Thanksgiving Thursday

I love seeing light at the end of a tunnel. A real tunnel, real light. Every time I see daylight as I near the exit of a tunnel, it reminds me that no dark time lasts forever, and though the darkness may last for the night, joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

But to see the sun, you have to move through the tunnel, and to find joy you have to believe. “Belief is a verb, something that you do…the very real, everyday action of trusting,” Ann Voskamp says, “I can’t fill with joy until I learn how to trust…Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism. Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt. Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear.”

Eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle”, and I have found this to be true this week. Miracles have happened, prayers have been answered, and blessings have been plentiful.

My Thanksgiving List 8/23/12

13. Peanut’s bath time 

16. Pruned baby toes

 

19. Rainstorms on a summer evening 

28. Seeing – really seeing – peace melt over a friend in a situation of turmoil 

40. Getting it all done – ON TIME! 

45. My sweet husband coming home during his work day to watch our baby so I can keep an appointment 

25. Thick, meaty portobello mushrooms sandwiching salmon burgers, onion, and tomatoes

 

37. The grand beauty of the Rocky Mountains

 

83. Small, yellow wildflowers growing along a county road 

84. Setting up a tent in the rain, BEFORE the real rain hit! 

86. Hazelnut Ale 

87. Steaks grilled over a campfire 

91. A catalytic heater 

92. Falling in love again – with my husband 

93. Camp coffee 

89. No injuries and no breakages on a trail run 

94. Pueblo green chile sloppers and beer 

82. A sweet baby boy born to sweet friends

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Thanksgiving Thursdays, A Tradition of Gratitude

Most of you, my blog friends, know that I am an avid reader, a bookworm with hundreds of books lining a homemade, built-in bookcase, carefully organized by subject, and hundreds more boxed and placed in sheds, basements, and storage nooks. I have already read many of those hundreds of books, and have my marker in many more.

I am guilty of a little habit of starting a book, finding another fabulous read and starting it, followed by still another fascinating title that I cannot help but peek into. My sweet, patient husband is never shocked when I excitedly tell him that Amazon has directed me to yet another enticing hardback, filled with what is promised to be nothing short of manna from heaven.

But this year, 2012, is different – mostly. I have sworn myself to finishing a whole book before beginning another. It is working – mostly. I have finished five books so far this year, and only with two of them have I been guilty of literary infidelity.

One such innocent dalliance flourished and became true love: One Thousand Gifts. Isn’t that beautiful to even say? Try it. “One Thousand Gifts.” I am smitten.

The author, Ann Voskamp, writes in a hauntingly beautiful, often cumbersome style. Her words are works of art that require time and full attention, but yield such miraculous joy that ought not to be missed.

The message of One Thousand Gifts is a challenge, a dare, to see life and all it offers as gifts from the hand of a loving Creator-Father, to bless the Lord who daily loads us with benefits (Ps. 68:19). Ann invites the eyes of our hearts to see everything through the lens of thankfulness, to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8). “Counting His graces makes all moments into one holy kiss of communion and communion comes in the common.” Ann writes, “Is there a greater way to love the Giver than to delight wildly in His gifts?”

I accept. I accept the challenge, the dare. I will, along with Ann, be a hunter of beauty, seeking where – anywhere, everywhere – I may be thankful and receive what the Giver has given.

Will you join me? Will you, too, be a hunter of beauty? Will you join me here every Thursday? I would like to show you, here, every Thursday, where I have found beauty, and for what I have given thanks. Sometimes it will be a little, sometimes it will be a lot. And I would like you to show me, through your comments, where you have found beauty, and for what you have given thanks.

Ann wisely reminds us, though, that “all beauty is only a reflection. And whether I am conscious of it or not, any created thing of which I am amazed, it is the glimpse of His face to which I bow down. Do I have eyes to see that it’s [God] and not the thing?…I must “have eyes to see His face in all things so I’m not merely dazzled by the trinket.”

So join me every Thursday, blog friends, in giving thanks to our God the Father for everything (Eph. 5:20). “Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle!”

            My Weekly Thanksgiving List for Thursday, 8/9/12

  1. New recipes that I try out on friends that turn out delicious…and pretty!

  2. Tears wept from a thankful heart, cleansing away ugly ungratefulness
  3. Chinese food after a good day Jeeping
  4. String cheese
  5. Teething marks on my favorite pen

     

  6. Secretly planning a date with my husband
  7. The compassionate love of a friend
  8. A week off of work
  9. The end of road construction!
  10. A wonderful visit with out-of-state family
  11. A love affair with my husband 

Please tell me, what gifts have you received this week?

Today, Troubled; Tomorrow, Triumphant

An American business owner is vitriolically slandered by intolerant people full of rage for honestly answering questions regarding his beliefs.

A woman given to expressing the love of Christ in marriage is abandoned by an adulterous husband.

A man devoted to providing for his family is left to stand on his own by a divided company.

A young, talented football player is sought to be discredited by a hateful media.

A thirty-something is already wearied by the storms of life.

An unborn child is destroyed by the mother-heart yielded to darkness.

A man called Love is vitriolically slandered by intolerant people full of rage, abandoned by his followers, left to stand on his own, sought to be discredited, wearied by the storms of life, destroyed by hearts yielded to darkness.

“Whenever you are about to howl to the heavens, “I don’t deserve this!”, close your eyes and remember Christ hanging on the cross and say it again aloud, “I don’t deserve this.” Ann Voskamp

We have not a high priest that is cold, unfeeling, unsympathetic to our weaknesses, pain, suffering (Heb. 4:15). We may look to him for aid, support, comfort. We may come to him, for his yoke is easy, and his burden light (Matt. 11:30).

Helpless cries from a hurting child are met with grace by the heart of our Healer, Provider, Protector, High Priest….Abba, Father.

Look to him, pained child of God, for with loving-kindness he is drawing you, and he is near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit (Jer. 31:3, Ps. 34:18). Snuggle close, feel his heartbeat, rest. In the end, every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10&11). In the end, he wins…and so do you.

I Will Stand…In Christ Alone

Not long after my dad died, my mom told me a story. She told me how, when the twin towers crumbled in New York City on September 11th, 2001, the foundations of the buildings that surrounded the massive towers were irreparably moved, shaken, and weakened by the destructive fall. They could not stand.

She was telling me more than just a story, though. I had only been married four short years when my dad died; when my parents’ marriage and all that I had held dear shattered at my feet. My marriage’s foundation was shaken. She was talking about my future; she was talking about my choices.

So I went home, made my choice, stood before my husband, and told him the story. I told him the destruction stops here. We may be shaken, but we will not be moved, we will not be torn down, we will not be weakened. We will stand…in Christ alone.

I also made my choice before God. He knew the story of the towers and the foundations of the surrounding buildings, so I didn’t tell him. I just told him where my heart stood. I told him that the destruction stops here. I told him that I may be shaken, but I would not be moved, I would not be torn down, I would not be weakened. I will stand…in Christ alone.

Nearly eleven years later, I am very near another fall, one that has threatened my foundation. But the destruction stops here. I may be shaken, but I will not be moved, I will not be torn down, I will not be weakened. I will stand…in Christ alone.

What Does It Mean To Be Pro-Life?

Today, January 22nd, is the 39th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion on demand in the United States, resulting in over 54 million abortions to date.

Many Americans, however, choose a pro-life standing, one that is firmly against the abortion decision and sees the unborn as persons of value, created in the image of God and deserving of basic human rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

But is that all there is? What, truly, does it mean to be pro-life? It includes the abortion issue, to be sure, but it goes far beyond that.

Being pro-life is a worldview and a life-view. We see life as beginning with conception and ending in natural death, which determines how we treat others. It means we stand against abortion, suicide, homicide, genocide, euthanasia, domestic violence, abuse, and discrimination against race, sex, and religion.

It means we visit and serve those in prison and stand for their redemption, and help the poor and homeless find food, shelter, and quality employment. It means we respect those who differ in opinion, but will not tolerate the degradation and destruction of human life.

It means we stand with women who are facing unwanted and unplanned pregnancies to find alternatives to abortion, recognizing that their life is equal to but not more important than that of their unborn child. It means we stand for the right to remove the baby when the life of the mother is endangered, not because her life is more important than her child’s, but because we save the life we can.

It means we stand for protection of children, the elderly, and the disabled. It is why we stand for the death penalty when someone, with premeditation, takes a life. It means we value human life above plant or animal life.

It means that we preach, teach, live out, and are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is through Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It means we see all human life as worth the blood of Christ.

This is what it means to be pro-life.

How Firm A Foundation: Remembering Daddy

Ten years ago today.

I really don’t remember much about that day. I don’t remember if it was sunny or cloudy, windy or calm. I don’t remember if there was snow on the ground or even if it had been very cold. But I remember well the chill that permeated my being that December night ten years ago.

I grew up a daddy’s girl, no doubt about it. My daddy was a preacher, a barber, a race car driver, an author, and a paralegal. He was smart and he inspired me. He taught me about love, family, and fun. We traveled, camped, celebrated every holiday to the fullest, trusted each other, championed one another, and treated each other with value and honor. He taught me to search for, find, and stand for what I believed in, no matter what the cost. He showed me how to stand on my own feet yet lean on God, say I’m sorry and I love you, value relational success over financial success, and strive for excellence in all.

He had a passion for teaching his children that we find our firm foundation not in man or man’s teaching, but in the inerrant, unshakable Word of God, and that our worth is not found in what others think of us, but in the knowledge that we are worth the very blood of Christ.

He and I dated, held hands, and loved my mother. We debated religious, political, and personal issues. We laughed, cried, and were quiet together. He wasn’t perfect, but he was my hero, and I was sure that he knew everything. But ten years ago, December 14th, 2001, my hero crumbled. With the pull of a trigger he ended his own life.

I was twenty-three. My life changed forever and my heart would never be the same. They say time heals all wounds. It doesn’t. Time does ease the pain, though, and faith, hope and love can restore and make whole the broken.

As I began to put the shattered pieces of my life that he had touched so profoundly back together, I saw they would never fit as they did before. They would need to be placed somewhere else, somewhere called the past, tucked in my heart as memories. Every time I take them out, I see the jagged cracks where they were broken. I see that they don’t fit perfectly, like a puzzle that was put together with the wrong pieces.

Many things, though, remain just as they were. My dad instilled in me what mattered. I stand on my own feet yet lean on God, say I’m sorry and I love you, value relationships and strive for excellence. My value did not diminish when I realized that, to him, I was not worth living for, because I am worth the life of the Son of God. I searched for and found what I believed in, and my foundation was not found in man, not even my first man, my hero.

The ten years since my father died have been good, even great. I have faced head-on the heartbreak, the dissolution of an irreplaceable relationship, and the loss of my childhood mentor and pastor. I am still facing things: the loss of my daughter’s grandfather, some holes that can never be filled, and, at times, feelings that threaten the delicate adhesive that holds those once-shattered pieces together.

An unknown author wrote, “Sometimes on the Rock I tremble, but the steadfast Rock of ages never trembles under me.” I do tremble at times, but I know Whom I have believed, and my foundation is firm.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

How Firm A Foundation v3 by John Keith, 1787

The Bucket List

  I have never had a Bucket List. There are many things I would love to do or accomplish before the end of my life, but I have never thought of anything that I would regret if it were not done before I died. And so, the story of my life has been written by the Spirit’s whisper in my ear, some carefully laid plans, and many humanly uncontrollable circumstances, but few things done with mortality as a main motivator. I would describe myself as extremely competitive against myself, but not against others. I would describe myself as driven to achieve excellence in all I do, but not driven to achieve the world’s view and idea of “success”. I love activity, action, learning, giving, and experiencing, and I hate the status quo, boredom, and mediocrity, and have come to even dislike settling into a comfort zone. But I don’t seek out the newest thrill-seeker’s high, and love an evening at home with the latest release to Redbox or a good book.

 I was contemplating the tendency of others to need a Bucket List the other day and wondering if I were missing out somehow. But nothing came to mind – outside of maybe sky-diving or climbing Mt. Everest – that would even make for an interesting Bucket List for my life. The activities that I’m blessed to enjoy definitely put my life into “a-blast-and-a-half” category, and I’ve learned to live as though every day may be my last. Yet I am simply loving every minute of this beautiful ride on the third rock from the sun as I wait to go home to my Savior and my heavenly mansion – which I picture as an Americana style mountain cottage with a rock wall, Sunflowers, Daisy’s, and a hot tub. This struck me as a very pious solution to why I don’t have a Bucket List.

 Then a thought hit me: What if a Bucket List had less to do with what I want to accomplish or experience, and more to do with what I would want to do for Christ? Faith without works, after all, is dead (James 2:20). With that in mind, I excitedly began compiling my Spiritual Bucket List: Would I choose 3 souls or 7 to have the privilege of leading to Christ in my lifetime? Would I like to teach a women’s small group or a couple’s? Would the book I want to write be on flip-flop sexual desires in marriage or Calvinism vs. Arminianism? Is my neighborhood my mission field or should I look at going to Ireland (I hear the beer is excellent there!)? Would I like to give x amount of money to Focus on the Family or Christian Law Association?

 Right in the middle of my righteous B.L. planning, God interrupted my thought process. “My thoughts are not your thoughts”, declared the Lord (Is. 55:8). “Really Lord, ’cause I’m on a roll here.” “You are My workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which I have before ordained that you should walk in them. I know the plans I have for you.” (Eph. 2:10; Jer. 29:11).

 I began to see that what He was trying to get through to me was that if it were MY Spiritual Bucket List that I accomplished through MY works I could boast, but it’s not by my might nor by my power, but by God’s Spirit working in me to walk in the Bucket List HE had planned for me to do (Eph. 2:9; Zech 4:6)! What’s important is not what I want to see done before I leave this world, it’s what He wants to see done.

 All of my pious plans dissipated in the light of His glory and grace, and I began to seek His plans for me. I asked that He would so indelibly write His Bucket List on my heart that I would clearly see it and be able to write those things out on paper. (If – and when – He gives me that list, be assured, I will share with you God’s Bucket List for me!) I began to ask that He would open the eyes of my heart to see His plans and to move the direction and events of my life to accomplish those things. I re-affirmed my desire and intent to never be conformed to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind so that I could attest and approve what His perfect will was for me, and committed to put on the mind of Christ (Rom 12:2; Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 2:16).

 The most exciting aspect of asking God to write my Bucket List is knowing that this is the truest way to experience a mortality-defying, thrill-seeking, high-adrenaline rush! This is the only way to live the abundant life and the best way to live above myself, all the while knowing this is the best life I can have. This IS living the quote “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive, well-preserved body, but rather to slide in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, ‘Woo-Hoo, what a ride!!’”, and all the while knowing that the next life, well, that life will be even better.

 I must admit, however, I am hoping that God will slide sky-diving and climbing Mt. Everest into His plan for me somewhere; I will happily witness to the sky diving instructor about the true leap of faith of a life lived in Christ, and what better way to experience the second coming of my Lord than at the top of Mt. Everest…Even so, come Lord Jesus! 🙂