Thanks in ALL Things

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Let me share my BIG thanksgiving news. For the past five years, I have researched and written a 90,000-word story about Matthew the tax collector. I’ve edited it about ten times, had a professional edit, and edited it one more time myself. The big news is that it is finally being published! Rejoice, oh my soul. I’m hopeful that I will hold that book in my hands by March.

So what else draws me to give thanks? I’ve mentioned before the daily Thanks Notebook that I started a couple of years ago after I read Ann Voscamp’s book, “1,000 Gifts.” Each day, I record something for which I am thankful.

For example:

Thoughts God gives, air conditioning, opportunities to encourage, my daily devotional book-“Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, God’s continual call to trust, sunny days, the positive attitude of a dying friend.

As David said,

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

Yes, of course, that’s what we do at Thanksgiving, sing our praise to God for our blessings. But wait. Listen to some of the phrases that precedes David’s joyful praise in Psalm 69.

Verse 1 – Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. Verse 3 – I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. Verse 7 – I endure scorn for your sake . . . Verse 18 – Come near me and rescue me from my foes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

And yet he says in verse 30, 

      I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                           

It is important and proper that we give our praise at this Thanksgiving time and ponder all the wonderful things He has done for us. In addition, think of how He has lifted you through in spite of some hard times this year.

We’ve endured a challenging time in this year of Covid. Perhaps you or a loved one contracted the virus. Maybe you’ve ended up with round-the clock-children and have had to help with their schooling. You may have had to work from home or worse yet, totally lost your job. You missed getting with friends, going to church, and for a while couldn’t even get your haircut.

As for me, in this time I was able to read several books, as well as get my own book finished. I loved putting in flowers and waving to new neighborhood friends as I took daily walks. We were able to give food to some in need. Can you give thanks in spite of set backs? Did God help you in dire times to survive?

We are to give thanks in ALL things. I’d love to hear how God helped you turn lemons into lemonade this year.

Meanwhile, a Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

~ Joyce ~

 

Thankful for Family

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Probably one of the first things we think of at Thanksgiving is to give thanks for our families. Usually, I purposely try to lead people to go beyond family, health, our homes, our church, friends, and all the usual–to move to deeper forms of thanksgiving.

But today, I am thinking of family. In a day when families are being bombarded with divorce, out-of-control teenagers, death of older members, suicidal deaths, abortions, conflict, loneliness, not to mention feelings of isolation because of too much media (computers, iPhones, and the like) or the feeling of too much family in this Covid year, it is possible many are not too thankful for family.

I hope that is not so for you. If you have survived these dilemmas, or have dodged them, then you have much for which to be thankful.

My husband and I are blest to have had parents who went past the 50-year mark in their marriages, giving us a goal for our 50-year mark (and now beyond.) We hope that this in turn has set the pattern for our son and daughter in their marriages. All of us have our challenges as in any relationship, but how valuable it is to have healthy legacies to pass on.

Now I look at our seven grandchildren in this era of family turmoil. As I give thanks for each one, I also pray for God’s protection and guidance as they make their daily choices and form patterns of faith. Their ages are 13, 14, 17, 18, 19 and the two girls are 20. What critical years.

Here they are after my mother’s graveside service. Sorry it’s not a good closeup because they’re all so cute! (Said like a grandmother.)

This year we are beginning a new tradition. We commit to pray every day for the grandchild who is having a birthday in that month. We ask them to tell us three things they would like for us to pray about in their lives. We have done this with five of the seven so far and have two to go. It has been a delight to do this, really focusing in on one of them at a time for a whole month. 

We will likely give their parents a turn as well. We hope this opens the door for them all to mention any prayer concerns throughout the year.

So at this Thanksgiving time, I am truly grateful for this wonderful family God has given me. We’ve had our share of struggles, but God has seen us through and taught us many lessons in the process.

May you find things about your family that bring you to thanksgiving this year.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalm 30:12

~ Joyce ~

 

Life Verses – Ears to Hear

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’m sorry I left you hanging last week. (See “Life Verses – On Fire“) Like the two on the road to Emmaus, my heart was on fire as the Lord impressed upon me that He wanted me to write. My willing heart had to seek His heart—a long process in bringing me to the fulness of His will.

That year, I was engaged in a Bible study of Matthew with other ladies in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). As I worked through the study, I found myself thinking of the lesser known characters along the way.

I wanted to stop and imagine what might be the rest of their stories. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see them as more than just two-verse people? What were their families like? How did they relate to Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to write about one of these and bring them to life?

Every now and then, I noticed that Matthew recorded this phrase from Jesus,

“He who ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

A few chapters later, there it came again.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9 and 43

I stopped each time to ponder those words.

Later in our study of Matthew, we came to the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the flurry of activity with the Temple guards, religious leaders, and disciples, Peter spontaneously started swinging his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.

I checked the other three gospels and found a few more facts about this man. Jesus healed the man’s ear. The man’s name was Malchus. 

At some point, everything came together for me. Malchus was a lesser known character. He lost his ear, but Jesus gave him back his hearing. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” What happened to this servant? Malchus worked for the high priest who was determined to have Jesus crucified? How did that personal touch, that healing, affect Malchus’ decisions?

That, my friends, was how my first book gave birth. I titled it “Ears to Hear.”

It had been a long, slow process that year, but the Lord seared my mind with the idea of looking at lesser known characters in the Bible, then to apply “ears to hear” to the account of Malchus with Jesus in the garden and his miraculous healing.

It  took seven years to get from research to writing, editing, and seeking a publisher to the final finished product. Many times I cried out to the Lord, “Who am I to think I can do such a thing?” Then He would remind me that indeed I couldn’t, but He could—with my cooperation.

Another seven years later, Nicodemus’ story was published in “A Heart for Truth” which was twice as long.

Now, five years later, the story of Matthew is getting close to ready in “Eyes to See.”

I sing from a favorite hymn, “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2019

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We left David in the lurch last week. We will continue his exciting story next week, but let’s pause for observance of this wonderful day of Thanksgiving.

I’m so grateful that our country, in spite of its woes, does still observe and acknowledge the need for giving thanks. And to whom do we give that thanks? I suppose the secular view is we give thanks to one another, with which we can all agree, but more important is our thanks to God.

The more our minds center on giving thanks, the more our minds center on the gift-giver.

A few years ago, I read a little book by Ann Voskamp called “One Thousand Gifts.” She challenged readers to write each day just one thing for which they were thankful. The idea was to come up with 1000 thank you’s.

        

I bought this cute little book and did well for a few months, but somewhere along the way it was left on the shelf unattended. A year of so later, I picked it back up again and have been faithful with it most days. I’m up to 410 thank you’s.

I keep my book right beside whatever devotional book I’m using at the time. I read a little in the devotional book, then end my time writing a two-to-five-word thank you. It is amazing to me how easy the thank you idea comes each time. You would think you would run out!

        

Sometimes it concerns something that is going on in my life, a lesson I’m learning, a person, an inspiration from my devotional book or Scripture I’ve been studying.

Here’s a few examples of things for which I am thankful:

knees that work without pain, the first snow, my published book, sunshine, a reliable car, my Savior – the true vine, family Thanksgiving meals, text messages from grand-kids, God’s reminders to trust Him, specific talents of my family members, God’s interventions, daffodils in Spring, fun with friends, morning hugs, alone time with God.

Well, you get the idea, just anything the Lord brings to mind. It takes less than 30 seconds but keeps that idea of being thankful front and center.

What a perfect time to begin this little habit.

And a perfect time for me to tell you how thankful I am for you as you read this blog week by week. It helps to keep me on task in writing. May you have a blessed time with your family today or whatever way you celebrate giving thanks.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

~ Joyce ~

Praising God for Texture

Have you ever walked into a fabric store or dress shop and found yourself touching the fabrics as you walk by? You may have subconsciously sized it up—bulky, thick, nubby, stiff, or silky, smooth, soft, luxurious.

Have you ever had a child who wouldn’t eat a particular food? You decide it’s not the taste or even the color but the texture that turns him off. Too gooey, too sticky, too soft, too hard, too lumpy, who knows what.

But aren’t we glad for the interesting textures of foods? Crispy crackers, chips, and cereals. Sticky honey and caramel. Soft mashed potatoes, applesauce, and cooked broccoli. Thick meats, course breads, smooth ice cream with chunky chocolate chips.

When I wrote about color last week, I thought about people who are blind. How sad that color is something they can’t appreciate. But texture, now that’s something they can truly relish! In fact, that’s how many blind people read, through braille. They can feel their way across the raised letters. (A texture that reads!)

We can all appreciate the roughness of a tree trunk, an elephant, or a brick wall. 

We love to touch a velvety, soft puppy or the contrasting blades of grass where he lies.

We have texture on our bodies—rough knees and elbows, smooth tummies and palms. When our hands get rough from overworking or winter winds, we know it’s time for hand lotions.

What about the wonderful texture of water? We clean ourselves with it and drink it to quench our thirsts, and play with it in a pool or tub. There is something lovely about moving your arms or legs through a body of water. It is a texture as old as God’s beginnings.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the watersGenesis 1:1-2

He went on to create a million kinds of trees, plants, and vegetation as well as animals in many textures. Scales for fish, feathers for birds, shells, skins, and furs for animals, mostly for function. We have built upon God’s creative ideas and brought about a myriad of other textures to use and enjoy and touch in our world. 

As a musician, I relish in the texture of musical sounds.

Speaking of texture, did you notice the tree branches covered with ice yesterday? God’s crystal trees!

Watch for texture today. Be aware of this blessed creation. Don’t forget to praise Him for it! 

~ Joyce ~

Seven Dips Makes Perfect

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

When our son was born, he weighed in at 7 pounds, 7 ounces. We wrote, “… seven, seven the perfect number!”

In biblical terms, seven has always represented the perfect number or the complete number.

You remember, Naaman was quite put out with Elisha, the prophet. For starters, Elisha didn’t even come out to greet him, but sent a servant. Then he failed to wave his hand over Naaman in an expected ceremony of healing. Finally, to be told to go dip in the Jordan River seven times was more than Naaman could take.

So Naaman turned and went off in a rage. II Kings 5:12

  Thankfully, Naaman’s servants came to the rescue.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” II Kings 5:12-13

Naaman finally cooled down and I guess he decided he had nothing to lose, except maybe his dignity. I picture him tramping down to the river’s edge, throwing his cloak over to a servant,  and sloshing through the Jordan until he was about waist deep. Perhaps he dipped a few quick dips, glanced at his leprosy with a sigh and an I-told-you-so look at his servants. Maybe they held up seven fingers to remind him. Down for number five, then six, and finally seven! 

The water drained off him and when he looked down;

… his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. II Kings 5:14

I imagine him throwing his hands up to the heavens declaring, “I’m clean! I’m clean!”

Back to Elisha, did you wonder why he wouldn’t come out initially to greet Naaman? I believe it was because he wanted Naaman to see God’s power at work and not confuse it with the power of a man. Well—it worked! Naaman and his attendants went back and  Elisha greeted him this time. Naaman declared:

“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” II Kings 5:15

Perhaps Elisha breathes a prayer of thanksgiving and whispers, “Thank you, Lord. Mission accomplished.” The leprosy was one matter, but showing this pagan the power of Almighty God, the One-God, was the most important thing.

Let’s look for God at work this week, doing what only He can do. It likely won’t be healing someone of leprosy, but it might be healing of a hurting heart or showing the way through a stifling challenge or the burden of a sin lifted. Have you ever said, “It’s a God thing.” or “Only God could have turned this thing around.” It’s kind of like seeing the sunshine after days of dreariness. Look for something this week that makes you whisper, “Thank you, Lord.”

~ Joyce ~

 

Personal update on my mother: She seems relatively well now. She’s adjusting better to her new surroundings and even getting out of her room to interact with others which is the socialization I had been hoping for. Thank you, Lord. And thank you for lifting us up in prayer.

Thanksgiving – Relationships

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Have you given thanks this week for some of your every day material blessings as was mentioned in last week’s blog? One day my prayer time went something like this:

I walked in my study (where I have my quiet time) and asked the Lord to give me one of the verses on the back of my door. Remember the tea towel with all the verses on it? My eye fell immediately on:

He makes all things beautiful in his time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

A refreshing verse in the midst of low energy, ice packs, and physical therapy. 

I sat on my sofa to give my thanks—first for the comfy sofa and the pillow behind my back. I thanked Him for the window to see outside, the books on my shelves, my desk and computer and on it went. It’s good to treasure the “things” we often overlook because we “assume.”

This week, I suggest we turn our thanks toward our relationships. Perhaps you can go on for a whole prayer time just with your husband or your children or a parent and well you should, but as you move on through your week, may I suggest you think of other relationships as well.

Just to  jump-start your thinking, consider that church leader you admire, the teacher that blesses you, the person you speak to every Sunday, but don’t know very well. Perhaps there’s a child that brings you delight or a teenager with whom you’ve been able to connect.    

Is there a best friend who knows you well or one you’re just getting to know? Think of an older friend who has increasing challenges or an acquaintance who suffers from a terrible disease. What about the relationships with your hair dresser, the cashier at the bank, or the grocery store check-out lady. So many people in our world.

Let me share one relationship for which I’m grateful. Several months ago, my freshman roommate in college discovered my email address. She wrote and we have continued writing and renewing our friendship. “Cookie” and I hadn’t seen each other in all these years. She has stage 4 liver cancer. I believe God sent her my way to enjoy her sweet spirit once again and to be an encourager to her.

As the Lord brings these special people into your mind this week, give thanks with specifics and then pray a particular blessing on them. It will renew your relationship with them.

May I be so bold as to ask that you also think of a few cantankerous people in your life. Is there something about them for which you can give thanks? Jesus reminded us:

“A new commandment I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

I pray you will enjoy giving thanks for the relationships in your life this week.

~ Joyce ~

Thanksgiving – or Not

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

The Halloween costumes are stored away and the moldy jack-o-lanterns are thrown out. Time to think about gathering in Christmas presents. After all, earlier this week, we lunched  at White Castle to the accompaniment of Christmas songs!

Perhaps you’re like me. You want to scream, “What about Thanksgiving?”

Thankfully, that is one of the holidays our forefathers saw fit to establish—a country of people with hearts of gratitude. I wonder when those with atheist leanings will protest this holiday. After all, who are we thanking for blessings?

Ah, but I digress. 

My main point is that I want to urge us to enter this season (and all the time for that matter) with hearts of gratitude to our heavenly Father. Let’s think in these next three weeks of some practical ways of carrying that out.

One of my favorite times of prayer is in the car—with eyes open, of course! Before I turn the radio on, I pause to talk to the Lord. May I suggest that we make that kind of time to spend in thanksgiving.Let’s see what endless list we can make.

For this week, let’s focus on material blessings. Mine often starts something like this:

– Thank you for this car and that is running well and I have gas to keep it going.

– Thank you that I can have a hot shower anytime, unlike others in our world who have to wait every two days to get two hours of hot water. 

– Thank you for the sunshine today and the way it cheers my very soul.

– Thank you for clocks that keep me on track for the day. Help me make good use of the time you give me.

– Thank you for music and the joy and inspiration it brings.

You get the idea. Having grateful hearts is pleasing to the Lord and helps spark our awareness of his blessings.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

Well that’s it for week number one of gratitude. Short and sweet and easy. Can you promise yourself every day to give some time to thanksgiving? The very act will be a blessing.

I look forward to hearing your revelations!

~ Joyce ~

On a side note: Many of my friends are in great mourning this week because of the election. Many are rejoicing and filled with great hope. Others are watching cautiously and praying that the heart of our new president-elect will be touched by God’s Spirit. Let us add to our list, thanksgiving for our great country, pleading for God’s wisdom and direction.

Joseph – Thanksgiving

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We have come to the pinnacle of success for Joseph. God has placed him in a key position for Egypt which would also affect the lands around Egypt.

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed Joseph in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. Gen. 41-42

I guess we can assume he has had that luxurious bath by now. Not only that, Pharaoh went all out in making sure the people knew about Joseph being second in command..

Pharaoh had Joseph ride in a chariot, and men shouted, “Make way.” Gen. 41:43

Pharaoh also gave him a wife and an Egyptian name, but Scripture continues to refer to him as just “Joseph.”

Earlier, I was trying to figure up how old Joseph might be by this time and there it was in the next verse.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out and traveled throughout Egypt.

During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in the seven years of abundance and stored it in the cities.He stored huge quantities of grain like the sands of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure. Gen. 41:46-49

A great harvest indeed. His own household was growing as well. His wife, Asenath, bore him two sons. In traditional Hebrew fashion, he named them intentionally for the meaning of their names.

Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Gen. 41:51-52

Let’s pause at this point to consider how Joseph’s prayer of Thanksgiving might have gone. Perhaps, like Queen Esther, Joseph was already beginning to see that his life experiences which seemed to be harmful to him, God intended for good.

And so, on this Thanksgiving, as we give thanks for the bounteous blessings and successes God has given us, we are likely to mention delicious food, loving family, freedom in our nation, and freedom in Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.

May I encourage you, as perhaps Joseph did, to also consider ways that God has grown you this year in terms of lessons learned from the challenges, failures, or dark days of life. Give thanks for what He has taught you, ways He has helped you overcome, ways He moved in your life if spite of the circumstances. Give thanks for the God-incidents in your life.

Thanksgiving blessings on you, dear readers. I thank God for you.

We will pause for a time before we go on with the rest of Joseph’s story. Next week we will begin to prepare for Christmas.

~ Joyce ~