Can We Give Thanks in 2020?

I don’t know where I got this story – so I can’t give proper credit to the writer but it really makes me think as we approach another Thanksgiving season – one that is full of chaos and difficult decisions. Do we keep our gatherings small? Do we ignore warnings and enjoy our family and friends?

“One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break.  She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag.  She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read.  Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.   After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie.   As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too.  This put her off, but she did not say anything.

A few moments later she took another cookie.  Once again the man did so too.  Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.  After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie.  So did the man.  She was really upset by this – especially since now only one cookie was left.  Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left.  Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Was she steamed!  Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.”

I like that story – it makes me think about how well God treats me even when I am not thinking all that kindly about him. It also makes me think about how, sometimes, I do not really appreciate what I have or act like I know where it has come from.

Our country has been so blessed – but I think we have forgotten to be thankful and to remember the God who has blessed us so.

It reminds me of the story of the Israelites as they came to the land promised to their ancestor, Abraham, years ago. Moses warned them that after they had prospered in the land they were about to enter, had eaten their fill and had fine houses and large herds with silver and gold, that:

Do not say to yourself, “my power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, and as he swearing to you today.”

Not so long ago famous people all over the world were polled by a magazine which asked them the question – “if you could be granted one wish that will come true right now – what would that be?” There were some very interesting responses – but one response impressed the magazine’s editors so much that they commented on.   That response was this – “I wish that I could be given an even greater ability to appreciate all that I already have.” 

It is an interesting answer and an interesting thing to wish for.  What do you think would happen if each one of us suddenly became a more thankful person?  If all of us suddenly became a more appreciative people?

This year as we gather for the holiday, many of us will not enjoy the large family gatherings of the past. Some may have lost loved ones to the virus – or their income. For them, it may be hard to be thankful. Most of us are so tired of the restrictions and the arguments that have even split families as we argue about whether or not to wear a mask, follow the restrictions.

It would be so easy to focus on what is wrong while we overview much that is good.

For me, while I hate being limited to where I can go – I am thankful that I have a beautiful, comfortable home to be stuck in.

While I hate that I can’t be with more of my family – I am thankful for the small gathering I will have.

While I hate that my church has gone back to on-line services for the next three weeks – I am thankful that I have the internet and can still hear my pastor share the Word.

While I grieve over friends that have died from the virus – I am thankful that we have a hope of being reunited some day.

While I grieve over friends who have lost jobs – I am thankful for the community that has reached out with food banks and gift cards and other ways to help.

The Early Church suffered affiction and persecution beyond anything we know here in America. Yet the norm and the standard of the early church of the disciples and the apostles was really incredible and it had incredible results in the lives of those disciples and apostles, and in the lives of all those around them.  They rejoiced even when they were being afflicted and persecuted, and their fellowship continually grew until it reached the ends of the earth.

Give thanks in all circumstances.   Give thanks for everything.  Give thanks at all times.  This is a step beyond remembering God and thanking God for all the wealth that we enjoy in this our promised land.  This is a step beyond remembering God and obeying his commands because he has given us fine houses and filled our bellies. 

This is “thanks living” – and it is demanding – and it is rewarding.  I say it is demanding – because quite frankly when I am feeling pressed to the wall I find it difficult to fulfil the word that says:   “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

When I am feeling struck down by some affliction or angry at someone for doing something that seems to me to be thoughtless, I have difficulty feeling grateful to God.

Instead of wanting to praise God – or to pray to him about the situation with thanksgiving, I want to feel sorry for myself and the trouble I am in. Giving thanks blesses the person who is thanked and it transforms the person who gives thanks.  It works the same way everywhere, with everyone when we remember.  When we forget – hard things get harder.  When we allow the situation we are in to swallow us up and to swallow all thought of God’s power and goodness up; when we begin to think we have earned and deserve all the good things we have, and when we forget that God is able to help us in the midst of all the bad things that occur, life becomes bleaker, and true virtue becomes harder to find.

God wants us to celebrate his love.  God wants us to give thanks in everything.  God doesn’t want this because he is greedy for praise, the Lord doesn’t want it so that he will feel better about himself.  He wants it because it will bless us  and because it will bless the world he has made.

He wants us to remember what He has done so that we will not be afraid when we are in need of help, and so that we will not grow arrogant or rude when we are prospering.  He wants us to remember and give thanks to him, and to those around us so that our lives will be full of light and hope and so our actions full of tenderness and love.

As the psalmist declares – “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to his name”

Can We Make It to 1000?

Those of you who have followed my blog for awhile know that my husband and I are avid Scrabble players. We are very competitive and have kept a record of our scores since 2008. I tell my story in:

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

We have been known to wake up at 4 am and, not being able to go back to sleep, get up and play a game of Scrabble before heading back to bed. Since we play with a Super Scrabble board which has twice the number of tiles for a normal game and a much larger board, it can take us two to three hours to play a game It doesn’t help that we are so competitive and often take minutes to find the right word.

Currently we are at game number 928. We want to make it to 1000 games by the end of the year. Since there are only 78 days left in the year this means we can only skip six days without a game.

Since we are retired and winter is fast coming to our home in Michigan, I think we can make it.

Right now in our 928 games I have won 464, my husband has won 460 with four ties. Recently a friend said she did not think we could have that many ties or be that close in games won and suggested that one of us was letting the other win. Obviously while she is a friend she is not a close friend. Otherwise she would know how competitive we are and how we would NEVER let the other one win.

Questions:

When we reach that milestone who will be ahead in the total number of games won?

What should the winner of the most games receive as a prize?

What should the loser of the most games have to do for ending up behind?

Any ideas? I would love to have your input on these questions.

Chalk Art, Live Music, Small Town on a Friday Night

Every year the small town where I live has a Chalk Art Event.  Local business owners sponsor an artist who designs a chalk drawing on the sidewalk in front of their stores. The small downtown turns into a great combination of chalk art, live music, food vendors and community engagement.  It’s a great way to enjoy a Friday evening meeting friends, grabbing a coffee, food from one of the street venues or stopping in the local cafe.

Artists come early in the day and make their design.  

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That evening a map is provided with a list of all the drawings with the artists and the business that sponsors their work.  Everyone is encouraged to vote for their favorite three entries and the top three with the most votes will receive a prize.

Who would you vote for?

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My husband who is an artist and participates in some of the art events around the community had to pass on this one.  His arthritic knees would never let him get back up if he sat down on the sidewalk to draw.  But we both enjoyed the evening sharing with friends and neighbors the beautiful Friday evening in our small town.  

 

 

‘Til the Storm Passes Over

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday morning when I woke up I posted a verse from the Psalms:

This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Since we could not go to church I was thinking that I could complain about the restrictions right now with the virus, or I could choose to praise God for another day of life.

Looking forward to time with my husband – doing our devotion, playing Scrabble, watching an old movie.

He fixed me breakfast as he always does and I put on a meal in our crock pot – Barbara’s hash – a meal he loves.

A few hours before lunch time he came up from his studio in the basement and complained of a headache and took a Tylenol.  I was concerned because earlier this week he had fallen in the basement and hit his head.  Normally we would have gone to the ER for a checkup, but with the virus scare we were hearing not to go the ER unless it really was an emergency.

We decided to wait and see if he had any symptoms of a concussion – headache, nausea, confusion.  He had not shown any symptoms until Saturday when he complained of a headache.  He took a Tylenol and it went away so he still felt we should not go to the ER.

But yesterday after taking two Tylenol the headache was only getting worse and he began to feel nauseate.  Hurrying to the ER they would not let me go in with him.  Told me to go home and they would call me.

About an hour later the doctor called to tell me my husband’s brain was bleeding.  They were sending him by ambulance down to a larger hospital where they would have a neurosurgeon examine him.  I rushed to the hospital and pleaded with them to let me see him.  Seeing this old woman in tears, they finally gave me a mask, sanitized my hands and let me in to say goodbye before they took him away.  I confess the thought crossed my mind “would this be the last time I would see him?”

An hour later the surgeon called me saying they had to do immediate surgery or he would die.  There was blood in the cavity between his brain and his skull causing terrible pressure.  He was losing his ability to speak.

What a difference a day makes!

While I had anticipated watching an old movie with him that evening, instead I waited anxiously for a report from the doctor.  They had said they would call me after the surgery but it was 11 that night before I got a call.

He made it through the surgery and is in CCU now.  All signs are that he is going to live, but until they remove the incubator and cut back on the sedation they have been giving him, we don’t know if any damage has been done.

So – unable to go to sleep, and in such overwhelming sorrow that I cannot be with him in this terrible time, I remembered that verse I posted earlier in the day.

Regardless of what the day has brought, this is still the day God has made.  He was not surprised by the events of today.  He is with my husband.  He is my hope, my anchor.

I could not help but remember when my first husband was killed in an accident.  But I remembered that God was with me then.

I trust Him that he is with my husband and me and I pray for a complete recovery.

I’m amazed and blessed at all the people praying.

Regardless of what the days to come bring me this song I know is true.

 

Willie’s Fashion Store

Last year I shared how my youngest granddaughter uses her imagination and pulls me into her “make-believe” world as she plays with the toy animals my husband gave her a few years ago.

Twelve Little Toy Animals, A Little Girl and a Big Imagination

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Last week she stayed with us as her parents were out of town on work-related trips.  I thought we had covered every possible scenario for these animals.  But she came up with another great idea.

She also has a stuffed character that we named Willie who has played with her for years.  (I, of course, have had to be the voice for Willie.)

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We opened a fashion store and Willie was the owner/designer.  Each of the twelve animals came into the store and told Willie what accessory they were looking for.

  • Zoe Zebra wanted some white and black striped books to match her skin.
  • Macey Moose wanted a blue scarf with gold sequins.
  • Tod Tiger wanted a blanket with bright colors.

Each animal had a special request.

Willie soon went to work and designed each item.  (That means Zoe and Grandma drew designs on paper and cut them out.)

After a few hours (actually only a few minutes but time passes fast in our imaginary world), the animals returned for their accessories.

After paying Willie with their credit card (and Willie pointed out to each one that their card was about to expire so they needed to check on that) they put on their scarves, boots, and coats.

Everyone was very happy with Willie’s design and predicted that he will soon be a famous star in the New York fashion world.

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If you look closely you will see the scarves/coats on the animals.

 

 

My First Solo Performance

Continuing my posts on the old gospel songs we used to sing, today I remember the first song I ever performed in public.

As a young girl I took piano lessons and when my father, who was a minister, had speaking engagements he often would have me play and sing something before he spoke.  Although I was shy, I think this experience gave me confidence in appearing before an audience that helped me later as I became a speaker for women’s events and a pastor’s wife.

Just how good my voice and piano playing was remains open to question, but with my red hair in banana curls, I was a hit.

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The first song I learned to play was an old song born in the slave fields of  the southern states.  Although the original author of the spiritual is unknown, it is acknowledged that the song arose from the oral tradition of songs passed from person to person and generation to generation among the plantations of the South.

Imagine being a slave and totally at the mercy of the slave owner.  What kind of life could it be when you were forced to work from dawn to sunset?  When you could be beaten or sold to another slave owner without a chance to even say goodbye to your family?   No promise of freedom – how easy it would be to despair of life.

But somewhere in that life of sorrow and pain many slaves found hope in God.  In spite of their circumstances they clung to the belief that God was in control and they found courage in that belief.

They sang:

He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

The song was first published in 1927 in the hymnal Spirituals Triumphant, Old and New.  Later it was introduced in the USA and became popular with the folk song crowd in the 30’s and 40’s.

Laurie London, a young British singer, released the song in 1957.  It quickly became #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Since then many artists have made recordings of the song, but perhaps one of the most famous (and my favorite)  is Mahalia Jackson’s version.

The verses have changed depending on who was singing the song but this verse was not in my version of the song.  ♥

He’s got the gamblin’ man in His hands
He’s got the sinner man in His hands
He’s got the gamblin’ man in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

As I grew up and became more proficient in my music, I left that song behind.  But recently as I have played for the residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes, I have added it back to my selection of songs.

While they sit and listen to the songs I play – when I play this one I am guaranteed that many will join in with me and smiles will be in abundance.

Since I began singing this song again, I added my own verse for the senior citizens.

He’s got all us old folks in His hands
He’s got all us old folks in His hands
He’s got all us old folks  in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Psalms 19:1

“Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens.  Isaiah 48:13

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.  Isaiah 64:8

Check out the other gospel songs I have written about here:

“My” Hymn – Great is Thy Faithfulness

From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Recognize This Beloved Song – “Faith’s Review and Expectations”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Out of Dodge

With recent health issues, I have been spending way too much time at home.  Experiencing a lot of severe pain, I am faced with two choices.

Take pain medications and then feel too sleepy or zombie-like to do anything.

Don’t take pain medications and hurt too bad to do anything.

I have missed church, given up volunteering at the local art gallery and at the local assisted living facilities where I play music for the residents.

Today I could take it no more.  I told my husband I had to “get out of Dodge.”

Being Gunsmoke fans, we often use that phrase when we are tired of the daily routine and need a change of pace.  I shared my love of the show in this post.

Anyone Remember Gunsmoke?

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Although it was cold today, the sun was shining and it was a perfect day for a ride.  A walk through an antique mall and Chinese food for lunch made for a great day.

I have to be patient as I deal with this current difficulty, but when I’ve had enough my husband is there to help me “get of Dodge” if only for a few hours.  In the meantime, I’m looking at the map and making plans for longer road trips this summer.

Do you have those times when you feel like you have to “get out of Dodge?”

What do you do/where do you go to “get out of Dodge?”

 

He May Regret the Rule He Made

Those of you who follow my blog know that my husband and I are Scrabble addicts.  We are very competitive and our final scores are often very close.

Recently I beat my husband by just 15 points.  He decided he wanted to add the scores again to make sure no mistake had been made.  While I was more than glad to do this, I said to be fair if we were going to check the scores of this game, we would need to check those games where I lost by just 15 points.

So I agreed with his new rule.  Going forward any game where there was a difference of 20 points or less, we would add up the scores again.

He may regret making that rule.

This week we played a game and when it ended he was ahead of me by just five points.  I insisted he check the scores again.

To his great disappointment he found that he had made an addiction mistake in his score giving him ten more points than he should have.

By subtracting those ten points, I now won the game by just five points.

So be careful what you want to change – it may turn against you.

(And I’m still laughing at this!)

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My Little Composer

Years ago my father sometimes held revivals in small churches in southern Illinois.  Many of the churches either had no piano player (this was before the era of drums and guitars in worship) or a very untalented player.  Since he felt music was important for sharing the gospel, he came up with a solution.

He would give his daughter piano lessons and she could go with him to play at these services.

I was excited to learn to play.  Unlike most piano students who start with music books like “John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano,” my book was an old hymnbook.

 

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The first song I learned to play was an OLD hymn called “When I See the Blood.”  It was written in the key of “C” with no sharps or flats and a good place to start for a beginner where I could just play on the “white” keys.

After 10 months of lessons I was quite adept at playing all the songs in the hymnbook.  My teacher said I was the best student she had ever had and she wanted to teach me classical music.  I was so excited as I started this course of study.

Shortly after a few lessons in this new genre, my father felt learning classical music was money wasted.  He wanted someone to play in church.  Who needed to know how to play Bach or Beethoven?

Although I had no more lessons as a child, I continued to study on my own and took more lessons as an adult.

My music has been such a blessing to me – and I hope to others.

When I have experienced great “highs” and great “lows” in my life, music has been a release.  I can play lively show tunes or songs of praise in times of great joy.  When I have experienced times of distress or sorrow, music has also been a place of comfort.

Now I am enjoying one of the greatest joys of my musical experience.  My little granddaughter has a love for music and for the piano.  A few months ago I started giving her lessons.  Her parents say they never have to tell her practice – she loves to play and needs no prompting to play.

What is so sweet – last week she decided to become a composer.  She has a lot of stuffed animals she calls the wolf pack and she is writing a song for them.  “The Theme of the Wolf Pack.”  Not only is she writing the music – she also has words to go with the music.

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She is not quite ready to draw the lines and the actual notes so she has just written the letter of the note and has specified in some cases if it is the right or the left hand that plays the note.  She also has a repeat bar at the end so you can go back and play for the second verse she has yet to write.

It thrills this old grandma’s heart to be able to share this love of music and pass on a little of my own knowledge to the next generation.

Who knows?  Maybe some day she will write songs of worship for her generation to praise the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

The Day I Let My Pain Go!

Thirty-eight years ago my beloved husband and father of my two daughters was killed in an accident.  Only those who have suffered the loss of a loved one know what sorrow I felt.

In that first moment when I realized I was a widow at 33 with two little girls to raise, the first thing I did was cry out to God.  Since a small girl I have based my life on my faith in Jesus Christ so it was only natural that my first thoughts were “God help me!”

Immediately a verse from the Bible came to my mind.

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In the days and weeks ahead God gave me the strength and courage I needed to make so many decisions.

Things I had never thought about:

  • What funeral home do I use?
  • Where do I bury him?
  • Will I have enough money for the expenses?
  • How will I provide for my girls on my one income?
  • How far will his life insurance go?
  • Since I have to keep working, who will watch my girls before/after school?
  • Do I continue to live where I am or move closer to family for support?
  • What do I do with all his clothes, his guns, his personal stuff?

But the biggest decision was “how do I get through a day without him?”

While everyone talked about how strong I was, only God knew how many times I fell to my knees and cried out for strength.  One of my friends had recently recorded this song, “Praise the Lord,” and when I felt I could not go on, I would play this song and as I began praising the Lord, peace would come once again.

 

But slowly, as the months, then the years went by the burden of my grief became almost more than I could bear.  While the love for my husband did not diminish, I confess I became very lonely.  The idea of all the years stretching ahead of me with no one to share them with me became almost overwhelming.

I began to entertain the thought of finding a new love.  Yet, I felt so terrible even thinking such a thing.

One Sunday in service the speaker sang an old song “Take My Hand Precious Lord.”  The lyrics expressed exactly how I felt.

“Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand.  I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.”

After the song was finished, the speaker invited anyone who was struggling with a burden to come to the altar for a joint prayer with the church.  While I definitely wanted prayer, I did not want to walk to the front of the church – too embarrassing.  As I sat in my seat debating what to do, a old friend of the family who was sitting in the very front of the church got up, walked back to me, held out his hand and invited me to walk to the front with him.  How could I say no when my heart was crying out for relief of this burden of grief?

At the altar I quietly asked God to please take this burden of grief from me.  I could not go on year after year like this.  It suddenly came to me that God could give me peace, but I had to be willing to let go of my grief.  Like a light bulb going off, I realized that I was holding tight to my sorrow because I felt that was all I had left of my husband.  To be willing to stop grieving, to be willing to laugh and love again, I had to “let it go.”

Praying to God to help me, I felt as if a heavy load had been lifted from my shoulders.

I felt the peace of God that passes understanding fill my heart.

Did I quit missing my husband?  Of course not.  Even today I cannot see a young man fishing without seeing my husband with his fishing pole slung over his shoulder.  I cannot see a police officer without seeing my husband in his uniform as a prison guard.

Did I quit loving my husband?  Of course not.  I treasure his memory and look forward to seeing him again some day in the next life.

But I was able to finally understand that constantly grieving, being filled with sorrow was not how he would have wanted me to live.  He would want his memory to bring a smile and he would want me to live and laugh again.

I let my pain go – and accepted the peace Jesus offered me.

Another song I now love to hear that says it so well:

And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that you were never left alone ‘Cause you can always count on Jesus’ name.  And if there’s one thing I pray it’s that Jesus helps you find a way to make a change and listen to your heart.  God will take away your pain if you choose to let it go, if there’s one thing I know.”

By this post I do not mean to sound like Pollyanna and to those who are suffering unbearable grief, I know it is not an easy thing.  But I do hope you will seek the peace of God and allow Him to help you.