Thanksgiving! Great day for Rebooting Gratitude!

I just decided to journal five gratitudes daily for the rest of the year.

My gratitude-themed journals lie too far in the past, and the mention of gratitudes I do now in my journaling has become rather sparse.

Oh, I do give thanks for something each day, already, mentally, in passing; I really do. But I think daily journaling of things to be thankful for gives the gratitude attitude a special boost—along  with positivity–and hope! And it keeps a record of blessings that I might forget too easily otherwise—which could come in handy to review when rising Covid figures or declining financial figures threaten to throw me into a Slough of Despond.

Many unique blessings bombard me every day, but the present global circumstances can steal my attention from them all, and if I don’t watch out I’ll be like the people mentioned in Psalm 4:6 “who say, ‘Who can show us any good?’”

A little review of just a few journal pages can show me a lot of good!

I think I’m going to do it in the evening, my gratitude journaling, before I hit the sleep sack, because (I’ve just learned) studies show this may even help me get better sleep.

What kind of things might I give thanks for? Big things, of course. Like getting to see and hug my family members and close friends…

Which, hmm, wait a minute, I can’t do this year!

So, well, I can’t give thanks for the hugs or the physical presence, but I can certainly give thanks for those family members and friends.

Thinking about this, I find gratitude welling right up in my heart (and tears in my eyes), for each one who’s still alive!

And gratitude for life itself is a big one. Lately the preciousness of every life, of every living thing, has impressed itself on me more than I think it ever has in my whole… life!

But expressing gratitude for “little things” has a special power, too, methinks: power to sharpen all my senses, enabling me to live life more intently, intensely, more fully.

A few weeks ago on a walk, noticing one beautifully colored leaf, picking it up, thanking God for its vibrant beauty, and carrying it with me like a little kid, heightened my awareness—and enjoyment—of other leaves: like the multitude of tiny little spear-shaped ones scattered ahead of my footsteps like a gleaming golden carpet, and more showering down from branches above.

Thinking about all this brings an old quote to my mind, and heart:

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” (Robert Lewis Stevenson).

Maybe happier than kings, actually.

In times like the present, it’s too easy to get fixated on the worrisome, the threatening, the looming “Dark” times and things. If there ever were a time in the last half-century when we could use the pickmeup of a daily recording of 3 or 4—myself I like to list 5—“gifts of the day,” “blessings,” “gratitudes,” this is it. And what better time to begin (again), than on Thanksgiving Day?

***

How about you? Could your Gratitude Attitude use a reboot, too?

*****

Two Ladies in Waiting, Expectantly

It swept my soul into a beautiful whirlwind.

So, in the spirit of Advent’s forward focus, today I share it with you.

Get a wondersome gaze through other eyes: the eyes of one key participant in God’s dawning high drama, with focus on another placed in an even higher role–both taken by  earth-rolling surprise at the parts they are to live out.

Please click the link and read “Advent Joy {Elisabeth: A Poem}” by blogger friend Christina Moore of Crumbs from His Table. Exquisite!

I hope it blesses you as much as it blesses me.

Advent: Reflections on its Meanings

Do you “get ready for Christmas” or “observe Advent”—or both? …Or neither?

Can you truly do the first without the second?

If you do neither, is it because the whole seasonal fuss has burned you out?

Let’s get to the heart of the matter—or at least of the definitions of “Advent.” Maybe something in number one will surprise you, or give you pause to reflect:

Ad vent 1 : the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting 2a : the coming of Christ at the Incarnation b: SECOND COMING 3 not cap :  a coming into being or use…*

Do you customarily fast during December? Or personally know anyone who does? I’m sure there must be some people, but I can’t think of anyone I know…

Instead, hasn’t this become a time of too much? Eating, spending, rushing about to meet deadlines, we also overload the calendar with festivities. And all that brings us crashing to an exhausted end by January first.

A ground swell of rebellion against this is rolling around amongst us, but its aim is more to simplify and minimize for its own sake than to appreciate the depth of beauty the season might have.

I have found that getting a better understanding of Advent has corrected my focus, eased my overload, and yet enriched my December greatly. I’m still growing in this, for my Christmas traditions did not include Advent until recent years.

In the coming weeks I hope to share a little of that understanding and appreciation with you, starting right now with nuggets of insight hiding in the definitions above:

“Advent,” in all cases, indicates “a coming” of someone or something. Hence, an anticipation, looking forward to it.

Observe the second set of definitions above. Both focus on Christ, but in two different times: 1) His past coming into our world incarnated in humanity, and 2) His future return, when unfulfilled prophesies are finally realized.

In both cases the “Advent view” essentially looks forward.

On the one hand it puts us in the sandals of the ancients, to vicariously look forward with the longing hope of the ages through the eyes of prophets, psalmists, and ordinary people who foresaw a Redeemer’s visit to redeem this wretched world from its lostness, confusion, and misery.

We look forward with Isaiah, for instance, who announces, “For unto us a child is born, a son is given…” centuries before it happens, or with angels who proclaim His coming birth. We may even time travel way back to the outskirts of the Garden of Eden, to long with Adam and Eve, who lost paradise and could only cling to the promise that somehow, sometime, “the seed of the woman” would be born who would “bruise the head” of the deceiver who had manipulated them into casting that paradise away.

This makes sense of the fasting that “some Christians” (in the definition) might do: Fasting associates itself with mourning, with longing and fervent praying for relief from evil and harm and loss and emptiness and need.

So, with all who mourned and longed for these things, we look forward to His arrival as “the child.”

Yet The Baby arrived, and grew. And the Man he became healed and blessed, taught, and brought people out of darkness. And then He died, sacrificing Himself for the redeeming of our souls. But after that He went away, and the story hangs unfinished.

The rest of the story is the other side of Advent: the longing look for His promised return, to right all wrongs, to heal all ills, to establish the Kingdom of God where all things are new, and good.

In our filling of December, long before Christmas Day, with all things glittery and distracting, it’s easy to obscure the shining hope of our future. And oh, do we need that hope!

So let’s look backward, to celebrate the fulfillment of His first coming, but also forward, to the fulfillment of His second coming, when the celebration will far exceed anything we can invent to contrive a “jolly holiday” now.

A blessed Advent to you, dear reader.

Does it Surprise You?

It jolts me, that little number amid the dock at the bottom of my screen.

It stands out stark to my view and seems to shout “Surprise!”—though I shouldn’t be jolted at all. This year I have been better aware of December First’s approach, perhaps than in any previous year. But that “1” still takes me by surprise.

I’ve thought out most of my gifting. I’ve settled the Advent wreath on a new-sewn runner on my little dining table. And I’ve had some new Advent reading all picked out way ahead of time.

But…

I’m also still “doing” Thanksgiving: eating the leftovers, counting my blessings, being “on staycation,” housebound from church since the weather forecast heralded too much slippery stuff. And though I had a lot of decorating ideas in my head, I don’t have the materials at hand to execute them.

Execute. Now there’s a funny word to have chosen. In today’s English usage it usually implies punishment, putting to death, more than positive production, doesn’t it? And I meant to connote “carry out, follow through on.” But isn’t there a battle mentality about our Christmas doings nowdays: all the items we need to slash off our lists, in all our revved up self-propulsion? Rather than yielding to the purpose for His coming–“to guide our feet in(to) the path of peace”–aren’t we instead jeopardizing our peace?

However, I’m purposing to connect more with that peace this Christmastide/Advent. So away with the surprise, the clamor and the fuss. I hope to be more available to the Author of the event this season’s supposed to celebrate–and to share my peace-path walking here on the blog.

Some things can’t be helped. Last year I spent my December flitting among three places up and down the state, and spending two of its weeks nursing back to health husband’s broken leg and damaged foot (acquired by cutting down trees alone without telling anyone and having one of them “fall wrong”—on him!) I also battled my own raging case of hives, which I’d never experienced before, accompanied by scary angioedema so bad it was moving into anaphylaxis. Now the plagued hives return at intervals, but now also I carry an epipen.

So, I don’t have control of all events.  But I can have an aim. And my aim this December is Peace in Christ.

Peace to you also.

*****

The  Power of a Cross-Reference

Has anything ever opened up your understanding in a flash by showing you a comparison of something new with something familiar?

By a cross-reference (in this post’s title), I don’t mean “a reference to The Cross,” at least not as its definition—although here it well may be that in another sense. When I say “cross-reference,” I mean a little notation at the bottom of a page, and the place elsewhere in scripture to which it leads, for further information.

When I began my journey of investigating Christ, just such a little set of letters, numbers, and punctuation became a great agent of change in my sense of Who and What He was—and is.

The scripture I was reading: John 1. The verse: last one in the chapter. The situation: Nathanael is also coming to investigate Jesus. His friend Philip has told him he and some others have found the long-awaited Messiah. Nathanael, like I, was skeptical.

Philip has said their found Messiah is Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael’s incredulous (and perhaps snarky) response was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Yet he goes with Philip to see for himself.

As he approaches this ordinary-looking person, the man turns toward him and says, “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile/deceit.” (Does a little snarkiness tinge this statement, too? Representatives of the Pharisees had just been to visit Jesus…)

To this bold assessment, Nathanael, perhaps still skeptical but with curiosity rising, can’t help asking, “How do you know me?”

To which the man answers, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

There’s a lot of knowledge packed into Jesus’ two sentences, and evidently they’re enough to knock Nathanael right off his disbelief. I think I hear him gasping as he blurts out, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (A lot packed into his two statements, too!)

It really didn’t take a lot for Nathanael to believe after all, did it? But this man before Him makes the bits of evidence He’s already given Nathanael seem small change. He says, “Do you believe because I said I saw you under the fig tree?”

Then comes the statement that got me seeking my first scripture cross-reference, because to me it was a most cryptic gathering of words:

“Most assuredly I say to you, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

What? What on earth (or in heaven) could He have meant?

Did you wonder that when you first read John 1? (or maybe you knew because somebody told you ahead of time?) Did Nathanael wonder?

He would likely have known, at least, that Jesus was referring to a pivotal event in early Israelite history. He, as about every Israelite of his time, was probably clinging fiercely to their history, for this was a time of great political tribulation, of suffering under and longing to break free from an oppressive foreign power. At such a time, your own nation’s history becomes more than dull textbook facts. I’m quite sure Jesus’ words would have brought to Nathanael’s mind their ancient history, and he’d know what He was referencing.

But it wasn’t my history, and I didn’t know. So, to the cross-reference: Genesis 28:12.

What questions and thoughts go through your mind as you look up that reference and read? What claim do you think Jesus was making here?

Intriguing, compelling, it was for me. And though I couldn’t be sure exactly what He meant, I felt the force of its importance. And I thought I got His drift.

That’s when I got hooked on cross-references. What important and  sometimes fascinating background information that led me to!  After while I found my mind automatically cross-referencing from what I was reading to things they reminded me of reading elsewhere. They’re really a lively understanding aid. If you don’t use them, I invite you to start.

And The Gospel of John is a great place to do it.

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{Note: Different Bibles and versions of Bibles often have different cross-references. If you become (or are already) quite familiar with much of the Bible, some will come to your own mind that aren’t noted down in your footnotes. I’ve added some of my own to my Bible’s footnotes. You could, too.}