Friday, November 29, 2013

Tradition and Gratitude

As I sit here in a hotel room in Raleigh, NC this Thanksgiving weekend, I am struck by my surroundings and how they are in stark contrast to what a "normal" Thanksgiving is to me. Normally, I cook for 2 or 3 days before Thanksgiving ever comes, spend the actual day cooking and baking, then watching my family consume all that goodness in what seems like the blink of an eye (although we do linger at the table, nibbling, long after the meal is finished). We generally spend the afternoon playing board games or hanging out around the TV watching football, sometimes going for a walk if the weather permits and just enjoying being home, and usually end the day with a movie together. And it feels "right" to me, like that's how Thanksgiving "should" be. And it seems that's how it "should" be because that's how it's been for 30 years in our family.

This year, instead of cooking and baking all morning, we were on the road, leaving at 6:30 AM to be in Raleigh with one of our sons and his wife for Thanksgiving. We spent the day with our son, his wife,  and his in-laws....and they did all the I visited with them, and took pictures, and reminisced with my kids, and, although I helped with dinner, I did not make dinner, did not plan the menu, was not responsible for making sure the potatoes did not get cold while the turkeys finished cooking, etc.

After a delightful dinner, we spent the afternoon visiting, eating pie, playing with their two new puppies and having a good time together. Instead of cleaning up one last time and filling the dishwasher for the 3rd time in a day, we left and went to a hotel, got checked in and settled for a quiet evening of hanging out together, making and receiving phone calls from all the other kids, texting back and forth with some of my kids and my sisters and catching up with our people via Facebook and email.

Not our traditional Thanksgiving by a long shot.

Traditionally, I spend the day after Thanksgiving putting up my Christmas village, covering my baby grand piano with "snow" and lighted houses and little businesses making up a town. This is a nearly all day event as it takes time to plan a village and put it together.

Today, we are spending the day going to museums with our son and daughter-in-law, then having dinner with them tonight in their apartment.

This is not our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving activity by a long shot.

But, it's oh, so sweet! And oh, so nice. And I'm thankful that while family traditions are nice, the holiday is no less special when tradition is thrown out the window and we get the opportunity to do something completely different and find that they are just as satisfying to our "traditional" sense.

The traditions of being together, of pausing in our busy lives to acknowledge the Source of all good and of giving to one another are traditions that can be carried out no matter our location. Whether I am in the kitchen or the front passenger seat, we are keeping our tradition of celebrating what we have to be thankful for. And we have a LOT to be thankful for. And we know that the Source is our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And I am grateful, not just this weekend that's been set aside for gratitude, but always, always grateful for the great things my God has done in my life and in my family.

Praise be.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Content Overlap

This is one of those days when a couple of my blogs overlap in content. On my writer's blog, The Total Writer, I blogged briefly about writing truth and the importance of getting all the facts before we write. The story I blogged about was not originally given to much truth. The story was minimized, condensed and the facts grossly misrepresented. I remember the story when it happened and I never thought it added up. What I was hearing in the news didn't make sense. I simply didn't see why a court would award such a high payment if what we were hearing in the news was all there was to the story.

Have you ever been misrepresented? Have you ever been the victim of ugly gossip that portrayed you as a villian or liar and you had no avenue to defend yourself? I sure have and it's not easy. I've been ambushed by people who won't listen to my answers to their questions. I've had those same people spin every answer I gave. I've had people unwilling to listen to the truth about me.

Yeah. Not easy. Did you know that God, Himself, was misrepresented, lied about and no one would listen to the truth about Him, either? His birth was surrounded by controversy because everyone knew Mary had conceived Him before she and Joseph were married. The Pharisees, in John 8, held themselves up higher than Jesus declaring that they were not "born of fornication." They believed Jesus was.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 28, we read how the guards explained away Jesus' resurrection. They said that His disciples came by night and took Him away, stealing His body so as to fake His resurrection. And, without checking the facts, people believed them, as verse 15 points out, "this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."

Jesus endured many, many lies, false reports, people telling Him they didn't want to listen to Him, etc. He did this for us.

So, when you endure gossip, lies, and people not listening to the truth about you, remember that you are not alone in those sufferings.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Don't Believe Everything You Think

Never has Proverbs 3:5&6 been so alive than when I think of it as I read John 11. No, these passages are not cross-referenced, nor do they have anything to do with each other - other than the fact that they are both the Word of God.

Proverbs 3:5&6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths."

You may recall that John 11 records the account of Lazarus dying, then Jesus raising him from the dead. Most of us know the story....Lazarus died, Jesus came, grieved with the family, then raised him from the dead. I want to look more closely at the dialog which takes place during this event. I hope you'll see the connection I see with Proverbs 3:5&6.

Lazarus got sick when Jesus was out of town. Jesus, Himself, said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God..." (verse 4)

But, Lazarus did die. And they buried him. And that was that. What did Jesus mean, then?

When Jesus made his way to the family, days later, they were upset. Martha met Him on the way and told him, "Lord, if you have been here, my brother would not have died." (verse 21) Jesus had a discussion about the resurrection with her. Was she listening?

When Mary made her way to Jesus, she also said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (verse 32) Jesus saw her grief, and the grief of those around her and Martha and he was "troubled." He wept and grieved with the family.

People observing all this said, "Behold how he loved him!"

And some said, "Could not this man, having opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?" (verse 36 & 37)

The way we understand it, death is the end. Dead. Buried. A permanent condition that cannot be undone. It did not occur to anyone on this scene that death was not the end. Their understanding, based, no doubt, on past experience with other people, made it very clear that death was the very end. No more hope. Dead. Buried. Leaving us devastated.

Jesus didn't understand things that way. He raised Lazarus right up from the dead. He came forth still wrapped in grave clothes, his face still covered. (verse 44)

Death?  Oh, that. Yeah. A temporary condition to Jesus Christ.

This outcome had not occurred to anyone who was there that day. It simply seemed impossible from a human understanding. While they thought He could have prevented him from dying in the first place, no one even so much as thought that He could raise him from the dead.

That's how they understood things.

I'm so glad they were wrong!

We are all wrong much of the time. Our understanding is off; we don't get it.

Do not lean on your own understanding, no matter what you face.
You can't believe everything you think.