Everyday Thanks

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In 2014, my life was changed and enriched by the magic of habitual thanksgiving.

That’s when I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, as well as her One Thousand Gifts Devotional. In these books, Voskamp introduces a practice that revolutionized how she looked at life. Basically, she started counting…counting ways that God had been gracious to her, counting things she was thankful for, including everything from broad generalities to minute, personal details. Her goal was 1000 things, but the results were much more overwhelming. She kept on until she’d numbered thousands of gifts and she insists her perspective was changed into one of habitual joy, seeing God in everyday moments and gifts—even things she hadn’t seen the beauty in before.

I’m sure many of us have heard of or participated in different variations of this. When I was a child, my mom had something on the counter she called the Blessing Jar. Throughout the year, we would write down things we were thankful for, or answers to prayer, and put the pieces of paper in the jar. At Thanksgiving, we would paste some of them on the paper feathers of Tom the Thankful Turkey, a kid-sized cutout bird taped up on the wall of the kitchen. This was a great reminder for me as a child to cultivate thanksgiving throughout the whole year, not just on the day designated for giving thanks.

Of course, holidays shouldn’t be the only times we give thanks…any more than Sunday should be the only day we worship and fellowship with God. I’ve heard Sunday described as the “anniversary celebration” of the Relationship that exists all week. Thanksgiving is like that. It’s a holiday marked by giving thanks and noting our blessings, but cultivating a lifestyle of thanksgiving makes the celebration come alive all throughout the year.

Making note of things I was thankful for blended writing with a spiritual discipline and I loved the beautiful list that unfolded. Here is a snippet of the first 1000-gifts list that I recorded back in 2014:

–The smell of warm, wet wax from a desk candle

–The tiara of first snow in my hair

–Faces…the light of God’s creativity in eyes and smiles

–Mountain color palettes

–The first patter of rain

–Full family dinners

–The pleasure of finding just the right book

–Sprinklers catching sun midair

–How God’s Word stands for me

–Bird chorus in storms

 

As you can see, Voskamp encourages you to be specific and personal, and I relished the opportunity to turn every day into a treasure hunt–a search for blessings, great and small, hidden and obvious. My final journal entry at the end of the year went like this:

My name, Jubilee, means Trumpet Sounding, but so often I disconnect from it, hesitating, waiting for God to somehow prove Himself again. But I’ve been wrong to do that. He is Goodness itself! And in dark or light, joy or pain, He deserves praise. He doesn’t take. He gives. He gives Himself, the best gift ever. And His Life consumes, empowers, enlivens, invigorates, redeems. What more could I ask for? This journey of deliberate thanks has brought me into the land of blessing that I desired.

So on the eve of another Thanksgiving, be encouraged! Take a moment and really think about the little things. What is it about God that just blesses your socks off? What details of life do you really appreciate? If your life is feeling flat and stale right now, this is just the remedy, I promise! Ask God for open eyes and you’ll be amazed at everything that was there, all around you. All the Grace and Beauty and Mercy. There is so much real power waiting for us when we declare God’s Blessings and “forget not all His Benefits” (Psalm 103). Andrew Murray said: “Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts.”

 

Cultivating a lifestyle of thanks by making note of things we’re thankful for is truly a step heavenward. As the writer Joni Eareckson Tada puts it: “With each [gift or blessing] we experience on the earth, God leans over and whispers, ‘Just wait…one day you’ll bask in glory like this, and it will last forever’” (Tada, The God I Love, 283)!

If you’re interested in learning more about One Thousand Gifts, visit Ann Voskamp’s personal page.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/ann-voskamp/

 

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Spoiler Alert…

It happened again. I sat in the movie theater, barely seeing the preview of the Olympics flash by me because I was so captivated by the song blasting through the speakers. I’m shocked at how the very words and warnings we need to hear as a culture are consistently flooding our iPods, theaters, and TVs, and we still don’t seem to get it.

Fellow Christians, have you heard the words of Katy Perry’s single “Rise”?

Listen…really, and consider what we’re up against.

“I won’t just survive/Oh you will see me thrive

Can’t write my story/I’m beyond the archetype.

I won’t just conform/no matter how you shake my core,

‘Cause my roots/they run deep.

Oh ye of so little faith./Don’t doubt it. Don’t doubt it.

Victory is in my veins./I know it. I know it.

And I will not negotiate./I’ll fight it. I’ll fight it.

I will transform.”

I’m stunned yet again at how God can shout His Truth, using the voice and talent of someone who doesn’t acknowledge Him (that I’m aware of).

This was back in the summer, obviously, since this song was used as a TV spot for the Olympics. But I don’t need to reiterate that we are embroiled in a battle that goes far deeper than the crunch of extreme sports. Whether we’d like to acknowledge it or not, we are faced with the eerie potential of a leader taking office who will likely detonate what has been simmering beneath the surface. We’ve seen it coming…or maybe we haven’t…a mounting opposition to the Gospel and those who choose to live it out loud.

But this isn’t a political rant as much as a cry for the sleeping children of freedom to awaken. And I don’t just mean Americans. I mean those of us who have been brought from death to life, who know the Freedom that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God–the Founder of Life and True Liberty. The words of Perry’s song give voice to what’s in my heart and what I’m hearing resound from believers across the nation.

This is not a political battle. It’s a spiritual one. We’ve known this all along: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against…the powers of darkness in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12. But it’s more apparent now than I’ve ever seen it–all across the world. Darkness is becoming more and more manifest in broad daylight, stripping off its masks and pretensions, no longer hiding its design. But what happens when the sky darkens? The stars shine brighter.

“The path of the righteous is like the dawn, shining brighter and brighter until full day,” Proverbs 4:18.

Listen to the words of this chorus:

“When the fire’s at my feet again

And the vultures all start circling/they’re whispering,

‘You’re out of time’

But still I rise.

This is no mistake/no accident

When you think the final nail is in/think again

Don’t be surprised/I will still rise.”

This is not the time to negotiate. This is not a time for compromise. And this is certainly not a time for panic and defeat. This is the time to keep our windows open, like Daniel, and pray to the God of heaven, Who is not planning on abdicating His Throne simply because a “progressive” culture does not favor Him. I believe God has so much more for this country and we, His People, should not be ashamed. We should not be full of anger, fear, and strife. We have the opportunity to stand firm in our faith and resist the enemy, knowing that these same kinds of trials are happening to our brothers and sisters all over the world (1 Peter 5:9). This is a time for unity. This is a time to stand.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what the future holds for this country, for the world, for me, even. But I do know one thing–two, actually. God is still God and He will never quit or be deposed or voted out. He still has a Plan and He’s calling His People to wake up and shake off our slumber to be part of it. Otherwise, we will be scattered by circumstances and live in confusion and despair and disillusionment. That is not how we were meant to live.

I want to encourage everyone who believes–it’s not over. No matter the outcome of the elections. God is not going anywhere, and nor should we. Remember it’s not so much about who you are as it is about Whose you are! I don’t know who our next president will be, but I do know the One Who is Victorious: Jesus the Great I AM. My God. My King. And that is a Victory celebration I know I will get to take part in.

The Word of God is clear. “Today, when you hear His Voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).

“In the final days, flattery will corrupt those who abandon the promise, but those who know their God will be strong and take action (Daniel 11:32).

We serve a Mighty God and He is among us. He will never leave us or forsake us. That’s why I titled this post “Spoiler Alert.” Because we know the ending of all this. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our Faith. If we keep our eyes on Him, we will always win.

“As for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast Love, answer me in your saving faithfulness” (Psalm 69:13).

***VOTE THIS WEEK! AND PRAY! PRAY WITHOUT CEASING!!!***