Gratitude, Holidays (Other), Prayer, Thanks/Thanksgiving

Throwback Thursday ~ 25 Things I Forgot to Thank God For

Originally published March 13, 2015

25 things

I’ve just been in a funk, lately. Nothing out of the ordinary is wrong, but it’s been raining for eleventy two days in a row, and the constant darkness and dreariness seems to have wormed its way into my psyche and, I noticed recently, even into my prayer life.

A couple of days ago, I started out my prayer time with a huge sigh followed by a bunch of wimpering and whining about nothing of consequence. I was just moody. And I didn’t feel like praying.

And then God graciously brought a lovely little snippet of Scripture to my mind:

give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Want to know God’s will for your life? There it is: give thanks in all circumstances. When you get a new car. When you catch your spouse cheating on you. When you’re on a glorious vacation. When you get laid off from work. When you’re happy. When you’re sad. When you’re in the mood, and when you’re not in the mood.

Give thanks in – not necessarily for, but in – all circumstances.

Well, this was certainly a circumstance. Why not give gratitude a try? I was in the car headed to pick up my boys from school, and I decided to spend the entire twenty minute drive just thanking God for things.

I started with the big stuff: salvation, forgiveness for my sin, times when God has miraculously provided, specific answers to prayer…

I was starting to slow down and I still had about half the drive left. Surely there was more to be thankful for! And that’s when it struck me. How often do we forget to thank God for all the (in our eyes) tiny little unnoticed things He does for us every day? We thank Him for the miracles, but what about the mundane? What “little things” had I forgotten to thank God for?

1. Air conditioning. I live in the South. Enough said.

2. I know where my next meal is coming from.

3. Social media and e-mail. I can keep up with far off loved ones, and I’ve “met” some awfully nice people.

4. I can see. I can hear. I can think clearly. I can walk.

5. I live in a country where Christianity is not yet against the law.

6. Sunsets.

7. Cute baby animals.

8. I can read and write. That’s not the case for women, globally.

9. I was able to conceive and carry my children to term.

10. Warm quilts on cold nights.

11. The Bible is available in my native language, and I have several copies of it.

12. I have no fear of suicide bombers in my community.

13. The beach.

14. A crawfish boil with friends.

15. Reliable electricity.

16. Hearing my children sing when they think no one is listening.

17. My husband is a believer and is good to me.

18. Mountains. I miss mountains.

19. Indoor plumbing and clean drinking water.

20. Laughing hysterically with my family.

21. Level-headed discernment ministries.

22. Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.

23. A roof over my head.

24. Home schooling.

25. People who are kind (or crazy) enough to read my blog articles all the way to the end.

Well, that was my list, and I think I’ll keep looking for things to add to it. Thanking God for the “little things,” realizing they might be big things to others, and recognizing the pervasiveness of God’s blessings and provision cheered me up and was truly a worship experience.

What kinds of things would you put on your list?

Gratitude, Holidays (Other), Mailbag, Thanks/Thanksgiving

The Mailbag: When Negative Nelly Comes to Thanksgiving Dinner

Originally published November 11, 2019

What are some ways we can remain thankful when dealing with a family member that is quite often a “negative nelly”?

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for most of us, that means spending time with family members. Family members who sometimes rub us the wrong way. How to maintain an attitude of gratitude while Negative Nellie natters on? Try this:

1. Remember that God created Nellie in His image just like He created you, and keep that thought pinned to the front of your brain whenever you’re engaged in conversation with her. This is someone God loves, and He desires for her to know Him despite all her faults and foibles the very same way God loves you and desires for you to know Him.

2. And right next to that first thought at the front of your brain, pin this one up too:

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Luke 6:31

It’s the Golden Rule we’ve been hearing since childhood: “Treat other people the way you would want to be treated.” Although I frequently fail at carrying out this command, one thing that helps me is to remember that for every person who gets on my nerves, there are probably ten people whose nerves I’m getting on. How would I want those people to treat me?

3. The more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced that the longing of many folks’ hearts is just to be heard. We don’t take a lot of time to simply sit and listen to others any more. That leaves many people feeling lonely and invisible. Sometimes the best way we can show someone she is loved is just to hear her out.

Additionally, taking the time to listen to someone benefits you in a couple of ways.

First, you might gain some insight into why Nellie is constantly complaining or pessimistic. Maybe she’s lonely, or in a lot of pain from an illness, or there are problems in her marriage. If you get a better grip on what the underlying problems are, maybe there’s a way you could serve her, help her, counsel her, or pray for her.

Second, when you invest time in listening to someone, she’s much more likely to listen to you when you speak to her. (Which, of course, should not be your main motivation for listening to her.) And that means you’ll hopefully have a much more receptive audience with her when you…

4. Share the gospel with Nellie. If she’s lost, that’s one of the reasons she’s being negative. She’s burdened down with sin and its consequences and she doesn’t have the hope, joy, and peace that only Christ can give. Be kind, compassionate, and understanding, and steer the conversation toward the cross.

5. Pray three ways:

•If you know you’re going to be seeing Nellie at Thanksgiving dinner, start praying for her, the needs in her life, and how you can minister to her, now. It will prepare your heart for interacting with her, it will change your heart attitude toward her, and it will help you to continue being thankful instead of getting bogged down in Nellie’s negativity.

•Stay thankful by offering a silent prayer of gratitude to God whenever Nellie starts nay-saying. Thank Him for giving you the opportunity to minister to her, thank Him for protecting you from whatever circumstances she’s complaining about, thank Him for her.

•If Nellie has been going on in a negative vein for a while, take a moment when she pauses to offer a few genuine words of kindness and compassion and then ask if you can pray for her about the situation, right there, right then. Don’t do this often enough to be annoying, but do it more than once, if the opportunity presents itself. She will either be touched by your compassion and reminded to be thankful instead of grousing, or she may be averse to the idea and stop complaining to you so you won’t keep asking to pray for her. Either way, win-win. (And, of course, you can still pray for her in your heart.)

6. Set an example of thankfulness. Before Nellie even has a chance to open her mouth in negativity, you start – and set the tone for – the conversation. Tell her the latest in your life and remark on what you were thankful for in that circumstance. When someone else, or even Nellie, is telling her story, gently “bring out the blessing” in her tale: “Wow, God was so good to heal you from that cold!” “How wonderful that your son took the time out of his busy schedule to come visit you!” “I know how annoying it is when your cat runs away, but it’s so awesome that your neighbor found her and brought her back to you!”.

7. If Nellie is a Believer, it might be time for a gentle, biblical rebuke and encouragement to thankfulness. You’ll have to be extra vigilant to use godly wisdom in doing this at a family gathering (and you may want to just wait until after the holidays), choosing just the right moment, being careful to speak to Nellie privately and to cloak your words in kindness and understanding (see #2). (Also, keep in mind that sometimes the things we do are so habitual we don’t even realize we’re doing them. She might be totally clueless that she’s constantly complaining or looking at every glass as half-empty.) A great way to start a conversation like this is with a few questions. You might say something like this:

Nellie, I was just wondering, are you doing OK?

Of course. Why do you ask?

Well, from the things you’ve been telling me (cite an example or two) – maybe you don’t even realize this – but it sounds like you might be struggling a little with joy and thankfulness. Is there anything I can do to help? Any way I can pray for you? As your sister in Christ, I love you and I want to be an encouragement to you. I’m concerned that you might be experiencing some bitterness or discontent in your heart, and I just wanted to step in, offer you some love, help, and encouragement, and hopefully help you keep that bitterness from taking root. I want that joy and peace for you that are ours in Christ Jesus. I want you to be able to give thanks in all circumstances. Is there any way I could be helpful to you with that?

It can be difficult, depressing, and frustrating to be around someone who always sees the black cloud behind the silver lining. But if we keep in mind that, as Believers, it’s really not about our feelings of discomfort, it’s about God presenting us with an opportunity to show love and minister the gospel to someone, we can face those negative nellies in our lives with a whole new Christ-centered perspective. Happy Thanksgiving!


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Faith, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Prayer, Sin, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Hamartiology Hits the Homefront

 Originally published March 1, 2013

hamartiology

I admit it. I struggle against sin. A lot of sin. Often.

Sometimes it’s a small, easily won skirmish. Sometimes it’s a hard fought, bloody battle. Yesterday, God helped me take a hill.

For a couple of weeks, I’d been feeding on this sort of casserole of worry, doubt, fear, unbelief, distrust, and frustration with the Lord. I needed Him to act, and He wasn’t acting. Every time I tried to pray about the issues that were tempting me into this mélange of anxiety, I ended up feeling even more anxious.

So I quit praying about it. Smart and spiritually mature, huh?

“Lord, You know what all these issues are. Please, just handle it.”

From time to time, it can be helpful to pray like that. But not when you’re using it as a semi-spiritual cover for avoidance, which is what I was doing.

Yesterday, I finally heard the bugle sound the call to arms. I felt God pushing me toward the battle line. The urgency to pray through this mess was absolutely compelling.

So I laid it all out before God. Every last bit of it.

And as I did, conviction of sin rolled in.

Sometimes we think of conviction as a negative thing. It makes us feel bad. Guilty. Humiliated.

But conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit is really a good thing for the Christian. It gives us pinpoint accuracy and clarity on exactly how we’re offending God. It gets everything out in the open and brings things to a head so that we can repent, be made right with Him, and start fresh. None of us is so weak that we can’t deal with a little guilt if it pushes us up and over the wall of repentance to reconciliation. Buck up, soldier.

As I continued to pray, God began bringing all manner of applicable Scripture to my mind (this is how God speaks to us—through His written word). I remembered how God dealt with the ungrateful, complaining Israelites in the wilderness. I also remembered what David said in Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,

I realized my sin was a double edged sword of commission and omission. It wasn’t just what I was doing—doubting and worrying—it was also what I wasn’t doing—being thankful and remembering how God had been faithful to me in the past.

convection_weather2It reminded me of the way wind is formed. Warm air rises into the atmosphere, and cold air rushes in to fill the void left by the warm air. Voids don’t last long in our spiritual lives. Something is always rushing in to fill them.

At the end of a long day of fighting, my doubt, fear, unbelief, worry, distrust, and frustration lay on the battlefield as bloody casualties, replaced by fresh, mighty warriors of faith, gratitude, love, and remembrance.

Sin. It’s the only battle you can win by surrendering.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from
everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Psalm 103

Faith, Gratitude, Prayer, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Welfare Check

Originally Published March 30, 2011

welfare check“Why can’t You just give me this so I don’t have to ask anymore?”

I know.  It sounds like a pretty spiritually immature thing to pray.  But to be honest, I was weary of taking this ongoing problem to the Lord every time it reared its ugly head.  Why couldn’t He just fix it permanently so I didn’t have to deal with it anymore?

Because I don’t like dealing with problems.  They make me uncomfortable.  I don’t like being uncomfortable.  I’d rather God would just make the problems go away and then everything would be blue skies and rainbows for me all the time.  Just the way I like it.

Even the most liberal Liberal has heard a story or two about the welfare system that made him raise an eyebrow.  As a radical, right-wing, uptight, Bible-thumping, evangelical Conservative, I’ll admit I’ve groused about the problems with the system a time or two.  I think one of the things that tends to bother most people about some of the stories we hear is the sense of entitlement a few (certainly not all) welfare recipients can develop.  It’s as though they are owed a nice lifestyle without having to lift a finger.  They take what they receive for granted, and whatever they are given is never enough.  They always want more.  Nicer.  Better.  No gratitude, just gimme.

Hmmm…
That hits uncomfortably close to home.

You see, I’m living in God’s welfare system.

When was the last time I had to ask God for air to breathe?  Or to make my heart beat?  Or for clean water to drink, bathe, and do laundry in?  Or food for my table?

When was the last time I even thought about the fact that I can think clearly enough to thank Him that I don’t have a psychiatric disorder or a brain injury?  How often do I get down on my knees and praise God that I can get back up again?  I can walk.  I can talk.  I can see.  I can hear.

God has blessed my family with six beautiful, healthy children, four of whom I was able to conceive, carry, and bear, relatively complication free.

I have a wonderful, Godly husband and great father to my children who isn’t a drug addict or a gambling addict, or an alcoholic, or a workaholic, or unfaithful or abusive to me.  We live in a nice house, on a nice street, in a nice safe neighborhood.

God has blessed me with an extended family as well as a church family who both love me in spite of my numerous faults.  He’s even given me the humbling honor of being able to serve Him in ministry and as an author.

But I always want more.  Nicer.  Better.  No gratitude, just gimme.

Paul said in II Corinthians 12:7-9 that God gave him a thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself.  Frequently our focus in that passage is on speculating as to what, exactly, the “thorn” was.  We fail to notice in the next verse that that thorn kept Paul coming back to the Lord, crying out to Him again and again.  And that’s right where Paul needed to be.

Sometimes that’s one of the purposes of our problems.  God has blessed us with so many things we can forget we need Him.  Until there’s a problem.  And that problem can drive us back to crying out to Him in dependence in a way that no blessing ever could.

So maybe it’s time for a little welfare check:

1. Have you thanked God lately–really thanked Him–for all the blessings we tend to take for granted– food, clothing, freedom, a vehicle, etc.?  Do you live as though God owes you these things?

2. In what ways do problems tend to drive you towards, or away from, God?

3. What does your prayer life look like when everything is going well in your life?  When problems arise?  How can you apply Philippians 4:6 in your prayer life?

Faith, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Prayer, Sin

Hamartiology Hits the Homefront

hamartiology

I admit it. I struggle against sin. A lot of sin. Often.

Sometimes it’s a small, easily won skirmish. Sometimes it’s a hard fought, bloody battle. Yesterday, God helped me take a hill.

For a couple of weeks, I’d been feeding on this sort of casserole of worry, doubt, fear, unbelief, distrust, and frustration with the Lord. I needed Him to act, and He wasn’t acting. Every time I tried to pray about the issues that were tempting me into this mélange of anxiety, I ended up feeling even more anxious.

So I quit praying about it. Smart and spiritually mature, huh?

“Lord, You know what all these issues are. Please, just handle it.”

From time to time, it can be helpful to pray like that. But not when you’re using it as a semi-spiritual cover for avoidance, which is what I was doing.

Yesterday, I finally heard the bugle sound the call to arms. I felt God pushing me toward the battle line. The urgency to pray through this mess was absolutely compelling.

So I laid it all out before God. Every last bit of it.

And as I did, conviction of sin rolled in.

Sometimes we think of conviction as a negative thing. It makes us feel bad. Guilty. Humiliated.

But conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit is really a good thing for the Christian. It gives us pinpoint accuracy and clarity on exactly how we’re offending God. It gets everything out in the open and brings things to a head so that we can repent, be made right with Him, and start fresh. None of us is so weak that we can’t deal with a little guilt if it pushes us up and over the wall of repentance to reconciliation. Buck up, soldier.

As I continued to pray, God began bringing all manner of applicable Scripture to my mind (this is how God speaks to us—through His written word). I remembered how God dealt with the ungrateful, complaining Israelites in the wilderness. I also remembered what David said in Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,

I realized my sin was a double edged sword of commission and omission. It wasn’t just what I was doing—doubting and worrying—it was also what I wasn’t doing—being thankful and remembering how God had been faithful to me in the past.

convection_weather2It reminded me of the way wind is formed. Warm air rises into the atmosphere, and cold air rushes in to fill the void left by the warm air. Voids don’t last long in our spiritual lives. Something is always rushing in to fill them.

At the end of a long day of fighting, my doubt, fear, unbelief, worry, distrust, and frustration lay on the battlefield as bloody casualties, replaced by fresh, mighty warriors of faith, gratitude, love, and remembrance.

Sin. It’s the only battle you can win by surrendering.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from
everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Psalm 103