Nuggets-What Are We Supposed to Be Thankful In?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. “

What has that meant to you in the past?

How have you heard it preached?

Grit your teeth and thank God that your life is falling apart, your spouse left, your kid is a practicing prodigal, you’ve got cancer or any other possible terrible circumstance?

Or, perhaps you’ve put the verse into practice by saying, “God, thank you inSPITE of all I’m facing. InSPITE off all the terrible things, I will be thankful.”

But that’s not really what it says, is it?

” … give thanks in all circumstances … “

That little word “in” isn’t too hard to understand. It just means “smack in the middle of”(my personal definition). It means, even in the middle of the crap, the crud and the costly, find something to be thankful for.

We can and should start with the Gospel: “That Christ Jesus came to save sinners,” (1 Timothy 1:15). 

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When Seasons Collide

Dead leaves on bench

It’s the collision of the seasons.

Here I stand on the precipice of my favorite season–autumn. Summer is merging with colder air, the leaves are giving up their green and their death grip on brittle branches. I’ve already broken out the jeans (still paired with flip flops), and I’m reticent to recall shorts.

All this exquisite splendor is the harbinger of time well spent with loved ones and favorite people in front of the fireplace, with a good book, cuddled on the couch, over a good cup of coffee (or a deliciously dark beer!)

And so, my soul is singing with anticipation, but I’m sad too, my heart is a little wounded and my hopes are fragile. It’s strange for me, this mix of opposing feelings. But I suppose it’s good–that tears are mitigated by laughter and disappointment with excitement. 

I’m not sure how much time I’ll get to spend with my husband this fall. Yes, last year about this time he was leaving for Africa, so count my blessings (more on that later) he’s safe here in the states. But, we have suddenly launched into a season of such intense training and planning that I scarcely see him for a half hour a day. And waiting in the wings are a few weeks where they will work straight through the weekends–at least 21 days in a row.

And this sadness, I might have shared earlier, but I wasn’t ready–a couple months ago, I miscarried the baby my husband I never thought we could never have.

We never planned or risked the hope of getting pregnant. So when we learned in late July (with utter shock!) that I was expecting, we were floored. Just as surprising was the joy that overtook us! We couldn’t wait to hold our baby! But that wasn’t God’s plan. Somehow, our little one lived a purposeful life, and filled the purpose of his life in just 11 short weeks.

We survived that.

But now, the pain is refreshed each month. We’ve dared to think we can try now. We’ve dared to step into the realm of miracles only God can do–and to hope. And that’s scary.

So, as you can see, my emotions (fragile as they are), are swirling like the autumn leaves shimmying to the ground. And it’s tempting to complain to God–a lot. It’s easy right now, to form all “prayer requests” around the little phrase, “God please!!”

God, please give us a baby. God please give us more time together. God please give my husband a day off. God please help me to be kind and compassionate and understanding …

You know, I think all that is okay. Today I was scrounging for peace–the peace that God promises in Philippians when we present our requests to God:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

And suddenly, it dawned on me. There were prerequisites for that peace. I’ve met one prerequisite by simply praying, the second one is harder–with thanksgiving. 

I can’t have this unbelievable peace as long as my prayers sound like whiny pleas. Of course, I still believe God will answer those prayers, but I’m sabotaging my own peace if I insist on whimpering and repelling His peace with self-imposed anxiety, even as I pray. My attitude, even my emotions, is my responsibility.

So, I changed my prayer:

God, thank you for your marvelous plan of blessing and deepening our marriage in this season. Thank you for balancing the sorrow of this season with nature’s beauty. Thank you for giving us a baby, for making us parents. Thank you for teaching me your own faithfulness through pain. Thank you. Yes, thank you.

Thanks Before Giving

On Wednesday we talked about holidays perspectives. I also told you early this month about my commitment to join the Advent Acts of Kindness. 

I got an early start on this simply because Thanksgiving opened itself wide 0pen to me as we didn’t travel, visit or have company this year. Truthfully, it was one of the most fun Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.

Brave and I went up to The Medical Center to visit with patients on Thanksgiving afternoon. Honestly, the staff had made a concerted effort to discharge as many patients as possible before the special day. But when we got to the 7th floor, one of our favorite ladies was still patiently enduring the drip, drip, drip of an 80-hour chemo treatment.

Funny, I don’t even know her name, but it was the third time we’d seen her. Somehow, the formality of introductions never comes up, so quickly do we always launch into light hearted conversation. This time, she knew we were coming, because I’d promised her on Tuesday afternoon. Her father was sitting with her. As soon as we breached the doorway, she burst with happy tidings.

“Guess what, Brave,” she announced. “Papa brought you treats!”

Sure enough, the gentleman stretched, shook my hand and handed his daughter a plastic baggie full of dog biscuits. We stood and talked to them for nearly half an hour.

Brave and I enjoyed our visit so much and I dearly hope we brightened their holiday afternoon. But I was stymied by the joy and peace that emanated from that dreary hospital room even before we arrived. Obviously, this precious woman did not require much to experience gratitude.

Oh Father, let me know the impenetrable gratitude of a rescued heart. Let me overflow with thanksgiving despite all circumstances. Father, this Advent season, let my thankfulness begin with awe and appreciation for my Savior. 

When we left the hospital, Brave and I broke one of our holiday “codes”. We did go shopping – just briefly. While he waited in the car, I darted into Walgreens and stuffed a red gift bag with candy, granola bars, cookies, hand lotion and peppermint gum. On the drive home we stopped at our favorite Starbucks and delivered the goodies to the most energetic and kind baristas we know.

When I was growing up, they told me, “It’s better to give than to receive”. Perhaps Thanksgiving is the perfect evidence of that. Watching gratitude blossom in a sick, tired or stranger’s face is the most exquisite feeling I have ever had.

Upcoming Giveaway!

Hello and happy Friday, All!

I wanted to let you know that on Saturday, Nov. 30, I will be publishing a review of Beth Moore’s newest book, “Whispers of Hope”.
Icon Media Group asked me to review the book and has graciously provided me with a copy to give away to my readers. This book will be an excellent Christmas gift. Or if you’re like me, with two anniversaries and two birthdays stacked right on top of Christmas, it will make a great gift for those occasions too. 

Make sure you leave a comment under that post on November 30th. I will do a random drawing from the names of those who have commented and announce the winner on Sunday, December 1. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unplugged

Trusting in God’s sovereign timing of everything, I can only assume that my computer got “sick” because I’m headed to visit my family for the holidays and if my computer was feeling up to it, I would take him with me. That usually leads to lost moments, wasted time and a preasure to go write. As it is, my computer will be visitng the Apple doctor until at least next Monday.

I’m borrowing my husband’s computer at the moment and will soon be relegated to digital Siberia (only my iPhone for connection.) In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving and do everything possible to be competely present with those you love.

When I return, I will be writing a review of the book, Church Behind the Wire, by Barnabas Mam. Also, I have some continued thoughts on mercy, injustice and justice. I’m excited to digest these things with you.

Until then, a teaser:

Worn and weary, though mere years old,

His scars and hope the story told.

Of grit and grim and heart and grace,

As life moved on at tortured pace.

To call on Jesus amidst such pain,

Is life to lose and life to gain.

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

    
Happy Thanksgiving from Arlington VA

Happy Thanksgiving! Nothing turned out as it was originally planned. Oh well. Thank the Lord for all the volunteers in the world who beat me to the punch and offered their time, energy and hospitality to serve others on this holiday. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anywhere to offer my less-than-excellent culinary skills today. So…Brave and I went to run the 36th annual Arlington Turkey Trot 5 miler. The weather was more delicious than pumpkin pie! The crowd was fantastic, about 4000 people. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the guy dressed out full turkey regalia. You can imagine!

I thank my God in every remembrance of you. And this is my prayer that your love my grow more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. So that you may know what is best and God’s will. And that you will grow in righteousness and purity to the glory of Jesus Christ. (taken from Phil 1)

World’s Most Generous Blog, Thank You Very Much, Here’s a Freebie!

One of the things I learned from Margo Dill in Blogging 101, is that every successful blog has a theme. Her advice proved salient and my readership has more than quadrupled since taking her course. Thanks to YOU and to Margo!

That said, she also gave her students permission to go with the flow, follow our whims and enjoy the growing, morphing, evolving trends of our writing. So, as you and I move into another, fast-escaping month, I want to introduce a new theme.

 Graceful Giving with Gratitude

Do you see the influence of this month’s holiday? God has been opening my mind to so many ways of giving lately.

I’m involved in a ministry at my church called “Heart to Heart.” This is a mentoring ministry, pairing mature Christian women with generally younger believers to help them grow righteousness. I’ve spent hours working on rosters, praying for the right pairing of people, reading about the ministry and visiting with my co-leader. On an individual level, Heart to Heart is going to require an immense amount of gracious giving – of time, energy, resources, encouragement, hope and honesty.

God doesn’t believe in coincidences. Therefore, neither do I. On a recent In the Market with Janet Parshall broadcast, I listened to Janet interview Dr. Kevin Leman about his newest book Have a New You by Friday. Janet frequently takes calls from her listeners. One particular caller tore at my heart with her story. I once believed the same PREDATORY LIE.

 “The best word I can use to describe myself is incidental,” the caller whispered. Pain seeped through the cracks in her voice.

Incidental: happening or likely to happen in an unplanned or subordinate conjunction with something else. (www.dictionaryreference.com)

I have felt that way. I just happened to be in my family. I didn’t need to be there, no one would miss me if I was gone. Sure, I was a nice appendage, but certainly unnecessary.

Isaiah is an intimidating book of the Bible. But one verse sealed the tomb on my pain and has worked amazing freedom and joy in my life. “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O [Abby], he who formed you, O [Abby]: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine.” Is. 43:1 and in verse 4a, “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.”

It is my heart’s determination to extend grace to all women out of gratitude for the freedom and purpose that Christ has given to me.

So, here’s the plan for Thanksgiving’s honorary month:

Each Monday I will share a different story of a woman who invested herself in my life. There have been so many, using so many different means, in so many different places, with so many varying levels of intentionality. Many do not even know how much they impacted my life.

On Wednesday I want to pray with you. I am an advocate of Scripture prayers. They keep me from losing my train of thought or meandering into “if it’s your will territory.” If I’m praying according to His word, then I can be confident that I am praying within His will.

But there’s a catch. On Wednesday, I want to begin establishing a new reputation as the  WEB’S MOST GENEROUS BLOG. Every Wednesday, I will draw a name from the past week’s participants (commentors). Each week, someone will win two $5 gift cards to Starbucks. The condition is that you must take someone else to coffee. Extend God’s grace to them and invest in their life. I’d love it if you want to pray with them! Then, write me and tell me about your experience.

Finally, Friday. I think I want to keep Friday as a free day – for pictures, poems, sharing your stories or guest posts by friends who enjoy the grace of God in their own lives. Friday will often offer another chance to win a free… CD? Gift card? Book? After all, this is going to be the WEB’S MOST GENEROUS BLOG!

So, what do you think?