Posts Tagged ‘circumstances’

thank youIt’s pretty simple really, and repeated throughout scripture, from the Old Testament to the New, we are encouraged to “give thanks.” It’s a natural response and when it’s genuine, it’s the cinch to a bow or knot, those words wrap up the exchange. . . for that moment, for that day perhaps. But it’s never too late to reopen the conversation and it’s never too late to give thanks, whether it’s to God or to a stranger. The words carry power, the sentiment carries humanity and when thoughtfully given, recognizes the I-Thou in the other.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. [Psalm 107:1, NIV]
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV]
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. [I Chronicles 16:34, NIV]
Where human thanksgings, one to another, are considered polite and, unfortunately, in many cases, somewhat rote and even cavalier, the command to give thanks to God is fraught with much more weight. This is increasingly clear when life becomes overwhelming. But Paul, in I Thessalonians, admonishes us to give thanks in ALL circumstances (both delightful and dreadful). Well, we might think, “surely God doesn’t mean I am to give thanks for illness or corruption or betrayal or sorrow?”

Yes and no. I am not giving thanks for the situation itself but I am giving thanks that God is still in the midst of that state of affairs, and because God is there, I am promised that I can have confidence in the outcome, which will be God-covered (one way or another, sooner or later). I can, if I so choose, rest in this truth. I am given the opportunity to trust God again and again. I am given the chance to confirm my faith, my commitment, my relationship with the Godhead. It is a choice to give thanks. It’s not that the world will come to an end if I don’t, but I can improve my relationship to challenges, in that simple expression.

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? [Jeremiah 32:27, NIV]

Thanks. Yeah. Just sayin.’ Thanks.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Irm Brown

Photo by Irm Brown

It’s more than likely that our use of “rise and shine” for waking someone up in the morning derived from this biblical reference. The history of the phrase found even more traction in the military and apparently, it’s use is around the world, although the British tend to add, “wakey-wakey” to it.

Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to a new life]! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you! [Isaiah 60:1, AMP]

Let us return to the biblical reference however for it is quite rich in meaning. I am particularly struck by the elaborated Amplified version which gives us more information about the original Hebrew; specifically, arise from depression and difficult circumstances to a new day, a new life, a new opportunity.

We choose to arise, whether it’s from our beds or from a dreary despondency (I’m not speaking of clinical depression here). Even those who are deep in the mire of chemical dependency are often told they will hit rock bottom before looking up. It’s a small moment, this turning with “I will.”

Along with that first instant comes the next: a promise to shine; not with our own power or light but with God’s power and light. When a person surrenders to the Presence, then light rises within and fills the “temple” (body/soul) [I Corinthians 6:9]. And with this light, we can truly “see.” Another word for this encounter is revelation (understanding).


Read Full Post »

sprout in asphaltBe careful what you ask for. That’s the old saying when people ask for patience. . . . you know what you get? Trying and irritating situations that give us patience practice. Well, here’s another one, be careful about asking God to increase your faith, because it’s dire circumstances that build faith.

Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
[Mark 4: 37 – 40; CEB]

They were nearly drowned. Despite having walked with Jesus and watched him heal hundreds of people (see verse 3:10), when they were in their own cataclysm, the challenge to “keep the faith” was much more difficult.

Perhaps they even tried. I can imagine the guys debating whether or not to wake Jesus up (who apparently was so unfazed by the situation that he slept like a baby). Did they know this was some kind of test of faith (after all, it was Jesus’s idea to cross over the lake)? Which of the twelve finally caved in and woke up the master with fear and trembling and even challenged Jesus, “Don’t you care . . .?” (Reminds of the character, Martin Udall, in the film, As Good As It Gets, who says, “I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!”)

We are driven by our circumstances. Despite knowing in our heads that the world does not revolve around us, we still tend to view the world from center of the universe. Look, what is happening to me! Where is God? Where is Jesus? This can’t be right! I’m suffering here, like another movie character, Ratzo Rizzo in MIdnight Cowboy, “I’m walkin’ here; I’m walkin’ here.” The implication, again, is that circumstances need to adjust to our presence.

But faith walks in the face of circumstances. Faith moves in a straight line no matter what is happening around us. Faith is the tortoise, undaunted by the wily hare or the long, long road.

Faith is not built on the easy life. In Matthew 5:43-48, we are reminded that it’s easy to love those who love you, it’s loving the enemies that becomes a challenge. So it is with faith. You want your faith to grow? Give thanks for the difficult days.

Read Full Post »

Even when we’re doing all the right things, we might get a viper bite. Intellectually, I know that life brings all kinds of challenges and we can’t expect the way to be smooth all the time and the key is how we respond to them. Why doesn’t that knowledge make it easier?

Acts 28:3, 5
Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand….But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.

I feel as though I’m in a good place “spiritually.” In fact, it’s probably the best place I’ve been in a long time. I’m more disciplined in my devotions, I’m reading, I’m praying, I’m confessing my sins, I’m giving and receiving forgiveness. In general, my life circumstances are pretty stable. I’m working, my husband is working and we are both in good health. Our children are almost all graduated from high school (only a year and a half to go).

And yet, we keep getting nipped by things that are disconcerting: 4 car break downs or fender benders in the last month (totally over $3000) and then two trees were felled by the wind ($500 minimum – our deductible). We just discovered our one son will add $2000 to our car insurance annual bill and the other two kids have to repeat their driver’s schools ($700). The crown our daughter had to get after a root canal was not covered by insurance ($1200). And we just maxed out one of our main credit card with a second one on the way. Clearly, the viper in our life is the dollar. Financially, we are living on the edge.

Lord, I confess, we are really terrible at this part. Help! Teach me… teach us how to shake this viper off into the fire.

Read Full Post »

Really, aren’t there a lot of things that any one of us would do if we knew we would be safe?

Acts 18:9a
And one night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Have no fear… ”

Paul stayed in Corinth over a year and a half because of his vision. He held onto the promise of safety and moved forward with it. He had total confidence in God and in the words he heard spoken in the night.

I base so many of my choices on the fear/safety ratio, and not just physical harm but emotional harm as well. Will I be embarrassed? Will I fail? Will there be someone here who is smarter, stronger, quicker than me? Will I be exposed? Are there people here who look like they might hurt me? Is this place too dark… too loud… too chaotic? Is this situation similar to another situation where I was hurt before? Is there too much change? Is this happening differently than I expected? What if … what if… what if…?

Of course, there are times that everyone should be vigilant. I am not suggesting that we should walk blindly into truly dangerous circumstances or situations without wisdom and common sense. And yet, is it possible that we judge the level of danger too quickly? Is it possible we allow fear to drive us away from someone or something important?

Hundreds of times, scripture tells us not to be afraid, that God is with us. Isn’t this where confidence starts?

What is stronger…. my fear or my trust in God’s safety promise?

Lots of questions today. The key to all of the answers is our confidence in God… “If God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31] That means all of my circumstances are in God’s hands… the ones that feel or seem dangerous as well as those that are completely benign.

It is my interpretation of people, places and things that gives them power to make me feel unsafe. If I put all things through the filter of the Holy Spirit, the picture changes. I can actually choose to feel safe.

Read Full Post »

Acts 7:9b-10
But God was with him [Joseph] and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

They go hand in hand, wisdom and opportunity. It is opportunity that gives expression to wisdom.

I have missed so many opportunities to do or say something because of lack of wisdom. I simply did not know or recognize the moment of decision or worse, I recognized it too late.

In college, I was in a sorority and apparently, many of the sisters were active in Campus Crusade for Christ. At the same time that they started having meetings in our rec room, I started dating. I passed up several opportunities to attend one of those meetings in order to go out or hang out with my new boyfriend. Who would I be today if I had met Christ as a young adult?

In Chicago, when I was trying to get “into” the theater scene, I had my choice of small theater companies with which to align. I didn’t really think about it much nor consider my options and as a result, I chose unwisely. I missed out on working at the Steppenwolf Theatre that has since become part of the bedrock of professional theater in Chicago founded by such icons as Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.

The list goes on. We all make choices that redirect our lives. Granted, there is no way to know which road is really best. Hindsight is always easier than foresight.

But wisdom is a gift of God. And today, I have no excuse for missing a God-created opportunity. If I pursue my opportunities with prayer and meditation first, then I will be ready to choose.

O Lord, give me discernment and sensitivity to the circumstances of my life today and may wisdom be my sister-friend, whispering truth into my heart and soul.

Read Full Post »

    Today, as part of my daily devotion, I read Mark’s account of the crucifixion and these verses stuck out to me: “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

    And I was confounded… having for so many years thought there were only 3-4 women at the cross, but now I think there were many more women “disciples” than men. And the thing that kept them there was their FAITH! Their faith despite the circumstances… their faith despite the pain and disappointment… their faith despite the loss. This is my goal: steadfastness. [Special thanks to Chris Gollon for the use of his painting, Stations of the Cross VIII, Jesus speaks to the Women of Jerusalem, used by permission.]

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: