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The Conversation Begins: Thanksgiving

The Conversation BeginsThis post is the first of our discussions about the many different kinds of prayer. Considering the holiday, Thanksgiving seems like a great place to start.

An obscure childhood memory popped into my mind this week regarding this theme. I was only five- or six-years-old when this happened, so the details may or may not have happened exactly as I recall. If my mom reads this and calls to correct me, I promise to post an update. For now, here’s the story as I remember it:

My mother, little brother, and I were at the check-out stand at the grocery store. While mom was paying for our groceries, the somewhat elderly (from my point of view, at least) gentleman who was bagging the groceries leaned over to offer my brother and me some candy. (This was back in the days when this was still considered a nice thing to do, not something that should get you arrested.)

He asked me if I wanted a piece of candy. I looked at my mom. She nodded, so I said, “Yes, please.”

He started to hand over the treat, then pulled it back and asked, “What else do you say?”

What else was there to say? Confused, I said the only thing I could think of: “Yes, I want the candy, please.”

The man gave my mother one of those looks that all moms of young children hate. You know the one. The one that says, “Haven’t you taught your children any manners, Ma’am? What’s wrong with you?” I looked at my mother, too, just because I had no idea what this strange person wanted and figured I needed a cue.

The man repeated his question, “What else do you say?” I told him I didn’t know. He put his hands on his hips and said, “You say, ‘Please and thank you.’ If you want the candy, you have to say, ‘Thank you.’” He gave my mom a pointed look.

I realized this man was confused and needed to be set straight. Evidently, his mother was the one who forgot to teach manners. I said, “I’m not supposed to say, ‘Thank you,’ until after you give me the candy. I say, ‘Please,’ before and ‘Thank you’ after. That’s the rule.” I may have crossed my arms over my chest in stubborn indignation at this point.

The man looked at my mom then laughed out loud. I didn’t know what was so funny and was feeling kind of mad. My little brother just wanted some candy. Poor kid!

The man leaned over again and said, “I’ll let you get away with it just this once. But next time, say, ‘Please and thank you’ when you want something.” He gave us each a piece of candy, refusing to release mine from his grasp until I spoke those last two words. (And, if I remember correctly, my wise mother took the candy away when we got to the car with a promise of something better when we got home. I guess people didn’t completely trust strangers bearing candy for children even then. She handled an incredibly awkward situation with patience and grace.)

1 Thessalonians 5-18Unlike the man at the grocery store, our God gives good things lavishly. He even gives good things to those who deny His existence! Everything we have . . . every . . . single . . . thing . . . comes from Him. The man at the grocery store wanted his please and thank you up front, demanded good manners—by his definition—before giving the offered treat, and gave my mother a hard time in the name of teaching her children. She had nothing to thank him for, and in the end, neither did we. But our God just gives . . . abundantly . . . because He loves us. For example:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans 5:8

The man at the grocery store held on to the candy until I said, “Thank you.” He wasn’t taking any chances that he wouldn’t receive his due. But God sent Jesus to die for us—so He could offer us salvation—while we were still sinners, and He continues to give good gifts to everyone with or without their gratitude.

Does He want us to thank Him? Of course! He loves us and wants us to return His love. He knows us and wants us to know Him. He wants us to recognize His involvement in our lives and to thank Him for all He does. But He won’t insist on a response. Thanksgiving has to come from a person’s heart.

Let’s not wait until tomorrow! Let’s start right now, this day, and continue for the rest of our lives. Let’s learn to recognize God’s gifts, and thank Him continually.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! I thank God for you.

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Praying Our Way through Fear

Not So Evil Clown

I can almost look at this picture without being terrified.

October. The month when people tend to celebrate all things scary. I don’t take it too seriously. My husband and I don’t decorate, but I don’t mind if the neighbors do. Bats, cats, pumpkins, skeletons, evil clowns . . . wait . . . no, no, no! Our neighbor across the street has actually plastered a clown face three times the size of his front door to the front of his house – the house that is facing mine! (This morning, I’m kind of hoping that the storm melted it down. Or does that only work for witches?) Clowns are fearsome things.

So I have a new Parachute Prayer today. When we see things that frighten us, let’s pray. Let’s let these fearsome things remind us to ask God for courage and for protection – for ourselves, for our families, from evils seen and unseen. Then let’s thank God for using these to remind us He is there. He is with us. And He is bigger than anything!

Father, thank You for watching over us. Thank You for Your presence, for Your protection, and for the courage that comes from knowing You are here. We love You, Lord! Amen.


You can find more Parachute Prayers in my book about them. Click here to order from Amazon.

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A Parachute Prayer for Groundhog’s Day

Parachute PrayerHappy Groundhog’s Day!

I feel so sorry for that rodent. Punxatawny Phil must be the world’s most famous scapegoat. According to the calendar, Winter doesn’t officially end until March 19. That’s six and half weeks from today. Yet when February rolls around, many of us start longing for Spring—especially if we happen to live in a snowy climate. We become dissatisfied with Winter and look for someone to blame. I just learned that Phil isn’t even the one who decides whether he will see his shadow or not. The outcome is predetermined by an elite group of groundhog handlers known as The Inner Circle on Gobbler’s Knob.

Poor Phil doesn’t stand a chance! . . . except that he’s probably the most pampered and prized rodent on the planet, so I can’t feel too sorry for him.

Genesis 3 shows us that since the Fall, it’s been in our nature to blame. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. God saw the truth and disciplined them all. Which was a good thing because if He’d let Adam or Eve off without consequences, they’d have stayed in Eden, eaten from the Tree of Life, and been stuck living in a fallen world for all eternity. God loved them too much for that. God loves us too much for that. His “curse” was an act of grace.

Groundhog Day ParachuteSo in honor of Groundhog’s Day, let’s practice a new Parachute Prayer. Whenever you’re reminded what day it is, pray that hurting (or hurtful) people will stop looking for someone or something to blame, even if that blame is deserved, and take responsibility for their own choices and actions. Pray they’ll learn to offer forgiveness where it’s needed, to ask for it when they should. Pray that they’ll move forward to make things that have gone wrong right (as far as they are able) and that they’ll look toward a better future while letting go of any resentment toward what’s past. This is where healing begins. Let’s pray this for them.

The groundhog doesn’t determine how long Winter will last. Neither does The Inner Circle of Gobbler’s Knob. Blaming them won’t make the snow go away, so let’s be thankful for each season’s gifts and rest assured that Spring will come someday.

Father, when people use their energy to find scapegoats to blame, they get stuck in bitterness and pain. Please help them to move forward. Help them to forgive or ask forgiveness. Help them look for ways to make things right no matter who made things wrong. Please bless their lives with peace. Amen.

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You Are Here

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.” –Ecclesiastes 7:14

Christmas TreeI don’t think anything tests my trust issues more than traveling by airplane. It’s not that I don’t enjoy flying; even turbulence usually feels more like fun than fear. My problem is trusting the airplane to take off and land when and where it’s supposed to. (And for the record, I have much experience with airplanes not taking off or landing when they’re supposed to and even with them landing where they’re not supposed to. Seeing Welcome to New York when you expect to be walking off the plane into Boston is a memorable experience.)

So I knew before we left for it that our recent trip to Northern California would provide an exercise in trust. Thankfully, our flights were great! No problems other than turbulence going over the Rockies. We were so excited when our plane touched down on time in San Francisco on Christmas morning. Only a three hour drive separated us from our loved ones . . . or so we thought.

Then we got to the rental car counter. Though we had reserved a car well in advance, the company we were counting on did not have one available for us—or for many other families beginning to gather rather grumpily. (If they could have found pitchforks, they would have used them. I have no doubt.) Things got worse when people started figuring out that none of the rental car companies on-site at the airport had any cars available for anyone. We’d all made reservations, but the companies failed to provide what they’d promised. I don’t know how many families were stranded at the San Francisco Airport on Christmas Day by rental car renege, but it was not pretty.

Thankfully, my husband found an off-site rental car company that claimed to still have cars available. We hopped on their shuttle with three other families, and prayed they’d really have cars for us all.

This is where the trust lesson comes in. They had said they had cars, but so had the company we’d made reservations with. My mind went into overdrive imagining all that could go wrong. Not only were we alone in a city where we didn’t know anyone, we were also leaving the place (the airport) I held responsible to fix our plight. What if this new company didn’t have any cars? What if their shuttle wouldn’t take us back to the airport? What if all the hotels in the city were booked, too? What if we had to spend the night in a strange rental car company waiting room with only stale coffee creamer for food?

You Are HereGod stopped my thoughts right there. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t cause a wave of peace to gently swaddle my soul. No. He simply put an image of a map in my head, the kind that you might see on a hiking trail or in a mall directory. The clearest thing I saw was the red dot with an arrow saying, “You are here.”

And I understood! I wasn’t looking for a hotel or sleeping in a waiting room with nothing to eat. I was on a shuttle headed for hope! Even better, though I was stuck in the present moment, God was in my future—whatever it held.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

Suddenly, I was thankful. I was thankful for God’s presence and comfort, for my husband’s quick-thinking and resourcefulness, for a safe beginning to our journey, and for the possibility of a car to rent to take us on to our Christmas celebration with the family we’d traveled to see.

That picture stayed with me for the rest of the trip, too. Whenever we went somewhere new and scary or had to make a quick decision, I’d see that “You are here” sign. Then I’d remember God’s faithfulness, let go of worries about the future, and enjoy the day’s event.

Our rental car adventure ended well. The new company upgraded us to a Toyota Sienna mini-van on the other company’s dime. The extra space allowed us to shuttle everyone around in one car instead of us always needing to take two. Togetherness on a family vacation is a happy thing!

Even so, I knew (and I know) that even when I trust God, sometimes He allows things to go wrong. These things teach me to trust Him—no matter what. God loves me. God has a good plan for my life. God is building Christ’s character into me. I can trust Him all the time.

I am here. With Him. Right now.

That is very good.

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Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2014

Christmas! The time of year when we remember and celebrate the great lengths the one and only God of all Creation went to in order to enjoy a personal relationship with us. He loves us so much! If you get nothing else from this website, from the church you attend, from the Bible itself, this is what you need to know above all else. God loves you so much He sent His Son to make it possible for you to enjoy eternity with Him. (See John 3:16).That is a Truth worth celebrating on December 25–and all the other days of every year!

Christmas is also a time to celebrate with any and all loved ones who are able to gather together. Being a military spouse, I know it’s not always possible to gather everyone from everywhere, and so our family celebrates the holidays as they happen with whoever is around. Then we also celebrate just being together as often as that happens–holiday time or not. On this particular year, several get to gather, and so I’m taking a Christmas blogging break. I long to focus on my family.

Merry Christmas, dear reading friends! I pray you’ll draw closer than ever to Christ as you celebrate Him this year and then enjoy a happy entrance into 2015. I’ll be writing again by January 8th!

Janet Reeves

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Praying for People Who Don’t Feel Thankful

Parachute PrayerThough Thanksgiving is a time set aside for giving thanks to God for all He’s given us, I know with certainty that there are many people among us right now who are struggling to do this—if they’re even trying at all. Some are grieving. Some are lonely. Some are desperately in need. Some suffer from depression. For whatever reason, they just aren’t feeling thankful, and, though people can offer thanks to God whether their emotions are involved or not, this is a choice they must wrestle through, one that requires great trust and determination. It’s one that many give up on or refuse by settling for bitterness. As we give thanks for our blessings this week, let’s boost these people with prayer.

And since we’re praying for people who aren’t feeling thankful, let’s let the most unthankful one in our midst remind us to pray for these. When we see our Thanksgiving turkey (or ham), let’s remember that not everyone gets to enjoy a happy Thanksgiving. We make jokes about the poor turkey’s sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice just the same—and we’re thankful for it as we enjoy our dinner with all the fixings!

When God gives us reason to celebrate, we honor Him by doing so with all our heart—especially at Thanksgiving. We’re thanking Him by enjoying the blessings He’s provided, by inviting Him to be present, the Guest of Honor at our feast! But we honor Him even more when we remember in the midst of our fun that some aren’t experiencing it. Let’s take time to pray for their needs.

Father, Thanksgiving is a curious thing. It’s a matter of the heart really. On this soon-coming day, You will watch as some of the most wealthy grumble and complain while some of the most impoverished thank You for whatever they can all day (and the other way around). Circumstance isn’t what enables us to give thanks. So please help people who are struggling to be thankful to find reason for gratitude. Even the turkey, if turkeys could be thankful, might be grateful to discover the purpose of his sacrifice. You created him to feed someone hungry, to be the main course at a meal that honors You.

And Father, as those who are struggling to be thankful wrestle with this, please send comfort their way. You care about heart attitudes, but You also care about circumstances. Please provide what Your people need. Encourage them on their way. Let them know that You are the God Who sees and that You are taking care of them always. For this and so much more, we thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Of Christopher Columbus and Trying to See Beyond the Horizon

Finding Home“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”Hebrews 11:1

I know Columbus’ Day was ten days ago, but as I work up the courage to face yet another move, I’m wondering if maybe he and I are kindred spirits of a sort.

No. I’d have probably related better to his crew—looking over his shoulder on the boat and asking, “Just how sure are you that we’re not going to drop off the edge of the earth?”

Evidently, Christopher was pretty sure since he and his crew found land before they reached the horizon.

Funny how that works.

Preparing for a move is kind of like sailing toward such a horizon, don’t you think? Your calendar is full of things to do right up to moving day—and then it just goes blank as if you’re disappearing over the earth’s edge. Will there be things to do and friends to make in your new community? Will you find meaningful activities, a church to get involved in?

Of course, you will. You know you will. But you can’t see it, so it still feels like you’re headed for a fatal precipice.

Columbus sailed by faith that he would find land, not destruction.

Columbus put his faith in an idea, though. We move forward with our faith set in God. All just happened to work out well for Columbus. Trusting God, we can’t go wrong.

Father, please give us the courage to obey and go, even when we don’t know much about the place where we are going, even when it feels like we’re headed for the edge of the earth. We don’t have to see beyond the horizon to know that You’ve prepared good things for us to discover in our new land. Thank You, Lord! Amen

If you’ve found this message encouraging as you prepare to move, you might enjoy my book: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

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A Single Seed

Red Wildflowers“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”John 12:24

When life doesn’t go the way we plan, it’s only human to ask God why. As Christians, however, we must ask God to take us beyond the human response. It’s okay to ask why and wait for the answer that may or may not come. But we can’t stop there. We can’t stubbornly dig our heels in the ground as God urges us forward. We can’t look up into His face with determination and say, “I’m not moving one more step until You tell me what this is all about!” God reveals some information on a need-to-know-only basis (for our own good, no less). When we don’t understand, we must choose to trust.

Moving forward in trust means leaving the question of why in God’s hands, while asking the more important, more relevant questions of the moment: “How do You want me to respond to this?” and “What do You want me to do now?” These questions show that we are ready to move forward, to obey regardless of circumstance.

On this Good Friday, let’s reflect on the fact that Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross (see Matthew 26:39). Jesus knew, though, that God’s ultimate plan for the salvation of mankind hinged on His willingness to obey. He gave His life–freely, by His own choice. At this time, we may not know what hinges on our obedience, but we owe a servant’s heart to Jesus Christ just the same.

Father, my life is a seed in Your kingdom. Plant it where You will. Amen.

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Psalm 18:32 on My Mind

NewOMM“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”Psalm 18:32

I’m going to do something a little bit different with On My Mind Mondays over the next few weeks. I came across a passage in my quiet time this morning that I would like to memorize. Five verses–five weeks. Could I memorize it faster? Probably. But this passage touched my heart. I want to spend some time with it.

This week I’ll be focusing on Psalm 18:32, above. If you’d like to look ahead at the whole passage, click here to visit BibleGateway.com where you can see all five verses right now.

What is it that I love about this passage? Throughout its words, David gives God credit for everything! God makes him able. God gives him strength. God prepares his path. God trains him for all he must face. God protects and sustains him. God stoops down to make him great!

And God does all of this for each of us, too! Meditating on these verses is like wrapping oneself up in a warm, comforting, and secure blanket entirely of God!

Interesting. That reminds me of St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer, the title of which comes from Ephesians 6:14, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” Yet, the essence of the prayer can be seen in Psalm 18 as well. In case you aren’t familiar with it, here are the words to St. Patrick’s prayer:

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ on the deck,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Do you feel it?! A warm, comforting, and secure blanket of God. He arms us with strength and keeps our way secure. He is with us always. He is everything!

Father, we thank You for being everything we need, for surrounding us with Your love, for providing necessary strength and security. As we meditate on David’s words and consider St. Patrick’s prayer, please help us to savor Your presence with us always. We love and need You, Lord! Amen.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! No pinching today–instead show grace and God’s love in honor of Jesus’ name. I think St. Patrick would have liked that better! Me, too.

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A Parachute Prayer for the New Year

Parachute PrayerAs we prepare for the New Year, whether we make resolutions or not, many of us become introspective, considering improvements, goals, habits, and dreams. There’s just something about a new day, week, month, year, decade, or millennium that seems to trigger this in us: the desire to grab hold of something brand new and make something beautiful out of it.

I think it has something to do with being made in the image of our grand, Creator God. We want to create, too! Yet when one year doesn’t go exactly as planned, we look forward to the opportunity to try all over again.

I don’t usually make resolutions, but I do set goals, make plans, and dream. I’ve been ultra-compulsive about it this year, in fact. I think that comes naturally out of becoming an empty-nester and embarking on a new phase of this life’s adventure. I have books to write, many more to read, and a great desire to organize ev-er-y-thing. I’m also feeling called to pray like never before and am greatly intrigued to discover where that calling will lead. (If you are following this blog, I promise, prayer will be this year’s biggest theme!)

  • How do you approach the New Year? Do you make resolutions, reflect and goal-set, or simply try not to think about it much?

If you approach the New Year like I do, you need to know that all this introspection, reflection, and goal-setting is meaningless if your perspective is off. In order to move forward effectively, we must first learn to see ourselves as God sees us.

New Year PrayerFor example, whether or not we lose an extra five pounds is probably one of God’s lower priorities for us. He wants us to make healthy choices and care for His design. If we’re doing that, the number on the scale is irrelevant. When we train ourselves to place our focus where His is—such as on the healthy choice instead of on the scale— we’ll probably take a lot of pressure off of ourselves. Then we will be able to serve Him with a better frame of mind: “God loves me and has meaningful work for me to do. I’ll care for myself so that I can serve Him well,” rather than “I’m not good enough to serve God because I just can’t seem to reach this goal. I am a failure. I’m incompetent. Poor me.”

In light of this, let’s practice a new Parachute Prayer: Whenever you see your reflection, pray, “Lord, please help me see myself as You see me. Help me to cooperate with You as I see You working in my life. Make me over in Your image that I’ll be able to serve You well. In Jesus’ name and for Your glory, amen.”

If we do this, God will answer our prayer and help us to see our own lives from His perspective which is, truthfully, the only perspective that counts. Armed with this point of view, we’ll be able to step into 2014 with confidence. God will make something truly beautiful using us.

For more encouraging thoughts this weekend, visit The Weekend Brew and Spiritual Sundays.