Recounting God’s gifts

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The Thanksgiving holiday fast approaches here in the United States. Thanksgiving recipes abound, turkeys are running for cover, and plans are being made in earnest for that fourth Thursday of November. I love the trend of the past few years of posting one thing to be thankful for each day in November, as it puts our hearts in tune with the blessings God has given us.

Can you think of 30 things to be thankful for?
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Comparison Cure #1: Contentment

This is the second post in the series on Comparison cures. To read the first post, click here.

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In the previous post, I talked about the disease I termed “why-me-itis” which is caused by a lack of essential spiritual nutrients. The first and most foundational of these nutrients is contentment.

Our high-powered culture tells us that if we apply ourselves and work hard, we can have the American Dream—2 (or more) new cars, a fancy-schmancy house in a good neighborhood, highly talented children, a fat 401(k) and all the latest and greatest toys. If you fall short of this dream, the unspoken assumption is that you are unmotivated and lazy. You should have more, you deserve more, you need more.

America has drawn people from all over the world with the prospect of gain through persistence. Stories abound of men and women who began with nothing and proceeded to build financial empires (all through their own blood, sweat, tears, and fierce motivation, of course). The

The mantra today says the only thing holding people back from wealth is laziness, incompetence and unrighteousness. If you would just work harder/take an extra job/get that degree/follow these ten steps/win the Powerball, then you can be like [insert millionaire’s name]. There are several prominent Christian teachers promoting the notion that if you live a godly life, then you should have wealth, and prosperity; your sin and incompetence are holding you back. You can have more if you are godly enough.

These ideas—which are not all inherently bad (I am referring to the hard work part)—create a competitive environment. These things may drive people to excel, but, more often than not they create stressed-out, worried, debt-ridden and discontented people who look around at their shiny happy neighbors and wonder why they have it so easy while they themselves are struggling. We compare our lack of happiness to the perceived happiness of others. This type of comparison steals our priceless joy and replaces it with cheap ingratitude.

As Christians we deserve better things. These better things cannot be bought with money—they are the riches of Christ. Love. Joy. Peace.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 Timothy 6.3-10, ESV, emphasis mine

Instead of a consuming covetousness, Christ calls us to satiating contentment.

Notice what Paul says: “godliness with contentment is great gain.” It doesn’t say godliness with contentment will bring you great gain. No. The gain is in the discovery. That powerful combination creates an abundance mentality. It says, “I have what I need, and I will also share it.” If our motivation for being godly is to acquire more creature comforts, power, authority, romantic love, children etcetera, then we have it all backwards and God (who knows the secrets of our hearts) will not count us righteous anyway.

So, first things first. Let’s do a heart check to see if we have contentment deficiency. 

Take a moment and answer the following questions:

1) Name 3 great people. What makes them great? Do you want to be like them. Why?

2) Make a list of all the things going wrong in your life, then make a list of your blessings.

3) If you were relegated to making just enough to keep your family in a small house, fed, clothed and with a roof over your head, would you still be thankful?

So, now that you’ve answered those questions, consider: why do you admire those great people in question one? If you admire them because they are rich or talented or because they accomplished some amazing feat, then you might have a contentment deficiency. I admire talented people, but that does not make them great people. I stand in awe of Navy seals, but, as Yoda sagely observed, “wars do not make one great.” I am amazed by the way some people acquire and manage their wealth, but that doesn’t mean they have character. Great people are those who have given everything for something far greater than themselves. (Read Hebrews 11 for a few ideas).

How does your list of problems compare with your list of blessings? Which one is greater? If, under your blessings, you have salvation through Christ, it should make that long list of problems look teeny. If your list of problems is longer and weightier, you might have a contentment deficiency.

If you had to live with nothing more than the bare essentials, would you still be happy? The easy answer is yes, but I think the harder and more accurate answer is that it would be a challenge. My own learning curve would be steep! If your essential needs would not satisfy, then you likely have a contentment deficiency.

3 things to consider about contentment:

1) With great power comes great responsibility

I believe point 1 is a quote from Spiderman, but I have heard similar sentiments throughout literature. Many who desire power and wealth do not necessarily know how to handle it. It takes prowess to effectively manage money and leadership. Many Major League Baseball, NFL and NBA players make millions of dollars per year playing sports, retire young (or get injured) then end up broke soon afterward. Doesn’t that shock you? In one year they make more money than some people make in twenty and after ten years of such exorbitant salaries they go broke?! It comes down to poor management and greed. They were ill-equipped to handle the great responsibility they were given. Recall the above passage: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction…”

What do most of us do with our wealth? We buy high-priced, lattes, new clothes, nice cars, vacations, new technology, better houses, good food, invest in college savings plans and 401(k)s—in short, we spend our wealth on ourselves. How much of that wealth is given to others? How much is set aside to make provision for your family’s future security or your own health?

In America, most of us have more than basic food and clothing. We have abundance. We possess great wealth and yet we still grasp for the next big thing. We need to be better stewards of what we do have before acquiring what we don’t.

Instead of bemoaning your current lack of wealth, focus your mind on giving thanks for what God has given you. Make a list of things that are troubling you—your marriage, your children, your debts, whatever—and take them to the Lord in prayer. Ask him to help you be a better steward of what he’s given you. If your marriage is on the rocks, make fixing it a priority. If your money is the problem, turn to a good financial advisor and learn how to budget. Ask God to help you manage the things that are within your circle of influence before expecting or reaching for more.

2) Contentment is learned.

The American culture may be unique in that people of any class, race, gender and creed have the ability to become powerful and wealthy, but it is not unique in fostering the desire for fame and fortune. It seems to be inherent in us humans to crave more than what we have.

Eve lived in the garden of Eden—a literal paradise. The temperature was so pleasant she didn’t even need clothes (and didn’t know what they were). Food was abundant and didn’t even have to be paid for (what’s money?). She had a husband who kept her company (she didn’t have to go win his heart as there was no competition) and God walked and talked with them every day.

She had it all.

And yet, there was something she didn’t have. And it was on that tree that God said not to touch.

The serpent fanned the flames of curiosity and discontent. “When you eat of it…you will be like God…” Hissed the serpent. “The tree will make me wise,” she thought, forgetting the commandment of God in her craving for more. (Read the full context here).

Now, being like God and being wise are inherently good things, but the fact of the matter was, God had already made her like him and wisdom would be supplied in ever greater measure as they continued to spend time together. But the seeds of craving were sown. Eve disobeyed God in her desire for more. I often wonder if, after losing paradise, she learned contentment or if her life was full of bitterness and sorrow.

Let’s fast-forward now to Paul, who wrote the above-referenced passage to Timothy, and also wrote the following passage to the Philippians:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

~ Philippians 4.11-13, ESV, emphasis mine

He said, “I have learned… To be content…. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

How did he learn contentment? He learned through experience. He discovered he could only do it through Christ who strengthened him. Only through Christ can we maintain a state of contentment. It is not our circumstances that create contentment, it is submission to Christ.

3) Contentment is not resignation or laziness

Proverbs speaks a great deal about lazy people and the concept that diligence leads to wealth. It also talks about how it is better to be poor with love than rich with strife. Sometimes what we do not have (even marriage, children, authority etcetera) may be for our own good. If someone is not married, does that mean they are too lazy to get a wife or husband? I suppose it’s probable, but highly unlikely. Even the apostles recognized that there are times when singleness would be more preferable than marriage. So it is with any earthly blessing.

Consider something with me for a moment. You may not agree with this, but it’s food for thought: Righteousness does not entitle people to earthly ease. God gives the righteous prosperity and power only when it serves His purpose.

Think of the righteous people in the Bible who were prosperous. I think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (on occasion), Joseph (late in life), Boaz, David, Daniel (on occasion) Job (before and after testing). There are probably more, but these are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. There were some wealthy Christians and people who believed in Christ. As Margaret Thatcher sagely pointed out, “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.” Money, influence etcetera is sometimes needed to bring about God’s purpose, On the flip side, people often demonstrate more influence and character by what they do when they lack these things.

Job, for example, did not “curse God and die” as his wife advised. Do you know what he said? “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In earlier verses he also remarked, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” There was a man with his head on straight.

Now, consider those in the Bible who were righteous and lacking in creature comforts: Joseph (in his early years), Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, most of the prophets, John the Baptist, the apostles, many of the early Christians (who often had their wealth confiscated after being imprisoned), and—most notably—Christ. They did not have cushy lives, nor were they lazy or godless. You see, the two are not mutually linked. Jesus could have been born into a powerful royal family and he could have brought his message to the most influential and intellectual thinkers of the day. Instead, he was born in a nowhere town in despised Judea under the crushing might of the Roman Empire. His parents were so poor they could only sacrifice a pair of doves. During his ministry he had nowhere to lay his head. He died a shameful death.

Are we more righteous than the Son of God? Are we more diligent than he?

On both points, I have to give a most emphatic “NO!”

In that case, do we deserve more than Jesus?

Hmmm…

The point is this: if we have been given wealth (which, as I said earlier, most of us have), then we have a great responsibility. The people in the Bible who prospered had similar blessings granted to them in order to accomplish a specific purpose. Those who were deprived of such things had a different purpose and were not burdened or ensnared by riches. God supplied their needs. Jesus, though poor, resonated with people because of how he taught, the love he demonstrated, the miracles he performed and the absolute paradox of it all. He had such sway that those in authority feared him and yet he had no standing army or organization.

Contentment, then, is making the most of the gifts we’ve been given and not bemoaning what we’ve been denied. Contentment is the ability to find God’s blessings in any and every circumstance and harboring gratitude for them.

There is nothing wrong with building wealth or working hard to prosper, but don’t forget the most important things. If you neglect your family, your faith and/or your God, it will all be meaningless. You will have gained the lesser, temporary gift and lost priceless treasures.

How do we learn contentment?

Practice gratitude. Find something to be thankful for in every situation. Say it. Write it. Whatever. Verbalize it in some way.

Create a thankfulness jar. Each day, have every person in your home write down something they are thankful for. At the end of each month, go through the jar and give thanks in prayer for those blessings. (I liked this idea here.)

Truly rejoice with those who rejoice. When feelings of resentment or envy creep in tell yourself (out loud if necessary) that it is wonderful that God has blessed them. You may not actually feel that way, but make it a habit to express it. Then, take your heartache to the Lord and ask Him to help you destroy those feelings of envy and bitterness. Write them in your prayer journal and only pray about it when it comes to mind. At some point you’ll look back and be surprised you felt that way! You may feel that this is dishonest in some way. It is not. Sometimes the right action has to come ahead of the emotion in order to properly train the internal response.

Analyze why you want a certain thing and place your request in God’s hands. Remember, if it doesn’t happen the way you think it should, God desires to give you better things. He wants you to become like Him and draw closer to Him. If your particular request will draw you away from either purpose then ask God to defeat it. This may seem counterintuitive, but we have to train our minds to be aware that God really is wiser than us and has our best interest at heart. I’d rather hear no and trust God’s plan then get a yes and be lead astray by my selfish desires.

Do you have any regular ways of practicing contentment and gratitude? Please share them in the comments below!

 

30 Days of Giving Thanks Weekly Roundup (week 4)


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Good morning, my friends!

Week 4?! Already! I can’t believe it’s almost over!

Well, ok, I guess I can. We put up the Christmas tree yesterday, so we are swiftly rushing into the getting giving season. (You may see a few posts on giving in the coming weeks). A heart that is full of thankfulness will share willingly with others, so this run of thankful posts is a good prep for the coming Christmas season!

This will be the last roundup of Thankful posts. It’s been fun and I’ve discovered a some delightful new blogs along the way.

As I said last week, It’s hard to be cranky when your heart is bursting with gratitude! It’s also hard to be stingy, when you know you have much to give.

Here is a recap of my posts this week:

Below are a list of thankful posts from around the web for the week. If you have done a post on thankfulness that I’ve missed, please leave a link to it in the comments below, and as I have time today I will update this post with your link.

God be with you my friends!

This week:

Salvageable: Thanksgiving thoughts

Light & Life: Little Things

The Mindful Chatterbox: 365 Days of Gratefulness Day 2

Traditional Cooking School: A Spirit of Thankfulness

Michael Hyatt: The Gratitude Advantage: Four Ways Giving Thanks Improves Your Life

Mom’s Going to Madagascar: Day 22: Laughter

Prayers and Piazzas: Gratitude: It’s not just for Thanksgiving (or grown-ups)

Spotlight: 7 Ways You Can Thank God

Day 27: Love

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

hands heartsAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my remaining posts will focus on some of the greatest lights of all. These lights illuminate our world in ways that make it possible to thrive.

In the English language, there is a four-letter word bandied about so casually it has lost its value. I’m not talking about a profane four-letter word; I’m referring to the word “love.”

The Ancient Greeks got it right. They had four different words for love (though I recently read that there are actually six!) The most commonly translated Greek words for love are eros, storge, philia, and agape.

If you are unfamiliar with these terms, I will summarize them briefly in this post. If you want a bit more detail, you can read a brief summary on Wikipedia. C.S. Lewis also wrote a book called The Four Loves, but I have not read it. (It’s on my book list).

Greek Words for love:

eros: “love, mostly of the sexual passion”

storge: “love, affection… especially of parents and children”

philia: “love, affectionate regard, friendship, usually between equals”

agape: “brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.”

All these loves have their place, do they not? I love (philia) my friends, but not in the same way I love (storge) my children.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Where would I be without love?”

Love in all it’s forms can be taken for granted. Let’s take a moment to consider the different forms of love in our lives.

Parent-child love

God established the family for many purposes. Familial relationships teach us how to love (at least they should!). I remember thinking it odd that there was a passage in Titus that commanded older women to “encourage younger women to love their husbands, to love their children…” On the face of it, there were a lot of arranged marriages in that time and a woman would have to “learn” love for her husband (and he his wife). But loving their children? Shouldn’t that be instinctive?

If you are a parent, you may be chuckling a bit, because that may not be a surprise.

There are two things to consider. First, women have been aborting, neglecting and abandoning their children for centuries. It’s a bit inconceivable to the majority, but many people love themselves more than their children. Their children are burdensome, inconvenient. Second, parents don’t always use the best judgement in training children. Discipline and training is (or, at least it should be) an act of love. It isn’t fun or pleasurable to punish a child, but it is for their own good. The exhortation in Titus is teach the younger women how to show love. Mothers and Fathers must learn to love their children in the right way. As we raise our children, we gain insight into how God loves us. We, as parents, ought to be shaped by the experience to become more selfless.

In turn, children learn to love their parents. At first it may be a selfish love, but hopefully, over time it grows into an abiding affection. I have seen many people who were once children turn around and care for their aging parents with great love and sacrifice.

I am thankful for this kind of love. Where would I be without the love of my parents or my children? What an ugly place the world would be without familial love!

Friends, siblings

As we grow older, we learn to make friends. Being a friend takes work, but how lonely would we be without our friends? The Bible says a lot about friendship, particularly in the book of Proverbs.

“a friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”

The world seems to think that friends stick by each other even when they are in the wrong, but friends don’t let friends do life-threatening or soul-threatening things. I do not like telling a friend they are in the wrong. When I have done it in the past, I’ve lost sleep, gotten stomachaches and even cried.  But a good friend looks out for the best interest of their friend. That is genuine friendship love.

Marriage

The marriage law is one of the oldest laws in existence. God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman for life. Unfortunately, people aren’t content to have things God’s way. There is almost a longing to twist what God wants because it is inconvenient or challenging. Marriage is another relationship that shapes us. Marriage is supposed to be a covenant of committed love. It tests each partner to hold fast through good times and bad. It requires self-sacrifice. It teaches us how to love sacrificially. There is a reason that Paul uses marriage as a comparison between Christ and His church. Jesus laid down his life for the Church and in so doing he demonstrated His great love for us.

My life would be completely different had I not met my other half eleven years ago. It’s been a blessing to enjoy our lives together and raise children together. My spouse has taught me so much and I give thanks everyday for our marriage.

Where would we be without the love that comes through marriage?

God’s Love

The Bible says everything far better than I can, so let’s start with these two passages:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man;
though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 

~ Romans 5.6-8, NASB

and

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

~ 1 John 4.8-11, ESV

Let me ask you, parents: If your best friend was dying of an incurable disease and only the blood of your child would save them, would you give up your child? I can guess the answer would be no. You may love your friend, but you don’t want to sacrifice your child… especially if they are your only child.

What if your enemy was dying? Would you give up your life or the life of your child? Again, I’m confident that the answer would be another resounding no.

The problem is, we all choose at some point in our life that we don’t want to walk with God. The only way we can come to Him is through sacrifice. This is a difficult concept for us to understand today because animal sacrifice/blood sacrifice is so archaic. Yet, when there is a war and there is some wrong that needs righting, how is it solved? Oh sure, on occasion countries can talk things out, but history has shown us that it typically leads to war. Someone (usually thousands of someones) make a sacrifice to protect the innocent and the weak. They shed their blood and put their lives on the line. Redemption from evil never comes without a price. It’s a constant pattern.

So, how much does God love us?

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.

~ John 15.12-14, NASB

Where would we be without the love of Christ?

What does He ask in return? He asks us to love Him and to love each other. It all seems to come back to love.

Are you thankful for love? The love of family, the love of friends, the love of a spouse… the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ? What greater gift can we receive than to be loved? What greater gift can we give than to love in turn?

Love is one of the greatest lights in a world that is ripped asunder by hate.

I am thankful for agape, storge and philia.

I am thankful for love.

Day 26: Lights

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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We have a fun family tradition that the kids look forward to every year—decorating for Christmas.  The day after Thanksgiving, we pack away the pumpkins and leaves and pull out the reds, silvers, greens and golds of Christmas.

I try to get everyone just as jazzed about decorating for fall, but it just isn’t the same. Fall decorations lack the warm glimmer of lights. There aren’t presents for fall either (unless, of course, it’s your birthday).

There’s just something about Christmas.

Right now, I’m gazing at our tree that is somewhat bottom-heavy with ornaments. It was fun listening to the kids chatter about memories associated with their ornaments as they placed them randomly about the tree. It’s not a Pinterest-perfect tree, but I’m glad it isn’t. It’s our tree, full of our memories. I love the warm glow of the lights and the way they soften the living room.

Outside the house, the facia is lined with a simple string of multi-colored lights inside large bulbs. Simple. Warm. Inviting.

I am thankful for lights.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

~ Genesis 1.3-5, ESV

There is the God-created light of the Sun and the beautiful hues it creates in the early dawn and early twilight. I love those times of the day all year round. The starlight gives a soft glow even on the darkest of nights and has guided many a sailor to safety.

There are man-made candle lights and oil lamps. What would we have done throughout history without the ability to light our way at night? I suppose we would have slept more… and accomplished less!

Then, there are the Edison-created lights. I am thankful that I don’t have to attempt writing by candlelight. Isn’t it wonderful that we can just flip a switch and have light? Talk about a blessing we take for granted!

As the season is lit up around us, be sure to thank the Lord for giving us light. In my final two thankfulness posts, I’ll be touching on the greatest lights of all. Stay tuned!

Day 25: Thanksgiving

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you are all enjoying the day with people you love.

I first heard the term “Turkey Day” in High School. While I thought it amusing (initially), I soon realized that it was problematic. Words carry meaning, even lightly used words. By not using “Thanksgiving” the focus and purpose of the day was lost.

I am glad that George Washington proclaimed that our new nation should observe a day of  Thanksgiving in 1789. The idea was to recognize God’s bountiful blessings on our infant nation. He set a precedent. It wasn’t made a national holiday until several years later, but we have continued to observe it throughout the decades.

When God established the Passover for the children of Israel, the idea was similar: remembering deliverance from slavery. Thankfulness. Gratitude. It was supposed to be observed down through the years so that they could instill gratitude in their children and trust in the Lord.

Today, as you gather with family and friends, take a few moments to remember what the Lord has done for you. Give thanks to the one who gives us so many bountiful blessings, not the least of which is salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good!

His steadfast love endures forever.

 

Day 24: History

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

I apologize for the lateness of this post. I did not have internet yesterday and was unable to get my post up. You’ll be getting TWO posts today: yesterday’s and today’s!


 

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One of the greatest failures of our current public school system is the adequate teaching of history. I don’t recall learning much history in elementary school. We learned about the gold rush of California, the Spanish missions, the Mayflower and Christopher Columbus. I remember vaguely learning about Ancient Mesopotamia in sixth grade. In High School we learned about the industrial revolution, Napoleon, the french revolution, the kings and queens of England, Russian Czars and more. It seems to me that in every single year of school we learned about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement of the 1960s—-not that it was unimportant, but it seemed as though it was the only bit of history that mattered to the school system.

I remember being on a walk with my dad during our study of France and he asked me, “Did they teach you about the June rebellion of 1832?”

“No…” I replied, a little uncomfortably.

He continued to pepper me with questions and I had few to no answers. I realized then how woefully ignorant I was about history. In eleventh grade I took AP US History. It was a joke. My teacher, while passionate about history, didn’t have a clue how to teach it. I learned as much as I could outside of class, but I was grossly underprepared for the exam. I failed the AP exam, which meant I had to take American History in college.

So, around my junior year at Cal Poly, I took a U.S. History course. Once again, I was let down. The professor was teaching a more modified history of the United States and focused more on social injustice than anything else. Oddly enough, I was reading one of the books and it sounded a great deal like the republican talking points of the present… but it was written in the 1960s. I told my dad about it. He chuckled and said the guy was a democrat in the 1960s, but our country had veered so much to the left that the conservatives were now where the liberals used to be and the liberals were now where the socialists used to be. I scraped an A in the class, but my piecemeal knowledge of history frustrated me greatly.

The curriculum we currently use for our kids starts incorporating history at the kindergarten level. My daughter, a first grader, is learning about Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt and in the next semester will be covering Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. I have learned a ton just by reading the books to her. We have an enormous canvas map hanging in our living room and my 4 year old can already point out the Himalayas, the Andes the Equator and China. I love that they have such a better feel at such a young age for geography and history than I did at that point in my life. I am looking forward to continuing to teach them about World History and Bible History. I get to learn right along side them. The curriculum also uses historical fiction books to bring each period to life.

I was fascinated to learn about Alexander the Great and the spread of the Greek language all the way to India. When Jesus died and the apostles began teaching the gospel and writing letters, the manuscripts were predominantly written in Koine Greek. This language was used not only in Rome, but in other parts of the world as well, allowing the gospel to spread more easily.

History is so vital to all people of the world. It angers me how often people try to distort it or erase it. ISIS has destroyed or defaced many Ancient Mesopotamian sites. The former Iranian president was a holocaust denier. There’s been a push to rewrite United States History. We are foolish to try to alter history and even more foolish if we fail to learn from it.

I am thankful that General Eisenhower told his troops to take tons of pictures of the German Concentration camps so that people wouldn’t forget the atrocities that man was capable of.

I am grateful that someone had the foresight to keep Manzanar in place on US Highway 395, so we would remember that we interned the Japanese during World War II.

The National Archives in Washington D.C. hold many of the original founding documents of our country. I am thankful for such a place that keeps our history alive.

I am thankful for biographies because not only do they document the life of an individual person, but they touch on the historical atmosphere swirling around that person and how they impacted it.

I am not a history buff, but I am grateful for history and all the men and women who documented the past. History tells us where we’ve been and gives us insight on human nature, the cycles of nations and the hand of God.

Day 23: Literature

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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I am a product […of] endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents’ interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.

~ C.S. Lewis

A good story allows the reader to step into a different world, to see problems with new clarity and stir the imagination. Have you ever found yourself so absorbed in a story that you lose track of time? Location?

I am thankful for stories, both fiction and non-fiction. I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering (and sometimes re-discovering) great children’s literature with my children.

Some books I have really enjoyed (including children’s lit) in no particular order and definitely not comprehensive:

The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maude Montgomery

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater

Mrs Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

American Sniper by Chris Kyle

The Count of Monte Cristo

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I could go on listing books all day…

I am thankful for books!!

Day 22: The canvas

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

by Qypchak), 4 травня 2010 through Wikipedia
by Qypchak), 4 травня 2010 through Wikipedia

It took Michelangelo four years to complete the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. Some very well known images are preserved on this ceiling, the most notable being the “Creation of Adam.” I have never been to the Sistine chapel, but I imagine that craning the neck just to look at it would make one weary.

File from Wikipedia Commons, U.S. public domain
From “The Creation of Adam” File from Wikipedia Commons, U.S. public domain

Michelangelo was a talented and prolific artist.

There is a canvas, a ceiling, a dome that I love to look at more than any other work of art. It’s painter is the original artist. He invented beauty. His creations have inspired all artists throughout the centuries.

In the early dawn, the canvas is covered with a frosty pale blue, bordered by rose-colored mountain tops. Wispy white strokes streak across the serene scene. Only a few hours before, the very same canvas was drenched in indigo hues with pinprick diamonds glistening in every corner.

As the hours pass, the blue deepens. White wispy strokes are replaced by birds and cotton white puffs. The canvas gently changes as the light source moves. Every day, the Artist has some new view on display. At times the canvas is on fire with golds, reds, oranges and pinks. At other times it is mournfully gray.

This Artist shows His infinite wisdom, His great faithfulness and His magnificent power through His canvas sky. It is one of my greatest delights to look up and see this glorious interplay of color and light and know that my God created it.

How many artists can use so many different elements to create such vast beauty? How many artists have been able to dazzle every single human from creation to present?  What artist has ever flawlessly mastered the balance of form and function on such a grand scale?

I can’t think of one.

The heavens show us how wise, faithful and unchanging our God is. Have you ever heard the expression, “As sure as the dawn” or “as sure as the sun rises”? It means that from creation to the present, there has always been a day and night. There is nothing quite so consistent as the rising of the sun, except for God. It’s a reminder of His faithfulness, His constancy.

I am thankful for God’s vast canvas sky and for what it reveals about Him day after day.

starry night

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

~ Psalm 19.1-6, ESV

Day 21: Quiet Time

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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The house was still and silent save for the soft snores of the chocolate lab lying on her bed in the far corner. I sat evaluating the budget and making my to-do list for the following day. No interruptions. No demands. Just the soft airy silence of night.

I got up and peeked in on the children. My oldest was curled up snugly under the covers. My middle daughter was splayed out and lost in dreams. My youngest child lay on his stomach with his bottom up in the air. All quiet. All sleeping. All peaceful.

The evening had become the best part of the day. It was a time for quiet reflection. A period in which I could process the day’s events and prepare for tomorrow’s. With our current life changes, my quiet time has shifted from late evening to early morning. I get up before the sun to read, pray and exercise. It’s a great way to begin the day.

My children have had “quiet time” as part of their routine from an early age. It’s about thirty minutes to an hour of time they spend alone doing something quietly. They can read or play, but they have to be quiet. It accomplishes many things: it allows us to get things done distraction-free, it teaches the kids to entertain themselves quietly, and it gives us a break from each other. Those may sound negative, but they’re not. It’s good to have a little break so that we don’t end up getting on each other’s nerves. There’s fewer sibling quarrels and I rarely hear the words “I’m bored” because they know how to keep themselves busy.

I am thankful for quiet times, no matter when they come. They fortify, refresh and nourish the mind.