The Heart of Thankfulness

What qualities do you admire most in people? Friendly? Funny? Outgoing? Kind? Intelligent? Certainly I think you’d discover one common denominator would be the quality of thankfulness. While the most miserable people seem best at finding the worst, the happiest ones have a way of tapping into an attitude of gratitude that buoys them even in difficult circumstances and similarly lifts everyone around them. No matter their physical appearance, they somehow manage to be the most beautiful people in the room.

In his first letter’s exhortations to the Thessalonians, chapter five, verses 16 through 18, Paul says to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Note that he says, “in everything.” The circumstances may be horrible, but an attitude of thankfulness can keep hope, essential as breathing, alive even then.

How can we break out in thanksgiving
even in the middle of mourning, grief and pain?
How can we be there for the living?
If God’s commanded, he’ll surely provide a way
to be thankful.

Lord, maybe I’ve taken leave of my senses,
to be joyful, in a world missing paradise,
but since you’ve given me permission
I’ll swing for the fences,
and be so thankful.

No matter how the earth groans,
no matter whether man
tries to destroy all you’ve given,
I know you’re sovereign, Lord.
No matter how dark the news,
and evil seems to win,
I’ll search for the way…
to remain thankful.

I’ll enter your gates with thanksgiving.
I’ll enter your courts with praise,
for you are good and your love is eternal.
I will not fear what I can’t see in the night,
I won’t fear the dark in the day,
for you remain Lord no matter where or how I am.
For that and so much more I’m thankful.

Lord heap my heart
full of thanksgiving,
Heap it up till it overflows.
Heap it so I can’t keep it to myself,
The whole world has to know.

God’s word helps me to perceive,
we must be illuminators of his love,
justice and hope.
Circumstances will change,
our health may ebb and flow.
The world’s economy might fluctuate,
but that won’t change what I know.
So I’m thankful.

Whether we face plenty or hunger,
abundance or need,
we can do all things
through Christ who strengthens us.
He is our sufficiency
and we are thankful.

Though we’re persecuted, we will not be abandoned;
Though we’re struck down, we will not be destroyed.
we lift our hands and rejoice
because we look toward the one who does not change
and give our offering of thanksgiving.

Lord heap our hearts
full of thanksgiving,
Heap them up till they overflow.
Heap them so we can’t keep it to ourselves,
The whole world has to know.

Take over the places in me
that are not all about you,
like the place that calculates
what’s owed me
and from whom.
If you would, Lord, make it over… Lord, make me over.
You know God, we’re pretty selfish
and we’ve all got our wish lists.
It seems they’ve changed only little
from the days we were kids.
But Lord, among those qualities I value,
grow in my estimation that of gratitude.

Imagine the world like that,
thankfulness,
spreading like a good disease.
I can’t possibly overestimate
what it could mean.
All that taking turning into giving.
Ground zero right here.
That’s a funny thought…
infectious agents for Jesus.
Ha!

Lord, heap our hearts
full of thanksgiving,
Heap them up till they overflow.
Let the good news
from our overflowing grateful hearts
draw those we meet
to your kingdom.
Lord, heap our hearts.

©Joel Tipple
#13/15

This Trust

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This much I know, just as I breathe,
that which I send out,
wind carried seed,
is gonna grow.

Really, I don’t know, where it will grow,
but take it,
bless it, Lord,
till I go home.

Until we all go home,
this trust we carry,
this gift sacred married
is best living when it’s shared.

Send it with your voice,
send it with a smile,
as often as you can,
joy building all the while.

There it is within
and there it is out,
now a whispered breeze,
then a storm’s shout.
One to another
and another
and another,
this trust.

©Joel Tipple 9/20/2020


When to Worship

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Honestly, the book of Habakkuk was not on my radar. It’s a small book near the end of the Old Testament, written by a prophet we don’t know much about. A theme in much of the Old Testament is man’s relationship with God. In a nutshell, man has always had a habit of forgetting God when things are going well and complaining when the situation worsens. The reigning king at the time of Habakkuk, Jehoiakim, was described by the prophet Jeremiah in this way: “your eyes and your heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain, and on shedding innocent blood and on practicing oppression and extortion” Jer. 22:17 It was against this backdrop, during a time of increasing evil in Judah and oppression by the Babylonians, that Habakkuk writes of praise in chapter 3. I quote chapter 3:17-19 here: “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds feet, and makes me walk on my high places.”

It’s easy to praise God when the sailing is smooth and complain when we are buffeted by storms. The self discipline required to stop for a moment to consider how we might grow and learn during those times is neither automatic nor easy to come by. However, God is always worthy of our praise and deference, and although we may not always be able to understand His ways, He remains on the throne. Of that we can be certain.

God, please accept my worship.
Let my song be lifted high.
When I focus on what’s difficult in my life,
help me remember the times
you’ve renewed my strength and joy,
carried me when I couldn’t walk.
When my foundation felt unstable
You were always my solid rock.
Increase my understanding,
in the darkness let it be my light.
Give me the same breath to sing in the valley
that I breathe when I sing on the heights.

© Joel Tipple

Animals Discuss Church in the Field

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Covid 19 has led to many changes in our lives, for instance how our church meets. Indoors, we’re spaced further apart and wear masks. We also broadcast our services online. That’s all good, but since it’s Summer and the weather is pleasant, we decided to take advantage of it and have services in back of our church building, something we call, “Church in the Field.” For the last several weeks this enjoyable alternative has reminded us that necessity really is the mother of invention, and there’s no reason church can’t be fun, even in the middle of a pandemic. The neighbors in back of our church have a variety of farm animals that we get to see during our services. We’ve purposely left out slats in that rear section of chain link fence so we can see them, and so the animals form the backdrop to our outdoor services. At any given time one might see goats, chickens, or horses. Then, there’s one animal that we’ve seen up close while having church that, because of the way they operate, didn’t bother with checking us out from the other side of a fence. Although gophers do have a purpose in nature, most people consider them a pest, because of their tendency to produce random mounds of dirt in the landscape, in the process often destroying garden plants. Some church goers have taken videos of gophers happily tossing up hills of dirt while the service can be heard going on in the background. We haven’t had this much animal induced excitement during church since the “bats flying out of the belfry” incidents. All this causes me to wonder: What if the animals had their own story to tell? If they had some understanding of what was happening on our side of the fence, and could successfully communicate it, what would they say? Today, the first installment of, “Animals Discuss…”

Horse #1: I want to thank everyone for coming to the meeting tonight. It was really hot today and I know you guys are probably beat.
Goat #2: You said it. Even my hop is gone. I’m so drained. And you know us goats, we usually have hops for days!
Goat #1: H1, did you and H2 actually get to run in the surf at Centerville today?
Horse #1: It was glorious! G1, I hope you and the other goats get to run in the water the next time it gets super hot.
Goat #2: Not likely. The best we can hope for in the way of travel is getting lent out for landscaping. Mind you, I’m not complaining. I had a rose bush once. It got blamed on deer though, he said, snickering.
Chicken #1: I wanted to brief everyone on my notes from last week. I believe we’re continuing in Nehemiah, and if anyone missed it I’ll catch you up.
Thanks C1. Before you do that though, I think it’s important we hear from Gopher 2. Is it true you all are calling yourself the Underground Church?
Gopher 2: That’s not official. Although attending church can be hazardous at times (there was the tent stake incident). The risks we take don’t really rise to that level.

To be continued…

©Joel Tipple

Someone Needs Jesus

Though a heavy blanket of darkness
threatens to overwhelm me
I search through its suffocating fabric
for a spot of light
and tear it open.

Someone needs Jesus.

When I’m bound up in my troubles
and can’t seem to get out
of my own head,
when my biggest issue is my list of issues,
I set them aside.

Someone needs Jesus.

When any effort I make
seems to be just a drop
in the ocean of the world of troubles,
I take up an oar anyway
and row with the strength I do have.

Someone needs Jesus.

Walking down a crowded street
people part around me
like water swirling round a stone.
How many are really drowning
while pretending they can breathe?
How many?
God could use me
to lift them out of the water
and point the way home.
Will I reach out?
Lord, give me the courage to reach out.

Women who feel weak and used,
men convinced they’re not enough,
children forced to grow before they’re ready
need real help and compassion
fueled by Jesus.
For those cast aside by those who should have cared,
for the people even advertising ignores,
let them know they are precious
in the sight of Jesus.

Lord, please keep in the front of my mind
names of those I know
who don’t know you.
Help me take down barriers
while it is day
and there is time.

God of wonders,
author of the world,
each soul is precious to you.
Give me a heart with a burden
to share and proclaim your good news.
This is my prayer,
Amen.

©Joel Tipple

Peace

Prayerfully seek your heavenly Father.
Earnestly engage as you seek Him.
Ask intentionally and specifically when you pray.
Cry out your heart’s desire.
Enter, walking in faith the path God has prepared for you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NLT


©Joel Tipple 8/1/2020

Identity

Who are you? The answers to this question might range all the way from simple to deeply philosophical. We are more than our name, our parents, where we live, who we love, or what we do. We are more than any of the traditional definitions of identity, whether grouped together or set apart.
Proverbs 22:6 says, Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. One interpretation of this verse is to encourage children in the way of their natural talents and abilities. Yes, parents should provide godly instruction and moral foundational training their children take with them the rest of their lives, but just as important is the insight a parent can give that will help a child fully develop the unique qualities God has planted within them. While we all spend our lives searching for and developing what it is that makes us special, those most responsible for our growth and development should give special prayerful attention in this way. Has a parent or someone else in your life made an effort to help you grow your talents and discover your best self? What an invaluable gift!

What’s in a name?

Often there’s a story behind someone’s name. Were you named after your parent or another family member? Do you have an unusual name? Does your name reflect a wish from your parents that you would inhabit a particular quality or trait? In some cultures the strongest driving force motivating individuals is protecting the honor of the family name. Last names are often changed following marriage. Sometimes people change their names to change their story. There are many instances in the Bible where God changed an individual’s name for just that reason.

You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram, your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you”
Genesis 17:4-6

“That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”The man asked him, “What is your name?”“Jacob,” he answered.Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome”
Genesis 32:22-28

Later, in the New Testament we find Jesus has changed the name of a fisherman named Simon, revealing the new course his life will take.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”
Matthew 16:18-19


No matter what your name is now, God has a plan for you. That plan may not involve a legal name change, but without a doubt, there are many names he will give you, like: loved, overcomer, redeemed, chosen, forgiven, son, daughter, saved.

Who do you call me, Lord?
A name I didn’t know,
that didn’t know me.
Who do you call me, Lord?
I’m full of joy and expectation
because you call me Free.
If you’d asked before I knew you
and the moment you called me friend
I might have said the only hope I had
was someday it would end.
But now that you have named me,
I’ll never face this life alone,
for all of my todays
and the day you call me home.


© Joel Tipple 7/19/2020






Patience

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By the time most of us reach adulthood, we’ve probably spent numerous hours in waiting rooms. Waiting room. Now there’s an appropriate name, right? And who waits in waiting rooms? Patients! Even though it’s spelled differently, that’s a pretty appropriate word. Most of us like to know how our time is going to be spent. If something is supposed to take an hour, we can get a little irritated when the hour comes and goes. What about lines? Whether you’re standing in line at the grocery store, or stuck in the middle of hundreds of cars on a freeway, waiting can be a challenge to our cheery nature.

Patience is one of those virtues God instructs us to develop in our walk with him. In 1st Corinthians 13 patience is mentioned in a description of love: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, … Romans 12:12 says further: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Certainly the pandemic we find ourselves in the middle of has strained our patience. “I can’t wait” seems to be a constant theme in our discussions. People say things like, “I can’t wait until I don’t have to wear this mask,” I can’t wait until everything is back to normal,” and “I can’t wait for all this to be over.” No matter what the issue is in our lives, there’s no doubt patience will continue to be a lesson we have to brush up on. If you’re like me, while you’re busy relearning it, one of the people you’ll have to be most patient with is yourself.

God, thank you for being patient with me,
one of your many works in progress.
Help me replace my impatience
with prayers you’ve yet to answer
with gratitude for those you have.

©Joel Tipple 7/12/2020

Mistakes

“They’ve finally come up with the perfect office computer. If it makes a mistake, it blames another computer.”
Milton Berle

“I must tell you I take terrible risks. Because my playing is very clear when I make a mistake you hear it. If you want me to play only the notes without any specific dynamics, I will never make one mistake. Never be afraid to dare.”
Vladimir Horowitz

Not to compare ourselves with God but an average parent can imagine how God might feel about the human race. You could nickname most of us Will because we have a tendency to exert our wills throughout our lives for better and for worse. I will study this subject until I have it down. I will grab that hot skillet at an age when I’ve yet to know for myself what hot really means. I will use prayer, love, and reason to grow healthy relationships or I will engage in selfish and unhealthy behavior to the detriment of myself and those around me. To be sure, all of us Wills will make mistakes, some intended and some unintended. How do we deal with the mistakes we and the others around us make? What reaction should we then expect from God, and how should that model prepare us to meet the challenges mistakes pose in our lives?

When I consider how God feels about our mistakes, I think he’s the perfect example of an ideal parent. First, he gives us plenty of room to grow and learn from our mistakes. A good parent is able to set boundaries while creating an environment the child can thrive in. Learning our way into being our best selves always involves some trial and error. For some of us, a lot of trial and error. Sometimes we even have to go to trial for our errors! God’s grace, forgiveness, and attitude of forbearance do not remove natural consequences. That hot stove will still burn. Traffic school might be the best you can hope for if you decide to set your own special speed limit. Your spouse may have married you for better or for worse but not, for example, felony murder. What you will find with God though, is he never runs out of grace. His love and forgiveness are always enough and more. If you trust in Christ, you’re part of the family. Period.

 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
NIV

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9
NIV

God, there you are
before and after my mistakes.
I learn. I grow.
Always you forgive.
When I’m afraid to move on
and lack faith in myself,
I lean deeply into you
because you live.

©Joel Tipple 6/28/2020