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    Thanksgiving: How the Practice of Gratitude leads to the Presence of Contentment

    “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Eph 4:11-12). I used to read those verses and think, “Good for you, Paul…I wish.” Contentment and I have a troubled history. Many reasons: chronic illness, physical limitations, and especially the propensity to live in the future ( I think I will be content when I get married…have a baby…accomplish this career or ministry vision…) As a future oriented person who has always lived with chronic, holy frustration, reading Ann Voskamp's book, 1000 Gifts seven years ago changed me. Her close-to-the-heart chronicle of her journey into thanksgiving and…

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    Savoring the Moment

    "I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man." Ecclesiastes 3:9-10 As I prepared to teach Ecclesiastes this week, I thought of this post that I wrote in 2010. What a wonderful trip our entire family took this month! Although we saw great sights and enjoyed good food, the highlight was being with those I love most. Perhaps revisiting some places I had seen previously made it easier to live in the moment, or maybe realizing that such…

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    Comparison, Competition, and Contentment*

    Rehearsal dinners can be an awkward thing for a single person. Having married late in life, I have several such experiences under my belt. One evening in particular stands out as I walked into a beautiful room full of beautiful people and suddenly felt, well, less than beautiful.  I sat down in the lone single chair at a table full of happy couples, all using the joyful occasion to reflect on their own courtships and marriages.  Hhhmmm….what could I contribute to this conversation?  As I sat in silence, my insecurities began to get the best of me.  After about an hour’s worth of misery, the time came for friends and…

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    Shoe Box Christians

    Am I rushing things to ask you to think about Thanksgiving in September? Maybe. But, please hear me out. What characterizes the Christian life more than that of giving thanks? We do a lot of activities ahead of time during advent and lent to prepare for Christmas and Easter. What do we do ahead to prepare for Thanksgiving Day? What is a Thanksgiving Day without giving of thanks? It can easily be forgotten in the midst of the food and fun. Be intentional this year, Take advantage of the next nine weeks to prepare. If you are home schooling, teaching Sunday School, or just plain parenting this will be an activity…

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    In a Culture of Never Enough, a Culture at War, “Learning” Real Contentment

    Contentment and I have a troubled history. Many reasons: physical limitations, a vivid imagination, a propensity to live in the future… In addition, our culture of More and Better torches our desires with the gasoline of glossy mags, dark theaters, Facebook vacation pictures, clothes we’ll never need for a life we’ll never live…   Election year aggravates our struggles. Each side is spending billions to cast their vision of the better life we’ll live once they are elected. Between now and November we will be subjected to an endless parade of speeches, promises, ads, polls and robocalls designed to inflate our expectations so we will vote for change. It’s all…

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    5 Ways to Encourage Gratitude in Your Family

    Johnny Henry Jowett, a well-known pastor from the late 1800’s, said: “Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” I’ve never doubted the importance of gratitude. Many studies done in recent years back this up. Wall Street Journal, for example, referenced a study done among teens showing that those with higher amounts of gratitude also had higher grades, less depression, less envy, and a healthier outlook on life. Yet, sometimes I’ve failed to see the full value. Even worse are those…

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    Live Out Your Purpose

    Do you want your life to make a difference? Look around you. How satisfied are you with your life? What about purpose? Do you seek to live out your purpose?   My drive to succeed as a college student was solely to find purpose in changing the world. I wanted to have an impact on others so badly that I worked really hard. Never mind my pursuit of excellence in my education, I served at church and I even adopted a child from Guatemala—okay not really, I just sponsored one. Even though I barely had enough money to eat in college, I still made sure Manuel had his monthly donation.…

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    The Lure of the Idol of Beauty

    Last night our television was on, but I wasn’t really paying attention to it. I did note my husband flipping through a report featuring an aging television star who has clearly gone through a number of facelifts—common among celebrities and the wealthy. Beauty is a very popular idol. I have to admit that I hate looking in the mirror. Yet I know the beauty culture is the antithesis of God’s view of me. I would never have surgery simply to improve my appearance, but I still wish I could look better! The pull of beauty is so pervasive that it’s almost impossible for any of us to feel good about…

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    Your Board of Directors

    At a conference several years ago I was given a thought-provoking challenge, to identify the people on the board of directors of my life: whose voices do I listen to? Whose counsel do I follow? Whose values do I respond to? The speaker pointed out that some people ought to be kicked off our board—like parents, if their voices of shame and criticism still control and restrict us. So should voices of much of the media, especially TV.  And we can replace them with wiser, more godly voices who can offer us direction and perspective. There was a discussion of categories of potential board members. They don’t have to be…