Today I am thankful for smiles

I’m taking a few days away from social media to spend time with my family. Well …. let me rephrase that. I am only on social media when there are no family members present. As they sleep, I use these moments with friends. I see you lighting up the day over there where you are. Keep shining – everyone you meet will see the glow from within.

A few weeks ago while attending a small event I smiled when being introduced to a man I’d never met. He thanked me for smiling. What?!?! My face must have looked perplexed because he quickly explained that he’s constantly on the go and meets people every day. It’s rare that anyone smiles when he greets them. That made me think. Do I smile when I see people?20141125_121650-1

I think my grandma told me when I was 6 or 7 years old that smiles are free and if you see someone without a smile, share yours. I’ve had a lot of years (a LOT of years) to practice what I learned way back then.

Proverbs 15:13 in the Message it says “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” Yes, I noticed how this says it takes a cheerful heart to smile and we might not feel all that cheerful. In fact we might identify more with the second part of the verse. We might be sad.

We can fix that in two steps.

1) Change our thoughts – Philippians 4:8 “Keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.” Clear your mind of anything negative. If a negative thought return – 5 second rule – Let no negative thought contaminate your mind for longer than 5 seconds — just don’t! Change your thoughts, transform your mindset.

2) Do something for someone else. Psalm 112:4 gives us a hint of how we can affect someone else’s life by being kind. “They will be so kind and merciful and good, that they will be a light in the dark for others who do the right thing.” Keep it simple. Remember smiles are free and acts of kindness can be too. It’s when the room is darkest that the tiniest light illuminates.

November 28: Today I am thankful for smiles.Christmas 2012

Today I am thankful for the gift of time

I know. We hear all these trite clichés about time, don’t we? “You have all the time in the world.” or “Time is fleeting.” or “Take your time.” or “On your death bed you will never wish you’d spent more time at the office.” Benjamin Franklin said “Lost time is never found again.” What do we believe about time? Do we really believe that time is a non-renewable resource? There are 86,400 seconds in a day. I find it curious that I remember that fact, when I’ve forgotten so many others that are more important, but when I learned it, it stuck. Attending to that 86,400 seconds reinforced the importance of using our time wisely so our projects wouldn’t overrun their allotted time. We all have the same amount of time every day, 86,400 seconds.

I’m not a time management expert. The truth is, I don’t even believe we manage time. We manage the activities that use up our time. These months, November through January, are busy; days are full and those 86,400 seconds are fleeting, and in the famous words of Dr. Seuss, we wonder “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” Maybe I’m the only one who wants more out of life than a continuous string of things to do and the satisfaction of crossing them off the list. I want the story of my life to be more than checkmarks next to completed tasks. I don’t have it mastered, and I certainly don’t have it all together, but my life is a continuous thread until the spool is empty and God says to me, “Remember those seconds you were given? Well, they’re over now. You’re coming with me.” Until then, I still have time to work on life and you do too.

I choose to bookend my days with spiritual strength and commitment to finding joy in situations. We have to go in search of joy because it won’t come find us. Begin every morning with thanks to God for this new day, opportunities to breathe, and the gift of more time. Getting started with a new habit is tough so maybe Psalm 119 will help in forming this bookend to your day. Verses 17-18 “Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

I’m a very visual learner and an obsessive list maker; in fact, even my lists have lists. I have memory issues and find it necessary to write everything out so it’s where I can be reminded of things I must do and things I want to do. Am I spending my time – using it up? Or am I investing my time – creating something useful or growing memories? You don’t need to be a list maker to divide your time into slices of meaningful events and useful activities.

Make a conscious effort to include things that feed your imagination and create heartwarming experiences. These stories of our days are filling up the times of our lives. What do we want to be recorded? How do we want them to turn out? I read a book by Barbara Bush a few years ago. It was full of heartwarming experiences. In it she said, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.” What are some simple investments you can include in your day that will add joy, encouragement and significance to your life stories?

The final bookend to each day – end with thanks to God for your seconds and for the gift of this day. Psalm 34:1 is a good reminder. “I will praise the Lord at all times; my mouth will continually praise him.“

This morning, I got up early, much earlier than normal – and I did it on purpose. If the story of my day is going to be transcribed the way I want it to be, I have to be attentive and have the investment mindset. I’m a guest in the home of relatives for the next several days. As you can imagine, there will be a lot of family time and holiday spirit. This is a challenge to make the main thing, the main thing. How will I invest my time?

November 25: Today I am thankful for the gift of time.

And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

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.