In two days we will celebrate nationally the day of Thanksgiving!
Most of us will gather together with family and friends and eat many of the same traditional foods. I do not know about you, but I do not serve cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy and pumpkin pie with whipped cream at my dinner table on most nights. But you better believe they will be on my Thanksgiving table!
Why is it that I will spend more money than I normally do on a traditional meal, search high and low for the perfect Turkey, spend countless hours baking everyone’s favorite dessert, fret over setting the “perfect” table yet so quickly forget that it is all a representation of what should be a daily practice? A practice that should flow from my heart as easily as breathing flows from my lungs.
A day set aside to Give Thanks is wonderful! An opportunity to gather with family and friends great! And a reason to overindulge in delicious food is thrilling. It is all well and good as long as the meaning is not lost.
Giving Thanks, AKA THANKSGIVING, is a daily practice that God is deserving of and our lives can be transformed by!
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:18
IT IS GODS WILL THAT WE GIVE THANKS ON THANKSGIVING DAY AND EVERY DAY!
As we get closer and closer to the day that we set aside each year(Wow, one whole day! That is SO Big of us! There is a whole blog series just on that, but for another time), it would seem that it should get easier and easier to GIVE THANKS!
But I am embarrassed to say, that for me, it feels harder and harder!
I have no idea what kind of a “SEASON” you are right now, or have been, going through in your life. For me, it has been one of the most difficult and long-lasting, seasons I have ever found myself in! I have cried out, even screamed out, to God over and over to PLEASE bring it to an end. But to this day, He has not yet completed whatever it is I need to endure, so on it continues!
So, I start out this beautiful season of Fall and Thanksgiving with great hope and joy and before I know it, the heaviness that wears on me due to my circumstances, tries to kill and destroy it! How do I fight it? Do I throw my hands up in the air and give into it, or do I lift up my head and look to the One who deserves all my Thanksgiving?
Why? Because in giving thanks to God, I am made whole, regardless of my circumstances!
THANKSGIVING MAKES US WHOLE!
One of the stories in the Bible that proves this point is the story of Jesus encountering the ten lepers. Jesus is with His disciples on their way to Jerusalem.
By the way, Jesus knows what awaits Him in Jerusalem. He is on His way to His death and resurrection. Now talk about difficult circumstances!
Still Jesus has time for compassion and healing for those in need.
Now, on my worst day, and yours too for that matter, we are far better off than a leper.
Ten lepers see Jesus and call out to Him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!“
When Jesus saw them He said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
They did and they were healed!
Great day, right!? You would think they would be jumping up and down!
But just like us, they can be so caught in their negative circumstances that they forget how to GIVE THANKS!
Only one of the ten lepers gave thanks! He actually did three things to thank God.
First, he praised God with a loud voice!
Second, he threw himself at Jesus’ feet showing that Jesus was Lord!
And, third, He thanked Jesus for His miraculous healing! AKA, HE GAVE THANKS!
“Arise and go: your faith has made you well.“
You see friends, we do not give God thanks because everything in our lives is going well. We give thanks even when things are not going well because of our faith in the One who deserves all our thanks!
This week I pray that you will give God Thanks for who He is whether your circumstances are good or extremely difficult. Believing that God will take care of all our needs, Amen!
It’s cold outside, it’s raining(at least here in California), I’ve pulled every sweater out of storage that I have, the fireplace is lit, and I’ve finally pulled a pair of socks onto my feet!
With November comes shorter days. The shorter days call for longer nights spent cuddled in a blanket with a warm cup of tea reading a book. I would love to tell you that I do this every night, but far too often, distractions take the place of this God-ordained time of “slowing down,” we call Winter.
We tend to complain that the days are too short and there is not enough sunlight. I get it, I love my walks in the evenings as the sun sets. I love my bike rides down the vineyard paths watching the green leaves on the vines turn to gold and orange.
But what would happen to the state of our souls, our inner beings, if instead of seeking the sunlight, we started craving the SONlight? What if we allowed the pause of winter to enter our souls and cause us to seek the son, Jesus Christ, The Son Of God.
Your body will not go into atrophy, I promise! You do not have to give up your active lifestyle, you just have to start a bit earlier and look for the sunrise instead of the sunset!
In all honesty, I believe God created the seasons with a rhythm that we should pay more attention to.
Spring offers that beautiful transition between some cold days and some warm. We get outside and get a little work done and then the rain drives us back inside for a time.
Summer draws us outside even before the sun is up, as the temps grow warmer and warmer. We are drawn to the warmth of the sun and the coolness of shade, and we stay and play all day long, well into the night.
Fall brings relief as we grow weary of long hot days. The days of Fall shorten gradually and the breeze cools and the colors beckon our attention.
Finally, it’s winter and days are short, nights are long and the cold weather can only be endured for a short amounts of time. We are drawn inside, to get warm, find protection and comfort.
In this state of “winter,” we can find true warmth, protection and comfort when we sit and draw in the SON!
I can think of no better way to begin this season of winter and drawing close to the Son, than to give thanks to Him. It is after all, the season of Thanksgiving, so let’s practice all this month!
“Praise The Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalms 106:1
Gather up your coziest blanket, grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage, and turn off your cell phone! That’s right, you read that correctly…TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE! Now, speak this Psalm of Praise to God. Allow the pause of winter to calm and draw you into God’s presence. Give Him thanks for His love and goodness. Then just sit and soak in the warmth your soul really needs, the warmth that only the SON can give.
Winter offers the perfect pause to draw warmth from the SON!
It’s November 1st, and I could not be happier! I have often been quoted as saying, “November 1st is my favorite day of the year!” Is it because I love November? Is it because two of my favorite boys were born in November? Is it because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday? Is it because the days are growing colder? Is it because it is Daylight Savings and I get to stay snuggled under the covers longer?
NO, NO, NO, NO AND NO! While all of these statements are true of me, they are not the reason November 1st is my favorite day of the year. There is only one reason it is my favorite and that is because Halloween is over.
That’s right, I said it, I’m that person, I do not like Halloween! I realize I have possibly excommunicated you from ever reading my blog again, but it’s true. Today is November 1st, and I woke up with a smile on my face and joy in my heart simply because Halloween is over!
I also know that I am automatically putting myself in a very small, if not tiny to minute, population. That is why today’s blog comes with a caution sign…
BEWARE; THIS POST MAY CONTAIN A TREAT OR A TRICK! READ ONLY WITH AN OPEN HEART AND MIND!
You may be in the larger population that has absolutely no problem with Halloween. You love dressing up and having an opportunity to express your creative, kooky, fun side. You love gathering together with friends and attending trunk or treats at your local churches, bobbing for apples and eating popcorn balls with your neighborhood friends. You may love getting great exercise as you walk around your neighborhood gathering as much candy as possible or opening your door and handing it out to those cute little trick-or-treaters! You may love pumpkin carving, pumpkin seed roasting, and eating all things pumpkin! None of this is bad or wrong in anyway! To shame anyone who likes Halloween is not at all what this post is about. This post is to simply share my heart on the love I have for November 1st, which happens to be today, knowing Halloween is over!
My spirit is sensitive to the possibility that saying, “Trick or Treat,” on Halloween may be the reverse of what we should be saying or at least thinking!? Treat or Trick may be the more accurate statement.
Ask yourself if you are being tricked or treated on Halloween?
If you are being “Treated,” then indulge and enjoy! Dress up to your hearts delight and indulge in ooey gooey pumpkin treats or the sweetest of candies! Celebrate with family friends and neighbors and have a great time doing it!
If you are being “Tricked”, then you may want to take a step back, ask the God and creator of every day, if His Light is being dimmed by the dark you are celebrating?
We are cautioned by God that in Him there is no darkness at all!
“And the judgement is based on this fact: God’s LIGHT came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the LIGHT, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the LIGHT and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. BUT THOSE WHO DO WHAT IS RIGHT COME TO THE LIGHT SO OTHERS CAN SEE THAT THEY ARE DOING WHAT GOD WANTS.” John 3:19-21
So, if there is any part of your HALLOWEEN that is “DARK,”‘ then you are being TRICKED not TREATED by the great Deceiver. Jesus calls him the Father of lies. He makes darkness look like light, deceiving us into thinking it is just an area of gray, AKA “harmless fun.”
Light will always drive out darkness!
So let’s have all the fun that this life holds as we walk in the LIGHT of Jesus Christ!
If you ask me what I don’t understand, the list is very long!
I do not understand trigonometry. If you asked me to define it, I can look it up in the dictionary just like everyone else. When I do, it explains to me that it is the branch of mathematics that deals with the relations of the sides and angles of triangles, and other angles.
Now, I understand triangles! Triangles are shapes with three straight sides and three angles. They are all about the three’s! A triangle is also a musical instrument and can be a relationship or situation involving three people. A triangle is even the correct term used for the device that positions the balls on a pool table.
However, I am still stumped on the understanding of trigonometry and truthfully, even on the need for studying it. Needless to say, my brain is not a mathematical one. But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to not understanding.
I do not understand why people get sick when they seem to be so healthy!
I do not understand why Autumn is not cool and breezy allowing me to wear sweaters and watch leaves fall and sip warm beverages.
I do not understand why some people are mean and hurt others with seemingly little to no remorse.
I do not understand why greed takes over a person and causes them to lie, cheat and steal.
I do not understand why life seems to favor some and fall hard on others.
I could go on and on and on, the list of what I do not understand is endless!
If you ask me what I do understand the list is very short!
The only thing that I truly understand is that God is God and I am not!
Understanding is a truly difficult concept!
Last week we talked about enduring. We endure difficult situations and experiences and we survive, but do we understand why? Enduring is “Faith in Action.” It is actively engaging in difficult, hard and even unjust situations because we know God has called us to endure. We know that in doing so, no matter how difficult, God is producing His character in us as we endure. Enduring is active, understanding is not.
We may have absolutely no clue as to why we are called to endure certain situations.
Our finite brains can no more comprehend why pain and suffering are necessary than they can why bad things happen to good people.
But we have a Heavenly Father who does understand. Our God is Good! He loves us with a love that is supernatural and cannot be fully understood with our human brains.
Our God is faithful to us, protects us, stretches our faith, builds endurance in us and above all knows, fully understands and does what is best for us!
God’s BEST is not always what we want at the time, and much of the time is not something we fully understand. However, like any loving, faithful, compassionate parent, God gives us what is BEST for us.
Imagine a child out on a boat tour of the Pacific Ocean. You pull away from the shore and out into the rolling, white with foam waves that break into crystal blue water. The child peers overboard and is in awe. They stare into the glassy ocean like it is a mirror reflecting their own image back to them. They jump up and down with exhilarattion and beg you to let them jump in.
You, as a loving, protective, compassionate parent tell them NO! They raise the level of their voice screaming and crying and jumping up and down demanding you let them jump in. “The water is so pretty,” they say. “The waves are rolling and look like so much fun,” they scream. Still as a loving parent you hold your ground, knowing that they are unable to understand the danger and risks they are asking to take.
God answers us in a similar way, just like any good and loving parent would.
“I know what’s best for you, trust me when you can’t understand it yourself.”
Do you trust Him? Are you willing to believe that all that He is doing in our lives is what’s BEST for us? Even if we do not always get what we ask Him for?
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
He is stretching our faith, building endurance in us, and being a good Father that works all things out together for our good.
So, I ask you again, “Do You Trust Him?”
Do you believe that even when you do not understand, God is strengthening you, showing you His faithfulness, and preparing you for the future?
GOD IS A GOOD GOOD FATHER, WE CAN TRUST HIM EVEN WHEN WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND!
Endurance is not fun! It hurts, it stretches, it pushes! Endurance even pulls at us and sometimes against that push and pull we can feel like taffy! The problem for me is…the taffy seems to go through the grueling process of push and pull, and comes out from under it to become a delicious candy that is not too hard and not too soft. It seems to have arrived at the perfect place of candy perfection!
Why then, when I am pushed and pulled, stretched and challenged, tested and tried, do I come out feeling like I am still on the taffy pull? Am I not complete, am I not finished, have I not yet arrived?
As much as I would love for this to be a feel good blog post, it’s just not. The Truth is when we speak the truth in love, we must be willing to face both the easy stuff and the hard stuff.
I am at professed optimist who always sees the cup as half full! But even this eternal optimist must face the whole truth of the Word of God and not just the parts that she likes!
If God has truly given me a voice for Him, and I am called to speak His Truth in love, then I must speak the whole truth and trust that because it is from God, it is all in love! God‘s love is not like our love. God knows all things. God knows the beginning from the end. God knows that the tough stuff along with the easy stuff, will make us who He intends us to be!
The truth is we live in a fallen world where sin has entered and in too many places has taken root! The trials that we face are part of the fact that we live in this world. We will have troubles, and we will make mistakes, we will experience disappointments even from God‘s people. We will also cause disappointment and hurt to God’s people. We will experience loss and we will grow weary, as hard as we try not to! We will also hit spiritual walls and face times that we want to quit. But the question we must face when we come to those times is the one I posed in the beginning…
“Dear Jesus, Why must we endure?”
Jesus answers us back, “endurance is what you need to keep living by faith!”
“Consider it great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces ENDURANCE!”
ENDURANCE means that we are still in it! No matter how low we have sunk, no matter how hard that wall is that we’ve hit, no matter how great the pain of our circumstances is, when we are trusting Jesus and living by faith, Jesus is producing endurance in us! And to endure means that we are getting through it!
THE ONLY WAY THROUGH THE “TAFFY PULL” OF LIFE IS TO ENDURE!
That is why we can say along with James, that we can consider it joy when we experience trials because we know that it is producing the way through our trials, ENDURANCE!
It is hard to endure. But endurance is a way of getting through something, a certain strength that can only be built when we stay with something and do not quit!
This is only possible through the power and strength of our Lord Jesus Christ! He alone holds all power and when He is living in us we access His power to endure!
Will you choose to access His power with me and endure? Believe me, I don’t want to sometimes! However, I do know that I want to live a life marked by faith and the only way that I can do that is to let my faith be tested to produce endurance, His endurance, not mine!
A “giant” is that big obstacle, hurdle or roadblock that is standing in your way. It bully’s you into submission, it looks to big to jump over and it blocks you from every side.
It can be a person, situation, mindset, or anything at all that is hindering or stopping you from moving forward.
Every time I think of being stuck and moving forward, I think of the Israelites stuck in the desert with Moses. They had been in slavery and bondage in Egypt for over 400 years!
You read that correctly…400 years!
God miraculously frees them. You would think that for at least one year after they would still be rejoicing, throwing a party, and praising God.
Nope, their human nature had taken over, like ours so often does, and they were grumbling about their conditions. They grumbled about where they lived, what they had to eat, how long it was taking etc., etc., etc…
I can hear the echos now, “Are we there yet?!”
They were even asking to go back to Egypt, back to being slaves!
Has your life ever gotten so far off track, that all you see are “the giants?”
The pressures of life that are so great that you see the “giant” of discouragement bullying you until you feel helpless.
The people in your life that hurt, disappoint and even slander you seem to be the “giant” of despair that leaves you hopeless. And the failures and frustrations in your life that shame you and seem to be the “giant” of disillusionment that keeps you from moving forward.
You may have one, or two or even all three of these giants! Or maybe you have a different giant. No matter what kind of giant we face we have a God who slays them!
If we look to the Israelites and Moses in the desert all those thousands of years ago, we can learn a very important lesson!
IF WE FACE OUR GIANTS ON OUR OWN WE FEEL LIKE GRASSHOPPERS BUT IF WE KEEP OUR EYES ON GOD OUR GIANTS BECOME THE GRASSHOPPERS!
After only one year in the desert the Israelites had taken their eyes off God.
As the people grumbled and complained, Moses sent 12 spies to search out the land. Ten of the spies came back and reported that while the land was good and, “flowing with milk and honey,” the people were bad, in fact they were Giants and it was not safe to enter the land! Only 2 men kept their eyes on God and saw that the victory over the “giants,” was there’s in the power of the Lord God!
“But The Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” Numbers 14:9
Friends, Moses asked the 12 men he sent out to check out the land, two questions: One, What is the land like? And Two, What are the people like?
All 12 men came back with the same report about the land. They could see that it was good and that it was flowing with milk and honey! A good place for God to lead them to!
But only two men came back with a positive response about the people! They did not see their size ”giants,” as an obstacle, hurdle or roadblock to what they knew there God could do!
Joshua and Caleb knew that their God was a Giant Slayer!
What “Giants” in your life do you need God to slay? Just keep your eyes on him! The Lord is with you! Do not be afraid of the Giants!
If you have been around the church any amount of time, Romans 8:28 should be familiar to you.
“AND WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE.” ROMANS 8:28
We hear it spoken whenever a problem arises. We hear it recited when we ask for counsel and go through problems. We listen to it preached on and feel like everything should be coming up roses.
Problem is, everything is not coming up roses.
When we are hurting, hopeless and helpless the last thing we need is someone telling us, everything is good. The truth is, everything is not good! Simply because we do not want to face, step into or admit that everything is not good, does not change the fact.
A simple phrase like, “It’s all good,” does nothing to take away the hurt, hopelessness or helplessness. The reality that we do not have the time, desire or ability to change someone’s hurt, hopelessness, or helplessness does not mean we should “All Good” it away!
I am not condemning or chastising anyone. I myself have been caught in situations where I feel desperate to help and powerless at the same time. I would be lying if I did not confess that Romans 8:28 popped into my head immediately.
What would happen when someone in pain came to us, and instead of quoting Romans 8:28 right away, or responding with, “It’s All Good,” we paused, took a breath and spoke Truth?
IT’S NOT ALL GOOD, BUT GOD IS!
This is the TRUTH of Romans 8:28!
Life is not good all the time, but God is!
The comfort and reassurance of Romans 8:28 is that WHEN, not IF, we go through hurtful, hopeless and helpless times, if we walk in the light of God’s goodness He will work it out for His good!
The beauty of the scriptures is that they all work together in harmony when we read them as our love letter from God! They make beautiful music in the Truth they speak.
In first John 1:5 we read the Truth about God’s goodness, His holiness is revealed. In God there is only light, no darkness, and He is All Good!
“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you : God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all!” I John 1:5
OUR LIVES ARE NOT ALL GOOD BUT OUR GOD IS!
In another passage God tells us that we WILL go through trials and hard times but to not FEAR because He has overcome them all!
Life is hard! People we love go through difficult times and so do we. On this side of heaven, it is not “All Good,” but glory to God, HE IS!
So when you find yourself or someone you love or have been asked to comfort, in that inevitable place of pain and hurt this side of heaven, remember for yourself and point others to the good, holy, perfect light that can heal all, God!
“To attack on all sides; assail to trouble greatly or grievously; to afflict with mental or physical suffering; harass:”
This is the definition of the verb, “BESET.” Now before you write it off as some old, antiquated term(AKA King James Version), let’s dive deeper into it’s meaning.
Attacked on all sides…Do you ever feel like you are being attacked at every turn? That no matter what you do you seem to come up short in your struggle?
Troubled greatly or grievously…Are you or have you ever been so bothered by something that you can not rest or sleep? It even produces anxiety and it causes anxiety and unsettledness in your soul!
Harass…Have you ever been so afflicted by something that it causes you mental and physical distress?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions then you understand the term BESET!
Let me speak for myself when I say, I understand this old, antiquated term BESET quite well!
For the majority of my adult life I have woken up every morning and started with the best of intentions on a healthy eating and exercise plan. Only to fall short over and over again, sometimes on the daily! Now this may or may not be a “BESETTING” sin for many of you. But for me it is a matter of self-control. I give it to God regularly and then take it back on my own almost as regularly!
So is it hopeless or is there a way to gain victory over a BESETTING sin?
Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
There is good news, it is not hopeless!
The only bad news comes when it is hopeless because you keep relying on yourself!
Leave it to God to give us the solution in the next verse!
“Fixing our eyes on JESUS, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2
TAKE YOUR EYES OFF YOURSELF AND PUT THEM ON JESUS FOR THE VICTORY!
When you are walking in the presence of Jesus, full of His spirit, you will have all of the fruit of His Spirit! And for me, that includes self control! What fruit of the spirit do you need Jesus to give you the victory for?
Starting and failing, does anyone have a problem with that like I do?
I have the best of intentions to get up early every morning and spend an hour with God before I start my day.
I have a perfect plan for my healthy eating to start and stay on track.
I have prepared my mat for pilates in the morning to stretch my body and clear my mind.
I have scheduled time in the late afternoon to get my cardio in before sunset.
I have bought the book and signed on the dotted line to begin that new bible study.
I have visited the bookstore (yes, an actual brick and mortar store) and paid for the book to read that will provide me with mental stimulation while I relax.
The list goes on and on, and repeats itself over and over as I START AND FAIL AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN!
Is it time to throw in the towel? Do I need to wake up and smell the coffee? Am I destined to defeat? NO, NO, and absolutely NOT!
“NO, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.“
Romans 8:37 NIV
In the NLT it says it this way;
“NO, despite all these things, OVERWHELMING VICTORY is ours through Christ, who loved us.”
Now that is something I want to grab hold of! Overwhelming victory is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord. Then why do I start and fail over and over again?
The why is in the I! Every statement of attempt at a new start above, I began with I!
I have prepared, I have bought, I have visited…..I, I, I!
On my own, I can not accomplish it. The victory is mine through Christ Jesus who loves me. He loves me so much that He died for me! Through His death I have the VICTORY!
Just take a look at the passages from Romans 8 that come right before verse 37.
Is there ANYTHING that can separate us from God’s Love? What if we have trouble, distress, disaster, disillusionment, discouragement or DEFEAT? Defeat that causes us to start again and again!
“NO, despite all these things overwhelming VICTORY is ours through Christ Jesus who loved us.” Romans 8:37
VICTORY IS OURS THROUGH CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD NO MATTER WHAT!
True failure is in giving up and not trying. No matter how many times you have to “Start,” He is right there with you encouraging you to victory! Turn your “I” into a “He” and see the victories add up!