Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

Pixabay - shower

This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well. 

Thanksgiving Thoughts - Thinking About the Receiver

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a day filled with good food, family and friends, football and for many of us the beginning of our Christmas holidays. It was Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, who declared this fourth Thursday of November to be a day of giving thanks. Considering the Civil War was in full swing at that point, I find it intriguing that our 16th president felt compelled to put in place a regular day of giving thanks to God, for initially that is what it was. Perhaps in the midst of the carnage of one of our history's greatest internal wars, Lincoln realized how very lost we were without God and that a day of giving thanks would bring us back to center.

We have heard much on what being grateful does for the giver of thanks, but what about what it does for the receiver. I'd like to offer several possible thoughts.

I did include a few pics of some of the food I'll be serving today....for which I am thankful. Ha, ha. Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Thanksgiving food

1. Giving thanks blesses the receiver. Think about how you feel when someone takes the time to say thank you. Doesn't it make you feel good? Doesn't make you feel noticed? Doesn't it make you feel like all that work you did was worth it? I know for me when someone takes time to thank me, I feel up lifted. 

Wouldn't the same be true for God? Granted God does not have to be consoled or motivated like we as humans so often do, but the Bible, especially the Psalms talk about blessing the Lord. 

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
— Psalm 34:1 (NASB)
I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
— Psalm 145:1 (NASB)

I would include passages that talk about praising God, as those which bless Him as well. Just as we can be blessed by being thanked, God is lifted up when we give thanks to Him. 

Thanksgiving food

2. Giving thanks creates a connection with the receiver. When you give thanks to someone you are acknowledging their existence. You are telling them they are worth your time and your effort. You are connecting with them as a real, and important individual. Isn't that one of the reasons we labor to teach our kids to say thank you? We want them to acknowledge there is another person in the world besides themselves, whether it be their teacher, the fast food worker at McDonalds, the clerk at a store or their grandparents. 

When we give thanks to God we are creating a connection with Him. I know I have days where I feel disconnected from Him. It might be sin, it might be that I am not feeling well, it might be things that are bothering me, or it might just be the weather, but regardless of what caused the disconnect, as soon as I go to Him with thanksgiving and praise that connection is restored. This is the result of our choice to acknowledge, He exists and without Him we are nothing. 

for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children
— Acts 17:28 (NASB)
thanksgiving food

3. Giving thanks creates meaning and purpose. When I receive thanks from another it makes me feel good. It reminds me that I am important and that what I am doing has meaning and purpose. Many of us work jobs that we do not feel make a real difference in the world, but we must never underestimate the power of a life planted exactly where God wants it to be. I try to remember that working in retail. At times customers can be less than grateful, but I always feel my job is worthwhile when I hear a thank you, either from a customer, my boss or a fellow employee. 

Obviously we cannot give meaning or purpose to a holy, omniscient God, but when we thank Him we are acknowledging the meaning and purpose He has given to us. Every time I approach God with a humble attitude of gratitude I am reminded of the great love He has for us. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

Today as you gather with people you care about,  remember not only to be thankful, but that your giving of thanks has an effect on the ones you give it too. 

Have a blessed day!

Thanksgiving Thoughts - A Comparison of Two Lives

The act of giving thanks is not restricted to those who "have it all". We sometimes feel that it is easier to give thanks when our lives are going smoothly and without the typical chaos. All of us can be thankful, no matter what our current situation in life. We may be flourishing or we may be floundering, but God, in His infinite wisdom and love knew that thanksgiving was an essential part of life and one that makes us happier and healthier. 

Pixabay - thanks

Last year I wrote a post entitled It is Good to Give ThanksIn that post I linked to an article from  the Forbes website: 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of GratitudeYou can see my original post and the article written by Amy Morin, by clicking on the links. I believe that giving thanks was God's way of getting us to reboot. When life is overwhelming and things are not going as we had hoped or planned, giving thanks takes us back to center. What is that center? God and His great love and goodness. 

I want to take the rest of this post to look at two lives. These two men were living extremely different lives. One became a king, the other was a leper. What did they have in common? They both took the time to give thanks.

David - King of Israel

The life of David the simple shepherd boy who became the King of one of the greatest nations in the world, can be found throughout the Old Testament books of 1 & 2 Samuel, as well as the first chapter of i Kings and a few scattered chapters in 1st Chronicles. David is also the author of at least 73 of the 150 psalms in the book of Psalms. Many of these contain the act of giving thanks. Here are a few examples.

I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
— Psalm 7:17 (NASB)
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders
— Psalm 9:1 (NASB)
Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, And I will sing praises to Your name.
— Psalm 18:49 (NASB)
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
— Psalm 30:12 (NASB)

The Psalms are a great place to go if you are looking for scriptures to bring you back to the center of gratitude. 

While David lived a life of wealth, fame and leisure, he did not always have a simple or smooth journey. Fighting giants, battling wars and being chased by King Saul who was mad with jealousy were the basis for some of the songs that David penned. He also penned from the darkness of his heart because he was well aware of his sin. Taking another man's wife, getting her pregnant and then having the man killed were all sins David committed while being a man after God's own heart. Yet, he seemed to know that giving thanks was part of the process of finding his way back to a right relationship with the heavenly Father. 

The Leper

In the New Testament, Luke, in his gospel, writes about the healing of ten lepers. It is not surprising that Luke often focused in on healing. He was a doctor. What I love about Luke's retelling of this particular incident is what follows after Jesus heals the ten men. 

Leprosy was a terrible disease in Biblical times that was thought to be highly contagious. Today, leprosy is treatable and typically only affects people in very poor areas without good treatment. When Jesus walked the earth lepers lived in leper colonies which were most often well outside the cities. These people were kept apart, partly because of the Levitical law of things that were clean and unclean. 

Poverty - pixabay

When these ten leprous men stood at a distance and raised their voices to Jesus, they were making a plea for their restoration. Imagine if you were one of these men. You know doubt heard the news about this man of God who was healing all kinds of diseases. When you knew he was coming to your village you would have raised your voice too. Of course you would want to be healed. You wanted to have normal life and be able to hug your families again!

"Master! Have mercy on us."

"Go and show yourselves to the priests."

They probably turned as a group and nearly stumbled over each other as they scooted towards the local synagogue. But a strange thing happened as they were on their way. They were healed. 

Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.
— Luke 17:15-16 (NASB)

One man turned back and what did he do? He gave thanks. What set this man apart from the rest? Luke informs us that the man was a Samaritan. If you know anything about history you might be aware that Samaritans were a cross breed mix of Jewish and many other people groups that had originated as far back as the Babylonian exile. They were not looked upon with favor by the Jews because they were not pure Jews (my own terminology). So here you have a man, who is not only a leper, but a Samaritan. How do you think he got along in the local leper community? He probably was an outcast in a group of outcasts. Yet, it is our Samaritan friend who turns back and gives glory and thanks to God. 

Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

If Jesus made a statement about a particular incident you can bet we had better stand up and take notice. Have you even noticed how critical, bitter and hateful people who call themselves Christian can be? And what about those who are walking without God? Sometimes they are the nicest most thankful people we know. The point is, if we know Christ and are claiming His name, then we had better walk the walk. Being thankful is part of that walk.

Two men, with vastly different lives, realized the importance of giving thanks. Paul said,

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

As we look forward to Thanksgiving next week and the weeks following leading up to Christmas, let's get back to our God center and be thankful!

It's Already November! What??

Can you believe it is already November 1st? Or are you like me, still gasping, trying to catch your breath and function through the sugar induced headache of post-Halloween fun? I knew it was coming. Winter always comes, as does Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let's get real here, the holidays do start today, the day after Halloween. Is it any wonder that most stores have Christmas trees, decorated to the hilt, already stunningly displayed before the Snickers bars are even marked half off?

Pixabay - Halloween candy

Since we are only a few weeks out from Thanksgiving, I want to revisit the command Paul gives to us in I Thessalonians 5:18.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

My plan is to spend a few weeks looking at this idea of gratitude. Next week I will finish up my Mulling It Over series on the Armor of God, but this week and the two Wednesdays before Thanksgiving I will be concentrating on thankfulness. 

Pixabay - thanksgiving

Last year I talked about this subject in two different blog posts. Three Little Commands - Give Thanksand It is Good to Give Thanks both touch on the importance of giving thanks. You can read those posts by clicking on the titles. It might seem a bit repetitive to spend more time on this topic, but as with so many things in my Christian walk, it is good be reminded. I know many things about the Christian life, but I don't consistently live all of those. In addition, the Holy Spirit is more than capable of teaching me new things, as I pointed out a few weeks ago in the post, Even He Called Him Lord.

Today, I would like to lay a foundation for the act of thanksgiving. The first mention of what looked like thanksgiving in the Bible is found in Genesis 4.

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
— Genesis 4:3-5 (NASB)
Pixabay - Autumn

I do not know if this was a thanksgiving offering, but it is clear that God had already established a system of offerings to honor and worship Him. This was some years after Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden for their choice to sin against God. The fact that both their sons brought an offering to the Lord, shows that they had been taught that this was something important that needed to be done. The word thanksgiving does not show up until years later in Leviticus 7:11-12 where Moses is directed to write about the law of sacrifice of peace offerings. 

The whole system of sacrifice was instituted by God after Adam and Eve sinned. It says,

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
— Genesis 3:21 (NASB)

While we are not told that God sacrificed animals to make those clothes, it can be safely assumed that He didn't get them at the local Walmart. It would seem to make sense that the first blood letting was done by God Himself in a gesture, both of compassion and instruction, for those children He had created. He already had the plan in place for Jesus, His Son, to be the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption.

By the time Moses becomes the chosen leader of the nation called Israel, God's plan included teaching His people all about sacrifice. The entirety of the book of Leviticus spells out the different offerings, laws and acceptable sacrifices for a variety of life situations. 

Pixabay - bread and oil
‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the Lord. If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil.’
— Leviticus 7:11-12 (NASB)

As you can see, the laws of offering and sacrifice were very specific.

You might be wondering why I am spending so much time on this idea of sacrifice, but the act of thanksgiving is an act of sacrifice. While we no longer require all the offerings of sheep and cows, or bread and oil, thanksgiving requires a giving up of our worries and cares, bringing them to the altar and letting God burn them away, so that all that is left is purest worship and adoration of the Creator.

As we head into the holiday season I hope you will journey with me along this thanksgiving road. It will be the perfect lead in, to the season of Advent. 

Stay tuned for more! 

What I am Thankful for Today

I am not trying to sound trite or simplistic, but there really is something to the idea of being grateful. I have brought this up before in many of my other faith posts, but as I sit here this evening, I started doing some thinking on what to write about for this week's Faith page. With so much tragedy and difficulty happening all around us, I felt the need for setting my eyes on someone and something much higher than I.

We all know the tragedy that is going on in Texas right now. The devastation is real and visceral. I cannot begin to feel the loss that so many are experiencing. Unfortunately, the difficulties of others often do make us more thankful for what we have and the comforts that we so easily forget and take advantage of. So for today's post, I just want to give you a list of things I am thankful for.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

1. The sun. I am sure many of our comrades down south can't wait for the rain to stop and the sun to shine. We never really appreciate this giant flaming orb that God placed in the center of our solar system, until we haven't see it for a while. Being a sufferer of seasonal affective disorder, I thank God everyday that the sun is shining. Sometimes I will stick my face in a sunny spot and just soak it in for a few seconds, channeling my inner kitty.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2. A hot shower. There is something about clean, hot water that just seems to wake up the senses and get us going in the morning. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Trees. This is one thing that I love about living in a city filled with trees. Just recently my husband and I took a walk at one of our many area Metroparks and I was entranced by the beauty of so many variations on trees; tall and lanky, short and stubby, pines, oaks, maples, and our own Ohio Buckeye. Trees provide shade, wood, food and shelter for animals and humans and most importantly oxygen. Our world wouldn't be much of a world without trees.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

4. A bed to sleep in. I don't always wake up well rested, but then I think of how much more difficult life would be without a place to sleep. Even now, I think of so many Texan's that are displaced due to the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. They will be fortunate if they get a cot or a mat on the floor at an area community center or school, let alone will they have their own pillow, blankets or space. What a blessing, even when it is old and lumpy, to have a bed to sleep in.

Drinking fountain

5. Clean drinking water. I don't have to even think about what comes out of my faucet when i turn it on. I know it is treated water and won't be filled with little critters that will make me sick. If our city water takes a turn for the worse, I know I can go to the store and get clean bottled water for just a few dollars. There are many areas of the world where clean water is an unknown. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

6. Basic human rights. We get off in a lot of directions in the country, but the fact of the matter is we have many rights that other countries do not have. We can come and go as we please. We can wear what we want, eat what we like and hang out with whomever we choose. We can speak our mind and not worry about being thrown in jail or worse. We can shop, go the movies and church, for the most part, without fear. When we are sick we can go to the doctor and we will be taken care of. 

7. Food. I don't know about you, but I love food and I love variety. We have so much food and so much variety that we should never get bored with our eating choices. We also have the blessing of most of our food being clean and properly prepared. Granted things happen...out breaks of salmonella, and other bacteria do happen, but for the most part our food is managed carefully.

Pixabay - books

8. Books. Maybe you don't like books or like to read, in which case you are probably not reading this, but I love books and I am so thankful for the knowledge they bring us and the worlds they transport us to. Books have had such an important impact on my life, so I will always be thankful for them.

Pixabay - walking

9. Health. Often when we are young we don't think about our health and just live life to the fullest. As we get older, we start to realize some of our choices have or will affect our health. I am thankful for what I have today, because tomorrow things might be different. My husband and I have started walking every day, (as often as we can). It has helped to relieve stress, gives us time together and gets our hearts pumping. 

10. Faith. For me, my faith in Jesus Christ is the most important element of my life. It affects everything I do. Unfortunately, I am not always the best example. I make poor choices, get emotional, worry and forget that I am His, more often than I would like to admit, but faith is what gives my life focus and purpose. 

These are just a few of the things I am thankful for today! What are you thankful for? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Have a great weekend!

 

Wait! I Didn't Want that to Happen!

What do you do when you are very disappointed? Do you blame God? Do you complain and become discouraged and frustrated? Let's face it, life delivers plenty of disappointments. Relationships fail, those things that we wanted for so long break and get thrown away and we even experience disappointment in ourselves due to our failures and lost hopes. Sometimes life leads us down a path that looks appealing, other times, it leads us to a place we don't want to go.

path in the woods - Akron Falls Park, Akron, NY

My husband and I left Thursday evening to begin a ten day journey out east. We were going to spend two nights with my mom near Buffalo, NY and then point our car towards Maine, a state neither of us had been, but both of us were looking forward to exploring. I had already made reservations at hotels and Home Away type accommodations and was anticipating new digs to stay in, new scenery to take pictures of, new places to walk with our new hiking boots and new restaurants featuring local fair like lobster and other seafood delicacies. Little did I know my hope and anticipations were about to be dashed to pieces. 

While we were at my mom's we took her to a nearby park for a walk. At ninety plus she is getting a little unsteady, but she is able to still walk with a helping arm. Here are some pictures from our walk.

Akron Falls Park, Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY
Akron Falls Park - Akron, NY

Saturday morning we left my mom's house at 8:30 AM and hoped to put the hours and miles behind us as we headed towards Portland, ME. We had only just gotten onto the interstate when the pain that had been plaguing me in my lower abdomen on and off for the last four days suddenly torqued up the intensity. We stopped at the next rest area so I could use the restroom. I seriously thought I was having some sort of digestive anomaly. Two years ago I had been diagnosed with diverticulosis, but had never actually had an issue with diverticulitis. 

By the time I began walking out of the rest area, my husband knew something was wrong. He could see it in the way I walked and by the look on my face. He asked the nearest rest area employee where the closest urgent care would be and we were directed to the hospital at the next exit. 

By the time I was finally checked into the ER and was actually given pain medication at least two hours had passed. After a CT scan I was diagnosed with having a kidney stone. I have never had kidney stones before. I was told I would have to stay in the hospital over night to see if the stone would pass and they put me on a regimen of pain meds, antibiotics and drugs to widen out the ureters to help the stone pass. 

 Me looking lovely in the ER!

Me looking lovely in the ER!

After a mostly sleepless night at the hospital with my faithful husband in a very uncomfortable recliner by my bed we decided this would not be the year we would go on our adventure to Maine. I write this post at a Barnes and Noble as we travel back to our home in the Mid West after spending another night with my mom. I would have been ruthless to not let my mom see me and know I was okay after all that had happened. It proved most beneficial to have a good nights rest and some food that I could actually eat. I feel much better today!

With our car still full of bags and treats and hiking boots as well as five new prescriptions, we began our trip home feeling rather glum and disappointed that things had not worked out as we had hoped. Now I go back to my original question: How do you deal with disappointment? In all honesty I only know of one way. 

Thankfulness! 

Yes! You heard me! Thankfulness.

Here is my list:

1. My husband was with me through all of it. He did not waver. He did not get upset. He was just genuinely glad that I just had a kidney stone (he's had one of his own) and not having surgery for a colostomy or finding out I had cancer. 

2. The hospital staff was great. Every nurse was kind, informative and professional. They answered our questions, let us know what they were going to do with clarity and a smile and always asked if we needed anything. Even the aides who had to empty out my little pee pot to check for stones were friendly and helpful. 

3. We were right near a hospital. I didn't have to drive for several hours to get to a competent place of care. In fact the hospital is in the same city where my brother works. He even stopped by to check on me while I was in the ER.

4. I only had to spend one night! Hooray.

5. By this morning, I was no longer in any pain, and no longer felt like I wanted to hurl every time I thought of food. 

6. Our drive home has been relaxing and enjoyable. 

These are only a few of the thing that I can thank God for during this disappointing time. Disappointments, as I have talked about before, can push us away from God, or draw us closer. I would definitely choose to draw closer every time. 

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18

Three Little Commands - Give Thanks

I thought it appropriate after the climax of the political campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump, to bring things back to scripture. And how fitting that the series I've been doing on three little commands, ends with this powerful statement:

...in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast upon us. Sometimes it seems this day gets lost after the decorous celebration of Halloween and the the onset of the hectic preparations for Christmas. However, I believe it is a holiday of great importance. If we allow it to not get lost, Thanksgiving can be the perfect spring board into the Advent season.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

Thankfulness is sometimes slow in coming. There are always things to be thankful for, but that doesn't mean it is easy for us to turn our minds away from our difficulties towards the things that we can be thankful for, or even more appropriately towards the One from whom all blessings flow.

Life can be a trial. Maybe you just found out you have breast cancer and your husband told you he's leaving you for another. Perhaps you just discovered your thirteen year old daughter has been having sex resulting in a pregnancy and your son started doing heroine. These things are real, folks. Sometimes life brings difficulties one at a time; a pace that is manageable, however, there are times and lives that are full of nothing but difficulty. How do we give thanks when we are careening down a one way street the wrong way?

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB)

I brought this verse up a few weeks ago. Whether you are a Christ follower or an agnostic; a Muslim or an atheist, this verse can be taken to heart. With so much media input it is easy to get focused on the bad - murder, suicide, mental illness, disease, bombings and death permeate our news feed and therein lies the problem, we are feeding on the bad, rather than feasting on the good.

So, how exactly do we feed on the good? One bite at a time. Much to my hubby's chagrin I am always asking him, "What are you thankful for?" It is especially pertinent when things are stressful at work, or we are having issues in the family or he is just feeling like he has nothing left. As much as it drives him crazy, it does help his mind to move from that which is bothering him, to He that is!

I have always felt that gratitude changes the attitude, but it wasn't until I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp that it really came home. Here is a little description of the book on Goodreads with links for purchasing. (I do not receive any kickback for recommending this book, I just think it is a fabulous book that everyone should read.)

And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.
— Ann Voskamp - One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully...

Just as a child learns to walk, one baby step at a time, we can learn to be thankful, one bite at a time. Did you take a hot shower this morning? Thank Him. Did you eat today? Thank Him. Did you get to turn up the thermostat? Thank Him. Did you drink clean water? Thank Him. Are you breathing without help? Thank Him. Are you on an oxygen machine? Thank Him for that technology to help you breath.

The prayers we weave into the matching of socks, the stirring of oatmeal, the reading of stories, they survive fire.
— Ann Voskamp

I love that! The fire is the trial of life, but our prayers of praise and thanksgiving and petition, survive any fire that life throws at us.

It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us..
— Ann Voskamp - One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully....

Is it dark where you are? Does it seem impossible to find anything to thank Him for....then be thankful for Him. You are not alone. He is with you. He will always be with you.

As we look forward to Thanksgiving day, why not try each day to keep a record of what you are thankful for. Use a small notebook, a sticky note pad or a calendar page. On the date for that day write: I am thankful for....and start listing things. Maybe you only write one or two things, but those are things you weren't thinking about before. If your mind starts going down that path of difficulty, write more things you are thankful for. Turn, turn, turn and be thankful. God will always meet you in that place.

Three Little Commands

As a Christian I am often about, what to do. How do I serve? How do I minister? I often become fixated on one or two commands in the Bible and forget about all of the other ones. In recent years my life has gone down a path I never thought it would take and suddenly everything looks so different. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

You know how it is. You decide to take a drive in the country. It's a beautiful fall day, the colors are at peak and you are enjoying the scenery. After a while you decide you need to head home. You have things to do. Instead of turning around and going back exactly the same way you came, you decide to take a different route. All of a sudden, you have no idea where you are. Everything looks the same, and nothing looks familiar. 

That is how life can be. You are traveling along and all of a sudden you don't know where you are, nor how you got there. At those times the things we know can be helpful, but they can also be to our detriment. Knowing directions such as North, South, East and West are helpful, but if you insist you are going North, when you are actually going South, well that could be a problem.

For many years as a college student at a Bible school and into adult life, my focus was on how do I spread the Good News; how do I tell others about Jesus? When I became a wife and mother my focus became how do I serve God in my family and train up girls who would want to follow Him? I have never lost my direction as far as wanting to do what God would want me to do. I have however, gone down a path of suffering that I was unprepared for and would often find myself looking up at Heaven and asking, "Are you sure I can do this?" 

His answer was always the same, "With me, you can!"

While my direction was still the same, the tasks that I once thought were all important took second place to the all encompassing work of knowing Him better. Believe me, when you walk a trail that goes through some deep valley's the only way to get through them is to keep coming back to the purpose of life: to glorify Him. It was along this path that He lead me to these three little commands.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:16 - 18 (NASB)

I often find myself back at God's feet asking Him, "What do you want me to do?" 

In recent years His answer is always the same, "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all things."

"But Lord, is that really enough? Shouldn't I be doing more? Leading a Bible study? Helping at the soup kitchen? Going back to school?"

I always picture HIm smiling at me and saying, "Are you doing those three things yet?"

If you are like me, you know that rejoicing always is like backing your car all the way from Cleveland to Buffalo. It isn't something that comes naturally for most of us. Remember my post from a few weeks ago, Giving Up Grumbling? Yeah, well rejoicing always is a similar dilemma.

Let's talk about praying without ceasing? Does that just happen? Probably not. Prayer is work, just like exercise. It really must be intentional. There is a time and place for going into our prayer closets and having earnest prayer before the Lord, but how does that fit into our busy, chaotic lives? How do we actually pray without stopping?

Finally, in everything give thanks. It's easy to be thankful when things are going well, but when the poop hits the fan, being thankful sometimes goes right out the same window. 

We are all at different points in life. You may be a young Christian who is very zealous about telling others about Jesus. You might be a new wife, determined to love your spouse with the earnestness of the Song of Solomon lover. You might be a mother trying to fulfill the reality of a Proverbs 31 woman. There are so many ideals in the Bible, many of which we cannot fulfill, at least not without Him. None of these are bad. And God has each of us right where He wants us. 

path in the woods

So, for a little while this is the path I am walking. A path of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks, even when life is difficult. Maybe you are on this same path. Maybe life doesn't look exactly like you thought it would at this point and you are feeling a little lost. Don't worry. You are in good company. 

Over the next three weeks I want to look at each of those little commands in a much bigger way. I hope you'll walk with me.

Light Beyond the Darkness

As the days begin to shorten and I realize the seasons are about to change again, I grow more reflective of the seasons of life. I am sure it is because I am getting older. Age has a tendency to make us more aware of our limitations, weaknesses and failed plans. But it also has the capacity to make us more aware of what is really important and help us to focus on our blessings rather than our difficulties.

sunset over the river

As we were driving this evening the sun was getting low on the horizon. Though I didn't see it actually set I could tell, it was going to be spectacular. The sky was streaked with brushstrokes of cloud residue. So often when that happens the sun reflects off the clouds in a brilliant display of orange, pink, red and purple. I have found in my 50 plus years fall sunsets can be some of the most stunning.

As I looked at the beauty the Master Painter created for our good pleasure, I thought about the sunsets of life. Sometimes, when we know the darkness is coming we grow anxious and fearful. The realization hit me, however, that we would not have the stunning sunsets if darkness did not come. We would not have some of the spectacular sunrises either. Darkness is a part of the cycle God put into place to bring rest and repose.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
2 Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
3 There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon.
In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun.
— Psalm 19:1 - 4 (NET)

Darkness is the absence of light. That could refer to the light of day, the light of a candle or that of an electric light bulb. Darkness can also refer to a lack of understanding. There are times in life when, not only does the way seem dark, but we also travel the path without understanding. We need to remember that outside of the darkness there is light. 

I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.
— John 12:46 (NASB)

If you are in a house, board up all the windows and cover those with room darkening drapes, you will be in the dark, but the light is still glowing outside of your house. If you descend into a cave with no flashlight or matches and candle, you will be in the dark, but the light is still glowing up on the surface.

To me, what seems the most overwhelming about darkness is the absence of light. If I can't see the light, I feel as though I am suffocating and all of life is about to end. But the reality is, light is still glowing, I just have to remember that. When I come to terms with the fact that I am closer to seeing the sun set, than I am to seeing the sun rise and I can remember that just the other side of that darkness I am about to face there is light....perhaps it will go easier.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

When God's face seems hidden by the darkness or by the clouds, remember that Jesus is walking on the tops of those clouds. When the path seems dark, perhaps is it best to stop walking for a while, stop fumbling in the dark. Take a deep breath, sit a spell and remember He is the light.

Jesus said of Himself, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 - NASB)

Feeling a Little Anxious?

I have always been a bit of a "nervous Nellie". When I was young, the first few days of each new school year were often a challenge. My stomach would get tied up in knots, I'd assume disasters were going to take place as soon as I got on the school bus and I would feel desperately lost until I could connect up with familiar faces. When I went to college I battled home sickness fiercely until I settled in to a new routine with new friends. I still struggle with anxiety before doctor or dentist appointments. I worry over my kids and my grandson.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Anxiety is prevalent. We pace the floor over scenarios that may never take place. We begin waiting for bad stuff to happen. It seems that as I age, anxiety has once again taken a front seat on life's journey. If we look at the number of people taking anti-anxiety medications I'd say I am not alone. 

Life is stressful. Being married, having kids, working a job can all add stress to life. That stress builds when marriage is hard, children rebel and the job expects you to do the work of three people instead of just one. As if that is not enough to get our fight or flight motor revving, then we find out a parent is severely ill, a friend has died, our hairdresser found a new job and there is a lump where there shouldn't be one. 

I cannot tell you what to do when you feel anxious, because I am not a qualified counselor. As Christians we sometimes throw out verses expecting that they are a miracle cure. If you just think on this verse all your anxiety will melt away. God's word is not Calgon. Some of you may remember those commercials....a frantic woman living a real life, but when the stress is too much she just sinks into a hot tub sized bath full of Calgon bubbles and her cares slip away! If only it was so easy. 

We do have some control over what our minds are thinking. At this point in my life I do not take anti anxiety meds. But that doesn't mean I never will. Many elderly people take anti anxiety medicine to help them, not only feel less anxious, but get to sleep at night. So don't be anti medicine. There are times it is right and good. However, if you are on meds, but still feel mastered by anxiety, work with your clinician to find medicines and counseling that enable you to still live life to the fullest. 

If you are like me and anxiety pops up from time to time, but is not debilitating, often just changing our focus will chase the anxious thoughts away. Here are some ways to redirect our thinking:

1. Scripture - while God's word is not Calgon it is a powerful mind changer. Granted, it is the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about change, but the Bible is an important tool in that work. These are a few of the Scriptures I ruminate on when I am feeling anxious:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4-9 (NASB)
3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.
4 “Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.
— Isaiah 26:3-4 (NASB)
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.
— Psalms 27:14 (NASB)
1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
— Psalms 34:1-5 (NASB)
1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.
— Psalms 121

There are many more scriptures about His peace and His care for us.

2. Think about it - This may sound counter intuitive, but thinking about why we are feeling anxious, might help us to recognize the source or sources of the anxiety and lead us to ways of dealing with it. If I am anxious about an upcoming dental appointment, I usually find that I just need to not think about it until it happens. Life is busy enough I can do that, but if it is a more complex problem like just finding out you have cancer, then it might be better to process that with your spouse, pastor, friend or counselor. Talking about a difficulty can make it easier to bear and make you less anxious. I write, of course. I have journals filled with my anxious thoughts, my prayers to God and my gratitude for all He's done.

riding a bike

3. Get active - Sometimes when you are anxious, the last thing you want to do is do something, but activity can lessen anxiety. Gardening, taking a walk, doing the laundry, mopping the floor and going for a bike ride can all help clear your head and move your anxiety to a back burner. If you really want to blow that anxiety out of the water, put on some good music while you are mopping or baking and dance. Lift your hands up to the One who made you and who gives you the ability to breath and move.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

4. Be thankful - Ann VosKamp's book 1000 Gifts is her discovery of the healing and worshipful effects of gratitude. 

And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.
— Ann VosKamp - One Thousand Gifts

5. Prayer - God's word tells us to "pray without ceasing." I find the more anxious I am the more I need to be in the posture of prayer. That doesn't mean I need to be face down on the floor, although I have assumed that position many times, but my heart and mind need to always be aware that He is near and I can talk to Him at any time. 

The most effective treatment of anxiety I have found is to not dwell there. It is a normal place to visit, as we are fallen humanity so in need of His grace and mercy, but He has provided a way to rise above this flesh we live in, we just have to work it out. Sometimes that means taking a walk, writing in a journal or talking to a friend. Sometimes that means going to a counselor or a clinician and getting medication to help slow that roaring motor inside of you down. If you are not sure how severe your anxiety is, please seek out a professional, either your family practitioner or a counselor as they are better able to determine your health needs. 

If you regularly deal with anxiety, leave me a comment and tell me how you try to curb that feeling in your life. I'd love to hear your input.