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

Breaking up the Unplowed Ground

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It’s been a long goodbye this week.  I’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones traveling cross-country to start a new chapter of life in a new place.  It’s been a bittersweet separation these past few days.

My emotions range from being hopeful, happy, excited and then sad and lonely all at once.  Then there’s worry and anxiety close by to turn my world upside down.

Letting go.  It’s hard.

I spent the last few months in my garden.  Weeding, working the soil, planting.  It’s therapy.  And the therapy became a blessing as I have anticipated this week for some time now.

I worked the soil, in a large planter on my deck, trying to release a stump leftover from a shrub that once grew in the pot.

I dug, pulled, chopped, yanked.  Little by little the deeply embedded roots gave way to my prodding and poking.  Bit by bit I tossed the entangled roots until I got to the stump.  I dug a little more and released its grip.  It was finally gone for good.

Adding more potting soil, it was ready to receive fresh new plants.

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My heart can feel that way sometimes–choked and clogged by a number of embedded emotions that need uprooting so that new growth can sprout.

It may seem easier to let them fester, ignore them or even wallow in them but if I want to flourish, both emotionally and spiritually they need releasing.

It’s funny how God can speak to me in the most unbelievable ways.  Yesterday it was through a Persian poet born in 1207.

I opened a magazine and these words popped out at me:

Do not worry that your life is turning upside down.  How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?  Rumi

Ok, God.  I hear you.

I wandered through my garden today and noticed the beauty.  There are flowers blooming everywhere.

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The hard work this past spring produced an over abundance of growth.

I know It’s time to work the unplowed ground in my heart too.  I sit quietly, flipping through the pages of His unshakable and reliable word.

Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.  Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts…   Jeremiah 4: 3-4a

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.  Hosea 10:12

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I’m doing the hard work of pulling out some of those deeply rooted roots and weeds in my heart, because I know that to see new growth and flourish I must first dig out the worry and anxiety.  I have to uproot the wanting to hold on tightly when it’s time to let go.

And you know what?  The more I work at this uprooting process the more I’m seeing evidence of joy and peace sprout once again.

What do you need to uproot today?

Blessings!

Nancy ©pensandjournals.com

Spreading the Kingdom

Today I’m sharing a piece that I wrote last August.  I believe it’s a timely message for today too!  I hope you find some inspiration and truth in this post.  Blessings to all…

Pens and Journals

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So I was reading the Lord’s prayer today.  You know the one that Jesus taught his disciples.

“This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

Then I stopped.  What caught my attention is the part that says ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.

If Christians throughout history have prayed those words and we have prayed those words, you wouldn’t know it by the headlines.  I don’t see it in the news.  If his kingdom is coming and his will, at this time in history, is being done where is it?

I see war, talk of more war, prejudice, hate, violence, heartache, shootings, looting, abuse and the repeat button gets pushed daily.

Our Prince of Peace, more than likely, is weeping…

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When Ink Drips and Camera Clicks

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I put my pen to journal and begin to write, I see an oriole outside my window and I grab my camera.  I click to capture the moment and return to my writing.

With my mind and emotions wrapped up in so much lately, I finally feel my soul return to its rightful place.

The uneasiness began last week with a phone call.  It was a peaceful day, we were enjoying the sunshine, the newness of spring and Bob’s cancer wasn’t in our thoughts.

My husband doesn’t let it define him and as I walk this journey beside him I won’t let it define me either.

We go on, not thinking much about it, finding joy in the simple things.  Then reality breaks through and we must face it once again.

Bob’s cell phone rang while we were having lunch at a small cafe.

“The Leukemia markers have increased a little in your blood,”  came the words over the phone.

“It looks like you may need another bone marrow biopsy but we’ll check again in a few months.  For now, just stay on the chemo med and we’ll explore further at your next visit.”

I study Bob’s expression, watch him for a few days.  He remains strong, steadfast (at least outwardly) and is hopeful that the markers will go down again, if not with the medication he’s taking now, then with another one.

My heart and prayers surround him and if there’s any way to test the oneness in marriage and to experience it at a deeper level it’s in times like this.

So together we wait, pray and wonder.

This past year has been like a roller coaster ride through the steep upward climbs and the wild racing down and then back up through the twists and turns of this crazy journey of medical tests and doctor visits.

After the latest blood test results, the what ifs, the uncertainty, fearful thoughts, the all-consuming questions race through me.

I get stuck there for a couple of days.

But today I grabbed my pen, my journal and a hot cup of coffee.

Here I sit writing my prayers, my thoughts, my dreams for me; for us.

One by one I write out the gifts that I’ve been given in life.

Not just the big ones like God, faith, family, friends, provision…those are obviously important but I’m recalling and writing down the little things today.

I’m focusing on all those small miracles that we often overlook and how in the overlooking we forfeit great joy.  It’s the simple pleasures in life that surprise us with the greatest joy.

So my focus shifts from the what ifs and fearful thoughts to being present in the moment and enjoying the gifts God has for me today…a gentle breeze blowing through an open window, waking up to the orioles singing on my deck,  spring flowers popping up all over my yard, the patter of rain on my rooftop, the sunshine poking through tree branches after the rain, barren branches finally sprouting leaves, the smell of coffee brewing and sugar cookies baking, the wonder in a child’s eyes, a child’s laughter, singing, praying, the sunsets… and on and on the list goes.

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Gifts.

And when we give thanks for all the little pleasures surrounding us our eyes open to glimpses of God’s glory everywhere.

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

Even in the midst of this crazy, mixed up, messy, often painful world there is beauty and grace that moves us into thankfulness and being thankful produces joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

We can’t give thanks and be fearful, angry or miserable at the same time.  A thankful heart doesn’t have room for that.

Daily we need to find those peaceful places where our bodies, minds, souls can rest.  At least I do.

I’m an introvert.  I thrive and recharge by being alone.

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding my life lately and unless I can escape into moments of solitude I’m a wreck and when I’m a wreck I can’t fully be there for my loved ones and those I deeply care about.

This introvert finds solace and peace through being alone with her thoughts, her God and her journal.

I not only find peace as my pen drips ink into words on journal pages, I’m also drawn to give thanks through savoring moments with a click of my camera.

Both are gifts.

Whether I’m recording through words or photos, I’m drawn into the presence and wonder of God and, for me, that has become an act of worship.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Blessings to you and yours,

Nancy

Expressions of Love

heart sunset 2 - Copy wdp“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”  Sarah Kay


I’m not sure why I was having a bad day.  It was several years ago.  All I remember was there were tears and I wanted a little slice of time to myself.
Bob left the house and returned later with a box of Good and Plenty, handed it to me and said, “I thought this might make you feel a little better.”
I smiled, opened the box and we went for a walk while I ate my candy.
And you know what?  That simple gesture of love lifted my spirits.
He could have brought home a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a diamond ring and it wouldn’t have had the same effect.
I’m not saying those gifts would be meaningless but there’s a time and place for everything.
The little box of Good and Plenty was perfect.
Why?  Because it came from someone who has studied me, therefore knows me and my husband picked a simple, thoughtful gift for that day.  Knowing that Good and Plenty was one of my favorite childhood candies, he went out and bought a box.
It was just an ordinary day, with me needing a little encouragement and my husband decided that Good and Plenty may do the trick.  I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I ate that candy–it was many years ago so it was a special surprise.
Silly, huh?  But you know what?  It’s often the simplest gestures of love that mean the most.
As hard as I try to remember, I can’t recall why I was so sad that day and either does Bob but we both remember the gift of Good and Plenty and how it made me feel.
That’s important information for many of us to remember, especially during the month of February when images of love abound as we approach Valentine’s Day.
We can start by studying our loved ones, making mental notes of their likes and favorite things, listening for clues of what may lift their spirits, bring them joy, put a smile on their face and then follow through with a simple gift.
It doesn’t have to happen on Valentine’s Day.  Actually, an unexpected gift expressing love on any day has even more meaning and impact.  However, Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to express our love to a spouse, child, friend and even a stranger with a random act of kindness.
Sometimes bigger isn’t better and less really is more.  One simple rose (in a favorite color) placed in beautiful vase instead of a dozen roses — a box or boxes of favorite childhood candy instead of a box of expensive chocolates — think, study, explore, put thought into purchasing a simple gift and then share your love.

I took the photo of the sunset, at the top of this post, on February 13, 2014 in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.  My husband and I were walking the shoreline when we noticed that the sparkling reflection of the sun on the sand looked like a heart.
I refer to that photo as the night that God kissed the shore with a heart for us just in time for Valentine’s Day–a reminder of his love for us.
His love cost everything he had — his only son and his very life.  That’s truly the only BIG GIFT worth receiving, because that’s how we learn how to love even in the smallest of ways.
We love because he first loved us.  (1 John 4:19)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The greatest gift is LOVE–go out and express it in creative ways and give someone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Blessings!  Nancy ❤    © 2015

When too much salt spoils the soup

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It was a cool autumn day, lunch time, and a hearty bowl of soup sounded good.

Bob and I stopped at a familiar restaurant and ordered the vegetable beef soup and a salad.

As we waited for our lunch, we sipped our coffee.  Not just good coffee but great coffee — something the restaurant is known for and we enjoyed every drop.

When our meal arrived, I scooped up the steaming liquid brimming with chunky veggies and bits of beef and tasted my first spoonful.

Bob asked, “So how is it?”  I swallowed then responded, “It’s flavorful.  Almost too flavorful.  Actually, It’s pretty salty.”

He tried his.  “Wow, you know me, I like my meals salted well but this is overpowering.”

Both of us kept remarking how salty the soup was with every spoonful.  I don’t know why we didn’t send it back.  We should have.

By the time we left, we had a bad taste in our mouths.  Not only because of the overpowering salty soup but toward the restaurant who served it.

On this side of that lunch experience, we have lost our desire to go back there to eat.  We’ve steered clear of it ever since.

Just one bad experience, from a normally good establishment, and we don’t want to return.

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 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

Recently I’ve heard several people say that Christians have lost their saltiness.

That statement may be true in certain situations.  Salt was used as a preservative in the first century, because of the lack of refrigeration.

Followers of Christ are like preservatives in the world, preserving it from evil.  I get that.

But salt back then was also used as a flavor enhancer.  Just as it is now.  That hasn’t changed.

Followers of Christ should enhance the flavor of our world.  We should influence the world toward good, bringing out the best in it just as salt brings out the best flavors in the food we eat.

  • Where there is strife we are peacemakers
  • Where there is sorrow we are comforters
  • Where there is hurt we should bind up wounds
  • Where there is hate we should love

Did you ever notice the gentle way Jesus engaged the broken, sick, sorrowful, hurting, unloved, abused people in conversation?   With great love.

Did you ever notice who He was the harshest with?  The religious leaders.  The ones who loved to use their religious rules to pour salt into the wounds of people.  The ones with the judgmental pointing fingers — pointing out all the wrongs in others — those were the ones that He was harshest with.

How thankful I am that Christianity isn’t about religion but about a relationship with Christ.  He doesn’t force Himself into anyone’s life but when we open our lives to Him a beautiful relationship begins.  Out of that loving relationship comes the salt of the world.


Back to the soup story.  It tasted as if someone had removed the top of the salt shaker and, instead of a little sprinkling, all the contents ended up into the bowl.

It was too much of a good thing.  A lesser amount would have been perfect.

“You are the salt of the world…

Sure we can lose our saltiness but we can also be guilty of using too much salt and become overbearing like the salty soup we ate that autumn day.

The grace given to us is a flavor enhancer to sprinkle on our surroundings by using just the right amount at just the right time.

We don’t want to pour our salt into the wounds of the hurting.  Those who are grieving over their choices, or the choices of others, those who are trying to take steps back to God don’t need our salt poured out carelessly.

And even if someone isn’t taking steps toward God, even if they don’t agree with us or we don’t agree with their lifestyle, the right amount of salt doesn’t judge.  It loves. It’s patient.  And it’s respectful.

A little salt goes a long way to flavor the lives of others and possibly wet their appetites.

Then hopefully, through God’s grace, they won’t leave our company with a bad taste in their mouths.  I think that glorifies God.  Don’t you?

Blessings!  Nancy

BE.YOU.TIFUL

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Like a carnival barker the woman summoned me to the store entrance.  I glanced in her direction as she held out a sample of moisturizer explaining, “We’re sharing a few of our skin care products today.”  I hesitated.  She continued, “It’s free.”  I thought, Oh what the heck.  I took the small foil pack, thanked her and turned to walk away.

“Wait, I have one more thing for you.  It’s a sample of our non-surgical eye lift serum.”  “No thank you,”  I responded.

Before I knew it I left my husband, Bob, standing in the mall and I was sitting in a chair facing a mirror.  How did this happen?  I never fall for this sort of thing, I thought.

But there I was in a spa–as she called it–at the mall getting a trial non-surgical eye lift from the carnival (like) barker.  Her name was Lily.  As Lily applied the potions, I kept telling her, “I’m not purchasing anything.”

All of a sudden Bob appeared with a look on his face that said, “For real?”  I shrugged my shoulders and smiled.  “No no, don’t smile, don’t move,”  Lily commanded.  I sat up straight, threw my shoulders back and froze to attention.

She applied a gel substance under my eyes, smoothed it, fanned my face with a piece of paper and explained to me that the routine would have to be done a couple of times a week.  She added that I should notice amazing results in just a few applications.

“There,” she swung my chair toward Bob.  “What do you think?  This is just one treatment and look how amazing she looks.  Imagine what this will do with long-term applications?  This is like Botox in a bottle at an affordable price.”

Bob studied my face, nods and says,  “Yes, she looks great.  I see the difference.”

I started to say, “Really?”  But Lily stopped me at ‘real’ and instructed me not to move the muscles around my eyes.   She said, “Like Botox, it’s working on relaxing all your muscles.”  I looked in the mirror.  The skin around my eyes did appear smooth but only if I didn’t move any part of my face.

Lily offers Bob the same treatment stating that men use it too.  Bob declines saying, “I don’t need it.”   That’s when I thought, Hmm…but I do?

Lily informs me of the cost of Botox and then shares the price of the eye treatment indicating how affordable it would be.

Bob’s stunned look and my squirming to get out of the chair must have signaled to Lily that we were done.  She whipped out a cleanser, moisturizer, exfoliate scrub and said that the package was worth over $800.00 but for that day she’d give it to us for the price of the eye lift serum which was $400.00.

“We’re hungry, it’s time for lunch,”  I looked toward Bob and we start to leave.

Lily throws in a nail care package thinking that would seal the deal.

As we head for the exit, Lily follows us waving her business card and I see two women purchasing the products from another carnival (like) barker.  Now we’re really stunned.

Bob and I break free and make a run for the nearest restaurant.  On our way, I must have made some facial expressions, because I caught a glimpse of myself in the lady’s room mirror at the restaurant.  I leaned in closer and saw dried gel serum crackling in the lines around my eyes making me appear to have double the wrinkles.  Then I noticed flaking white stuff hanging from my skin.

I threw on some sun glasses.  We ate and ended up at Starbucks after lunch to talk about the experience and to search for reviews on our phones.

Never mind the reviews on the products.  I have to review the truth.

The truth is simple–we live in a culture caught up with outward appearance.  Aging is viewed as something to be ashamed of.  We can’t run from the anti-aging messages.  They’re all around us–telling us to tweak this, tuck that, shift this, improve that.  Anti-aging.  It insinuates that we have to be against aging and something must be done about it.  Stat!

Today I’m reviewing the real truth.  It’s found all through God’s word and it reveals what He thinks about us.  He knows we’re flawed.  He sees the creases, outwardly and inwardly and He loves us anyway, but he’s more concerned about our inward flaws.  Those are the flaws that nobody else can see but I’m reminded that they get shed slowly over time.  Those of us who are Christians are works in progress.

  • Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.   (1 Peter 3: 3-4)
  • Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  (2 Corinthians 4: 16)

Being renewed day by day means that our inner glow gets brighter the more we grow in our faith.  No matter what our circumstances are, or what our age is, we will radiate outwardly what is happening inwardly and that’s true beauty.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2015