The Weekend Wanderer: 27 November 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


gratitude science“Research Roundup: 6 Takeaways on the Goodness of Gratitude” – Stefani McDade in Christianity Today offers a reflection on six scholarly articles related to gratitude. Here’s one: “Da Jiang, Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Psychological Sciencesand Social Sciences, December 2020 – ‘Numerous studies have shown that gratitude can improve the mental health of people facing stressful events. However, most studies in this area have been based on laboratory experiments and retrospective surveys, rather than actual situations in which people are experiencing stress.’ ‘This study attempted to fill these gaps by examining the benefits of feeling gratitude every day during the COVID-19 outbreak. … These findings demonstrate the benefits of gratitude in a naturalistic situation that induced stress and anxiety.'”


Turning Points“The Great Commission’s Greatest Hits” – Jay Riley Case interviews Alice T. Ott at Christianity Today: “When Jesus delivered the Great Commission to a small band of disciples, they might have wondered how they were supposed to carry his gospel to the ends of the earth. Yet across the nations it spread, winning converts and planting churches everywhere it went. Alice T. Ott, a missions and world Christianity professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, surveys the pivotal moments of this journey in Turning Points in the Expansion of Christianity: From Pentecost to the Present. Jay Riley Case, a historian of missions at Malone University, spoke with Ott about the big picture and the smaller details of Christianity’s global advance. Q: What got you interested in the history of the expansion of Christianity? A: My interest is an outgrowth of my own experiences. I have loved history ever since I was a teenager. I spent 21 years of my adult life as a missionary in Germany. After my husband and I returned to the United States, I earned my PhD and started teaching courses on the history of mission and Christianity in the non-Western world. The book grew out of my research for these courses, as well as from my teaching and interacting with students.”


Haiti kidnapping“Two Kidnapped Missionaries Freed in Haiti” – From the Editors of Christianity Today: “Two members of a missionary group kidnapped in Haiti a month ago have finally been freed, leaving 15 Christians still in captivity. ‘The two hostages who were released are safe, in good spirits, and being cared for,’ stated Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) on its website. The Ohio-based group said it ‘cannot provide or confirm the names of those released, the reasons for their release, where they are from, or their current location. We encourage you to continue to pray for the full resolution of this situation,’ stated CAM. ‘While we rejoice at this release, our hearts are with the 15 people who are still being held. Continue to lift up the remaining hostages before the Lord.'”


Austin Kleon - gratitude zine“A gratitude zine: Exercises to help you feel thankful” – Austin Kleon put together this “Gratitude Zine,” which some helpful exercises for gratitude: “‘I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.’—G.K. Chesterton  It’s Thanksgiving week here in Texas, and I wanted to share with y’all another little zineI made that you can download and print out. (If you’re having dinner guests, feel free to print out enough to leave one at everyone’s place setting!) Gratitude is something I have struggled with in the past. In fact, it’s been at times in my life when I should have felt more thankful than ever that I’ve had the hardest time feeling thankful.”


harvest-wheat-farmer-hand“Agricultural Metaphors for the Christian Life” – Matthew Barrett in Tabletalk: “At the center of the Christian faith is a fundamental belief: there is no one like God. He is not the creature but the Creator, the One Isaiah says is high and lifted up (Isa. 6:1). How amazing it is, then, that this God would stoop down and make Himself known to finite and sinful creatures like us. John Calvin loved to say that God is like a nurse who bends low to lisp to a newborn. When we read the Bible, we see this accommodation whenever God uses metaphors to convey His saving message to us in a way that we can understand. These metaphors help us know God and live the Christian life coram Deo, before the face of God. For example, out of the many ways God could have communicated with Israel, He chose agricultural metaphors. Israel was a people whose existence depended on the soil. Israel was liberated from Egypt to enter the land God promised to her father Abraham. Yet notice how this land is described: it is a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 3:8). Agriculture was not only a way of life for Israel; it was a sign of God’s covenant blessing. To enjoy the fruit of the land was a sure indication that God had fulfilled His promises to Abraham.”


Myanmar fires“Army Attacks Continue in Myanmar’s Most Christian State” – Grant Peck in APNews: “More than 160 buildings in a town in northwestern Myanmar, including at least two churches, have been destroyed by fires caused by shelling by government troops, local media and activists reported Saturday. The destruction of parts of the town of Thantlang in Chin state appeared to be another escalation in the ongoing struggle between Myanmar’s military-installed government and forces opposed to it. The army seized power in February from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, but has failed to quell the widespread resistance. A government spokesman denied ‘nonsense allegations being reported in the country-destroying media,’ and blamed insurgents for instigating the fighting and setting the fires.”


Music: Jpk. (feat. Young Dre Flaco), “scars”

Thanksgiving 2021 at Eastbrook Church

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30)

Thanksgiving is a day for family to gather and give thanks for what God has done (and is doing). Join us this year for a time of worship, story-telling, and giving thanks with your Eastbrook family. This year, we will be both gathering in person for the Thanksgiving Service, and also live-streaming the service online at Eastbrook at Home.

You can give online towards the Thanksgiving Offering at eastbrook.org/giving or by texting EBCgive to 94000.

What are 5 things you’re thankful for this year?

We all have reasons to be thankful. Throughout Scripture, we are encouraged to remember and rehearse together the reasons we have to give thanks to God. The Psalms reverberate with this charge:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 106:1)

The Apostle Paul encourages believers in local churches to do this together:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

He also reminds us that our ultimate reason for giving thanks is found in Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose in victory over sin and death for us:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Even though we should give thanks at any time, it helps to have a season of year where we give special attention to remembering and rehearsing with others the reasons we are thankful.

One of our practices as a family is to give thanks for five things everyday together. So, what are five things you are thankful for today or this year?

A Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Lord, thank You for Your grace
revealed in Jesus our Messiah.
Come and glorify Jesus’ name in me
even as I share in Jesus’ glory within by faith.

Purify my desires and intentions today,
refine my pursuits and resolutions,
that as I pursue Your will and Your kingdom
You might establish and fulfill what is good in and through me.

Do a fresh work inside of me,
that work which You have already begun
and have promised to bring to fulfillment at the day of Christ.

Do a fresh work inside of me
to make me worthy of my calling
as a follower and servant of Jesus our Messiah.

All this I ask through Jesus Christ, Your one and only Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Looking Back at 2020 with Gratitude

Emmaus Road

The end of the calendar year provides a good opportunity for us look back at the previous year and to look forward at the coming year.

Oftentimes, we try to set New Year’s resolutions. I am not against the practice but much research shows that the majority of New Year’s resolutions, about 75%, are never upheld.[1]

At other times, we end up passively looking back at the previous year, letting Google’s “Year in Search” or “YouTube Rewind” tell us what happened in the past year. But this is inactive and impersonal approach to the cusp of the year doesn’t leave us with much ownership of what has happened or what is coming.

We need something different here; something more. Because all of our life is a gift from God, I’d like to suggest we need something more, which enables us to meaningfully, personally, and actively direct our attention to God as we stand on the final moments of one year and embark upon a new year.

I’d like to share out of some of my own practices for this in two direction: 1) looking back at the previous year and 2) stepping forward into the coming year. And I’d like to root that in the psalms, where we have been spending a good deal of time over the past month.

Looking Back: Give thanks

There is so much we can do with the year that has gone by, but one of the best practices is to look back with thanksgiving to God for who He is and what He has done. Psalm 136 is an extended prayer of thanksgiving, and serves as an example of thanksgiving for us. Here are the first few verses:

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
(Psalm 136:1-3)

Psalm 136 is a catalog of thanksgiving to God. There are a lot of ways we can think about our previous year, but gratitude does something powerful to us. It reshapes our outlook from negativity to positivity. As G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”[2]

One simple way I have found helpful in looking back over my previous year with gratitude is to simply look over my calendar for the previous year, taking time to thank God for the ways I saw Him at work in my life. Some are simple, like the visit from a friend or a surprise guest who lifted my spirits. Others are more in-depth, like big projects I was able to complete or key life transitions like a milestone birthday for me, a friend or family member, or a surgery that someone made it through successfully. As I look over that calendar, I simply offer thanks to God for what He has done.

Another thing that has helped me, and is even easier in the current technological era, is to look through my pictures from the past year. Visually, I can see the experiences, events and relationships that easily become sources of gratitude. As with the calendar, as I look at those pictures, I offer thanks to God for what He has done and the gifts He has given me in this past year.

Sometimes, I have found it particularly helpful to write a list of thanksgiving to God. It can be as simple as pulling out a piece of paper, writing “Thank you, God:” at the top, and then writing a bulleted list of at least 10-20 things that I am thankful for from the past year. You may find, like me, that the list becomes longer than you expected.


[1] Ashira Prossack, “This Year Don’t Set New Year’s Resolutions,” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashiraprossack1/2018/12/31/goals-not-resolutions/.

[2] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/5-quotes-from-g-k-chesterton-on-gratitude-and-thanksgiving/.