Words from Ephesians 5 for Thanksgiving 2020

But Instead Let There Be Thanksgiving

What passage from Scripture makes you cringe? I’ll give you one of mine – the word “cringe” is even scrawled in the margins of my Bible next to it:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” 

-Ephesians 5:3-10, ESV (emphasis mine) 

Wow. I find myself swallowing a little harder every time I read this passage. There are so many places where I have partnered with the dark in my own life, and it often seems innocuous enough that I don’t even see what it’s doing. 

But while this is a weighty passage and reveals a lot about what Jesus followers let slip into the cracks of their life, there is a part that has always struck me as an odd choice to include. Read back through the above passage. See what I bolded? 

In the midst of commands to get rid of sin, a seemingly oddly placed command is given: “…but instead let there be thanksgiving.” 

At first glance, it seems like an odd shift from speaking about sin, to urging thankfulness, back to speaking about sin. But when you think about this, it actually makes a lot of sense. Have you noticed that when your life is full of joyful gratitude, the dark lure of sin fades a little? 

I find it extremely hard to praise God for a beautiful morning and then curse my neighbor the next second. 

There’s a weight of conviction that comes when you praise the goodness of God with a family member and then slip right into a conversation laced with jokes that make it look like you don’t know him. 

A universal truth is that one becomes what they behold. Behold the goodness and glory of God constantly, and your life will start to align with his. And, from this passage, I think another truth can be implied: You’re drawn toward what you meditate upon. 

Think deeply about what makes your heart grateful and watch yourself be pulled away from dark lures toward the light of Christ. 

This Thanksgiving, turn toward Jesus and strive to put aside the sin that clings so closely. Instead, let there be thanksgiving. 

hands typing on desk with text

5 Positive Impacts of COVID-19

How long has your community been in some sort of lockdown or quarantine? It’s been over six months for my area. 

What began as a doable “15 Days to Stop the Spread” campaign turned into a harder-than-expected cycle of lockdowns, isolation, and disruption of routines. As things begin to open, talking heads are professing this to be the “new normal,” but there is NOTHING normal about this season – it’s just weird. One day we’ll be back to normal(ish), but right now we live in the weird. 

But thankfully the worst type of weird can bring some good things with it. In an attempt to stir up gratitude within me, here are 5 positive impacts of COVID-19: 

MOTIVATION TO TURN MY HOUSE INTO A HOME

I had been in my house for less than four months when COVID-19 struck. And as the weeks since then have passed, it’s motivated me to get boxes unpacked, walls decorated, furniture rearranged, and really turn the space where I live into a home. It’s made me think more deeply about things like my workspace, how to keep everything cozy without being cluttered, and how best to arrange the space when hosting (something I have happily been able to do, albeit in small groups, throughout COVID). 

TIME SPENT WITH PETS

I have a rescue dog with separation anxiety, and my sister’s anxious little dog also lives with me. It has been so good for both of them to have so much time with me, and I have loved it. While it might be a little bit more challenging during work meetings (they don’t quite grasp my need for them to stay quiet during my Zoom meetings), being able to curl up on the couch and write while they sleep at my feet is a delight. 

LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS

I reignited a childhood love of reading a year or two ago. I LOVE books. But there are so many other things pulling for my attention on a daily basis. Having a lot of the special events, regular meetings, and reoccurring calendar items canceled has opened up time that (when using my self-discipline to keep me away from Criminal Minds on Netflix) can be used to devour book after book. 

EXTRA TIME TO FOCUS ON HEALTH

My commute is gone, and my time to get ready every day has been slashed. This means that when I don’t sleep well, I can really focus on getting enough sleep by setting my alarm for later. It means that I have the time every day to get a really good workout in. I have the time to cook healthy meals. And, if I’m not getting enough steps in during the day, I can pace around my house while on that conference call with zero judgment. 

NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THE ROUTINES AND OBLIGATIONS I TAKE FOR GRANTED

I miss my alarm going off earlier than preferred on the weekend to wake me up for church. I miss a commute that guaranteed carved out time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I miss regularly meeting with others in the evenings, even if I was exhausted from the day. COVID-19 has breathed new appreciation into these regular happenings, an appreciation I would not have had otherwise. 

How about you – are there things that you can be grateful for, even in this weird and awful season? Let me know in the comments!

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.

The things I'm most thankful for aren't what would make your usual list.

9 Atypical Things I’m Thankful For

Thanksgiving. The day we as a culture choose to stop and intentionally be grateful. The one day a year where it’s popular to cultivate thankfulness that would be better if already a common habit. Continue reading “9 Atypical Things I’m Thankful For”