30 Days of Thanksgiving: Enduring Thanks

I have trouble believing we’ve reached the end of the month. It feels like just yesterday when we started our month of being thankful. As I was thinking about what to write about today I was having trouble settling on just one thing, and it reminded me how it’s possible to be thankful every day and not feel like you’ve run out of things to be thankful for. Each day brings things to be thankful for, and they may be things you were thankful for yesterday but are thankful for again today, or it may be something you haven’t experienced in a long time or ever. There’s no shame in being thankful for things that remain and consistently bless you in your life.

Today though I’m reminded that life does continue on, that we can rebuild and recover, that love does endure, that hearts can be fixed, that sometimes there is a fairy tale ending, and it always can get better. There are men and women out there around the world who come to the rescue when we need the help, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice, but always giving of themselves and their families. But even when we’re not in need of a huge sacrifice, sometimes just having someone do something a simple as holding open a door or getting an item off a high shelf can make a big difference in our day.

Life doesn’t end because of one bad day or one destructive natural disaster.  With some hope, encouragement, support and a thankful heart we can find the strength to keep going and make a better next chapter of our lives.  Living in this advanced world means that we’ve got lots of options and means to choose something better for ourselves at any time.  And with each choice, each new day, each new chapter, each new relationship, each new beginning, each new ending, each challenge, we’re given the opportunity to live and be thankful, if we so choose.

Today, and every day, I encourage you to choose the high side, the positive side, the good in life, and let that be your guide and your motivation for living.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Faith

We face lots of challenges and tests in our lives, it’s part of the life journey and can make or break us depending on whether we’re willing and able to push through, the support we have and the faith we have. What kind of faith do you have? Are you investing in your faith on a daily basis? Are you letting it guide your decision making and encourage you when the going gets tough? Are you struggling with or questioning your faith because of recent events?

Faith does give us the strength to keep going, it can encourage us, it can unite us, it can give us peace that passes all understanding. Faith can be a guide to help you make decisions and foundation to build your life on.  And while your faith may waver or you may question your faith for a time, I think it’s hard to truly lose all faith and never be able to return to it again, and for that I’m thankful.

Time and again I’ve returned to my faith and restrengthened my faith. There’s only one who has never let me down and is always there, regardless of how quickly or clearly I get an answer. Sometimes it’s not even about getting the answer from God, just knowing that He is supporting me and aware of all I’m going through is enough.

We’re almost at the end of another year, some of us may be questioning what’s next for us at work or in a relationship and faith is a great starting point. Start having faith that it will work out, that God will open your eyes to His plans and the direction you should go. Believe in yourself and your abilities and how perfectly God made you. Give thanks for all that you have and all the blessings that are coming your way.

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God: See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, A precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; he who puts his faith in it shall not be shaken.” Isaiah 28:16

30 Days of Thanksgiving: shared knowledge

Yesterday I was talking about all the emails I got for Giving Tuesday (which raised over $125 million for non profits). For the rest of the holiday season we’ll be getting a steady stream of emails about deals or donation opportunities. As I was thinking about this I was reminded how lucky we really are. Technology has advanced in so many ways over the past two decades, and along with that technology information has spread as well.

Now doctors in China can tap into the knowledge of doctors in Canada. Archaeologists in South Africa can reach out to cultural experts at various universities and museums around the world. Students can get a first hand look at something they’re studying live through cameras posted half way around the world. Parents can get more answers to the medical conditions their children have. Almost anyone can get an education on whatever passion, interest, hobby or skill they have. Not to mention all the information that’s just fun or cool to learn, including those cute animal videos.

I know there’s been a lot of talk this past year about the misinformation and fake news, and it’s definitely an issue. But I think the good far outweighs the bad when it comes to being able to share information. It’s also easier than ever to connect (privately) with people who have similar experiences and interests as you, and can help you heal from or navigate through challenges you’re facing.

I’m thankful for all the information we have at the touch of a few keys, as well as the ability for that information to be sent to us as we desire. Having newsletters, blog and podcast subscriptions, devotionals, inspirational messages and educational bits that get sent our way via email and social media, means that not only is that information out there, it’s coming directly to us without us having to search. This not only helps with keeping us inspired and encouraged but also with making sure we learn something new every day.

So what are you thankful you’ve learned recently?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: The Season of Giving

Well, the holiday spending weekend is officially over, I don’t know about you but I was a little disappointed by what was (or rather wasn’t) on sale this past weekend.  It definitely wasn’t a one-and-done shopping weekend for me.  So yes, I’m a little disappointed.  Like many other people I use these shopping sale days to not only buy gifts but buy things I use all year long and appreciate getting at a great discount.  But that’s not how it worked out and so I, and many others, may be doing some bargain hunting over the next few weeks as the holidays approach.

What really surprised me was the lack of Cyber Monday deals this year and the lack of emails about any deals happening.  I got one that suggested I order early so I get the items they sell in time for the holidays, but they didn’t manage to include a coupon code so I put off considering whether I would or would not order from them.

The other surprise from this holiday shopping season kickoff was that we’re at 6pm EST and already today I’ve gotten over 300 emails today.  For what? Giving Tuesday.  Started in 2012 it’s a way to encourage people to give to non profits who aren’t in the spotlight for most of the year. I donate to organizations every month so I don’t need today as a reminder, but I do look to see if organizations that I don’t support regularly but follow closely are doing any kind of giving match.

Ultimately the holiday season, whether you’re religious or not, celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, is about giving.  It’s important to give to those who mean the most to us, but for many of us without the non-profits of the world we’d be lost and the world wouldn’t be as special a place as it is.  I give monthly because these organizations are making a difference in the world in ways I simply can’t.  So today yes, some of the money I didn’t spend over the weekend I will be donating to organizations that are making a difference in the world, helping them spread hope a little further this holiday season and in the year to come.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks All the Time

One of the psalms I’ve reflected on this month as part of my thanksgiving journey is Psalm 136. You may not know it by number, but it’s the Psalm that includes the line “His faithful love endures forever.” repeated after every line and reason to be thankful. Ultimately it gives 27 reasons to be thankful including that “His faithful love endures forever”, which is a really good reason to be thankful in my book.

The Psalm goes through some historical events that are shared in the Bible like victories over kings and nations, the time in Egypt and crossing of the red sea, and the Creation. It also talks about the fact that He feeds every living thing and is always there to give us strength when we need it. The third topic it talks about as a reason to be thankful is for who God is: the God of Heaven, a good God, and the Lord of Lords.

Some people struggle with the topic of repetition in the Christian community, there have been debates throughout the years over the repetition in songs and here in Psalm 136 we’re facing more repetition. Sometimes repetition means that you’re not getting the point across, that you’re wasting time and words, or that you’re lazy because you didn’t come up with anything else to say. While that is true some of the time, other times the fact is that we need the repetition. It’s been said that if you do something for 3-8 weeks (depending on which study you believe) it becomes a habit. There’s nothing more to doing something for that amount of time that consistently except repetition.

I think that giving thanks fits in really well with being a repetitious activity: the more we do it the better we feel, the happier we are, the more those around us feel affirmed, and the more supportive our communities are. Not to mention that giving thanks to God means you’re recognizing more of the blessings He sends your way, not just the really big and obvious ones. How are you planning to make giving thanks a regular part of your life all year long and not just during the official Thanksgiving season?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Do The Right Thing

Over the past few days an incredible story has been shared, going viral even. It’s great when it’s the good stories going viral and not the stories of hate. The story goes something like this: a bus hit a parked car and drove off. A little girl witnessed it, went home, wrote a note and put the note under the car’s wipers. The car’s owner came back, saw the damage, saw the note and was able to reach out to the bus company and is in the process of getting his car repaired while he drives around in a rental supplied by the bus company. The story ends with the girl receiving a commendation from her school for her community service. You can read the whole story here.

I love this story because it’s proof that people still do the right thing. No, the bus driver didn’t do the right thing, but the school girl did, and she didn’t have to do anything because she wasn’t really involved in what happened. But she knew that she could help right a wrong, doing something as simple as writing a note.

Yes, sometimes doing the right thing is a big effort, requiring a lot of time and financial investment. Sometimes the wrongs are big wrongs and it takes a lot of time and effort to heal from that. But sometimes all it takes is something really small to turn the tide in the right direction. I’m thankful that someone taught that girl to do the right thing.  She gave the driver a peace and answers that he would not have had otherwise.  It may seem like a small thing, but if you’ve ever been in his shoes you know that it means the world.

The same is true with giving thanks.  Sometimes the simple words “thank you” can make all the difference.  Have you made a point to do something simple for someone else lately?

30 Days of Thanksgiving: thankful for gifts

“Give thanks in all circumstances. Not for pain and suffering itself, but for the knowledge that God is with us in it, and that God has promised to use it for our good. Develop the habit of giving thanks for what is, rather than lamenting what is not. Look upon your life as a gift, with wonder and awe.” Br. David Vryhof

This quote took my by surprise when I read it because it starts with a sentence that is very well known, one that is said in spiritual communities as a way to encourage and strengthen us for the challenges we’re facing. It’s an attitude check for everyone, spiritual or not, one that encourages us to focus more on the things we are blessed with and not the things that hurt.

But then the quote goes on to say that we don’t have to feel like we are trying to find something to be thankful for among the challenges of our life, but rather that we should focus on thanking God for being there with us through those challenges. It’s why we take the time to be there for others when they’re going through dark times, and find comfort in having someone with us, even if they’re not saying or doing anything but being there.

The quote then ends with an encouragement to see life as a gift, which given what the quote has already talked about, is kind of like those Christmas or Hanukkah gifts you get that are really ugly or really not what you want, but the person gifting you is all excited about them. You know, those sweaters from an aunt or grandmother that are completely out of style or scratchy, or that gift that you get year in and year out that you re-gift or share with friends or donate because you’ve gotten so many of them. Sometimes the gift you get isn’t really what you want, and you have to accept that along with the gifts you do want.

So as we head into this holiday gifting season, be thankful for the gifts you get, those you are excited about and those that are requisite, and especially for the people who thought of you and wanted to bless you in that way.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Thankful for the Holidays

Today, the day after Thanksgiving, I’m very thankful for holidays that remind us to celebrate. The simple fact is that life goes in ups and downs regardless of seasons or whether you want it to or not or whatever is going on in your life. One of the most important things is taking time intentionally to stop and back away from those challenges and struggles. We’re not really given a choice whether we want to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah/Christmas or the New Year, these things happen every year without fail. Sometimes it’s hard to shift from the struggle to the celebration, but I’ve yet to go through this holiday season and not be thankful that I took the time to do so.

Holidays are times for family and friends to come together and celebrate being alive and having family and friends, be thankful for all that they have, remember the reason for the season, and share generously with others. Yes, those times of remembering may come with some tears for those who have died recently or been separated from you, but taking the time to remember them during the season can also bring up some really good memories you have of them.

The holidays can bring a bit of hope to even the darkest corners of your world, giving you the strength and courage to move on, and be a reminder to appreciate being alive. They can also help us remember the holidays of our youth that were very magical and have stuck with us all these years, but we don’t always thing about those moments except during this holiday season. Today I’m thankful to be reminded to be thankful and to celebrate, the world doesn’t need more sadness, it needs more joy.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: A Little Forgiveness

Today in the US we’re taking time to be thankful.  That’s right, Thanksgiving has officially arrived.  I do hope that you’re able to gather either today or in the coming days with family and friends and celebrate being alive and all that you’ve been blessed with since last Thanksgiving.

Today though I want to take a step in a different direction and talk about something you may know about or have heard about, that the First Thanksgiving wasn’t all roses and sunshine.  It actually is directly tied in with the loss of thousands of Native American lives, and the poor treatment of settlers towards them, not just when they arrived but for over a hundred years after that.

It wasn’t right of the settlers to treat the Native Americans as they did, especially with all the stories we have of how they helped the settlers not only survive but thrive here in America.  It’s especially difficult to realize that this country is based on freedom and letting people be free to worship and live as they chose, and we didn’t let them live as they were or wanted to.

So today I raise the often challenging topic of forgiveness.  It’s not always easy to forgive, especially if you’re the one who was hurt.  But accepting and asking for forgiveness are two important skills we need to work on more often.  Why? Because not forgiving means you’re choosing to be stuck in the past and let that pain hold you back.  Forgiving doesn’t mean you don’t hold them accountable or that you forget and let others get hurt as you were, it just means you’re free to move forward with less of a burden or chip on your shoulder.

So this Thanksgiving I encourage you to consider forgiveness, both accepting and asking for it, if you’ve got some relationships in your life that you value but some mistake or failure or hurt has been damaging them.  Life is short and you don’t know what a day will bring, but forgiveness may mean that you’ve got a circle of friends and family surrounding you and supporting you through whatever life brings.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: A Psalm of Celebration

Sometimes what you need most to find your thankful attitude, to see the things you can be grateful for, to remember that the whole world isn’t bad, to be the person who stands out in a crowd, is a little encouragement.  One part of the Bible that we can rely on consistently to deliver that encouragement and help us refocus on God and what’s good are the Psalms.  Today I want to share one of the Psalms that talks about being thankful, Psalm 100:

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

I encourage you to take a moment and celebrate how awesome God is.  Then ask God to show you all that you have to be thankful for, and even to send you some extra blessings that you can be thankful for tonight and tomorrow on Thanksgiving.