Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thankfulness as a discipline . . .

. . . is a new concept.  Today's reading in Jesus Calling is about thankfulness; it's not the first time the writer has encouraged thankfulness, but the first time she has called it a discipline.  She writes:  "Practice My Presence by practicing the discipline of thankfulness" and exhorts the reader to: "See how many times you can thank Me daily; this will awaken your awareness to a multitude of blessings."  I began to think of why/how to think of this concept.  In other writings she has urged the reader to replace complaints and grumblings with thanksgiving.  Certainly rings a Biblical bell with me!  "Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, give thanks."  That, for me, takes discipline.  How much easier it is to complain!  Throughout today I have tried to really see how many things for which I can thank God. 

Here go a few:
  • I'm thankful for the insights shared by Sarah Young in Jesus Calling.  What a terrific blessing they continue to be!
  • I'm thankful for July 24 and Kevin and Marty's anniversary and for all they mean to each other.  I'm thankful for the three grandchildren they have added to my life.
  • I'm thankful for the care Tommy takes of me.  Discipline plays a big part on this one because he tends to be somewhat "overprotective" and I tend to be somewhat "independent." 
  • I'm thankful for Tommy and Liz and the five children that round out their family.
  • I'm thankful for the unique personalities and gifts of each of those eight grandchildren and I am especially thankful for all the time Meredith and Elisa spend with me.  Sometimes I forget to be thankful when I'm busy being quiet and they come bouncing in the door full of silliness and giggles.  It takes discipline to be thankful and not out of sorts.
  •  I'm thankful for memories of my mother that have been dormant for a long, long time.  They were brought to mind a couple of weeks ago when Elisa brought two books of children's poetry off my bookcase.  One had a variety of poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Ogden Nash and others.  The other was A Child's Garden of Verses, by Stevenson. As I read, I was transported back in time to the hours I sat as my mother read to me about Mr. Nobody, my shadow, the games played on  the counterpane.  I realized how much of our conversations had references to those entertaining poems and the values I learned through them.  I'm thankful to be able to remember those special times with my mother.
  • I'm thankful for friends who take time to stay in touch by letters, phone calls, e-mail and Facebook.
  • I'm thankful for social media used appropriately.  Many friends (Lynn, Susie, Melanie, Gwen)have posted beautiful pictures that bring thankfulness for their sharing and for God's creation.  Some friends have shared pictures and descriptions of places they have visited this summer.  I think particularly of my "superhero of a friend," Jan, who has taken me on a mission trip with her, a tour of Switzerland with both her and husband Mike, and just last week on a hiking trip in Peru.  My days of traveling are probably over so I especially am thankful for those who take the time to share. 
That's just the beginning of an endless list of things that bring thanksgiving to my heart.  Two verses come to mind:  "Celebrate God," and Paul's verse I wrote of earlier: "Be anxious for nothing and in all things give thanks." Thanksgiving beats complaining any day!

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Drew . . .

. . . is twelve years old today.  How can that even be possible?  He is named for his dad, his granddad and his great granddad - Andrew Thomas.  I think his mom and dad just liked the name, Andrew, and they had already decided that three Thomas Henrys was quite enough.  Actually, there are at least two other Andrews:  one a beloved professor of Agronomy at Mississippi State and his son, Drew, who was a physicist who did cancer research.  Both were brilliant men.  Our Drew is a gifted student with a natural sense of rhythm and a love for baseball.  Today Elisa, Meredith and I have made fruit kabobs and created a special red velvet cake to celebrate.  It has a chocolate ganache filling, buttercream frosting, covered with chopped nuts, all to his specification. 

Drew was the first of our grandchildren that I was privileged to baptize.  I finished the first regimen of chemo for the ovarian cancer in April; Tom had been diagnosed with Parkinson's and we were anxious to come home to Mississippi for some R & Rand to meet 10 month old Drew.  What a humbling experience to hold a grandchild and welcome him into the family of God, to hear the professions of faith from his parents, the promise of support from his church family and to realize what I, as his grandmother and a pastor, am professing.  Being privileged to baptize five of our eight grandchildren has made my daily prayers for them even more real. 

Children today are faced with so much more evil than their parents were and certainly more than their grandparents.  I often wonder what goes through children's minds when they learn of school shootings.  Do they wonder if the same could happen at their schools?  Do they feel safe?  I think of parents in the middle of the crisis in Israel and the Gaza Strip and wonder if I could put my little ones on a bus, send them off to school, not knowing if they would make it to school.  One of my daily prayers for my own grandchildren is for them to be kept safe:  safe from the threat of violence, safe from drugs, safe from sexual predators.  Those prayers are no different from parents around the world; I just live in a safer place.  As I am convicted to pray for children in my family, I am also convicted to pray just as earnestly for children around the world, particularly those in the Middle East and the Ukraine; the young girls in Africa who were kidnapped; the children on the streets in Brazil.  Instead of lamenting how terrible the situation is, I urge you to pray for all these children as if they were your own. 

Pastor Margaret