It Must Be Thanksgiving

Turkey, gravy, stuffing.

Parades and plans for Friday shopping.

Pumpkin pie and probably a family squabble or two.

It must be Thanksgiving.

For the last month, I have identified five things each day for which I am thankful.  Practicing thankfulness has given me a much needed attitude adjustment.

Gratitude is perspective changing. It causes you to focus on the life-giving things we’re so apt to overlook.  If I have learned anything over this last month it is that thanksgiving is to be an orientation--a way at looking at life.  The real shame is that we have to set aside one day to do what should be a natural overflow  of our heart’s orientation to God’s work in our life.

As Christians, we are all acquainted with the Eucharist–that time when we remember what Christ has done for us on the cross. His atonement for our sins.  His redemption of our lives.  His clothing us in His righteousness.  His bringing us into the family of the Father who He loves. His securing our future and hiding  us in resurrected life.  His conquering of sin and death.

Eucharist means ‘to give thanks.’ When we remember Christ, we can’t help but give thanks.  Of course here in Southern California my life is filled with many things for which I can give thanks–a family, a house, food in my fridge, beautiful beaches.  There are also many things for which I am not as thankful–Sacramento’s taxes, a broken oven (lucky turkey!), and a sore foot.  But these are all lesser things…lesser things we let take a place at the table and we stuff ourselves with their concerns and entitlements.

The lesser things always demand more. But the Eucharist satisfies everything. What do we really need that Christ does not provide? (If you don’t believe me, go read Ephesians 1.)

Give thanks for Jesus today. Amidst the turkey and the gravy, don’t forget the bread and the wine which makes everyday a day of thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankfulness: Womanhood, Purity Balls, and Parents Who Did It Right

I’m pausing to consider and give thanks for my heritage.

Several  days ago I saw this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NO0FBo98zU&feature=related

Christian friends, we can do better than this!   We must do better than this.  We must learn to esteem the gospel in the way we raise our children.  I mean really esteem it–recognizing it alone has the power to transform the hearts of youth and empower them to live in the light of its truth.  Young girls don’t need fancy dresses and purity balls (such a bad name!).  They need to know they have a heavenly Father who loves them perfectly and to live their lives in the reality of His love for them.  They need to hear from us and see in us what it means to have our identity as men and women hidden in Christ.  They need to be instructed in how to clothe themselves in the compassion of Christ and the conviction of His atonement.

My own parents weren’t passive by any means about dating relationships.  So involved that I never dated anyone who didn’t first call my dad and hear him say, “I want you to know how special my daughter is to me.”   My parents spoke into these early dating relationships, but it was always in the context of who the “big picture” me was.  Sexuality was never disconnected from whole. I was never led to believe that I was “saving” something for my future husband, but rather I was preparing to offer the best of all of me.  But somehow the purity movement has let sexuality become the Queen of  a girl’s worth.

I am thankful I had parents who taught me to live fully in Christ.  I am thankful they nurtured strength in all areas of my personhood.  I’m thankful they taught me to think clearly, feel deeply, and to love purely.  I’m thankful they pressed me into letting Christ have lordship over my heart, mind, and body.  I’m thankful they let me walk in my future potential than in the condemnation of failure. There weren’t any fear tactics.  There weren’t any contrived manipulations.  Only the expectation that I practice loving God and honoring Christ with all of me.

Maybe that’s simplistic.  Or maybe it’s just taking God at His Word and allowing Him do the heart work necessary to stir up purity as one virtue of a surrendered life.

Thankfulness: Imperfections & the People Who Give us Grace

Today was not a perfect day.

Neither was the day before that.  I’ve yet to live a perfect day.

I keep finding myself in what is called ‘today’–and so imperfection inevitably chases at the heels of every attempt to do things right.

I hate my imperfections–and if I had a wand to wave them away, I would–but, I am thankful for them.

I know it’s a weird thing for which to be thankful. Yet when you live in a constant state of never-quite-right, you discover the people who love you for who you really are…and not just for what you do. I am so thankful for those who laugh along with my randomness.  I’m thankful for those who let joy fill up the spaces where my intensity has made a crack.  For their patience with my mistakes, forgetfulness (Family, sorry I lost the Christmas names…again.), and clumsiness. I am thankful for those who remind me that grace is way of seeing past the moment of failure into the future of growth and restoration.

I’m grateful for those who love my less-than-best self.

Last night I heard an interview on Sunday Night Football with Tony Dungy about his relationship with Michael Vick.  He was asked why he got involved with Vick in the midst of his criminal failures.  Dungy replied, “It’s what I do.  It’s who I am.” It really struck me that Dungy understands the impact of there being one person in your life who stands by you…no matter what.  We all need that one person.  We all need to become that one person!

Do you find that you discover who your real friends are by how they treat you in your messing-up mode?  Have you stopped to tell them how thankful you are for their grace?  Have you paused to give thanks that you have people in your life who love you because they see your best potential even when you’re stumbling all over yourself?

What Keeps You From Being Thankful?

What’s keeping you from being thankful?

Today I had conversations and emails and a phone call from people I love who are all going through incredible pain.  I-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e pain.  With these loved ones on my mind, I went shopping for all the Thanksgiving meal makings.

And all I heard was grumbling–over petty issues.   P-e-t-t-y issues:  turkey supply, long lines, slow cashiers, misbehaving children, and piggish drivers.  It was just a long parade of all that’s wrong in the world.  Unless you are actually one of the people who is a-c-t-u-a-l-l-y suffering from all that’s wrong in the world:

The poor who wish they had money to buy a turkey.

Those who don’t mind the long lines because illness is making their life seem all too short.

The lonely who welcome  the conversation of a slow cashier, because it will be the only one they have all week.

The barren woman who longs to have a child–even if it is a naughty one.

Okay, so the guy pulled out in front of you and you had to touch your brakes, but you’re driving a car.  Driving a $105,000 car (I saw the sticker at the auto show)!!!  Do you realize what percentage of the world even owns a car?  Do you know that most Americans can’t afford a house the same price as your car???

Really.   Do we really have so much that we can’t be thankful, only cranky that we don’t have more?  Do we really have so much that we can’t be sensitive to those who would consider your life rich and full?

Before you grumble–before you complain, ask yourself:  What’s keeping me from being thankful? Really?  What is it?

Thankfulness: Family, Friends, & the Things We Forget Are Extravagant Gifts

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:18

Is it possible for something to be so ordinary and expected that we forget it should be a cause for thanksgiving?

For those of us living in the West, in particular, there is so much in our lives for which we should be thankful, but we’re not because our excess and conveniences are commonplace.  Could it be that we  have agitated, discontented souls because we fail to notice the richest places of our lives when they come wrapped in the ordinary rhythm and routines of life?  If only we spent more time being thankful for what we do have than considering how to get what we don’t.

I’m inclined to overlook the common graces often:  Food, home, family–plus all our crazy pets, and friends.  Today I spent time visiting with a friend I have had since 3rd grade.  3rd Grade!!!  I really can’t remember a time when she was not in my life.  We don’t talk every day…or even every week or month…but it’s assumed that as long as we have breath, we will be friends.  It’s easy to overlook the extravagant gift of having a friend like this, until you stop and consider that not everyone does.

That’s just the key:  we don’t spend enough time pausing to consider.  We rush and remedy to make our lives “better” than it is, when in point of fact, our lives our already filled with so many overlooked and under-appreciated  treasures.

Does gratitude keep you walking slowly enough to let your heart soak up the goodness that surrounds you?

Thankfulness: Goodness in the Margins

There are days when the important things, the resolved upon things, by necessity get squeezed into the margins, in between the white noise of other’s misunderstandings and your inadequacies.

Yet what I realized today is that any goodness in life–no matter how small their sliver of real estate may be–is to be treasured. I’m become more greatly aware that much of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God comes in response to the Pharisee’s or the disciple’s grumbling.  In contrast, Jesus emphasizes the essential qualities of joy and gratitude that mark His kingdom. The question for me–and you:  Is my life life marked by joy and gratitude…or grumbling?

Could it be that on days on like today, when goodness seems relegated to margins space that those margins can become pillars of hope to steady and strengthen the complicated middle ground? I think they can if we pause long enough to examine what is in our margins and to be grateful that goodness can be found there.

I’ve looked in my margins and here is what I found today for which I am thankful:

1. The wisdom of my husband.

2. Friends–the silly ones, wise ones, resilient ones…all of them faithful ones.

3. The many people who ask me about my mom and tell me they are praying for her.  There is nothing…absolutely nothing…sweeter than those who willingly carry your burdens with you.

4. My sister telling me about where everyone is going to sleep when we go to visit at Christmas…it’s so far away, but it’s important to her and so she’s being thoughtful.  That makes my heart smile.

5. Tape and glue and needle and thread.  Today was the day of breaking things and fixing things.   I’m so grateful that when some things seem unfixable, there are many others that can be mended and repair.  I am thankful for all kinds of “fixes”–oh, but I do love me a quick fix!

Even if today was a tough day for you, examine closely the margins of life and drag out all those evidences of God’s powerful work, His tender mercies, and His gracious steadfastness.  Let the kingdom of joy and gratitude take up more space tomorrow than it did today.

Thankfulness: Unlimited Grace

Today came on the heels of a very bad, no good, horrible day.  Yesterday had few, if any, moments of which I am proud.  I yelled at the husband.  I freaked out at the kids.  I served Macaroni and Cheese for dinner.  I didn’t call my mom.   It was a most ungraceful day.

Today I woke up knowing that I would have to drag my sorry, loser, sinning self out of bed to talk  to the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) ladies about grace.  Please pause and let the irony of that settle for a moment.

I happen to LOVE to talk…and to teach…and so an invitation to speak is always something I am enthusiastic about.  Except for today.

I’m pretty sure I bombed up the place with a real stinker, half of what I had intended to say, I didn’t.  But somehow, it doesn’t matter. The immediate need I had to hear the truth spoken from my lips led to a profound sense of my need for Jesus and His grace.   More so, knowing that I could go from such a bad yesterday to a new today stirred up incredible humility and gratitude.   Humility that God keeps inviting me to the table of His acceptance.  Grateful for the reminder that I’ve not lost my need for the gospel.  I still need grace…every minute.

We fall short of the grace when we fail to submit to the terms of the gospel in every area of our lives.

“The terms of the gospel are repugnant to the natural man:  they are distasteful to his carnal lusts, they are humbling to his pride…to fail the grace of God is to be satisfied with anything short of divine grace ruling in our hearts.  How many have been deceived by a kind of godliness who know nothing of its power…How many substitute outward forms and ceremonies for an experimental acquaintance with the substance of them.” (Arthur Pink)

In the messy place of yesterday, I was reminded afresh of the power I need for today.  I am thankful that I have a Savior! I am thankful He is still entering the messy places of my life just as He did for the woman at the well, the woman in tears at His feet, and the woman in need of healing.  I am thankful He doesn’t just offer me a a “better version” of me; but a new me.  I am thankful His grace is sufficient for my yesterdays and my tomorrows.  I am thankful His grace is unlimited.

How about you?  Are you living on the new graces of today? If so, give thanks that your Savior sees you in the rhythms, rituals, and relationships of your life…and He loves you.

Thanksgiving: Generosity

“But I have trusted in Your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance.  I will sing to the LORD because He has treated me generously” Psalm 13:5-6.

I presume like you, there are many barren places in my life.  Places that stand empty, disappointed, and frustrated.  Places that will remain so, until the Lord inhabits those places with generosity of provision.

Reflecting on what I already have received from the Lord helps me to remain hopeful in the desert places.   I already have so much.  I already have all I truly need.  I have been treated generously.

Last night in my theology class we discussed the nature of man.  We explored the messy stuff: sin, depravity, shame.  And the beautiful reality: Image-bearing, redeemable, glory.  I left sobered…and grateful.

Grateful God has generously given me His image when He created me.  And because He has, I never lack value in His eyes.

Grateful God has generously given me His love.   His love is always pure.  Never stingy.

Grateful God has generously welcomed me into relationship with Him.  He likes me.  He is always happy to see me coming.

Grateful God has generously forgiven me.  I don’t deserve forgiveness.  Yet, I certainly need it.

Grateful God generously instructs me.  No matter how dull a student I may be, He keeps patiently working on me; believing I will become the me I am not yet.

Do you find yourself today in a desert place?  Feeling empty?  Abandoned?  Consider God’s generosity toward you and let it stir up hope in His future, yet unseen, work.

Thankfulness: Daily Grace

“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind” Psalm 107:31.

For food and drink and everything, we give you thanks, O Lord.

Have you stopped to consider the fortune of each day?  I believe that in our fast-paced, give-me-more culture we overlook so many of the “simple” graces given to us in every single day.

I will wake up tomorrow, as I did today, in a warm bed with a roof over my head.  Many in Haiti will not.  Thank you, Lord, for my home.

Today I will read.  It wasn’t until this last week that I became profoundly aware of the gift of my education and its enrichment in my life.  My heart hurts for those who cannot read and the shame and embarrassment that holds them in a prison of fear that others will find out.   Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to learn all I have–help me not to waste any of it today.

My children are downstairs messing up my kitchen, while elsewhere dear people I love are waking up to another morning of only the sound of silence and the grief of an empty womb.  Thank you, Lord for my children…and their messes.

My mom will go to a doctor and receive the best medical care in all the world.   Someone’s mother will suffer through illness with no access to medical care.  Thank you, Lord, for being the Great Physician!

If you want to see the bigness of God, look in the small places–there you will find His faithfulness and provision.  We have so much for which to be thankful!

What overlooked places in your life need to get dragged out for a celebration of thanks?