Thankful Always



When the holiday we know as Thanksgiving is over, it brings many things . . . the refrigerator is finally emptying out and the leftovers are gone, family is scattered once again, a new holiday season begins, and sometimes, we might even forget all about being thankful.

I want to hold on to thanks giving this time. I want to live with thankfulness all year around. I want to learn to be thankful always.

I would like to share a wonderful prayer with you. These beautiful words are a family prayer written by Walter Rauschenbusch as a Thanksgiving prayer. Composed around the turn of the twentieth century, the theologian and Baptist social reformer’s words are as beautiful and poignant today as they were a hundred years ago.

For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,

Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Donna Alley wrote a song that expresses what I am trying to say. Here are the lyrics of the refrain:

In everything give Him thanks, give Him thanks.
In everything give Him thanks.
In the good times praise His name.
In the bad times do the same.
In everything give the King of Kings all the thanks.

Listen to the entire song by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at this link:

Advent: A Sunday of Hope


imageDuring Advent, God’s people look back upon Christ’s coming in celebration, while at the same time look forward in eager anticipation and hope for the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season: O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.

First Sunday of Advent
The Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot ;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”

God of justice,
Come among us anew this Advent season.
Come into our hearts that we might be safe.
Come into our souls that we might dwell secure.
Come into our thoughts that we might seek justice in our world.
Welcome. We wait for you in hope!
O come, O come, Emmanuel.




Take the World into My Arms



“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.” (Mary Oliver)

I have often wondered about how it would feel to be a literal tree-hugger, to throw my arms around a strong tree trunk and say “thank you” for every bit of life you give to the earth. I have often wondered about how it would feel to climb a tall tree, to recline in its branches and to say “thank you” for your shelter and your beauty.

I know I’m weird, but I stand in wonder at the way tree leaves change their colors in the sunlight, glowing amber and orange and red and burgundy against the bright blue of a clear autumn sky. They comfort me. They leave me in awe. They let me experience the wonderment of the showy spectacle. And when the wind blows and I hear the trees rustling in the breeze, when I hear the dry leaves crunch beneath my feet, I am fully smitten.

My only and best response is to thank God for the trees of the earth in all their splendor. And then to “take the world into my arms,” as Mary Oliver says.

Trees are gifts to me from a loving God. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variableness neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

An Unknown Path


Now that the feasting of Thanksgiving is over, the world has rolled back into its place. Once again, there is only the reality of our lives to deal with. Holidays take us out of our worlds for a moment, suspending worries and concerns. But today, the concern, the unknown path, returns.

For me, the unknown path is my evaluation for a kidney transplant on Wednesday. All I know about it at this point is that it will be a full day of testing, interviews, and whatever else they do. Not knowing exactly what they will do is rather disconcerting to me. Wondering if I will actually receive a transplant is disconcerting. How I will fare physically after surgery is also disconcerting.

There are so many questions? Will the surgery itself take too much out of me? Am I looking at months of recuperation? Will my body accept the new organ? Will we even be able to secure a donor? Will I be able to tolerate the anti-rejection medications?

This is definitely one of those “trust God” situations when the only thing one can do is rely on God to guide and protect. I intend to move forward down this unknown path, knowing that I can only see a short distance ahead of me, knowing that the road disappears into the distance and goes on into a place I cannot see. The only way I can do this is to trust God with all my heart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not depend on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.

– Proverbs 3:5-6

Empty Places


Many families will have an empty place at their Thanksgiving table. In fact, there will be an empty place at our Thanksgiving table this year. It will bring a bit of sorrow to the day, because one very special person will be absent, miles away in another state.

While we are in these special days of thanks giving, I remember our best friend of many years, Marvin. There are no words that can express his undying loyalty to us over the years. He was there for us in good times and in not-so-good times, always present to listen, to understand, and to offer a calm word.

More like a brother than a friend, he is definitely a part of our family. Now that we are far apart, we have to rely on electronic communication to stay in touch. It just doesn’t work. The close friendship that we enjoyed doesn’t translate well in a text message.

Fortunately, he has been here to visit. But Thanksgiving will just not be the same without him around our table. Time moves on and circumstances change. Friends move away, bringing empty places in the heart and at the table.

But my heart, at least, is full of fond memories and good times with Marvin. Not even distance can take that away. Thanks, Marvin. You are the best of friends, a friend of the heart.

“For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!”

― Dag Hammarskjöld

Thanks Giving

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.

Luke 6:38 (New Revised Standard Version)

Eight months and two weeks ago, my husband, Fred, and I moved from Little Rock, Arkansas to Macon, Georgia. It was a very unlikely move, given we had happily lived in Little Rock for thirty-three years. We have close friends, a son, and three precious grandchildren in Little Rock.

But here we are, miles away from what was our home. How did we get here? It was a matter of insistence on the part of my brother, my sister-in-law, and my cousins.

I had been very ill for a year. Fred took care of me singlehandedly. When my Georgia family saw the situation first-hand, they insisted that we move here so that they could be more available to care for me and support Fred.

During this season when we think about giving thanks, I am filled with gratitude to them for their care. To say that they are generous, loving and giving to us would be an understatement. When I think of them — Andrew, Linda, Tasia and Donna — and all they do for us, I stand amazed at such lavish love.

The Bible says, Give and you shall be repaid in good measure.” My family will most definitely receive as generously as they give to us, and the words of the Scripture will be true of them: “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

So today, as we prepare to spend Thanksgiving as a family, I am overflowing with thanks giving for all they are doing to care for us. So thank you Andrew, Linda, Tasia and Donna. You mean so much to me, and “I give thanks to my God upon every remembrance of you.” (Philippians 1:3)

🎶Without a Song🎶


“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”
― Victor Hugo

It is true that music can often give expression to our deepest emotions, and can be a healing balm in troubled times. Alas, not all of us can make beautiful music. Those who are gifted to do so are fortunate. The rest of us make do, but we make do very well.

I have seen it over and over . . . the person who can lose him/herself by listening to classical music; the fan who can sing along with every word of country music radio and enjoy every minute; the one who knows every word of every Motown hit and can get lost in the soulful tunes.

Music is good for us, in good times when it can express our delight, and in bad times when it can bring us comfort. This is one of my favorite songs:

Without a song the day would never end.
Without a song the road would never bend.
When things go wrong, a man ain’t got a friend
Without a song.

That field of corn would never see a plow.
That field of corn would be deserted now.
A man is born but he’s no good no-how
Without a song.

I got my troubles and woe but sure as I know that Jordan will roll.
I’ll get along as long as a song is strong in my soul.
I’ll never know what makes the rain to fall.
I’ll never know what makes the grass so tall.
I only know there ain’t no love at all
Without a song!

(“Without a Song” is a popular song with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Billy Rose and Edward Eliscu, published in 1929. It was included in the musical play, Great Day.)

When you are feeling low, try music. Sing it, play it, listen to it. It might just make a difference in your soul.

A Beautiful Place


“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe the world to be a beautiful place.”

– Kurt Vonnegut

What sage advice . . . Don’t let the world make you hard. Don’t let pain make you hate. It is so easy to be marked by events that hurt us, so easy to respond with bitterness and anger. It is easier still to be angry for so long that you become cynical and unhappy.

I once knew a person that hated everything and every person. So much had happened in her life that she had become permanently bitter, and her bitterness marred every relationship in her life.

Once a person allows that much bitterness to take over his/her life, it is nearly impossible to find contentment and happiness.

If you find that you are feeling chronically angry or bitter, get to the bottom of your anger and resolve it. You will be glad you did when your world again starts looking like a beautiful place.

🎶MakeYour Own Kind of Music🎶


All sorts of people are contemplating weighty decisions these days. Dialogue about recent terrorist acts are wrought with critical questions. Do we close our borders to refugees? Do we welcome those fleeing from their violent homelands?

What is the moral response? What is the Christian response? How do we keep our nation safe?

And we all react differently: with anger, despair, sadness, indignation, resolve, resignation, rage, hopelessness . . . the list could go on and on.

Consider this quote from The Houston Chronicle:

During times of terror, murder, and violence, political leaders will make decisions that protect their own innocent citizens from harm. Yet what about the innocent who are left in the crossfire? Of the Syrian refugees being referred by the United Nations for settlement, more than half are children under the age of 18. A large proportion of them are women or elderly men. The protocol for admittance under refugee guidelines takes an average of 18 to 24 months during a rigorous screening process. Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute says, “The refugee resettlement program is the least likely way for a terrorist to infiltrate the United States.”

I am not writing to set forth yet another argument on this subject. People much more knowledgable than I are already doing that. But I was reminded just now of a day in our past that was also a time of crisis. And I loved Leonard Bernstein’s response and his reaction to the crisis. Here is his story.

In the days that followed the assassination of President Kennedy there were many heart-wrenching musical moments, like the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony the day before Leonard Bernstein gave an unforgettable speech at Madison Square Garden. His remarks include these words:

“This sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather it will inflame our art . . . This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

My decision or yours on how to respond to violence will not likely change the course of terrorism in the world. Nevertheless, each of us must own our own responses to crisis.

Most of us are not talented enough to make music. But I hope that my response to crisis will be to act “more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” And by the way, making our own kind of music, whatever that might be, is not a bad idea.