Thanksgiving Boulevard

by Fran Caffey Sandin

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

When devastation touches our lives, responding with a thankful heart becomes a challenge. Everyone has a story. Mine began when our seventeen-month-old, Jeffrey, became ill on a Sunday and died on Thursday. Bacterial meningitis. Everything medically possible had been applied. Many prayers for Jeffrey’s earthly healing remained unanswered, but I know I will see Jeffrey in Heaven.

Years later, we said goodbye to our forty-three-year-old son, Steve, a godly physical therapist who spent his life serving and helping others. He passed away after a fourteen-year struggle with cystic fibrosis and kidney failure. My heart still aches, but I cannot live in constant grief knowing Steve will greet me in Heaven.

So, the question becomes: How can we be thankful when grieving such great losses?

I once heard singer Joann Shelton say, “Praise moves me from Complaint Avenue to Thanksgiving Boulevard.” I found the four-lane divided parkway beneficial.

  1. Thankfulnesssoothes our distresses as we recall joyful memories from the past. It is comforting to recall the times we enjoyed with our loved ones and thank God for those blessings.
  2. Thankfulness—helps to allay anxiety. God is in control, and we do not have to live in fear. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV).
  3. Thankfulnessheightens our hope. Remembering God’s past faithfulness and mercy causes us to look to the future with hope. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV).
  4. Thankfulnessstrengthens us for endurance. After the crisis and adjustment time has passed, we look toward what the Lord has for us to do, and we become the person He wants us to be. We press on and will remain on earth until our work is done. No one else can complete the unique assignment He has given to us.

When I think of the apostle, Paul, who endured shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, sleepless nights, imprisonment, and weary days, I marvel that he wrote I Thessalonians 5:18. He did not mean that we thank God for bad things that happen. But we can say, “Dear Lord, even in this heartache, I believe You are working things out for my good and for Your glory.”

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She has authored See You Later, Jeffrey, and Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith. This devotional is an excerpt from her new book, HOPE on the Way, DEVOTIONS to Go, published by Roaring Lambs Ministries in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For more information visit Fran’s website: www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: On what “street” are you living?

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Reserving my Spot

by Deborah McCormick Maxey

            I’m always among the first to register for a favorite writer’s conference held at a massive complex, tucked into the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. What a blessing to learn from top professionals in Christian writing, share laughs and meals, crazy costumes on genre night and deep and moving praise time together. Not to mention that my mountain girl heart soars looking out on the majestic scallops of those blue mountains lining the horizons as I walk in the woods. I feel so close to God in outdoor cathedrals.  

But the reason I book super early is I always want the same room. Every year. You might wonder why I would request a room that overlooks a huge parking lot and the backside of a mountain.  But the reason is beyond the asphalt and the wooded hillside directly across from my window. What draws me to that room requires me to look up. Like the first step in worship.

High atop the hill that my window faces is a massive white cross that can be seen on the interstate from miles away. I look forward to doing my devotions every morning in a small chair pulled up to the window and focusing first on that enormous cross and what it represents.

No matter what I do throughout the conference, when I unlock that door and return to my room, I feel a sense of home at the foot of the cross.

But the first morning of the last conference I attended, when I prepared to do my devotions, I positioned the chair and opened the drapes only to stand in stunned silence, flooded with disappointment. Fog. Fog so dense I couldn’t even see the parking lot.

After I read my devotions, I turned to prayer, starting with praise.

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

So, digging deep, I thanked God for the fog and whatever reason He had for it. Within minutes warm tears of gratitude slid down my cheeks. I felt His presence, loving me with a fog lesson, recognizing that even though I could not see the cross, I knew for certain that it was still there. In those times when it seems as though my prayers hit the ceiling or I pray but don’t feel Him near me, it is just like the fog, my limitation. My emotions and thoughts, seasons, years, cultures, government, even white crosses on a hill can change. But not God.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)  

My worry, doubt, fear, disconnection, or emotional numbness is only a temporary internal fog.

We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7(KJV) 

I am so grateful that unlike a manmade sculpture our Father is indestructible, steadfast, unchanging, and waiting faithfully in the fog of my humanness with outstretched arms. Arms that reach as far as the east is to the west (Psalms 103:1 KJV), to welcome me back from my internal nearsightedness.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  Her debut novel, The Endling is available for preorder on Amazon, and will be released by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media, May11, 2021. https://deborahmaxey.com

Join the conversation: What Scriptures have encouraged your heart lately?

The Healing Power of Gratitude

by Ginny Brant @GinnytBrant

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

The story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is one to ponder. After the most difficult year of their lives, these Christians gave thanks to God first and then to their Native American friends. They were able to remain grateful even after terrible trials and losses. The celebration is a wonderful example of the healing power of gratitude.

Imagine being close to starvation, losing half your family members, needing warmth and shelter, fearing strangers in a new land, and at times wondering if your journey was worth the losses. Yet, these Godly people practiced daily gratitude. And so should we—even in the deepest trials of our lives.

The Apostle Paul exhorted the young church in Thessalonica to give thanks in everything. This church was growing quickly and miraculously, but the consequences of their newfound faith resulted in much persecution and significant losses. In the previous chapter, he comforts their despair by explaining what will happen to those who’ve died in Christ. Then after a series of exhortations, he closes chapter 5 with the blessed hope that gives comfort to all our hearts—the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2020 is a year most people would like to erase from their memories. I couldn’t have imagined a worldwide pandemic, raging forest fires, and hurricanes, all bringing so much destruction and loss of life. Then destructive riots and political unrest turned American cities into war zones. There seemed to be bad news at every turn. Does Paul’s admonition ”in everything give thanks” also apply to 2020?

The Bible gives us no wiggle room—in everything give thanks—for this is the will of God in Christ for you. Paul prescribes a life of gratitude for all believers. We can be grateful because we can count on God using all circumstances in our lives for His glory and our good. Best of all, no matter what lies ahead, our eternal destination is secure.

According to the research of Dr. Robert Emmons, having an attitude of gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University Medical School, proclaims, “If thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world’s best selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” No wonder so many doctors are prescribing the practice of gratitude as a way to improve psychological, social and physical health.

Research clearly indicates that people who practice a lifestyle of gratitude are healthier and heal better. An attitude of gratitude promotes peace in the middle of life’s storms by calming the emotional brain. (Yet Paul prescribed having an attitude of gratitude over 1900 years ago before these outcomes were known!)

The art of practicing daily gratitude does not stop when bad news like cancer comes knocking at your door. Surviving chemotherapy was a blessing for me, even when I saw my bald reflection in a mirror. My husband was a wonderful gift to me, loving me unconditionally even though my appearance was less than appealing. The more I thanked God, the more I found contentment. I now appreciate that every day I’m alive is a gift.

Gratitude gives us a new story—a new beginning. Any trial, no matter how grim, will not have the final word. God has decreed eternal life for those who are truly His. This eternal perspective provides hope and healing for the weary, enabling us to bathe in gratitude, rather than grumbling. Paul’s prescription for a life of gratitude promotes healing and costs us nothing.

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About the author: Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Her recent book, Unleash Your God-given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with an oncologist after her cancer journey. Cancer prevention blog and more info at http://www.ginnybrant.com.

Join the conversation: What brings gratitude to your heart in 2020?

A New Level of Gratitude

by Sandra P. Aldrich @SandraPAldrich

A concerned woman once asked G. Campbell Morgan, the early 20th century British preacher and author, if she should pray about everything or just the big things. The respected theologian smiled and answered, “Madam, what could possibly be big to God? Pray about everything.”

I wonder if sometimes we are like that dear woman, when we ponder what we should be thankful for. Oh, it’s easy to say, “Thank You, Lord!” when we slip but don’t fall on icy steps, or when we hear that a friend has arrived home safely after a much delayed flight. But the following long-ago event showed me a new level of gratitude.

Just after I received my masters of arts degree, I visited my Kentucky grandmother, Mama Farley. I was the first woman in my extended family to attend college, so I pulled my accomplishment proudly around my shoulders as though it was one of Mama’s beautiful hand- stitched quilts.

The first morning of that visit, I awoke to sounds from the kitchen and hurriedly dressed. Mama’s hearing had gotten worse, so she didn’t notice me standing in the kitchen archway. As I watched, I remembered her long-ago stories of how she had been kept home from school to plow, which resulted in her never having learned to read or write. Those stories always ended with her insistence that I get all the education I could.

Mama’s back was more stooped, and her hair was whiter that morning. But everything else in the kitchen was the same—even the white and red enamel flour pan and the wood-burning stove. The modern range her adult children had purchased years ago still sat in the corner, used only occasionally to warm leftovers. Mama insisted she couldn’t regulate the heat in the new oven.

As I watched, she pulled a skillet of beautiful biscuits from her trusty old stove.

I nodded, determined to learn to make biscuits like that during the visit. Thinking of the compliments I would receive from my own future visitors, I watched Mama scrutinize the perfectly browned biscuits. I would have placed them on the serving plate with a self-satisfied sigh. But she set the plate in the center of the table and whispered, “Thank you, Lord.”

Her gentle words hit me like a sharp rebuke. I backed into the hallway, tears filling my eyes. I may have achieved an education Mama could never dream of. But it had not occurred to me to thank Father God for the accomplishment. Right there in the hallway, I whispered my gratitude heavenward before hurrying into the kitchen to give Mama a hug.

Today her habit of thanking God for even the so-called little things has become part of my life, too. Now, whether I’m paying bills, planting spring flowers, walking to the mailbox or pulling a pan of golden biscuits from my own oven, I think of Mama as I whisper my own “Thank you, Lord.” After all, isn’t that what Paul was trying to encourage the Thessalonian church—and us—to do when he called for giving thanks in all circumstances? What a privilege to be aware of the many blessings in each day. And to whisper our own “Thank you, Lord.”

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the author: SANDRA P. ALDRICH is an international speaker and author or co-author of 25 books, including her latest three novels. Known for her Kentucky story-telling style of speaking and writing, Sandra loves the Lord, family and all things Appalachian. Eastern Michigan University granted her a Master of Arts degree, but she says life granted her a Ph.D. from the School of Hard Knocks. She may be reached through her website at www.sandraaldrich.com.  

Join the conversation: When is the last time you have thanked the Lord for the “small things”?

Mind Your Manners

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

When Jesus encountered the ten lepers on his way to Jerusalem, all ten asked to be healed. All ten obeyed Jesus’ command to go show themselves to the priests. As the lepers went to the priests, they were healed. However, only one returned to thank Jesus.

That surprised Jesus. “Were not all ten cleansed?” he asked. “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17).

Jesus did not heal the lepers for the thanks. But He really appreciated it when one remembered his manners.

In Scripture the mother of the leper who gave thanks was not mentioned. But we see the fruit of her teaching in her son’s behavior. Chances are she had to remind him many times to say “thank you” to those who did things for him or gave him something. And in his younger days she probably wondered if he would ever catch on to the importance of giving thanks. Can’t you hear her saying, “Son, tell the man thank you.”

And his reply, “Aw, mom, he knows.”

“That’s okay,” she replied, “he needs to hear it from you.” Probably this statement was punctuated by this mom giving her son “the eye!”

It probably wasn’t many days before a similar situation came up again and the mother faithfully repeated the scene. “Son, remember to say thanks.”

As her son grew into adulthood, this mother was diligent with her instruction. She realized, like all mothers do, that her time of influence was limited. She prayed daily for all her children to learn their lessons well.

This sweet mother never dreamed one of her children would contract leprosy and become an outcast. What heartache! But neither did she dare to dream Jesus Christ would heal him.

When Jesus met ten lepers on the road to Jerusalem, he didn’t require anything of them. He didn’t stop to think of the training their mothers had given them. He merely responded with love and compassion to their request for pity and healing.

We can almost hear the frustration in His voice as he asks, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” But His pleasure is also evident at the one who took the time to return and express his gratitude.

Can you imagine how this leper’s mother would have felt if she had been watching this scene unfold? Her heart would have swelled with pride as she watched the fruit of her teaching as her son bowed in thanks to the One who had healed him of the terrible disease.

Giving thanks is not spontaneous. Expressing our thanks to another person is a deliberate act. We learn to be thankful people by watching those around us.

Can you remember learning to say thank you? Perhaps an older sibling had something you really wanted and he or she teased you by holding it out in front of you. “I’ll give it to you when you say ‘thank you.’”

As you got older, your mother or father probably said, “Mind your manners,” if you forgot to thank someone for a kind word or act. Then, as you became the adult, you heard yourself saying the same thing to a child, a niece, or nephew.

Gratitude and appreciation are important. People who are thankful are happy people. People who are thankful have lots of friends. People who are thankful have learned to say with Paul, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV). Thankful people know real thanksgiving springs from a heart that is focused on God.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

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Mind Your Manners – insight from @LindaGilden on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

linda gilden 2About the author: Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to make a difference with their words. Linda’s favorite activity is Called to Speak: Practical Tips for Women's Ministry Speakers and Teachers by [Ellison, Edna, Gilden, Linda J.]floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material! http://www.lindagilden.com

Linda’s book, Called to Speak, uniquely addresses the practical call of a communicator to speak for the kingdom of God. Based on years of experience by two veteran women’s ministry speakers, Called to Speak is peppered with personal stories and encouraging Scripture. It is a valuable collection of essential principles to help you grow into the effective, life-changing orator God wants to empower.

Join the conversation: What are you thankful for today?