Friday Morning Coffee #42: Thanksgiving Traditions

Here we are again - Friday morning, steam swirling from my coffee, mulling over what to share with you. 

I'm starting to get the pre-"vacation" jitters. The excited sort where I'm thinking of the time I'll soon spend with family. The anxious sort where I'm thinking of all of the things that must be done before being with said family.

If you would ask me if we had any Thanksgiving holiday traditions, I would say no. But that would not be true. Surely there is tradition involved when I can close my eyes now and enter into the scene. It's always the same - in its delightful unintentional consistency.

I can envision exactly what will be on the table and where everyone will be sitting. I can imagine the cool air from the window at my back slicing through the warmth of a bustling kitchen. I can smell my grandmother's famous stuffing and hear the cacophony of conversations. I'm grinning now at the juggling of the serving dishes we inevitably pass the wrong direction.

But these are the sort of moments that make me thankful at the holidays - to return to this boisterous, loving embrace of family. 

Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions? Share in the comments!

The Secret of Contentment

Paul sits imprisoned. Paul, the extremist murderer turned church planter. Paul, who in only a few years would be killed for the Christ he once raged against. 

He writes to his beloved church in Philippi, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

In plenty—Christ is His strength. In need—Christ is His strength. 
In all things, content. In all things, dependent.


It is this attitude that frees our hearts to overflow with gratitude and find thanksgiving and contentment in all circumstances. We give thanks—in better and in worse, whether rich or poor, sick or healthy. We give thanks—when our tables are full or empty, when we are laughing or crying, when we face triumph or tragedy. 

In plenty, we give thanks. We thank God for loving families, warm homes, good jobs,and supportive friends. But we look to Him as the giver of these good gifts and refuse to settle into self-sufficiency and pride. We seek His strength to reject the consumerism that turns material possessions into gods and to deny the never-satisfied cravings of greed. We overflow with generosity, using abundance as an opportunity for blessing others.

In lack, we give thanks. We thank Him for seasons to see the true extent of His strength in weakness, of the peace that passes understanding, and for the bedrock of joy. We thank Him for the ways suffering reshapes our priorities and reminds us of our dependence on Him. We rest in His goodness and faithfulness. We look to Him as our sure hope and as the One who can work all things for His glory and our good. 

Contentment brings us to a place of “peaceful satisfaction” and “freedom from worry and restlessness” (thanks, Merriam-Webster). We find ourselves in a place free from both anxiety and complacency. We are at rest and dependent. We give thanks.

Everyday Disciple: Scott's Story

This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."

For our first story, I thought I’d stay close to home. Scott and I first met working on the leadership team of a summer camp. Little could I have known that first day, when he showed up on crutches still recovering from knee surgery, that four years later we’d be married.

Now, I see Scott lace his thick work boots each morning, clip on his ID badge, and head out to another day of work. Each evening, I listen for the creak of the storm door as he comes home and talks of the successes and challenges of the day. He’s passionate about manufacturing and about creating efficient and creative work. It’s a joy to share some of his story with you today.


I work as a manufacturing engineer at a company that makes parts for commercial aircraft. I program inspection equipment, 5-axis milling machines, and am part of a development team for electro-chemical machining.

Scott work.jpg

Simply put, I work on processes to make our parts as efficiently and accurately as possible. I take simple hunks of metal and turn them into complex parts. But I also get to be a part of the process that makes airplanes more fuel and cost efficient, which can make the ability to travel and “come together” more accessible to people.

I really enjoy making improvements to the processes we use.  I love learning new processes, seeing how someone else approached a problem, and trying to apply the things I’ve learned from past experience to make the process better. I like it when my improvements mean that I improve the job of the people running machines.

For example, I recently was put in charge of improving the tools used for a process we’d been doing for years. It was the initial cutting at the beginning of making the part. We were removing a lot of material quickly, but the tool made a lot of noise and wore out fast. It was an expensive way to remove the material, and it created a lot of waste.

With help from other people, I was able to find a different tool to replace our old one. The end result was to do what originally took us 30 minutes in 5 minutes, while also cutting the cost in half. It was exciting because I empowered the guy running the machine to be a lot more productive—and improved his working environment by removing a lot of the noise from the tool. I also saved my company a lot of money, freeing them to do more things with that money such as making more jobs or giving more to the community.

My faith encourages me to make the world a better place through creativity. I’m doing my best work when I’m able to use my imagination and creatively make something new, but I’m also constrained by the rules and order that God put into his creation. I experience regularly the massive amount of work and energy that goes into making comparatively simple things and am amazed at how balanced and excellent this earth is. In this way, my work gives me an appreciation for God as a Creator.

Doing good work like this, as a Christian—seeking understanding of how the world works and applying that understanding to actually change something for the better—adds a small piece to the reputation Christians have in the workplace. I have opportunities to build relationships—and friendships—with all kinds of people. I can model integrity through honest and thorough work. I can be creative in the solutions I try. I think working this way gives Christians a reputation as people who are thoughtful, creative, and hardworking. I might not be these things all the time, but when I can do it and do it well, it slowly builds on the positive reputation of who Christians are as workers.

If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.

Friday Morning Coffee #41: How Writing Shapes Me

Hello, friends.

I'm thinking this morning about what an honor it is to write. Honestly, sometimes I wonder how I'm allowed this privilege. 

I've thinking a lot lately about how the practice of writing shapes me. It is the practice itself, and not the final product you read, that is so formative to me.

It exercises my muscles of discipline as I keep my butt in the chair and work regardless of my level of "inspiration." It makes me ask important questions about what defines me and what "success" is as the inner critic rages or I stare down fear or self-doubt.

It makes me a perpetual learner, as I read and research and think carefully through what to say and how to say it. It trains my ears to listen - to you, to conversations around me, to the quiet beating of my own heart. It reminds me that I must listen before I speak, or in this case, write.

It helps me pay attention, to slow and still and stop, to study the beautiful intricacies of our world. It trains my vision to notice the small details, to see what is unsaid, to attend to what is often overlooked. 

It invites me to consider God as the ultimate and original Creator and Author, to relish in the beauty of His Story. To seek after beauty and creativity because He is their source and their originator. 

Continually, as I sit down to write and as I lean into this craft, I see how it's shaping me. I see the ways writing becomes a metaphor to me of life, of discipleship, of my life as a Christian. 

And as if this were not enough, I consider it a great honor, after this behind the scenes process, that you would take the time to read what I've written. That you are gracious to share with me your stories and the ways God is working in you. What a treasure.

When "Gratitude" Makes You Skeptical

As I write this, I'm watching the last of our golden leaves slip to the ground. It seems I blinked only to find myself soundly in November and beginning our plans for the holidays. Today, I'm thinking about gratitude. It is the season, after all.  

I must confess that when people start talking about joy and gratitude, my gut-level reaction is typically skepticism. I think we've all seen joy and gratitude reduced to Hallmark sentiment and insipid happiness.

For those who are facing loss and life-shattering pain, this twisted picture of joy and thanksgiving can become a weapon of guilt and cold comfort. We can be left asking if joy requires us to live in denial of life's pain. If gratitude asks us to plug up our ears, rip out our aching hearts, or turn a blind eye to suffering.


Is this what Scripture means when it says to give thanks in all circumstances or "count it all joy"? 

Thankfully, no. 

Biblical joy is a steady anchor when we're thrashed about by tempests of sorrow. Biblical gratitude keeps our vision fixed on our Lord, walking to us on the waves.

Our joy and our thanksgiving are deep and sure - because they are grounded not in our circumstances but in God's character, in who He is, what He has done, in what He is doing. 

We give thanks because God is good when others are not, because He is faithful even when we don't understand His ways. We give thanks because His love is sure when others disappoint us, because He is just when evil seems to prosper. We give thanks because He has promised to bring redemption to its completion, to make all things new. 

If you're finding thanksgiving to be challenging this year, if gratitude is making you skeptical, turn your heart and mind to the One who is faithful and true. And in His presence, may you find joy.