I Am Thankful for My Church

I love my church.  The people, not the building.  My church home is the first one in which I’ve taken a serious interest – that’s saying a lot considering I grew up spending two days per week in a place of worship and one at a congregant’s home for “book study”.  The people at my church are welcoming, the teen and elementary departments are amazing, and the organization is missions-oriented.

I also love the pastors who lead us.  They’re a dynamic group of down-to-earth people who are excellent Bible teachers and worship leaders.  I appreciate that Sunday and Wednesday services are God-centric and Bible-focused.  I need that.  I need to hear about God.  I need to hear about how I can continue to draw closer to Him.  I need to learn about His promises to believers.  I need to learn more about how I can be the hands and feet of the body of Christ.  I need to know how I can help my children draw closer to Him.  My pastors help me with all of these things.

I’ve been to many churches where Bibles are rarely opened or referenced and teachings from the pulpit sound more like ridicule than inspiration.  Oh, and let’s not forget Bible verses that are taken out of context.  I visited, but never stayed.  I wanted more of God and less of man.

That’s why He led me to my church home.  I’ve unpacked, painted the walls, and made myself at home.  If the building is lost, I’ll be OK, because I know that members of my church would hold service in the parking lot and God will meet us there as He always meets us wherever we are.

Father,

Thank You for leading me to the place where I go to learn more about You and worship with other believers.  I pray for the future of the people within the building – pastors and congregants.  I know that You have great things in store for us.  Please help us to remain in You and not focused on the details of changes that You have brought about within our building.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

CC

Thankful for Being Less Connected

Electronics provide the preferred methods of entertainment in my house.  Computers, telephones, televisions, video game systems.  Oh, my!  We’re all guilty of over-usage.  So when we made a trip to the mountains for spring break last year, it was a welcome change of pace to be free of at least two of our digital addictions: telephones and Internet.

The telephones in the house didn’t ring, because we didn’t learn the numbers to give them to anyone.  Most cell phone calls went  unanswered as well, because no one wanted to spend their vacation on the telephone.  However, I did answer a call from my mom who wanted to make sure we had arrived safely.

Having an anemic Internet signal wasn’t part of the plan, but I am grateful for the experience, because it was conducive to more interaction amongst all of us.  Despite the kids having packed their video game systems, we rediscovered our love for board games.  That reignited passion continued when we returned home as the kids often asked the family to gather to play one of their new, low-tech gaming favorites – Bananagrams.

I am thankful for an extended period quality family time and am looking forward to more of it soon.  No schoolwork, no professional work, no chores, no after-school activities, no doctor’s appointments, no real obligations.  Just a time of purely focusing one another is a blessed gift to have received.

Father,

Thank You for the quiet time that You allowed us to have away from the busyness that typically defines us.  That time provided much-needed renewal for all of us and I am thankful that the children had an amazing retreat.  I pray that this year’s trip will be just as blessed.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

Thankful for His Power to Heal

The title says it all.  I am thankful for God’s power to heal.  Without going into much detail, suffice it to say that if it’s not one health concern, it’s another.  While getting ready to leave for a dinner date with my husband earlier this evening, I had to summon him to my side twice to literally help get me on my feet.  The pain that I experienced was the worst that I can remember for this particular ailment and it lasted longer than ever.  Through tears and with His help, I was able to pull myself together and go on my way to enjoy a wonderful dinner and conversation with my dear husband.

I am thankful for God’s healing.

Father,

I pray that You will choose to heal me of the various health concerns that I face each day.  You know each challenge and have made it possible for me to be independent and mobile thus far.  My life is in Your hands, Lord, to do as You will.  I am thankful for good the health of my husband and children.  I pray that You will keep them healthy.  I pray for the family of a church member who received devastating news today.  Please comfort their family during this difficult time.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

 

Adventures in Cooking

I’m not a fan of cooking – at all, but someone has to feed my family long-term.  I drew the short straw, so this gig is mine forever.  I traded in my straw for a chef’s hat and committed to putting a meal on the dinner table nearly every night of the week; my husband is responsible for dinner on Saturdays, which means we are nearly guaranteed a treat to a restaurant.  Someone else plans.  Someone else shops. Someone else cooks.  Someone else serves.  Someone else cleans.  Works for me!

Friends and family often suffer through my complaints about cooking.  Make no mistake, I feel truly blessed to be able to feed my family, but I usually lack motivation to get started. I don’t know if it’s because I sometimes have to leave home soon after dinner to drop a kid off at an activity, so I’m in a hurry.  Or, if it’s because I as soon as I leave my paying job, I go directly to the kitchen to cook – no time to wind down from the day.  Or, if it’s because I don’t always have my monthly meal plan posted and am under pressure to come up with something fast and good.  Whatever the reason, I get it done, and most of the time, it’s pretty awesome!  I know this because frequent silence during dinner means that everyone loves what’s on their plate.  Talking begins after plates have been cleaned. Everyone is happy!

On Tuesday evening, I managed to whip up something new for dinner…stuffed peppers.  The recipe that I had seemed simple enough, so I became Martha Stewart for that brief moment in time.  I chose four colors of bell peppers (green, orange, red, and yell0w), prepared the recipe with a few modifications, snapped a few photos (in case I wanted to share my masterpiece with others online), and dished out servings for everyone.

They were excited about how colorful dinner was and were eager to try the stuffed peppers.  Well, most of them.  My husband isn’t adventurous when it comes to trying something new, so he sat and watched the rest of us chow on my newest creation.  Once he was convinced that my new-fangled entree was edible, he plated one for himself.  The next day, his aunt asked if I cook often and he made me look good by telling her about how tasty Tuesday’s dinner had been.

Cooking is still a journey for me.  I got a late start in the kitchen, so in my early adult years, I depended heavily upon cereal and frozen food.  My poor kids spent the first few years of their lives eating this as well.  Now that I know my way around my own kitchen, the kids (and my husband) expect me to step up my game every now and then – and they let me know how displeased they are when I call for a “free-for-all”.  That’s when I tell everyone to feed themselves by opening a can or box of whatever and leave mommy/wife out of the “what’s for dinner?” dilemma.

I am thankful that I have been able to enhance my cooking skills and no longer rely on cereal to sustain my family.  We still eat a lot of cereal, but for breakfast only.  Oh, and I haven’t totally given up frozen food, but I do have enough skills to make it my own if the mood strikes me.

Father,

Thank you for supplying my family’s nutritional needs.  I ask for Your help in not complaining about the blessings that You provide for us.  I pray for Your guidance as I continue to evolve in respect to being creative with meals.  Please help me to pass along what I know to my children, so that if they choose, they, too, will be able to create a good meal for their loved ones.  I pray for those who are less fortunate.  If it is Your will for me to help them, please help me to discern my role and recognize their needs.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

Spring Is in the Air!

Today’s high temperature was just below 60 degrees.  Not bad for February 22nd.  Forecasters have called for a high of 61 degrees tomorrow.  Woo hoo!

Like most of the United States, we’ve enjoyed a mild winter and very little snowfall.  If you’re a fan of snow, you’d likely disagree with my choice of the word “enjoyed” and replace it with “suffered”.  Half empty.  Half full.  

I, for one, am happy about the warm weather we’ve experienced, because anything under 65 degrees is cold to me, and I don’t like cold weather.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a few stretches of bitterly cold air and high winds, but haven’t had to deal with traditional Midwestern winter weather.  No shoveling necessary!  My kind of winter.

Besides not having to traipse through snow or shovel it, the warm weather has been a beacon of hope for me.  Hope that the warm weather and bright sunlight are right around the corner.  Hope that I will soon be able to leave the outerwear at home, watch buds begin to blossom, witness dormant grass bounce back to life, and enjoy longer days.  Hope of a new season in life.

I am thankful for the previews of the season to come.

Father,

Thank you for the incredible weather that we’ve had this winter.  The warm temperatures have undoubtedly saved lives as homeless people weren’t at the usual high risk of cold-weather medical emergencies.  I pray for their continued well-being and safety and look forward to the new season that’s just ahead.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC


A World without Fresh Produce

Can you imagine a world without fresh produce?  For most of us, it’s hard to fathom.

I don’t pay much attention to the fact that I can get most produce year-round, even the stuff that’s out of season.  A commercial about produce imported from Chile runs often this time of year in my area to inform consumers about where some of our produce comes from during winter months.  The grapes that I buy during the coldest months happen to come from Chile.  The bell peppers that I used to make stuffed peppers for tonight’s dinner were imported from Mexico.  The strawberries that I used for a Valentine’s Day dessert were imported as well.  I am thankful for having access to just about any food item that I want when I want as long – as I don’t have stipulations on country or state of origin.

Getting whatever, whenever is a privilege not to be taken lightly.  Not only do I get to enjoy out-of-season produce, I can walk or drive to the closest grocery store to get it.  Anything that I want or need is within a reasonable distance and it’s available in relatively abundant supplies.  I can buy as much as my family needs for a given period of time and if I forget to pick up an item or need to run out sooner than planned, I can simply go back to the store to get it.

When I stop to imagine a place where grocery stores have never existed, roadside farmers’ markets aren’t available, water is scarce, and soil is not fertile, I can’t help but to pray that God uses those of us who do have these things to help make them available for our fellow brothers and sisters.  I thank God for choosing to put me where I am now.  After all, I know full well that I could be living in a place where life-sustaining food is a mirage.

Father,

Thank You for providing me with all of life’s necessities and for allowing them to be within reach physically.  I pray that I never take for granted the things that You have provided.  I am thankful for every meal that I’m able to put on the table for my family.  I pray that the Christian community continues to reach out to those who are less fortunate and not grow content with the poverty that has a stronghold in distant parts of the world and in our own communities.  Please use me to help meet the needs of those who can’t readily help themselves.  I pray that my world view is always bigger than the  people, places, and things that I can see from a reasonable distance.  I ask all of these things in Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

 

Extra! Extra! Read All about It!!!

I’m a news junkie.  I read it online.  I watch it on TV.  I listen to it on the radio.  I pull it up using apps that I downloaded onto my cell phone.  I can’t help it, I like being informed.

I think my love for “the news” is rooted in grade school.  Each week, we had an assignment called “Current Events”.  It was a combined  composition and social studies assignment that was designed to teach us to look for the five W’s:  who, what, when, where, why.  Sometimes, we were on the lookout for “how”.  The social studies aspect helped us to know what was going on in the world around us.

In addition to being assigned to watch the news on television (gasp!), the assignment required us to convince our parents to subscribe to the local newspaper, if they didn’t already get it, and cut out stories of interest to share with our classmates.

So, a headline that read “Hospital to Expand“, would prompt us to explain the five W’s about the expansion.  Who were the key players in the story?  What was the main idea of the article?  When was the work scheduled to begin/end?  Where was the hospital located?  Why was an expansion needed.  I loved finding out the answers to “why”, so this wasn’t work for me – this  was fun!

The downside to this assignment is something that prevented me from allowing my children to watch the news when they were younger.  I wanted to protect them from being exposed to stories such as bank robberies, homicides,  neglect, rapes, whatever the horrible stories of the day were.  I wanted them to remain oblivious to the ills of the world for a little while longer.  I didn’t want them to fear the world and become worrisome about stepping outside of the walls of the home that kept them safe.

They’re much older now, so with parental guidance, I will allow them to watch clips of the local news, but it’s still a rare occurrence, because the local news seems bent on reporting the worst of the worst.  For my own sanity, I made the conscious decision to obtain the bulk of my television news from a local station that still reports horrible news stories, but finds the time to tell stories that are heartwarming and provide demonstrations about mundane things like cooking and gardening.

I’ve come a long way in that the lenses from which I view the news these days are stamped with compassion.  I began soaking in current events because of grade school, but over time, I developed a sometimes twisted habit of laughing at the suffering of others.

Today, I am thankful that I can now view the news through God’s eyes to some extent.  Instead of laughing at the mugshot of an intoxicated woman dressed a cow, I now bow my head and pray immediately for God to deliver her from the evils in her life.  When I catch myself laughing at someone else’s suffering, I pray for God to change that behavior and allow me to see the world from His eyes to an even greater extent than He’s already gifted me.

Father,

Thank you for giving me a snapshot of how You view the world.  Help me to discern the needs of others and to intercede on their behalf in prayer.  I pray that my children will also be given the same gift of compassion for others, so that they will be able to show a Christ-like love to friends, family, and strangers.  I pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

Retreat

My oldest son is away on a weekend retreat and ski holiday with two dozen high-schoolers and a handful of adult leaders from church.  I’m sad that he missed out on the family trip to the car show, but I’m happy that he’s away with his peers for a time of retreat and getting closer to God.  I am thankful to all of the people who make these trips possible and make them the great successes that they always are.

Father,

Thank you for providing the opportunity for this current teen retreat and all of the other church-related activities in which my children are able to participate.  I feel blessed that they are able to learn about You not only while in church, but during fun getaways as well.  I pray that all of the teens and adults are drawn closer to You and to one another this weekend.  I pray for traveling mercies as they make the trip back home tomorrow.  Please be a shield of protection around each of the vehicles in which they’ll travel.  I pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

 

Heating Pads

Tonight, I am thankful for electric heating pads.  At times like these, they’re a girl’s best friend.  Somehow, I’ve managed to injure myself again, but no worries, I have a heating pad!  Thank you to whomever invented them.  Controversy exists about who should truly get the credit for this invention.  Who knew?

Father,

Thank you for gifting the inventor of this therapeutic appliance with the knowledge and skills to create it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

Believers

I love when I encounter a believer while doing something mundane, because ordinary banter often turns to God’s role in our lives.  A
chance meeting at a car show this evening provided this very opportunity as a discussion about vehicle options turned into a story about how God protects us.

Here’s how that happened…  I stopped to admire a vehicle and the person already snuggled behind the wheel seemed nice enough to strike up a conversation with, so I did just that.  I told her that I purchased that model a year earlier and wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I talked about the three TV screens that could play two movies simultaneously, the stow-and-go seats, the 30GB hard drive, heated front- and mid-row seats, etc.  Car stuff!  After all, we were at a car show.

Then the conversation turned to my fellow believer’s 4’6″ grandmother.  In addition to being on the shorter side, she was of slight weight – so small that airbags posed a serious risk of injury if they deployed during an accident.  What does this have to do with God?  Well, her grandmother “wrapped her car around a telephone pole” and when the airbag deployed, it retracted almost immediately, to her surprise.  Grandma was unharmed and all the praise was given to Him for protecting her from serious injury.  There was no mention of the manufacturer’s safety record and product design.  Her family knew that He was the reason that grandma walked away unharmed.

I wear a cross every day, so it’s pretty obvious to anyone who sees me where my beliefs lie.  Most believers don’t wear outward symbols of their faith, so it’s hard to figure out just who I can engage in a conversation about Him.  I didn’t need to work hard to find a fellow believer tonight.  God put me in the direct path of the person that He wanted me to meet.

I am thankful for the ease in which conversations with other believers begin.  No fantastic icebreakers are needed – just a simple mention of heading to church, thanking the Lord, and praising Him need – no formalities.

Father,

Thank you for putting people into my life for specific purposes.  I praise You for the gift of engaging total strangers and being comfortable enough to share testimonies about how You have move in my life.  I pray for continued opportunities to share with and learn from others as we seek to grow in our faith.  I pray that I will be a light that draws believers closer to You and nonbelievers into your midst.  I pray all of these things in Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC