This month I have attempted to catalog 30 days of gratitude on this cyber-journal. It’s been an interesting exercise in the practice of thanksgiving. As a result of this activity I have been more quickly aware of words that have come out of my mouth which have been negative–and there have been many!

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When my kids were small we used to sing a song any time one of us would display an ungrateful spirit:

Are you humbly grateful

Or grumbly hateful?

What’s your attitude?

Do you grumble or groan,

Or let it be known

You’re grateful for all God’s done for you?

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These words are emblazoned in my mind and heart to this day. They remind me that each and every day I am faced with the question of whether gratitude will be my attitude of choice.

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Recently I had the opportunity to address a group of women on the topic of gratitude. In my research I discovered the article by Michael Zigarelli, Gratitude: Pathway to Permanent Change, published in Issue 17 of the Regent Business Review. In this article Zigarelli poses these questions:

How do I become more like Jesus Christ?

What can I do to develop authentic Christian character—to be patient and kind, to have joy and inner peace, to be gentle, compassionate, self-controlled, and forgiving?

What can I do to truly care about people and to love them as God does?

How can I finally—and permanently—become a better person than I am today?

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Zigarelli studied 5000 people around the world who were identified as Christians. A portion of this group were further identified as what he described as “high-virtue Christians.” He defined this group as those who “consistenly displayed ‘fruit of the Spirit’ in their lives.” He set out to discover what it was that made the ‘high virtue’ Christians different from those who would be described as ‘average.’ His findings surprised him. The findings surprised me too. “Of all the possible explanations for why some Christians look more like Jesus than others, one explanation—one characteristic—clearly stood out above the rest: gratitude.” Of course, this does not negate the spiritual practice of prayer and study of God’s Word–but can’t you see how even in these practices gratitude takes them from a duty to a delight? (Very interesting to note that those in the study who exhibited the most gratitude were not those who were the most privileged. The most gratitude was shown by those who would be described as poor!)

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Gratitude has been described as the parent of all virtues. Zigarelli’s research certainly affirms this opinion. He concludes that, “gratitude does all this by setting a new thought context for processing our circumstances in life—a context of an abundant life.”

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It only makes sense that when I sift everything through the filters of gratitude I see that all of life is a gift from the hand of a loving Creator. The challenge is to learn how to maintain a grateful disposition. The practice of ‘counting my blessings and naming them one by one’ can only help in this process. As I discipline my mind to look at the blessings I have, rather than dwelling on the ‘if only’s’ of life, it only makes sense that contentment and gratitude would be the result.

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The research I did on gratitude reminded me of Paul’s challenge in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” I’m convinced that this renewing of the mind on a daily basis is connected to cultivating an attitude of gratitude. And oh, I pray these cyber-pages will continue to exhibit an authentic heart of gratitude.

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Thank you Michael Zigarelli for your thought provoking and soul searching article in of all things, a business journal!

©Brenda Pace, 2010
photo from www.istockphoto.com

The Christmas season was always a special time in my church.  However, observing each Sunday of Advent was something I first became acquainted with when my husband became a military chaplain.  I found it to be something that was rich with meaning.  Using the advent wreath to celebrate the season became a special family tradition that continues to be practiced in our home.  It signifies the four Sundays prior to Christmas to be a time of preparation and anticipation for Christ’s coming.

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The reminders of Advent are something to which I am drawn.  Maybe it is because I am a visual learner and the symbolism of the wreath communicates the message to my mind and heart. The candles on the wreath remind me that Christ is the light of the world—the victor over darkness.  As the candles are gradually lit each week I am reminded that Christ came to redeem the world, and that he is returning again!

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Each candle reminds me of an important aspect of the process of waiting for my Savior.

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The first candle represents HOPE

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All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

Isaiah 60:3 NLT

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The second candle represents PEACE

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For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders…His government and its peace will never end. Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT

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The third candle represents JOY

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Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Isaiah 35:10 NLT

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The fourth candle represents LOVE

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This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

1 John 4:9 NLT

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Finally, the center white candle represents CHRIST

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Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Luke 2:13-16 NLT

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In a culture where Christmas décor is merchandised in October, I need the reminder of my simple advent wreath.  It is the profound reminder that I am waiting for my Redeemer.

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Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. –Luke 1:68 NLT

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Emmanuel, thank you for leaving your throne and coming to dwell among us.  In the challenges of each day, remind me of your coming.  Help me to prepare my heart today in anticipation, amen.

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Taken from the December 7 entry of The One Year™ Yellow Ribbon Devotional (Tyndale House) by Brenda Pace and Carol McGlothlin.
*Photos from iStock.com; editing of text and frames done at Picnik.com

Yesterday the Chaplain suggested we make a detour through Chattanooga and stop for lunch at the Bluff View Art District. I was game to try something new. We have heard much about the development of this area of the city and were curious to see it for ourselves.

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First we stopped for lunch at Tony’s, an Italian restaurant in the district. The food was delicious! We especially enjoyed the bread, (baked at the Bluff View bakery)–dipped in an amazing olive oil and Parmesan cheese concoction. Yum!

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A sculpture garden is set overlooking the Tennessee River. We strolled through the garden with the sounds of live music playing on a nearby café rooftop. Charming!

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Sculpture of the Prodigal Son


The scenic views of water and mountains, combined with the art and music made it a lovely mixture of the creativity of God and his inspiration to man. It was medicine for the soul.

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I’m so grateful to discover what I know will become a frequent destination!

The Chaplain taking in the view

“It’s a tradition!” This declaration was joyfully made by my favorite 10 year old. She was talking about our yearly gingerbread house creation.


This year she decided to shake things up a bit and went with a gingerbread village.


She and her brother patiently waited as each little piece was prepared.


Then it was time for the creating to begin!


In between finding excuses to eat the gumdrops and lick the spoon,

Noah spread snow all over his roof.


I think the village turned out great!


So grateful for traditions!

I thought about the sticky frosting that works like glue to hold this little gingerbread creation together.

Traditions are kind of like that–glue that keeps a family together.

What are some of your traditions?

We’re a ‘put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving’ family. It’s become a tradition for two special little people to help. I must say they are getting to be quite the decorators.

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As we were decorating Jolie stepped back to admire the tree and said:

“Anyone looking at your tree would know you love God. There are lots of crosses, stars, angels and manger scenes.”

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I look at the tree and see just as many Santa and snowman ornaments, but it was interesting to hear her view. It was a great opportunity to talk about what’s on the outside matching the inside. We talked about important things like whether anyone looks at my life and knows I love God? I can decorate my life with crosses and talk of Jesus, but if it doesn’t come out in my words and actions, it’s no more than a shallow decoration.

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Who knew that decorating a Christmas tree could bring such meaningful conversation? Grateful for such moments to celebrate the coming Advent season.

One of the favored traditions of our family during my husband’s active duty service was celebrating Thanksgiving with the soldiers my husband served. For my husband, that meant wearing his dress uniform to preach at the chapel Thanksgiving Day service.Following the service, our family would head to the dining facility, otherwise known as the mess hall, for a Thanksgiving feast.

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The Thanksgiving day meal for a military dining facilty has been described as the Super Bowl for military cooks. They go all out with decorations and create a feast in the truest sense of the word. From the printed menus and ice sculpture for ambiance, from shrimp coctail to pumpkin pie for appetite, it is special. Oftentimes my husband and other officers would go behind the chow line to serve the solidiers, giving them opprtunity by way of a symbolic gesture to show their appreciation to the young troops.

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It was during a time of war that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed an official day of thanksgiving to be observed on the thrd Thursday in November of every year in America, making this a national holiday. And it was President Woodrow Wilson who during World War I declared Thanksgiving a special day for those in military service. On military installations this day was to be complete with a church service and full dinner in order to acknowledge “the great blessings God has bestowed upon us.”


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Even in faraway lands in the midst of combat zones, on Thanksgiving Day the chaplain will be flying to forward operating bases to conduct a Thankstiving service for troops. Along with the chaplain will be freshly cooked turkey and all the trimmings.

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As you enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday and all the traditions that accompany it for you, won’t you join me in praying for military personnel serving around the world? Consider the attitude and thoughfs of the originator of America’s Thanksgivng Day, President Abraham Lincoln, as he instructed a nation to thank almighty God.

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I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience , commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility , and union.

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~President Abraham Lincoln, Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863

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Taken from the November 26 entry of The One Year™Yellow Ribbon Devotional: Take a Stand in Prayer for our Nation and Those Who Serve by Brenda Pace and Carol McGlothlin

Can’t let 30 days of gratitude not include books!

via http://www.flickr.com/photos/senyoriguana/4732925143/in/faves-girlhula/

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Books I’m currently reading include:

The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

The Christian Athiest by Craig Groeshel

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

?Come Walk With Me: A Practical Guide to Knowing Christ Intimately and Passing it On by Carol Mayhall

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So grateful for books and the friends who recommend great titles.

Lots of travel this month, which means the opportunity to view some in air cinema offerings. Two that were worth mentioning were pleasant little surprises. Always grateful when that happens!

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The first was a film directed by Rob Reiner titled Flipped. I found this coming of age story to be charming and enjoyable. The Wonder Years type narration got a little old (it’s one thing in a 30 minute sitcom and another in an hour and a half), but it was bearable. The thought process of two young people was interesting to follow, as was the character development. In fact, I’ll ‘flip’ that comment and say that the thing I really liked about this movie was the true character that was developed in the young ‘hero.’ It was a wholesome and endearing story.

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The other movie that caught my attention was Get Low starring an interesting cast to include Robert Duvall, Sissy Spaceck and Bill Murray. This movie was also about character, specifically it was about forgiveness and restitution. Robert Duvall plays Felix Bush, a 1930’s Tennessee hermit who arranges to have his own funeral–while he’s still alive. He wants to know what people will say about him. Truth is, Felix has a secret and he finds a creative and meaningful road to redemption. Interesting to note that this movie is based on a true story.

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It is not with tongue in cheek that I write this next placement of gratitude. My friends, I am grateful for (drum roll): Costco.


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When the Chaplain accepted a job that would move us to Cleveland, Tennessee I dramatically told him I did not know if I could make such a move since the closest Costco was over 100 miles away in Atlanta. (For those of you who don’t know me, this comment WAS said tongue in cheek…kind of.)

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Imagine my delight when I heard the news that a branch of my favorite shopping warehouse was opening in nearby Chattanooga!  I received this news as if a personal gift had been presented to me.

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There are staples we purchase at Costco on a regular basis, but in reality Costco is all about the thrill of the hunt.  From my transition from dollar store readers to progressive lenses to my husband’s transition from military uniform to dress shirts, Costco was there. The pumpkin pie on our Thanksgiving table will be from Costco–I can’t make one to beat either size or taste. It’s our go-to place for gas, electronics, books, media, office supplies and a myraid of food items. Oh, and  I have to give a shoutout to the Costco “Kirkland” homebrand items. Quality stuff.

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So, yeah…today I’m not ashamed to say: I’m grateful for Costco–now in Chattanooga. Woohoo!

http://www.etsy.com/listing/60926857/i-will-be-grateful-for-this-day

Gratitude is always a choice. There are days when it is easier to choose to be grateful than others.

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I’m usually reminded of the choice it is on days I don’t feel very grateful. (Like this week when rain is in the forecast every day. House building stops when it rains.)

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It is then I am further reminded of Scriptures that instruct me to give thanks no matter what I feel:

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).

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Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

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This exercise in 30 Days of Gratitude has been a wonderful practice of choosing to look for the blessings of life. I pray it is my default attitude each and every day.