P.S. Thank you for the president

My little green prayer notebook wears a sticky syrup spot and bent cover to prove its usefulness over the last couple months. It’s not just my notebook, but my optimism for our beautiful country feels a bit worn also.

Like many of us, I’m unable to find any peace in the news or in the top leadership. A scan of cultural forecasts doesn’t bring a stillness of heart either. I’ve personally taken a break from intentionally following current events, and it’s refreshing. But there are other ways bad news slithers in. All of us have layers of personal burdens. We never lack reminders that our world groans, and we’re not home yet.

God has been showing me two areas where I’ve needed to cultivate my prayers to incorporate a new heart attitude.

Thanks for The Personal

First, it hit me when I was reciting Philippians 4 on repeat because I was trying to rid myself of anxiety about a family member’s unknown diagnosis.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I lay awake one night, praying hard, making my requests known to God. Then I’d try to think about something pure and lovely to trap my mind into drifting to sleep. Finally dozing, the baby would wake me up, and the whole battle began at step one! The throbbing worry would edge away the peace. What was I missing in my determination to jump to the peace that surpasses and guards part of the promise (which would surely grant me the rest I needed)?

I kept neglecting to add thanksgiving to my supplication as Paul included in his instruction.

You can see this in his letter to Timothy, too — this attitude of gratefulness without complaining or fear.

 “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.”

2 Timothy 1:3

Even Paul stood the late hours praying (and thanking!) the Lord.

Can it be said of me that I enter the courts with thanksgiving, even when it’s past my bedtime, and I’d rather be dreaming? Is my habit to recognize God’s riches at Christ’s expense — even in difficult waiting times? Anxiety does not have the same hold when I’m focusing on all the personal grace God has given me, including the peace He makes accessible.

My friend Lisa recently wrote something similar in her article as she was pondering this same topic of peace:

“To acknowledge His goodness in even unknowns, call for the promise of God’s peace which surpasses all comprehension. It’s what guarded my heart and mind. Praise God for the means to praise and thank Him even in troubling times…When I came to understand God to be the God of compassion and comfort, when I realized I approached him without a willingness to be consoled, and when I saw my error of withholding gratitude as I presented my concerns—that’s when I began to see my anxiety melt away.”

Lisa Dean

There are always, always traces of God’s lovingkindness even in our worst nightmares. Can we find the grace in the present moments and the past? Even if you have to squint to see, God’s mercies truly are new and clear.

Thanks for The President

Now, secondly, I found myself fretting about my country and the world at large, unprepared to apply this prayerful thankfulness to a havoc of headlines marching closer and closer to home. But there it was, catching me off-guard in I Timothy 2:2-4.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Thanksgiving on behalf of all men, all administrations? This counter-intuitive practice of giving thanks even for leaders who call evil good and good evil compels me to acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty. It’s the only way giving thanks in this context makes sense. He’s never surprised, and His care for His people weaves through all of ongoing history, including current events.

This counter-intuitive practice of giving thanks even for leaders who call evil good and good evil compels me to acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty.

Without a thankful heart, we can’t live a quiet, tranquil, godly life. We’d be too busy fretting about evildoers to commit our way to Him.

I’m working on praying without fretting, without wrath, and dissension (I Tim 2:8). Committing all things to the Lord in awareness of His power and provision. Trying to not just add thanksgiving as a flourished postscript, an afterthought, to my prayers, but to build a heart of humility and thanksgiving as I talk to my Hope.

It’s awkward at first. “Frustrate the plans of the wicked, Lord. Oh yeah, and Lord, thank you for our leaders.” But I can see how slowly a mind shift unfolds, one that results in deeper trust in the One who does all things well. Just by the simple act of saying “thank you,” I’m growing more grateful that He intentionally gives us our leaders and desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. It’s good and acceptable to both petition and thank God for all who are in authority, fully remembering He placed them there with purpose.

Let us devote ourselves to making supplications with thanksgiving (Col. 4:2). Prayer is better than worrying. Worn knees and worn prayer notebooks are better than self sufficiency. Peace is better than optimism and good circumstances. Learning to trust God in the dark hours is better than blissful sleep. Steadfastness of mind is better than quickly forgetting. Knowing who He is will allow us to obey and give thanks, and He promises to guard us with perfect peace.

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.”

Isaiah 26:3

Photo by Andres Herrera

Thankful for Books!

I’m so thankful for books and literacy. I recently read in a missionary prayer letter about how we’ve had approximately 130 million books published in English since the beginning of the printing press. On our shelves alone, we have a plethora of cookbooks, novels, commentaries, study Bibles and textbooks. But there’s an isolated tribe in Papua called the Turu who don’t even have a written language yet. So not a single book! Praise God, He is on the move to provide a written language for the Turu so they can know the hope of the Gospel. How often have I taken for granted the accessibility and appetite that I have for the Word of God?

I’d love to share a few of the titles (and articles) that have made me thankful for books and literacy this past season.

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew — This encourages me to treasure Scripture. Brother Andrew has a fascinating testimony of how he was converted simply by reading the Bible. Then, with what he would call a “thimbleful of willingness,” he smuggled countless copies of the Bible behind the Iron Curtain. Only God could have made “seeing eyes blind” so these precious copies could slip behind Soviet borders. An adventure story that would make a great family read-aloud.

“‘Why are we worried!’ Rolf said suddenly. ‘This is God’s work! He’ll make a way for us.’ And as if to prove his conviction, he started to sing.” 

Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler

Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund — In need of some simple, clear encouragement for sinners? This book helped me to more understand the heart of our Savior. He is gentle and lowly, and this is where His actions and works spur from. Definitely recommend! The book is rich with language describing God’s pure love.

“You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is required; he says, ‘I will give you rest.’ His rest is gift, not transaction. Whether you are actively working hard to crowbar your life into smoothness (‘labor’) or passively finding yourself weighed down by something outside your control (‘heavy laden’), Jesus Christ’s desire that you find rest, that you come in out of the storm, outstrips even your own.” 

Dane C. Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery — A cute story (with hardish, sad parts) about a young writer. I think I could tell from a mile away who wrote this book as there are so many Anne-of-Green-Gables feels.

Welcome Home by Myquillyn Smith — This author has shaped the way I decorate and view hospitality. I really appreciate her theme of being a creator rather than a consumer when it comes to holiday decorating. I haven’t finished reading this yet since I’m reading the chapter that corresponds with the season (i. e. I just read the winter section). I love her honesty and humor when it comes to decking those halls.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen — Every time I read this charming story, I’m impressed with Austen’s irony and wit. The layers to the characters and plot are what make this one of my all-time favorites.

Dear Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster — This is an endearing rags-to-riches series of letters where a young girl writes to her anonymous benefactor. It’s beautiful to see her life and vocabulary transform as she works hard through her studies and social endeavors. One of my favorites!

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis — “But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” (C. S. Lewis) That’s how I felt when I was caught up in the wonderment of Narnia again! This book is powerful, heart-warming and just magically delightful. I hope you’ve had a chance to jump into the Wardrobe recently.

Blogging for God’s Glory in A Clickbait World by Vrbicek and Beeson — As a writer, I have been swamped with information both on the tech side and the writing side. I enjoyed the book Blogging for God’s Glory in a Clickbait World because it was like having a candid conversation with the authors about both strategy and purpose in blogging.I always prefer to ask questions to a friend rather than resort to a google search, and this book was that opportunity. What a blessing to have a like-minded approach to blogging from the counter-cultural perspective of writing first and foremost for the Lord. I benefited from the authors’ transparency of their ins and outs of their own blogging experiences. I finished reading, not with a vision to get-rich-quick, but inspired to pick up the pen to help saturate the world with God’s glory!

Note: I’m doing a GIVEAWAY for this book on my Facebook page (A Time 2 Write)! Head over there to enter. I’ll announce the winner Sunday 11/29th.

After you’ve entered, come back and enjoy a few of my favorite articles from this season that I’ve collected below. Happy Thanksgiving!

LITERATURE

Love, According to E. B. White by Brianna Lambert — I enjoyed this peek into the value contained in fiction like E B. White’s work.

You Don’t Really Want Mr. Knightley by Madelyn Canada — Madelyn summed up my own reasons for appreciating Austen’s portrayal of Mr. Knightley, and in her blog post, she draws attention to the fact we all need a Mr. Knightley, and we need to be one.

THANKSGIVING

A Fractured Thanksgiving by Lainee Oliver — “Do you have to feel thankful to give thanks?”

We Will Gather Together by Madelyn Canada — Love this zoom-in on the old song and its backstory, as well as the reminder of our future fellowship.

FAITHFULNESS

Two Days, One Word by Glenna Marshall — Ever wonder how one day you can have an amazing time with God, and the next it feels lifeless? God loves us on both those days.

The Good, The Hard, and the In-Between by Shelli Rehmert — My mother-in-law pulls out the reality of just life and what we can know no matter what.

Let’s Have Some Good News

I need some good news.

Tidings of comfort and joy. Peace on earth and goodwill to men. Joy to the world.

Soon we’ll enjoy the season just around the corner where we’ll spend time and parties singing and soaking in these themes of the Coming of Immanuel, God with us. I’ve never been so tempted to pull out the tree and fill the corners of our house with extra light. I may be secretly singing carols when I drive places alone.

But first . . . I feel I haven’t conjured up enough gratitude out of this autumn. Do you ever grasp at the passing season, hoping to squeeze out the last of the nostalgia before it moves on?

In September I eagerly gathered fall foliage, put together an autumn playlist, and made plans to write things I’m thankful for on 3×5 cards each day. It’s been a beautiful season, with many more reasons to rejoice than to despair.

Determined to feel thankful vibes, I’ve made pumpkin chocolate chip bread and pulled out my book about pilgrims and made new traditions. Sweet nods to the season, but what I most needed was the power that real heart-rooted thanksgiving to God brings.

This week I sat in the waiting room for an appointment. Over an hour crept by as people more sick than me shuffled in and out, but I felt the full soak of the inconvenience of waiting — er dreading — the extra time before my name was finally called.

My wait turned out purposeful. Ashamed of my impatience, I remembered and prayed for my brave brother-in-law and sister-in-law who have practically been living at their hospital with their baby, watching him experience layers of suffering. They’re sustained by the Lord.

Back at home, I wished to complain in my raspy sick voice (that sounds like pathetic whining practically no matter what I say) about the discomforts of pregnancy. Then I remembered how many would love to feel a little baby pressed up against their ribs. Precious, precious gifts.

But comparison and optimism alone aren’t what bring year-long worship that will spill into Advent season. No amount of white pumpkins or orange-hued branches will replace the worship prompted by gazing at Him.

An old, old friend — Philippians chapter four — gave me hope today:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thanks to the grace of the Spirit for spurring me to place my supplications, bathed in thanks, in God’s hands, all with a promise of a powerful, unexplainable peace in Christ. This is the good news.

I hope this peace can settle in our hearts even if our Thanksgiving gathering isn’t everything it always used to be. If it’s robbed of health or laced with heartbreak, our minds and hearts are safe, guarded with peace on earth sent from God.

Do not be anxious and neglect the great peace available to us. Here with us is our Immanuel. The PRINCE of Peace, yes, even far as the curse is found. He receives all the supplications and praise our holiday tables can give Him. And our ordinary tables.

Our hearts will respond in thanks when we simply gaze on Him in truth and holiness. Please, remind me of this good news in the days to come.

Photo by Cole Keister