November 24, 2010

10 Thanksgivings Ago

A decade ago, the Lord taught me about gratitude's link to obedience. Have I written it about it here before? I need to check the archives. I think of this often at Thanksgiving. I think of it throughout the year when I am overwhelmed by something amazing and HUGE that God has done for me. There is a connection between gratitude and obedience. I see that now. I treasure this nugget of revelation. I am so glad to have a quick Thanksgiving test that I can take.

Am I thankful?
A simple question that really means do I "feel" thankful? Do I feel content or happy with where life is these days? Are the big things in place? Healthy kids and happy husband? Check. Check. (Can you picture my cute, pasted on smile?)

But the better question is: Do I "act" thankful? Obedience is the tried and true best way to show my gratitude for everything God does to protect, lead, and love me. If He asks something of me, will I do it even when it's a stretch for me?

John records the conversation with Jesus and His disciples, when Jesus challenges them by saying, "If you love me, obey me." That verse is so powerful. John 14 was a life changing chapter for me. As a child, I read the New Testament, skimming past the passages that I did not understand. This was one of those confusing, earn your salvation, kind of messages. But when I read it in 2000, I knew that He was speaking to me. You are ready to do this. You are ready to love me back. You've wanted to love me, but you didn't know how until now.

For so long, I wanted the Lord to know how much I love Him. Now I need to show Him as much as I tell Him. Too quickly, I can begin to build a separate life from the one He is leading. Without obedience, I am not really grateful. Instead, I am doing my own thing, apart from Him. I am no longer His child; I just attend His church.

Thanksgiving brings me back to this fork in the road from the year 2000. I chose the road with the flashing neon arrow that the Holy Spirit paved and marked clearly for me. I chose life.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. No, the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it. I set before you today, life and prosperity, death and destruction. Now, choose life so that your children may live.
-Deuteronomy 30:11,14,15,19

November 16, 2010

He changed the subject while I was still talking.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:3-5

Each year, I pray for creative ways to teach my children about thankfulness while reminding them of the history of the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a season of patriotism for me. It is a season of reflection. But more importantly, it has become a 4 week workshop where I attempt to prepare my kids' hearts so that they are grateful for the Christmas gifts that they receive.

We want to spoil them. They want to be spoiled. Win- Win, right? Well, we don't like the inevitable pressure to "wow" them. We don't want to sacrifice and give gifts to kids that are not appreciative. That's why I love that Thanksgiving comes first. We can enter the season with a fresh reminder of the generosity of Jesus Christ and the blessing to live in a free country.

Each year, I pursue subtle ways of teaching our kids about being thankful. I pump them up on Thanksgiving: the history and the Christian perspective on this food - centered holiday. Then just a few weeks later, we turn right around and spoil them to the best of our budget. Some years, the result is precious, thankful responses to that Christmas bounty. Once or twice, I have seen that dreaded look of disappointment. But we always have a super fun family day together, playing games and taking pictures.

My prayer is that as they grow and mature in the Lord, their gratitude will grow too.

We don't take care of our kids because they are thankful. We don't bless them because they deserve it. Jesus did not die for us because we worshipped Him. He died for the whole world, even those that will never believe that He is who He said He is.

This week, I asked God how to teach thankfulness to my family. "Lord, do they need more chores to appreciate the value of money and understand hard work? Do we need to have a family devotion on the matter? What, Lord, what? I am worried about them making extravagant wish lists. What should we do?"

He changed the subject while I was still talking. Although that is frustrating when another person does that, it's so great when the Holy Spirit does that. He had something to say to me, and I did want to miss it.

Instead of parenting tips, the Lord reminded me to be thankful. He wanted me to show my three children what this season means to me. He said, "sing songs and read Psalms. Be quick to say thank you to Dan and the kids when they do something that you appreciate. Bring an attitude of thanksgiving home with you."

Then confession time began, because I have been frustrated with the price tag of Christmas and the not getting homework done in a timely manner and the messy rooms and the unmade beds. While trying to trick my kids into a false humility, I have been missing out on living Thanksgiving.

No more! I heard His message loud and clear. When the Lord changes the subject, I want to change too! So, I'll start now with some worship time. Gotta go and get my praise on. . . Thanks for reading.

November 11, 2010

A time to weep

A week ago, I started crying when I read one simple verse. And now I can't stop. I cry at things that are cheesey and sappy and the slightest bit sweet. I cry (with joy) when my kids are kind to one another. I also tear up when they are fighting, not wanting them to waste time on frivolous things. God has given us to each other to build up one another, not to tear each other down. I cry at worship songs. OK, that's not new.

I even cried a little in Walmart today. Yes, that has happened before, but out of frustration, but today's episode was about a Christian Christmas decoration. What is going on? My heart is bursting with thankfulness, and every little thing has me shouting His praise. It's sweet, but also inconvenient. The children are concerned. Mom, are you crying?

Oh, you ask? Which verse started all of this? Oh, yes, that one verse. The one that has triggered Niagara Falls.

"He sets the lonely in families."

It was tucked into an article on a blog that my sweet sis-in-law just posted on Facebook. I knew when I read it that it was Scripture. I knew I would find that powerful truth in God's Word. I also knew when I read it that I would never forget it. So I looked it up.

Psalm 68:6 reads, "God sets the lonely in families; He leads the prisoners out with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun scorched land."

If this is the heart of God, then I want that heart too. I want to be on His team. Wearing His colors. Playing on His field. Working in His fields.

God sets the lonely in families.
When I see families, I can know that God is for the good of that group.
Family was God's idea. Loneliness was not His plan. He will show us who is supposed to be in our family if we ask Him.

He leads the prisoners out with singing.
When I see the Lord leading a prisoner, rescuing someone from bondage, I can know that their song is a song of freedom. I can rejoice and worship God with them. Their freedom song is really my song too. I want to worship Him with my fellow, former prisoners.

But the rebellious live in a sun scorched land.
When I see the rebellious, even in the mirror, I want to remember what a hard life that will be. That living in a sun scorched land will lead to disaster. I want to stay open to God's leading. Not stiff necked and alienated. Not defiant, disobedient, or even fractious. Just thankful.

And weepy.