Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving Thanks When You Don't Feel Thankful

You make a table-scape to get in the mood.  You plan your menus for the weekend, but you don't feel thankful.  Did you ever have a Thanksgiving like that?  Maybe you are facing a debilitating illness.  Maybe you are out of a job.  Maybe you have lost a loved one.  Maybe your family is disintegrating.  Maybe God has not answered your prayer yet.  Bottom don't feel thankful.

The only cure for a numb, ungrateful heart is to give thanks anyway. As it says in I Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks." Even if your situation is overwhelming, there are blessings to be counted.  Even if your heart aches, even if you wonder about tomorrow, look for and be appreciative of God's goodnesses.

No matter how bleak life seems, you can still find God's mercy. Recently, I have been studying Job. If anyone deserved to be ungrateful, it was Job.  He lost his possessions and all ten of his children.  Then he lost his health.  Still he worshiped the Lord.
Job, painted by Leon Bonnat, 1880
As the account unfolds, we see Job is human. He genuinely grapples with his suffering.  He doesn't understand God's ways.  He has daily sacrificed and confessed every sin on his conscience.  So, he asks, "Why are you allowing me to suffer,  Lord?"

With him we ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" We all wrestle with this age-old philosophical dilemma, and it is magnified in this righteous man's case.  But, look more closely at the story and count some of Job's blessings with me.

First, Job could praise God because, although he had sowed wild oats in his youth (Job 13:26), the Lord had graciously corrected his path.  Consequently, when calamity struck, Job's default-mode was to turn away from evil and toward God.  Automatically, he found his way down the well-worn path to worship...even in grief.  What a comforting habit!

Second, the Lord graciously placed Job in an eastern culture which expressed grief overtly, thus providing a healthy release-valve for mourning.

Third, God kindly sent three friends who sat with Job in silence; those days of companionship in fresh grief were a blessing.
The Patient Job by Gerard Seghers located in the National Gallery in Prague
The fourth mercy at first seems to be a cruelty, until it is analyzed more closely.  After the week of silence, Job's friends (wanting to help their friend) encouraged him to confess any hidden wrong to relieve his suffering. How hurtful was that? Yet, Job held to his clear conscience, contending that although some pain is a result of evil, that is not always the cause. For thirty-eight chapters, Job and his friends argue. This prolonged debate was a mercy to Job in many ways:  it allowed Job to verbally process his grief, purging any misplaced guilt. It gave him time to heal, and it forced him to focus more on what he knew to be true of God, than on how he felt.  

God's fifth mercy to Job was sending a younger man who, rather than judge the sufferer, listened and encouraged the older man to view suffering, not as punishment, but as a teaching tool.  "The Lord actually delivers in suffering, speaks in affliction, and woos from distress." This new perspective prepared Job to hear God.

At the apex of Job's account, the Lord extends the sixth and grandest mercy.  Understanding how frail the suffering man is, rather than answer Job's accusations, he takes Job on a vicarious journey.  Before National Geographic filmed Earth, Job was allowed by God to see evidences of His creative power and superiority.

In response, Job says, "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore,....I repent in dust and ashes" (Job. 42:5, 6).
by Alex Frozen

Finally, in an abundantly gracious denouement, God pours out his seventh and final mercy:  He accepts Job's prayer of repentance, vindicates him before his friends, renews his relationship with his brothers, sisters, and acquaintances, doubles his livestock, gives him ten more children, and crowns him with a long, full life.

But, how does this help you this Thanksgiving, if you aren't feeling grateful?

The New Testament book of James, applies Job's account encouraging us.  As you prepare for the holiday, if you feel even slightly like Job with troubles that supersede your blessings, remember the patient Old Testament character. "You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy" (James 5:10-11).

Let us take heart, look more closely at our own situation, then take a lesson from Job and the pilgrims (who "made seven times more graves than huts....nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving"  H. U. Westermayer).

and number the Lord's bountiful mercies.

Actually, we each have the same choice Job had:  "Curse God and die, or praise God and live!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seaside Excursion

Over the weekend, the ladies of Gracious Interiors Ministry met to collaborate on our talks and workshops.

As soon as we landed at the spankin' new airport serving Panama City, Destin, and Seaside, the clues of our location greeted us--balmy weather and...

an unusually long row of wheelchairs for such a small airport!  Yes, we were in Florida!

We stayed in Lakeside, one of the Sandestin communities.  On our walks we were charmed by the white picket fences and Caribbean-colored cottages, from apricot...

to lemon...

to a hint of plum.

Each was unique and had old-fashioned appeal.  Our quarters, compliments of one lady's niece, were a lime-colored cottage and guest house. 

The interior was cozy and comfortable.

The Sandestin/Lakeside communities includes a golf resort, lakes, and bike paths.  Manicured vegetation--oleander, hibiscus, and coconut palms flourish in the year-around sun.  No wonder snow birds fly south!

Besides working two full days on our women's weekend plans, the three couples watched football, ate out, and did a little sight seeing.

We ladies even managed to squeeze in a little shopping.  Our favorite shop was Pizitz Home & Cottage. Robert and Daryl Davis, shop owners and developers of Seaside, have compiled an amazing collection of linen upholstered pieces and ceramic wall sculptures,

 industrially-inspired tables,

 and clean-lined glass lamps.
If you are looking for table-scape inspiration the Davis' shop used ceramic cylinders and

and pottery bowls.
For more home interior inspiration check out their website:

Or for inspiration for your soul's interior think about having the three of us put together a women's weekend for your church or club.  We have titled our weekend:  Cross Training Across Generations.  For more information, you can contact Gracious Interiors Ministry by leaving a comment on this blog.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Being Dinner Guests is an Honor

What a treat to be invited to dinner!

 Over the weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of being guests of long time friends. This couple lived next door to us in Haiti over twenty-two years ago.  Our children played together climbing tropical trees, swimming in the Caribbean, and studying together in a very small missionary kids' school.  Our husbands worked together in the operating rooms of the missionary hospital, and Margaret and I shared recipes for the limited supply of ingredients available in our remote village on the north coast of the island. 

Living in a fourth world country isn't easy, but hardships produced fast friendships.  Now years later, we live in the same county in Pennsylvania, and from time to time we share meals reminiscing on the "old days."

In our friends' household, the husband is often the chef.    This night was no exception.  Randy concocted a delightfully British meal.

First course--fresh spinach greens with strawberry slices and nuts and served with warm bread.

Second course--Yorkshire pudding,

beef brisket,
roasted vegetables, 

and broccoli.

Dessert was carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Caribbean colonial antiques give Margaret and Randy's home an international charm.  A French armoir anchors the living room on one end,

while a lovely scrolled, mahogany day bed is at the other end of the room.  A Tiffany lamp manufactured in Port au Prince also adds ambience.

 Combining these treasures with Lancaster county antiques results in a home exuding warm charm.

However, more than their inviting home, Margaret's and Randy's up-beat personalities and zest for life make them treasured friends.  What's the saying about old friends being golden?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Celebrating Two Miracles

God tells us to "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep."  Recently, I attended a baby shower where every guest rejoiced over two miracles.

The first miracle is the life of the baby born prematurely at twenty-four weeks of gestation, weighing one pound eleven ounces, but who on the day of the shower was up to six and a half pounds, breathing on his own, and responding to all stimuli around him.

The second miracle is the life of the hostess--the paternal grandmother of the miracle baby.  My dear friend, Peggy, has had metestatic breast cancer for over twenty years, but has survived (as she would say, by the grace of God) not only to see her four children into adulthood, but also to see this miraculous first grandchild.

In spite of offers from friends to hostess the event, Peggy insisted on throwing her own celebration.  From the street passers-by were alerted to the party.

As guests approached, more balloons waved joyously!

Still not enough, a glorious autumnal wreathe celebrated Dexter's life.

Inside, Peggy had pulled out all the stops, purchasing every stuffed animal in Lancaster.  A giraffe as tall as a human and a lion waist-high greeted guests in the foyer.  Animals hid in the center-piece,

and peered from chest tops...

Jungle friends could be spied among fruit trees...

and over-looking the cake.

Every guest wished the brave young mother and both grandmothers God-speed.

Finally, as each guest left, they were instructed to take a stuffed animal for each of their children or each of their grandchildren!

Celebrating with those who were rejoicing was pure joy!