Five Ways to Remember with Gratitude (Part 1)

IMG_0566What if we found a guarantee for peace, especially as we head into the holidays?

God gave it. It’s called remembering and giving thanks. So basic, I know. Seems too easy. Shouldn’t real peace have more criteria? A higher bar?

Nope. God’s not like that.

Let’s be real. You don’t have time for long blog posts between now and the end of the year. So, the next few weeks, a few short ideas on how to “To call the past into the present, making it real here and now, and act upon it.” In other words, to remember. Remember what God has done, and thank him for it.

So, Part One.

Remember in Prayer

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. (Philippians 4.6)

If we studied the prayers i n the Bible, we would see a pattern. The Psalmists, the prophets, Paul, Jesus himself. They often begin with thanking God for what he has already done. The Psalmists make a regular job out of recounting how God has been busy. They go a little crazy—like, everything God has done, for a thousand years. They are overachievers.

Nevertheless, there’s a lesson here. How much time do we spend thanking God in prayer?

(How much time do we spend in prayer, period??)

God Sightings

d2ac4-112_1273-tifOur church staff and board have a practice of telling our “God sightings” for the week when we meet. We talk about where we have seen God working in our lives that week—no matter how large or small. It serves to remind us. It also makes God’s work clearer to the others in the meeting. If we all have stories of God at work, we all encourage one another that it is happening. We are seeing. He is moving.

I used to take our girls on God sighting walks when they were little. We’d walk along a path, and I would ask them where they saw God. In the falling orange leaves? In the other little girls holding her mom’s hand tightly? In the squirrel’s quick ability to rustle up a tree? We looked for God at work.

When you look for him at work, you always find him. But you have to look.

Here’s the deal for this week. Set aside the first 3-5 minutes of your prayer time to remember. Ask God to bring to mind things he has done lately. Or a long time ago. it doesn’t matter. If you have the memory of a Psalmist, go for the long term.

If you’re worried about finances—thank God for that time you found $20 in a coat pocket just when you needed it. Tank him for that temp job that came up at just the right time. Praise him that you’ve never gone without food or home.

If you’re concerned about your kids, remember all the times one of them was kept from falling, or getting into an accident, or being injured in the soccer pileup. (Those soccer games man, they can be brutal.) Remember she got trough driver’s ed alive. And so did you. We know there are no guarantees when it comes to our kids. But remembering brings peace for whatever comes.

Anxious for sick parents? Tell God thank you for parents who raised you well and introduced you to Him. Praise him for their health thus far. Thank him for doctors and nurses and hospitals, all things we should not take for granted. Remember the times they have visited to be with your own kids and what that said about their hearts.

bb58c-img_7197Five Minutes

Take five minutes—five minutes of prayer to say thank you, God, for what you’ve done.

Tomorrow—set the alarm five minutes early, or et your phone to beep whenever you want to make the time in your day.

Pray. And Remember.

And peace.

Next week: Remember with Rocks (Say what??)

Four Anchors for When You Don’t Feel Thankful

IMG_5176I approached Thanksgiving two years ago feeling less than thankful. With a body dematerializing before everyone’s eyes for reasons no one could diagnose, I entered the season sick, exhausted, and scared. I could barely get up most days, and when I did, it seemed everyone was posting their “What I’m thankful for” on Facebook.

It had been six months since I got sick. It would be almost another year before we discovered why. How do you lead people in thanksgiving when you spend your days begging the Lord to heal you, to help you find out what’s wrong, or at least to allow you to get a meal down and feel good for five minutes a day?

I reached for a little-known line in Scripture for answers: “. . . they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight” (Acts 27:29 NLT).

Read the rest to find your anchors here.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

You Had One Job (Guarding the Gates of Gratitude)

Great WallThe Great Wall of China is an amazing thing to stand upon.

It’s even more amazing to take an alpine slide down the mountain it’s on with Chinese men yelling at you, in a language you cant understand, that you should slow down. But that’s another story. (And perhaps “amazing” is not the right word for that latter experience.)

What I learned in China about the Great Wall—It was built to repel invaders from the north. Its massiveness is beyond imagination, unless you happen to be standing on it, where you clearly can imagine it. Fifteen to thirty feet wide, up to 25 feet high, 4000 miles long. That’s a serious wall. A thirty-foot wide stone barrier should have no trouble doing its job of keeping the bad guys out.

Except it did. The wall had one job—and it failed. It failed at its most vulnerable points—the gates. Though outside barbarians could not mow down the wall, traitors inside could and did open the gates. They willingly let in the enemy. Why? Various reasons. Money, revenge, even at least one case of  love (or more likely, lust).

The wall fell.

45f63-img_0727We, too, open our gates to the enemy when we should know better. During this season of thanksgiving, let’s focus on gratitude and the reasons we don’t feel it at times. We are in a tough season, here in America. There is a lot of anger. A lot of hate. A whole ton of fear and frustration. Gratitude is not an emotion I’m seeing a lot of these day. And from Christians? That is simply a tragedy. We of all people should trade in thankfulness and joy and hope. We are the only ones who know its inexhaustible source. Yet we are acting as hopeless and thankless as anyone.

Can we put a stop to that?

img_6430Can we tell the invaders of fear, mistrust, hopelessness, ingratitude, and disobedience to pack up and turn around at the gate? We’re not opening it, nohow, no way?

I think we can, with a few reminders of how to be a grateful people.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.6-7

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then, peace.

There are very, very few times I will make a guarantee, because I know how many things in this world are not guranteeable. Like, “I will for sure be there!” and “I absolutely promise not to tell anyone that.” Not to mention, “We are definitely going to offer you a book contract!” Or, never mind.

Jesus said to let my yes be yes and my no be no, and I take that seriously, so, few promises.

But I absolutely promise you—if we remember all God has done and thank him? We will experience peace.

First, let’s look at that word “remember.” In the Bible, it’s not a word like “I can’t remember why I came into this room,” or “I don’t remember why I came on Facebook in the first place.” (Two hours later.) “Remember” in Scripture has a full, rich meaning. It’s the chai masala of Bible words.

Remember — To call the past into the present, making it real here and now, and act upon it.

Funny how all the god Bible words are calls to action. It’s like God knew we would need a few kicks now and then.


This kind of “remember” is like me thinking about the day we spent on the Great Wall of China, pulling out the photo album, going to the website for the orphanage we worked at, praying for those kids in the photos, writing them a check and an email of encouragement. It’s remembering the past in a way that creates momentum in the present. I do something with my memories. Something constructive.

Constructive action always leads to peace.

When God remembers, He is going to act, not just think fondly of us. When he remembers his people in Egypt, he immediately acts to put their freedom into the works. The prayers of the Psalmists for God to remember them were all calls for him to act, not simply consider them and nod his head now and then.

If I remember that my car needs gas and drive off without getting it, that remembering does not do me much good.

if i remember I have a doctor’s appointment but don’t actually show up, the remembering is not useful. Also, potentially expensive.

If I remember I have an assignment or article deadline but choose to head out to Six Flags instead, that memory is pointless.

Do you get the point?

The cool part about what God offers here? It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. If I remember and give thanks, refusing to open the gates to fear and worry, his peace will guard my heart. That’s what it says. With my heart guarded by peace, I am much less likely to open those gates the next time. The more I keep the gates closed with my thanksgiving, the stronger the gates become.

How awesome is that?

But how? How do we guard those gates? The next few weeks are going to be devoted to some very practical, easy ways to do that. Hang with me—you will love this.

7 Ways to Create Community this Christmas (Part 2)

 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4.8-11

IMG_6424For 2 quick two weeks we’re looking at ideas for holiday hospitality that won’t stress you out. (If you refuse the lure of getting all psycho perfectionist, that is.) How do we use those gifts Peter talks about cheerfully? How does a cookie party translate into showing deep love for each other?

It does, because opening your home opens your heart. It opens conversation. It opens a peaceful warm place to just be during a crazy time.

So here are the last seven ideas. Make them easy. Make them fun. Don’t care if the plates match or the floor is clean. Just be with your people.

Ornament Party

Get together to exchange ornaments, make ornaments, or donate ornaments to a local emergency shelter, hospital, etc. Some fun ideas are here.

Crafting Party

make something together. Anything. It does not have to be a giant project filled with expensive craft doodads and All. The. Glitter. (OK, so I used some of the glitter below.) You do not need to be Pinterest experts. Just assemble some easy items and go for it. There are some easy ideas on my Pinterest board here.

It absolutely does not get easier than this. Gourds and glitter. Alliterative and simple.

S’mores Party

You’ve seen those amazing looking buffets of nothing but s’more items? You can do this. Don’t you think you must do this? To be fulfilled in life? I kind of do. Put together the crackers, melted chocolate, peanuts butter (check to see if any guests have allergies), candy, marshmallows—anything you can think of. Grab a skewer and go for it.

Here’s what it looks like. Plus this picture of amazing options.

Fondue Party

Basically the same as the s’more party, only you can feel more civilized and healthy about it. You really probably won’t be. It will still involve skewers and most likely cheese and chocolate. But you can fool yourself. Plus, skewer sword fights. Carefully.

Gingerbread House Party

Oh, this is so my thing. OK, you do not have to create Minas Tirith. A tidy cottage will do. Get some boxes of graham crackers, make some frosting, and supply tons of candy decor. This is so fun. And everyone gets to bring home a cool creation.

Royal Frosting recipe. (You need the rock hard frosting. Do not even think of using any other kind.)

Game Night

We had planned to do this last New Year’s Day. Then flu happened. So maybe a reschedule? Self explanatory. Board games. Snacks. You. Hyper-competitive friends are optional.

Holiday Brunch

If a dinner or evening party isn’t practical, how about a winter brunch? Have friends over early before the craziness takes over. 10 am breakfast smorgasbord? I would be there. Especially if it involved a creme brulee french toast bake. Just saying.

Puzzle Party

img_6551This is kind of like game night. Get a bunch of Christmas jigsaw puzzles. Put them out. Feed people whatever you bought at the store. See who loses it with the group first because they do not do the puzzle the way she does puzzles. (Not that I would have any experience with losing it this. At all.)

I would love to know which one of these you decided to try and what happened. Drop me a note on the Facebook page or in the comments. Have a joyful time!

7 Ways to Create Community this Christmas

Need for Community + Holiday Season = Stressed People.

IMG_6426We want our tribe gathered around us. We need our people. But church events and Christmas programs and work parties–oh my. Where do we scrunch one more thing in?

On the other hand, maybe the celebration of our Lord’s birth should be the best time to evaluate our calendars and priorities. At a time of the year when so many people are feeling the loneliness of the holidays and the added stress, maybe we are the people who should be their place of refuge. The ones who open our doors wide and say, “You are welcome. There is room at the inn here.”

People are busy—but a place to enjoy one another and form community—from which gain the strength to go back out into the craziness? That could be just our chance to be people of peace this winter.

This is the message of Good News—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Acts 10.36

So for the next two weeks, I’m going to find some easy ways to do that. We’re going to jump ahead to Christmas ideas and the come back here for thanksgiving afterward. Backward, I know, but it wouldn’t be much help if I gave you Christmas celebration suggestions at the end of December, now would it?

But I promise you, there is a good thanksgiving series coming.

IMG_6431How can we be hospitable to our tribes? How can we meet new members who might need our peaceful refuge? While we are inviting others over, we can begin conversations of peace around the table. That would be a great offering during this contentious year.

So, some ideas for getting people to gather around. Meant to be easy. Intended to be jumping off points for going deeper with people you treasure. Or new people you want to know. Do not stress over making it perfect! Assemble a few things and go. Find one you like and have fun!

A Christmas Story Party

Everyone brings their favorite holiday story or poem to read. Those who prefer a full length novel will have to take it down a bit. This is the 21st century. We can’t spend all day listening to Christmas Carol.


The Gift of the Magi                                                              The Mitten

The Other Wise Man                                                             Olivia Helps with Christmas

The Legend of the Christmas Tree                                  God Gave Us Christmas

The Crippled Lamb                                                               Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas                                    Olive the Other Reindeer

The Christmas chapter in Anne of Green Gables       Mortimer’s Christmas Manger

Or this link.

A Cookie/Cupcake Decorating Party

This is good for kids or adults. Have everyone bring their own cookies and/or cupcakes, and you supply the decorations. Or vice versa–go buy some plain cookies and have others bring their favorite toppings. Just watch that kid from down the road who will use ALL the rainbow sprinkles if you let her. Exchange afterward if you want. Or bring the treats around to your local police station, fire department, library staff, etc.


A Wrapping Party

Everyone has to wrap their gifts, right? Why not do it together? Have people bring paper, you supply bows, ribbons, tags, etc. You can have a corner for people who like to go nuts making their own intricate gift tags. They can share.

Appetizer Party

Instead of cookies, bring favorite finger foods to swap. Everyone will have some to eat and go home happy.

Christmas Karaoke

OK, this one may be less peaceful than other options, But it could be a great deal of fun. Plus blackmail material on your friends for years. Rent a machine and give everyone a chance to sing their favorite Christmas songs. Except Santa Baby. Delete that option. Just no.

Donation Party

This is my favorite. Ask guests to bring something off a donation list for a charity organization. Some options include: items for stuffing shoeboxes to deliver to kids overseas. Household items for a refugee family moving in. Care packages for soldiers. Possible links are below. Add your good ideas in the comments!

World Relief Welcome Kits here for general information and here for Chicago area list.

Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for children info here.

Support Our Troops care packages and letters to troops.

Packages for the homeless. The best thing is to contact a local shelter for their wish list. They will almost always have one on the website. But here is a great list of items.

Sledding Party

This is just what it sounds like. Set a date for everyone to bring sleds, and you serve the hot chocolate afterward. Adults are absolutely required to play!

Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12.13

We need each other, and we need each other especially during the stressful times in our lives–like now. It’s in those times we pull back and focus on our own little worlds, to our detriment.Simple hospitality makes yours a joyful place in a hectic world.

And don’t forget my free ebook, All Stressed Up and No Place To Go—dealing with holiday stress and remembering the reason we’re celebrating.