When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:27-28)
Today across America, families will gather together and prompt one another to announce what they are grateful for. Many will include in their schedules their family members and perhaps some friends among the other milestones they voice. I too am grateful beyond words for my loving wife and best friend (one in the same) and my fabulous son, now grown into a good man. There is one thing that supersedes them but does not diminish them in any way. One thing we all share as a family and that is the privilege of being even in the vicinity of Christ.
There are many times when I am unable to be face to face with my Lord but to know that His power is so great that just a glancing brush against the hem of His garment can heal brings peace. To know that if the best I can muster is to graze my fingers over the trailing cloth and healing will be available is knowledge to be thankful for. And treasured. And shared. My hope is that all of you are able to know this same thankfulness and, if you don’t, you feel free to ask me about it. It’s not to be missed.
It is part and parcel of our nature to find ourselves wallowing in the problems we face and the struggles that confront us. Just as Jesus promised, we have more than enough trouble to go around in this world. And yet, we are to be people of thanks for we have received the greatest gift possible, life. We have been restored from our exile in darkness and given the ability to walk in the glorious light. We have been restored into kingdom of the King who matters. Our thanks should mirror God’s people who were once also restored from exile:
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:
“He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:10-13)
Give thanks today for your struggles. Give thanks today for your restoration and return from the darkness. Give thanks for your family and friends, your wealth or poverty, your sickness or health. Give thanks that God has everything under his control…and that you don’t have to. Give thanks for your trust in that idea.
In our little corner of the world, we awoke to the first meaningful snowfall of the season with three or four inches blanketing the grass that I just cut a few days ago. There is an interesting anomaly that occurs when it snows at night; the normally pitch dark early hours of the morning are transformed into a bright-as-day panorama by the reflection of the available light. Looking out the window, one can see everything that is normally hidden under the cover of darkness. Many a nocturnal creature has revealed themselves to me as they padded across the snowy landscape.
The clean, white snow is a common metaphor in the scriptures but one comes to mind for which I am continually thankful:
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land;
but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” (Isaiah 1:18-20)
To know that the blood of my Savior, dark and crimson washes me as white as the freshly fallen snow is that for which I am most thankful. To have the Holy Spirit in me reflects the glory of the Lord, pushing aside the darkness in the world wherever he leads me, a humbling task to which I am gratefully called. In the purity of the snowfall, there is much to appreciate…
Only the most calloused heart can hear these words sung to those familiar chords and not be thankful for the Hand that extends the grace necessary to pluck the sinking from the waves that threaten at any moment to permanently take them under. When Jesus announced his ministry to those enslaved by the burdens of the law, He gave meaning to the “good news”;
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:17-18)
As Arlo says here, “we can’t be afraid to turn around…and do the right thing.”
3 A.M. is a lonely hour. There is little to sway your thoughts as you peer into the darkness outside to try to determine what that howling wind is doing to the trees in the neighborhood. You look over and notice that the lights are on in a neighbor’s house and you wonder what they might be doing up at this hour. Mostly, you are alone with your thoughts, undeterred by the work of the day ahead.
You examine your life and reflect upon how you come to find yourself precisely where you are. The struggles and heartbreaks that you have endured have not always been welcome companions. As a follower of Christ, perhaps you thought that things would be different. Maybe things would be easier and a certain level of comfort and success might be yours. As your mind looks out into the early morning blackness you wonder why things couldn’t be different. Your Bible opens to James and you read a well known passage…
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
This may be one of the greatest challenges that the Christian faces on their journey through this world. The message that bombards us is that trials are not what we should be facing, the road should be smooth and wide. When travails become the norm, well-wishers ask us to look at what we might have done to bring this on ourselves. “Are you being punished for something?” they unknowingly ask. The Bible reader, on the other hand, discovers that these things are from the hand of God for the benefit of his sons and daughters.
James says to consider it PURE JOY when trials come into our lives because this means that our Father is strengthening us and maturing us for what comes ahead. When we begin to look at things in this way, suddenly our perspective on everything that comes our way shifts. Our reflection on struggle A or trouble B moves from the woe is me, why is this happening stage to the thank you God, what should I be learning from this stage in life vantage point. When each trouble, big or small, increases our trust in the ultimate goodness of God we become more and more aware of how thankful we should be for these troubles. And thanks we will give…
As the week counts down toward the day of our feast, it is a good period in which to reflect on the multitude of things for which we are or can be thankful. This quiet reflection can be a counterpoint to the ever-deafening roar of THE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SEASON!!! It seems as though all eyes have already peeked beyond Thanksgiving to the altar of consumerism commemorated on Black Friday. I begin with the root of all of my thanks…
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
How can we not be thankful for this sacrifice? Sooner or later, we all realize that there would be no way for us to earn the great gift that is offered us; we are totally incapable of purifying ourselves enough to be in presence of the Holy. The righteousness that allows us to be called ‘friends’ of God came by the sacrifice of one who looked beyond our pitiful state and gave the ultimate reason for thanks.