Friday, November 14, 2008


"Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, and His love endures forever. Call upon His holy name."

It's an old worship song that I haven't heard in years, but it's been resonating in my head today. The chorus goes on to say, "Rejoice in the Lord, rejoice in the Lord, let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice."

This is a tough time to feel thankful for many. The economy is a mess, people are losing their jobs. Prices are rising, as the value of our dollars are falling. Our home values are decreasing - things are tough all over.

But go back to the words of the song, it says to give thanks to the Lord because He is good. It doesn't say because things are good, but rather because God Himself is good.

Lord, the bills are high, the debt is deep. There isn't much good in the world to be very excited about, life is hard. But You, Lord, are good.

"Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." James 1:16-17

There is a great commentary on about this passage of scripture. It says in part, "It is not every man who suffers, that is blessed; but he who with patience and constancy goes through all difficulties in the way of duty. Afflictions cannot make us miserable, if it be not our own fault. The tried Christian shall be a crowned one."

As believers, even in our suffering, we have something to be thankful for. Our suffering and struggling is not in vain. God has purpose in it. Sometimes the suffering could even be seen as the gift.

I think back in a time in our lives when that was true. Ethan's adoption was a 3 year battle. It was hard fought, and there were times when it even seemed hopeless. I remember the day in the fall of 2003 when we got the call that Ethan's birth father intended to fight us for custody. Here we had been loving and raising this precious little boy, our son, for almost 3 years and someone wanted to take him from our home, from us. And at the time there was a very real possibility he could have accomplished it. (But God.) It was such a dark hour. (If only it had been that short.) But I look back now at that whole time period in our lives, and even the story of that exact day, and I know there was purpose in the suffering. God took us to a deeper place in Him, not just Neal and I, but Jacob too. And someday when Ethan and Victoria are old enough to hear and understand all the details, it will strengthen their faith too.

You know, this nation may choose to forget it, but the purpose of the inception of Thanksgiving Day was very specific. It was initially implemented as a day of prayer and fasting to thank God for His blessing on our nation but even more to pray for unity to come as the nation was divided. I don't know all the specific details, but I do know that it was around the time of the civil war. Interesting how separation of church and states wasn't an issue as Lincoln called the nation to prayer.

I'm not going to go off on a long tangent about forefathers, God in our nation and politics. But I do think that it should be given consideration that to express gratitude and thanks, we have to be expressing it to someone, Some One.

I want to reflect on the fact that no matter what I face, or what may rise up or come against me, my circumstances in this life are not my reality. What is my reality is that I have a God who is for me, and that nothing can separate me from His love. My reality is that He will order my steps, He will make provision, even in places where there seems no way. I am thankful for that, and I hope to find the way to express it not only with my words, but with my life.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

"Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing." Psalm 107: 21-22

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"... but God..."

Honestly a lot of the last few days are a little blurry. But Sunday at church our Pastor was talking about prayer in this time of economic crisis (I think that's what he was talking about, sorry Pastor) and he made this statement, he said simply, "but God...." He was talking about how we as Christians, will have times of trial, or apparent hopeless situations, like when a job is lost, and you don't know how you're going to pay the rent, but God suddenly comes through and provides in some amazing way.

Yesterday I sat with my arm around my grandmother as she said good-bye to her husband of 66 years. Throughout the day she kept telling me how proud she was of Neal and I for taking our kids to church so faithfully, and how blessed we are. I am one of ten grandchildren and two "step" grandchildren. To my absolute knowledge one of my "step" cousins and and I are the only ones who are "in church," and I'm the only one who is with her children. (My "step" cousin doesn't have any children.) I'm not saying my other cousins don't believe in God, to my knowledge only one is a self-proclaimed atheist, and there are a couple who I honestly know nothing about. Our family is so disconnected and broken, that only two of my grandfather's 3 sons were even at his funeral yesterday, and the other one only came to the 30 minute ceremony at the cemetery and then disappeared again. I probably won't see him again until the next family funeral, and then honestly that will depend on whose it is.

My kids (at this current time) are the extent of the legacy of my grandmother's prayers. I am certain that she has prayed for her children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren, and my kids have received the benefits of those prayers. As I had my grandmother under my arm, she said, "I don't know how people do it without the Lord." She was talking about grieving. How do you say good-bye to someone you love without Him? My grandparents were together for 66 years, since she was 16 and he was 19, they have walked this life always, as man and wife.

My thought was, I cannot imagine losing Neal, and we have only been a couple for almost 20 years (married almost 18 of them); I would be lost without him, it would break my heart to say good-bye. If that's how I feel after just 20 years, what must it be like after 66? I think to myself, I would just want to crawl up and die with him, but God would give me the strength to carry on. I think to myself, how can you not be overwhelmed with loneliness, but God would make his presence known. I think to myself, I would weep till I drowned in my own tears, but God would be the God of all comfort in my life. I think to myself, I would ache at the thought of never seeing my partner again in this life, but God would remind me of the hope of eternity.

What powerful words these two little words are, "but God." I think to myself, I was so lost and broken, dying in my sin, but God came to me and rescued me from myself. There was a time when I thought surely I would never experience the joy of being a mom, but God opened my womb and brought forth Jacob and Victoria, but God saw fit to allow us to participate in the miracle of Ethan's adoption. And that experience, so many "but God" moments in it, we hit mountains that seemed insurmountable, but God made a way where there was no way.

I am grateful for the legacy my children have of a praying great-grandmother, at least two of them actually, because the god of this world wants to draw my children away from Jesus, destroy them but God has His hand over them, He is watching over them. I am grateful that I have the marriage I do, because there was a time when I wasn't sure Neal and I would make it, but God came into our lives and our marriage and made it for His glory. I know we will face losses, struggles, trials and tragedies, but God will be with us, He will lead us, He will care for us, because no one but God loves us like He does.