Today I am thankful for contentment

Have you ever had an epiphany? You know, one of those pivotal moments when you suddenly catch on to something that’s always been true, but it’s like you’re realizing it for the first time? I’ve had many, but one that influenced me most was when I discovered that comparison is the antithesis of contentment. I was about 35 years old, working at my first real job with a promising future, and was excited because things I wanted were finally within reach. I wanted the new clothes, the cool gadgets, and especially super fun technology. I could rationalize. Right? After all doesn’t Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 indicate entitlement? “I have concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they live, and also that everyone should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all his toil, for these things are a gift from God.”

The thing is, my heart was fully aware that newer cars, latest fashion, flashy accessories, bleeding edge technology, and cool gadgets would never lead to satisfaction. My mind, however, was on a different planet. Instead of being thankful for what I had and being content, I was caught in a senseless spiral of always wanting more; comparing what I had with what I didn’t.

Businesses love people like me. Our economy thrives when people want more. In fact, our economy is driven by change; it demands innovative products, superior service and constant improvements. Our culture is a good parallel as it’s also fed by desire for more. Society tells us to be more, and to be more we’ve got to have more. When consumers desire more they buy more products, spend more money, and keep the economy moving. Our economy is sustained by our culture that consistently wants more. I’m not proposing that anyone stop desiring or stop buying. That’s neither my place nor my right. My hope is for you to find contentment.

One day, I was looking at three very different computer models in a shared office space while listening to two co-workers talk about their new cars, when suddenly I had that epiphany. I could continue to buy the next big thing, keep upgrading, trade the old for the new, but I would never be fulfilled. There would always be a newer, better, faster, version of the item already in my possession. What if I made a conscious choice to be thankful for what I had? What if, instead of wanting the upgrade, I resolved to be content? How would it feel to say, I’m satisfied and be sincere when I said it? What if I said – “Enough. This is enough,” and mean it?

About this time I became close friends with a couple from my church. The husband, a recovered alcoholic had, at one time, been homeless, living on the streets of Chicago. He told me his secret to recovery was God’s grace first, and his faith in Jesus Christ. He said when he began his journey to recovery he made up his mind to live with an attitude of gratitude every day. He didn’t need material things to fill his spirit. He didn’t need more talent. He didn’t need more money. He needed to be thankful for what he had right then. Attitude of gratitude.
I’ve tried to practice gratitude. I don’t always succeed, but I know that my mind is capable of transformational change. I also know that my mind can hold a limited volume of thoughts at one time. If I fill it up with gratitude, positive thoughts, and contentment, there is no room for pride, negativity, and comparison.

November 24: Today I am thankful for contentment.

Comparison is the opposite or contentment.

Philippians 4:11-13 “I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.”

Today I am thankful for snow

I’ve been posting only on my Facebook page, but … today — well, today I am thankful for snow.

Today I am thankful for snow.

Before you remind me of the hazards and treachery of snow covered roads, let’s talk about why snow is something to be thankful for.

Snow is natural beauty decor. In spring, summer, and fall, we have green, pink, red, violet, orange, rust, and magenta. In winter, with the absence of vibrant color, we need the sparkling, crystal, shimmering blanket of snow. Snow is not a freak of nature, it’s an act of God. In Job 37: 5-6 “God thunders with his voice in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall to earth’”. Kim Boonstras field of snow

Think of a “blanket of snow” being like insulation in your house. The ground stays warmer because the cold air can’t get to it. This means your garden is protected, and the animals that live outside don’t have to run heat tape through their burrows. Psalm 147: 16 “He sends the snow that is white like wool; he spreads the frost that is white like ashes.” Snow keeps the ground from freezing so hard that plants and trees can’t extract enough moisture from the soil to survive the winter. Obviously snow melts and waters plants and supplies water back to the ground, rivers, lakes, and ponds.

Snow is pristine when it falls from the sky to Earth. On the ground, the more of it there is, the longer it takes to be contaminated by the dirt and grime of the environment. I wonder if this is one of the reasons God used snow in Psalm 51:7 to illustrate having a spirit, clean before the Lord. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” We can clear the slate with God, we can confess to Him and ask forgiveness for our sin and we are cleaned up and white like snow. But then we walk in the environment of real life and get messy again. See how that works? Like the ground needs new snow for protection, to quench thirst, and for magnificent beauty, we need to be spiritually purified through confession, replenished and renewed.

November 22: Today I am thankful for snow.

Romans 10:9-10 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Photo credit:  Kim Boonstra

My Mother, My Mentor – Pamela F. Lenehan

I believe all mothers are mentors. Whether they see themselves that way, whether they work at a job they get paid for or whether they stay home and work without a paycheck, every mom sends a message to her children; she is always teaching.

In her book, the author blends in-depth research of other families and her own personal experiences, to pull together data that seeks to answer the question, “Does being a working mom have an impact on my children?” The answer is, “Of course.” Was it negative or positive? This book doesn’t say kids turn out better or worse if their moms work outside the home. What this book does is brings out the role of moms as mentors and brings in every aspect of mothering I could think of. There are a number of charts and graphs used to illustrate findings of interviews and surveys from mothers, sons, and daughters, but that’s all I’m going to say about the collected data. This book was a lot more interesting than the numbers as you will see when reading this book review.

To get the full story you really need to read the book.


Today and Every Day

miliatrt wallToday is November 11th, the day all across America we celebrate Veterans Day. In case you’re curious here’s the canned definition of how it came to be: “Veterans Day was originally established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. The national holiday is celebrated on November 11, the anniversary of the day World War I ended in 1918. Today Veterans Day honors veterans of all wars for their patriotism and willingness to serve in the military and sacrifice for our country.”  This article From the Denver Post fully describes the unfolding of what started out as Armistice Day and has become Veterans Day.

I’m not overly sentimental, but there are times when my heart empties itself and I am overcome with emotion.  Maybe some of these have the same affect on you. Hearing the Star Spangled Banner, watching parades where veterans lead standing tall as they march, the car with Gold Star moms whose hearts were broken at the loss of a child who died while serving our country, listening to active duty men and women talk proudly of why they serve, hearing Taps played at the end of a military ceremony, reading quotes by military leaders who understand the sacrifices behind the words “freedom is not free”.

I sometimes think we romanticize the military, seeing it as all Dress Blues, clean CamoWear, and emotionless facial expressions. Right? It’s not like that. Being in the military means separation from family and friends, not for a few days but for many long months. Say good bye to sleeping in and lounging around in your jammies while watching cartoons or reruns of Seinfeld. Forget the freedom to jump in the car and go shopping or to the movies on a whim. That soft, comfy bed you sleep in at night? None will be found in the military.  The fluid schedule we love as civilians is traded for a stiffly regimented agenda. Most of all, for those who serve in any one of the five branches of the military, they have to be ready to detach from the familiar and go places where safety is non-existent and security evaporates with the ravages of a war that’s real.  That paragraph is a minimalist description and doesn’t come close to defining what it really means to serve in the military.

Today and everyday – be thankful for men and women willing to give up years of their life to assure the freedom of our country. If you know someone in the military, personally thank them for what they are doing for all who live in the United States. It’s never too late to write a card or email and send it to someone who craves the familiar of home but is immersed in the foreign.  Support is more than standing up for a parade or holding your breath through the stanzas of God Bless America. The next time we are at a ceremony where they pay tribute to each branch of the service, let’s stand and promise to honor, respect, and support our active duty service women and men. Then let’s find tangible ways to do that. If you need ideas, put a comment in the space provided and I will reply with a source to get you started.

The song for today Proud to be an American –

One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview – book review

This morning, I posted a blog written by a friend of mine who wrote a beautiful summary of Jason Ladd’s book, One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview. Kathryn Armstrong is a talented writer, exquisite photographer, and seasoned world traveler. Please take the time to read her blog today and if you love it as much as I do, subscribe so you don’t miss an edition when she posts at Summer Setting.

There is so much more I could say, about this book. Let me begin by saying the author Jason B. Ladd is generous. He has worked it out so anyone who subscribes to his blog on his website audiobookJasonBLadd before December 31, 2015, will receive an audio version of the book. That’s a huge deal because audio versions after this year will be $19.95 or greater depending on where you buy it.

One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview

Never before have I read a nonfiction book that held my interest like reading my best friend’s story while learning so much about the military life of a fighter pilot. I was captivated by the second paragraph when Jason Ladd wrote, “For centuries, the great thinkers have labored to understand man’s purpose.” In that instant I wanted to see how this young man, father to six, husband to Karry, and US Marine found his answer to that question. I have often wondered about my own purpose. Maybe you have too. By the final chapter of the book I was able to peer into his life and get know the real Jason B. Ladd, a spiritual seeker, just like me, but living his unique purpose as a Marine dedicated to protecting America in times of crisis.

Before I knew about this book, I was a follower of Jason B. Ladd’s blog.  I knew of his strong foundation of faith and of his Christian testimony. As I began to read this book, One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview, I was repeatedly surprised by his ambivalent view of God and Jesus Christ. His question early in the book was, “How could I operate without God when so many others needed him so desperately?” Jason’s answers weren’t immediate and that’s what I found so enticing about this book. I know the uncertainty I dealt with in my search for Christ in my twenties. As his story unfolds, Jason Ladd offers views and analogies between his life as a civilian and his life as a Marine. He relates what he learned through his experiences in training for and becoming a Marine fighter pilot to his search for God and discipleship as a growing Christian.

Use for banner of email messagesI turned page after page absorbing the stories told by Jason about his training maneuvers in flight and on the ground, I now know that pilots can land an aircraft on the bed of a ship, and I got a glimpse of how unnerving that incident would be. As Jason says about his training for flight and training for living his life as a believer, “There is no substitute for experience, and experience requires repetition. Study tactics, fly by the book, and repeat. Read, fly, repeat. Read the Bible, live by the Book, and repeat. Read, live, repeat. Failure to do either can give the enemy the upper hand.”

As I read I understood more and more about the strategy of living the life according to God’s standards by learning from the author of this book, the strategies for living as a soldier. The difference between enemies of the soldier in the Marines and the enemy of the Christian is that the soldier’s enemy is physical, but the Christians’ enemy is spiritual. “War is the byproduct of a broken world. It’s impossible to prepare for battle if you are ignorant of the war.” Through his book, Jason implores us to learn all we can about the real war going on between the spiritual enemy, Satan, so we can defend ourselves against spiritual warfare. Living a holy life in a broken world is difficult. The Bible tells you how to live, but you’re going to forget a lot of what it says. You must continually stay in the Word. Like executing fighter tactics, living a holy life is a perishable skill.”

Through the narrative of his life, Jason Ladd shows us how to live a morally vibrant and spiritually fed life and stand firm in our faith even when the world is falling into calamity and moral chaos. “Emerging technologies may change the character of war, but the nature of war remains constant: ugly, violent, and necessary as long as evil remains a reality of the human heart.”

“Our existence is like a book with a beginning and an end. God wrote the book and it is a finished work; he knows the whole story.”  I recommend this book to anyone searching for life solidly grounded on faith.

I Hope You’ll Be One of the Many to Read “One of the Few”

Jane Anderson:

Thanks to Kathryn Armstrong for writing this book review of One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview. I loved her review and wanted to share it with my readers. As I read the book myself, I was so impressed with the way Jason was able to weave his experiences as a Marine into his story of becoming a Christian and growing in his faith.

I hope you click over to Barnes & Noble ( or to get your own copy of the book. If you’re into audio, notice the offer to get the audio version free just by subscribing to Jason’s blog before December 31, 2015.

Originally posted on Summer Setting:

Jason B. Ladd“There are many ways to die. There’s only one way to really live.” Jason B. Ladd is one of the few who grew up as the son of a marine and became a marine. In fact, Jason is one of the few marines who not only became a fighter pilot but an instructor pilot for both the F/A-18 and F-16. Still, that’s not the most courageous thing he’s ever done. One of the FewOne of the Few is a great read worth every minute you invest…not only in learning about how our military operates, but in pondering the core issues of life. It’s the fascinating, fast-paced autobiography of a young fighter pilot who recounts his life journey (so far) on both the physical and spiritual planes, including a look into the womb of darkness wherein a new spirit was conceived, dedicated, and brought to birth by God our Father. Jason writes with rare…

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Finishing Well or Just Finishing

Happy Birthday, Billy Graham. Today, a hero of the Christian faith turned 97. Billy Graham has lived in the public eye since he was in his twenties, stayed true to his faith in Jesus Christ and has never been involved in immorality or been the object of scandal. When I was 11 years old my friends who had TV talked about watching Billy Graham Crusades and 40 years later I was still watching him talk about the object of his faith. In honor of Billy Graham’s birthday and his impeccable testimony, I’m repeating a post I wrote after reading his touching and gentle book. A lot has changed since I first wrote this, but one thing has not changed.  Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about retirement. If you know me personally, that shocks you, doesn’t it? In fact I’ve been thinking about what I can do to avoid retirement. I have nothing against retirement if it’s right for your life, but that isn’t the path for me. Someone told me once that retirement is OK as long as you ‘retire to’ not just ‘retire from’. I get that, and when I get to the age of 85, I will ‘retire to’ rock crying babies in a hospital somewhere. I hope I still have a voice to sing to them too.  That’s all on my 25 year strategic plan. Go ahead do the math, I don’t mind.

While wrestling with some decisions I was lead to the latest book by Billy Graham, Nearing Home.  I was drawn to it because of the sub-title “Life, Faith, and Finishing Well” and was caught from the second sentence of  his introduction. “All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how to live in the years before I die”. He goes on to say, “The Bible doesn’t picture us spending our latter years as useless and ineffective, spending our lives in endless boredom or meaningless activity……God has a purpose for us no matter what our age, young or old, the best way to meet challenges is to prepare for them now, align ourselves with God’s plan so we grow older with grace and find the guidance to finish well.”  OK, so if you happen to have the book you will realize that I took great liberty in paraphrasing, but in essence – those are his thoughts.  And I share them, because that is my prayer for all of us – that we find God’s purpose for our lives so we continually are living out a life aligned with God’s plan, inside His blueprint that’s uniquely our own.

That might mean we keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing because we’re on the right path and in the proper grid on the blueprint.  It might mean taking a slight bend in the road and modifying our course, just a little; a small incremental change.  Or it could mean a 90 degree angle or 180 degree turn. Where should I be today to be assured of finishing well tomorrow?  Today is all I have and tomorrow is the result of how I live it.  Maybe start here:  Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, and mind.   Then speed read over to 1 John 5:3 This is love for God; to obey his commands. And if I start to waiver and fear that I can’t do what God has put in my heart to do, there is always the wisdom of Isaiah 41:13 I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Seriously, my friends – what are we afraid of? God has made us unique because He has a purpose for each of us, He created us with certain interests, abilities, and yes, even our personalities.  He will be our guide if we are committed to follow His lead. Get that – His lead.

How many times do we fall into the trap of thinking this is all there is. Life isn’t the party I signed up for. Let’s encourage each other in our walk today. I know myself well enough now to recognize that my passion to learn and share what I’ve learned through writing, mentoring, and teaching is who I am. The nearly obsessive desire to be a helper and support others so they don’t have to do it all themselves – that’s part of me. Scott Steiner, a true faithful servant of God recently taught a class at my church on spiritual gifts, I’m eager for insight into what God built into me when he packaged me for delivery into the world.

At age 97,of course Billy Graham has retired from daily work, but he still has confidence that until his next breath is celestial air, his purpose on Earth is not over.  So back to that retirement topic – it’s not happening! I’m looking forward to branching out, spreading joy, learning more, sharing more, being more tomorrow than I am today, because it’s in God’s plan for us to bloom where we are planted. Ephesians 5:16 Make the most of every opportunity. For some, that’s their version of retirement. For me, it’s “Show me the mountain, Lord, then grab my hand and pull me up it”.   Are you struggling today? Do you have obstacles to overcome? Are you seeking the right path? You don’t have to do this alone.   Isaiah 41:14 Do not be afraid … for I, myself will help you declares the Lord.  2 Thessalonians 3:3 & 5 The Lord is faithful, He will strengthen and protect you …. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.