Monthly Archives: November 2015

Giving Thanks

Can I admit something to you on this dreary Black Friday? Oh it isn’t that I am a secret shopaholic or that I got up at 4AM to stand in line to purchase a television. This is something that I am really not proud of. And it certainly isn’t a part of my life I want to highlight.

But I want to share it with you, just in case in might help you.

I realized last night while praying before my Thanksgiving meal I don’t thank God often enough.

thank_you_by_loish-d8boqn5Oh, I manage every once in a while to thank Him for the big things. My husband, my dog, the house I live in, the fact I get to live in my favorite state. But when it comes down to where the rubber hits the road, I skid away from thankfulness.

This morning, I grabbed my journal because it seemed like a great way to start the day. Normally, I journal at night, but today I wanted to begin with it – to ask God to bless my day in advance instead of reviewing my day with Him at night. And in the middle of asking Him to use me today, it struck me how often I ask Him for things instead of thanking Him.

I rush through my day so intensely, I rarely take time to thank Him for some of the blessings He gives me. Like the delightful taste of my morning cup of tea. Or the comforting warmth of my slippers keeping my feet balmy on the cold wooden floors. The soft whoosh of my dog’s tail on the cabinets as I prepare her meals. The things that make our lives rich and beautiful, but that we often don’t notice or appreciate.

Instead my prayers seem to be “Help me, Lord. Give me, Lord. Please, Lord, provide this thing for me.” I tell myself to send up short prayers in the middle of my day to thank God, but I rarely do this. I even journal about the deep desire in my heart to develop this habit. My faulty attempts fall short.

I wish I could say I was learning how to do this much better than I currently am. It’s as if all roads lead back to me and not to God’s glory.

I have done things I never dreamed I could accomplish. Like marrying the man of my dreams when I thought love would never bloom, traveling to Hong Kong, moving to California, writing a book. I remember moments that were so uplifting I couldn’t hold my joy inside. But rarely in that moment of exquisite delight did I take time to thank God, even though I knew as the Creator of joy, the blessings came from Him. Somehow I miss the power of the short prayer in 2 Corinthians 9:15: Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

This year, I am bound and determined to thank God as often as I can. Because during those times when I wonder where He’s gone, why He’s not more present to me, I realize it is mostly because all I’ve been doing is praying about what I want and not thanking Him for what He’s given me.

As the season of gift-giving starts, I’m preparing my heart so God gives me the eyes to see the gifts that gather in the small, mundane, everyday places of my life where I can easily say, “Thank you, Lord.” Won’t you join me? 

Silence is Loud

I was exhausted. Not the kind that is easily remedied by a quick nap. For several weeks, I’d faced one stress, one disappointment after another. I was pushed to the limits tired. Stressed. Drained. Completely used up.

730So, the timing was perfect. I’d signed up to attend a silence retreat months ago, before the line of dominoes fell creating my personal sense of overwhelming fatigue mixed with hopelessness. As an extrovert, I approached a day of complete silence with its own sensation of apprehension. No talking for hours upon hours? How would I ever survive? Because I like to talk so much, my friends laughed and doubted I’d complete the day, but my heart promised I needed this. (And besides, I reasoned, if I really couldn’t handle the silence, I knew where my car was parked and could beat a hasty departure.)

At first, it wasn’t easy – just sitting alone. I had positioned myself in the warmth of the bright sunlight near a beautiful fountain. As I closed my eyes listening to the water gurgle from one level to the next, I felt lonely and a little angry with myself. A silence retreat isn’t about loneliness, it is about solitude. It wasn’t about remoteness from God; it was about wrapping yourself in the nearness of God. Why didn’t I feel God near?

At the beginning of the retreat, the director gave us some suggestions on activities that would assist us in making the best of our time. One of them was to concentrate on a verse, just one verse. Frustrated with my isolation from God, I picked one of my favorites: Ephesians 3:20 – 21: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask of imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

My first thought was selfish – “I don’t know; I can imagine and ask for a lot…” But then it struck me. The simple truth was my exhaustion can’t be solved without God. And even though concentrating on one verse was the goal, my mind couldn’t help but wander through a host of people in Scripture who lamented about their tired souls. David, for example, wrote countless Psalms about being weary. Elijah got so exhausted after standing up to Jezebel’s gods, he sank into a deep depression and prayed for death. Even Jesus often went off to a solitary place to pray.

Opening up my eyes to watch the regal palm trees sway in the wind, a thought softly landed in my heart. On my journey of faith, Jesus is the only one who gives unconditionally, expecting nothing in return. The more I ask of Him, the more He gives. Silently I cried out to Him and imagined myself sitting exhausted at His feet. But instead of feeling drained, I felt Him filling me up with His love. Throughout my life, God has taken everything I have brought to Him – the screams, the questions, the tears, the lack of confidence – and handled it. He gave me grace. He brought me strength, He fashioned a way out of torment into His peace. And even though I hadn’t originally felt Him with me that day, He was there. He has always filled my days with His presence for nothing can separate us from His love.

While my exhaustion had deep, physical causes, I also realized a component was a lack of trust in God. When I’ve approached Him with reverence, when I’ve honestly told him the concerns of my heart, God has shown me time and again, He is faithful and true no matter what is happening in my life. During the hardest moments in my life, I’ve felt Him enfolding me. During my emotional letdowns, I’ve learned if I trust Him, He gives me insurmountable peace and joy.

And on that day, the silence wasn’t dreadful, but inviting. For in my solitude with God, He reminded me He will use my story, with both its heartbreaks and victories, to bring glory back to Him. He will use my life as a blessing to others. He will teach me how to live freely and lightly in every challenge by focusing on Him.

The day ended far too soon. The silence had been loud. For I left encouraged knowing God will make my paths straight and use me for His purposes. With my eyes wide open and my heart receptive to Him, I will rest in my Heavenly Father despite what life may bring.