Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Seven Years in Gratitude

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 365: Today, I am grateful for seven years in gratitude.
I can't begin to express the profound impact a daily gratitude journal has made in my life. Why? It keeps me focused on the Giver of all good things. He is good... even when life is hard... He is good.
Today, I am grateful for seven years in gratitude.

Monday, December 30, 2019

One Little Word: Burning

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 364: Today, I am grateful for this year's word... burning.

I knew it was an odd word upon the choosing. Truth be told, I think the word chose me. The seeds were planted by Nicole Nordeman's song, "Burnin'". I am a sucker for references to Moses and the burning bush. 

Those 40 years in the desert, their feet would have been burning, but their sandals did not wear out. God provide them with extra protection. 

Moses saw the bush in flames and heard God speak his name. I can't even imagine it. It is beyond my comprehension. 

Moses also had fits of burning temper that did not end well. His temper tantrum where he smacked the stone for water instead of taping it, cost him dearly. Moses would take the people of Israel to the edge of the promised land, but Joshua would lead them in. God forgave Moses, but he still let him feel the consequences of his choices. 

My dear friend, Susan, reminded me of the burning of the ditches on the Midwest prairie so  new life can grow. One of my Dad's favorite chores was burning road ditches. A time or two, the fires got out of hand and the fire department would have to come to the rescue. The burning of the ditches cleaned up the debris,  the land would burn off the junk until new life would take root. My Dad and Moses had "the burn" in common.

"“If you are burning thornbushes and the fire gets out of control and spreads into another person’s field, destroying the sheaves or the uncut grain or the whole crop, the one who started the fire must pay for the lost crop. -Exodus 22:6

This year, we've seen good days, hard days, sad days, celebration days and quiet days. Changes come. New things begin. Plots twist. We have to look up, look ahead and more forward. This was my verse of the day:

"I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." -Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 NLT

"It is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new." His promises stand tall. 

To sum it all up, James Elliot spoke of a burning desire to chase the heart of God. I love how he articulates his heart's desire: "He makes His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of 'other things'.” 

May we burn for all the right reasons. 

Today, I am grateful for this year's word... burning.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Privilege Vs. Entitlement

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 362: Today, I am grateful privilege and entitlement are separated by gratitude. 

It is a privilege to live in a country where so many have access to clean water, warm beds and full stomachs. Yes, there is poverty and hunger in the USA, but compared to the rest of the planet... we life with privilege. 

Children are required to go to school. An education is an expectation that a truancy officer will reinforce if it is neglected. For all of its faults, there are programs in place to help provide for the basic needs of those who struggle. Generous souls in every corner of our communities help raise up those who struggle to find ways to make ends meet. 

"What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude." - Brene Brown 

I love listening to people talk about their youth. So many times I will hear them say, "I didn't know we were poor." Why? Because there was always plenty to eat and enough to share. Mama Ina Mae was one of those who grew up poor, but to listen to her talk... they always set the table for extras because you never knew who was going to stay for dinner from the neighborhood kids. 

Grandma Opal Maxine was a master of making little into much. She made the best meatloaf I have ever tasted. I think I liked it because she used a generous amount of oatmeal. Oatmeal was cheap and it made the hamburger stretch further... and it was delicious. It was generously seasoned with love. My Mama resembles her mother in so many ways. Resourceful, smart and generous... where "there was a will there was a way", and that meant whatever food was in the cupboard and fridge could be stretched to feed another mouth. Milk was the one thing Grandma watched closely. "Milk was for the babies" so the big kids were limited. There was always something else to drink. No one went thirsty. 

Entitlement attitudes are ugly. Privilege is a result of the accident of birth and geography. Gratitude separates the two. Humble gratitude is the opposite of entitlement. True gratitude acknowledges that we are blessed beyond what we have earned or deserve.

  "And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness." -Colossians 2:6-7

Today, I am grateful privilege and entitlement are separated by gratitude.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Our Daily Bread

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 361: Today, I am grateful for our daily bread.

True confession: I love bread! It is best warm, but a fresh loaf is always welcome. 

We have a place in town called "Great Harvest" that has the most amazing sweet breads from coconut to pumpkin chocolate chip. There is a low carb crunch that is a personal favorite in the sandwich breads. Do not let the "low carb" scare you. The pesto asiago bread will add something special to grilled cheese or any pasta with red sauce meal. Our daily bread does not have to be boring!

When asked by his disciples, "How we should pray?", Jesus modeled prayer for them. One element... "Give us this day, our daily bread" ... has fascinated Bible scholars, new believers and ordinary people since Jesus offered the words. 

Likewise, praying for our daily bread does not have to be boring, either. Prayer is a one on one chat with God with the help of the Holy Spirit. How can it be dull? Jesus told us to ask for our daily bread. Not tomorrow's share. This observation can be very powerful in our prayer lives. 

When the Israelite people followed Moses into the desert, God provided their daily bread in the form of "manna". The bread from heaven that they could not keep overnight. They had to trust God fully for not just today's bread, but tomorrow's bread, too. Was Jesus remembering Moses and the manna as he taught them to pray? We don't know the answer to that question, but I know he spoke often in statements that tied to Old Testament passages. 

We do not know what tomorrow brings. We can be confident in the one who holds tomorrow. He provides for the birds... and He provides for us. We can rise, go forth and take on the day. 

Today, I am grateful for our daily bread.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Things Unseen

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 360: Today, I am grateful for things unseen. 

There is an old saying,"Seeing is believing." We so often trust what we see, but there are very real things our eyes do not perceive.  

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." God has a special place in his heart for those who believe without seeing: "Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”-Jon 20:29 

Blessed are those who step boldly out in faith, without a safety net, to capture the essence of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. 

"for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him." -Colossians 1:16 NLT 

He created all things, seen and unseen. Angels, love, the Holy Spirit, courage, devotion, to name a few.The unseen things may stump us, astound us or delight us. They are all the work of His hands. 

Today, I am grateful for things unseen. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

To Be Remembered

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 359: Today, I am grateful to be remembered.

There is joy in being remembered. My heart aches for those who suffer from Alzheimer's, dementia and other diseases that steal the memory. Memories are precious. Sharing memories helps us build deep, beautiful and rich relationships. Reminiscing at holidays is one of the things that makes the celebrations special. 

Isn't it amazing that our God remembered the promises he made to Abraham? Abraham's children passed on the stories of God's faithfulness and sparked faith into the next generation. He did not abandon Naomi and Ruth. He was near Moses, Daniel, David, Solomon, Zechariah, Peter, Martha, Mary and Paul. 

"When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?" -Psalm 8:3-4

Isn't it amazing... and hard to comprehend? Our minds struggle to conceive what he has in store.  His plans are so often unexpected. Our human nature struggles to commit and submit to a God who only wants the best for us. Why? It all goes back to the gift of free will. He didn't want minions to command, he wanted a relationship that would stand. 

We can be fearless in the face of eternity, because God took human form to understand us, to rescue us, to defend us, to purchase our freedom and to make a way. He does not forsake or abandon his children. 

Today, I am grateful to be remembered.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Reason for the Season!

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 358: Today, I am grateful for Jesus.. the reason for the season.

He is kind of a big deal. He is... in fact... the real deal! No imposter could have fullfilled the multitude of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled from his conception to birth. 

Even those chapters woven into the legacies of his ancestors Jesse, David, Ruth, Boaz, Rahab and so many more. Only a Mighty God could pull it all together. 

I am always in awe when I reflect on His birth. Still, after all of these years. 

Today, "A Baby Changes Everything" is a favorite of my little buddy, "Earworm". Also, "Be Born In Me" and a new one my friend, Nola, introduced me to yesterday from Casting Crowns feat: Matt Maher, "Make Room" (love ya, Sister Nola). 


"Is there room in your heart for God to write his story?" 

Today, make room. Don't forget to pause and take in the wonder of a baby who came with humility... but his glory shone brightly everywhere he went. Every heart that reached out to Him in faith, he touched and changed their stories. Talk about "plot twists". 

His light broke through the darkness. Light and Dark cannot co-exist and Light always wins.  The tiniest light disperses the darkness. Ask "The Bleeding Woman", the "Samaritan Woman", some fishermen, a tax collector, a zealous man named, Saul and countless others. 

He still shatters our darkest nights and weariest days, when we put our trust in Him. 

"The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"  Luke 2:11 NLT

Merry Christmas. 

Today, I am grateful for Jesus.. the reason for the season.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Prepared Places

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 358: Today, I am grateful for prepared places.

Today, all across the world, there were people preparing places. Tables were set, chairs were added and counters cleared to make room for the guests, the food and the gifts. Some will gather on Christmas Eve... and others on Christmas Day. Some will celebrate for days and into the weekend. Wherever there are celebrations... there are places being prepared. 
Image result for Christmas prepared places
I am reminded of the magnitude of the gift of the Christ child. God and man living in one flesh. Humanness and holiness with one heartbeat. It is truly awesome and a bit beyond my comprehension, but my heart as learned to trust the things I do not fully understand through intellect. Faith is, indeed, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 

Mary's womb was a prepared place.
Elizabeth's home was a prepared place for a young, pregnant virgin to find sanctuary.

Joseph's dreams were prepared places where angels spoke and Joseph listened.
Bethlehem... means "house of bread". It was the place prepared in advance for the "Bread of Life". Here is one scripture that frames the purpose of Jesus's mission. 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. -John 6:35-38

The innkeeper's inn was full, but a stable was offered. A prepared place for the birth of the child. The openness of the stable allowed visitors to come. The shepherds didn't have to knock on the innkeeper's door. 

On this Christmas Eve, do we remember to prepare a place in our hearts and in our homes for Jesus? I love Simeon's response to seeing Jesus at the temple when Joseph and Mary presented him there. Here is what Simeon said: 

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” -Luke 2:29-32

I love the hope, the celebration and the wonder in Simeon's response. He was waiting on the Messiah. He did not miss him. He paused to take it all in. The temple was not really prepared to receive the holy child, but Simeon's heart was confident in his declaration. 

As we remember that night so long ago, we can prepare our hearts to receive his grace, mercy and love. 

Today, I am grateful for prepared places.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Unseasonably Warm

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 357: Today, I am grateful for "unseasonably warm" temperatures.

This fall, we froze on Halloween. We actually had snow on the ground. Here we are... just before Christmas... and it is unseasonably warm. I am not complaining. We have had some genuine cold already this season and I am in no hurry for it to return. It can stay "unseasonably warm" all winter and I won't be sad. 

We relish days that provide unexpected warmth. We lament the ones where we can't find a warm spot anywhere. 

What was it like the night Jesus was born? We don't know for sure. The shepherds were out in the fields with their flocks, so I imagine it wasn't too cold. Could it have been "unseasonably warm?"

Today, I am grateful for "unseasonably warm" temperatures.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A Together Holiday

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 356: Today, I am grateful for Christmas is a together kind of holiday. 
(Note: our story is our story. There is no "right" and "wrong". As parents, we choose for our own children. We chose to have our children home for Christmas.)

We started a tradition on the road one Christmas Eve in the middle of near blizzard conditions. Blowing snow and wind whipped our little car around. We decided to never travel on Christmas Eve again for the safety of our children and our own sanity.  

I remember the night well. We had made it to my Mama's side of the family for Christmas Eve with her siblings. It is how we spent every Christmas Eve as a child. It was wonderful... until it was stressful. 

I always loved Christmas Eve with the Bess clan. I have wonderful memories of my Uncle Bob and Uncle Lee getting excited about Santa reports.There may have been calls from the North Pool, too. Santa's sleigh was always being spotted somewhere around the world. The anticipation was high and the excitement tangible. Precious and sweet memories were made on those nights. I treasure them to this day.

Then, we were parents. For the first time, we were completely responsible for another human life form. Scary, right? When we finally made it home, we decided that we would do Christmas differently in the future. We decided to choose a weekend and declare that "Christmas" with our family back home. Most knew the weekend. Many of the extended family would stop by or we would visit them. It worked for us. 

We developed some of our own Christmas Eve traditions... including taking in extras. Typically, I cook Christmas Eve. It doesn't matter how many are around the table. There is always room in the inn, in honor of our precious Savior who arrived in such a humble way. 

"Christmas is a togethery sort of holiday.", said Pooh. "That's my favorite kind." said Piglet.

Together is the best place to be. We are in the season of our adult children figuring out how to make their traditions with their ladies. We try to share well, act graciously and not cause them stress.

I recently sat with my friend, Jacquey, whose honey is a firefighter, now retired. She told how they scheduled Santa to come on special nights and how firefighter brothers would cover a couple hours of shift for those with young children. Bill returned the favor when his children were older. Together is the best place to be... it isn't about the date. 

20 years at St. Jude really brought home the idea that celebrating Christmas happens in the heart. It isn't about the date. Trees can stay up until July, if necessary, until all hearts can be home for Christmas. Military families know this, too. 

The love we feel when we sit with loved ones around the Christmas table is a sweet reminder that God loved us so much he couldn't bear for sin to separate us from him and heaven. He loved us enough to take on human form to redeem us from our sins. His Holiness repels sin like a magnet. He can't tolerate it. To save us, he chose to take on our skin, to know our struggles and to experience our trials. Then he patiently waited until the time was right to be the sacrifice to pardon us from our sins. 

Crazy love? Yes. 

"There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." -John 15:13

As a lamb... Heaven's Special forces... the Lord of Heaven's Armies... gave up heaven for us, so we might know Him , choose Him, grow in Him... until we are called home. Imagine that first Christmas in heaven? Some we love already know the joy living in His presence. 

Imagine what it was like for the common shepherds who heard the angel's declaration:

"And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger." -Luke 2:16

They hurried to join the celebration! 

Savor the together time, as you hold your loved ones close, on whatever day that happens. Because Jesus came, every day is a reason to celebrate. Every day. On the days we are together... and until we are together again. 

Today, I am grateful for Christmas is a together kind of holiday. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Change of Plans

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 355: Today, I am grateful for a change of plans.

How many plans do we make for the holidays? Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are full of scheduling woes and wonders. We wonder how it will all get done! Most of it does get finished, and what doesn't, often is not all that important in the big picture. 

The struggle is real. I, too, ride the struggle bus at times. I lose focus. I forget what really matters. My prayer for this season is for His light to burn bright, so that I don't miss the "God appointments". 

The people He sends our way and those unplanned  meetings are the most important events of the Christmas season... and we don't even have them on our calendars. 

The Isaiah prophecy of the virgin birth must have sounded ridiculous to many who learned the scriptures out of religious obligation, expectation and duty. The time between the prophecy and it coming to fruition was long. "Come thou long expected Jesus" is an old hymn. He was expected, but still - they were taken by surprise. 

Mary was planning a wedding to Joseph. Joseph was preparing their home before taking her as his bride. Betrothal was more serious than engagement. It was pretty much a sealed deal. It began a waiting period that would end when the Bridegroom would coming for his Bride. Mary and Joseph's plans were interrupted when they were was chosen. 

"All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)." -Isaiah 7:14

Mary was not looking for the job of raising the Messiah. Joseph didn't sign up to be a father to a holy child. Jesus was not his biological son, but Joseph modeled the beauty of adoption, so we might understand that adopted means chosen, not unwanted. 

People were watching, talking and probably found them gossip worthy. Times haven't changed that much. 

Mary and Joseph paused to reflect on the miracle. They opened their hearts and their home to receive the gift of the Christ child. They allowed God to direct their paths. They offered their lives as a living sacrifice, so that The Word could become flesh. 

I am grateful that they did not hold on too tightly to their own wants and desires. They let the Spirit direct them to a town... an inn... a stable... and a manger. 

Let heaven and nature sing about the miracle that arrived... and a change of plans. 

Today, I am grateful for a change of plans.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Bigger Burning "Yes!"

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 354: Today, I am grateful for the burning "yes" inside. 

What's your burning desire? What can you not get enough of? Most of us have that thing that drives us to learn more, study harder and to say "yes" when the outside world says "no".

"You have to decide what your highest priorities are & have the courage - pleasantly, smiling non-apologetically. The way you do that is by having a bigger "yes" burning inside. " -Stephen R. Covey

A big burning "Yes!" I love that thought. 

And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” -Mark 12:24

It does not matter what the world thinks. We can love out-loud. We can shine in a way that reflects the founder and perfecter of our faith.  Stretch, grow and get to know him more. 

Today, I am grateful for the burning "yes" inside. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Blender

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 353: Today, I am grateful for my blender. 

It has been a workhorse in my kitchen for years. It is the appliance I have replaced three times. I wear them out and burn them up. Doing what? Some of our favorite recipes... Orange Pecan Salad w/ Groovy Green Dressing and Toenail Salad (Dad hated that name but Chase named it when he was really little and it stuck.).No real toenails are used in the salad. Both need to be made in the blender. 

The Groovy Green Dressing is always a hit:
1/3 cup Vinegar, 1/2 - 3/4 c of sugar, 1 tsp ground mustard, 1 tsp salt, 1 TBSP water, 3 green onions(green tops only, cut with scissors) & 1 C vegetable oil. Put all ingredients except the oil in the blender and blend. Once it is pureed, slowly blend in the oil. 

Pour it over greens (mixed or spinach). We add roasted pecans, mandarin oranges and sometimes dried cranberries. 

That is what's going to potluck tomorrow. Toenail Salad recipe is for another day. Pears are what Chase thought were toenails. Now you can sleep and so can I. 

Today, I am grateful for my blender. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Working Furnace

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 352: Today, I am grateful my furnace works. 

It is really, really could outside. The kind of cold that chills to the bone. It reminds me to be thankful for all the things that help us fight off the cold. A working furnace is one of those things. 

Today, I am grateful my furnace works. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Delivery People

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 351: Today, I am grateful for delivery people. 

Summer, fall, winter and spring, 
we are are blessed when we hear the doorbell ring. 
People rarely thanked, but they make our hearts sing. 
Through snow, heat, fog and rain, they're delivering. 
UPS, FedX, the USPS and more. 
Amazon and Target... or delivered to our local store. 
In trucks at our door... or unloading at the local mall-
A shout out to delivery people... one and all. 

When I am tired, my mind turns to rhyme. Weird? Do they have a diagnosis for that? I guess it goes with growing up on Dr. Seuss and realizing that creativity sometimes thrives when we give into a little healthy madness. Is that what we call this season... healthy madness. 

Is this a season of healthy madness? Or is it just out of control? 

It is good to remember to keep the joy in the giving. Let go of the fear the gift will not be well received. Truly, that responsibility is on the heart of the receiver.  We do our best to find gifts our loved ones will appreciate and enjoy. It really is "more blessed to give than it is to receive". Today, it is good to remember the delivery people who make the giving easier. 

With so much focus pointed to the commercialism of Christmas, it is good to remember some very special delivery people. 

The angel who brought the message to Mary that she was the one chosen to carry God's son made a very special delivery. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to take Mary as his wife, for she was, indeed, pregnant by the Holy Spirit. A band of angel delivered the news to shepherds in the field on the night Jesus was born. These were all "special deliveries". 

The most special delivery of all took place in the most humble circumstances. In a stable, where the animals were kept, our Savior was delivered. Sweet, young and a certainly a little frightened, Mary gave birth with Joseph by her side. I love the song, "It's such a strange way to save the world." Strange, but perfect. 

God's plan to deliver our hope and salvation was not thwarted by an evil king or any other enemy of Heaven. Does his plan fulfilled still fill us with awe and wonder? It should. It is no less miraculous and perfect today, than it was 2000 years ago.  

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.-Luke 1:68-70

"but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often." -Luke 2:19

We, too, can keep the celebration of perfect deliveries in our hearts this Christmas season and into 2020.

Today, I am grateful for delivery people. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Our Souls Can Rejoice

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 350: Today, I am grateful for our souls can rejoice. 

What if we couldn't feel that feeling? The one where our soul feels light and our face hurts from smiling. Joy bubbles out because it can. 

We can only try to imagine the moment when Elizabeth's baby leaps in her womb, responding to the baby in Mary's. It had to be an affirmation for both women. 

Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.  -Luke 1:46-47, 49 NLT

Earworm is singing "Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul". There are 10,000 Reasons to praise His name. He has, indeed, done great things. 
We were designed to for worship. The truth is, we all worship something. 
 "Mary responded."  Mary's response is an acknowledgement of that design. She could not help but sing. The glory of the Lord filled her. In this busy season... hold tight to the wonder and the wonderful. 
Today, I am grateful for our souls can rejoice. 

Today, I am grateful for our souls can rejoice.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Fresh Falling Snow

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 349: Today, I am grateful for fresh falling snowfall. 

It is beautiful. The earth looks pristine and new. The well worn fall landscape appears new again. 

Winter is not my favorite, but the snow is beautiful as it falls. Take it in pause and ponder the Wonder if it all 

Today, I am grateful for fresh falling snowfall.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A Perfect Christmas

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 348: Today, I am grateful for the perfect Christmas.

Searching for the perfect tree, the perfect gifts, the perfect turkey/ham and the perfect table settings can be exhausting. It steals the merry out of our Christmas celebrations and leaves us miserable

I love things to be beautiful, sparkling and fun... but time and energy only go so far. I don't want to miss the truly perfect in the peppy pace of the season. 

This scripture came today as if to remind me of that really makes Christmas perfect.

“Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect”  -Hebrews 12:2 NCV

Christmas begins in our hearts. Finding the baby in the manger is what makes it perfect.

Every year, the television and radio commercials seek to make it about the stuff and not about the Savior. It is a battle to fight the urge to join the madness. 

The manger was in a stable that was more of a cave. If the archaeologists are correct, it was not much. Simple and humble... it was ordinary for the times. But the child born that night was extraordinary. Mary and Joseph knew it. The angels had announced it to the shepherds. When the Magi arrived, they knew it, too. They saw it in the stars.  

I am grateful for reminders of who makes Christmas perfect. Jesus. Sharing the celebration with family and friends doubles the joy. Our cups overflow. 

Today, I am grateful for the perfect Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Our Woven Stories

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 347: Today, I am grateful for woven stories.

God weaves our stories. We have decision making powers... which is how things can get pretty messed up... but his is always trying to figure out how to bring about the best for us to His glory. 

I love how Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist is woven into Mary's. Cousins, faithful to the Lord and they would bring forth the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah and Jesus. It is an amazing how the puzzle pieces fit together. Only God can do that. 

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” -Luke 1:26-28

We never know when God is weaving our stories into the life of another for His glory. He longs for all to be rescued and restored, but we... like sheep... attempt to go our own way, not knowing how empty and lost we will feel without the Great Shepherd. 

It is a good day to give thanks for those whose lives have intertwined with ours, to that we might know the truth, the goodness and the joy of salvation.

Today, I am grateful for woven stories.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Deep Breaths

Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 346: Today, I am grateful for deep breaths.

This is the season of rushing around. The hustle and the bustle is fun for a bit, but the weeks move so quickly we find ourselves a little breathless. 

The old song, "Silver Bells", talks about the busy, but it encourages us to pause and listen to the lovely chime of the Christmas Bells, wherever they are ringing. When we hear the bells and pause to take them in, we cannot help but take a deep breath. 

This scripture calms my heart today:

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing." -Zephaniah 3:17 

Ahh... it is like the promise of a deep breath. A semi-colon is the punctuation that means pause. It is perfect in this passage. In fact, look at the multiple uses of the semicolon in the ESV translation. Be still my heart! I can't resist celebrating the semicolon. 

"; he will quiet you by his love;"

This might be my new passage to carry into the new year. Our God saves. He rejoices over us with gladness. He quiets us by his love. He loudly sings in celebration over us! How can we be silent about the goodness He brings to our days? 

Remember Mary? 

"and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." -Luke 2:18-20

She paused to ponder these amazing things in her heart. She let her spirit be quieted by His love. She took a deep breath in wonder, awe and welcome as she held the newborn King and Savior in her arms. 

Remember to pause and take in the wonder this season. Don't let the watch, the clock or the alarms set steal your joy. 

Today, I am grateful for deep breaths.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Daily Gratitude Year 7- Day 345: Today, I am grateful for Tylenol.

I try not to take it too often, but there are times it makes all the difference in the world. Sometimes, we hurt and need a little relief. 

It can be a headache or for aches and pains. Whatever makes us hurt, acetaminophen can be helpful. For the times when life is "too much", Tylenol is good. Used in moderation... and only on occasion... it makes some physical trials more bearable. 

Image result for tylenol

Today, I am grateful for Tylenol.