Bless and be thankful continually

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“We bless you, Lord.”

I heard those words flow out of the mouth of someone praying once.

And those four words got me thinking.

Does God need our blessing?

I know I need his blessing.  I need his blessing to live.

I’m blessed when I inhale my first breath of morning air.

I’m blessed with my first sip of coffee and with my first spoonful of Cheerios.

I’m blessed with a warm shower and my bar of dove sudsing up my washcloth.

The clothes I put on are his blessing.

His provision.

Sustaining grace.

The sunshine.

Shelter.

Rain that soaks the earth.

Plants and flowers that bloom in my yard.

Everything.  Everywhere.  I’m surrounded by his blessings.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.  Jonathan Oatman, Jr

We sing, recite and teach children and grandchildren to sing and recite these or similar words.

But are we conscious, really conscious of even the simplest of blessings?

We need his blessing to survive.

Does he need or want ours?

The Orthodox Jews blessed God.  So did Jesus.

If we look closely at Jesus’ prayers and even the Apostle Paul’s, we see clearly that their style of prayer was one that continually blessed God.

That prayer style was passed down from Moses when he told the Israelites to focus on the Lord and to not forget that he is the source of all that they have and that he alone sustains them.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which he has given you.  Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God.  Deut. 8: 10-11.

Moses didn’t want the Israelites to rely on God only in their lean days but to also acknowledge him in their abundance — especially when things were going good.  That’s when it’s easy to forget about God.  He was stressing the importance of blessing God always and in all circumstances.

Blessing God with short bursts of prayer shifts our attention to him…the source of all blessings and to keep him foremost in our line of vision and in our thoughts.

Praying before meals often becomes a mindless ritual but what a great time to really pause, think, focus, and remember God’s blessings that we received throughout the day and to bless him for them.

Jesus took the bread and gave thanks — the original translation says, Jesus took the bread and blessed…not to bless the food but to bless God for the food…in other words, to thank God.  Some translations sneak in the word ‘it’ as if Jesus was blessing the food.

Maybe that’s where we’ve gotten confused with what praying before meals is really about.

Jesus was giving God thanks for the food.  He was not blessing the food.

The original Hebrew word for bless is barak which means “to kneel.”

I get the image of kneeling before him in total surrender and worship when I think of the word barak.

To bless God is to give him thanks.

We can give thanks before meals and not only then but continually all day long.

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Even during painful situations, we can thank him for the specific ways he sees us through them.

“Bless (thank) you Lord for…

We can write them down, focus on them, take our eyes off of our circumstances and place them on him and bless his name.

Life gets hard at times but God is good.  Always good.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the Lord , O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.  Psalm 103: 1-5, RSV

“Oh, Lord, we bless your name.”  And we can say it over and over, because there isn’t a second in life that hasn’t been saturated with his blessings.

Oh, Lord we bless (thank) you for________.  You fill in the blank and I’ll bet you will be able to fill in more than just one blank.  Count your blessings name them one by one.  Count your blessings see what God has done!

Be blessed!

Nancy

Don’t Let Them Steal Thanksgiving (part 1)

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No sooner the costumes and scarecrows get put away, the last traces of candy vanish and the pumpkins get discarded, no sooner the fall harvest items disappear from store shelves–then all the shiny glitz and adornments for Christmas start appearing.

One by one they start lining shelves.  Sometimes Christmas appears alongside autumn, even before November.

I try to put the blinders on and walk past the displays.  But it’s all there, trying to grab my attention.

So what happened to Thanksgiving?

In the world of retail and advertising I’m sure that the purpose isn’t to conjure up feelings of thankfulness and contentment in us.

The message that seems to bombard us is that more of anything and everything will make us happier.  The message is reach, grab, take, more is better and we’re inclined to think that what we want is what we need.

Frantic, trying to create Christmas, thinking we have to keep up with all of it…well, it can make your head spin.

During this season that’s all about giving thanks, we feel it deep in our bones as the glossy; slick fliers start appearing in our mailboxes.  It’s like a pressure that pushes against us to hurry up.  Hurry up and get things done.

We may even start dreading the holidays when the countdown to Christmas begins and it’s printed in big letters across the pages of advertisements.  There are 50 days left until Christmas, then 49, 48, 47, 46, 45…and on it goes..until we get to 1 more day and then THE day.

Catalogs, magazines, newspapers, oh my!

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Take a deep breath–now let it out.  We don’t have surrender to the pull.  Easier said than done, you say?  I get it.  It’s not easy when we’re surrounded by everything that is telling us what we have to do, buy, be, and become to bring Merry and Bright into our homes.

Our environment is a far cry from the Plymouth settlers when they arrived in the new world in 1620. Arriving just as the cold weather was about to set in, they weren’t prepared for the harsh New England winter.  Half or more of the settlers died.

It was with the help from a tribe of Native Americans, who taught them how to fish, hunt, farm and survive, that they had a bountiful harvest in the fall of 1621 and they celebrated.  Boy did they celebrate…they had a 3 day feast (inviting the natives to join them) and gave thanks to God.  Thanking Him for His provision, bounty and help.  It was the first Thanksgiving day that would eventually become a national holiday.

Giving thanks, for the Plymouth settlers back in 1621, came from a deep place of gratitude to God for sustaining them and giving them a harvest that would carry them through their second winter in the new world.

What they saw coming from the hand of God, we can easily take for granted these days.

We who have supermarkets rarely go hungry but if we look back and reflect over the past year–on the third Thursday of November–I bet we can come up with a pretty comprehensive gratitude list.

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Everyday, not just this month, I’d like to live with a thankful heart…sort of like thanks-living!  Living in thanks but especially this November I’m going to concentrate on not allowing the retailers to steal Thanksgiving from me.

I’m going to try hard not to fall for their traps with the glitter, dazzle, this new gadget and that new thing to make me feel discontented.

We can’t give thanks when we focus on all that we don’t have.

How about you?  Will you join me?  As you look over the past year, what are you most thankful for?

Then tell God.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

The more we give thanks the more we feel blessed.

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014