On This Thanksgiving Day


Do you ever use Facebook’s “On This Day” feature? I used to think it was annoying, but now I like it, maybe because I’ve just gotten old and more nostalgic. I’m thankful that I deleted and recreated my Facebook account right before my freshman year in college. Otherwise, I’d have to be reminded about my nerdy  years in high school. Okay, maybe those years are not over…

Regardless, this is a great tool for refreshing your memory with good (or awkward) times. But it’s also a great tool for this time of year.

It’s cool to be able to look back and see all God did on that very same day a year ago, two years ago, or four years ago. I highly recommend that you spend some time on “On This Day” this week, not to laugh at how weird you used to be, but to jog your memory about how good God has been to you this year.

For instance, I can look back and see that today last year, I got to post about our Giving Tree project for needy kids at Christmas. I think back to how each year, that opportunity proved to be a test of my faith and a testament to God’s goodness.

Three years ago, I became friends on Facebook with two of my professors. Both of them had a great impact on my life, stopping me to tell me they were praying for me or donating to my missions trip. I’m thankful for them and so many other professors who influenced me with truth.

Four years ago, during my freshman year, my group leader in the dorm posted how thankful he was for us in his group. Many years have passed, and of that group, I am the only one still at the university. Most are scattered around the world. But I am thankful for their influence during that formative year. Good memories of God’s goodness…

Let me close with this one – three years ago, I reposted a Thanksgiving poem I wrote about six years ago. It was the first Thanksgiving poem I wrote, and I have written one every year since (still working on this year’s!). Lots has changed since I wrote it, but the God I’m thankful for hasn’t:

Dear Lord, I can thank You for much,
For houses and parents and teachers and such.
I could spend all eternity just praising you for
My country, my freedom, my school, and much more.
And though I am thankful for these above measure,
There is Someone worth praising that’s my greatest Treasure.
He saved me and bought me and healed me within
Even though I forsake Him and frequently sin.
He gave up Heaven just so I could be
Spotless and righteous, by His death on a tree.
So, Lord, though my blessings are certainly not few,
The thing I’m most thankful for would have to be You.

On this Thanksgiving Day, use “On This Day” as a tool for your thankfulness. After all, “On This Day” could have – for every day – a statement that says, “On this day, God was good.”


Grace on Grace

grace upon grace

Based on John 1:16:

Of Your fullness we’ve received

Throughout our sinful year.

Through each day Your grace was weaved

Since last time we were here.

Family’s here at this great feast

And so is Your dear Son.

Never left us, never ceased

To give us grace in tons!

Grace on grace You’ve given us–

Your grace for days we fall.

Grace for every time we lust

And grace to pardon all.

Now that we have hindsight’s view

We find You all the way.

Grace You gave, now we give you

Our thanks this grace-filled day.

Of Your fullness we’ve took part

Throughout this crazy ride.

In all stress Your will You’d chart,

And make us trust our Guide.

Looking back we see Your hand–

You worked out all things right.

Why would we now doubt Your plan?

You have the end in sight!

Grace on grace You’ve given us–

Your grace for days of doubt.

Grace for times when we don’t trust

And grace when we stress out.

Now that we have hindsight’s view

We find You all the way.

Grace You gave, now we give you

Our thanks this grace-filled day.

Of Your fulness we have known

Throughout life’s push and shove.

Mercy on hard days You’ve shown–

We can’t exhaust Your love!

Family’s gathered in this room.

But there’s someone who’s not.

Give us rest and please come soon!

To take the ones You’ve bought.

Grace on grace You’ve given us–

Your grace for days of death.

Grace for times we’re in the dust

And grace till our last breath!

Now that we have hindsight’s view

We find You all the way.

Grace You gave, now we give you

Our thanks this grace-filled day.


Opt Outside Yourself: How to Use Black Friday to the Glory of God

the bible trending

Trending Topic: #OptOutside

The retailers all gave a collective look of angst and anger at their crazy cousin—REI, the Seattle-based outdoors store. REI made an announcement this week that shocked the capitalist-crazed business world—they would not be open on the notorious Black Friday. Nor would they be opening at like -2 o’clock AM (otherwise known as Thanksgiving Day!). They are refusing to be a part of the craziness at all. Period. No stampedes. No road rage in the parking lots. No cursing over the last flat-screen TV. Just a calm, quiet blacked-out, doors-closed store—empty of workers, who are instead spending time…doing what?

Well, REI has suggested something in the form of a hashtag: #optoutside. As fits an outdoors store, they urge their workers and their potential customers to instead spend the day outside—hiking, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing (if you’re in Florida), or swimming (if you’re in Alaska). Do whatever you want—just do it outside.

And I say, “Amen!” Spending time outside is a much-lacking and much-needed factor in the lives of Americans, who are getting fatter and fatter in front of the TV as the leaves get prettier and prettier outside their windows. Jesus was not a couch-potato type of guy—He spent most of His life outside and employed almost entirely “outdoorsy” imagery for His parables and teaching—wheat, seeds, farms, fig trees, birds, and flowers. Jesus loved the outdoors—He made it after all!

On the other hand, Jesus did NOT love materialism. In the same passage where He employs outdoorsy imagery, Jesus talks about not laying up “treasures on earth” (Matt. 6)—a place not known for the preservation of objects. Moths eat and thieves steal. Cars rust and paper tears. Flat screen TVs shatter—including the one you got for half-off on Black Friday. Our “stuff” will all go away. Unfortunately, so will this Creation. The outdoors are great and all—but they don’t last either. So if we’re going to use Black Friday for something greater—for the glory of God that will outlast this life—we’ve got to look beyond merely opting outside. What will last? How can we use that day to influence eternity?

  1. Spending time with people.

People’s souls will, after all, last for eternity. Too often, we focus so exclusively on the stuff that we ignore the people around us. People like whom?

  • Family—make it a family day! What a concept—spending time with family. Isn’t that what the days off are for? Work doesn’t let you out just to watch the game. School isn’t cancelled so you can buy the latest video game system. The understanding—at least in time gone by—was that you use the days off to enjoy family time. Your kids won’t stay young forever—and neither will your parents, if you haven’t noticed their graying heads.
  • The needy—make it a ministry day! Something my uncle said his family used to do when he was a kid was to invite a needy person from the community to participate in the festivities of the family. A homeless guy down the street that you often see. Somebody from one of your ministries—a single-mom and her kids. Invite them over for the big dinner and the day after. What a concept! Obviously the world has changed since those “good old days,” and caution must be used. But the world is not so much different after all—there are still needy people all around. The poor will always be with us.
  1. Spending time with God.

God will of course last forever. And time spent with Him is always unwasted time. Maybe you don’t have a family. Or a small one. All the more reason to use the day off to spend extra time studying the Word. Even if you have family, spend time together praising God and meditating on His blessings in His Word and in your lives this past year. Thanksgiving doesn’t end on Thursday. In fact, we could use the extra day on Friday to praise God—we could use every extra day in all of time to praise God, and we still wouldn’t exhaust His blessings. As the song so aptly puts:

And on that day when my strength is failing,

The end draws near and my time has come.

Still my soul will sing your praise unending—

Ten thousand years and then forever more!

So yes, by all means opt outside. Just take some people with you! Opt outside…yourself! Opt outside your own selfishness and opt to spend time with others. Opt outside even your family and invite the needy in to enjoy the day with you. Opt outside even this earth—opt up to the Father who’s blessed you beyond your ability to praise Him fully!

Don’t make Black Friday yet another day wasted on selfishness and greed. Join REI. Join your family. Join the needy. Join God in unending praise to His glory.

Opt outside yourself this Black Friday.

Bless the Lord, O my soul—

O my soul!

Worship His holy name!

Sing like never before, O my soul—

I’ll worship Your holy name.