Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving to Remember

When I reflect on past Thanksgivings, there is one that stands out more than the rest. It was not the meal that was so unforgettable; rather it was the awesome way God came through during a time of desperation.

It was 1997 and we were moving for the second time in a year. We had rented a house while waiting for the old country farmhouse we had purchased to be vacated, and then remodeled. Finally, the remodeling was finished and it was time to move – on Thanksgiving Day.

Even though the day was hectic, we stopped long enough in the afternoon to dash to my mother’s house and inhale turkey and all the trimmings, barely tasting the food. On the way home we stopped by our storage shed and emptied it, including loading the old washer and dryer into our pickup truck. How we hoped they would both work; with all the unforeseen expenses from the remodeling, money was tight. And, just the other day the previous owner had shared with us that there were muskrats tearing apart the dam on our pond.


It was dusk when we finally got home and unloaded the truck. I held my breath when my husband plugged in the appliances. Sadly, just as we suspected, nothing happened.

Then I remembered my brother Danny was an appliance repairman – I’d call him! But when his wife answered the phone and explained that Danny’s schedule was jam packed with furnace repairs, I plopped down at the kitchen table, exhausted from the move, and wept. All these expenses and now we need a washer and dryer?

And, along with that problem were those pesky muskrats; I didn’t even know what one looked like, much less how to get rid of one. Why does life have to be so hard?

I found myself crying out to the Lord, and was suddenly, painfully reminded… I had not been praying about our situation. I had been so stressed from moving that I had neglected the Lord. I hadn’t been reading my Bible, praying, or spending any quiet time with Him at all. I had put God on the back burner; that is, until now.

I prayed from my heart, pouring out my concerns about our finances, the appliances and even muskrats. I praised God for who He was, believing He would take care of everything. Instantly I was filled with peace and went on to bed, knowing somehow, that God would work it all out.

But the next day when the phone rang, nothing could have prepared me for what would transpire.

The caller was Phil, a co-worker of Danny’s. He explained that Danny had told him about our old appliances, and Phil hoped we could work something out.

Shocked, I gasped, “Sure! What did you have in mind?”

Phil began, “My teenage son likes to trap.”

“Great!” I anxiously butted in. “He can trap in the forest. No problem.”

“That’s not what I had in mind,” Phil continued. “I heard you have a pond and, well, if you and Chuck would “let” my son trap muskrats on your pond, I’ll fix your washer and dryer.”

Chills ran up and down my spine as I recalled my prayer from the night before. Only God knew my desperate plea, and only He could orchestrate something this awesome.

And now, years later, I continue to gain strength from the memory of how God came through one exhausting, yet incredible, Thanksgiving.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34: 17).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Give Thanks to God

Thanksgiving is in the air and most of us are anxiously anticipating a traditional celebration. In today’s culture that celebration is defined by the three F’s: food, family, and football.

Earlier celebrations of Thanksgiving were defined by three F’s, too, but those F’s represented: food, fellowship and…the Father. God was a huge part of the day. According to “A Thanksgiving Day two hundred years ago was a day set aside for prayer and fasting, not a day marked by plentiful food and drink as is today's custom.”

Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Instead of pigging out, they went without. Instead of gathering around a table laden with food, followed by a nap or staring at the tube, they focused their mind, mouth, and heart on their provider – God.

While it is wonderful that we continue the tradition of setting aside a day to (hopefully) give thanks, in actuality, God wants us to give thanks to Him daily. And we can even take that a step further to say that He wants our heart to be in a state of regular thankfulness throughout each day.

We don’t have to look far to see something to give thanks for: air, water, food, and clothes are good starters. However, as Americans we are blessed to have many types of assistance to cover our needs, such as The Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, local food pantries, unemployment checks, homeless shelters, and emergency hotlines. We often take this wonderful assistance for granted. It can be easy to forget that not all countries have such provisions for their citizens.

Two other privileges that we are blessed to have in this great country are freedom of speech and freedom of worship. Because of them both, I am able to freely write this column, a privilege that I don’t take lightly.

Having an attitude of gratitude is also the secret to a powerful prayer life. For Christians, being thankful lays the foundation for constant fellowship with the Lord. Actually, having a thankful heart is God’s will for us. In first Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Another added benefit to cultivating a thankful heart is inner peace and joy. When we continue to praise God, even when our circumstances are gray, God blesses us with incomprehensible peace. We are not denying the problem; we are simply not giving in to it. We are keeping our joy in the Lord and in the knowledge that He is in control of all things. He has our best interest at heart, and promises to work out all things for our good.

And that alone is something to be thankful for!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever (Psalm 118:1).

Thanksgiving Blessings to You and Yours,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tis Only A Season

God is a God of change. This is especially evident by the seasons He created. Spring represents a season of new growth, summer is a season of embracing life, fall is a season of colorful preparation, and winter is a season of rest and dormancy.

God even created seasons in our lives that seem to parallel our earthly seasons: infancy through childhood is an innocent time of exploring our world, teenage years are wrapped around discovering who we are, adult years are dedicated to raising our family and working for our future, and our senior years are a time of rest and reflection.

The first two stages of our lives quickly fly by, but our adulthood can last for decades. This begs the question: how does our Creator want us to spend this very long tenure of life? Does He have plans for us, and if so, how can we know what those plans are?

Throughout Jesus’ ministry we find one major theme: servant hood. Jesus’ life was centered on service to others. He healed people, fed people, and even washed their feet. God has gifted each Christian to serve others, too, and all within the midst of living our daily lives. While pursuing an education, marrying, starting a family and earning our living we are to be sensitive to filling the needs of others. In other words, servant hood is to be part of who we are, day in and day out, all of our lives.

It’s relatively easy to serve others when we have the time, energy, and the financial means to do so. The hard part comes when we don’t feel good, when we are pinched for time, or when we lose our job.

My husband recently joined the ranks of the unemployed, and not by choice. After almost 40 years of service to our country (in some capacity, including the Viet Nam War), he was given a ten day notice that his contractor position was being abolished. Even though we knew this day would eventually come, it wasn’t our plan to have it arrive so soon. And quite honestly, we panicked; that is, until we remembered that God had allowed it. While my husband’s job loss was a surprise to us, it was not a surprise to God. God knew it was coming and He has a purpose for it. My husband and I both know this will be a season of leaning on the Lord in a new way, but we also know it is no time to stop serving or to stop giving. When we do our part and stay obedient to God, He promises to do His part and take care of us.

There are a lot of people in this country who have recently been forced to switch careers or move into smaller living quarters due to a sudden job loss. It’s tough out there right now, but if we remember that it is only a season, and that God has allowed it for a reason, it can be easier to face. After all, He is a God of change. When He says, “I want to do a new thing,” we need to trust Him and keep our hand in His. We need to face it, not run from it. We need to remember that this “imposition” is part of His overall plan for our life. Someday we will look back and see the good that came from it. We will see several secondary changes that turned our scary journey into an intimate time of growth with the Lord, which could not have taken place any other way.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1)

Praying you enjoy this season of your life,
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