Always Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. It is not only a time for special thanks and turkey and family, it means Christmas is very near again. YEAH!  I titled this ‘Always Thanksgiving’ because, while we have one  day we call Thanksgiving, the truth is that every day is a time for giving thanks.

I think being thankful is another way I give praise to God and acknowledge Him as great and as my Lord and show Him I believe He is good and providing for me at all times, even if it is not exactly what I had in mind.

There have been times it was difficult to be thankful. I have been jobless, homeless, foodless, hopeless, on the verge of losing everything, and wondered why and how these things happened in my lifetime. Recovery is great, but when going through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23.4), thanks is not the first impulse in my heart.

God’s Word tell me to “Thank God in everything – no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks, for this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus – the Revealer and Mediator of that will. (1 Thessalonians 5.18) and that  “…all things work together for good to them that love God…” (Romans 8.28) So, if I really take God at His Word, then He knows everything and will make even the things I think are really bad turn out for good. It has taken some time to work these truths into my life.

One of my favorite movies is Pollyanna. In the movie, she is a 12-year-old orphaned daughter of missionaries who came to live with her rich and strict aunt. Pollyanna is a very cheerful, talkative and radically optimistic  youngster who focuses on the goodness of life and always finds something to be glad about, no matter the situation. She plays the ‘glad game.’ The game is where – no matter what is happening – you find one thing to be glad about. Once she had a broken leg. When she played the glad game, she was glad to have crutches.

I think I should have no difficulty finding more than one thing to be thankful for each day and in each circumstance. I have Jesus as my Savior, family, all my facebook friends, I live in a free country, I can pray, I have a Bible, I have a home now, and many more blessing each and every day. Now I have enough to share with others too. I want to always find something to be thankful for and meditate on that each day to help me walk through all the good and bad times of life. I am thankful for everything. I pray you are too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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I love pastry. One of my favorite things is creme-filled donuts. The more cream the better. “Fill them up,” I say. While donuts are not great for my weight watcher’s diet, I love chocolate or vanilla creme just the same.

The Bible talks about being filled – not with vanilla or chocolate creme though. It’s my spirit that needs filled. I know my spiritual tank feels like it is running on empty so much of the time. God knows when I am a little less patient, a little less kind, a little less thoughtful, a little less generous, etc. I think those times are because I am a little less ‘filled.’ My tank is on empty and I need a refill. Sooooo, I know I need to spend time in the Word and in prayer and fellowship with God.

One of my many favorite sections of the Bible is the wonderful prayer for all of us in Ephesians 3.16-19

“May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality]. 

May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,

That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];

[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!”

Filled with God Himself! What a wonderful privilege to know that God does not just want to give me a little of Himself, but wants me to be filled with Him and to really know His love. When I am filled with God, my tank is full and I am able to be more of what He wants me to be and give from a full tank – so to speak.

There is no end to God’s supply – He tells me “the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24.1) and that He “owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50.10)

God wants to fill us with His provision as well as His love, His mercy, His goodness, His patience, His kindness, His Presence and everything about Himself. He wants us to know personally what He is all about and His great love.

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There are many ways to think about trees. Some feel trees are spectacular parts of nature, but others consider them a nuisance because they either want to make room for other things or they fall down on precious property with weather or aging conditions.  Others look at trees as providers of shade on warm days or as very fun to climb or hang a swing from or put a tree house in for play. Some use trees for art and change the direction of the growth to provide unusual and artistic forms to the trees. I have seen this in Key West as well as many Asian countries.

In addition, some feel trees are home to many birds and small critters like squirrels and, my personal favorite, at the Cologne Zoo in Germany, fun for the elephants starts after the holidays because they are fed all the unsold Christmas trees – soooo, the elephants see the tree as a delicious snack!

Where am I going with this? Well, I think life is a matter of perspective – not only about trees, but I also relate this to my difficulties. Most of the time, I see my trials as the worst thing that could ever happen to me and wish difficulties never happened. If I change my perspective just a tad – a major over hall for me –  perhaps I can see them differently. I have decided that I need to turn every worry, job loss, brothers and sisters struggling, car keys being locked in the truck, loss of health or a loved one, and all the other little things on my ‘what can go wrong today’ list  into an opportunity to see the greatness of God. I want to see for myself His faithfulness, kindness, love and care, and attention to every little detail in my life.

I admit that I have never been fond of James 1.2-4 – “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.  But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.”

God’s Word goes on to promise, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God … and it will be given…” I sure do need wisdom, so I ask the Father for wisdom about how to view the daily struggles and how to see Him in everything.

Prov 24.20 tells me “(my) steps are ordered by the Lord.” He is in control of the Universe, but He is also in control of every step I take. Even if I think I have taken a bad one, He makes my “crooked paths straight.” (Isaiah 42.16)

I also have the assurance that “God has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!'”  (Hebrews 13.5) Amen.

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Never Cease

I love pandas. They are really cute. This one looks to me like he is praying, so I included him here today. He reminds me of what I need to be doing more and more of.

I feel like I am not alone in forgetting to pray. When I have a problem or feel I am lacking in something, I do everything except pray. The other day I was driving to work on a road we should have been able to go at least 60 mph on and, instead, I was forced to drive down the road at 45-50 mph for over 20 miles. Now, I realize I am in need of patience, however, I informed God that I did not want any lessons on the road this day. Needless to say, I received the memo from heaven that told me, “It’s either His way, or it’s His way.” I tried to say, ‘No thank you’ to the lesson today, but, needless to say again, that did not work.

So, I decided God wanted to slow me down and He wanted me to pray. I did. I spent the extra time on the road going through my list of personal prayers and prayers for family and friends that are so dear to me. I was also able to enjoy a radio teaching about prayer as well and was reminded how Apostle Paul never ceased praying.

“For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [special] request for you, [asking] …”(Colossians 1.9)

I was challenged to wonder if there is there anything in my life I value enough to never cease praying for. I am convicted of my lack of persistence in prayer for loved ones who – years later – still struggle. I know God has not given up on them and I need to remind myself to not give up on them or answers to my own prayers that have gone unanswered for many years.

I read one man’s devotion that said, “The devil is not troubled when … writes books or prepares sermons, but his knobby knees tremble when … prays. The devil does not stutter or stumble when you walk through church doors or attend committee meetings…..But the walls of hell shake when one person with an honest heart and faithful confession prays and also says, “Oh, God, how great Thou art.””

The devil keeps us from prayer. He tries to come between us and God and fill our hearts and minds with doubts and business that hinders us. But he scampers like a spooked dog when we pray. So let’s do.

Let’s pray, first. Traveling to help the hungry? Be sure to bathe your mission in prayer. Working to disentangle the knots of injustice? Pray. Weary with a world of racism and division? So is God. And He would love to talk to you about it.

Let’s pray, most. Did God call us to preach without ceasing? Or teach without ceasing? Or have committee meetings without ceasing? Or sing without ceasing? No, but He did call us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5.17)

Let’s pray.

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I think – that most think – talking about death is morbid. And I do think so – if I must say so – myself. There are times I am convinced that I will live forever – not only in heaven, but here on Earth. I am wrong; I do realize.

I recently found some tombstones I viewed funny though. One tombstone my brother and I found in a cemetery in Key West said, “I told you I was sick.” We laughed together reading it and he identified with that one because he was sick and no one seemed to realize it. He has since passed. He told us he was sick!

The stones I viewed ranged from funny to really funny stuff about a not so funny topic. Another I recently viewed said, “Don’t laugh, you’re next.” Others said, “Myra Mains,” “Here lays my husband, Tom.. Now I know where he is at night,” “Buttermilk Hatfield – Tried milkin’ a cow that was really a bull, Milk can’s empty, grave is full,” and “Ben Better” to share a few.

If the stone in the blog is difficult to read, it says ‘Here he lies, but he never died!’ Praise God. That is one thing I think I would like on my tombstone. We never die when we know Jesus. If Jesus left the grave behind Him, so will I. During devotions one day, I read someone else’s thoughts. He said:

“Recently I discovered it’s possible to record a message for my tombstone. And if I do, this may be what you’ll hear:

Thanks for coming by. Sorry you missed me, but I’m not here. I’m home. Finally home! At some point my King will call, and this grave will be shown for the temporary tomb it is. You might want to step to the side in case that happens while you are here. Hope you’ve made plans for your own departure. All the best, ….. “

I am in the position – like so many others – of impending loss and having had much loss already in life. Sometimes I think life is all about loss. I, like most, like to avoid the very sad topic of departing to heaven and, even though this should be a celebrated event, it does not seem to be.

Psalms 116.15 assures us, “Precious (important and no light matter) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (His loving ones).”

Jesus has promised, “I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on) Me, although he may die, yet he shall live” (John 11.25) and it will be with Him in Paradise. (Luke 23.43)

I would like to say, “I can’t wait!” but I think I want to wait until the Lord calls me home. For the ones I am walking with along their long and winding roads that are leading this way, I pray for the words to comfort them and assure them that Jesus is waiting for them and it will be great! He promised.

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Lazarus, Mary and Martha, and Me

Anyone who has ever read my blogs knows I have a million favorite parts of my Bible. Another one is the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. While the account itself is amazing and beyond words, I love the details in the middle of the story. Mary and Martha.

We all know the account – Jesus hears Lazarus is not well. He intentionally does not respond quickly. Lazarus dies. Jesus arrives at the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. When the girls hear Jesus has arrived, they are so distressed they begin to say some things we may consider objectionable. Martha says, “Master, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (v.21) When I read this, I can only imagine her grief and how upset she was and essentially said, “If You were here, doing something to help us, being the Friend you are to us and the Jesus we know You to be – my brother would not have died. The terrible thing that has happened would not have happened.”

It is Jesus’ response that melts my heart. He never scolds her or tells what her problems are and how little faith she has or how dare her accuse Him in any way of not caring. I can hear His soft, sweet, kind voice say, “Your brother shall rise again.” (v. 23)

Some in the crowd made similar accusations – “Could not He Who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (v. 37)

Then Jesus wonders where Mary is. When she comes, same thing – “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (v. 32) Then, our wonderful Savior, does not scold her either or wonder if there is any faith to be had anywhere. He is so touched by her crying and grief, He cries too. (v.35)

Just like Mary and Martha and me too – when times are overwhelming and we cannot understand and we are filled with grief and questions and upset, we may wonder about things. But God is right there with us. Holding us in His Everlasting arms. No condemnation, just love. He is still God. He is still good. He is still real. He is still our Father. He will walk through the times with us when we feel the most lost. He will weep with us.

Isaiah 53 reminds us He carries our sorrows and griefs – we do not have to carry them. “Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], ….He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.” (Isaiah 53.4-5) 

God understands everything.

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The other day I heard a story about a little girl who returned from her first day at school. Her mom asked, “Did you learn anything?” “I guess not,” the girl responded.  “I have to go back tomorrow and the next day and the next day…” I laughed as I thought, ‘Well little one, that’s life and that’s learning.’ That is how it is for me with my life lessons and teaching.

Sometimes I think God asks me if I’ve learned anything? I think I am in remedial (special ed) Christianity. I have accepted that I am a slow learner and need lots of patience from my Teacher and am very lucky He is very patient and kind and bears all things and believes all things good about me and never fails me. (1 Corinthians 13)

Throughout the Bible, Jesus is referred to as the Teacher. He spent much of His time teaching His disciples and the crowds. The lessons I have to learn, I feel like I have been learning all my life – how to not be anxious about the days’ activity, how to not say the wrong words at the wrong time, how to have patience when that’s the last thing in the world I want, how to give when I want to keep, how to not complain when circumstance is a little uncomfortable, and how to be more like Jesus in everything I do.

Learning can be easy at times and some lessons are quickly grasped, but some seem to take a lifetime and longer to embrace as character traits that are so much a part of me I do not remember how I used to handle situations.

And we are to teach others what Jesus taught – “Yet [in spite of the threats] they never ceased for a single day, both in the temple area and at home, to teach and to proclaim the good news (Gospel) of Jesus [as] the Christ (the Messiah).” (Acts 5.26) as well as teaching may be a special God given spiritual gift – “[He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching..” (Romans 12.7)

And for all believers, God’s Word is an important teaching tool for “every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action)” (2 Timothy 3.16) because “the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4.12)

I look to God for my daily lessons and pray for all my lessons to be encouraging and understood as good for me. My prayer is the same for everyone else.

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Why’d He Do It?

Sometimes, when I have been doing something for a very long time, I get a little stagnant. I hate to admit it’s easy for me to just fly through something (like my time with God) without really noticing precious detail and I take things for granted.

There are times, sometimes more than others, it hits me deeply to think about what Jesus did for me. I experience so much strife at times trying to get things done, fighting with family, stressed about a conflict at work, wondering what will happen next in life, will everything work out, will the dog’s surgery go well, will I make it thru the week? It’s easy for my mind to just sit on that hamster wheel and go round and round. God has such a sweet and gentle way of getting me off that hamster wheel and taking time for cherished moments with Him.

During my devotions recently, I read Ephesians 2. At the beginning of the chapter, I found (for probably the 200th time or more) a list of all the things God has done for me – “and you [He made alive], when you were dead …. God—so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us.. He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; [He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for] it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation).  And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us  (joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One).” 

That’s not all He did. He restored me, healed me, makes me His child, gives me the victory, leads me into triumph, makes me more than a conqueror, forgives me everything, provides for me, protects me, directs my every step, and everything more.

Why would He do all these things for me? The astounding and humbling answer comes in verse 7 of Ephesians 2 – “He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in His kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus.”

He did all these things so that He might show me His grace and His kindness to me. His desire is to shower me with love and grace. How undeserving I am to belong to a God Who is so selflessly gracious to me, but I am truly grateful. It is amazing that the God of the Universe – Who commands waves and watches sparrows and has so much to consider each day, thinks of us and wants to be personal with us.

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The Three O’s

Recently, while sharing some of my chaotic life with a friend, we decided I may be taking up all of God’s time. We laughed.

The truth is I am pretty needy. On  my list today is – I need God to help me get my day started, keep me safe in traffic, give me favor with my employers and customers and help me to do the best I can for the ones I work for and with, make me an example of Christ as much as I am able, open doors to share my faith with others around me, be on the look out for needs of others I can help with, help me pray for those in need and who need Christ, answer my prayers for my aging mother and father and their health issues and allow me to help them in this season of their lives, keep the siblings and friends I cherish in His hands and care that struggle with addition, heart issues, and other medical and personal concerns, help me walk with my friend through her battle with cancer and end of this life issues, help me find just the right shoes to match my pretty new dress, answer my prayers for employment opportunities for friends and family seeking employment, finding time to talk to lonely friends, helping my new endeavors with publishing my books and my authors’ books and knowing which contests to enter and how to be noticed in a noisy world, receiving more creative authors to partner with in publishing their books, finding creative individuals to enhance my authors’ work, creating new art work for my card and craft businesses, open doors for marketing my art projects and crafts, providing rest and relaxation and fun in my crazy life, help me with my diet and exercise goals to keep a healthy life, provide the workers to help fix my broken window and fencing, replacing my missing gutters, continue to keep my truck with over 280,000 rolling down the road, give me a hope and a future, guide my every step and more – much, much, much more everyday.

Whew! I think I keep God very busy. In fact, my friend and I figured we couldn’t see how God has time for anyone else because He is sooooo busy with me and my needs. Funny as we think this is, it is untrue. The Good News is that the Omnipotent (all powerful), Omnipresent (all present), and Omniscient (all knowing) Living God has time for everyone – no matter if they have a list of needs just like mine, a few less, or even more than I have!

God said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End …Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty (the Ruler of all). (Revelation 1.8) He is the God of our past, our present and our future!

And NOTHING is too trivial for God as Job 36.5 tells us – “Behold! God is mighty, and yet despises no one nor regards anything as trivial; He is mighty in power of understanding and heart.”

Matthew 10.30 reminds us “… the very hairs of your head are all numbered” and Matthew 6.32 assures us, “for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things.”

It is a fact, God has time for everyone. He sees us and is concerned about every little detail of us and our lives.

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Have you ever had someone say, “I hope so”? and they didn’t mean to, but they said it as if it was last thing in the world they thought would ever happen, but ‘they are hoping.’

The Bible tells us there is ‘faith, hope, and love…’ (1 Corinthians 13). There is it – HOPE – along with the other giants of the Bible – LOVE and FAITH. Seems to me that ‘hope’ gets short changed – hope seems almost flimsy compared to love and faith.

I think hope is one of the most essential things about being human. As a matter of fact, I think only humans are capable of hoping. I think hope is closely bound to faith.

I have been in medicine for over 40 years. I have learned that the one thing I must never do is take away someone’s hope. Without hope we stop believing something or someone can change, we stop trying to be better or be well, we stop stop striving to succeed, and, in reality, we give up. What a horrible thing it is to be without hope.

With hope, we see the world as something good and our circumstance as something temporary (hopefully – no pun intended). We see possibilities that are not realized at this particular moment, but that can be. Hope keeps us going and going and going. Hope helps our spirits to be cheerful. I think many find ‘hope’ something they need to hide because we do not find ‘hope’ as approving as ‘faith.’ We all know faith is believing even when all hope is lost or all signs of answer is gone, but hope helps us to continue to travel along in life even when we feel we do not have the faith we wish we did. It’s almost like a secret weapon to keep encouraging ourselves. Hope actually improves every area of our lives and helps us to try even when things are difficult.

And our hope is not unfounded, but based on the very Word of God. Romans 15.13 reminds us ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.’

The God of all hope. The God that knows we need hope. The Giver of all good gifts gives us hope. Zechariah 9.12 calls us ‘prisoners of hope.’ That ye – meaning ‘you’ if ye didn’t get that – may abound in hope. I like that. We have hope. We have God. We can continue on in this life knowing God has given us hope in the midst of any circumstance in our lives, homes, country, or in this unpredictable world.

I pray for you to have love and faith today, but I also pray for you to have hope.

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