Thanks In All Things

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This past weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada. I have so many things to be thankful for – I wake up each morning in a warm house, in a beautiful little town, with my husband and daughter. I know how fortunate I am.

At the same time, it’s hard to give thanks right now. It’s hard for me to feel thankful in all things. Which, as a Christian, I’m called to do. I don’t know how I’m supposed to be thankful for the loss of a baby – or if that’s even what I’m supposed to strive for.

In the days before Pearl’s birth I remember reading the story of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3 and being comforted by the fact that we worship a God who enters the furnace with us. We were saved from that furnace and given a healthy baby. The men in Daniel were also saved; although they were thrown to the fire, they were unharmed.

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire…They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Daniel 3: 26b, 27b

But what do you do when you are not saved from the fire?

I don’t think I’m expected to give thanks for the fire itself. I do believe that my God weeps with me. The Bible never ever chastises the mournful. Jesus himself wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11). In Exodus 23, the Promised Land is described as a place where none are barren and there is no miscarriage. Clearly we don’t live there yet. I find it comforting that God’s perfect plan doesn’t involve the loss of my baby. And I find it confusing that an omnipotent God allowed that loss.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3:17-18

In Daniel, the men declare that they believe God will rescue them. But even if He doesn’t, they will not turn from Him. They are thrown into the fire and a fourth figure is seen in the furnace with them. That is the strange and confusing and beautiful part of our faith. We are not always saved from the fire but we are never alone in it.

I will not be burned up by this fire. I will not bow down to the gods of grief and loss. I am here right now but this is not my forever. Slowly, slowly, I will give thanks. God help me.

This weekend we skipped town for a couple of days with some very wonderful friends in Victoria. Pearl’s first trip to the place where Peter and I met and fell in love and spent the first year of our marriage.

Downtown Victoria Harbour

Downtown Victoria Harbour

We were fortunate enough to be able to fly by seaplane from Sechelt, which makes the trip so much faster. Pearl’s first time on a seaplane went very well, though she refused to wear the ear protection they provided for her.

Telling me to catch up on a walk with friends.

Telling me to catch up on a walk with friends.

There was a lot we didn’t get to do in our quick trip but we did get to catch up with some of my favourite people, meet a new-ish baby, visit my old workplace/Canada’s largest bookstore, and walk a little through a lovely city.

Tried to take a picture of these two at the bookstore and Pearl is picking her nose.

Tried to take a picture of these two at the bookstore and Pearl is picking her nose.

Also, Pearl discovered she can put her hands in her pockets so please enjoy one of my favourite pictures ever:

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There is a lot to be thankful for.

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He Has Risen

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

Luke 24:5

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Easter. I love this holiday. I love the chocolate and the flowers and the sunshine. But I love it most because this weekend is central to what I believe, central to the faith that I build my life around. This is the day we celebrate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice that saves us.

Last week I learnt of the death of someone I’ve known for almost twenty years. A wonderful Christian woman who there wasn’t a bad thing to say about. A woman well-loved, surrounded by people who wanted to spend many more years with her. It seems so unfair. As I went through the week and sat in a church service on Good Friday, it didn’t feel like death had been defeated.

Our pastor read out to us, in that Good Friday service, the final words that Jesus spoke before He died on the cross. One of those statements was to the thief who was crucified next to Him.

He said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

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I know that this woman, who once made me chocolate cupcakes shaped like swans, is in Paradise with Jesus today. Right this minute.

And while we grieve here and now, our sorrow is temporary. In this way, death has not won. Death has not separated us from our Lord.

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For a weekend each year, we are close to death. To that ultimate and inconceivable sacrifice that Jesus made for us. I understand it and yet I don’t. This Easter, I feel an extra compassion for Mary Magdalene, who found the tomb empty and wept.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher.

John 20:11-16

Mary wept for the death of her friend and teacher. She wept because, like each of us when faced with death, we do not understand. We mourn our loss and we see only a terrible finality where, in fact, something wonderful has begun.

We linger among the dead when we are actually looking for those who are alive again.

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God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8