Thank You!

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Today is the second anniversary of the day I was afraid I might not see another glorious autumn in the Kootenays. On that day surgeons removed a malignant tumour from my abdomen. It has not returned.

I’m still here.

I’m still rejoicing.

I’m still learning about confident trust.

I’m still changing.

God is still magnificent!

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Behold—God is my salvation!
I am confident, unafraid, and I will trust in you.”
Yes! The Lord Yah is my might and my melody;
he has become my salvation!
 
With triumphant joy you will drink deeply
from the wells of salvation.
 
In that glorious day, you will say to one another,
“Give thanks to the Lord and ask him for more!
Tell the world about all that he does!
Let them know how magnificent he is!”

(Isaiah 12:2-4 The Passion Translation)

 

There is Always, Always Something to Be Thankful For

 

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Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!

We Canadians celebrated our Thanksgiving back in October, but every day is a good day to be thankful, so I’m ready to celebrate again.

Someone asked why Canadians changed the date. Apparently Martin Frobisher held the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1578, forty years before the Pilgrims arrived in the new country — not that it’s a contest. I found out that I have deep roots in Canada, but I am also a descendent of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, so I feel entitled to be thankful at least twice a year.

In fact, I am entitled to be thankful every day of the year. I don’t say that lightly. I don’t always feel thankful, especially after weeks of cluster headaches and other unexplained physical torments. Sometimes the sacrifice of praise is just that — a sacrifice. It’s not easy. Sometimes it comes through teeth gritted in pain or a heart broken in sorrow.

Coupled with hope, the sacrifice of praise is a pure, distilled form of worship, I think. It leads us to the table in the valley where the feast is kept.

“Yet, will I praise you,” the Psalmist wrote. “Your lovingkindness endures forever.” Praise re-focuses our attention on the character of the God of all comfort. Thankfulness helps us remember his provision. There is always, always something to be thankful for.

This week my two youngest granddaughters (on opposite sides of the country) both celebrated losing first teeth on the same day. I am thankful for their joy and evidence they are growing up.

This week the tax department told my husband he owes them more money. I am thankful that he still earns money and for good healthcare that doesn’t leave us destitute.

This week a friend dropped by with flowers, other friends prayed for me, my kids and grandkids called, I got to know a nephew better (what fascinating adventures he has had!). I am thankful for caring fellow-travellers on this journey.

I am thankful for a nearly blank calendar which allows me to rest when I need to.

Mostly I am thankful to Jesus, the Lover of my soul, who never leaves or gives up on me and still gives me songs in the night.

Lord, you never fail me. Thank you.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

(Hebrews 13:15 NIV)

 

Summer and Winter and Springtime and Harvest

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Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

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Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

(from Great is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas Chisholm)

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Thanks for Everything

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On the kind of dull November day when you need lights on in the house all the time and it’s too cold to open a window for fresh air, I drove out past the houses to go for a walk and rid myself of a sluggish mood and heavy heart. I started thanking God for everything, the tests, the joys, the quiet, the noise…

Then the sun broke through

and I felt him smile.

Thank you!

Everything in me says

“Thank you!”

Angels listen as I sing my thanks.
I kneel in worship facing your holy temple
and say it again:

“Thank you!”

Thank you for your love,
thank you for your faithfulness;

(Psalm 138:1,2 The Message)

Remember, Remember

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“I was not pleased, during my childhood, to have been born in November, as there wasn’t much inspiration for birthday party motifs. February children got hearts, May ones flowers, but what was there for me? A cake surrounded by withered leaves?”
— Margaret Atwood

Sometimes I agree with Margaret. November is not my favourite month. In the fading light of autumn it seems like a constant reminder that life is short. I keep warning myself not to compare but as the dullness of winter approaches my mind goes back to more pleasant sunny days. Maybe that’s why the theme of remembrance keeps showing up this time of year –Remembrance Day here, the chants of “Remember, remember the fifth of November” in the UK and Thanksgiving in the US. Thanksgiving is really the healthiest way to handle November I think.

We can choose to remember with bitterness or with thanks, but I’ve noticed that if we fail to re-cap the memories of the goodness of God and thank him, those strengthening moments eventually are lost to us under piles of bitterness and complaints. Without re-calling the good times we project disappointment for ourselves and others. Some elderly people in the November of their lives are a delight to visit; some are not. The ones who remember the good times and are appreciative give away a sense of hope. The ones who rehearse their disappointment give away a sense of impending doom.

I’ve been realizing how much negativity has robbed me not only of my past, but of my future. I need to change. I can compare my life to those who seem to have been granted hearts and flowers from birth and focus on my dead leaves, or I can recall memories of God’s faithfulness — even in those leaves, and glory in their colour, saying, “Thank you, Lord! You are good, and You have a wonderful plan for my life.”

And mean it.

Thanks for What?

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I’ll be honest, winter has always been a tough time for me. It’s like I feel grief for the flowers and trees that drop their dying leaves and petals. It seems, especially on overcast days, that all the colour has been sucked out of the world. I tend to stay inside on days like this, trying not to be envious of places that know perpetual summer. I know the winter is an essential part of the ecosystem, and snow can be pretty, but my flowers are dead, and I am sad.

When I was a kid I was taught to recite the verse that says, “In everything gives thanks for this is the will of God concerning you.” They told me that every bad thing that happened was God’s will for me. For many years I tried to bear pain and shame because I thought this is the life God chose for me, this is my cross to bear. Frankly it left me feeling more like God’s victim than his beloved child.

There are religious systems in the world that teach that everything that happens is fate doled out by god or gods, or is the result of punishment earned by sins in a former life. Some go so far as to teach that trying to raise yourself out of poverty by getting a better education, for example, is wrong because it does not accept fate. How can we pray for ourselves, or for others, when we call illness and poverty and broken hearts “God’s will?” How can we risk change or compassion when it appears God himself lacks compassion?IMG_5835 winter flower 2

I have found that when something seems like an insurmountable obstacle, it is wise to back up and see the bigger picture. In this case I needed to back up and see the bigger context of the passage this verse came from. I looked it up in several translations. Many made it clearer that “this” referred to more than “everything.” The Phillips version:

Live together in peace, and our instruction to this end is to reprimand the unruly, encourage the timid, help the weak and be very patient with all men. Be sure that no one repays a bad turn by a bad turn; good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large. Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:13b-18)

So what is the will of God?

Live together in peace

Reprimand the unruly (patiently)

Encourage the timid

Help the weak

Be very patient with all people

Help each other not to return a bad turn for a bad turn

Make goodness your objective

Be happy in your faith

Never stop praying

Be thankful whatever your circumstance (there is always something to be thankful for)

So the will of God is not degenerative bone disease, or rebellious children, or financial devastation, but a way of life that brings about change from the inside out.

See the bigger picture. Back up and look at scripture in context. If some verses appear to contradict the character of God, and who he has revealed himself to be through Christ Jesus (who said “If you have seen me you have seen the Father,) then it is worth searching the scriptures for their setting. In this case it is inconsistent with the character of God to ask his beloved children to thank him for everything evil thing that happens to them. He says we can be thankful in every circumstance though.

There is something about being in Christ Jesus that gives us the strength to have a thankful attitude and look for hope in the middle of a mess, knowing God has a solution for every problem, and invites us to ask him for it.

Thankfulness is a mindfulness of the love and goodness of God, even when our circumstances are dismal, even when winter hides the dormant flowers.

Thankfulness allows us to walk by faith and not by sight. Thankfulness facilitates change; it reminds us that Jesus said he came to destroy the works of the devil, not glorify them.

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