Monday, November 30, 2009

Peace on Earth

I wish I could bottle the feeling of our church's "Deck the Halls" service yesterday. For the years that my family has lived in McKinney, our church's annual service that ushers in the Christmas season has been a definite favorite of mine.

I am usually far from being in the "Christmas spirit" when I go to the service. And sometimes feeling far from peaceful. On the contrary, I am usually feeling a little stress because I love Thanksgiving so much, and that particular holiday is so often pushed to the side in the mad dash to Christmas.

My favorite part of this annual service is the live Nativity scene acted out by very young children in the church. From Mary looking down at the baby Jesus in her arms, to all the tiny bare toes peeking out from under the costumes, it is pure joy to watch.

It makes me remember that the true Christmas is not the Christmas we can see around us, most often. It is found in our hearts, not at the local mall.

Last year, I found myself in a similar state of mind as Thanksgiving rolled around. I discovered a new favorite Christmas cd, though, in Casting Crowns' release of "Peace on Earth". Largely due to a new arrangement of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", this disc quickly became a mainstay in my car last December.

Lead singer Mark Hall describes how he wrote the arrangement based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous carol (originally a poem, "Christmas Bells"). Instead of using actual bells in the song, he immediately thought of children singing. Those pure, clear voices take us to a place of innocence, a time of redemption.. they remind us to hope, though we may be in deepest despair.

You see, when Longfellow penned those words on Christmas Day, 1864, America was still caught in the throes of the Civil War. America was still months away from Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9th 1865. His poem reflected the prior years of the war's despair, while ending with a confident hope of triumphant peace. Longfellow had also tragically lost his wife Fanny a few years prior, and his son Charles had just been badly injured in the war. He was feeling far from peaceful that lonely Christmas Day himself. Yet through the clear sound of the Christmas bells, his heart found hope.

As our pastor reminded us yesterday, the service is not just about readying the worship center with greenery and decorations in preparation of the season... the true preparations are in readying our hearts to usher in this blessed holy Season. The celebrations should all point the way to God's most precious Gift to mankind... his one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

May you be blessed with God's Peace this Christmas season.

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does He sleep!
The wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail
With Peace on Earth, Good-will to men...

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving! I hope today finds you feeling blessed and thankful as you spend this special time with family and friends! During an extended time away with family the past week, I had the chance to visit the Calvary Chapel Murrieta. I love being able to experience other venues for worship just to be reminded how diverse and creative and big our God is and that He is everywhere and relevant to wherever His people are. It's the "same kind of different as me" experience when we seek to see the world and each other the way God does. Sometimes we don't even realize when we get comfortable where we are, that we are seeing things through a narrow lens, unless we take the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and experience life outside that safety net. Even though we don't have to leave home to do that, I am thankful for the fresh perspective I have had this week away from home. I hope your break this week from regular routines gives you renewed energy and joy as we have a day to regroup and reflect on the things we are most thankful for.

So on that note, I want to share a devotion received from the Calvary Chapel Murrieta Women's Ministry titled Time to Count Your Blessings by "Kelly".

I love when November rolls around. Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. I love the fact that everywhere we turn, we are encouraged to count our blessings and have a thankful heart. Being thankful is definitely a Biblical principle. Psalm 95:2-3 tells us to "Come before His presence with thanksgiving: let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods." Over and over we are exhorted to be thankful. Thanksgiving is a great reminder of what our hearts shold be doing 24/7.

It's easy to take for granted the things that God does every day. He gives us breath, food, clothing, and homes. He allows us to have relationships with families and friends. He gives us the sun to light the day and the moon to light the night. He gives us the wind to blow through our hair and the mountains to climb. He gives us the sea to enjoy and the flowers to smell. Our list could go on and on.

Today, I am most thankful for His power. We studied Psalm 46 this week in our Bible study. It's a psalm that was written by the sons of Korah to exalt and praise God for His power over nature, His power over the nations, and His power to be our refuge. Basically, the psalmist says that no matter what is happening in our world, we don't have to fear, because God, the Lord of Hosts, is in control. Even if the whole world is falling apart, we don't have to.

A few weeks ago, our world experienced a typhoon, an earthquake, and a raging storm, all in two days. Fear paralyzed many. God's Word says, even in times like that, we don't have to be afraid. God is never shaken off the throne. He was, is, and always will be, King of Kings and Lord over all. And somehow, knowing that, we can "be still and know He is God" (Psalm 46:10).

Knowing that God is in control of every, yes, every situation, can bring a calmness to our soul that is unexplainable. It doesn't mean we're in denial when we trust God and decide not to worry. It means we believe that even when bad things happen to us or in our world, God is still sovereign. He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all-present), and omnipotent (all-powerful). He is in all, over all, and through all (Colossians 1:15-18). He's our Father of Lights (James 1:17) and our Lord of Hosts (Psalm 46:7). He is the First and the Last. He is my Lord. I pray He's yours. Take time every day to offer up thanks and praise to the God who will NEVER leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Defend Their Cause

Some nights when I was a little girl, I would sneak in my parents' bed after they'd tucked me in for the night. There was something reassuring and safe about being in that king size brass bed that was so popular in the 80's. Many times, I would still be awake when my parents discovered me. Even at eight years old, I remember making myself go as limp as possible to feign deep sleep when my Dad carried me to my bed. I'm sure my Dad caught on as I was too young to fake my breathing pattern, but he indulged me anyway. I suspect he knew that the whole ritual - being snug in their bed and then being gently carried back - made me feel safe and cared for.

Fast forward 21 years. I am a Mom now and I had a very sick little boy. My son could get very little relief between bouts of vomiting. As we laid on the floor, me massaging his weak, fever -racked body and praying over him, I had a distinct feeling of deep sadness wash over me. There was a sudden realization that, though Noah was sicker than a dog, he at least had someone to watch over him. I thought of all the children around the world who have no one to rub their back, hold a cool wash towel to their forehead or whisper words of comfort and love over them.

November is Adoption Awareness Month. There are an estimated 143 million orphans around the planet. Some estimates go above 200 million. That's 140+ million children who may never know what it feels like to be carried by a loving Daddy. That's 140+ million kiddos who will catch a bug, some from lack of access to clean water, and they won't have a Mommy to rub their back and console them. There are that many children who will never know the taste of a Thanksgiving turkey or know what it's like to sit around a dinner table and give thanks with a family. Their family.

"Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." I love that quote by Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision.

So, what stirs the heart of God? Isaiah said, "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." No wonder God made him a prophet. He spoke some rich stuff.

For a God who spoke so much into the Scriptures about defending the cause of the fatherless, it seems we believers ought to open our hearts and pay attention. Lest we develop a religion that is holey, gaps conveniently left where it would be too inconvenient to act, instead of a faith that is holy.

We have so many options - supporting an orphan or child with one parent through World Vision or Compassion International. All for the cost of eating out once a month. One meal at a nice restaurant or providing food, safety and an education for a child.

Then there are children in need of a foster home. There are refugee children escaping volatile situations in their countries who arrive in the U.S. in need of a home and a family. You can pray about becoming involved with the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program either as a foster parent or a mentor. There are refugee children in the area in need of a mentor as I type this.

And, most obvious, is actually adopting. To bring home a child that needs a Daddy to carry her. One that will know the tenderness of a Mom's hands and care. To show a child what it feels like to laugh around a table and eat turkey with a family. Their family.

As our church often discusses core and non-core, it is evident that caring for orphans is one significant calling of and command to all believers. Am I saying you're a rotten Christian if you don't adopt? No. Am I saying all believers need to take up the cause of orphans and it comes in many forms?


All believers.

So, I'm asking, what can and WILL you and your family do to show the love of Jesus to a fatherless and motherless child?

Disobedience vs. Obedience. Holey vs. Holy

Choose Obedience. Choose Holy.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James...God spoke good things through him, too!

What's Cooking???

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  Can you believe that Thanksgiving is already here, where did this year go?

All the ladies at our ladies event a few weeks ago were given a collection of recipes from ladies on either the Women's Ministry and/or the Fall Event team.  We thought it might be fun to share the recipes with all of you this week as you are getting geared up for the holidays!

We would love for you to leave a comment and tell us what some of your favorite recipes are this time of the year and if you would like, you can share your recipe with us to.

Peppermint Bark
From the 2009 Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

Coarsely crush 24 round peppermint candies.
 Melt 24 oz. white chocolate.
 Add 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract and the crushed candy
(reserving 3 Tablespoons) to themelted chocolate.
 Quickly pour mixture into a 9” x 15” pan (or the
equivalent) lined with parchment paper.
 Sprinkle with the reserved crushed candy.  Pressing with fingers.
 Let cool for at least an hour.  Break into pieces.
Submitted by:  Janice B.

Killer Candy
3 lbs. white almond bark
3 c. salted peanuts
2-1/2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
2-1/2 c. Peanut Butter Capt'n Crunch cereal
2 c. mini marshmallows 
Melt almond bark in microwave about 2 minutes.
 Mix all other ingredients in large mixing bowl.
 Pour almond bark over mixture and mix well.
 Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. Let harden.
 Makes 8 dozen 
Submitted by:  Lynette M. 
Hot Spinach Dip
2 c Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
8 oz cream Cheese
1/4 cup purple onion, chopped
2T chopped jalapenos (optional)
1/3 c Parmesan Cheese
1 can Rotel
1 small package chopped spinach,well drained!!
Melt Monterey Jack Cheese and Cream Cheese in a double boiler.
 Remove from heat.
 Add remaining ingredients.
 Serve with bread cubes, crackers, or chips.
Submitted by:  Gwen W. 

Christmas Gelatin Salad 

1 (6 oz) package of lime gelatin mix (prepare as directed on box)
 1 (8 0z) package of cream cheese OR 6oz cottage cheese
1 (20 oz) can of crushed pineapple with juice (drain but save the juice)
 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1. Add 1/2 cup pineapple juice to prepared gelatin. Place it in the
refrigerator to partially gel. It is important that the gelatin is only partially gelled.
 2. Meanwhile, cook the pineapple in a small saucepan until it boils.
Let it cook about 5 minutes. Cool it to room temperature. 
 3. When the gelatin is partially gelled, blend the softened cream
cheese (or cottage cheese) into it until it is creamy. Mix in the
cooled, cooked pineapple. 
4. Then, fold the nuts into the gelatin mixture. Finally,
place it in the refrigerator to completely gel. 
Submitted by:  Joanne B. 

Crunchy Carrot Salad
1 lb carrots, peeled
3/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1. Grate the carrots on the coarse side of a box grater ( a food
processor extracts a lot of liquid and will make the carrots too
soft for this salad).
2. In a large bowl, gently toss together the carrots, peanuts, parsley,
and mint.
3. In a small bowl thoroughly stir together the olive oil, lemon juice
and sugar, and salt, then pour the dressing onto the salad and
toss again until the carrots are evenly coated.
4. Let the salad stand for 20 minutes before serving, or refrigerate
it and serve within 2 days.  Serves 6.
Submitted by:  Kerensa B.

Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs
A Swedish Christmas Eve tradition usually part of a large smorgasbord.
1 lb ground chuck
1/4 lb ground pork
1-1/2 c bread crumbs
1 c milk
2 eggs
1 med onion finely chopped
1/8t pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup 
1/2t salt
3/4t dillweed
1/4t allspice
1/8t nutmeg
1/8t cardamom
3T butter
1 10 oz can beef broth
Mix meat, soak bread crumbs in milk 5 min.  Add ground meats, eggs,
onion, 1/4t salt, 1/4t dill weed, allspice, nutmeg, and cardamom.  Mix
well and refrigerate covered for 1 hour.
 Shape into 1" meatballs and brown in hot butter or margarine.   Put
meatballs in crock pot.  Mix together beef broth, cream of mushroom
soup, pan drippings, 1/4t salt, 1/2t dill weed.  Pour over meatballs and
cook on low 4-6 hours.
Can use frozen meatballs and put all the spices for meat
mixture in the broth as well as soup and beef broth.  It
will flavor the meatballs.
Submitted by:  Lynn Q.

Bacon-Wrapped Cornish Hens
From Williams-Sonoma Complete Grilling Cookbook 

8 slices bacon, about 1/2 lb total
4 Cornish hens, about 1-1/4 lb each
Salt and freshly ground pepper totaste 
4-8 fresh parsley sprigs
4-8 fresh thyme sprigs
Prepare a fire for indirect-heat cooking in a covered grill.  Fill a large
saucepan two-thirds full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
Add the bacon and blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain, then rinse the bacon
with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
 Pat the hens dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle them inside and out with
salt and pepper to taste.  Tuck a sprig or two of parsley and thyme into
each body cavity.  Crisscross 2 slices of bacon across the breast of
each hen.  Using kitchen string, tie the bacon securely to the birds.
 Place the hens, breast side up, on the center of the grill rack.  Cover
and open the vents halfway.  Cook for 30 minutes, then turn breast side
down.  Continue cooking, covered, until the birds are well browned,
opaque throughout and the  juices run clear, 20-25 minutes longer.
 Transfer the birds to a warmed platter or individual
plates.  Snip the strings and arrange the bacon alongside.
Submitted by:  Steph T.  

Cornbread Dressing
1 Skillet Cornbread
1 Stalk Celery
2 Bell Peppers
1 Onion
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 package Saltine Crackers
6 eggs
1 Stick Butter 
Small Can Evaporated Milk
Sage to taste
Cook celery, bell peppers and onions in chicken broth until ten-
der.  Crumble cornbread and crackers until real fine into a large
pan.  Add all of the other ingredients being sure to sage, salt and pep-
per to personal taste.  Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 2 1/2 - 3
hours.  Check intermittently to make sure it is not drying out.  Add
chicken broth as needed to prevent dressing from being too dry.
If your family does not like the pieces of the celery, peppers and onions
you can run them through your food processor and then just mix in
with the broth.  You will still get the taste and even your pickiest eaters might try it.  
Submitted by:  Amanda D. 

Green Bean Casserole
My mother-in-law’s recipe and a family favorite

4 Cans Green Beans - Drained
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
 1 Roll Garlic Cheese 
Ritz Crackers
3/4 Stick Butter
Place 1/2 green beans in baking dish
 Place soup and cheese in boiler on low heat until cheese is melted
Pour 1/2 cheese mixture over green beans
 Use the remaining green beans and top with the remaining cheese mixture
 Crush crackers and mix with 3/4 stick of melted butter
 Pour over casserole and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly
(approx 30-40 min)
Submitted by:  Amanda D.

Mashed Potato Cheese Bake
 3/4 c seasoned dry bread crumbs
3 c mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1/2 c parmesan cheese
8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
2T butter, softened
Sprinkle 1/4 cup bread crumbs in greased baking dish.  Set aside.
 Mix mashed potatoes, eggs, and Parmesan together.
 Spread half of the mixture in baking dish and top with Mozzarella.
 Spread remaining potatoes over cheese.
 Mix remaining bread crumbs and butter together and sprinkle on top.
 Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.
 Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Submitted by:  Steph T.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Or Is It?

The holidays are quickly approaching. The stores have had Christmas stuff out for months now and lots of people are planning what they will be serving for Thanksgiving dinner next week. For many people this is a very exciting time of the year but there are many people where this the the worst time of the year. The holidays can be a very hard time for people who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, or life just isn't what they thought it would be.

I love the holidays but four years ago when our little girl passed away the holidays really changed in our home. I know what it is like to lose someone and see everyone else living life. It can be very hard to see everyone around you happy and smiling and getting into the season. Sometimes I think maybe we are walking around with a fake smile on our face trying to make people think we are doing great this year when we are really falling apart on the inside. For me personally, the holidays are tough. Each year I wonder what they would have been like with her here, what her favorite food would have been or perhaps what she would have on her Christmas list this year.

If you are reading this and this year the holiday's are not exactly what you are looking forward to, know that you are not alone. I know there are times in our lives when it is hard to find something to be thankful for when we are going through what may be the toughest time in our life.  In John 16 Jesus is talking to the disciples and telling them there is going to be a time they will grieve and mourn but their grief will turn to joy.  In John 16:33 Jesus says "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Although it can seem like we are all alone and there is no one around we are not alone.  Jesus does not abandon us.  He is walking right beside us the whole time holding us up.   God can give you the peace that passeth all understanding.  I believe that was my prayer for so long that he would just give me peace.  During my early days of loss I found out that my comfort was through HIM.  I read quite a bit in the Old Testament back then and it seemed God always had something to say to me in the books of Psalm, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Job. 

This past week at Bible study we were talking about joy.  The lesson referred to Psalm 30 and was talking about "joy comes in the morning".  When I was reading this it reminded me of a song that our choir sang in the church I grew up in.  The song was called "Joy Comes In The Morning".   I remember after Kate's death I would think about this song often.   I am living proof that Joy Does Come In the Morning!   I wanted to share the lyrics of this song with you but after much searching could not find the lyrics to the song and I don't know if I remember all the words so I found a link on "YouTube".  I hope you will all take 5 minutes and listen to the words of this song.  "Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning"! 

My prayer for everyone this holiday season is that you will lean on HIM in the good times and the bad times and know you are not alone because Jesus is with you and HE is wanting to give you the peace and hope that you desire during this holiday season.

We all do have something to be thankful for....Jesus Christ died so that each one of us might live.  If you do not know Him as your personal Savior this would be a great time of the year to accept Him into your heart. 

We would love for you to leave a comment and tell us what you are thankful for this holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

And I'm Singing...

How do you respond when life is good or when life is hard? Are you singing?

I teach a small 8th grade Language Arts class and have had the opportunity to really get to know the students in addition to teaching them. I also have the blessing of praying for them. As is the routine at the beginning of each class, I asked for prayer requests.
The outgoing, happy-go-lucky class clown quietly raised his hand while staring down at his desk. He was waiting for me to call on him. Looking down at his hands, with a soft shaking voice, he asked if we 'would pray for his mom. Her cancer has returned in a more aggressive form and she has two tumors in her body each the size of a grapefruit. There is a race against the clock to begin chemo.'
His words struck me deep. The class was completely quiet and the air was heavy. I faced the white board and wrote the request. Turning around to face the class with the bravest face I could, I asked for other prayer requests. Hoping for a praise, I called on the always smiling girl raising her hand. She told the class her aunt died yesterday, and asked for prayers for her family. I printed it on the board. The next request was from a student who announced her mother was going into surgery this week and she was scared. I wrote it on the board. Yet another request was for a cousin that had a pulmonary embolism and is in the hospital fighting for his life. My hand began to shake. I felt the burden of my students as I wrote each one on the board. I have 9 students in my class, and each request was incredibly deep and heavy. I probably took a deep breath as my transparent face displayed what my heavy heart was feeling as I prepared to pray for these requests. Seeing my reaction, my class clown student whose mother is braving her second round of cancer said, "Mrs. Bain, my mom and dad have joy and hope in the LORD. Whether God heals her or not, they are praising a God who not only is the Great Physician, but is their Deliverer in good times and bad."
I was surprised by his regained composure yet not surprised by his faith in God and his words in a crisis. This student speaks of his trust in the Lord. In an instance, the heavy mood of the class transformed to hope. The class rallied and began testifying how God has proven faithful in good times and bad. I was witnessing hope in action.
I know of this mother with cancer, although we have never met. She is a worshipper in song. She sings each Sunday as part of their church's worship team. I have heard from those that attend this church that she sings passionately to God...She has seen the healing power of the Lord in her life through her first battle with cancer. She believes... She sings praises to the Lord which is personal, relevant and true.
With my students' words of hope, my voice became confident and strong in prayer as I lifted up each request before the Father.
We serve a God of hope who loves us beyond measure. No matter what you are walking through, good or bad, sing praises to the one who loves you.
I serve an Amazing God of Hope, and I'm singing.

"Thank you God, for the faithful. For those in good times and bad- that sings and hopes in you."

Psalm 42:5-6
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's a Good Thing

"For it is GOD who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." I shared this verse (and 12 others from Philippians Chapter 2) with a group of 5th grade girls. We were in the middle of a tall grassy field, by a stocked pond, just before sunset. We discussed why on earth would GOD choose to work in us for His purpose? His good purpose? Why us? Why? Because. Because He is GOD. Because He chooses to do so. That is why. Therefore, we get to enjoy being transformed by Him. We get to focus on the work required to be changed into His likeness. We get to be safe knowing He is paying attention to us. Wow! I never want any one of my girls I teach to feel alone. GOD's attention is on her. His attention is on us. He is active in the heart of every believer. Philippians tells us it is so. Do we listen? Do we respond?
"GOD who works in you." What a phrase! This is a reminder that He is at work in us. How often do we (me!) push aside GOD and try to take over the work? Or how often do we (me!) cite exhaustion and refuse any transforming work by the Father? "GOD working in us" is not just a statement, but a blessing and promise, as well. GOD's love, care, time, and attention are on us! We are not alone and abandoned. We are not left to raise our children alone, left to be in a lonely marriage, or manage a home/job alone. GOD works in us to will and to act. He is guiding us. We can call on this help. He will guide our behavior along with His will.
I want to get out of the way so GOD's hand can create in me what He desires for His good pleasure. Who am I? Does it match with who He wants me to be? It it "GOD who works in me" as the Scripture says; or me who works in me?
As I sat with my 5th grade girls on bales of hay in the wide open field, I thought of how GOD's hand has, is, and will work in them. He has great joy in store for them. Yes, there will be pain in their lives- He will be present for that, too. But, what a blessing to know that it is GOD who works in them to "will and to act according to His good purpose."
I want to be an active participant of all He has for me, not on the sidelines. I want to be living in grace, not rebellion as His hand is attempting to mold me. I want to be ready to love Him and fulfill all of the "good purposes" He has for me!

"Father, thank You for Jesus. Please continue to work in me so that my life will be only for Your good purposes. I love You!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's All About Trust

What do you think of when you hear the word, "Confide?" Maybe you think of slumber parties where you'd share secrets with your best friend. Maybe you remember the first time you told someone that you love him. Or maybe it's a word that you don't particularly like because of the way someone dishonored it when you'd told them something that was precious to you.

No matter what memories the word may conjure, the root of the word means "trust," as in "to impart secrets trustfully" or "to have full trust." It is a word that most of us take seriously, one that implies a relationship is present. I wouldn't confide in someone based on a five minute conversation. I probably wouldn't even confide in someone based on years of casual friendship. I confide in those who I know and those who really know me.

I tell you all of this because I recently came across a Scripture verse about who God confides in. Who do you think it is? I think an easy answer would be, "Jesus" or "the Holy Spirit". I mean, that makes sense, right? Why wouldn't that be who He confides in? But do you know what Psalm 25:14 says? It says, "The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them." Really? Did we just read that? God will confide in those who fear Him.

That blows me away. I am humbled at the idea of the Creator of the Universe confiding in me. I feel so unworthy, and yet the Lord is gracious, and He longs to have an intimate relationship with us. Just as I don't want to confide in someone who I don't have a relationship with, I believe God doesn't confide in someone He doesn't have a relationship with. In order to truly fear Him (in the sense of being in awe of Him), we have to know Him, and to know Him, we have to spend time with Him (through His Word, in prayer, etc.). And when we do this, when we know Him and fear Him, He will confide in us.

I long for the Mighty King to trust me with some of His secrets and to have full trust in me. I am so grateful for a Gracious Father who chooses not to rule us as His subjects but rather to love us as His children, children whom He sees fit to confide in as we trust in Him. Lord, let it be!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Thankfulness Box

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations."
-- Psalm 100:4-5

For many years now, our family has taken a great American "road trip" for summer vacation. We usually tie the trip in with some business travel that my husband needs to do, and just make a vacation out of it. We've driven days to get to both northern and southern California on different trips, and this summer took us on adventures through countless states to get to Boston and back. We love to stop and see the kind of stuff along the way that you'd never see if you were jumping on a plane and headed straight for your ultimate destination. It's kind of a running joke with us that our family loves to drive through "flyover" country.

Today I was looking around at all the neighborhood Halloween decorations that were being packed away, and I excitedly told my girls that it was time to get out our Thanksgiving items. We started talking about how much we loved Thanksgiving. It truly is my favorite holiday, in part because the stores want nothing to do with it (well, maybe the grocery stores do). They were laughing at me, because I told them that it suddenly struck me that Thanksgiving is the "flyover country" of holidays.

So many people hit Halloween and then the rush to Christmas is on.. full-steam ahead. The stores start even before that time. I remember one October, going in the grocery store to pick up Halloween candy the middle of October and was stunned that the store was already clearing the Halloween candy aisle and beginning the massive red and green transformation to the "Christmas candy" aisle.

Starting about now, catalogs assault us at every turn, tv ads hawking the "latest and greatest" Christmas presents abound, the mad dash begins to "hurry up and order the hot items" for Christmas before they are impossible to find. By many, Thanksgiving is all but forgotten in the rush.

Don't get me wrong.. I love Christmas. But the rush straight past Thanksgiving kind of disturbs me. Sometimes I want to just turn it all off. Stop and exhale.. stop and breathe. This mad dash to which I'm referring doesn't feel like it has a lot to do with counting down to the celebration of Jesus' birth, anyway.

Sometimes, this happens to us when we pray, as well. We are so intent, so focused on presenting our requests to God.. sometimes we forget to stop and say "Thank You" for all the wonderful blessings we have already received and continue to receive.

I know how often I have to stop my own children and remind them to say "thanks" to someone (and sometimes that person is me). How sweet it is when they do remember, on their own, with no prompting whatsoever from Mom. How much more precious it must be to God to hear "Thank You's" from His children.

Years ago, my girls and I decorated a simple cardboard box. We wrapped it in fall colors, leaving an opening in the top and they colored all the sides with crayons. "The Thankfulness Box" was born that year in our family. All throughout the month of November, we kept a stack of small pieces of construction paper next to the box. Whenever any of us felt truly grateful for something, we tried to remember to write it down and place the paper in the Thankfulness Box.

That Thanksgiving, we left the box and papers sitting out on my parents' Thanksgiving table. We had lots of extended family in attendance,and we encouraged anyone who wished to take part to also put their notes of appreciation & thankfulness into the box. The box was sealed up after Thanksgiving and placed into the attic with all the fall decorations.

The following November, we again placed the box in a central point in our kitchen and added the slips of paper. This time, on Thanksgiving Day, we turned the box over and carefully emptied it of all its treasure.

And treasure it was. We all gathered around and read with amazement the wonderful notes of gratefulness and thanksgiving. Praises to God for all His many blessings. Thankful parents welcoming a son home from Iraq, grandparents so thankful for the blessing of a new grandbaby.. siblings grateful for each other. So many notes had to do with the blessings of a close family.

There was one note that my eye settled on almost immediately. I would have recognized that handwriting anywhere. In my Grandma's shaky script, the note read "I am thankful for my family and very much for my sweet little girls." As tears began to fall from my eyes I thanked God myself for the gift of a precious Grandma. You see, my Grandma had just passed away about ten days before I read that sweet note. She'd written it on Thanksgiving Day the year before, and it had been sealed in the box for all that time.

I would so encourage you to start a Thankfulness Box tradition in your own home. Or maybe a "Thankfulness Tree" using the same idea. Our girls just love it and so many of the sweet notes every year are in their handwriting. Even the youngest children can draw pictures of people & things for which they thank God. Encourage that daily attitude of thankfulness all year long, but especially in this month of Thanksgiving. Your family will receive such blessings from this simple tradition.