First Thanks, Then Giving

I love the Thanksgiving season. Time to reflect, enjoy and spend cherished moments with family. Whether that be around a dinner table, at a special location or at a family member’s home. For some this year, holidays may not be a time that has been anticipated but a time that brings great sorrow for a loved one that isn’t present around the “table” this Thanksgiving. Whichever situation you find yourself in this season, we can all choose to make this Thanksgiving the most memorable one yet.

As I began to think on the word Thanksgiving, being the teacher that I am, I started to break apart the word. “Thanks”, “giving”. Not only is it a time for great thanks but it is also a time for great giving. What if we stopped not to think upon what we’re going to gain from this Thanksgiving but instead, chose to think about what we can do for others. No matter if this is a time of sorrow or a time of joy, we can choose in either situation to give, out of the abundance that we have been given.

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In God’s Word there are many instances where various people chose to give thanks but one instance, in a room filled with His closest friends, Jesus gives us direction in regard to giving thanks.

“He took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves.”

Luke 22:17

In reading this verse, a few things Jesus chose to do should be our guide in giving thanks this Thanksgiving.

  1. Give Thanks

It sounds so simple but how often we choose to meander through our days without stopping to give thanks for the blessings God grants us each and everyday. The air we breathe, the house we live in, the food we eat, the shoes we put on our feet. All blessings granted by our gracious God! One thing God has been teaching me lately is that He never guaranteed that when I became a child of His, I would have the necessities of life, but He chooses to bless me with them. Me, even me.

2.  Accept or Take His Blessing

The necessities of life, that we just discussed, are not earned but freely given by a loving God. He, the Creator, loves His creation so much that He chooses to lay out blessings before us. We can choose each day to accept those blessings or reject them. I’m sure we can each think of family members that have rejected the blessings of God. Whether it be a wandering son or daughter, husband or wife. However, not only are they quick to reject His blessings, but we as believers can choose to reject His blessings as well when we fail to take part in His will for our lives. Our days can go by with us choosing to go our own way instead of God’s way full of blessings with each obedient step. One obedient step would be to take part in God’s way this Thanksgiving, share His good news with those wayward family members. Another way would be to follow His lead and listen to what He would have you do in order to bless others with food or encouragement. Who then would be receiving the bigger blessing?

3. Divide or Give Among You

Blessings are even more joyous when we have the opportunity to share them with others. What a miraculous event a child being born is but it is even more joyous when family and friends come to celebrate and share in the special day. How wonderful it is when a child comes to Christ, but how much more joy we receive when we share the occasion with others. Choose this Thanksgiving to divide, share or give blessings to others. Whether that be the blessing of food to a needy family, a kind word or encouragement to a hurting friend or family member during this season, or the gift of Jesus to a wandering heart. Choose to share out of what has already been given to you.

 

Give thanks, accept the blessing and then divide it among you.

The night before Christ gave it all, He chose to spend it modeling what it truly meant to give thanks. Around a table, with His closest friends sharing in His blessing and enjoying a meal.

Let us choose to do the same.

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My Masterpiece…Still in Progress…

Life is ironic.

As some look at their lives, they see an ever changing work of art with all it’s many shades and colors that often times mean nothing to you if you are not the artist.

As Christians, we know the Painter who’s perfecting our work of art.

However, we may look at our life and feel the work of art is portraying a painting that is very different than we would have imagined.

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February 6th, 2017.

A day I will never forget.

The day I received a positive on a test that would change the course of my husband and I’s journey.

With excitement we looked into each others’ eyes as our hearts raced with each glance of those two small lines.

A day I had been anticipating for my entire life.

A day that I had dreamed about.

Growing up, I was often seen with a child attached to my hip or children flocking to my side. It was ingrained in me to be a mother. A trait God wove into my innermost being before I was conceived.

Therefore, I anticipated and longed for the day when I would hold, care for, and tend to my own child’s needs. Although this was the picture I thought my work of art would display, my masterpiece is looking a little bit different today.

The week of February 6th was filled with excitement, plans, goals and dreams that were being fulfilled right before my eyes and my husband’s. We could see the expressions on our parents faces as we told them the news that they were going to be grandparents. The expressions on our siblings faces as they were going to be aunts and uncles. However, the next stroke of the paintbrush looked a little bit different than we had imagined.

The week of February 12th is a week I will also never forget. A week of shattered hopes, dreams and goals.

You see, that week beyond all other weeks, my hope to become a mother in a few short months ended just as soon as it had begun.

Although I never saw a miscarriage in my work of art, I know that my God was not caught off guard by any of it.

At the time, I was in a fog of denial and grief. It was a time when no one understood and no one seemed to help.

But God…

You see, He saw it coming and looked at me with hope-filled eyes and hoped that this shattering news would lead me straight to Him.

He saw His children, my husband and I, grieving and waited for us to turn to Him instead of to the fear and questions that would meet us in our heartbreak.

There were days and still are days when fear meets me when I wake, but there is also a God who meets me with encouraging words and calming whispers that quiet my heart and cast out the fear that was ready to tangle me up.

It was in those times, spent with my Father that I realized this trial can either define me or my God can define me through the trial.

One February morning, I sat with my Bible opened praying that God would speak to me so clearly and give me “something”. Have you ever been there?

“Just give me something Lord?”

The awesome thing about our God is that He holds and hears every prayer and every tear.

This is where The Painter cleans His brush and knows He isn’t finished yet…

In my state of grief, He met me and this is what He said….

1.Give up everything (Luke 14:33)

Yes, the cost of being a disciple. Now there are two things that Jesus meant when he tells His followers to “give up everything”. In one instance, yes we must give up any material possessions that are hindering us from Christ. But also, there is the call to give up everything in our hearts that also keep us from fully following Him. These are the things that try to fill our hearts when our hearts are meant to be filled with Him. In my case, I needed to give up my hopes, dreams and goals that I held onto so tightly my entire life and let Him be my hope, dream and goal.

2. Be still, It’s time to say “Enough!”  (Psalm 46:10; 1 Samuel 15:16)

So often my mind runs so fast that I forget it is in the stillness, when I quiet my soul that I am able to hear God speak. I am reminded through these verses that it is time to say “enough!” to the world and all its noise and be still before the Lord. Too long have I let the world’s noise run rampant in my mind and in my life and it’s time to say enough and just be still….

3. Step out of the traffic (Psalm 46:10 MSG)

In my bible, I have a split reference from the NIV to The Message. In referencing Psalm 46:10, I glanced over to The Message reference only to find these words in my quiet time with the Lord that day,

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long loving look at me, your High God’ above politics, above everything.”

Wow, what clear and powerful words those were and are to my heart. This world gets us wrapped up into all of it’s traffic that we forget to stop and just see/experience God for who He truly is! The traffic of life is so busy that we fail to realize that we’re swept up into it. As Christians, we are supposed to be the “different” the world is looking for. And until we step out of the traffic our lives are going to look just like their lives. So, what about that looks different?

On that day, my painting that could have turned dark, began to reflect gladness and joy. I can picture God cleaning His brush, smiling as He added some yellows and oranges bursting with happiness as His daughter listened to His still, small voice.

You see, life, as ironic as it may seem, is not ironic at all.

Because God doesn’t see irony, He sees opportunity.

In this trial, I saw His strength in my weakness.

I saw His joy take over my mourning.

I saw His gladness wrap around my sorrow.

It is in these moments that God’s jealous love is more evident than ever.

Not that I am glad this trial was brought into my life, but I am glad that I experienced His love in a moment that seemed so dark to get out alone.

I am so glad God had His paintbrush cleaned, and ready to place yellows where there were blacks.

I can say that I am a work of art, not because “I” have painted anything but because God is still the Painter and I am His canvas.

The Beauty of the Cross

Have you ever stopped to think about the image of the cross?

Is the cross simply a symbol, a relic, a fashion statement or is it more?

When did the cross become just another shape?

As I sit here writing this, God is griping my heart and speaking directly through this keyboard. The God of the universe is speaking straight through me. The God of the universe also sent His son, saw the hatred of the roman soldiers, saw the backstabbing characteristics of Judas, saw the nails-whips-scars, and yet still He thought of the purpose of “The Cross”.

What Love would choose to look through, past and within all this torment to see me, you, the earth and still choose to give His very best for the sake of our filth?

The Cross.

In looking at the rugged, solid frame of a cross there is more than just a constructed shape. There is more meaning than just a relic that others wear on their neck. There is a story, a story of Love, a story of Mercy, a story of Grace.

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Without the cross, the purpose of man would be meaningless. Without the blood that covered the wood that day, the fate of mankind would be nothing but ashes. Is the cross that meaningful for us? Is it a powerful statement or a meaningless relic?

The weight of the cross should move us to action. The weight of the cross should resemble to us our Savior, our sin, our mess, our ashes. Often, do we grow hard-hearted toward the symbol of the cross? Do we see it and just smile without even recognizing the “weight” the cross takes on our everyday lives?

We need to place our focus on the cross, at the foot of the cross and be guided by the cross.

To fully take on the “weight” of the cross, it needs to be the alter where we surrender our past, present and our future.

Daily we are told in Scripture,

Matthew 16:24-25

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Each person has their own “cross” that they must take up and carry. For each person, the cross looks a little bit different. One cross may be more jagged, a little more bumpy, or scarred up. However your cross may look, the instructions for how to carry the cross is the same. We are to deny ourselves, put Christ first, and take up our cross to follow the One who forgives “our cross”.

So, does the cross have purpose in our lives or is it merely a relic meant to hang around our neck, an embellishment on our shirt or a beautiful picture in stained glass windows?

It’s time that we make our view of the cross meaningful and make our life’s goals mean less.

The cross, more than just a symbol but a bridge to connect the power of grace to the souls of men.