Tag: Thanksgiving

Reads of the Week | 11/28/2015

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I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. This installment of Reads of the Week feature the five guest bloggers. Each one of these posts provided a remarkable insight into gratitude, perspective, and relationships. If you missed any of them, click the links below to check them out.

The Tin Man Drops His Axe by Janna Moss

Your Life Will Never be the Same by Elaine Englert

What Do You Say? by John Iamaio

A Thanksgiving Reflection by Michael Keys

I’m Thankful for Dental Floss…Really! by Robyn Englert

What were your reads of the week? Share the link below in the comment section.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

A Thanksgiving Reflection | Guest Post by Mike Keys

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from Mike Keys. He’s married and a father of three. You can find him mentoring young leaders at Browncroft Community Church and cheering on the Buffalo Bills.

What an incredible year. Our sons will finish college. Our daughter got married to a remarkable young man, and my son Jeremy will get married this spring! So much to be thankful for, so much to look back on and so much ahead. I often reflect on the past and see the twists and turns my family and myself have experienced.

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The hand of God is everywhere once we start looking. Many decisions along the way have shaped, prepared, and changed me through the twists and turns of life. What college to attend, who to date, who to marry, drugs or no drugs, what career path.

What is most amazing is how at each turn there were significant people in my life to guide me and influence me and help me find the right path. To think all these individuals were coincidental is just fantasy. God providentially placed them in my path at each critical juncture to move me along.

It is for these individuals that I am most grateful. Their support, their honesty, the way they lived their lives.
At 12 it was a man named Bill who told me never to feel sorry for myself.
At 15 it was Herb, my biology teacher, friend and mentor. He took the time to know me and included me in his family. His influence kept me out of trouble when trouble was everywhere around me.
At 18 it was Mr. LaPre, another teacher. He believed I would do great things and told me so. He had more faith in me than I did at the time.
At 21 it was my two closest friends Andy and Andy, yes both my best friends are named Andy. They encouraged me to take chances with my career and gave me the confidence to follow my dreams instead of what I always knew.
At 25 it was my bride, supporting me as a young father to get more involved with our children. 

I could go on and on and on. These people and many others have significantly impacted my life. Someday I will write a book about My Great Friends.

Yes, it is people at the end of the day that I am most grateful. It is people that motivate me to be better but more important they motivate me to invest in others. I am at my best when I am pursuing relationships and encouraging others.

My hope for each of us today is that we begin to see all the gifts God has bestowed upon us through others. God Bless you. Happy Thanksgiving, Mike.

Photo credit by Abigail Keenan.

What Do You Say? | Guest Post by John Iamaio

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from John Iamaio. He’s married with two kids living in the Rochester area. Besides avidly following the Buffalo Bills, he serves as an Area Director for Cru Rochester. Follow him on his blog at https://johniamaio.wordpress.com/.

Since becoming a parent ten years ago, I have realized there are certain phrases locked into my subconscious that could only understand once I became a father. Who knew I would be the guy saying “If all your friends jumped off a bridge…” or the classic “because I said so, that’s why!”

One of the first times I could tell this part of I unlocked this part of my brain is when I started asking the question “What do you say?”

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There are two occasions when I utter these words. The first is after an egregious error on the part of a child (i.e., they hit another youngster with a blunt object). I want my kids to realize the pain they have caused. Their appropriate response in this scenario is “I’m sorry”.

The second time these words leave my lips is when someone has been gracious to my child. Perhaps their aunt has just crocheted them a brand new Snoopy sweater. Regardless of what the child is feeling inside, I instantly find myself asking, “What do you say?” In this case, the goal is to create a spirit of gratitude.

Does forcing your kid to say “Thank you” actually inspire inner thankfulness? Ummm… I have no idea! I’m not thinking when I say the words, remember?! The real question is “Why do we need a reminder to be thankful at all?”

Upon casual observation, it would seem that we are not naturally grateful people. Thankfulness is learned. It is something cultivated in our lives.

As we mature, many of us become accustomed to expressing thanks for gifts we have received or acts of service performed for us. This is a good thing. Having someone over your shoulder repeating the phrase “What do you say?” could get annoying.

Over the last few years, I have realized there is another level to thankfulness. It goes beyond being thankful for the “good” things in my life. It’s an ability to ask myself the question “What do you say?” even in difficult times. Every weakness, every trial, every failure is an opportunity to express a grateful heart. In the end, those experiences have shaped me as much as all the blessings and any success.

Dealing with a seizure disorder when I was young, made me keenly aware that life can be out of control. Working for uncaring bosses developed a sense of what it is like to feel unappreciated. Experiencing broken relationships, taught me that loneliness hurts. The list goes on and on.

In each of those cases (and many more), the negative circumstances I experienced gave me a slight appreciation of the deep hurts and wounds that people carry around in their lives. They have also shaped me into the person I am today.

Maybe our parents were right. Perhaps our lives would be happier if we learned to ask the question “What do you say?” a little bit more.

Photo credit by Arthur Rutkowski.

Making Good Interpretations: A Mindset Towards Contentment

Contentment seems unnatural. You might point to every message that calls us to more money, success, and stuff. Comparison seems natural. The competitive bent of humanity sizes up each person rating ourselves against each other. Also, some of us have lean into over criticalness of ourselves and each other. At times, we ratchet up the flaws in practicing feedback without ever reflecting on the positives.

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November marks an occasional pause for us. Though the zenith of consumerism in Christmas comes right around the corner, Thanksgiving calls us to gratitude. And gratitude invites towards contentment; the realization we have more than we can ever imagine. You and I know when we experience a sliver of contentment. The moment we can step back with peace and thankfulness to look at what God has given us.

What blocks us from experiencing contentment? We interpret every event, situation, and interaction with people in our lives. Our interpretations, assigning meaning to our lives, feed our mindsets. Thank of these messages we tell ourselves:
That should have been better.
I should have gotten more out of that.
They could have done more in this area.
I deserve more recognition.
Why do I have to be here or experience this?

Those interpretations creep into our souls without adequately process them. Ultimately, they end up tainting our view of God’s grace in our lives. Without even realizing it, when we suffer from discontentment we can fall into the mindset of blaming God. Rather than viewing God at work in us, we murmur and complain.

Experiencing contentment invites us to evaluate the interpretations of our lives; to look deeper at God’s work within us. The Puritan writer Jeremiah Burroughs encourages us in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment:

If any good interpretation can be made of God’s ways towards you, make it. You think it much if you have a friend who always makes bad interpretations of your ways towards him; you would take that badly. If you should converse with people with whom you cannot speak a word, but they are ready to make a bad interpretation of it, and to take it in an ill sense, you would think their company very tedious to you. (pg. 223)

Many of us know the experience of those who make negative interpretations of us. It seems we can do no right. So this affects us in experiencing contentment. Bad interpretations can misinterpret the way God is working in our lives and can tire our relationships because of our assumptions about others.

The mindset of contentment starts with good interpretations. Attempting to recognize how Christ might work in our hearts. Where He might call us to mature. Seeing people made in His image and looking to offer them grace. Even more so, looking at all that He has given to us as a gift.

What interpretations have you made of your life? How are they leading you to see God’s grace in experiencing contentment?

Photo credit by Aaron Burden.

Calendars can fill up faster in December. Within the last twenty-four hours, I have had conversations with people facing anxiety. Whether you are trying to get the details straightened up for the holidays or facing the unknown, all of us to a certain extent carry a level of anxiety.

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I find myself going back to the words of Dallas Willard in the Divine Conspiracy. This is his reflection on Jesus’ teaching about worry in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-32:

Soberly, when our trust is in things that are absolutely beyond any risk or threat, and we have learned from good sources, including our own experience, that those things are there, anxiety is just groundless and pointless. It occurs only as a hangover of bad habits established when we were trusting things – like human approval and wealth – that were certain to let us down. Now our strategy should be one of resolute rejection of worry, while we concentrate on the future in hope and with prayer and on the past with thanksgiving (pg. 212)

Faith Grows in the Winter

A friend handed me a comic. The picture included a biblical character tip toeing across a sheet of ice. As I came to the caption, I saw the words, “Peter’s faith grows in the winter.” Those words alluded to the Apostle Peter walking across the water, but I could not help to hear those words for myself.

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Over the past weekend, the snow started falling across Upstate New York. Meaning this area will experience a white Christmas and Thanksgiving. Autumn portrays beautiful colors of red, orange, and yellow across the landscape. Yet, within a short few weeks the ground freezes over with a coat of white and no visible sight of leaves.

Faith growing in the winter rarely looks like a tentative walk across the ice. Most often, this growth takes place in the midst of storms and the cold. The winter seasons of our lives may include pain, disappointment, and disillusionment. Seemingly though, the mature saints you meet will point to these seasons as ones where God grew their faith.

Charles Spurgeon comments on 2 Corinthians 12:9, “Strong faith does not drop from heaven in a gentle dew; generally it comes in the whirlwind of the storm.” Why? At least in my life, it seems that God has to bring me back to a sense of dependence on His work and presence in my life. The winter reminds us to trust in the One who can bring the spring. He shapes and forms our live even in the freezing and the cold.

Have you faced a winter season? How did your faith grow?

 

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