A Tale of Thanksgiving (Or Giving Thanks In All Things)

Last night, 7:30 PM:
Cannot keep my eyes open. What started as a sore throat Friday afternoon has developed into a full-blown cold.

“Give thanks in all things”, He whispers to my heart.

“Thank You, God, that I can go to bed at 7:30. I have no responsibilities or obligations keeping me up.”

 

9:30 PM:
Wake up because one nostril is totally blocked. Ugh.

“Give thanks in all things,” He says again.

“Thank You, God, that I can breathe through one side of my nose and that it isn’t totally blocked. Thank You that my throat doesn’t hurt any more. And thank You that it is Saturday night and not a school night.”

10:30 PM:
Wake up when the power goes out. Fan stops. Room quickly gets stuffy. Get up to open window more, wondering when it will come back on.

“Give thanks” my heart echoes His words from earlier.

“Thank You, God, that it is a cool evening and that I can open my window. Thank You that You will help me sleep over the barking dogs, fireworks and other noises, even without the white noise of my fan.”

Sometime later:
Wake up when the power comes back on.

“Thank You, God, that I slept. And thank You that the power is back on.”

4:00 AM (normal wake up time):
Get up to use the bathroom.

“Thank You, God, that it is Sunday so I can sleep in a bit.”

Turn on water to wash my hands – no water.

“Seriously, God?? – Er, I mean, thank You that I have baby wipes to use to wash my hands.”

Crawl back in bed.

5:00 AM
Wake up again, decide it is time to get up.
Stumble up the tile step to the bathroom.
Step in water.
Slip on the tile but do not fall.

Roommate’s toilet is overflowing.

Wait – we have no water and her toilet is overflowing??
Oh – we have a trickle now. Apparently enough to overflow her tank.

“Give thanks in ALL things.”

“OK. Got it. Let’s see…”

Thankful that it was tank water and not bowl water.
Thankful I didn’t fall.
Thankful for tile floors on top of a concrete layer between us and our downstairs neighbors.
Thankful our neighbor, Greg, was up.
Thankful he was willing and able to go wake up Jose, our grounds manager, who is also an early riser.
Thankful that Greg has way more Spanish than I do to explain to Jose what was happening.
Thankful that Jose came to fix the toilet.
Thankful that the towels for mopping up water were close by.
Thankful our washer and dryer are inside the apartment and not downstairs or outside.
Thankful for a (now) super clean floor.
And thankful that Jose also restarted the pump so we have normal water flow.

Give thanks IN all things.

Give thanks in ALL things.

Because ALL things work together for my good and His glory.
Because He is IN the details of ALL things.
And because it is the only way to survive.

6:45 AM:
Still have a head cold.
Still have responsibilities at church in a few hours.
Still have a couple of loads of towels and bathroom rugs to wash.

But I also have a peaceful, happy heart.
A heart that knows He is in control.
That all of these circumstances could be worse.
And that He is using all of them for good.

By His grace – and ONLY by His grace – I have a heart that is “set on things above” and not on earthly things, giving thanks in all things.

Not because I am some sort of super saint.  But because I am choosing to choose thanksgiving.

Because He said to do so.
Because His Spirit gives us the power to do the impossible.
Because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.
And because He is worth it all.

So what are you thankful for today?

Borrowed Words of Blessing

Now I know how my kids feel.
Every day I make them write in a “Reflection Log” about their day.
It is a great communication tool between them, their parents and me.

But they often whine, “I don’t know what to write.”
And that is where I find myself today.

Usually when it is time to write my blog, I have something simmering inside me, waiting to pour out through my fingers.

But not today.

Sometimes the struggles are too personal to share.
Or sharing them would negatively impact someone else.

Sometimes the words just don’t come.
And you end up writing about the fact that you can’t think of anything to write.

I find myself here today.
Wondering what to share.

Since I don’t have words of my own to encourage your heart, I am going to borrow some from Elisabeth Elliot, one of my heroes of the faith. If you do not know her story, check out the book “Through Gates of Splendor” or the movie “The End of the Spear”. She is with Jesus now, but her legacy lives on through her words. These quotes encourage me; I hope they bless you, too.

—–

“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

“You can never lose what you have offered to Christ.”

“The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.”

“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ‘ashes.’”

“God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.”

“God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.”

“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.”

“Worship is not an experience. Worship is an act, and this takes discipline. We are to worship ‘in spirit and in truth.’ Never mind about the feelings. We are to worship in spite of them.”

“Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on him who has all things safely in his hands.”

You can find a full list of quotes, including these, at https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/inspiring-quotes/40-inspiring-quotes-from-elisabeth-elliot.html

Between the Sea and a Hard Place

I find myself standing between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army.
I have no doubt God led me here.
To this “rock and a hard place”.
Or, rather, this inescapable ocean of difficulty.
No going back.
No going forward.
Stuck on both sides.
In danger either way.

I must confess that in this place I have been acting exactly like the ancient Hebrews.

From Exodus 14:
“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

Like them, I have cried out to God in terror.
I have questioned His approach.
And what is worse, I have questioned His goodness.
Been angry at His ways.

I like to think of myself as an optimist.
And because I like to make people laugh and am often smiling, many people think I am one.
But honestly, I am a closet pessimist.
I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Always looking at – and for – the worst-case scenario.

And while it is true that Jesus said, “In this world you WILL have trouble of various kinds”, He didn’t leave it there.
He finished with “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

In other words, I need to believe that God is FOR me and not against me.
Believe that He is at work, even when I cannot see it.
Believe that He will make a way where there is no way.
Believe that He will take even the worst circumstances and use them for good.
Believe that nothing happens to me without His permission.
Believe that He is never surprised.
Believe that He has my best interest at heart.

That was what Moses told the people that day as they were genuinely (and justifiably) afraid of what their eyes and ears where telling them.

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Do you know what I love about this story?
I love that the people had to wait.
God did not split the sea the instant Moses raised his staff.
Nope.
God sent a wind – a strong, probably terrifying wind.
One that would have whipped up the sand.
Perhaps blown down the tents.
Whistled and howled.

But that wind never moved the pillar of cloud that was between the Israelites and the enemy.
The presence of the Lord was not baffled by the fear of the people.
Nor by the wind of the circumstances.
He WAS the wind of the circumstances.
And as the people sat still, He moved.
And as He moved, the water moved.

And then the people had to move.
They had to walk through those walls of water.
Believing they would stand.
Believing God would keep them.

And He did.
Until the very last Israeli foot cleared the seabed.

And He still wasn’t done.
Because the Egyptians had thought to take advantage of the Providence of God.
They had moved onto that dry land, trusting in the speed of their chariots and horses to catch a million people on foot.
But God moved again.
And the wheels literally fell off their plan.
Their chariots wheels suddenly stopped moving. Jammed by the hand of God.
They knew then that they had made a mistake messing with God’s people.
Ten awful plagues should have told them that.
But this was their fatal flaw – attempting to take out people who were under the protection of Almighty God.

And so God literally wiped them out.
The walls of water fell just like the walls of Jericho would 40 years later.
And the Egyptian army was swept away.

I am so frustrated with myself for being a grumbling, shrieking, moaning unbeliever as I stand in this place.
I have SEEN the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I have SEEN Him do incredible things with my own eyes.
Not to mention all of the accounts in the biblical record.

They had seen Him send plague after plague for their deliverance.
He had brought them so far – and yet they really thought He was going to leave them to die in the wilderness.

He has brought me so far – why do I think the same way?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to face the Red Seas of my life with fear.
I don’t want to be like the Israelites back then – not even a little.
I want to face the trials with triumph.
With great anticipation of what God will do.
No matter how hard the wind blows.
No matter how big the army.
No matter how confounding the circumstances.
No matter how intimidating the enemy.

My God is bigger.
Stronger.
More.
He is able.
And He will move.

I don’t know how and I don’t know when.
But I know He is up to something that is for my good and His glory.
Something that will show the evidence of who He is.
And so I will choose to trust.
I will tell fear to shut up and get out every time it tries to worm its way in.
I will choose to lift high a sacrifice of praise, even when my emotions are low.
I will choose to fear only One.
And I will choose to believe He is good.
Right in all He does.
That He is for me and not against me.

I am looking forward to how this sea will part.
And I feel sorry for the Egyptians on my tail.
Because my God’s got this.
And I will praise Him for it in advance.