How Current is Your Thankfulness?

current thankfulness

Thankfulness is good for the soul. And it’s especially fashionable to be thankful during the month of November.

But how far back do you have to go to find something to thank God for?

Do you find yourself casting back on old memories? Searching experiences from your childhood? From years ago? Or months or even weeks ago?

I love the practice some families have of filling a thanksgiving jar throughout the year. Family members add slips to the jar and then take turns reading the slips on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a wonderful way to rehearse God’s faithfulness and nurture thankfulness in both children and adults.

Although family members read slips written up to a year earlier, each recollection was current when it was written.

But what if we go days, weeks, or even months without recognizing something to be thankful for? What does this say about us?

It proclaims that we can’t see beyond our immediate physical circumstances. Negative events limit and shape our perspective. For example, a flat tire can be a disaster…or it can be the impetus for thankfulness I wasn’t injured, I had a spare tire in the trunk, or even thankfulness I have a car at all!

Additionally, in the absence of a current spirit of gratitude, I will become a bitter, resentful person who cultivates an overarching sense of entitlement. I’ll focus on my rights, my benefits, my priorities. I’ll fall into the trap of thinking anything good that happens to me is dependent solely on my own efforts. And if my rights, benefits, and priorities are shortchanged in any way, I’ll make sure the world hears about it.

Finally, the absence of a current spirit of thankfulness proclaims I am unaware of God’s active presence in my life moment by moment and day by day. Nurturing an awareness of God’s presence helps me be alert to the ways He is working in each day, providing me multiple reasons to be grateful.

If I have to think back weeks or months for something to thank God for, then something is terribly wrong. I want to be diligent to practice His presence now for a heightened awareness of His hand at work every day!

As the pages of our calendars and planners turn, the thankful themes of November will give way to the excitement and animation of December Christmas celebrations. Will you and I purpose to bring a current spirit of thanksgiving with us into the new month, the new year, and each new day of our life?

Do you have to cast back on old memories for reminders of how God has worked in your life?

How will you develop a current spirit of thanksgiving that will last far beyond the month of November?


 
Punctuality and the Tyranny of the Clock

punctuality and clocks

I have a love-hate relationship with clocks.

When I was a child, my parents always set our clocks five minutes fast, supposedly to help prevent us from being late to appointments.

It never worked. We were always late…to everything.

Despite the ineffectiveness of the practice, I carried it over into my marriage. For forty years, all our clocks were five minutes faster than the actual time.

It didn’t work for us, either. We were usually late to most appointments, much to my husband’s chagrin…which should tell you whose fault it was. Punctuality was my nemesis.

Daylight Savings Time (DST) ended this past Sunday. A day on which we were all required to turn our clocks back one hour.

punctuality and clockSince I’ve begun a new season of life and I was changing all my clocks anyway, I decided it was time for a fresh start. So I set all my timepieces to the accurate time…and in the process, broke a sixty-year-old habit.

Then I posted about it on social media.

The response floored me. It seems I’m not the only one to set clocks faster to help me be on time.

And I’m not the only one for whom the practice has failed.

So what’s causing all these punctuality failures?

Is it because we’ve been conditioned to fill—or overfill—every minute with activity? For many of us, down time is a rare and foreign experience. We feel guilty if we’re not constantly on the go. If I have an open hour, my first question is, “What am I forgetting to do?”

Or perhaps we’ve become so self-centered that we think the world revolves around us and our convenience? One friend commented on my social media post, recalling a poem that changed her perspective…and her habits:

To be early is to be on time,
To be on time is to be late,
To be late is to be selfish.

Her little poem is not only painfully convicting, it’s also biblical. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV). When I’m late, I’m guilty of putting my own interests above others.

Maybe our tardiness is because, as another friend noted, “Optimists are usually the late ones. We anticipate everything going perfectly door to door.” Guilty as charged. Of course, we all know it’s a rare day when everything goes perfectly!

One cousin noted being tardy is in our family’s genes. While history supports her conclusion, I’m determined to change our family’s reputation.

It’s only been five days, but so far, so good!

What tips do you have for being punctual?


 
Fall Colors in Nature and in Us

Fall colors

Fall…the time when (in places other than Florida!) nature dons flamboyant garb as God paints His world with vibrant colors. Lush, supple leaves in shades of green gradually change color until the green is just a memory, replaced by vivid red, yellow, and orange.

But where do the fall colors come from? What causes the bright transformation each year?

Actually, those other colors were there the whole time.

Remember middle school science class? Chlorophyll in the leaves creates the green color. Other chemicals, such as carotene, create orange, yellow, and red pigments. The other colors are always there. But the work of the chlorophyll overpowers those chemicals and conceals the additional hues.

Shorter days and cooler temperatures cause the chlorophyll in the leaves to break down. Since the chlorophyll is responsible for the green color, as it breaks down, the other pigments are free to strut their stuff.

Of course, you know there’s a spiritual application in all this, don’t you?

Life can be moving along, fresh and lush. Good things are happening and you’re growing in the warmth of the sun. And then suddenly there’s a chill in the air as tragedy strikes.

You lose your job.

The bank is about to foreclose.

Your husband wants a divorce.

The prognosis is terminal.

And you and I have a choice.

  • We can curl up in a corner and surrender to defeat. Or we can allow the cold circumstances to reveal strength we never knew was there as we depend on God for His upholding.
  • Instead of being overpowered by a situation that would conquer most people, we can stand firm in the power of our heavenly Father.
  • We can become bitter because life didn’t turn out the way we wanted. Or we can grow in the grace of the Holy Spirit as we follow His leading.
  • We can resent our losses. Or we can trust the Lord for what He will give us in their place.

fall colorsOur choice will determine the colors that shine through our life.

Will you and I allow disappointment to be His appointment?

Will we allow God to turn our messes into messages?

Our tests into a testimony?

And our trials into triumphs?

Sometimes green is just for a season. But there’s a season for reds, oranges, and yellows, too. And even when those vibrant colors turn brown and it feels like there’s no coming back…

Fall follows summer.

Winter follows fall.

And spring follows winter.

And with spring comes tender shoots with lush green leaves…again.

What season are you in?
Which colors are you displaying?


 
A Time to Work and a Time Not to Work

Labor Day - celebrating work

The Labor Day holiday weekend is coming. Ironically, it’s a holiday we celebrate by avoiding what we’re celebrating. We celebrate labor by not working.

This holiday reminds us there’s a time to work…and a time not to work.

And that applies to our Christian life, too. There’s a time to work and a time not to.

Our restored relationship with God is not dependent on any labor on our part. Consider Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV):

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

We can’t take credit for our salvation. That’s what makes it so amazing. Every other religion is based on humanity’s efforts to work their way up to heaven. But Christianity is all about God reaching down to us. He did it all.

And it’s a good thing He did. Because we don’t have the ability to reach up to a holy God. Our sin separates us from Him—a chasm we couldn’t breach even if we wanted to. If restoration is to occur, it must be initiated by Him.

Still, there’s a place for our work. Because the next verse (Ephesians 2:10) tells us:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Yes, there’s a time to work—not for our salvation, but because of it. We serve the Lord from a heart overflowing with gratitude because He restored us to Him.

But what about Philippians 2:12-13?

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (NIV).

“Work out your salvation” or “It is God who works in you”? Which is it?

Both.

As Oswald Chambers explained:

“With focused attention and great care, you have to ‘work out’ what God ‘works in’ you— not work to accomplish or earn ‘your own salvation,’ but work it out so you will exhibit the evidence of a life based with determined, unshakable faith on the complete and perfect redemption of the Lord.”

But what about Labor Day? What about the work we do vocationally? The Bible has something to say about that, too, especially for Christians:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV).

So this weekend let’s celebrate labor. And as we celebrate, let’s remember that our salvation is the one area where God did it all, because there’s a time to work…and a time not to.


 
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