Give thanks for what?

Give thanks for what?


Whenever I am going through challenging times I am more likely to feel sorry for myself than to give thanks! I recall the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." and I am merely annoyed at the words. My irreverent conversation with God goes something like this:"Seriously, God? I have so much going on and now you want me to give thanks too? Thanks a lot!" Yet the call to give thanks remains. How do we thank God when we are hurting and what is He asking of us?

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever." Psalm 118:1 We are safe in God's hands. He loves us with an everlasting love and He is good. When we can thank Him for those two facts, they will inform our feelings. It will not be instantaneous, but slowly, our broken hearts will come to rest in His loving heart. We must be gentle with ourselves when we  are suffering; it took Jeremiah time to go through affliction, bitterness, his soul being downcast, and then he was able to say, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:19-23

The way we give thanks is to remember God’s love, compassion and faithfulness. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 we can begin to look for God’s kindness in our lives; He is loving and trustworthy.

 God is asking us to remember His love in the hard times. Giving thanks isn’t for God, it is for us! When we bring Him a sacrifice of praise, then our hearts are healed of so much of the bitterness and hurt that festers in us when we feel we suffer unjustly. Believing that God loves us in the midst of our trials gives us courage to face them. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31) If  we believe we  are beloved children of the King of Kings, then our hearts will be able to bear so much more; not easily, but nobly.

St John Chrysostom so beautifully says:

 “Let us bear all things thankfully, be it poverty, be it disease, be it anything else whatever. Let us take care to offer up thanksgiving for all things, and let us bear all things nobly. Are we in poverty? Let us give thanks. Are we in sickness? Let us give thanks. Are we falsely accused? Let us give thanks: when we suffer affliction, let us give thanks. This brings us near to God. Those afflictions draw down mercy, they draw down kindness.”[1]

[1] Chrysostom Homilies on Hebrews Homily XXXIII.8 NPNF114:517

What are the blessings of a thankful heart?

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful." Colossians 3:15

What deeper life must Paul have had to be able to pen these words from prison? How can I find this deeper life for myself, so that no matter what is happening in my life I can let the peace of Christ rule in my heart and I can be thankful? Our son, Tyler, who is in Bible College always says, "Mom, you have to read the verse in context!"

 So, here is the context:

Paul writes from a Roman prison on living a Christian life. He tells us our life is, "hid with Christ in God."(Colossians 3:3) Next Paul gives us a list of things that must be taken out of our lives: impurity, greed, idolatry, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language... all these would hinder joy, peace and a thankful heart. How can one be thankful and greedy at the same time? (Colossians 3:5-11) Finally Paul tells us we are a chosen people: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12)

When we know we are dearly loved our world changes. We can face anything, give anything, and almost suffer anything because we know that no matter what happens we are loved! Sometimes life takes everything from us- every security, everything we counted on and looked for to give us hope and then we must look inward and upward for strength and grace. When we look upward to God we will find love!  Interesting that Paul begins this chapter on the Christian life with, "Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:1, 2) This is the deeper life Paul had and the one you and I can have- to have hearts ruled by the peace of Christ. This peace comes from knowing we are dearly loved.

St. John Chrysostom writes:

“He who is engaged in the service of Christ draws himself up out of the turmoil and the stormy billows of life and takes his seat upon secure and lofty ground. For what position can be loftier or more secure than that in which a man has only one anxiety. How he ought to please God.”  [i]

As we set our hearts on pleasing God alone, we find ourselves secure in His love. Truly our hearts become so thankful for this love that makes us secure and lifts us up above all that troubles us.  As we are rooted and grounded in God’s love for us, we find our hearts ruled by the peace of Christ. The blessings of a thankful heart are peace and security and a deep abiding joy of knowing I am dearly loved.

[i] Chrysostom Letters to a Fallen Theodore Letter II.5; NPNF1 9:115


The armor of joy

 The Armor of Joy

“He who is gladdened by joy cannot be prey to despair, but he who does not make joy his own is easily overcome, and is like one who has unsound armor, and is wounded by even a common stroke.   Not so, he who is well encased at all points, and proof against every shaft that comes upon him. And totally stouter than any armor is joy in God; and whosoever has it, nothing can ever make his head droop or his countenance sad, but he bears all things nobly.”[i]


I  I despair when I am going through trials in life. Do you? I fear that God no longer loves me or that I have done something to displease Him and the hard times are His way to show His displeasure. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us, "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." The song that God sings over us can become a battle cry! We can let God's love quiet our doubts and fears. Our armor can be solid and we can be well encased in the love and joy of God. We put on this stout armor by placing the hurts and wounds of life outside our souls and keep ourselves close to the heart of God.  His love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3) and He is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27) I imagine a weary soldier climbing into God the Father's arms and being held in love. When we face trials, can we imagine ourselves in the Father's arms wrapped in love?

Romans 8:35-39 tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God- not trouble, hardship, famine, nakedness or danger or sword. The way we think about what happens can separate us from the love of God though! When I go through hardship I don't trust in God's love and I doubt myself and His goodness. Chrysostom tells us joy in God is like an armor because when we abide in God's love we have joy and this joy protects us from the enemy and our own doubts and fears. John 15:9, 11 says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now, remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

Remaining in the love of God shields and shelters us from so much hurt. We can trust God the Father to love us and delight in us. Our trials may have come to prune us (John 15:1-8) or they may not have; our trials may have come to test us, (Job 23:10) maybe not. What we know is that God loves us. He wants to quiet our fears and give us joy in the midst of our sorrow. Joy in God protects the heart like a chrysalis; our souls are encased in the love of God, shielded from harm. The hurts we thought would break us actually break our souls open to the healing, gentle love of God. Our soul sings and takes wing as we shelter ourselves in this deep love of God. Often because of hardship we rejoice in God alone and this rejoicing becomes an armor that protects us from despair.


 [i] Chrysostom Homily on Second Corinthians Homily 1:5 NPNF1; 12:275






Sifting, sifting

Heavenly hands sift sorrows and sin.

Holy hands touching my soul

with merciful cleansing,

Lifting my chin

carrying weight too heavy

for a soul to bear

Pain so deep

Yet His love is deeper still

Wade into this water,

cleansing stream, flowing fountain.

Streams of living water

I am pouring into you

peace for your soul's sorrow

joy for your heart's mourning

healing for your life's sadness

restoring you to Myself

Holy, Mine, Free


dhallenbeck 4/3/12


Come Closer

 Closer, My child,

 sin cannot keep Me from you.

 I have carried your sin far away.

 "As far as the east is from the west"

I remember it no more.

Come , My child,

 bring your weary heart to Me.

 Trust My mercy and grace.

 Forgivness flows from My side.

 Calvary's cry is, "Father, forgive them."

 I forgive, My child.

You have been washed clean, made new,

forgiven and set free.


dhallenbeck 3/14/12                                                            Psalm 103:12; Luke 23:34

Love With My Love

Love with My love 

Rest in My rest

Unburden yourself

 Here in My arms

 Mercy is falling

 Grace is pouring from Me.

 My humble heart

Waits for you now to

Love with My love

Rest in My rest to

Unburden yourself

Here in My arms

I’ll carry you now as

Mercy is falling and

Grace is pouring down from My throne

To cover thee.

Love with My love

Rest in My rest

 Lay your burdens down at My feet

dhallenbeck 9/18/10                                                                Matthew 11:28-30

“Let the blessedness take place in us” - St Augustine

God wants something to take place in us.  God wants His blessing to take bless in us, but at times we are full of other things.  Have you ever considered what is taking place within you and how it affects your fellowship with God and others??  Augustine’s homily on 1 John speaks profoundly on this topic.

“Because you have seen, you have believed; blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.”  We are described, we are designated. Then let the blessedness take place in us, of which the Lord predicted that it should take place; let us hold firmly to what we do not see, because those tell us who have seen.  “that you also may have fellowship with us.”  And what great matter is it for us to have fellowship with men?  Do not despise it; see, what he adds:  “and our fellowship may be with God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son.  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” 1 John 1:3, 4 Full joy, says John, is in that fellowship, in that charity, in that unity.”

Augustine Gospel of John Homily I.3; NPNF 7:462

God wants His “blessedness” to take place in us.  He wants His blessing and the deep knowledge of our “blessedness” to take root in us so that we might be in fellowship with Him and with others.  Often we are filled with curses.  Either we are cursed by others: “You’ll never do this or that or amount to anything,” or we curse ourselves: “Why are you so stupid, so needy, so out of control.”  Whether it is our own or another’s words, we must acknowledge the hurt and pains of these curses and ask God to remove them  so that blessedness can take place in us.  God would like us to clean house in our hearts and leave only that which speaks blessing.  This seems so simple, but if you begin to examine your thoughts or emotions, you will find so much that goes on in your heart and mind is not blessed.  Be careful!  God has called us blessed, has set before us blessing and cursing, life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19) and we must choose whom we will serve.  If we are serving the Lord, then can we take Augustine’s challenge to let the blessedness take place in us?  When I am blessed and live from a heart that is blessed I am freer to love and be in fellowship with God and others.  When I am full of cursing: doubt, insecurity, self criticism, hurt, wounds, pain, rejection, rage, anger, bitterness, resentment, I am unable to love and be in fellowship because I am holding onto curses an.  A cycle of cursing hinders me from embracing my blessedness and leads me away from God and others.

Augustine’s challenge  takes us on a journey of profound inner healing.  To sit with God, in the depth of His love and ask Him to sift your heart and mind of words and attitudes that are not blessed is life changing.  Come, “let the blessedness take place in us.”  Let us begin to live in fellowship with one another and with God.  Let us hold onto the faith we profess – the same one we share with those who have gone before- those who had seen and heard the Lord Jesus Christ.  He proclaimed words of life and He asks us now if we will allow His work to continue in us. His words speak into our lives today:  “I have come that they might have life and life more abundant.”  John 10:10.  John said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.” John 20:29 Do you believe today?  Then indeed, “Let the blessedness take place in you.”  No more room in your heart for words and attitudes that aren’t blessed.  Alleluia! 

Love Divine
A place where you belong
Love here
Love Divine
All that is hurting in you belongs to Me
What brings you here?
My needy heart
A longing for Your peace and joy.
How can I look into Your eyes Lord,
and show you my feeble heart's cry?
I wait for Your love
to fill the emptiness in me
My heart longs to be held by You.
Strong Arms to Shepherd me
A Loving heart to guide me
A Gentle God to call me
I have come to set you free
I have been longing for
My heart has been waiting for you.
I have all you need
Here is My heart
My Love is all you are longing for.

dhallenbeck 1/5/10



Fountain of My Life
A fountain can be a beautiful reflection of a tranquil scene, such as when an ornate castle is reflected in a large pool with a singe spray of water, or a fountain is designed so the statues are placed in the center and the surface of the water becomes a  riot of cascading water where nothing is reflected and all is in motion.  I realize it is much the same in my interior life.  The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 36 that God's love and faithfulness reach the heavens and the sky, that He is the fountain of our lives... and so I see this picture of my heart as a fountain where God's love and faithfulness are the center and they reach to the sky!  The other way to see my life is to see all the players in my life- all the important people and things (like the statues of the Greek gods)  at  the center and the fountain of my life tries to flow through all these statues and, while it is beautiful, it is hardly ever restful and never brings a reflection.
God seems to be saying to me, "I want you to know that deep inside you is a spring of living water, a source, and it will never run dry.  There is always enough of you because there is more than enough of Me.  I am the fountain of your life and you need to draw a wide circle in your heart and know that I Am.  I Am the well of living water, I Am the Way I Am the Truth and I Am the Life.  I Am your shield, I Am your Provider, I Am your Source."
  Deep inside me is a well, filled with living water, but God must be the center. Sometimes the people , the relationships, the things in my life , the children, the achievements, these fall into the center- I never mean them to, but they crowd God out.  In my interior life I have to be able to have a boundary.  I can sing "In God Alone," but in reality my life reflects in God alone and my child's salvation, in God alone and my husband's happiness, in God alone and my friend's approval.  You see, what belongs on the outside of the fountain comes crashing in and I do not have the spiritual eyes to see that my life has become, rather than a reflection of the fountain in my heart, a chaotic, wild cascade of water.  When I place the people and things of my life outside myself and God then the fountain of my heart is flowing and all that is in my life is showered with God's love and faithfulness.  When the people and things of my life are the center of my life I struggle to love and live because that source runs dry.  They are never enough.  Children grow, husbands change, friends move, jobs don't satisfy.  Only One thing satisfies and that is God's love and faithfulness at  the core of my being.
Can you picture your heart and ask God, "Where is my source? Who is at the center of my heart?  What events, people, past or present dominate my interior life?"  God will show you.  God can be the fountain of your life.  A fountain free to flow and shower grace and mercy, love and faithfulness over all the areas of your life.  Ask God to show you whether there isn't someone or something, past or present, that is blocking your fountain and ask Him by the power of His Holy Spirit to show you and remove it.  It might mean letting go, rearranging priorities, changing friends, forgiving those who have hurt us.  Our life is meant to be life giving!  As the Presence of God lives in us we are filled and His love and faithfulness are showered on all that comes into our lives, but when people or events or things become our life, then the fountain is stagnant and runs dry. 
I wonder what the fountain of your heart looks like.  I wonder if your fountain has run dry-  if it has ask God to fill you.   St. John Chrysostom challenges us to look at the fountain of our life as a fountain of cheerfulness!   Listen to what he writes:  "He who rejoices "in the Lord" can not be deprived of the pleasures by anything that may happen... the man who fears God as he ought , and trusts in Him, gathers from the very root of pleasure and has possession of a whole fountain of cheerfulness."  St, John Chrysostom Concerning the Statutes Homily XVIII.6; NPNF 9,460
Come to the House of Healing

"Let him come continually to this house of healing, let him hear at all times the laws of the Spirit, and on retiring home let him write down in his mind the things which he has heard; so shall his hopes be good and his confidence great, as he feels his progress by experience.  For when the devil sees the Law of God written in the soul, and the heart become tablets to write it on, he will not approach anymore.  Since, wherever the King's writing is, not engraved on a pillar of brass, but stamped by the Holy Ghost on a mind loving God, and bright with abundant grace, that (evil one) will not be able to even look at it, but from afar will turn his back on us.  For nothing is so terrible to him and to the thoughts suggested by him as a mind careful about Divine matters and a soul which ever hangs over this fountain." 
St John Chrysostom Homilies on St John Homily III.1; NPNF 14:10

Have you been to God's house recently?  It is definitely a "house of healing" as Chrysostom suggests.   Here Chrysostom is instructing us about the healing of our souls and hearts.  It takes a Divine stamp- King's writings - on our hearts to make our lives new.  Jesus' words from Revelation 21:5  "Behold I making everything new!" apply most surely to our hearts.  Ezekiel goes so far as to say that God will give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us.  (Ezekiel 36:26) We can come and go to church as often as we like, but unless God gives us a new heart or writes something on our hearts during the time we spend with Him, we will go away fairly unchanged.  We don't realize that letters and impressions are always being recorded in our souls. (See St John Chrysostom's Homily on the Gospel of St. Matthew XI.9; NPNF 10:74)

 When we bring our hearts before God and ask Him to write on them then healing comes, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free."  John 8:32  The key for me is to bring my heart to God and let Him write His truth on it.  Sometimes my  heart  is full of what the devil says, what other people say, what the advertisers say, then I must come before God and open my heart and let Him stamp on it with His Holy Spirit. The King's writing on my heart always heals, always restores, always brings hope.  When my heart is despairing or down I might want  to consider who has been writing on my soul recently.  To do this I have to be very careful, as Chrysostom says, of Divine matters and have my soul hang over the fountain of God's healing love and mercy.

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