The Ordinary Things

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By Brian Waple

As I sit here pondering what I’m going to write, it occurred to me that it is in the ordinary things that we find God. Now, this is not to say that God isn’t present in the spectacular and majestic and extraordinary—He most certainly is. But, as we go through our days, as routine as they are, we have opportunities to see God working. And we have the privilege of joining Him in those things, being present to what He is doing, and being a part of the blessing that comes from Him. And when we think about that, shouldn’t we be thankful?

I was having breakfast with my son the other day. We talked about some pretty nasty events going on in the world and how things seem to be verging on the chaotic and hopeless. As we were speaking, I was reminded that God is in all of that, the good and the bad, just as He is present in our conversation. And then it dawned on me like a lightbulb turning on—be thankful. Be thankful for the opportunity to spend the morning with my son and speak with him of things secular and spiritual; be thankful that he has a good, reliable car and is willing to do all the driving around Seattle on a wet Saturday morning (Praise God for that!); be thankful that he is happy with his life and is able to take care of himself and is respected for what he does; be thankful that Cindy and I have a weekly opportunity to spend the day with our granddaughter and be a part of her growing and developing; be thankful that she has parents who love each other; be thankful that there is no strife in my immediate family and that we get along really well. And be thankful that God loves me so much that He has blessed me with an incredible wife who cares about me, looks after me, and is willing to spend the rest of her life with me.

These are things I normally take for granted—these ordinary, some would say insignificant, non-Facebook worthy things. But they are moments when God speaks to us in the ordinary and shows us how much He loves us and how much we really are blessed. And our attitude should be one of thanks. In his book The Voice of Jesus, Gordon T. Smith writes, “Gratitude is fundamental for the Christian believer because through thanksgiving we open our hearts to the Spirit of God” (p. 85). Wouldn’t it be a shame to close our hearts off to the generous blessings of the Spirit of God simply because we refuse to be grateful?

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NLT). During your day, take a moment to think about how God is being present to you and blessing you in the ordinary things. And then take some time to give thanks.

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The Most Valuable Thing My Minivan Taught Me

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By Nate Champneys

When your minivan has 265,000 miles on it, you can be grateful for anything that works!My minivan has 265,000 miles on it and, as you would expect, it has many things wrong with it. One thing that I have taken for granted for years and that has stopped working in the last year or so is the heat controls. The heat controls are digital, and the control panel has completely stopped working, so the only thing I can control now is the fan speed. But intermittently the control will come back to life. Most of the time we get into our car and we just expect things to work and we forget the blessing that a simple thing like heat can be until it’s gone. But when my heat control works in my car occasionally, it is a cause for celebration and thanksgiving.

I have lived with my heat control the way it is for about a year, but this past summer, when the weather turned hot, it was not fun to live without A/C. Here is a crazy story—on the first day of the summer heat, I turned on my car and, lo and behold, everything worked, and I had some relief from the heat. My A/C continued to work all summer long, until the days turned cool and then, just as it had come to life, all the lights went dark, and I was back to only having fan control. But let me tell you, every day through the summer when I turned on my car and had wonderful cool air came out the vents, I thanked God for the gift of A/C. In the same way now that winter has come, although my heat control is not working, the system is “stuck” on heat. So, I can turn on the fan and have heat. It’s funny, now, every time I turn on my car and the heat comes on I thank God for the heat in my car.

It’s funny how such a stupid little thing, when taken a way and then restored, can be such a cause for thanksgiving. I began to think, why wait until something is taken away and then returned before thanking God for it? This has caused me to look around my life the last few months for the many little gifts God gives to me every day that I take for granted. When we look around at our lives through the lens of looking for the thousands of blessings God has given us, it really changes our perspective when we complain or worry about the things that we don’t have. God has given us a thousand and one gifts every day that we don’t even thank Him for.

In this Christmas season of giving, we give gifts because of the amazing gift God gave us through His Son, Jesus. But do we take time to recognize all the other gifts he is giving us right now? The clothes you are wearing right now. The laundry soap and water you used to wash them. The dresser you keep them in. The computer or smartphone you are reading this blog post on. The roof over your head right now. The light on the ceiling with electricity making it turn on. The heater that is heating the room where you currently sit. We are not owed any of these things, yet He has provided all of them to us while many people across the world do not have any of these things.

The Christmas season for many is a time of worrying about what gift to get for each person we care about and how we are going to pay for it. I encourage us all to take a moment and look around for the gifts that He is giving to you as you go throughout your day.

James 1:17—“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

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It’s the Little Things That Count the Most

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By Martin Schlomer and Donna McKenzie

Honestly, I like to see big things happen. Big accomplishments and big progress are home runs that get me excited. However, it’s the little accomplishments, the little wins that make up the real stuff of life. They’re not always very exciting, but they need to be celebrated

Last week, Donna McKenzie reminded me of the critical importance of celebrating the little things, those little victories, which are often overlooked and under-appreciated. As you read what she wrote, make note of those little things you can thank God for. They are bigger gifts than we may realize.

Also, as you read, continue to pray for Jeff, Donna, and Ryan. They’re special people and a gift to this body!

Martin

A Wave of Grief and a Moment of Joy.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what Ryan can and can’t do. In fact, I try very hard not to think about it. Once in a while, though, it sneaks up out of the blue and hits me. It takes me by surprise, then grief overcomes me. Last night was one of those times. I was sitting on the couch, minding my own business, when my neighbors’ son pulled up into their driveway. I looked out the window and saw that he had a few friends with him. They piled out and started chasing each other around. He looked so tall, so strong, and it hit me, reality. He is the same age as Ryan. Their birthdays are only a few days apart. They are both seventeen, soon to be seniors in high school. I sat and watched him for a few minutes, and then sorrow filled my heart. That is what my son should be doing! That is what he would be doing if it wasn’t for the Duchennes. Reality.

aircondionerIt is times like those that bring to light the reality of what Ryan has lost. At this point, the list for what he cannot do has far exceeded what he can do. It is getting harder and harder for him to have any sense of independence. Today I was watching Ryan as he drove his chair into his room. He reached down to the standalone air conditioner, turned it on, then a few minutes later he went back and turned the temperature down. I got to thinking, he does this quite frequently throughout the day. I wanted to cry as I thought about it; watching him do this simple task seemed to bring him so much joy. An air conditioner? YES! Why? Well, Ryan can control it. He can turn it on and off; he doesn’t have to wait or ask for help, this is one thing he can do, independently! It may seem like a little thing; it isn’t driving a car like my neighbors’ son, but it IS something Ryan CAN do and I WILL take it, as small as it might seem, and celebrate it!

Sometimes it is a little thing that can bring a wave of grief, and sometimes it can bring about a moment of joy. For today, I am choosing to see the joy in a little thing. To most, it probably seems minute, but to us, we will celebrate it as a small victory of independence for Ryan!

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PREPARING TO GIVE PRAISE

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By Martin Schlomer

Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced. Psalm 105:1-5

This week we enter the holiday season! On Sunday, we will celebrate Thanksgiving as a community. The Miles family will begin by sharing how God has grown them through Jacoby’s accident. Following this, you will be given the same opportunity.

As you celebrate this Thursday and as we prepare to come together this Sunday, consider the following questions:

  • How are you thankful for how God has grown you as a disciple this past year?
  • Whom has God used to encourage and/or challenge you this past year, and for whom you are thankful?

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” A.W. Tozer

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“Oh, Happy Day”

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last wordBy Nate Champneys

On October 26, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. George Washington, during his presidency, asked for “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,” although at that time it did not become an official national holiday. Nevertheless, the idea of a day to focus on thankfulness has been a part of our history in the United States of America since our nation was founded. Now yet another Thanksgiving is around the corner with another Christmas almost upon us, and I feel it thus appropriate to focus this week’s Last Word on the idea of thanksgiving.

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” George Washington, October 3, 1789

The above statement is the opening paragraph of a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” given by President Washington. It’s hard to imagine our government making such a statement today. We hear the term, “Separation of Church and State” so often nowadays, but I don’t think people understand what the intent of our nation’s founders was when it came to religion. Obviously if Congress gave such a request to President Washington, they were not opposed to recognizing “Almighty God” as the source of all things good, nor were they opposed to prayer. They were, however, according to our Constitution, opposed to the government making laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” They were opposed to government messing with the free practice of worshiping God, not to the worship itself. Thus it was actually the government itself that requested George Washington “to recommend to the people” to have a day of thanksgiving. It wasn’t an order forcing people to thank God, but a recommendation.

Thanksgiving by definition is, “the act of giving thanks.” And “thanks” is defined as, “a good feeling you have towards someone who has helped you, given something to you, etc.” So being that it is a “good feeling,” thanks is an emotion and something that cannot be forced upon someone, but can only be recommended, as Congress did.

But going deeper, thanksgiving by definition has to have an object. You can’t have thanks without a person to whom you are giving thanks. Are you getting it? Without an object, this definition of “thanks” turns into simply “a good feeling.” Without God as the focus of thanksgiving, we are simply happy that we are lucky. We are not thankful.

So to those who do not acknowledge God as the source of every good thing, Thanksgiving is reduced to being simply “Happy Day,” when they are essentially saying, “I’m so happy that I have so much stuff!” This is not meant to be a put-down, but it is the logical conclusion that you must come to if you do not give God the acknowledgment for what He has given you.

For those who recognize the reality that every good and perfect thing comes to us from our Father in Heaven, Thanksgiving Day is just that — a day of Thanksgiving. A day to remember and thank God for His faithfulness. And being that Thursday was instituted by our government, I think it is good to follow the recommendation of George Washington and to also acknowledge the “favors of Almighty God, especially by affording [us] an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for [our] safety and happiness.” So as you sit down around the table with your family and friends on Thursday, ask yourself, “Am I just happy … or am I thankful?”

“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.” (James 1:16-18 NLT)

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‘Tis the Season

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By Gordy McCoy

‘Tis the season to be giving. There are so many opportunities to give this year. So many needs. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says, “But if there are any poor in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need.” It’s a good reminder for me to pay attention to the needs of others around me.

What do you do when you see a homeless man in our local library? Imagine if you will, you are taking a lunch break. After you have finished the first half of a ham and cheese sandwich, that homeless man’s face comes to mind. You offer him the other half of your sandwich, and he accepts it. This short encounter helps me realize that God has richly blessed me and I need to do more to help those less fortunate than I.

Linda remembers when she was out painting at Point Defiance early in the morning and a homeless woman came out of the woods. She went over to the garbage can and was looking for something to eat. She then went over to a park bench and sat down quite a ways from Linda. Linda had brought two apples with her that day because she had planned on being there for quite awhile. She walked over to the lady, who looked more uncomfortable the closer Linda got to her. Without making eye contact (on purpose), Linda offered her an apple.

The woman said, “Do I have to eat it now … in front of you?” Linda replied, “No, of course not.” The lady snatched it out of her hand and Linda walked away …but she kept thinking about her, and how blessed we are, and how hard life must be for the woman who lived out in the woods at Point Defiance.

It also says in Deuteronomy that an open hand symbolizes the way God wanted His people to provide for the poor – willingly and freely. When we offer up to the poor, even though this isn’t our motivation, God blesses us for our kindness.

Psalm 41:1-3 says, “Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor. The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. The Lord protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The Lord cares for them when they are sick and restores them to health.”

Proverbs 19:17 says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – and He will repay you.”

In this season of giving, think about what you can do to help those less fortunate. Perhaps you can look back and see the many ways the Lord has helped you. Seek him and He will lead you to those who could use a little help, if you are able.

One way to help is our “Feed the Homeless” program, and another is “Freezing Nights.” If you haven’t already, come up some Monday evening to Freezing Nights and see this powerful ministry in action. It is a beautiful thing to see the tender way our people take care of those who are cold, hungry and needing a safe place to stay. We can always use your help, and you WILL be blessed!

In closing, I would like to thank all of you for allowing me to serve on the Elders Board. It has been a privilege.

Respectfully submitted,

Gordon McCoy

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