PAUSING TO SAY, “THANKS”

I still remember 11 years ago when a close friend found out the baby growing inside of her might have a rare chromosomal disorder which would result in death soon after being born.  Any attempt to thank God during that circumstance was choked out by cries to him to have mercy on my friend and her baby.  It was only after we received news the test results were negative that gratitude could again flow from my heart or my mouth.

In the day to day as well, when tasks, obligations and responsibilities send me into a stressed out flurry of activity I rarely pause long enough to consider the gift of each moment or the gifts in it.

Reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp last year deepened my understanding of gratitude.  In her book, Ann speaks of a loss she endured early in her life rendering her and her parents incapable of feeling or giving gratitude to God.  As an adult Ann is challenged by a friend to begin the work of recovering her gratitude.  She does so with a list where she is to write down one thousand things for which she grateful.  Her list includes things large and small like “#526 New toothbrushes” and “#783 Forgiveness of a sister.”

As a reader I too was challenged to begin regularly writing down the things I am grateful for.  At first I was skeptical.  How does thanking God for a parking space or a flower make me more grateful?  I felt like it was making my relationship with God more of a business transaction. I couldn’t see how this would make me grateful in the hard stuff.  But as my list grew, so did my gratitude.  I never realized it before but gratitude is a practice just like Bible reading or prayer.  The more you do it, the better you get at it.  In thanking God for all the little things is the acknowledgement that everything is from Him and He is in control of everything.  Being mindful of all of the little things like a cardinal on a tree branch, my functioning washing machine or my children playing nicely together have become a mountain of evidence that God is good and He does love me.

Sometimes, it seems there is a mountain of evidence in the world that says otherwise.  We need the small, simple things as tangible reminders of the truth when the big, bad things come and we question God’s goodness.  So in this season and beyond, let’s be grateful in all things and pause to say, “Thanks.”

Yes, terrorists attacked Paris.

Thank you that you are a God of peace.

Yes, Christians are persecuted and killed around the world.

Thank You that You are a God of hope.

Yes, my friend is battling cancer.

Thank You that You are a God of strength.

Yes, my neighbor is out of work.

Thank you that you are a God of mercy and grace.

Thank You.


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Martha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, c
ooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands; she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!

 

SEATED AT THE TABLE

“Lord of all pots and pans and things, make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates!” – Father Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God

Kitchens are vibrant places. Whether you’re twisting and turning, hot pans in hand, avoiding a collision with family members as you navigate the flurry of holiday meal prep, or you’re quietly embracing the warmth of the oven as you pray in the peaceful, candle-lit evening, the kitchen is an intimate environment. It’s a place where we meet to rummage through the fridge for that late-night snack. The kitchen is a space where we lean against counters and share stories while water boils. It’s a space where, at times, voices get raised and tears flow. What memories take place in your kitchen?

Those that know me best know that I absolutely love cooking. Yet, what I love more than merely throwing something together is throwing something together for someone else. Here’s why I love the kitchen: nourishment. There’s just something sacramental, something that draws me in spiritually about the idea that what I create and craft in the kitchen will bless and serve another – and on a number of levels. In the kitchen we’re nourished physically, we enjoy flavor and color (lots of color!) and texture. Through food and companionship we are comforted, we’re entertained, we love and feel loved, we find common ground and grow to appreciate our differences. All through Scripture we see scenes of reconciliation and redemption that take place around a table, food in hand. The kitchen, food, meals together, all of these things reveal to me in real time more and more about God and the life he has for us in Jesus Christ. The kitchen is a place of invitation, of intimate meeting.

Have you ever felt that subtle shock when a relatively new kitchen-invitee casually throws open the door to your fridge? I’m convinced that can only be a result of knowing that the seemingly-ordinary items on those shelves and the way they appear in our lives is special and sacred to us – they speak volumes about who we are. But I’m also convinced that if someone new in your life feels comfortable enough to act like family in your sacred space, you’re doing something right. (Can you imagine the rough and tumble crowd that followed Jesus sitting neatly at his table? I’d like to think they felt such love and comfort with him that they couldn’t help but spread crumbs as they tossed each other bread and sloppily touched their cups of wine.)

You see, in the midst of fear, worry, of pain, we must continually be nourished. Our bodies don’t stop needing fed because of the trauma around us. God continually calls us to take and eat, continually meets us in the sludge of life. And when there is no food on the table (whether for fasting and prayer or by tragedy) we are nourished by the Scriptures and by prayer, by story, by those seated at the table across from us and beside us. As we meet at the table together, we’re drawn into deeper relationship with God through those around us, through the food before us, through the prayer and discussion we have.

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One of my favorite professors sat down to lunch with me last year and casually glanced at the empty seats at our table. He then turned to me and said, “Who in your life has yet to be seated at the Lord’s table? For them, brother, we pray.” I hope I never forget that moment, because it was then that Scripture stepped out of the book and into the landscape of my life. So as you read this, I ask you to glance at your table, at your kitchen and see the empty seats, the empty plates and bowls, and pray for those in your life who haven’t yet made it to your table, to his table. Might we find more than just food at the table, but healing, nourishment, and growth.

For meditation:

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:15-17

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.” – John 21:9-14

 


 

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Holden can usually be found spending time with his wife Kira, drinking better-than-great coffee, listening to obscure music while cooking, or passionately discussing wooly mammoths. A soon-to-be graduate of Moody, he’s on staff at Immanuel as the Assistant to Lead Pastor.

 

ABOUT THEM

Have you ever listened to yourself pray?

Seriously, when was the last time you sat down and thought through what you talk to God about? If you’re like me it’s probably been a long time, if ever. Recently I was reading Paul’s first letter to Timothy and I came across a few sentences that got me started thinking about this. Check them out:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior… (1 Timothy 2:1-3a).

I can’t help but notice that Paul skipped me. He skipped you too. As he talks about prayer and the subject of our prayers, his focus is on other people.  It’s about them. That prayer inventory I’ve been doing on myself has not yielded very good results. I pray for myself more than anyone else. “God help me out of this jam,” or, “God show me what to do in this situation.” Sometimes it’s, “God help the boys to sleep through the night so I can get some sleep.” Me, me, me.

But Paul challenges me (and you) to pray for others. And not just as part of our normal prayer routine, but as the primary subject. We should be praying two things: 1) that God would help them, and 2) prayers of thanks for them. I so appreciate the lack of complexity here. Thank God for them and ask Him to help them… simple. In other words, go to God on their behalf; speak up for them. Pray for them what we so desperately want for ourselves; and when we do, God is pleased. What an interesting thing: God is pleased with us when we pray for others. It certainly speaks to the selflessness that is such a deep part of what it means to be like Jesus, who died for everyone else.

And we simply can’t move on until we note what might be the most difficult part of these sentences for some of us. Paul tells Timothy to pray for all who are in authority. All is a tough word here. There are no exceptions or caveats… just pray for the authorities. When was the last time you asked God to help our president? When was the last time you thanked God for him? Democrat, Republican, or anywhere in between—it sounds like we’re called to pray for the president; whether we agree with them or not, we should certainly be praying for them. Hard stuff to be sure, but it can’t be glossed over. I wonder what would happen in America if the millions of Christians that live here made a daily practice of asking God to help the president, with an emphasis on God’s will above our own. And did you see the reason we pray? Peaceful, quiet lives.

It might feel frustrating to come back to that prayer inventory. It sure is for me. And by the way, I don’t think God doesn’t want us to ever pray for ourselves. He longs for an intimate relationship with each of us; that’s for sure. But it seems that at least part of growing to be like Jesus plays out in selfless, others-centered prayer. The beautiful thing is, if others are following God’s instructions… they’re praying for you.


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After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.

NEED FOR SPEED

Today, we seem to have the overwhelming need for speed. We can have almost anything we want when we want it. Having to wait for things has become agonizing. We want our food fast and our internet faster. We skip through commercials and advertisements. We like our convenience. But the problem I’ve found with this emphasis on speed is that it’s made me less patient in other aspects of my life. For example, when I pray for things, I expect to get an answer or see results right away. Don’t we all? But, I’ve found that oftentimes God makes us wait for His answer. If I’m honest though, it’s easy for me to become frustrated with God when He doesn’t deliver on my schedule. Impatience and frustration with prayer is something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. It hit very close to home for me a few years ago when my grandma was battling cancer. I remember praying every day that God would take it from her. I prayed for months and eventually, she passed away. I had to wait for an answer only to find I didn’t even get what I had specifically asked for. In these moments, it’s easy for the doubts to creep in, and that’s when we need to hold strong. Though I couldn’t see it then, God’s answer was truly the best for her. My grandma got to go home. She gets to rest in the arms of our Creator. While all of that was going on, I found a passage from Psalms that has stuck with me ever since. Maybe this will be a comfort for you when you’re in the middle of something difficult.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

I can only conclude one thing: that despite our constant need for speed, God is going to show up on his own time, that He is going to answer our prayers – and maybe even surprise us in the end.


Gracie Adamek attends the College of Lake County and hopes to one day be a special education teacher. She likes to sing, act, knit, and write. She hopes you enjoy your time here, reading these blogs, and is very grateful for the opportunity to glorify God through her words