Archive for November, 2009

Thankfulness

When I stop to think about it, I find it astounding that the Word of God, everything we need to know, is written in a book that is so easily accessible (at least in the United States) and so compact. Of the Bibles I own, my favorite copy fits easily in my purse. Yet despite its diminutive size, it teaches me something new every time I open it. God’s Word brings me comfort and peace, security and wisdom.

In recent months, I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s grace, particularly with regards to my thoughts and behaviors – my performance. Intellectually, I know that nothing I do or don’t do can make God love me any more. And nothing I do can make Him love me any less. Yet I am human, and a perfectionist, and at times I feel discouraged that I am not doing enough, or I am not doing the right things. At times I worry that I am not living the life that God wants me to live. I feel like I fall so short of what He wants for me.

At these times, I have found that I am most encouraged by meditating not on what I think God wants me to do for Him, but what God has done for me. In an eternal sense, He has given me new life and salvation, the promise of restoration and everlasting life with Him. In a temporal sense, He has filled the sense of emptiness I felt for much of my life. He has given me faith, hope, love, ministry, friends, and He has built my character.

Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for His promises to me. What follows are a few of my favorite verses and the blessings I have as a daughter of Christ.

1. I am thankful for the grace of God, His forgiveness, and my adoption as His daughter.

Ephesians 1:4-8 – For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

2. I am thankful that God delights in me, that He loves me.

Zephaniah 3:17 – The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

3. I am thankful for hope.

Romans 5: 1-5 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

4. I am thankful that God wants us to have the desires of our hearts.

Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5. I am thankful that I do not need to worry or be anxious, because God is in control.

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

6. I am thankful for the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23a – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

7. I am thankful that God sent his only son to live the life I should have lived, to die the death I deserve to die, so that I have eternal life.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Friendship

A couple of weeks ago, an old friend whom I‘ll call Susie, actually the sister of a friend with whom I keep in touch a few times a year, called me out of the blue just to chat. Susie has been having a bit of a rough time lately, feeling anxious and discouraged, and she hoped it would help to talk to me.

A couple of weeks before she called, I had been talking to my therapist about loneliness. The impending holidays, combined with some personal struggles, have brought on a sense of alienation and isolation. Naturally, my therapist encouraged me to reach out to others. She advised me to call my closest friends at the times when I feel sad and withdrawn.

While her counsel makes sense rationally, it is difficult for me to reach out to others. I do not want to bother or burden my friends with my struggles. I want to appear as though I have it all together. I do not mind talking about past struggles, but when it comes to current trials, I try to deal with them on my own.

God must have a sense of irony, because just when I thought, “I’ll deal with these feelings by myself,” Susie called asking for a friend to help her talk through her struggles. And did I think she was bothering me, as I would have felt if I had been the call-ee? Not in the slightest. I felt honored that she would open up to me; I felt great respect that she could ask for a friend when in need. I admire her for seeking to grow by reaching out to others. As it turns out, we have much in common, and I felt cared for by her, as we could relate on many issues.

I discussed with her my reluctance to reach out to others, and as it turns out, Susie has the same fears. She contacted me because she was at a point of desperation, but she iterated how difficult it is to call friends when she is struggling. She recounted friends who seem to drain her emotional energy, and she does not want to become one of those people. Of course, if she is worried about being a selfish friend in the first place, she has nothing to worry about. This phenomenon is similar to the admonition that you only have to fret about being insane if you think you are perfectly sane.

When God provides people in our lives, why do we keep to ourselves? Why do we, as women, feel guilty for sharing our burdens with others? How can we reach out to each other more? How can I better care for myself and my friends? Why do we feel so alone at times, while we often share the same struggles?

I am thankful for the women in my life, and for seemingly arbitrary kinship, though it was in God’s plan all along.

What Would Jesus Buy?


This may come as news to some, but the holidays are not just about buying crap. In fact, they do not have to be about buying anything.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and while many are planning their meals, buying their turkeys and tofurkeys, cleaning their houses for guests, and dreading the re-emergence of family dynamics and old grievances, I have been pontificating on what it means to be thankful. You may argue, not entirely erroneously, that Thanksgiving is really about some pilgrims and a big rock. But according to Wikipedia, the ultimate source for reliable and well-researched information, before Thanksgiving was a secular holiday, it was originally meant as a special occasion on which to give thanks to God.

I have heard virtually nothing in popular media about thankfulness as we approach the feast day. However, much as I try to avoid popular media, I have been bombarded by references to Black Friday. Does the name sound ominous to you? I cringe every time I hear the term.

Somehow in our society, we have managed to turn two major holidays (originally meant as occasions on which to thank God and celebrate Him) and the entire interceding month into a consumeristic nightmare. Why is our society so eager to numb out on shopping malls, super marts, and discount stores? Does it seem strange to you that talking about God in popular media is mildly taboo, yet it is perfectly acceptable to convince the masses that happiness is found in a clearance sale?

Does anyone remember that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the blessings in our lives, and that Christmas is about the birth of Christ, the almighty God born on Earth as a living, breathing infant, poor and homeless?

Personally, I have protested consumerism for years, particularly around the holidays. As a result, my stress levels are at an all-time low, and I am more able to focus on the aspects of the holidays that are important to me. Lately, I have been focused on what I should be doing or not doing, but now is the time to focus on what God has done for me.

The day after Thanksgiving is affectionately known by many as Buy Nothing Day. Participate by not participating. And consider what Thanksgiving and the ensuing days mean to you.

What is Love?

What is love? Not the Haddaway version from “Night at the Roxbury.”

Unexpectedly, someone reminded me yesterday what love is. I did not realize that I had lost sight of the true meaning of love. But gradually over time, I had been confused and misled, thinking that love was . . . I do not even know what I had thought. Maybe love had become conditional.

But love is written clearly and concisely in God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Even more important than feeling loved by others (or perhaps as a prerequisite) is to love oneself. Of course, God’s love is the ultimate precondition. Because of the kindness of a friend, I suddenly realized that I have not loved myself well recently. I have been anything but patient with and kind to myself. I have been keeping record of all my mistakes and feeling angry and frustrated with myself.

I am thankful that God has loved me in so many ways, no matter what my behavior has been toward myself. He is patient and steadfast, always there listening and guiding me. He exhibits His kindness through the loving kindnesses of His people who leave me a simple note of thanks or who make time to listen when I am sad. Christ came to Earth, the son of God, yet He did not seek power, approval, comfort, or control. God does not hold my sins against me.

Love is a friend who can tell me that I make things too complicated, and who reminds me of the Truth.