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Monday, November 19, 2012

Preying Mantis (photo by Nancy Martin)
I shared this photo of the Praying Mantis with our message last Friday and requested suggested captions. Lu, a friend of ours, suggested this one. The photo was taken by another friend, Nancy Martin.

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"Remembering His Benefits"

“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” (Psalm 103:1,2)

Pastor John Keefer
Yesterday John Keefer, our pastor, preached his Thanksgiving message from Psalm 103. In commenting on our daily text he stated, "I notice as I get older my forgetter is working better and better." Well, an improving "forgetter" is something I am sure many of us can identify with.

Once or twice a week
Brooksyne or I end up with a second fresh mug of coffee because we can't remember where we left the first one in spite of trying to retrace our steps looking for it. We enjoy our coffee and carry it around with us as we go about our morning chores. Problem is we set the cup down and then forget where all we've been. Sometimes we find half-filled coffee cups days later!

Whatever age we are or whatever extent our forgetter is working, we need to heed the daily text, a portion of one of the grand chapters of the Bible. This is a Psalm of David.

He begins the Psalm with the phrase,
“Bless the Lord, O my soul" and repeats the very same phrase in the second verse. One commentator questions, "Had he been very sleepy before?" The possible reason he does this is that he is being very real. As sure as we begin to praise God we are too quickly distracted or our minds drift and our praise toward God is quickly ended. The Psalmist's repetition shows us the importance and essential need for adoration and thanksgiving toward God. Again and again we must rouse within our spirit the directive to worship God exclusively and wholeheartedly.

When we worship God wholeheartedly we offer to Him "all that is within me." That includes our heart, will, affections, mind and emotions.

In the midst of our worship the Psalmist advises us to, "Forget not all His benefits." Forgetting can be a blessing in some matters. I'm glad certain hurts of the past have been forgotten or at least shoved back into the deepest recesses of our memory.
Forgetfulness is not all bad. Without it the pain of our failures, losses, and painful actions from others would be almost unbearable. But the benefits God offers His children far, far exceed any package an employer might offer an employee. And those benefits we must remember are daily blessings, really moment by moment blessings.

It's an interesting thing the way the mind works. Gil's Exposition of the Bible gives this interesting perspective: "Memory is very treacherous about the best things; by a strange perversity, engendered by the fall, it treasures up the refuse of the past and permits priceless treasures to lie neglected, it is tenacious of grievances and holds benefits all too loosely. Observe that he calls all that is within him to remember all the Lord's benefits. For our task our energies should be suitably called out. God's all cannot be praised with less than our all."

But today's Scripture call from David will benefit us all as we
"forget not all his benefits.”  This Thanksgiving season most particularly, but really in an ongoing way let us remember His benefits, the many blessings we have in God. The song "Count Your Blessings" comes to mind:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Be encouraged and thankful today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we do well to dwell on Your daily benefits that give us cause for praise and thanksgiving. Why we often focus on one unpleasantry turning it over and over in our minds and yet neglect the multiple blessings that pour into our lives daily is a work of the enemy. When we willfully, dutifully call to mind Your blessings we are filled with a heart of thanksgiving and it overflows in our praise toward You and in the outflow of our conversations and actions toward others. I bless You, O Lord!  I bless Your holy name with all that is within me through Christ Jesus my Lord.  Amen.

Some types of memory most of us can live without. Many years ago we had a friend who had a peculiar memory trait of remembering precise presidential election results from each election year, both popular vote and electoral college vote, going back election cycles for many decades. I am not sure what benefit this had, but he had a good time reciting the correct numbers when quizzed about the outcome on a particular year!

A slice of our life these last several days

Howard and Sharon Blichfeldt
Saturday evening our friends Howard and Sharon Blichfeldt joined us for dinner. I learned about Howard through Alvin Worthley, my chaplaincy supervisor, about 5 years ago. Howard and Sharon have a vibrant faith in Christ. Longtime readers may recognize Howard, as we periodically use his photographs on our site. He is a professional nature photographer who posts his work here. He takes a strong stand for Christ and has a special collection of inspirational photos such as the one below.

Mesa Arch Utah (photo by Howward Blichfeldt)

Chaplaincy presentation 11/18/12
Yesterday we had the opportunity to give a mission presentation in our church explaining our corporate chaplaincy ministry.

Rainbow's End cookies
For many years our church has hosted a monthly cookie drive for a local youth center so the troubled youth can enjoy home made cookies. David and Seth stand beside the bright red wagon used for the collection.

Darvin with pecans and pie
We recently learned that pecans are grown in Lancaster County. We both very much like pecan pies (along with virtually anything made with pecans) but always associated the nut with the south or lower Midwest, such as the rich groves in Vernon County MO near where my grandparents lived. But alas the rich soils of Lancaster County and moderate temperatures are hospitable to the trees, although we are at the edge of the northern-most growing region.  Darvin is a friend who greeted us at work last Friday with this delicious pecan pie he made! He hand shells every pecan which is truly a labor of love!

Dog waiting in car for owner
The other day Brooksyne ran into a store to grab us a light lunch while we were on the road. I looked over to the car beside me and saw this dog also waiting from the driver's seat. Since we had some fun with captions last Friday we want to do so again today. I suggest he's thinking, "Come on, hurry up, how long does it take for her to get a bag of dog biscuits anyway?!"

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Bless The Lord, O My Soul"
 Video  Andrae Crouch This is the song we sang as younger Christians.

"Bless The Lord O My Soul"  Video  Matt Redman with lyrics This is the song popular in the seventies based on Psalm 103

"Count Your Blessings"  Video  The Martins (Note: This is not the version we usually sing as a hymn)

"Count Your Blessings"  Video  Homecoming series (This is the entire almost 2 hour long video including testimonies!)

Ed, a pastor friend from northern PA, sent this advice regarding praying mantis and hummingbirds: "If you are into feeding hummingbirds in summer, get praying mantis away to another location. Take a look (video)"  Who'd have thunk it!

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will post these resources through Thanksgiving Day here in the US (November 22).

We appreciated singing a few traditional Thanksgiving hymns in our church service yesterday. Here are several classics that you may or may not have heard:

"Come Ye Thankful People Come"  Video  Traditional version
Contemporary version but thankfully maintaining same tune and lyrics Video

"Thanksgiving Medley" (We Gather Together, For The Beauty Of The Earth, Come Ye Thankful People Come)  Video  Studio Musicians

"Give Thanks"  Video  Don Moen

"Thank You Lord"  Video  Community choir at a Lancaster Day of Prayer event in 2008.

"Thank You Lord For Saving My Soul"  Video  Holland Davis

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns"
(printable webpage).

"A Thanksgiving family exercise" (pdf) We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (printable webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading:
A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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