Monthly Archives: November 2012

Day 9: My Childhood

I’m grateful for my childhood; the one God gave me. I grew up on a farm. I had room to play; room to explore. While life on the farm is hard, I don’t regret it. There are things you can’t learn anywhere else: providing for one’s self, a great work ethic, dedication and appreciation for nature.

Day 8: The Simple Things

Life gets complicated sometimes. It’s hard. There are so many things that call our attention, but I’ve discovered that it’s the little (and mostly simple) things that matter most. I’ve compiled a list of those that I hold dearly…you should too. It’s nice to be able to look back. I’ve often found myself smiling after reading through one of these:

A child’s laughter
A small gesture of kindness
Meeting someone’s need
Moments of amusement
The details of life
The sound of rain
Finding something you thought you had lost
Receiving something via “snail mail”
Hearing the right song at the right moment
That first sip when you’re thirsty
A pull-through parking spot at Target (or any store)
Realizing you have more time to sleep
People watching
Putting on clothes straight from the dryer on a chilly day
A familiar smell
A beautiful view
Reminiscing about old times with your closest friends
Receiving an unexpected compliment
Having a good laugh
The feeling after a good workout
The moment when something makes perfect sense
Relaxing outdoors on a beautiful day
Smiling
Finishing what you started
Tea and lemon
Freshly cut grass
Christmas decorations
Smells of Autumn
Fresh fruit
Hot soup on a cold evening
Kittens (or animals in general)
Coffee
Snowmen
Snowflakes
Bare feet
Road trips
Opening the windows
Art
Yoga
Long walks
Laughter
Birds chirping
Fireworks
Chocolate
Hugs
Butterflies
A fireplace
Smiles
Life itself

Sometimes, the most beautiful things in life are taken for granted. It when we stop and take a closer look at what we see as common that we find blessings in the midst of storms. It is then that we realize that the simple things of life reward us with the greatest pleasure.

Day 7: Children

I’ll be writing more on this later, but I wanted to get out that I am grateful for kids.

Yes, I’m an aunt, but I’m not thankful for that reason alone. We have three very active children (toddlers, rather) within our church family at The Vine. This past weekend’s message touched on the topic of having faith like a child and I couldn’t get over watching Emsley and Royce go at it in the lobby before the service.

Children have an over abundance of joy. Even when they fall down, they get right back up and keep going, just as joyfully as they were before.

Children trust easily and believe/have faith in what they’re told. This explains why it was so easy for me to accept the Gospel as truth at the tender age of four.

Children also imitate those around them in an effort to discover who they are. In essence, they experiment to discover what they like and don’t like. I remember that time in my life. Playing house like my mom did; following the tall 8th-grade girls around at school when I was in Kindergarten. Yep. I did just that.

There are so many other traits children have that we lose when life happens. Responsibilities get in the way and temptations distract us. We get jaded and cynical.

Have you ever been able to keep yourself from smiling when a child laughs? I haven’t . I pray that we continue to choose joy and truth even when it doesn’t make sense. I am thankful for the children in my life. Are you?

Day 6: A family in Christ

I need true friends in my life and I’m not talking about those that make me laugh or smile. I’m talking about the brother/sister-in-Christ kind.

Those who will love me enough to share what God is doing in their lives.

Those who will help me grow to be more like Christ; who will push me in His direction.

God has blessed me with such an awesome group of people, both here in the Twin Cities and scattered all over the country. Just the other day, a friend in New York City reached out and asked how she could pray for me even in the midst of the struggle out there.

As part of the body of Christ, we are called to grow in His likeness, through His Spirit’s enabling, as well as build up and support each other in the body. The body cannot function otherwise. This is how God created it to work.

I am thankful for those friends whom God has given me who continue to point me towards Christ and encourage me to live each day for Him.  How can you motivate your friends towards love and good works? How can you point them to God? How can you encourage them with the glorious hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Do that. Today.

Day 5: Friends

I’m grateful for the groups of friends and acquaintances God has given me. If I took the time to name each of them individually, this post would never end. I don’t have a large number of close friends, but I do know that there are a lot of good people (both near and far) who I can count on, who care about me, and who want only the best for me. I truly value the friends I have and I look forward to meeting those I have yet to make.

Day 4: Family Tree

“Grandchildren are the crown of old men…” Proverbs 17:6

God’s Word is full of genealogies; from Genesis all the way to the last one listed in the first chapter of Matthew: The Genealogy of Jesus Christ. It would seem that the Bible stresses importance on tracing ones family tree, but the sole purpose, I believe, of those family ties is to show that God can use ordinary people in extraordinary ways.

Have you ever tried to trace your family tree beyond your grandparents? I haven’t…probably due to the fact that my grandmother on Dad’s side has a book thicker than those written by Tolkien with pages and pages of photos dating back to the late 1700s. Crazy? Maybe.

I was blessed to know one of my great grandparents – Clarence (my youngest brother was also named after the man), but I’ve never seen him in the light of a great-grandparent. He was more like a grandfather as Mom’s father was rarely in the picture. He was there for each of my siblings’ births and we have albums full of photos displaying him with each of us kids. I remember visiting him at the nursing home after he was admitted well into his 90s and how he had a sound mind up until the end. Grandpa…I’ll never forget the example he set.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time over at Grandpa and Grandma’s. After all, my folks’ farmstead is only five miles away. We’d spend many of the holidays throughout the year there as well as the occasional Sunday night, creating memories along the way.

Now, I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to live less than fifteen minutes from my mom’s mom and what a blessing that has been. We’ve been able to catch up and spend time with one another. I’ve even found myself cherishing her wisdom and being thoroughly entertained by her wit and charm.

What a blessing it is to have grandparents!

Day 3: Family

I am so thankful for the people God has allowed me to call family…blood family that is. I’m grateful for the fact that I am the eldest daughter of two very loving, Christ-minded, and supportive people. Granted, life wasn’t always perfect nor would I want to paint it that way. Every family has trial. Every family has its ups and downs.

My dad and I haven’t always been close. We still aren’t, but our relationship is better than what it once was and for that I am grateful. 

My relationship with my mother is amazing. God allowed her to bridge the gap between being mother and friend. I’m also grateful that I can call her a sister in Christ. That relationship is the ultimate blessing.

My parents enabled me to experience many things, regardless of how they worried. They gave me everything they could and taught me what it means to be loved.

I’m also thankful for my younger siblings. Sure…we’ve had our bouts for rivalry while growing up, but I’m so thankful for the close relationships we’ve built now. We’ve been able to teach each other so much and I’m looking forward to the changes this next year will be bringing as my sister takes the last name of the man she will be marrying.

Speaking of change…Dylan. While I don’t have experience in the “being-an-aunt” field, I plan on cherishing each moment I get with that kid.

Day 2: Life

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Life

To

The

Full.

What would you consider a full life? What would that look like? When was the last time you lived life to the fullest? What exactly does it mean to live life to the fullest? What was Jesus getting at when he made that statement?

I know…tough questions…but someone has to ask them.

It means turning to God to fulfill our purpose, not looking for our meaning in other people, material wealth or even our careers.

Do you know someone who has lived life to its fullest? I do. Her name was Sara. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and recently left her earthly body behind to spend eternity dancing with Jesus. But it was prior to her diagnosis and how she lived her life during the years in between that will forever be etched in my memory. In spite of her trial, she chose love. She chose joy. She chose grace. And what’s more amazing? She allowed God to bless the lives of so many others through her.

Jesus came…for that. Jesus came so that we may have life – to the fullest. How often are we just getting by in survival mode? How frequently do you think of yourself as just “hanging in there”? I’m guilty of it.

Jesus didn’t come to earth so we could just do pretty well under the circumstances. He came so that we may have a full life!

Life won’t be easy. Jesus said that we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33). But we must take heart for He has overcome the world. We don’t have to paste a smile on our face every moment and claim that we are joyful when we simply are not. God welcomes honesty, but He doesn’t want us to remain miserable. Remember what Jesus gave so that we could live life to the max. Choose joy (or moments of it).

I will forever be grateful to people like Sara who chose to live life fully in spite of their circumstance; for the example they set for the rest of us…a glimpse of Jesus giving life to the full. And I’m thankful that I can have the same life through Jesus Christ who rescued me.

I stumbled on a poem written by Pastor and fitness expert Paul Davis that captures one man’s idea. I’d like to share it with you.

Live Life to the Fullest
Fly a kite
Ride a bike
Take a walk in the park
Read Saint Mark
Have lunch with mother
Play ball with brother
Go to Colorado to snow ski
Help humanity
In some small way
Put a smile on faces
By what you say
Do so
Each and every day
Before time slips away

Write a book
Bait a hook
And go fishing
In church start singing
Sail to islands
Mountain climb the highlands
Plant a garden
Don’t let your heart harden
Do your best
Forget the rest
Take an afternoon nap on Sunday
Go to Disney World
For a fun day

Pen out a poem
Take your lover to Rome
Go on an African safari
Learn to sincerely say
I’m sorry
Seek God’s blessing
And forget luck
Go to China
And eat Beijing duck
Catch a wave down under
In surfer’s paradise
Use better adjectives than “nice”
Understand economic policy
Ice-skate in New York City
At Rockefeller Station
Don’t back-stab in conversation
Love by demonstration

Be good to your body
In diet, exercise and hobby
Be creative and create
The joy it brings cannot wait!
Instinctively sense destiny
Playing no games with fate
If you must be there
Don’t be late
Know people and seasons
Discern motives and interconnecting reasons
When in doubt believe
Work hard and joyfully receive
The blessings that come your way
Knowing God governs each day
Give thanks rather than complain
Complaints only increase the pain

Realize your contribution to all
Decide to stand tall
Hold to integrity, dignity, and purpose
Be bold and stay on life’s course
Be part of the solution
Rather than the problem
Be pro, for them
An advocate
A mediator
A masterful change agent
A heave sent
Breath of fresh air
Imparting love, hope and care.

Month of Gratitude – Day 1: The Word of God & His Gospel

“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 NIV

 

The Bible.

A book that nearly every household in America has. Some where it has been left on a shelf, forgotten and collecting dust. Others where the pages and cover are so worn and filled with notes, you can’t help but question the life of the person whose hands have held it.

A book so powerful that lives have been changed.

A book that gives life; a book inspired by the very breath and mind of God.

The Living Word.

The Bible is dominated by story. From beginning to end, God’s redeeming story reveals the great lengths to which God has gone in order to rescue lost and hurting people. That’s what the Word is all about: God’s great love affair with humanity.

It begins with the story in Eden. Eden was full of God’s glory – breathtaking beauty with unbroken union and constant communion with God. But, as we know, something when awry, and Adam and Eve found themselves naked and ashamed. They hid.  

They hid from God.

I mentioned the verse earlier; the first question ever uttered in the Bible. Where are you? God, who is all-knowing, asked this of Adam; of Eve. Where are you?

The real tragedy of Adam and Eve’s disobedience was that the union between God and man was broken. Shattered. Destroyed.

But…what a joyous word!

But…the moment that Eve sank her teeth into the forbidden fruit, the shadow of the cross rose on the horizon, and God’s redemptive plan to restore all that we had lost was set in motion.

Throughout Scripture, He continues to ask the question.  Where are you?

All through the rest of the Old Testament, God calls humanity back to Himself.

Where are you?

We read cycles of humanity’s fellowship with God, followed by humanity’s rebellion against God, followed by God’s wooing humanity back in the midst of difficult circumstances, followed by humanity’s repentnece….cycle repeat. You get the picture.

Where are you?

Jesus asks the question in numerous ways. Do you love me? Who do you say I am? Will you leave now too?

Even though we are stubborn, He continues to ask: Where are you?

Even today, He’s asking.

Where are you?

That is the beauty of God’s Word. It’s a love story between God and humanity; a story about a God who loves us deeply; loves with no conditions; loves freely.

True story.

I enjoyed reading the Bible as a kid, particularly in the story format that was translated and re-written by modern authors in a way that child could understand it; grasp it. I looked forward to bedtime when my mother would read to my siblings and me from a most-beloved storybook containing Bible stories for children. During the time I attended a local Christian grade school, one of my favorite curriculums was the Bible class where we would study the word, memorize it and learn what God was teaching (not necessarily how to apply it to our own lives).

Sadly, my hunger seemed to fade after I switched schools and got caught up in the temptations of adolescence, being a teenager and the responsibilities that come with growing up. I didn’t realize that I had been shutting that hunger off, pushing it away rather, until I decided to make a public confirmation of my faith (my church’s version of adult baptism) and sat down with the pastor of my church at the time. In wanting to prove the legality of my community wrong, Jesus met me there and showed me grace and love instead, humbling my heart in the process. That moment wetted my appetite for more of Him and continued on through college and remains today. Granted, I’m human and I fall every day…it’s the choice to get back up and allow Him to pursue me that keeps me fed.

Unfortunately, we live in a biblically illiterate society. It’s important not only for Jesus’ followers to have God’s words written on our hearts, but to be able to share God’s love with others by retelling His story. Even when we think we know the ins and outs of the Bible, we must remember that we only know parts of it or isolated verses, and miss the larger context of what God is telling us. Sometimes we don’t really know God’s redeeming story because we lose sight of the big picture.

I’m thankful that I live in a country where I am to freely worship my Savior; where I’m free to read from His Word daily and pray for a deeper understanding so I can share His love with those around me. I’m not perfect…nor would I ever claim to be. God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness and, with His Spirit dwelling within me; He can love others through me…if only I would get out of the way.

God’s calling. This quest is His story and He’s inviting us to join Him.

Where are you?

Life tends to pull us down. Traffic gets in the way. Distractions and responsibilities call our attention. Details. Troubles. Drama.

Where are you?

He won’t force you to come to Him or answer. That’s the beauty of free will. We have a choice.

Where are you?

What will you choose?