The Arrow of Thanksgiving

Your fingers hurt as you pull back the string, keeping your eye on the fletching.  Your arm wants to shake as it pulls against the tightness of the string.  You move your focus down the shaft, linger on the arrow head, then center on the yellow circle in the distance.  Breathe, and-

Thwi-!

Holidays can be difficult times for me.  I love the comfort and quiet they can bring, the moments of warm, soft reflection in the midst of all that goes on day to day. Sometimes, however, that peace can be far more elusive on the special days than it is in the midst of the deadlines and the daily grind.  If left unprotected, it is peace easily lost and disappointment readily gained.

How often does Thanksgiving cross the calendar this way?  Expectations run high, and when we come to the familiar “What are we thankful for?” it can be so much easier to think, Well, I would be thankful, if…

The Bible shows us holidays in a way that is different than we are used to thinking.  Instead of days off to do what we want in the hopes that we will feel better at work after, Biblical holidays were days of training.  When the Lord established the Sabbath day, the foundation of all holidays for His people, in Deuteronomy chapter five, this is what He said:

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
~Deuteronomy 5:15

When life gets busy, we have to make a conscious effort to keep from drifting off with our moods, stresses, and fears.  That effort can be something that seems to add to the burden of our to-do list rather than lightening it.  Because we are used to the hope of resting recharging our emotions on holidays, training sounds exhausting and intimidating, but God designed holidays to be training in joy.  Joy is not a spontaneous feeling like happiness.  Even at our lowest points of fear and sorrow, joy can be ours if we are used to exercising the right muscles.

This is where I come to thinking of thanksgiving as a weapon.  It can be so hard to be thankful.  It really isn’t something that comes to us naturally.  When we first feel the weapon in our hands, it is so alien that we hardly know how to handle it.  We know how it is supposed to work, but surely it is meant for other people to use.  People who are “talented” in the realm of thankfulness.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, we can feel our fingers scream when we first pull back that tight string.  Our muscles tremble within us as we struggle to keep the bow steady and pulled back tight.  We miss the target, then again, then again.  It is a struggle to hit the bull’s-eye of joy, but we must learn to think like Leah.  Leah could have been tossed about mercilessly by her circumstances.  Her husband loved her sister more than he loved her.  God blessed her with three sons, but even still, she was lonely amidst her blessings.  Finally, she made a choice: “This time, I will praise the Lord.”  And her fourth son Judah became the forefather of our precious Jesus Christ.

This time—whatever the time may be—will you praise the Lord?  Think of the bow as His faithfulness.  It is solid and true, but sometimes hard to grasp at first.  We know its strength, but how could we ever be able to approach it?  If we try on our own, we will never be able to get the arrows on the string, but Holy Spirit helps us the draw the strength of the unfamiliar string.  Devote time to training.  Set aside pieces of the day, especially the holidays, to learn of His faithfulness, and to practice putting your trust in Him.  Remember that in the same chapter as the command to keep a Sabbath, Moses shared with the people:

The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.
~Deuteronomy 5:3

The Lord’s faithfulness is something He gives to you.  It is not loaned to you by permission from someone else.  It is what God Himself has given directly to you.  Don’t be afraid to interact with His faithfulness in your own life, no matter the situation.

I think of the arrows as truth.  Circumstances and emotions can toss us back and forth; in the midst of that, there are solid truths to which we can still cling.  Maybe they don’t seem very significant at the time, often they won’t be enough to rocket us from the doldrums straight to cloud nine, but sometimes just a little piece of something that is really, honestly true is enough to give us a hint of joy.  Again, we know these truths better the more time we spend in the Word and in prayer.  If we devote time to memorizing the Word, it is like we get used to reaching for the quiver without even having to think of where to find it.

God is faithful.  Here are the truths.  Draw the string, aim for the center of His presence: joy lives there.  Hold steady.  Remember, thanksgiving is a choice.

Rejoice always;  pray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In everything.  It sounds an awful lot like training, doesn’t it?  We still have some time before Thanksgiving Day comes.  Take the time to learn the tools.  It is a hard thing for the enemy to stand against a truly thankful heart.

Deep breath.

This time I will praise the Lord.

And…

Release.

by Stephanie H.

Train Yourself — Winning Takes Persistence!

“…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:7b-8

*buzz* *buzz* *buzz*

I lay still for a moment, eyes closed, hoping that everything would just…sort of…disappear, and I could drift peacefully back to sleep.

*buzz* *buzz*

Auughhh.

Seriously? I don’t want to get up.

I cracked open one eye, to see if I could get a general feel of the weather outside. Grey. Cloudy. Windy. Probably 40 degrees.

I hate running. And if there’s one thing that could make me hate it even more…it’s wind and cold. I can’t do this. My bed is so warm and comfy.

In spite of my brain protesting every move I made, I rolled out of bed, and began donning my layers…all the while, grumbling, I can’t do this. I just…I can’t do this. I don’t want to.

I finished tying my sneakers, and cracked open the door. A blast of icy wind hit me in the face.

Oh great. It’s colder than I thought. Just perfect. I am not going to survive this run even if I DO make it outside. I shouldn’t even bother. I should just stay inside today. I won’t even be able to move out there.

And STILL, in spite my grumbling and resisting inside, a minute later I found myself jogging down the road.

Why am I doing this? I don’t like running. I just don’t. I wasn’t made to be a runner. Why do I keep doing this to myself.

*thump, thump, thump*

hmmm. I have more energy than I thought I would though. In fact…I think I have more energy than I’ve ever had for running. Weird.

*thump, thump, thump*

Maybe this whole running thing is actually paying off! Maybe…I mean…it’s unlikely…but, just maybe my body is getting stronger! Maybe I can actually do this!

[dtbaker_line type=”leaf”][/dtbaker_line]

Ok, has this ever happened to you? I hope I’m not the only one who has these kind of conversations going on in my head. Yes…yes…this is a true story. I really do hate running this much. Yes, it is slightly pathetic. But, this post isn’t actually about running (thank goodness!!).

However, I share this story because I thought it highlighted very well the internal struggles we can go through when we are trying to do *anything* worthwhile. *Especially* when it is going to keep us rooted and flourishing in godliness! Yeah. Like getting up early or staying up late to spend time reading your Bible and seeking the Lord. Like, instead of surfing the internet when you have a free moment, pulling out the Bible.

When these good intentions manage to even just sneak into our thoughts, we immediately react, just like I react when my alarm goes off, and I know it is a lousy day outside, but I still need to go running.

What?? I won’t be able to function properly if I don’t get the rest I need. I can’t get up early! I’m already sacrificing so much to spend my day working/serving my family’s needs. I *deserve* my sleep time. I certainly won’t be able to focus on the Lord if I’m groggy. Yeah. I’ll just try to fit Him in some other time that’s a little more convenient. There we go. That makes much more sense. I don’t know what I was even thinking there. Get up early? Nah. That’s ridiculous. Plus. I mean, aside from all my GOOD reasons…I just really…don’t want to.

Now, running is of some value, as it strengthens our bodies to work properly, so that we can live with more energy to do what needs to be done each day. But if we do it once, and then never do it again…the benefits won’t carry over. If we keep it up for a few weeks, and then just kind of…take a break for a week or two after we get to a point where we feel like we’ve gotten a lot better at it, we will lose all the muscle and energy we had gained from our training, and when we go back to do it again, we will find that we can barely limp through what was an easy exercise…you know…just like a month ago! BUT, if we continue to practice, day after day, week after week, month after month, we WILL get stronger, and have more energy, and we will actually get to reap the benefits of our sacrifice!

Our walk with the Lord is very similar to this, in many ways, which is why it is so often compared to running a race, or being an athlete in training. It takes the same self-denial, the same endurance, the same reckless determination to keep going no matter what “cold winds” may try to blow us off course, or cause our resolve to tremble. We can’t just spend time with the Lord on Sunday and expect it to carry us through the rest of our week. If we want to walk in the power of the Lord each day, we need to be practicing our obedience to seek the Lord each day. Whether we feel like it or not. Whether we are excited about it or not. Whether we feel “good” or “encouraged” by it one day or not.

Like the virgins in Jesus’ parable, we must be careful to keep our lamps lit, day after day, not knowing when Jesus will return, but knowing it WILL be soon…and WE want to be ready, and found prepared to meet Him when He returns. Because we MUST endure to the end; just making it most of the way through our lives and then becoming careless isn’t an option. It is the same as running for any prize — if you want to endure to the end, you have to persevere through all the training, all the practice, AND to the finish line. Otherwise, all the training and practice means nothing. You’re disqualified, even if you practiced every day for your whole life, but then give up in the last 500 feet before the finish line. And…if we can’t even make it to the practices…how can we expect to make it through the race, to the finish line?? It’s like taking a couch potato and setting them in the middle of the woods somewhere, and telling them to go run a marathon.

Each day that we seek the Lord matters. And each day that we don’t seek the Lord makes a difference…because we are not moving forward, and are in fact *losing* spiritual muscles.

Like 1 Timothy 4:15a says, we must Practice these things, immerse yourself in them…”.

When you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? I don’t even like this. Is there any point?” Just remember, yes. There is. And as you strengthen your spiritual muscles more and more, and remain faithful in seeking the Lord daily, whether you “feel” any more spiritual or not…you WILL find there is a difference in your day to day life. A difference in your actions, your words, your thoughts. And others will probably begin to notice the difference even before you do! I can’t overstate the importance of seeking the Lord each and every day.

I’m talking to myself here too. It has been an intense struggle lately to get my time with the Lord each day. But we must continually be reminding ourselves that our Bridegroom is coming soon! And we want to be alert, and made ready for His coming! 

What about you? Have you come up with a good way to get time with the Lord daily? Or is this still something you struggle with? What are you going to do TODAY, before you go to bed tonight, to get time with the Lord??

Drop us a comment below, because we’d love to connect with you!