Category Archives: Community and Relationships

Rethinking Thankfulness

For the past few years, I have noticed a trend of people posting thankfulness posts on Facebook in November.  One thing is named each of the thirty days in November for which the writer is thankful, from having a good job to living in a warm home to enjoying the company of many friends.  I have nothing against this practice.  In fact, I am delighted that so many take the time to count their blessings, even if it is mostly just for the month and is usually seen as a challenge instead of an act of true gratefulness.

I propose a twist to this practice.  What if each of us still express our appreciation for our blessings in a more tangible way?  As my friend Kevin states, “Faith on your fanny is useless.  It’s faith with feet that matters!”  How about professing our gratitude with action in addition to our words?

Are you wondering how this could work?

What can I do

How about:

I am thankful for the home I live in and the comforts it contains.

Express your thankfulness by preparing some “Blessing Bags” to distribute to someone who doesn’t have a home with or without its comforts.

I am thankful for my place of employment, a great supervisor, and wonderful co-workers.

Show your co-workers and your supervisor recognition by bringing in some baked goods or other treats to share during breaks.

I am thankful for my children and family.

Help out a single parent by offering a baby break while he or she gets a little “Me time.”  Sometimes just a trip to the grocery store without littles means so much!

I am thankful for food on my table, in my cabinets, and refrigerator, and the ability to get more whenever I need or want.

Volunteer in a soup kitchen or a hot meal line.  Remember, these places and people can use volunteers year round, not just at the holidays.

I am thankful that my children get to participate in various programs, such as soccer, dance, music, basketball, and so on and son (and so on)…

These programs can always use support, in helping to teach or coach, in providing snacks or meals, in monetary support (besides fees), and in word-of-mouth advertising and appreciative words of praise.  Talk to program to see how you can help out.

I am thankful that my children or grandchildren have toys to play with.

Sort through the children’s toys and donate some that are in excellent shape with a distribution center for the less fortunate.  Some locations here in Indiana are found at Indy With Kids .  A personal favorite of mine is located in Lawrence County and is called Santa Joe

I am thankful for my health, whether it is fabulous or fatigued.

Monetary donations are always appreciated by many health organizations, but there are other ways to help.  Volunteer, participate in a fundraiser, spread the word about the services provided – sometimes it takes no money to make a big donation toward a worthy cause!

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These are just a few ideas to get you kick-started on your own campaign of thankfulness!  Share your own ideas in the comments below.  I am thankful for my readers!

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Lessons Learned in Little League

Texas in October is absolutely perfect!  Slightly cloudy skies, a gentle breeze, and temperatures in the upper 70s… how could you ask for better weather?  Our vacation certainly could have been a few days longer.

One reason (the main reason!) we went to San Antonio was to see my beloved sister-in-love Julie and her family.  It happened that her son/my nephew Evan had a baseball game on Saturday while we were there.  So, all of us (me, hubby, father-in-love, mother-in-love, another sister-in-love, her beau and his son, and of course, Julie’s group) loaded into the vehicles and went to the ball park to cheer on Evan and his team.

Evan baseball for blog

As we sat on the oh-so-comfortable bleachers (insert sarcastic face here) and the game started, some thoughts began flowing about what was happening on the field and what was happening around me.  So guess what?!  These thoughts turned into lessons that apply to life as much as baseball.  Guess what else?!  I am going to share them with you.

Surprise!!!

  • The first concern I had as soon as the game started, was suddenly this chorus of coaches sounding, not out of the dugout, but from the bleachers. I immediately wondered how in the world those boys and girls on the diamond would ever know what to do with the flood of words.  Too many coaches, too many voices to listen to from the sidelines.  The players have to learn to distinguish the voice of the coach from all of the other voices, and to follow what he says to do.
  • The umpire for this game was very intentional about teaching how to play baseball correctly, and was very intentional about his kindness in teaching. He explained different aspects to the players.  One bit of wisdom I heard him share – “Don’t kick dirt onto home plate.  It blocks the view of the pitcher using it for guidance.”  Whatever the goal is, whether it is throwing a strike over home plate or choosing to go to college, don’t block the vision of the seeker.
  • The next concept is also from this umpire. It may be just a game, but to the little guys and girls it can feel like life and death.  Be encouraging!
  • Respect the umpire/person in charge. Even if you don’t always agree with the call or the decision, it is still his or her call or decision to make.  You should always be respectful of authority, and when you disagree, disagree without disrespect.
  • Those on the sidelines don’t always know the game plan. This particular coach moved the players around to different positions during the game, letting them have a try at catcher, at pitcher, at shortstop.  In this way, he was able to give each player the chance to experience the different positions since this was the first year for many of them, and he could also see how each one performed in the different areas.  Unless those of us on the bleachers knew that, it looked like a jumbled mess.  Within his plan, it is working well to bring out the best in each player.
  • Every position on the field has its own peculiarities. The pitcher has a certain style and follow-through to execute, the catcher has to tag the batter with the ball after the third strike, the runner has to tag up to the current base when the hit is a fly ball.  If the pitcher went to tag the batter after the third strike, chaos could ensue.

The last one is probably my favorite part I witnessed.

  • Always be willing to give someone who is down a hand-up and a second chance. The time limit for the game was up. Our team had no runs and the opposing team had fifteen runs.  The game was a runaway skunk.  We had four players that never even got to bat, including Evan.  After a conference between the coaches of both teams and the umpire, a phone call to the organization over the ball park and league, and the pleading of the seven family members from Indiana who wanted to see our boy bat, it was decided that our team could have last at-bats.  Such a cheer rose from the crowd!  (At least on our side and probably mostly from the Hoosiers)  Did it hurt anyone to make that concession so these kids could bat?  No.  We scored two runs, which we didn’t do before the time was up.  Did it make a difference?  Yes!  Those batters got to play and the family has a great memory of the day.

the expert in anything

Self-Help Sermon

Instructions for Christian Living

Ephesians 4:17-24.  So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

 How do I do this?  

How do I put on a new self and put off the old?  

How am I created to be like God?

1 John 4:8.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

What does that mean, “God is love”?  

Replace the words “love” and “it” with the word “God” in the following passage.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Since we are to be created to be like God, we must strive for these attributes.  

Now, replace the words “love” and “it” with your own name.  Does each description ring true for you?

  • Are you patient?  Then practice patience.
  • Are you kind?  Then practice kindness.
  • Do you envy?  Then practice thankfulness.
  • Do you boast?  Then practice modesty.
  • Are you proud?  Then practice humility.
  • Do you dishonor others?  Then practice respect.
  • Are you self-seeking (selfish)?  Then practice compassion.
  • Are you easily angered?  Then practice gentleness.
  • Do you keep a record of wrongs?  Then practice forgiveness.
  • Do you delight in evil or rejoice with the truth?
  • Do you protect others?
  • Do you trust others?
  • Are you hopeful?
  • Do you persevere?

You will fail.  You are not God. 

When you strive for these characteristics of God, you will still fail, but you will fail less and less as you practice more and more. 

When you do fail, ask wholeheartedly for forgiveness both from God and from others.

attitude

My conversation is the simplest place to begin this transformation.

Colossians 4:6.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We need each other.  People were not meant to be alone, but to interact and care for each other.  When we connect, we should remember that our actions and words travel farther than the immediate surroundings.

Ephesians 4:29-32.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

...and perhaps, mostly importantly of all…

Proverbs 27:17.  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

…we need to hold each other accountable, build each other up into the likeness of God, and love each other unconditionally, no matter what.

Coming Clean

The first step in forgiveness is the willingness to forgive. – Marianne Williamson

 Forgiveness

If you could see me as I am writing this, you would be looking at a previous World Champion of Grudge-Holders.  Oh, I do come by it honestly.  You see, I am a human being, a person just like you, and as such, I tend to cling to complaints, seize slights, and take tabs on transgressions.  I have since become better (I think) at letting go of the perceived wrongdoings of others, but only after I came around to asking others to forgive me.  Yes, you read that right.  I had to first ask forgiveness for my own faults before I could truly begin to forgive those who had hurt me, whether these “crimes” against me were committed knowingly or unknowingly.

I have a wonderful friend, a very classy lady indeed.  At one time, early in our relationship, I developed a tremendous jealousy, not about her as a friend, but of her as a competitor.  She is absolutely beautiful, she can sing like an angel, she can dance with elegance, she can write songs, plays, and prose.  She has an adoring husband and a spectacular home.  She had the whole enchilada, and I had a cheese taco.  One day, and I cannot tell you the catalyst or cause, I knew that I needed to confess my feelings to her, and I needed to do it that day! After choir practice that evening at church, I ran to catch up to her in the parking lot.  I revealed my enviousness to her, and asked her to forgive me for my bitter attitude.  She replied that she had no idea that I ever felt anything like this resentment, and she forgave me.  She forgave me!  It was as if a mammoth millstone had been removed from my mind.  Today, we are even better friends.   She is still beautiful, graceful, and elegant, and I am still me – and I am forgiven.

Sometimes, we are called to forgive a wrong done to us knowingly by another.

Sometimes, we are called to forgive a wrong done to us of which the culprit is unaware.

Sometimes, we are called to ask for forgiveness for something we have done.

Sometimes, we are called to ask for forgiveness for something we have done of which the victim is unaware.

Sometimes, we are called to forgive ourselves.

Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. – James E. Faust

Your history is history.  How you react to it can make you better or it can make you bitter.  The future is up to you – what is your choice?

Because I Believe

Because I Believe…

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A recent college class assignment required me to write my philosophy of early childhood education.  That task is not as easy as it sounds.  Putting my beliefs and values on display for everyone to see and judge?  It is a pretty scary thought, and an even scarier undertaking.

Until…

…Until I realized that putting my beliefs and values on display for everyone to see and judge is something I do every day!   The people I hold most dear, the objects I attach value to, the opportunities I take or do not take advantage of – all of these factors tell about my beliefs.

And if they don’t, then I am living a lie.

My philosophy of early childhood education actually parallels my life beliefs very closely.  I am sharing my own project, and I encourage you to try this for yourself.  Think about those ideals, habits, objects, and relationships that are most important to you and that define who you are.  Then, see if you are living your beliefs out in your life.

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“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.  Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.  Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.  Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.  Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”                                    

-Mahatma Ghandi

Don’t be afraid to live out loud!

Non-Judgment Day

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What if, for just one day, everyone went about their day without judging someone else?

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.

That is not our business, and in fact, it is nobody’s business.  What we are asked to do is love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.

-Thomas Merton

I have numerous friends from a multitude of backgrounds, beliefs, and baggages.

  • Friends who are single, married, divorced, widowed, and co-habiting
  • Friends who are new parents, single parents, parents of one, parents of a plethora, empty-nesters, and childless
  • Friends who are a variety of skin tones
  • Friends who are hunters and friends who are vegan
  • Friends who are students, lawyers, doctors, homemakers, teachers, activists, dancers, pastors, and preachers
  • Friends who live in the United States of America, Canada, Ireland, Thailand, Italy, Australia, Ghana
  • Friends who are nine and friends who are ninety
  • Friends who are straight and friends who are gay
  • Friends who say “you”, friends who say “you’uns”, and friends who say “y’all”
  • Friends who are overweight and friends who are underweight
  • Friends who have no idea why I am their friend (but I am anyway!)

Is it possible to have too many friends?

I am not positive if members of this multitude are my friends because they know I do not judge them, or if I do not judge them because they are my friends.  I do know that it really doesn’t matter.

Loving others is not a one-time decision.  It’s a lifestyle.  – Chip Ingram

If I want to be loved as I am, I have to be willing to love others as they are. – Louise Hay

Jesus loved the Samaritan woman as she was.  (John 4:1-42)

Jesus loved the rich young ruler as he was.  (Luke 18:18-29)

Jesus loved the cheating woman as she was.  (John 8:1-11)

Jesus loved the crooked tax collector as he was.  (Luke 19:10-10)

Jesus even loves me as I am.  How can I do less?

Lifegroup Love

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This also stands as my definition of my Lifegroup.  A Lifegroup is a small gathering of people that meet weekly for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship.  I am involved with a wonderful group of fellow believers that I am happy to also call my friends.

       Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

                                                                                                     Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I can only imagine how strong the cord would be made of two dozen strands, like my Lifegroup family.

Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.  I have experienced each of these extremes in my circle of friends.  I Corinthians 12:26 reads if one part suffers, every part with it suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. We have celebrated marriages and births, and we have mourned deaths and divorce.  My Lifegroup has carried me through some low times, such as when my brother attempted suicide, an extended bout with unemployment, health issues, and depression, and through other hard times, such as my difficulties with college and wanting to give up.  They have not only encouraged me through these times, but they also let me know when I am screwing up without making me feel like a screw-up.  Proverbs 27:17 teaches that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  I know that I have received some excellent sharpening through sharing with my friends.

These are the words of Jesus to His disciples:

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”                                                                                                            Matthew 18:19-20

I know that I feel His Presence when I am in the presence of the loving and caring members of my beloved Lifegroup.

I would like to encourage each of us to do as the writer of Hebrews 13:1 prompts:  Keep on loving one another as brothers.  I am grateful for each and every one of my friends and my family.  Thank you for being my Lifegroup.