| from Joyce Baker |

Reflecting on some of my fondest Thanksgiving memories, I remembered a time when my mom made an epic failure in her famous pie recipe. Instead of grabbing the bottle of vanilla to add to the chocolate pie, as the recipe called for, she grabbed the lemon extract and poured it in before realizing she’d gotten the wrong extract out of the cabinet. Of course, the outcome was oddly distasteful.

When the taste left in your mouth is bad or odd, you know that something in the preparation went awry. It seems this principle applies to our current American culture as well. With the country’s character deteriorating into violence, unrest, and rioting, one has to question what ingredients have been messed up in the preparation of the great “American Pie.”

Growing up at a different time where it was common to be “poor and not know it,” I took a look back at what my family and community had then, and what we have tried to pass down to our family today.

Four key ingredients that sustained us and made for a sweet recipe:

  • Faith – We were raised with a strong, secure recognition of the reality of God’s presence. In turn, we were encouraged to know and trust in God for His love, care, justice, and forgiveness. This faith helped us look beyond human condition or authority, whether good or bad, and know that God was going to take care of those who trust in Him according to the eternal plans of His kingdom. We could overcome personal problems because we believed in the principles of His Word and understood our belonging to Him. “But to all who belong to Him, who believe in His name, He gave the right (power) to become the children of God.” John 1:12
  • Contentment – We did not have much, but we had enough, and we had each other. We were taught that this life is all about purpose and service. It is our purpose to love God and others. We do so by serving others in their need. To fulfill our purpose we have to narrow down our focus to the things that are essential. Much like an athletic competitor sheds all unnecessary equipment to run lighter or fight sharper. We should not be focused on trying to gain as much of this material world as possible. That will detract us from “running our race” successfully.  “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8
  • Imagination – We were encouraged to have a sense of wonder about the universe God gave us and imagine the adventures of living in it.  We read good books, including the true stories of the Bible, where good prevails over evil.  As C. S. Lewis stated, good stories are the “mouthwash of the imagination.” They rinse out the ideas and thoughts that soil our character. That is what God’s Word does for our soul also. This kind of imagination produces hope and productivity; it thinks of ‘fixes’ and future betterment. “Surely there is a future and our hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18
  • Thankfulness – We learned to be grateful and to express our thanks for the things we had. In the scripture we read of David being thankful for God’s provisions. Daniel was thankful for God’s wisdom. Paul was thankful for friends, and Jesus expressed thanks even for the food God provided. “And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them.” Being thankful is essential toward building character. Recognizing the blessings we have enjoyed helped us focus on others. As a family we made it a practice to give and share our thanksgivings with others. 

Maybe that is the key ingredient missing in our culture today – recognition of our divine dependence and gratefulness to His sovereign care. As the holidays continue, may you reach for these ingredients to stir up dishes of uplifting and sweet character. You will be pleased with the taste it leaves in your mouth. 

Joyce Baker is the mother of four grown children and “Mimi” to four precious grandchildren. Joyce has served side by side with her husband, Steve, in ministry for forty years with a heart for encouraging families to grow together in Christ. Her ministry is marked with the recognition that every person is a unique individual with purpose and a need for those unique qualities to be encouraged. Dr. Kathy is excited to welcome her as an Associate Writer and Speaker for Celebrate Kids, Inc.