A Prayer of Thanksgiving

This prayer was originally published on my old blog in 2012. It’s no less true today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Father, Provider,Comforter, Deliverer, I have much to thank You for today. You have given me so many blessings, and for many such as food, shelter, clothing, and health I have expressed my gratitude numerous times. Yet there are blessings I have neglected to thank You for, in part because I have only recently recognized some elements of my life as blessings.

Betsie Ten Boom once thanked You for the fleas in the filthy concentration camp barracks she was imprisoned in, only later to discover that it was the fleas that enabled Your word to be spread and shared without interference from the guards. She was wiser than I and recognized that Your blessings do not always come dressed in a package the human mind appreciates. I have neglected to thank You for the “fleas” in my life, and today I intend to do so.

Lord, thank You for long, friendless spans of time in my pre-Christ life. Those periods of separation, though they chafed at the time, prepared me to walk the narrow path unaccompanied at times when I find that it is necessary to choose between walking alone or forsaking Your way. Thank You that feeling rejected then has galvanized me against being rejected now, for the zeal I now have for You and Your Word is not always readily embraced, and I again find myself categorized as a freak, albeit for better reasons this time around!

 Thank You that the same loneliness left me with a tremendous ache that was oh, so ready to be soothed by Your love. My heart had been seared by suppressed anger, by fear and rejection, and by my own bad choices, and it was calloused and numb. The shock of meeting You, the realness of You, pierced through and made a start from which You began Your patient work of pruning. It hurt, but I knew somehow even then that it was worth it–that You were worth it. Thank You for carefully debriding and then healing the fathomless wounds of my heart.

 Thank You for bringing me away from my hometown, for causing every friend I thought I had to desert me, for showing me the intense suffering of a young person dying of cancer, and for bringing me to the point of questioning every worldly philosophy my non-believing self had embraced. Without being confronted with death, I may have never found life. Without that sobering morbidity thrust into my directionless, bar-hopping lifestyle, I may have continued in my flippant attitude about death, life, and all things Christian. Thank You for forgiving me of the disrespectful manner towards You that was my custom at the time. Thank You, also, that in those small acts of betrayal and desertion, in the agonies I witnessed, and in the death of self I experienced, I am not alone. Jesus, too, experienced those things, and so I know my Redeemer can also empathize.

Thank You for the headaches and other pains of aging today that are a constant reminder that the outer man is wasting away but the inner man is being renewed day by day. Thank You, too, for the increasing slips of my mind and waning of physical strength that remind me that Your power is perfected in weakness. In the relentless decay of self, I find that apart from You I truly can do nothing.

Thank You for allowing me to walk through times of darkness and despair in my Christian life, for in those bleak spells I have learned that You truly are with me wherever I go even through the valley of the shadow of death. Thank You, also, that in those times of desolation You have stripped away all the consolations of religious feeling, all my pride, and even the sense of gratification that comes of service to others or to You. You have utterly flayed my soul until all of me was raw and naked, weeping before You.

Painful as that those times were, in them I have found that at last I know where my allegiance honestly lies and it is no longer to myself. With my spirit laid bare and bereft even of the longing for You and the satisfaction of knowing You, You gave me the blessing at last of utter assurance in this: I cannot be separated from You. When You asked me, “Would you, also, like to leave Me?”  I can now echo Peter in saying, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life!”

 Thank You for the times of financial crisis my husband and I have been through. I thank You specifically for the time when we had a single car, single income, both a baby and a mother-in-law to support, a tiny duplex where we all lived, no television, basic phone service, no Internet, and no cell phones. Though it did not make sense, we chose to forsake my income and obey Your voice that I should stay home with our infant and our future children. We learned so much: That You truly provide for our needs always, that there is a very distinct difference in what we need and what we want, that You bless obedience even when obedience does not make human sense.

We are in a different stage of life now, Lord, and we have so much that I sometimes take it for granted. I find I am now feeling that my needs have increased  when in fact it is only my wants that have increased. Lord, forgive me for presuming upon Your provision and thank You for the lessons You taught me in poverty. Should You choose to remove all the material gifts You have lavished on us, I will still follow You. You are my God. You are my Portion. You are my Reward.

And I am Yours, wholly Yours. Thank You for all the blessings of pain, irritation, and desolation that have brought me to this conclusion. Thank You for the fleas–every last one of them

Attitude

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2, HCSB

I know I’ve said it before, but we really are a funny people.

It’s ironic that my country celebrates a national holiday devoted to giving thanks for what we have, then finishes the day off with a commercial holiday in which many retail businesses sell enough merchandise to shift their financial ledgers from red to black (from loss to profit).

“Black Friday” doesn’t even start on Friday anymore, people! Let that one sink in a moment. Evidently, in this nation of wealth and abundance, we can’t even spend nine or ten daylight hours in a state of gratitude and contentment.

I could pick on the fact that, if you were to create a linear graph, you’d probably find the increasing secularization of the good old USA has follows an inverse linear curve to the gradual encroachment of retail sales into Thanksgiving day. I suppose if you’re offering gratitude to an ambiguous nothingness as opposed to acknowledging God as the Provider to Whom we give thanks, there’s really less of a reason to devote an entire day… but I won’t pick on this one.

Instead, I’ll pick on me.

In a recent reading of Colossians in my late Pappaw’s NASB Bible, chapter 4 verse 2 in the NASB grabbed me by the throat. It hasn’t really let go since.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…

Colossians 4:2, NASB

Devote yourselves to prayer… with an attitude of thanksgiving.

As a sinner saved by the unmerited grace of the God I once denounced and by the sacrifice of Yeshua Messiah whom I formerly laughed off as a fable, my whole being really should resonate with thanksgiving. I’ve been forgiven for denying the One who loved me enough to take the death sentence I deserve for my crimes!

For this alone, I ought to have gratitude to God in all circumstances. All of them. Period. After all, no matter what happens to me in the 80-odd years (give or take) I spend on this atmosphere-cushioned ball of rock and water, I’ve been granted an eternal life that I don’t deserve during which I will forever revel in the joy of the King of kings!

But beyond that unimaginable gift, my King has also granted me food, shelter, healthy kids, a loving husband… and the list goes on and on and on. Recently, He has answered a few prayers in overwhelming ways – some of them quickly!!

Yet I’ve realized that when I pray, what I focus on is not the hundreds of granted requests, but the handful I still wait to see. My heart is weighed down by the list of lost people or bleak situations who show no glimmers of interest in the Lord, no hopeful sparks of light.

I focus, not on the abundance God has lavished on me, but on the concerns I’ve yet to see resolved.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of walking with a long-time close friend, and she mentioned how we are both seeing God at work now in both people and situations we fervently prayed together over for years.

During some of the darkest times we shared with each other, lifting up our families in prayer, we never even saw so much as the twitch of God’s finger. His hands remained – almost maddeningly – still.

But now… Yesterday, we both walked and gave thanks together for the many ways we’ve recently seen Him moving in those very same situations.

And so, my friends, not only this week, but from here on out, I am resolved to keep track of the ways I see my God at work, both in the large and the small ways.

I am resolved (Lord help me to keep this commitment!!) to devote myself to prayer with an attitude of thanksgiving, looking forward with gratitude to see how my King is mighty to redeem even the most damaged, hardened, and imprisoned heart.

Will you join me?

Migraine and Forgetfulness

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

It’s been a very long time since I wrote a migraine post, so today’s the day. My migraine journey is intertwined with my walk with the Lord, so I can’t really write about one without the other.

Things have been better. One of the newer anti-CGRP prevention medications, Emgality, has cut my headache days down to half or less. What’s more, it also helps with the other, non-headache symptoms such as dizziness, brain fog, and the like.

You see, migraine is not just a really bad headache. It’s actually a neurological illness. Because of this, migraine is a full-body experience that begins before there’s even a slight twinge of pain and ends long after the pain has faded into oblivion (often taking your ability to cognate with it!).

It isn’t just the head and brain that are affected, however. The GI system is often in play, and some people experience numbness or tingling on one side of their body or in their limbs. You can click this link to find out more information.

Lately for me, dizziness has been one of the most alarming warnings of an impending migraine attack. It’s getting bad enough that I no longer climb up on stools or high places without good support because I never know when a dizzy spell will strike.

Thankfully, like I said earlier, Emgality has cut my headache days down to about half. It’s also made my rescue meds actually work much of the time (they weren’t even working before), and has decreased the aphasia and some of the brain fog.

However, half of 30 days is still 15. I’m a long way from well, but you’d be surprised how exciting it is to just have those 15 days back! Even if a good portion of them is still occupied with the prodromal or postdromal phase of a migraine, at least I have more functionality than I have in years past.

Recently, I was tested for celiac disease, which meant I had to eat wheat for several days before the blood draw. The addition of wheat to my diet brought back the persistent daily headache, so I am keenly reminded of how unpleasant the constant, nagging pain can be. It made me so much more thankful for where I am now!

My prayer, though, is that if the migraine situation should continue to improve and the attacks become less and less frequent, I pray I will never forget the lesson. I especially pray that I will never forget my utter dependence on God.

We humans do have a tendency to forget Him when things are humming along nicely.

“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land … with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

And yet, it’s when things are humming along nicely that we should be praising Him louder, filled to bursting with gratitude.

That’s what He has been working in me lately. Gratitude. Entering His courts with thanksgiving. Setting my mind on Him and not on earthly things – whether good or bad. And again, thanksgiving and gratitude and praise.

For migraine or no, good times or bad, God is good, and He is worthy of all our praise!

Lord and Father, teach our hearts to love You more and more. When things of this life are good, let us set our minds on You and not forget You. When life throws us a curveball or even pelts us with clod of dirt, teach us to set our minds on You still, always giving thanks in every circumstance for the glorious hope we have in Christ Jesus our Savoir, amen.

Tuesday Prayer: Praise

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 
(Psalms 100:4)

Gracious and Holy One, we offer up our praise to You today! Blessed is Your name in all the earth , and blessed is the work of Your hands. It is You who made all good things and who gives all good gifts. There is nothing that happens on earth outside of Your knowledge. You even know the number of hairs on our heads, and even take note of the fall of a single sparrow in Your creation.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31

Oh Lord, thank You for the consideration You pay for us, Your image bearers, even though we have done much to stain and warp Your precious image. Thank You for the redemption You offer by the blood of Your only Son and for the mercy You show to us each and every day.  Thank You for being a God who sees us, who is compassionate and involved in both the details of our lives and in the vast scope of all Your creation.

Most High, forgive us for the many times we bring our concerns and pleas before Your throne of grace with an attitude of assigning tasks to You rather than with a humble demeanor of thanksgiving and praise. You have already done so much for us in Jesus; have already offered us eternal hope and joy. And yet, You still do more for us! 

Please, God, make us more mindful of Your holiness. Keep our hearts humble before You and never let the wonder of our Lord the Messiah leave our hearts and minds. May we approach You forever thankful, forever blessing Your name and exalting You in all we do. Teach us to exult in Your presence and to be satisfied and content in You. 

May we develop a habit of entering Your courts with praise and thanksgiving always. And as we learn to praise You in everything – in clouds and sunshine, in good times and bad – may the joy of the Lord fill our hearts. Let the brightness and genuineness of joy in us act as a beacon to the lost and hurting int he world. Use our testimony, Lord, to turn the hearts of others to You so they, too, may share in our joy, amen. 

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

When Relationships Chafe

We love because he first loved us.
(1 John 4:19)

Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us.

In my country, the official kick-off was Thanksgiving Day – a day of feasting and gratitude ironically followed by the slightly sickening commercial festivity known as “Black Friday” which actually begins Thursday evening until “Cyber Monday” takes over and filches more dollars from the American pocket. But I digress…

This year, my family had a phenomenal Thanksgiving week. We were blessed to spend some time in Florida with my dad and stepmom. One of my sisters and her family came, too, and what with the great company, fantastic weather, and delectable food, I doubt we could have concocted a better way to spend the week.

But I realize not everyone is so fortunate.

For many people, the family time aspect of the holidays spells nothing but frustration. We all have those family members who tend to be more querulous, and some among us spend the holidays biting our tongues – or wishing we had.

Every family bears a bandaged wound or two. Every family carries scars from past hurts. It’s a part of being human in a fallen world. The brutal truth is that our real-life family gatherings are more apt to resemble a Griswold family Christmas than a Hallmark movie.

The enforced familial closeness of the holidays can and often does cause simmering tensions to boil over.  But you know what? Even then, family time is good.  In fact, I would venture to say this season is wonderful because of the relational difficulties.

You see, one sunny Florida afternoon, I walked back to my earthly dad’s house and talked with my heavenly Dad along the way. In particular, I was praying over the absence of one other sister at our feast. One of our family’s bandaged wounds.

As I prayed about the situation and about others who are more difficult to love, the Spirit of God whispered the words of 1 John 4:19 into my heart. We love because He first loved us.

Naturally, I went back and read the rest of the chapter and I see what He means. When we are faced with prickly relatives or with co-workers, members of our church family, or even strangers at the grocery store who are a little more challenging to endure, it is at precisely this point that we have a choice to make:

Will we love only those who are easy to love? Or will we love them because our Lord first loved us?

I feel now is a good time to mention that this “when He first loved us” moment was hardly one we can boast about. Romans 5:10 reminds us that we were enemies of God when He loved us enough to offer the dearest part of Himself as ransom for our crimes. He didn’t love us when we were lovable but when we were in full-tilt rebellion against Him.

Our Lord Jesus, Himself, tells us more than once to love our enemies (see Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:27, 35, et al). And back in 1 John 4, the beloved disciple has a great deal more to say about love, not the least of which is a sobering reminder that love isn’t lived out in Hallmark moments but in the gritty and often painful moments of forgiving the unforgivable and answering sharp words with graciousness.

Not because those who hurt us deserve it, but because neither did we. And yet, He loved us anyway.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:10-11)

While we’re busily putting Christ back in Christmas and squeezing in Advent devotionals between shopping sprees and holiday parties, let’s be certain that our daily choices match our lofty sentiments. Let’s try to keep in mind that forgiving can only be done when there is something to forgive. Grace and mercy can only be shown when they aren’t deserved.

In love, let’s hold one another accountable to living and loving in humility and with the grace God extends to us. Not necessarily because our families and associates are worth it, but because HE is. And we trust Him enough to obey.

 

 

Tuesday Prayer: Our God

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
(Psalms 63:3-4)

Last week, Lord, we expressed our thanks for the gifts You’ve given. Today we thank You for being our God. For creating us, for coming to us for rescuing us from the depravity of our sinful tendencies. You are wondrous, our King, and  we stand in awe of You. Your mercies are never ceasing, and yet we do not love You only for Your mercy, but for who You are. It is not the gifts we worship but You, the Giver.

You are the God who is Love, the Light of the world, the never-ending Fount of Living Water. Our Creator. Our Redeemer. Our Messiah and King. You are the God who saves us and who provides for us. As Lord of Hosts, the full might of angelic warriors is subject to Your commend. God Almighty who works wonders and makes the impossible, possible. From death, You bring life as You did in Sarah’s womb. As You did in the flesh of Your own Son.

Lord, the list of Your names and attributes goes on and on, for You are the Eternal One; the beginning and the end. When we concentrate on even a few of Your qualities, our minds still stagger with the enormity of Your majesty. Your Name is holy and Your benefits are without end. Great and merciful are You, our God!

Thank You that we are privileged to glimpse Your glory, clay pots that we are. You made the first man from the soil of the earth and stamped the Divine Image on him. And if that wasn’t enough, You breathed life into that still, clay form.

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
(Genesis 2:7)

Thank You for being a Merciful God, the Lord whose steadfast love never ends. As Messiah, You took on a body of flesh, pouring the exact representation of the Divine Image into an animated earthenware jar. Far from being a distant and impersonal God, You are a God – the only God – who has suffered alongside His creation, giving Himself to redeem it. What a privilege to bear Your image, to have been saved by the blood of the Son, and to be quickened to new life in Him by Your own Holy Spirit!

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
(Romans 8:11)

O God, never let our familiarity with You as a Man drive out our reverence for You as the Most High. You are Holy, Just, and True. In You is no shadow of change nor even the faintest taint of impurity. Your word is Truth. King of kings and Lord of lords, Father to the fatherless, Your honor and virtue are without spot or failing. We give thanks to You today, for You are good and we bow before Your holy Name in gratitude. May Your name be forever praised, amen!

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD, or declare all his praise?
(Psalms 106:1-2)

Tuesday Prayer: Gratitude

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
(James 1:17)

Father of Lights, today we give thanks to You for the amazing gifts You have given us. Often as we approach the holiday season, we are so caught up by our own frenzy of purchasing, cooking, celebrating, and giving that we forget about the gifts You have already bestowed on us. It’s no small irony that when we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving as we will next week, we tend to become so enmeshed in the details of the day that we fail to truly offer You more than a cursory murmur of thanks.

Yet You are the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Lord, forgive us when we forget that.

Today we intentionally set aside some time for mindfulness of the astonishing gifts You have given us. Let Your praise be on our lips today and let us give thanks to You, for all You give us is truly good. Thank You, Lord, that we can celebrate with a feast next week. Thank You for food, shelter, family, and friends to celebrate with. Or if we celebrate alone, thank You that You are our portion and we can still be satisfied in You.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
(Lamentations 3:24)

Not only that, but we thank You for the often-overlooked things. Thank You for family even when being with them hurts because in working through strained relations and miscommunications, we grow.

In learning how to love others who are hard to handle, we are forced to confront the places where we are prickly as well. Thank You that in conflict, we learn to humble ourselves and to forgive. In extending grace to others who may not deserve it, we see how little we deserved Your grace. For this, too, we are thankful.

And thank You for the little things, Lord! Thank You that You made food to have flavor when You could have made it merely nourishing. Thank You for our senses, and when one or more fails us, thank You that we are thus made more dependent on You. Thank You for good health and poor health alike, for we know Your word teaches us to give thanks in all circumstances and we trust You enough to do it.

Thank You for the seasons. For color, birdsong, laughter, and music. Thank You for making us in Your image and for being patient with us when we do not represent the Divine image well. Thank You, Lord, that You truly do work all things for the good of those who love You – even our mistakes and our pain.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)

Thank You that it is Your glory we are made for and not our own because in You, we find a glory worth dying for, a perfection worth imitating, and a goodness worth every ounce of our being and so much more.  And thank You, Lord, for Your Son and for our salvation through Him. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, our comforter and guide. It is in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we offer up our gratitude today, amen.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:13)