Happy Thanksgiving! Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States of America. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year, and I imagine many would agree. How amazing it is to have a whole day dedicated to giving thanks. But of course I also feel that gratitude is something we should practice all year long, not just one day in late November.
Perhaps you have heard me mention before that I like to keep a gratitude journal. Every night I try to jot down a few blessings from my day. I have been doing this for over four years. When I have seasons where I slack off, I can see clearly how my outlook on life falters.
I find that when we give thanks to God, and even extend a heartfelt “thank you” to those around us, it is a gift that blesses the giver and the recipient. When we take note of the blessings in our lives, we see how full our lives are, and this in turn fills our hearts.
If writing in a journal isn’t your thing, that’s okay. You could silently pray a prayer of gratitude. Or if you want combine thankfulness and the outdoors, you might take a gratitude walk. Today many families will take turns around the table mentioning things they are thankful for. I think this is a beautiful tradition as well.
However you decide to approach gratitude (today and every day), the most important thing is that you simply do it. It will look different for some of us. And that’s ok. But once you make a habit of it, you will be so glad you did. When we make a decision to choose gratitude every day, we will be amazed at how many blessings we find in our lives. Our eyes will be opened to see God’s goodness like never before. And our hearts will be filled with joy.
I hope you and yours have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
Years ago I worked outside the home in an office setting located at the local senior center. I became acquainted with many of the seniors who frequented the place, and I loved hearing their stories. My office co-workers were also senior citizens, and they taught me much. Between these groups, I learned thankfulness.
These seniors grew up during the Depression. They didn’t take life for granted. They were so thankful for provision there were times it became a fear of lack and they saved things they’d never use or take more of something just in case. Until you’ve lived through a season where you aren’t sure if you get a next meal, you can’t understand. I didn’t. But what they had, even down to wrapping paper and crackers with their soup, they were thankful for those things.
Speaking of things, my co-workers lived in the area during the 1972 Agnes Hurricane that devastated our hometown as a flood. I was too young to remember but the pictures are haunting. Places I walk and visit were completely submerged. If you visit the Corning Museum of Glass, you will see the flood line and it is high. It was the hardest time my co workers had known.
They shared that even as I talked to them twenty years later they recall the smell of mud. Everything they owned was covered in mud and dirty waters. Precious pictures, antiques and so much Corning Glass, remember, my hometown is world headquarters for Corning Inc, were destroyed by the flood. When I would get upset about something like a spill on my sweater, my colleagues were quick to remind me that things were things. The flood taught them that anything tangible can be taken away. Focus on what counts like people and forget your car or furniture or clothes. They are just things.
Those memories are a great reminder as this year closes out. 2020 was certainly one to remember for all the wrong reasons and 2021 for me was actually worse. I lost my mom the first week of the year and it’s pretty hard to have a banner year after such a significant loss. The stress caused a lot of health issues. A lot of people I know were diagnosed with COVID, some did not survive. It’s been a tough, tough year.
At times I want to complain and whine, and honestly, my husband lets me vent on an extra hard day. When I’m tempted to choose bitterness, I remember the senior citizens. Most of them have passed away, but the lessons they taught me are very much alive. If I start to complain, I switch gears with an “anyway.”
Anyway gives me the opportunity to stop with the negative and start remembering and speaking why I’m thankful. When I start listing the reasons, even in the darkest season I have things to praise God for.
My mom is not suffering. Last year she was in an excruciating amount of pain.
My mom is with Jesus. Her faith was authentic and personal and I have no doubt her eternal destination.
My mom escaped the brunt of this year’s current events. The news this year and what I believe is to come would have broken her heart. She loved this country and our freedoms.
I have a family that has let me grieve, make mistakes, and order out on days I couldn’t function.
There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll end with this, through all of the pain and circumstances I walked through this year, I felt God’s presence. I knew people were praying and I could feel His comfort. It is hard to put into words but when you know, you KNOW. I honestly can’t imagine surviving the year without my faith in Christ. For that, I am most thankful.
Anyway, (see that I did there?) how about you? What are you thankful for this year?
When they think about Jesus, many modern Christians picture Him walking the dusty roads of Palestine. Or they don’t think about the question of where He is at all. Early Christians were clear about where Jesus is. The apostles declared to the Jewish religious leaders that “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins” (Acts 5:31). As he was being stoned to death, the deacon Stephen announced, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56). The apostle Paul taught in Romans 8:34, “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” In Ephesians 1:20, Paul stated that God “raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” In Colossians 3:1, he taught, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 1:3 declares, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” The same idea is repeated in Hebrews 1:13, 8:1, 10:12, and 12:2. In Revelation 3:21, Jesus promised, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Revelation repeatedly describes the throne of God in heaven and the Lamb (Jesus, who died for our sins) next to it (Revelation 5:6,13, 6:16, 7:9-10,17). This consensus is hardly surprising. Jesus had taught this clearly to His followers: “From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62). Jesus told the same thing to the Jewish religious leaders who were about to have Him crucified: “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God” (Luke 22:69). Jesus said (in Matthew 22:41-45, Mark 12:35-37, and Luke 20:41-44) that this was a fulfillment of Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” In his Pentecost sermon in Acts 2:32-36, the apostle Peter repeated this teaching and declared that Jesus had been raised to life and “exalted to the right hand of God.” Mark 16:19 records the simple fact: “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.”
Where is Jesus? He is in heaven, ruling the universe with Almighty God and interceding for us. That is, He is the Lamb tempering God’s holy judgement with the promise, “Yes, they are guilty, but I died to pay the penalty they deserve so that we can forgive them.”
In 2014, I wrote this article about the True Meaning of Thanksgiving. Every year since, someone has asked me to run that article again. Perhaps this year it is even more relevant and important that we pause, remember, and count our blessings…
All words have power. But words that ignite truths, like the true meaning of Thanksgiving, are infused with an ability to change lives, to open closed minds and hearts, and to offer different perspectives. True meaning can be just what’s needed to see things more clearly or to set the proverbial light bulb in our minds aglow.
That alone is worthy of our gratitude, but in finding the true meaning of Thanksgiving, we also gain an awareness of how imperative it is to understand people. In those insights, we grasp and shape identity—that of others, and our own—and with that collective wisdom, we define, comprehend, and eventually come to appreciate the treasures found in tradition.
Why is tradition important?
What we learn from those who came before us gives us a firm hold on who we were, who we are, and who we choose to become. That knowledge solves a lot of conflicts, potential crises, and strengthens our sense of self—as individuals and as a nation.
So, what can we learn about Thanksgiving? What in it is significant to us today?
To answer those questions, we must ask: What does Thanksgiving really mean?
Time typically confuses things, and right now we’ve an abundance of confusion. Many say we’re neck-deep in a national identity crisis. So rather than discuss the confusion, let’s call on the wisdom of truth. Reacquaint ourselves with it—unfiltered—by returning to the man who officially established our nation’s Thanksgiving holiday.
In 1789, on Thanksgiving Day, George Washington issued the following Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, beginning a tradition in the United States of America that is celebrated still today.
Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
“Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
By Washington’s own words, we see the true meaning of Thanksgiving. We gain insight. We find its truth. We rediscover the value in tradition. The wisdom of knowing our history. In all this, we see the mark of character, and individually we choose to shun or embrace it, deciding who we are, and who we will become.
May the traditional spirit of Thanksgiving be a blessing to you and yours. And in times that try souls and make us weary, may we remember to hold fast to our traditions—our identity—and embrace them with attitudes of gratitude. Because, for all our flaws and challenges, ours remains an exceptional nation of exceptional people. We might lose our way at times and forget who we are. Others might encourage that. But we have the treasures of our traditions and their true meanings to remind us.
This Thanksgiving, may we recall who we are, whose we are, why we are who we are, and the value of knowing who we wish to become. *
I hate John Grisham. He is a master wordsmith. In his crisp, clear prose, he can describe in two sentences a complex situation that lesser writers would require two paragraphs or two pages to adequately portray. A recent example is Sooley (Doubleday, 2021), a tale of a teenage boy from war-ravaged South Sudan who wins a basketball scholarship to a college in the United States.
Grisham can describe a village massacre with the same detached clarity he uses to describe a basketball game. The reader wants to stand up and scream, “No! Don’t do it! That shouldn’t happen!” But Grisham calmly finishes the description and moves on to describing some ordinary, mundane occurrence. Grisham once said he writes about lawyers and so he writes about sin. He is a master at writing Shakespearean tragedies. He leads us to become attached to certain characters and forces us to watch their inevitable fall into sin, evil, and tragedy. No one better portrays the seductive temptations of hedonism (money, possessions, entertainment, sex, alcohol, and drugs), sucking in the young, innocent, and vulnerable. I hate John Grisham because he forces me to confront the brokenness of the world. He leads me to grieve and mourn and cry.
We all have them. Moments in our life where we have to stand and face the giant before us and it sometimes feels as if we are ill-equipped to do battle. Whether it be a diagnosis that appears dire. A financial situation that feels hopeless. A child in rebellion. We all must walk into that valley, much like David did, and face our Goliaths.
1 Samuel 17:4- says, a champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.
Can you imagine being a teenager and going up against such a seasoned soldier as Goliath? But David knew something that gave him the advantage before the battle began.
It’s not the size of our weapons but the size of our faith in God that matters. David went into the battle full of faith, and confident that God would give him and Israel the victory.
That’s the kind of faith I want to have that will let me step into my valley and face whatever warrior is standing before me like David did.
The battle that took place in Elah was one of the most pivotal between the nation of Israel and the Philistines. And if David hadn’t had the faith that he did, the outcome would have been entirely different.
David carefully chose five smooth stones, one slingshot, and the most important piece in his armory, his faith in God to deliver him.
The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
So, before you step into the valley and face your Goliath, put on the full armor of God and keep your faith firmly ground in God. Like David did.
As we get ready for Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of why this is my favorite holiday. I’ve already got the turkey, side dish ingredients and can’t wait to start the pies.
I took over cooking for Thanksgiving many years ago and have to say, it’s the highlight of my year. Others might think taking on the whole production is too much, but this is where I shine. Others might also put Christmas in that category of preferred holiday, but I live in anticipation of the week when I get to prepare all the food.
I’m not really sure when Thanksgiving became my favorite. Perhaps when we lived up north and could really enjoy the autumn season. I looked forward to the summer temperatures cooling down. Then, before I knew it, the leaves changed color. Even back then I didn’t mind the time change, although as I’ve gotten older, I’m no longer a fan. I still decorate my house with pumpkins, leaves, acorns, you name it, to bring back those fall memories.
My mom and my aunts planned for the big day for weeks. Then we’d pack so many family members into the house, I don’t know how we all fit. And did they go all out! The dining room was elegantly decorated. A patterned tablecloth covered the long table, the china plates we only used on fancy occasions came out of the china cabinet, along with fancy glassware, to grace the table. Even the kid’s table was treated to all the hoopla.
There were appetizers, nuts, fruit, the main meal and all sorts of desserts. It seemed like we sat and ate for hours. When it was all said and done, we gathered together to clean up and wash the dishes. There was a satisfaction that came from knowing we were together on this special day.
Now that my children are grown, I try to bring back those traditions. I may not go all out like my mom and aunts, but I make sure the table is set in a special way and the sides are served in nice dishes. We may not celebrate like when I was a kid, but we do take our time though the meal and linger at the table. I suppose that’s what I love most, the unity, the memories and seeing the smiling faces of my family, no matter what kind of a year we had.
Before you know it, we’ll be cleaning that last plate after the Thanksgiving dinner and start counting the days until Christmas. The expectation starts all over again.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I hope you have a wonderful day and enjoy a fun time of food, football and family.
Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HER CHRISTMASTIME FAMILY, available November 30, 2021.For more information about her books, visit Tara at www.tararandel.com.Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter.
“Praise the LORD! I will thank the LORD with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.” – Psalm 111:1
It is believed that Psalm 111 was written after the citizens of Judah had returned from captivity. When I read this Psalm recently, I was thinking about how thankful the people must have been to return to their homeland. After being in captivity, away from home, for many years – I can imagine the joy they had to return to Judah.
Yet I also looked at this from a different angle. What if they didn’t express their gratitude to God? When we have something good happen or when we have a breakthrough in some area, do we always thank God? Sometimes we do. But I wonder how many times we simply forget? We might have prayed for a certain situation, but then when we got what we wanted, we didn’t take the time to thank God. Or perhaps there are other situations where we sat in despair for so long that our hearts became bitter. When things finally changed for the better, maybe we still had a chip on our shoulder and we didn’t spare God a second glance.
It grieves me to think of times when I might have neglected to show God my gratitude. We have a loving Father who cares for our every need. While it’s true that not everything in life will go the way we want it to, it’s also true that God showers us with blessings every day. We have so much to be thankful for. And when things do not got the way we expected, we can be grateful to have a trustworthy God who had a reason for steering events in a different direction. He always has our best interest in mind. And He always works things together for good. As it says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We have to learn to trust Him and put our complete faith in Him. And when we do that, gratitude comes naturally.
Thanking God for His goodness, for the blessings in our lives, and for who He is, should be an important part of our Christian walk and our prayer life. Let us take a few minutes each day to sit down with God and offer a prayer of gratitude.
One more thing … Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States. So I wanted to say thank you to our veterans, including my father who served in the United States Army. Those of us who live in freedom do so because of others who made our freedom possible!
(Side note: Did anyone else notice that today is 11/11 and the chapter and verse referenced above were 111:1? I did not plan that, but it caught my attention!)
God bless my husband. As the teens say, “for reals.” Years ago he joked that when we were older he’d move into another house we admired in the development to escape the female hormones he knew were coming to our home.
:Last weekend he had every right to run to that house and not look back. We have a teenaged daughter and then there’s me. If menopause won’t knock me out, my hormone imbalance sure threatens. I take prescription medication to help with anxiety that menopause escalates. I learned with the last bottle I was shortchanged, and insurance wouldn’t pay for a refill. I had a different medication on hand that my doctor told me to stop taking in favor of the new one. I used that, but even that was running low. Results? Racing thoughts. Hot flashes. Headache. And tears. Tears for no reason.
Add the teenaged daughter’s tears and mine and you have a husband that should run for the hills. But he didn’t.
After church, I looked out our back window and noticed how rustic our fire pit, fallen yellow leaves, and log pile looked. Whether it was creativity or a medicinal withdrawal, I had a vision. I figured it would never fly, it sounded too Pinterest-y and that’s not quite my husband’s interest.
I gathered my weepy self to share the vision with him. His eyes lit up after the first sentence. Next thing I knew, we were calling down to our son and asking for his help. Blanket and frame in hand, the three of us headed to the leaves.
And our son captured us in what we called a belated 25th anniversary picture. Part of the idea was to include our wedding picture. Tom loved it. We love the results.
It was a spontaneous idea during an emotional weekend.
Often the purposes of God are not seen until long afterward. The apostle Paul had been tremendously successful in preaching the gospel and starting churches across the Roman Empire. Then, when he decided to visit Jerusalem, he was immediately arrested and imprisoned. After all his successful ministry, why did God allow him to be stuck in prison in Jerusalem for more than two years, achieving very little (Acts 24:27)?
We cannot know all the answers. One answer that can be discerned involves Luke, Paul’s traveling companion, who had come to Jerusalem with Paul (Acts 21:17). Luke apparently stayed in Jerusalem for the two years that Paul was imprisoned there since he left with Paul on the journey to Rome (Acts 27:1). What did Luke do during those two years? It seems likely that he used that time to “carefully investigate everything from the beginning” and to talk with “those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:1-4). These eyewitnesses may have included Mary, the mother of Jesus, since Luke included in his Gospel details of Jesus’ birth that the other Gospel writers did not. Luke seems to have spent those two years compiling and writing the Gospel of Luke, and likely most of the book of Acts as well. As a gentile (non-Jewish) Christian, he was particularly concerned to explain who Jesus was to gentiles, those who did not have the Jews’ extensive background knowledge of the Old Testament. Without Paul’s imprisonment, we would not have these valuable parts of the Bible.
A few weeks ago, my naturopath asked me to start doing some resistance training for the upper body. I do a lot of walking and hiking but not much to strengthen my arms. I bought some five-pound weights, looked up a set of exercises, and started some workout sessions.
I took it easy, planning to build up slow. The weights were easy to lift and didn’t strain me at all. The exercises weren’t hard. Within two weeks, my elbow began to hurt. I quit the exercises, intending to let the elbow heal up, but that didn’t happen. Instead, it got worse—to the point that I was having trouble lifting my water glass to take a drink.
By this time, my shoulder was hurting too. I have an old injury to my elbow, and to my shoulder, so this isn’t surprising. I realized I had to do something. I didn’t want to see a regular medical doctor because that would result in pain medication, which I don’t like taking. Instead, I contacted an acupuncturist and made an appointment.
The acupuncturist was very nice. We talked about what happened with my elbow and shoulder and she made a recommendation for treatment. She did the first treatment, telling me I would have some soreness and to use heat, and I went home. Only to find the next morning that I’d gotten worse.
I wanted the pain to be gone. I wanted my arm back to normal. I wanted the miracle cure. That didn’t happen.
Have you ever felt like trials like these come one after the other and don’t seem to stop? And then you read the following scripture:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” James 1:2 (NKJV)
What?! How are we supposed to be joyful about something that causes such pain or discomfort? Why would God ask us to be joyful in these circumstances? The scripture goes on to say:
“…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:3-4 (NKJV)
We aren’t to be happy about the pain, whether from an injury, an illness, or the emotional pain of losing someone close to us. We are to be joyful that God is helping us with the trial, helping us to grow more like Him. We are growing ever closer to being perfect and complete in God.
This is what I’m striving to remember as I continue with the treatments. My elbow and shoulder are slowly getting better. It isn’t happening overnight, but I am learning to deal with the discomfort. I’m learning to be patient.
I’m learning to trust that God has the best in mind for me.
I hope that when you face trials, and we all do, that you will embrace these verses. That you will learn to be patient and joyful that God has the best in mind for you too.
…”I steadied my Glock, and took aim…In the same moment I heard a voice at the end of the alley call out, “Ms. Bourdillon! You forgot—” and the lady turned as my bullet laced its way silently through the air, so that it hit her on the right side of the head instead of full force in the back, as was my intent. But I saw her fall to the ground, lying in a puddle of blood, as the voice turned into a piercing scream. I disappeared around the corner…..”
This story is beautifully told as this author tackles tough topics, keeping matters honest, non-preachy and true. The author shows how the lies we believe and tell others creates a web around us that’s hard to break. Issues touched on are suicide, mental illness, depression, friendship, love, acceptance, faith, trust, hope, and forgiveness all wonderfully shared through her soul-searching characters. Musser was able to have readers look at tragic events from a few different angles, sharing through compassionate, loving and graceful eyes. (John 8:31 – 32 Jesus said… you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”)
I appreciate the author’s bravery and transparency in writing this story. These topics people don’t like to talk about and/or even think about. I liked how Josephine realizes the lies she’s believed about God, herself and others.
“I had to get to the end of myself before I could figure out how to live again. I thought quite literally and horribly and morbidly that the end of myself was dying. Depression does that, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. We sensitive souls feel everything so deeply. Everything matters, and I could not differentiate between the really big deals and the big deals in my heart that tormented me time and time again.”
This is a surprising, engaging, hopeful read that will bring much discussion for your book club group. The author includes 15 discussion questions to help you go deeper in discussing this novel. This author pens a remarkable story you won’t want to miss.
Henry Hughes was hired to kill a well-known author, but the TV news anchor says she isn’t dead. Henry won’t get paid unless he finishes the job, and he really needs the money. But how will he get close to Josephine Bourdillon when the hospital is crawling with cops?
Josephine’s 17-year-old daughter, Paige, isn’t sure what’s going on. Her mom is in a coma, and the police are asking questions. Amid the stress and emotional upheaval, she wonders why this is happening to her family. Her mother has received disturbing reader mail in the past, but would someone really want her dead? And there’s the odd man in the waiting room, whose young son desperately needs surgery. She wishes she possessed her mom’s faith, but faith has been ebbing from her life for some time. . . .
Set against the flaming hills of North Carolina, this is the story of two families struggling with dysfunction and finding that grace is stronger than anything the mind can imagine
DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION:
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”
Years ago, when I was editor of a denominational magazine, I began receiving article submissions from a man named Jerry Raaf. They were often unique, unexpected, even offbeat pieces, displaying out of the box thinking. I published some of them. They were theologically orthodox, but they made people think about things in a new way.
Over time, I met Jerry and got to know him a little bit. I later learned that he had begun writing books. When he found out that I had established a small book imprint called Mill Lake Books, he asked me to publish his next book, which I did. It was called Mice in Sophie’s Mattress (2018, ISBN 978-0-9951983-6-4). The story concerned a colony of mice who were living happily in a mattress in an old farmhouse. They were safe and warm and had plenty to eat—until Sophie, the farmer’s wife, bought a new mattress. The old mattress and the colony of mice were abruptly dumped at the back edge of a field. Life for the mice suddenly became hard and dangerous. The book is an elaboration of the line from a Robert Burns poem that “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.” Raaf’s novel aptly portrays the plight of many people who find themselves thrust into difficult and bewildering circumstances with no understanding of how things could have gone so wrong.
This year, Jerry asked me to publish another book, An Angel in my Shadow (Mill Lake Books, 2021, ISBN 978-1-7771926-4-8). This book chronicles the life of the Reverend Owen Richards, whose routine existence is shattered in the middle of the night by the sound of wind chimes. Looking out his bedroom window, he sees a mysterious white-haired stranger sitting in his backyard. In the coming days and years, Owen encounters this mysterious stranger on several other occasions. The stranger explains to Owen that he is a messenger, a guardian, and a servant of the Almighty, with an important message for Owen. Though initially fearful of the words spoken to him by the white-haired man, Owen eventually embraces the words, which strengthen his faith and prepare him to deal with impending and painful disasters. This novel encourages the reader to ponder the nature of the presence and protection God offers His followers and to consider what message God might be giving to other souls encountering troubled times.
Both books are available from online retailers and Christian bookstores.
November is here and we all know what that means. Soon, it will be the countdown to the Christmas season. Sometimes, in the rush to get started on Christmas, it’s easy to overlook the holiday that is in November. Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is so important, and not just because it is a time for families to gather together and have a wonderful meal. To catch up on what’s been happening in the lives of our loved ones. While those things are special, Thanksgiving is important because it is the day we’ve set apart to give thanks to the One who deserves all our thanks, our grateful hearts, and our praise. The God of all creation.
The first people to celebrate Thanksgiving gave thanks for a successful harvest. They’d gone through a lot of hardships that first year and were grateful to God for seeing them through.
I know the past few years have been difficult ones. Most of us have experienced some hard times. We’ve lost loved ones. We’ve suffered illness. Separation from family. Struggles of different kinds, but like those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving, there is always something to be grateful for.
So this year, I’m doing something a little different. Starting with November 1st, I’m thanking God each day for something he has done for me and my family. When we take the time to count our blessings each day, we soon realize all the little things we sometimes grumble about just fade away and we see how truly blessed we are.
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a writer’s retreat/conference. Being together with other writer’s refreshed me and I enjoyed the whole weekend. One of the biggest blessings to me was the opportunity to give the devotions on Saturday and Sunday. I thought I would share the devotion from Saturday with you. Although this was written with writers in mind, the message can apply to all of us.
I’ve long been fascinated with the following scripture passage.
“Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.” Exodus 28:1-3 (NKJV)
Who were these artisans who were to make the priestly garments? They were Israelites who came from the land of Egypt. In Ex. 1:12, we learn that the Egyptians were afraid of the Israelites so they made them slaves. In Exodus 1:13, we see that the Israelites were tasked with making bricks for the Egyptians, a lowly job and one that was hard work.
When Moses arrived to ask Pharoah to set God’s people free, Pharoah was so unhappy that he increased the work load of the Israelites. Not only did they have to make the bricks, they also had to gather the straw. And they were still required to make the same number of bricks.
These artisans were Israelite slaves, set free by God and wandering in the wilderness. They didn’t have time to stop by Hobby Lobby on their way home from making bricks to look at design ideas. They couldn’t look at Pinterest in the evening to see the latest in priestly garments. Yet, by some miracle, God gave them a clear picture of the work He wanted them to do.
When I read this passage, I picture these men working as slaves, making bricks, covered with dirt and debris. All this time, images are flashing in their heads. Images of cloth of fine linen. Embroidery patterns of intricate designs to go on the linen garments. Were frustrated about why they were seeing these images, imagining these beautiful garments, yet not knowing what to do with the ideas they had?
As they wandered through the desert with Moses and the other Israelites, were those dreams growing stronger, becoming more real by the day? Did they cry out to God and ask what He wanted them to do with this? Did they realize they weren’t the only ones to have these imaginings?
Then, God spoke to Moses. He gave them detailed instructions about the garments to be made and the embroidery to be done. And He told Moses there were artisans who had been given wisdom by God to make the necessary apparel.
In my devotion, I compared this to authors who have story ideas given them by God. Often we aren’t sure what to do with these ideas or if they are even worthwhile. But, God has a plan. He has a purpose for everything He asks us to do.
I think too of others who have been given a task from God. Ephesians 2:10 tells us God has prepared a work for us to do. What ideas has God planted in your head? What nudges is He giving you? Maybe something to learn. Maybe people to reach. Maybe a person to pray for.
Whatever it is that God is giving you, pray about the timing. He will lead you to fulfill that task when the time is right.
For those who are writers, I ended my talk with my favorite writing verse, Habakkuk 2:2.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
Perhaps this verse can apply to all of us. No matter what job we do, we can help those around us by encouraging them and setting a good example in our work. This will help others to see the light of Christ and to be lifted up in their day.
Like those artisans who began as slaves and were given wisdom by God, we also need to be open to His leading. Let’s see what work God has for us that we might glorify God with everything we do.