Intentional Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving Blog #7

Here it is! Day 7 of our Thanksgiving Blog series. I hope you all enjoy your day as you reflect and enjoy family. I know that some are dealing with a loss this year, and please know that I am thinking and praying for you all today. God bless, and thanks for reading!

Today is the day where we all remember to be thankful. As we sit around a turkey feast, grabbing a third piece of pie, and sharing what and who we are grateful for, our hearts are filled.

Remembering the good, the blessings, the love steadies the mind and reassures the heart that all will be okay — God has provided and will continue to provide.

 

Then we wake from our turkey induced slumber to November 28th and the weight of holiday stress crashes down on us. All thought of blessing and thanks are drowned out by Black Friday madness harmonizing with Christmas to-do lists.

So how can we remove the Christmas season stress? I think the key lies in Thanksgiving Day!

We spend Thanksgiving intentionally remembering the blessings in our lives. What if we did that throughout the holiday season? What if we let our thankfulness for what we already have guide…

View original post 361 more words

Advertisements

3 Ways to Make this Thanksgiving the Best One Ever -Thanksgiving Blog #6

We are on Day 6 of our Thanksgiving Blog Adventure.  Today’s blog comes from Danny Ray.  I had the pleasure of meeting him this past summer at Lake Ann Camp, and besides being an amazing magician, he has a real heart for God and is a very compelling speaker.  I hope you enjoy his post and will follow him as well.

14332760698_8d948b022c_c“Can you picture Noah’s face when he saw the first rainbow? He just spent the last year on a boat with his family. 365+ days with his family! A year with his daughter-in-laws and his soon to be cursed son, Ham! How much Bingo, Monopoly and Scrabble can one family play?”

[Read the full post here!]

 

We are in the home stretch! Tomorrow is our final post int he series, but you can still subscribe to all of these writers and enjoy their encouraging insights throughout the year!  It has been a blast being a part of this!

The Overboard Life – Joe Castaneda

The Musing of a Life – Bev Everett Landgrenen

The Real Life – Terry Porter

Be Extraordinary – Traci Castaneda

Making Life Beautiful – Becca Forrest

Relentless Growth – Tom Tanner

Danny Ray

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Rooted, Built, Established & Abounding In Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving Blog #5

Fall-foliage-Boston-MAThat time of year is here again.  We have said goodbye to another summer and are now in the dwindling days of fall. If you live in Northern Michigan, I think we skipped over the last half of fall, and we are now knee deep in winter! Fall is one of my favorite times of year.  The leaves changes, the sun takes on a different glow, there is a crispness in the air, and my thoughts turn to Thanksgiving – and pie! We won’t talk about my insane love affair with pie right now. though! It really is a sad thing… Seriously… I need help…

Anyway, back on track.  Thanksgiving is that time of year when we like to reflect on what we have to be thankful for.  There are a lot of differing opinions as to how Thanksgiving came to be. Some say religious; some say it has nothing to do with God.  I found the following on Wikipedia, and while I do not always look at that as a reputable site, I think this is a fairly unbiased report of history:

“Thanksgiving proclamations were made mostly by church leaders in New England up until 1682, and then by both state and church leaders until after the American Revolution. During the revolutionary period, political influences affected the issuance of Thanksgiving proclamations. Various proclamations were made by royal governors, John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress, each giving thanks to God for events favorable to their causes. As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, `as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God’.”

Personally, I love that the Pilgrims took the time after their first winter to thank God and the Native Americans that helped them survive it.  It is a good thing to intentionally set aside time to give thanks for the good things that we have and for the people that support us.  That tradition has carried on, and in two days, many of us will sit around a table with family and friends and take a moment to give thanks for all that has been good in our lives over the last year.

Is that what Thanksgiving is about, though?  Just the good things?  I don’t believe it is.  There are a lot of things that I see in my life that are good, and I am thankful for them.  I have a wonderful wife, two great kids, a great family, some very good friends, a roof over my head, and so much more.  I am thankful for them.  They bring joy to my life, and I can’t imagine life without them, but I have other things that are not as “good.”  If you’re expecting a list, too bad!  Let’s just say that we all have things that we would change if we could.  The question is, are we thankful for those things, too?

Four years ago this past April, I abruptly lost my job.  It was nothing to be thankful for – or was it?  It was during that time of my life, when so many things were falling apart around me, that I was able to finally get a real grip on my relationship with God.  He became real to me.  He was not just that God that we sing about on Sunday.  He became a Father I could cry out to.  A Protector from those out to hurt me. I found a Friend in His Son, Jesus that I could talk to about what I should do next.

By Thanksgiving that year I was in a new job, and things were still rough but sorting themselves out one small step at a time.  I remember feeling so thankful for all that God had done that year.  He allowed me to go so low, to a place where I could do nothing for myself.  I needed to be there so I could give it all to Him.  I am so thankful for that hard time.  It is a part of who I am now, and it is because of His love for me that I am able to say we need to be thankful in all things!  Through relationship with Christ we are given the power to BE thankful in all things!

If you spend much time reading this blog, you will see that I have a fascination with trees.  I love the fact that God does, too!  He uses them all through the Bible to give us lessons for living, and when you study how they live and grow, you can see even more of God at work in your life!  That is why I am drawn to Paul’s words in Colossians 2:6-7.  There is a progression laid out here for the Christian life that we can follow to truly experience Thanksgiving in our lives on a daily basis:

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

– Colossians 2:6-7

the-tree-of-life-hd_1. Receive Christ – If you haven’t done that, then you will find that thanksgiving will probably never extend much past turkey, stuffing, and pie.  Wonderful things, but they will do nothing for your eternity or for your personal growth. (With the exception of your waistline.)

2. Walk in Him – As a believer, we are called to walk as Christ would walk.  We should do the things He did, and live according to the words of God.  It is by walking in Him and with Him that we get to know Him and understand Him for who He is and what He did for us not just in His death, but in His resurrection!  We are made to know Him!

3. Rooted and built up in Him – As we follow and learn, we begin to put our roots down into what we know to be true.  Every time we see God come through for us, we grow a little deeper. Our branches spread a little farther.  We begin to show the life in us as we are growing in our faith in Him.

4. Established in the faith – Here is where we learn to stand firm and strong when we start to see the sun beat down on us making us feel dried out.  The cold winds tear at us, and we feel alone.  It is when those hard times hit us that we look to God.  We are in pain, but we are rooted in Him.  He gives us His living water to keep us alive.  He shows us His love when we feel nothing but hate.  He protects our soul when it is being ravaged by the world around us.  It is hard to be thankful in the middle of pain, but that is when we see the true effects of what we are grounded in.

5. Abounding in thanksgiving – I don’t think we need to wait for the storm to pass to feel thankful.  It is easy to be thankful when we are through the storm, but if we are truly walking in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in our faith in God, then we can always look around and see something to be thankful for!  Every day!  No matter what we face!  It is what sets us apart from those who struggle through life with no hope.  Our firm foundation in Christ is our hope!  It is our reason for being thankful, and it is why we can have Thanksgiving every day of the year!

I admit this is not always easy, and it doesn’t always come quickly.  The Christian life is a process of growth.  Just like a tree does not get planted one day and produce apples the next, we will need to go through a time of growth.  Trees might not visibly grow for a few years, but they are busy during those times putting down roots that will make them thrive later.  We might have times where we struggle to be thankful, but if we know Christ, are walking in Him, and are putting our roots down deep in our relationship with Christ and being established in our faith, then the natural outflow of that will be a life of abundant thanksgiving!

Relentless Growth is not something that just happens.  It requires a decision to be made daily to be thankful for a God who loves us and is there for us, even when He feels so far away sometimes.  We were made to know Him and to be close to Him.  We were made to draw on Him and to experience relationship with Him.  We have so much to be thankful for in Christ! As believers, we can’t let it just be one day a year.  Every day we need to make that choice to be thankful!

Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to my friend Joe for inviting me to this Thanksgiving week of blogs.  I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.  Please read all the blogs of the contributors as they get posted here each day.  Follow their blogs, share, and enjoy them throughout the year!

The Overboard Life – Joe Castaneda

The Musing of a Life – Bev Everett Landgrenen

The Real Life – Terry Porter

Danny Ray – Danny Ray

Be Extraordinary – Traci Castaneda

Making Life Beautiful – Becca Forrest

Relentless Growth – Tom Tanner

I look forward to hearing from any and all of you.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

(So, if  every day is Thanksgiving Day, shouldn’t I be seeing more pie?)

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

Be thankful. Be thankful. Be thankful. – Thanksgiving Blog #4

Day 4 of our Thanksgiving blog series is here, and I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am! Today’s blog is from my friend Joe. He is the Marketing Director at Lake Ann Camp, CEO of Overboard Ministries, a loving husband, a great dad, and most of all, an on-fire servant of God. Make sure to follow his blog for fantastic encouragement throughout the year!

The Overboard life

This is day four of a seven-part series on Thanksgiving. I’m honored to participate in a blog-hop with 7 friends, over 7 days all about Thanksgiving. You can read the previous blogs by clicking on the links below:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Over the past month, I’ve been working on memorizing Colossians chapter three. In God’s funny way of putting things together, I was in the middle of verses 15-17 when I read these words…

reflection of God“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of…

View original post 570 more words

365 Days of Grateful – Thanksgiving Blog #3

Thanks, Bev for a great challenge! I think I will take you up on this! I love the idea of taking a moment before entering the office to give thanks for something!

I won’t steal anymore of Bev’s story. Enjoy her blog and be sure to follow her for more great insights!

The Musings of a Life

gratitude production 101

Today is my day (day 3) in this project, I am honored and excited to be part of this Gratitude Project 101. I hope as the week progresses you will stop in and check out the 6 amazing bloggers I have been teamed with.

 

365 days of grateful

grateful

This is the time of year we stop to reflect on what we are thankful for, we post out thankfulness for the 31 days of November. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great practice, but last year my heart was softly challenged, why only once a year?  Why do I  take only 31 days out of 365 to actively practice gratitude? These thoughts continued to nag at me for several weeks. Why would I not express my thankfulness every day, all year long? I have a blessed, beautiful life.

Instead of making resolutions for the New Year I chose this…

View original post 710 more words

Thanksgiving & Gratitude – Thanksgiving Week Blog #2

 

guarding-your-mindOh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!  – 1 Chronicles 16:34 (ESV)

Today’s blog is brought to you by my Adult Ministries Pastor, Terry Porter.  Click here to go to his site and read, follow, and comment! I hope you enjoy his post and really focus on all the good things we have around us each and every day.  That is the transformational moment, and it is available to all of us through the renewing power of God’s Word!

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word – Psalm 119:9 (ESV)

Be sure to check back tomorrow for another great Thanksgiving post from another writer.  Be sure to click the “Follow” link here on my page so you don’t miss any of them!

Tom

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

Gratitude Production 101- Thanksgiving Week Blog #1

Here it is, folks! The first blog of our 7-day “blog hop”! Today’s writer is Traci Castaneda, a good friend with some great insights. I hope you will read her blog and subscribe!

Be Extraordinary!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Are you naturally producing joy and thankfulness?

Philippians 4:8, in the Bible, states:

Ph48Whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
Think About These Things!

Often I hear people (myself included) talk about “trying harder to be joyful or thankful.” Forcing a good attitude or smile on our faces isn’t fooling anybody, especially ourselves. The answer – the secret solution – to lasting joy is found in the final line of the above verse. “Think about these things” . . . think. It does not say to “feel” these things or to “do” these things or to “say” these things. We are supposed to think about these things.

In so many areas it is easy to put the focus on the external, the feeling…

View original post 523 more words

Are You Ready?

 

Are-You-Ready-To-Be-A-Millionaire-07-07-2014I like to teach.  I have had the opportunity over the years to do q lot of informal teaching, and occasionally some teaching that is much more structured.  Both are fun, even though they ask for drastically different teaching styles.  Currently I am teaching a college and career age class at my church in our Adult Bible Fellowship hour.  It’s fun.  A lot of fun.  I might be old enough to be their Dad, but that might be part of why I like it!  They make it fun for me, and I hope I make it a good time for them as well.

After class yesterday I had the opportunity to be interviewed by one of the young ladies in the class.  She is doing a paper on religions and wanted to ask my why I believe what I believe.  We spent a good 30 minutes talking about religion, works, faith, and relationship with God.  It was a fantastic way to spend 30 minutes!

On the way home from church I was telling my kids about the conversation.  It was a great opportunity to tell them about the beliefs of other denominations and to let them know why I believe what I believe, and where they could find the proof of it in the Bible for themselves.  I was having a VERY good day!  I was getting to teach at church in a class situation, in a one-on-one setting, and then pulling a Deuteronomy 6:7 moment with the kids on the way home!

Then my son said something that pulled me back. I know he meant it well, but it made me think.

“Dad, it’s kinda weird to hear you talk about God like you do.”

Now, he meant that I was excited, and I am so thankful that he recognized that, but it made me think, “Why is that weird?” Well, probably because sometimes things are weird until you get used to them.  The more recent the moment of change, the more alien it feels.  This is still fairly new for me.

I have been teaching for about 7 years now in church, but that is something he doesn’t get a chance to see, and Dad teaching in church when he talks about God is understandable, but talking about God outside of church?  That is still a fairly recent development.  I have never been one to really talk about my faith with others unless I am in a “church” setting, but that is changing.

I think this blog has something to do with it. I realize that most of the people who read it are probably “churched”, but I also know that I put this out there in some areas where people who don’t attend church can see it, or maybe they go to different church and don’t believe some of the same things that I do.  Since I use this blog to talk about my journey in growing close to Christ, I am getting more experience in sharing my faith, and it is becoming more natural.  As it becomes more natural, it is showing in “real life” too!

Peter gives us a charge as believers:

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

– 1 Peter 3:15 (emphasis mine)

This is what I am relentlessly pursuing.  Being prepared to make a defense.  Other translations use the phrase “give an account”.  Either phrase is intended to give the picture of standing in a courtroom and giving your testimony of the facts.  Why God means to you what you say He means to you.  A few things we can take from this verse:

1. Remember who you are talking about

This is about God.  The holy, pure, one and only God!  We honor Him by knowing not only WHAT we believe, but WHY we believe it!  That is how we honor Him and what He has done for us.  It is not just a matter of knowing about something, but becoming intimately acquainted with the Savior.

2. Be ready to speak

Not ready to run your mouth.  Be ready to explain, in detail, why you believe what you say you believe.  This is not something that should be taken lightly.  As believers, we should be taking the time to get to know God every day!  The better we know Him and His Word, the more accurately we will be able to present our case.  We need to have our facts straight, and be capable of stating it in a way that can be understood.

3. Be gentle in your speech

We can tell somebody the amazing story of God’s love for each and every individual person on this planet in a way that will make them want nothing to do with Him.  Pretty sad, but very true.  How we present our faith should be done in obedience to God, but with respect to the other person whose views may differ from our own.  Christ did not shake people into belief.  He spoke truth in a calm and loving way, letting the Truth do the shaking for Him.  That’s what He wants from us as well.

I have known my Savior for about 37 years.  I didn’t put a lot of effort into getting to know Him until about 8 years ago.  It’s only been in the last 2 years that I have started telling people about Him outside of church.  That’s not a good account.  That account says I spent too much time focused on how I felt about what people thought of me.

The good thing is that I have been doing it now for 2 years.  I started.  A desire for Relentless Growth in Christ will lead to a desire to share what He has done with people that you care about.  As you learn more and share more, you will see more and more opportunities to do it.  God’s pretty cool about stuff like that.

So, ask yourself.  “Are you ready?”

If this has been an encouragement to you, please share it with someone who might benefit from it as well.  More importantly, if you have benefitted from knowing Christ – share that!  I’d love to hear from you with your stories and comments!

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

Into the Pain

sad-manToday I was brought face-to-face with the pain of another person. They had just moments before experienced a great loss. As I listened I came to the realization that I had no words that could even begin to match the pain in that moment. More than anything I did not want to sound trite, or portray a sympathy that was not up to the pain they were feeling.

 
My world lately has had a lot of struggle in it. I have been facing some things in my life I need to change, and facing how to manage some of the things I cannot change. Stress has been high, and I have often felt lately that it would be easier to not care as much about things or people. If I didn’t care, then I wouldn’t have stress or pain. How sad. I’m not proud of that.

 
So, how does God react to these feelings I have had lately? He puts me right in the middle of a moment where I am forced to make a choice between caring and not. A choice between serving myself or serving others. A choice to be like Him or to be like me. I would be lying if I said I was happy for the opportunity.

 
As I knelt there before a breaking heart, all I could do was ask how Jesus would enter into this room and handle this. So many thoughts and words flooded my mind as I thought of His wisdom, His insight, His training. Then it hit me. I don’t think He would have given a statement of belief, a course of action, or a “word of encouragement”. He would have just joined them in their pain.

 
Casting Crowns has a fantastic song that speaks to this type of thing. There aren’t always words that need to be said. Answers are not clear, or it might be too early for them. What do you do then? You just love them like Jesus does. Take a moment and listen to the song.

John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

 
The single most defining characteristic by which a believer should be known is their love for others. Their ability to enter into another person’s pain willingly just to show that God is there for them in that moment, and we are His ambassador when all looks so dark.

 
I’ve had the opportunity to do this in the past and I have failed. I did not fail because I did it wrong. I failed because I chose not to do it. I decided someone else would be better, smarter, more compelling or understood. The only thing someone else was “more” of than me was loving. They didn’t think of what it might cost them, they just reacted as Christ would. Open arms and an open heart.

 
Today, I chose to enter into pain. It hurt. My heart is absolutely broken for them. I shared tears, and I continue to do so. I don’t pretend to feel what they feel, but I know I feel a genuine pain for them. I am praying for their situation and for God to bring comfort and peace, and to use me where He sees fit in it.

 
Relentless living means not taking that easy way out. It means entering into the pain with another to help hold them up. To show them that even while answers may be hard to see, the love of Christ can be evident in us, and to paraphrase the Beatles, “HIS love is all you need.”

 
Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep – > Grow Strong

I Had a Gibbs Slap From God Today

dFKwd9WI love watching NCIS.  Jethro Gibbs is just about the coolest guy to ever be on television, and one of the coolest things he does?  The Gibbs Slap.  I know.  You could watch it all day long.

If you are one of the few people who have not watched NCIS, let me fill you in.  Gibbs is a no-nonsense kind of guy that doesn’t put up with childish, self-serving, foolish behavior.  Often he will settle it with a look, but sometimes, he chooses to apply a little more force to it and give a little whack on the back of the head to wake a person up to their foolishness.

God did that to me today.

A few days ago I decided to start reading in the book of Galatians for my devotions.  I had never studied it specifically on my own before, so I thought it would be a good choice.  I did it for a couple of days, but after my quiet time last night I decided that I might need to look for another book.

You see, my study Bible gives a theme for each book of the Bible, and for Galatians it said that it was about being a Christian in the workplace.  Well, that’s not bad, but I have a rule that I have been bending a bit lately.  I try not to blog here about work, and often I blog about things I am learning about my life through my quiet times.  Soooo, the potential existed for me to be blogging a lot about work if I kept this up.

The main reason I don’t like to blog about work is that I am concerned that I might say something that could have a detrimental effect on my job/employment.  NOT a good thing.  Also, I don’t want to say anything that puts my employer in a bad light.  So, when I take those rules of mine and put them up against a potential course of study that will put me on a collision course with those rules, I did the only sensible thing.  I backed out.  Decided I would look to another book.  The whole Bible is good, so I can’t go wrong with another book.

So, I picked another one and went to bed intending to start on it today.  Didn’t sleep very well last night.  Kept thinking about the Bible study thing.  Got up this morning and went to work still thinking about it.  No sense of ease in my mind.  I was not sure where I should read, but I was pretty sure I was not going to be in Galatians or the other book I chose last night.

I sat down at work this morning and prayed that God would show me where He wanted me to read and study.  After all, I wanted to be I His will and do what He wanted me to do.  As I pulled out my Bible App to check and see what the verse of the day was, I even said to God that I hoped the verse of the day would help me decide where He wanted me to go.  Well, it was almost like that moment when Tony has no idea that Gibbs is behind him as he says something stupid and then,  WHACK!

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

–  Galatians 1:10

“Sorry Boss!”

My thoughts this morning were that I wanted to be doing what God wanted me to do, but my thoughts last night were that I didn’t want to do anything that would upset someone else.  I never gave any thought to the fact that God could be at work in what I write and could make sure that I didn’t do anything that would hurt my career or keep me from doing something stupid.  I only thought about what would be the easiest thing for me to do.  Even though I tell my kids that the easy thing is usually the worst thing you could do in a given situation.

So, I will be continuing in Galatians.  I will be counting on God to keep both of my brain cells working in a rhythm that will be a help and a blessing as I write about what I have learned, and that He will make me a better employee as a result of this study.

Relentless Growth sometimes needs a slap to the head, and I am thankful for a heavenly Father that loves me enough to do it.  That little slap this morning will remind me of His direction in my life, and His love for me as I grow.  Just like Tony knows that Gibbs doesn’t slap those he doesn’t care about.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong