels glistening on the foliage.

 

 

“For you, O Lord,

have made me glad by your work;

at the works of your hands

I sing for joy.”

–Psalm 92:4 ESV

 

Design to bless others.

Becoming artists of the everyday for our own hearts’ sake is certainly beneficial, but inspiring others to connect with the Master Artist as the result of our optimism, gratitude, and good cheer? Well, that just multiplies the blessing.

How have you painted your day with positivity, woven gratitude into the hours, or molded moments into sanctuaries of joy? Share with us in the Comment section below!

 

______________________________

 

*A phrase borrowed from Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson.

**My thoughtful husband usually takes care of this chore, but he’s recovering from a subdural hematoma as many of you know. Such exertions as frost removal are not allowed for at least three months.

Art & photo credits:  http://www.horchow.com (Richard Schem); http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pexels.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg.

 

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In the town where I lived till age ten, great elm trees bordered a number of the residential streets. Their wide-reaching branches stretched across the pavement and met in the middle, creating a thick, verdant archway in the summertime.

As we walked or drove underneath, the view was dominated by tree trunks—sentries of the streets in two straight rows.

One stand-alone tree, tall and far spread, is an inspiration, as Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem attests. But a double row stretching to the horizon? That’s a wondrous sight you don’t forget—even after six decades.

Not long ago I came across an observation of Charles Spurgeon, based on just such a view. And immediately I thought of those stately elms of my hometown:

 

“We delight to look down a long avenue of trees.

It is pleasing to gaze from end to end of the long vista.

Even so look down the long aisles of your years,

at the green boughs of mercy overhead

and the strong pillars of loving-kindness

and faithfulness which bear up your joys.”

(Morning by Morning, p. 366).

 

 

What better time to look down those aisles of our years than this week of Thanksgiving?

Down my own personal road…

…I do see the green boughs of mercy—times when God treated me with grace and compassion that I did not deserve—even in small matters.

One example out of many:  the time I forgot to order new books for the women’s Bible study at church. (This was long before amazon.com and priority shipping.) An emergency run to the Christian bookstore was necessary.

While driving there, I prayed to find sufficient copies of a worthwhile study that we could complete in the necessary time frame: eight weeks.

I know, I know. Such specific requirements. But sure enough, God supplied exactly what was needed, in spite of my foolish forgetfulness.

 

(Women too!)

 

…I see the strong pillars of loving-kindness—times when God demonstrated his tender and compassionate affection.

Again, one example out of many: I spilled a bit of coffee on my computer and the mouse died. Steve tried the hair dryer trick, and miraculously, my mouse came back to life.

But Steve would be the first to tell you God gets the credit, first for bringing to his mind that solution, and because “every good and perfect gift comes from above”—even problem-solving power.

 

 

…I see the strong pillars of faithfulness—times when God demonstrated his firm and devoted support.

Just a list of categories is quite long. God offers protection and provision, equipping and encouragement, instruction and guidance, comfort and strength, forgiveness and restoration, support and deliverance, healing and blessing. Surely there are even more.

Often, God expresses his strong and loving support through his Word.

One morning while settling in for a quiet time, I opened my Bible first instead of the study guide. “Wake up,” I chided myself. “You don’t even know what scripture you’ll be studying today.”

I turned to the morning’s lesson and discovered my Bible was already open to the proper page, and the prescribed verse was right at the top. Before even reading the verse I felt a strong impression from God: “Nancy, this scripture is for you today.”

Now before I reveal the verse, let me explain that just a few days prior I’d received disturbing news. Hurt and discouragement were fighting against faith and hope in my spirit.

So imagine my astonishment when I read, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7).  An overflow of joy in my heart became tears in my eyes. He saw my distress and came alongside with encouragement and support.

 

 

No doubt you have stories of your own green boughs of mercy and strong pillars of loving-kindness and faithfulness, as you gaze down the long aisle of your years.

I’d love to hear one of your examples; I’m sure other readers would too.

Please share in the comment section below, and together we can praise our God for the wonders he has performed (Psalm 105:5a)!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.strongtowns.org (Daniel Jeffries); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Some believe that indulging in memories is a waste of time, that past events have no meaning for the present. But nothing could be further from the truth— especially if we acknowledge God’s part in those events.

When we include God in our remembering:

  1. We gain a sense of perspective.

Even difficult times are part of God’s plan. Sometimes, with the gift of hindsight, we catch a glimpse of his purpose later.

For example, how many students have struggled through school, yet in adulthood flourished in careers well matched to their gifts? Most of them are actually thankful for the early challenges, because they learned perseverance and developed strength of character. Those late-bloomers are often compassionate and understanding toward other strugglers, because they remember the difficulties of those formative years.

 

 

  1. We acquire wisdom for today.

“Reflective thinking turns experience into insight.”

–John Maxwell

In my younger days I used to be a champion talker. But somewhere along the way I began to notice the listeners—caring folks who often demonstrated the gentle and quiet spirit Peter spoke of (1 Peter 3:3). They reminded me of my sweet grandmother.

I valued that demeanor and began to turn insight into a new experience of focused listening. (Please understand: practice hasn’t achieved perfection yet. But improvement? Yes.)

 

  1. We build a foundation of stability for today as we remember God’s grace and faithfulness in the past.

But memories easily fade. So some believers keep a book of remembrance or a praise journal, as a way to savor God’s faithfulness.

Just for fun, I randomly opened my loose leaf praise journal in search of an entry to share with you. Here’s what I wrote, December 23, 2003, about our older son, who was in college at the time:

 

 

(“Eric got a new job yesterday and it starts today! The owner of the bike shop has not paid Eric for ten days, but a friend offered him a job in their family’s fireplace shop at the same salary.”)

Entry after entry highlight God’s provision, protection, and guidance through the years. And each memory contributes to my foundation of stability.

 

  1. We foster gratitude in our hearts.

As you can see, the entry recorded above ends with: “Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers and providing for Eric.”  Joy just naturally overflowed into appreciation.

On the opposing page I wrote, “I am overwhelmed, Lord, by this continuing string of blessings. You are SO good to us, always demonstrating your faithfulness and grace. May your praise continually be on my lips!”

Research has now proven a number of benefits of gratitude.*  But surely one of the best: it nurtures a contented soul.

 

 

  1. We can turn remembering into a beautiful act of worship. 

That’s exactly what scripture invites us to do: 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house” (Deuteronomy 26:11).

Praise the name of the Lord your God, who has done wondrously with you” (Joel 2:26b).

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

Such glorious cause and effect! Remembering God’s wonderful deeds of the past turns our hearts to worship, which causes a powerful, positive impact on the present.

 

  1. We can tell our stories of God’s miracles and mercies, to encourage the faith of others and refresh our own.

Scripture invites us to do that too: 

“I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all he has done for us” (Isaiah 63:7).

.

 

So let’s begin here! Please share in the comment section below about a kindness, miracle, or mercy of God from your memory. And together we can praise the name of the Lord who has worked wonders for us!

 

* Another post details some of those benefits, “Happiness.”

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nellis.af.mil; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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(A personal psalm in honor of our Lord Jesus)

 

 

We praise you, Author and Perfecter of our Faith.

BY your death on the cross we are saved from eternal separation from you and all that is good.  Your sacrifice made possible our adoption as children of the God of the universe. Your forgiveness covers every failure, and as your character permeates our own, your grace transforms us into works of art.

 

 

We praise you, Righteous One.

IN you there is no condemnation hanging over us like a black cloud. No longer must each of us wear the label sinner; we become saints when clothed in your righteousness.   Who dares point the finger and cry “Guilty?” Because of you, Lord Jesus, God has already forgiven us and granted right standing with himself.

 

 

We praise you, Emmanuel (God with us).

WITH you we may live a new life of confidence that Someone stronger and wiser is in charge, Someone available day or night for whatever we need, Someone perfectly capable to take on our troubles, Someone dedicated to increasing our joy, and Someone to infuse our lives with purpose and fulfillment.

 

 

We praise you, Ruler of Creation.

TO you all things are brought into existence. Everything in creation is for your glory—from the innumerable stars spilling across the sky to the diverse creatures inhabiting every corner of our planet.   As for humanity, we too are diverse—each endowed with unique gifts and talents to live for the praise of your glory.

 

 

We praise you, Great Shepherd.

FROM you we receive grace, mercy, and peace. Because of your grace, you listen to the broken heart, the guilt-ridden soul, the desperate plea. Lovingly you reply, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Out of your mercy you keep no record of wrongs. Your peace accompanies us through every storm of life.

 

 

We praise you, Lord of All.

THROUGH you we can do all things. Your perfect strength equips us for all life’s challenges, as we avail ourselves through continual, affirmative prayer. How reassuring to know “your power flows most freely into those who acknowledge their need for you” (Unknown).

 

 

We praise you, Christ Jesus our Hope.

LIKE you we will be raised from death to eternal life. That’s not just wishful thinking; it’s reliable truth. A whole body of proof corroborates the scripture record of your resurrection.* And because you came back to life, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that eternity in heaven is guaranteed to us who put our trust in you.

 

 

Such astounding truths—too glorious for full comprehension.

But may I never cease to try.

_________________________

 

*The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, updated 2016) offers proof after proof of the resurrection from scholars in the fields of science, history, and philosophy.  The book became the basis for a movie by the same title in 2017.

 

Scriptures used for this post:

Author and Protector–Hebrews 12:2; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:14-15; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 2:10.

Righteous One–1 John 2:1; Romans 8:1 MSG; Hebrews 10:14-18; Romans 8:33-34.

Emmanuel–Matthew 1:23; Romans 6:4; Daniel 2:20; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 19:26; John 15:11; Philippians 2:13.

Ruler of Creation–Colossians 1:15; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:12.

Great Shepherd–Hebrews 13:2; 2 John 3; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 13:5; John 4:27.

Lord of All–Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians:9.

Christ Jesus Our Hope–1 Peter 1:3; John 5:24; 1 John 5:12.

 

Art & photo credits: Ephesians 2:10–www.dailyverses.net; John 14:27–dailyverses.net; 2 Corinthians 12:9–www.heartlight.org.   

 

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“You prepare a table before me, 

In the presence of my enemies.” 

–Psalm 23:5

 

You, oh God, are my Host at the table of life!

 

 

You have prepared for me a veritable buffet of experiences and opportunities. Some have been delicious and delightful, created (it seemed) solely for my enjoyment—events such as close encounters with birds or butterflies, an afternoon of laughter and reminiscing with old friends, or a spontaneous hug from a toddler.

Other experiences you’ve prepared because they were good for me: challenges, changes, and uncertainties.   You wanted to build stronger character within me and grow maturity in my spirit.

Sometimes I’ve wondered what you were serving! Forgive me for saying so, but occasionally you’ve created circumstances that seemed as distasteful as dill pickles, cream cheese, and corned beef.  (That combination sounded awful when I was first introduced to it.)  But just as I discovered how delicious Piggles* are, I’ve learned the superiority of your plan–to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

 

Another observation:  some of the dishes being served aren’t just good for me, but for others at the table—especially the younger ones. Take Brussel sprouts, for example. If the children see me eating my portion, perhaps they’ll be inspired to eat theirs too. In like fashion, as a participant at the table of life, you allow me to join with you in fulfilling larger, far-reaching purposes–way beyond Brussel sprouts.

Even when enemies such as trial or pain try to swoop in and spoil the celebration, I can rejoice because you are with me, to strengthen and uphold. You’ve given me your Word, where I can feast on your attributes and promises. By your power, those enemies will be held at bay—outside the banquet room.

And on this Thanksgiving Day, when many a cook prays his/her feast will turn out perfectly, I praise you that everything you prepare for me is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4).

 

 

Thank you Jehovah-Jireh, my Provider, for your faithfulness and goodness in my life.

May the happy thanks-giving of your people provide happy thanks-receiving for you.

_________________________________

*The name, Piggles, was created the night a bunch of us made pigs of ourselves on this pickle appetizer/snack.

 

(Revised and reblogged from November 26, 2015.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.heartlight.org.)

 

 

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In March of this year I began a new journal, A Celebration of Small Things, in an effort to become more aware of God’s daily gifts.  But after discovering the quotes below it became clear: my gratitude list is missing whole categories of blessings.

See what you think of these statements.  (Note that with each quote I’ve included my own prayer-response and a corresponding scripture.)

 

QUOTE #1

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Just be thankful you have a glass!

—Jack Wellman

 

You’ve given me a beautiful glass, Father—a life overflowing with loving family and friends, days filled with purpose and pleasure, surprise blessings that satisfy my heart with joy. The words “thank you” seem trivial for such gracious gifts.

 

 

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

Psalm 92:4 NIV

 

QUOTE #2

Give thanks for ‘all things’ for, as it has been well said,

‘Our disappointments are but his appointments.’

—A.W. Pink

 

I thank you, Father, for the doors of opportunity you’ve closed, the challenging moves to new communities you’ve ordained, and the wishes of my heart you’ve withheld. Each disappointment I know was for my benefit and your glory. Thank you for hindsight to understand in part, and the promise that one day I’ll understand in totality.

 

 

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

John 13:7 NIV

 

QUOTE #3 

“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before;

second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life;

third, although they took my all, it was not much;

and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.

—Matthew Henry,

on the night he was robbed

 

Thank you, Father, for Henry’s example of grateful positivity. No doubt he lifted his own spirit with such a prayer, and I can imagine your smile of approval as well. When trouble assaults my life, may I be as grateful and positive as Matthew Henry.

 

 

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

 

QUOTE #4

There’s one thing for which you can be thankful—

only you and God have all the facts about yourself.

—Dub Nance

 

Oh, Lord, thank you for being a God who delights to show mercy, lavishes compassionate forgiveness, and understands well my frailty. Thank you also for molding me day by day into the image of Christ—in spite of my shortcomings (Micah 7:18b; Psalm 103:12-14, and 2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

 

“But God is so rich in mercy that,

on account of His great love with which He loved us,

He made us who were dead in trespasses,

alive in unison with Christ.”

Ephesians 2:4-5, Berkeley Version

 

QUOTE #5

The best things are nearest:

breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes,

flowers at your feet, duties at your hand,

the path of God just before you.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Oh, yes, Father. Thank you for numerous “best things” close at hand such as: a spontaneous hug, the chortling giggles of a grandbaby, a carnival of birds frolicking in the backyard trees (at least six species at once), and savory chicken/sausage soup—made by Steve—for a bleak and blustery day.

 

 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house.”

Deuteronomy 26:11 (emphasis added)

 

Indeed, ALL the good. Thank you, Father, for bringing to mind these new blessings to count.

 

And now, precious readers, which quote especially caught your attention? I’d love to hear about it. Please share your choice and thoughts below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.publicdomainpictures.com; http://www.godswordimages.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

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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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