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April 14

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

I read a great story the other day…from the Bible. That’s right. From the Bible. 🙂  Take a moment and read 2 Kings 4:42-44.

Okay…notice any similarity?

Before I make mention of that similarity, check out the story. Shalish was a region allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. In time, when Jezebel’s Baalism reigned, the region was renamed Baal Shalisha.

There was a farmer there who labored over his fields and when the harvest came he brought the firstfruits, 20 loaves of barley and fresh ears of corn to the sick. Bringing the firstfruits was an OT principle-usually brought to the priests-but this time brought to Elisha. (The priests were corrupt).

This offering was an unexpected provision to the needy. Elisha told his servant to take what has been given and give it to the people to eat. His response? “How can I set this before 100 men?” He was saying this miniscule amount will not feed 100 hungry men. Elisha’s comment: “They shall eat and have some left.”

Hmmm. Does that sound familiar to you? Think 5 loaves and 2 fish. Think 5000 men. Think doubt of the disciples. Think Jesus.  There. Now you know. 🙂

When God gives, He gives more than enough. We can never outgive Him. We always have more than enough.

“Father, thank You for Your provision. However little or large it all comes from You. You always give enough. Help me to remember that as I go through this day and then the next.”

April 13

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

INFLUENCE

That’s the word which crosses my mind this morning.

Today would have been my mother’s 89th birthday.  She never made it to 72. After being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer which (at the time) mainly struck woman who were non-smokers in December of 2003, she was given a drug concoction called Iressa (spelling in question). The doctor said it should either arrest the growth of cancer or at least slow it down. She received her first treatment in January.  It sped up the cancer growth. So rather than prolonging her life, it shortened it. Dramatically. I spent the last 6 weeks of her life driving back and forth from Sandusky, OH-where I was pastoring a church at the time- to her home in West Mifflin, PA, a drive by turnpike of about 5 hours one way.

He gave her 2-4 weeks to live. At the two week mark she was put in the hospital when her breathing took a bad turn. Come to find out the oxygen machine was faulty.  She was not expected to leave the hospital. Jo and I even made a one day trip to see her.  Yeah, that was a very long day. She came home after two weeks and spent the rest of her time alive and in her home.  She lived a total of six weeks after his diagnosis and the drug treatment. I would drive to take care of her for a couple of days, then head back to Ohio to take care of church duties, then head back. I am so thankful for my Uncle Bob and Aunt Dee who left their home in Texas to take care of her during that time. We made a great tag team.

Mom would wake up from her “nap” and would say, “Oh, I’m still here.” The disappointment was on her face and in her demeanor. But eventually one evening she went home to be with Jesus. She joined her parents and others doing what she loved to do-praise the Father around the throne.

My mother was anything but perfect. Far from it. She could be obnoxiously persistent. She could be a “harper.” But she loved Jesus. She made sure I was in church the first opportunity I had. She made sure I was dedicated to God one Sunday morning when Pastor Graybill laid his hands on me and prayed a blessing over me.  (No, I wasn’t sprinkled since we didn’t practice that).  She taught me the importance of praying and reading the Bible. I can remember her getting up and meeting with me before school to read our devotions and pray together.  There was only one other person who had more influence on me as I was growing up than my mom-my grandfather…her dad.

Influence. I know someday I will be reunited with my mother and grandparents and in-laws. But in some way, I am reunited with her today as I remember her.  I love you mom and T.H.A.N.K.S. for the memories.

“And I thank You Father for the memories. May my life be an influence upon others.”

April 8

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”

March 12

Friday, March 12th, 2021

I want to continue with my thoughts on gratitude.

I Cor.13 tells us “These three remain-faith, hope, and love-but the greatest of these is love.” (13:13). I’d like to think about those three words when it comes to gratitude.

FAITH. We often hear Hebrews 11:1 quoted: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (NLT)  The kind of gratitude which should flow from us is the kind which comes from trusting in the absolute and total lordship of Jesus, that He is sovereign over all things and that includes what happens in our lives. All events. All circumstances. IN. HIS. HANDS. God wastes nothing.

HOPE. The one quality which holds us together. It is fine believing and trusting. But hope tells us there is both a purpose and an end.  Faith tells us nothing was wasted, hope tells us nothing will be wasted. If we know there is an end-even though we cannot see it-we can hold on.

LOVE. The very culmination of it all. God’s love overrides evil, oversees every event, and overwhelms us with the glory of His Presence. It is this love which took Him to the cross and it is this same love that will bring us home.

“Father, may faith, hope and love be evident in my gratitude. My head says, ‘You know all that is going on.’ Please convince my heart with your overwhelming love.”

March 11

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

I want to continue my thoughts on gratitude.

I was sitting in my chair last night unable to sleep. It was one of those nights where the combination of no gall bladder (and still learning), eating the wrong thing too late, and my mind refusing to shut off which made for a tough night for sleep to come.

But as I sat there (remember I said my mind refused to shut off) and a thought hit me.

  • A person cannot be envious of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be jealous of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be dissatisfied and be thankful.
  • A person cannot grumble and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be a complainer and be thankful.

All those examples are dichotomous. The idea of being unhappy with one’s lot in life and being overly thankful just does not gel.

I am pretty ignorant when it comes to knowing much about a monk named Brother Lawrence. I have heard of him and that is about where my knowledge ends. I know of him. But I just read something recently which gave me a whole new perspective of this unique man.  He was a monk of lowly status who spent his days washing and scrubbing pots and pans and doing menial work around the monastery. In spite of that lowly life, people loved to be in his presence. Why? Because he loved to invite God’s Presence into all he did. His heart was filled with gratitude and therefore, it had no room for grumbling, complaining, etc.

Do people like to be in your presence because you bring God’s Presence with you? I ask myself that question and tend to come up wanting.

“Father, may today be a start of something different. May it be a day where people enjoy being in my presence because I bring Your Presence in with me.”

March 10

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

Let’s continue with some more thoughts on gratitude.

I personally think one of the hardest things to do and to see is to be grateful in all circumstances. But I believe some of that is because of wrong thinking. I did not say “Be thankful for all circumstances” but in all circumstances.

Of course, I’m not going to be thankful for cancer or MS or bankruptcy or (fill in the blank). I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would say, “I’m so thrilled and thankful I lost my home, my car, my family, etc because I lost my job and now I can’t afford anything. So I guess I’ll file for bankruptcy and be happy about it.” Or “I’m so thankful cancer is ravaging my body.” When I was going through my medical issues as a result of being a Covid long-hauler, I wasn’t praising the Lord for all of that.

But I can be thankful in that situation. Gratitude doesn’t hinge on certain or good circumstances in my life.  The opposite, however, can be true: I should be able to be thankful in those circumstances KNOWING God’s presence is there with me. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians when he said, “He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion.” (1:6) We are all in the dark when it comes to God’s plans for our lives. All we can really do is trust Him in and through it all to complete His purpose and perfect will.

Can you say you are grateful in all circumstances? I certainly want to be able to say I am!

“Father, only You know what is ahead for me.  Help me to be thankful in all my circumstances, no matter what they may be, knowing You are there with me. I thank You for Your presence in all things.”

March 9

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately to some worship music. Some older. Some newer. Chris Tomlin. Pat Barrett. Matt Redman. My sermons for the next 4 Sundays are on the cross (go figure since Easter is coming). 🙂  One song that keeps playing over and over in my mind is Once Again by Matt Redman. It has a chorus which says, “Thank you for the cross/Thank you for the cross/Thank you for the cross my Friend.”

It’s not often we say those kinds of words. The cross is looked upon as an instrument of ugliness and hate and in its physical form it is.  So being thankful? Not quite on our radar. That just doesn’t seem appropriate does it? Sounds sort of sadistic in a way. “Yes! I’m glad Jesus died on a cruel cross!” Well, in a way, we should be.

But that opens up a thought I want to pursue the next few blog posts: Gratitude. “Thankful for the cross.” Let’s define gratitude first:

It is the divinely given spiritual ability to see grace, and the corresponding desire to affirm it and its giver as good. (p.18)

Bill’s translation: Seeing what is as being from God and affirming and acknowledging it to God and others, i.e. taking no credit whatsoever for any of it but knowing WHO it all came from. As hard as it is to sometimes see, God is at work in all ways, and at all times to ultimately bring about honor and glory to Him. And ALWAYS for our good.

What are your ideas about gratitude? About the cross? I want to explore more the next couple of days. But I would like to ask you for your thoughts and how they might be reinforced or challenged the next couple posts.

“Father, I do thank You for the cross. A symbol of ugliness and hate has turned into the biggest and most vivid symbol of love the world could ever know. I know it has become that to me.”

Quote from “Practicing Thankfulness” by Sam Crabtree

February 17

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

When most of you read this my day of an interesting adventure may either be in progress or about over. As many of you know I have had a rough time since being diagnosed as positive for Covid on December 21. Covid itself wasn’t bad. A week of no smell and no taste and extreme exhaustion. But I had residuals from that which make me what they call a “long-hauler.” I finally stopped losing weight at the 40-50 mark and have actually begun to slowly put it back on. I have been riding a lot inside and have found my strength at the Y returning. It amazes me how much one loses in a short amount of time. Anyway, the symptoms have let up for which I am eternally grateful. The scary words, “I want you to get an MRI because I think I see a mass of suspicious nature” turned out to be what I am calling renegade gall stones (4).  They had made it into the bile duct where I had zero pain but they caused havoc with my digestive system. I was hoping I was out of the woods. But it showed a gravel pit in my gall bladder so I’m having it removed this morning at 8:00.  Your prayers for the surgery and recovery would be greatly appreciated. I am voting for the laparoscopy and not the “Oh we had to open you up” version.

Some have asked me if I’m worried or scared. The answer is NO.  I know where I stand and with Whom I stand. I know in Whose hands I am held. Psalm 28:7 is the verse which came to me this morning as I read: “The Lord is my strength and my shield. I trust Him with my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.”

Those are good words for us all. What can be better than knowing we have Someone who strengthens us and also has our back? I choose to trust Him with all my heart.

“Father, my life is in Your hands. I go into this surgery trusting You completely.”

February 10

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As I think ahead to Sunday, I can’t help but reflect on what I read and what I’m going to preach about. Sunday’s sermon is about worship. It is about religion revisited but its focus will be on worship. I’ll be talking about the purpose of worship-is it for me/us or is it for Him? Is it for my/our pleasure or is it to honor and adore Him?

You see, the American church finds itself in a dilemma. We have become so much of a touchy-feely church (what  makes me feel good and happy) that we have lost sight of why we worship. No? Why then do we ask ourselves or tell ourselves, “Well, I didn’t get anything out of that today.” Granted, there are churches which are dead and empty and talk a lot and say nothing. Vacate them. But on the other hand, if all we do when we get together is wonder what we are getting out of it, then we are worshiping for the wrong reason. In fact, maybe I ought to say we are worshiping the wrong person.

Keep this in mind: God inhabits the praise of His people. When we-either collectively or individually-worship Him with heartfelt praise, He is honored and finds a welcome home in our hearts. The celebration of Who He is should be uppermost in our minds and hearts. Let’s stop asking, “What did I get out of this?” but instead start asking, “What does God think? Did I give Him praise? Did I give Him proper honor and adoration?” That is guaranteed to change our perspective toward worship.

“Father, You are to be my focus of worship, not me. It does not and should not matter what I got out of it. It should be what did I give You.”

February 1

Monday, February 1st, 2021

I read an article the other day about the Top 10 songs people turned to during the pandemic. Some of them I was not familiar with because I am not fond of Hillsong or Bethel (Jesus Culture). But a few I was familiar with and have to admit pleasantly surprised. Here are a few that I can remember: It Is Well With My Soul. This was done by a lot of Zoom media. Multiple people all over the globe, the states or a city combined to sing this song. Another was Great is Thy Faithfulness– my favorite hymn. When the young flock to an old hymn that speaks volumes of its timelessness. No Longer Slaves was another favorite. “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.” Fear gripped multitudes of people. It knew no boundary, no class distinction, no race, no color barrier, no geography, no nationality, and no job distinction of any kind. There are other songs but I’m at a loss to remember.

One of the many truths which was cemented in my heart over the past year has been the faithfulness of God. I know fear gripped the hearts of many, even Christ-followers.  It is sad I have to write that. We, of all people, should know God will never abandon us. He doesn’t bring us to a crisis only to abandon us.  Someone once said, “If God brings you to it, He will take you through it.”  Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” (NLT)  It is unconscionable that God would abandon us during the season of waters and fires…and pandemics. 

“Father, I echo the hymn’s words: ‘Great is Your faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with You/ You never change and Your compassions never fail/As You have been You forever will be.’ ”