This Thanksgiving, I did not expect to be on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Yet here I am, waiting and wondering when we might head back to our new “home” in Slovakia. And as I sit here and wait, I realize how very much I have to be thankful for…
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While I was a pastor, one concept that kept coming back to me was this: “in everything, give thanks.” You can find it in several places in the New Testament, most directly in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and Philippians 4:6. It seems like a simple instruction at first, until you realize what it really means. Give thanks, for everything.
And here’s the thing – I can totally imagine Paul giving thanks for crazy things.
“Thank you, God, that I was shipwrecked, because it allowed you to show your glory in rescuing everyone.”
“Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to be dragged outside the city and beaten with stones so hard that my friends thought I was dead. In that agony, I caught a tiny glimpse of what it meant to be crucified and raised with Christ.”
There are some things we can be immediately thankful for. And then there are some things we have to really work at being thankful. I think I view God like the Fairy Godmother at times – sometimes he’s there making nice things happen, but other times he has to come back to fix up all the messes that I’ve made while he wasn’t looking. But as we examine those tough places in our lives we begin to realize that God doesn’t just pop in and out like that. God’s there, all the time – in the details, the nitty-gritty. Even the dirty stuff.
So I’m taking some time this week to share some untraditional thanks-givings – finding reasons to be thankful for the things I would normally gripe about. These are things I wouldn’t typically be thankful for, but are places I’m learning to see God at work. And as you celebrate Thanksgiving, I invite you also to examine some of the places in your life that seem beyond God’s reach… and see that those might be the places God is actually doing something extraordinary.
That we have to learn a new and difficult language. No doubt about it, this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn! But in learning this language, I’m seeing one more facet of the amazingly complex creation God has made. In learning about the Slovak language and culture, I’m beginning to see the way they see God… and that gives me a larger and broader view of our amazing and creative God!
- That we had to leave home, because it gave me a tiny glimpse of what Jesus went through when he left his Home behind (Phil. 2:6) and became nothing… all for our sake.
- For the days when I can’t communicate because of a different language and culture. This experience has given me a new compassion for the “aliens and strangers” (Exo. 23:9) in our midst. They are always around us (yes, even here in small-town U.S.A.), but we rarely take time to really understand the challenges they face each day.
- That we have been deported. It has given me a new perspective on the many meanings of the word “home.”
- For jet-lag, because it has reminded me that God’s grace never sleeps (it sounds corny, but I’m serious!).
- For lost luggage, and for living out of a suitcase from time-to-time in these last few months. These have reminded me of how little I really need to survive, and that God has provided all those things for me.
- For the distraction of our rowdy children, who have a knack for butting in when I am doing important things. I’m pretty sure this is what Jesus dealt with in Mark 10:13-16.
- I’m thankful for uncertainty, and in these last few months there has been no shortage of this. I’m reminded of the reality that every one of us lives in: We may think we are in control, that we have our calendar set and our agenda moving. But all of this is subject to change at a moment’s notice. Incidentally, it also makes me grateful for the stability I DO have, since there are Roma (among many others) who have no guarantee of a next meal, and there are refugees and people in war-torn nations whose lives can change drastically with one stray bullet or rocket.
What are you thankful for today?