Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Inspirations

Help Me
(A Thanksgiving Day Prayer)

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
-Samuel F. Pugh

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness:
come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God:
it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his truth endureth to all generations.

Wishing each and everyone of you, a glorious day of giving thanks and sharing with family, friends and community.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

God's Palette

The Pacific NW rarely experiences vivid fall colors on the leaves, and the evergreen trees far outnumber deciduous trees in many areas.  Yet this fall has been on fire!  The colors have been vivid, varying from tree to tree in ways that reflect an artist's palette, and for this year it took God's palette. 

I can see God reaching for the trees and touching each one into vivid reds, oranges, yellows.  Then reaching out to turn the next leaves to deep, full browns, rusts, purples.  And He doesn't fail to leave a hint of green to remind us that these trees represent a cycle of life -- life that falters, and wanes, and catches hold again, and once again flourishes.  All because God's palette has touched life into being.

As we've driven or walked the sidewalks, we have witnessed this amazing cycle all around us.  If we would only pause, we would witness this same cycle at work in us.

"The Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness
continues to each generation."  Psalm 100:5 (NLT)

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Heart Overflowing (Counting One Thousand Gifts, #195-204)
Here we are just a couple of days before Thanksgiving.  It seems the year has flown by again, and I'm reminded of how many times my mother cautioned not to wish my life away, that as I grew older it would go by faster anyway.  I've tried to heed her cautionary statement, but I truly believe this year has flown by so quickly because I've changed.

After reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I was drawn into the concept of taking greater notice of the many things around me which were from God.  In turn, I began to realize that thanking Him daily made me feel better, made me a blessing to others as I shared this newness of gratitude I'd embraced.

Continuing counting with the One Thousand Gifts community:

195.  Sounds of stormy weather.
196.  Intercessory prayer life.
197.  Words and language, written and spoken.
198.  An evening with our small group from church.
199.  Mission opportunities.
200.  Quiet Saturday at home.
201.  Thanksgiving dinner with our church family.
202.  The arrival of our second great-grandchild, Everett William Ellis.
203.  Talking with great-granddaughter Kylie about her new baby brother.
204.  An unexpected visit from our eldest this morning.

Time to link up with the community --  see  you there!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Double Scoop of Blessing on the Sabbath

Each Sunday morning during our worship service one of our pastors calls the children forward for their Children's Sermon.  Today it so happened that it was our Pastor Husband (we enjoy the benefits of a married couple pastoring our church).  Pastor Husband began by talking to the children about turkeys and what was the turkey's first name.  There were many shouts of "Tom!" (this just happens to be his first name too).  The message then turned to what they were thankful for today.

A soft voice came out of the crowd of children and said, "The sun!"  And today the entire congregation was in agreement with the little girl who'd uttered everyone's thanksgiving.  Living in the Pacific NW in late fall and winter means many days without the benefit of sunlight, and this morning we awoke to a strange occurrence.  A large bright orb was beaming down on our corner of the country, and yes, we were all blessed by its presence.  Thanks be to God for a child so small who recognized her gratitude and was able to speak to it.  So, this was scoop one.

Now, for scoop two.  Today our family has been blessed once again by new life.  Our second great-grandchild, Everett William Ellis, was born at midday weighing in at 7 lbs. 2 oz. and at 21" long.  A family photo shows him with his mom, dad and big sister, Kylie, who is already calling him Baby E.  Everett made his appearance in this big world about two weeks early but is doing very well.  We are so grateful today that God has provided this new life for our family to nurture and love.  Thanksgiving will truly be a day filled with thanks for Everett's safe arrival, his mom's good health, his dad's safe return from the Marines, and sister Kylie's love for him.

The gift of offering back to God our gratitude is one we all too often take for granted.  We should take time to notice not just the stunning things God places in our lives but also the tiny gifts along the way, the ones we most often overlook and thereby fail to offer up thanksgiving.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Gift of Intercession

This quote by Alfred Lord Tennyson says a lot about the hidden benefits and qualities of prayer.  His words indicate that much is done by prayer that no one is ever really aware of.  Indeed, answered prayer is not always obvious to us because we may be expecting another answer.

However, we have been given a special gift -- the gift of interceding for one another and even those who may be unaware of our prayers on their behalf.  Intercessory prayer is a gift given to us by God.  Often we see the gift only when we are praying for someone else.  And yet I know many times when I've been the recipient of God's blessings, healing, and understanding because of the prayers of my church family, my own family, and many friends.  In Timothy 2:1-3, Paul writes to the church about intercessory prayer:

"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and
thanksgiving be made for all people—"

In many churches today, a time is reserved during the worship service for prayer requests in the form of joys and concerns.  Many church newsletters carry lists of those in need of prayer.  If we are indeed gifted with intercessory prayer, we should be making note of these needs and lifting them to God during the coming week.

Today Beck Gambill in her Thursday Sister to Sister post references Ephesians 6:18 which speaks to praying for "all the Lord's people."  These are powerful words, and we take them to heart to strengthen the family of God and to continue His work here on earth, today and tomorrow and forever.

Won't you join me over at Beck's site today and read more of Beck's post?  Linking up with her at

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Heart Overflowing (Counting One Thousand Gifts #7 (184-194)

The closer we come to Thanksgiving celebrations next week the more it seems we think about giving thanks and showing our gratitude.  Yet, we can count these blessings every day, and for me doing so has sharpened my senses to the many small things I often overlook as gifts from God.  This last week it's been impossible not to give thanks:

184.  Ann's writing of their Compassion International experiences.
185.  Compassion International and the work they do around the world.
186.  Freedoms fought for by our veterans and current military.
187.  Nature's fall decorations.
188.  Calls from our kids.
189.  My husband's slow, loving smile.
190.  Time with friends sharing a meal.
191.  Breakfast out.
192.  Mosaic seen in leaf-covered sidewalks and roads.
193.  Children singing and playing bells in church.
194.  God's incredible fall palette.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Unexpected Joy!

Lately, the gray skies of fall and winter have begun descending on the Pacific Northwest.  With those skies come what I call the doldrums.  Hard to wake in the mornings, unmotivated throughout the day, longing for sunlight, wondering if you suffer from SAD, taking extra Vitamin D just in case.  Add to that the fact that we live under approximately 25 old growth Doug firs and our home is often dark these days requiring lighting almost all day.

And yet this morning has dawned gloriously with sunlight streaming through our windows.  The sky is blue, and the birds are singing!  What an unexpected joy this day is!  The mere sight of sunlight casting its wondrous beams on our floors lifts my heart and makes my soul sing.

"Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth."
Psalm 96:1 (NASB)

I wish you unexpected joy in your day!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Heart Overflowing {Counting One Thousand Gifts #6 (172-181)}


Full to the brim and more.

So very full.

Joyfully filled each and every day.

Filled with God's gifts to me, a sinner, flawed and damaged.  And yet He keeps on giving what I need and what brings me joy.

On Mondays, I link up with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience to count the gifts that have touched me in the previous few days.  So here goes:

172.  A good start to the week.
173.  A friend's slow but sure recovery back in Virginia.
174.  Another friend who keeps me updated on my Virginia friend.
175.  Husband and I working as a team to clean.
176.  Volunteers from our church traveling to Guatemala on a mission trip.
177.  My Bible study group.
178.  MOPS meeting with moms and seeing their little ones.
179.  All the volunteers that make MOPS happen.
180.  More new moms in our MOPS group.
181.  The amazing faith of the moms I'm mentoring this year.
182.  Relaxing time after meetings.
183.  Breakfast for dinner -- a favorite around here!
184.  Talking with each other about little things and big.

Won't you take the time to jump on over to A Holy Experience and read some of Ann's writings and to see who else is counting to one thousand gifts?  Maybe you'd like to join us!

Friday, November 4, 2011

JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME – Installment 5 [Early Memories]

Note to readers:  These "installments" are posted in the roughest of draft form.  My sole purpose in posting them here is to perhaps illicit from anyone comments, criticisms, editorial suggestions, grammatical errors, etc.  Additionally, suggestions about voice, characterizations, and story/plot welcomed!

Mama and Daddy, with me looking on -- one of my
treasured photos of Mama laughing!
My earliest memories begin somewhere around 3 or 4 years old.  Research has shown that anything earlier than this age falls victim to what is called "childhood amnesia."  As with most people, some memories are filled with delight and joy; others are not so happy.  Happiest among my memories are those associated with my father -- learning to ride a bike (or even a trike!), listening to music laying on my tummy flat on the floor beside daddy’s feet and the Stromberg-Carlson radio/phonograph playing one song after the other, spending time outside when he gardened, Sunday afternoon drives through the park, teaching (or trying to teach) me to fish, working for him part-time as a proofreader, and the list could go on.  Each of these memories carries with it a sense of pride exhibited by him in what I was learning to do or accomplish.

Some other memories where daddy played a primary role were our infrequent summer vacation trips.  Daddy took great joy in surprising us with vacations.  He would come home from work on Friday afternoon and announce that tomorrow we would be leaving for a destination, and we'd be on our way the next morning.  The only one not overly excited would be mama because it was such short notice to get us all packed up and ready to go.

As I think back through my childhood and youth, however, it's difficult to find many happy moments involving my relationship with my mama.  Instead those memories are tense, painful and often heartbreaking.  My mama memories bear none of the positive impact that I received from my daddy.  Instead, the feedback from mama was constantly negative.  And that is the basis for the story I shall attempt to share – my relationship with Mama and the impact it had on both our lives.

I dreaded getting in trouble with Mama.  From a very early age, I can still conjure up the emotions following one of her favorite punishments.  Inflicting humiliation and dread on the object of her anger seemed to bring her great satisfaction.  I hated to hear the words, "Go outside and bring back a nice long switch.  And while you're walking back make sure you pull off all the leaves.  That way it will hurt more and the sting will last longer so you'll learn from this." 

It didn't help to cry -- tears only increased her anger.  And if tears were shed, there'd be another barrage of words, "I suppose you think those tears will make me feel sorry for you.  Well, they won't!"  So, off I’d go to pick the tool to render my punishment and walk back to the house, tears coursing down my cheeks, while my child fingers stripped the switch bare.  I could already fill its sting on my legs and back, and so I walked what seemed the longest walk cloaked in a blanket of dread for what was to come.

Soon enough I became stoic during my punishments, and sometimes I think it angered her even more that I didn't show some fear or pain.  She would then hit harder and longer with her tool – the switch, one of daddy’s belts, her bare hand or a yard stick, to name a few.  Finally, if she could bring me to tears, the punishment would stop.  As a child, it was hard to discern just what she wanted from me.  I'm not sure that mama even knew the answer to that question.

As I grew older and began to want to do things for myself, times became more difficult.  I think it's safe to say I was a bright child but according to mama, there wasn't anything I could do correctly.  This was thrown at me when it came to brushing my hair, tying my shoes, putting on my own clothes, straightening and making my bed.  It was soon obvious to me that if I thought I was bright, I must be mistaken because obviously Mama thought I was dimwitted.  And weren’t parents right about everything?  The humiliation of being told “I wasn’t good enough” to do certain tasks for myself began to tear down any sense of self-confidence I might have.  Eventually, I accepted the fact that I was better off relating to Mama in a submissive state of mind and body.  I just finally gave up.

I so desperately wanted and needed her love and affirmation that I would stretch my child limits to reach for any affirmation that I was what she wanted me to be.  I firmly believe that I reached a realization that fighting against her was not in my best interests.  So, I turned myself into the complacent child around 5 or 6 years old.  By this time, my older brother was 19 or 20 and married and in his own home.  I was the only child in the house.  To avoid the infliction of her temper against me I decided to just go with the flow.  This worked for a while.  However, Mama figured out my ploy and soon it made no difference whether I appeared cooperative or not.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

"New Every Morning"

Today I'm linking up with Beck Gambill over at Beck Far From Home.  Beck always shares amazing insights on her blog, but I especially enjoy Thursday's at Beck's place as that's the day that we come together as Sisters to share our faith together as a family.  Our word for reflection today is "new," and I immediately knew what would be the basis for my post.

Lamentations 3:22-23 are some of my favorite verses from the Bible.  As I read them, I feel washed again  each day from those trappings that layered on the day before.  Trappings of the world that I let take hold by keeping silence when I should have spoken up, by ignoring those in need when I should have helped, by shunning those who believe differently than I do.  The world's trappings . . . not supposed to be a part of me.  I'm a child of God.

But in Lamentations 3:22-23, we read, "Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (NIV)  And his love and faithfulness are great enough that each morning we can open our eyes and face the morning knowing that his mercy, faithfulness and love will rain down on us again and again as we need to be made new again.  Like the dewdrops on the grass, each part of me sparkles as I start the day ready to serve him and blissful that he has made me afresh for this new day.  New, newness, newly made . . . don't you just love those three letters n-e-w?  They say so much about our relationship with our God when we believe on his Word.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Words Have Power

We've all heard it and said it, "Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words will never harm me."  At one time or another, I would guess that we all have experienced words that actually did hurt us, cut deeply into our being, and maybe even broke our heart.

Words have power for either good . . . or bad.  I know -- I have experienced both, and words that hurt us can leave deep, invisible scars that last for a lifetime.

At this point in my life, I don't believe my mother knew how her harsh, critical, demeaning words took those around her to a dark and doubting world.  I remember coming in from school on several occasions so excited by something a teacher had said, or an accomplishment I was proud of, and trying to tell my mother.  Often, it would be that she was just too busy with chores.  Other times it would landslide into a full out questioning of the incident I wanted to relate.  Was I sure that was what the teacher said?  Did I really accomplish something on my own, or was I making it up?  Now, those words don't necessarily sound too volatile, but imagine yourself as a child, your heart and soul bursting with pride, only to be brought down by someone's expression of doubt.

Years later, I realized that subconsciously I had absorbed my mother's ability to spew words in ways that hurt others, but most especially my young son.  My marriage had ended in divorce and I was left a single, working mother raising a son alone.  Circumstances had eventually placed us in my parents' home following the divorce, and this meant that my son received not only a barrage of words from my mother as she cared for him while I worked, but I would come home tired in the evening and my patience diluted by the day's stresses. 

As he grew and began school, homework and studies became a problem at night because of my fatigue, and one evening I heard myself using some of the same litanies my mother had used with me.  Imagine my shock as I looked into my son's face and saw that I had just destroyed the joy and excitement of a day that for him had been special.  That is when I began to rethink who I was and what my childhood had bequeathed me in the form of words and language.  It took me some time to put that behind me, and when my son grew older and began college, I had the opportunity to sit down and explain to him what had happened to me and to him.  I apologized for the treatment I had rendered in the form of powerful and hurtful words.  Hoping that the power of my kind words and explanation would preclude or change the course of our family's temperamental verbal barrages, I have patiently watched and seen him grow into a more patient individual in that regard.  That isn't to say he isn't impatient in other areas of his life!

So, when you use your words, think first and speak when you're certain that what you are about to say has God's seal of approval as found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

"When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need
—words that will help others become stronger."

(NCV) (emphasis added)

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