Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What are you thankful for?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Gosh I don't know where the past year has gone. It's been a busy year. My husband and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary, our son is continuing in his graduate school studies, our daughter took driver's training and started high school, and I trained and participated in a 3 day breast cancer walk. Wow ... I guess I just answered my own question about 'where' the past year has gone.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving though which gives me a good reason to stop and pause. Not just to have a day off of work, another day to watch football and eat great turkey, or map out my Black Friday strategies, but a day to allow myself the freedom to stop and think about the true meaning of Thanksgiving. defines 'thanksgiving' as 'the act of giving thanks'. It is easy to get so caught up in everything else that goes on in our daily lives (schedules, responsibilities, etc.) that we can forget to acknowledge all of the blessings that we have. I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful marriage, two amazing kids, a job, my health, a roof over my head to keep me dry and warm, great friends, and a God that loves me. I know I'm not perfect and I will never have all of the right answers, but that's o.k. Those are things I can work on (although I'll still never be perfect).

As the ever-growing commercialism seems to grow around us, let us all stop and remember that Thanksgiving isn't just about turkey and pumpkin pie. It's a time to be thankful. Blessings come in many shapes and sizes. Real blessings aren't the big flat screen TVs or the latest and greatest video game ... those are just 'things'. A true blessing is 'a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness'. It's the newly adopted baby boy by a wonderful family, the clean bill of health from your doctor, the voicemail that said 'you got the job'.

For me it's having both of my kids home for the holiday. It's the laughter and conversation that we'll have with extended family tomorrow. It's the memories that we'll reminisce about and the new memories that we'll make. The old traditions and the new ones. Don't get me wrong ... I'll still enjoy my brother-in-law's turkey tomorrow, especially since it's a tradition that I get to sneak the first taste before the platter is put on the table.

I wish all of you a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's on your 'TO DO' list?

This week it was my turn in the rotation to give the devotion at our weekly staff meeting. So of course, I added ‘prepping my devotion’ to last week’s ‘TO DO’ list. Being the organized person that I am, I wanted to be sure to give myself enough time to read through a variety of devotions to see which one jumped out at me and seemed to be the perfect fit. I went to the church library and scanned the shelves a few times … such a variety to pick from. I finally decided to check out the book ‘Desktop Devotions for Working Women’ by Elsa Houtz. Each short chapter was a devotion that began with a scripture verse, a suggested list of a few items to ‘slow down & look at’, a worthy story, and ended with a prayer of how I might apply the lesson to my life. I don’t usually have a lot time to just sit down and read for pleasure because my self-imposed ‘TO DO’ list is so long. Apparently I have this problem that as long as I have something left on my list I have a difficult time allowing myself some free time. But because prepping my devotion was on my list, I read through most of the book over the weekend. How ironic … chapter 5 was titled ‘What’s a Woman to Do?’

It began with Luke 10:41-42 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Are you a list maker like me? After many, many years of working in offices I have learned that keeping a to-do list, both at work and at home, help me meet my deadlines and not forget things that I need to do. Sure, there are those usual things that I write on calendars (the one that I neatly hung on the side of my refrigerator) … things like birthdays, anniversaries, dentist appointments, vacation days, school concerts, etc. Then there are the grocery and errand lists that I can grab in a hurry so I can take care of them on my way home from work. There are my to-do lists at work (that’s right, I usually have more than one going at a time). I usually even go so far as to give myself a weekend to-do list. Fortunately I cut myself some slack and give myself ‘2’ whole days to get through that one.

We all have so much to do these days that I find it very easy to identify with the biblical Martha who, the bible tells us, became pretty stressed out about the fact that Jesus was coming to her house. I can only imagine that she had a to-do list a mile long. The Bible tells us she was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (Luke 10:40). In fact, she felt so pressured by all of her household tasks that she actually asked Jesus to intercede when she saw that her sister Mary wasn’t helping at all. Mary was just sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. Jesus explained to Martha that Mary was doing exactly what she needed to do.

It can be easy to mistake busyness for godliness. We can feel that if we are wearing ourselves out trying to do many things for our friends and family because we love them, then we must be doing God’s will. We can feel that if we’re constantly working extra hours at work, showing how committed we are, we must be doing God’s will. It’s easy to convince ourselves that if we always say ‘yes’ to everyone when they ask, again we must be doing God’s will. But are we? I’m not so sure. Maybe we all have a little bit of Martha in us. Maybe we push Mary out of the way when she tries to slow us down. What do you think?

As long as I have my to-do lists I know I can’t just stop doing things. I have commitments and responsibilities - I’ll even go so far as to admit that I’m probably the one who put a lot of them in place. But if you are even a little like me, you may need to find a way to slow down and look at your to-do list. How much of it really needs to get done? Perhaps the one we should be pleasing is God. His to-do list is much simpler and not nearly as long.

Matthew 22: 37, 39
* Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
* Love your neighbor as yourself.

The Bible is full of inspirational and challenging to-do lists that could help us with our priorities … Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Psalm 15, and Romans 12:9-21.

Without adding it to a list, let’s try reading through some of God’s lists. Perhaps it will help us to gain some perspective about our priorities … about what is really important vs. what we let everyone tell us. I’m willing to give it a try. I know I could definitely do without as many distractions.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Are Your Summer Plans?

‘To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.’
-Ecclesiastes 3:1

I recently received a copy of a report from a local outreach agency. In it the coordinator (who had just joined their team one year ago) wrote about all that had happened during the last 12 months. She said she’d endured a lot of mishaps, restructuring, learning, laughing and growing – but through it all she felt her job had truly been a gift from God. Now she was giving serious thought to what she had done with this gift. What an awesome question to pose to ourselves. We’ve all been given special gifts; but how many of us ignore them and let them go to waste?
The month of June is almost upon us. For some that means the current school year is winding down, graduation details are in the works, and vacations are in the early planning stages. For many it means that our schedules, as we know them, may be changing. For my house it will involve 3 weeks of driver’s training for our teenage daughter and lots of walking for me as I continue to train for a 60 mile adventure. For someone else it might involve some quality gardening, extra visits with extended family or time devoted to a special project. During the fall, winter and spring many of us find ourselves caught up in our hectic schedules, often putting lots of demands and responsibilities on ourselves. Someone once told me that it is o.k. to say ‘No’ once in a while, but I admit that’s one I still find myself struggling with. Every year I find myself saying ‘Just as soon as summer comes and things slow down a bit, I’ll find some time to do ________’ (you can fill in the blank with whatever you’ve been putting off). The point is that we all have gifts and talents that we should be tapping in to, not just for what we’ll get out of it, but because of what it could potentially do for someone else.
Everything God does starts with a seed. The Bible tells us that He gives seed to the sower. If you are person with a gift or passion and have a desire to bless others and sow the seed, God will make sure that you have plenty to give. You’ll never be able to out give God. The Bible says He will pour out blessings on you that you can barely contain. God wants to do His work on this earth through you. He has equipped each one of us with the tools we need to help others and perhaps even be their miracle. Each day opportunities present themselves for us to show God’s love and compassion to others. We have the time, the abilities, and the heart to meet the needs of others, helping to bring (spiritual) healing and offering hope and encouragement. I think summer is a perfect opportunity to make the time (or take the time).
Whatever you choose to do during these summer months, keep God at the heart of it and every decision you make because God must have first place in our lives. Trust me, summer is a great time to take a well-deserved break; but just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that we should skip out on God or doing things for others. Take the break you need this summer, but while you’re at it think about what you can do with your special gift.