Monday, November 30, 2020

Christmas Ornaments

 Year 8-Day 335: Today, I’m grateful for Christmas ornaments.

Trees are going up everywhere. Many of us started early this year. We are at home... so why not? Perhaps, we enjoy the decorations a little more than usual because so many of the typical activities that keep us running are not happening this year. We can actually enjoy the fruits of our holiday decorating labors. 

When we were first married, I remember wanting a "decorator" tree. White lights are the standard in our house. We still have a tree that is crystal and gold. It is beautiful and sits in the front window for all to see. Of course, once we started a family, our ornaments included the handmade and the ones that marked the year's events. We still like to add a new ornament each year. Something that represents our family and the year. (Perhaps, this year, we should make garland out of toilet paper.)

I treasure the picture ornaments from Snapfish or Shutterfly. They are truly a snapshot of something special about the year. They capture the season, vacations, the fashions, the adventures and the faces of our loved ones. 

Some ornaments get handed down. Our sons both have wives and trees of their own this year. Special ornaments help fill their trees. They will slowly add their own mementos and memories.

There are so many ornaments and only so much tree space. Some are handmade and simple. Some are elegant and fragile. Some make us laugh. Others make us a little sentimental. Memories and moments are collected and enjoyed each year as we open the box of decorations. 

Funny... I think this is a "first" in eight years. How could I have overlooked ornaments?

Earworm is singing Ray Boltz song, "The Perfect Tree". It is one of my favorites. In fact, one year, I wrote a Children's Christmas program that highlighted that song. If you have never heard it, check it out on YouTube. Here is the chorus: 

The perfect tree
Grew very long ago
And it was not decked with silver
Or with ornaments of gold
But hanging from its branches
Was a gift for you and me
Jesus laid His life down
On the perfect tree

In the hustle and the bustle, let's not forget the reason for the season. 

Today, I’m grateful for Christmas ornaments.


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Rest

Year 8-Day 334: Today, I’m grateful for rest.

I am not talking about just a nap or a good night's sleep. I mean the deep gift of being able to rest. Even in this season of staying home, many do not rest. Rest isn't just about the body, although the body is important. Rest happens in the soul. 

"Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28

Who can resist the offer? He asks us to give him our burdens. He is strong. He asks us to trust Him so we can enjoy a calm and refreshing rest. Rest is such a sweet word.  

Here in the USA, we have "rest stops" on the highways. They are a welcome sight for weary travelers. They offer bathrooms, picnic tables and sometimes... vending machines with snacks. They are a place where we can stretch our legs, relieve our bladders and wake up a bit before continuing a long drive. I find it interesting that they are known as "rest stops". They could have had many different names or something more unique. "Rest" is important enough to have it in the name. 

Make the most of this season. It will swiftly pass. It always does. You might be home more this Christmas than ever before, but don't mistake being homebound for resting. It is good to be intentional.  

Today, I’m grateful for rest.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Leftovers

Year 8-Day 333: Today, I’m grateful for leftovers.

Leftovers are a sign of abundance. Ample food with more than was really needed. When planning a big event, we use RSVP's to get the head count right. It matters. But in most of our daily lives, leftovers mean tomorrow's lunch is covered... or tomorrow's dinner will get a jump start with leftovers. 

Yesterday and today, many are eating turkey leftovers. It is a Lindgren tradition to make "creamed turkey" and serve it over toast. I am not sure if it is a Swedish or German thing, but I know it was one of Dad's favorites. Most of my family enjoys it, too. Creamed turkey, made from leftovers, is a tradition. 

When Mama Ina Mae married Dad, they introduced my Aunt Judy to the neighbor boy, Larry Hanson. They fell in love and the rest is history. We grew up with cousins who were almost as close as siblings.  April was the same age as the twins, Dawn and Donna. Matthew and Doug were the same age, too. I was the oldest and my cousin, Debbie, was younger than me by nine years. She grew up on my hip. I loved carrying her around. Debbie and I were the "leftovers" when everyone paired up by ages. We didn't mind. We never felt left out if we had each other. 

Jesus fed the 5000 and had leftovers. He didn't just make sure there was enough to eat, he offered them abundance. Isn't that just like Jesus? 

"Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up?" -Matthew 16:9

Leftovers are not fancy, but they are good. They help alleviate the "What's for dinner?" question. They allow us to exercise some creativity in the kitchen. Leftovers are a blessing. 

Today, I’m grateful for leftovers.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Building & Pursuing

 


"Year 8-Day 332: Today, I’m grateful for those who build up and pursue peace.

The holidays are a time of coming together. With togetherness comes many different ideas and opinions. There is something uniquely beautiful about people with different opinions sharing time together and finding harmony. 

Harmony means there are different voices singing different notes. Some like cranberry sauce with whole cranberries, others like the jellied stuff straight out of the can. Some don't like it at all. We can view cranberries with different opinions and still enjoy the meal. 

This verse from Romans is one to ponder before family gatherings at the holidays. Building each other up and looking for peaceful common ground is powerful in relationships. In fact, in that space is where we learn to listen better. If you haven't changed your mind or view on something... on anything... in the past year, you might want to assess your listening skills. It is good to listen for understanding and not just for the opportunity to reply. It isn't always easy... but it is good. 

"So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." -Romans 14:19 

We forget the true power of encouragement to impact someone's life on an ordinary day. With the isolation of the current lockdowns, many are struggling. They feel disconnected and alone. They don't feel peace. A word of encouragement might be the thing that helps them turn the day around. I miss real hugs, but an encouraging word is like a verbal hug. 

I love to read the recorded interactions of Jesus. He never led with a correction. He led with relationship. He opened doors by listening, not pushing. Even his brief encounters left a unique mark on the life of the individual. One of my favorites was the woman who touched the hem of his robe and gained healing. He knew very well who she was. He knew all about her, but first, he asked a question. 

We can practice building others up in the grocery store... at work... and around our family tables. Encouraging others is a building block to peace. 

Today, I’m grateful for those who build up and pursue peace.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving

 "Year 8-Day 331: Today, I’m grateful for Thanksgiving Day.

Today is my favorite holiday of the year. I love Christmas, too, but there are so many other things to get in order and get "right" on Christmas. Thanksgiving is family, food and gratitude. 

I am so grateful for the chance to pause and ponder all of God's blessings. Yes, even in 2020. Keeping "the train of track" this year may feel like a struggle. The struggle is real, but beyond the trials, most of us have more than we need and people to share our time, our lives and our homes. 

When we are truly grateful, we cannot help but respond with giving. First with "thanks". Then, with giving. It is pretty simple.

"The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving." -Psalm 28:7

It is up to us to take a moment to reflect. When it feels like my gratitude attitude is fading, I must pause to remember the times before when God was faithful. He is our defender and shield. He knows our needs and meets us where we are. He delights in providing us with good things. 

Today, I’m grateful for Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"Friends Are Friends Forever"


"Thank you, Lord. Friends are friends forever." -Javier

"Year 8-Day 330: Today, I’m grateful "Friends are Friends Forever". 

The song lyrics come from the 1980's. It is a Michael W. Smith classic. I will always associate it with Todd and Jill's wedding. It was the anthem for many friendships formed at Olivet Nazarene University. 

For many of us, our friendships began at church camp when we were still in Jr. High and High School. This picture, taken by my niece when she was working the desk at Ludwig (thanks Ciara), is precious. We met up at Homecoming. Javier Tamez and Bruce Beatty have been friends forever... well almost forever. 

It doesn't matter the time, the space or the years between meetings... we pick right back up where we left off. These good and God serving men are really dear to my heart. They love Jesus. They love their wives and families. They live lives of service. I have been honored to call them both friends.  

Javier captioned this image: 

"Thank you Lord! Friends are friends forever!" -Javier Tamez

Tonight, my heart is full and so are my eyes, with tears. Tonight... Javier's life is hanging in the balance. He is the pastor of the Las Vegas Church of the Nazarene. He has been battling Covid-19 and he is on a vent. Please feel free to add him to your prayers. Our God is able and mighty to save. Still, we must pray as Jesus taught us to pray... Thy will be done. Here was my verse of the day:

"Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe." - Hebrews 12:28

Yes, His kingdom is unshakable, but our human hearts are fearful. We know God's hand holds Javier close. We pray for God's mercy and healing so Javier can live to serve another day... another month... and for many more years. Our hope is not in this world, but in The One who formed the world with His hands. 

Pray for his sweet wife, Milissa and their beautiful family. Their hearts ache. There is power in the name of Jesus. His mercies are new every morning. 

Today, I’m grateful "Friends are Friends Forever". 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Peanuts

 

Year 8-Day 329: Today, I’m grateful for Peanuts.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" is timeless. It wouldn't be Christmas without it. Did you know that Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts used children to create the voices of Charlie Brown and friends? Children's voices gave authenticity to the characters. Perhaps, that is why we still love watching them today. Something feels genuine, even though the characters are animated.

The music from the Christmas special is a favorite for many. I love the heartfelt, passionate speech that Linus gives about the real meaning of Christmas. And what's not to love about Charlie Brown's Christmas tree? It is humble... and priceless. 

My Sister-in-Law, Jennifer, is a huge Peanuts fan. I always think of her when I see Charlie Brown, Snoopy and friends. She believe one of her Christmas trees is all Charlie Brown ornaments. The Peanuts gang remind us of childlike wonder and awe... and miracles. 

Charles Schultz was rejected by Disney, but he didn't give up his love of drawing. I am glad he didn't let someone else's opinion of talent keep him from fulfilling his dreams. There is room in this world for Mickey Mouse and Charlie Brown.

We were created in God's image... we were created to create:

"The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born." -Psalm 33:6

From human hands come Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Pigpen and Snoopy. Not exactly planets and stars, but reflective of our Father's creativity. Let Peanuts remind us to keep creating. Keep celebrating. And... be authentic, just like the children giving voice to the animated friends. 

Today, I’m grateful for Peanuts.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Regret

 Year 8-Day 328: Today, I’m grateful for lessons from regret. 

If we are honest, we all have regrets. Things we wish had done sooner, better or with more compassion. Regret is a beautiful part of being human. It acknowledges our imperfections. There is humility in regret. In regret, the seeds of change can take root. 

Most of us try to avoid doing things we will regret. We call it "being smart" or "acting with caution". Still, some of our best life lessons are born from our mistakes. 

I loved this quote from Anne Frank, the young Dutch girl who kept a diary during the years she hid in a room with her family, before they were discovered and taken to concentration camps. She died at 15. Her diary is full of her thoughts and ponderings like this statement: 

"Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude." -Anne Frank

After nearly eight full years of keeping a daily gratitude log, I am a fan of gratitude. Is regret really stronger than gratitude? I've been thinking about this. I think that regret has the power to help us change our behaviors... and gratitude helps us change our hearts. Perhaps it isn't a contest of strength but a reminder to slow down and consider what motivates us? What changes us?

want a life shaped by gratitude, but I am aware my regrets have shaped my life, too.  How about you? This scripture sums up the value of regret:

"Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. "  -2 CORINTHIANS 7:10 

Buy the flowers. Take time to send a note. Stop by for a visit with an old friend. Drive an elderly friend to the store. Play Uno with a child. Bake a pie. Take a walk in nature. Hold hands with a loved one. Laugh out loud often. 

Tomorrow isn't promised. We only have this day. 

Today, I’m grateful for lessons from regret. 

Refresh

 

Year 8-Day 327: Today, I’m grateful for refreshment.

The great thing about a weekend are the moments of refreshment. Yes, we catch up at home and plan for the week ahead, but taking time to recharge is important. 

With the holiday season in full swing, it is easy to forget to rest and restore. There is always one more thing to do. There is always a shortage of time. It is easy to let the weariness win. 

I love this reminder that God is our provider:

"I’ll refresh tired bodies; I’ll restore tired souls." -Jeremiah 31:25 (MSG)

Refresh and restore. 

Today, I’m grateful for refreshment.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Northern Lights

 

Year 8-Day 326: Today, I’m grateful for the Northern Lights.

This year, I chose "light" for my one little word to ponder. As a child, I am sure I remember seeing a glimpse of them. I did a little research and yes, it is not impossible. I remember dancing greens and purples on the horizon. Magical. Growing up in the country, we didn't have light pollution. We witnessed heaven and nature singing. 

I have seen the full glory of the Northern Lights in movies and and in news clips. I am grateful for the videographers whose passion is to capture them in all of their majesty. What a sight it is to behold in video and in photographs. Again, I am reminded that our Creator loves order... but he seems to delight in artistic expression, too. 

It seems as if light is one of God's favorite tools. As a hobby photographer, light makes or breaks a photo. It doesn't matter how creative we are in setting up a picture, if the light is wrong... Photoshop and Lightroom can only help so much when the shadows are bad. Finding the perfect light changes everything about a photograph. 

Jesus told us to "walk in the light":

Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light. -John 12:35-36

Heaven and nature will continue to sing His praises, but He longs for us to sing them, too. Nature's light shows remind me to never lose my sense of wonder about His power and majesty. He was playing with light long before he breathed life into dust. The Northern Lights might be an earthly sneak peek into Heaven's colors. 

Today, I’m grateful for the Northern Lights.


Friday, November 20, 2020

The Colander

 

Year 8-Day 325: Today, I’m grateful for the colander. 

How many times a week do you use a colander? In our house, several times a week. In fact, it is nice to have several colanders in various sizes. They are used for fresh fruit, for beans and pasta. The uses never cease. 

I use the colander to rinse fruits and veggies before serving. It makes it easy to pick out any bad pieces and throw them away. The colander, utilitarian in nature, is a treasured kitchen tool. It helps me sort the good from the undesirable pieces.

The process of rinsing and removing the rejected pieces moves pretty fast. It is easy to forget that a piece of fruit can look ugly and be super sweet. A veggie can look great, but be rotten on the inside. It is necessary to clean and sort with discernment. 

The process of using a colander to sift and sort reminds me of this passage from Luke: 

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” -Luke 22:31-32

I've read this verse hundreds of time. Notice that Satan asks permission and Jesus carries us to the throne of the Father in prayer. Both thoughts are worth pondering. 

To be sifted... like wheat... trying to decide the good from the bad. It creates a word picture that clearly demonstrates that in trying times, we are not alone. We have an advocate before the Father. In celebratory times, we are not alone, either. When the sifting is over, hope remains. 

Today, I’m grateful for the colander. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Dinner Tables

 

Year 8-Day 324: Today, I’m grateful for dinner tables.

People eagerly gather around the dinner table. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the table is where the main event takes place. Memories are shared and new ones are made. The dinner table is central in many cultures, and the USA is no exception. 

A dinner table is an inanimate object that welcomes intimacy. Isn't that interesting? When I was a child, Mama Ina Mae was never surprised when Dad added guests to the lunch and dinner tables. He always assumed there would be enough.  

There were many times Mama, April and I figured out quick additions to make the meal full for all. Honestly, some of my happiest childhood memories were centered around the big farm table where all were welcome. Come a few times and you were considered family. 

In our own home, we've always enjoyed extras at the dinner table. There were more when the kids were small. We miss the days of boys rumbling through the house with friends, but all we have to do is look at our dinner table and the memories come flooding back. Laughter, stories and connecting... it happens around the table.

On the night before Jesus was taken prisoner, he spent his last supper with his disciples around a dinner table. It was a special dinner, because it was the Passover and so much was about to change. His suffering was ahead and he knew it. The meal was important for the fellowship, their relationships...  and because it was the first communion supper. Not all understood what was about to happen, but later they would reflect on that evening with sober understanding. 

"When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table." -Luke 22:14

At the table, he would speak and they would listen. They would not understand it all, but they would take it all in. Later, they would piece it together with greater understanding. 

As we gather for Thanksgiving... even with smaller numbers this year... the dinner table remains a special place. The dinner table brings us together like few other things. Savor the meal... but more than the food... savor the fellowship.

Today, I’m grateful for dinner tables.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

I Have A Cup

 

Year 8-Day 323: Today, I’m grateful I have a cup. 

I actually have quite a few cups. When you love coffee... and tea... mugs seem to reproduce in the cupboard. The love of my life is confident I have enough. I love this quote:

"When asked if my cup is half-full or half empty, my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup." 

Seriously, the mere fact that I "have a cup" is a reminder that many do not. It is easy to get caught up in the consumerism that is marketed around us everywhere we look. Marketing is powerful and reminds us constantly that there is something bigger, better and newer out there. 

The older I get, the clearer it becomes. The things that matter most are the things connected to people we love and the memories we have shared. Pictures, handmade quilts, gifted jewelry and homemade children's Christmas ornaments. Sotheby's would certainly find little value in the things listed here. But, for the person who remembers the moments attached to the mementoes... the items become priceless. 

Remember the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible? 

"Have them make an ark of acacia wood-two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high." -Exodus 25:10

It was an important symbol of faith and God's presence with His people. The Ark contained the tables of the Mosaic law, a pot of manna and the rod of Aaron. The Ark was made of acacia wood to the specifications God gave the people. Was the Ark of the Covenant half full or half empty? Oh... they had the Ark of the Covenant and its contents as a reminder of God's instructions, his power, his faithfulness and his provision. 

As Christmas approaches, the advertising industry offers their best images, songs and slogans to reel us into the belief we need more. What if this Christmas, remember what the Grinch learned: 

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

It isn't about what we receive. It is about what we already have. To be content with our circumstance is the richest of blessings. 

Today, I’m grateful I have a cup.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Seeds Grow Silently

 

Year 8-Day 322: Today, I’m grateful seeds grow silently.

Remember the old country song, "Thunder's just the noise, boys; lightening does the work." I've always loved that song. 

Ponder this thought for a minute.

"A seed grows with no sound, but a tree falls with a huge noise. Destruction has noise, but creation is quiet. This is the power of silence. Grow silently." 

You cannot hear a seed grow. Creation is quiet. There is power in silence. Truth? I think so. 

Noise gets noticed, but so many good things happen in silence. The squeaky wheel gets greased, but quiet, well-oiled gears get the job done. 

Seeds have always been a mystery to me. Something that seems so lifeless comes to life with sun, water and soil. My heart is filled with wonder and awe. 

"Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. " -Mark 4:27

We don't have to understand how it all happens. We simply have to trust the one who designed the seeds to sprout and grow. The mystery is part of the majesty of God. Nature cannot help but sing His praises 

Celebrate the seeds of every season as silently they grow. 

Today, I’m grateful seeds grow silently.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Fear Doesn't Win

 

Year 8-Day 321: Today, I’m grateful when fear doesn't win. 

There is a great song out right now called "Fear Is A Liar" by Zach Williams. Look at these lyrics:

"Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar"

The chorus lyrics are powerful. Find the song on YouTube and take a listen. Goods stuff. Lies fuel fear. Often, our fears are worse than the actual thing or event we fear. 

Bob Goff sums it up well. It doesn't:

"Fear always looks like its going to win - right up until it doesn't." -Bob Goff 

Faith and trust are a powerful combination. When any situation seems wrong or upside down, I am reminded to turn to the scriptures for direction, help and hope. Fear may look like it will win, but it doesn't. 

"Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions." -Psalm 119:18

Tomorrow's troubles haven't really arrived. They may never arrive. Pause, pray and manage today's trials. 

"“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today." - Matthew 6:34

Fear doesn't fix tomorrow. It sucks the joy and strength out of today. Most of the things we fear, never happen. Wasted worries whittle away at our souls. 

Remember the lesson in the manna from heaven?  God provided the manna every day while Israel wandered in the desert? He wanted them to wholeheartedly trust His provision, holding nothing back. He wanted them to take one day at a time. 

Do we trust His provision, His hand and His heart? We can.  

Today, I’m grateful when fear doesn't win. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Healthcare Workers & Front Line Warriors

Year 8-Day 320: Today, I’m grateful for our healthcare workers and the frontline warriors

We are about nine months into this Covid 19 battle and our healthcare workers, educators, first responders and necessary workers are exhausted. My dear friend, Roxanne Stelle, posted this image and I had to grab it for today's gratitude. 

We don't know how long this pandemic will last, but I know that our men and women who are suiting up and fighting the battle daily are getting weary. This is tough stuff. 

Their days are long and the gratitude for their service is waning. The world grows less patient the longer the pandemic continues. It is human nature to be less patient when we are tired and sick, but these frontline workers deserve our thanks and words of encouragement. In the beginning we knew they were heroes, but nine months into the fight, they are even more deserving of kindness words and kind deeds. 

This scripture from Esther has always been one of my favorites. There are times in our lives where we have no clue what God is doing. Other times, it is as if the light goes on and we start to clearly see the path He has put before us. 

"For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” -Esther 4:14

Our healthcare and frontline workers never dreamed of what they are facing today. They have trained for times like this, but never lived  them. Now, they have. 

Encourage them. Be kind. Be patient. Look for little ways to lift them up when they cross your path. They are all exhausted. 

Today, I’m grateful for our healthcare workers and the frontline warriors.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Walker

 Year 8-Day 319: Today, I’m grateful for Walker.

Today, our youngest son is 24. In a blink they go from babies to married men. Each year goes by a little faster. Birthdays are a great time to pause and reflect on the gift of another year. Our babies' birthdays are even sweeter. The gift of a child is one of God's greatest blessings

Walker's wit, wisdom and wonderings have kept us on our toes from the start. Watching him take in the world around him, asking questions and connecting dots meant we all had to be ready for his next question or observation. He learns quickly and easily shares what he knows. His generous and gentle heart is one of my favorite features. 

When our children become adults, we don't love them any less. We still want to protect them from struggles and pain, but life is full of curveballs. This year... in May... he said "I do", not letting 2020 steal the joy of marrying the love of his life. This picture is a first look moment with his bride. He knows what it means to cherish. He loves fiercely. 

I will always be grateful for the gift of Walker. He was loved from the moment we knew he was on the way.

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.: -Psalm 139:13

Knit uniquely together... by God's perfect design. Deeply loved and forever treasured. Children are a gift from the Lord.  

Today, I’m grateful for Walker.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Brussel Sprouts

Year 8-Day 318: Today, I’m grateful for Brussel sprouts. 

This is one of those days I have to remind everyone this is my gratitude list. Please, feel free to substitute your own idea for the day. The habit of gratitude is good... and for me... Brussel sprouts make the list. 

I grew up eating them. Butter, salt and pepper were all that dressed the Brussel sprouts of my childhood. As an adult, I've discovered there are dozens of ways to dress a sprout! Roasted with bacon, maple or balsamic vinegar provide a modern twist. Yum! Don't knock them until you try them again... as a grown up. 

As you think of the Thanksgiving meal ahead, it might look a little different this year. Why not try something new from the harvest table. To everything, there is a season:

"As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”-Genesis 8:22

Simple foods can really provide good nutrition and health benefits. Brussels sprouts, like most leafy green vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, so they fill you up and satisfy your hunger as well as assist your digestive system in functioning properly. One serving provides 2 grams of protein, too. Brussel sprouts are a great source for Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, folacin and potassium.

Now, I am going to have to add them to the grocery list.

Today, I’m grateful for Brussel sprouts. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Pomegranates

 Year 8-Day 317: Today, I’m grateful for pomegranates. 

Some say the pomegranate is the fruit with the highest antioxidants promoting immune health. Some feel it can reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and battle osteoporosis. It is known to improve prostate health, too. Is it any wonder that pomegranates make the "super foods" list? 

Learning to eat a pomegranate is not for the faint of heart. It takes some practice, but don't let that scare you from picking a couple up at the market.  My favorite way is to soak it in water and let the fruity little seeds float to the top. 

Pomegranates add flavor and crunch to salads. They can be used as a compliment to a main meat dish. They are one of those foods I don't remember seeing as a child. Probably native to Persia and the surrounding areas, it is recorded as being cultivated in ancient Greece. It is not a new fruit, but certainly newer to the Midwest with growing popularity for obvious reasons. Pomegranate juice is available all  year long for the health benefits, but I think it is best to consume it the way God grew it. 

Pomegranates are mentioned many times in the Bible. Pomegranates were listed with grapes, figs, olive oil and honey. All signs of God's goodness and provision. 

"So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey." Deuteronomy 8:6-8

If you have not brought one home, it won't be long before they start to pop up in the produce aisle. Watch videos online for the "the best way to eat a pomegranate". There are options. 

Today, I’m grateful for pomegranates.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Those Who Serve

 Year 8-Day 316: Today, I’m grateful for those who serve.

11...11...11... Veteran's Day is on November 11th  each year. On the eleventh day... of the eleventh month... at the eleventh hour of 1918, the armistice was signed . The cease fire would formally end the major hostilities of World War 1. It was called Armistice Day until 1954, when it was renamed to include all veteran's who have served in any branch of the US military.  

Two of my great uncles died in WWI from illness, not in battle. Uncle Mel and Dad were both Army. Uncle Mel served during the Korean War and Dad served in the Army Reserves. My little sister, April, chose the US Air Force and fulfilled her dream of going to Okinawa. Her fiancĂ©, Mark, was a Marine. My cousins, David and James, followed in the footsteps of our beloved Papa Chet choosing the Navy for their service. David and James are career Navy and our family is so proud of their service. That is just my side of the family. Our great nephew, on Randy's side, is finishing his Army basic training this week, I believe. Red, white and blue... through and through. 

Our service men and women sacrifice so much. They miss holidays, birthdays and special events because they feel called to serve. Their families are equal partners in the sacrifice. They deserve our respect. They don't do it because they hate the enemy in front of them, they do it because they love the family standing behind them. 

The tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington Cemetery is a reminder that many have no idea where their loved ones lay. War is ugly. Remains are not always reclaimed and returned. Pausing to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice is good. 

Veteran's Day is a chance to say thank you to those who show up when disaster strikes, like floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. They build walls of sand when flooding threatens. They rescue those caught in the middle of unexpected disaster zones. They value our freedoms and put their lives on the line to protect our way of life. 

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

Today, I’m grateful for those who serve.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Needle & Thread

Year 8-Day 315: Today, I’m grateful for a needle and thread.

Mama Ina Mae taught me to use a needle and thread when I was quite small. Long before we were allowed to use her sewing machine, she taught us the "Laura Ingalls" way with a simple needle and thread. 

Truly, needles and thread have been around for at least two millennia... and probably longer. What a modern invention it must have seemed at the time of its invention. 

Needle and thread are humble tools, but they can make beautiful things together. From sewing clothing to arts and crafts, together, they offer countless possibilities. On their own, they aren't worth much. 

The apostle Paul was a tentmaker by trade. He must have been handy with needle and thread. It is likely he could sew and share the gospel all at the same time, as the work was second nature. Paul, also, had his struggles with humility. I wonder if he often recalled Jesus words that included a needle:

"In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” -Mark 10:25

Keeping our eyes on Jesus requires diligence and concentration, just like threading a needle. It can seem tedious and frustrating at times, but it is worth the effort. He makes something beautiful out of our messes. He brings purpose to the ordinary moments. 

There are simple lessons learned from a needle and thread. 

Today, I’m grateful for a needle and thread.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Rescued Animals

 

Year 8-Day 314: Today, I’m grateful for rescued animals.

Most of the fur babies in our world are rescued animals. They have been found, come from a shelter or have some other sob story. None of us are very good walking away from an animal in need. It breaks my heart to see the neglect some animals endure. I tear up at the commercials. Animals, like humans, want to feel safe and loved. 

Our pets teach us so much about unconditional love. They look past our flaws. They show endless patience. The smallest scraps of affection send them over the moon with delight. Some, who have tasted hardship, find sweet contentment in a safe space, a kind human and a warm bed. 

The funny thing about rescue pets... we rescue them and they fill a place in our homes where we didn't even recognize a void. Soon, we can't imagine life without them. Okay... maybe, I do remember a time without a pet... less hair, less mud, less noise and more room in the bed. But, truth be told... a house feels more like a home with a fur baby. 

"Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast." -Proverbs 12:10 

When we have dominion over an animal, we have a responsibility to care for it to the best of our abilities. 

There are days I wonder who is the master and who is the keeper? I, also, wonder... who rescues whom?  

Today, I’m grateful for rescued animals.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Pick Up Orders

 Year 8-Day 313: Today, I’m grateful for pick up orders.

Brick and mortar stores provide local jobs. They matter in our communities. One of the ways they have managed the pandemic of 2020 is by maximizing pick up orders. 

The system has become quite slick for most places.  Even our smaller local businesses are finding a way to make pick up orders work. Marketplace on Facebook is another prime example of a pick up order. 

Pick up orders provide minimal physical contact, but keeps the business local. One person can order... and another pick up. The elderly and homebound have been taking advantage of this newer convenience even before 2020. 

Pick up meals are a luxury and a delight. Let's face it, we all get tired of cooking at some point. You know, God originated "pick up food". Truly. 

Look at this passage:

"Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions." -Exodus 16:4

Manna was literally... food they had to pick up daily. It could not be stored overnight. It was a daily lesson in trust and obedience. Only on the 6th day... before the Sabbath... could they collect enough for the next day, so they could keep the Sabbath holy.

Not exactly "pick up orders" as we know them. Still, I love the reminder of God's provision. 

Today, I’m grateful for pick up orders.



Saturday, November 7, 2020

Indian Summer

 Year 8-Day 312: Today, I’m grateful for Indian Summer.

True Indian Summer is a period of abnormally warm weather following the killing freeze of autumn. Some years, we don't get one. This year, for all of its struggles, one sweet gift is a few days or abnormally warm temperatures with the glorious backdrop of autumn in the Midwest. 

It was an absolute perfect day of sun on the face and warm breezes. Soon, the colder temperatures will settle in for the season, so today was worth savoring. 

This Psalm whispers that the seasons are in the Lord's hands. He sets the boundaries, but can control them with His mighty hand. 

"You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter." -Psalm 74:17

Winter comes so the earth can rest. Fall is full of splendor. The perfect fall days are the ones we know as "Indian Summer".

Today, I’m grateful for Indian Summer.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Checks On My Pride

Year 8-Day 311: Today, I’m grateful for checks on my pride.

I've been in a fabulous online Bible study with the most incredible group of ladies. We did the New Testament first... and then have slowly made our way through the Old Testament. 

Right now, we are in the Prophets. There are words of wisdom for this current day and age. Yes, His Word is still alive. It was then. It is now.

This snippet was from today's passages:

"And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” -Ezekiel 17:24

This passage is worth picking apart. WOW. He "brings low the high tree". Getting humbled isn't fun but it is necessary to bend our stubborn ways. "He makes high the low tree." He loves to raise up the truly humble. He can "dry up the green" as a reality check. He can make what seems dead flourish." 

My soul SINGS when I see a semicolon. "I am the Lord; (pause and re-read that again... I am the Lord) "I have spoken and I will do it." His way, not my way or the way of the world. 

I found this powerful prayer:

"... and if my pride ever grows bigger than my love for you Lord, please remind me, it's Your air I'm breathing." 

Pride is what lead to the fall and a broken relationship in the beginning. Pride can still keep us from a restored relationship. At times, we must first be broken down. Pride checks are usually painful. Restored relationships are worth the humble pie. 

"Father, break us down. Lift us up. Lead us to the throne of your mercy and grace. Teach us to PAUSE and take in awesomeness so that we are overwhelmed by YOU alone. Not any circumstance in the world, the government or at home. You are our God. -Amen"

Today, I’m grateful for checks on my pride. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Volunteer Vs. Committee

  

Year 8-Day 310: Today, I’m grateful volunteering is a true exercise in democracy.

I grew up in the 70's. We had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution. I can still sing it today, thanks to School House Rock. I remember the concern over passing the Constitution Test in 8th grade... like Sharon Wahl would have tolerated any of us not passing. How I loved learning from that lady. She had a unique style... we feared her and respected her... and then, most of us loved her. She loved history. She made it come to life. 

Ms. Wahl and Connie Bozell Hustedt are the reason I tested out of history in college. They taught the good, the ugly and the hopeful about our country.  They taught it well. People in history came to life. Both of them always reminded us that the men and women who seemed bigger than life, were ordinary men and women, not afraid to do extraordinary things. 

Our country was born after a war fought by volunteers. Yes, they formed an army, but if they weren't passionate about the cause, soldiers would bail at the first sign of discomfort. The heart of a volunteer pressed on through the heat, the cold and the hunger.  I love that quote that says, "The Titantic was built by professionals; the Ark was built by a volunteer." 

"Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in." - Anonymous

If we want to change the world, we won't do it in a committee. We will do it through volunteer efforts. 20 Years at St. Jude taught me so much about the power of volunteerism. Volunteers ran most events so nearly every dollar went to fighting childhood cancer. The power of volunteerism helped build St. Jude into the amazing hospital and affiliates it is today. The secret to their success... passionate volunteers. 

When tragedy strikes in the form of hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados or floods... church volunteers are often some of the first to arrive with help and hope. They are often the ones who stay, too, beyond the crisis. I will never forget Franklin Graham's honest response when a reporter set him up to speak negatively about the governments response to a hurricane. Graham showed grace when he did not take the bait. He simply stated  (and I have paraphrased it), they were "grateful they didn't have to deal with the red tape. They could see a need and attempt to meet it. Immediately." 

We change lives by what we give away. What is your passion? Explore it. Figure it out. Where does your community need what you have to offer. Just do it! 

"And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’" -Matthew 25:40

Bob Goff would say, "Love does." Bob is right. 

Today, I’m grateful volunteering is a true exercise in democracy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A Purpose

  Year 8-Day 309: Today, I’m grateful for a purpose. 

We all need a purpose. We need a reason to get up and out of bed. We feel better when we feel needed. 

I am amazed that this is my Bible Study group's scripture for today: "They will console you, when you see their ways and their deeds, and you shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, declares the Lord GOD.” -Ezekiel 14:23

What a perfect verse as we wait on election results. Remember... no political posts here... but the truth that God is never absent. He might be silent... but He is never absent. 

Throughout history, we see God's hand. We can trust His heart, even when the world seems crazy. While he is working out "all things" to His glory and for our good... we must learn to watch... and pray... and wait upon the Lord. 

Our purpose is found in Him. 

Today, I’m grateful for a purpose. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Undivided Hearts

 Year 8-Day 308: Today, I’m grateful we can pray for "undivided hearts of flesh... not stone." 

It is election day in the USA. We live in a country where we get to vote for our leaders. We live in a country where we need to pray for our leaders. One of the things that moves my heart is the challenge to pray for my enemies. I like to think I don't have a very long list, but perhaps I underestimate those who dislike me. 

We are called to lift up our leaders in prayer to The One who is still on the throne, no matter who wins the election. Breathe. 

 "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." -Ezekiel 11:19

We must not let our hearts become hardened. We must collectively pray for the winners and those who lose their elections. I have to be honest... I can't wait for the campaign adds to be over! 

' “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. ' -Matthew 5:33-35 

If your candidate wins... pray for them. If your choice loses, pray for them more. I need to write this down to be intentional. Prayer changes hearts. Esther's story is one of my favorite examples. Daniel, too. 

We must choose to live in the light of love. Stand together. Lift up those who need help. Be patient with those who have no filter. Be a kind human. 

Tomorrow, I will wake up and think about my dear friend, Chayo, who reminds me every day that I am very blessed to be born in this country. In fact, she says I have no idea how lucky I am. I know she is right. Tomorrow, we will say the pledge together with undivided hearts. She is a wife, a mother, a believer, a healthcare worker and a dear friend. I don't care how she voted. I am sure she doesn't judge me by my vote, either.  We are sisters under the stars and stripes of Old Glory, expressing our privilege to make our voice heard . 

My niece led the pledge in pre-school many years ago at about 4 years of age. She ended it "With liberty and justice for frogs." To this day, I saw quietly "With liberty and justice for all...even frogs." Frogs can't vote. They don't turn into princes. Neither, do politicians. 

Keep your hearts tender.

Today, I’m grateful we can pray for "undivided hearts of flesh... not stone."