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Thanksgiving: A State of Mind – An Expression of Faith

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)
  • family
  • 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 me42 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.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

©2013, Marcy Alves


Pastor Appreciation: Saying “Thanks”

When is the last time you said, “Thank you” to your pastor or priest? Or have you ever done it? October is “Clergy Appreciation Month”. It’s a time to say, “Thank you for your service,” as we stop to think about the pivotal role of “pastor” in the life and health of the local church body. This is a national awareness month, a time when we honor those men and women whose vocational ministry and spiritual calling is to nourish, instruct, and shepherd the sheep in their appointed area of God’s spiritual pasture.

These are men and women who have been called by God and have responded to that call by committing their lives to training disciples of Jesus and equipping their congregants to do the work of the ministry in their individual areas of gifting.

This is no easy task.

There are many sheep whose inclination is to wander off from the flock and become prey for predators, to be obstinate and un-teachable, to butt and bite the other sheep, to become “cast down” so that they can’t get up without help, or to become sickly from eating the wrong food.

My husband, David (who is a pastor) and I have been watching ABC’s documentary on the tape recordings of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States. On those forty+ year-old recordings she spoke of the terrible loneliness her husband experienced as he tackled the affairs of State, his sleepless nights, his doubts and fears over decisions he had made, and the tears he shed over the failure and loss of life resulting from such decisions gone bad, such as at the Bay of Pigs.

My heart is drawn to Mrs. Kennedy in her obvious compassion for her husband.  I identify with her sense of the weight of the burdens he bore, and with her desire to ease his distress. Although the responsibilities of the pastor do not compare with the weighty decisions of the President of the USA and their possible consequences of national importance, like the President, that’s where the buck stops if something goes wrong. And though the pastor is not involved in international wars, the spiritual impact of a pastor can have eternal results in the battle for good over evil.

Anyone who has not been a pastor cannot imagine the stresses and energy drain of pastoral ministry and the on-going spiritual warfare that is part of such ministry. Pastoral ministry can be an extremely lonely existence for the pastor, and for his wife and family.

I have watched my husband (my pastor) agonize in prayer over the course our church body should take and when things didn’t work out, to wonder about his ability to hear God. I’ve seen him flounder under undeserved criticism and misunderstsanding, fight against feelings of rejection or failure when families have left for greener pastures, wonder if he’s in the right place and if he should leave the pastoral ministry, puzzle over the lack of comprehension when he’s preached and taught what he believes is the heart of the Father – with sometimes little visible results. I’ve seen his struggle to accept a phone call when he’s already exhausted.

No one in his right mind who knew ahead of time about the temporal and spiritual challenges of pastoral ministry would choose such a vocation. Most of us who have been personally involved for any extended length of time (say, more than a year?) can no longer be casual or callused about the struggles inherent in pastoral ministry.

I have been a pastor’s wife for 20+ years now. Four of those years we were in local church youth/family pastoral ministry while also in part-time itinerant ministry. We also spent about 10 years in strictly itinerant ministry. Neither the years of youth-pastor ministry, nor the years of itinerancy,  during which we ministered to many pastoral couples, prepared us for the role of full-time local pastoral ministry.

We blush a bit now at the presumptions of some of our early “Come Away” ministries – four-day weeks of small group outreach to pastors and their spouses. We were encouraged as we watched their tensions lessen and their tired faces reflect some easement of their ministry stress.  But we did not know by personal experience the feelings of defeat and futility that pastors and their spouses often felt over their local church ministries. We now know it firsthand.

Besides the smile of our Heavenly Father that we feel in His presence, the warmth of His love that drains off the stress and exhaustion of pastoral ministry, there is one other thing that keep us going:  the expressions of gratitude from our church family.  There are things that make it all worthwhile: words of appreciation, the “ah-ha” reflected on the face of a congregant who “gets it” as he/she opens like a flower to the work of the Spirit, a simple “Thank you for that message”, or a sincere hug as someone leaves the worship service. And once in a while a card, or a gift, or a dinner invitation. Or we hear the pride in a voice as it says, “I’d like you to meet my pastor,” or, “You ought to visit our church sometime.”

If you are a member of a church, I’d like to challenge you – this month, this week, today – to think of a way to thank your pastor for his commitment and service to the Lord, to you, and to the rest of the church body. And if there is a clergy person from your past who positively affected your life, take a moment to contact him/her and say, “Thank you for caring about me and having an influence on my life. I’m a different person because of your influence.”

If you have a pastor for whom you are thankful, how about jotting down a few sentences and sending them to me. I’d like to include them in a post before the end of October. Also, share this post with others and remind them to thank their pastors.

Thank you!

©2011, Marcy Alves

This post is a re-post of an article from October of 2011. There is a sequel coming this week on ideas to express thanks to your pastor(s), entitled How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor.

Thanksgiving: A Time of Reflection

Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching.  All too soon, if not already, you will begin your preparations for whomever, whatever, and however you will be spending the day.

A friend of mine said recently, “I’m not interested in Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’m just not looking forward to the holidays.”

I can understand the lonely feeling that is often experienced by singles during the holiday season; I was single once myself and away from home during several Thanksgivings and Christmases. It’s nice to be with family or a special someone to celebrate these holidays. Neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas began as a celebration of “me”, but rather as recognition of “us” and “Him”.

How did Thanksgiving begin?

There are several different scenarios regarding the original celebration of “Thanksgiving” on American soil. It is thought that the Spanish were first to celebrate a day of thanks in 1565 in St. Augustine, FLA. Later, in 1619 the Virginia Colony held a Thanksgiving feast in celebration of the one-year settlement of that colony. The Pilgrims in Plymouth, MA celebrated a good crop year with a feast of Thanksgiving in 1621.

Thanksgiving was established as an annual national event in the midst of the Civil War in 1863, by a presidential proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln, as an offering of thanks to God for His provision and preservation of the United States. It was thought that establishing a national day to observe the giving of thanks would help to foster a sense of American unity between the southern and northern states.

So you can see, Thanksgiving as a celebration was about “us” (a group of people) and “God” and our gratitude to Him.

This also demonstrated that during earlier times in our country there was a belief in “Someone” to thank, besides the federal government.

Thanksgiving Day is a time to reflect. There are many things for which I am thankful; some of which are the following:

  • my relationship with my heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus, who came not only to die for me on the cross, but also to show me what God the Father is like
  • a Christian husband who loves me and treasures our relationship above all other human relationships
  • family members – parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews
  • our “heart adoptions”

Though I was pregnant a couple of times, I was unable to maintain pregnancy; so God brought children into our lives, first as youth group leaders and in a youth pastorate. Then a “daughter” came to us in a more permanent relationship; she is like a birth daughter to us.  There are two other young women, foreign students, whom God brought into our lives who lived with us for several years – one as a teen and the other as a young adult – who are family to us. All three of our “daughters” now have husbands and families of their own. There are quite a few more loosely connected “daughters” in our lives.

In this we follow the pattern set for us in our own lives: my husband was legally adopted by a wonderful couple as a child of five years of age.  And after my parents died, a pastor and his wife took me as one of their three adopted daughters.

We also have a few “sons”, “nephews”, and “nieces” whom we have taken into our hearts along the way. There are others as well who have adopted us as their parents. I sometimes feel like the barren woman mentioned in Gal. 4:7 & Ps. 113:9:

“Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

  • Friends

We have many dear friends that we have made over the years, scattered across the country and around the world; people whose absence of years fades away immediately each time we are reunited with them. Plus there are many friends from our two pastorates. Some of these people are closer than birth family in our on-going relationships with them.

  • Opportunities

God has given me many personal opportunities over the years to develop and use my gifts of music, writing, public speaking, and spiritual ministry to bring others to Him and to encourage the body of Christ, across denominational lines. I’ve traveled up and down the east coast, in the mid-west, in Canada and in several other countries to share my faith in Christ with others. It has given me a broader picture of the body of Christ. There have also been opportunities for television work in my early ministry and for co-hosting a radio program with my husband for a couple years. I’m thankful for the ability to express faith in God through my current writing venues.

  •  Challenges

I am thankful for the many challenges in my life that have tested, tempered, and firmed my faith in a loving God who is worthy to be entrusted with my life. Losses, health issues, lack of regular income, disappointments, and some temporary discouragements have been a few of those challenges. They have served to secure my faith-walk and deepen my peace.

I trust that as you see Thanksgiving Day approaching you will get your eyes off of the minor disturbances of your life, and train your eyes to see the good things that often are obscured by petty irritations and worthless drains of spiritual and emotional energy – things that tend to empty your life of peace and joy, rather than to fill it with awareness of the good gifts of a loving God.

Ask God today to show you how you can add to someone’s experience of Thanksgiving Day – a call, a note or email, a visit, or an invitation to share Thanksgiving dinner at your house. Be sure also to share with someone else the things for which you are thankful.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Trials and a Thankful Heart

Thankful heartI love holiday celebrations: Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day – steadily marching by in a series of remembrances of festive family gatherings, tasty seasonal dishes, decorations and lighting displays, parades and numerous holiday social events. Thanksgiving and Christmas rank the highest for me because they hold the most meaning in my life.

I was reading recently about a Thanksgiving celebration which took place in 1623 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the summer of that year Massachusetts crops were threatened by a shortage of rainfall “from the third week of May until the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat.” Fasting, rather than feasting was ordered by Puritan governor William Bradford, who recorded in his History of Plimouth Plantation, 1606-1646:

“They sett aparte a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble and fervente prayer in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer . . . Toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to raine with such sweet showers as gave them cause of rejoycing and blessing God. Afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers with enterchange of faire warme weather as through his blessing, caused a fruitfull and liberal harvest to their no small comforte and rejoycing. For such mercie, in time conveniente, they also sett apart a day of thanksgiving.” (Reported in Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English calendar July 15, 2014)

It’s interesting that the Puritan’s trials produced humility, followed by fervent prayer, which resulted in blessings, that produced thanksgiving. Most of us would prefer to skip the first two steps: trial and humility.

Last year during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, I faced a trial of my own. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer 5 ½ years earlier and prescribed with mastectomy, to be followed by chemo and radiation. I was set to go that course when friends from several different places put me onto naturopathic treatment as an alternative consideration. For almost three years I followed a very holistic diet, exercise, and supplement regimen which resulted in a remission of the breast cancer. Then life got busy and the diet and health routine became harder to follow.

During the fall of 2012 a tumor began to grow in the same breast, and in the spring of 2013 surfaced from the breast. By late summer, there was a large tumor with periodic bleeds which were hard to stop and twice sent me to the emergency room. You may be asking why I did not seek medical treatment earlier.

Back in 2008 with my first diagnosis I had sought the Lord immediately about a treatment decision. At that time He gave me 5 specific words: 1. Don’t be afraid. 2. Trust me, I’m with you. 3. This is not just for you, but also for others. 4. Wait on me. 5. Be still and KNOW that I am God.

After the cancer returned, I began to pray fervently that the Lord would continue the healing which I had experienced those first three years. But that did not happen. Gradually through times of continued prayer for guidance, I met someone who had undergone moderated traditional cancer treatment; I sensed that this time the Lord was taking me in a different direction. I felt that He wanted me to experience His presence and healing in the more traditional approach, but to keep following His original five words to me.

I first consulted with a surgeon, to whom my primary care doctor referred me, who told me she could not operate on the tumor because it presented a stage 3+ cancer, and was of too large a diameter to afford proper healing if she were to remove it. I was referred to an oncologist, and a radiologist who had experience in the use of lose-dose radiation on such tumors, and was willing to take my case.

From early November through mid-December of 2013 I experienced five weeks of lose-dose radiation treatments, accompanied by a form of chemo pill. I began to turn the visits with the doctors and the radiation treatment sessions into times of prayer. Prayer for safety from the cancer treatments, for God’s healing hand in the cancer treatments, and prayer for anyone I met in the departments of oncology and radiology at the Paysen Cancer Center at Concord Hospital – doctors, technicians, nurses, office personnel, and other cancer patients and their families. I sensed God’s comforting presence during each visit.

The results of this trial and seeking God in it were, and are, many answered prayers: the complete destruction of the presenting tumor, a clearing of the cancer in the breast – all treatments without sickness or pain of any kind from the tumor – which I consider to be a miracle – I attribute this to God’s gracious, loving answer to my prayers and those of my family and many friends around the world.

There are other things from that trial for which I am thankful: remember God told me when first diagnosed not to be afraid? Even with the emergence of the large tumor and the sometimes severe bleeding, there was no fear – aggravation, yes, but no fear. I have been drawn into a deeper relationship with my heavenly Father, my husband, and our daughter (who, without being asked, took time off from work to accompany me to the hospital, just to be with me and to give my husband a break from the daily treatment routine). Also, many people have shared with me that my situation has caused them to trust the Lord more. Plus all the treatment bills were met, without any debt remaining!

I am thankful for every day of the life God has granted me on this earth. My husband has commented to others that he can see a deepening of my faith, a quieter more peaceful spirit. Each time I take a shower and see the scar from the tumor, I whisper a quick “Thank you, Father” to God for His loving hand on my life.

And I am thankful for the encouragement of Scripture:

James 1:2-4  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 4:12-13  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Romans 5:3-5  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

If you are going through a trial right now, let it take you deeper into God and into faith in Him; this will result in a true heart of thanksgiving – appreciation for all that you have that is really important in life.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!!

Other posts on Thanksgiving:

Words of 2 Presidents:Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: A State of Mind – An Expression of Faith

Thanksgiving: A Time of Reflection

©2014, Marcy Alves

Looking for Love?

“Single man looking for a chance at love with a faithful woman.”

This post appeared with a picture of a handsome young man in a uniform on an ad that popped up on one of my free email sites. I don’t know if it was just a come-on for an eager, available and lonely woman, or if it was a sincere search. But it started me thinking.

No, I’m not shopping for a new man; I already have a really great husband – a faithful best friend.

But I couldn’t help but wonder how many people today, both men and women, could identify with that ad? How many wish they had a faithful woman or a faithful man, a faithful wife or husband, even a faithful friend to come alongside them – to stand with them in difficult times.

And how many will be drawn in by such an ad, and will set out on a journey that may leave them even more lonely and disappointed than they were before?

The themes of love and faithfulness shifted in my thoughts from the world of romance to the realm of the spiritual. I thought of an ad that God might place on one of these email sites:

“Awesome God looking for a chance at love with a faithful woman or a faithful man.”


“Faithful God looking for a chance to demonstrate His love to those who are searching for a loving, faithful relationship.”

While not worded like the two preceding posts, such ads have appeared in a very special book; it’s the Bible and it is full of ads from God. Here are some of those God-posts:

Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  (ESV)

Deut. 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations . . .” (ESV)

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  (NRSV)

Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ . . .  and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me. (NRSV)

1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (NIV)

Anyone who responds to these God-posts will discover the One who is faithful to show His love to all who open up to His offer of a loving relationship. He will be there with you in those difficult time when no one else seems to hear your unspoken cries for help or understanding.

The Lord has said:

Heb. 13:5 “ I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Joshua 1:5   “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”

How about you? Are you looking for someone who will be faithful to you and love you? It’s the cry of the human heart – and God is waiting to answer that call from your heart to His.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Photo by Mikhail Nekrasov/

Looking for Home?

home sweetDo you feel “at home” where you live? Or do you find yourself looking back to someplace in the past where you experienced security and peace? Like the place where you grew up as a child?

I was raised near a small town in Virginia in a rural area; I can still picture our home place; the flowers Dad planted each spring, the rope swing hung from a sturdy branch of the poplar tree in the side yard, the wood pile stacked near the shed. I also picture a later “family place” on a lake in Pennsylvania where we vacationed every summer with my second parents – my pastor and his wife who “adopted” me after my parents died when I was a young woman. It’s been sold now.

My husband and I have lived in many different places during the course of our marriage and ministry – from New Jersey to Kentucky to four different locations in Massachusetts, to three different locations in New Hampshire. We’ve lived in rented apartments, in the home of a friend, and in four different parsonages.

When we were in full time itinerant ministry, though we loved being on the road, we always looked forward to getting back “home” – the place where we could kick off our shoes, have our private space, regroup, recoup, let down, and catch up on rest.

David and I have often said to each other, “It doesn’t matter where we live; as long as you are there, it feels like home.”  We have found over the years that being “at home” is not a place, it’s a feeling. It’s a comfortable, peaceful and secure sense of belonging, of being accepted, of being loved.

But we both have had those times of stress and personal life challenges when the presence of the other person does not meet the need of being perfectly known and understood. Where the heart cry cannot be put into words, where the desire cannot be fully articulated.  Where the need cannot be fully met, because the spirit has deep longings another person can’t reach. It’s a place that feels lonely, and a time when we crave a place where that deep longing can be satisfied; a place called “home”.

Many years ago when David and I were in our early itinerant ministry, doing concerts and spiritual renewal weekends in whatever churches God sent us to, I had such an experience of loneliness; that experience set me on a road to discover where “home” really is.

We were invited to come and minister in a renewal weekend in a rather legalistic fundamentalist church where we had not been before. In a meeting with the pastor and elders on the Friday morning prior to the start of the weekend I sensed a definite “men-are-in-charge-here” spirit.  All the questions were directed to David, even though many of them were in relation to the areas of the ministry that I generally handled. If I offered an answer, the eyes of the leadership looked downward as they listened.

I definitely felt marginalized, minimized, ignored. And it hurt. I wished we had not come to this place and felt like running to the security of “home”. However, we were some 10 hours from where we lived, so that was not a real possibility – plus, we were committed for the weekend.

As we left the pastor’s office, headed to the parsonage for dinner before the evening meeting, I excused myself to slip into the ladies’ room; I entered one of the stalls and quietly cried. I asked the Lord, “Why did you send us here? I can’t minister here.”  I then felt a comforting warmth of the  presence of the Lord wrap around me as He answered, “Yes you can, because I am the one ministering through you.  And I will minister to you.” I then felt the peace of “home”.

There have been many moments since that long ago instance when I have needed that kind of assurance and comfort. It’s at those times of mental or spiritual “aloneness” that I have found a “home” to run to. And the same is true for my husband. When no one else can meet the longing, the need, the uncertainty, our heavenly Father has an open door, and open arms.

I read a poem this past week that resonates with me. The author is unknown. It’s a bit “old fashioned” in style and wording, but I’d like to share it with you here.

My Home Is God

My home is God Himself, Christ brought me there.

I placed myself within His mighty arms;

He took me up, and safe from all alarms

He bore me where no foot but His has trod,

Within the holiest, at home with God;

And had me dwell in Him, rejoicing there.

O holy place! O home divinely fair!

And we, God’s little ones, abiding there.

My home is God Himself; it was not always so.

A long, long road I traveled night and day,

And sought to find, within myself, some way.

Nothing I did or felt could bring me near.

Self-effort failed, and I was filled with fear.

And then I found Christ was the only way,

That I must come to Him and in Him stay,

And God had told me so.

And now, my home is God; and sheltered there,

God meets the trials of my earthly life,

God compasses me round from storm and strife,

God takes the burden of my daily care.

O wondrous place! O home divinely fair!

And I, God’s little one, safe hidden there.

Lord, as I dwell in You and You in me,

So make me dead to everything but Thee;

That as I rest within my home most fair,

My soul may evermore and only see

My God in everything and everywhere;

For now I know, my home is God.

The Scriptures reveal the truth of this poem for the true believer: it’s found in Acts 17:28

“In Him we live and move and have our being.”

Have you found this comforting, healing place in God’s presence? Or are you still looking for your “home, sweet home”?

©2013, Marcy Alves

Self-Concept: Who’s Your Daddy?

Pedro Martinez at some point in his pitching career made the statement that the NY Yankees were his “daddy”.  In the third game of the 2004 World Series the NY fans reminded him of that statement. Pedro was pitching for the Red Socks against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.  As he was pitching, in the third or fourth inning, the New York crowd began to chant, “Who’s your daddy?” Pedro appeared to become flustered and walked three straight batters. The coach brought in another pitcher.

It’s an interesting question that the crowd asked: “Who’s your daddy?”

When I was a child growing up in what was then a small town, Franconia, Virginia, I could not go anywhere that there was not someone who would comment, “We know who your daddy is.”

I knew who my daddy was and so did everybody else; if ever a daughter looked like her father, I did.

And I wanted to please my daddy. I needed his approval and worked hard to get it . . . good grades, clean house, yard and garden work – those things won his approval. I’m sure he would have loved me even without my hard work to please him – but verbal approval was what I thrived on.

It’s been said that fathers, more than mothers, affect their child’s self-image, and to a large degree I believe that to be true. Even an absentee daddy affects his children by his very absence.

Someone once said: “No person can consistently behave in a way that’s inconsistent with the way he perceives himself.”

You can’t see yourself as “brave” and be living in fear.

You can’t see yourself as “unacceptable” or “factory reject” and be confident of yourself or your performance, friendships or relationships.

If you view yourself as a failure, you won’t become a success.

Our self-concept is not necessarily obvious to us. Our parental heritage and other influences can affect us in ways and on levels that our rational mind often does not comprehend. We live as much out of the subconscious as we do the conscious mind.

Not only is our personal self-concept affected by our “daddy”, but the way we view our earthly father greatly affects our concept of God.  We tend to see God somewhat in the image of our dad, until we get to know Him better.

When I became a Christian as a young teenager I initially saw God as someone I could please by hard work and self-sufficiency, like my daddy. Because we were financially “poor” by American standards, I also saw my heavenly Father as someone who would supply the basics – food, clothing and shelter -but not the extras. If I wanted extras, I had to earn money and buy them for myself.

I don’t think I saw God as stingy – because my biological dad was generous with what he had. But because my daddy had a limited income as a railroad worker, a phrase I often heard was, “You don’t really need that.” So, in my head I heard (and sometimes still hear) my heavenly Father say, “You don’t really need that” before I even asked Him.

As I said, I knew that God would provide the basics, but I thought that anything beyond that I would have to do for myself or do without.

As I have continued to walk in the Lord and develop spiritual maturity, my view of God has changed. And along with that, my view of myself and of others has also changed.

The more I am able to view myself as a child of God and the better I get to know what my heavenly Father is like – from pictures of Him in Scripture and in my spirit as the Holy Spirit reveals God to me – the more I learn of His love and how to trust that love, the better my self-concept has become; the more confidence I have in Him and in myself.  Wow! I am a loved child of an awesome Father.

John 1:10-13 says: . . . to all who received him [Jesus], to all who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God; who were born, not of blood [not from human bloodlines] nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The spiritual genes I received from my re-birth experience have been slowly and steadily over-riding the imperfections and weaknesses of self-concept resulting from my birth family genes and experiences.

2 Cor.5:17 If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, all things are made new. (KJV)

God is the One who can change us from the inside out. I don’t have to be handicapped for the rest of my life from familial mental, emotional, and spiritual inheritance. I have a new inheritance through Christ, who made me one of God’s loved children.

I am now a child of God. He is my “Daddy”.

So, who’s your daddy? Knowing that can change your life.

©2011, Marcy Alves

‘Tis the Season

Thanksgiving is over; Black Friday has come and gone – thankfully. Family and friends have  departed and quiet prevails in the house. Guest rooms are cleaned and back in order and the family dog has eaten his share of turkey.  Leftovers have been served until no one wants to face them again. No more gravies, stuffing, pies or eggnog until Christmas.

I’m glad we don’t eat this way every day.  But  the community effort in preparing the Thanksgiving meal, the family fellowship around the table, the camaraderie at the kitchen sink and dishwasher, and the shared football experience in the TV room, all add memories that are a part of the fabric of our lives. Shared experiences, shared memories are so important to remind us that we have lived – that our existence has been significant, if not to the world, than certainly to each other.

There is something special about the Thanksgiving through Christmas season. Year after year as we celebrate these two important events there is a nostalgia in the air that moves us to keep  in touch with each other – family with family, and friends with friends. We telephone to or receive calls from out-of-town family, thankful that the aging ones are still with us. Calls, cards, notes, or emails come from friends with whom we seldom communicate at other times of the year.

There seems to be a yearning to reconnect in a more tangible way during the holiday season. It’s different from Facebook communications, which is so general – a kind of put-it-out-there and see if anyone reads it.  Thanksgiving and Christmas communications are more like, “we think of you specifically, care about our relationship with you, and want to renew our personal connection”.

There is also a spiritual element to this season that is unlike other times of the year; the awareness of a God-connection. It’s a mystical sense of the “other world” that runs parallel with this physical one – the invisible, unseen dimension that came into our space-time zone some 2,000 years ago in the person of a little baby boy named Jesus.

Even though the spirit of this world has tried to get our attention off of that original gift from God, the light still shines brightly and the darkness has not been able to extinguish it. When we see the decorations in stores, on houses, and other buildings – and though their themes may be purely secular, they still remind us that something happened those many years ago that changed the course of the history of the world, and continues to change history as each new year is added to that history.

We are reminded in John 1:6-7, 9 of the entrance of this supernatural light:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”

and in John 1:14 of God in a human body:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

and in John 3:16 the reason that He who is light took on human flesh and brought a gift to us from His Father:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

There is a sense of joy and expectation in this season – and it’s not about material things – it’s about the God who loves His creation, who came to us to demonstrate that love.  The sense of the uniqueness of the this season goes beyond cultural, national and ethnic boundaries. Wherever there are those whose hearts have been entered by the Spirit of the Christ, Christmas will continue to be more than trees and lights and wrapped presents;  Christmas will be a time of embracing this God of love and His gift of life; a time of gratitude and generosity toward others. No Grinch can steal this memory from hearts that have been touched and transformed by this gift; which is in us light, love, and eternal life from our Creator God.

Welcome to the season of Christmas!

©2011, Marcy Alves

edited 2012

God: Your Creator or Your Creation?

Do you believe in God? I mean really believe in Him? Is He your creator or your creation?

It’s not so much what you say that adequately answers those questions; it’s not even what you think you believe about God. The real answers to those opening questions are demonstrated in how you live your life.

How many decisions do you make every day of your life that have never been submitted to God, nor informed or influenced by the principles taught in the Scriptures? In fact, you are more influenced by the culture around you, or what you have studied in books, or what your friends say than you are by God himself. You have not even considered your Creator in the equation, only your personal desires, convenience, needs, comfort, job performance, success, or how you can fit into the cultural mold so that your Christianity is not so obvious.

I think some “Christians” make important life decisions that reflect an attitude of, “If I were God, this is how I would handle this situation?”  Instead of asking God how He wants them to live their lives – the things they do, speak, participate in, or allow; they have re-written the Book. God is no longer Creator, Master of the universe, Sustainer of life on planet earth, but just “god” with a small “g”.

Let’s see, how does the book of Genesis begin? Oh, yes, “In the beginning Man climbed out of the primordial slime . . .” oh, gosh, what did he do then? Uh . . . I think it’s in chapter 1 verse 26, “Then Man said, ‘let us make god in our image, after our likeness. And let him have dominion over whatever we choose to allow him to control.”  Verse 27 “And so Man made god in his image, in the image of Man he created him, male and female created they him. And they blessed god and said to god, ‘make our lives to be fruitful and prosperous and then wait over here on the sidelines until we need you to straighten things out for us. But in the meantime, we’re the ones in control, so don’t interfere with our plans.’”

Earlier this week I was reading in the book of Job, (located in the Old Testament of the Bible), in chapter 12, when I came down to verse 6 that contains the phrase, “ . . . those who carry their god in their hands.

It reminded me of an acquaintance I had many years ago who carried a cross in his pocket and made a point to show it to people he wanted to impress with his spirituality. He often said, “I never go any place without this cross in my pocket.” Years later it was discovered that he had been molesting his young daughter and attempting to seduce some of her friends.

Somehow, though this man “believed in god” and had made a profession of “faith” and had even been baptized, he merely served a god of his own creation; a god who was not “God” in his life, but a religious symbol that he carried in his pocket. His had “religion” but not a “relationship with God”, yet he would have said he was a Christian.

If we want to know what Creator God is like, we need to be people of the Book. We need to see Him in the pages of Scripture and do what such a God commands:

Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Psalm 1:1-2  “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul . . . You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

We also need to spend time in the presence of God – not just reading about Him in His book.

Just as it is possible for a husband and wife to be in the same room, yet not be experiencing each other’s presence, we often do this with God. We know He is with us, but we’re doing our own thing and not entering into His presence.  We need to draw close to God in our spirit – like cuddling up with our spouse on the couch.

James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

Our God is the God who loves, who is approachable, who desires our closeness and has promised to be with us and to teach us all we need to know to live out our lives on earth.

John 14:23-26 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. . . the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

So, how is it with you? Do you see God the way the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit portray Him? Do you see Him as the Creator who made the earth and everything in it of the natural order, including you? Do you see Him as the powerful Sustainer of life and loving Father of all who come to Him? Or do you see only a god of your own creation; an innocuous bystander, lacking power to rescue you and having no interest in your personal life? Is your life in His hands or your own?

Is God your Creator, or your creation? Your life depends on your answer to that question.

©2012, Marcy Alves

Vegetable Garden Blues

Has your garden failed to produce after hours of labor: preparing the soil, planting, watering, hoeing, and weeding? Join my 2012 garden club and we can weep together.

I don’t know what was different this year from past years. My garden was rototilled and fertilized with organic fertilizer. Plants and seeds were purchased from the same farm store I use every year; planted about the same time (early-June).

The garden was watered when it didn’t rain, weeded and hoed semi-faithfully, and prayed-over a lot. There is usually a good return by now from some of my vegetable plants; so far this season – zilch.

My garden has been attacked by “critters”(a porcupine, deer, and a groundhog), bugs (some to eat the plants and others to eat the bugs that eat the plants) and weeds. I fought bravely to protect the garden, erected a makeshift fence, prepared and sprayed a natural bug killer, planted marigolds on the edges, spread critter repellent around the perimeter of the garden, and finally set a humane critter-trap – all to no avail (except for the trapped porcupine).

A garden takes lots of work – especially organic gardens. And some years it takes more work than others.

Working in the garden this year made me think about the Master Gardener – the one who works the garden of our hearts. He must have some fairly unproductive years, too. Mostly due to the condition of the soil.

First He has to prepare the soil: at just the right time, His plow-cuts the hardened ground and loosens it up so that it can receive the fertilizer and the seeds. The preparation of the soil can take years, depending on what has formed the ground of our lives – it’s usually a mixture of our life experiences, the deposits in our hearts from human relationships, personal encounters, and “stuff” that happens to us.

Then comes the fertilizer – which, strangely, is made from those same life experiences.  Good times and bad times; successes and failures; joys and sorrows; fulfilled dreams and disappointments, which God turns into compost when we commit them into His hands; aged, decayed, rotted things that He uses to enrich the soil, getting the most out of the mixture to produce the best fruit in us.

This is what is referred to in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Seeds are scattered into the soil through other people, things we read, view, and listen to; and in those silent thoughts relayed to us from the mind of the Master Gardener as we learn to be still and listen for His voice.

Then the Holy Spirit draws up water from the well inside us that never runs dry and irrigates our garden, causing the seeds to germinate. As the plants begin to pop up through the soil, the Son shines His light on them and over time fruit begins to form.

It’s all His work, not ours – until the weeds, bugs and critters appear in the garden He’s cultivating. It’s then that we participate in the work. The soil of the fallen human nature will bring forth all kinds of weeds, briars and creeping vines which have to be uprooted.

The easiest to remove are the vine plants; they twist and curl themselves around us and strangle or suck life from us if they are not caught early on. Their roots are not very deep, but it requires time to untangle them. They are like the thorny plants mentioned in Jesus’ parable about the seed and the soil in Matthew chapter 13 – which choke out the produce that has begun to grow. Just like our daily irritations and concerns which often choke out the spirit-fruit in the garden of our hearts.

Other weeds in my backyard garden are easily removed, having only shallow, surface roots. But there are a couple different kinds of weeds which have deep, thick roots, often 4 or 5 inches long. I have to dig them out with a trowel. If I don’t, the weeds keep growing back.

In our heart-soil, there are also weed roots that have been growing for a long time; they penetrate very deeply into our soil. Past hurts often leave deep wounds into which these roots bury themselves. Un-forgiveness toward others, ourselves, and God, causes those weeds to grow and keep coming back.

We often need help from our Master Gardener and fellow believers to help us dig out these deeply imbedded roots. If we don’t get rid of them, not only will they inhibit our spiritual growth, but will cause problems for others around us.

Hebrews 12:15 says: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

And then, the bugs and critters that invade our spirit-garden, like the “birds of the air” in Matt. 13:4, swoop into the garden of our hearts and snatch away the seed, which the parable in Luke 8:11 defines as “the word of God”.  Jesus defines those “birds” as “the evil one” (Matt. 13:19) or “Satan” (Mark 4:15). These demonic thoughts from the spirit-world attempt to destroy the spiritual seed that is germinating in us. It’s important to hold onto the word of God as it comes to us in its various forms – letting it nourish our souls.

There is a contrast in Galatians 5 between the garden left to itself and the one that is cultivated by the Master Gardner, Jesus:

  • Gal. 5:19-21: the produce of the flesh:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

  • Gal. 5:22- 23: the fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

My prayer for those who want to live a life full of spiritual fruit (and for myself) is found in Philippians 1:9-11:

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

How’s your garden doing? Need help from the Master Gardener? He’s just a prayer and a surrender away.

©2012, Marcy Alves

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