Gratitude

‘Twas the Day of Thanksgiving

Blog_BlackFriday‘twas the day of Thanksgiving
and all though the towns
a heart that was grateful
could not be found

the tables were filled
and the people were stuffed
but still they complained
that it wasn’t enough

surrounded by more
than they ever could need
they prepared for Black Friday
to placate their greed

on a day meant for family and memories
instead
they had visions of shopping malls
inside their heads

though it used to be peaceful
they now were consumed
with buying new things
for which there was no room

when they could have been talking
and laughing with friends
they scoured the papers
for sales without end

instead of enjoying
the warm firelight
they froze as they camped
in the stores’ lots all night

and once the doors opened
they pushed and they shoved
and trampled each other
hearts empty of love

they spent and they fought
from midnight ‘til day
for things that in time
they’d just throw away

all blessings forgotten—
thanksgiving erased
now that Black Friday
has taken its place

(originally posted on the Nightlight Blog)

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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)

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.

Interrupted

Blog_RoadClosedAfter taking off work, getting up earlier than usual, and driving over an hour and a half in rush hour traffic to get to our appointment, I wasn’t happy to find out the doctor had cancelled without notice. That Bible verse about taming the tongue came in handy right about then. So instead of calling the doctor to demand he pack up his golf clubs and keep his originally scheduled commitment, I took my kids to the downstairs gym.

While I continued in my attempts to suppress a barrage of choice words about our MIA doctor, my daughter quickly made friends with a precious boy who insisted we stay for wheelchair basketball. The boy was so charming, so joyful despite his circumstances. We couldn’t resist his invitation.

Six hours later, we were on the sidelines, believing we’d be watching the tournament. Instead, the staff rolled out enough wheelchairs that we all could play with the boy and a few of his friends. My daughter flew around on her chair like a pro while I struggled to keep up. In the end, we had the most fun we’d had in awhile and made some new friends in the process.

If not for my easy-going daughter, I might have had a meltdown that day instead of a blast. She’s not concerned with delays, floating through life as though stress were not a dictionary term. She saw the interruption as an opportunity to make friends and have some fun along the way. And I’m glad she did! Because of her worry-free outlook, we got to know that little 7-year old inspiration and to be on his winning team. It was worth the unexpectedly cancelled doctors appointment and the extra six hour wait at the children’s hospital.

I try to keep the memory of that day in mind whenever I encounter what I perceive to be interruptions. It’s easy to get stressed when things don’t go my way, but maybe my way wasn’t the way the day was supposed to go. When I learn to see interruptions as opportunities, more possibilities unfold than I could have imagined had I remained trapped in the realm of disappointment.

“My whole life I complained that my work was being interrupted until I realized that the interruptions were my work.” (Henri Nouwen)

 

Photo Credit: Free stock photo: Sign, Detour, Road Closed – Free Image on …

Never the Same

Blog_PlantInDryCrackedMud

Only God’s supernatural power can enable us to change. Only His love can so radically transform us that our lives are never the same. And only then, out of gratitude, can we live the lives we were destined to live.

 

Source: Do Not Read this Blog Post

Photo Credit: Plant in dried cracked mud | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Do Not Read this Blog Post

Blog_Warning_LawThe sign said, “do not throw stones.” Nothing ambiguous about it. But at different times throughout the day, as we walked along the beach, the common scene was that of people throwing rocks…at the sign.

What is it about the law that makes us want to do the opposite? What is it about rules that arouse disobedience? And what weakness within motivates rebellion? The law cannot change a man any more than the mirror that exposes a dirty face can make it clean.

When they were teens, my husband and his brother decided to play a joke on their friend. While he was sleeping, they decorated his face with marker then woke him when they arrived at the local burger joint. What do you think the guy did when he saw his face in the bathroom mirror? Screamed, yes. But did he then take the mirror off the wall to wash his face? No. The mirror pointed him to the only thing that could make him clean…water.

Lasting change can only come through our recognition of the powerlessness of the law to change us. The law, like the curb on a street, can keep us safe. And like a target, it shows us where to place our aim. But like a mirror, it shows us how far we fall short…and how much we need divine intervention if we’re ever to change. Only God’s supernatural power can enable us to change. Only His love can so radically transform us that our lives are never the same. And only then, out of gratitude, can we live the lives we were destined to live.

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do…” (Romans 8:2-3)

Weathering the Whethers of Life

Blog_Seasons

I try not to complain about the weather. Really, I do. But I must admit that where I live, it’s hard to keep a positive outlook. The other day, while walking to work, I had that fleeting thought, “Maybe we should just move somewhere warm and sunny.” I’m sure that’s not a rare thought among those who live in a place where spring temperatures can plummet below zero and above 100 degrees in a matter of hours.

The seasons supposedly turned from winter to spring back in March. Since then, it’s felt like deep midwinter on most days, and the dog days of summer on others. Through it, the refrain of an old poem I once learned comes to mind, “Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not, we’ll weather the weather whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.”

As much as the weather out here tends to frustrate even the most grateful of souls, I know deep down that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I love being where I can watch winter melt into spring, spring burst into summer, summer drift into fall, and fall transform into winter. We Midwesterners get to enjoy the best (and worst!) of every season, and we’re stronger for it.

Life in the land of unchanging seasons would be boring, and I imagine we’d start taking the sun for granted. Not so, here. Never a dull moment in the realm of weather, and we most definitely appreciate our sunny days.

It’s much the same in life. Circumstances pass through our lives like the seasons, breathing hot or cold, rainy or windy, icy or breezy. We see life at its best, and life at its worst, and we’re stronger for it. Hard times till the soils of our hearts, birthing gratitude.

Much as I don’t like change or hardship, I’ve learned to see the beauty in it. Just as there’s beauty and purpose in every season, there’s beauty and purpose for everything that comes to our lives, good or bad. A change in perspective helps us to see through the trying times to the blessings that will come as a result. To embrace the different seasons of life is to cultivate joy.

“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)

Photo Credit: Through the Seasons-Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer | Flickr – Photo …