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Month: November, 2013

She Helps Me Count

by Dawn Aldrich

2011-12-04 23.32.51“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Bubble-bath clean she looks up at me with her half-mooned baby blues spilling crocodile tears and my heart puddles on the bathroom floor. She pleads with pouted lips, “Grams, I’m too tired to go home. I’ve just GOT to sleep here at YOUR house, please? I’ve GOT to.”

What’s a Grams to do but say yes? For time and wisdom teaches: say yes and often –seize every memory-making day as though it is the last. Say yes! For through her, I see God’s little blessings and she helps me keep count.

Blessing 1: Snuggled together- (Grams, Pops, ‘Kota, and the two cats) – for one story, that inevitably means three.

Blessing 2: Quiet voices in prayer, the “Mr. Moon” song, distant trains and good-night kisses that she doesn’t rub off.

Blessing 3: Smiling baby blues and sweet morning whispers through the bedroom door.

Blessing 4: She draws the wind blue – because that’s how she sees it – and all God’s creatures in the red barn and yellow hay in the silo. Details far beyond her years.

Blessing 5: “Something beautiful is up there, Grams,” she notices as black crows caw high above us on our early morning walk-about.

Blessing 6: Giggles as twigs tickle her face walking past the “messy house.”

Blessing 7: Her mittened hand swallowed in mine.

Blessing 8: Sweet, red-ripened strawberries dipped in sugar.

Blessing 9: Eskimo kisses between cold pink noses.

Blessing 10: The sound of her breathing.

Through her eyes it is always thanksgiving and God is close. She slows me down and points out details I’d normally ignore – details that count blessings one-by-one.

In the hurried holiday season, won’t you take some time to count? Count the little blessings every day, little gifts God sends your way even in the midst of noise. Start now, if you’d like. What are you thankful for today?

A Meal Prepared For You

by Julie

Thanksgiving

“How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom!” Luke 14:15

The time of year is upon us that reminds us to be thankful. Every year we spend a whole day celebrating all we are thankful for. Living far from home, I have spent Thanksgiving in many different homes with many different families over the years. It’s a beautiful thing to enjoy each other around the table, feasting on a wonderful meal, and on the goodness of God.

A common tradition for many of us is to share the things we are thankful for. I take this very seriously and start thinking about my answer several days in advance. I see this as an opportunity to really reflect on my life and what the Lord has done for me. Scripture says that we enter His gates with praise and thanksgiving. When we become thankful we are close to Him. I want to take time thanking Him personally as I prepare my answer. Just as special as it is to share, it’s just as great to hear from those around the table. Giving thanks to God gives us an opportunity to celebrate the Lord and all that He is doing.

Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. Every year my family would host the big meal. As we prepared the food and waited for our guests the excitement would rise and our expectation of a wonderful day would grow. What a beautiful picture of God and our relationship with Him. He has prepared a table for us full of an abundant meal of His goodness.  This season I would like to encourage all of us to take the time and reflect on what God has done for us and be thankful. Take the opportunity to dine with Him celebrating who He is and feasting on His goodness.

The Dark Side of Gift Giving

by Mike McKinniss

Image thanks to DIY Krafty Kids

Image thanks to DIY Krafty Kids

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you (Colossians 1:3, HCSB).

Every kid loves Christmas and birthdays. And why not? Twice a year (unless your birthday lands, as my niece’s does, on December 25) you get to relish in the best of all possible worlds.

In my own family, Christmas was always spent with the closest family. Birthdays were enjoyed with your best friends.

Both occasions warranted the best culinary fare. Few things compare to the roasted turkey at Christmas (though I’m eager to try goose). Tradition held that the birthday boy selects his own dinner. I oscillated between barbecue chicken (I’m a June baby) and chicken parmesian. And don’t forget the Christmas cookies or the birthday cake.

But who are we kidding? The best part about Christmas and birthdays, at least as a kid, was receiving presents. And hopefully lots of them. I would make myself sick in the run up to Christmas each year, deciding which toys I wanted and imagining what I might do if I had them. It was pure torture knowing precisely where the presents would be hidden pre-wrap and attempting to circumvent the temptation to peer under my parents’ bed. Who doesn’t love a good present?

Nobody, that’s who. Until, that is, the ten-year-old child is reminded, on December 26th, that he must remember to thank his grandparents and his aunt and uncle, who were so thoughtful to send a gift from Ohio.

To my childhood self, this was the dark side to Christmas, the catch. The anticipation and lure of presents blinded me to the horrors of showing gratitude. Oh how I dreaded the thank you note and the 15 minutes it would take to write them! Fifteen minutes that could have been spent enjoying the toys!

It’s only taken a couple decades, but more recently, I’ve actually been looking forward to writing to say “Thank you.” Indeed, I even find myself being thankful for some of the most unusual things. Chief among these is a growing gratitude for others’ good fortune.

The circumstance may have little to do with me, but I’m discovering that I’m increasingly joyful when others experience a breakthrough in their hopes and dreams. I’m excited when someone else receive a long awaited promise from the Lord. In particular, I’m especially happy when someone else gets what I’ve been waiting for myself.

Several years ago, I was waiting to see the fulfillment of a certain promise I believed God had given to me for my own life. It was precious to me. But I wasn’t seeing it. I had been waiting for years and hadn’t seen a glimpse yet. And then a close friend of mine, who was walking a similar path to my own, received exactly what I had been waiting and praying for. His came in months; I’d been waiting years.

If I’m completely honest, I was surprised at how grateful I was for his success. And I’ll admit I was tempted to become bitter or despondent. But I genuinely wanted to thank God for the experience my buddy was having. I knew what it meant for him and I knew what it would mean to me. I loved being thankful for him.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I still love getting things for myself. I still eagerly anticipate my birthday and Christmas. But I’m growing more eager to write those thank you notes too. And I’m grateful for that.

The Cup of Joy

by mandyade

 

communion-cup_breadGod is happy. He is full of joy and He wants you to have His happiness inside of you all the time.

 

Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). During his pain He was focused on the joy that was coming, not a crown or power (those were already His), but you and I were the joy that enabled him to endure. Joy will always release heaven’s energy to us, while hopelessness will paralyze us.

 

When Jesus was at the Passover table He did something extraordinary (The Passover table is laden with symbolic foods eaten to remember the pain and tears of slavery and God’s deliverance). Instead of lifting the bitter herbs dipped in salt water to declare his coming cross, Jesus focused on something else – He lifted the cup of wine – the drink used to celebrate happy occasions.

 

Jesus instructed us to remember His death by drinking the cup of joy. He asked us to put joy before us, not sorrow. No more are we to remember the bitter herbs and tears of slavery and a broken life, but the hope of a new life.

 

Jesus was declaring joy and hope over us. He was saying, No more bitterness, slavery and toil, but heavens hope and joy to you. He was inviting us to continually remember and declare our hope and joy in Him.

 

Jesus was modeling a position for us to keep during seasons of suffering – focusing on God’s promises in front of us and not past and present pain. Joy will energize us to endure through present suffering and move into the new.

 

We can’t manufacture joy. It’s not an emotion that comes and goes with good and bad times, but joy is released in us when we focus on the goodness of God and the anticipation of what He has for us.  Even when life has no pleasure, Holy Spirit can produce supernatural joy and hope in of us. Empty the cup of old bitter herbs and lift it to Him so that He can fill it with heaven’s wine.

 

Lift your cup to Him by:

 

1.   Agree with God that He wants you to be happy. Release yourself from the self-destructive idea that sadness is godliness. When toxic thoughts come, continually reposition your mind to His goodness and love for you.

 

2.   Relax and expect joy. You don’t have to pay for joy; it has already been purchased for you. Most of the Christian life is about learning how to receive from our God. Our hours of sweat and tears cannot bring the dew of heaven. We need to understand how to position our hearts to receive and over flow.

 

3.   Ask Holy Spirit to fill you with hope and joy. When an ounce of hope begins to rise in your heart, grab it with anticipation and more will come. (Don let flickers of joy be doused by doubt, because joy produces of itself!)

 

“The joy of The Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10b 

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