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God’s Word…Life and Truth

“Give Thanks”

 “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).

Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the blessings in our lives.

Let’s begin now…and continue all year long.

Our daughter started a new Thanksgiving tradition last year. Their family makes a Thankful Tree. The children find a tree branch and place it in a homemade container and then cut out leaves made from construction paper. Each day the children and their parents write something they want to thank God for on a leaf and then hang the leaves on the tree branch.  — Adapted from Changing Seasons In Me, article originally written Nov. 13, 2014.

 

Jack and Julia

I’m not fond of the winter months. In fact, my wardrobe is indicative of this, having many more summer clothes than winter. My hands shiver when walking down the freezer aisle at the grocery store…in the summer!

A thankful spirit often requires a different or new perspective on life’s familiarities. Otherwise, we may find ourselves taking for granted the blessings right in front of us….our family, the changing colors of autumn, a red bird perched on a snow-covered branch, and so on. While driving home from work the other day, my husband called and told me to look outside at the beautiful sunset. I ran out on our deck, only to be disappointed I had missed the window of opportunity.

To keep our children from missing the windows of opportunity, we (parents and grandparents) have the awesome responsibility to train our children to have watchful eyes, for the many blessings we receive each day. This takes intentionality! Children and adults not fully surrendered to Christ, are naturally self-absorbed and can easily miss the joy God intends. Looking at the world through eternal lenses portrays true and lasting blessings. The following story depicts two diverse perspectives from ten men who received the same blessing.

Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy – Luke 17:11-19

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

After reading and contemplating the two varying responses to the lepers’ healing, ask yourself how you may have responded? Would it be more like the nine, or the one?  I’d like to propose two diverse perspectives—the temporal and the eternal.

The temporal perspective:

“The nine” cleansed lepers missed their window of opportunity to receive an even greater blessing, far beyond their physical healing. Here are a few possible reasons “the nine” didn’t go back to thank Jesus.

  • Being in isolation for so long, their minds were solely focused on returning to their former lifestyle.

  • They may have thought Jesus was simply doing what He was “supposed” to do…heal people. Therefore, they took their healing for granted.

  • Some may have said something like, “I’m sure God wants me to get busy fulfilling the plans He purposed for my life.”

The eternal perspective:

“The one” leper who came back to thank Jesus not only recognized the miraculous healing in his life, he experienced the greater blessing—the presence of a loving and merciful Savior. His perspective was filled with overflowing gratefulness, a direct result of being Christ-focused rather than self-absorbed.

The following quotes are from the book, Love Made Perfect—Foundations for the Holy Life (1997), authored by Dr. William M. Greathouse (April 29, 1919 – March 24, 2011), minister and emeritus general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.

“Self-love is the disease of original sin.”  “Idolatrous self-love is our sickness, but it is a sickness God wants to cure.”

To help our children develop a grateful heart like the “one leper,” I believe we must first explain that everyone is born with a sinful nature. The sinful nature will naturally dispose every human heart toward being self-absorbed. The only cure for a self-absorbed life is full surrender to Christ. I recommend reading Dr. Greathouse’s book, Love Made Perfect, for a fuller understanding of loving God with one’s whole heart, strength, and mind—a love perfected in us through Christ alone.

Secondly, we need to stop and “smell the roses.” I love this definition for the idiom “smell the roses.”

To take time out of one’s busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life.

Parent Challenge

Take time to thank God throughout your day. Don’t let the busyness of your schedule or life’s distractions keep you from missing out on the blessings of life. Begin by thanking God for your precious children, spouse, friends, church family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Practice pointing out the blessings of life to your children, as you drive along the road. The changing seasons exude with God’s blessings.

My new perspective of winter:  I love sitting by a fire on a cold wintry day with my husband. Building snowmen with our grandchildren imparts cherished memories of innocent smiles and silly giggles into my heart. Christmas brings the greatest blessing of all, as our family gathers together to sing happy birthday to Jesus. God warms my heart throughout the winter.

More Traditions

Thanksgiving tablecloth. Using the same tablecloth every year, each family member writes what they are thankful for on the tablecloth. The little ones love to make turkeys as they trace around their hands. Use permanent fabric markers or pens.

Indian Corn: Our grandchildren help me place several kernels of Indian corn by each table setting. Before eating our meal everyone shares something they are thankful for and then they place a kernel of corn into a decorative basket. Our basket goes around the table several times because the children have such thankful hearts.

 wreathThe first Sunday of Advent is November 29 this year (2015). There are limitless resources available to help families prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth. The Advent wreath is one of my favorites.

Check out Christian Book.com at:

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=Advent+devotionals+for+families&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1

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Advent

Advent, a season providing Christian families an opportunity to prepare their hearts for the celebration of the coming of the Lord into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas. The word “Advent” is a Latin word meaning “the coming.” I believe that many families find it difficult to experience the true joy of Christmas due to unrealistic human expectations, which is often driven by the secular media. The oldest lie of Satan, “Look and see what will “really” make you merry.” Well, enough of the negative. Let’s share some ideas of how to focus on the truest and purest meaning of Christmas–Jesus and His love for all mankind.

The Advent Wreath:  One of the most recognizable symbols of Advent. The wreath can be made by using various materials. Traditionally, the wreath is made of a circle of evergreen branches laid flat to symbolize the endless nature of God’s love for his people. Four candles stand in the circle. Three of the candles are purple and the fourth, the “Joy” candle is pink. Blue candles may also be used to emphasize our hope in God’s promise fulfilled in the Nativity. One candle is lit during the first week (Sunday) of Advent, two during the second week, three during the third, and four during the fourth week. The candles remind us of the light of God coming into the world, and the light from the candles grows brighter as each week comes closer to Christmas.  ** Different colors may be used to signify other characteristics of Christ; and a white candle (Christ candle) is placed in the middle of the wreath and may be lit the Sunday closest to Christmas or on Christmas Eve.  The Christ candle represents Christ Himself–pure and blameless, and without sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
For younger children, make miniature Advent Wreaths: Have little hands mold clay into circular wreaths, and then add birthday candles into the clay.

Devotion:  When lighting the Advent candles, be sure and share a Scripture reading and or Christmas devotion. You may also want to sing some favorite Christmas carols. Pray together, asking the Lord to keep your hearts and minds focused on the true meaning of Christmas–JESUS!

Suggested Advent Resources:  Connect!  Dec/Jan/Feb 2012-13 Produced by: WordAction Publishing Company  http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=CON-DJF%2012&nid=srch&catalogId=NA&catSecCd=NA&subCatSecCd=NA&subSubCatSecCd=NA     Creative Communications for the Parrish also offers a nice variety of Family Advent devotions (Protestant and Catholic) at: http://www.creativecommunications.com

Littlest Angel or Good Elf Game — Countdown to Christmas while teaching children to do acts of kindness throughout the Advent season. Begin by reading some familiar passages of Scripture that denotes acts of kindness toward others. Suggested Scripture readings: The Good Samaritan–Luke 10:25-37, The feeding of the 5000–Matthew 14:13-21, Fruit of the Spirit–Galatians 5:22-23. Two Variations for playing this game:

1.  Ask children to be intentional in showing acts of kindness each day. Tell them not to reveal the nice things they have done until someone asks them, “Did you make your sisters bed?” Then they can reply, “Must have been a good elf or little angel.” 2.  Have children make an Advent chain from construction paper. After cutting 25 strips of paper to make the chain, ask the children to write down one act of kindness on each strip of paper. Example: Clean my room. Make a special Christmas card for my teacher. Tell a friend about Jesus. Etc. Then connect the links together to make a chain. The child will select one link each day and complete the act of kindness noted on that link. To make a Family Advent Chain, simply write out acts of kindness that the whole family may take part in. Example: Make cookies for a neighbor. Donate food to the local community food pantry. Babysit for a friend. Invite a family over for a meal or movie night. Etc. Be creative!

Nativity Scene — Instead of setting up all the nativity pieces at once, add a new piece each day. For instance, begin with the stable or an empty manger, then add a cow, a lamb, camels, the straw in the manger, the shepherds, the angel(s), Joseph, Mary.  Then on Christmas morning, add baby Jesus to the manger. Variation: Set the three wise men across the room from the stable, and each day move them a little closer until they reach the manger scene on Christmas day. Each day read small portions of the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 1:18 – 2:11.

 

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 9: 50 am - in Christmas, Faith At Home

 

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