Give Thanks

By: Gail Armatys, HeartSong Life Coach

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give Thanks.

It’s appropriate. Today is Thanksgiving. The day to give thanks.

It’s my favorite holiday of the year.  The cool temperatures, fall decorations, (Like my turkey.  Actually, I’m not sure what a metal turkey filled with fake lemons on the mantel really has to do with giving thanks, but I go with it every year.)

Forgive me, I digress…

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…colorful leaves on the ground, the smell of turkey in the air and my favorite site – our grown boys at work together in the kitchen baking a pumpkin pie! In this family everyone contributes.

Soon our daughter and hubby will be here with their special recipe. Yum! Then, as always, the football games will pause briefly as we listen to ‘Alice’s Restaurant’, and finally sit at the table ready to gobble (couldn’t resist that word) down all of our mouth-watering work.

But before we start passing dishes one way or the other – or both – we share what we are thankful for and pray.  In the end, thanking God for all of his blessings and abundance. (Ah, Abundance! Enter the metal turkey and lemons!)

This is probably a scene that’s familiar to you – and likely to millions of families across the nation. It’s a wonderful day set aside specifically to give thanks.

But, what about the rest of our days? And what about those 3 words in the Thessalonians scripture we just read?

…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God.  1 Thess. 5:18

When All Equals Everything

I know what you are saying as you read this.  It hits me hard as well.

All? As in e – v – e – r – y – t – h – i – n – g?

Really God?  Everything?  For the pumpkin pie, the warm fire, the chance to shop on Black Friday – or now even Thank-filled Thursday – a resounding, YES! For puppies, babies, and hugs. YES!  For my salvation…YES! But for heartache, cancer, loss, pain, sorrow? Really?  Thankful?

Let’s say I get beyond this ‘all equals everything’ piece. I’m not sure the next phrase of the sentence makes me feel any better.

…for this is the will of God.

God’s Will Revealed

God’s will? What is God’s will for my life? Sometimes we just can’t figure it out, especially during the hard times.

The best place to begin looking is in scripture. There are verses that reveal, simply and directly, God’s will for our lives.

1 Thess. 5:18 is one of these verses. Read it one more time.

…give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God.

Why give thanks in all situations when all we really want to do about some things is be angry, unforgiving, hurt, or just roll up into a ball and die?

Perhaps the following 2 reasons from scripture will help.

  1. The trial is for our good.  (Thanks a lot for the reminder, Gail.  I feel better now. Ugh.)

‘And we know, that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ Romans 8:28

I guess that’s where parents get the idea to say, ‘It’s for your own good’, to their kids.  I don’t remember actually speaking those words myself, but I do know the motive for the parentally imposed restriction or hardship was for exactly that reason  – their own good.

There is a lesson in the trial and a chance to grow.  Not only that, there is the opportunity for an expression of love – God’s love, his goodness amidst the challenge.

Have you ever tried to give a hug to a defiant child that is stiff as a board? Kind of difficult. But what happens when the child is hurting, curled up, wanting comfort?  Easy peazy.

Could it be that as we bend our knee in despair and thanksgiving while enduring a painful trial he is then able to hold us closer – because we finally let him?

  1. So that we can comfort others.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  2 Cor.1: 3-4

That’s a lot of comfort going on there!  And who but God could start such a flow of love?

Sometimes I forget that it’s not just me that needs attention.  I was taken aback when I realized for the first time what John 3:16 was really saying.  You know, ‘God so loved the world…’ he meant not just my little corner of the world. He means the entire human existence that makes up the world!

Look around campus, a mall or airport sometime. It amazes me as I notice the different types, shades, sizes, and shapes of faces and realize that God loves each one of them just as much as he loves me. It really is difficult to fathom because we don’t do it.  But they, too, were made in his image.

Not only that, everyone of these someones at the mall and airport and on campus need comforting at some time in their lives – just as I have needed it.  And just as I have received comfort, God will comfort them through me…and you as well. How?

By his example: “he comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble…” 2 Cor. 1:4

Thanking God in all circumstances is God’s will for my life.

For my good.

That I may receive love and comfort from him and share it with others.

So, it is right and good that I thank God for things big and small. Easy and difficult.  Happy and sad.  A day at a time.  This day.  Thanksgiving Day.  And every day.

Now, please pardon me as I eat my pie.

Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Purpose Steps

  1. Make it a point this week to remember to thank God for your blessings and for the good he promises to work in your trials.
  2. Look for someone near you each day this week that could use a word of comfort or a loving hug.
  3. Write your own special prayer of thanksgiving today.

Purpose Prayer

Thank you, God, for the sunshine and the rain.  For being with me.  For comforting me when I need it most and waiting for me when I pull away. Thank you for your goodness. Thank you that I can learn and grow, and for the chance to share your love and compassion with others. Thank you for this country, our troops and their sacrifice, our friends, and our families…and pumpkin pie. But mostly, thank you for Jesus.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Listen to Your HeartSong Here!

I Just Want to Thank You Lord

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb1Op5Wo8k0

Live the song written on your heart

By: Vivian Wilson 

Chalkboard and autumn maple leaves on background

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Ideally it is a day we set aside to intentionally thank God for His goodness and provision for us. So you are probably expecting me to give you a general list of things for which I am grateful; things like faith, family, friends, babies, puppies, kittens, sunsets, beaches, turkey and dressing, and pumpkin pie.

I am grateful for all of these things to be sure. But in my “life lessons” course for this year, (some of you may remember that the word God gave me in January, was “surrender”), I am learning to be truly grateful for the trials and difficulties that God tailored especially for me to teach me to surrender.

Let me say here that I have learned that things can always be worse. I do not compare my trials with those of anyone else. God has determined exactly what each of His children needs to grow him/her into the image of his Son.  And I know that in every situation of every child of God, He provides the grace that he/she needs to come through in victory.

Am I grateful because I like to “suffer”?

NO.

What I like is that I can see God’s loving hand on my life as He uses difficult circumstances to change me. As I surrender my plans and my will to Him, He shapes me into the person He created me to be.

Pain and hard things force me out of my comfort zone, beyond the boundaries of my perceived limitations.

It is in this place where God stretches me. It is in this place where my faith and my trust are tested.  It is here where I practice perseverance. I realize my great need for a sovereign God who loves me.

Psalm 119:71-72  “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees”.

It is in the hard places that God draws me closer to Him and my love for Him grows. My heart overflows with praise and worship because I know that I am not alone and that no matter what the circumstances may be, I belong to my Heavenly Father, who has a good and perfect plan for me. I know that He is fully capable of bringing His plan to completion on time. In the hard times, the joy and peace that come from Him is even sweeter.

Romans 15:13  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

So, yes, I thank God for the “hard” days. I will thank Him not only tomorrow, but today and every day. I will also thank Him for the “easy” days and for all the wonderful gifts He gives, like faith, family, friends, puppies, and pumpkin pie.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Where there is a grateful heart, there is no room for bitterness, envy, or jealousy.  A grateful heart is an open door to a deeper relationship with the ONE who loves me beyond my imagination.

May you have a joyful Day of Thanksgiving!

A work in progress,

Vivian

Expecting the Unknown

By Ms. O

Have you ever had this expectant certainty about something that you did not have total clarity about? I am not trying to mess with your mind…or make a play on words to confuse you…but I promise this makes total sense….at least to me. There are many times we don’t have to all the details…. to know that what is coming…. is going to be great.

I love mincemeat pie…have since I was a child. I knew that come Thanksgiving…and Christmas…it would get served up. Most of my siblings would turn their nose up at it…not me. One whiff…and I knew…my heart rejoiced. I did not want to know “why” they called it mincemeat…but even after I found it…it truly did not matter. Just the aroma would send delight to my taste buds…because I knew…with all certainty…..it was going to be great.

When I had my first child…a boy…I had no clue what I was doing. Two days in the hospital apparently qualifies you to take home a human being…go figure. I remember so many nights gazing into his eyes as I tried to rock him to sleep….’try’ being the operative word since he did not sleep. As I looked at him, I would feel a welling up in my spirit…of what was to come. The dreams of a future…..our lives intertwined. When I had my daughter…I naively believed it would be no different…but looking at her as she slept…yes she LOVED to sleep…my expectancy would be so different. This would be my little girl…someone that would intertwine my heart alongside her brother. With both of them was the same excitement…of what was to come. I could not have even guessed at how it would be…only of what I had imagined…that of course fell short…but I knew for sure that what was coming….was going to be great.

This coming week I have a houseful of company coming in to celebrate a day dedicated to giving thanks. I can tell you….the excitement is building…more so with each day. I have a very blurry lay out of where everyone will sleep…shower…what…and where… we will eat. I think those are the details have to be worked out. What I cannot describe adequately is what will happen during this time…I only know my soul longs for it. It is a time to rehash old stories…the ones we tell over and over again…and add in the new ones. It is a sharing of that seed of joy that God planted in each of our hearts…that is nourished and grows as we spend time together. Details…I can’t let that bog me down or overwhelm me…what I know is it is ….it’s going to be great.

As we come into the Advent season I think of Mary…when God spoke to her…and told her about the impending birth….her bearing the Christ child. She had no clue what was ahead…she only had sketchy details…a little this…a lot of that…but the rest would be trusting in God and knowing that He has this handled.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:38

I truly believe that Mary trusted God…in a nervous sort of okay I’ll go with it trust…because she knew deep in her heart that it was going to be more than fine…it was going to be great.

In my own nervousness…of my not so well planned life…not being able to control all things…which has the great possibility of making me nuts…I need to take a page from Mary. Sure, state the obvious “flaws” in the plan…she sure did…and I do that…a lot. But my follow up is what I need to work on. I need to kneel down…give up the desire to stand up on my own…and realize that God’s greatness is within reach. That certainty that I have….God’s faithfulness…which gives me that flutterly feeling in my stomach…and gives me the confidence to say….’may it be as you have said’…and take it in….cause it’s going to be better than I could ever imagine…it is going to be…great. Give thanks…and amen.

The Perfect Thanksgiving…(or not so much)

By: Amy Dalke

This week’s to-do list is piled a mile high.

And I won’t even get to the grocery-shopping or meal-making parts until Wednesday night.

In fact, I still need to do research on how to cook a turkey. (I’m kidding about that part.) (Because there’s no way my family would allow that responsibility to fall on me again.)

It’s times like this that I have to remind myself…

Thanksgiving isn’t about the perfect place setting. It’s not about those cutesy chalkboard name cards I found on Pinterest. My family could care less about whether or not the baseboards are clean, and they won’t notice if I don’t get around to washing the paint scuffs off the walls.

When all these tasks consume my mind, thanksgiving is far from my heart. 

Thanksgiving

This day, and the next, and the next, and the next…these days won’t be repeated. We have one shot at today, so why waste them in to-do list anxiety?

Thanksgiving 2014 is a day that I want to remember because of the relationships that were strengthened, because of the love that was shared, because of the grace that was offered around the family table.

When the sun sets on Thanksgiving day, no one will care about the clutter in the corner of your living room. They won’t care that your pantry wasn’t organized alphabetically. They won’t remember how good your house looked, but you can bet they will remember how they felt in your company.

They might care if you overcook the turkey…but, well, even that will be part of a happy memory. (The happy memory part won’t take effect immediately, though. I can testify to that one.) (See Dalke Family Memories from 2006.)

What if we stood up together this year against the Perfect Thanksgiving, and instead chose to welcome people to our table with love? That means we won’t slave this week over the tasks of preparation, to the point of wringing ourselves out with stress.

Rather than focus on the perfect decor, or the perfect table, we can set our minds on preparing a heart of thanksgiving.

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)

I’m pretty sure if we focus on the thanksgiving part, it will make for a better Thanksgiving.

Amy

A Thanksgiving Prayer

By Gail Armatys, HeartSong Life Coach

According to the newspaper, the commercials, and the grocery stores, it’s the season to give thanks.

I don’t disagree, but I believe having a thankful heart is to be a part of our everyday, moment-by-moment existence.

So, as we draw closer to this one big day of thanks, (after the big meal, too) let’s reminisce daily on all that we’ve been given, during the good times and as a result of the times of struggles and pain.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, look more closely.  What good has come from your trials this year?  If we are honest, and willing, we can surely see that God has restored to us more than we have sacrificed.

That is his way.

In honor of his just, righteous, merciful and loving kindness, here is a prayer that I would like to share that brings honor to God for his goodness in the joy and the pain.

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A Prayer from My Heart

Thank you, O Lord, that I come to a place that’s difficult – as I see and hear you more clearly there.  Thank you for being with me and for your spirit with and in me – for as I strip away the layers that keep you from full expression – the light of you begins to shine through.

Then, my eyes are opened to see beyond myself the emptiness of self in others who long for a different life but don’t know how – to let go of their fears.  Their despair.  The false idea of self-protection.

Thank you that I was blind and now my sight is so clear that what I often see breaks my heart as it does yours.  That if I open the eyes of my heart I can see, and know, and love those you place in my path.

Thank you that your spirit and your love calls me to shed my own fears and trust with an open hand and open heart that in a small but significant way, I can give myself away and somehow have more than I ever imagined.

I give thanks for this.  I cry out to give thanks in all circumstances for I believe that only you can take the hardships I trudge through in this world and use them for my good – to train me, to bless me.

Thanks be to you, my God, for your glorious gift in Christ that I may come to you at all.  That I may be angry with you, and you listen – and wait – and love me.  That as my words and thoughts pour out you are prepared for them and await patiently as the lessons to be learned break through and my sometimes wavering love for you gains more strength.

I see the blessing.  I feel your love.  I thank you.

I thank you for the richness of my life and your forgiveness of my expectation that it should always be this way and no other.  Thank you that from my excess I can fill another’s need.

Thank you that your gift of my family and friends can fill my heart in a funny, peculiar, and sacred way.  And because of that, I can encourage others whose struggles are not so different than mine of the past.

I bring you praise and thanksgiving for the abundance of my life – yes, for things and possessions.

But mostly, for your gift in Christ. For without this, I would own nothing, be nothing, love nothing.

With Christ, I am yours and there is no other.

Thank You, Lord.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen

Purpose Steps

  1. Be intentional throughout your days leading to Thanksgiving Day to thank God for his blessings.
  2. Notice and write down any change in attitude or feelings that come as you give thanks.

Listen to Your HeartSong Here!

Give Thanks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk_7wUR2Wdg

Live the song written on your heart

Timely Decisions = Possible; Perfect Decisions = Impossible

By Vivian Wilson 

I am a recovering perfectionist, but I still tend to over think important decisions. The more important the decision, the more “stuck” I become.  Undermining my thought process is the fear of making the wrong decision. I have been in the place between recognizing the need to do something about a situation and actually acting on a solution to the challenge.

Fork In The Road

There are several issues at play here:

1. Fear.  Fear is not from God. It is an effective tool that Satan uses to stop forward progress and cause me to retreat, or at best stand still.

2. Pride. I think that I can actually come up with the perfect answer on my own even though I can not possibly see into the future, that some way I have control of my future.

3. Trust. It is actually lack of trust in the One who knows everything and has my best interest at heart according to His perfect plan. Some how I think that I know what’s best for me.

I am not saying that every decision should be made quickly but in a timely manner. I must be wise by first asking God for direction and then seeking Godly counsel.

Proverbs 4:11  “I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths”.

Proverbs 15:22  “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”.

What I am saying is that decisions should be made with my hands open in surrender to the Father, with my eyes open and fixed on Jesus, and with my ears open to the voice of the Spirit.

Faith replaces fear when I seek God allowing me to experience the peace that only He can give.

You see, there are things that I know to be true. I can trust God because He loves me beyond what I can possibly understand, more than any one can.  He will never leave me or forsake me. He is all-knowing and all-powerful so I know that nothing can happen to me apart from His knowledge and control.

Psalm 52:8  “I will trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever”.

Psalm 56:4  “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust. I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”

Last week I made a decision that I should have, could have, made weeks ago. After wrestling with the problem and a solution to the point of frustration, I finally came to my senses. I let go of it. I surrendered it to God and asked for direction. I listened to counsel from a friend and made a decision.  I don’t know if it is the “perfect” answer, but I do know that I have peace. I know that I don’t have to have the “perfect” answer, because God can and will use every situation for my good and His glory.

Hourglass

Psalm 32:8  “I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you”.

There is only One who is perfect, and it isn’t me.

I want to make good decisions but when I am immobilized by the fear of not making the perfect one, it is a sure sign, a warning, that I am trying to take God’s place, that I have replaced Him with “I” on the throne of my heart.

NOT A GOOD DECISION!

So I will repent and surrender, trusting in my Savior.

A work in progress,

Vivian

The WOW Factor of God

By Ms.O

I have had plenty of “wow” moments in my life. You know what I am talking about…those times that are unexpected…take you by surprise…and you sit in awe. The “I didn’t see it coming” snatches that reintroduce you to the Maker of the Universe.

I always knew the “medical science” part of having a child. I read all the “what is happening to your body” books along with “what to expect when you are expecting”. In our natural childbirth…a term I say loosely since there is nothing natural about having a baby without being medicated….some thing that I did not have the advantage of with either of my children….they described what goes on with your body when you give birth. Nothing prepared me though for that moment…when I first saw my son…and my daughter…for the first time. That tiny piece of Heaven placed in my arms…brings about the awareness of the wondrous workings of God. It is like a private pow-wow with the Almighty…attesting to His awesome creation.

A few years back…on one of my “milestone” birthdays…my kids took me away to celebrate. I was ready for a fun filled weekend…figured they had something special planned out. What I was not ready for though was the surprise of having some pretty special people literally jump out of the closet….I kid you not…to join in for the festivity. It took me a good five minutes to catch my breath…to take it all in…and realize that this was what Heaven must be like…a gathering of loved ones…to celebrate the gift of family and friends. I still look back in wonder at that weekend…and see God’s handiwork…His touch…reminding me…that I am loved.

Last week I was given another glance of God…a blow to my senses…a tidal wave of emotion that I still can’t quite get over. In a very low part of my life…when I felt that if one more “thing” was to occur…it would surely be the final nail in my coffin…God reminded me…He has this…really…He does. I was greeted with news that was…still is…hard for me to receive. I am not good at that…it’s the truth. I am much better at giving…but for this…I would have to take the opposite side of the extended hand. I am surrounded by love…in the purest form…that gives me the original intent in His desire for us to take care of one another.

Even after that HUGE gift….God did some follow up with me. In a text from a parent of one of my youth…He spoke to me. He reminded me again through shared experiences with another friend…He knitted the commonality of family…His family. A well placed bundt cake with a sweet message was left on my door step…nothing like chocolate to say…you…are….loved. Messages of love from people that I share life with…a balcony of believers…was exactly what I needed…to look up…towards the Heavens…and thank God…that I don’t have to have it all figured out.

“I thank my God every time I remember you ”.. Philippians 1:3

This statement is a two-part thank you. For that great cloud of witnesses…testifying to God’s goodness…I thank our Father for you…because you have shown me…Him…in your kindness. Best of all…as I go to God with gratitude…I am reminded of Him…of His great love…because as I give thanks for you…I am speaking to God…with the assuredness that I am not lost…nor have I ever been. I just lost my footing for a bit…but it is all coming back to me. God is good…all the time…and all the time…God is good. Amen.