Category Archives: Devotionals

Scripture based thoughts.

Why Give Thanks?

IMG_0424I have written about this many times and it seems to be a life’s mission for me.  We are supposed to be thankful for everything.  Last year, I attended a seminar where the presenter suggested that people write down at least 3 things to be thankful for each day.  One woman spoke up and said, “But what if we don’t have anything that day?”  Are you serious?!  Uh, you’re breathing! That counts for one! There is always something to be thankful for!

So, we’ve all seen articles and heard interviews where people share why it is important for us to give thanks.  In the United States we believe we even have a holiday to celebrate: Thanksgiving, so regardless of religion or faith, our nation is to be a thankful nation.  Other cultures and countries also celebrate festivals to express gratitude during the harvest season. It seems this is a great time to be thankful.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the author of Gratitude Works!: A 21-day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity suggests 5 reasons why giving thanks is actually good for you.

  1. Counting blessings boosts your health by lessening depression and lowering blood pressure and creating more optimism.
  2. A daily practice of gratitude even slows down some of the effects of neurodegeneration that occurs as we age.
  3. Positive emotions like appreciation significantly lowered levels of cortisol which is the “stress hormone.”
  4. Being thankful increases oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” so it helps you in your relationships.
  5. Gratefulness is good for the heart and the waistline and may achieve a 10% reduction in systolic blood pressure and decrease dietary fat intake by up to 20%.

These are all great benefits of being grateful, but I’d like to add one more reason we should give thanks. In 52 A.D. the apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I think he may have been on to something.  It seems this concept of gratitude has been around a long time. Why give thanks? There are many reasons and benefits, but I do because the Bible tells me to.

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Can I Help You?

IMG_0169Jesus said to me “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. — Matthew 11:28

As a church member entered the building with her cane in one hand and her purse in the other, I offered her help.  She handed me her purse, grabbed my elbow and said, “I never refuse help.” It was such a refreshing response. Many times when we offer help, we are met with rejection. “No, I’ve got it.” “No thanks, I’m good.” And, many times we respond that way when we are asked. Now I understand that sometimes when we are holding things just so, handing one item off would upset our balance, but many times we simply could accept the help and don’t.  So why don’t we?

Most of us would ask for help if we were lifting a refrigerator, but we avoid getting help with the smaller things.  The same may hold true when we are talking about our spiritual burdens. If a real crisis hits, we go to God, but these little pesky everyday burdens we choose to handle on our own.  We all know that if you keep adding pebbles to a bucket, the bucket eventually gets too heavy to carry and I believe the same holds true for our pesky burdens. They will keep adding up until they become too heavy to carry and then we will turn them over to the Lord.  We don’t have to do that. We can share our little burdens with God, just as we can accept help with some of the little tasks we face in our lives. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

So, for your spiritual burdens, give even the little ones to God and for your physical burdens, share them with your friends and family. That way we all get to participate in God’s plan for us.

Thanks, friend, for accepting the offer of my help.  I think it actually helped us both.

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Fall Foliage Prediction

It’s currently mid-October and I am looking out my window at some beautiful fall leaves. The colors are vibrant, the sun is shining and Autumn appears to be gorgeous. This fact is barely worth mentioning, except that I didn’t expect it. Every year I look forward to fall and October is one of my favorite months, but this year, I had a different attitude at the beginning of the month. You see, I was discussing the fall leaves with someone and they said that this year the leaves probably wouldn’t change colors and that as far as they could tell, this year it was going to be “Brown and Down.” WHAT?! Brown and Down? Who wants that? I want the reds, the yellows, the oranges! I don’t want the leaves to become brown and down!

But, when they made that statement, it was pretty much true. In our area, we had the Cicadas which caused many of our trees to lose big clumps of leaves. (Those dead leaves have been plaguing our lawns for a while.) And I must admit that I did see some leaves turning brown and falling, but this week we got a surprise. The warmer September temperatures made the leaves change colors later and it appears that in our area, we aren’t even at peak yet. This fall, I get to enjoy the changing leaves as I always have.

The noteworthy part of this story is that one person’s new clever phrase “Brown and Down” almost stole my joy. My mood instantly switched from looking forward expectantly towards the colors of autumn to dreading the leaves turning brown. Someone dashed my hope. With three words!

It makes me wonder how many times I dash someone’s hope with only a few words. Phrases like “I doubt it, probably not, and It’s always something” could impact someone more than I intend to. Someone could be looking forward to planning an event and they could ask me if I think others would be interested. I may answer, “I doubt it.” Do you think that is a big boost to their morale? What about, “Think this sunshine will last until the weekend?” “Probably not.” Yuck! Who wants to be that person? Not me. However, I find that I sometimes I am that person and sometimes even worse.

Just like weathermen that get the forecast wrong, Fall Foliage Predictions are just that….predictions. No one knows when or how vibrantly the leaves will change colors, but saying something negative doesn’t lift anyone’s spirits. I read a quote that says, “If you can’t be positive at least be quiet.” Scripture says, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” So, to the people who were believing in the Brown and Down Fall, I will say nothing. I will go outside and stand quietly on this gorgeous day and watch the beautiful leaves fall.

Also, to these people, I really didn’t take much offense…I just needed something to write about. I found the new phrase rather clever and I wanted to share it, but I’m glad you were wrong!

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

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Stay CALM

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6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.            Philippians 4:6-8  (NIV)  

 

In this passage, verse 6 has been a favorite of mine for years. In different translations it may say, Do not be anxious, Be careful for nothing, Don’t fret or Don’t worry.  All words meaning the same thing. I have taught this verse to my children and have said it so many times that when they are facing something and I start to share it, they roll their eyes and say, “I know, I know, Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything, tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for the answers.”  Yes, that is the translation that they use.  Is it King James? New International Version? The message? No, It’s the Mom-version.

The Mom version is my attempt to share scripture when I am not really 100% sure exactly how it’s worded but I feel that I have the meaning.  So, in my case, I feel that sharing the meaning of the scripture is important, but the exact wording of it is not.  I oftentimes don’t know where a scripture is found in the Bible, but I know it’s in there.  I don’t know how to quickly find the perfect verse, but I do know some basic themes.

This summer I did a Max Lucado Bible Study titled Anxious for Nothing.  In it, he does his own version of Phil 4:6-8 that I love and wish I could’ve taught my kids.

Stay Calm:

C – Celebrate God’s Goodness

A – Ask God for help

L – Leave your concerns with Him

M-Meditate on Good Things

So, whether you have the ability to memorize scripture verbatim or if you have to create your own version keeping the meaning true, be sure to come up with a way to share God’s message with others. And, remember to Celebrate God’s goodness, Ask him for help, Leave your concerns with Him and then Meditate on Good Things.  That’s what the Bible says (in a variety of different ways.)

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Be Early & Bless

IMG_3213My family and I had scrambled to get ready. We needed to be in Pittsburgh by 4:30 and we wanted to stop and eat before then.  Having appointments and obligations all morning we ran from thing to thing.  Late for our first stop, because I made a cup of tea to take, we arrived, got to work and helped while keeping an eye on the clock because we had to go to a training at noon. We sorted and worked and left at the last minute possible to get to the training.

We arrived at the training, found a close parking spot, stuck our hand into the closing elevator door to make it open and accept us. We rushed past the receptionist, briskly walked back the hall, found our seats and began.

We needed to leave the training which was running late while the speaker was still presenting. We gathered up our handouts & raced out the door.

We picked the kids up, stopped for a sandwich and were finally on our way to our final destination.  Breathing again, but no time for error, we made it to the concert at 4:30.  Aaaaaah, Success.

But, was it? We mentioned the poor unfortunate man along the highway with a flat tire, and we were hopeful that slowing car with their turn signal on was going to assist him but we can’t be sure. We didn’t have time to stop and ask. It made me wish we hadn’t been so rushed that day. And it makes me wonder what other opportunities to share God’s love we missed.

Maybe that close parking spot could’ve gone to someone who had trouble walking and if we had had time, we may have parked further away and walked. We may have spoken to the person on the elevator if our minds weren’t preoccupied with being tardy.

I wish we had greeted the receptionist, made eye contact and smiled instead of rushing past her as if she were invisible. It would have been nice to be at the training earlier and converse with the attendees a bit to share what we have learned and glean from them what they know.

When we are late or rushed we miss out on opportunities to bless others and to be blessed by them. A smile or a short conversation about the weather may be all the other person needs to have a brighter day. A quick conversation may be all you need. I have always been a pretty punctual person. I think it’s in my DNA, but I know people who struggle with being on time. They intentionally set their clocks five or ten minutes fast so they can be on time. (Until of course, they remember their clocks are fast and adjust their schedule accordingly.) I don’t need to play this trick on myself to be on time, but maybe I need to do it so I can be early. So I can maybe have the margin needed for God to use me to do what He wants me to do, not just what I want to do!

Maybe if I had an extra margin of time, I could bless someone by letting them go ahead of me in line. Maybe I would notice someone fumbling with their keys while juggling packages and offer to help. Maybe I could let that car merge first. Maybe I could ask someone how they are and wait for an answer.

I think I’ll change my clocks and change my mindset and give it a try.IMG_3209

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37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’    –Matthew 22:37-39 NIV

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Thankfulness Reset

IMG_2128Be joyful always. Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything, hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil. –1 Thes 5:16-22

 

I woke this morning with a lot of regrets.  Little nagging regrets but regrets all the same.  I did not choose joy yesterday, I chose ingratitude and bitterness….over nothing! As we begin this month of Thanksgiving, I want to hit the reset button and try again. (And, I may need to hit that reset button again each morning.) As I read the above scripture, I decided that this month I will make a “game” out of giving thanks in all circumstances.  I will test everything and hold onto the good.  What might that look like in my life?

We miss the bus? That gives me a reason to remember to be thankful that we actually catch it more than we miss it. It’s raining? gives me the perfect excuse to curl up with a good book. The tire on my car is low? Might as well stay home and phone a friend. Piles of laundry to be done? I can be thankful that 3 of my children are grown and responsible for their own laundry and the 2 at home are in training.

So though yesterday I allowed myself to become bitter instead of better in the face of changed plans, unmet expectations and general spiritual fatigue, today, I will accept the scriptural challenge.  I will give thanks in all circumstances and test everything.  I will hold onto the good and I am sure to wake tomorrow with a lighter heart!  I challenge you to do the same.

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Keep Your Pants!

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My father in law has been in and out of the hospital many times in his 90+ years.  He has endured long stays and yet has sometimes been released on the same day.  His common joke during these times is to “never let them take your pants.”  He claims that once you have to give up your pants and don a hospital gown you are going to have to stay.  Now, after he has a trip to the ER, when we call to check in he will report, “Well, they took my pants” or “I didn’t let them get my pants” which lets us know if he will be staying or not.  Although I loved his clever way of reporting his health status, I never realized exactly what it meant until recently when I’ve been having some of my own health issues.

In May during some pre-surgery testing, I had an irregular EKG.  I had to have a follow up on that and the repeat EKG was deemed good enough for me to have the minor surgery, however, I now knew there was a blip on my EKG that would cause someone in the medical field to take a second look.  In August, I fell and broke my nose and bumped my head while on vacation in Nashville, TN.  When I got to the ER, they immediately requested all sorts of testing.  When I heard them mention an EKG, I politely refused the test.  I knew the “blip” would appear and I would find myself in a hospital in Tennessee while on vacation.

A few weeks ago, while traveling in Denver, CO, my heart started doing a flip-flop every now and then.  It has done this before and though not alarming, I have a family history of heart issues, so I became more aware of my heartbeat.  (Which is kind of like when someone tells you to be still after you’ve been still and you all of a sudden want to move.)  I became hyper-aware of my beating and every now and then pausing heart. This continued and I traveled to North Carolina where the flip-flops increased.  I toyed with the idea of going to the hospital, but I was out of state and didn’t want to change my plans.

I returned home and the irregularities seemed to increase and caused me to wonder. Should I go to the hospital? I didn’t want to go the day I got home, I didn’t want to miss K’s School walkathon, the weather was supposed to be nice on Saturday and I didn’t want to miss that, I knew I couldn’t go before I attended an event with my husband on Friday, and the excuses continued. I called doctors who all advised me to go to the ER if I was concerned until my upcoming scheduled cardiology appointment.  Still, I didn’t want to go.  I knew the monitor would show something and I had plans.  My plans did not include a trip to the hospital.

I finally entered the ER on Friday night AFTER attending the event and I sat in the parked car feeling my heart beating to see if I truly needed to go in.  With some encouragement from my husband (him refusing to back out of the parking spot and take me home), I went in.  I was told to put on a gown….but I could leave my pants on.  YAY!  The pants stay on, I may not need to stay.  The monitor was reporting the variations of my heart rhythm so I knew they could see what I was feeling. There was definitely something going on and it wasn’t all in my head. I was told it was PVCs, a very common affliction that many people have and most don’t even feel.  I. feel. each. one.  Regardless, I was treated with 3 baby aspirin and told to go home.  They never took my pants, I maintained my control.  However, does my need for control demonstrate my lack of faith?  I really don’t ever have control, do I?

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

In the above scripture, the Roman officer who had control of his army and his decisions realized that he didn’t have control of healing his sick servant, but he knew who did. He knew Jesus was the one who could heal him.  Jesus was pleased with him when he said, “Truly, I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” I believe Jesus knows we want to control things, I mean, He made me, right? So he knows I want to control, but I also think he is pleased when I give up control and turn situations over to Him.

So, I have an appointment with a cardiologist in 5 days, I feel the flip-flopping heartbeat and second guess if I have any additional symptoms from time to time. The ER doctor said I am fine and I’m giving this anxious heart over to God.  He is in control.  I’m going to wear my pants physically, but I’m truly going to let God wear the pants in this relationship.

 

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