Happy Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving weekend in my part of the world. I know I have so much to be thankful for. This has been a big year.

Last night, Peter and I went out for dinner with friends to celebrate his 30th birthday. I’m unspeakably thankful for this guy and that we get to share life together and grow old together. I’m thankful for friends and the extra money to go out to eat. I’m thankful for grandparents who babysit and a baby who sleeps through.

I’m thankful for our church – our community here on the Coast and in other places. The friends we have here and the friends who are now scattered around the world.

I’m thankful for the Thanksgiving dinner that we’ll have tonight and that I have no doubt will be delicious. I’m thankful for my family who are coming to visit tomorrow.

I have so much to be thankful for.

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

Give thanks in all circumstances. The things I’ve mentioned are easy to be thankful for because they are such good things. It’s easy to be thankful for my marriage, my home, my friends. It’s easy to be thankful for my daughter and her life. It’s hard to be thankful for the fearful time that preceded her birth. It’s hard to be thankful for what came before – for miscarriage and loss and difficult diagnoses.

But God’s will in my life is for me to rejoice, to give thanks. To pray without ceasing. Which, really, is the key to all of this. I don’t know how to be thankful for any of these things – good or bad – without filtering that thanks through Jesus. When I think of the great love my God has for me, my thanks seems weak.

So I could focus on the hard stuff, the stuff I don’t understand, the times and memories that will always be twinged with pain. But, with God’s help, I can look at my life with new eyes. At a recent medical exam, the tech commented on a congenital issue that I have and asked me if it was hard for me to get pregnant. “Not really,” I said, without going into a lot of detail.

“Well, you have the most pronounced version I’ve ever seen,” she told me. I have no idea how many women she’s seen with my particular style of misshapen uterus but it struck me once more how much I have to be grateful for. How delicate the balance of life is. The goodness of God in my life that I am so far from worthy of but that has shown up again and again, in the light and in the dark. In ways that, I think, I’m not even yet aware of. There are things God is teaching me; I am still learning. I am learning to give thanks in all circumstances. I have so much to be thankful for.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Unfathomable

There is so much about God that I don’t understand and I often struggle to worship what I think of as the unfathomable nature of God. Generally, when I think about God being unfathomable it refers to the hard stuff. Death, punishment, suffering – all the things that happen and that I know break God’s heart and yet they continue to occur. That stuff is hard to understand. I’m not designed to understand it. Mostly, I think, because it isn’t the way God meant for things to be. Instead, sin entered the world. We invited sin into our world and we continue to do so. But why doesn’t God stop it? Why does He let us suffer so much sometimes?

In Exodus, God tells Moses and the people of Israel of the land that He prepares for them. The land that He will bring them to and make their own.

You shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.”

Exodus 23:25-26

A perfect land awaits the Israelites. A Garden of Eden where food is plentiful and none get sick. The Israelites reach the landscape but they never live in the land that God describes. A quick glance around will tell you that we don’t live there either.

This weekend, as we mourn the death of Christ and we celebrate His resurrection, I am reminded of another unfathomable aspect of God.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

What is harder to understand than someone sacrificing their own child? Someone sacrificing their own child for me? for my neighbours? for the boys who shot up Columbine? for (insert whatever terrible person you want here – Christ died for them too). What kind of love is that? Are we worthy recipients of that kind of love?

Absolutely not. Paul says it right there in Romans – we were sinners and God did that for us. But we don’t push against this unfathomable act as much as others because this act benefits us. This act saved us. We will never understand it.

Did you know that unfathomable actually means “incapable of being measured”? A fathom is a unit of measurement used for water. Unfathomable means the fathoms cannot be counted – the bottom cannot be reached. It is the measurement of His love for us.

There is a lot that I don’t know. I have no idea how much God loves me. It is unfathomable.

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour or each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah 31:33-34

Happy Easter. He is risen indeed.

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