Putting the Giving into Our Thanks

Blog_HarvestFieldThis Thanksgiving season, we’ll be putting a lot of things in our stomachs. The table will be full one moment; our mouths will be full the next. Before we know it, we’ll be more stuffed than the turkey. But before we put all that extra stuffing into our bodies, why don’t we consider what we can put into our thanks?

“Thanks” is something that’s meant to be given. Sometimes it will be easy; sometimes it won’t. It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going as we desire. But what if things aren’t happening just like we hoped they would? What if the “table” is empty of a mouthwatering feast, and filled only with bitter herbs?

In God’s word, we learn that thanksgiving will sometimes be a sacrifice: “…let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). When we’re going through fiery trials, it can be a challenge to maintain a heart of gratitude. Giving thanks in difficult times may be the hardest thing we’re asked to do, and yet it is the very thing that will help lift the burden of a heavy heart.

When our prayers have not been answered as we expected, or in the timing we hoped for, we can always remember the words of Helen Keller: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but we often look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” I’ve learned from experience that every closed door leads to a greater open door, and that for every unfulfilled longing a deeper need is met. Knowing this can help us to be grateful even for the closed doors in our lives.

Even if all we have has been taken from us, no one and nothing can take away a heart of gratitude. We can understand the importance of being thankful, but it’s not genuine until we actually GIVE thanks—especially when it’s difficult. This Thanksgiving and beyond, let’s celebrate by putting the giving into our thanks.

(Originally posted on the Tears of Joy blog)

The Missing Ingredient

Blog_RecipeI was looking forward to preparing a delicious meal for my family until I opened the spice drawer and realized one of the main ingredients was missing. Without it, I couldn’t make what I’d planned.

It’s amazing that just one small ingredient can make or break an entire meal. When it comes to the recipe of faith, there is one ingredient that often gets overlooked: patience. During seasons when our faith is put to the test, this is the one thing that will carry us through.

The Bible is filled with stories about men and women known for their great faith: great—due not to their own merit, but due to the greatness of the God in whom they placed their faith. Such people had an intimate knowledge of God that enabled them to walk with confidence in His promises. They were so sure of His faithfulness that they were willing to wait a lifetime and beyond to see the fulfillment of His Words. Their faith was accompanied by patience.

We will develop the same patience to persevere in faith when we look to “the author and finisher of our faith.” When we look to Him, we are reminded that it is not so much our faith that keeps us, as it is His faithfulness. An understanding of His faithfulness will fuel our willingness to wait for the fulfillment of His promises.

Abraham was promised that he would father many nations, yet he did not see the birth of his son until he was old in years. Joseph was given dreams of how God would do great things through him—but before his dreams became a reality, he endured rejection, enslavement, false accusations, and imprisonment. Moses asked to see God’s glory, yet his prayer was not answered until years after his death when he visited Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. David was anointed as King, but he had to live under the ungodly rule of Saul before he could wear the crown. The disciples heard from Jesus’ own mouth words of the coming kingdom, but they endured severe persecution and even death without seeing the fullness of the kingdom come.

In these dark days, we’re not only going to need faith to stand firm until the end. We’re going to need the key ingredient of patience. And patience will only come through an intimate knowledge of God. When we know Him intimately, we will be sure of His faithfulness. And He who is faithful is able to keep us.

“…imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12)


Photo Credit: chilli-con-carne-recipe | deepdarksquid | Flickr

Thanksgiving, Hold the Whine

Blog_NoWhiningA bad experience accidentally sampling wine as a six-year old permanently scarred my taste buds against any desire for it. The only association I now have with the drink is…yuck. But there’s something I like less: the kind of wine spelled with an “h”.

As much as I despise whining, I find myself doing an awful lot of it. Didn’t I just do the dishes? How did the laundry basket fill up so fast? Why does the alarm have to go off so early every day? Does the cat really have to cough up a hairball every morning? Do I have to whine about everything? (Yes, I even annoy my own self with my whining.)

The controversy over coffee cups devoid of holiday images stirred my awareness of just how ridiculous whining can be. Really? Complaining about a cup? Why can’t we just be grateful we have sufficient income to purchase overpriced lattes when more than half the world hopes for one good meal a day? Why can’t we focus our energies on something more productive, like helping the poor or fighting the gross injustices of our generation?

A perceptive children’s author wrote a poem about WHYning and Complaining. Most of our whining is just that. WHYning. Wondering WHY the world can’t be more conducive to our own comfort, security, needs, and desires. Otherwise known as…discontent.

I’ve decided once and for all to stop all my WHYning. After all, the sink is full of dishes because I have an amazing family who just ate a great meal together. An overflowing laundry bin means we have enough clothes to keep us warm each day of the week. That aggravating alarm goes off so early because I have a job I love, and income as a result. And the cat? Well, the kids love her.

My prayer is that I’ll live a life of gratitude—for the big things and the little things. For the annoying things. And even for the painful ones.

As my favorite holiday approaches, I want to serve up a platter of thanksgiving. Hold the whine.

A Deeper Hunger

How we go about satiating our deepest hunger will, in the end,

determine whether we are filled or left empty.

Source: A Deeper Hunger


Coffee Heart from Bing Images There are those who like coffee, and those who are obsessed. My friend was among the obsessed. For her, coffee was not just one of life’s perks, it was life. Her friends and I would fuel her caffeine addiction by making sure she had her daily doses before a meltdown ensued. Why? Because we loved her, of course.

Her habit persisted until a doctor ruled her beloved beverage a detriment to her health. She had a certain condition that didn’t mix well with coffee, so it was off-limits for the time being—much to her dismay. Saying goodbye to her daily cups-o’-joe would not be easy on her. Or her friends.

Each day, she came up with her list of reasons why she needed her coffee to survive, and we had to remind her what the doctor said. It would seem so loving just to give her what would make her happy. But with her diagnosis, the caring thing to do was to be honest about the potential negative side effects.

Now, coffee is not bad for everyone, and—to the joy of caffeine lovers everywhere, doctors have more recently noted some positive effects. But at the time, for the good of our friend, as much as we wanted to shower her with gift cards to her favorite coffee shop, the loving thing to do was to help her make changes that would benefit her health.

In our closest relationships, we may come to know someone well enough that we see habits that could potentially hurt them. And it’s likely they will see the same in us. We may be tempted to keep quiet, thinking the loving thing is to let them go on doing whatever makes them happy, even if it leads to the edge of a dangerous cliff. But true love is honest. If we really love someone, we’ll speak up—not in judgment, but in gentle concern for their well-being.

True Love…is HONEST (Day 18, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Pondering Life in the Produce Section

Eat healthy fruits and veggies bowl | Flickr - Photo Sharing! × 1103Search by imageHave you ever thought about life while shopping the produce section? It’s a pretty inspiring place, if you stop and look around. Color, beauty, flavor, order, variety—it’s all there, row upon row, for our enjoyment and sustenance. Processed food has nothing on fruit and veggies.

Just think of how unique each is in appearance and flavor. Like works of edible art. Beyond that, they’re filled with all we need to benefit our health in different ways. And they carry seeds to reproduce more of their kind.

The grocery store is filled with aisle after aisle of processed food and we never stop to question whether there was a maker behind it all. We wouldn’t doubt the little bowtie pastas, fish-shaped crackers, or cream-filled cookies are man-made. And we wouldn’t tell someone the boxed, canned, or packaged food we consume is the result of some random explosion.

Yet many walk through the produce section thinking it all came about by chance. Yeah, we know there were farmers, gardeners, and grocers involved. But really? Would we believe that all the amazing deliciousness that grows on trees or on plants or in fields, came about by accident?

Whenever I see such order and beauty I know there’s a maker behind it. Where there is uniqueness in color, shape, and size, there is creativity, and where there is creativity, there is a creator. The flavor, the goodness—all reveal the gentle care of our loving creator, who cares for our needs and desires. And every good and perfect gift has come from him.