It’s gonna be a Milton Bradley kind of weekend.

Are you familiar with the story of Jesus and the ten lepers? These ten lepers cried out to Jesus for healing and were miraculously healed of their terrible disease. But only one came back to say thank you. Ten miracles. One thank you.

The ratio probably hasn’t changed much over the years. A spirit of ingratitude pervades our society. In fact, the Bible tells us in II Timothy that one of the characteristics of the End Times is that people will be ungrateful.

Imagine how you would feel if no one ever thanked you for your kind actions. In the same way, God’s heart is broken when we do not thank Him for touching our lives with His love. In light of God’s magnificent grace, ingratitude is a grievous sin.

Don’t allow the spirit of ingratitude to sneak into your life. Be the one who, like the lone leper, returns to give thanks. Be the one who remembers to say, “Thank you, Lord.” – Discovery, November 25, 2013, by David Jeremiah

Thank me frequently as you journey through today. This practice makes it possible to pray without ceasing, as the apostle Paul taught. If you are serious about learning to pray continually, the best approach is to thank Me in every situation. These thankful prayers provide a solid foundation on which you can build all your other prayers. Moreover, a grateful attitude makes it easier for you to communicate with Me.

When your mind is occupied with thanking Me, you have no time for worrying or complaining. If you practice thankfulness continuously, negative thought patterns will gradually grow weaker and weaker. Draw near to Me with a grateful heart, and My Presence will fill you with Joy and Peace. – Jesus Calling, November 25, by Sarah Young

Rejoice always. Pray continually.Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – I Thessalonians 5:16-18

I am thankful for:

  • this habit that I have now formed to intentionally notice every little gift and say “thank You.”
  • groceries bought on a Monday evening before the craziness begins.
  • easily accessible gas stations and pay-at-the-pump.
  • mashed potatoes and turkey gravy.
  • the ability to sense when I need to use the bathroom.
  • good sleep.
  • free mints after a meal, which also causes me to be grateful for memories of Aunt Arlene’s Andes mints in a crystal dish that were impossible to stop sneaking.
  • good hearts in the midst of so much chaos and devastation.
  • UPS and FedEx and USPS delivery people who bring happiness in the form of packages to the front door this time of the year.
  • people who have already hung Christmas lights for us to enjoy.
  • turtles and giraffes.
  • this day, eight years ago, when my daughter Katrina married Zak, the man who captured her heart and allowed her to laugh and love freely.
  • the most unique wedding I have ever attended, completely movie-themed with popcorn and videos and characters and hotdogs and pretzels and love and laughter throughout the evening.
  • my daughter’s beauty, inside and out.
  • my son-in-law’s dry humor and endless wit.
  • my children’s capacity to love their own children and be such incredible parents to their little ones.

And finally, I am grateful for a family who loves to play games around the table. I am so looking forward to hours of game-playing this weekend. We’ll miss you, Mom, and we’ll play for you while you’re absent from the table.

Why do Christians shoot their wounded?

I am grateful for the realization that there are more fannypacks worn on college and NFL football fields than you’ll ever see on pudgy, middle-aged, living-in-the-80’s, all-around great but ordinary people.

I am grateful for stores with wide aisles, especially this time of the year.

I am grateful for the most unique Thanksgiving card from Delores that I will display this week for all to see.

I am grateful for a new storm door.

I am grateful for the treat of going to the Thanksgiving lunch last Friday at the assisted living facility where I call Bingo.

I am grateful that Halos and Cuties are back.

I am grateful for our Thanksgiving tree.

I am grateful for the gift of hearing Anthony Evans and Philip Yancey this past weekend.

Anthony was a finalist on The Voice and is the son of Pastor Tony Evans. There had come a point in his ministry when he was so burnt out and not feeling or believing the message of which he was singing. He just didn’t feel the love, the joy, the grace of Jesus, although he talked and sang it every day. He sat down with his Dad for some advice, and Dad gave him the analogy of a football game. Anthony knew the “plays” by memory, but he spent all of his time in the “huddle” with those who also knew all the plays, with those who also wore the “uniform.” Problem was, he stayed in the huddle instead of getting out of the huddle and playing the game.  You gotta quit reciting plays to “the team” – break the huddle and play the game. Do love, Rhonda. Do love.

Philip Yancey spoke on his newest book, “Vanishing Grace,” and how the trend in today’s Christian community is to stand on the truth and rant about other churches and leaders who are watering down the message, but at the same time, we’ve all lost, because there is barely a hint of grace being shown any longer. He spoke of a woman from Chicago, who was so poor and so desperate, she rented out her children for money. When asked why she didn’t ask for help from local churches, she scoffed something like this: “Church?! I’d never go there! I’m not good enough for those kind of people.” Our grace is easily shown to like-minded, to like-status, to like-cultured, to like-lifestyle. It’s much harder to show grace and love and acceptance “just as you are” to those who we deem lower on the ladder. He used Hebrews 12:15 as the scripture to follow:

So strengthen your drooping hands and weak knees! Make straight paths for your feet so that if any part is lame, it will be healed rather than injured more seriously. Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone—and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it. Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. Make sure that no root of bitterness grows up that might cause trouble and pollute many people. – Hebrews 12:15

I love that Jesus’ arms are big enough for all of us, even those of us who are wounded, especially those of us who are wounded, and HIS grace is what counts. I love that my church practices making sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. I love that I am accepted as I am, not as I should be.

I am grateful for a long list of things to get done in the next two days and for a long grocery list that just means there are lots of mouths to feed.

I am grateful that my sister is going to make the deviled eggs so that I don’t have to.

I am grateful for my own signature tablecloth that will have new additions this week.

And I am grateful for a week full of activity and family and a clean house and anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday as it should be – with those you love.

Little slips of paper, one little thanks at a time = long hugs from me to you.

This morning, my day started early. Instead of puttering around the house, I decided to get a jump on the day and come into work early. I am so grateful I did. I was able to witness a beautiful sunrise on my way, and it brought back floods of memories of the 9th floor – sitting in Mom and Dad’s apartment, hearing the oxygen’s steady whir as Mom breathed quietly in the stillness of the morning, the sun peeking up over the horizon with it’s greeting of a new and glorious day, one more to spend with my Mom. I drove in silence with thanks to God on my mind for the gift of this new day, thanks for the memories of time with my Mom, thanks for the gift of a granddaughter born on this day six years ago, thanks that little Parker Grace was named after her great-grandma and that my Mom was able to squeeze her great-grandchild close so many times and hold this little miracle child who brought her so much joy.

And in my thanking, I was reminded of the story of Ann Voskamp’s grateful jar that she made for her Mom, and I so wish I could give my Mom one of these this year on her birthday…

She keeps it by her Bible.

Clay shaped by hands, a pottery jar, there on the kitchen table, always there by her Bible, both open for the taking.

I don’t ask her about it.

At the end of a phone call, late spring, leaves unfurling, Mama brings it up.

“Ann… the jar.”

I pause at the sink, pause in the scouring, the scrubbing it all away.

“Yes, Mama?”

I gave her the jar, thrift store find, for Mother’s Day last year, filled it with slips of paper.

“I just wanted you to know what it’s meant to me. I pick out one every day… sometimes more.”

The Manitoba Maple outside my window glints with coming green, and I watch the light ponding across the floor, smile for Mama gathering…

“Things in that jar I never would have remembered… things I didn’t know you remembered.”

There were Jesus’ words read on Sunday, the living it out during the week now: Give thanks anyways — do this in remembrance of Me.

God says to give thanks, to do this in remembrance of Him — because in the remembering to give thanks, it’s our broken places that are re-membered — and we are the ones made whole.

A joyful heart is good medicine and our broken bones can be re-membered when we remember to thank a good God.

Standing at the sink, watching the spring winds bring hope and life again, I remember sitting in the sun of a May day last year, writing out those slips of paper. Dipping back into pool of memories and specifically winding them in and writing them down, line by line.

“Thank you, Mama, for all the nights you sang me to sleep, me so scared of dark and of dying in my sleep, and you so tired. You never got frustrated with me… just kept rubbing my feet and singing… Thank you.”

“Thank you, Mama, for quizzing me on all of the dates for Mr. Manoryk’s world history tests… I passed!”

“Thank you, Mama, for still loving me, always loving me, even when I was a saucy twelve-year-old with hair-sprayed bangs who thought she knew what to wear and what to eat and where to go and was really too hard to endure…”

I scratched down a sheet with spontaneous gratitude, memories I too had forgotten before pen found page.

But gratitude is a magnet, attracting filings of goodness out of the expanse of the past.

I remember having written some of the memories slow… looked through the shadows of the past and remembered the good… and saw how it was happening: Authentic thanks in all things is possible because our God is a God kneading all things together into a bread that sustains.

Through hard, lean years — mama and I, we had been the busted up who had hurt each other, the unlikely still sustained.

And we both had lived it, come out the other side of it:

 When we stop seeing reasons to give thanks, we stop thinking there are reasons to live.

 When we don’t focus on what we can thank God for, we can’t focus on living for God. 

Giving thanks can help us want to take —
the next breath.

“When I read those slips of paper, one little thanks at a time, it’s like — a long hug from you.” Her voice is breaking up and the tender coming leaves outside the window blur a bit in wind, in me brimming. Her brimming.

It’s like the past redeemed.Thank you.”

I can hardly hear her whisper through the feeling. I can see her though, my heart can, my heart can see my mama unfolding each note. I had felt it too as I wrote each memory, line by line:

A bit of gratitude for the past goes a long way to redeem the past. 

The therapy is in the thanks.

Thanks therapy is God’s prescription for joy.

“Oh, but the thanks is all mine, Mama. All mine.”

Thanksgiving is always the gift back.

The late spring winds blow away a bit of the cold, the warmth surely coming.

And there’s this way that one can sit silent with a mama who was brave and gave.

The mama who tried, who could use a thousand thanks for all her worn and comforting grace.

I am grateful for another day to breathe out thanksgiving.

I am grateful for a little girl named Parker Grace, who has been the source of much joy in her Ama’s heart. Happy birthday, sweet girl.

And I am grateful for another day to share grace. It’s like sharing a little of Mom, of Grace, with the world.  Happy Friday, everyone.

I am grateful for refrigerators full…of magnets.

I am grateful for dolls.

I am grateful for nice checkout people.

I am grateful for a beautiful soul named Karen.

I am grateful for packages delivered.

I am grateful that I am not in charge of the world.

I am grateful for our small group. Everyone shares. It’s nice.

I am grateful for a fresh package of Oreo cookies and the very first one to go into my mouth.

I am grateful for a photo magnet that came in the mail – my first grandchildren magnet and now proudly displayed on the fridge.

And I am grateful for this, from an incredible writer named Rachel:

Rude Reactions, Angry Outbursts, Ladders That Lift

Eeny meeny miny mo or rock, paper, scissors?

I have choices to make every day when I get up.

Begin my day talking to myself or talking to Jesus.

Make the bed or leave it be.

This outfit or that one.

Oatmeal or a PopTart.

The choices continue throughout the day.

Hurry to open the door for that person with hands full or drag behind to avoid helping.

Be the first to speak kind words or remain in my own little world and not reach out.

Share that rumor or keep it to myself and just share it with Jesus.

Offer the extra food packed for the day or save it for tomorrow.

Allow the car in front of me extra room or demand my space on the road.

Home-cooked or restaurant.

Give up my free time to serve others or watch the game.

Finish my day with gratitude and sweet words of affirmation or finish my day with bitterness and worry and regret.

No matter what the headlines shout, the world only has two stories: bless God or curse God.
No matter what the world tries to sell, we all only get to choose from two shelves: Give God thanks, or Give God the door.
No matter what we’re facing, there are always only two roads: thanksgiving to God or dismiss God. – Ann Voskamp

It’s another choice. And through the hard times, through the working out my faith, through the introspection and discovery of who I am, I have found that giving thanks and being grateful for not only the delights in the everyday but also the festering battles that seem to have no end is the key to embracing that one-of-a-kind peace that only Jesus can give. And in that peace, there is an absence of worry and misery that weighed me down for all of my adulthood.

I can choose to wear the mask of “I’m fine,” the mask of “Look at me, I’m a righteous Christian,” or I can choose to be real and wear the face God gave to me, the face that shows the world that I am human, I am unworthy, I am a saint who sins, I am rescued and grateful, and I am loved unconditionally IN SPITE of myself.

If you let something steal your thanksgiving, then you let something steal your joy, and if you let something steal your joy, you let something steal your strength. – Ann Voskamp

I am grateful for those in my life who get it.

I am grateful for the realization after over half my life has been lived, that I was not always right in my righteousness, that my concept and perception of Jesus and his teachings were askewed, that in order to grow in my faith, I couldn’t hang on to the coattails of my youth, but I had to put in the time and work out my faith for myself.

I am grateful that in spite of my messed up example as a Mom, my daughters are pursuing Jesus on their own journey and are not hanging on to the coattails of their youth.

I am grateful that Katrina and Zak share their favorite books with me that have opened my eyes to a different way of following Jesus.

I am grateful for the tapestry of my life that has been formed with so many different experiences, some delightful and some festering battles, a tapestry rich in history and tradition, taught by good examples and the not-so-good.

Jesus hung out with the most marginalized and disrespected people of society, and he was fiercely opposed to anyone representing him in a hypocritical way. His words should not only shock us but also make us fear, because they were written just as much to us Christians today as they were to the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees.

I have certainly focused on outward appearance and made extra to-do lists to add to my salvation, all the while neglecting the simple needs of others. I’m often more Pharisee than saint. I’d rather people tell me how awesome I am than how awesome Jesus is. I’d rather concentrate on other people’s sins before I look at my own. More often than not, I sense the toxic Pharisee spirit rising up within me. – Jeff Bethke

Choices.  Today, I choose saint over Pharisee. Today, I choose to hear how awesome Jesus is. Today, I choose to focus on my own sin and no one else’s.  I choose to give thanks and receive joy. I choose to be joyful and become stronger.

This day, I choose God’s grace that covers my human condition, and for that, I am grateful.

Hickory Dickory Dock?

I am grateful for this time of year that automatically calls for pretty little candy dishes filled with snacks of the season – snowball cookies, chex mix, yogurt pretzels, cathedral windows, ranch oyster crackers, peanut clusters, oreo cookie balls, chocolate kiss cookies, and last but not least, Mom’s accidentally-burnt peanut brittle.

I am grateful for time spent on the couch in front of the fire, re-reading our chapter for small group tomorrow evening.

I am grateful for the privilege of giving blood this morning at church and grateful for the friendly volunteers who made the time go quickly.

I am grateful for a hand written note on a paper towel I received in the mail last night from Delores that also included a beautiful handmade bouquet of flowers:

2014-11-18_12-18-00_482

I am grateful for a new book to read – Jefferson Bethke’s Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough. I began it this morning on the blood giving bed, and I am having a hard time wanting to be at work. I’d much rather be smack dab in the middle of this book, on the couch, snuggled in warmth. My son-in-law recommended it by sending a text several months ago that said, “This book ROCKED MY WORLD!!” and after reading the introduction and first three pages of chapter one, I am kicking myself that I took so long to start it. Uh. I do believe it is about to become a new favorite.

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?
What if I told you getting you to vote Republican really wasn’t His mission?
What if I told you religious right doesn’t automatically mean Christian?
And just because you call some people blind, doesn’t automatically give you vision.

If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?
Why does it build huge churches, but fail to feed the poor?
Tell single moms God doesn’t love them, if they’ve ever had a divorce?
Yet God in the Old Testament actually calls the religious people whores. – Jefferson Bethke

I am grateful that nothing was taken from our house yesterday when the front door was left open all afternoon (except for lots of heat), and I am grateful that as far as we can tell, we do not have uninvited guests who decided the house was warm and free to inhabit.

I am grateful for the surprise when I came home from the grocery store last night of baked potatoes for dinner, an inviting fire in the fireplace, and later, the smell of Chex Mix baking in the oven.

And I am grateful that I was reminded again this morning to be still and know that He is God:

Focus your entire being on My living Presence. I am most assuredly with you, enveloping you in My Love and Peace. While you relax in My Presence, I am molding your mind and cleansing your heart. I am recreating you into the one I designed you to be.

As you move from stillness into the activities of your day, do not relinquish your attentiveness to Me. If something troubles you, talk it over with Me. If you get bored with what you are doing, fill the time with prayers and praise. When someone irritates you, don’t let your thoughts linger on that person’s faults. Gently nudge your mind back to Me. Every moment is precious if you keep your focus on Me. Any day can be a good day, because My Presence permeates all time. – Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

Psalm 89:15-16

The people who know the celebratory shout are truly happy!
They walk in the light of your presence, Lord!
They rejoice in your name all day long
and are uplifted by your righteousness – Common English

1 John 3:19-20

Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. – New Living Translation

Jude 24-25

To the one who is able to protect you from falling,
and to present you blameless and rejoicing before his glorious presence,
to the only God our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
belong glory, majesty, power, and authority,
before all time, now and forever. Amen.

My discombobulated brain trying to plot the course.

I am grateful for crumbs. Crumbs feed birds and crumbs feed me when they are at the bottom of a box. Cheezits, preferably. But saltine crumbs are acceptable, as are most potato chip crumbs.

I am grateful for busy weeks, like this one. No time to slack, but all the time in the world to appreciate every scheduled appointment and activity on the list. Blood donation, Bingo, CASA visit, small group, groceries, Philip Yancey at church, ballgames, errands. Ahhhhh, life is good.

I am grateful for an hour of delight on Sunday afternoon. My piano student who attends the Kansas School for the Blind had a recital and Sam and I were so fortunate to have a free afternoon to attend. It was right in the middle of a Chiefs game. We had a list, of course, of things to do. But we knew that this was something we should do. What a beautiful thing to witness. From the moment it started until the very end, I had tears in my eyes. Watching these incredible students perform their talents that require them to learn via alternative methods was such a privilege, and I was so proud of them all, especially Fabien. What a great kid he is.

I am grateful for a hug from a co-worker this morning, and I am grateful for the words to speak to her that prompted her to share something so personal and the Divine intervention she experienced this weekend.

I am grateful for conversation with Dad, and I am so grateful that he and I like to call each other on Sundays to talk about the message.

I am grateful for fresh batteries in my drawer.

I am grateful for a husband who felt the same way I did and insisted on taking multiple bags to fill for Christmas.

It’s a Monday. I drove to work this morning feeling pulled in several directions, all of my own doing. I had so many things in my mind fighting for priority. Things to add to the list. Don’t forgets. Schedule for the week. Hopes and dreams for holidays. My devotion about being a simple sheep following my Shepherd. Paying attention to the red light. Listening to the news on the radio. Reflecting on the weekend just past. Wishing for more visits with my girls and grandchildren. Wanting a Christmas tree and a house bedazzled with lights. Oooh, Bingo is tomorrow night, gotta make Chex mix. Man, it’s cold outside…

dis·com·bob·u·lateˌdiskəmˈbäbyəlāt/ – thrown into confusion

And then I stepped outside the car to make my way into the office. I had a “Shirley” moment. A “Shirley” moment is that glorious feeling you get when you take a swig of a really, really cold can of Coke and the carbonation and cold takes your breath away and makes you swallow funny. Although, I had a different kind of “Shirley” moment when I got out of the car and breathed in the 13 degree air that made my brain throw up a huge mental iron curtain to my discombobulated thoughts. It was like God reached down and knocked me on the head trying to get my attention to focus on the beauty of the day, the crisp of the season, the moment of energetic morning.

I breathed deep the icy air, looked up into the blue sky past the hanging on yellow and brown leaves all stubborn to let go, and I smiled. Thank. You. I needed that, Lord.

Living a life fully engaged and full of whimsy and the kind of things love does is something most people plan to do, but along the way they just kind of forget…You don’t need a plan; you just need to be present…it becomes clear that we need to stop plotting the course and instead just land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting to the “do” part of our faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does. – Bob Goff, introduction to Love Does