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Friday, November 17, 2017

Another Year of Counting Thanks...

 Two Thanksgivings ago, I put up a post titled Counting The Thanks. In listing many of the ways I saw God at work that year, it propelled me into a further counting of thanks which continued all through last year. This year, I want to continue the list even further...listing blessings in 2017 that have reminded me of all the ways in which God loves and is forever good. As you read some of my God-moments this year, I'd encourage you to list your blessings, too. (Perhaps you'll even post a few of them here to share with my readers and I!)
As the gratitude keeps on spilling over, I will continue to trace the numerous grace-gifts which He endlessly bestows.

In 2017 I am thankful...

...for renewed health after struggling with some stress-related issues the last year or two. Finally getting to live with greater energy and strength has done a lot for me! He is indeed the great Physician!

...for the incredible gift of a new friend in my life named Rachel. God dropped her sweet soul into my world early on this year, and my life hasn't been the same since! Goodness, I love doing life with that girl! Hard to believe we've know each other so short a time...

...for the opportunity to celebrate my grandma's 90th birthday with her in person this year. Such a special visit for a couple of days, spending time together and celebrating her all she means to me. 

...for the thrill of getting to see my friend Conner as a professional baseball player and visit him at his home stadium in California after nearly two years of not seeing him. Also meeting his family for the first time and talking with them during the game. A short time spent but so heart-warming. 

...for some much-needed "adopted" auntie time with my little nephew and his parents. Two blessed visits of sharing, caring, and passing around the love and the laughs. So thankful family isn't just contained to those we're related to! 

...for a beautiful visit to the redwood forests in Muir Woods outside of San Francisco with friends I hadn't seen in ages. Nothing like a tranquil walk through the majestic trees, capped off by a fun picnic with the chipmunks. It truly doesn't take much to have an amazing time with those you care about.

...for a delightful Memorial Day visit with my friend and marine, Zerbin, and his sweet family. I was so touched by how they welcomed me into their gathering simply at his invitation on short-notice and made me feel right at home. So many laughs and fun memories made as we thanked God for those who have given their lives for this country. 

...for getting to see my friend Jon after close to three years as he made a quick business trip up to my area. A late night talk in the hotel lobby was so encouraging and neat!

...for my friends Cam, Staudy, Jackson, and Michael getting the opportunity to pursue their dreams of each being a professional baseball player. Can't wait to see where God takes these guys and their talents!

...for another summer of baseball memories made. Even though the challenges were many and the adversities numerous, God still showed up and did a big work. Knowing Mike became a Christian made it all so very worthwhile. 

...for our baseball head coach getting to present the Gospel to some young children at our kids camp. You just don't know what fruit those seeds might produce someday.

...for the blessing of getting to welcome my friend Jason to Alaska for the very first time. What a tremendous ten packed days of fun as we adventured in this beautiful part of God's  country up here! Seeing the change in him over that time made my heart happy. 

...for my friend Michael being brave enough to venture into the uncomfortable places of my life this summer, challenging me to be more, not to settle for an average walk with God, and making me feel valued and loved in a way that changed everything. Three conversations over the summer gave me the courage to be brave in ways I hadn't wanted to before. I'm better in so many ways because of him being in my life!

...for a wonderful chat with my friend Preston at the Alaska Baseball League All-Star game this summer. It touched my heart to hear that he was willing to give up a very lucrative professional offer in order to return to Alaska for a second time to play baseball with a group of Christian guys. God used him mightily in so many ways. Seeing that God's plan was more important to him than money was down-right inspiring. And I thanked God for that.

...for two of my girlfriends taking me to dinner on my birthday. Such a sweet time of fellowship, love, and plenty of laughs - including one at my expense when Lindsay dropped the hint to the restaurant that it was my birthday when I told her not to say (she says she genuinely forget) and I ended up with a sombrero on my head and the whole restaurant knew from the birthday song. Can't beat good times with special people.

...for my friend Phil getting married to the girl of his dreams just over a year after coming close to losing his own life. God is still in the business of working miracles! 

...for the fun surprise of my childhood friend Zack coming back into my life after fourteen years. Lots of catching up to do and yet, still so much in common after so long. What an unexpected blessing!

...for the gift of reconnecting with my friend Grant after nearly two years. So thankful to have him back in my world, still making me laugh with his fun texts. Hearing that chuckle over the phone never gets old! 

...for the gift of new life when several other lives ended in my world this year. Always a reminder that God makes all things beautiful, even the hard ones, in His time. 

...for my friend Collin being such an encouragement to me during a hard time of personal transition in my job and life in general. Hearing from another recovering approval addict who understood my struggles somehow made it easier to walk through the uncertainty of a new chapter God was calling me to.

...for God sparing my friend's daughter Ellie's life when a wave began to carry her out to sea. God's protection is something none of us can take for granted - nor the brief lives we live on this earth. 

...for my amazing boss who continues to blow my mind with his balance of people relations and business, always pushing me to step out in faith from my comfort zone and yet to never leave people behind in your quest for success. 

...for the gift of faith. I've come to see the meaning of that one powerful little world so much this year, and I've come to learn how to employ it as my hope against fear. 

...for the simple truth that "Christ is all-sufficient." That His grace is enough for all that is required. I never have to worry if I am following what He asks of me.

My list keeps on going...and going...and going. The thanks keeps on pouring out, flowing over - because goodness and mercy have followed all these days with hope and promise. I'd recommend that, between now and Thanksgiving, that you make your own list of blessings (big and small) and remind yourself of just how many gifts He's given. It just might surprise you how much God has done for you in 2017! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Though He put forth His hand, and seem to threaten our dearest comforts, yet when we remember that it is His hand, when we consider that it is His design, His love, His wisdom, and His power, we cannot refuse to trust Him."
                   - John Newton 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Indeed, it is not amiss that you should now and then meet with a balk, that you may learn, if possible, not to count too much on what tomorrow may do for you; and that you may begin to feel the impossibility of being happy any further than your will is brought into submission to the will of God. In order to this, you must have your own will frequently crossed; and things do and will turn out, almost daily in one way or other, contrary to our wishes and expectations. Then some people fret and fume, are angry and impatient; but others, who are in the Lord's school, and desirous of being taught by Him, get good by these things, and sometimes find more pleasure in yielding to His appointment, though contrary to their own wills, than they would have done if all had happened just to their wish."
                  - John Newton 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Our King could so easily reveal everything to us and make everything so clear! It would be nothing to Him to tell us all our questions. When He does not, cannot we trust Him and just be satisfied that He knows and would tell us if it were best? He has many things to say unto us, but He waits till we can bear them. May we be glad that even our sins are not hid from Him? Yes, surely, for He who knows all can and will cleanse all. He has searched us and known us, as we should shrink from knowing ourselves, and yet He has pardoned, and yet He loves." 
                 - Frances Ridley Havergal

Monday, November 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"O soul, are you not ashamed that you ever doubted the love that brought you here? Are you not ashamed of your hard thoughts of God and His providences, repining the ways that have led to such an end? Are you not sufficiently convinced that the ways you called hard and the cup you called bitter were necessary? The Lord had a sweeter purpose and meant better than you would believe. Your Redeemer was saving you as much when He crossed your desires as when He granted them, and He was saving you when He broke your heart as much as when He bound it up. No thanks to you, unworthy self, for this received crown, but to Jehovah and the Lamb be glory forever!"
                 - Richard Baxter

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Our trials are either salutary medicines, or honorable appointments, to put us in such circumstances as may best qualify us to show forth His praise. Usually He has both these ends in view; we always stand in need of correction; and, when He enables us to suffer with patience, we are then happy witnesses to others of the truth of His promises, and the power of His grace in us. For nothing but the influence of God's good Spirit can keep us, at such times, either from despondency or impatience. If left to ourselves in trouble, we shall either sink down into sullen grief, or toss and rebel like a wild bull in a net."
                   - John Newton

Friday, November 10, 2017

Called To Do Hard

 Hard things. Life is made up of them. Many of them, in fact. We know this to be a part of our human existence and yet, somehow we run. We hide. And we think we can avoid them. Grow without them. It's taken me years to accept this, but I'm starting to realize there is no other way. Hard things are my path - your path - to what really matters. Honestly, they are the Savior's path to the most important lessons we can ever learn. 
 I spent the past couple of days thinking about this...tracing this path of hardship through the Bible and finding a pattern for why suffering matters. Why the opening of the heart through trouble is a necessary part of life's journey. And I found a thread running through it all - hard things proceed great outcomes. God often takes people through big tests of will, faith, and nerve prior to doing something huge in and through their life. 
 Take Abraham for example...among the many hard things God asked him to do in the course of His life, the hardest by far was to sacrifice his only son. If you read the story in Genesis 22, you find a man who is pushed to the absolute limit of his trust in God: to kill his young son, through which so much blessing had been promised, as an offering to God at God's request. And yet, you see Abraham's faith in that He never asked God "why?" I'm sure he probably wondered initially if he'd heard God right when God asked him to do such a thing, but He still said "yes" to God's will...even if he didn't understand. Obviously, God provided a different answer when He saw Abraham's willingness to obey, but that hard thing was the testing point by which God determined his faithfulness: "...for now I know that you fear God...(Gen. 22:12)." 
 As you continue through the Bible, we notice Joseph - how he had to be sold into slavery so that he could be down in Egypt when the famine hit Israel and could one day save his family from it. He had to go through hard things before He could receive God's blessing for himself and His family (Gen. 37-50). 
 We see Gideon when God asked him to go and fight the invading Midianites - how God told him to choose his army carefully and that He asked all the soldier wannabes to do a hard thing before they could be accepted into the elite fighting force. That Gideon would know who he was to choose by the way in which they drank water. God whittled down his fighting force from 32,000 to 300. And God did a mighty victory because 300 men were willing to do the hard thing (Judges 7). 
 We see God allowing Job to lose everything - family, possessions, health - so that God might see his devotion to the Lord. 
 On and on the stories go...until we arrive at the ultimate example: God the Father asking His Son Jesus Christ to go to the cross on behalf of sinful mankind in order that He might provide a way of redemption. Jesus didn't want to be crucified - He didn't go singing to the cross and happily accept His destiny. Rather, He pleaded with His heavenly Father to take away the cup being given to Him. But...as with all of these examples beforehand...He went willingly. He offered Himself to the Father's will and said "yes." 
 All of these examples make it clear to us that we are called to do hard things. We cannot avoid them and still become who we're meant to be. There is no other way. God lays this out as the path of true transformation. Of learning to submit to the will of God no matter what. Sometimes we fight the hard things God is putting in front of us - we look for a way out...a way of escape...when what God's really after is the yielding of our hearts. 
 His ways are hard to trace sometimes. There are moments when it seems as though He's completely lost it and has no care for us. But...do we step out after Him in faith anyway? God won't always show you the "whys" of your life. But He will show you the "Who" in your life - is it yourself? Your own way? Or is it God and His way? Selfish ambition rarely is exposed more clearly than when our backs are up agains the wall and we don't see a way around the hard things in front of us. At that point, we are faced with a choice as to who we will believe - our own judgement or God. 
 I don't know what hard thing you might be facing - it could be that you're stuck in a job that you hate and there's no change in sight; maybe its a crushed dream that you thought was within reach and now lies dashed on the floor of reality; perhaps its learning to get along with a boss that you dislike, or dealing with the disappointment of being passed over for a promotion and being forced to work in a lower level than you wanted. Maybe its getting up the courage to have a tough conversation with somebody about a personal matter that should've been addressed a long time ago. It could be an injury or medical issue that has sidelined you from your normal job/activity level, and you face a long recovery. It could even be a terminal diagnosis...
 Whatever your "hard thing" is - know this: that "our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles (2 Cor. 4:17)." The whole purpose of God's allowing hard things to happen to us is to refine, transform, and redeem us for something greater than the disappointment, the sadness, the frustration we now feel. What we lose now is nothing compared to what we will gain later...and God knows we cannot acquire what He wants us to learn any other way. We must walk through these things. But, our assurance lies in that He has promised we will never walk through them alone. That He is always with us and that He Himself knows the reward of walking through the hard. When you're to the end of your rope and you thing you can't face another setback, another challenge, another disappointment...remember that others have trod this path too...including your Savior. Keep choosing brave and stepping out in faith...even when you don't see the outcome.