Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Excited Over Stars

 Year 8-Day 274: Today, I am grateful for people who get excited over stars.

One of the great joys of living in a rural area is the gift of starry nights. I never, ever get tired of looking at the stars. They dance, they twinkle and look like God spilled glitter in the heavens. Starry nights are magical. 

For those who live every night with light pollution, I urge you to take a drive beyond the city lights to look for the stars. You won't regret it. 

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— -Psalm 8:3

The image my mind creates is breathtaking. If each one of us has a unique fingerprint... how many unique fields of stars fill the night sky? They seem beyond measure. Yet, God knows their number and their names. 

A starry night, accented with symphony of nature's nocturnal sounds is magical. How can a person help but feel in awe? The sky is dark, but His light breaks through. Breathtaking. 

Today, I am grateful for people who get excited over stars.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

National Coffee Day


Year 8-Day 273: Today, I am grateful for National Coffee Day.

Oh, how I love coffee. Water is life... but coffee is joy. September 28th is National coffee day, but in my world... every day is coffee day. 

When I think about the rituals that are associated with the first cup of java, I know I am not alone. The warmth of the cup eases the cool jolt of getting out of bed for the day. The aroma hits you before the first cup is ready to drink. The smell of coffee brewing is a delightful smell, even for some who do not really drink coffee. 

One of my students taught me an easy way to froth my cream at home. It is so fun. I am NOT good at the art... but I am determined to improve my skills. It so pretty. 

Simple gratitude. 

Today, I am grateful for National Coffee Day.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Drawn With Unfailing Kindness

 Year 8-Day 272: Today, I am grateful we have been drawn with unfailing kindness.

My friend, Brittany, is an artist. She is our art teacher and quite gifted. Her drawings are magical and her illustration style belongs in children's books. She draws with subtle details and a soft, forgiving pencil and brush. 

Brittany's pieces are magical. Yes, there are details that stand out, but mostly what I feel is the magic. She, somehow, infuses love, wonder, silliness and kindness into every painting. 

This scripture is from my Bible reading today. 

Long ago the Lord said to Israel: "I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself." -Jeremiah 31:3

I was grabbed by the phrase, "drawn you with unfailing kindness." The Hebrew word for "drawn" is "mashak". It means to draw out., lead along, to cheer, to attract and to gratify. Not like drawing with a pencil or paintbrush, but to attract with unfailing kindness. Kindness counts. 

Our God has limits to what He will tolerate, but His purpose and invitation has always been to invite us to be one of his own. Unfailing kindness succeeds where other attempts fail. Love softens our hearts. He draws us to His heart. It is a place of peace and rest.

Today, I am grateful we have been drawn with unfailing kindness.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Seek and Find

 Year 8-Day 271: Today, I am grateful we can seek and find grateful moments. 

Seek and find scavenger hunts are fun. They can be a game for a local youth group or they can be an exercise in gratitude. 

Find one thing you love to smell. There are so many fall options. The aromatic delight of fall goods baking in the oven or the scent of harvesting grain in the air, I love fall scents. (Maybe not the scent of rotting pumpkin guts... but hey... you take the good with the bad.)

Find something in nature to delight our soul. The fall leaves are spectacular. There are so many shades of red, gold and orange. Nature's majesty shines in the fall. 

Find something you can give away to bless another person. In the giving there is a joy. Real joy. 


"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:13

And when we seek his face, we will find Him. And when we find Him, our hearts overflow. He has great plans for us, but we must seek and find Him with our whole hearts... keeping nothing back. 

In the surrender, there is peace. In the peaceful moments, our heartaches lessen and hope is restored. We respond in gratitude and with thanksgiving.

Today, I am grateful we can seek and find grateful moments. 


Saturday, September 26, 2020

Long Friendships

  


Year 8-Day 270: Today, I am grateful for long and abiding friendships. 

I am truly grateful for the friendships that were planted early in my life. They have grown sweeter with the years. The joy of being able to pick up where we left off and the opportunity to be present in each others lives in the sweet moments and in the sorrows, too. As someone once said, "Friendship is a sheltering tree." 

Friendships seasoned by time have some special qualities. There is an easy rhythm. No fretting necessary. No special preparations for a gathering. Simply making time to be together is enough. 

"An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship." -Proverbs 24:26 

There is a unique honesty in an old friendship because you don't have to explain yourself. An old friend know your truths... and when you need to pause and pray. 

Keeping it simple today. 

Today, I am grateful for long and abiding friendships. 


Friday, September 25, 2020

Laundry Victories

  Year 8-Day 269: Today, I am grateful when the laundry is put away. 

Laundry is a never ending job. It isn't really done until it is all put away. Sometimes, it feels like it is never all put away. 

I know I could do a serious clothing purge, but I enjoy the challenge of mixing up closet pieces into new outfits. Then, there are the multiple sizes most of us girls have in our closets, because we often change sizes with the seasons. There are times, it is hard to make it all fit. 

On occasion, the laundry is actually all done and put away. It is a glorious feeling. Then, someone throws a dirty shirt or towel in the hamper and the moment of victory becomes a memory. 

I keep thinking I would love to try the capsule concept of clothing to simplify my life. It limits your closet to about 30-40 pieces. Now, there is no way I am going without accessories, but my basic pieces could be limited. In truth, I grab for the same favorites quite often, but I dress them up with new accessories. With fewer pieces, the chances of the laundry being completely done and put away are greatly increased. The Love-Of-My-Life would be THRILLED with that decision, but I am not sure I have the courage to try it for a season. 

My "Dressember" wardrobe is about as close as I have come to a limited closet. The month is spent wearing only my dresses, while raising money to fight against human trafficking. Same dresses... different accessories... all Dressember long. I've survived it. Throw on a dress and go. I do miss the comfy, cozy leggings and a long tunic during the Dressember campaign, but it is for a good cause. So many women and children caught in trafficking only have a few pieces of clothing and no choice about what they are forced to wear.

We are privileged to have plenty to wear and clothing to wash. 

I did a quick scripture sure for washing clothing and this verse popped up. I had to smile. It would be perfect in a laundry room. Let me be clear, it is somewhat out of context, but it so well spoken. 

"and all who sleep or eat in the house must wash their clothing." -Leviticus 14:47

Yes... we all need to know how to wash the clothing … and put it away. 

Today, I am grateful when the laundry is put away.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Another Chance

 Year 8-Day 268: Today, I am grateful for another chance. 

Some days I blow it before my feet hit the floor. My thoughts wander and I start to obsess about the day ahead. I worry too much and I know it. I forget to be still. I pray but forget to listen when I finish my morning chat with God. 

Shiny things distract me. Lists and calendars do, too. I am grateful for reminders to slow down. 

Every dawn is, truly, another chance. Another day to chase His heart and sing His praises, even if I didn't get it all right the day before. He doesn't demand perfection, only an earnest, seeking heart. 

"That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning." -Joel 2:12 

"Return to me." What an invitation. He means it, too. But, this time, when we return... He expects our whole hearts. The Old Testament prophets speak words that ring true in this modern age. They are not antiquated. They speak clearly for this generation, too. Do we still hear His voice?

God only tolerates disobedience for a season. His love is boundless, but his tolerance for sin is not. When will He say, "Enough is enough"? Idolatry, blasphemy, lovelessness are things He can't ignore.  Nineveh, Sodom and Gomorrah paid the price for their brazen ways and unrepentant hearts. 

I think there are lessons for us to learn, too. We are to come to Him with fasting, weeping and mourning, seeking His face. He will not hide. When we seek him with our whole hearts, He makes himself known.   

Today, I am grateful for another chance. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Autumnal Equinox

 Year 8-Day 267: Today, I am grateful for the autumnal equinox.

What is the autumnal equinox? One of two days when all points on Earth except the polar regions see the sunrise and set at due east and due west. With few exceptions, all latitudes see almost precisely 12 hours of daylight and 12 of darkness. Pretty cool, right? 

Here in the Midwest, it is starting to smell and feel like fall. It has been hard for me to be indoors this week, as the temperatures have been perfect.  Not too hot. Not too cold. Did I mention the scents of fall? 

The days have been getting shorter since the end of June, but now, we start to really notice the less than twelve hours of light. Yes, it means winter is around the corner, but I don't care. Fall is my favorite. (Spring is a close second.) 

The changing seasons always remind me that God holds the earth perfectly in place as it orbits around the sun. His hand designed it all. It really does leave me in awe of his creativity. Mother Nature's simplicities are as breathtaking as her complexities. Both leave me filled with wonder. 

The simple elegance of a harvest moon hung in a cool black sky is picture perfect. The sea of colored leaves are countless shades of greens, reds, oranges, browns and yellows. The change is just around the corner. Take it in. Savor the moments. The autumn sun reveals their glory. 

Man's days are often filled with trouble, but only have to look to nature to see God's glory illuminated. The scriptures are clear that if we forget to praise him, the rocks will cry out. 

"He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” -Luke 19:40

Fall in the Midwest is a symphony of praise. 

Today, I am grateful for the autumnal equinox.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bold Reminders

 Year 8-Day 266: Today, I am grateful for bold reminders.

"One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at that Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time." -John Piper

Yikes! This quote is a perfect example of a bold reminder. How we spend our time can be documented in many ways. 

I've been tempted, like many others, to step away from Facebook. I love keeping in touch with family, friends and the "Daily Gratitude" crew. On the other side of my internal debate, is it a good use of time? I don't know. 

I do think it keeps people on my mind and in my prayers. I love the humor shared. We all need to laugh. I try to avoid drama. 

Things are getting uglier in the social media world. Truth gets harder to glean. I find myself looking for common sense... which is not so common. 

Look at my "Verse of the Day": 

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. -Romans 15:7

One thing I know for sure is that love is an action verb. Love speaks louder than words. Love the person who has a different opinion. Encourage those who act with mercy. Support those who act justly. Love your neighbor as yourself... all your neighbors. Listen as much as you speak (this is hard when you were born into strong opinions). Seek truth. Hope floats, but truth often requires some digging in this modern age. 

Prayer is never wasted time. Time spent on social media... well... finish that for yourself. 

I am truly grateful for those who take the time for daily gratitude. 

Today, I am grateful for bold reminders.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Sweet Nectar

  

Year 8-Day 265: Today, I am grateful for sweet nectar.

Every year at this time the butterflies flock around my mailbox to gather the sweet nectar from the flowers. They love these sedum plants. The relationship between the butterflies and the plants fascinate me. Obviously, some plants are more desirable to the butterflies than others. The balance in nature always fascinates me. 

This scripture is a reminder of God's faithfulness, even to the insects and the flowers. 

"And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?" -Luke 12:28

We can our trust in the Father, too. Like the butterfly takes in all the sweetness provided by the flowers, our God provides all of our needs. I imagine the flower nectar is sweet to the butterfly. 

I often need the reminder to look for the sweet nectar that is already in front of me. Not to worry about tomorrow or long for yesterday. He provides for today,. he is our enough. His word is like sweet nectar. 

Today, I am grateful for sweet nectar.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

We Can Choose Our Leader

 Year 8-Day 264: Today, I am grateful we can choose our leader. 

I was listening to a favorite pastor today and he said this, "I am the author of all my own bad decisions". It is painfully true. I, alone, get credit for the road chosen in haste, with waste and without intentional prayer. 

I loved this image. It reminds me to be intentional in recognizing who is Lord of my life. There are good forces and there is a very real evil in the world. I am so grateful we have a God who still, reassures, leads, enlightens, forgives, calms, encourages and comforts. 

"But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” -Joshua 24:15

We do, indeed, choose who will be the Lord of our lives. The Lord of our life will also be our shepherd. We need to choose wisely. The world is full of voices from every direction, but only a few will ring true with our purpose in Him. Listen to the voice of truth and choose. 

Today, I am grateful we can choose our leader. 



Saturday, September 19, 2020

Real Names

 Year 8-Day 263: Today, I am grateful for real names.

Names are important in most cultures. They have been important since the beginning of time. 

Your name connects you to your ancestors and your modern day family. Surnames grew out of a way to connect the youngers and the elders. Some cultures would literally use John and John the Younger. Then it became a thing when you made John's son into Johnson. Every down had blacksmiths, so Smith became popular, too. 

Like Smith, some surnames were tied to trades. A name could evoke warm feelings when associated with people of integrity, or it could cause anther to question someone's character if the family had a poor reputation for good work or honesty. A name is important. 

My youngest son, Walker, used to check name book from our church library on a regular basis. He loved looking at the names and what then meant. He found the book interesting because it listed the country of origin, too. 

I like names that are uncommon, but not strange. I want strangers to be able to read a name and pronounce it. We spent weeks coming up with names for our children because a name is a first impression. Surnames make great first names. 

I prefer my full name. In fact, when I left home after high school, I only introduced myself as Valerie. And... even in high school, I never said my name was Val. "Erie" would have been an interesting nickname. I've only known of one other Erie in my lifetime. I guess I like full names...  real names. 

Celebrities find some anonymity and build star power  by creating just the right stage name. John Wayne's real name was Marion Morrison. His stage name certainly fit his swagger and strut better than Marion. Growing up, friends and family called him Duke. I imagine for him, living in the world of the rich and famous, it felt good to be somewhere he was just  "Duke". Even though it was a "nickname", it felt more like his real name. Real names make us feel at home. 

I saw this image today and it struck me as truth. It has to do with real names.

"I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief." Wow! Read it again and pause to take it in. Our feelings are sometimes misnamed. Anger is a secondary emotion. Another emotion has to proceed it. Is that emotion fear, anger, disappointment, frustration, confusion... or grief? It can be all of the above, but when it is grief, it is a tough row to hoe. 

I am reminded of Jesus turning the tables in the outer court of the temple in anger because they had turned God's house into a "den of thieves". Three of the four gospels record this, so we had better pay attention.

"He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” -Matthew 22:13, Mark 11:17 & Luke 19:46

 It is one of the few places we see Jesus display real anger in the scriptures. He usually brought peace and calm to any situation. The misuse of His Father's House was unacceptable. His initial response was probably sadness and hurt for the way people were acting in the temple. He was ready to die for them, but they disrespected the Father's house. 

The people had lost the understanding of what it meant to enter into a truly holy place. They saw profit margins not sacred sacrifice. They were missing the point. It broke His heart. It still breaks his heart when we don't answer His call. He wants us to be read when he calls us by name. 

What is our real name? I like how Matthew West says it best, "Hello, my name is Child of the One True King". 

Today, I am grateful for real names.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Opportunities To Be Bad

 Year 8-Day 262: Today, I am grateful for opportunities to be bad. 

Most of us like feeling confident and comfortable in our work. It reduces stress when we know what we are doing. Mama Ina Mae's voice will forever echo in my ear, "Learn something new every day." Mama is never afraid to try something new. She always encouraged us to be fearless. "You'll never know until you try." She would love this quote, 

"Be brave enough to be bad at something new." - Jon Acuff

Isn't that great? I've never seen it framed quite that way. It does take courage and confidence to be bad at something new. Something new means it is something not mastered. Trying new things is good for our souls. It's okay to be bad at something as long as you keep improving. 

My sweet friend (and our art teacher) often repeats this quote: 

“We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.” -Walt Stanchfield 

It follows the same line of thinking. If you want to be a great artist... or even an average one... start drawing. I figure I need to live to be about 103 to get all of my bad drawings out, but I love idea of improving with practice. 

We don't have to get it "just right" ever time. We have to want to improve ... and we have to keep trying. The bad drawings teach us, too. 

As we seek to follow Jesus, we worry about getting it right. Praise God for his mercy that doesn't expect perfection. He does expect us to examine our hearts, minds and motives. He knows our deepest thoughts. Disciple life means learning to chase the heart of the Master. It isn't a check list of do's and don'ts. It isn't perfecting some lines in a play. It is learning to walk closer to the heart of Jesus every day. 

"Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him." -Colossians 3:10

We will mess up on occasion, but in those moments we will grow and learn. His love is unconditional, not based on our goodness... or our badness. He refines us with his patient love. 

Today, I am grateful for opportunities to be bad. 





Thursday, September 17, 2020

Apple Cider Slushies


 Year 8-Day 261: Today, I am grateful Apple Cider Slushies are in town Friday and Saturday. 

This year the Pumpkin Festival looks a little different. Still, some of our favorite traditions will continue. These are my favorite treat of the festival. It is  hard to wait 365 days between slushies... but some things are worth the wait. 

They are made with Tanner's cider. That is part of the magic. They wouldn't be the same with any cider. Tanner's cider is the best I've ever had. 

"Threads" boutique is hosting Uncle Bud's Cider Slush this year. I am so happy we don't have to wait another year. Waiting is hard, but it builds character. I know the vendor line will be long, but it will be worth it. Learning to be patient is a test I continue to flunk and I have to take the patience test again.  

No matter how long the lines... I need to be patient. This scripture made me smile. With the strange season we are enduring, this word from The Word is encouraging. 

"May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. "-Romans 15:5

Live in harmony. Be nice when you are waiting in line. Enjoy the apple cider slushies.  

Today, I am grateful Apple Cider Slushies!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Lessons In Letting Go

  Year 8-Day 260: Today, I am grateful for lessons in letting go. 

"Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward." -C.S. Lewis

I remember the monkey bars on our Clifton Elementary School playground. We loved to spend recess playing on the monkey bars. I earned a few blisters on my hands playing while conquering new tricks. I loved climbing. 

Mastering the monkey bars requires finding the courage to let go. In letting go, we finally move forward. Pain is a part of living, but it doesn't have to be a constant companion. 

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6

Our God is a Mighty God! He won't abandon His children. We can find the courage to let go, so we can swing to the next rung. 

What monkey bars are you trying to cross? Maybe it is a new job, a new neighborhood or a new way of celebrating the "Pumpkin Festival. On step at a time. Be content. 

Today, I am grateful for lessons in letting go. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Sit With It

 Year 8-Day 259: Today, I am grateful for the chance to "sit with it". 

"Sit with it. Sit with it. Sit with it. Sit with it. Even though you want to run. Even though it is heavy and difficult. Even though you're not quite sure of the way through. Healing happens by feeling." -Dr. Rebecca Ray

Fight or flight is a human defense mechanism. We are programmed for that instant response. Still, we have a choice. We can even choose a third option. Sit with it. 

The pause. The comma. Sit with it.

We tend to have a particular method of operation when stressed. Some go to bed. Some buy things they can't afford. Some eat too much. Some get mean. Some cry. We forget that the best defense against any stress is to pray until your heart is free (for some that is a few minutes and for others a few hours) and then "sit with it". 

It is good advice, sometimes, to learn to "sit with it". Sometimes we are burdened unnecessarily by the fear of an emotion we are afraid to experience. In fact... the anxiety of fearing a feeling causes longer lasting distress for some than the actual feeling. It is emotional procrastination. Healing comes with time and through feeling the feeling. Press on. Pray on.  Push through. 

Grief, for example, can be destructive when we bury it or hide from it. God gave us shock to get us through the initial days of loss, but eventually we have to feel the pain to heal. You don't "get over it", you get through it. Learning to live in the pain means learning to live again. Exercise hope and feel your lungs feel again. To taste great grief, we must first know great love. Most agree that love is worth the price. Sit with it.

Some live with chronic pain. You don't get over it, you get through it every day. Pain is not always the enemy. It often protects us from further injury by making us stop an activity that could lead to further damage. Culture focuses on a quick fix, but it isn't always that simple. There is real power in the overcoming during seasons when circumstances are less than ideal. Breathe in. Breathe out. Endure. Sit with it. 

The night Jesus was taken, he took some of his closest friends with him to the Garden of Gethsemane. That night, he would pray for God to "take the cup" from him, if there was another way. He knew there was suffering ahead, but His love was bigger than his fears. He was able to "sit with it" until he prayed his way to the "Thy will be done." 

"He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. -Luke 22:41-44

Jesus sat with it. It was hard. It hurt. The pain would be excruciating... but temporary. The victory over sin, Satan and death... well... that was permanent and priceless!  

Whatever struggle you face today, know that you can have hope. Trials are temporary. His love is constant... even with life hurts.

Today, I am grateful for the chance to "sit with it". 

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Pursuit


 Year 8-Day 258: Today, I am grateful for the pursuit.

I've heard the story of a little girl who was confident she knew God's name. She would argue the fact. Adults expected to hear one of the more common names for God, but she began her prayer with "Dear Shirley..." 

After the prayer was finished, she was asked how she knew that God's name was Shirley? Children are quick. She had an answer right away that came from a Bible verse she had learned:

"Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever." -Psalms 23:6 NLT

There it was. "Surely" was not a word in her vocabulary. The name,Shirley, was. "Shirley, your goodness and unfailing love, will pursue me". 

Being chased by goodness and unfailing love is a pretty sweet deal. We didn't earn it. We don't deserve it, but His love and mercy are poured out on us daily. Earworm is singing the song, "You're a Good, Good Father". It fits perfectly. 

A love that is faithful and true...and He never gives up on me or you. 

Today, I am grateful for the pursuit.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Chickens

 

Year 8-Day 257: Today, I am grateful for chickens. 

What came first the chicken and the egg? That age old question, right? Chickens are really quite entertaining to watch. They don't worry about much. They strut around the yard like they own it. They have an air of confidence about them... or is it arrogance?

Chickens provide two healthy protein sources. They have for centuries. When they no longer produce eggs, they end up on our dinner tables. I eat more eggs than chicken (I'm not a huge fan of chicken). Both can be apart of a healthy diet. The recipe books are full of dishes starring eggs and chicken. New recipes for chicken are always welcome. 

They live their lives in service to humans, but never act enslaved. They enjoy the grain they are fed, and savor the adventure of finding bugs and worms to eat in the barnyard. We grew up with a chicken house at Grandpa and Grandma Lindgren's house. We often helped with the chicken chores. 

I remember the game of trying to collect the eggs without being pecked. You had to be fast.  I remember the way the chickens would look to Grandpa for behavioral cues, because they recognized their provider. Life was good for the chickens... and for us. 

The chickens are long gone, but the memories remain. There were lessons learned from Grandpa... and from the chickens. Grandpa would do things to protect the chickens from fox or other animals. The chickens did not appreciate his efforts. They never said, "thank you". They simply anticipated his provision. 

I think I'm like that some days. I take for granted the provision the Father grants me with each new day. Some days, I become so focused on my own agenda, I forget to see the God scheduled appointments. I focus on my desires and not His purpose. This scripture comes to mind: 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me." -Matthew 23:37

There is a lesson for us, too. How often does He want to shelter us in His arms, but we can't get the tune "My Way" out of our heads? Yes, we can learn a little something from our feathered friends.

Today, I am grateful for chickens. 



Saturday, September 12, 2020

Everything Else

 

Year 8-Day 256: Today, I am grateful for the "everything else". 

"Look for yourself and you will find loneliness and despair. But look for Christ and you will find Him and everything else." -C.S. Lewis

There is loneliness, emptiness and despair; there is everything else. We are given so many messages in the media about "finding ourselves". 

I've always loved the reminder from Tolkien, "Not all who wander are lost." It suggests embracing and enjoying where you are right now. Choosing to be content is a powerful choice

C.S. Lewis states in seeking to find ourselves, we find sadness and sorrow. When we seek out Christ, we find everything else. Motivation shifts from what pleases us to what pleases Him. Our desires change. Goals change. Seeking to see what He sees changes everything. 

Jesus was never too busy. He paused to heal the lepers, but only one of of the ten came back to say, "thank you". He paused to embrace grieving mothers and fathers and healed their children. He healed the Centurion's servant, a man most would believe to be an enemy of Christ. He poured himself out with a gentleness and strength. To love like Jesus we actually are called to "lose ourselves". 

"If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it." -Matthew 10:33

What a challenge! Somehow, in the act of "giving up our lives", we find hope, peace, contentment, joy, laughter and purpose. Things of the earth will pass away. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, but life in Him is full. Life can be frightening, but we can be fearless in Him. He is our strength and courage. We are just passing through this world, and it is a pretty quick trip.  

We don't need to "find ourselves" when we come to realize that we are already treasured children of the Father. Don't misunderstand. I am seriously flawed. Imperfect by human birth, but in Him, I don't have to feel lost and alone. He loves us where we are and longs for us to walk closer to His heart... until it is as natural as breathing to know what He desires of us. It brings me to one of my favorite verses about what the Lord requires of us:

"No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." -Micah 6:8

Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else falls into place. 

Today, I am grateful for the "everything else".

Friday, September 11, 2020

Patriot Day

 

Year 8-Day 255: Today, I am grateful for Patriot Day.

Freedom isn't free. Evil is real. Hope floats. Love wins.Simple truths. 

Today, we remember the attacks of September 11, 2001.  19 years ago today, American experienced a terrorist attack in our air space and on American soil by the Islamic terrorist group, al-Qaeda. It changed how we live as Americans. It did not change what it means to be an American. The best of us shined on that day. 

Firefighters and police officers ran into burning buildings while everyone else was running out in terror. Off-duty firefighters and police officers flooded toward the scene, grabbing any available equipment...some leaving wallets and notes to loved ones on the firehouse desk, just in case they didn’t come out. Some didn’t. They knew the potential, the risks and the cost… but something was more important than their fear. 

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” This quote was hard to verify and credit, but the truth rings loud and clear. 

On that day, there were heroes… in the towers, on the planes, in the Pentagon and on the streets. At every crossroad in these United States, we grieved together and privately. 

Today, we remember with gratitude… those who ran in… those who rescued… those who gave their lives... and those still serving under this star spangled banner. ( Cousins James and David Maisonneuve... you are always in my prayers.Our family is proud of your service.)

When terror struck, we were able to pray together as a nation. Our houses of worship were not all the same, but we were united in prayer. We wore t-shirts and hats that said NYPD and NYFD because we wanted them to know we cared about their service and sacrifice.There was a feeling of unity that helped us survive. Together, we would help each other through the hard days, weeks and months. 

This scriptures tell us God does not change. There are prophecies from the Old Testament that are relevant for these days, too. 

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,  “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster." -Joel 2:12-13

"Return to me with all of your heart." Not just a piece of it... or when you need some God glue to fix what we carelessly allowed to be broken. He is patient. He knows our thoughts and our hearts. His love knows no limits; His justice must be satisfied. He does not abandon his children. 

I remember the stories of the ways God intervened with many who should have filled the towers that day. They were late to work, taking children to preschool, at the dentist, missed a train, were stuck in traffic or missed a flight. I imagine an army of unseen angels causing delays everywhere terror was about to strike. There were unseen forces at work. 

I am humbled by the heroes like Todd Beamer who was on the flight over Pennsylvania. He was salt and light... even as he faced death. (His story is told the book, "Let's Roll".) Evil has some victories, but the war isn't over. When it is, evil will not be the winner. Here is Todd's story:

https://youtu.be/Jbv6D8JtKIM

America is far from perfect, but talk to the people who have moved here from other places. They do not take freedom for granted. I get to lead "The Pledge" every morning with a friend who was not born a citizen. She worked hard to meet the requirements and I must confess, I get a little choked up when I watch her saying the pledge. It means something to her that I don't understand as one who was born here. I am humbled by her passion for this country... her country... our country. Seeing her humility, passion and gratitude inspire me to appreciate more the gift I was given by birth. She is my sister in faith and under the stars and stripes. She is my friend by choice and relationship.  

United States of America... it is a land of many colors, races, ideas, houses of worship, opinions, talents and so much more. The tapestry of our land is woven with many unique threads. We are better collectively. 

Today, I am grateful for Patriot Day.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Salt

Year 8-Day 254: Today, I am grateful for salt.

If I have to choose between sweet and salt... I choose salt. I even like my chocolate very dark and it is perfect with some sea salt added. 

The seas are full of salt. Salt is important to human health. It is essential for nerve and muscle function. It regulates fluids in the body. Like most things, too much is not good, but in healthy portions, salt adds to our wellness. 

Here in Central Illinois... or the Heart of Illinois as we often call the Peoria area... we have a local business that specialized in salty treats. Kitchen Cooked potato chips often make their way across the nation to those who leave home for new places. If you are lucky... family will mail you some on occasion. The Cheese Curls are the best, too! All or crazy loaded with salt but oh, so good! 

I just read this quote:

"People don't enjoy salt. They enjoy what is salted. We are the salt of the earth. We do not exist for ourselves." -John Piper 

You know, John Piper is right. We don't enjoy "salt". We enjoy what is salted. 

Popcorn, broccoli, tomatoes, eggs and even watermelon for some people(yes... I do like salt on watermelon). Salt on its own does not satisfy. Salt makes us thirsty, too. 

Salt is mentioned in the Bible quite a few times. Forty-three times in the ESV version. This is one of my favorite passages: 

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." -Matthew 5:13-14

Salt exists for a purpose. It adds flavor to our days, balances our body and increases our thirst.  Do we hunger and thirst  for righteousness? Do we crave it like our favorite bag of chips? 

We don't exist for ourselves, but to add flavor as needed. How can we be salty today?

Today, I am grateful for salt.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

No Need To Run


Year 8-Day 253: Today, I am grateful I don't have to chase extraordinary moments. 

I loved this quote: 

"I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude." -Brene Brown

Let's be clear. I am not a runner. Outside of running to the grocery store and Hobby Lobby... I don't run. When I think about "chasing" extraordinary moments, it makes me a little anxious. It sounds like exercise. 

We don't have to chase happiness.  It is a byproduct of paying attention to the little gifts and  practicing gratitude. It changes our perspective one thankful thought at a time. We don't catch it. It grows from a grateful heart. 

There are constant, pounding messages from the media. They tell us we should be dissatisfied. Discontentment is a virus. It effects our souls. It steals the joy from this day. We need to be careful with the messages we invite into our homes and our heads. They sow seeds of jealousy and cause us to covet our neighbor's stuff. 

Stuff is just stuff. It will never make us happy. It will never satisfy our souls. It is the happy little moments in our ordinary days that make us rich. When we offer thanksgiving for the little things, contentment takes root in our hearts and our homes.  

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." -Psalm 139:23-24

Know me. Test me. Know my thoughts. Get rid of anything that offends our God. Right? When we hold tightly to a spirit of discontentment, we miss the blessings. We miss the sweetness of this day. Every day has its gifts and joys, but we tend to focus on the trials. Reshaping our thoughts and honing our vision so we clearly see today's goodness is a powerful tool.

We can celebrate the blessing of enough. Enough milk for the meal. Enough flour for the recipe. Enough fresh water to quench your thirst. Enough gas to get to work. Enough toilet paper for the day (oh those Covid lessons learned). 

Enough is really quite extraordinary. 

Today, I am grateful I don't have to chase extraordinary moments. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Meaning From Chaos

 

Year 8-Day 252: Today, I am grateful for the meaning from the chaos.

"Jesus never promised to eliminate all of the chaos from our lives; He said He'd bring meaning to it." -Bob Goff

Bob Goff, a lawyer by profession, I am sure he has seen a great deal of chaos through the years. He has studied law and order. He still uses his skills when needed, but he'd rather chase Jesus. He has the best sense of humor. 

There is chaos in the world. It is real. There is darkness and evil, but we do not have to be discouraged. We have a God who is bigger and stronger than any evil. He delights in bringing order to chaos... but he does it on his own timetable. His clock is not our clock. 

"Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens.God called the space “sky.”"-Genesis 1:6-8

Separating, adding space and setting in place. Creation declares the wonder of His ways. When I ponder it, I never cease to be amazed. If He can create order in nature... and nature does indeed have an order... then He can handle anything messy in our lives. 

We have to trust him with the mess. When we turn it over to Him, we have to stop taking it back when we get impatient. We have to wait Him out in the hallways of our lives and in His time...He makes all things beautiful. 

"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end." -Ecclesiastes 3:11

He brings healing to the broken and wounded. He delivers hope when our cup runs out. He is our freedom when darkness tries to overwhelm us. He is good. He can be trusted. He is always good. 

Chaos is temporary. His faithfulness is forever. 

Pause. Ponder. Pray. Proceed with courage.

Today, I am grateful for the meaning from the chaos.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Graceful Strings of Joy

 


Year 8-Day 250: Today, I am grateful for graceful strings of joy. 

"A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. A joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration and faith. -Brene Brown

I love the image of "Gracefully strung joy". It isn't always easy but it is always worth it. So much can weigh on our souls as we go through these troubled times on earth. We are only passing through, but we are here for a season. 

In this season of "life on earth", brief as it may be... it is good to chose joy in the smallest things. God's hand is everywhere.Can you see it? Can you feel it? I do. Let me draw a picture for you:

I see his thumbprint every time a new baby forms in the shelter of a mother's womb and grows.I feel his breath when a faithful soul gives up their last breath. The veil between life and death is real. These are holy moments... birth and death. 

I see his love of color in the changing leaves each fall. 

I smell the pumpkin pie being canned just a mile away and smile because many families will share in the feast come November and our little village is where much of that pumpkin is canned. 

I see a new marriage... or a new home and know that these moments are precious, too. Inviting Jesus to the table makes all the difference in having a house and making a home. 

I witness the kindness of strangers at the supermarket when a new widower is struggling to find simple items and I see His face in those who pause to help. 

I know that graceful strings of joy help us tie it all together into a joyful life. It isn't any one thing. It is the fruit of living a life that reflects the wondrous gifts we have been given in Christ. We are not perfect... but we follow one who is and hope to have His life reflected in our days. 

Joy is a Fruit of the Spirit. What are the Fruits of the Spirit? In case you have forgotten:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." -Galatians 5:22-23

Make the most of this day. Gather the moments that are somehow holy... even in the ordinary moments. Especially, in the ordinary moments. 

Today, I am grateful for graceful strings of joy. 


Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Cheerful Heart

 Year 8-Day 250: Today, I am grateful for the cheerful heart.

"Let's be cheerful! We have no more right to steal the brightness out of the day for our own family than we have to steal the purse of a stranger. Let us be careful that our homes are furnished with pleasant and happy thoughts as we are the rugs are the right color and texture and the furniture comfortable and beautiful." - Laura Ingalls Wilder

I think this quote is especially relevant this year. We have spent most of 2020 at home. It isn't about the decor but the way we treat each other that makes all the difference in our homes. 

We have always tried to create a calm and peaceful home with bursts of laughter and fun, too. We are far from perfect, but we try every day to do what is loving and kind. We can be sarcastic... and mix signals at times. We mess up, we say "I'm sorry." We forgive. 

Doing life together means there are less than perfect days, but I am grateful for those days, too. The fabric of our lives is bound to have some imperfections. It is part of being human. Still, it is important to be cautious so we don't intentionally or accidentally steal another person's joy. 

"A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit."-Proverbs 15:13

Every day is a fresh start and a chance to try again, for all the days we are granted. Each one really is a gift. 

Today, I am grateful for the cheerful heart.



Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Rewrite

  Year 8-Day 248: Today, I am grateful for the rewrite.

"Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy." - CS Lewis

CS Lewis experienced love and war in his lifetime. He knew trials and success. He was passionate about learning, writing and finding ways to communicate what he understood about Christianity and God's ways. I suspect at the end of his life, he would have believed his knowledge of the great "I AM" only touched the surface. 

As we learn more, our hearts are stretched. As the width and depth of the Father's love unfolds, we feel a sense of wonder. Our human responses seem hardly enough. The good news is, He knows us well. He knows our strengths and our struggles. 

He simply wants us to work on the rewrite, so we look more like Him in every new chapter. He is  Lord of the Rewrite in our lives. His love and grace change everything. Turning to Him means changing direction. Old things pass away... and we become new. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. -2 Corinthians 5:17

Today, I am grateful for the rewrite.



Friday, September 4, 2020

Choices

 Year 8-Day 247: Today, I am grateful for choices.

Today our principal included a clip from Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" in our staff weekly newsletter. Does anyone else remember that book from our college days at ONU? It was a powerful little book and I remember it being paired with watching "Sophie's Choice". Life is a series of choices. 

Frankl realized in a Nazi concentration camp that life can be brutal. A human's ability to act beastly by choice is shocking... until it loses the shock value and the abhorrent behaviors become the norm and somehow... acceptable. If we do not learn from our mistakes in history, we are doomed to repeat them. 

Frankl wrote these words"

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

He, also, said:

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is a power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." -Viktor E Frankl 

We can choose our response to any situation. Choice is our super power. No one can make us do anything. 

Even in a concentration camp with frozen toes, starving and faced with death daily, some survived. Those who refused to be broken no matter the beatings. Those who shared a bowl of food, no matter their own hunger. Those who huddled together for warmth instead of self isolation in lonely corners found a way to survive. In the worst of conditions, the best of humans still acted as salt and light as they helped others hold on with words of hope and whispered prayers. 

Frankl explains that no one can break our spirit... we have to surrender it. It is why those in military  Special Forces go through training that would break most  humans. It is as much about their mental strength as it is their physical training. They have to bring both to the table to complete Ranger or Seal training. 

I am reminded of one very special agent of change who arrived on Christmas more than two thousand years ago. He took on a skin that felt strange and humbled himself to human tools when he had the ability to set the stars in the sky and call each one by name. He came to save and to heal. 

Religious leaders hated him. Government leaders were suspicious of Him because he acted outside of cultural norms when he spoke to women as if they were treasured, he placed value on children and he encouraged people to treat their "neighbors" with kindness and respect... all of their neighbors. One of his best friends betrayed him. He was beaten, not given a fair trial and nailed to a cross while his mother stood nearby. Man's inhumanity to man is not anything new. 

Frankl's observations from the concentration camp echo truth when we observe Jesus on the cross. They didn't take his life. He gave it. He could have called 10,000 angels and Satan knew it, but He didn't. Instead, Jesus fulfilled God's plan to redeem the lost, unworthy and broken by becoming the agent of change when he chose to be the sacrifice for all. 

No, his life was not taken. He gave it up: 

"When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." -John 19:30

"Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last." -Luke 23:46 

The Truth. God's justice. The Way. I don't fully understand it, but I know that His ways are perfect. He surrendered to death so we might live freely. He wants us to choose Him, back... in love, not out of guilt or obligation, but out of the deep desire for a real relationship. 

"Choose you this day whom you will serve..." 

Today, I am grateful for choices.



Thursday, September 3, 2020

Wash the Dishes

 Year 8-Day 246: Today, I am grateful for those who wash the dishes.

"Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next. -St. Teresa of Calcutta

This quote creates a perfect image of true love. It means not just doing the job that needs to be done, but choosing to do even the most menial jobs in love. Pouring out love and letting it suds up like fresh dishwater is an excellent image to represent "doing all things in love". It is effervescent. Even the stinkiest jobs get a little sweeter when the heart is full of humility and love. 

"And do everything with love." -1 Corinthians 16:14

Once again, God's Word directs us to do something that seems to be "hard". Then, in the middle of the act, the reality strikes. What was supposed to be an unpleasant task becomes beautiful when the heart is right with our Lord. 

I need these reminders often. 

Today, I am grateful for those who wash the dishes.