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Giving Thanks in Challenging times.

Calvonia Radford 11/20/2017

happy thanksgiving

Do you remember singing “A Thanksgiving poem” by Lydia Maria Child?  It goes like this.

Over the river and through the woods

To Grandfather’s house we go.

The horse knows the way

To carry the sleigh

Through white and drifted snow.

The millennial generation will have a hard time imagining the “white and drifted snow” of Thanksgiving season. In my day, November ushered in massive snows.  Often we had to cancel our trips to grandmother’s house.

Over the years, while transitioning into my 50’s, I have seen less and less of those snow drifts on Thanksgiving.  I am not a scientist so I will not debate whether the cause is global warming.

What I will stand firm on is my belief that along with the decrease in the snow came diminishing thankfulness.

I have seen a slippery slope of ungratefulness induced by trauma.  We have had our share of trauma this year. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions. Mass shootings in places of entertainment, educational institutions and houses of worship. Terrorist attacks and cyber-attacks. Giant sinkholes gobbling up both humans and material possessions. Foodborne illnesses and infectious diseases. Political drama and civil unrest.

All these devastating incidents remind me of the song, “GLOOM, DESPAIR, AND AGONY ON ME” from the TV Show “Hee-Haw” (1969 -1992) written by Buck Owens & Roy Clark.

What do we do?

What do we do when we do not know what to do?  When the care of the world overshadows our blessings and we forget to say Thank you!

What do we do when the turkey meal is more appetizing than the family and friends gathered round the table?

How do we crawl out of the funk and into fellowship and festive praise?

Ponder the Past

The prophet Jeremiah took some time to ponder the doom, gloom, and agony of his past and saw glimpses of God’s hand of mercy over them.  This recollection gave him hope. He then came to the realization that God’s mercies are not extinct, but new every morning.  

“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Position yourself in a Posture of Praise

The Bible records numerous accounts of King David’s tragedies.  Some self-inflicted and others brought on by his enemies. In the midst of all his pain, David found a stance of praise. He knew the secret. Praise invites God into your atmosphere.  Regardless of our situations or circumstances, we must offer up a yet praise.

“But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.” Psalm 71:14

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my“

“I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.        Psalm 22:3

Peer through God’s promises into your future.

As God’s children, we have some promises that we can claim. His word is true. We must turn our eyes away from today’s challenges and into tomorrow’s promised destiny.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

“But you, O LORD, are a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head.” Psalm 3:3

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11

I admonish you, to join me this Thanksgiving season looking to God, the one who loves us unconditionally. Though there be unrest, sickness, and disease, though tragedies become more and more common, God is still on the throne.  That in itself is reason to give him praise.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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There is No Good Excuse for Not Giving Thanks!

Calvonia Radford, November 17, 2017

Joining my friend Kate Motaung over at her Five Minute Friday link-up. This week’s prompt is Excuse.

give thanks

START

The word “Thank” is a verb used to express gratitude.  It is a simple word of gratefulness.  Not hard to pronounce but apparently difficult to force out of our mouths at times.

Why do I say it is difficult to spit out the word “Thank”? Because so many times we fail to respond with, Thank you!

We have great reasons, or should I say excuses for failing to utter the simple word, Thanks, or any dirivitive thereof like “I appreciate it” or “Much obliged”.

Some excuses are stem from a season of discontentment, what we wish we had.  Many excuses are rooted in greed others in bitterness.  How dare God bless them with that and not me.

Gazing at our neighbor’s blessings hinders our gratitude and creates a hurdle for our acts of praise.

We have been commanded to say, Thank you. Even when we can muster up every excuse in the book not to. “I’m sick”. “I’m broke.” “My relationship is strained.” “My children are disobedient.” “My boss is mean.”

God calls us to Thanksgiving

Give Thanks Anyway. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is , the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:15

Give Thanks Continually. “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

STOP

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What Does Thanksgiving Mean?

As we have gained more stuff, we have become less thankful.

Calvonia Radford 11/12/2017

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“giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesian 5:20

A 2013 YouGov/Hufington Post survey of 1000 US adults reported 85% of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. 85% is the majority.  More than likely, your family, friends, and co-workers will be celebrating Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving? Do those of us in the 85% really stop to give thanks or are we simply taking the day off, spending time with loved ones and eating until we become comatose?

Thanksgiving is defined as the act of giving thanks.  Let’s break it down to its simplest form.

Thanks + giving or should I say Giving thanks. 

Thanks is a verb meaning to recompense or reward. It is rooted in the proto-German word thankoz, meaning “thought, gratitude”.

I’ve heard many people speak of their Thanksgiving plans.  Most of these conversations revolved around the Thanksgiving menu and others shared how excited they were to gather with family and friends. Rarely did I hear anyone mention thoughts of gratitude.

How did we wander so far away from the origin of this holy day? In my opinion, as we have gained more stuff, we have become less thankful.

“Thank you!” may be the most considerate phrase in our vocabulary.

My paternal grandmother grew up in a coal miner’s camp in Western Kentucky.  She lived in a shotgun house with her seven siblings. Every little girl in that coal miner’s camp owned two dresses.  One to wear to school and the other to church.  Shoes were only worn in winter so through the summer months they went barefooted.

My grandmother shared with me how many times the only thing they had for breakfast was white gravy and biscuits.  Her mother would pray, “Thank you, Lord, for the food we are about to receive, let it be nourishment to our bodies. In Jesus name, Amen.”  My grandmother was confident when God heard that humble prayer of thanksgiving, he infused that gravy and biscuits with all the vitamins and nutrients they needed. I think she was correct.

“I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.” –Tim Tebow

My experience has been much different than my grandmothers.  I’ve never sat at a table that was lacking the necessary components of a meal. It may not have been what I wanted, but it’s always been sufficient.  I grew up in a house that far exceeded a shotgun house and my husband probably would love it if I only had two dresses hanging in the closet.  He often tells me that I have too many clothes.

With the abundance of my possessions, I’ve failed too often to say thank you.  To give thought to my blessings. I have neglected to give God the thanks he is due.

How about you? Have you consciously stopped to consider all God has done for you? Are you faithful to give thanks to the one who is the giver of all good and perfect gifts?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17 NKJV

I have made a conscious decision to ponder my blessings this Thanksgiving season.  I challenge you to do the same. If you’re struggling with what to think on, Brother Paul gave us a list in his letter to the Church of Phillipi.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Don’t wait till after Thanksgiving to “make the list and check it twice”.  Let’s start now making the grateful list.  God deserves our praise!

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A Symbol of Victory!

September 17, 2017

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. II Corinthians 4:8-10trunk.png

Have you ever experienced a flood of emotion invoked by something you saw, a sound you heard or an aroma you smelled?

Warm sheets of salty water cascaded down my face when I was presented with my great-grandparents’ family bible and my grandfather’s old trunk.

I had seen that bible numerous times, looked at the names of family members I was never blessed to meet and felt the locks of curly hair not knowing who they belonged to.

This time was different.  My father and step-mother were moving to the south and epically downsizing. Thus they had to leave most of their possessions behind, including the sentimental stuff.

My siblings and I were invited to take the things we wanted.

I chose a dining room table and my maternal grandparents’ Golden Wheat dinnerware. Neither choice based on financial value.  I wanted the stuff linked to fond memories.  Something that would allow me to hold on if only for a moment to the past.

When my father asked me to take the bible it touched my heart.  This bible contained our family history. Births, deaths, marriages and yes, the curly locks of hair.  It somehow connected me to my ancestors as well as my grandfather whom I miss dearly.

I carefully inquired of my step-mother, “Momma, I hope you are taking the trunk with you to Florida!”. “No baby.” she declared.  “You can take it if you want it”.  My spirit found relief.

I had worried that the trunk would land in the hands of some stranger who would not know the story nestled within the wood and metal.

It is just a trunk.

But the memories etched in that antique dome top metal box proclaim a memoir of a little boy’s tragedies and an old man’s triumph.

Calvin Johnson Vaught Sr. aka C.J. was born April 30, 1913. By the time he had his third birthday he had witnessed the birth and death of his two sisters and his mother.  His father also died young, when C.J. was only eleven years old.

When C.J.’s mother passed his paternal uncle and aunt took him in.  One day a few years later, C.J.’s maternal grandmother and Aunt Sadie asked if he could come to stay with them for a while.  His uncle agreed and off they went to build a relationship with the son of their lost loved one.

As the summer began to come to a close, Aunt Sadie realized that it was time for C.J. to start school so they loaded his trunk on the wagon and traveled back to his uncle’s house. Surprisingly, when they arrived at the uncle’s house, they found it empty.  No one lived there anymore.

They took C.J. back to his grandmother’s house. Aunt Sadie had several children, one son who was C.J.’s age.so eventually he went to live with her. He and that little trunk.

Many children experiencing trauma suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder and may exhibit anxiety, opposition, and defiance. Others operate with anger, rage, resentment, hostility or bitterness.

Losing his parents and siblings, being abandoned by his surrogate parents and being passed from house to house did not become a breeding ground for mental or behavior challenges in my grandfather.  Contrary, those experiences became pressure that formed a beautiful person.  C.J. was a forgiving, compassionate, giving soul.

Aunt Sadie’s husband was a preacher and she a missionary.  Their home became the incubator for a traumatized little boy. He was fed God’s word, covered in prayer and bathed in love.

C.J. met the Lord at an early age. He experienced the grace and mercy of a loving Savior and dedicated his life to showing love to everyone he knew. I am a recipient of that love.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

I John 4:11 NKJV

It’s Not just a trunk.

The memories etched in that antique dome top metal box proclaim a memoir of a little boy’s tragedies and an old man’s triumph.

I will cherish the trunk and one day pass it on to the next generation as a testament of God’s redemption.  C.J.’s trunk will perpetually serve as a symbol of refusing to be victims.  We have victory running through our veins.  We are overcomers.

 

Do you have a symbol of victory in your possession?

What example has been demonstrated to you in such a way that you now claim the overcomer status?

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Obeying God is a Choice!

8/07/2017 by Calvonia Radford

sprouting-seed

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

Philippians 1:6

In her book, She’s Still There, Chrystal Evans Hurst proposes that the desire to do what God is calling you began as a whisper in your ear when you were a child.

I totally agree with her philosophy.  When God knitted us together in our mother’s wombs, he knew what our purpose was and he begins the process of calling us to it when we are young. Psalm 139:13

For example, Chrystal began gathering young people together when she was a teenager for a bible study.  Later in life, she created small groups for whatever life phase she was in.  Today, God uses her to gather women to learn about living godly lives.

I was an introverted child.

I was somewhat quiet and reserved.

I felt uncomfortable in crowds and the thought of introducing myself to someone made me break out in sweat and caused my hands to shake.

However, when given the opportunity to speak, rather in a classroom or a competition, I was one of the first to sign up.

As a child, God was calling me to communicate.

I communicate in various ways.  I teach Sunday school and youth group.  I lead staff meetings in a state lead agency office and I train childcare providers in groups as small as 10 and as large as 30.

During those experiences of transferring knowledge, I lose those introverted characteristics and work outside my comfort zone.  I operate in my purpose.

I thought about my communicating when Chrystal posed a question to her She’s Still There Rescue team.

Question: “What choice will you make and how will you make it?”

I stammer as I answer her question. Not because I fail to see the seed that God has planted in me, and the destination he pulls me towards.

I see the seed.  I also see the sprouts, peaking through the soil and I feel the bloom trying to push its way through towards the sonlight.

I stammer because I know if I verbalize my choice, I will be held accountable.

When I verbalize my choice, God himself will expect me to follow through.

Verbalizing my choice, my decision to follow God is what he has been waiting for.

I know where I am now and where God is leading me.

The question remains, what choice will I make and how will I make it?  Chrystal is asking me to choose.  To make a plan to follow God.

Many years ago, God laid on my heart a passion for change in a certain demographic of people.  I have felt that burning for years and never made any significant steps to make a difference.

Today, I hear God clearly.  He is letting me know that NOW is the time.  It is time to be a part of the solution.

I have written the plan.  I have taken the steps to get it started.

“And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” Habakkuk 2:2

The choice I make is to preserve.

The little girl in me procrastinated too many times and the adult girl is prone to do the same.  I choose to trudge through the muck and mire of this project an see it to fruition.

I choose to identify some trusted sisters to hold me accountable.

Finally, I choose to keep my eyes upon Jesus and allow him to get me to my destination.

I choose to tell God, “Yes!”  I chose to watch him get me to my destination.

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Do you see the seeds that God planted in your little girl’s heart?

Have you made a choice to obey, to follow God’s path for your feet?

What barriers stand in the way of you seeing God’s plan to fruition?

What will you do to eliminate those barriers?

 

Don’t Let Your Emotions, Get Behind the Wheel!

I’m training myself to be curious about my emotions instead of putting them directly in the driver’s seat. #shesstillthere

writing prompt 7.21

When I was a little girl, my grandfather let me drive his car.  Really! He did.

I sat on his lap and put my hands firmly on the steering wheel.  With both my hands gripped tightly around that wheel, I turned it back and forth, back and forth with my eyes fixed on the desired destination.

I thought I was driving. The truth is, my grandfather was driving.  How could that be?

I knew where I wanted to go.

I stayed focused on my goal.

I had my hands wrapped around that steering wheel, turning it back and forth. However, I did not have my foot on the pedal.

I was a little girl pretending to drive.

For three decades, I have continued to pretend.  Sitting in Abba father’s lap with my feet dangling over his legs. Never adjusting my position, to put my feet on the pedal. I think I am driving. The truth is, satan is driving.  How can this be?

I know where I want to go.

I stay focused on my goal.

I have my hands wrapped around the steering wheel, turning it back and forth.  Yet, my feet are still not on the pedals.

girl driving

By ChameleonsEye   Stock photo ID: 98730344

“Jesus says in Matthew 16:24, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (MSG)

We all have goals.  Usually, those goals fit into God’s purpose and plan for our lives.  We have heard God speaking softly in our ears and felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit nudging us closer and closer along the route.

Although we focus on the desired destination, we refuse to press on the gas pedal. The gas pedal of truth.

God’s word teaches in Ephesians 6:13-14;

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

The truth of God’s word, who he is and what he says about his called out people is the fuel we need to accomplish our aspirations. We have to pump the pedal.

We all have obstacles that we cannot get over, hills that are too hard to climb and streams of water we cannot cross.  If we put the pedal to the metal, we can successfully arrive on time.

Satan tried to derail Jesus when he tempted him, but Jesus put his foot down on the pedal with these words:

 “And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Luke 4:3-4

Look at three of my daily obstacles and how I depress that pedal in rebuke of satan’s lies.

  1. Satan says: You are not qualified

I say: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. I Peter 2:9

  1. Satan says: You are not good enough

I say: “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8

  1. Satan says: You are not pretty enough

I say: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

“The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor him for he is your lord” (Ps. 45:11).

Your speed bumps may not look like mine.  Nevertheless, you have your own.  Don’t let them go unaddressed.

The next time you attempt to drive, add one more step to your regimen. Put your foot on the pedal of truth.  Use God’s word to pull you over the road bumps.  He is the master at getting people to their destination safely.  Only trust him!

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God Sees Your Ugly Cry!

06/24/2017 by Calvonia Radford

god saves my tears

Hello, my name is Calvonia and I am a crier!

It’s been a secret for too long. I love to wear my façade.  It fits me well.  It conceals my weaknesses and covers my Achilles heel.  Nobody needs to see that, believe me! Most people have never seen me naked.

Naked – the state of being completely transparent emotionally and spiritually.

I try to wear emotional clothing at all times.  Only undressing in my closet.  My prayer closet that is. Truth be told, my husband has rarely seen me naked.

There are some emotions that I have become a pro at masking.  I understand my emotions are beautiful.  That’s the way God made me.

You’ve heard the verse we quote to boost our sister’s self-esteem. Yet I fail to speak that truth to myself.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14

In Psalm 139, David teaches us that God knows our thoughts and every word that comes off our tongue.  He’s just that into us.

With God, I can bare it all, literally and find assurance in knowing he will hold my conversation confidential.  He will understand.  He will comfort me.

I’m currently reading Chrystal Evans Hurst’s book, She’s Still There. In chapter two, Chrystal gives a very descriptive narrative of a time when her circumstance led her to spill all her pent up emotions and cried the ugly cry.

shesstillthere1

Life can be hard! As hard as following a recipe with a pinch of this and a dash of that.

There is, however, a blessing in the hard circumstances of life.

Hard times break away the curb side appeal of our whitewashed emotions and cause that spillage that Chrystal recalled in her book.

Chrystal cried.  I cry.  You cry.  Because a moment in time will barricade us in and all we can see is what we can see.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to confuse you.  Let me explain.

Our scope of vision is limited.  We only see what our carnal eyes will allow.  But God sees all.  He has an omniscient point of view. He knows that we are going to be alright. He understands that our challenges and difficulties are too hard to bear alone.  So he meets us right where we are and wipes our tears away.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8

I was trying to remember the last time I cried the ugly cry.  I have such a portfolio of tears that it’s hard to weed through.

I’ve cried the ugly cry during financial hardships and shed salty tears over relational difficulties.

Buckets of tears have fallen from my eyes over the loss of loved ones.  And, I have mingled my tears with shower water many times during 35 years of marriage.

However, I think my ugliest cries have been over my children.  I cried when they were babies and I couldn’t sleep at night. I cried when I prayed for their soul’s salvation.  I cried when every discipline strategy I tried failed.

When my children transitioned from childhood to adulthood I cried over their life choices. I cried in prayer over their future mates, their career choices, their unborn children, their trials……….

Through my tears, God has taught and is still teaching me to cry out to him.  He has shown me his heart. God cares.  He hears me before I call.

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

If you are living behind a façade of strength and seek a safe place to bare the ugly cry.  Run to God.  He cares and he is already listening to your cry.

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