Thanksgiving – Family, Friendships and Faith

Several nations, on virtually every continent, designate a specific time each year for thanksgiving. Some mark with appreciation harvest, freedom from slavery, life itself or a new homeland. Thanksgiving for me, however, is built around three primary relationships: family, friendships, and faith.

Canadians join in Thanksgiving festivities a month before our American counterparts, but the traditions are strikingly familiar. I am thankful for this national time to reflect and be thankful.

It is surprisingly easy to become content, even apathetic, in our blessings.

While out with my grandchildren recently, they all stopped to say “thank you” when someone offered them a treat. I was glad they remembered their manners without being prompted and surprised by the response they received, “You are the first children to say thank you all day!”

Something to Learn

Appreciation doesn’t come naturally to our selfish nature. It must be taught and learned!

Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Paul commands his readers to “be thankful” not just when we feel like it, but “in all circumstances”. We are not always thankful for our circumstances, but it is possible to be thankful in our circumstances. Yet I have witnessed faith grow so deeply secure in many whose peace and joy were tangibly evident in all circumstances. In their lives. expressions of continual thanks seem to flow freely even for all circumstances.

No matter how heavy, or how overwhelming life becomes, God is bigger! It is helpful to train our focus not on present situations, but rather on the One who

knows far more than we know,
loves beyond measure,
and cares above all others.

I applaud parents who instill in their children the value of gratitude. Our Heavenly Father also smiles upon those whose hearts overflow with appreciation.

Family

With a broad grin, my husband often says in reference to our five sons, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any one of them, but wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for one more!” It is his way of declaring the blessing he recognizes within the gift of family.

When we were married, we both considered two children to be the ideal number. God had a better plan! Presently, our family is 23 strong!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts
than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

The joy of family is hardly measurable. The loss of a family member through death, or absence through separation, is the most painful experience we will each endure. Holidays are difficult for those feeling the weight of such a burden. Searching for thankfulness takes concentrated effort in the midst of such brokenness and pain.

Yet even then, as we focus on eternal reality, fragments of gratitude radiate through grief bringing strength to sullen days.

Friends

Second only to family, friends fill my thankful list. My husband and I made what seemed like a radical move out of our comfortable home and familiar community about a decade ago. We cannot image what life would be like without the many friendships that have been nurtured since that time.

Rather than leaving friends behind, our circle of friendships has widened, then widened again with overwhelming surplus. God has enriched our lives surrounding us with many loyal and true friends.

“Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17

Genuine friendship is a gift from God! No amount of material wealth can replace the good and perfect gift of friendship.

The ability to simply “do life” together with others is something truly to be grateful for. Laughing and crying! Supporting and encouraging! Sharing and caring! Loving and lasting! Friendships fill our lives with colour and vibrancy.

Faith

Faith may be listed last, but it is actually first!

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good;

his love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34

Thankfulness begins with God! To finish well, we must start here, with an attitude of gratitude towards God. Void of thanksgiving, our faith inevitably slides into the realm of delusion and confusion.

“Yes, they knew God,
but they wouldn’t worship him as God
or even give him thanks.
And they began to think up
foolish ideas of what God was like.
As a result,
their minds became dark and confused.”
Romans 1:21

It is surprisingly easy to know God and yet neglect to appreciate Him — not just for what He does, but for Who He is.

Is the darkness and confusion woven in any culture visible evidence of hearts hardened against the worship and thanksgiving of God? Perhaps!

Remember

Even in writing today, I am reminded of so much more to be thankful for. Is it possible to cultivate a continuous level of thankfulness crowning every day with gratitude?

Here are a few practical ways to create a lifestyle of thanksgiving:

  • Use a journal! One of my daughter-in-laws has a thankfulness journal. Each day begins by writing something she is thankful for.

  • Several of my friends recharge their appreciation by doing a 100 Day Challenge. Each day for 100 days they share with others something they are thankful for.
  • Express it! Tell the people in your lives what you appreciate about them. Weave it into your family and friendship times until it is naturally spoken and expressed. Say “thank you” often and regularly.
  • Pray! Has prayer become a list of “I wants”? Expand you time with God to include more!

“Devote yourselves to prayer,
being watchful and thankful.”
Colossians 4:2

  • Look for “silver linings!” Even the most difficult situations have some kind of positive aspect. Is it the compassion others show in times of pain, the generosity that surfaces at points of need, or humility that flourishes in seasons of struggle? Be thankful!
  • Focus on others! When life’s challenges press hard, focus on helping someone else in need. Changing perspective by improving the life of someone else, will often stir thanksgiving within ourselves.
  • Notice the little things! Looking with child like simplicity often helps us see the beauty and wonder around us with new appreciation. Choosing to look at even the smallest of blessings can generate multiple reasons for thankfulness.

Just Do It!

Enough reading! It is time to do it! Starting a pattern of gratefulness will reap abundant blessing today while creating a pattern of thankfulness that will flow to subsequent generations.  Now is the best time to begin a new chapter of appreciation right where we are.

Start a fresh movement of thankfulness! Be the person others can emulate in their journey toward thanksgiving!

Rebuild the Walls! Fight for Your Families, Your Sons And Your Daughters!

Rebuild the Walls

God sent Nehemiah on a mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, walls that were broken down through the actions of preceding generations. “Fight for your families, your sons, and your daughters!” He challenged the remnant.

We don’t have to look far to see the devastation surrounding homes and families today. Is it time for that deep cry to rise again?

“After I looked things over,
I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people…
 fight for your families, your sons and your daughters,
your wives and your homes.”
Nehemiah 4:14

Broken Walls

The walls have been broken and the gates have been burned around many of our homes. God’s defense system through marriages and families has been undermined, negated, legislated against, and maligned. The fires of hell are aimed to do irreparable damage.

Nehemiah began with prayer!

Prayer

Prayer was a constant part of Nehemiah’s life! There was more than a physical wall that needed rebuilding. Discouragement, despair and disgrace hovered over his people. God needed to first bring down internal walls of defeat  before they were able to actively rebuild the tangible walls around the city.

Every step included prayer!

God's plan is brilliant

Nehemiah began by confessing his own sin and the sins of his people. It wasn’t long before God began to release the strategies to rebuild the broken walls. God mobilizes his people to do kingdom work when they pray!

One person took the faith action of prayer! God gave direction on how to reverse the devastation!

Reinforce

A chain is only as a strong as its weakest link; a wall is only as strong as its lowest point. Nehemiah paid special attention to these exposed areas!

“Therefore I stationed some of the people
behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places…”
Nehemiah 4:14
 

We all carry brokenness and wounding! These are our lowest and most exposed places!

We bandage burns and cast broken bones, knowing damaged parts need extra protection and care. The same is true in the spiritual, relational and emotional dimensions of our lives.

The strong and brave!

Nehemiah sent the strongest and bravest to the positions of greatest weakness and highest need! If you are strong, ask God to put you in the right place at the right time to strengthen and help the broken and weak. If you are in need, take this moment to ask God to bring men and women of faith beside you!

Equip

The first step is placing the right people into the right position; the next step is equipping them to do the work!

“… posting them by families,
with their swords, spears and bows.”
Nehemiah 4:14

Never separate a bear from her cubs! Few survive the experience! Trying to take a newborn calf from its mother brings similar consequences. I have never experienced the first; I have had a few tangles with the latter!

Fight like a mother bear for her cubs

There is a God-given instinct in each of us to fight for and defend our families. We will risk for family what we would never risk for any other cause.

Nehemiah equipped them to fight:

  • swords for face to face combat
  • spears for an enemy advancing to engage in battle
  • bows and arrows for a pending assault from farther away

Families need the right tools to succeed! Pastors, mentors, Christian psychologists, inner healing therapists and many others form the front lines workers in the weakest and most vulnerable places among us.

These have all be an incredible healing influence in my life!

Encourage

We can easily become worn down by the sheer weight of the rebuild process. Carrying stones all day every day is tiring work!

“…Don’t be afraid of them.
Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome...”

Remember God is great and awesome!

The enemy is real! The problems unceasing! The odds seem impossible! In the midst of an overwhelming process, we can become so focused on the rocks in front of us that we miss the bigger picture.

In the midst of intense rebuilding it is necessary to zoom out and zoom up!

Zoom out! Zoom up! God is bigger than your circumstance! Nothing can outdo the cross! Click To Tweet

God is bigger than your circumstance! Nothing can outdo the cross!

Support

“The officers posted themselves behind all the people
…who were building the wall..”
Nehemiah 4:16

We all must take responsibility for our own destructive attitudes and behaviours. Willing and concentrated efforts by those actually living in broken situations is necessary!

Sometimes we think leadership is most effective in the front; Nehemiah knew his officers were most effective behind the workers!

What a difference it makes to know your back is covered! Secure leaders positions themselves behind the workers offering prayer and protection. Godly leaders hold up the weak until they reach a healthy level of stability.

Community

The enemy schemes to divide and conquer. In the rebuilding process developing a sense of community and belonging is critical.

“Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people,
“The work is extensive and spread out,
and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.”
Nehemiah 4:19

There is danger in being separated from the ones who are co-labouring with us. Seeking out support groups, community groups and mentors will help to validate and encourage us as we rebuild.

“Many hands make light work!” was a common saying in my home. It is true! Together we are strong!

Ready to Rebuild

“Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me
took off our clothes; each had his weapon,
even when he went for water.”
Nehemiah 4:23

God has given us the spiritual garments we need to live victorious. (Ephesians 6:10-18) It is up to us to put them on and to keep them on! Day and night!

At the same time, we cannot neglect the need to sustain and nurture ourselves. Water is a necessity! Water in the bible often refers to Holy Spirit. The greatest need we have is to be constantly filled with the life giving flow of the Spirit.

Without Him the task is impossible! We would be like an aimless wanderer in the desert dying of thirst!

The rebuild process can seem overwhelming. Make every effort to be refreshed and renewed spiritually, physically and emotionally.

Nehemiah followed these God strategies to rebuild the ruined walls of Jerusalem. God’s gracious hand was with him! The walls were rebuilt in just fifty-two days!

God is brilliant! His plans are perfect! Following His pattern to rebuild our homes and families, creates strong defenses to help us fight for our homes and families.

**********

More victorious reading! Trophies of Victory! Bring the Trophy Home!

**********

Sign up and never miss another blog!

 

Lovelessness! Choosing to Love More!

Learning to Love More

To the statement, “I couldn’t care less!”, Mother Teresa responded, “I couldn’t care more!” To love is to serve especially when lovelessness surrounds us.

Several years ago our granddaughter, then around 3 years old, was walking down the street of a small city with her mother. Approaching them was a homeless man. Gently she pulled on her mother’s arm and softly said, “He has no family.”

She intrinsically sensed his deepest need. Without being able to articulate it, her 3 year old heart saw him uncovered, unprotected, unloved and without dignity or place of belonging. Already she knew that family, true family, is a place of love and value.

Family Love

We look but don't see! We see without wanting to look! Click To Tweet

Why did she at only three so clearly see what we as adults miss? “He needs a family! He needs love!”

We look but don’t see!
We see without wanting to look!
(Mother Teresa)

Lovelessness

“But anyone who hates another brother or sister
is still living and walking in darkness.
Such a person does not know the way to go,
having been blinded by the darkness.”
I John 2:11

Hatred to me is a very strong word. However, the literal translation of this word here is actually “to love less“. If I love anyone less, God equates it to hatred.

Why? In loving less, I become willfully “blinded” to the needs of others. I have opportunity daily to love more or to to love less!

Broken Love

Wedges in relationship are evidence of lovelessness:

Divorce says, “I love you less.”
“I am afraid to love” we whisper to the aborted.
Churches split because of lovelessness;
family feuds linger for generations in loving less.
Gossip, slander and complaining announce it!
Pride, prejudice and jealously demonstrate it!

Loving More!

Just the other day, a small group of young adults picked up a pan-handler, bought him a meal, gave him a ride, loved on him and prayed for him. For them, it was a natural act affirming value and worth to someone.

They loved more!

Love Lives Here

Another group of people I know have given themselves to consistently love and care for drug addicts, gang members, prostitutes and children in the inner city. They give more than a warm drink, food and a safe environment. Warm socks and jackets come with the hugs, prayer and genuine concern. Their motto? “Love lives here!”

They love more!

I recently met a young girl who cares deeply for inner city children who don’t have a safe place to go after school. She is spear-heading a ministry giving them food, loving and validating them, while teaching them bible verses and songs. Though she is little more than a child herself, she leads in tangibly loving about a hundred children in her area.

She loves more!

I also know a couple of grandmothers who are putting their hearts and feet in difficult places. They book a spot at porn conventions to “interpret dreams” as a way to love and pray for prostitutes, pimps and johns.

They love more!

Prayer

I haven’t mentioned yet those who:

  • foster children to make sure each child feels loved and wanted
  • risk they lives in volatile nations
  • go on medical missions, build orphanages and schools
  • jump into the lion’s mouth of domestic violence, abuse and brokenness bringing love and restoration

These love more!

You and Me

Though the dis-ease of love-less-ness is obvious all around us, you and I can make a difference. We have an ability to turn the tide, one person at a time!

I was recently told every person will influence approximately 20,000 people through their life, either directly and indirectly. Our choices determine what that influence will look like?

“The King will reply,
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”
Matthew 25:40

Jesus considers His own brother or sister the “least of these.”

Many today have set their hearts to love “the one” in front of them. In so doing they have transformed nations! They recognize the face of Jesus in every person, seeing each as a person worthy of love and dignity.

Each one I touch with love will have a greater freedom to love others. With prayer, my little effort is a seed where more love may some day grow.

Colour it Love

Let us pick up the brush of faith and colour our world with love. By choosing today to have our eyes open to love, lovelessness can be broken in our midst!

___________

Sign up here and never miss another blog post!

 

Family Motto – Do You Have One?

Family Motto - Do You Have One?

Does your family have a motto? A saying spoken repeatedly, maybe for generations? “What is a motto“, you ask? It is “a short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals guiding an individual, family, or institution.”

Here are a few examples:

  • Always tell the truth – so you don’t have to remember what you said!
  • Expect the best – prepare for the worst!
  • Often wrong, but never in doubt!
  • If you don’t think it can be done, you haven’t thought long enough!
  • Do what you can with what you have!
  • Everything happens for a reason!
  • What goes around comes around!
  • If Mama ain’t happen – ain’t nobody happy!
  • No trips to the emergency room!
  • Something will turn up!
  • People – not things!
  • The harder you work the luckier you get!
  • It will all come out in the wash!

 Motto Passed On Over Time

Now can you think of a motto passed down in you family? They seem trite, but the very repetition deepens their strength subconsciously.

There are some very strong biblical mottos that also reinforce family and corporate values; they are mottos of great importance:

  • “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Josh 24:15 NIV
  • “Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised…” Ps 145:3 ESV
  • “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD…” Ps 10:14 ESV
  • Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” Prov 3:5
  • Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Phil 4:4 NIV
  • “Be strong and courageous….for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:9
Be strong and courageous! The Lord goes with you! Click To Tweet

do_unto_others_as_you_would_have_them_do_unto_youThough many of our family mottos may be a little quirky, these biblical ones are enduring and release life, authority and power over us and our families (natural and spiritual). Biblical mottos for life reinforce godly values and perspectives. They clarify direction and purpose. They have rubber-meeting-the-road impact!

It takes little effort to expand on this list. I’m sure there are many you can add from your own experience. Maybe it is time to establish a new family motto. What will you choose?

Strength Together

__________

Today’s Prayer

Thank you Father for your Word
filled with foundation stones of easy remembrance;
principles of virtue and strength.
May I listen and hear your voice;
paying attention and truly hearing what You say.
I desire to establish godly, biblical mottos
that will direct and impact
my life, family and those I come in contact with.
I choose today to set your word as
a path of life.

_______________

Want more to read? Try these!

Hebrews 11:1 “Now Faith Is”

3 Relationships We All Need and The Reasons Why