Sunday, November 19, 2017

Four Steps of Thankfulness

The week of Thanksgiving has arrived and as we approach Thanksgiving Day, between the thawing of the turkey, the baking of pumpkin pies, the setting of tables, and the stirring of gravy, we need to schedule some time to contemplate our thankfulness.

My Life Application Study Bible offers four "Elements of Thanksgiving" that I'd like to share in this blog. "1. Remembering what God has done, 2. Telling others about it, 3. Showing God's glory to others, and 4. Offering gifts of self, time, and resources". Thanksgiving Day can be a perfect example of these steps.

1. What has happened in 2017 that you are grateful for?
    John, my husband, retired! What a blessing that has been. We had time for our granddaughters' basketball games, and a drive to Oklahoma to pick up a sheep. We were able to babysit for Piper and Graham a little more often and enjoyed Payton playing the flute in band, the violin in orchestra, and Bailey playing her cello, and Piper dancing in her first recital. Calvin showed the Grand Champion sheep in Central City and there were many more shows to follow. Paige graduated from Ogden High School and she has nearly completed her first semester at Iowa Central Community College. There was a Springer reunion, and the Boone County Fair. Then the Polk County Fair and on to the Iowa State Fair. The grandchildren excelled in our eyes. We visited a new church and joined the Lakeside Fellowship Starting Point group, and their Bible studies and Growth Groups; gaining new friends and Bible knowledge that keeps growing. There was a vacation to Hilton Head, South Carolina and Savana, Georgia. We enjoyed learning about rodeo in North Platte, NE, then more in Fort Dodge and at Iowa State as we proudly watched our granddaughter Paige compete. We found a new doctor in Ankeny, and have successfully passed all the old age tests, so far. That is just a scratch on the surface of a great year of blessings. There are so many more I could share.

2.  I told you about the top things I am thankful for above.

3.  I'm so thankful that God has allowed us to share another year with our family. We thank God for the gift of time to visit with friends and family; to play the Snoopy Dog House game with Piper; to go bowling with Graham; to experience the wonderful way our grandchildren are growing up with talents and good health. Thank you God for allowing us these gifts of joy. We give you the glory for all of these blessings, for we know they all come from You.

4.  Finally, we are able to share our gifts when John helps set up for church and I help with childcare; I can cook up lamb and turkey, potatoes and gravy, and home-frozen corn, and pumpkin pies for our family gathering; and occasional ham balls, pies, cookies, and cakes for those in need. John helps Brady with chores to try and lighten his load, or when he is away. I give blood as often as I am able. We can babysit so family members get a break, and I write letters, and blogs, hoping to bring joy or comfort, and love to those I care about.

Perhaps you can walk through these four steps of thankfulness this week. May you realize just how blessed your life is and that all of your gifts come from God.

"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done...Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced...Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens...Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever," (1 Chronicles 16:8, 12, 23-26, 34 NIV).


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankful For Family

During this month of thankfulness I cannot help but make note of family. I am blessed with a wonderful family: my husband; my three sisters, their husbands and their children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; two sons and their wives; six grandchildren ages 4 to 19; a sister-in-law and brother-in-law; two aunts; and many cousins. How can I want for family?

Well, at this season of holidays, especially, I mourn the absence of our parents. I'm so thankful for the years we had with them but I still long to sit with them again. I long to hear those often repeated stories once more, and I wish I could ask the long list of questions I've thought of since their passing. I want to tell them the latest antics and successes of our grandchildren. I want to hear their words of encouragement. And bow down to embrace them and never let go.

I didn't intend to go that direction today, but perhaps God is reminding me to focus on the value and blessing of the family members I have. And I am so thankful for each person who has joined our family, through birth or marriage, because each person has brought a unique blessing to our family. I cherish memories we share and look forward to making more.

But most of all, I pray for each member of our family to establish their own relationship with Jesus Christ our Savior. Because I want to be with them eternally. I want us all to be together in the presence of Jesus, sharing His joy, unlike anything we can imagine. What a day that will be!

Paul's prayer written to the Ephesians, is my prayer for members of my family and for my extended family of God, of which I include you:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God," (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV).


Monday, November 13, 2017

Thankful for God's Word

Today I am reminded of an image of my Grandmother Springer sitting at her desk with her Bible and her journal. I have that white, King James Version Bible on my bookshelf. Grandma has a notation inside that she purchased the Bible at a book sale at church and that "it goes to Gloria," dated Nov. 25, 1970. Though I don't use it, I pulled it out today to see if, by chance, she had any markings in Psalm 119. She did not, however, she had marked with parenthesis Psalm 118:29, the verse just ahead  of 119. "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever," (KJV). Perfectly appropriate for this blog.

"I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word," (Psalm 119:15-16 NIV).

I have nearly 20 Bibles on that book shelf in numerous versions that I have studied through the years. I always have mixed emotions when I switch to a new Bible because I lose whatever notations I've made in the previous version. It would be fun to be able to compare them all and see what scriptures stood out to me at different times in my life.

"Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word," (Psalm 119:33-37 NIV).

I grew up using a Revised Standard translation, and in youth group we used a Good News For Modern Man New Testament. Then I received a Living Bible translation that I used when I first joined a neighborhood Bible study group as a young adult.

"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103 NIV).

In 1993 I switched to a red-letter edition, NIV Women's Devotional Bible that is very well used. In 1997, I got The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV. I believe this was purchased for a college course I was taking and when I got to Iowa State, one of my religion courses required using the same Bible only with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, so I had to get another. The second Bible shows lots of wear and reflection through many of the books.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path," (Psalm 119:105 NIV).

In 2006 I purchased a Life Application Study Bible NIV, and I have read it through twice and used it for many different studies. It is the one I use now.

"Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures," (Psalm 119:89-90 NIV).

No matter which Bible I use, the Word speaks to me as a message from God. I love that God's Word will stand for generations. I am so thankful that the Word of God connects me to my Heavenly Father and provides me wisdom and guidance for every day of my life.

"May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight," (Psalm 119:171-174 NIV).

May the Word of God speak to you today and guide you and bless you all the days of your life.

Thank you, Lord, for your Word. Amen.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thankful for Friends

I am so thankful for friends. I have been blessed by many friends, some I have know since grade school, others I got to know as co-workers, some I met in college. Some friends I got to know because our kids went to school together, others from organizations I belonged to, and others became friends through church or Bible studies. Throughout my life, friends have been my supporters, encouragers, mentors, confidants, and prayer warriors.

"A friend loves at all times," (Proverbs 17:17a NIV).
Lavon, Gloria and Garla - Friends Forever 

My friends have shown love to me in so many ways. But those friends I share my faith with are the closest friends. There is a special bond that draws believers together and that is knowing Jesus. It occurs to me that I don't have many pictures with my friends. During this age of technology and selfies, I really need to make a point of taking a picture when I'm with friends. I'm going to make that a goal in the future.

The picture I'm sharing is so precious to me. Lavon and I drove to Illinois to visit our close friend Garla in September 2012. We lost our dear friend on Feb. 27, 2013. I met Garla in a Friendship Bible Coffee when our sons were in preschool together. We shared countless hours together in prayer,  sitting on hard bleachers during baseball, football and basketball games, in the car, in a volunteer group at our boys' elementary school, and especially in our neighborhood Bible studies.

When I was so depressed that I couldn't live my life any more, Garla prayed for me without ceasing and called me every day. Even when I couldn't speak and all I did was cry, she would encourage me with her love and her faith. When I was in the hospital for weeks, she sent cards and letters to me. She didn't reject me or shun me. She stood at my side and helped me re-enter the world.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you," (John 15:13 NIV).

Lord, please watch over each of my friends today. I am so thankful for the friends you have placed in my life and I am thankful for the faith that we share and for the love of Jesus Christ that we have in common. Amen.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thankful for Music

I added thirty items of thanksgiving to my notebook list of blessings since my blog on Thursday. There is so much that I tend to take for granted in this life. Journaling my blessings helps me develop a mindset of thankfulness. I'm so glad I started this practice again during this Thanksgiving month.

Yesterday at church I was reminded how much I am touched by Christian music. The worship and praise team led us in several of my favorite songs. The words were so uplifting and beautiful. I was especially touched by the song O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship. The words state a message I wish I could share with everyone I meet. The words lead the hearer to Jesus. Let me share just a few stanzas:

O Come to the Altar
Are you hurting and broken within? Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. Have you come to the end of yourself? Do you thirst for a drink from the well? Jesus is calling. O come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Leave behind your regrets and mistakes. Come today there's no reason to wait. Jesus is calling. Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy. From the ashes a new life is born. Jesus is calling. By songwriters: Christopher Brown / Wade Joye / Steven Furtick / Mack Brock.

I just love the promises given in this song. They are the promises revealed in scripture about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and what He alone has done for us. For me and you! What a blessing and gift it is for someone to be able to put together the words and music and create such a beautiful message! I am so often amazed. I even have chills or goosebumps when I listen to the gift that God has given the author and musicians.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness," (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV).

One modern song that touches me especially during the Thanksgiving season is simply called, "Give Thanks" by Don Moen. This song states so simply the life as we should live it: thankfully. I will close with some of the stanzas and if you know it, may it repeatedly run through your mind all day long.

Give Thanks
Give thanks with a grateful heart, Give thanks to the Holy One, Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son. And now let the weak say, "I am strong". Let the poor say, "I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us". Give thanks. We give thanks to You." By songwriters: Kenneth Paul Barker / Andy Cloninger / Clairer D. Cloninger / Henry Smith.

We give thanks. Amen.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Practice Being Thankful

November is a month for giving thanks and what better time to count your blessings and start a gratitude journal. Several years ago my Bible study group read Ann Voskamp's book, "One Thousand Gifts" where she was challenged by a friend to write a list of one thousand blessings. We, too, began our own lists of blessings or gifts that we were thankful for. I started my list in January 2012 and continued it through our study and occasionally beyond. Mine surpassed 1000 and it is at 1,145 today with room to continue in my composition book.

I think I will continue my list this month. Voskamp introduced me to the word Eucharisteo which means thanksgiving. Jesus initiated the Eucharist, the Christian symbol of remembering Jesus' body and blood that was given for our sins so we could freely come to God in a personal relationship. How can we reflect on this greatest gift, given for our salvation, without being thankful?

David wrote in a psalm of thanks: "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done," (1 Chronicles 16:8 NIV). My Life Application Study Bible says this song offers four elements that are common to thanksgiving: 1 - Remember what God has done for you. 2 - Tell others what God has done for you. 3 - Show God's glory to others. 4 - Offering your gifts to others. If we are truly thankful, others will notice it in our lives.

Another interesting correlation Voskamp makes with thanksgiving is that throughout the Bible, thanksgiving always preceded a miracle. One example is the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from death in John 11:41-44 NIV: "So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go.""

It is a good practice, to practice giving thanks. And November is a good month to begin. What are you thankful for today? Write down three things you are thankful for right now. I am thankful for my husband, the fragrance of leftovers being warmed in the microwave, and for God's guidance in writing this blog. I never really know what I am going to write about until I pray for God's direction.

Thank you, Lord, for being our God, for loving us so much that you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior. Fill our hearts today with gratitude for the many blessings you have placed in our lives. Open our eyes and ears to be alert and aware of just how many ways you bless our days. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, God!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Disappointments and Heartbreaks Happen

Life isn't all sunshine and birthday presents as we discovered yesterday. One grandchild celebrated a birthday with all the special accessories for a Star Wars theme. The excitement was building through dinner and the blowing of candles. It was time for the opening of presents. One younger child watched as the gifts were unwrapped until finally the desire was just too much. The child's face burst into tears against my shoulder, "I want to play with the new toys. I want it to be my birthday."

I remember feeling the same disappointment as I was growing up. As the youngest child I always compared myself to my sisters. I watched as they were talented singers, dressed up in pretty dresses and heels, dated, married, had babies and lived happy lives. I was left at home, without musical talent, and unsuccessful in school. I failed to find my own niche until much later in life, so for a long time I sulked in the shadow of disappointment.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," (Psalm 34:18 NIV).

God always opens new doors for us when we are down in spirit and heartbroken, but we must get up and take action. It is important that we take advantage of the setbacks and use them to propel us forward into a new kind of success. Search for your passion then rush toward it with all your heart.

My passion for writing and one positive comment by a high school English teacher (that I stored in my heart for twenty years), led me to pursue a job at the local newspaper. I gained confidence that allowed me to begin college at age 40 and earn a degree in journalism and mass communication with academic honors.

If God can change my life from the pits of depression and self-hatred, He will help you change your life, too. Just trust in Him, believe in the power of Jesus Christ's salvation, and allow Him to lift you up to heights you would never dream possible.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).

Thank you, Jesus!