Would we give thanks for fleas?

Would We Give Thanks For Fleas?

I recently read a short biography about the ten Boom sisters, Betsie and Corrie. While these godly Dutch women and the way they lived, even in Nazi concentration camps, is wholeheartedly inspirational, there is one story about their faith that always blows me away. 

Corrie and Betsie were in their 50s when they were shipped off to concentration camps after hiding Jews in their home during World War II. While Corrie would eventually be released and live past 90, Betsie would later succumb to illness in the camp. But while they were there, the sisters were determined to make the most of their suffering, sharing the Gospel and the love of Christ as much as they possibly could. 

While Corrie and Betsie are both giants in the faith, the type of women I aspire to be, thankfulness and forgiveness came to Betsie very, very quickly, while for Corrie it often took more time. At one point when they had been moved into horrifying conditions, a rancid bunkhouse crammed full of hundreds more women than the capacity allowed for, Betsie encouraged Corrie to still give thanks for everything that was around them. For being kept together, for the proclamation of the Gospel, and for something unexpected: Betsie told Corrie to give thanks for the fleas. 

And give thanks for the little creatures that made their lives more miserable, they did. 

Weeks went by, and the ten Boom sisters wondered why the little worship services and Bible studies that they held in their bunkhouse were never broken up by guards who would certainly dole out even more brutal treatment as punishment. In fact, guards simply never stopped by during these times. 

Finally, the sisters learned what was keeping the guards out of the bunkhouse. The Nazis were worried about picking up fleas. 

The burden that they still gave thanks for became one of their greatest God-given blessings and defenses. 

Scripture calls us to have thankful and grateful hearts, praising the Father in all things. Am I the type of woman who would give thanks even for the fleas? I know I’m not right now, but that’s who I want to become.

shadowed photo with text

Groaning To Gratitude

A few nights ago, I pulled into a parking lot. I was on the phone with someone, listing my problems and groaning about how the day had gone. 

An hour later, I was driving out of that parking lot. I was struck with the sunset. The city lights starting to flicker on. The feeling of being ALIVE. 

A deeply rooted gratitude that just started flowing out into prayer. And that simple shift from groaning about my life to thanking God because of all the things that I could still be grateful for radically shifted the trajectory of my evening. 

A day or two later, a newsletter I’m subscribed to included this very timely quote from Maya Angelou: 

“Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this… So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

While Angelou’s words ring true, Scripture is even simpler: 

“Rejoice always…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18).” 

Groaning and grumbling and complaining stacks up, but so does gratitude. They both impact our hearts, but only one turns our hearts toward joy, toward Christ. Shifting from groaning to gratitude is a choice – let’s choose it.

state of justice with text

The Place Where Perfect Justice Lives

Right now I’m angry, furious. 

Angry at injustice, angry at authoritarian policy, angry at the government, angry at the moments where I feel uncomfortable in the midst of all this, angry at people who inflict violence in their anger, angry at people who think that others have no right to be angry. It’s often not a righteous anger, but it feels good to hold onto it, like something steadfast in the midst of all this.

While preaching on Micah 6:8, my pastor defined injustice well: Injustice is sin with power. It’s taking something that already stands in defiance to the ways of God and layering more weight upon the victim through their powerlessness. And Micah 6:8 summarizes God’s direction for His people on their response to such injustice: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (emphasis added)”

The pursuit of justice in America is worthy. And the pursuit feels good. Every conversation, every written word, every bit of legislative advocacy, every moment spent processing how my heart needs to change on the subject of justice, especially justice for black Americans, feels like following through on the Phillippians 4:8 call to dwell on the true, noble, and right.

But in the midst of this, I’ve had the lyrics to Slain by Beautiful Eulogy running through my mind. You should listen to the full song, but this specific excerpt has dwelt side-by-side with Scripture in my heart lately:

Let’s also talk about the throne where perfect justice is /

It sounds insensitive and some will hate the stench of it /

But the church is not faithful if we fail to mention it /

We worship a God who can speak to the world’s pain /

Pure salvation for us came through the Lamb who was slain

Injustice exists because sin does. To be sure, I’m not using that line as an excuse to sit back and wash our hands over the push for social reform. Sin is the cause of every evil we see in society, and yet we still pursue legislative reform for things. 

But what you and I and all of us need to be reminded of is that there is only one place where perfect justice lives. There is only one place that will ever see injustice totally slain and righteousness falling like rain. There is only one place where perfect love and kindness dwell. 

That’s before the throne of God. As we pursue justice in America, let us also be faithful to declare the God who is perfectly just and the Savior who bore that justice so that we might be shown mercy.

cross at sunset with text

Thank Goodness Jesus Is Emotional

It’s hard for me to grasp that Jesus loves me. 

I can line all the facts up in my brain but my heart still has a hard time seeing the full picture. Part of it is simple awe that the One who breathed out galaxies cares for me. And, that sort of stunned disbelief is obviously rational in this context. Like King David asks in Psalm 8, “What is man that you are mindful of him…?” 

But I think my difficulties don’t stem from a proper feeling of awe as much as they do the cultural stereotype of the emotionality of Jesus. Think about it. We often paint Jesus as always even-tempered and calm, even serene. And it doesn’t feel like someone like that could truly and deeply and furiously love me; it feels more like they would just smile at me and pat my head. 

I can’t be the only one that feels uncomfortable when the perfectly tranquil Jesus that lurks in the back of our brains is contrasted with the actual Jesus of Nazareth written about in Scripture. The Jesus that was so passionate about honoring his Father that he flipped tables, the Jesus that wept over his dead friend. 

Portraying Jesus as emotionlessly tranquil is misleading and needs to be rejected. Not only was Jesus fully man, but he was fully God, and the strongest emotions of Scripture are used when talking about the Father. He is jealous. He is furious. He laughs. He is compassionate. 

And He loves. 

Thank goodness Jesus is emotional. Thank goodness his emotions are perfect. Thank GOD that he LOVES me. 

I was copying Scripture earlier today, a practice that forces me to slow down and think about the words, and this passage from Romans 8 seems particularly fitting to close: 

 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37-39)”

blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth

Blessed Are The Meek

Merriam-Webster defines ‘meek’ in a few ways including ‘deficient in spirit or courage’ and ‘not violent or strong.’ Even in the face of such definitions, the pop evangelists rush to tell us that meekness does not equate to weakness when looking at Scripture. But what if it does? 

And, what if that’s actually a comfort, not a condemnation? Continue reading “Blessed Are The Meek”

dachshund peering out from blankets with text

Theology As Taught Through Dachshund Injuries

I don’t write about him often, but last summer I adopted a stray, senior mini dachshund. The little guy lights up my life. 

Unfortunately, dachshunds are extremely susceptible to back injuries, and Watson is not an exception. A couple of weeks ago the inevitable took place and the days since have been filled with crate rest, pain killers, and a little dog frustrated at not being able to run around like he wants. 

And, because I think God delights in teaching me lessons through animals (over and over and over again), He’s taught me through this. 

I’ve caught myself telling Watson, “It’s for your own good,” over and over and over again. It’s for your own good. It’s for YOUR own GOOD. 

He hates the crate rest, but it’ll help him heal. 

He hates being carried around and kept from running, but it’ll also help him heal. 

He hates being on a diet, but it’ll help him lose more weight so his back isn’t under as much stress. 

And, I feel like the way Watson reacts to my care for him is exactly how I react to God’s care for me. 

I kick and scream about the discipline and the stretching and the growth, and God just reminds me He’s working for my good. I can look back over my shoulder and see the good, but the good certainly doesn’t FEEL that way in the moment. 

Hebrews 12 speaks to this: 

 

“‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? …For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (vs. 5-7, 11)”

 

Everything I do is for Watson’s good. I never do anything to purposefully make him sad or to harm him. If I, a mere human being caring for a little animal, can so carefully work for his good, how much more our heavenly Father, the Creator of all things? He works on our behalf, even when it doesn’t feel like good.