Time Wasted. (Learning Peace When Plans Derail.)

Pond

I bet you’ve had a day like this too:

I woke up extra early with my list of errands in hand. My first stop was unexpectedly closed. Then the bridge was out, and the detour was backed up for miles. An hour and a half later, I finally made it to my main destination only to find they had closed for the season, yesterday. When I had called earlier in the week to check their hours, that detail had somehow been neglected.

As I put my car in reverse, all the ways I could’ve, would’ve, should’ve spent my morning ran through my head. All that time, wasted.

The incident reminded me of a time in college when I had walked the entire length of campus to an office that was closed.

Highway sign

“What a waste,” I grumbled to myself as I started the trek back to my dorm.

In the next moment, a cardinal flashed across the sidewalk in front of me, paused long enough on a branch tip to serenade me with his trilling crescendo, and then disappeared.

The scene was so surprisingly beautiful, I stopped dead in my tracks to the whispered thought: nothing is ever a waste.

It’s a lesson I need to learn repeatedly, because this was not the first time, nor the last, when I will have days like this. As I’ve contemplated why some days go according to plan and others spin like a hamster wheel going nowhere, I have a few ideas that I think are worth considering.

We may be going in the wrong direction.

Sometimes our days don’t go according to plan precisely because they are our plans. We need to pause long enough to hear whether God is prompting us in a different direction. I don’t think every Road Closed is a message from God – sometimes life is just messy – but if we’re repeatedly hitting the proverbial wall, we better at least ask God why. Did He put the wall there to send us in a different direction?

We may need time for personal development.

God may leave a wall in front of us not because it’s the wrong direction, but because it’s the wrong time. When it’s a big wall we’re hitting – relationships, careers, life directions – it could be that we’re not ready for what’s on the other side. We may need time to grow. Alternatively, when the wall we’re facing is built with life’s little frustrations, it may be less about what’s on the other side and more about us. It could simply be an opportunity to practice patience.

We may not be seeing the whole picture.

I’ve seen some remarkably tiny details in my life play out in ways that I know are touches from God. While every detail of our day is not orchestrated like a stage set for a stringed marionette, God can and does interject. Maybe what I considered wasted time was exactly how I was supposed to spend my day. Only God knows how the events that unfolded impact both my life and countless unseen intersections with others. God can turn even wasted time into a blessing.

There may not be a reason.

Sometimes there is no need to hyper-spiritualize every moment of every day. Sometimes life is messy, and that is the full extent of the story. What matters is not the why. What matters is how we respond.

What matters most…

Whether our “wasted time” was an orchestrated lesson from God or an impromptu opportunity gifted to us from the messiness of life, the key is our response to it. God wants us to seek his guidance, trust him, and maintain a good attitude.

Even if our day is not going according to plan, we can be polite to those we meet. We can choose to not get frustrated. We can look for opportunities to make the most of every situation. After all, the lessons learned along the way may be more important that whatever filled our to-do list.

Learning to be at peace in whatever comes our way is never time wasted.

This post was first written for inspireafire.com. I hope you enjoyed!

The Price and Cost of the Ultimate Freedom

The cost of freedom and free will

Unless you’re an accountant, you’ve probably never thought about the difference between price and cost.

I didn’t until today.

But while we may use the words interchangeably, there is a notable difference. Cost is what it takes to produce something; price is what someone pays for it.

This is straight forward when we’re talking about gadgets and gizmos. It becomes more interesting when we start talking about less tangible things.

The 4th of July is a celebration of independence for the United States. It’s a time when we reflect on all the costs that have gone into the freedoms we enjoy. It is also a time to reflect on what price we are willing to pay to maintain it. Freedom, as the saying goes, is not free.

It has a cost. And a price.

This is true for the freedom of political sovereignty, and it is true for the most foundational freedom we possess.

The cost of a country’s freedom is high. So is the cost of divine freedom: free will.

Free will, it seems to me, has messed up a lot of things. It has unleashed war, poverty, cruelty, and confusion. It has allowed evil to run rampant in our world. It has allowed people to make terrible decisions that led to terrible consequences on personal and global scales.

It seems like we have unwillingly paid an awful price for our free will.

Yet, there must be something more. When God created us, He could have created automatons that would always do his good, perfect and pleasing will. But He didn’t. He gave us free will.

Even now the question remains: why does God allow so much evil to run rampant? Why doesn’t He step in and stop it?

The first answer is: He did.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus said. “But take heart. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

God paid the price of sin so that we can enter a peaceful eternity with Him. He did stop the evil. But we don’t get to see the full manifestation until we get to heaven.

Perhaps that should be enough of an answer, but if you wrestle with questions like this as much as I do, then you might also wonder why we have to wait. Why doesn’t He step in and just stop the evil here and now?

The second answer I see is: free will.

In order for evil to be removed, God would have to prevent humans from acting on the evil impulses we have. The loss of free will is the price that would have to be paid for God to erase the suffering from this world. We might say, “Fine! It’s worth it. Do it!”

God says, “Not like that.”

This makes me look differently at free will. What could possibly be more important than world peace? What could possibly be more important than the elimination of cruelty and suffering and insert your list of world horrors here __________________.

The answer I hear is: free will.

God values free will so much that he will not remove it for a quick fix of the world’s woes. He knew the costs before creation began. He knew the price that he himself would pay on our behalf.

God gave us free will anyway.

God continues to give us free will today.

If God values free will that much, then I’m beginning to think that I should too. And I probably ought to learn more about it. What exactly is free will? How do we glimpse its value amidst the darkness of its price? And most importantly, how do we use it for good and not for evil?

I hope this post stirs up your desire to wrestle with these questions, too.

This post was first written for inspireafire.com. I hope you enjoyed this reprint!

I Need You to be Okay Without Me

This post is about my dog. And about so much more than my dog.

It’s also about me, and possibly you, too.

You see, when the pandemic hit, I was one of the lucky ones. Through a series of fortunate arrangements, I have been working remotely for the past two years. My dog loves this deal, and despite the constant teleporting between virtual meetings, I love it too. She lays by my feet all day. We enjoy lunch on the back porch. We go for walks in the evening. We are, as the saying goes, attached at the paw.

Which will be a problem in a few months when I return to the office.

For two years we have rarely been apart. She co-pilots our route to the curbside groceries. She mooches treats from every drive-through establishment in town. She protects me from the brave and friendly delivery people.

And pretty soon she will have to be okay without me.

Except I know – and perhaps you do too – that sometimes there is nothing okay about being apart from those we want to be with.

It’s been three years now since my father passed away. I still catch myself expecting to see him, expecting to hear him, expecting to talk to him. I don’t think that will ever go away. The absence of his presence is nearly as tangible as his actual presence. It’s as though someone took that piece of my life and carved it into a metal ink press. The part that’s missing is the part that makes the picture when it’s stamped.

It’s not gone. It’s just completely inverted. And I don’t like it at all.

If our definition of okay is who we were “before,” then we may never be okay again. Instead, we become okay with not being okay. We become okay with being who we are “after.”

That’s what I’m working on with my dog now. The differently hard. And the differently joyful.

Dog chewing on toy.

We’ve started a robust separation desensitization routine. A dozen times a day I walk out the front door and right back in. Or gather my keys and then set them back down. Every day we practice quiet crate time in the other room.

Little by little the panic is a little less panicked. Little by little she is learning – I hope – that she can be okay without me.

She might even find that although this is new, and it’s not what she asked for, that there will be good things, too. There will be opportunities she wouldn’t have had otherwise – and no, I don’t mean sneaking into the garbage unobserved.

What can any of us say about the road ahead? We can say this: that our eyes have not seen, our ears have not heard, and our hearts have not begun to imagine what God has prepared for those who love him. We have the strength of the Father guiding us through both the lines and the spaces. We can embrace both the joy and the pain. And we can cling to the one presence that we never need to be okay without.

This post was originally written for inspireafire.com.

Don’t Mess with Mama Bird (A reflection on the soft fierceness of a mother’s love)

Eggs in nest
Photo by Christina Dymek

In the tree outside my window there is a little nest.

On the electrical line that runs not far away there is a giant black bird.

This is not a good combination.

From the oversized tail feathers and the car-alarm-competing cry, my bird book tells me the giant black bird is a great tailed grackle. And this giant grackle is intent on eating the tiny egg inside that nest.

I would not want to be that egg.

Nature is harsh, and the thin shell of protection is no match for a giant pointy beak. The twisty branches and their gentle covering are no deterrent. I watch as the grackle swoops closer, navigates the outer branches, and dives for the nest.

But God did not leave that little nest without protection.

Hidden in those branches is a guardian far more fierce than twisted branches and a layer of egg shell. In the second after that grackle dives for the nest, he changes course and flees from the tree. Inches from his tail is a tiny mama bird in quick pursuit, twittering her defense call. This new bird is less than one-third the size of the grackle, but she launches herself with a determination that is no match for mere hunger.

The grackle flees, and in that moment, I would not want to be that grackle.

When we think of a mother’s love, we often think of the nurturing, soothing kind of love. We picture mamas rocking their babies and kissing injuries. They restore calm to a world gone crazy. Oh, how we need that kind of mother’s love!

But there is another kind of mother’s love that we also need. The kind of love that says you should never get between a mother bear and her cubs. The kind of love that says a tiny bird can take on a giant… and win.

When Jesus stood lamenting over Jerusalem, he demonstrated both kinds of this love. “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he cried. “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Luke 13:34).

I often think of this analogy in the soft sense. I think of how comforting it must be for a chick to snuggle against the downy warmth of its mother and be covered by her wing. There is a reason we make pillows and duvets out of down!

But today, as I watch this little bird defend her nest, I see another side to this mother hen’s protection. While the baby chicks are nestled under her wings, mama hen is keeping watch. If the need arises, she will defend those chicks with everything she has – beak, claw, and sheer determination.

God instilled both kinds of love into a mother – a softness and a fierceness that are unmatched anyplace else. And God offers both kinds of love to us. He longs to gather us close, comfort us, and nurture us. He longs to protect us with an intensity that shouts: You are mine. Nothing – nothing – can separate you from my love.

This is the soft fierceness of a mother’s love. This is the soft fierceness of God’s love for us.

This post was first written for inspireafire.com. I hope you enjoyed it!

Heading for Takeout

There’s a saying in my family: When Janet heads to the kitchen (that’s me), then everyone else heads for takeout.

I’m fully convinced I could headline on the “Worst Cooks in America” if I could just survive in the kitchen long enough to submit an audition tape.

Some of my culinary mishaps are the stuff of urban legend. Like the time I exploded a plate while making French toast for my friends.

I don’t mean I broke a plate. I mean it was a duck-under-the-table-shrapnel-flying explosion. Apparently, I turned the wrong burner on. (I wondered why my French toast was still raw even as I turned the heat higher and higher.)

After that my friends ushered me out of the kitchen, swept my floor and countertops, and called me when breakfast was ready.

I get that response a lot.

There was the time I made pudding from scratch that was so lumpy I called it chocolate chunk pudding and convinced everyone it was intentional. And recently during a family visit, my mom came down the hallway calling, “Wow, whatever those plumbers did really stinks… oh, wait, I think that’s your cooking.”

There is, however, one culinary expertise that I possess: I make a mean bowl of Jell-O.

Ever since the great soup escapade of 2014, I decided to focus my efforts on something a little more in my wheelhouse. My attempts with powdered gelatin and boiled water have been met with wild acclaim. I no longer have to ask my church family what I should bring to the carry-in.

“How about Jell-O?” they will suggest.

“Yes! We love your Jell-O! Please bring that,” another will chime in.

With such enthusiasm as that, how can I let them down?

Jell-O it is. And I am happy to report that to date, no one has been injured in either the making or consuming of my special gelatin salad. I call that a win for everyone.

All of this bring me to my reflection. When faced with obstacles as insurmountable as my cooking inaptitude, it seems we have three paths to overcoming:

#1 Find your special niche.

I’m not about ready to whip up a crème brûlée, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be successful in some small and still important part. (Who doesn’t love a colorful Jell-O?) The same is true for you and whatever obstacle you may be facing. I’m not ready to take on cooking-at-large, and you may not be ready to take on your obstacle-at large, but that doesn’t mean there’s not still a place for us at the table. Find your spot and pull up a chair. I’ll be at the end away from the flames and sharp utensils.

#2 Get training.

As much as I hate to admit it, and I’m only going to whisper it here, I have on occasion actually used a (gulp) recipe. And the other day I inadvertently learned how to tenderize chicken by soaking it – oh excuse me, marinating it – in lemon juice or vinegar. I haven’t actually tried it yet. Mine will likely taste like pickled sawdust, but my point is I learned something. There are people out there who know more than us. (Thank God!) Don’t be afraid to learn from them.

#3 Let it go.

Sometimes rather than climbing over obstacles, we can simply walk around them. I wonder how much time we spend in life fighting battles we don’t really need to fight. Take a moment to assess how important your particular challenge is. If it’s important, see #2 above. And if it’s not, well, I say we just forget it and go celebrate with some takeout.

Who’s with me?

This post was originally written for inspireafire.com. I hope this second helping brought a smile to your day!

Thinking Sad. And How Not To.

Sometimes there are sad thoughts I have to think. Life, it turns out, is not always happy.

But sometimes there are sad thoughts I don’t have to think… and I think them anyway. I bet this has happened to you, too: I could be going about my day seemingly fine and the next thing I know I have brought myself nearly to tears from a conversation that happened no place except in my head.

Why on earth would I do this to myself? And more importantly, how do I stop it?

Let me share what I learned recently.

Just the other day I caught myself ready to launch off the cliff of sad thoughts. The fact that I even recognized where my thoughts were headed is a miracle in and of itself. But I stopped just long enough for an SOS prayer: Dear God, I’m headed no place good. What should I think about instead? Tell me what to focus on.

Cliff of sad thoughts.

It has been said that the answer to every problem we face is in the Bible. I have not applied this theory enough to vouch for its complete validity, but I can say in this case the answer was surprisingly black and white. Because in response to my plea, the Bible records Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he explicitly states: think about these things.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Unfortunately, I can never remember exactly how the verse goes, so I stood there for quite some time trying to remember it. It’s like I was handed the answer to my prayer in a package and I needed to unwrap it piece by piece. I know there are things that are true and lovely, something about noble and praiseworthy.

Perhaps it’s good that I can never completely remember this verse, because the longer I spent trying to recall the verse, the more my mind began thinking about the thinking that I should be thinking and less about the thinking that I shouldn’t be thinking.

(It’s okay, read it again.)

In other words, the process of recalling to mind what I should be thinking helped pull me from the wrong path my thoughts were headed down. There is likely a neuro-cognitive explanation for this. I’m no brain scientist, but I know our emotions can run rampant when certain parts of our brain get triggered. When this is starting to happen, the process of trying to recall a verse can help by firing up a different part of our brain – the part involved in language, reasoning, and metacognition. These are the things that let us step back and perceive what is happening to ourselves rather than being swept away in the emotional response. Once certain parts of our brain are activated, we have a greater ability to redirect our thoughts.

I find this fascinating. We know, when we are discussing it rationally over a cup of tea, that we should think about things that are lovely, noble, praiseworthy and all the rest. We may even be able to quote Philippians 4:8 verbatim. But when that verse has fled our consciousness and our thoughts are about to jump off the cliff-of-the-not-so-noble, there is still a path back.

“Think about these things,” Paul wrote. And if you can’t actually think about them, think about thinking about them. Try to call that verse to mind. Try to remember what it is you are supposed to be thinking about. Get new parts of your brain engaged. You might be surprised at the power you have to take your thoughts captive. You are, in fact, able to pull yourself back from the brink and start down a new path, but you do it bit by bit, one thought at a time.

God answered my plea with a verse that worked even when I couldn’t remember it. You might be surprised how the simple act of trying to remember can help you move in a new direction, too.

This post was first written for and shared at inspireafire.com.

A Red Pencil Trail

My arsenal was my Bible and a red pencil.

I didn’t think about how long it would take or the rationality of my approach. I wanted to know: what does it mean to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?

If this is the greatest commandment, which it is clearly stated to be, then I was determined to uncover the answer. My method was to underline in my Bible every occurrence of the word love.

This approach is not speedy, but it uncovers some fascinating Bible trivia.

Like, do you know the first occurrence of the word love in both the Old and New Testament?

I’ll give you a shortcut, because you have to read 22 chapters to get to the first one. It’s that infamous passage where God tells Abraham to “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there.”

This is the first occurrence of love in the entire Bible, and that is the scene.

Yeah, it gave me pause too.

But it doesn’t stop there. Skip ahead several hundred pages and nearly 2000 years to the start of the New Testament. You don’t have to read far, but if you’re paying attention, the words in Matthew 3 will be eerily familiar:

And a voice came from heaven and said, “This is my Son, whom I love, in him I am well pleased.”

Big Horn Sheep Mom & Baby

It is the start of Jesus’ ministry and the path that ultimately leads to his sacrifice on Calgary. This time there will not be a ram caught by his horns in a thicket; Jesus is the lamb.

That, when you come right down to it, is how God loves us. But it still left unanswered my initial question of how we love God.

I sharpened my red pencil again.

There are hundreds of verses on love in the Bible, but my main take away from my two-year rabbit trail through the Bible reached its zenith when I read 1 John 5:3. “This is love for God: to obey his commands.”

There it was.

I set my Bible on my lap with a satisfied sigh. Finally, the definition I was looking for! Right here is how you love God will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You love God by obeying his commands. And his command is to…

I paused, and my sigh was not so satisfied. My rabbit trail had suddenly become cyclical.

Red heart.

I should have seen this from the start. After all, I ended right where I began. To love God is to obey his command, and to obey his command is to love God. It was a long trip for a circular answer, but I’ve come to see that the journey was part of the lesson. You see, we can follow any rabbit trail we want, but we can never travel too far for God’s love to reach us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. That’s in the Bible too.

Maybe I haven’t plumbed the depths yet of what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But the more I study what it means to love God, the more I see what it means for God to love us – for God to love me. And that, my friends, is the first step.

You don’t need a red pencil in your hand to see it, but it’s not a bad path to try if you aren’t sure where to start. Love created the world, love sacrificed for the world, and love continues to change the world. Every day.

This post was first written for inspireafire.com. I hope you enjoyed.

It’s Time

The new year is a good time to think about new beginnings, but it certainly isn’t the only time. Into creation God has built cycles, seasons, and even mandates that prompt us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.

And again.

From the beginning, God established a 7-day cycle of work and rest. To the ancient Israelites he dictated seasons of rest for the land and jubilees of freedom for their people (See Leviticus 25). Those moments of rest, peace, and freedom are wonderful. Unfortunately, getting to these breakthroughs is not always easy.

Innate in the human existence is a spirit of struggle and triumph. We are drawn to epics detailing the hero’s journey. But the Christian message is not one of an elite few who succeed, but an open door to all who will persevere.

I picture Moses leading the Israelites muttering past the same rock formation for the 32nd time. “Are we almost there yet? How much further? We are sick of this miserable food! Did you bring us out here to die?”

A new beginning is coming.

Do these words echo challenges that you face? They certainly do for me. “How much longer? Which way am I supposed to go? When will this end?”

A new beginning is coming.

The process is as important as the new beginning itself. All their wanderings in the desert allowed the Israelite’s hearts and minds to be transformed by God. They entered into their promised land when both they and their new land were ready. Only God knew the perfect timing.

Paul and James both admonish us to rejoice in our sufferings. “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Perhaps this new year has already seen amazing breakthrough for you. Hold onto those lessons as you walk forward.

If you feel like you are walking past the same rock formation for the 32nd time, do not lose hope. God is working even when you do not see or feel the results. A new season is coming if you do not give up.

It is a new year, a new week, a new moment. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

This post was first written and shared for inspireafire.com. I hope you enjoyed. Happy New Year, friends!

Making Sense of it All

“It doesn’t have to make sense, it has to make faith.”

I was in a small group discussion where one of the ladies was relaying a conversation she had with a pastor. As someone who likes to make sense of everything, I was struck by this point. Sometimes things would be easier to endure if I could just understand it all!

But sometimes understanding is not the point. Sometimes understanding can even be detrimental to how God wants to use what we’re going through to do a good work – not just out there in the circumstances around us, but inside us.

Bible in Mirror

As we come into the Christmas season, it seems a perfect time to reflect on this idea. Christmas itself may be one of the ultimate occasions that was given to us not to make sense, but to make faith. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave his only son for us, first in the form of a helpless baby, then as a minister to the people, and finally as a sacrifice on Calvary’s hill.

As far as religions go, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

But the reason, John 3:16 continues, is so that anyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life. Not understanding, but faith.

One of my favorite analogies for the logic behind the incarnation is in the story of the Christmas ducks that Paul Harvey relayed. (It’s worth hearing if you’ve never heard it.) It offers a sliver of “why” in a story that on its surface is incomprehensible. Despite these glimpses of understanding, the fullness of God will always escape our comprehension.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we understand perfectly. God came in the flesh to make Himself known to us not so we would have a simple understanding, but so we would have a simple faith.

I think of Mary, of whom the Bible says several times after Jesus’ birth that she treasured all that was happening and pondered it in her heart (Luke 2). Even though there is bewilderment, I read a sense of serenity in these words, perhaps harkening back to her reply to the angel Gabriel – “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.”

Geese and baby

I have heard these words read many times with the emphasis on Mary’s subservience and willingness to go forward with God’s plan. I also see something beyond simple submission. I see trust the God will take care of her whatever is to come. She is not just any servant. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she said.

No amount of pondering was going to make sense of all the Mary was about to witness. But as God’s plan unfolded just as was foretold, there was the opportunity for faith.

We have the same opportunity to allow God’s Sprit to work within us. God can use whatever we are facing to grow our faith. And our faith, as Peter wrote, is of greater worth than gold.

Our God is not hidden. He made himself known on an unexpected Christmas morning, and He continues to make Himself known to us through the scriptures and through His Spirit. Regardless of whether this particular Christmas is a time of joy or a season of struggle, take a moment to look through your circumstances and see God’s presence in your life.

He has come, and he will continue to come, so that we may have faith to believe in Him.

This post was first shared at inspireafire.com. Merry Christmas!

Some Things are Worth Repeating

Instant replays. Silly jokes. Favorite stories.

Oh sure, we may roll our eyes at the 200th telling… unless of course we’re the one doing the telling.

When you’re reminiscing with a friend, the stories just get better with age. The memory can take you back until you can see it, taste it, feel it. The retelling is not just a retelling, it’s a reliving. There is power in memory, and there is power in sharing that memory.

It’s easy to get swept up in our day to day and miss out on opportunities to recall important milestone. God knows this, which is why He set a precedent of commemoration. On the night of the Passover as the Israelites were being delivered out of Egypt, God told Moses and all the Israelites, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you are to celebrate it as a festival to the Lord… And when your children ask you, “What does this ceremony mean to you?” then tell them… (Exodus 12:14,26-27)

Many other times throughout the early history of Israel God established appointed feasts and annual celebrations. When Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, God instructed them to take 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan River and set them in their camp as a permanent memorial. God told them, “In the future, when your children ask you ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them…” (Joshua 4:6)

Indeed, some stories are worth repeating.

Maybe we have never witnessed anything like the plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. Maybe we have never moved from a physical desert into a land flowing with milk and honey. But we may have our own stories to tell. Times there was a near accident avoided, a relationship that was healed, a seeming impossible barrier that came tumbling down, a word, a friend, a provision when we needed it most.

Every one of us has a story we can tell. A memorial marker that we should erect so that we have occasion to repeatedly recall and share what God has done in our own history. These recollections draw us ever nearer to God, and grow our sense of wonder and gratitude.

Here in the United States we are entering into the season of Thanksgiving. It is a time to commemorate not just the history of gratefulness dating back to that first Thanksgiving, but a reminder to reflect on our own stories. Take this opportunity, like a festival to the Lord or a memorial marker you have erected, to recall what God has done and continues to do for you and those you care about. Share one of you own stories with someone else, and seek out stories from others.

Write a letter, make a phone call.

God knew what He was doing when He established the model to regularly remember and share. We need to keep alive those moments when God’s presence was most dear and most imminent for us. We shouldn’t limit these memories to only an annual Thanksgiving recollection, but Thanksgiving is an excellent time to stir up our gratitude as we recall what God has done.

However you choose to do it, put God’s stories – and your gratitude – on repeat.

This post was first written for and shared at inspireafire.com. I hope you enjoyed this encore!