A Thankful Heart…

thanksIt’s the day of Thanksgiving once again…and I’m racking my brain for all of the things that I am thankful for.
Some have criticized the practice of such a holiday given the historical nature of things… I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  Yes, it was horrible.  Yes, harsh times and harsher circumstances…but I can’t change that past.  But I can change the present and the future in the way that I live.  Of this I am truly thankful today.  In the midst of the insanely busy days behind me and ahead of me, I can pause on this Thursday and recollect how bless I am.  I can sit in a comfy chair.  I can eat way too much food.  I can celebrate a day without work with my family.  Beyond this, are the many blessings of God that I receive everyday.  Far too many to count…and yet I can’t wont take them for granted!

I do not deserve these blessings.
I am far too imperfect.
I am far too broken of a man.
I am still a work in progress.
I am, at times, anything but Christ’s image.
But I am thankful.
far beyond what I deserve…Thank you Lord.
I give Him glory for these things.
I dare not take them for granted.

May we all have thankful hearts that brim over,
spill out, splash our lives with thanksgiving
and shine the kind of peace and grace that others
will crave it too.
May our thanksgivings be contagious.
And in that contagion, may we change the world around us!

-A Random Thanksgiving Day Pondering.

Perspectives Day #1 – Featuring Colonel Marlene Chase

Happy the Thankful Heart

By Marlene J. Chase

       Thanksgiving was often a legalistic maneuver when I was growing up. One was to be grateful because it was the polite thing to do. Besides, you should be grateful because somewhere someone didn’t have what you had. If spinach was served for dinner, you were to be grateful because starving children in the developing world would do somersaults just to have a spoonful.  If something bad happened, we were urged to be grateful because there was always someone worse off. Who has not been reminded of the man who complained that he had no shoes until he met a man who had no feet?

“Blow, north wind, blow,” my mother would quote with tiresome frequency, “thou art not half as cruel as ingratitude.” There were times when we thought nothing was quite as cruel as its positive counterpart.

A Faulty Focus

Perhaps these are the misconceptions of spoiled children. But lack of gratitude always comes from improper focus—looking at the gift rather than the giver. Thankless people covet the gifts God provides but seldom seek to know Him. If we were to fully grasp the truth of who He is in all his majesty, we would find a lifetime insufficient for expressing our gratitude.

We have all met people who appear to have nothing and yet are uncompromisingly grateful. Like Mattie who, after losing all her family and becoming ill herself, ended up in a sub-standard nursing facility. As corps officers in a small Kansas city, we took her to church every Sunday, for which she thanked us profusely to the point of becoming tiresome.

When someone complained about dandelions on the lawn, Mattie exulted in the lemony loveliness of their color and stooped to pick one as though it were an exotic orchid. When she became too ill to attend church and was confined to her bed, she praised God that she could glimpse the sunshine through her small, square window.

Alexandr Solzenhitsyn, Russian novelist, imprisoned for speaking out against an oppressive government, wrote, “Bless you, prison, for being in my life.” He looked beyond his circumstances to the One who charged his life with meaning. In embracing Christ, he found reason for lasting joy and gratitude.

A Natural Outcome 

Gratitude is a natural outcome of living a life focused on the Provider of all good gifts.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created” (James 1:17-18).

If the nine ungrateful lepers who were cleansed had been focusing on the Giver of their health rather than on the gift itself, they would have experienced a thankful heart, blessing that would last forever. Their physical health came with no such guarantee. They didn’t bother to thank Jesus for healing because they were too absorbed with the gift and totally neglected the Giver. But the one who returned to give glory to God received a greater gift.

Paul sang hymns of praise in prison and joyfully thanked God from the bow of a shipwrecked vessel. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” he wrote (Phil. 4:11). He had learned the secret of life—placing hope in the one true Constant in the midst of ungovernable and unceasing change.

A Constant Hope 

Health, wealth, the love of family and friends can all be gone in an instant. In one day, Job lost his children, all his worldly possessions and his health. If his hope for life and living had been placed in these transient tangibles, he could not have said of God, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

“Blow, north wind, blow. Thou art not half so cruel as ingratitude.” Blow, wind of God through hearts focused on the Giver of every good gift. The radiant Presence that settles within will make us triumphant over every cruel circumstance and bring us at last to God who is our constant hope.
***Marlene Chase is a writer, editor, speaker and author, and retired Salvation Army Officer.  Her works can be found online via Amazon Books and other online sources.***

2nd Annual “Impressions of Thanksgiving”

This is a competition for all you wonderful readers and subscribers. If you are creative here’s an opportunity to expressed yourself.

You can provide impressions of thanksgiving this way (original photos only)

Again, provided it is your poetry you can express thanksgiving through lines of poetry.

Draw, paint, mixed media…for the artists out there.

If you would like to participate there will be a reward! The top three will receive, in the mail, a package of Starbucks coffee (offer only applies to the continental USA, sorry to my foreign friends and readers…but if you’re chosen I will still proudly display your work on this website).

Due date: Wednesday November 26th

To submit your work, please send it to my email address: scottstrissel@yahoo.com
For photography if you could please include a watermark in your work so that it won’t be copied via the Internet that would be great!

I look forward to your submissions and impressions of Thanksgiving and what thanksgiving means to you!

Ponder on! IMG_6145.JPG

3 Ways To Let Peace Boost Your Thanksgiving

It’s more than some iconic symbol.
It’s more than words or a global award.
It’s more than a time of calm amidst the storms of conflict.

We want the calm.
We crave these times especially when the rush of life casts us about like rag dolls thrown into the midst of a blood thirsty pack of wolves.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

Sometimes we wonder how we could possibly be thankful when it seems our day or week has been wrought with problems.  Sometimes life just sucks.  Sometimes the joy seems to just get sucked right out of us by circumstances and even other people.  In THOSE times it seems nearly impossible to find something to be thankful for.

Allow me but a few moments today to share with you 3 ways that you can boost your thanksgiving.

3 Ways To Let Peace Boost Your Thanksgiving:

1) Take Time For YOU!

This may sound like something out of a self-help book or something you might hear Dr. Phil say…but it’s true.  We need time alone, and time for self-soulcare.  We must find healthy ways to unwind and relax now and then.  We cannot go 100 miles an hour at everything and expect to find peace when we haven’t slowed down enough to find ourselves again.  We can sometimes get lost in the pile of stuff on our desks or amidst the bills piling up at home.  If Jesus got away from His disciples in order to commune with The Father, we ought to consider doing this as well.  How else can we recharge our spent souls?  How else will we find peace again?  When someone is thirsty they don’t go looking for more saltine crackers do they?  No!  They look for a nice cold glass of water to quench that thirst.  We too are spiritually thirsty and in order to quench that thirst we have to go back to the Well of our Father again and again.  As we take personal time we will once again gain perspective and find peace once more.  It is often difficult to disconnect from a very connected world…but it is necessary for our own sanity and personal care!

invent2) A Personal Inventory Of Gratefulness
It’s seems a little silly, maybe a bit childish…but can we bring to mind all of our blessings?  Can we do a personal inventory of our lives right now and evaluate the things that we can be grateful for?  I think we might find that we have so much by way of blessings from God.

All too often we can dwell from a place of “have nots” that we run the risk of forgetting all that we “have” already.   We live in a very materialistic world where products and stuff is valued above everything.  There is this notion that if we do not possess the next big thing then we aren’t truly living a good life.  What a lie that is.  We buy this lie over and over again in our over-saturated marketed world.  We spend countless dollars in order to recapture an element of happiness with that next “thing” only to find elements of discontentment and sadness once more.

When we dwell in the place of “have nots”, we will never truly be content.  We will never truly be happy.  If we live there we will not be able to properly conduct an authentic personal inventory of our gratefulness – because true gratefulness doesn’t come from stuff.  We have been blessed by a Creator who so desperately wants to fellowship with us.  When we can evaluate our lives by the blessings of Him, we can finally tap into that pure element of His peace; and in so doing, we will once again place Him in His rightful place above the “stuff” that we have accumulated and allowed to become our god.

others3) Others.
It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway.
When we can allow ourselves to become less and Christ to become more, we open ourselves up to finally see the needs of others around us.  We live in a very self-indulged world.  This isn’t news to you I am sure!  Allowing the needs of others to replace our needs isn’t easy, nor is it natural in our present state.  That shouldn’t be taken to mean that we don’t care for ourselves and disregard #1, we need those times as well to refresh and find our source of life again, but after those re-connections with the Father, if we can see the needs of others we can find peace and thanksgiving in our lives!

There are so many people in our communities that need a friend.  There are so many people who need an ear to hear their sorrows and burdens.  We shouldn’t go into those times of “listening” expecting we can fix all of life’s problems for them, but we can be a support to souls who have lost their way.

Can you be a friend?
Can you see the needs of others?
What kinds of selfishness (let’s call it for what it is) prevent us from seeing others?
Do we truly crave genuine peace and thanksgiving in our lives and long to share that with others?

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

In order for the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts we have to take time to commune with Him, we have to see our joys and blessings that He has provided, and we have to share that joy and blessing with others.

Do you want to boost your thanksgiving this season?
I hope it lasts a little longer than just a season…but let’s start there.
If you long to boost your thanksgiving, give these three suggestions a try.
It’s not a “cure all”…but it’s sure a great first step!

Something more to ponder today.
To God Be The Glory!

Thanksgiving Contest Winners Announced:

Okay, the delay is now over, and with bated breath I am pleased to announce our first annual Thanksgiving Creative arts contest winners!  All three winners will receive a bag of Starbucks coffee!   I am sure all of you have been anxiously, collectively, nail-bitingly holding your breath for this announcement, so without further adieu:  Here are the contest winners and below please find their submissions, which they so kindly and thoughtfully submitted.  They are not in any specific order or placement, but rather as I chose them.  Thank you all for participating in this first annual event, there will certainly be more to come so stay tuned!  



1) Rebecca Tekautz

“Give Thanks” 

Give Thanks


My friend begins singing Christmas carols and the shopping mall is a cacophony of twinkling lights, Santa, and gift displays. It is October.


“Respect the turkey!” I say firmly to my friend and to the world in general. I have a rule: No Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving. I am not a scrooge. I am not anti-Christmas. I am simply pro-Thanksgiving.  I cringe as I watch the spectacle of Christmas encroach upon the season of thanks.


I am not the first to note the contradiction in the biggest shopping day of the year coming immediately after the day we give thanks for what we already have. Or that our eagerness for the best deals is resulting in more and more stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving day. We’re turning Thanksgiving into “Thanks, I’ll take it!”


The breath we take to give thanks is being suffocated by our cry for more. We are creatures of infinite want. There is always more. More to accomplish, more to do, more to have.


Thanks requires stopping, becoming still and noticing that which we already have. But we are much more comfortable in moving, seeking, finding the new and the better. It’s no wonder, in a culture that spends billions and billions of dollars annually in advertising to show us the latest “new and better,” that we easily buy into the lie that more will make us happy. It is the hallmark of advertising: This is it. This is what you have been searching for. This is the thing that will fill the void at last. 


Our searching is spilling into our season of stopping. Stopping to take a breath, to look around at the blessings we have, recognizing that enough is already here. More stuff will not fill up the void. More stuff is only a distraction from our deepest need. Finite things can never fill the space that was meant for an infinite love.


As we enter the holiday season, let’s stop and remember that this is the season of Infinite Love coming to earth. There is nothing more we need. God’s Best has already come to fill up the void. Before we get swept up in the joyful season of gift-giving, let us first stop and offer our thanks for all the gifts He has given us. Let’s not let the rushing of the wants crowd out the moments to stop and offer thanks. As Psalm 136 declares over and over, “Give thanks. . .His love endures forever!”


2) Jeff Carter: “Sunlight in the Apple Tree” 




3) Kaitlin Shadle 


“”Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever!”







“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-5)

My friends, we shouldn’t need a specific holiday to remind us that we ought to be thankful…but it doesn’t hurt!  Thankfulness should be second nature to a Christ-follower, and yet it is often easy to take the blessings, that we have been given, for granted.  The challenge for us is to learn the discipline of simplicity.  What is simplicity?  It is the discipline of letting go of our hunger and craving for more “stuff”.  It is letting go of our lusts for possessions, affluence, popularity, recognition and power.  These things are called mammon.  What is mammon?  Webster’s dictionary even describes it with a biblical context: “material wealth or possessions especially as having a debasing influence <you cannot serve God and mammon — Matthew 6:24

Richard Foster explains this issue: 

We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. ‘We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.’ …It is time to awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.” (Richard J. FosterCelebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth)

Stuff, in essence, can become our god.  It can consume us, making us ungrateful and blind to the truth.  We can become lost in our “stuff”.  Possessions and things aren’t inherently bad but it depends on how we use them.  

Richard Foster had more to say on this topic: 

Jesus Christ and all the writers of the New Testament call us to break free of mammon lust and live in joyous trust…They point us toward a way of living in which everything we have we receive as a gift, and everything we have is cared for by God, and everything we have is available to others when it is right and good. This reality frames the heart of Christian simplicity. It is the means of liberation and power to do what is right and to overcome the forces of fear and avarice.” (Richard J. FosterFreedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World)

The key to the discipline of simplicity is…well discipline.  Do you really need that cell phone upgrade?  Do you really need that new car?  Separate your wants from your needs.  Thanksgiving isn’t about getting more stuff to make you happy.  It should be about appreciating what God has already given to us and utilizing these tools for His glory!  That doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy life or become obligated to a boring existence.  God created us to enjoy life and more importantly to enjoy His presence in life.  

Are you experiencing life through thanksgiving?  Do you have time in your day to just stop and say thank you to God for all of the awesome gifts and blessings He has given to you?  Don’t wait for specific holidays to recognize your need for thanksgiving.  Celebrate “Thanks-living” every day, because after all, each day is a gift from God!  

 “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks” – Saint Ambrose

Life is precious…use it wisely!  

Reminder: Thanksgiving Creative Arts Competition


Here’s just another reminder about a fun competition that I would like to begin here on my blog. This is our first annual (with more to come I hope) creative arts competition.

Criteria is listed below:


Hey fellow writers and avid readers! I would like to announce a writing competition that I would like to conduct right here on this blog site: http://www.scottstrissel.wordpress.com
I am looking for your entry submissions for the following categories:

Submissions to this category MUST be your own work and not cut and pasted from someone else! These photographs should represent elements of “Thanksgiving” not just the holiday but the emotion, family, Christ, Salvation, our spiritual journey. Please limit your photo entries to five photos.

Submissions to this category MUST be your own work and not cut and pasted from someone else!
Again the topic is Thanksgiving and as mentioned above should include some of these thematic elements. Please utilize a total of 750 words, less is fine , but no more that 750 words.

Prose (Story form or article format):
Submissions to this category MUST be your own work and not cut and pasted from someone else!
Again the topic is Thanksgiving and as mentioned above should include some of these thematic elements. Please utilize a total of 800 words, less is fine but more will be rejected.

Of each category will be announced on November 29th (the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, AKA Black Friday)
The winners will be post here on this blog site and will receive a bag of Starbucks Coffee (hey I wish I had cash prizes to give you but I’m a broke Pastor with four kids to feed).
I will accept international submissions and if chosen I will post your submission here, but I WILL NOT be able to mail you coffee (sorry).

November 23rd, 2013 by NOON CST (US central standard time)

Please submit your entry to: scottstrissel@yahoo.com
Please, also label it on your e-mail “Thanksgiving Writing Competition”

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