How do you celebrate Thanksgiving Day? Do you intentionally make the giving of thanks a part of your Thanksgiving observance? Or do you, as many other Americans, simply enjoy the meal with family or friends, oblivious to God’s many blessings in your life? If you are thankful, do you express your thanks outwardly?
Thanksgiving is not just something you do, it is also a state of mind, and an expression of faith that recognizes the benevolent unseen Being who is responsible for all good gifts that come our way.
As a child I felt there was something different between the Thanksgiving meal and other dinners, even though it was not the habit at our house to say a prayer of thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day; in fact there were not many prayers said for any reason at our house. When I became a Christian as a young teenager, I asked if we could say a a prayer before the Thanksgiving meal, and my father permitted me to offer a prayer of thanks. My parents were not unthankful, but they didn’t express gratitude in prayer. We were not taught that what we had came from God’s hands, though He got credit for the rain when we needed it for our garden.
Now, as an adult, with my husband and family, and others with whom we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we make it a point to share at least one thing we are thankful for as we sit at the dinner table.
In these days of economic downturn, compounded with a slow recovery from the loss of jobs over the past several years, and the ever-increasing government debt, an attitude of gratitude does not come easy; it has to be cultivated.
Here are some “gratitude starters” to help you develop a thankful heart:
- a roof over your head
- food to eat
- clothes on your back
- friends (come on, you must have at least one)
- your job (your present job or one that’s coming in the near future because you are trusting God for it)
- freedom of speech (while we still have it),
- a free country that, in spite of its shortcomings, is still a place where foreigners are clamoring to get into
- a sunrise or sunset,
- trees and flowers,
- snow, rain and early morning dew
- the ability to walk unassisted
- the ability to read
- the senses of smell, taste, touch, hearing and sight
- art and music
- hundreds of other things
A Christian’s faith in a loving God is best expressed in the ability to see beyond present circumstances, as bad as they might be, and find things for which to be thankful. There are many blessings that appear to the person with a thankful heart.
There are numerous examples in Scripture of the offering of thanks, beginning with our Lord Jesus, who gave thanks to the Father every time He broke bread with the disciples and the throngs of people whom He fed with a few loaves of bread and a few fish (Matt. 14:17-21). In the Gospel of John, Jesus thanks the Father for hearing his prayers:
“ . . . Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” John 11:41-42
The apostle Paul frequently referred to giving thanks: he gave thanks for people (Phil. 1:3), for the faith of converts (Rom. 1:8), for obedience of believers (Rom. 6:17), for spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:18), for victory over sin (1 Cor. 15:57), for answered prayers (2 Cor. 1:11), for people who cared for others (2 Cor. 8:15), for the gift of grace provided through Christ (2 Cor. 9:15), for financial support of the ministry (2 Cor. 9:12), for believers (Eph. 1:16), for pleasant memories of people (Phil. 1:3), for joy (1 Thess. 3:9), for strength and being chosen for service for God (1 Tim. 1:12), for everything (Eph. 5:20).
When should we give thanks and for what?
Eph. 5:15-16,19-20 “ Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. . . . Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Phil. 4:5b-7 “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It’s when we begin to express thanksgiving to God for everything and in the midst of everything, that our faith comes out and takes a bow and the peace of God settles around us like a warm blanket. Darkness is driven away and the glow of the Spirit shines in our inner being. This is true spiritual life – the life that Christ came to give us.
Col. 2:6-7 ”So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
What more examples do we need of thankful living in the midst of difficult circumstances, than the examples of the Apostle Paul and our Lord Jesus Christ?
The Apostle Paul received death threats and had to be sneaked out of a city for his safety; suffered shipwreck while being transported as a prisoner; was snake-bitten and beaten with a whip on several occasions; went hungry; was imprisoned and finally killed. But in the midst of it all, he gave thanks to God.
Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, suffered persecution, criticism, verbal and physical abuse, lies about his character, rejection, misunderstanding (even from his closest followers), beatings, chains, an unfair trial, and death on the cross. But His life was a continual picture of trust in and thanks to His Father.
Why were our Savior and His followers, like Paul, able to endure hardships and constant crisis in their lives and still be at peace and full of joy? I believe it was because of their thankful hearts that came from their constant communion with God, punctuated with prayers of thankfulness, based on what they knew of the heart of our heavenly Father. They lived within the sound of His heartbeat.
May you develop a life of daily thanks to God for His gift of life through Jesus, and His continual provisions for you out of His heart of love. May hearing His heartbeat cause your heart to resonate with gratitude for every blessing.
©2013, Marcy Alves
- Thanksgiving = RESTFULNESS (gbmministry.wordpress.com)
- A Week of Thanksgiving: Be Thankful in All Circumstances by Mark D. Roberts (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)
October is “Pastor Appreciation Month”. This is an article with a different slant which deals with the need to encourage your pastor’s wife. I want to give you an inside look at what life might be like for your pastor’s wife.
“Most mornings I wake up with a sense of purpose, destiny, direction, and confidence to begin a new day. At other times I can’t help but ask the question, ‘Did I volunteer, or was I drafted?’ ”
That’s the way I began an article written in 2006 for a newsletter that featured women in ministry, whose vocation included being a pastor’s wife. I revisited that article and realized that I’d lost some of the optimism of five years prior. I was in one of those places where “purpose, destiny, direction and confidence” seem to be shrouded, as if a fog had moved in to obscure my vision.
Maybe twenty-plus years in pastoral ministry can do that to you? One thing I know: those of us who find ourselves in this fogged-in place can easily become disenchanted with people-ministries.
Being a pastor’s wife can be one of the loneliest occupations in the world. It’s one thing to look at the pastorate through rose-colored glasses, how fulfilling it will be, how much you can help people and how grateful they will be for the help. The truth of the matter is that some of the people you help most will not be grateful. Sometimes they will resent you, be angry with you, take sides against you, talk behind your back, resist your husband’s leadership, and complain about how you don’t reach out to them.
Others in whom you invest time and energy and love will be gracious, friendly, accommodating, supportive, co-operative – all the things that encourage you in the ministry – and then leave for greener pastures during plateaus or tough times in the church or in your personal life. Those of us who are pastor’s wives feel the pain – it’s very hard not take it personally. It’s a sense of desertion – like a divorce.
So what would make anyone crazy enough to take on this role? For most of us, it simply came with the territory; we married someone who became a pastor, so we in tandem became a pastor’s wife. It’s not a role that we always enjoy, though it is sometimes very rewarding; especially when you see someone grow spiritually because of your investment in their lives, your encouragement toward spiritual things, your prayers for them, or just your friendship with them. It’s also rewarding when someone appreciates those investments.
There is something else that helps us not only to cope, but to find pleasure in fulfilling our particular ministry role: that coping mechanism is a sense of “calling”.
What do I mean by a “sense of calling”? The “calling” is three-fold:
- First, the pastor’s wife is called to Christ by the Spirit of God. A woman who is not sure of her own salvation would do best not to marry a man with a pastoral gift and office. If her life is not dedicated to loving and serving her Savior, she will burn out very quickly in church ministry.
I believe that my first “call” is to minister to the Lord God Himself. I am becoming more and more convinced that until I get this part right, all other ministry will have little eternal effect for the kingdom.
Sometimes in the midst of the busyness of ministering to others, I sense my Father God calling me to come and sit down by Him for a while so that He can refresh me. He also wants me to minister to Him, as a cuddling child ministers to its parents; it’s a matter of “my child acknowledges her need of me”.
The “calling” has in it that sense of total dependence on God and deep love for the Father. When I focus on staying close to God, delighting in Him, the sense of “calling” on my life increases.
A true calling of God does not end. Rom. 11:29 . . . For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Is this different than any believer’s “call” to discipleship? I believe it is. It takes a special unction from the Spirit to hold up under the spiritual attacks that come against ministry couples and their families and to continue loving those who can drain you.
- Second, the pastor’s wife has a “calling” to her husband. Even if she is involved in the activities of church ministry, she must be able to create a space of peace and contentment for her husband. She needs to be a safe harbor for him – not just to minister to him, but to help protect him from other women who might try to fill the void if she leaves it vacant.
The pastor’s wife must be a consoler, good company, a playmate, an encourager, a sounding board, a counselor or confessor, a good listener, and a sympathetic friend.
So many ministry couples have ship-wrecked because the wife does not recognize, desire, or know how to fill this calling to be her husband’s helpmate.
A pastor’s wife who does not have a strong sense of “calling” will have a hard time with the stresses of pastoral life. She can easily grow to resent the time and energy commitments that pastoring necessitates, both her husband’s and her own.
Though on paper the pastor’s job description does not include time commitments from his wife, and even though she is not obligated in any way by written or verbal contracts, there are usually unspoken expectations regarding her role in the church body.
In a small church, often it is expected that the pastor’s wife should fill in where there are church needs within her skill areas. She should do the recruiting for or planning of special events. She should envision and implement the vision for women’s outreach, participate in the women’s missionary program – or head-up that group. She should be able and willing to teach kids’ church or lead the youth program. She should also do one-on-one ministry with women in the church,visit the elderly shut-ins. Such are some of the expectations, often unspoken, that a congregation may subtly impose on a pastor’s wife.
I remember the congregational interview prior to our coming to our current pastoral situation where the question was asked, “And what ministry will Marcy be doing when you [my husband] comes here as pastor?” To which my husband responded that we would wait for the Lord to lead me in that regard. (Yes, I have a good man.)
Not only is it often expected – by church members or by herself – that the pastor’s wife will fill-in the ministry vacancies in the small church, but, if the salary afforded the pastor cannot cover his family’s personal living expenses, there is often the suggestion that his wife should get a job to make up the difference.
- Third, the pastor’s wife has a calling to care for her family. If there are no natural born children, you can bet there are “heart adoptions” that are subject to compassion and energy drainage. Plus considerations of responsibility to both her extended family and her husband’s extended family and the reality of aging parents.
If your pastor’s wife has been involved in ministry for only a short time, maybe the glow of that role has not worn off, but the loneliness of the position might already have set in. And if she has been ministering for many years, you can know for sure that emoional and spiritual reserves have been seriously called upon if not depleted.
If you have never thought of the kinds of on-going pressure on your pastor’s wife that I have mentioned – both in her ministry and personal life, perhaps you should make an opportunity to consider her this week; pray for her, ask the Lord how you can bless her, and take the time to speak an encouraging word to her.
What will you do this week to encourage and brighten your “PW’s” day?
©2011, Marcy Alves
One of my favorite national holidays is Labor Day – a special day off to honor the working class and extend a weekend to give people time to catch their breath. It closes the curtain on summer and welcomes autumn to end the summer heat. It means town parades, backyard barbecues with family and friends, and the last hurrah before school gets into full swing.
For me Labor Day creates a lot of nostalgia, going back into childhood. As a child growing up in Virginia, the day marked the end of summer freedom and the beginning of the school year. It was also the end of fun times with my dad, taking us to the swimming place (a freshwater mountain pool) and playing softball with me and my 5 brothers in our backyard. It meant mornings began earlier and nights got dark sooner.
My nostalgic memories of Labor Day also include adult years. My husband and I enjoyed Labor Day weekends for about 30 years with my spiritual parents at their lake cottage in the Poconos Mountains of PA. The cottage had to be sold several years ago. I often feel the longing to return to the quiet of that cottage, with the sun shining off the lake, the sound of motor boats, the wind in the sails of our sailboat, and the the feel of the floating dock as it rose and fell with the moving water caused by the wake of motor boats entering the cove. I miss our annual lobster dinner shared with close friends and family.
According to the history of Labor Day in Wikipedia, this day to honor the American workforce was proposed by either Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who served as secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York and/or by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor, in May 1882, influenced by the annual labor festival held in Toronto, Canada.
Oregon had the first official state Labor Day, followed by 30 other states. Then in 1894, Congress, under President Grover Cleveland, proclaimed the first Monday of September as the official national Labor Day.
I think that God would approve of the original intent of Labor Day, because He approves of labor. When He created the world and placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them work to do:
Gen.1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
That’s a pretty big job! And it was assigned to Adam and Eve and their offspring. He first told them to be fruitful (i.e., have lots of children), then to have dominion over everything that moves on the earth. Taking care of the earth involves a community effort, as it does today.
It really bothers me when David and I go for a walk on one of our local community streets and find trash that someone has left behind along the road or in the nearby creek or river. God’s creation deserves our care.
Gen. 2:8-9 “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Gen. 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
God instituted the work ethic. He approves of the labor force. There are many verses in Scripture that deal with the benefits of honest labor, in contrast to the fruit that comes from laziness or putting your labor into the wrong things.
- Labor That Honors God
Psalm 128:2 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
Isaiah 3:10 “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.”
- Fruitless Labor
Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Isaiah 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
- Abusive Force on Laborers
Habakkuk 2:12-13 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
- Results of Laziness
2 Thess. 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ ”
Prov. 12:24 “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.”
- Working for God Pays Off
1 Cor. 15:8 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
I was raised with a “hard work pays off” ethic: that if I want something badly enough, I had to be willing to do the work it takes to get it; that I should not expect something for nothing; that if I take care of what I have it will last longer; that work is honorable; and that I should share with those who are willing to work, but are less fortunate with skills or have less opportunity than I have.
I have learned that in both temporal and spiritual labor, anything done to bring glory to my Heavenly Father is not done in vain, but I will see the rewards either in this life or in the life to come.
Happy Labor Day! May the Lord reward you as you seek to honor Him with the work of your hands.
©2012, Marcy Alves
- Labor Day: The Blessing and the Curse of it all (eagleviews.org)
I love living in the USA; and amidst all the political and ideological clashes we face in this nation, I am still thankful that I live in a country where people are clambering to get in, not out.
While I don’t claim to be a world traveler, I have visited several other countries for both ministry opportunities and pleasure. With each foray beyond the borders of the United States, I have been glad to come back “home”. I realize that some of my discomfort in other countries has sometimes been due to not knowing the local language – having to work through an interpreter – but it’s more than that.
Each culture, even those countries where English is the primary language, has necessitated adjustments for me; for instance using different English words for the same item – a sweater is a “jumper” in Aussie land, for instance.
But there are many other challenges, such as:
- Differences in monetary units, dollar exchange, and sales taxes that required constant mental calculations as to what a meal, service, or item actually costs
- Different expectations as to what is polite, or humorous, or taboo
- Hot weather with no air-conditioning
- Hard beds – no, make that very hard beds – on one of our trips we slept on a thin mattress on a bed made of cement – it was actually more comfortable sleeping on the floor.
- Strange food – I once ordered a “regular hamburger” at a MacDonald’s in Australia and it was served with sliced beets on it; also once had tropical fruit pizza (I was expecting cheese and tomato sauce).
- Dangerous roadways and unusual public conveyances – once on a trip in Haiti I rode with a missionary friend in a “tap-tap” (a truck with bench seats in the back) which wound up the mountain on a major “highway” that offered a scenic view, accompanied by a drop-off ledge with no guard-rails and a very narrow shoulder.
- A lack of driving laws – or a lack of enforcement; in our travels we often don’t know which – more than once we felt our lives endangered from what we considered reckless driving on roads in much need of repair or safety features.
In any event, whether the differences made a visit to foreign soil either challenging or enjoyable, I have always been glad to get back to the USA.
We have so much here in the United States to be thankful for: adequate food supplies, cheap gasoline (compared to other advanced nations – though the prices have crept up a lot in the past couple years), clean water, the best health care system anywhere, freedom of religion (so far), freedom of speech (so far – though there are many instances where this right is being challenged by the thought/speech control fanatics), the rule of law without military enforcement, the lowest jobless rate anywhere in the world (even with our present high unemployment rate); a volunteer military; and the most affable, generous people in the world.
There is something about the way Americans care about others who are facing disaster – both natural and man-made – and how they seek to alleviate suffering wherever they find it, that I admire. My fellow citizens are extremely generous and give more of themselves and their substance to others in need than do those from most other countries around the world. Americans are rescuers, often even to their own harm.
I love being able to travel from state to state, town to town, on highways and back-roads and to encounter folks who speak the same language, share the same feelings about living free, follow the same sports teams, root for the underdog, are quick to stop and help a stranded highway traveler with a flat tire, advise you on the best restaurant in town, or suggest the motel with the cleanest rooms.
I love football games, homecomings, 4th of July fireworks, parades with marching bands, summers at the beach, pizza, backyard barbecues, and baseball games.
I love the political process and the freedom to run for an office if you want to help change things in our nation. I love the debates – (however, I do wish that each side would take a minute to listen to the other viewpoint before jumping in with negatives). Though we need to learn to compromise on minor points in order to find common ground on the major ones, still we are free to disagree without fearing reprisal or imprisonment for holding a minority view in government.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I just want to say that I love living in America. I think it is very important to protect the freedoms we have of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
I do not live in a war-torn nation.. I’ve never had my life threatened in any of the places I’ve visited, or feared for my life in any travel situation. I have not faced famine. I’ve not been persecution for my faith. I’ve not been imprisoned for having a “variant faith” or of seeking to win others to Christ. I am so thankful for every freedom we have.
I thank God for those individuals who have given and are now giving their very lives to preserve the freedoms we so often take for granted.
There is a slow erosion of many of the values we have held, which are woven into the fabric of our society – too much pulling on those threads and society as we know it will come unraveled.
So I continually lift our nation in prayer to God. I pray not just for God’s blessing, but also for His mercy and grace to allow us to continue in the religious and personal freedoms we have come to enjoy and often take for granted.
Happy 4th of July to you!!
©2012, Marcy Alves (edited, 2014)
My birth dad’s name was James Robert Devers. He was one of 10 children and fathered a family of 7 children, of which I am smack dab in the middle, #4 child (1 sister – the eldest, and 5 brothers). Dad was a handsome, strong, viral, 6’ 2” tall man, with sandy brown hair, bright blue eyes and a pleasant demeanor. He and my mom married when he was 22 and she was 16.
Though we lived on our own land, financially we would have been considered a lower income family; living without such amenities as indoor plumbing, a furnace, or electricity. We heated with wood and coal and lighted our home with kerosene lamps.
My dad was raised on a farm in north-eastern Virginia – you won’t find many farms in that area now because it’s mostly a bedroom community for Washington DC. He did not graduate from high school – having quit school to work on his dad’s farm after the eighth grade. At age 17 he went to work for the railroad, doing manual labor on the “yards”, where train cars came in for repairs.
James Devers was a man of integrity – if he gave his word, he kept it. He was a hard worker, an outdoorsman. My dad taught us by his life to not be lazy. He was self-sufficient and industrious.
As he continued to work for the railroad, Dad also did odd jobs for friends, extended family and neighbors. Plus he had a large garden in the summer to help feed his family. Any garden overage was taken to the farmers’ market or given away. He was a very outgoing man, friendly to strangers – there were not many people in our town that he did not know. Dad felt that to have friends, you had to be friendly. He was optimistic, confident, and generous, especially to his girls. He was also proud and prejudiced.
He came from a stock of people who accepted bad news as a part of life. When he was diagnosed with cancer at age 64, he accepted death as inevitable – which didn’t quite gel with his optimistic nature. He lived for only two more years.
Cancer brought him to faith in Christ – as he said to me from his hospital bed – “I know who I have to trust for heaven, and it’s not me.” And the person who led him to Christ was one that, due to Dad’s racial prejudices, would not have been allowed into his inner personal space a few years before. But God’s love does that – it takes down barriers and redefines us and our long-held beliefs.
At the time my dad became ill, I was single, living in NJ and attending a church there. My pastor and his wife had no children of their own and “adopted” me. I remember when my dad was diagnosed they said to me, “You will always have a home with us.”
So, when my birth dad passed away, I had another dad. His name was Phil and he was basically a “city boy”. He was raised as an only child in a middle income family. Phil was very different from my father, though about the same age. He was college and seminary educated, not of many words, and had a deep faith that had sustained him since youth. He was thoughtful and a good listener. He had a good sense of humor, but was not loud like my father. He also was a man of his word and chose his words carefully. He was a careful planner, financial saver, and wise investor. He was a “suit and tie man”, where my birth dad was a work pants, work boots guy, except for occasions like weddings. Phil wasn’t expressive with his affection, but he, along with my adopted mom, parented me as a young adult – shared their lives, even vacations with me and later with my husband.
My third dad was my father-in-law, Dave Alves. I think when he died I cried more than my husband did. He was upper-middle class, college-educated, and had served in the US Navy. He had risen from immigrant Portuguese status to a management position with an insurance firm. Dad Alves was a fun person. He filled a room when he entered. He was the entertainer at family parties. Outgoing, stubborn, but never quite sure of himself. He was warm and accepting and interested in kids – my husband’s childhood friends loved being around his dad.
I also loved Dad Alves because he and his wife, Betty, had adopted my husband, David, from an orphanage when he was about age 4 or 5 years old. They took a chance on a kid who had been in 10 or so foster homes in the first couple years after being removed from his birth parents by the state of Massachusetts. Dave and Betty did a good job with him.
Dad Alves not only accepted me, but was proud of my vocal abilities and encouraged David and me in our Christian concert ministry – though not a follower of Christ at the time. He came to a commitment to Christ on his hospital bed after a heart attack. He died several months later.
All three of my “dads” contributed to what I have been and am becoming, by loving me, encouraging me in my particular ministry pursuits, validating my abilities, and modeling character traits such as: generosity, kindness, friendliness, integrity, hard work, honesty, truthfulness, and courage to face what comes your way. They also taught me the need for listening to others, taking time for fun, and applying yourself to your goals.
But my 4th dad is the best of all – and that’s my Heavenly Father. Though I’m sure He was active in my life long before I recognized Him as “Father”, He proves over and over how very precious I am as a daughter of His. He has provided me with tools not only for this life, but for the life beyond this one. Unlike my other dads, He has promised never to leave me or forsake me. He has promised to complete the work He has begun in me, to give me wisdom for each situation, to answer my prayers, to heal me, to save me from disaster, to be with me in trouble, to cause “all things to work for good” in my life.
I don’t have to travel to visit Him, but I can have an audience with Him any time of the day or night. He listens to my yearnings, my pleadings, my supplications, my confessions, my complaints, my discouragements, my questions, my theorizing and my expressions of gratitude. His presence fills the room, especially the room inside me, more than either of my other dads. He points out my faults and weaknesses only to show me a better way and to lead me to learn to trust Him completely with my life.
Thank you, God for my three earthly fathers, and for being the ultimate Father for whatever “orphans” are out there, who want to be in a loving family with a loving Dad.
©2011, Marcy Alves