That the Works of God Should be Revealed

The entire ninth chapter of John is devoted to the story of Jesus healing a man who had been blind from birth.  As I listened to my pastor preach from this text on Sunday, I was particularly impressed by the first few verses in which the disciples assumed that the man’s blindness was the result of sin, either by the blind man himself or his parents.

Jesus responds to their question in verse 3, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

What a powerful statement.  This was a grown man who had spent his childhood and some portion of his adult life blind, in order that Jesus could heal him on this particular day and reveal to the world that He had the power to forgive sins and to heal infirmities.

This struck a personal chord with me.  When I was 5, my mother gave birth to my brother John.  In the weeks after his birth, we came to realize that John could neither see nor hear.  The doctors said that John’s birth defects were due to my mother having contracted German measles while pregnant. When John was 3, however, it became clear that he was born as he was in order that God might reveal Himself to our family.

 

My mother casually asked the wife of my father’s commanding officer to pray for John, as he was to undergo surgery in an attempt to provide him with some limited sight.  The woman responding by coming over to our house immediately and sharing Jesus with my mother and encouraging her to read the Gospel of John.  My mother read John that very night and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

Over the next four years, all the members of our immediately family accepted Jesus as their Savior.  Soon after my father’s salvation, God called John home to Heaven.  John did not receive his sight or hearing while on Earth.  He never learned to speak and never shared the Gospel with anyone, yet we know that the salvation of our family and many others is credited to his account in Heaven.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful to God for revealing Himself to our family by sending us John.

Thankful for God-Given Abilities

Last night, Charley Andersonas my husband was channel surfing, he happened upon the end of the movie Shenandoah.  Jimmy Stewart’s character, Charlie Anderson, has just returned home from a futile search to find his youngest son who was captured by the Union Army.  On the way home, his oldest son is killed by a frightened young soldier. He arrives home bereft and learns that another son and daughter-in-law have been murdered in his absence.  Mr. Anderson has staunchly maintained throughout the war, that it doesn’t concern them.  Now, he has to face the reality that he can’t control many aspects of life–he can’t hide from the war and he can’t always protect his family from life.

As they sit down to breakfast the next morning, Mr. Anderson tries to say his normal ‘grace’ before they eat.  In the past, he has grudgingly thanked God for food which he doesn’t feel God provided:

Lord,
We cleared this land;
We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it.
We cooked the harvest.
It wouldn’t be here—we wouldn’t be eating it—if we hadn’t done it all ourselves.
We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel
But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat.
Amen.

 

This time, he chokes on the words, as he realizes for the first time that all of his blessings have indeed come from God.  Yes, he and his children have worked hard to grow their food and  provide for the family, but it was God who instilled them with the strength and ability to plow the land and plant seeds, to harvest their crops, and to cook meals.

God expects us to work hard and use the talents He has endued in each of us.  But, He also expects us to recognize that those talents come from Him.  As we read in Deuteronomy 8:17 – 18, “You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

These verses follow a passage in which Moses warns the Israelites against the same type of pride and arrogance that Mr. Anderson displays.  He tells them to (1) remember how God brought them to this land (v. 2), revere God and obey Him (v. 6), and praise God when they have eaten and are satisfied (v. 10).  He reminds them of all the terrible tragedies that did not befall them as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. And, he concludes by reminding them that God has given them the abilities to grow food, build homes, and live comfortable lives.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we all have much for which to give thanks.  As you thank God for your family, health, home, and other materials blessings, also take a moment to reflect on the abilities God has given you to allow you to produce wealth and to be a blessing to others.

 

 

 

 

 

Hymns of Thanksgiving

As we gather with family and friends today to remember with gratitude the blessings of the past year, let us remember to thank the One who made these blessings possible.  Without God’s help, none of us would enjoy the blessings of good health, family, liberty, and and freedom.  America was formed as a nation under God, and we need to remember to thank Him for his mercy and favor on our great nation.

I’d like to share two old hymns that I grew up singing during the Thanksgiving season.  They are reminders to me that all good things come from God.  Let’s offer up grateful prayers of thanksgiving to God today and everyday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Come, Ye Thankful People
 Henry Alford
 
Come, ye thankful people come, Raise the song of harvest home:
All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin.
God, our Maker, doth provide, For our wants to be supplied.
Come to God’s own temple, come, Raise the song of harvest home.
 
We Gather Together
 Theodore Baker
 
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing cease them from distressing.
Sing praises to His names, He forgets not His own.
 
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side,all glory be Thine!
 
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader in battle,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;
Let thy congregation escape tribulation:
Thy name be ever praised!  O Lord, make us free!
 

We Thank Thee

For mother-love and father-care,
For brothers strong and sisters fair,
For love at home and here each day,
For guidance lest we go astray,
    Father,in Heaven, we thank thee.
 
For this new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For ev’rything His goodness sends,
   Father in Heaven, we thank Thee.
 

Grateful for New Home and Wonderful Neighbors

After a long and tiring search, we recently bought a new home.  We moved into our new home two weeks ago. 

While I love being in my new house, I have not enjoyed the moving process.  I am thoroughly convinced that moving is for the young and that those of us who have passed the half-century mark should stay put.  Or, as my husband suggested, we should change addresses without moving any of the stuff–simply leave it all behind and buy new stuff to be delivered to the new house.

As my knees creaked and my back ached from packing boxes and hauling them up and down stairs, I comforted myself with the knowledge that the pleasure of living in the new house would more than compensate for the physical pain I was enduring.  In my new house, I have a kitchen large enough to entertain my ever-growing family.  Steve and I can cook together without being in each others way.  I look forward to preparing holiday meals in the new kitchen with my mom, sisters, and daughters-in-law.  I can’t wait until my grandson and granddaughter are hold enough to sit at the bar and make cookies with grandma. There’s plenty of room for grandchild #3, due to arrive in late October.

The move was made easier by wonderful neighbors, both old and new.  As we moved furniture and boxes into our new house, we were welcomed royally into the neighborhood.  One neighbor brought us marigolds to plant in our yard, another dropped off freshly baked cookies, and a third gave us strawberries and lettuce straight from his garden.    We very much enjoyed and appreciated our neighbors’ generosity.

Some neighbors have gone above and beyond. Twice since we closed the deal on the house, we have pulled into the driveway to find our lawn freshly mowed by our very kind next door neighbor Charlie.  Our former, and also very wonderful, next door neighbor Susan offered to take any “stuff” we didn’t want to donate to her church’s garage sale. I’m sure she didn’t expect us to fill her garage.  We were grateful to be spared the extra work of hauling our unwanted belongings to the Good Will.  Susan even came over and carried much of the donations to her garage for us.

We still have much unpacking to do, and many more items to donate or throw away.  But, all our belongings are in our new house and it’s starting to feel like home.  While we will miss our old neighbors, we are looking foward to forging many new friendships with our wonderful new neighbors.

Blessings Through Tears

Laura Story’s song Blessings is the song which I most identify with at this time.  Our family, like most families I know, has endured some very difficult situations in the past few years, but in the midst of the difficult times we have felt God’s presence every step of the way.   His strong arms have carried us through unemployment, bereavement, and uncertainty.  We have absolute assurity that our God is in control of our lives and our future.  Athough we would never pray for God to bring difficult circumstances our way, we recognize that He uses those circumstances to reveal to us our need for Him and to help us grow in our faith.  Life on Earth will be challenging some days–many days–but as the song says, “This is not our home.” 

 

Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

 

 

Follow Up Visit to the Burn Center

Three weeks ago, our oldest child awakened us with a 4 a.m. phone call to tell us he was in our local emergency room and was about to be transported to the burn center at Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.  That was a scary phone call and one no parent wants to receive.  Fortunately, his burn was relatively minor and he is healing just fine.

Last week he made his follow visit to the burn center.  As he and his father sat in the waiting room, they were surrounded by patients who had been severely burned.  My son later told me that he felt a bit foolish even being there when his burn was so minor. 

In the waiting room were two men who had been engulfed in flames after a wood chipper they were welding blew up.  The other two men with them were also severely burned and one of them did not survive the ordeal.  After extinguishing the flames, one of the men had to place a 911 call.  When help arrived, the men had to be transported 2 miles on foot to reach the helicopter that would take them to the burn center.  The accident occurred last May and the men are still in considerable pain.  They have had numerous surgeries and face more in the future.

Among the other patients was a child whose face had been burned.  As a parent, it is horrifying to think about a child being severely burned and perhaps disfigured for life.  This experience has made us very grateful that our son’s injury was so minor in comparison.  It also reminds us that horrific accidents happen everyday. We never know when we  or our loved ones will be involved in an accident that can alter their lives. 

Our prayers go out to those who deal daily with the after effects of a severe accident.  And we are grateful to God that He daily watches over and protects our loved ones.  If such a tragedy should befall us, we are confident that God will be faithful to walk through the difficult times with us.

Reflecting on the Blessings of 2011

As the year draws to a close, I want to take some time to reflect on the way our lives changes in 2011 and to thank God for the blessings He bestowed on my family during 2011.

1)     In November my husband was rehired by the employer who had laid him off 2 years and 10 months earlier.  We are grateful that Steve is once again employed and that God sustained us financially during the extended period of unemployment.

2)     In May all three of our sons received a college degree—one earned a Master’s degree, one completed his Bachelor’s degree, and the other received an Associate’s degree.  We are very proud of them for their hard work and perseverance in achieving their goals.

3)     My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with a two-week trip to Alaska.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband and the love we have shared for more than 3 decades.

4)     Our precious grandson turned 1 in July.  It is a joy to watch him grow and learn new skills every day.  He has a wonderful nature and is a delight.

5)     Mother’s Day brought the news that we would have another grandchild.  We were delighted to welcome a baby girl to our family yesterday. It was a special blessing as it has been 118 years since a girl was born into my husband’s family.

6)     All of my sons are employed in jobs.  As an added bonus, they all enjoy their jobs and are doing well at them.

7)     I love my job but I didn’t love the commute.  Althoug only 16 miles, it frequently took me an hour or more to get home.  Two weeks ago our office relocated into town and much closer to home.  The new location is more convenient to shopping and home, plus I have awesome views of our city.

8)     My second novel was published in the fall.  The first novel did not sell many copies, but my publisher believed in the second one enough to redesign the cover of the first novel.  So far, the second one is not selling at all.  However, I have faith that God will bless my writing and that my novels will touch and enrich lives.

9)     We moved my mother-in-law to live in our community.  She is in a nursing home where she gets the round-the-clock care she needs and where she can regularly be visited by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

10) We were able to sell a piece of property that we had been trying to get rid of for the past two years.  We were then able to help our son and daughter-in-law to purchase their first home.

2011 was not all emotional highs and good times; there were some disappointments and sad times as well.  A much beloved aunt passed away with no notice, we endured many months of job searching and wondering if my husband would ever be employed again, and we dealt with my mother-in-law’s declining health.  But through it all, we could see God’s hand of blessing.  He has seen of through many challenging times and we know that He will be with us in whatever situations arise in our lives in 2012.

In what ways did God bless you and your family in 2011?  Please take a moment to reflect and share the ways God blessed you.

May your 2012 be filled with God’s blessings and the love of family and friends.

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow

Many people take time on Thanksgiving to count their blessings and give thanks, yet they forget to thank the One from whom they have received their blessings.  Thanksgiving is a day to thank God for the blessings He has bestowed on us and our nation.  As you gather around your Thanksgiving feast today, I encourage you to take a moment to thank God for all He has done for you.

I’d like to share a few of the many, many blessings God has bestowed on me.

1) My large, wonderful family.  I am blessed with an amazing family.  We currently number 39 with two babies on the way.

This is most of my family at the time of Jon and Ashley's wedding.
 
 

2) A wonderful church family.  We are members of a spirit-filled, God-loving congregation.  Each week we hear an inspired message from God’s word, and I have the opportunity to minister to children through Girls Ministries and children’s church.

Some of the beautiful girls in Girls Ministries
 
 

 3) A great job that I love.  In a time when so many, including my husband, have been unemployed for long periods of time, I am thankful that I have a job with great benefits that I enjoy.  I am rewarded each day as I help individuals desiring to start a business to assess their options, evaluate the opportunities, and navigate the requirements for opening a business.

4)  The freedoms afforded us in our great nation.  It’s true that our nation is facing many challenges and that many of our religious freedoms have been restricted in recent years.   However, America is still “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and I am proud to be a citizen of this great nation.

5) All the comforts of a middle-class lifestyle.  We aren’t rich, but in comparison to most of the world, we are extremely wealthy.  I am thankful to have a warm home, plenty of food, and more clothing than I really need.  All of my necessities are met and most of my wants. 

6) The ability to share my blessings with others.  Opportunities present themselves each day to share the blessings God has bestowed on me and my family with others who have not been blessed as much materially.  It is a privilege and a joy to sponsor a child in the Dominican Republic, to donate food to locate food distribution ministries, to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and to take advantages of other opportunites to bring hope and joy to those from whom life is more challenging.

When you count your blessings this day, I pray that you will be filled with joy, hope, and thankfulness and that you will remember to thank the One who has so blessed you.

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving.”  Psalm 95:2

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

 What blessings are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?

 

Hopes for the New Year and Blessings of the Old One

Last night I watched on television the New Year’s celebration in Times Square.  It struck me as odd that we get so excited about what is essentially just another day.  When you think about it, it’s a bit crazy for grownups to gather in the streets on a cold winter’s night to watch a ball drop.  Of course, for many people, it’s simply an excuse to party.  For others of us, the New Year signals a new start.  It is fresh and unblemished; we are filled with hope that the coming year will be better than the one just ended. 

 In 2011, I hope and pray that the economy improves significantly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end, our troops come home and are reunited with their families, and the President and new Congress work together to find answers to the problems facing our nation. On a more personal note, I pray that my husband will find a job, preferably one that matches his skills and in which he finds fulfillment.

2010 was a rough year for our family as my husband’s period of joblessness extended to two years and his unemployment benefits were exhausted.  Despite those challenges, we were blessed in many ways.  I think it’s appropriate to begin the New Year by acknowledging some of the ways God blessed our family during the past year.

Our top ten blessings of 2010:  

  1. The birth of our grandson Daniel was the highlight of our year.  He is a delight and brings joy to our life.
  2. My first novel, Restorations, was finally published in October, three years after I finished it.  It took me 8 months to find a publisher, followed by 28 months of waiting for the book to be published.
  3. Our oldest child completed a Master’s Degree program in History at Villanova University. 
  4. In June, my husband and I took a Caribbean cruise.  The cruise was wonderfully relaxing. 
  5. A new, lasting friendship was formed on the cruise. A woman seated with us at dinner turned out to be the sister of one of our high school classmates.  We spent much of the week with her husband and her and found that we shared not only a common hometown but also a common faith. 
  6. I completed my second novel, Reconciliations, and started the third novel in my Restored Hearts series.
  7. All three of our sons are employed in jobs they enjoy.
  8. A new administrative assistant was hired for my office.  We had been without one for nearly two years due to a hiring freeze.  Our new co-worker has been a wonderful addition to the staff.
  9. Although there were no raises for state employees for the third year in a row, we did receive small Christmas bonuses. Mine went to pay for a root canal and crown.  I’m thankful God provided the money to pay for the necessary dental procedures.
  10. Despite my husband being unemployed, we ended the year with more savings and less debt than we started it with. 

We are truly thankful for the blessings God bestowed on our family in 2010. We look forward expectantly to 2011 knowing that God has great things planned for our family.

As you will look back on 2010, how has God blessed your family?