…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18



I’m so glad that the verse in I Thessalonians doesn’t say “for all things give thanks.”  That would be a pretty tall order.

Once again my sweet mother has spoken to me even though she’s been with the great Cloud of Witnesses for a few years now.  I picked up one of her journals and was thumbing through her collection of thoughts and submissions.  I was happy to find the recipe for zucchini bread that I lost years ago and quickly purchased all the ingredients needed to bake up that family favorite.

But the entry that brought joy was a list she had made.  At the top of the page, Momo had written, “Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One.”  Momo mentioned our country, her Christian parents and family, her children, and her friends and neighbors.  And then she went on to mention their little dog and “the privilege of summer vacations” [in various places].  She even mentions their home location “with all the conveniences close.”  Momo lived with a heart full of thanksgiving so that it was easy to be grateful for the obvious as well as the small things of life.

My parents remain two of my heroes—not because they were perfect or I always agreed with them.  I admire them because they followed Jesus to the fullest of their understanding of his teachings and ways.  Even when it went against personal preferences or opinions, they followed Jesus.  Perhaps that’s why Momo lived with a heart of thanksgiving.

This year I cannot begin to list all the things for which I am thankful, but at the top of the list I would have to write, “my parents and my family.”


Lord, I have a godly heritage, and I thank you that I was led to you at a young age.  Thank you for the genuine examples of godliness that blessed my formative years, and help me to bless the little ones in my family that they may grow and love and serve you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  Matthew 5:17  (NIV)


Just like Moses, Jesus went up on the mountain to talk with his followers about the new rule God was establishing in his Kingdom.  His antagonists, the Pharisees (and the scribes and the Sadducees) had accused him repeatedly of attempting to do away with the Law that had governed them for thousands of years.  But actually, by the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Law of Moses had been so compromised by the religionists that it had little semblance to what God had intended.

For example, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’” (Matt. 5:43).  This is a far cry from the original (Lev. 19:18), “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”  Nothing is said about hating our enemy but rather that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. 

The Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7 is a study in what we are to be and how we are to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom.  It says bizarre things to us, things that as rational people we find totally impossible to perform.  We’re blessed when we are poor in spirit, when we are sorrowful, when we are humble, when we are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, when we’re merciful, and when our hearts are pure.  We’re even blessed when we’re persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  And that’s only the beginning.

All these characteristics are antithetical to our cultural teachings.  And yet Jesus is the one who is speaking.  There’s got to be something beyond the superficial here OR Jesus just didn’t mean what he said.  He was merely speaking in hyperbole to get our attention.  And surely he accomplished his goal.  And so we, too, compromise the message saying it was only for a specific group of people or a specific time.  It’s too biting for US.

Oswald Chambers notes that Jesus has called us to live a life we cannot live and to do what we cannot do, and yet WE CAN do what he’s called us to do and to live as he’s asked us—through the power of his Holy Spirit.  This is how we move into life in the Kingdom of God that Jesus described as abundant life.  That’s what I want—all God has to offer.

Throughout the fall I’ll be studying and blogging about the Sermon on the Mount and Life in the Kingdom.  I hope you’ll join me.


Father, you offer so much, and we often take so little.  Give us a hunger and thirst for you and your righteousness, for you long to fill us.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.  Luke 6:38


My friend David told me a story about a village that had just experienced a record crop of grapes, and all the villagers agreed to come together for a regional celebration of thanksgiving.  The mayor requested everyone to bring a barrel of their very best wine; each one would pour his contribution into a large vat.

The day and time of the festival was announced, and people came from far and wide to join in the happiness of the tiny village.  The head of each family brought his keg, climbed the small ladder, and poured his wine into the community receptacle while the people below cheered and clapped.  The next person came, climbed the ladder, and added his barrel of wine.  And so on it went.  Person after person climbed the ladder and accepted the applause as he emptied his barrel.

One of the villagers, a rather parsimonious fellow, thought to himself that he would fill his barrel with water and empty it without anyone’s knowing that he had withheld his family’s bounty.  He, too, was cheered and applauded as he emptied his barrel and made his way down the ladder.

The big moment of the festival arrived.  All the neighboring villagers crowded around with their tankards looking forward to tasting the delicious fruit of the year’s labor.  The mayor put the first mug under the spigot and opened the tap.  And to the shame of all the villagers, the liquid flowed clear.  Everyone had selfishly filled their kegs with water and saved the good wine for themselves.

David and I had been talking about stewardship and the joy of giving—that Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive.  Paul went on to say that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (II Cor. 9:6).

There’s an old saying I heard a lot growing up, What goes ‘round comes ‘round.  I suspect that’s what happened with that stingy little village.  Not only did they miss out on the joy of giving, but they embarrassed themselves in front of the whole region.


Lord, we hear and read with joy stories of great generosity and the blessing it brings.  Give us hearts that love to give so that we might bless others and bring glory to your name, the one who gave all.  AMEN.


…Unto one he gave five…, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability…


One day a rather humorless CEO called in his three top managers to discuss his upcoming trip.  As they sat around the massive mahogany table sipping French pressed coffee, the CEO began barking his instructions.  To the first man, he said, “I’m having our financial officer direct deposit $5,500,000* into your account.”  To the second woman, he said, “The financial officer is depositing $4,500,000* into your account.”  And to the last person, he said, “You will be receiving $1,150,000*.”  He continued, “I’ll be out of the country for quite a while, and you are to invest these funds. When I return, I expect all the funds with a profit.  Is that clear?”

Each of the managers contemplated how best to follow their CEO’s directive.  The first two were more comfortable than the last.  Finally, the day of reckoning came.  The boss came home and called the managers back to his office.  Again, they were all seated around the mahogany table drinking their specialty coffee when the CEO began, “Now tell me what you did with my money.”  The first manager said, “I put it all in equities and made five times as much.”  “Great work,” the boss replied.  The second manager replied, “I invested your funds in bonds, and I realized twice as much as you gave me.”  “Good thinking,” said the CEO.  The third nervous manager said, “I knew you were a hard-nosed financier, so I took the money and locked it up in my desk.”  At that, the boss was infuriated.  “You knew that I’m a shrewd investor and yet you took the money entrusted to you and locked it in your drawerFor all this time?  Go get that money and divide it between your two co-workers.  YOU’RE FIRED.”

Of course, this is a contemporary re-telling of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25.  It is not instruction for how to handle money but rather how to handle the gifts that each of us is given.  (For lists of those gifts, see Romans 12:3-9, Ephesians 4:2-12, I Corinthians 12:1-31, I Peter 4:10, 11.)  The gifts are given to us to bless and strengthen the Church, those brothers and sisters we have in the Lord.  And while we’re at it, they can be used to attract what one writer calls pre-Christians.  In false modesty, don’t downplay and underestimate what God has placed within you.  Your gift may be something that not everyone will see or notice or it may be something that must be done with an audience.  Whatever it is, you are unequivocally told to use it.  You may never know how significantly your talent touches another life, but obedience is the mandate.  If you choose not to exercise, or to hide, your gift, the whole Church (not the institution, but the Body) will suffer.

Take time this week to prayerfully determine what special gift God has placed in you.  Take it out of the drawer and dust it off.  Then begin to use it for God’s glory, the blessing of his people, and your gratification.  Not my words—God’s.


Father, in all honesty, you don’t need us, but you’ve chosen to include us in your great Church.  Embolden us to present to you those gifts you’ve given us to use as you will.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



*These funds are conversions based on the average U.S. manager’s annual salary in multiples of 1, 2, and 5.



And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.  Acts 10:38  (TNLB)



You probably remember the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, for their sermons and songs.  John is credited for averting in England the kind of bloody civil war that occurred in France.  Although they were both known for preaching salvation by faith in Christ rather than works, John famously said,

Do all the good you can

In all the ways you can

In all the places you can

At all the times you can

By all the means you can

To all the people you can

As long as ever you can.

We don’t reach out in love to others in order to win favor with God, and we don’t do our good deeds in order to earn our salvation.  However, when we love him, we just can’t help ourselves from wanting to please him.  Any good that comes from us is an expression of our love for God and an evidence of his presence in us.  Jesus told Peter that if Peter loved him, he would show it by doing what Jesus told him to do (John 14:15 Message).

It’s already late in the afternoon, but I’m thinking of ways to do all the good I can, however, and wherever I can.  Not only will it bring joy to the people I touch, but it brings pleasure to my Father and great joy to me.


Heavenly Father, remove from me every obstacle that blocks me from doing good.  Remove the self-orientation, and use me to bless your world—as long as ever I can.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



 …give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18


Father, time and space are insufficient to thank you for your presence in our lives.  But you did tell us to give thanks, and in our country we are blessed to have a day set aside to do just that.

THANK YOU for everything that is entailed by being your child: everything that pertains to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3) and to eternal life with you forever (I John 5:11).

 THANK YOU for my family who loves and serves you faithfully and that we come together in love, harmony, and mutual support (Psalm 133:1).

 THANK YOU for the community of faith where we can build each other up and encourage one another (I Thessalonians 5:11).

 THANK YOU for our country where we can freely worship and share our faith (Psalm 33:12).

 THANK YOU for always keeping your promises (I Kings 8:57), for always being with us (Matthew 28:20), and for giving us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 THANK YOU for being our constant resource (Philippians 4:19) whatever the need: physical, emotional, material, spiritual.

 THANK YOU that you don’t give up on us and continue to work in us for your purposes (Philippians 1:6, 2:13).

 THANK YOU that no matter what the circumstances, we can still thank you in the circumstances knowing you love us and always purpose good for us (Romans 8:28).

 THANK YOU for all the prayers you have answered, but I especially thank you for prayers you answered according to your good will and not mine (Matthew 6:10).


 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Psalm 103:1).





Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.   Proverbs 11:25


Blessing can be both a verb and a noun.  Just now I’m thinking of blessing as an action that we intentionally do to bring encouragement or joy to someone else.  Too much of the time we are intent on being the recipient of a blessing, but “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

Willie, one of our church’s college ministers, joined me for lunch last week.  Willie was telling me how much he enjoys working with young people on campus and said that part of his assignment is to intentionally bless someone every day.  I asked if that would continue with him after he moved to his next assignment.  With a look of astonishment, he replied, “Yes, I’m trying to make that a habit.”

I think blessing was so much a part of Jesus’ nature that he didn’t have to think about it.  His being exuded compassion, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, love, and all the wonderful characteristics to which we aspire.  Jesus didn’t have to think about blessing because he was a blessing.  Goodness flowed from him, and people were changed.

Today during a work session, Susan told us about a teacher who had taken an interest in her father, a first generation American whose father was a coal miner.  Not only did the teacher watch over her father when he was in her class, but she followed his career throughout school, encouraging him to go on to university.  World War II interrupted the young man’s senior year with a draft notice, and he petitioned the university to let him test out of his last semester to receive his diploma.  The school was agreeable with one caveat:  He had pay $16 for the testing fee, a fortune to this struggling young man.  Somehow, the teacher heard of the need and blessed her former student with the funds needed for testing.  He repaid her confidence by passing the test and later repaying the $16.

Often, we may not know when we are blessing, but that doesn’t exempt us from presenting ourselves every day for service to the Lord – menial or grand.  Just a cup of cold water will have its reward and can make a big difference to a thirsty person.


Father, open my myopic eyes to all the needs around me.  Cause me to freely and willingly give of myself as a reflection of you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD…  Psalm 33:12

I have been privileged to visit almost every part of our beautiful country.  I’ve met many of our wonderful citizens and seen vistas that rival the most stunning scenes in any part of the world.  We have architectural structures that please and fascinate, and the bounty we experience is historically unprecedented.

This is still the land of opportunity, and we are blessed.  We are still a country where hard work reaps amazing benefits; where anyone can receive an education; where basic healthcare is accessible to all; and where dreams can come true.  Contemplating these blessings, I went to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ web page to see how I should respond to the benefits that are provided to me, a citizen of this great country.  This is what I found:

I am to support and defend the Constitution, which outlines the fundamental laws and basic rights of citizens of the United States, discusses the representational form of our government, and specifies the checks and balances of the three branches of government.  If we are Christians, the Bible tells us to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Timothy 2:2).

I should stay informed of the issues affecting my community.  We are to be informed in order to address the needs of those marginalized or to be change agents in matters of wholesome, right living.

I should participate in the democratic process.  The immediate thing we can do is become informed about candidates running for office, contribute time or finance, and then vote.  How can we complain if we don’t vote?

I must respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.  If we don’t like the laws, we work to get them changed.  Otherwise, we respect and obey.

I must respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.  Paul says in Romans 13:10 that “love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”  We don’t have to agree with others, but we do have to love and respect them.

I should participate in my local community.  There are always opportunities to help out.  In this nation that has more volunteers per capita than any other country, we don’t have to go far to find a way to get involved.  Love does.

I must pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.  Hebrews 13:17 urges us to “ Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:”  Part of obedience is paying taxes.  After all, even Jesus made a point of paying his and Peter’s tax.

I should serve on a jury when called upon.  I always welcome and respond to the summons for jury duty knowing that I will never be chosen because of my husband’s long career as a state judge.  I once was a defendant in a civil suit, and I was grateful for all the people who were willing to give their time and attention to hear my story (and vote in my favor).

I should defend the country if the need should arise.  I am grateful for all the men and women who have given their lives for all the benefits and honor we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America.

May we all cherish this beautiful country for whom so many gave their all, and may we all do our duty as faithful citizens.  And may God bless America.

Heavenly Father, the blessings of being citizens of this great nation are innumerable.  Thank you for inspiring men and women of long ago to dream, to sacrifice, and to work that we might enjoy the benefits known to so few around the world.  We honor them, and we thank you for the great gift of our country, the United States of America.  AMEN.



The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1  (NIV)

Let’s put aside the tearing down—there’s already too much of that going on—and think about being builders.  Don’t you find that prospect exciting?  So what if we’ve made mistakes or haven’t been perfect?  (As if anyone is…)  Joel 2:25 speaks to past mistakes or regrets:  …I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.  In essence, God’s redemptive power even touches those times we wish we could redo.  He is able to transform the past and give us hope for the future.

When I think of building, I think about all the joys we can bring to our families.  Lest we can’t think of a thing we can contribute, Proverbs 31 sets out a composite of the Ideal Woman.  I don’t have a vineyard to plant, and I haven’t spun any thread lately (or ever), but I do know the joy of arranging flowers for my family to enjoy and am pretty talented at spinning stories for the grandchildren.  We all have unique gifts that can be honed for blessing our families.  We just need to get in building mode.

Someone said that women are the thermostat of the home; they set the temperature for everyone.  Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles and 17 others!) set the tone for her household by huddling in prayer in the mornings with an apron pulled over her head.  From those two-hour prayer sessions, she emerged to teach and shape her children and her community almost single-handedly.

I rarely use an apron for anything, but my prayer time can reach out to my family and those I love just as effectively as those prayers of Susanna, and I can demonstrate love in ways that affirm and encourage.  I can be alert to the gifts that are beginning to blossom in my little ones (grandchildren) and praise their parents for their faithfulness during rough patches.  I can sacrificially give them my time, put aside my own activities, and offer undivided attention.

Susanna spent time alone with each of her children throughout the week, teaching, listening, and encouraging them.  Her son John later commented on how special those times were to him and his personal growth.  Even with just one or two children, I wonder how much time we devote in a week to each child?

Think of the opportunities we have to shape lives within our realm of influence.  What can you do to build your house?  It’s never too late.  Have you ever been driving with a GPS system, and you inadvertently get off track?  Siri (or whatever her name may be) says, “Recalculating…”  And eventually, you get back on course.  So, you may have gotten off course in your building project.  Recalculate and get back to work.


Lord, what a glorious opportunity you have given us to bless our families.  Open our hearts and imaginations to touch each one today with your love.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.