Once again, the predominate theme God is teaching me through this out-of-my-comfort-zone experience comes down to Thanksgiving. Over and over, this word has appeared through God's Word, books, videos, blogs, friends, and a multitude of other ways. If the crimson thread running through the Old and New Testament is Jesus' sacrifice, the thread running right beside it is Thankfulness.
Yesterday at Bethel, we studied from Chapter 4 of Colossians. "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison- that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."(Col. 4:2-6)
Right in verse 2, "thanksgiving" smacked me in the face once again. I thought I was thankful for what I had at home. Was I really, though? You see, when I was younger, my sin of choice (everybody has a main one of those, whether you admit it or not) was coveting. Not open, in-your-face jealousy, but a more subtle coveting. The kind that makes you think, "If I had ____, I'd be happy. If I was able to do _____, I'd be happy." Enter whatever you want in the blanks. Bigger house, nicer clothes, better vacations, just know it all revolved around STUFF. Now, in more recent years, I have been convicted of this and managed to put it aside most of the time. But, every once in a while, coveting reared it's ugly head again. And I thought I was thankful for what I had. But, was I, really? I mean, really, truly thankful?
Did I have the kind of thankfulness that strips you to the core when you realize that you are NOTHING apart from Jesus, that you can do nothing, control nothing on your own, never be good enough? Works? Ha. You can never be good enough, never do enough "good" stuff to get into Heaven. Works that are the result of thankfulness for what Christ has done for you are the only true "good" works. Martin Luther said, "God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us."
I have so much stuff. I have so many blessings. God has given me opportunities to share with and bless others, and have I really, truly done that? Sure, sometimes I have. But other times I know I should be blessing, and all I come up with are excuses.
As I was hugging Alan and Jayde goodbye to watch them fly back to the other side of the world, literally, I was praying prayers of thankfulness. You see, what I wanted more than anything else in this life besides Jesus was to be a wife and mom. God granted my request. So I thanked Him for them. If for some reason I never saw them again, I was so thankful for each and every day spent with them. All the time God gave me. How have I spent that time? That's further on in the verses in Colossians. Have I made the most of it? No, not always. And that's another conviction I am taking back to America.
Each of us is given a numbered amount of days on this earth. The only one who knows that exact number is God. Have I been "making the most of the time", like Paul talks about? Do I make the most of my time with my family? Do I make the most of my time with strangers? Do I make the most of my time spent serving others? I hope when I go home I will be more intentional about my time.
At the end of those verses in Colossians Paul talks about our speech. Luke 6:45b says, "..for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Pastor Eric said, "Speech reflects who we are." He listed 3 ways our speech should reflect our changed heart in Christ.
1) In our prayer life: All the events in our life should cause us to go to prayer, when something good happens, and when something bad happens. We should have a speech and attitude of thanksgiving and prayer that persists and does not give up. God sees the big picture, so we can praise Him in all things, good and bad.
2) In our proclaiming/preaching/teaching the gospel: Ask God for opportunities ("open door"s) to bless others, then stop using excuses not to do it. Are you using your speech to reflect Jesus, or to talk about yourself all the time? God-focused, or self-focused? (Dude, I don't know about you, but I need that reminder a lot). Soli Deo Gloria = For God's Glory Alone. Do we have an attitude that reflects God only when it's convenient or good? In easy times? Or at all times?
3) Our speech should have a consistent life to go with it: How do you have wise speech? Through the Word of God. The Truth. That's it. Not listening to CNBC or Fox News or anywhere else you like to get your information. That may make you up to date on Presidential candidates, it may make you knowledgeable, but it won't make you wise. There's a big difference.
Your speech should restore, make right, heal, and give answers. Never put down, make fun of, or be crude. Is your speech full of grace?
Eric explained that if you don't know Christ and you try to control your speech in order to please God, it's totally backwards. You have to know Christ first, saturate yourself in His Truth, then your speech will reflect that.
You know that old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?" It's a big, fat LIE. Words have the power to heal and the power to hurt. Want an exercise that will humble you? Do what I did last year, take out a notebook, go through the book of Proverbs, and list all the verses that have to do with your speech. Ugh! It's a punch in the gut, but a good one. Put the list in front of you if you need to or carry it in your pocket. The more you meditate on it, the more your speech will start to change. There, that's my challenge to you.
I am thankful to Hank and Sandee Sytsma, who taught me a long time ago a saying that I have repeated over the years and am now trying to teach my children. It goes, "Humor at the expense of someone else is never funny." Oh, they may laugh at your sarcasm now on the outside, but believe me when I say that it chips at their heart a little bit each time. I'm not saying sarcasm is always bad, but you have to watch carefully how you use it.
Maybe you didn't need those reminders today, but I did. So, if you don't like this post, just consider it written to myself to re-read again. Then move on. But if you did need those reminders today, try taking out your notebook during your quiet time over the next few days, and open up your Bible to Proverbs.
When you see your family this week, thank God for them. When you speak to someone this week, try to bless them.
Have an attitude of gratefulness. You are more blessed than you could possibly realize. "It is only when our lives are emptied that we're surprised by how truly full our lives were." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
Today I am thankful for: praise songs like this -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdEZlLnO-5Y,
and the few comforts I brought from home.
If you can only choose a few small things to bring to remind you of home for 3 months, what would they be? Here are mine, however silly they may seem to you. (1) My big, heavy Bible, (2) my two favorite teacups for Alana and I to have tea, (3) 2 magazines from home (Country Living and Southern Living), and (4) my favorite fragrance body spray and lotion, Twilight Woods, to be used sparingly.
We're praying that this week is the week we finally get to take custody of our boys. I can't wait to introduce them to you!