Scriptures on thanks

Gratitude is “learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits we have received from God and from others.”

Scripture has much to say about giving thanks. In the Old Testament, there are repeated references to giving God thanks because of His goodness and enduring love (1 Chronicles 16:34), His trustworthiness (Psalm 28:7), salvation (Psalm 118:21), and His answers to and provision for our requests (Daniel 2:23). The New Testament writers highlight the benefits of life in Christ, such as: grace in Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4), victory in Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57), generosity that overflows into thanks (2 Corinthians 9:11-12), peace of Christ (Colossians 3:15,17), that the kingdom cannot be shaken (Hebrew 12:28, and that Jesus will be the one on the throne forever (Revelation 4:9).

In reviewing passages that address thanks and thankfulness, it’s apparent that the emphasis is on directing our thoughts and our hearts towards the Lord. It is He who we have to thank, for who He is, for what He has done, and for what He will yet do with us, through us, and in us. So part of having a thankful heart involves looking up rather than inward or outward for reasons to be joyful and glad. As our eternal focus grows, we can sincerely learn what it means to give thanks no matter what is headed our way on earth. The deepest things we really have to be thankful for are grounded in our Lord and Savior, not in our circumstances or abilities. These things are always true and solid, even when our journey looks grim and our efforts are feeble.

May the Lord help us to recall who He is and what He has done with fresh faith and genuine gratitude.

I was particularly excited about this verse…“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Watermark has a simple, but excellent song about our gratitude for salvation in Christ that I’ve been mulling over recently.

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A people known for their…gratitude?

gratitude

Do you think that Christians are a people that are known for their spirit of gratitude?

I confess that if they are, I’m not one of the spokespeople! 😦

However, perhaps for the first time, I genuinely want to be.

Recently, I met with a woman from my church who mentors me. She made a point of spending some time outdoors at our local beach and offering up thanks to the Lord for what He is doing and what He has done. There was such a spirit of gratitude, trust, and humility in her. I have a deep respect for her because I know that although her life is certainly blessed, it hasn’t been easy. Still, her inclination is to have hope and to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

About a week later, I came across a new book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss called Choosing Gratitude. Gulp. Oh, Lord…I murmured inwardly…I see a theme coming, but you know better than anyone that gratitude is a great deficiency in my life. Sure, I’m ok at pleasantries…telling folks thank you and writing thank you notes…but actually having a heart of gratitude…er…think again.

When I hear remarks about how I should be grateful for such and such, I get this horrible lump in my throat. I can’t quite choke past the ‘should.’ This overwhelming sense that if I was really a good Christian, I would will myself to be grateful under all circumstances. It sounds like this burdensome chore to me that I’m supposed to grin and bear and act like I love it and yet somehow not appear to be pretending.

There’s good news. Well meaning Christians might make comments like this, but God doesn’t heap tasks on us that we ‘should’ do and then put the burden on us to make it happen and make Him look good while we’re doing it. For that, I can say…I’m grateful! 🙂 There’s hope of becoming a grateful person because as we submit ourselves to Him and His work, He takes the burden and He transforms us into people with His heart. So, when I go to Him and say, wow, I blow it in this area over and over and…(you get the point)…in His time, He can refine me no matter how far off I am from where He intends me to be.

This week, I want to elaborate a bit about gratitude, what scripture teaches about gratitude, and how we can practice gratitude in the midst of all kinds of circumstances. I welcome you to join me in these posts and, feel free to share your own recommendations, too!

Why I’m blogging…

Greetings! I’m Rebekah Hall and I’ve been blogging for the library since January, but I thought I’d recap what I aim to do through blogging now that we’re beginning a new school year.

In addition to providing a place to highlight some resources and events at the library, it’s my hope that this can be a forum for conversations among the Trinity community, an opportunity for students to gain some familiarity with library staff, and a way to exhort us to think about our faith and consider how studying and serving at Trinity equips us to practice what we believe in everyday living.

I’m looking forward to posting on the library blog and I welcome your thoughts and feedback! Feel free to see my about page to learn more about me and my role at Rolfing.

FYI: We’re in the process of switching to a new website, so eventually the blog will be integrated into Drupal.

Welcome to campus!

Special thanks to Janelle Sander, Access Supervisor @ Rolfing Library for her guest post on adjusting to life @ Trinity!

On transitioning to campus life…

It was a little more than a year ago that my husband and I were going through some of the same transitions that many of our new students have been through in the last few months or are going through now—reverting from a “normal” life where we both worked full-time jobs in the “real” world back to a world where assignments and papers dictate how we will spend our nights and weekends.  Now, I know that our experiences are similar to only a fraction of the population here at Trinity.  Some have come straight from other schooling experiences, while some have been out of school much longer than we have.  The point is that we’re all here, trying to adjust to a new normalcy.  Here’s a few tips for making the transition a little easier (hopefully):

Start building a community:  I know this may seem a little basic, but I believe it is essential to creating the Trinity Experience.  The people you connect with during seminary are not only going to be great friends now, they will be the start of your network when you graduate into the next stage of your life.

Finding a church home:  There are many churches in the area.  Check out Trinity’s online church guide for ideas: http://www.tiu.edu/files/college/studentministries/churchdir07.pdf.

Get to know the area:  The North Shore area (not to mention Chicago) has some amazing things going on during all times of the year.  In my opinion, its healthy to take a break from studying sometimes!  Check out these local resources:

Ask questions.  People here are friendly and want to help out – remember, we’ve all been there at some point and can identify with what you’re going through.  Soon classes will start and you will settle into a routine.  The year will go by and before you know it, you’ll be helping someone much like yourself settle into next year.

Joy & Pain…in service

Slowly, but surely, I’m plugging away at Fernando’s ‘Call to Joy in Pain.’ A few things I gleaned from today’s reading were that if churches really want to see the congregation rise up as servants (and not merely consumers), one of the very best ways to see that accomplished is for the leadership to invest themselves in loving the flock. Love motivates and inspires. We are living in a generation that refrains from vulnerability in relationships, but when we allow that to go on, we are short-circuiting the good work that comes from dealing with difficult circumstances honestly and seeking the Lord to help us to help those in our church body who’s needs surpass our perceived abilities to offer time, resources, energy, etc.

These are some helpful reminders for those of us who plan to be involved in lifelong ministry, whether full-time or part-time, paid, or volunteer. We all have a part to play here. As much as we sometimes feel that our schedules are already brimming, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider if there is any capacity in which the Lord might want to use you to either love another church goer or help someone from the body out with a practical need. One of my periodic things is writing letters to women from my congregation to encourage them in their walk, let them know I’m praying, or follow up about something that I know has been happening in their lives.

Sara Groves is one of my favorite artists…when I think about love, there are a few things that pop into my mind almost immediately: excerpts from C. S. Lewis’s Four Loves and Kierkegaard’s Works of Love (see quote tab) and songs from Sara Groves. Here are the lyrics for one of them:

When it was over and they could talk about it
She said there’s just one thing I have got to know
What in that moment when you were running so hard and fast
Made you stop and turn for home
He said I always knew you loved me even though I’d broken your heart
I always knew there’d be a place for me to make a brand new start

Oh love wash over a multitude of things
Love wash over a multitude of things
Love wash over a multitude of things
Make us whole

When it was over and they could talk about it
They were sitting on the couch
She said what on earth made you stay here
When you finally figured out what I was all about
He said I always knew you’d do the right thing
Even though it might take some time
She said, Yeah, I felt that and that’s probably what saved my life

Oh love wash over a multitude of things
Love wash over a multitude of things
Love wash over a multitude of things
Make us whole

There is a love that never fails
There is a healing that always prevails
There is a hope that whispers a vow
A promise to stay while we’re working it out
So come with your love and wash over us

Searching for a new paradigm

A reflection out of my reading in Call to Joy & Pain and work with Live a Praying Life

This year has confronted me about how much I have grown up with clearly drawn lines around where God’s turf was in my life and that there has been terrain where He was not to tread because, after all, it’s my life.

But it isn’t really; it’s His.

As I aim to grow in Him, this season has surfaced a great many ‘I wants’ that have been severely disappointed. I realize that I was raised to have a plan and move towards it, but the more my plans fall through, the less I believe that paradigm works. To complicate things further, God tells us that He has plans for us, yet we don’t constantly walk in the knowledge of what those plans entail. He hasn’t exactly sat me down with a timeline and told me word for word what I need to do to arrive there…wherever ‘there’ is. Sometimes, we have to walk purely by faith that God does, indeed have a plan, one that we cannot see.

I don’t like the idea of relinquishing my whole future to God, wholly undefined from my own vantage point. What might He fill that life with? Still, is there anyone else who would be better to give that blank check to? My prayer life is being disrupted in these thoughts of what it means to pray…that it is more about being transformed into persons with His heart and His desires. Suffering and pain can be part of the means God uses to produce the character He needs to see His work accomplished.

Even in the face of knowing enough about God to know that He is good and His ways are perfect, it’s difficult to say with each instance or circumstance of life, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I have these what ifs and what abouts that choke out joy and highlight pain or failure.

Somehow, in a way that I cannot see, God will supply all that I ever needed. I don’t yet grasp what it means to live with anticipation of what God will do, without being tempted to define what I think that should be or keep my heart on the fringes so I don’t risk more brokenness.

All of the misshapen pieces I have examined this year, the places I wish I could hide or fix, struggles that I could not mask, I know that God has a use for those things. On what might seem desolate terrain, He will amaze me with what harvest He can grow, in His time and in His way. The purification process will one day yield fine metal for Him to use. In the meantime, He helps me take down my fences and tills the ground for a work that has yet to come.

Book Review: Sidewalks in the Kingdom

Much thanks to Matt Ostercamp @ Rolfing for this guest post!

What does it mean to follow Christ in the city?  Having recently bought a condo in Chicago, this is an important question for my wife and I as we seek to incorporate our faith.  Looking for answers we joined another couple this summer in reading Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith by Eric Jacobsen.   This book challenged us to think about how where we live contributes (or detracts) from our spiritual formation and it provided several suggestions on how to make positive contributions to our neighborhood.

Jacobsen starts by asking not how we can save the city but how the city can save us.  How can our cities help our growth in sanctification?  Throughout the book he builds a case that the post WWII suburb is an especially arid place for Christian spirituality – reflecting and reinforcing an extreme form of individualism that cuts us off from our neighbors and our God.

In place of the subdivision and shopping mall, Jacobsen calls Christians to rediscover traditional cities with their mixed use neighborhoods – neighborhoods that combine residential, commercial, and public spaces.  These neighborhoods encourage us to get out of our cars and have personal encounters with our neighbors.  It is in such settings that Pastor Jacobsen thinks the fruits of the spirit – gentleness, patience, self control et al can be nourished, we can encounter and welcome the stranger, and we learn to put others ahead of ourselves.  It is also in our older cities that diverse and compelling architecture imparts dignity to our daily tasks in ways box stores and cookie cutter subdivisions fail.  The theaters, coffee shops, and book stores in cities also nuture the life of the mind.  Tapping into the  presence of a critical mass of interested people, these venues are places where ideas are discussed, debated, and strengthened.  Finally, it is in cities that we have unique opportunities to incarnate the gospel and evangelize people from all nations.

All of this was encouraging to this farm boy-cum-urbanite.  But of course it is also a challenge.  First, because as the book explains a lot goes into to making and keeping our cities appropriately human scaled – places where we can have healthy encounters with others.  Second, the opportunity to develop fruits of the spirit are right next to opportunities to sit on the couch and channel surf while muttering curses at the loud teenagers outside the window.  Finally, though this isn’t adequately discussed in the book cities not only include the artistic and architectural pieces that impart dignity but they also can be brutal places where greed, addiction, and violence strip dignity from its citizens.

If you are trying to find a place to live or interested in exploring how your neighborhood (wherever it is) can better promote a Kingdom agenda, I would encourage you to reflect on the ideas in Sidewalks in the Kingdom.  Remembering that the heaven John saw was not a new garden – it was a new city.

Matt is the Head of Technical Services at the Rolfing Library and writes more about his urban pilgrimage at: http://mattostercamp.wordpress.com/