Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Hurry! Black Friday has started!

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The idea of Black Friday just hasn’t quiet caught on here in Costa Rica.  I would guess it’s partially because we don’t have a holiday like Thanksgiving to anchor the shopping day to.  So the idea of a big sale day just kind of hangs like a vague nebulous on the calendar sometime around this end of the year.

Even the concept of a “sale” doesn’t ring true here.  The the English words “sale” and “outlet” are used here, but they really just mean “come here and look”.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that prices are any different that before.  So between these two missing links in the culture- lack of a holiday and false cognates in the language- Black Friday just hasn’t clicked here.

Yesterday I saw a true example of this awkward adoption of American culture.  We passed a sign advertising a Black Friday sale from October 18 – November 3.  I wish I could have gotten my iPod out fast enough to snap a picture of the sign.  But in reality, I was laughing too hard to actually hold the camera still enough for a shot.

It’s these kinds of misunderstandings that just tickle my funny bone.  That’s probably why I get such a kick out of the website engrish.com where people post photos of misused, misspelled, or mispronounced English words found on signs and packages and t-shirts around the world.  But be forewarned, I am in no way responsible if you pee your pants while laughing at this website.  Laugh at your own risk… and You’re Welcome.

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Picky Eaters in the Desert

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picky eaterMy Mother, the stoic, had an expression that she used on us when we were children.  She would say, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”  When we didn’t like the sensible, brown shoes in the hand-me-down bag, she would say that.  When we turned up our noses at leftovers for dinner, she would say that.  Somehow it didn’t make me feel any more grateful.

This week I had the opportunity to do the devotional in our morning assembly at school.  I was assigned the theme, “thankfulness.”  I started by asking the kids to raise their hands if they were picky eaters.  (My own children should have raise their hands.  I forgot to look and see if they did.)  Then I told the story about the Israelites, wandering in the wilderness, who dared to be picky.  If anyone deserved the title “beggars” it was them!

The Israelites had been delivered from slavery in Egypt.  They were set free in a blizzard of miracles from the 10 plagues to the parting of the Red Sea to the presence of God with them day and night as a pillar of cloud or fire.  They should have constantly been walking around with their mouths hanging open in amazement at all that God had done for them.  But no, they repeatedly forgot to be thankful.

So after a few months in the desert, their food ran out.  God did another miracle for them by giving them Manna, food from Heaven, every single day.  At first, they were thrilled.  The Manna tasted like flakes of honey.  It was delicious, healthy, versatile, free and abundant.  But after a while, they started to get bored with Manna.  Let me say that again, they got bored with the Miracle that happened every single day before their very eyes.  They forgot that without this miracle, they were beggars.  And beggars can’t be choosers.

That’s when the complaining began.  Once they started being ungrateful, the Manna no longer tasted sweet.  It tasted bland because their hearts were no longer joyful and full of thanks.  Their attitude affected their appetites.  They no longer hungered for the things of God.  They started looking back and hungering for the food in Egypt.  They forgot that as slaves, they would not have eaten like kings.  But they romanticized the past and complained about their present conditions.

They complained that they wanted meat.  So God got angry and decided to teach them a lesson.  He told Moses, “I’m going to give them so much meat that it will make them sick.  They will eat meat until it comes out their noses!”  God send a huge flock of quail into the camp.  They were thrilled at first!  But they quickly over stuffed themselves. Then they got sick and threw up.  The meat came out their noses just like God said it would.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but once I got food poisoning from McDonalds.  I threw up for two days straight.  I haven’t eaten a chicken sandwich since!  That was enough to cure me of any McDonalds cravings for a long, long time.  The same thing happened to the Israelites.  They didn’t want meat after that.  And we heard no more grumbling about Manna for the next 40 years.  They finally accepted the fact that you can’t be a picky eater in the desert.  Better to be thankful than to pass a drumstick out your nostril.

I have my own little tribe of Israelites at home.  All of my children have been picky eaters (though the teenager has pretty much out grown that phase).  My youngest one just surprised me recently.  She went from an all noodles and cereal diet to suddenly agreeing to taste a bite of chicken.  The bribe was, she would eat a piece of chicken if I let her cut it with a knife.  So with my protecting hands over her little paws, we cut the chicken together and she held up her end of the bargain.  Then she declared, “I like it!”  I about died!  Five years of refusing to eat chicken and suddenly she likes it.  I felt like God looking down on his own picky eaters and breathing a sigh of relief.  Finally they are eating and not complaining.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/6144729060/”>CarbonNYC</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com/Food/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://www.eduteka.pl/doc/cc-by”>CC BY</a>

Thanksgiving for a New Friend

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Recently I have made a new friend at the school where I teach.  She is more than 10 years younger than me, but age has never been an issue with me.  I have had friends who are much older than me and friends who are much younger than I.  The quality that really attracts me to any friend is her authenticity.  Nothing is more delightful than someone who is comfortable just being her self.

A friend like that is like your favorite pair of jeans.  Sometimes you just want to grab your “go-to” outfit without thinking too hard about how nice you look.  Sometimes you just want to wear something comfortable that you won’t have to be adjusting or fussing with all day long.  Sometimes you just want those jeans that are a bit worn and always the perfect fit.  Yeah, a real friend is like a great pair of jeans… you never want to take them off.

My new friend is “sweet”.  That is the first word that I would use to describe her- and it’s a genuine quality in her.  The other day I had a crazy thought.  I wondered if it could actually hurt to be so sweet.  I mean, it would pain me to try so hard to be sweet, but she seems to come by it naturally.  I don’t think anyone would use the word “sweet” to describe me.  I have a stubborn, ornery streak that spices up the flavors of my personality.  (I come by that naturally too.  My mom says I’m just like my dad.)  At least I don’t perceive myself as being sweet like my friend is.

But my favorite thing about my new friend is how she talks about Jesus.  Our conversations nearly always wind their way around to Jesus.  We both love God with all our hearts and have dedicated our lives to serving Him, so naturally we would talk about God a lot.  My friend’s conversations are always so uplifting and refreshing.  I’ve had some friends who talk about God in a pious, self-righteous sort of tone and that just rubs me the wrong way.  But my friend talks about Jesus in a personal way that I can identify with.  She is not ashamed to tell of times when Jesus has scolded her in her heart for a bad attitude or revealed a falsehood in her way of thinking.  She is not afraid to admit when she screwed up and to ask God to forgive her.  And this is a lesson that I am still learning for myself.  I always feel closer to Jesus after I’ve talked with my friend.

In my taxonomy of friendship, I know I have a really great friend when I feel like I never get enough of spending time with this person.  Normally people wear me out, but when I realize that a friend fills me up instead of drains me, this is a good thing.  I only get to eat lunch (18 minutes) a few times a week with my friend and to see her a few times in passing in the hallway.  So yeah, I feel like I don’t get to spend enough time with her.  She doesn’t drain me; she leaves me always wanting more.

Since she is a single girl living overseas and away from her family, I invited her to our Thanksgiving dinner with the other missionary families that we work with here.  Secretly I was hoping that we would get to spend more time talking together… and we did.  We spent the whole afternoon in the kitchen together.  (I broke a wooden spoon stirring my thick, gluey mashed potatoes and we died laughing at that!)  Then we joined the other missionaries for our big feast.

Not only did we get full of food, but we filled up our spirits as well.  We talked of Jesus and what he’s doing in our lives.  We laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.  We got teary-eyed telling each other touching personal stories.  I feel like our hearts were even more knitted together over our turkey and pie.  So for me, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and I have so much to be thankful for.  I am very thankful for my new friend who encourages me and builds up my faith.  I wish we all had a friend like her.

My sweet friend. Isn’t she adorable?!

Get off the Computer!

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Hey, get off the computer!

Quit reading blogs, puttering around on Facebook or surfing the internet.  It’s Thanksgiving!  Go be thankful for something.  Go hug your family.  Go pet your dog.  Go enjoy a nap on the couch while the football game is on.  Go pick at the leftovers some more.  Just for one day, be a part of real life… fully!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thanksgiving in English and Spanish

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This past Monday I taught a little lesson about Thanksgiving for the Chapel at the school where I teach.  I wrote it in both English and Spanish.  My neighbor, the 4th grade teacher, is a Costa Rican and the two of us tag-teamed reading the lesson.  I thought it would be fun for some of you to see the lesson in both English and Spanish.  Now I warn you, I have not had anyone edit my Spanish this time, so if I really screwed up… don’t tell me.  So here goes nothing:

Thanksgiving

It is one of the most popular American traditions to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Next to Christmas, Thanksgiving is the most popular holiday of the year in the United States.  The traditional story says that the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest with an Indian named Squanto and his tribe.  They feasted together and gave thanks to God for their friends, the Indians, who helped them and taught them to hunt, fish and farm in the New World.  But most of this story is just a myth.

The first official Thanksgiving was declared by President Abraham Lincoln, during the American Civil War.  In 1863 Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.  It was a day to thank God for his mercies even while the nation was at war.  The people were to ask God for forgiveness for their sins and to pray for the families who had lost a loved one in the war.  And finally, they were to pray for peace.

Today Thanksgiving has become a time to gather with family and give thanks to God for his blessings.  Even people who don’t believe in God celebrate Thanksgiving.  For them it might be more about the food and football, but they also focus on the blessings of family, friends, and prosperity.  As Christians, we do thank God for his many blessings and for our families, but we are most thankful for Jesus Christ who brought us peace with God himself.  As we eat turkey and celebrate God’s goodness to us, let’s talk together about all the things we have to be thankful for.

Día de Acción de Gracias

 Para celebrar ‘El Día de Acción de Gracias’ es unas de las tradiciones más popular en Los Estados Unidos.  A lado de Navidad, este día es la feria mas popular del año.  La historia traditional dice que los romeros la celebraron su primera cosecha con un idigena se llamaba Squanto y su tribo.  Ellos comieron juntos y dieron gracias a Dios por sus amigos, los indigenas, quien los ayudaban y los enseñaban a ellos para cazar, pescar, y cultivar en El Mundo Nuevo.  Pero la majoria de esta cuenta es solo un mito.

Oficialmente, el primer Día de Acción de Gracias era declarado por El Presidente Abraham Lincoln, durante la Guierra Cival de Los Estados Unidos.  En el año 1863, Lincoln proclamó un Día de Gracias Nacional para será celebrado en el ultimo Jueves de Noviembre.  Era un día para dar gracias a Dios por sus misericordias mientras la guierra nacional.  La gente tenga que pedir perdon a Dios por sus pecados y que orar por las familias quien han perdidos en la guierra miembros de su familia.  Y por ultimo, ellos debieron orar por paz.

Hoy, este día ha sido tiempo para pasar con la familia y dar gracias a Dios por todos de sus bendiciones.  Incluso las personas que no son Cristianos.  Para ellos, podria ser mas sobre la comida y el partido de football, pero tambien ellos sen enfocan en las bendiciones de familia, amigos, y prosperidad.  Como Cristianos, tambien damos gracias a Dios por sus bendiciones y nuestras familias, pero especialmente somos agradecemos a Jesu Christo quien nos compró la paz a nosotros y Dios mismo.  Mientras comemos nuestra pavo y celebremos la bondad de Dios a nosotros, vamos a recordar juntos sobre todas las cosa que tenemos que agradecir.

 

Complaining is a SIN?? You’ve got to be kidding.

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“Magnify the Lord with Thankfulness.” (Ps. 69:30)

What does it mean to Magnify something?  Think about those old machines called “overhead projectors”  (I’m sorry if you just had a flash back from high school algebra class).  An overhead makes things LOOK bigger than they really are.  I could put my hand on the overhead and the shadow would look HUGE on the wall behind me.  Is my hand really that big?  No.  But this machine makes it look bigger by magnifying it.

The Bible says we are to MAGNIFY the Lord.  Can we really make God bigger?  No, neither can we put God on the overhead and make his shadow bigger.  But what we can do is to make our VIEW of him bigger.  Sometimes we have very little ideas about God.  We think that he can’t help us or he can’t hear us or he can’t heal us.  But the Bible says that God holds the whole UNIVERSE in his hands.  That means he can do whatever he wants to do.  We need to have a bigger view of God.  We need to “zoom in” on God and let him fill our view finder.

How do we expand our view of God?  Through Thanksgiving.  Well, that sounds kind of weird.  Why would giving thanks make God look bigger?  Let’s think about the opposite of Thanksgiving.  The opposite of Thanksgiving is complaining.  Have you ever complained about anything before?  Raise your hand, be honest.  If you have a Facebook account you have probably complained about something before- it seems that half of Facebook is people complaining about something… the other half is pictures of bacon.  Just kidding.  So we all agree that we have complained before.

Did you know that complaining is a SIN?!?  Well it IS!  The Bible says that we are to do all things without complaining.  That means when we complain, we are disobeying God.  Now, can you think of any stories in the Bible where someone complained?  I can.  The Children of Israel complained for 40 years while wandering around in the desert.  “There’s sand in my shoes.  It’s hot out here.  I have to go to the bathroom.  Are we there yet?”  God did AMAZING miracles right in front of their eyes EVERY SINGLE DAY and they barely saw them.  They were too busy focusing on their complaints to notice.

God parted the Red Sea right in front of them, gave them water from a rock, lead them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, healed them from snake bites and saved them from their enemies, but all they could think about was the “comforts” of their slavery back in Egypt.  They complained that they missed the Egyptian food.  They complained that it was hot and dry and sandy in the desert.  They complained that they wanted a god that they could see like the Egyptian idols.  And this really made God angry.

They were so focused on what made them UNHAPPY that they couldn’t see their blessings.   Whatever you focus on gets magnified.  Whatever you magnify, fills you.  God cannot fill you if you are already full of yourself and your own complaints.  Focusing on the little blessings in your life and thinking of each one as a gift from God will make your life feel full of gifts.  With you hands full of gifts from God, you will feel loved by him and you won’t be able to stop praising him with your thankful heart.

Through Thanksgiving, we zoom in and focus on God and he begins to fill our vision until He is all we see.  We make our view of him bigger by giving him thanks and not focusing on our complaints.  We magnify God in our own vision by giving thanks to him for the millions of blessings he’s given to us.  In that way, God gets bigger in our sight and instead of our mouths filling with complaints, our conversations overflow with gratitude.  The people around us will notice our gratitude and will expand THEIR view of God as well.

Magnify the Good with Thankfulness

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“Something always comes to fill the empty places.  And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.  This, this, makes me full, and I ‘magnify him with thanksgiving’ (Psalm 69:30 KJV), and God enters the world.  What will a life magnify?  The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted? or God?  Never is God’s omnipotence and omniscience diminutive.  God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse.  It’s our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right.  I say thanks and I swell with Him, and I swell the world and he stirs me, joy all afoot.”  ~One Thousand Gifts, p. 59, by Ann Voskamp

Whatever you focus on gets magnified.  Whatever you magnify, fills you.  God can not fill you if you’re already full of yourself.  Focusing on the little things and thinking of each one as a gift from God makes your life feel full of gifts.  With your hands full of gifts from God, you will feel loved by him and you won’t be able to stop praising him with your thankful heart.

“…this magnifying of the Lord is an occupation to be taken up by all Christians, do not let us think little of it.  To magnify the Lord seems to me the grandest thing we mortals do, for it is the occupation of heaven… We cannot make him really greater, but we can reflect his greatness.  We can make him appear greater.  We can make others have greater thoughts of him, and that’s we do when we are praising him… When God is praised, we have come to the ultimatum.  This is the thing for which all other things are designed.  We are to be saved for this end, for the praise of his glorious grace… Have you been during this day murmuring and complaining and grumbling?  End that, and begin praising… Let us cease from all criticism of what he does, and say, ‘My soul does not grumble.  My soul does not complain; I have taken up a better business than that.  My soul doth magnify the Lord.‘”  ~Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, Jan. 8, 1880.  Text from Luke 1:46 The Magnificat of Mary My soul doth magnify the Lord.

How to avoid being robbed- part 2

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Maybe some of you can relate to this.  When God is working on something in my life, it kind of becomes a theme with me.  (I’m waiting for the theme about quiet and stillness, but that seems incompatible with this phase of Motherhood.  Someday I’d like to be alone with my thoughts… or at least alone in the bathroom.)  For the last 7 or 8 months, God has been teaching me about Thankfulness.  I’ve been putting it into practice and noticing the changes it has made in me and my circumstances.

It all started last year sometime when I noticed a complaining and whiny tone in my voice.  I have a very low tolerance for people who complain and whine.  I can stand it for less than 5 minutes before I just have to walk away.  My excuse usually involves a pressing appointment with a dentist for a root canal, but don’t be fooled… I’m running away from the wet blanket personality.  It’s actually a form of mercy, because if I stood there listening any longer, I might slap someone in the face.  So when I heard this tone in my own voice, I was disgusted with myself.

Things lead to things and I found myself doing some Bible studies on Complaining.  That’s when I stumbled upon Thanksgiving as an antidote to feeling sorry for myself.  During the month of November, every single day I posted something on my Facebook status that I was thankful for.  It wasn’t hard to think of things, actually it was harder to narrow it down to one thing a day!  I found that the more full of Thanks I was, the less likely I was to find things to be cranky and whiny about.  By then, Thankfulness had taken on a life of its own and had become a habit.

Thankfulness breeds Joy.  That’s what I’ve discovered.  By nature, I am a Murphy’s Law- Glass Half Empty sort of person.  I call it Realistic, not Pessimistic.  So I’m still not going around like a Pollyanna always looking for sunshine in the gloom.  What has changed is my appreciation of both sunshine and gloom.  I can be Thankful for both.  I can thank God for sending both good things and hard things my way.  My Joy is unshakeable because it is no longer dependent upon my circumstances.  I can see the loving hand of God reaching out to me even in the darkness and I am thankful that He’s there.

God wants you to live a life full of Joy.  In the good times AND the bad times, you can have Joy.  Satan wants to steal your Joy, to make you feel guilty and sorry for yourself.  Nothing will kill your Joy faster than complaining.  And nothing will safeguard your Joy like Thankfulness.

If you feel like you’re being robbed of your Joy, I challenge you to be deliberate about practicing Thankfulness.  It’s an easy habit to acquire once you get started.  You’ll see results faster than you imagined.  Start a list of things to be thankful for, soon your Joy will be evident to everyone who knows you.

In addition, here’s another article called “15 Powerful things that Happy People Do Differently” Notice #12.

Lunchmeat vs. God

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Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  When I was younger, my mom’s whole family would gather at my grandparents’ house for a few days to celebrate together.  It was the only holiday that we all spent together on a regular basis.  I have good memories of Thanksgiving.  Grandma would begin cooking days before and by the time everyone arrived the house was full of tantalizing aromas.  Of course the turkey was the centerpiece of the meal.  I waited all year for that turkey.

When I was in college I noticed that the school cafeteria would begin serving turkey related meals the closer we got to Thanksgiving.  But by the time November rolled around, I already had my eye on the prize… the Turkey Feast, the real deal.  So I spent the month of November actually avoiding the fake turkey in the cafeteria so I could maintain an appetite for the real turkey that I knew Grandma would be making.

Did you know that God wants us to have an appetite, as well?  Maybe not for turkey, but He wants us to be hungry for the things that He’s preparing for us in Heaven.  He wants us to be hungry for more of Him in our lives here on earth.  He wants us to be hungry for the lost, hungry for a move of the Spirit; hungry for the rewards he has planned for us in Heaven.  But I’ve noticed that many Christians don’t have an appetite for the things of God.  They have spoiled their appetite with too much of this earth.  Their appetite is just for this life and they have forgotten that this life is just a sample of what’s to come.  It’s not meant to fill you up; it’s just a foretaste of Heaven.

Think about it like this.  Now, I like Carl Budding Lunchmeat, you know the really thin sliced deli meat.  It’s pretty tasty and makes a nice sandwich, but I would be incredibly disappointed if I showed up at my Grandma’s Thanksgiving Feast and she served us Carl Budding Lunchmeat instead of real turkey.  You see, when you know what the real thing tastes like, you just won’t settle for a substitute.  That’s why I avoided the cafeteria’s fake turkey meals, because I knew that the real deal was just a few days away.  I didn’t want to fill up on the imitation turkey and spoil my appetite for my special feast.  But as Christians, we spoil our appetite for Heaven all the time by filling up with the stuff here on earth that was never meant to satisfy us, was never meant to take the place of our reward in Heaven, was only meant to be a sample of the greater things yet to come. 

Look at your appetites.  Have you settled for the temporary joys of this lunchmeat life while forgetting that the Thanksgiving feast called Heaven is just around the corner?  God is the one who has designed you to be motivated by rewards, and He holds the BEST rewards possible because He knows exactly what will make you excited!  Have you listened to the lie that Heaven is going to be boring and bland or just one big long church service with us sitting on clouds strumming harps?  Have you spoiled your appetite for the things of the Spirit?

Friends, I believe that Jesus is coming back very, very soon.   I believe that we are in the last days of life on this Earth.  Let’s read what Jesus said about the time in which we are living, in:

Matthew 24:4-14 “Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Notice how many times Jesus says “many”.  Many will turn from the faith, many will be deceived, and the love of MOST will grow cold.  I don’t know about you, but I have no intentions of being a part of the majority in this case.  I don’t want my love to grow cold; I want to maintain my appetite for God.  There are a lot of things this world offers to spoil your appetite.  You’ve got to keep your eye on the prize and maintain a healthy appetite for Heaven.  We don’t have much time left, Heaven in very real and very close.  Are you hungry for it?