Think On These Things ~ John 21

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 

Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 

Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 

He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 

That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 

The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 

So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 

Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 

This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 

(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 

Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 

So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Some Day

Some days I don’t know whether to apologize to my children for the kind of parent I am being or call my parents and apologize for the kind of child I was.

I should probably do both.

Some days, when the weather is so very gray and rainy like it was yesterday, I just want to read and cook or bake. And not necessarily anything good for you but leaning more on the indulgent side. I didn’t bake though. A Florida friend is coming to visit today and I will probably make a pound cake. Oddly enough what I am looking forward to the most is the smell. A freshly baked cake smells almost as good as bread coming out of the oven.

On Sunday Rob read a familiar passage from the last chapter of the book of John and I have been thinking about it the last couple of days. The disciples had been fishing all night but they had no fish to show for it. Jesus, whom they did not recognize at first, told them to put their net out on the right side of the boat and boy, did they score a mess of fish! And more importantly they recognized Christ. Peter was so excited he jumped into the water to get to Him as fast as he could. Once they arrived at the shore the Bible says this,

John 21:9

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.”

That’s what jumped out to me. Do you see it? Jesus already had fish but He invited the disciples to bring their fish to the table, so to speak, after instructing them on where to catch some.

God suffers no lack yet He graciously invites us to join Him in the work of restoring and renewing the world. Not only that, He provides all that we need and equips us to do so.

How humbling is that? We should approach our days with the trembling excitement of a child being invited into the kitchen to help create the most unbelievably delicious fare.

Someday we will see ever so clearly all the ways that God allowed us to be part of His redemptive work. I think we might be surprised at how He used our to-do lists.

Hidden Beauty

Rob mows the yard and pasture about once every ten days or so right now. In the summer it will more than likely be a weekly event. What I have been amazed by is how very quickly the clover pops back up. We get large patches of them all over our property and I enjoy their sweet smell.

I did recently learn something new about the plant. I thought the flower was the puffy white part and it sort of is but actually each one of those “petals” is considered an individual flower. Pretty cool, huh?

I am fascinated by wildflowers in general. I had noticed some tiny little purple flowers growing in the field while walking the dogs and grabbed my camera and extension tubes real quick so that I could photograph them before Rob and the mower made their way over to do their thing.

It’s like a whole secret world tucked away in grass and you might miss it if you aren’t trying to figure out if your dog is eating worms and such.

There were also tiny white flowers.

I really love moving in so close and creating such a narrow point of view…isolating such small details. I think what intrigues me the most is the knowledge that God creates such hidden beauty knowing that it isn’t always noticed or appreciated. Yet, he made them anyway and drops them in random fields. But they’re there declaring his goodness and beauty.

It’s Holy Week and it started by a declaration war. We tend to view Christ riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey humbly and graciously accepting the praise of the people. Our idea of the beauty of this scene is a soft and gentle watercolor.

In truth, he came riding in declaring himself victor of a war they didn’t even realize was about to be fought. They would see no beauty in the twisted crown of thorns or the jagged wooden cross but their seemingly unholy loveliness would pierce the darkness of sin and death to reveal the greatest beauty ever seen…the empty tomb.

God is the master Creator and from the beginning of time his delight has been to tuck beauty into the most uncommon and unexpected places. There is a beauty and truth and goodness in every circumstance you may be facing because he is there. Look for it. Look for him. And rejoice that your King lives and reigns.

Monday Musings

Monday: Second day of the week
Musings: meditation; thoughtfully abstracted

Forgiveness is more than just dismissing someone from your life in much the same way as submission is more than just letting the other person have their way.

Mature community is considering and pursuing the good of the whole body.

“Nothing wrong with it” is not the same as declaring something good.

Love is our motivation and the means by which we are to do things.

Having grown children come home for a visit is the absolute best.

Doing a hard thing is well, hard. It is not an excuse to not do what needs doing though.

Learning something new, especially when it is replacing an old way of doing something, takes time and I can get impatient. Lightroom, I am looking at you 👀

Industrious: constantly, regularly, or habitually active or occupied
Seems like a good thing to aspire to be, yes? But someone can be constantly, regularly, and habitually active or occupied with things that are not necessarily profitable or godly. I like including an obsolete definition that also defines it as being skillful and ingenious but of course the same problem rears its head. I can be a skillful and ingenious cat burglar but that is not a good thing at all, is it?
The what of our industry is just as important as the actual being of it.

I think I am going to dwell on that last musing a lot this week.

In other news…

Hays helped walk me through using the drone I got for Christmas again while he was here this weekend and yesterday Rob and I got it out and played with it.
I may or may not have shared this publicly but the first time I tried to use it by myself back in January I crashed into the house and we had to send it back to the company to get fixed 😬 Thank goodness for good insurance and understanding husbands!
I’m going to keep taking my time and learning to use it when I have Rob with me as backup. I have a terrible sense of direction and get nervous with the controller (You are only supposed to use your thumbs, for heaven’s sake!) so he keeps me calm and able to focus.

My first two real drone shots ~

An aerial shot of our home.

I really love this shot. It does make me laugh though because I thought I had flown the drone straight across the street from our house but it seems I actually took a hard right and went down the street a ways 😂 I told you I have a terrible sense of direction! Someone has a lovely pond in their backyard, don’t they?

Happy Monday, y’all!


Being Fruitful

Quick! What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase, “…be fruitful and multiply”? For most of us we think of pregnant bellies and sweet squishy babies and obviously it is a right thing to think. After all, we know that is what God was saying to Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis and the word multiply literally means to grow in number. Here, Adam. I made this woman for you. And I have made you both in such a way that you can make more of you. Now go fill the earth with more of you and take dominion over everything.

I want to point out a couple of things on the baby having side first and then back track to look at something I think is often overlooked or overshadowed in that verse.

Firstly, in this day and age that is abundant in birth control options (some that are outright sinful and others that aren’t) I do think as a society, even among Christians, childbearing has seemingly become an option that one can exercise or not depending on how you might feel about it. But I think it is pretty clear that choosing to be willfully childless is not the way of God’s people. Anyone can have babies. But for Christians, why we have babies and how we raise them, should be vastly different from unbelievers. In reality this is true about everything. We christians do the same life things, the same activities, as people who do not know Christ as King. But because we do know Him as King it is supposed to look different in our lives. It is glorified…we reveal Christ in what we do because we do all things for His glory, to make Him known.

I do, however, believe there is a lot more theology behind “be fruitful and multiply” than just having babies and that brings me to a second thing. I do not believe this is a command to everyone to have all of the babies. We have five children. To some that is a lot. To others that is about half of a lot. But here’s the thing. God doesn’t prescribe a specific number of required offspring. To some couples He grants life for one child. For another He opens the womb for more. Sometimes someone may wish they had more. For others God seems to let them decide how many and for still others He closes the womb and opens their hearts to adoption. I certainly cannot fully grasp His providence in these matters but I know that He graciously invites us in and allows us to use wisdom and discernment in planning the size of our families so that we can faithfully tend the children we are given.

I realize a lot more can be said and teased out on this subject but I’m going to leave that part of the verse now and back up to what I have been thinking through this past week. It’s the phrase, “be fruitful” that has been tumbling around in my head.

You see, I think it is a mistake to lumb that in with the multiply part as if the whole thing is only talking about having babies. It would seem to me that if we do that we are condensing down the mandate to what is a relatively few short years out of our lives. At fifty-one my child bearing years are done so if the mission God gave humanity all the way back in the garden is just about having children what does that mean for the rest of my life? What did it mean for the years before I could have children?

A definition for the word fruitful is abundantly productive. If we are looking at it through the Genesis chapter one lens then we know we are made in God’s image. God, the Creator, is telling us to be creative, to produce something. But what? We are not all artist or musicians and what have you. Not everyone is a gardener or an accomplished cook. Are we exempt if we aren’t talented or skilled? I don’t think so. I think we may just need to think a little outside of the box in ways we can be produce fruit in our lives.

I find this quote by Edith Schaeffer very helpful in thinking creatively in how we can produce fruit in our lives ~

There are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact-that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us.” 

Can’t play an instrument? Cultivate an appreciation for music by listening to good music. The kind of beautiful music that has lasted for hundreds of years or at least four or five decades. Do the same with art. Expose your children to that sort of music and art. Read the classics to them and yourself. But I don’t think we should limit ourselves to just understanding and appreciating good art, music and books and not actually trying new things. We should challenge ourselves to do things that are difficult if even just slightly so. Go ahead and plant something in the dirt. Choose a new recipe to try. Learn to do a skill that you haven’t done before.

Create balance between those tangible and intangible ways that produce fruit in our life.

We create with more than clay and paint, or words or music notes, fabric or photographs. Everyday we create. And everyday we make choices to imitate what has already crafted by the Master.

We create homes that are a refuge the way He created an ark.

We create new culture when we resist the world’s culture, the world’s way of doing or being.

We create a world of reconciliation when we imitate the dark art of death in dying to ourselves that produces the kaleidoscope of color and light found in the resurrection.

We create peace when we turn the other cheek and offer the glorious poetry of forgiveness.

We create a symphony of mercy when we love and esteem others more than ourselves.

We create places of hospitality as we open our door and beckon in the poor and hungry.

We create a tapestry of grace when we weave longsuffering through our relationships with husband and wife, child and friend.

We all produce something. We all create. The question is whether it is worthy of presenting to our Creator.

In her book Loving The Little Years Rachel Jankovic makes the point that the more fruit we make the more of that fruit God will use.

“Some of those apples will fall to the ground and rot. But God uses rotten apples ~ to fertilize the ground, to start more apple trees after little animals plant them, and just to make the air smell sticky sweet. You cannot know the depth of His plan for your fruit. So throw it out there on the ground when you have no plan for its future. Waste it. Waste homemade pasta (and the mess it makes) on your family. Don’t save cloth napkins for company only ~ sew a dress your daughter doesn’t really need. Be bountiful with your fruit and free with it. The only thing you can know for certain is that God will use it.”

I don’t know about sewing a dress but I have spent some time over the last month buying up packs of fat quarters each week when I go to the grocery store. It’s probably been a dozen years since I tried to piece together a quilt and if I am honest my previous attempts, although well loved (it was a napping quilt for Claire when she started school) were less than lovely. We don’t really need another blanket either. But the fabric was so pretty and it caught my eye and on a whim I decided I wanted to do it again. It won’t be anything uber fancy but I want to work at it. I want to make sure my seams are straight this time and that my binding is even.

I’m going to use the new cake pan I got this weekend and make something pretty and delicious.

I’m going to keep taking pictures of anything and everything. I’m going to keep making cards and such with the pictures and putting them in my Etsy shop.

I’m going to keep stringing words together and blogging.

I’m going to drive Rob crazy picking out plants and flowers and designing garden beds.

I’m going to keep blowing bubbles for the puppies to chase and watch silly video clips with the girls and let Sam show me all the different bits and pieces to his latest LEGO creation.

I’m going to keep finding ways to produce truth, beauty, and goodness. And joy and laughter. And prayerfully it will also produce a deeper love and thankfulness for our great kind God who did it all first.

Join me, why don’t you? Tell me about the fruit of your hands.

The Work Is Not Finished

Years ago, far more than I was comfortable with when I realized exactly just how many years ago, I worked at a Montessori day school. We had a method of tracking the progress of our students that was pretty basic but effective. It involved a triangle…one side meant that the activity had been introduced to the student. Two sides meant that the student was actively working on that particular task or skill while a completed triangle meant the child was proficient at the task from beginning to end. They didn’t receive a completed triangle the first time they did the whole activity either but only after they showed themselves consistently completing the task. From beginning to end included a lot of steps. Like, a lot of steps. I think our dish washing station had something like seventy-five steps including choosing the work on the shelf, bringing it to their table, all the stuff involved in the activity itself, as well as the clean up, and lastly pushing their chair under the table.

I’ve tried to make the same effort in training our children in a similar way at home with chores in the sense that the job is not complete until, and unless, you have completed the whole task and not just part of it. If you have been tasked with cleaning the kitchen and dishes have been washed but are left drying in the sink then you really aren’t finished. You’ve done a good thing, certainly, but it isn’t done.

I feel much the same way right now viewing the political landscape, in particular on the pro-life front. I am surprised, shocked really, at how incredibly fast President Trump has moved to change things on the pro-life front. There is much to celebrate and rejoice over. Much to give thanks to God for.

But, I don’t want us to view it as a time to let up. Our work is not done. The laundry is getting washed but it will still need to be dried, folded and put away. And while the President may be turning the washing machine on it is our honorable task to complete the work. The White House can do their part moving legislation along in the right direction but it will be us, the people in the streets and on the ground as they say, that will be doing the rest of the work.

God willing pregnancy centers will begin to see an uptick in client numbers as women who previously sought abortion now come to them for counsel and help. They are going to need more money and more hands than ever before. Rejoice that Vice President Pence will speak at the March For Life in Washington. But know that it won’t be his face that greets a confused, frightened, or overwhelmed mother-to-be as she walks into a pregnancy resource center.

We are beyond excited that our own Pregnancy Resource Center in Milton is making a long prayed for and anticipated move to becoming a medical resource where women will have access to an ultrasound. This is a big deal since we know that the odds of an abortion go way down when a mother can actually see her baby’s heartbeat. Be a part of that work. Find out how you can help that happen sooner rather than later by visiting their website.

But even giving your support to Milton PRC or Safe Harbor in Pensacola won’t close that triangle. We must be more than pro-birth.We need to be pro-life at all stages. One of the greatest arguments used against pro-lifers by pro-choicers is that we only care about the babies, not the mothers and not about people in general.

People, all people, are made in the image of God. It is cracked and marred by sin, but it is intrinsically stamped upon everyone of us. It is present on the baby in the womb and the street thug on the corner with the baggy pants. It is a part of the junkie, the whore, the refugee, the homeless, the mentally unstable, the protester, the political opponent, the crack dealer, the school teacher, the movie star, neighborhood kid, the grocery store clerk, and your bank teller.

Get involved in things that restore the dignity of humanity. Volunteer with a literacy program. Find out the needs of the women and children’s shelter in your area. Do you know that there are churches with clothes closets designed especially for people needing something to wear to a job interview? I heard of one church that hosted a car health clinic every couple of months in their parking lot. They would change the oil and check fluids and simple vehicle things for single mothers and the elderly. One church hosted a play day for foster families to come relax and have fun. You can bake a cake for your fire and sheriffs departments. Take your kids to the park on a sunny day and pass out popsicles to everybody. Hang out and get a basketball game going each week. Let people see your face enough that they recognize it and associate it with good things, with safety, with hope.

Although good things, really good things, are happening in some quarters of the pro-life movement we cannot act as if the work is done. Our task is far from finished and if we truly want to push back against those who oppose us then we must not give them room to say our way doesn’t work, that it isn’t enough.

Rejoice, but roll up your sleeves, because the dishes still need to be put away.

Not Enough

The deed is done and the die is cast. Donald Trump, of all people, will be the next president of the United States. For some there is great relief – not that he won necessarily, but that she didn’t. I’m glad she didn’t win, too. But I am angry this morning.

The abortion issue and it’s connection to the Supreme Court nominees was an incredibly important consideration during this election. For my friends that felt the weight of that during this election and voted accordingly, I commend your for your faithfulness to seek to protect unborn life, to be a voice for the voiceless.
So, how can I be angry this morning? How can I not see this as a victory? Because it is not enough. Because too many will think they have done their pro-life duty and, while they may keep a distracted eye on what follows as nominations are made, the urgency to be pro-life will ease. 
And really, it shows that mostly we are simply anti-abortion and not truly pro-life. We want abortion to be banned. We want Roe v. Wade overturned. But changing the law doesn’t change the heart. It doesn’t change the culture that sees death of the defenseless as an answer. Changing the law won’t invest in the lives of those who feel they have no other choice.
We absolutely should seek laws that reflect a high view of life. But to be pro-life means that we should, that we must, have a high view of all life. We can’t dismiss people as freaks and faggots. We can’t call them whores and junkies and just walk away.
We have to be a voice for those who can’t speak or are too afraid to speak…not just the unborn but the old and frail, the homeless, the orphan and yes, the immigrant, illegal or not. We should value nothing, absolutely nothing, more than the well being of those who bear the image of God, no matter how they act or live.
To be truly pro-life means that we afford everyone a common dignity no matter our differences. It means that soup kitchens should be over run with volunteers year round and not just during the holidays. It means that nursing homes and retirement centers are overflowing with people coming to sit and talk with residents. It means that we find out the needs that foster homes have and fill them. It means we find out how we can join ministries that help the countless kids that age out of the system get a strong start in the adult world. It means that we give our time, our money, our clothes, whatever we can to shelters and pregnancy resource centers. It means that we call and find out how we can help with the women and children’s shelter in our area. It means that we volunteer at prisons and halfway houses. It means meeting our neighbors down the street. It means saying please and thank you and letting people know we appreciate them. 
Now is not the time to rest, Christian, to think that we’ve dealt a body blow to death.  Now is the time to put our hand to plow like never before, to put action to our words and line up our behavior with our rhetoric. Now is when we become the hands and feet of Christ. Now is when we live the Gospel.

As Simple As Grapes and Cheese

I enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen.

I also enjoy having company and feeding people. Sometimes I find that I have made those two things more complicated that they should have been and I am able to enjoy neither one as much as I could have.

Recently we’ve discovered the joy that is purple grapes paired with white cheddar cheese. It is a culinary delight.

I try to keep both things on hand all of the time because it’s a simple but delicious way to be hospitable and welcome people into our home or just for us to enjoy.

fruit_white_cheddar_cheese

Have you seen that acronym?

KISS

Keep It Simple Stupid

I find it so funny but also helpful to remember.

It’s easy to fall into a place where good equals complicated.

Hard is be best.

If it’s difficult it’s worth more.

Sometimes that is true of course. If it is easily gotten sometimes that means it is of little value.

We shouldn’t shy away from the hard. Often times the struggle brings about the glory.

But I wonder if sometimes we make it too hard…complicate things unnecessarily?

A child believes and sometimes we complicate that with our unbelief. Surely they don’t really understand when really we are the ones who don’t understand. Their belief is full and complete but it seems too simple so it must be lacking.

There is therefore no condemnation…but we can’t completely let go of the guilt  or the person we were and the life we led so we make the new life hard by remembering and carrying the past into the now.

It’s wanting everything to be just right and perfect and sucking  the joy out of life in the process.

It’s opening the door to that little bit of doubt…not trusting…not believing…not clinging to Truth.

I wonder if sometimes we complicate things as an excuse. “I would but…”

To avoid the responsibility that comes with accepting and fully living in Truth.

But really life is better when we keep it simple. When we just believe and trust what He is doing and where He is leading us.

Simple, just like grapes and cheese.

fruit_and_cheese

Inconvenient Love

I found some rolls of film a while back. Rolls of used film actually and it has been years since I shot film. Unfortunately, since I found them I have once again lost them. Well, all but two of them so recently I decided to take those two to the camera shop and have them processed.

Honestly, I am not sure how I ever survived as a photographer at all based on what came back. If it weren’t for the fact that I actually have pictures to prove that I could take a picture back then and that people kept letting me take their pictures I wouldn’t believe it.

One of them only had something like two images on it. Not sure what the story is and how I only used just two of the average 24 exposures and then decided to rewind it all as it were but that seems to be exactly what I did.

The other roll though? That had a few gems, dark hard to make out gems, but they were there nonetheless. It took me a few minutes to sort it out and actually figure out where and what I had been photographing.

It was from one of my very first weddings that I ever shot. It was also after I had started shooting digital but apparently I was being all that and shot some details with film too. Apparently, at some point I was satisfied with just the digital files I had shot because these were clearly I wasn’t in a hurry to share these with the world.

I got to thinking about that long ago couple and realized that they have since divorced. It was kind of sad to reconcile the young, happy and in love couple from that day with an older unhappy calling it quits couple they ended up becoming.

As I was questioning how they ended up where they did I realized something.

Loving someone, anyone, is really inconvenient.

Loving people more than we love ourselves, which is how we are called to love, is rarely easy no matter Zac Brown and his band singing otherwise. Loving that way causes problems and disruption to our lives.

Have you read I Corinthians 13 lately? Does any of that sound convenient to you?

I don’t know if it works this way for you but being patient is rarely called for during a time that is convenient for me. As a matter of fact it’s usually the exact opposite, hence the need for patience.

And it is so much easier to be kind when, well, it’s easy. But what about when he just isn’t being considerate about my needs and doesn’t really care that my morning has been less that delightful and he just wants a cup of coffee? A love that shows kindness at that moment and pours a cup of coffee and offers it with a smile is not really convenient.

How convenient is it to not be arrogant or rude when we live in a society that pays homage on a regular basis to the drop the mic kind of slap down?

I don’t know how easy it is for you not to insist on your own way but it’s not always easy for me which means that it can be real inconvenient (Surprise!) for me to not be irritable or resentful.

It’s not always easy to rejoice in right doing when it is so tempting to make ourselves feel better by rejoicing in another’s wrong doing.

It is not always convenient to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.

While love should be all of those things it isn’t exactly convenient to practice and pursue that kind of love. That kind of inconvenient love requires something from us, of us. It demands our death for the sake of loving those around us.

Because it’s the kind of inconvenient love that will suffer death on a cross.

And that kind of inconvenient love changes who we are so that little bit by little bit we are able to not only recognize that love being shown to us but also allows us to love in the same way.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interest,
but also to the interest of others.
Have this mind among yourselves,
which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8

In Every Thing Give Thanks

A recent study found that when completely healthy people discussed pain the part of the brain that copes with pain became very active. The conclusion that scientists came to is that talking about your pain can actually make things worse.

On Wednesday evenings Rob is teaching through the book of James and his homily this past week dealt with trials and suffering that we face and how we should deal with them.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”

It got me to thinking that I really don’t have much suffering going on in my life. My life is good…pleasant. I have a comfortable home, my basic needs are met and I get the occasional night of Chinese take out and a Lindt candy bar to enjoy. I’m in love with my husband and he with me, we have five great kids and a wonderful church family. We have a fantastic school that our children attend so we’re part of a great community there. We’ve got good friends and good health. Life really is sweet.

But because I’m human and we all live in a fallen world I do face trials of various kinds. Some are hard, others harder, and some only exist inside my imagination. Some of my trials are worse than what some others face and some of mine don’t even begin to compare to the genuine suffering that some people endure on a daily basis.

So what does it look like to suffer well? To, as James goes on to say, remain steadfast under trial? The more I have pondered the more I have come to see what it does not look like.

I have a sweet young friend with three children under the age of three. Her husband works from early morning until early evening and yet you never hear her complain. Now it would be utterly ridiculous to assume that because she doesn’t complain must mean that she has no struggles and her life is like some kind of Disney movie where she only communicates with her children via song and birds help fold her laundry.

She has three children under the age of three. Of course she has various trials and sufferings! How could she not? She’s a sinner, her husband is a sinner, and so are her sweet beautiful children. But her struggle is not lessened by complaining. Her burden is not made any lighter because she makes sure everyone knows that the struggle is real, y’all. This is, I think, the gentle and quiet spirit that God deems beautiful.

Another friend has four children of her own, yet without hesitation she took on the child care of a friend’s little one when it became an urgent need. It’s not surprising to see her with another friend’s three littles when a day shift has been scheduled either. She has a gift for helping others in this way no matter the extra work it may create for her and she uses it to serve others. 

Still another friend has suffered more than a few tragic miscarriages but I didn’t even know this for a long time. She doesn’t live in the pangs of the past constantly bringing up the horrible things she has gone through. But she does quietly use those hard and difficult experiences to minister to others when the time is right. This is how we comfort those with the comfort we ourselves have been given.

What I am getting at is that suffering well doesn’t look like complaining. If your circumstances are genuinely difficult you won’t need to constantly remind people…they’ll know. Suffering well doesn’t look like cutting yourself off from the outside world. It doesn’t shrink your world to what happens within the walls of your own home. Remaining steadfast under a trial means that you don’t hold onto and nurture the pain of the circumstances. And part of that is not constantly trying to prove that your suffering is worse than what someone else goes through. You know you’re not in some kind of competition and you can allow others to have their struggle without it invalidating yours or feeling the need to bring up your own hardships.

In Philippians we are told that suffering is a gift. And I think suffering well means that you accept the gift graciously seeking to glorify God through it. But that can be so hard to do! I know this. But God has told us how to do it.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.  ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give thanks. A grateful heart, one thankful even for the really hard stuff, the trials and the suffering is the key. Knowing that each and every moment we live is the will of God…how comforting and precious the thought!

Throughout Scripture the words thanksgiving and sacrifice can be found together. God doesn’t tell us that it will be easy but He does say,

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” ~ Psalm 50:23

My prayer is that God will use these simple words of mine to encourage you as you walk through your various trials and sufferings. May you bear your burdens well and in a manner that is worthy of the calling He has given you.

This blog post on Thanksgiving is part of a blog circle I participate in each month. As my fellow blogging friends add their links I will share them here so you can enjoy the goodness.

Julie    Connie