women and theology

Summer Psalms to Help Us Praise ( & Printable Scripture Cards)

Too many followers of Christ feel bad for displaying any emotion besides peace, gratitude and contentment. Fear, anger, resentment, and even grief are hidden and remain unexpressed. But the psalmists exhibit a completely different approach. They lay their hearts on the line. They experience (and share) a full range of uninhibited emotion and pour it out to God. They question, beg, wonder, protest and mourn. They celebrate, exalt and praise. They proclaim the power, greatness and worth of God. They come to Him honestly and with humility.

A Little Background

Written over a number of centuries (probably between 1440 BC and 586 BC), the book of Psalms is composed of 150 sacred songs. Created by numerous authors, they became an integral part of Hebrew rituals and worship. Although many of these songs are cries of disdain and pleas for help, the traditional Hebrew title of the collection is tehillim, meaning “praises.” 

In their raw emotion, the psalmists remember God’s character. They recall his generosity, forgiveness and faithfulness. They ask Him for grace and vengeance. And as they do, their awe and fear of God grows and brings Him praise.

Our Response

We want to model the psalmist’s praise and come to our great God with anything and everything on our minds and in our hearts. We want to trust that He is listening, that He sees, and that He will guide us to His truth. We want to grow in our love for Him and be reminded of His goodness.

Our very own Nancy Tauzer has created printable Summer Psalms Scripture cards to help. Commit to reading and meditating on an entire Psalm, then use these poignant passages to remind you of what you’ve learned. Memorize them, frame them, or send them to friends. Tape them to a refrigerator, bedside table, bedroom mirror, or anywhere else you’ll see them every day. However you use them, remember this: “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). He already knows what you’re feeling and can handle your honesty. Trusting that He’s good enough to handle your emotions brings Him great praise.

With great expectation, 

Links I Love
  • Understand more about the history of the Psalms at The Bible Project and by clicking here
  • Pam Forster has a few simple studies that help unpack Psalm 37 and Psalm 103 using the inductive method. The title says they’re for “busy moms,” but I think they’re great for everyone and have learned a lot from them both.
  • I’m a huge fan of reading plans. They keep me organized, motivated, and are a great resource for studying alongside others. Try this 28 day plan. It doesn’t cover every Psalm, but I love the direct links to passages for easy access through the Summer. 
  • Psalm 34 is another great Psalm to Study! Use this resource to help, and read about my own experience with the Inductive Bible Study Method here. You can also download and print these GORGEOUS Psalm 34 Scripture cards from artist Anna deRoos.

 

About the Contributors

Lisa Da Silva – Author

I’m a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word.

A teacher by trade and passion, recovering striver, and lover of simplicity, I enjoy thrift store shopping and often have to convince people I’m an introvert. Just a loud one.

Loving Jesus and making Him known really is my everything.

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Tauzer – Scripture Card Creator

I am fond of trying new recipes and projects. I am a giver. Good listener. Softhearted. Loyal.

I’m a wife and momma of two boys who is probably drinking coffee and waiting for the laundry to fold itself. I enjoy hiking, dancing and organizing all things.

Growing up, I thought being a follower of Christ was only going to church on Sundays. Fast forward to today and I have an intimate relationship with God; continuing to grow in awe of his love for us.

 

 

You Really Can Lead a Bible Study: Tips and Resources to Get You Started

Do you wonder if you have what it takes to start or lead a small group Bible study? Are you willing to try? With a few vital but simple commitments, you can play an instrumental role in leading others through the Word of God. People are longing to learn and be part of a community. They may just need someone willing to guide, facilitate, be a humble example, and learn alongside them. Prayerfully read through the following suggestions and give it a try. Remember, there is a lot of grace as you model life-long learning, but skill and competency require practice. Your ability to facilitate a small group will only get better once you start!

Tips for Leading a Meaningful Small Group Bible Study

Pray – The most effective Bible study leader prays for guidance and asks the Holy Spirit to bring understanding. Submit to God and seek Him daily as you prepare and study. Commit to praying for all of the people in your group on a regular basis. 

Be prepared – Do your homework in advance and have a thorough grasp of the content. Review the discussion questions to see which ones best apply to whatever you studied that week. Participants will know if you’ve cut corners. I’ve found that a leader’s effectiveness is largely related to his or her integrity. While things come up and grace prevails, preparation shows participants that you’re committed to doing the hard work and learning alongside them. 

Keep in touch – Communicate with your group throughout the week. People love to know you’re thinking of them. Tell them you’re looking forward to seeing them and hearing about what they’ve learned. When someone knows you’re expecting them to show up, they often do! 

Start and end on time – Being prompt shows respect. Begin on time even if only one person is there. Participants will quickly learn that you honor their other commitments and will respond by honoring yours. Consider adding 30 minutes before or after the meeting as an optional social time. Your group may choose to gather from 9:30 to 11am, for example, but participants can come early for coffee at 9am if they want to visit and chat.

Share expectations – People want to know their small group is safe. Affirm that things shared within the group are not to be discussed with anyone else. Begin each meeting with this reminder, and consider asking participants for a verbal agreement. It’s also helpful to talk about group discussion dynamics. Encourage everyone to be sensitive to others and to ask themselves the following reflective questions: Do they dominate the discussion? Are they attentive to others and giving them a chance to share? Do they listen well? Are they taking risks and offering thoughts and ideas? Routinely sharing expectations for a healthy small group will save a great deal of time, energy, and possible hurt in the future.  

Be a good listener – Don’t do all of the talking. Leading a small group doesn’t mean you’re the expert. It simply means you’re engaging in the discussion, encouraging accountability, being reliable, and listening well. Model good listening by mirroring what’s been shared and validating others’ observations.

Ask great questions – Some Bible studies come with discussion questions to help guide your group time, but I’ve found that they’re not always helpful. While review questions are fine and may clarify content, I appreciate more open-ended questions that generate thoughtful observation, interpretation, and application of the Scripture (learn more about the inductive method here). The following are questions I filter into almost every Bible study discussion. I’ve also included a link to a printable PDF so you can download the style works best for your group. Consider printing your favorite (bookmark, full-page or half-page) for group members in advance. This will help them feel prepared, know what to look for when they’re studying, and be better equipped to use the questions in future small groups. Who knows? Maybe your Bible study is just what they needed to gain the experience and confidence to launch something new. Maybe your risk and obedience will impact many for God’s glory and the understanding of His Word.

5 Great Questions to Help Guide your Bible Study Discussion
  • Did you learn anything new or see something in a different light through your study today/this week? 
  • What does this passage reveal about the character of God? 
  • What biblical truths were revealed and how might these look in action today? In your own life? In your family? In your ministry? 
  • What do you need to do in light of your new understanding? Is there an action you need to take?
  • Is the Holy Spirit bringing any specific people, circumstances, conversations or sins to mind for prayer, repentance and reconciliation?  If so, take time to lay them before Him. Consider sharing and asking for prayer/accountability.

Consider using these questions and tips to guide a small group through our newest study, What the Lord Requires: A Six Week Study of Micah 6:6-8.  All proceeds from the sale of this book be used to support projects that combat modern day slavery and set women and children on the pathway to freedom. Use this study calendar if you hope to join us for the April 20th launch, and let us know if you’ve decided to start your own group. We’d love to cheer you on!

With great expectation –

 

 

 

Podcast 034 – “Book Talk, Biblical Justice and Togetherness” With Tracy Daugherty – Part 1

 

Join Lisa DaSilva and director of The Freedom Challenge, Tracy Daugherty, as they reveal their new Bible study and talk about what it was like to work TOGETHER. This is the first episode in a two part series.
Co-authors Tracy and Lisa model togetherness and taking risks. Tracy applies ointment to Lisa’s inflamed bug bite at the end of a two-week mosquito infested mission trip.


Get your copy of What the Lord Requires: A Six Week Study of Micah 6:8 knowing that all proceeds from the sale of this book will support The Freedom Challenge in its mission to set more women and children on the pathway to freedom. Download your study calendar here and join us live @ariseministriescollective beginning April 20th for weekly study sessions. Stay tuned for more resources and updates coming soon!

 


About the Hosts:

Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. With an M.Ed in Curriculum Development and a teacher by trade and passion, she writes, speaks, and teaches the Bible to anyone who will read or listen. As the director of Arise Ministries Collective in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Lisa believes every woman has a voice. She longs for the day when they find freedom to use it for the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom. Lisa is a recovering striver, lover of simplicity and thrift store junkie. She often has to convince people she’s an introvert. Just a loud one. Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

Tracy Daugherty, the director of The Freedom Challenge, has more than 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry and church planting with her husband, Dan. Working for The Freedom Challenge combines the two biggest passions God has placed on her heart: to affirm the significance of women and to expand the biblical worldview of the church. Based in San Diego County, California, she holds a bachelor’s degree in theology and is an experienced Bible teacher and speaker. She readily admits that her most fulfilling ministry has been as a mom and seeing her three children (and one son-in-love) grounded in their confidence and calling. Before being appointed director of The Freedom Challenge in 2017, she was friends with its founder Cathey Anderson (now in heaven) and a self-proclaimed “girly-girl,” but she traded in her high heels for hiking boots because she was drawn to the cause of championing women. Now, after hiking and flying countless miles around the world with The Freedom Challenge, she’s witnessed the power of women as environment changers, as culture setters and as forces of good in the world. Seeing the impact that she and her fellow Freedom Sisters have made has only further fueled her commitment to leading The Freedom Challenge to its goal: setting 1 million women and children on the path to freedom by 2030.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What the Lord Requires” – Our New Bible Study Book!

What would it look like to act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with God? How would this change the way we interact with one another and further Christ’s Kingdom here on earth? 

If you’re weary of all the sadness, contempt and division in our nation and world right now, you’re not alone. 

I am, too. That’s why I spent nearly a year studying, praying, dreaming and writing alongside the director of The Freedom Challenge

The Study

What the Lord Requires is a six-week (5 days per week) labor of love and conviction. It uses an inductive approach and invites participants to do the wonderful work of observing, interpreting, and applying Scripture while gaining the skills to understand other passages the same way. Whether you’re new to the Bible, a seasoned woman of the Word, have young children running around in the background, or are just trying to hold it together, expect to:

  • Spend 25 minutes a day studying the Word in a way that reveals God’s truth
  • Hone your Bible study skills by exploring cross-references, determining context, making lists, marking the text, paraphrasing, and more!
  • Commit to FINISHING and create an action plan to apply what you’ve learned
  • Glean from all the extra material we’ve included in the Appendices of the study
  • Be transformed by Micah 6:6-8 as you seek to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God
  • Check in with Tracy and I weekly via Instagram beginning with an introductory session on April 20 (stay tuned for more details along with additional resources to help you study)
  • Know that your purchase is saving lives! ALL proceeds from the sale of this Bible study will support The Freedom Challenge and its mission to set more women and children on the pathway to freedom
The Team
Tracy and I (along with some other Freedom Challenge sisters) in a Muslim nation teaching the Bible and visiting programs that prevent and free women and children from oppression.

 

The dream of doing it together came from a sisterhood between Tracy and I – A trusted exchange of shared hearts, experiences and purpose. Our intention and desire is that you see this modeled in these pages: a powerful unity from the Arise and Freedom Challenge teams that truly represents the oneness of the Kingdom at what we believe is just the right time. 

How we hope that with each turn of the page comes deep understanding of the Word and the commitment to live in its truths.

I can’t wait for you to hold this study in your hands and work through it alongside us.

 

 

{available NOW on Amazon}

 

 

You Are God’s Masterpiece

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” -Ephesians 2:8-10, (emphasis added)

 

 The greatest artist of all calls you His masterpiece. The very one who took a desolate void and created light, separated land from sea, and spoke abundant vegetation and livestock into being then stood back in pleasure (Genesis 1) looks at you with the same admiration.

Take a moment to let this sink in, sister. Close your eyes and imagine yourself just as you are—every mistake, every joy, every heartache, and every scar. Now picture God in all His glory and perfection stepping back to admire each bit of you as His newest and most beautiful creation. He is the artist and the potter. You are His canvas and clay.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The Apostle Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus to take action. Understanding that each was exquisitely formed in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16) then birthed into a new creation upon belief and surrender to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:10) was just the beginning. These masterpieces were not meant to simply hang on a wall, be placed in a cabinet, or set on a shelf to be admired.

They are masterpieces with a purpose.

There are things God planned and ordained for them to do.

 And while the Ephesians were created in that space and time for particular purposes, so were you created for this time and for specific good works.

It is not a mistake that you are alive and living in this season. It is not a mistake that you bear particular burdens and scars. It is not a mistake that you are unique and sometimes feel different and out of place. It is not a mistake that you have the neighbors, sphere of influence, gifts, talents, circumstances, and experiences that you do. Our great God has purposed and ordained you for such a time as this. A masterpiece designed to do “good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).”

Take a moment to be silent before the Lord. Let images of past experiences, joys, traumas, or sorrows flood your mind and heart. As they do, lay them before your Father, and praise Him. Each and every one of those experiences has prepared you for the work He wants you to do right now. In this very moment. For His glory.

Ask our great God to reveal the specific role He has for you today and in the days to come. Wait quietly and listen to His voice. Make note of the people, places, and situations He brings to mind. Who needs to know Christ as their personal Savior? Where can you serve and bring the light of Jesus? How can you be the Church, and who can you invite to come alongside you? What do you need to say or do to bring glory to God and make His grace and truth known to others?

As you begin to process God’s particular purpose for you in this season, be assured that He is raising up your fellow sisters to do their own good works for the Kingdom. The author of Hebrews reminds us to “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-24, NLT, emphasis added).”

While Scripture is clear that we have the same Missio Dei—the mission of God to bring Him glory and make that glory known to the world (1 Corinthians 10:31, Matthew 28:16-20)—the way He uses us as individuals to manifest that calling will be different for each (1 Corinthians 12). We must rally around one another and spur one another on as we seek to love the lost, love the Church, and share the gospel.

Prayer and Worship

Close your time today by listening to this song. Use it as a prayer and resurrender your life for His Kingdom purpose. And then, sweet sister, take a step down from the shelf and let Him take you where He wants you to go. Start living as the unique masterpiece you are.

“Sails” by Pat Barrett

“Canvas & Clay” by Pat Barrett

About the Author – Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, a teacher, and an advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul, and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

Podcast 031 – “Seeking First: Mission and Singleness” || The In-Between Series With Jess and Amanda ||

Wow! We’ve made it to the last podcast in The In-Between series, friends! We are so thankful for you listening in and joining us as we explore what it looks like to seek the kingdom first in singleness or whatever season you’re in. 

In this last podcast, we discuss the core issues of our hearts in a waiting season: Our desires, our faith and our identity in Christ as disciples. We hope this conversation will exhort and empower you to fully step into the mission God has before you – Regardless of where you are right now. It’s exciting to look at the purpose of our lives with eternal vision and we hope this will encourage you to do just that.

 

Scripture References

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28 (NIV)

The Parable of the Persistent Widow – Luke 18:1-8 

Proverbs 31

 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with youi always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21 (NIV)

“And he said to them: ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:19 (ESV)

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 (NIV)

Hebrews 11

 

Seeking First: 5 Ways To Keep Our Eyes On the Mission

Seek Opportunity: Ask the Lord to help you see ways to step into Kingdom purpose/mission. Recognize that as a follower of Christ, you’ve already been called to the work of the Great Commission – Even in the in-between.

Seek Scripture: Does what you want/feel like you should do align with God’s Holy Word?

Seek Counsel: What do your Christ-following friends and family members have to say about your gifts, talents, and opportunities?

Seek Identity: Is your identity and the way you feel about yourself circumstantial, or rooted in who Christ says you are. Take the time to truly flesh this out, friends. If we put our identity in things we shouldn’t, that will translate into how we see our purpose here on earth. Ask God to help you understand where your true identity lies. 

Seek Christ First: When we align with Christ, His desires will become our desires. When we know who God is in Scripture and through prayer and communion with Him, we can trust that He is faithful to provide. His promises are true even if we try something and fail.

 

Quotes, Articles, Songs and Resources to Help

 

Thank you again for joining us in this series, listeners and friends. We would love to connect with you if you have questions or thoughts on these issues – To hear some of your own story and even join you in prayer. Leave us a comment here or on social media so we can reach out and get in touch.

We may feel in-between many times in life, singleness included – But we are not lost in the mission God has for us.

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

 

About Our Co-Hosts

Originally from the Bay Area, Jessica currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Jessica obtained her undergrad from Biola University in Psychology and her master’s in Counseling Psychology from California State East Bay, and since that time has been a recruiting coordinator with a large banking company. An extroverted introvert, Jessica has a huge heart pull towards facilitating Christ-honoring and truth-filled discussions with women of all ages in the church. It’s her deep desire to seek the welfare of the city through her hope-filled heart with the abilities and gifts God has generously given her.

 

 

 

Amanda works as cardiac ICU nurse and moved to Portland three years ago. She has a heart to see the great commission carried out in the city and around the world. Her heart is for encouraging the Church in the written word of God and the great joy on the other side of obedience in our walk with the Lord.

 

 

 

 

Podcast 029 –
“Seeking Contentment In Singleness”
|| The In-Between Series with Jess and Amanda ||

Welcome friends,

What do you do when you’re dissatisfied with life? Like you’re in a ditch and can’t get out or feel like staying in the pit you’re in? Portland millennials Amanda and Jess have experienced this, too, and want to encourage other single women to find true contentment in Christ. Listen along as they share personal stories, insight, and wisdom in this first episode of the three part series they’re calling, In Between.  

 

Scripture References

“And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” Philippians 4:11-13 GNT

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NLT

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23-24 NIV

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:3-4 NIV

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 NIV

 

Steps to Finding Contentment

  1. Begin on your knees. Ask the Father what’s going on deep in your heart and in your mind. Ask Him to show you if there are deeply embedded roots of sin that are causing poor fruit/discontentment to grow. Ask Him for vision and to reveal Truth from his Word that will replace lies of the world and from the enemy. Ask Him to humble you to hear and respond to what He has to say.
  2. Focus on the Word. Take time to meditate on Scripture. Memorize passages for recall when you’re feeling discontent or discouraged. Print the resources below and put them up around your home or tuck them in your wallet. Make sure you’re staying in the Word, and consider joining a study or group to hold you accountable.
  3. Ask For Insight. Talk to trusted friends, mentors or parents and ask them if they see patterns that contribute to your state of discontent. Invite others to come alongside you in the journey. Be willing to share your struggles and receive their words of wisdom/encouragement.
  4. Practice Thankfulness. Make lists of things you’re thankful for each day. You may want to keep a journal and record prayers of gratitude. These remind us of the good things God has for us in our lives when we’re struggling to see it.
  5. Consider Others. While it’s important to understand, acknowledge, and deal with personal trauma, loneliness, and disappointment, too much time focusing on the self can leave us bound to discontent. Begin looking for opportunities to volunteer and share your gifts/resources with others. Pray for people, bring a meal to someone, and find places to serve. Make plans and engage in the community around you.

 

Quotes, Articles, Songs and Resources to Help

Sometimes we need a little outside encouragement finding contentment in Christ. Amanda and Jess shared some songs and articles they found helpful, along with suggestions for clinging to the Word of Christ through meditation and memorization. Click on the links below for direct access to these resources.

There are free printable scripture cards available from us here at Arise (a gift from artist Anna DeRoos of She Letters Truth – Just tap the images below for the printable PDF) as well as some for purchase through The Daily Grace Company.

We don’t always get to choose our situation, but we do get to choose how we think about it, how we shape our hearts in it, and how we come to God in it. 

Pursuing contentment right alongside you,

Jess and Amanda

 

About Our Hosts:

Originally from the Bay Area, Jessica currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Jessica obtained her undergrad from Biola University in Psychology and her master’s in Counseling Psychology from California State East Bay, and since that time has been a recruiting coordinator with a large banking company. An extroverted introvert, Jessica has a huge heart pull towards facilitating Christ-honoring and truth-filled discussions with women of all ages in the church. It’s her deep desire to seek the welfare of the city through her hope-filled heart with the abilities and gifts God has generously given her.

 

 

 

Amanda works as cardiac ICU nurse and moved to Portland three years ago. She has a heart to see the great commission carried out in the city and around the world. Her heart is for encouraging the Church in the written word of God and the great joy on the other side of obedience in our walk with the Lord.

Podcast 021 – “You’re Already a Theologian: Be a Good One” with Brenna Blain

Do you consider yourself a theologian? Why or why not? What is theology and do we as women really need it? Does what we believe matter, and why do we believe what we do about God? How do our beliefs shape who we are and, more importantly, who God is?

All of these are questions Lisa DaSilva and Brenna Blain discuss and wrestle through in today’s episode of the Arise Ministries Collective Podcast.

We hope you’ll join in the conversation, search the Word yourself, look through our recommended resources, and begin the journey toward scripture-informed theology. If we have thoughts and opinions about God, we’re already theologians. Our desire is that each one of us does the hard work to become good ones.

Scripture We Referenced
  • Acts 17 – Read all of it to better understand the context, but pay particular attention to 17:11 – “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  
  • Psalm 111:2 – “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.”
  • 1 Peter 3:15 – But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Our Recommended Resources

Find more great resources about theology and doctrine by linking to our Recommended Resources page here.

Quotes

“In one sense, all it takes to be a theologian is to have an opinion about God. That’s it. The moment you think or say anything about him or her or it or whatever GOD is to you, you’re doing theology. The real question, therefore, is not whether you are a theologian. It’s whether you are a good one.” Matt Smethurst (managing director of “The Gospel Coalition”). 

About Our Guest: Hey, I’m Brenna Blain. I am a 24 year old wife, mother and theology student at Multnomah University. For work I speak at different churches, ministries and youth events with a focus on re-engaging lukewarm Christians to pursue a deeper relationship with Christ. Aside from speaking, I also host a podcast that focuses on asking hard questions that are not normally asked within the church. For the past 10 years I’ve struggled with mental illness and what it means to be a follower of Christ while having a broken mind. Within my walk, I’ve found theology to be an overwhelmingly beautiful practice that not only strengthens my relationship with God but also welcomes difficult questions and topics. My hope within doing ministry with Jesus is that no individual feels outside of His reach, no matter what they struggle with.

The Traps and Treasures of Thankfulness

The words and verses are superimposed over photos of flowers and cornucopias, then plastered onto mugs and magnets: Give Thanks! They’re carefully calligraphed across reclaimed-wood wall plaques: Be Thankful! More than that, they’re repeated over and over in our Bibles. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1Thessalonians 5:16-18 

As Christians, we’re well aware of the commands for thankfulness, and we can’t finagle the translation of any Greek words to get out of it – Although I sure wish I could some days. 

For me, the idea of thankfulness comes with baggage. It can feel invalidating, fake, or saccharine sweet when contrasted with the often painful and bitter reality of my daily life. 

Do you ever feel that way, too? 

Sometimes I think this might be because I’m understanding thankfulness wrong. Let’s look at a couple misconceptions about thanksgiving that many of us get trapped in, and then we’ll dive into the heart of Biblical thanks.

Thankfulness Does Not Mean Ignoring Pain

This is big. It only takes reading a few Psalms (Psalm 12, 86, 94) to see that even our loudest songs of praise can also be filled with heart-wrenching cries of lament and sorrow. This is important to say because cheerful church cultures can unknowingly wield thankfulness like a weapon, silencing our suffering to avoid the discomfort of grief or doubt. 

“How are you?” they ask. “Too blessed to be stressed! God is good!” we respond with a weak laugh, choking our pain down a bit deeper – A dull weight sinking heavy in our bellies where we hope no one will discover the real us, yet desperately hoping they might try. 

As we enter our prayers with God we might do the same – Offering up a bright but hollow Christianese version of ourselves, hoping we might appease Him, unsure if He wants to know the real us (hint: He does!). 

In the mental health world this is known as Spiritual Bypassing, which means using spiritual words, ideas, or practices to try to skip right past the hard and holy work of facing traumas, woundedness, or even just reality itself.  

Spiritual Bypassing is a hollow positivity, and it isn’t true thankfulness. It eventually leaves us lonely, ashamed, and disconnected from God, others, and ourselves. Like the spiritual equivalent of an Instagram filter, we avoid authenticity and connection. This kind of grasping does not equal gratitude. Rather, as you plum the sorrows of your soul and the drama of your days, come to God with all of it. 

Thanks-giving is holistic, so thank God for what you are thankful for and cry with Him about the areas that hurt. Bring your whole self and your whole story to the table. God formed you in all of your strength and fragility, and He loves each and every aching bit of you.

Thankfulness is Not Comparison

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector…’” Luke 18:10

As usual, the hyper-religious Pharisee in the parable above gets a few things wrong. And sadly, as usual, he reminds me a lot of myself. The Pharisee is looking at things, at other people, and at himself instead of looking toward God. Basically, he’s comparing. 

We might think we’d never fall into this same self-sufficient trap, but how about this: “Eat your dinner and be grateful! There are starving kids who’d love to have what you have!” Raise your hand if you’ve heard (or said) this phrase. I know I have. 

But is it thankfulness we are fostering, or comparison? Is it thankfulness we are fostering or smug superiority wrapped up in a spiritual bow? Does it make us thankful for what we have, or thankful that we’re not like those poor starving children

Like Spiritual Bypassing, this kind of thankfulness is hollow, focusing more on things than on the Giver of All Good Things (James 1:17). This can sometimes be subtle or seem benign, but when we look at someone else’s plate, we’re always at risk of falling into the comparison trap and puffing up our own ego instead of truly thanking God. In the parable, Jesus goes on to describe another person who came to the temple that day. This one, the tax collector, prayed differently, crying “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Jesus goes on to applaud this man because of his humility. 

Humility is, without question, the rich soil of thanksgiving. 

If Biblical thankfulness isn’t Spiritual Bypassing or comparison, what is it? And how do we live it out? Let’s look now at the heart of thankfulness.

Thankfulness is Relational and Responsive

God doesn’t need our compliments, so when He tells us to be thankful, it isn’t to stroke His own heavenly ego or to tack on to our spiritual agenda. What God wants, what He always-and-forever wants, is a continuously connected, intimately loving and redeeming relationship with us (Ephesians 2:4-7). 

Thankfulness is part of a reciprocal relationship as we revel in and respond to His movement in our hearts and in the world around us. Just as we become closer to our friends, spouse, or children when we actively look for and call out the things of beauty in them, we will find more intimacy with God when we move away from a to-do list and move into awe and wonder at the God of love, creator of sunsets and the Milky Way. 

Although gratitude for gratitude’s sake is a healthy discipline for all, God is calling us to something much bigger and deeper. He’s calling us into relationship with Himself, giving both roots and fruit to our faith.

“Tune my heart to sing Thy grace” is how the hymn-writer puts it. Thankfulness is the grace-singing response to our attunement with God. It baptizes the mundane and bursts up from worldly waters dripping with a heavenly hymn.

So what does that look like in the often bleak and busy reality of our daily lives? For me, It  means that as I go throughout my day, I simply (though not always easily) look for the holy of God. Sometimes this comes naturally and other times it’s more like what Hebrews 13:5 calls a “sacrifice of praise.”

When I’m with friends, I belly laugh and marvel at the God who created humor and joy. 

His image is carved into each and every person we encounter. 

Isn’t He beautiful? 

Thank you, God. 

On cold, rainy nights when I’m waiting and waiting at a bus stop, wishing I was at home, wishing I wasn’t in pain, wishing desperately that life had worked out differently, I cry to God and thank Him for His presence. 

I thank Him for seeing me and for being a God who knows about suffering and aloneness. I may or may not thank God for my chronic pain and the ways He has redeemed it in my life. I’m not always thankful for that. But I can almost always be thankful for the way He meets me in the crushing middle of it, offering His love in both the stillness and the chaos of my suffering. 

And later, as I watch my tenth cat youtube video for the night, I ask myself what these videos say about God. Who must He be to have created an animal as over-the-top, facetious, furry and fun as a cat? It might sound silly or trivial, but cats can lead us to thankfulness, too. Even if you’re a dog lover! When we look for God with humble parts, we are sure to find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning put it like this:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, 
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

Humbly pay attention. 
Look for beauty. 
Look for God. 
Even in the darkness, you might just find you’re standing on holy ground.

Respond. 

Take off your shoes.

Thank God!

 

About the Author: Alyssa Zimmerman, like you, is incredibly loved by God. She anxiously offers up her cynicism, fear, and mustard-seed-faith in return. Constantly amazed by grace and relieved by redemption, Alyssa pursues truth, love, justice and Jesus in the midst of disabling chronic pain which has shaped the vast majority of her life and foiled her dreams for college, career, and a family. Instead, Alyssa became a high school dropout, living in poverty and pain, forced to spend most days in bed with an icepack. Nevertheless, she is committed to the great and messy work of therapy and mental health, wishing deep-down healing and wholeness for all.

At home among the trees, the mountains, and the drizzling rain, Alyssa is a PNW native. She is passionate about living vulnerably, wrestling with the hard questions of faith, and pushing beyond the confines of our modern western evangelical culture in the hope of better understanding the fullness of God’s love and more indiscriminately extending it to all. She is a great lover of wit and silence, watcher of documentaries, drinker of tea, and excessive taker of mediocre phone pics.

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