Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Cultivating a Thankful Life

Be Thankful

“Oh no!” I said, looking at keys dangling from the ignition while I stood outside my locked van.

“What’s wrong?” asked my daughter Katie.

“I locked my keys in the car,” I said.

I felt like sinking to the ground in exhaustion. It had been an unusually trying day. The sun was beginning its descent toward the horizon, and a cold November wind was blowing its way through my coat.

I looked over at my four children, ages 6 to 12, pondering my next move.

We had just finished one of my son Patrick’s perceptual motor development therapy sessions at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The youngest of my children, Patrick had been diagnosed with autism, and the therapy sessions had been recommended to help him develop his coordination.

We made the 80-mile round trip trek to Charlotte twice each week, after I had picked up my three daughters from school. The girls and I would sequester ourselves in a classroom somewhere to work on homework while the UNCC kinesiology students helped Patrick in the gymnasium.

Besides the UNCC sessions, I took Patrick to five other types of therapy sessions each week. I was worn out.

After calling AAA and being told to wait by my vehicle, I heard Patrick announce, “I’m hungry.”

“Well, maybe I can have some pizza delivered to this street corner,” I said.

Patrick’s eyes lit up.

Most autistic individuals take people’s comments literally.

Well, why not? I thought.

“Can you deliver to a street corner?” I asked the Domino’s order taker at the other end of my cellphone.

“Excuse me?” the young man said.

“I’ve got four hungry children. We’re locked out of my car. And the locksmith can’t get here for an hour and a half. Can you deliver pizza to University Road near the entrance to the Cone parking deck?

“Uhh, I’ll have to check with my manager,” he said.

A few minutes later, he announced, “We can do it! We’ll be there in 30 minutes.”

Later, we were experiencing the delights of crispy pepperoni, melted mozzarella cheese, spicy marinara sauce and chewy crust.

“Life is great!” Patrick said.

What?! I thought.

Then, I looked at my son.

A huge smile exploded across his face as he munched on what he considered to be life’s greatest food product.

He was right.

We were safe. We were together. We were eating.

Life is great.

An hour later, we were packed into our van heading home. And we had a new memory we would reclaim from the recesses of our minds and talk about for years.

That incident occurred 15 years ago, but I remember it frequently, especially when I need to remind myself to be thankful.

The Lord tells us, “In everything, give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NASB).

Why would God want us to be thankful in everything, especially the hard things?

Thankfulness gives us a way to express our trust in God, to reaffirm He is in control, and to remember He loves and takes care of us. It provides a way to look for the Lord’s hand in whatever we are experiencing.

After being worn down from a cold for two weeks (and counting), this past Sunday my back went out. I have been hobbling around ever since dealing with pain and discomfort.

But . . . I was reminded to be thankful. Once I chose to look for reasons to be thankful, I was overwhelmed. I was grateful for:

My husband, who showed and helped me with stretching exercises

My daughter, who swept the floors in my house

The “resting” time I had to watch some excellent Christian teaching programs on television

The friends who continually checked on me and prayed for me

The dear lady from my Sunday School class who made soup and drove it to my house

The fact that I am no longer sneezing (which would have been a disaster with a bad back)

The opportunity to be less distracted and more focused on talking with the Lord and sensing His presence

The idea for this blog

You get the picture. All of these gifts came from the Lord, as His kindnesses, often through others.

I have found that I need to be intentional about being thankful. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us, and the way the world works, we can easily become discouraged.

Here are some simple ways to work thankfulness into your life. With the Thanksgiving holiday around the corner, maybe you could consider choosing one or more of these ideas to implement this month:

Start each day with thanks.

The minute your feet hit the floor, thank the Lord for giving you another day and for walking with you through it. You can even say, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24, NASB).

Plan thankful moments.

Many people say grace before each meal. Besides thanking the Lord for the food, thank Him for other experiences in your life, for who He is, for His promises, for what He has done for you. Thank him each time you drive in your car, or wash your hands, or hang up the phone . . . during any activity that is part of your daily routine. Soon, your mind will be trained to thank God.

Say thank you to others.

I recently read a magazine story where a man said he decided to write and send a thank you card to someone each day. He wrote cards thanking people for their kindnesses as well as expressing what they meant to him. He related how writing thank you cards changed his life, transforming him from a negative, unhappy person to a positive, joyful individual. Consider writing to others yourself on a regular basis. It would bless you and them.

Keep a thankful journal.

Start a notebook, and write in it each day, expressing your thanks for God’s presence and gifts in your life. You could even write out prayers to God, thanking Him.

May your days ahead overflow with thanksgiving to the Lord!

Question:        For what are you especially thankful at this point in your life?   Share at the Comment link below.

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Lessons Learned from a Cold

common-cold

The Lord often uses the common experiences of life to teach us uncommon lessons. I have been discovering this truth the past ten days (and counting), as I have been dealing with a cold that refuses to leave. Besides giving me a huge helping of “couch time” each day because I feel incredibly weak, this cold is also serving up large portions of muscle aches and pains, headaches, coughs, sneezes, and the ever favorite runny nose.

Ugh! Yet, the Lord is with us in the midst of everything we experience. I asked Him to help me learn from this cold ordeal, and here is what I discovered:

Sometimes, you need to ask for help.

One night, I was lying on the couch, and I was hungry. I didn’t even have the energy to get up and fix a plate of food, so I asked my husband David if he would get me something to eat. He was very kind and took care of me. Another evening, I called a local restaurant to order chicken and dumplings for our family for dinner. They had closed early that day. My daughter Sarah sensed my disappointment in not being able to get the ultimate “comfort food,” so she went to the grocery story, got the ingredients, and made a batch of chicken and dumplings worthy of any restaurant. My daughter Emily drove over a box of Kleenex and my favorite candy bar when I was in desperate need. My point is when you are put in a position to need help, ask for it, and receive it gratefully. You will be allowing the Lord to bless you  . . . and to bless others. He says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NASB). Don’t deprive others of their blessing by not asking for help when you need it.

Take your medicine.

Cold medications helped to lessen the severity of my symptoms and enabled me to sleep better. I could tell when it was time to take another dose because the pain and discomfort started to rise again. In life, the best “medicine” to take on a regular basis is the Word of God. It lessens the pain of life as we hear our Lord Jesus speak, comfort and direct us. We can sense when we have not been in the Bible for a while; life just feels much more uncomfortable.

Rest.

I always felt better when I was able to rest. Oftentimes, my body would start shaking, as if to say, “Enough!” As we walk our life’s journey with the Lord, His presence with us gives us rest. We need to take the time to acknowledge His presence and to realize He is working in and around us continually. We have to make the time to speak with Him, thank Him, and choose to rest in, or trust, Him. It’s good for our soul.

Realize you’re building strength and immunities in the ongoing battle.

Inside my body, a battle is raging. Antibodies are attacking and fighting against the enemy germs. Little by little, more territory is being conquered; more battles are being won. When I come completely out of this sickness, I will be stronger, and the same germs won’t be able to make me sick in the future. I will be immune to them. Spiritual battles follow a similar pattern. We’ve got to fight the enemy by believing Who God is and what He says, and we have to do it over and over. Little by little, the Lord builds up our spiritual health, until one day, we are even immune to those things that used to threaten to destroy us.

Receive grace.

During the early days of my cold, I could not do much of anything. I did not get to write this blog last week. I felt bad about that. I also could not clean my house, make meals, do laundry, or go out to scheduled events with my husband and children. I had to set aside my “To Do List” and just BE. In being gentle on myself, I realized the Lord is, too. He does not love us because of what we do. He loves us because He is love, and because He has chosen to lavish His love on us. That’s grace, His undeserved favor. We can receive and remain in His grace without doing a thing.

So those are the lessons I have learned thus far from my encounter with a cold. May the Lord open your eyes to see Him in your experiences this week. I  am cheering for you from the couch!

Question: How did the Lord use a common experience to teach you an uncommon lesson? Share at the Comment link below.

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Are You Living Like a Sheep or a Goat?

sheep goat 

“As for you, My flock, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and the male goats.”

—Ezekiel 34:17, NASB

“All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”

—Matthew 25:32-34, NASB

Sheep and goats. They repeatedly dot the landscape of the Bible. I recently read the previous scriptures as part of a Sunday School lesson, and I thought, “What’s the deal with sheep and goats?” These animals look alike, but are there differences between them? I decided to do some research on the Internet, and what I discovered amazed me:

The primary difference between sheep and goats is how they respond to their shepherd.

1.      Sheep trust and follow the leadership of their shepherd. Goats rebel.

Sheep go with their shepherd and stay safely within the enclosures he provides. Goats are impulsive, unpredictable and rebellious. Never content with what they have, they are always straining to get outside the enclosures meant to protect them. They poke their heads through fences, stand on their hind legs, and work without end to try to leave situations they perceive as inhibiting.

2.      Sheep seek out their shepherd in the midst of trouble and confusion. Goats run from their master.

Sheep look to their shepherd for guidance, comfort and protection. They are fearful, but they seek out and look to the shepherd for help. They trust him. Whenever a goat faces a challenge, it runs away. It turns from its master and runs off alone.

3.      Sheep actively choose to listen to (to obey) the shepherd’s voice. Goats listen to no one, but only to their internal instincts.

Sheep have good hearing, are in tune with the shepherd, and actively respond to the voice of their shepherd. They know their shepherd’s voice, and they look to their master for guidance. Goats do not recognize, seek after or respond to a shepherd.

4.      Sheep are all about the unity of the flock. Goats act independently, often misleading and hurting others.

The shepherd encourages the sheep to move together. In response, the sheep encourage other sheep in the flock through bleating and congregating together. They communicate with other sheep to move in the right direction. Goats act independently. They even lead sheep astray. Meat packers are known to train an old goat and name him “Judas”. This goat goes into the flock of sheep, divides them, and leads them to the slaughter house, where they die.

5.      Sheep treat other sheep with care. Goats care only about themselves.

As the shepherd cares for the sheep, so the sheep also care for one another. They find security in the flock, where they comfort and protect one another. Goats don’t care about anyone but themselves, and they will trample anyone or anything to get what they want. It’s every goat for himself.

6.      Sheep rely upon and feed on the pastures approved by the shepherd. Goats respond to and eat anything.

Sheep feed on grass and grass alone; they graze in the pastures provided by the shepherd. Goats will eat anything that comes across their path, including lots of garbage. (Think of this information in terms of consuming the Word of God versus all the empty philosophies put forth by the world.)

7.      Sheep know and trust their true shepherd to bring them into the land, where life is real and abundant. Goats just want to go their own way.

Sheep go with their shepherd because they know and trust he will lead them to the good grazing grounds. Goats don’t want to go anywhere with anyone. They just want to go their own way.

Jesus calls you a sheep, and He tells you He is your good shepherd (John 10:11). He lovingly calls you to live like a sheep, and not like a goat . . . because sheep get to be with the Shepherd and experience all the blessed goodness of His presence.

When you choose to live like a sheep and allow Jesus to be your Shepherd, you allow Him to tenderly love and care for you, to guide and protect you (Psalm 23). He goes ahead of you and leads you (John 10:3-4). He lays down his life for you (John 10:11). He makes an abundant life available to you (John 10:10). He knows you, and you know Him (John 10:14). His goodness and lovingkindness are with you every day of your life (Psalm 23:6).

You do not need to be the shepherd. You are meant to be a sheep, to leave all the shepherding to Jesus. Will you choose this day to live like a sheep?

Question:        Have you ever observed any sheep or goats? What did you see? Comment at the link below.

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6 Ways to Tackle Change Successfully

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Have you ever found yourself on a new, unexpected road?   You’re driving down the street, taking your usual route, and all of a sudden, you encounter a detour, a change in the way you were going. Within moments, the scenery and road conditions change, and you leave the familiar behind.

Whether you are driving your car or living your life, unexpected twists and turns can be unnerving. Often, you don’t know where the road is taking you.

During the past year, I felt the Lord calling me to write a book, start speaking and begin this blog. These are new ventures for me. My youngest child started college, and that chapter of my life ended–the stay at home, take care of your children stage. Now, I’m embarking on an entirely different phase. To be honest, I felt unsettled about the changes at first . . .  because I didn’t know where I was headed or what I was supposed to do.

What a blessing! Situations like that create the perfect opportunity for the Lord to show up and show off!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NASB, says:

“9 And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Here are six things the Lord has been teaching me during this time of change. Not surprisingly, I am going to be sharing them at a speaking engagement this weekend. Here they are.

You are more likely to tackle change successfully if you:

1.      Appropriate God’s grace

God’s grace (unearned favor) is enough to see you through the change. Believe and live in the grace of God. He is for you, and He cares for you in every way. Live in that truth.

2.      Rely on God’s power

You not able to do anything on your own, but you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). In fact, God’s power is brought to completion (it really shows up, moves and provides what is needed) in your weakness.

3.      Boast about [in] your weakness

Even though you are weak and unable, God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything you could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) or try to do on your own. So you can boast that you are weak, and in your weakness, you can praise God because He is strong.

4.      Choose contentment in Christ

You can avoid getting caught up in how you think things should go. You can learn to be happy just walking the road with Jesus . . . like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It doesn’t matter so much where you are going or what you are doing. (He is in charge of that.) What matters is you are going and doing with Jesus!

5.      Display Jesus

The fact that you are in uncertain territory only magnifies the fact that the Lord is in charge. He equips and directs you, and in the process, He lets others see His hand in your life. Everything is for Christ’s sake, and He is best seen in you when you allow Him to take over and lead.

6.      Embrace weakness

When you are weak, then you are strong. That word weakness refers to many different places where you might lack strength: physical, emotional, or moral. When you feel you’re not up to the task, when you don’t know where you are going or how to get there, that’s precisely when the Lord proves Himself strong on your behalf. Hopefully, others can see His strength, too.

Change comes, but God never changes (James 1:17). His power, love and wisdom are always there to lead you. That’s why you can pack these six tools in your luggage and expect a magnificent journey with the Lord . . . wherever the road may lead.

Question: Where have you seen the truth of any of these six principles as you experienced change in your life? Comment at the link below.

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