Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

Pixabay - shower

This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well. 

Thanksgiving Thoughts - A Comparison of Two Lives

The act of giving thanks is not restricted to those who "have it all". We sometimes feel that it is easier to give thanks when our lives are going smoothly and without the typical chaos. All of us can be thankful, no matter what our current situation in life. We may be flourishing or we may be floundering, but God, in His infinite wisdom and love knew that thanksgiving was an essential part of life and one that makes us happier and healthier. 

Pixabay - thanks

Last year I wrote a post entitled It is Good to Give ThanksIn that post I linked to an article from  the Forbes website: 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of GratitudeYou can see my original post and the article written by Amy Morin, by clicking on the links. I believe that giving thanks was God's way of getting us to reboot. When life is overwhelming and things are not going as we had hoped or planned, giving thanks takes us back to center. What is that center? God and His great love and goodness. 

I want to take the rest of this post to look at two lives. These two men were living extremely different lives. One became a king, the other was a leper. What did they have in common? They both took the time to give thanks.

David - King of Israel

The life of David the simple shepherd boy who became the King of one of the greatest nations in the world, can be found throughout the Old Testament books of 1 & 2 Samuel, as well as the first chapter of i Kings and a few scattered chapters in 1st Chronicles. David is also the author of at least 73 of the 150 psalms in the book of Psalms. Many of these contain the act of giving thanks. Here are a few examples.

I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
— Psalm 7:17 (NASB)
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders
— Psalm 9:1 (NASB)
Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, And I will sing praises to Your name.
— Psalm 18:49 (NASB)
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
— Psalm 30:12 (NASB)

The Psalms are a great place to go if you are looking for scriptures to bring you back to the center of gratitude. 

While David lived a life of wealth, fame and leisure, he did not always have a simple or smooth journey. Fighting giants, battling wars and being chased by King Saul who was mad with jealousy were the basis for some of the songs that David penned. He also penned from the darkness of his heart because he was well aware of his sin. Taking another man's wife, getting her pregnant and then having the man killed were all sins David committed while being a man after God's own heart. Yet, he seemed to know that giving thanks was part of the process of finding his way back to a right relationship with the heavenly Father. 

The Leper

In the New Testament, Luke, in his gospel, writes about the healing of ten lepers. It is not surprising that Luke often focused in on healing. He was a doctor. What I love about Luke's retelling of this particular incident is what follows after Jesus heals the ten men. 

Leprosy was a terrible disease in Biblical times that was thought to be highly contagious. Today, leprosy is treatable and typically only affects people in very poor areas without good treatment. When Jesus walked the earth lepers lived in leper colonies which were most often well outside the cities. These people were kept apart, partly because of the Levitical law of things that were clean and unclean. 

Poverty - pixabay

When these ten leprous men stood at a distance and raised their voices to Jesus, they were making a plea for their restoration. Imagine if you were one of these men. You know doubt heard the news about this man of God who was healing all kinds of diseases. When you knew he was coming to your village you would have raised your voice too. Of course you would want to be healed. You wanted to have normal life and be able to hug your families again!

"Master! Have mercy on us."

"Go and show yourselves to the priests."

They probably turned as a group and nearly stumbled over each other as they scooted towards the local synagogue. But a strange thing happened as they were on their way. They were healed. 

Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.
— Luke 17:15-16 (NASB)

One man turned back and what did he do? He gave thanks. What set this man apart from the rest? Luke informs us that the man was a Samaritan. If you know anything about history you might be aware that Samaritans were a cross breed mix of Jewish and many other people groups that had originated as far back as the Babylonian exile. They were not looked upon with favor by the Jews because they were not pure Jews (my own terminology). So here you have a man, who is not only a leper, but a Samaritan. How do you think he got along in the local leper community? He probably was an outcast in a group of outcasts. Yet, it is our Samaritan friend who turns back and gives glory and thanks to God. 

Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

If Jesus made a statement about a particular incident you can bet we had better stand up and take notice. Have you even noticed how critical, bitter and hateful people who call themselves Christian can be? And what about those who are walking without God? Sometimes they are the nicest most thankful people we know. The point is, if we know Christ and are claiming His name, then we had better walk the walk. Being thankful is part of that walk.

Two men, with vastly different lives, realized the importance of giving thanks. Paul said,

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

As we look forward to Thanksgiving next week and the weeks following leading up to Christmas, let's get back to our God center and be thankful!

It's Already November! What??

Can you believe it is already November 1st? Or are you like me, still gasping, trying to catch your breath and function through the sugar induced headache of post-Halloween fun? I knew it was coming. Winter always comes, as does Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let's get real here, the holidays do start today, the day after Halloween. Is it any wonder that most stores have Christmas trees, decorated to the hilt, already stunningly displayed before the Snickers bars are even marked half off?

Pixabay - Halloween candy

Since we are only a few weeks out from Thanksgiving, I want to revisit the command Paul gives to us in I Thessalonians 5:18.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

My plan is to spend a few weeks looking at this idea of gratitude. Next week I will finish up my Mulling It Over series on the Armor of God, but this week and the two Wednesdays before Thanksgiving I will be concentrating on thankfulness. 

Pixabay - thanksgiving

Last year I talked about this subject in two different blog posts. Three Little Commands - Give Thanksand It is Good to Give Thanks both touch on the importance of giving thanks. You can read those posts by clicking on the titles. It might seem a bit repetitive to spend more time on this topic, but as with so many things in my Christian walk, it is good be reminded. I know many things about the Christian life, but I don't consistently live all of those. In addition, the Holy Spirit is more than capable of teaching me new things, as I pointed out a few weeks ago in the post, Even He Called Him Lord.

Today, I would like to lay a foundation for the act of thanksgiving. The first mention of what looked like thanksgiving in the Bible is found in Genesis 4.

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
— Genesis 4:3-5 (NASB)
Pixabay - Autumn

I do not know if this was a thanksgiving offering, but it is clear that God had already established a system of offerings to honor and worship Him. This was some years after Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden for their choice to sin against God. The fact that both their sons brought an offering to the Lord, shows that they had been taught that this was something important that needed to be done. The word thanksgiving does not show up until years later in Leviticus 7:11-12 where Moses is directed to write about the law of sacrifice of peace offerings. 

The whole system of sacrifice was instituted by God after Adam and Eve sinned. It says,

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
— Genesis 3:21 (NASB)

While we are not told that God sacrificed animals to make those clothes, it can be safely assumed that He didn't get them at the local Walmart. It would seem to make sense that the first blood letting was done by God Himself in a gesture, both of compassion and instruction, for those children He had created. He already had the plan in place for Jesus, His Son, to be the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption.

By the time Moses becomes the chosen leader of the nation called Israel, God's plan included teaching His people all about sacrifice. The entirety of the book of Leviticus spells out the different offerings, laws and acceptable sacrifices for a variety of life situations. 

Pixabay - bread and oil
‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the Lord. If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil.’
— Leviticus 7:11-12 (NASB)

As you can see, the laws of offering and sacrifice were very specific.

You might be wondering why I am spending so much time on this idea of sacrifice, but the act of thanksgiving is an act of sacrifice. While we no longer require all the offerings of sheep and cows, or bread and oil, thanksgiving requires a giving up of our worries and cares, bringing them to the altar and letting God burn them away, so that all that is left is purest worship and adoration of the Creator.

As we head into the holiday season I hope you will journey with me along this thanksgiving road. It will be the perfect lead in, to the season of Advent. 

Stay tuned for more! 

Three Little Commands - Give Thanks

I thought it appropriate after the climax of the political campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump, to bring things back to scripture. And how fitting that the series I've been doing on three little commands, ends with this powerful statement:

...in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast upon us. Sometimes it seems this day gets lost after the decorous celebration of Halloween and the the onset of the hectic preparations for Christmas. However, I believe it is a holiday of great importance. If we allow it to not get lost, Thanksgiving can be the perfect spring board into the Advent season.

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

Thankfulness is sometimes slow in coming. There are always things to be thankful for, but that doesn't mean it is easy for us to turn our minds away from our difficulties towards the things that we can be thankful for, or even more appropriately towards the One from whom all blessings flow.

Life can be a trial. Maybe you just found out you have breast cancer and your husband told you he's leaving you for another. Perhaps you just discovered your thirteen year old daughter has been having sex resulting in a pregnancy and your son started doing heroine. These things are real, folks. Sometimes life brings difficulties one at a time; a pace that is manageable, however, there are times and lives that are full of nothing but difficulty. How do we give thanks when we are careening down a one way street the wrong way?

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB)

I brought this verse up a few weeks ago. Whether you are a Christ follower or an agnostic; a Muslim or an atheist, this verse can be taken to heart. With so much media input it is easy to get focused on the bad - murder, suicide, mental illness, disease, bombings and death permeate our news feed and therein lies the problem, we are feeding on the bad, rather than feasting on the good.

So, how exactly do we feed on the good? One bite at a time. Much to my hubby's chagrin I am always asking him, "What are you thankful for?" It is especially pertinent when things are stressful at work, or we are having issues in the family or he is just feeling like he has nothing left. As much as it drives him crazy, it does help his mind to move from that which is bothering him, to He that is!

I have always felt that gratitude changes the attitude, but it wasn't until I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp that it really came home. Here is a little description of the book on Goodreads with links for purchasing. (I do not receive any kickback for recommending this book, I just think it is a fabulous book that everyone should read.)

And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.
— Ann Voskamp - One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully...

Just as a child learns to walk, one baby step at a time, we can learn to be thankful, one bite at a time. Did you take a hot shower this morning? Thank Him. Did you eat today? Thank Him. Did you get to turn up the thermostat? Thank Him. Did you drink clean water? Thank Him. Are you breathing without help? Thank Him. Are you on an oxygen machine? Thank Him for that technology to help you breath.

The prayers we weave into the matching of socks, the stirring of oatmeal, the reading of stories, they survive fire.
— Ann Voskamp

I love that! The fire is the trial of life, but our prayers of praise and thanksgiving and petition, survive any fire that life throws at us.

It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us..
— Ann Voskamp - One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully....

Is it dark where you are? Does it seem impossible to find anything to thank Him for....then be thankful for Him. You are not alone. He is with you. He will always be with you.

As we look forward to Thanksgiving day, why not try each day to keep a record of what you are thankful for. Use a small notebook, a sticky note pad or a calendar page. On the date for that day write: I am thankful for....and start listing things. Maybe you only write one or two things, but those are things you weren't thinking about before. If your mind starts going down that path of difficulty, write more things you are thankful for. Turn, turn, turn and be thankful. God will always meet you in that place.