Gratitude

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“Say thank you,” Momma reminded us. Whether it was home-baked cookies, a special gift, or a compliment, the importance of expressing our gratitude was a lesson learned early. Family gatherings and meals were opportunities to be polite as we enjoyed each other’s company: “Would you like some more?” … “Yes, thank you!”

When ten lepers were healed after encountering Jesus, only one returned to him to give God thanks. The fact that this man was also a despised Samaritan, one of mixed Jewish race, was even more amazing… or perhaps it was more understandable. This man knew what it felt like to be rejected on an even deeper level. 

Thanks is also spoken in anticipation of what is yet to be received. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the large crowd which had gathered, he offered thanks before the miracle occurred and the food was provided. He trusted that God would supply what was needed. Before Lazarus was raised from the dead, Jesus prayed and gave thanks, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.”

There is something about the expression of gratitude that brings happiness and encouragement to everyone. It is more than a simple thank you, hug, or smile. Gratitude is a recognition of goodness and caring. It acknowledges the act of giving, which says, “You matter!”

How God must love to receive our thanks to Him… that same recognition of His goodness and care and that we His children matter to Him! The ten men were still covered with leprosy, yet they turned to show themselves to the priests, anticipating their healing which had not yet occurred. Isn’t that amazing?! It is so hard to thank God when we are in the middle of our own struggles or grief. How can I thank God in times when my world seems to be falling apart?! Yet, like the lepers, we can confidently go forward… Isn’t it also difficult at times to give thanks to God when we are full and satisfied, when life is restored and good, and to recognize or acknowledge His provision?

Gratitude. How will we express it …and how will we experience it in both the receiving and the giving?

*Luke 17:11-19, John 6:11, John 11:41

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REFLECTIONS ON PUMPKINS

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• The Vine provides nutrients for us to grow.
• We all have a purpose in life.
• To be best used, we need to be cleaned out.
• Once cleaned out, there is opportunity for nourishment and enjoyment.
• A light within reveals character.
• Ripe pumpkins announce the new season.
• Seeds are useful for nutrition and future plants.
• Combining with other ingredients can be amazing.
• Sharing these creations brings smiles.

AFRAID

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Flash! … Boom! Crash! Crackle! As lightning flashed and thunder rolled late one night, I leapt from my bed and ran to the doorway of my upstairs bedroom. As a young girl many years ago, I still clearly remember how afraid I was. I called for my father, my voice almost drowned out by the storm, and he came up to assure me that all would be well. His comforting presence stayed with me until the worst of the storm had passed.

Jesus’ disciples were afraid during a storm too. As they were crossing the Sea of Galilee, a sudden storm came up and the boat was in danger of sinking. Jesus had fallen asleep, but his disciples awakened him; he got up and rebuked the wind and waters and calmed the storm. *

There are times in life when I am afraid. I’m afraid for my family and others when they face health challenges or accidents. I’m afraid of dangerous weather and travel conditions. I’m afraid because of uncertain times, strained relationships, or changes in life situations. Sometimes I’m afraid to try new things or to step out in a new or different direction.

When Jesus’ disciples were afraid and amazed after Jesus calmed the storm, Jesus spoke of their faith and when my father came to me during the thunder storm, his presence calmed me. I had faith that my daddy would take care of me, that I would be safe. When we feel alone, overwhelmed, and afraid we can remember the words Jesus spoke to his disciples in his final days with them. He encouraged them to have faith and said that he would be sending the Holy Spirit to be with them forever: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. **

God surrounds us with His presence, the storms pass, and the winds calm… Peace to still our fears.

*Luke 8:23-25, **John 14:27

PROVISION

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I admit to loving the warmth of summer with its planting, gathering, family cook-outs, and time outdoors (yes, even mowing the yard). As the days begin to turn cooler and a hint of fall is in the air, many people are busy bringing in final offerings from gardens, vines, and trees. Others gather groceries and supplies and check to see that all is ready for the colder months ahead. Each season’s change marks new tasks, expectations, and hopes.

It’s easy to become preoccupied with the daily tasks: bills to be paid, cars repaired or replaced, income secured, homes maintained, food and clothing provided… For me this past year, as soon as one need was addressed something else came up… and often two or three challenges pounced at once! Yet each time, even as worries threatened to invade my thoughts, my thanks and prayers turned to God’s provision. As I get older, I am more and more aware of my parents’ model of quiet assurance that God will meet our needs. “One-thing-at-a-time,” my mother would reassure me. They instilled in me an appreciation for the simple, and the calm, and the good in small things. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate what I have rather than always wanting more and I’m growing to trust that things will work out, not always as expected or desired but trusting that good will grow from challenges and needs.

One well-known passage in the Bible, Psalm 23, speaks of God’s provision for us. It doesn’t promise that there will be no dark valleys, but it does promise that God is with us always. What wonderful assurance that we will lack nothing and that we will be refreshed, guided, comforted, and provided for even in the presence of adversity and difficulties! The book of Psalms is full of these reminders.

In the New Testament, Matthew had some great things for us to consider about worry and God’s care for us. “Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Then he reminded us that God knows that we need them. My mom would say, “It’s okay to be concerned but we shouldn’t worry” and Matthew echoed this thought when he said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

In this season of gathering and preparation, I pray that we will be strengthened and assured of the provision of God, who cares for us all.

Reflections on Shoes

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• We all come in different sizes, styles, and colors.
• We are made for different purposes.
• Our character is revealed in the way we live.
• The way we live can add positive fun and enjoyment to life.
• Take steps to protect yourself from unforeseen injury on your journey.
• Sometimes we travel through messy places.
• When traveling through messy places, we may become stinky and dirty.
• When we become stinky and dirty, a thorough cleaning is advised.
• After a long day, removing stress and worries brings relief.
• Stress and worries should be given to the Master Shoemaker.
• The Master Shoemaker creates, repairs, and refurbishes us.

Draw Near

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I love the scents and colors of herbs. In recent years, I have begun learning a bit about how to grow and gather a few of them and about some of their uses. I enjoy my little spots in the flower garden and pots on my sun porch and I help with some at my in-law’s home. “It’s a happy,” as my daughter would say as a child to describe something she liked. Not all my growing attempts are successful, but repeat attempts are sometimes more fruitful after I learn more about them. Some creature (perhaps a rabbit?) thoroughly enjoyed my in-law’s basil this year, which had to be replanted two times! Then too, I find that some plants are just not suited for the areas available, so other plants are found that will flourish there. Herbs, used from ancient times to improve health, to treat illness and injury and to cook with, have much to offer. Like insects, we are drawn to them because they can provide comfort, healing, and enjoyment of growing things.

As I was considering this, I thought of how God wants us to draw near to Him. He loves for us to come to Him and to thank Him when we are enjoying the scents and colors of life. When we draw close to Him we are recognizing who He is. God can show us where we will flourish when we are receptive to His offered gifts and guidance. He is the source of comfort and healing. Have you ever been to the point where you just didn’t know what to say or do, or even if you wanted to try?! While all our “growing” attempts are not successful, God helps us to thrive. I am so thankful for those around me, people who reach out or give a hug or word to help through difficult times and to join in times of celebration. Sometimes we need to be “replanted” and sometimes we need to be faithful and to learn so that we can thrive where we are. I’m so thankful that He is with me, especially on my “I’m just done” days! Draw near. Like insects drawn to herbs, we are drawn to the One who provides, who is the source of life.

But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works. Psalm 73:28

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… James 4:6a

Breath!

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Have you ever considered how the world would be without the movement of air?! I remember that on hot summer days when I was growing up, we kids would giggle as we spoke into a blowing fan and listened to our strange voices. When I am working with children to improve their speech, they learn about the parts that are used to form words. After we go through the basic tongue, lips, and “motor” (voice box), we try saying a sound without using air. Of course, we can’t!

Some of my favorite camping memories as a girl are of lying in our tent camper at night, listening to the wind sighing in the treetops and feeling its cool touch on my face. I still love to have a window fan blowing in my room on a summer night. My spirit settles as I breath in that fresh stream of air.

The book of Genesis says that when God formed man, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Isaiah referred to “God the Lord… the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it.” Life is a precious gift, and how often do we misuse it or take it for granted?! Just as no words can be produced without the element of air, so life cannot be fully expressed without God’s breath within us. When I catch myself feeling rushed when going about my busy plans and responsibilities, I remind myself to pause and breath in God’s presence. He is like a cool touch to my hurried soul and fresh strength and peace to my heart.

*Genesis 2:7, Isaiah 42:5