The Fourth Watch

Have you ever thought, “I didn’t sign up for this!” in life, in ministry, in your family? Oh the ideals we chase, and the reality we crash into! So often, even my best intentions are short sighted. And I end up feeling like I’m stuck in a place not my choosing! I think Jesus’ disciples felt this way often.

In Matthew 14 after he has miraculously fed thousands of people on the mountainside, Jesus dismisses the crowds and insists that his disciples get into the boat and cross the lake without him. They’re all-in with Jesus by this time, so they go. But night closes in around them, and the wind picks up. The waves are crashing, rocking them violently. Verse 24 says, “The disciples were in trouble far away from land…” Imagine their shouts above the wind, “Where is Jesus! What was he thinking sending us out in this! I didn’t sign up for this!”  After all he was the one who insisted they cross over without him. He had disappeared into the hills to pray, alone. And he had sent them off into a storm! But the shouting doesn’t last. They don’t have any energy to spare as they frantically bail the sinking vessel.

By the middle of the night, these guys are soaking, cold and despairing of their own lives. Verse 25 says, “Now in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went to them, walking on the water…” In the darkest hour of the night, they are not alone. Jesus is walking toward them on the water.

When I’m in my darkest hour, my tendency is to cry out in despair, to complain, and even rebel. “I didn’t sign up for this!” I exclaim. And I want a way out!

The disciples have spent a good part of the night in that very place. But they aren’t alone. And at just the right time, Jesus walks toward them on the water.  The minute he comes on the scene everything changes.

For an instant they are wracked with a worse fear than death by drowning! “It’s a ghost!” They cry out. But Jesus’ reassuring voice reaches them over the wind and waves. “Cheer up! It is I!”

The waves are huge, the boat is still sinking, but Peter has dropped his baling can and is about to jump right out of the boat! And Jesus is encouraging him! “Come on!” He says! So off Peter goes.  Only it’s momentary. The storm has lasted for hours, Peter’s jaunt on the stormy sea, only seconds. And then he is sinking and crying out to Jesus to save him—which, of course, Jesus does, even as he asks, “Why did you doubt?” Have you ever stopped to wonder where Peter would have ended up if he hadn’t doubted?   Now some might be hard on Peter for his lack of faith. I’m wondering what the other 11 in the boat were thinking. Peter got out of the boat in the middle of a storm! And he walked on water! Who among us can say, “I’ve walked on water in the middle of a stormy lake”? Peter could.

As Jesus and Peter climb into the boat, the disciples get what they have been waiting for…the storm ends suddenly. The wind ceases! Everything is quite. The terror of the fourth watch is over, a distant memory as the sky clears and the first pink ribbons of dawn can be seen on the horizon.

And then the moment Jesus has been waiting for, “They came and worshiped him, and said, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

In the fourth watch, when we have despaired of the sun ever shining, let us not moan in terror. Let us not wail, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Let us wait and watch. For we are not alone. He is coming to us in the storm. And he is inviting us to walk on water.

Waiting is Good?

“It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet wrote these words. And they come after he expresses his own soul’s trembling  anguish. He reminds himself of the Lord’s mercies, and concludes with these powerful words.  What struck me is his assertion that it is GOOD. He wasn’t just confident that he was waiting for a good thing, but that the wait was a good thing.

Now I’ve had my share of experience with waiting and I have a hard time calling it good. Sometimes when I cry out to God int he midst of a painful season of waiting, I feel as if I would do anything to bring the season to an end. Waiting doesn’t feel good! It feels exhausting! It feels frustrating! It feels overwhelming!  And each time I come to the end of a particularly tough season of waiting, I tend to think, “Whew! That’s over. Maybe I’ve learned what I need to about waiting”—as if passing a “waiting test” might exempt me from a future course.

Jeremiah’s claim, however, isn’t that any wait is good. The wait that is with hope and quietness—that is the wait that is good.

Have you ever been waiting for something, and slowly despaired of its every happening? I know I have!

Recently I was praying for Joel’s neck (Yes again!) and I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to consider the breadth of this journey in physical suffering. Joel has suffered for four years—four long, painful, dragged out years. Yet when I think of the scope of our life, four years isn’t really that long. In relation to eternity it’s nothing. Still, it feels like something! As I thought about the time frame of this particular and painful wait, God whispered to me,Why have you quit praying for what you really want? Didn’t I tell you I would take care of this. This gentle rebuke showed me that I had wavered in my hope. The wait was soured by my dwindling hope. A good wait, is a wait full of hope for God’s good plan to take hold. And it doesn’t mean it will happen according to our schedule. Jeremiah did not even live to see the fulfillment of God’s restoration of his children to the land. Jeremiah’s wait was for something beyond his own life. And yet, he was willing to hope and wait quietly. Victor Frankl a survivor of Auschwitz said that not everyone who maintained hope survived, but absolutely everyone who lost hope died. Hopelessness kills! But to hope in the Lord is good!

Waiting in quietness is the next quality Jeremiah expresses as good. This quietness does not mean just shut your mouth and put up with whatever your troubles are. It doesn’t mean grin and bear it.”This quietness is a quietness of soul. It is a rest deep within, because God is in control even when we can’t tell what he is doing. Quietness tends to flee as soon as hope dissipates. Once we don’t have hope in God, we are no longer able to experience rest in our souls.

But when we wait quietly our testimony shouts to the world. When we can express rest in the midst of turmoil others take notice. This testimony of quietness provides opportunities for us to speak life and hope into other people.

This kind of quietness also frees us from our own broken efforts to avoid, assuage, or overcome the pain. I find myself quickly managing situations to mitigate fall-out. When I’m in pain, I just want something to make it feel better. Sometimes I cry out to God as if he’s a cosmic bottle of Advil ready to dose out pain relief at a moment’s notice. But waiting quietly means I cease my own striving, my own agenda, my own demands for pain relief.

Waiting may never feel good. But it is good when it is in hopeful quietness. It is good when God is recognized as merciful and compassionate. It is good when it testifies to others of God’s faithfulness. It is good when we can let God work in the wait instead of attempting to manage our own comfort.

God Surprises

I was at a Wycliffe Associates event out in Phoenix this past week end. Almost 200 people attended the event. On the first evening I was a table host for eight people. Only four seats were  taken as we prayed and began the meal. Then I saw a couple approaching. I looked up to greet them and froze in shock. They looked at me and started in recognition. These friends—Chris and Alexis–from Columbus, Ohio, I had not seen for more than a year and a half. And right behind them were two more friends—Brittney and Will!

“Tabitha!” They exclaimed! “We were just talking about you and wondering if you would be here!” I had no idea they were even on the invitation list. We celebrated our reunion and quickly caught up on news.

As the week end continued we found opportunities to connect, share God’s passion on our hearts, and inspire one another in our journey with God.

 I am awed by how God chooses to use us in each other’s lives. I love how he connects his body. The writer of Hebrews says this in chapter 10: 23-24: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…”  The blessing of re-connection this week end, has challenged my thinking again on this passage. How do we encourage one another regularly toward love and good deeds?

One obvious way we do this is by recounting the goodness of God to one another. As I share what God has done in my life with another believer, I am testifying to his goodness and his faithfulness. I am spreading the conviction. I am bolstering my friend’s faith.

Another way we do this is by listening as they share the goodness of God in their lives. As Chris and Alexis shared with me their wedding story (they weren’t even dating last time I saw them) I was awed by their purposeful missional focus during the ceremony.  I felt “spurred on” by their testimony.

We also encourage one another by sharing in fun times. During the week end we went out on a gondola ride together, sat around the pool, and star gazed from the rooftop at night. These simple times of rest and enjoying God’s creation, refreshed my soul.

And we encourage one another by praying with and for each other. As we said our good byes on Sunday, Chris said, “Let us pray for you before you go.” I gladly agreed. My heart and soul were touched by the power of God’s love as Chris prayed over me.

Finally, we spur one another on to good works by reminding one another of our common mission and future glory. Will has begun plans for a Scripture translation with Somalian refugees who live in his city.   Brittney is planning to work with Chris on a training event with their churches. We know the glory that awaits us. We expect His return. And we work together to invite as many as we can to join us in that expectancy.

I am not only encouraged and refreshed, I’m also reminded that God does His beautiful work in and through his children, not only to the world, but within his family! And I’m thankful to be a part of that kind of loving connection.



Celebrating 44 Years

Well I turned a year older last week. I often joke with my kids when they wake up on the morning of their birthdays, “Wow! Do you feel a year older? You look a whole year older!” to which they merely roll their eyes and smile. I’d prefer not to look a whole year older over night, now that I’m actually engaged in the “aging” process. But this year, as I felt the raw tug of angst over getting older, another thought caught me, I don’ have time to feel bad about getting old. I still have time to celebrate life. And I’m certainly young enough to embrace that!

That thought turned in my head until I began to ponder all the amazing blessings I’ve experienced in my forty-four years of life. And that prompted me to write it out. So here’s my list of 44 blessings from the past 44 years—not in any chronological order or order of importance, because I tend to be a random thinker.

1. Jesus—and yes, this is the best and most significant blessing of my life. Getting to know Jesus as a child and walking with him all these years has made life the celebration that it is for me.
2. Mom and Dad—my  favorite part of my parents’ lives is their dynamic love for Jesus. They pursue him with pure desire and joy, and compel me to do the same.
3. Waterfalls—because I love the thunder of their fall, and the spray on my face, and the breathtaking beauty of their wild descent.
4. Rivers—especially the Orinoco and it’s tributaries.
5. Rain—its splash on my face, its warm reassurance of life, its puddles and rivulets, and pounding.
6. Ocean waves—Their cadence, their foamy spray, their dependability.
7. My sisters—Lynn and Gail, I have a great imagination, but I can’t imagine life without you two!
8. My brother—George, I did somersaults when you were born, I was so happy to finally have  a brother.
9. Joel—you I have loved since childhood.
10. Mom and Dad Price—How you love and accept me, is something I hope to “pay forward” one day.
11. Scripture—so much depth, so much truth, washing my soul and cleansing my heart.
12. English—Over a million words, and 30+ phonemes! This language is amazing!
13. Books—I could make a list of 44 faves just from this one category.
14. Southwest Airlines—I love your service, your planes, your rewards points, and sending my kids to FL for free every summer!
15. Wycliffe Associates—never a dull moment pursing Jesus at breakneck speed, getting the Bible to the darkest places.

16. Travel!—21 countries and 41 states. I have a lot more to see.
17. Venezuela—mi hogar.
18. The jungle–I miss you.
19. Chocolate—especially dark chocolate with nuts, with fruit, with coconut, with salt, with coffee.
20. Coffee—yeah! You deserve your own spot on the list.
21. Childhood friends—so blessed by each of you who are still in my life
22. Grams—God took her home last year; I still thank him for all the ways she touched my life and formed me to love Him more.
23.Gramps—He’s been gone for awhile now, but I cherish all the ways he impacted my life—including coffee.
24. Flowers—especially the plethora of spring flowers bursting forth right now.
25. America—No matter where I go, I’m always thankful to come home to you.
26. Marshall—my firstborn. You love God in a way that makes me love him more.
27. Jaden—middle child who acts like a firstborn. Always independent. Always confident. Still picking to spend time with me.
28. Roman—My surprise who surprises me ever day.
29. The sky—on a clear day, full of clouds, or in the dead of night. I love you any which way.
30. Poetry—especially good poetry like “Stopping by the Woods…”
31. Languages—over 7000, and I only know 2!
32. Writing—you’re my muse.
33. Music—I can’t imagine life without it.
34. Nepal—the people and the mountains
35. Bible translation—and getting to be a part of seeing God’s Word break through in new languages.
36. International friends—too many to name, and part of my joy here is looking forward to eternity together
37. Mountains—with snow on top!
38. Sunshine—especially when it is also raining
39. Eternity—how I look forward to that.
40. Godly mentors—where would I be without your faithful love and presence?
41. Hope—in dark times, in sweet times, all the time
42. Family—both spiritual and blood
43. Imagination—I love envisioning what God has next!

44. God’s Faithfulness–None of this would amount to anything without Him.

This list is incomplete, but hey, I’m only 44, so that’s how many spots I get.  Just goes to show, God has blessed me beyond my years!

What do you do when you’re afraid?

Recently Roman and I were having a conversation about fear. We have memorized several verses on the topic so as I addressed those, Roman blurted out, “You can’t tell me it’s all going to be OK because I believe God! I mean it’s all over the Bible—stories of people who got hurt even though they loved God.”  At ten, he has already slammed into the realization that bad things happen—sometimes to people who are trusting God. And he is faced with the dilemma of the ages, “How can a good God who says he is trustworthy, allow bad things to happen?”

Starting from the premise that God is good and he is trustworthy, I attempted to remind Roman that no matter what bad things happen in this life, God has already corrected the worst “bad thing” so that when we die we will get to be with him. I reminded Roman that only in this life are there dangers and troubles. Only in this life can we be hurt, broken, and traumatized. Unfortunately, the idea of eternity is a bit ethereal for his ten-year-old mind. (And often for me and my much older mind.) He wasn’t convinced that the promise of eternity was enough to allay his fears in this life. So he said to me, “Mom, what do you do when you’re afraid?”

“I pray.” I told him. “I pray and tell God all the things I know are true from His Word. I say to him, ‘I know you have not given me a spirit of fear. You have given me love and, power and a sound mind. Please let me feel your love and power instead of this fear.’ And I remind myself that God is greater than Satan, that God has a good, eternal plan for me. All the things I tell you to do when you are afraid, are the things I do.” I assured him.

Later that day, I was looking into some recent information on sex offender residency restrictions and other laws that apply to sex offenders. I felt the fear rising in me as I read articles and researched these restrictions. We don’t know when Joel will be off probation and he may never be off the registry list, so these are issues that will affect us for the rest of our lives. My anxiety was on the rise, as were my feelings of resentment. Suddenly God brought back to my mind the things I had told Roman about what to do when you’re  afraid. A verse I recently memorized says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” The picture I get of catastrophic geological collisions, matches the mental and emotional picture I sometimes imagine regarding our lives. This verse gave me courage to say,  “I will not fear, because God is my refuge and strength.” This earth may collapse—indeed one day it will. But my God has a plan that goes beyond this life, beyond this earth and its current systems. “Therefore, I will trust and not fear…”
What do you do when you’re afraid?

Don’t Kill Your Own Messiah

I just finished a course on New Testament interpretation. As I studied the four gospels I was continually amazed at the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah promised by the Old Testament prophets. But I was equally stunned by the stubborn rejection of his people. John so poetically notes, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not…” As I studied the position of the Pharisees, religious leaders and zealots for the purity of the Jewish religion, my soul heard the warning of past ages. How quickly these purists, these devoted followers of the one true God, fell for the lies of Satan.  Steeped in their own pride, they rejected the very Truth they proclaimed. And what about the Scribes, entrusted with the sacred task of preserving the Scriptures–the very Word of God–that appearing in flesh before them, they openly scorned. How could these who were saturated by the prophecies of old, kill their own Hopes? And again, the warning sounds.  Then there are the Sadducees, royalists, who longed for a political kingdom. Those who were sure God intended the supremacy of the Jewish nation in the kingdoms of the world through the priestly line of Aaron. Those who had come to seek satisfaction in the power of the world, forsaking any belief in a here-after. Perhaps they are the ones in which the slide is most obvious. But the warning still sounds. These, His own, received him not, because they were too busy promoting their own beliefs, assuring their own “holiness” and angling for their own high position. And so they missed out. 

Let us head the warnings, and be among those “as received him, to whom he gave power to become sons of God.”

Don’t Kill Your Own Messiah–for the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducee

You have a form that’s nigh airtight,
A series of commands,
A vision that is good and right,
You maintain pure hands.

You promote a hope eternal,
A promised Messiah to come,
Written in the prophet’s journals,
You await this holy one.

In Justice you aspire to walk,
The law must be revered,
You hold the masses to the dock,
And keep your own name clear.

But in your holy expectation,
Your ideal becomes your god,
And without one trepidation,
You call your Messiah a fraud!

You deny the resurrection,
And denounce the spirit realm,
You lavish your affection,
On your leader at the helm,

You claim a view of God,
Through the priestly line of old,
At the Pharisees you scoff,
And the pious Scribes you scold.

Your expectations lie at home,
You need no further hope.
And in your priests alone,
Lie the power that you stoke.

For the truth of His Word,
You do not have the time.
The ancient script is absurd,
And what can really be divine?
You find a path that you hold dear,
It seems right unto man,
What need of a Messiah here?
With politics at hand?

Don’t kill your own Messiah,
with your ritualistic rules,
Don’t kill your  own Messiah,
You rationalizing mules,
Don’t kill your own Messiah,
You hedonistic fools.

The path you forged is clear,
What you waited for has come,
But you don’t want to hear,
About the Holy One.
Come to bear your sins,
And heal the blind and dumb,
Inviting the broken in,
And bidding the burdened to come.

Oh what a sad illusion,
Timeless in its scope,
How quickly we buy confusion,
Man’s wisdom we call hope.

The Scarcity Lie

Recently a close friend of mine met up with me for a walk over our lunch break. When she asked me how I was doing, I replied, “Well, I don’t accept a poverty mentality as true, but I live daily refuting the lie that there isn’t enough. I struggle constantly to denounce the whispers that I don’t have enough time, enough help, enough resources, enough….you fill in the blank.”

I could spend this entire page writing out the places we are short, the areas where we don’t have enough. And yet, my confidence in a God of abundance, screams against that evidence. Have you ever found yourself here? I think it’s a common lie—one the enemy has been using for time immemorial to trap us in an endless cycle of want. Scarcity. It plagues us, even in our opulence. And the plague leaves us feeling desperate to hold on to what we have, to grab for what we don’t.

When we went to Venezuela in 2004, Jaden was almost three. We enrolled him in Venezuelan preschool where he heard Spanish all morning long. It was my hope that he would grow up learning both Spanish and English concurrently and so be bilingual. The first fruits of this effort, emerged one afternoon about a month after school started. The boys were running through the house, Jaden chasing his older brother, and shouting in Spanish, “No Marshall, mio!” (No Marshall, mine!) The first word I heard him use in his new language was an indicator of the scarcity mentality at work!

And yet the Psalmist cries out in praise to God, “You satisfy the longing heart. You fill the hungry soul with goodness.” And in another place, “You open your hands and satisfy the desires of every living creature.” Can I actually live my life driven by not having enough, when the God of the universe is pictured as opening his hands to satisfy my longing heart?

In the New Testament Paul tells the believers in Philippi, “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus.” He is merely echoing exactly what Jesus told his followers, “Look at the birds of the air…your father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Jesus told his followers to step out of the poverty mentality, to say no to the fear of not enough and to seek His kingdom first of all.

Right about now, you are probably afraid I’m going to start touting some “health and wealth” line, or a prosperity gospel that as Paul would say is “no gospel at all.” You might even be about to argue that the Scriptures I’ve quoted are speaking of spiritual blessings. Let me assure you that I am not interested in replacing one lie—the scarcity mentality, with another equally asinine one—health and wealth. Just because one is a lie, doesn’t mean the other is truth! Neither one fits what God tells us in His Word. The verses I have shared are about life, all of life, the spiritual aspects and the physical. God is our Jehovah Jirah—our provider, both of everything we need for an eternity with him, and all things temporal in the mean time. So if God knows exactly what we need, and he is an extravagant, loving and promise-keeping God, then why would I live trapped by a poverty mentality?

The only solution? Believe God for what he promises. Live with a thankful heart. Seek His Kingdom and his righteousness. And live from a mentality of abundance.

God Loves Me So Much

Joel was scheduled to have neck surgery yesterday. The plan was to implant an electrical impulse unit into his neck that would basically tell the nerves to quit sending pain signals. It is a surgery his team of doctors, and pain management professionals have recommended as the last course of action they can offer that might help his chronic pain.  He had a trial procedure done over a year ago where they put a temporary wire in right at the location of the pain. It helped! And thus began the process toward his having the surgery. And what a process it has been–from MRIs to CAT scans, to psych evaluations, and blood work. Then last August a failed attempt to place the unit was followed by more tests, more visits to the neurosurgeon and more plans for a slightly different surgery. And Monday was to be the day for that surgery–except insurance denied the request. And at four on Friday afternoon we received a call from the surgeons office cancelling Monday’s scheduled operation!

Now what!

More pain?

More waiting and trying to convince insurance Joel needs this surgery?

More doctor appointments?

But not more help…not more relief.

I admit I was angry, frustrated, and deeply saddened by this turn of events.  And one of my first thoughts was, “Well no one making this decision has any idea what it’s like to live with chronic pain! Or be the person caring for someone in chronic pain!” My heart aches to watch Joel be so limited in what he is able to do. No throwing the football in the yard with the kids. No teaching Jaden how to change the oil in the car, or switch out a flat tire. No playing games around the table on family game night. No concerts or walks in the park or a million other little life adventures without the constant shriek of pain in his neck.

In the midst of my angst and frustration, I kept hearing the disciplined side of my brain telling me that God is always in control and this hadn’t taken him by surprise. I could hear Romans 8:28–“He works all things together for good to them that love him…” rolling around in the recesses of my mind. Yes, well we do love him, so where’s the good in this? I wanted to know.

Strangely what came to me was how often I tell people that God loves me so much. That made me stop and think, Do I believe he loves me so much right now? In the middle of this? Did God love Job in the middle of his sufferings? Of course he did! I am not suffering anything compared to Job, but I can see from his life and testimony that God loved him so much all along–before, during, and after his major trials. And that gives me confidence to say, I do believe God loves me so much right now. He loves Joel so much right now. And he won’t let the pain last one second longer than absolutely necessary for our good. “Bless the Lord O my soul…who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:1 and 3).

He Only Ever Read the Bible

Often during my early morning prayer time, I catch myself about to pray for my grandparents, who are both now in the very presence of Jesus. I stop and think, Oh, I don’t have to pray for them anymore. They are with their Savior. And so I turn my prayer into an offering of thanks for their precious lives and the powerful influence they still have my own life.

Yesterday, as I went through this process, the memory of my gramps that popped into my mind, was his weathered frame, seated in his favorite chair, bent over His Bible with his pointer finger slowly sliding under the words he was reading, a pen and pad of paper on the stand next to him. Suddenly another thought dawned on me, I never saw him read anything else. He only ever read his Bible. I searched my memory files for an image of him reading a book, a magazine or newspaper, even a seed catalogue—since he was a farmer. And I could find no such memory. I don’t know if he read and maybe I just didn’t see it. But I do know he was ill-educated. I don’t think he went to school past the 6th grade!

The child of Romanian immigrants, my gramps grew up with four other brothers and a sister. They practically raised themselves after his mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized until her death. School was, in their minds, optional, until the truant officer came after them. So Gramps never did get a solid education or even develop an interest in being educated.

What Gramps was, he was–a simple, hard-working, strong-as-an-ox, stubborn farmer, whom God transformed into a Christ-follower. The one thing I saw Gramps pursue my whole life was his Savior—to know and love God. He and Grams went to Venezuela as missionaries when I was two—Gramps was already in his mid-50s. But that didn’t stop him. (Remember the stubborn part). He was gardener on a mission—to provide healthful garden produce at a remote missionary school for children of tribal missionaries. And that is exactly what God enabled him to do for almost 20 years. He was out working (remember that hard-working, strong-as-an-ox part) into his early 70s, in a tropical climate where 90 degrees was a starting point for the day’s heat. But, even though I am impressed by his tenacity in ministry, what inspires me is the simplicity of his ultimate pursuit. He only ever read his Bible. He didn’t have to become a scholar or even a good reader—he probably used his pointer finger as a guide because he still needed that help! Instead he became a man in love with his Savior. And that was enough.

Gramps’ favorite verse was Nahum 1:7—The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble and he knoweth them that trust in him. God certainly knows Gramps, because Gramps lived by a simple trust in his Savior.

He only ever read his Bible…

The Antidote for Sin

In Ephesians 5:3-4, Paul writes a pretty strongly worded warning against immorality on almost every level. Then he makes this surprising statement:  “Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” Now I’m not surprised to see an exhortation to thankfulness. It’s that little word, instead. What does this command have to do with the prior directives to avoid immorality, course jesting, crude conversation and coveting?

I think I experienced part of the answer on a recent trip to England, where I had the delight of visiting my younger sister Dar Gail and her dear family. It was a triply blessed trip because I went to work with some of Dar Gail’s colleagues at the missionary training center where she and her husband serve, plus I stayed a couple extra days  to spend time with family and play the tourist, and finally my sister Tammy was able to go with me. What a treat to minister and play together with family!

On Sunday we decided to go to Lincoln to tour the cathedral and shop the little town. The drive takes about an hour on some pretty narrow, winding roads, but my brother-in-law Geoff is an expert chauffeur. We packed snacks, toys, changes of clothes for the two little ones–ages 3 and 1–and buckled them into car seats.

About 45 minutes into the ride, Gracie, the three-year-old began to act grouchy and whiny. We figured it was a long drive and she was probably getting bored, but she didn’t respond to any of our efforts to cheer her up. Finally, Dar Gail said, ‘I think we need to play the thankful game! Gracie, let’s think about what we are thankful for.” Gracie just furrowed her brow at Dar Gail, but we proceeded to “model” thankfulness for Gracie.

“I”m thankful we get to go on an outing all together today.” Tammy said.

“I’m thankful your aunties could come and visit us.” Dar Gail added. Then she asked, “What are you thankful for, Gracie.” Gracie responded with a frown.

“I’m thankful that we get to go see the cathedral.” I said, glancing over at Gracie. Her expression was pained. “Gracie, are you okay?” I asked, an instant before it happened. Without answering me she began to throw-up, profusely, generously, everywhere!

Of course we all scrambled into action, Geoffrey looking for a place to pull off on the narrow road we were traveling, me trying tofind some kind of bag or receptacle to catch the vomit, Tammy  moving anything possible out of the way of the torrent.

A good thirty minutes later, we had managed to clean Gracie and everything else up as well as possible on the side of the road. And we were all still in high spirits. Dar Gail aptly commented, “I guess God knew we needed to be in a mindset of thankfulness to deal with this detour graciously!” We all had a laugh at that. But it was indeed true. Our thinking had been turned toward thankfulness, our hearts full of gratitude toward God, and even though a car-sick child wasn’t on our agenda, we were able to deal with the disaster with a positive attitude, instead of despair or defeat.

I think that is at least partly what Paul was getting at in this passage in Ephesians. He was saying, “Have a practice of being thankful. Because that will totally change our outlook; it is the antidote for falling pray to lust, coveting and inappropriate conduct.” Doug Wilson says, “Lust is fundamentally a complaint that God has not given you what want or think you need.” Now try complaining to God about what you don’t have at the same time that you are thanking him for what He has given you! It just doesn’t work! Not when it comes to lustful desires or other covetous expectations.

INSTEAD if we can only “Let there be thankfulness to God,” we discover that the complaints die out, the traps of lust and coveting no longer have the same power over us.