Do You Have a Thankful Heart?


What if I were to tell you that I know what God’s will is for your life? Sound a little iffy?

Actually, I do. I can tell you that it’s God’s will for you to be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

That’s pretty clear. And I didn’t say it, God did.

So what does it mean to give thanks in all circumstances? We’ve heard sermons on how this doesn’t mean we are thankful FOR all circumstances, we just have to be thankful IN them. But really, what is the difference? No, we don’t have to say thank you God for cancer or for tragic accidents, but we can still say thank you God that we don’t walk through any of it alone. We can be thankful for what God will teach us as we walk through. No, we don’t have to like what is happening but we can still find something to be thankful for. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted so each life circumstance has some sort of value in eternity. We might never guess what that value is as we are in the midst of a terrible situation, but God knows the value and must have decided it was worth it or he would never have allowed it in the first place.

As I watched my mother die of cancer over an 18 month period, I had a hard time being thankful. But at her funeral, my father came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Was it worth it? I think if I could ask my mother today, as she sits at the Lord’s feet, she would say it was absolutely worth it.

How do you remain thankful when you are watching a loved one die an agonizing death? Or when a friend has lost a child? Or when a marriage has disintegrated beyond repair? God could have prevented those tragedies and yet, He allowed them. How can we be thankful?

We are thankful that God is still good. We are thankful that God is still a loving, caring God. We are thankful that God walks with us through every step of every journey he calls us to. Life is difficult. We can easily forget to look for the things to be thankful for.

I recently read a book called Lessons I Learned in the Dark: Steps to Walking by Faith, Not by Sight by Jennifer Rothschild. She talks about how she lost her sight at the age of 15 and how she’s learned to be thankful for her life in the 30 years since that time. In the book she says,  “I genuinely thank God for what I do have, because it’s so much greater than what I’ve lost.”

And, Dietrich Bonhoeffer perhaps summed it all up the best when he said,” Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.”

Life is bittersweet at times and we must never allow ourselves to hang on to the bitter at the expense of the sweet. Thank God today for where you are, because He is right there with you. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Be thankful for the morning!

Does Not Play Well With Others


When my boys were young there was a family we got together with on a regular basis. This family had young boys too and when our families were together they enjoyed playing with each other. All except one boy. It seemed strange, but when I would see this mother with just this particular boy, he would be well behaved and a pleasure to talk to. However, when he was together with his brother and several of my boys there was a transformation. He could not get along with any of them. He was constantly tattling and arguing and just being contrary. He was a perfect candidate for the label “does not play well with others.”

It’s sad, but I see this all the time in the adult world as well, and Christians are not exempt.  One of my boys works for a car dealership and he made a statement the other day that has made me think. He said it was disappointing to see how many of the rude, demanding and grouchy customers were the ones with Christian bumper stickers on their cars and their radios set to Christian radio stations.

We have no excuse to ever be contrary to anyone. If you check the scriptures there are four groups of people mentioned.

Our enemiesLuke 6:27: But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

Other believers. John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Neighbors. Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Strangers. Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

We would have a difficult time finding a person who is not in one of these groups. In every case, we are to show love and kindness. We should never be in a situation where we are the ones wearing the tee shirt that says ” doesn’t play well with others.” Be like Jesus to the people you encounter today.

Still Waters

Have you ever gone to a lake and skipped stones? What happens to the surface when you throw a stone into water? Or how about going on a windy day? What does the wind do to the water’s surface? In both cases, the surface of the water is disturbed.

I  recently read a quote from a German philosopher named Hans Margolius  that said “Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”

It’s easy to see the significance of this observation. When we are disturbed or anxious by the things that impact our lives, we have a distorted view of life. We can’t see things as they really are. We must be willing to calm our hearts, casting our cares on the Lord so that we may see and understand what God is trying to show us. The reflection is made clearer by our willingness to let go of our anxiety. The only way that happens is for us to drop our rocks and wait for the water to become still.

The Lord has much to teach us if we are willing to still the waters.

Proverbs 17:27  The one who knows much says little; an understanding person remains calm. (MSG)

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)

Take the Stairs

At the mall, my husband and I take the stairs as often as possible. We avoid the escalators and elevators because we know that we need the exercise whenever we can get it. Sometimes we get funny looks when we choose to climb a flight of stairs while other shoppers relax as they ride effortlessly to the next level. As they ride, those other folks can casually look around, taking in all the distractions happening in every direction. We, on the other hand, must pay attention to our climb or risk losing our footing and taking a tumble.

I believe our walk with the Lord is the same way. God didn’t design our walk with him to be a mindless ride where we glide along without a thought of where we’re going or how we are getting there. He intended for us invest some effort into growing in our relationship with him. He intended for us to pay attention to our daily walk with each step. We aren’t supposed to begin our life with Christ by taking that first step toward him as we take the first step on an escalator and then just relax and enjoy the ride.

The destination is important, but what we invest in the journey we take to get there is of immeasurable value.

Choose today to be intentional in your relationship with Christ. Choose today to take the stairs.

Philippians 3:12-14  Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

You Are Not a Know-It-All

The dictionary defines a know-it-all as someone who gives the impression of knowing everything. It’s not something anyone would want to be called. Why does it have such negative overtones? I think because we all know that we do NOT know it all and we resent or become annoyed with anyone who acts like they do. It’s an unspoken recognition that we are lacking in something. We can’t possibly know everything so why should anyone act like they do? We can feel threatened by someone who seems to know so much more than we do, especially if they seem to brag about it or flaunt it. It reminds us that we are always going to be imperfect and we don’t need any reminders in that area!

But there is One who is a know-it-all in the best sense of the term. He is called the Omniscient God for a reason. He truly knows everything.

A.W. Tozer said it this way: He knows in one free and effortless act all manner, all spirit, all relationships, all events.

God doesn’t have to try to understand because He already understands everything without a bit of effort.

When you are tired of trying to figure it out on your own, go to God. He already has the answer.

When your life seems to be unraveling and you don’t know what to do, go to God. He already has the answer.

When you’ve really messed up and think there is no way to fix it, go to God. With Him, all things are possible because He already knows everything about your situation.

Don’t hide from God. He already knows anyway. Run to Him and let him heal your hurts and restore your relationships. He’s waiting for you. He is the Know-It-All who loves you.

Psalm 147:5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.

Do You Need a Do-Over?


Have you ever done or said something and instantly wished you could have a do-over? That you could take back what you said or make a different choice in your actions? We’ve all had times when we’ve made wrong choices.  Times when we would like to rewind and start again. But we can’t. That’s not how it works in the natural world.

Wouldn’t it be great if it worked that way in everyday life?  If every time we did something wrong or unwise we could just rewind and try it again? Yes? Well, actually, it wouldn’t.  What would happen is that we would never learn from our failures and never realized what Jesus has done for us. We would get too comfortable with just hitting the rewind button and going back to start over again.

Jesus specializes in do-overs. But they aren’t really do-overs in the sense that we can rewind and do something different. What He does is give us a second chance to get it right. He allows us to try again and do things differently with His help. He allows us to be forgiven of the wrong and move forward as though it never happened.

He also gives us grace to face the consequences of our actions. He walks with us as we mend relationships. He helps us learn and grow from our mistakes. Certainly we are to be wise and try to make good choices in the first place, but there is always mercy when we don’t get it right.

Grace and mercy are the gifts Jesus gives to us to help us live on this earth. He knows we are fallible humans and He is there to help as soon as we ask. All we have to do is ask.

Lamentations 3:22-23 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

To Know in Your Knower

flowersIMG_2709What does it mean to hear the voice of God? It’s an age-old question. Sometimes you listen so hard and it seems like all you hear is silence. Sometimes you think you’ve heard more than one voice and it seems difficult to know which voice is the real deal.

I’ve had my children ask me, “How do you know when God is speaking to you? What does His voice sound like?” Of course there isn’t any audible sound, at least not when He speaks to me. But there are times when I know that I’ve heard from the Holy Spirit as surely as if He had spoken aloud.

I’ve explained it to my sons by telling them that I just know in my knower. I can’t pinpoint where that is exactl—it’s somewhere between my head and my heart. It really can’t be confined to one or the other because both have been known to want their own way and not be totally honest with me!

I remember a time when one of my boys asked permission to go somewhere. I’d prayed about it and felt sure that the answer should be no. Logically there was no real reason I could give him and my heart really wanted to let him go. I knew he would be disappointed but there was just this deep sense that it was not to be. He pressed me for a reason and I finally told him that when you walk with the Lord for a long time you develop a place inside that is for God alone. It’s not your mind or your heart, it is God’s place. It’s where God speaks and if you are willing to quiet both your heart and your mind, you will be able to hear God’s voice. I told him that I trusted that God was speaking about the situation and I knew enough to listen even when I didn’t understand.

I recently read an article that was trying to explain the difference between your heart and your mind. It said, “If it feels good it’s your heart and if it feels right it’s your mind.” I suppose that could be true, but it isn’t always helpful.  Sometimes what is right doesn’t feel right and certainly doesn’t feel good so how can it be either mind or heart?

Have you ever needed to make a decision that just wasn’t fitting into logical arguments and you also  felt clueless as  to  what your heart really wanted? That’s when you must direct both to be still and listen with your knower. God will speak. He’s waiting for the clamor to cease so you can hear.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Go the Extra Mile

Simon of CyreneWhere did the phrase “go the extra mile” come from? Actually, it refers to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

In this passage, Jesus was referring to a Roman law called angareia. According to this law, a Roman soldier had the right to force a civilian to carry the soldier’s packs for a mile. Their packs could weigh nearly 70 lbs. so it was no small thing to be drafted for this duty. This law was also used when a soldier enlisted Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for Jesus. But they could not demand more than a mile. That would be a crime against Rome.

Jesus said to go the extra mile. No one would expect someone to go to all that extra trouble. No one but Jesus.

Why did Jesus say we should be willing to go two miles if we are forced to go one? Why would he want us to go out of our way like that? It show’s the heart of Jesus. Being willing to go above and beyond what is required or expected. Being willing to do something beyond what is deserved. Being willing to show kindness to someone who may have treated you wrongly. In fact, perhaps the act of kindness would be directed toward your  worst enemy.

In what ways have you experienced someone going the extra mile for you? How did it make you feel? If we do a kindness to someone not based on whether they deserve it, we open the door for the power of God to take over.

No one really expects that we pray for those who persecute us or that we show love to our enemies. No one except Jesus. He asks us to go above and beyond. He asks us to go the extra mile.

Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a fun childhood game that we’ve all played. When I was a child I remember playing this game in my house with an older girl who lived next door. She was already in middle school when I was just beginning elementary school, so I felt very special when she came and played with me. I loved every minute that she spent with me. I especially loved playing hide and seek. And I remember another form of hide and seek that I played when it was time for her to go home. I hid her shoes so she had to stay a little longer!

As we grew older, the neighborhood kids would play more elaborate forms of hide and seek, playing in the yards of neighbors on our block. There was one boy who didn’t want to play by the rules and instead of hiding, he would go home and have a snack while the rest of us continued to hunt for him with no success. Finally we caught on to his trick and made him promise to play fair or go home.

As a child I loved to hide and try to be clever so I’d be the last one found. But later as a parent of young children I found a different aspect to the game. When we would play with our little boys, it was more fun to see the look of triumph on their faces when they found us so we learned not to hide too well. We wanted to be found.

God loves to play hide and seek with us. He says that when we hide, we can feel safe. We can hide in the shelter of His wings. He doesn’t want us to hide from him like Adam and Eve did. He wants us to hide in Him.

When God hides, it’s for the purpose of drawing us to himself. He says that we will definitely find him if we seek him with all our hearts. This is a little different than what we played as children. Instead of one person seeking and everyone else hiding, it is the opposite.  In this version God is the only one hiding and all of mankind is seeking. And the greatest mystery is that He wants to be found! The God of the Universe wants you to find Him. Each day we can begin again to seek him with all our heart and we will be rewarded by sweet fellowship with Him when we find Him.

Psalm 119:114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.

Sunshine Above the Clouds

sun-above-the-cloudsWinter is sometimes a dreary time. Dark days, overcast and void of color. Sometimes after a few days of that sort of weather it is such a relief to see the sun. After the clouds clear and the sun is shining in a brilliant blue sky we just feel better.

Life can sometimes seem like those gray foggy winter days. Like we just need to see the sunshine for a little while. Whether we are facing difficult circumstances or trying to remain faithful to do what God has called us to do day after day, we can get weary and feel like we need refreshed.

If you’ve ever flown in an airplane on a cloudy day you know the feeling of climbing through the clouds and seeing the sun turn the clouds, gray from below, into a dazzling white from above. The sun was always shining, you just couldn’t see if because of the clouds. You never doubt that the sun is still up there, somewhere, even if days and weeks go by without a glimpse of it. You never wonder if it is still shining you are certain it is and that you will eventually see it again. The clouds will clear and the sun will shine.

Isn’t that just like life? Don’t we have dark days when we long to get a glimpse of God’s goodness? When we feel like all is overcast and gloomy? But we must not despair. Just because we can’t see God’s hand, doesn’t mean he isn’t working.

Just like the assurance we have that above the clouds the sun is still shining, we can also have assurance that beyond our gray circumstances, the Son is still shining as well. The Bible says that one day we will no longer depend on the sun or the moon for light. The Lord will be our everlasting light. He will shine over us for eternity.

Isaiah 60:19 No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory.

When we get discouraged, we can imagine ourselves rising above the clouds where the sun is still shining. We can put our hope in our Heavenly Father, who’s light is never extinguished.