Tag Archives: thankfulness

21. my discipleship group and the power of prayer

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2.42

I love my discipleship/accountability group and I could not imagine going weeks (or years as I had been before) without those strong relationships; relationships where we can disagree, hash it out and know that it we will still be okay moving forward. I’m okay with them confronting me about my stuff even when I may or may not want to hear it at the time; even when I don’t realize it’s there.

And it’s because of Jesus’ use of those relationships that he’s forming me into the woman God intended me to be and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I met Rick first, back in the fall of 2005, while I was away at college. I had just started my sophomore year and, having fallen in love with the local church I attended, I wanted to find a way to get more involved. I had been involved in a campus ministry but didn’t feel connected or part of a community; not the way I did when I was at that church.

That September, I received a postcard in the mail about a new college ministry that would be starting up at my church. They were looking for singers, musicians and others interested in being on the leadership time and after “chewing on it” for a few days, I emailed Rick and got my foot in the door. We met that November during one of the bands’ first meetings.

I met Holly shortly after and although our friendship at the time didn’t have the depth then as it does now, I’ve enjoyed going into those deeper waters with her, knowing that Jesus will keep us afloat the further we drift out as long as we remain in him.

It’s been nine amaznig years since and Rick has become more than just my pastor. He’s one of my best friends and a pretty stand-up guy (minus all the teasing I get). It’s been an immense blessing to watch God work through him in the lives of those his touches as well as knowing that I can get a solid, truth-filled answer or opinion if I weret o seek one out.

The same goes for Holly and I met her shortly after. She’s intense and in my face when it comes to most things and while there are moments when I want to kick her out of my apartment or walk away, I love her. It amazes me how a person can frustrate and move you at the same time. Only out of the love and grace of Jesus Christ is that possible.

In this last year, we made the decision to start meeting at least once every three weeks to discuss more deeply what God’s been doing in each of our lives, seeking out truth together, and being the iron that sharpens another (Proverbs 27.17).

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12.2

We’ve devoted ourselves to one another to learn from Jesus’ teaching and from those of his God-inspired followers (Paul, Peter, John, etc.). We’ve devoted ourselves to fellowship and community with one another and just last night, we talked about what that should and will look like in our church. We sometimes enjoy food or coffee together, partaking in the elements of communion with the rest of the body and we always pray for one another, sending sporadic notes of encouragement throughout the week/month.

Combining this with my relationship with Jesus, I’m being transformed from the inside out. I’ve seen the evidence of this my life, which is now, so much fuller.

I am so grateful for those who have chosen to partner with me and God in helping me become the woman he created me to be…especially when they have to call me on my junk when it shows.

Accountability goes a long way, as does love, truth spoken in love and a large dose of grace when it comes to these relationships.

Rick and Holly – I’m so incredibly thankful for you and I pray that God also enriches your lives with blessings, not earned by these actions, but because you are his children, my brother and sister, too.

6. the work of God in my life

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12.1-2

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Tough we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come! The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5.16-17Transformed WIP

I’ve written before on the changes God has been doing in my heart – excerpts below are taken from a posting on August 7, 2013 (found here):

“…I used to think that my story didn’t matter; that it paled in comparison. I was raised in a Christian home. I was practically born saved, or so I thought. I’ve discovered that is not how faith and following [Jesus] work. It’s a personal choice. I met Him when I was four, on my mother’s lap during a bedtime story and have encountered Him numerous times since…”

And each time has left me changed in some way, shape or form. I’m becoming like the One I spend the most time with…and will continue to as long as I am intentional about how I spend my time. Do I spend it wisely, including Him in each moment or do I compartmentalize my life, separating all things “churchy” from the rest of it? No. Not anymore.

You can picture a weighted scale or a pie chart, trying to map out how life should look with Jesus as your #1 source of ALL THINGS….but…

I’d rather picture a tall glass vase, which resembles my life, full of rocks in all sorts of shapes and sizes, resembling my own distinct interests and giftings. Add water (resembling Jesus). You’ll see how it gets into every nook and cranny and covers all things. That’s how a life crazy about Jesus should look.

I strive for excellence under the standard of grace…I’m not perfect and I fail, every day, but by His grace, I can get back up and love Him even more deeply than before. I don’t deserve it, God knows it, but He chooses to clothe me in His unending, incomprehensible love, grace and mercy. And one day, I will attain perfection…but not until He completes the work He came to do (both in me and in this world).

“…there came the faintest stirring of hope, the smallest increase of strength and the urge to break free…I feel it in every fiber of my being…[this entire year] has been a season of growth for me…I went from not being certain…to being certain of so many things…my dreams are changing.”

My life is changing.

“…God has been transforming my heart and my mind – [breathing truth where it didn’t exist before] – He has been shining His glorious light into the dark, cob-web-covered corners of my life and giving me the ability to see those areas with eyes of mercy and grace. He’s teaching me…”

To be kind to myself

To forgive myself

To forgive, period

To love myself

To see myself the way He does

I recently attended an evening of worship with one of my favorite Christian artists, Meredith Andrews. Something happened at that event…a stirring with in my heart, so deep it rattled my soul, and a sudden calm following by an emotion I cannot name. My heart accepted some truth in that moment, even though I don’t currently know exactly what that truth was, and I’m okay with that. I’m learning to trust Him and in His goodness.

“…Transformation isn’t something that we can do ourselves. Even among the pressures of this fallen world [and life in general], we must choose to be still and allow God to do what only He can do. We allow Him to renew our minds daily through His Word [by spending time in prayer and hanging out with Him on a daily basis]. It doesn’t happen overnight and there will be periods of waiting. The struggle is necessary for my development and strength of what God has called me to in His story. ..”

I am so very thankful for the work He’s been doing in me and will continue to do in me. Here’s to continuing on this amazing adventure He’s sent me on.

1. my crazy, beautiful, mysterious life

c98fcd40d084c03bc49124224b2bfee4I’m not perfect.

The life I live isn’t perfect.

It’s crazy.

It’s a disaster waiting to happen (figuratively speaking, of course).

It’s messy.

It definitely isn’t easy navigating through the storms that come and go, but I’m learning to dance in the rain.

It’s beautiful and mysterious…and it’s mine.

I’ve truly been blessed. Beyond measure.

Loved more than I dared hope…by a God who became a man, confined to flesh, and died to save me…

…from sin

…from death

….from myself.

I am loved and accepted more than I ever dared hope.

I was reading through 1 Peter this morning and stumbled on this:

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
     but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.” 1 Peter 1.23-25

This life won’t last. It fades and withers like the grass and the flowers. It is but a mist, a vapor, that f5ba746f1168271a65bf50fc6840cffcevaporates in due time. My days are numbered and I intend to live each and every single one of them with more love and life than the number of years I’m given. That number doesn’t matter. What matters is what I did with the time God gave me. Did I love well? Did I serve with compassion and mercy? Did I live with grace and humility; with the heart of a servant? Did I go? Did I carry his gospel with me and share it with everyone I met? Did my life portray that? Did I do anything that mattered? Yes.

Life is a one time offer, and I intend to use it wisely.

I’ve fallen.

I’ve gotten back up.

I’ve made mistakes, but have no regrets.

I’ve lived.

I’ve been hurt, but I’m alive.

I’m not perfect.

I’ve been forgiven much and I’m thankful.

Through those trials, I’ve learned to appreciate life at every moment. I’m continuously learning…

I am thankful for this life I’ve been given and while I’m still figuring out what to do with it, I intend to live it.  

month of gratitude 2.0

Last year, I made a feeble attempt at posting one thing I was grateful/thankful for each day during the month of November and expounding on it. I can honestly say I failed miserably at that… a) I didn’t have the time b) I attempted to write a 1500-word post for each well and well, considering the time it takes, that’s just not practical and c) God had other plans in mind.

To kick things off, please see the post on gratitude I published back in April. Most of that still applies: here.

This year, I’m taking a different approach. While I will be posting something I’m thankful for each day, I won’t be elaborating on each one…unless God lays it on my heart to do so.

The goal: to cultivate a grateful heart.

That being said, here goes.

What are you thankful for?

the choice to be grateful

happy

That seems to happen quite often, doesn’t it? Wishing for more happiness than we already have and we tend to find ourselves instantly dissatisfied with all that we’ve been given. I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve been there; done that. But, I’ve learned that in and through Jesus, life doesn’t have to be that way.

John 10.10 states that Jesus came so that “[we] may have life, and have it to the full.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been working my way through Sharon Jaynes’ A Sudden Glory (found here) again and the eighth chapter really hit home for me again this week. Jaynes broaches the subject of seeing God through the lenses of gratitude and grace. I’d like to dig a little deeper based on my own study of those same scriptures this week.

Our world is littered with traces of “I want(s)” and”I need(s).” Everywhere we look, our culture pulls on the strings of our hearts with advertising and ideas claiming that “if only we had [blank], we’d be happy/fulfilled/content…” (you name it). Broken people lead dissatisfied lives…no thankfulness…no grace. It’s empty. Dark. Alone.

That’s no way to live.

I’ve often considered how all of this got started and well, we can point back to the garden. Everything points back to the garden. Have you ever wondered what whet Adam and Eve’s appetite for wanting something more than constant communion and union with God? Have you ever considered what stirred the desire for more and made them vulnerable to the serpent’s enticing suggestion?

It may have had something to do with ingratitude.

Adam and Eve simply were not satisfied with that life. Like me (time and time again…still learning here folks), Eve felt that God was holding out on her…on some level. She had issues with simply trusting in His goodness and that He had her best interests in mind. He does that with all of us and yet, we don’t trust Him. It’s too good to be true.

So…what do we do about the lack of gratitude in our world? How can we rise above the ashes of this world and see that true beauty that God provides in the midst of our struggles/wants/needs/desires/etc.?

With gratitude.

I firmly believe that in cultivating a heart of gratitude in the midst of this life, one cannot be dissatisfied/overwhelmed or be dejected over their circumstances at the same time. It isn’t possible. Sure…a person can fake being thankful, but only for so long…but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Jaynes writes that “gratitude is the most effect way to deepen your consciousness to the fact that you are the object of God’s affection and love. Giving thanks awakens your sense to see God, to hear God, to taste and see that He is good” (emphasis mine).

Ingratitude laced with grumbling, complaining, and murmuring is an easy and ugly trap to fall into. It’s also very contagious. There is nobody more miserable than an ungrateful person. Have you ever found yourself near the types of people I like to call “joy drains”? Where all they see is the negative; all they do is complain? It’s easy to fall into the habit of cynicism and pessimism; to fall into that thought cycle…even for an optimist like me. It is so easy. Too easy.

Gratitude, on the other hand, turns what we have into enough. It can change your perspective on the simplest of mundane tasks and/or circumstances and transform them into moments of intimacy with our Creator.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances.” In reality…most of us are thankful for very little. Have you thanked God for the fact that you opened your eyes this morning? That you have a warm bed to sleep in and roof over your head? Have you thanked Him for the people He has placed in your life; for the friends you have; for your children/family; for any relationship you’ve been given? I could go on, but you get the picture.

James also writes that we should “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1.2) That can be anything.

The Bible doesn’t command us to feel thankful in all circumstances. Instead it commands us to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Jaynes put it well when she penned:

“Gratitude changes the lens through which we see the circumstances in [the little slice of time we’ve been given.] Thanksgiving changes our perspective despite broken dreams, broken relationships, tumultuous circumstances, and unfulfilled longings. As you praise God for who He is and thank Him for what He’s done, your perspective of Him grows larger and your problems grow smaller. As a result, you will experience a deeper sense of intimacy with God as the emotional gap between what you know to be true and how you feel at the moment closes.” (pg. 158)

Truth.

The moment you start to think about all that you have to be thankful for, your perspective changes, the color scheme of life brightens, and you just may catch a glimpse of that silver lining.

Just ask yourself: What am I thankful for?

It’s an easy question to answer when you think about it. For instance:

  • I’m thankful for the life I’ve been given
  • that last breath of fresh air I took during my walk on my lunch break today
  • that Jesus chose to give His life so I could living in communion with Him now while I wait for His return
  • grace…amazing, sweet grace
  • my health
  • seventy degree days with lots of sunshine (or days with sunshine, period)
  • my family
  • good friends
  • my job
  • the fact that I get to enjoy my evening catching with some girlfriends from my home church in South Dakota
  • this new and significantly important relationship God recently brought into my life

…the list goes on.

What are you thankful for?

Try it. You sense the shift. It’s impossible not to.

We see this shift throughout all of scripture. Remember the Israelites wandering through the desert? They were an ungrateful group of people…I honestly don’t think I’ve read of any single group of people or a person who were as dissatisfied (granted, I’m sure not all of them felt that way…but, as I mentioned earlier, it’s contagious…). Or how about King David? The man shifted from depression to rejoicing in a matter of seconds…just read through the Psalms. He didn’t wait until God changed his current struggle/situation. He chose to be thankful in that moment.

Let me share one more verse with you:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3.17-18

Personally, I think it’s pretty cool how God works through that. In choosing to focus on the trust we can have in Him and on His blessings rather than focusing on our current circumstances, we realize just how big and good God is and, in turn, can be grateful for all He’s done. Everything else seems moot when you put it in that perspective.

B-E-A-U-tiful! (Thank you, Jim Carey…)

And when we choose to the do the same, our perspective will change as well.  “A thankful heart opens the windows of heaven that allow us to peek at the glory [God has chosen to reveal to us here on earth].” (pg. 160)

Part of the beauty of mankind is that God gave us free will. We have a choice. We always have a choice; a daily choice.  Will you choose to praise Him for His grace and trust in His goodness today? Or will you choose the way of the world, allowing ingratitude to seep in? I’ve chosen the former and I’ve come to realize just how truly blessed I am today…and every day.