Posted in Encouragement, Personal Helps, Proactive Faith

I Don’t Thank You

The holiday season always floods me with memories, and a renewed awareness of how the past resonates in my current reality. As kids, my brother and I were pretty snarky to each other. (I say “as kids” in a thinly veiled attempt to hogwash you into believing that we behave like grownups now!) Despite being fiercely loyal and even helpful to one another, if he handed me the salt shaker, I’d say, “I don’t thank you!” to which he’d cheerfully respond, “You’re not welcome!”

I laugh about it now – that is, now that we’ve learned to properly use our Magic Words and say “thank you” like normal people. But over the past twelve months, I’ve received a lot of things directly from the hand of God – and came very close to shooting back a snarky “I don’t thank You!”

It’s easy to thank God for family and health and good food and a great country. We are absolute pros at coming up with our “30 Days of Thanks” lists and rattling off all the ways He’s improved our lives. We can even hold our heads high and thank Him for bringing us through the hard times. And He does deserve thanks for all of this.

But this year, there’s a bit of a cloud hanging over the holidays for some of us. We want desperately to count blessings, it’s not that we’re ungrateful. But the enormity of loss or pain is an elephant in the room; from some vantage points, it’s so big and unmoving that you stop noticing it sometimes, but it still makes it near impossible to navigate from the kitchen to the couch. It rides in the car with me. It goes shopping with me. It sits beside me in church. And when I finally realize just how much room in my life it takes up, it’s overwhelming. And frankly, I don’t thank Him for it.

So today, I want to edit that line. Today, when I can’t recall the blessings without recalling the tears, I want to say‚Ķ “I don’t thank You enough.

I don’t thank You enough – for the worry, the frustration, the anger. Without them, I have no reason to remember that You are in control, no reason to run into Your presence for comfort.
I don’t thank You enough – for the sleepless nights and the endless days. Those were the nights I communed with You, and the weariness that You used to show me how much meal really was in the bottom of the barrel.
I don’t thank You enough – for the sorrow. What we call emotion is just a flavor of the real thing – only God has experienced emotion at full strength, which is why He can say in all truth and sympathy that Jesus is a Man of sorrows, acquainted – what an understatement! – with grief. He is not too “emotionally mature” to care about my feelings – He is longing for me to enter into His.
I don’t thank You enough – for Your perfect will. “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.” (Psalm 119:62) None of this has to make any sense to me. You are not obligated to enlighten me. But as I walk with Thee, I can be fully persuaded that You love me (Romans 8:38-39), that You are in absolute control (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and that this is just part of a bigger picture that I can’t see yet (Romans 8:28)
I don’t thank You enough – for giving me this experience in my twenties instead of much later in life. By “starting young”, I have learned early to seek You – and I didn’t have to wait til I was middle aged to experience Your compassion and grace. (Lamentations 3:18-32)

This probably doesn’t resonate much with some of you this Thanksgiving; this may have been a year filled with joy and victories. And I rejoice with you. But for those passing Thanksgiving with as many tears as blessings, I want you to know that I’m praying for you as I write this, that He is always, only good, that He is still worth trusting with this big picture we may never be able to see. Hang in there, “having done all, to stand”.

“I had fainted, unless I believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

Posted in Personal Helps, Proactive Faith

Satisfying the Cravings

Cravings. Aren’t they the worst? You’re on a roll, staying hydrated, eating more veggies, cutting back on sweets and soda, and all of a sudden your body announces, “Hey, you know what would be a good idea? POTATO CHIPS.” Ever the budget-conscious adult, you realize that the party-sized bag is a much better deal than the snack size. Problem solved.

Then there are Continue reading “Satisfying the Cravings”

Posted in Encouragement, Proactive Faith

What the Fire Left Behind

What is left when it’s all over?

The young person fully surrendered has plenty of “stuff” for God to use. “I like airplanes; I could be a missionary pilot! I can play the flute a little; I could start an orchestra! I can spell; I’ll write 200 books! I like kids; I could raise a huge family to serve the Lord!” The sincerity is there; sometimes even the skill set is there. Certainly the willingness is there.

At 21, caregiving had never entered my mind until the Lord assigned me to it. And honestly, Continue reading “What the Fire Left Behind”

Posted in Personal Helps, Proactive Faith, Stories & Studies

I Hear You… But I’m Not Listening

“And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me…” (Ezekiel 20)

The Lord has just finished warning Israel, through the prophet Ezekiel, that He would wipe out the very land because of their sin. It’s some serious reading. They professed to worship the God of heaven, but they worshiped like pagans, enforced some arbitrary traditions and ignored other laws altogether, were eager to impress surrounding godless nations, oppressed the poor, sacrificed their children on their own altars to idols. Sure, there were individuals scattered throughout the nation that did sincerely seek the Lord, who were doubtless horrified at the way things were – but the vast majority paid them no heed.

Ezekiel delivers this dire rebuke to the elders, but he returns to the Lord fuming, “Ah, Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?” “They nod their heads and holler Amen at everything I say because they think I’m being figurative!”

Read the news. Listen to the powerful warnings from the pulpit. Hear the concerned voices of government watchdogs, law enforcement, and Christian legal groups. What they are saying is getting tangled up in the threads of what we’re hearing – not what the media is twisting, not what news outlets choose to release, but in how we choose to hear the message. We shake our heads at the state of the nation, but we get up the next morning and live precisely the same way with the same worldview and the same level of spiritual detachment that we did the day before.

Ezekiel’s message hit the ball out of the park while Israel nodded and clapped politely and watched it sail right over their heads. What he said was very little like what they heard. They stood for truth, all right! – and did absolutely nothing about it.

Take the message literally. Be hyper-specific. Apply it to YOU.
I am a wimpy, inconsistent witness to my coworkers.
My unproductive and worldly browser history is destroying the nation.
My soulwinning efforts are the hope of America.
I’m bringing my country closer to judgment because I’m a prayer slacker.
My failure to voluntarily help with others’ needs is a reproach to my God.

It’s not enough to say that someone else is responsible for what goes on; I have to do all I can in my own sphere of influence to prevent it. It’s not Facebook politics where talk is cheap, it’s not what I say I believe, it’s not comparative morality, “us vs. them”. It’s my own practical, lived-out-in-realtime actions – and changes – that make a difference.

It’s time I read the Bible asking the Holy Spirit to show me – not what “the church” needs – but what I need… and take it literally enough to yield, instead of holler “Amen” and walk away unchanged.