Wildfires and Politics

Community, Spirituality

My world is on fire. Literally. Every ridge surrounding our city has a wildfire burning on top of it, and the smoke is settling on the streets of Chattanooga. It’s suffocating and headache-inducing. As I write (and as I dread going back to editing that Greek exegesis waiting on my desk) the pain in and behind my eyes is intense.

Our figurative world is burning these days too. If you found this post because of a social media link, then you’ve also read posts and articles all about how America is going down in flames if Candidate X is elected. Maybe you’ve even shared a few stories, commented on a few others.

My Granny would have been right there with you. Back when there was an alarmingly high number of cable channels–50, as I remember–she watched just CNN. It was on 24 hours a day. She listened to talk radio and wrote letters to our congressmen. She spent hours in AOL politics-themed chat rooms every night. She was the most informed woman I’ve ever known, and some of her passion “caught fire” in me.

So people who have known me longest may be surprised that I’ve stayed out of all the political squabbling. In fact, I’ve been avoiding Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else for the last six months. (Though to be honest, I started to pull away well over a year ago. Social media blurs the lines between opinion and truth, and the older I get the less willing I am to put up with that.)

The election has only fired up the animosity that pervades our society, so once we’ve all cast our votes tomorrow, the arguing won’t end. Why? Because we’re all so selfish.  We vote for who we think will improve our own lives, regardless of how others may be impacted.

If we are all going to live with each other after tomorrow, then we need to stop trying to change others’ opinions and start changing our own actions toward others.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Luke lately (thanks to that exegesis weighing down my desk right now). In chapter 10, a scholar tries to trick Jesus into contradicting the Hebrew scriptures when he asks how one can attain eternal life. He answers his own question:

You shall love—“love the Eternal One your God with everything you have: all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind”—and “love your neighbor as yourself (v. 27, The Voice).

And who is that “neighbor”? Jesus answers with a story:

This fellow was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when some robbers mugged him. They took his clothes, beat him to a pulp, and left him naked and bleeding and in critical condition. By chance, a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw the wounded man, he crossed over to the other side and passed by. Then a Levite who was on his way to assist in the temple also came and saw the victim lying there, and he too kept his distance. Then a despised Samaritan journeyed by. When he saw the fellow, he felt compassion for him. The Samaritan went over to him, stopped the bleeding, applied some first aid, and put the poor fellow on his donkey. He brought the man to an inn and cared for him through the night.

The next day, the Samaritan took out some money—two days’ wages to be exact—and paid the innkeeper, saying, “Please take care of this fellow, and if this isn’t enough, I’ll repay you next time I pass through.” (Luke 10:30-35, The Voice)

The neighbor is “the one who showed mercy” (v. 37). Not the priest and Levite who were literal neighbors–presumably sharing the victim’s Jewish faith and living in his community–but the Samaritan. He would have believed and worshiped and lived differently than the victim. Regardless of all his social differences, his actions made him the true neighbor. The one we are commanded to love as ourselves.

On Wednesday morning, I hope the election won’t have left you feeling as if you’ve been “mugged” and left “in critical condition”; but it looks like about half the country will feel that way.

It is time for us to start loving each other, regardless of our social differences. It is time for us to stop thinking so highly of ourselves and our own opinions that we can justify our disregard of others, or worse, we can justify attacking and hating others. Not just during election season–when America is on fire–but every day of our lives.

No matter what happens in the next 48 hours, let’s go out into our smoke-filled streets and AOL chat rooms and show some mercy.

Truth Will Set You Free

Community, Spirituality

I first studied philosophy in high school English. We read L’Etranger and No Exit, and we memorized the principles of relativism and existentialism and other long-forgotten-by-me -isms. I remember one thing well: I don’t enjoy philosophy.

Twenty years later, philosophy penetrates my life and yours. Take a look at your social media feeds. What are most people posting about? Their perceptions of politics. And many are ready to have knock-down drag-out fights to prove to everyone else that their perceptions are right. And factual. And true.

Every knock-down drag-out my husband, David, and I have ever had resulted from differing perspectives of truth.

My best friend, Melinda, likes to say that David and I are a psychology experiment–the one where two people watch a video of the same car crash but have completely different recollections of what happened: “The car was blue.” “No, the car was green.” That’s us, and those different perceptions of truth make for heated but pointless arguments. How relieved we both are when we can find the truth by rewatching the car crash: The car was actually red. We can stop arguing now.

Rarely our arguments result from actual untruth…meaning one of us has lied. Those are the conversations that both begin and end with pain, because a lie is a betrayal. You can’t rewatch a video or Google the truth to settle a lie-spawned argument once and for all. Feelings have been hurt, and the relationship needs time to mend.

I think we as a society have largely lost the ability to distinguish between perception and truth, and that is one of the reasons politics are so ugly–particularly in 2016. My opinion about a candidate or a policy is not truth, so people who disagree with me aren’t technically wrong (even though I think they are!) or lying.

Many philosophies, and most of this postmodern secular society, state that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Christianity disagrees. In the gospel of John, Jesus talks a lot about truth, and it pretty much boils down to this:

I tell you the truth, anyone who hears My voice and keeps My word will never experience death. (John 8:51, The Voice)

If you are a Christian, then you believe one absolute truth: Jesus is the Savior of humanity. It is rare (though not unattested) that I see knock-down drag-out fights over that statement.

If you follow a philosophy that declares there is no absolute truth, then your perception becomes your truth. So when someone else disagrees with that perception, then you feel personally affronted. A “car-crash argument” becomes a “lie-spawned argument,” a betrayal.

We should follow Jesus’ example in John. When He declared truth and others disagreed, He countered by speaking the same truth in different ways. In that conversation, He did not back down. But when He encountered people who behaved or believed differently or even incorrectly (as in, Romans and Samaritans), He always responded the same way: by revealing the truth in love. He didn’t argue over the semantics of where the temple should be (John 4) or even about the punishment for adultery (John 8:1-11).

We would rather argue over the semantics. In a climate where opinions and perceptions are elevated and advertised on social media, Christians need to remember that there is only one absolute truth–that Jesus is the Savior of humanity–and that all Christians, by definition, agree on it.

Then we need to respond to disagreements as Jesus did: in love and with the one absolute truth. For if we show love, the world will see the absolute truth.

Kaleidoscope of Life

Community, Spirituality

David and I just got back from our first vacation since 2011. That year we used our first Southwest points to visit San Diego for our 8th wedding anniversary. This year we used our last Southwest points to fly to a Coldplay concert in Boston, where we lived right after we married.

Ignoring for the moment the most awesome concert I’ve ever attended, this trip “home” was both surreal and affirmative.

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Cambridge is sporting new-to-us dedicated bike lanes (like those coming to on our own Bailey Avenue in the spring) and beautifully renovated housing.

We rode and drove and walked the areas we knew…but most of our favorite businesses have been replaced. Even the Harvard Shirt Shop, that had the cheapest apparel in town, was gone from Harvard Square. As were all of our friends. Sure, there were still thousands of people milling around, but no one we recognized. We don’t know anyone who lives in Cambridge anymore. In short, nothing we loved there was eagerly awaiting our return as we had been eagerly awaiting this trip.

Not only did we notice what was missing from Cambridge, but we found bits and pieces of our new home. There are bright green bike lanes at Central Square (like those CDOT is planning for our city), and the houses surrounding our other-side-of-the-tracks apartment are now up-and-coming (much like our current neighborhood). Riding the T–dark and dusty in the bowels of the city–made us dream about the Chattanooga Light Rail that is a real possibility for clean mass transportation in our city. In all the things we loved about Boston, we saw shades of Chattanooga. It was as if Boston was telling us, “Everything you love about me is coming to your new city. Enjoy it all–minus the inflated housing prices!”

Who doesn’t love subtle confirmation that you are where you’re supposed to be?  After years of feeling displaced, we are so happy to be home. Probably the biggest reason we know this is home is the church we’ve adopted. You don’t officially “join” our church because it is, as our pastor likes to say, “La Familia.” We are family. We serve and love one another and our community because we know God’s love and want the Holy Spirit to work through us. We were never able to find the right church in Denver, and our home church in Murfreesboro has evolved without us. It’s wonderful to visit, but they aren’t our church family anymore. And that’s a good thing!

So back to Coldplay. The primary artwork for this amazing concert series is a kaleidoscope, and it speaks to me. As you turn a kaleidoscope, the view changes but every shiny bit and piece still has its place. That’s kind of how I see our adult life so far. Just when I think we’re perfectly settled, God flips something around to give us a new and more beautiful view of the life He’s created. We love what we’re seeing from Chattanooga, and we are excited to experience His changes that are ahead.

Grace, Grace, God’s Grace

Community, Spirituality

How many times do you use the word grace in a day?

I have asked publishing editors to “give me grace” anytime I send them a rough draft that I know still needs work. I think, Just call me “Grace”, every time I slam my shoulder into a door frame or trip over my basset hound. And I’ll guess that a full 80 percent of my friends have used Grace as a middle name for their daughters.

Colloquially grace (when used by just about anyone other than a prima ballerina) has become synonymous with forgiveness and acceptance, but that’s not quite right.

I realized this a few months ago when I was asked to do a theological review of another author’s book. The argument was being made that a certain biblical character was “full of grace” toward another person, but I didn’t see that perspective from the Scripture. For the first time, I did an in-depth study of grace as it appears in the Bible. I learned that grace is an action of God–not of humans.

Jesus personified grace while He was on earth: “At first everyone was deeply impressed with the gracious words that poured from Jesus’ lips. Everyone spoke well of Him and was amazed that He could say these things.” (Luke 4:22)

And because of Him, we have been offered God’s grace: “You see, Moses gave us rules to live by, but Jesus the Anointed offered us gifts of grace and truth.” (John 1:17)

Paul has a lot to say about grace, especially in his letter to the Romans. As a former hunter of Jesus-followers who had accepted God’s grace, he knew better than anyone the transforming power of God’s grace.

The only time we are ever told to demonstrate grace to other humans is in Colossians 4:5-6:

Be wise when you engage with those outside the faith community; make the most of every moment and every encounter. When you speak the word, speak it gracefully (as if seasoned with salt), so you will know how to respond to everyone rightly (The Voice).

But even here, Paul is telling his readers to use their words to advertise God’s grace, not to exercise their own versions of grace on others.

When we use words incorrectly, we rob them of their meaning. Consider the classic example of this: love. Because we claim to “love” french fries, Coldplay concerts, and Netflix binges, our “loved ones” may sometimes feel more valued than McDonald’s but receive less attention than Stranger Things. The incorrect use of love has changed its meaning and application in society.

We don’t want to similarly water-down the concept of God’s grace by equating it with forgiveness and acceptance, by looking to receive it from others, or by thinking we can extend it ourselves. Grace that reconciles sinners with God is wholly divine.

And that is why Grace is such a great name! We hope that our daughters will fully know God’s grace, and that others will recognize Him in them. Not because we expect them to be the next Misty Copeland.

I’m Ready to Have a Good Day

Books, Spirituality

It’s been almost 4 months since you’ve heard from me, and there’s a reason for that. The day of my last post, I learned that Barren‘s publisher had decided not to publish more books in the InScribed Collection. This decision has touched me professionally and emotionally. I am wondering how God will use me now. (On bad days, I’m wondering if He even wants to use me.)

The seven books in the collection are different from anything else on the market because of their origins. We 7 authors are truly friends. We were all brought together by Ashley Linne and the publisher’s editorial staff in 2013; and from the moment we met, we “clicked.” Yes, we promote each other’s work, but we tend to be more concerned with each other’s lives. In just 2 years we’ve birthed 3 babies and made 4 cross-country moves. Our Facebook Group page looks more like a family’s daily ramblings than a work site.

The team’s dedication to God and each other over our concerns for our own works made all of our books better. We learned from each other. I would do a theological review for one author while another was teaching me how to blog (or do anything tech-related!). I know this is a unique community experience among authors. I don’t know how to move forward without them going with me. So at the moment, I’m not moving forward. I’m mourning. I’m waiting.

I learned during David’s and my 7 years of fertility treatments that God teaches me the most when I’m not doing anything but listening. But I’m a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way kind of girl. Just ask my parents: Back in 2002 they said, “Sure you can go dig in Israel–if you get a full scholarship to do it.” One week later, I gave them the “good” news. Or ask my husband: This summer he rightly said, “We don’t have the money to get that fig tree removed.” So I sold it instead!

It wasn’t until 5-or-so years ago that I learned, “God helps those who help themselves,” is not a Bible verse. It is an American adage with inherent value, but I tend to live as if it is Scripture. God made me tenacious, but He wants me to doggedly pursue His will and not my own plans.

The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him,
     to those who seek Him wholeheartedly.
It is good to wait quietly
     for the Eternal to make things right again.
It is good to have to deal
     with restraint and burdens when young
(Lamentations 3:25-27, VOICE).

In 586 BC Jerusalem was razed by the Babylonians, and her prominent citizens were exiled to Babylon or other cities within the Empire. The Book of Lamentations was written shortly after the war to the Israelites who remained in Jerusalem; and in this passage, the writer is encouraging his suffering readers to wait patiently but expectantly for God to act.

Verse 27 points out that the burden of suffering is best experienced when one is young. Two things result from suffering in youth: one learns that affliction is temporary while God’s mercy is permanent, and someone who survives suffering at an early age is less likely to be consumed by it when she is older.

So I’m learning. I know that when disaster and loss come, God is faithful and has a will and a plan that supersede my circumstances.

I’m waiting. I’m reading the Bible and praying. I’m asking advice from friends and colleagues, but I’m keeping myself from pursuing a new goal until God makes clear where He intends for me to go next.

And I’m sad that I can’t return to the nurturing community of authors and editors I enjoyed as Barren was published, but I am encouraged that God is somehow preparing me to better work for His Kingdom.

That confidence in Him makes today a good day.

New Year, New Commitment…to Healthy Relationships

Community, Spirituality

Little known fact: I am a sorority alumna. I wasn’t your stereotypical sorority girl, however. I got super-involved in the Panhellenic (governing) side of Greek life, and I am so thankful for the leadership skills I developed. I got to have regular meetings with university administration (which was great), and I was the one who got the 3 a.m. phone call from the hospital when an Animal House-er had alcohol poisoning (which was not-so-great).

It’s those Animal House moments that Greeks are famous for, and that’s a shame. Most of the women and men I knew in the Greek system were doggedly committed to philanthropy. My sorority was constantly hosting fundraisers for the American Juvenile Arthritis Foundation, donating platelets at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and giving time to countless Memphis charities.

Philanthropy was part of my life. And then I graduated.

How many of us adults leave the heavy lifting of helping others to college students, children’s organizations (e.g. Girls Scouts and schools), or the government? How many of us think our tax dollars and tithe money exempt us from “doing what is good and right before our Lord”?

Make no mistake: God can’t be mocked. What you give is what you get. What you sow, you harvest. Those who sow seeds into their flesh will only harvest destruction from their sinful nature. But those who sow seeds into the Spirit shall harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist. So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family (Galatians 6:7-10, The Voice).

Excepting his closing remarks, Paul ends his letter to the Galatian Christians by reminding them that “we reap where we sow.” If a Christian spends all of her time and resources achieving her selfish desires, then her life will yield sin. But if she invests time and resources “doing what is good and right before our Lord,” then she will be a part of God’s plan that “harvest(s) everlasting life from the Spirit” in those around her.

Monday night I was invited to and attended a meeting of Chattanooga’s Junior League. I’m sure some people call it an overgrown sorority and assume it’s a bunch of wealthy women comparing the lengths of their pearl strands. Those people could not be more wrong.

All the Junior League does is raise money for various charities in their community. These women dedicate tons of time (and not necessarily money) to fund special projects in public classrooms, eliminate food deserts in low-income areas, and educate children about nutrition.

Do they have fun running the marathons, organizing the Christmas home tours, and publishing the cookbooks that raise that money? Yep! Do they enjoy watching their labors produce smarter and healthier communities? You know it! And do the many Christians in their ranks thank God for the opportunity to “do good and be a blessing to everyone,” in the neighborhoods where they work and where His grace is so badly needed?

Absolutely.

This new year, let’s not forget the joy of giving that characterizes the Christmas season. Let’s do ourselves a favor and put action behind our dollars. Serve in the nursery of the church where you tithe. Help collect and deliver resources for those affected by the next natural disaster. Become a Big Sister to a child living in government housing.

Let’s put faces to the names of the hungry and hurting. Hopefully we’ll see those faces again when we enter into the everlasting life granted by His grace.

New Year, New Commitment…to Healthy Food

Health, Spirituality

This morning I was flipping through the hotel TV channels. We live in Eastern time now, so the shows I was used to listening to in Denver after David left for work weren’t on yet. But 7 (yes, 7!) “Christian” shows were. You know the ones–someone is sitting behind a desk talking to no one, and there isn’t an HD camera in sight.

On two different channels I heard something along the lines of, “Paul said that our bodies are temples for God, so we must eat ‘right’ to honor Him. Commit to be healthier this year so you are ‘right’ with God!” Both times I rolled my eyes and kept clicking. Why? Because those so-called Bible teachers read one verse:

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. (1 Corinthians 6:19, The Voice)

and completely ignored its context:

Don’t you realize that your bodies are members of the Anointed One? So should I take the members of the Anointed One and unite them to a prostitute? This illicit union should never take place! Don’t you understand that when your body is joined with a prostitute, the two of you have become one body? For as it says, “The two come together as one flesh.” But when you are joined with the Lord, you become one spirit with Him. Run from immoral behavior. All other sins are disconnected from the body, but sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. You have been purchased at a great price, so use your body to bring glory to God! (1 Corinthians 6:15-20, The Voice).

In this section of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is explaining to his readers that God’s grace does not exempt them from living holy lives. Christians cannot do with their bodies what their pagan neighbors do and still expect to have a spiritual union with the Holy Spirit. Paul gives two examples of detrimental behavior: eating food that has been sacrificed before pagan gods, and having sex with temple prostitutes. God will not share His temple (us) with other gods.

So you see, to boil Paul’s words down to a law requiring us all to be Size 2 misses the much bigger point and borders on heretical teaching.

Thankfully I don’t need a TV Bible teacher to tell me how important it is that I eat right and exercise. I want to be as healthy as I can be, so that I am ready to be a tool of God when He wants to use me.

This year, in this new city, I am committing to cooking healthier meals than we ate in Denver. I also commit to exercising each morning.

There’s nothing on TV that early anyway.

New Year, New City

Community, Spirituality

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a type-A personality. I like calendars and schedules and 401(k) plans. I bristle at change and uncertainty. I’m a control freak responsible adult.

I first realized my control problem when David and I were unable to have children. It took seven years for me to “give” my supposed control of our family to God.

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David’s birthday party at our church with friends and family.

In 2013 we refinanced our house and committed to serve God from our small home in Murfreesboro, TN. We abandoned thoughts of moving to East Nashville and buying a bigger house to fill with kiddos. We decided we could survive in the suburbs long term (although we are both “city people” who prefer mass transit to long commutes and next-door watering holes to chain restaurants). We found ourselves saying it would take “an act of God” for us to ever leave our church family whom we loved dearly and served faithfully and who edified us consistently. We had found unexpected contentment.

Two months later David’s job required us to leave that house and spend the balance of the year living in hotels in the Rocky Mountains. And while we were gone, the fabric of our Murfreesboro life frayed. God “sent out” our Life Group members: all but 2 families have moved to other time zones. Our church split. We had deaths in our families, cancer scares, and even watched an innocent man go to prison. We wondered why God had chosen that time to take us away when we thought we could have been so much help to everyone we loved had we lived in Tennessee.

In 2014 we made the move to Denver. We love Denver. We love the low humidity, absence of mosquitoes, Mountain time zone, 300 days of sunshine, organic lifestyle, and Broncos football (mostly because Peyton Manning “followed us there”). And the mountains–oh, the mountains! Our time here has been restorative. Colorado has quickly become home, and there is no place we’d rather be than here.

It may be new to us, but this beauty was built in 1906!

But we are leaving. Today is our last day in our condo. Today we are packing up everything the movers won’t take, and tomorrow we start the 18-hour drive to Chattanooga, TN, where David has accepted a new job. In Chattanooga we will be fulfilling our pre-2013 dream. We’ve purchased a 100-year-old house in a transitional downtown neighborhood. I’ll go back to my homemaker ways (cooking, gardening, volunteering, ladies-lunch-ing). We’re even growing our family! A basset hound puppy will join our party on January 31 when he’s 8 weeks old.

So I think I’m finally done with making plans and trying to control our future. We are starting to see our Denver years as God’s way of preparing us for this move to Chattanooga. What else could it be? No human would move 1.5 hours down I-24 from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga by way of Colorado.

Meet Copper the basset hound. He has “copper pennies” for eyebrows!

God has used our time in Denver to further strengthen our marriage and to solidify our priorities. We haven’t really put down roots here. We own no property. We were never able to “get plugged in” to a church for various reasons. When we leave, no one will miss us. And strangely enough that’s a very good thing.

We enter Chattanooga with renewed priorities. We look forward to becoming part of a community and having a healthy faith, healthy home, healthy food, healthy finances, and healthy relationships. We give control of it all to God, knowing He has an unfathomable plan when we let go of our own lives.

But I’ll be hiring the mosquito-control company myself next summer. It’s already on my calendar.

Wednesday I Am Thankful…

Spirituality

…to be part of God’s redemptive plan.

David and I have a friend named Adrian. He’s been looking for a job for several months, and just this week, he received two very different offers for two very different jobs. He says, “If I take the first job, I’ll just be a cog in a wheel. If I take the second job, I’ll be on the ground floor of something that could be great.”

Who wants to be the cog in a wheel, giving the credit and glory for his hard work to a boss who doesn’t notice him? Performing his job perfectly every day for the benefit of a machine that he can’t see or understand? No one.

And I wonder if that very-human feeling is why so many of us have trouble giving complete control of our lives over to God. But that is exactly what we are called to do. Paul praises the Christian Thessalonians for playing their very specific but often small parts in God’s plan, and he prays they will continue to do so:

All this [that the Christians will persevere for the sake of the Christ] is why we are constantly praying for you, so God will make you worthy of the great calling you have received from Him and will give you the power to accomplish every good intention and work of faith. Then the great name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified through your lives, and you will be glorified in Him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, our Liberating King.–2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, The Voice

Sometimes–when we are allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us–the pieces of our lives that we don’t understand are working to bring the rest of the world to a place of reconciliation with God.

I am thankful that we “cogs” do have some knowledge of the “machine” we are part of. Paul gives us a glimpse of the Second Coming of the Christ, one of the final parts of God’s great plan for humanity: at the final judgment, the presentation of sinful men and women who have been redeemed through Jesus’ graceful sacrifice on the cross will be glorified with Him. He will be glorified in them (v. 12).

The evidence of the Christ’s glory will be personified by the lives of those of us who are saved.

So on Thanksgiving (and every day), I will make the choice to be thankful for any small part I get to play in God’s redemptive plan. I will try to remember that my actions reflect upon the Christ–today and forever. Instead of acting selfishly and sinfully in the short term, I’ll thank God for His words that should guide my actions. I’ll trust that He is leading me down a path that will reconcile more people to Him.

(And I’ll thank Him for Adrian’s new job!)

Tuesday I Am Thankful…

Spirituality

…for my suffering.

I suppose that suffering–be it personally experienced or simply observed–is one of the primary reasons people abandon God. So often it leaves the afflicted asking, Why does God let this happen?

Certainly the 1st-century new-Christian Thessalonians were asking that question as they endured civil persecution at the hands of unconverted Jews and pagans. So who better to answer their question than the apostle Paul, a Christian who had been wrongly imprisoned and physically assaulted by powerful men on multiple occasions. The apostle Paul, a once-powerful man who had done the wrongful imprisoning and physical assaulting of Christians on countless occasions.

His life–both before and after he recognized Jesus as the Christ–was consistently shaped by suffering, be he the oppressed or oppressor.

Paul wrote that strong and constant faith yields suffering. Then suffering yields strong and constant faith:

In the grip of much persecution and affliction, you’ve stood firm in your faith and have persevered. Your sufferings prove that God’s judgment is right! The result: your sufferings have made you worthy—worthy of the kingdom of God, which is the very reason why you are suffering in the first place! (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, The Voice)

Paul is writing about suffering from an eternal perspective. He assumed the Christ would return within his lifetime, so he saw no distinction between the mundane and the divine.

After 2 millennia of waiting for His Second Coming, most of us no longer think this way. We don’t equate the suffering that results from miscarriage with an eternal battle. But we should.

Most of the physical, emotional, psychological, and even spiritual sufferings we endure as Christians can be beneficial. I consider the many years David and I spent failing to deliver babies. Those sufferings changed us not because we didn’t get what we wanted, but because we learned (the hard way!) to trust God’s plan for our lives. Even when it was contrary to our own plans.

So on Thanksgiving (and every day), I will make the choice to be thankful for my suffering. I will try to remember that suffering refines my faith. Instead of blaming Him for making me feel low, I’ll thank God for showing Himself to me when I need Him most. I’ll trust that He is growing my faith so I can be more useful in His great redemptive plan for humanity.