2020: So much to be thankful for

A Thanksgiving like no other. A year like no other. Nothing is the same this year. We have learned that we cannot count on anything. Thanksgiving is different. Football is different. School is different. Work is different. Politics is different. Even Black Friday is different. Only one thing remains the same . . .

And as important as family is, its not family. Even family looks different this year. We may be spending more time with some and less time with others. Anxiety and depression may be impacting our relations. We may be forced to distance from some by law or guilt or shame. And we may have lost members due to the pandemic, or violence or any number of other reasons.

And as important as church is, its not church. Churches have shut their doors, limited their praise and worship, become divided, and distanced themselves from their purpose. Some have become mired in scandal and corruption.

2020 has spared no one and no thing. Basketball legends, rock and roll stars, television stars have passed away. Political leaders, historical figures, saints and popes have been called into question. The environment has been ravaged by Australian bush fires, wild fires, and hurricane after hurricane.

We cannot even rely on the local grocery store having toilet paper.

Nothing remains the same. No one has not been impacted. What is left for us to rely on when the government, the economy, the healthcare system, the retailers, and even the churches let us down?

God. God hasn’t changed. God hasn’t shut down. God hasn’t socially distanced. In a year when we cannot count on anything to be the same, including family gatherings, we can still count on God.

Perhaps this is why, Jesus tells that we must renounce all things in order to be His disciple:

“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:26-33

As hard as 2020 has seemed, I see it as a gift. A gift of vision and wisdom which I am incredibly thankful for. Its hard to do what Jesus tells us we must do in order to follow Him. But 2020 has made it a little easier. We have had many things taken away: family gatherings, fancy weddings, graduation parties, sporting events, movie theaters, restaurants and even toilet paper. Our health has been jeopardized and the entire world is paralyzed. And yet, it may be the most glorious year. I have discovered I don’t need television and movies (my two favorite past times). I don’t need my favorite football or baseball team. I don’t need celebrities, politicians, business leaders or church leaders. I don’t need holidays or family gatherings. I don’t need church buildings or services. I just need God, the only true constant, the only one we can truly rely upon. Everything else, everyone else, is secondary. Like the builder and the king, I have a better sense of the cost and the value. I know I am capable of finishing the work and taking on the battle. And because I have taken advantage of some of the isolation and down time to draw closer to God, I know it is worth it. Of course, this is easier when there is nothing else to do. There is still work to be done to gird myself for this battle, when other options try to distract me or encourage me to give up my cross for the supposed luxuries of today. I still need to choose every day to put God first, but 2020 has given me hope.

Dear God,

Thank you for the gift of 2020. Thank you for taking away so many distractions and opening up my eyes and ears and heart to you. I renounce everything that is of this world, in order to put you first in my life. I pray for the strength to continue on this journey even when the distractions return. You alone are my Lord and my savior. With you I know I need want for nothing more.

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

Do you ever wonder what God is calling you to do?  I think about it constantly.  I know His plan is bigger than me.  I know He is calling me to do more.  But what is it He wants from me?  What is it He wants for me?

As I was racking my brain and struggling with what God wants me to do, I heard this verse on the radio:

We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.  See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.  Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything; retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-22

I love these lines: Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  

Maybe I am trying to think (and worry) too big.  Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  This is the will of God.  If I focus on these three things…  how could I be anything but happy?  How could I not be following God’s will?  No matter the circumstance, if I can rejoice at the goodness around me, the life God has given me, the love that God showers on me; if I can give thanks for everything I receive, every blessing I have, every moment that I enjoy; and if I can pray about everything else, I cannot help but think I will be satisfied.  I will be happy.  I will be living God’s will (even if I never accomplish anything else, even if I screw up along the way, even if the world is dark around me). Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  I can choose to find the good and rejoice.  I can choose to be thankful, instead of always wanting more.  I can focus my fears, my worries, my pain into prayer.

God,

I rejoice in your goodness!  Thank you for allowing me another day on this earth.  Thank you for blessing me with so much.  Help me to remember your love and your blessings, particularly when darkness tries to invade.  I pray for your help and your guidance.  On paper, this can seem so easy, but in life it can become so hard.