In Everything? Give Thanks?

In everything, give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This time of year, especially the week of Thanksgiving, we see the first part of this verse tossed around. It’s on plates, napkins, chalkboard walls, plaques. It was probably on church bulletins Sunday and will be statuses come Thursday.

But I have to be honest that Sunday I really didn’t want to give thanks in my situation. As I sat waiting for the police to take an accident report (I’m fine, Betty’s scratched up) I was not giving thanks thinking it was God’s will for my life. I was frustrated and irritated at the hassle of someone not paying attention and side-swiping me. In the extended wait time for the cops (who never showed) I didn’t give thanks for that time in my car in the middle of a busy thoroughfare near my neighborhood. Thankfulness was not entering my mind as I steamed over plans for my afternoon that were now thrown out the window.

Real honesty here that I was just pissed. Pissed that now I have to get my car fixed, pay a deductible and deal with insurance claims for the next few weeks. It’s life I know, but I was not having it and most definitely was not giving thanks through it. I stress baked and fumed for a good part of the night. Then suddenly this verse floated into my head. So I pushed it aside and distracted myself with a book I’d gotten. I dove into another world to find some semblance of salvaging my afternoon, my evening, my day.

This same verse from 1 Thessalonians 5 popped back up yesterday morning in my mind. It was a gentle reminder that I hadn’t taken stock of giving thanks in my circumstances. That I was intentionally living outside of the will of Christ because I was vehemently choosing to be unthankful in my circumstance. I didn’t want to be thankful it wasn’t worse. I didn’t want to be thankful that there weren’t injuries. I wanted to pitch a fit and be stubborn in my irritation.

Guess what though…you don’t get to live in that attitude or perspective. Because it’s not in the will of Christ. No, instead we give thanks in every circumstance, not comparing that we are better than the next person in it or that we aren’t like them. We give thanks that He saw fit to place us here in this moment, that we have a God who hears when we’re frustrated, broken, angry. Thankful hearts recalling seasons of joy and pulling them into our now. Thankful minds choosing an attitude of thanks in all things rather than an attitude of disdain.

Begin Again

So here we are a week into 2017. How are those resolutions treating you? Or better yet, how are you treating them? I know all the statistics surrounding the people who keep their resolutions is staggering at best. It reminds us of failure and best laid plans.

Shoot, even I indulged in cheesecake yesterday and thought “well, here you are ya failure.” But then I remembered it’s my choice. I chose to grab that deliciousness (and it was delicious) with the same choice I made to get in good health this year. One doesn’t nullify the other but it can overshadow it if I let it.

I can allow the weight of one poor decision to counteract the good intentions and focus I had the other six days of the week. Or I can say that this was a choice today, that has no effect on what I accomplished the other six days this week and will have zero bearing on the next six days following.


Recently I was listening to a friend speak about beginning again…something we all often like to do in January each year. We have come off the indulgences (and some over indulgences) of the holiday season that lasted well over six weeks. We have said “come January” more often than we would care to admit. In my friend’s sermon I couldn’t help but think about how we reserve January 1 as a do over day. We hit reset, wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

But what about April 18? Or July 24? Or October 1?

I think we put far too much emphasis on the date on the calendar than we do the intentions and purpose of our hearts and minds. We lump in so much, put alot of pressure on a new year, on January 1 to bring about some radical shift in our lives that when it’s a week later and we’ve not seen much we grow discouraged. Or when we slip up because we’ve lived for the last eight weeks, eight months, eight years, a lifetime a different way that we chalk it up to us being failures.

What if instead of letting one slip up damage the whole focus of your determination, preparation and focus, you allow it to give you another reset? What if instead of focusing on the location of where you find yourself on January 8th, you focus on the people you get to interact with, what you can learn from them, how you can bring brightness to their day?

Maybe you do need to begin again today. It’s a new day, full of new mercies. It’s full and waiting for you. Maybe it’s about not letting the date on the calendar or one poor choice dictate how your life is structured and lived out. You get the choice. You get the decision. You get to tell failure that it had it’s time, you have learned and you are utilizing that to move in the direction you feel led. That it’s not about where you are in location, job, relationship, hardship or joy but it’s about choosing to begin again with yourself.

You can listen to my friend’s sermon here. (And you should)

Devotional Link

Hi y’all…I am over on Journey On Today (a daily devotional series published by Brentwood Baptist Church) sharing about the Transfiguration on the Mount from Peter’s point of view. 

I think we are more Peter than we admit…

You can check that out here. (If you are reading this after November 30th you can still read the devotional by selecting the drop down date for today)

That Year in Birmingham

In a couple of weeks I’ll be headed to Birmingham for an event. At one time, just after college, I called Birmingham home for a year. I have been back once, for a little over 24 hours, in those 13 years since I packed up a that Uhaul trailer with my dad and grandfather and booked it back to Tennessee.

In planning my trip back down, I couldn’t help but recall the first time I went to B’ham as a freshly-educated college grad knowing I had a job in baseball. One week in I was crumpled on the floor of my kitchen telling my sister it was a mistake to be there. That I had somehow made a terrible decision, living five hours from anyone I knew, and I wasn’t possibly going to be able to make it in this city that didn’t offer me much.

Part of me cringes at that memory because of the emotion of it all, remembering how bleak my outlook was and how incredibly alone I felt in that city. The other part of me rejoices though, because I am 13 years wiser from it. God drew me there, whether I wanted to recognize it or not, for a purpose and a reason. He led me there, to get me right here. He did some significant work in me over that year that I can only see in hindsight, and allowed me to work out who I was in some difficult moments.

Throughout my time in B’ham I made some poor decisions, I will own that entirely. My way, my will and my attitude won out on several occasions but I am also able to see how I needed to work out that in an environment where it was me dealing with Him without distraction or other voices bringing solace. Being there allowed me to see where He was not leading me and I was taking my own path and my own way. It brought me back to Him in a way which if I had remained in Knoxville I would not have seen nor chosen.

In so much hurt and grief we cannot possibly see how it’s for our good while we are in it. We cannot see how being alone in place, a place we don’t like and the circumstances aren’t how we would craft them could bring anything remotely resembling His good for us out of it all.

But it does.

It did for me. I am pretty sure it will for you too, if we let go of our expectation of the situation, our will and our way and accept the work God is doing without knowing what it is. The end result isn’t the point, it is what you are going through that’s refining you and making you who God intends you to be in His image, as His reflection and not your own.

The whole process, in the circumstance, in the location, in the job, in the relationship…all of that is the point. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of distance of years or miles to see it. To see how one of the worst and hardest times of your life was also one of the best parts of your relationship in Christ, with God through the Holy Spirit.

But we have to allow it. We have to accept it. We have to be willing to go through it, even in the ugly, even in the lonely, even in the longevity of it all. It’s never about us. It’s about the work He’s doing, we just have to receive it.

What if, the doubting, fearful, stressed out, frantic, chaotic, frustrated, complaining, gossiping, self-focused you is all the Jesus someone else sees?

That thought brushed across my mind last night as I drove home from a powerful, freeing evening at IF:Gathering, IF:local. I am heading back there in just a few minutes, with this thought still haunting me because it’s true.

But what if…

What if, the confident, loving, kind, patient, beautiful, encouraging, trusting you is the Jesus someone sees today?

Today would have been my mamaw’s 100th birthday. My mom reminded me of this last night as we chatted. To be honest I had gotten the year mixed up and thought she would have been 97. But I never forget that her birthday is February 2nd.

You see my mamaw meant an awful lot to me, as she was a godly woman who I got to spend summers with on occasion learning how to hand-sew quilts and make spaghetti from scratch, just for lunch. When she would get to giggling, it was something magical because to be honest, we never could get her to smile for a photograph. It was like she somehow knew a secret none of the rest of us did and she was holding it in for dear life.

I shared with some coworkers recently about how she had the phone book and would read the obituaries in the paper every morning and remove people from it. I asked her once why she was doing that, or if she knew them, and she told me very informatively that “Well no I don’t know them, but in case I needed to contact them now I know I can’t.” Part of me strongly believes I get my sweet tooth from her, and my knack for now holding my purse on my lap. We spent Saturdays with her alot, going to A&W for corn dogs, shopping in Wal-Mart and picking blackberries from the bushes in the garden. She used to put them on our fingers and tell us to enjoy with a smile.

Later in life, she started to forget us. Her mind becoming muddled with a different reality and confusion. It hurt my heart to see her get agitated because she didn’t know us, couldn’t remember my grandfather who she was married to for so long, not knowing her only daughter, my mother.

Memories are a tricky thing-they bring us such delight and also such pain. For a while after she passed away I could only remember the conversations of convincing her I was her granddaughter, of seeing her curled up in the nursing home bed not wanting to talk. I carried those around with alot of hurt, until I realized that’s not what I was supposed to see her as, the truth had gotten muddled with the picture before me. An illness tried to dilute  my memories down to something else, to replace the images I knew with something that wasn’t. Much like it did to her in the latter years of her life.

So instead I choose the memories of my mamaw with her pink lipstick, color-coordinated pants suits and “ear bobs” because that is who she was to me, to us all. She was the kind-hearted woman who made hundreds of hand pies for church homecomings and would laugh when we told her she shouldn’t be “taste-testing” them all since she had diabetes.

We often don’t get to choose the story that is told about us, but memories provide a way for us to seek the good and true in a reality that is sometimes harsher and colder than we could ever imagine.

Remember there are worse places than Nineveh. He that goes out of the path that God marks for him may yet come to be at the bottom of the sea with Jonah, with the weeds wrapped about his head.“-Charles Spurgeon

Maybe your Nineveh doesn’t look like Jonah’s. Or maybe it’s looking worse than you can fathom his to be. Jonah didn’t know at the time he would end up in the belly of a whale, so God could get his attention on what He was asking him to be obedient in.

Do we ever get the whole picture?


What we do get is the call to obedience, to be on the path of God’s design. We get the choice of the step. Where that leads is up to us….

I don’t know about you but Nineveh is looking better than the belly of a man-eating whale from this perspective.