Hosting a Thanksgiving gathering is more about the atmosphere than the applesauce. Don’t worry about fancy centerpieces or perfect food. Create an honoring environment to ensure a memorable day. Here are five tips for hosting your group. These are the ideas and actions I carry into a holiday week to engage in meaningful experiences for myself and everyone involved. No matter who is gathered around your table or on Zoom, these points help create a beautiful time!

  1. Celebrate our wins. Celebrate each person and how God has brought them this far. Celebrate what your family has overcome. Truly take a full account of the good in your world. Rather than being the low-key family that just keeps plugging along, take time to savor, cherish, and celebrate what each one has accomplished. “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31) Some of us are soaring above it all; others are running, and some are barely walking. For every situation, celebrate the ways God is supplying strength!
  2. Grieve our losses. Many of us have come from families that never acknowledge the hard times, the wounds, the losses. But being vulnerable and honest about what didn’t go right this year is ironically a wonderful way to draw closer.  Create a safe space for each person to share what they are grieving in this time. Some hurts and losses can’t be fixed, but acknowledging them may bring healing. “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
  3. Welcome God to our party! Even Christian families struggle to embrace a spiritual element in their holiday time. Either the wine starts flowing too early or the football game is so loud or the rush to get the perfect meal to the table takes over. We must create the margin somewhere in this day to welcome God into our hearts and minds, as well as our conversations. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” (Psalms 34:3)
  4. Look in the mirror. Seriously though, I’ve gone an entire Thanksgiving Day where I never once glanced in a mirror. No one really knows how much us moms work to make the details run smoothly, so I look myself in the eye and say, Maggie you did a great job! You planned and prepared a beautiful meal, you loved people well, you created a gracious family culture and a legacy for others to continue. Girl, I’m proud of you. And I smile. Then I probably run into the kitchen to frantically get stuff out of the oven but that’s ok. I had my moment.
  5. Keep the main thing the main thing. I don’t care if someone is acting horribly or if our team loses or if the election actually was rigged. This is a holiday. Take a break from the drama and savor the goodness of God in your world. Look people in the eye and tell them how precious they are to you. I’ve never regretted a moment I spent loving God or loving people. “This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

 Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends! If you read this blog on FB, let me know which points you are implementing! If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you can find my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion anywhere books are sold.


What is Essential?

Our lives have been reduced in the last six months. Besides the closing of many small businesses, movie theaters, and salons, here in Silicon Valley, churches are online or extremely limited in-person capacity. Have you missed gathering?  I’ve been to three in-person church services over the past month. They were unique settings in different cities but they had one common denominator.

We looked up a church to attend while traveling in Idaho. “Let’s try something different,” I told my family. We chose a small Pentecostal church. Arriving, we realized it was PENTECOSTAL, as women wore dresses, no makeup, and some wore little doily head coverings. Instantly I regretted my bright red lipstick. Our family grinned at each other, rolled our eyes a bit, and expected little from this odd group of people. “Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Guilty here! The worship was sincere and pure. The message was genuine, thoughtful, and Christ-centered. We were surprised and refreshed.

The next service we attended was a mountain chapel in Twain Harte, California. I had been invited to preach and to bring my book, Gracious Living. It felt so good to worship at church together. I was pretty certain about the message God had put on my heart and could see the chord it struck in people by their heart-felt responses. I felt fully alive!

The third service was a Wednesday night women’s meeting in South San Jose. A rockin’ worship band played and we sang our guts out (not easy to do as we all wore masks). The sermon was an interview of mother and daughter pairs discussing their relationship with each other. They shared with honesty and raw vulnerability. It was inspiring and also informative.

The differences within these meetings were profound: we were white, black, and brown. Democrat and Republican. Rich and dangerously poor. Solid Christian families alongside many from very broken backgrounds. Pentecostal to charismatic to evangelical. The common denominator? Jesus in the room! Being fully present with people and God. Tears. Many cried at these meetings, encountering the pure love of God through Christ. We experienced His speaking voice in our hearts. We shared our stories and discovered we all have hurts in this life, but Jesus brings restoration. My friend, worshipping together with Jesus is the real deal!

“The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:24-25) 

“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together.” (Hebrews 10:25) 

Is church essential in your life? For me, these three services were some of the most genuine, transcendent moments of my month. What’s happening in your walk with God these days? Are you gathering in-person to worship? Are you feeling connected to God and people or are there adjustments to make? I would love to hear about your journey.


Tracing My Steps

I’ve been remembering my first steps with God and thinking about friends who have recently become Christ-followers. When I became a Christian on June 1, 1978, I didn’t know much about God. I knew that He loved me and sent His Son to die for me so that I could have life to the full. My eyes were suddenly opened to the spiritual wrestling match that had gone on to deliver me, safe and sound, to God’s door. For the first time I connected the dots of all the different people who shared with me about Christ and all the ways God protected, guided, and provided for me.

It’s true for every new believer. They can look back over their life and see ways that God was loving them, guiding, protecting, speaking, even waving at them. I’m here! Over here! That’s Me, loving you! I sent that person to shine a light for you. I sent those friends to be truth for you! I see it clear as day for my friends new to the faith. God has been wooing them all along.

At the end of his life, Moses recounted the ways God cared for him and the nation of Israel. He said of Israel: “God found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, So the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him.” (Deuteronomy 32:10-12)

God found many of us in a desert land. Oh, it might have looked fine on the outside, but the inside was an empty wasteland. As Moses says, God encircled us, instructed us, and kept us as the precious apple of His eye. Like an eagle builds and fluffs a nest for tender young, so God hovered over each of us and carried us up into His protective care.

There is a provision in the Spirit of God, so rich it is hard to describe. My outer world, swirling with Coronavirus worries, is in stark contrast with the beauty and provision in my inner world. Moses said that God would give the produce of the fields, honey from a rock, and milk and meat from the flock and the choicest wheat and wine. God takes good care of our physical needs. Emotionally, spiritually, relationally Christ cancels out our fear, our dread, our hatred, and fills us with goodness, love, and faith. Where we were a “howling wilderness” inside, now we are filled with the choicest provisions.

Have you recounted the many ways God made a way for you? My friend, take time today to remember God’s goodness in your life and give Him praise.