Religion

Thanksgiving Comes First

Blog_AutumnLeavesThe last of the leaves take their final stand against the impending cold. Soon, the branches will be empty, the ground paved with a glittery blanket of snow. Autumn’s season of beauty and death is coming to a close. In its midst—Thanksgiving.

Before holiday revelers haul out the holly, trim trees, and haunt the malls, Thanksgiving comes, quiet and gentle. Before gifts are exchanged, Thanksgiving. And before the clock turns to welcome a new year—Thanksgiving.

We want to skip the season of death—when color is gone and trees, barren. The rush of the holiday season promises to suppress the feeling of loss. Deals at the stores await, beckoning us to forget. Maybe we just need someTHING new, someTHING tangible, someTHING to hold our attention captive. Or maybe we just need a whole new year.

But Thanksgiving comes first, putting everything into perspective if only we still our souls to listen and learn the secret.

Death becomes a thing of beauty. We’re able to let go, no longer needing to fill the empty spaces with the latest and greatest distraction to hit the holiday shelves. We no longer need to wait for a New Year for change to come.

Gratitude reminds us that we have all we need. It tells us that loss brings life. It leads us to transform in the glory of knowing God’s mercies are new EVERY morning.

The holiday season is upon us. And Thanksgiving comes first…as it always has, and as it always should.

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Why Do You Look for the Living Among the Dead?

Empty Tomb from CrossCardsWhen hope dies, it’s hard to believe life can prevail.  We remain at the burial site—gazing upon what we’ve lost, unaware that something greater is destined to arise from the ashes.  Helen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  When Jesus died on the cross, those who had followed him closely were unaware that His death was only the opening of a greater door in which God was about to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that [they could] ask or think” (Eph 3:20).

The women who witnessed the miraculous were met with the question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). They earnestly came to Jesus’ disciples with news of the empty tomb, only to be met with disbelief.  It was as if they had come to a tomb of another kind—where hope itself was permanently laid to rest.  The disciples who’d walked with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry had mistakenly believed He’d come to set up an earthly kingdom.  He had been their hope of liberation from oppressive governmental and religious systems—a political Messiah.

When He died on the cross, their dreams died with Him; when they buried Him in the tomb, they buried their aspirations as well.  They did not understand Jesus’ destiny of suffering, predictions of death or promises of resurrection. They didn’t understand He had far greater things for them, an everlasting hope.

Many times we find ourselves in what appears to be a hopeless situation—a graveyard of disenchantment, surrounded by death.  Life has disappointed us; we have disappointed ourselves.  It seems that God has abandoned us to the grave.  We cry out for hope, but Heaven is as brass.  Alone in a graveyard of doubt and defeat, it seems that the promise of resurrection was nothing more than an illusion.

Yet it is when we have come to the end of ourselves that we are on the verge of finding true life.  When things seem most hopeless, we are closer to a breakthrough than ever before.  Why?  Because we finally come to realize that the things we were hoping in were not worthy of our trust to begin with.  They were incapable of sustaining us or providing the life we were looking for.  We finally seal false hope in a tomb—never to be revisited.  This is the beginning of resurrection.

When find ourselves at the entrance to life’s tombs, we have not come to a place of death:  we have instead arrived at the door that leads to everlasting life and hope.  Jesus’ death on the cross is an invitation to die to all our unworthy expectations.  His resurrection is an invitation to find hope that will never die.

A Simple Prayer

blog_snowywoods“Live simply, love generously, serve faithfully, speak truthfully, pray daily. Leave everything else to God.” I saw this quote while sitting in a café the other day. As I consider the direction of my life, these words speak to me about a simple yet profound calling. So often, we’re looking for the big, the extravagant, the noticeably noble. We want to be significant, and we perceive significance as something evident to the masses.

Yet what if greatness has a humbler definition?

And that’s why this has become my prayer, and my desired life-theme. To truly live simply—not bogged down by temporary things, unnecessary work, trivial concerns, or excessive material endeavors. To love generously: that my love for all would be abundant, honest, and overflowing…not in word alone, but in action and in truth.

Father God, remove every ounce of selfishness from within me: my self-centeredness, self-preservation, self-exaltation. Move in my heart to make me someone who thinks of others more than I think of myself.

Let my service be for the motive of honoring you by helping others. Let it be pure and untiring, all-encompassing—infiltrating all I do and done with all my heart, soul and strength. I confess I’ve grown weary in well-doing. Please renew my strength.

Tame my tongue to be still when I need to be silent and to speak truth boldly and always with love. Strip me of the veil of the fear of man.

I’ve been prayerless, so move me to pray. Prayerlessness is the root of all my trials, or my misunderstanding of your purpose in the midst of trials. Release me from bondage to laziness and unbelief, that my prayers may flow unwavering, unhindered, and unceasingly to you.

Build up my faith to know with confidence that when I’ve done all you ask of me, I can be at peace and leave all else to you. I want to live at ease with you, knowing you alone hold my life and I will stand before you alone at the end to give account for my thoughts, words, and actions.

This is my simple prayer.

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Woods, Forest, Trees, Winter – Free Image on Pixabay …

New Every Morning

Blog_SnowSunriseThe New Year brings with it the promise of new opportunities. When the calendar turns, we see a clean slate before us. Things we’ve been waiting to change finally meet the resolve that comes with a fresh start. As we reflect on the year that’s fading into memory, we consider the year to come and all we desire it will bring.

Unfortunately, many of the resolutions made with the turning of the year never come to fruition. A few weeks pass, and discipline wanes. Desire for change is overcome by the monotony of life, and it becomes easier to slip back into old patterns. It isn’t long before our resolutions are forgotten, and the guilt of not meeting our goals is buried beneath the tyranny of the urgent. “Oh well,” we think. “We can always wait…’til next year.”

Why must we wait? Why put off change for another year, when there’s an opportunity to change…now? God’s Word carries the good news that change is possible every day: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning…” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

With God, every day is New Year’s Day. He supplies the power we need to change. We don’t need to keep putting it off. When we stumble and fall—when we wrestle with our old habits and ways, we don’t have to wait long for another chance to turn it all around. Every minute of every day is a new opportunity for transformation. Today is the day of salvation, this moment is the moment for renewal and change. We don’t have to wait another second, another minute…another year. This is the time for new beginnings—a new season, a new day.

Yet with this hope comes the somber reality that tomorrow is not promised. We never know when we will take our last breath. So why not spend our every breath living the transformed life we desire, rather than living dead in the grave of regret? Change is possible. Today is a new day. We may not have tomorrow, so let’s make the most of the gift of the time we have.

A Now Event

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Change is not some obscure future event. It’s a NOW event. And we don’t have to wait for another countdown.

 

Photo Credit: Alpine – Free images on Pixabay

You Don’t Have to Wait

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What difference would it make to know that change is possible today, and every day, and every minute of the day? And it’s possible in the most impossible of circumstances, the most stubborn of habits.

 

Photo Credit: Free illustration: Change, New Beginning, Board, Wood – Free Image …

Five, four, three, two…

Blog_NewYears_TimePassingThe countdown has begun. Even before the Christmas décor was transferred to the clearance shelves, New Years items decked the aisles not far from Valentine’s displays, reminding us we have only a few days left to procrastinate on our resolutions. As the clock swiftly ticks away second after second, we down the last of our holiday sweets knowing it’s a matter of time before we trade the chocolate box for a gym membership.

Just the other day, I came across an ad for a decadent triple-chocolate cheesecake across from another ad for a miracle weight-loss program. Yeah, it’ll take a miracle to lose the pounds gained from eating a slice of that cheesecake before the next New Year. That is, IF I choose the miracle weight-loss program. OR any weight-loss program that takes me beyond the newness-inspired first month of the year.

But maybe there’s another option. Maybe I could choose to change today. Except, of course, that would mean resisting the urge to eat the whole cheesecake.

Actually, I don’t care much for cheesecake, though there are plenty other calorie-filled temptations out there to lure me away from a good resolution. But the whole thing has me thinking…why do we always procrastinate when it comes to change? We’re always waiting for the clean slate of tomorrow, or next week, or a new year.

What difference would it make to know that change is possible today, and every day, and every minute of the day? And that change doesn’t only have to do with shedding a few New Years pounds. Change is possible in the most impossible of circumstances, the most stubborn of habits.

I think of the story of a man named Zaccheus—a tax collector in Bible times who’d devoted his life to cheating people of their hard-earned money. Until, that is, an encounter with Jesus changed it all. His heart was so deeply transformed he gave half his possessions to the poor and refunded four times what he’d stolen. He didn’t wait for another day or a new year. The moment he was prompted to change, he repented.

That’s the GOOD NEWS. Change is not some obscure future event. It’s a NOW event. And we don’t have to wait for another countdown.