Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Flexing Muscles of Thankfulness

thankfulheart

Thankfulness doesn’t come easy to most of us. The world bombards us with reasons to doubt, worry, be afraid, and complain. If we’re not careful, discouragement and bitterness can come on the heels of those powerful feelings. But here’s the secret:  We have a choice in what we allow ourselves to feel. When we choose to be thankful, we experience great joy and peace.

Any athlete will tell you the more he or she uses certain muscles, the stronger they become. This holiday season, we can choose to flex the muscles of thankfulness and to reap the benefits of doing so. Here’s how:

Choosing what we think.

Our minds serve as the control center of our lives. That’s why it says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” We can choose to say no to things that seem bigger than God Himself, to feelings that call us to look away from Him and fixate on the ugly and difficult issues of this world. We can choose to obey the Lord when He says, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The Lord loves us, and He knows thankful thoughts will take us to a good place with Him.

When disturbing thoughts and feelings come our way, we can choose in our minds to turn the tables and flex our muscles of thankfulness instead. The Holy Spirit helps us with this by opening our eyes, ears, and hearts to reasons for gratitude in the midst of difficult circumstances. We can ask Him to help us with this, and He will. That’s one of the reasons He is called our Helper (John 14:26).

Choosing what we say.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21, NASB). Our words can bring death or life into our lives and the lives of others. We can speak words of thanks to God for what He has done, is doing, and will do in our lives and the lives of those we love. We can speak about how we are experiencing Him and His provision; we can utter these things out loud to ourselves and others. We can choose to think thankful thoughts and then to express those thoughts in thankful words. All words have consequences. They can carry us to lofty heights of joy and peace (life), or they can drop us into pits of bitterness and despair (death). The choice is ours.

Choosing what we do.

We also have a choice in what we do. We can take actions to flex our muscles of thankfulness. We can memorize scriptures that cultivate thankful attitudes toward God. We can choose to think about and speak them out loud over and over. Just this morning I read Psalm 73:23-26. I wrote it on an index card to carry around and think/speak about this week. It’s full of reasons to thank God.

We also can choose thankful actions toward others. We can send people notes of appreciation and speak words of thankfulness about them. Out of a thankful heart, we can do things for them in order to bless them.

My husband started a new exercise regimen this week. His muscles are experiencing the results of it. Any time we start flexing muscles in new ways, they scream in pain and rebellion at first; but over time, they grow bigger and stronger. In the end, the flexing benefits us greatly. The same principle applies to thankfulness. It may seem awkward and difficult at first to choose thankfulness over some of the powerful negative emotions in life; but in the end, embracing thankfulness over negativity will produce victorious and abundant living. That’s why the Lord commands us to be thankful.

May the year ahead find each one of us, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20, NASB).

Question: What are you thankful for? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

4 Comments »

Embracing the Changing Seasons in Life

seasons

The weather changed this past week. The golden glimmer of bright Fall leaves was replaced by frigid temperatures and frost-tipped grass. Brrr. Although not officially recognized until December 21, winter has made its presence known.

God designed nature with different seasons. In His wisdom and love, He allowed summer and winter, fall and spring. Each season contains its own unique purpose and blessings.

The same holds true for life. We are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

From these scriptures and the examples in nature, we can learn several truths:

Our seasons of life are ordained by God.

Psalm 31:15, NIV, says, “My times are in Your hands.”  Just as the Lord orders the seasons of nature (“He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down,” Psalm 104:19, NIV); in the same way, He directs the seasons of our lives. “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning,” it says in Daniel 2:21, NIV. Whatever season we are experiencing, the Lord is in control, and He is watching over us in the midst of it.

Each season of life is meant to bless us—and others.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). Whatever season we are experiencing, the Lord intends to use it for good (Romans 8:28). Whether we are encountering new beginnings as in springtime, the maturing of summer, the fruit of fall, or the fading that comes in winter (so new life and experiences can begin anew in the spring), the Lord is ordering the details of our lives.

The Lord has gifts for us in each season, if we would reach out and take them. He also has gifts for others through our experiences. In the midst of it all, He desires to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29); if we cooperate with Him in that process, we become a blessing to others as well. As we walk through our seasons of life with the Lord, He shapes us to bless others through our experiences. We can love, comfort, encourage, and strengthen others because the Lord has done that for us.

God remains the same throughout the changing seasons of life.

Even though change remains constant in life and seasons continue to change, one thing remains the same: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV). Jesus loves us, so much that He gave His life for us. He is faithful forever in loving and caring for us (2 Timothy 2:13). The different seasons in our lives allow us to experience the diverse aspects of our Lord and to discover His great love and faithfulness in the midst of them (Psalm 57:10).

May the Lord open our eyes to see and appreciate the beauty in each season of life, and may we have great joy as we walk through each season with Him.

Question: What is the Lord showing you or developing in you during your current season in life? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website:  susanjaneking.com

2 Comments »

Treasuring Life

 Baby Morgan

 

This past week, my daughter Katie and son-in-law Curt announced they were expecting their first child. They used the photo at the top of this blogpost to inform Facebook friends of the exciting news. I’m going to become a grandma this spring! I’m overjoyed, grateful, and awed—all at the same time.

About four weeks ago, Katie and Curt invited me to attend their first ultrasound. My eyes brimmed with tears as I watched the pulsating movement of the tiny heartbeat within my first grandchild. What a miracle!

The truth is that each of us is a miracle, uniquely crafted by God. Psalm 139 tells us so:

God shapes us

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14, NIV). The God of the universe decided how He would make each of us. He selected and shaped each of our attributes: personality, appearance, gifts, and abilities. We are told in Ephesians 2:10 that we are His “workmanship,” literally His masterpiece. Each one of us exists as a one-of-a-kind, extremely valuable work-of-art. The Lord Himself crafted us. We should not argue with such a perfect Artist about how He made us.

God knows us

Since He made us, the Lord also knows us intimately and perfectly. Psalm 139:1-4, NIV, says, “You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely.” The Lord knows us at the deepest level. He sees our hearts. He understands, loves, and values each of us. Because He knows us so well, He can provide for us perfectly and lead us wisely.

God protects and guides us

We are safe in the Lord’s care. “You hem me in behind and before, and You lay your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5, NIV). Nothing can touch us without the Lord’s permission. He aims to bring good from whatever He allows (Romans 8:28-29). His hand is powerful and loving, protective and kind. His hand takes our hand and leads us through life (if we let Him). “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You” (Psalm 139:9-12, NIV). Even if we feel lost in the dark, God sees the way. He is the way. His power, grace, truth, and lovingkindness surround us wherever we go in whatever we are facing.

God desires that others might know Him through us

We should treasure and celebrate the unique life God has given to each of us, a life that He shapes, knows, protects, and guides. Our life is valuable, cherished, and authored by God. He has wired part of Himself into each of us. We need to be the person He created us to be so that the world can see those aspects of the Lord in us and hopefully be drawn to Him. We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), so that when people look at us, they can see Him. Isaiah 43:7 says we were created for God’s glory, a word that means “to manifest, to give an estimation of” in the New Testament.

I can’t wait to meet my first grandbaby and see the Lord’s beautiful handiwork in that life. I’m excited to spend years seeing and experiencing the presence of God in that amazing child. As the circle of life continues, I am celebrating the creativity and purposefulness that God places into each life. I can’t wait for spring when this new life will arrive with the blossoming flowers. Thank you, Lord!

Question: What attributes of the Lord have you experienced in the people around you? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

5 Comments »

Aiming for the Finish Line

DSC_1707 David and Sarah with their medals after finishing the full Ironman

My husband David and daughter Sarah completed a full Ironman competition in Panama City Beach, Florida, this past weekend. A full Ironman triathlon involves a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order with no break. The events must be completed within 17 hours to achieve the Ironman distinction. Most athletes would agree the Ironman is one of the toughest athletic competitions out there.

Sarah experienced her first Ironman this past weekend. David participated in his fourth competition. Both of them exhibited a fierce determination to get to the finish line.

So did the apostle Paul. He knew his time on earth would end soon, and he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, NIV). He had achieved his goal: crossing the finish line with his faith intact, having lived a life that honored the Lord.

After watching David and Sarah in the Ironman competition, I learned some spiritual lessons that can benefit all of us as we aim for the finish line in life:

Accept Disappointments and Move On

David and Sarah arrived early on Saturday morning, donned their wetsuits, and prepared to enter the Gulf of Mexico for their swim. Shortly before they were to start, the announcer broadcast that due to high winds, extreme cold, and severe rip currents, the swim portion of the triathlon was being cancelled. I watched as some of the participants fell to the ground and wept in disappointment. They had trained, travelled, and anticipated the swimming event, and things did not go as planned.

DSC_1692

Sarah and David in their wetsuits prior to the cancelled swim event

Life can be that way. We live in a fallen world, where circumstances don’t always cooperate with our expectations. It’s okay to be disappointed, but at some point, we have to decide to move on, to experience the race in the way the Lord has ordained for us. That’s what my family did.

Shortly after David and Sarah heard about the swim cancellation, David began planning how they would approach the rest of the competition. The race organizers decided to wait an hour and then begin the bike portion of the competition. They released a competitor to bike every 5 seconds, beginning with the smallest race numbers and concluding with the highest. Sarah’s number was 1174, and David’s was 2804. That meant Sarah had to start about an hour ahead of her dad. They agreed she should do so in order to save time. David would try to catch her, and they would complete the rest of the event together.

What neither of them anticipated was how late David would start and how fiercely Sarah would attack her bike race. She dug in during the race and finished the entire 112 miles by herself. She didn’t focus on the disappointment of how things turned out. She concentrated on the task at hand, and she completed it successfully. She told me she set little goals along the way during the entire competition, and reaching those milestones helped drive her toward the finish line.

Keep a Positive Attitude

I asked Sarah what helped her during the race, and she told me, “I tried to have a good attitude, to enjoy it, have fun, and really take in everything I was experiencing.” Her comments reminded me how we need to be truly “present” in the moments of life, to take them in and savor them. The Lord blesses us with so many gifts right now, right here in our present moments. We can miss out on what He has for us today by yearning for something that is meant for tomorrow or by focusing on hurts of the past.

Sarah also looked for her daddy throughout the race. She knew he was in the race with her. Our heavenly Father is with us, too. He wants our eyes to be looking for Him, our ears to be listening for Him, and our hearts to be focused on Him as we run the race of life. The attitude He desires from us is faith . . . to believe in Him and what He says, and to run accordingly.

Fuel Up!

Every few miles along the race course, the competitors could stop at aid stations (or bike or run through them) and grab food, water, nutrition, and other fuel to help them through their demanding journey. David and Sarah had spoken about and had planned when and where they would get their nutritional fuel during the race. They even carried some nutritional items on them.

From a spiritual perspective, we need fuel too. Jesus is our bread of life, and He gives us living water (John 6:35; John 4:10). His Word energizes and strengthens us (Deuteronomy 8:3, Psalm 119:28). He gives us the ability to pray and gather with other believers in order to fortify us for the race at hand. We must incorporate this fuel into our lives on a regular basis in order to remain healthy and strong as we race toward the finish line.

Help Others

Sarah and David said lots of folks encouraged them as they ran. Several friends and relatives made the trip to Panama City Beach, put on “Team King” t-shirts, showed up along the race course, and cheered on David and Sarah as they competed.

DSC_1686

Some members of “Team King” (and “Team Yanz,” a friend also competing)

 Since David started the race after Sarah and because it was Sarah’s first Ironman event, David concerned himself with how she was doing. While trying to catch up with her and whenever he would see us along the marathon course, his first question was always, “Where is Sarah? How is she doing?” He wanted her to succeed and have a positive race experience. He cared about her.

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35, NIV). Often, we are more blessed trying to help someone else finish their race than totally obsessing over our own contest.

That motivation kept David running. He caught up with Sarah around the 18-mile mark of the marathon, and they finished the event together, crossing the finish line with hands joined and arms raised in triumph. David wore a t-shirt that said, “IRON DAD,” and Sarah’s t-shirt said, “IRON DAUGHTER.” We can all help one another and encourage one another in our spiritual races. We can aim for the finish line together.

When Paul realized he was about to cross the finish line of his race, he said, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8, NIV).

DSC_1714

Sarah with her Ironman medal

Just as David and Sarah were awarded medals for completing their race, each of us has a great reward waiting for us when we cross over from this life to the next. When we cross the finish line, our prize, our righteousness, will be Jesus Himself, and we will spend eternity with Him after our race.

Question: What has helped you in aiming for the finish line? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

1 Comment »