Just say thank-you

I woke thinking about a story I read yesterday–the one about the ten lepers who were cleansed on their way to show themselves to the priest. Only one came back to thank Jesus (and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet besides!), at which Jesus responded–‘where are the nine? Was no one found but this foreigner who returned to give glory to God?’ and the man was commended for his faith and told that his faith had made him well–literally had ‘saved’ him!

It seems to me there is a significant relationship between gratitude and faith. One gives evidence that the other is there. And from my experience, even a speck of gratitude has the potential to increase my faith. For example…when I begin to feel stressed or anxious about something, if I will straightway begin to thank God for the situation and His knowledge of it, and His ability to direct my steps with regard to it… I can sense my faith begin to grow right then and there from that little seed of gratitude. For me, breathing out ‘thank-you Lord’ audibly (quietly) and continuing to thank Him makes me begin to focus on His ability for the situation rather than my confusion or distress. And then I begin to trust Him to direct me, to provide solutions. And He begins to make a way where moments before there seemed to be no way. I guess that’s part of the reason we are instructed to present to Him our requests with thanksgiving whenever we are tempted to be anxious. It works. It changes my attitude from doubt to faith. Try it. It works. Just say, ‘thank-you’.

What will it be?

An old plastic pot had fallen down unnoticed beside the back steps to join the other debris–bark from the procession of logs being unloaded into the house all winter, stray rubbish on its way to the garbage bin, and sundry articles fallen from the doorside catch-all table. Clean-up time came with spring weather and I had picked up this little pot to toss it but behold! a perfect little plant-kin was happily growing there. This was no weed. Its sturdy dark green leaves looked like…something. I just didn’t know what, and where did it come from anyway? Could it actually have sprung from seed I planted last spring?!


You see, when spring comes I cannot resist the urge to dig out seeds and dream of what they could grow to become. The tough part is burying them in dirt! How on earth will these pepper-like bits become brilliant flowers?! Last year I had a particularly daunting array of perennial seeds I had brought home from a seed exchange…With significant stores of doubt I finally got them arranged in makeshift boxes of potting soil by the sliding glass door, all painstakingly labeled on a piece of graph paper so I would not lose track of what was what…

Unfortunately the germination period for some of these babies is weeks long! How long can a person hold out in faith and persevere in keeping seeds moist and warm and sunlit and… well, happy! before doubt takes over and assumes the seed was infertile anyway! Evidently I gave up too soon on these seeds but my Master Gardener didn’t….

And now this pretty new plant is tucked in my rusty wheelbarrow planter beside the steps alongside the sunny-faced pansies that showed up here this spring and the store-bought ‘basket-stuffers’. It is slowly but surely showing what it was created to become… What will it be?

Just goes to show that you never know what will become of the seeds you’ve planted. It may seem all your effort’s been wasted–doubts may creep in– you may feel like a failure… but hang on. You just never know what will come of it. May “He who supplies seed to the sower…supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness!” He is faithful to complete the good work begun.

God Bless! and be sure to check back and see what it will be!


Psst… See the results here: A Lily of Course– July 3,2009

Gleanings from GILEAD

An old man hasn’t long to live. The doctor has told him his heart is weak and will not keep him long in this world.   He has a young son, an only child of his old age, who will never really know his father.  The boy is only 7.  The old man is a pastor,  a wise and gentle shepherd, in the wee midwestern town of Gilead, an insignificant town that all but God have long forgotten.  He has chosen to stay here and invest his life in the people here and now is looking back on his life and the lives of the generations before him.  He wants his young son to know who he is, who they were, what is this legacy he has inherited…

So the old man writes a journal to be given to his son when he is old enough to understand. 

These journal entries comprise  the entirety of the modern fiction work, Gilead(copyright 2004) by Marilynne Robinson.  No dramatic suspense, no elaborate plot, just a quiet weaving of history and insight from the perspective of an old man who has walked with God and loved life and wants to capture its essence for his son to savor.  The single line of ‘story’ in the book revolves around a difficult relationship with an old friend’s prodigal son, now returned to town…The old pastor must extend mercy and grace despite his misgivings and distrust of this young man but it will not come without a struggle.  And this struggle becomes the meat of many of the journal entries.  This advice to his son comes out in the process:

"This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him.  When you encounter another person… is is as if a question is being put to you.  So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation?… This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me– you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate.  You are free to act by your own lights.  You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person.  He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it." (p.124,Gilead, HarperCollinsPubl.)

I loved that!  I guess I am much drawn to grace lately as the missing ingredient in my life so much of the time.  This exquisitely sweet book painted a picture of it for me, and of the beauty of forgiveness extended to the undeserving… What surprises me most about the book is that it is not a ‘Christian’ book by a ‘Christian’ publisher.  But the author’s excellent writing has given it high acclaim with a secular publishing company.  I love that!

So if you are looking to find some stillness, some grace, some quiet yet energizing escape, look up Marilynne Robinson’s book and cozy up for a read.

There is indeed a balm in Gilead…(Jer.8:22)

Just the Way You Are…

There’s something about a love song that grabs a girl’s heart. It’s not just the tune, though that can be the winsome agent that sets your heart singing. A good love song says things my very soul longs to hear and believe. [My kids tell me I’m silly to always be listening for lyrics and rejecting a song if it’s got unacceptable ones…After all, if the tune grabs you why let a few words get in the way! But ahhh it’s a sweet song that delivers both.]

So what does my soul want to hear? That I am loved, as I am, forever and always, no chance of losing favor, no matter what I do (or don’t)… That someone I love is crazy about me… That he likes me just the way I am! That someone I love wants to talk to me and listen to what’s on my mind… That he loves my company…

Well, yes, I guess that’s what my soul wants to hear. And I believe that’s because I was created for such a love. Secular artists may not know their Source but when they write lyrics and sing tunes that resonate with a love like this, they echo faintly a Love beyond human comparison. I found a song like that. When I listen as if it were written for me, expressing God’s own heart, it makes my soul sing and my face reflect the pleasure.

Try it and see ( :

Billy Joel sings “Just the Way You Are”

Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are
Don’t go trying some new fashion
Don’t change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care
I don’t want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are.
I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you.
I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.

And that was Joel (Billy). Here’s how Zephaniah* puts it:

“Sing aloud… shout! Rejoice and exult with all your heart,…the LORD has taken away the judgments against you… The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil…He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by HIs love; He will exult over you with loud singing!”

Now that’s a love song worth taking to heart!

*(Zephaniah 3:14-17)

Reckless Faith or Ruthless Trust?

I’ve been contemplating the topic for this blog for a while. Should I address my mounting frustration with emotional faith… the sort that constantly seeks experiential evidences to affirm God’s presence… Or should I avoid personal remarks and stick with a bland book review of John MacArthur’s book: Reckless Faith, in which he addresses what he sees as the hazards of modern Evangelicalism. He sees a trend in which emotional experiences trump doctrinal soundness. He says our churches have lost their ability to discern truth from error. Even ‘discernment’ has become a mystical, feeling-oriented commodity available to the special few…I found the book a refreshing slap of cold doctrine that sets straight a lot of silliness that goes on in the name of ‘faith’.

Then I glanced at the title of another book I’m currently reading…and that was it, I had my seed thought–their titles. Ironically enough they are: Reckless Faith (MacArthur) and Ruthless Trust (Manning). And one is the perfect complement to the other (though I’m not sure the authors would themselves agree!)

As I see it, there is a problem with a ‘reckless’ faith that demands God to act. Is it faith that is at work when I seek an experience in order to validate my faith? This is an incomplete faith. Trust is the missing component. Trust is faith coupled with that childlike hope in the Father’s love that makes no demands but rests in what the Father chooses for my life. It does not demand that He intervene in my every discomfort. It is a faith that trusts Him to ‘call the shots’. It is the stuff of the Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame—who clung to God’s promises though they did not receive what they waited for. They died in hope, trusting God’s grace to carry them through. They did not shake His promises in His face as though He were obligated to ‘come through for me now!’

The underlying premise of Ruthless Trust is that the splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than the most magnificent cathedral, symphony or work of art. Such a heart brings Him more delight than ‘the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom.’ (2)

This ‘ruthless trust’ stands in sharp contrast to a ‘reckless faith’ which bases its validity in ‘powerful’ (often emotional) experiences. Such ‘faith’ is reckless because it is easily duped and its gaze easily turned away from its Author and Finisher. It may claim to be Spirit-led but the Spirit’s role is to point us to Jesus, not to draw attention to Himself!

What then is to be the plumb line by which I measure an experience, a book, a testimony? From my experience, there must be some criterion beyond my own experience! It can’t be all about what God seems to be saying to you or to me or what I’m feeling. This makes for a queasy quagmire, a subjective soup! God is Spirit and Truth. This is the very reason God has given us His written and authoritative, infallible Word, and yes, His Spirit to guide us in it. And His Spirit will never lead us contrary to what is written. Nor will He add to its content. The written Word of God is our trustworthy foundation. Here I can stake a ruthless trust.

And when my faith quavers and I want to experience more of God, or hear His voice more certainly or discover the secret of spiritual power…. what do I do then? How do I resist the urge to seek an experience? And on those days when feelings threaten to overpower reality, what then?
I guess we all want these things, and there are a LOT of voices out there with answers, but none so safe, so good, so sure as God’s own Word.
It is our life—we dare not try to live by bread alone.

The Israelites cried “Is God among us or not?!” They put God to the test. God was not honored or impressed. He called them hard-hearted and said they had not known His ways! (Ps. 95; Numbers 11)

How much better for me to take Him at His Word and rest in ruthless abandon in His trustworthy goodness poured out on my life continually!

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You; in God whose Word I praise, in God I put my trust…” Ps. 56:4


[Thank-you for hearing me out. I’d love to know your thoughts…LS]