Tag Archives: Lord

The Time is Near

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Luke 21:5-19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Destruction of the Temple Foretold

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Signs and Persecutions

They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Being a faithful Christian is something I strive for, but know that I fall short of every single day.

With that said, what does being a faithful Christian really mean? This week’s Gospel from Luke seems to be a doomsday prediction on the surface.  Jesus teaches that our temples will fall, false prophets will lead us astray, our families will turn against ourselves and there will be some really bad stuff happening in the world.  Followers of Christ will be treated as criminals and be hated; all while wars and natural disasters are happening around us. Pretty heavy stuff, but not too far fetched if you just watch a little television in the evenings. Jesus then says the most calming things: don’t worry about preparing to defend yourself, as he will give us the tools we need to be protected and we will not be harmed in the process of all this doom and gloom.

There are a lot of preachers teaching this “end of time” preparation stuff and tons of books that attempt to explain how it all will end for us here on earth.  There are classes you can take to prepare you and your family for the end of the world by hoarding canned goods, toilet paper and gallons of water and how to live off the grid if needed.  The news is full of stories that can align tightly with the scary parts of the reading for this week as well – it’s not a huge leap to think that the end is near.

The title of this blog entry isn’t “The End is Near,” but rather focuses on the time is now.  Reading this Gospel through the first time might elevate your heart rate a little, but go back and read it again. This is a lesson on peace – peace in the here and now. Jesus tells us about all the bad stuff while at the very same time reassuring us of our safety and security in his arms.

I’m a pretty positive person who tends toward the optimistic slant in my views of the world.  So I’m drawn to the part of today’s Gospel that focuses on faith.  I hear today’s interpretation of Jesus’ words in Luke as this; “Draw near to me in faith and I will give you all the tools you need to stay on the path in the face of the world of distractions and conflict.” The folks who say that we need to be ready for the end of times are focused on their own skills and tools – I choose to let my faith give me the tools I will need that I cannot even muster from within myself on my own. It’s way easier to get discouraged and sad by the news around us than it is to remain faithful to Christ. Yet that is exactly what we are called to do.  “By your endurance you will gain your souls” is the last line of today’s reading.  Endurance is about getting back on track as we follow our Lord and Savior through this world that we humans do a great job of destroying.  And gaining my soul sounds a lot better than having enough canned goods when all is said and done. So the time is near alright – the time to get right and stay right in our faith.  There really is no better time than now to join with God in his plans for us.

In this scary world, we give thanks to you Lord, for being our protector and provider of more than we even knew we needed.  Thank you for giving us the wisdom to choose to follow you in the face of adversity.  We love you and look ahead to our perfect relationship with you through Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

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How Much is Enough?

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Luke 17:5-10

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Have you ever looked around you and seen people who clearly have more faith than you? You know, those people who just radiate peace and that all knowing look of “No worries, God’s got this!”  We have all been a witness to our friends or family who have handled a significant health crisis who made it seem easy and reported all the miracles God had worked in their lives along with the way?  Their faith waves in my face as if to mock me and make me sometimes say, “If only my faith was as big as hers!”  If only….

So reading this passage not only brings me back to the question of how much faith is enough faith, but also makes me feel a bit bad about the obvious jealousy which can be my default.  The last line of this passage really spoke to me today, and I read it as faith enough is all the faith I need to do what I know to do as a follower of Christ. This was a good wrap up to this reading, as the first line was a hook that made me want to read more….as if there is a recipe to follow or a heavenly flowchart of “if this, then that” steps to get me to enough.  It’s also a pretty passive statement, as if Jesus’ job was to do faith TO us.

So first, I say that it is no one’s job to deepen my faith….no one but me.  I can’t complain that the sermon isn’t reaching me, the Bible was too far from my reach, the poor live too far away for me to really reach out to them or that it’s inconvenient to spend time in study, piety and action as a Christian.  I have been a passive person of faith for too long – and I have no one to blame it on.  All I can do now is re-commit every day to living a life of faith, a deep commitment to following God’s will.  I think of it like a carrot growing in the garden vs a bush with a crazy root ball; the carrot doesn’t spread out and get all tangled up as it grows.  It is singularly focused in its genetic make up.  I want my faith to be my genetic makeup too, keeping me from all distractions that put a roadblock between me and God’s plan for me.

The second lesson for me from this reading is that the faith I have is enough faith for me.  If I follow my walk with Christ and believe his word, then I have enough faith. It’s what I am supposed to do. I have found in the trials and tribulations of life that the faith I have is enough when I need it and under whatever circumstances.  And here is another note about that…we must (ok, I must!) stop comparing our faith to others.  When we see those giants of faith cross our paths, remember that each of those “giants” has the same insecurities that we all do.  And who knows what doubts they wrestle with too? My faith must be my very own.  I must cultivate my relationship with Christ and my faith will be enough.

God of grace, I draw near to you. May my faith in you and your love and mercy be a comfort to me in time of trouble and a gift in abundance as you bless me. I pray my faith will continue to be enough.  In your name I pray.  AMEN.

More than I Need

Luke12v13to21_2007

Luke 12:13-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

We moved into our home in 2001.  It was the third move in our then 9 year marriage, so I didn’t look much beyond a few years.  So now as we start our thirteenth year in the same home, I am struck by how much stuff we have.  When you move frequently, and if you are like me and just detest the chores of packing and unpacking, you tend to purge.  When you can tuck stuff in a closet for 13 years and forget about it, you realize at some point that you are one cool whip container short of being invited to film an episode of “Hoarders!’

So how do we find ourselves with too much stuff? I think our American society is rife with messages of excess and enticements of the next best thing.  My drawer full of awesome hair products is evidence of that (and I’m not even having a good hair day as I type this).  In addition to our visual and audio bombardment of reminders of how incomplete our life is now without (fill in the blank here), we measure our life’s successes through the eyes of currency.  As our daughter is ending her high school career, everyone has advice about what she should choose as her college major so she can graduate and make $xx,xxx salary right away.  We look with envy on those who have “more” than we have – more money, more square footage in their home, more vacations, more fun = better life!  Heck, we are even envious about people’s faith!

Greed is not a nice word – it just doesn’t invoke a warm and fuzzy feeling when we think about the concept.  But Jesus is pretty clear in his parable in this passage of Luke’s Gospel.  What are we doing with all this stuff in our lives????  If we spent a third of the energy/money/time on our relationship with and service to our Lord, we would have lives that were richer in ways that “things” cannot make us.  Oh, and don’t we already know that, yet still fall in the stuff trap anyway?

And we always seem to feel like what we have is just never enough.  Americans in particular have terms like “rainy day fund” and “back up plan” in our everyday vocabulary, making us feel like we need more than we have, even though we may have all that we need.  Last week’s post discussed the Lord’s Prayer as our format for communicating with God (https://paigehanks.wordpress.com/2013/07/) and Jesus teaches us specifically to say, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” as if we should live for what God provides us today, knowing that he will provide for us again tomorrow and the next day after that.  Since we are such control freaks (ok, maybe it’s just me here) we think we better have a contingency plan just in case.

Although I am not a collector of any one thing, I do find that my stuff can pile up around me.  It can interfere with my ability to think clearly and focus on the task at hand when I am at work and my desk is cluttered with papers.  When things are organized and every item is in its place, I find a sense of calm and ability to focus.  Having what we need and not more than we can ever want or use is not what God calls us to do.  As Christians, we are commanded to serve others, feed the hungry, take care of the sick and meek among us, and our stuff usually prevents us from doing that in any systematic way.

I find that I can give when I see a need, but mostly just up to the point where I think that giving more may hurt me.  That is hard to say outloud and type in this space, as I am ashamed and embarassed to think that at all.  I am sure I could give away my time, talent and treasure far more than I do today and I wouldn’t even notice a difference in my own needs – that is my insecurity talking, not my reality. So this week’s Gospel from Luke is just what I needed.  I am reminded that I have really greedy tendencies and I want what is mine – I want my fair share.  In my mind, my actual fair share is far smaller than the piles and piles of my fair share that I actually have, whether it’s money, space or stuff.  And all that excess interferes with my true calling as a child of God.  If I am to love and serve God with all my heart, mind, body, soul and will, then I need to get down to the nitty gritty with my stuff.  It will be a process with ups and downs I’m sure, but I don’t want my time left in life to be spent hoarding more than I need of anything.  If today were the day for perfect healing through death and eternal life, I wouldn’t need a thing I have now besides my uncluttered faith in my Lord and Savior.

Generous Father, you are worthy of all the glory and honor.  Help me clear my heart, mind, body and soul and let my will be your will in all I do and say.  I commit to loving and serving you through generosity of spirit and with a heart to serve, sharing your many gifts with all I meet.  Thank you for loving me enough to give me enough, even though I never deserve it at all.  To you be praised.  AMEN.

Knowing How to Pray

Luke 1

Luke 11:1-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Lord’s Prayer

11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
    Give us each day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our sins,
        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Perseverance in Prayer

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Two of my favorite memories from my personal faith journey converge today in this Gospel reading – the giving to God’s people the Lord’s Prayer and a reminder of my favorite hymn “Seek Ye First.”

I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but as a camper at Camp Weed in Live Oak, FL (check it out and send your kids there! http://www.campweed.org/), I remember one of our spiritual advisors (read: clergy) giving us instruction on the Lord’s Prayer.  I don’t remember ever “learning” to say this prayer; it has always been the foundation of my prayer life.  But I just went through the motions of saying it because – let’s face it – the word “trespass” isn’t really in a child’s daily vocabulary.  I wish I could give credit to that priest, because that day of learning changed the way I have prayed that prayer for the rest of my life.  We broke the prayer down into parts:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

This opening line is about adoration, honor and a reminder to give praise to God.  We were encouraged to think about every single word and its meaning, and I began to emphasize the word “THY.”  Thy is not a word kids use either, but to give it extra value helped me focus on my true north of following God.

Give us this day our daily bread.

The next part asks God to provide for our needs.  I remember a great discussion about the difference between needs and wants – the first time I really ever thought about that as a kid.  A reminder that God provides us our needs – and we should be much more grateful than we usually are.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This forgiveness line was easy at first – I knew how to say I was sorry and I really meant it!  But there was another new concept for the kid version of myself – I had to forgive others????  Whoa…and if I don’t do that, then I may not be able to get forgiveness myself?  I think this is a very complex issue and because of God’s grace we get far more forgiveness than we could ever deserve.  I am a work in progress on forgiving others…two steps forward and one step back on my good days.  Still working hard on this one.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I can get to temptation all by myself, but this part of the prayer is where I really ask God to save me from myself.  I am always my own worst impediment to success, but with help from God, I can turn away with a greater success rate than when I just rely on myself.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. AMEN

Again – “thine” isn’t in my every day vocabulary, but putting an emphasis (picture the word in bold and underlined!) on thine puts the focus where it should be; on living in God’s kingdom and giving him all the power and glory.  This prayer Jesus gives to his followers is so comprehensive that it can truly be a “square meal” when praying.  It has all the parts that God needs from us in our conversation with him.

Then the bonus part of today’s reading comes as the final punch when discussing the value and importance of our prayers and conversations with God – a reminder of that awesome song, “Seek Ye First.”  Ask and it shall be given, seek and we will find, knock and the door will open.  Matthew’s Gospel also has a similar phrase, which I interpret as the not so scholarly phrase, “Keep it simple.”  Ask for our needs, look for God and how we can serve him and take the steps we need to go out in the world.  I see this as God emphasizing our need to be relentless in prayer and service.  He gives us the words to use – a roadmap for our prayer life.  Then tells us to be singularly focused as we pray…ask, seek and go.  Simple for sure, but not easy with all life’s distractions.  Stay focused on the prayers and the service, and the rest will come with our faith in God.

Lord, thank you for teaching us how to pray.  You are full of mercy and deserving of our glory.  We praise you, we have faith in your love and care for us and we know you will lead us through all adversity we encounter.  Our faith is in you and you alone.  Your will is ours to follow.  In your glorious name we pray, AMEN.

In Your Presence

Martha

Luke 10:38-42

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

As a child growing up in our family, we entertained friends pretty often in our home.  When one of these visits or events was coming up, we all were given jobs to do to prepare the house.  To say that it was stressful was an understatement and it didn’t always bring out the best in each of us, especially my Mom.  She was so worried that the house wasn’t clean enough, that the food and drinks wouldn’t be ready and that our guests would think less of her and our family because the conditions weren’t “perfect” for entertaining.

My Mom was like Martha, and I am sure if Jesus had been the invited guest himself she would have complained about all of us not helping her enough too! Mom often spent so much of her energy worried about what others might need or what needed to get finished that she may have missed out on some really special moments.  I think I have the same tendencies – I don’t entertain as much or often as Mom did, but I do get worried and stressed out when I know someone is coming over…is the house prepared, the bathroom cleaned, the food enough to feed everyone, etc.  I have to really make a conscious effort to plan ahead so I don’t fall into the trap that caught my Mom over the years because I so enjoy when folks are over at our home for a visit.

Then there’s Mary.  Mary may not share Martha’s gift of hospitality, but she is certainly able to capitalize on the opportunity of having Jesus in her home!  While we may not have the physical presence of our Lord and Savior at the kitchen table with us for a meal, do we take the time to stop and just be with Jesus?

One of the readings from Morning Prayer today was Psalm 63 – one of my all time favorites.  Here is the text of my favorite verse from this psalm:

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

The first line of this Psalm sets the tone for me.  I need to find the time, make the time if needed, to just BE in God’s presence.  I need this….we all need this like we need water and our other basic needs.  Like you, my life is quite busy.  I have a very demanding professional life and a full family life as well.  But I want to define myself first and foremost as a follower of Christ.  There are ups and downs in any relationship – with our spouse, our friends, our co-workers, and others.  I think we can all agree that the more energy we put into a relationship the more likely that it results in a great outcome!  When I invest the time, no matter how busy I am, and choose to be in the presence of God just like Mary did that day amid the hustle and bustle of Martha’s scurrying about, then I will choose the “one thing” Jesus describes in verse 42 of today’s reading from Luke.  Choosing to be in the presence of the Lord will give us more meaning, more joy, more security, more love and more purpose than all the chores in the world.

So I commit to spending just the right amount of time in my Martha role preparing for and serving others and more time in my Mary role, enjoying the grace of our Lord.  Both are necessary in this gift of relationship with Christ, but we need to make sure it is balanced time spent.

Your presence is all I need today, Lord.  Help me stay focused on serving others when it is time and carve out time to talk to you and be with you every day.  Thank you for your presence in my life.  AMEN.

Right Place and Right Time

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Luke 7:11-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son at Nain

11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time! Jesus has just left Capernaum where he healed the Centurion’s servant (https://paigehanks.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/not-worthy-just-faithful/) and he walks in the gates of the town of Nain.  He runs smack dab into a funeral procession, led by a grieving mother who has lost her husband and now her only son.  I can only imagine her grief spilling out of her as she begins to accept this unwanted reality.  I love verse 13 in particular; “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.'”  I love it because it is just so simple.  God then brings her son back from the dead with a simple touch.

In the presence of God, why should we weep?  I cannot begin to imagine this mother’s sadness and loss.  As a mother, I feel like my heart is constantly walking around outside my body every day, even more so as our daughter is approaching the time to set off on her grown up life of college and long distance from my “controlling” ways as a mom.  I know several friends who have lost a child and the pain is simply inexplicable and can cover up every other emotion; paralyzing grief I am sure.

But God’s promise for the world is that there is life eternal.  I simply don’t understand what that means in any tangible sense and I spend very little time and energy trying to figure it out.  I just know that it brings great comfort in times of challenge and overwhelming sadness.  But come on; who wouldn’t want to have our loved one come back from the dead?  That is one of the great pitfalls in this story of a great miracle.

God has a plan and we are given the greatest gift of love possible – to live life eternal with our Father in heaven.  Grief is for the living and as humans, is part of our human condition.  I lost my Mom last year after a swift and ferocious diagnosis of multiple primary cancers.  Mom was young, professional and worldly and it didn’t make sense for this to happen to a person at the top of her game of life.  We all reacted differently to the shock and pain, but for me, it gave me a challenge that was like a river of faith.  I don’t know why and it certainly didn’t match other family members’ responses to the situation.  And boy do I wish she was still here to talk to and guide me as a mom and our daughter as her beloved Kiki.

She wasn’t raised from the dead to come back to be with us, nor did I expect that to happen.  I even got my feathers ruffled a few times when folks said to me, trying to be helpful I am sure, that they were praying for a miracle and that she could beat this disease.  We knew better…the situation was grave right from the start.  So instead of spending time hoping for Jesus to walk right up to us and heal her, I thought a better way to approach this was to embrace life eternal and that precious gift of perfect healing. loving mom and providing peace and compassion as she lived through dying.

We can’t pray hard enough, do enough good in the world or do just the right thing to invoke the miracles.  They come when God’s plan matches our desires.  And although I would give just about anything for a few minutes with my healthy Mom, I was so very grateful that her incredibly debilitating pain ended much more quickly than anyone thought or believed.  Her healing didn’t bring her back to the human life but brought her into the presence of our Savior.

So we wept for our loss of her presence, just as the mother who met Jesus was doing.  This is normal for folks who love and all of us experience loss of this sort.  Jesus feels sorry for us too, but now that he gave his life for us, he can call upon us to look forward in anticipation to the great gift of our resurrection.  Maybe that is the miracle that is enough…we know what this grieving Mother did not know, that we have life eternal as our promise of perfect healing now.  I want to ready at the right place and the right time for that.

Saving Father, we are so very grateful for the gift of your Son, sent to save us from our sins and give us the promise of life eternal.  Comfort us as we grieve and teach us to trust your saving love for us.  Help us walk in faith and to accept your gift of mercy.  We thank you for loving us and protecting us.  In your Holy Name we pray.  AMEN.

Love Letters

Psalm 30 Page 621, BCP

Exaltabo te, Domine

1
I will exalt you, O LORD,
because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
2
O LORD my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.
3
You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
4
Sing to the LORD, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.
5
For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favor for a lifetime.
6
Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.
7
While I felt secure, I said,
“I shall never be disturbed. *
You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”
8
Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.
9
I cried to you, O LORD; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
10
“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
11
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me; *
O LORD, be my helper.”
12
You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
13
Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.
You know those love letters that folks find in the attic, all bundled together, telling a tale of love across the miles and filled with longing and appreciation for memories created tied to the hope of being together again?  I’m a sucker for reading those.  I am really a bit jealous when someone shares their stash of letters written by a grandfather at war to a betrothed young woman that will be his wife when he returns from saving the world in some faraway land.  We don’t save those things in our family, probably because there isn’t anything to save – not big on letter writing among our relatives.  And now that we are moving away from snail mail all together, these relics become even more cherished and they describe the feelings that two people have for each other in times of separation, hanging on to the hope of the future and the gratefulness for the foundation of that love.
King David wrote Psalm 30 in dedication of the Temple, speaking directly to God in this form of a love letter.  Each line is filled with thankfulness to God: for being saved from enemies, healing, grace and mercy, strength and joy.  David’s life was full of ups and downs, or promise and heartbreak and as a sinful person like the rest of us, he sought to live a life in God’s call while having some pretty obvious errors in judgement (anyone remember Bathsheba??).  But the temple of God was a legacy he intended to leave for the generations to worship the Lord and through all of his trials he returned his focus back to God.  The last line of the psalm says, “Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.”  In my opinion, one of the greatest ends to a love letter I’ve every read.
Being in a relationship requires work, especially if you are not physically present to do the little love things that each of you need.  With God, even though He is with us every step of the way, we humans can feel distant from him when we don’t put in the effort to talk with him and listen to him in our quiet times.  In thinking about David’s psalm of thanksgiving, I think about all that I am grateful for in my life that God has had a hand in providing for me.  I’m not one of those people who thinks God gives gifts and takes them away or worse still, causes pain and loss in our lives.  But rather that these things happen in our lives when we follow him and he is with us, even and especially when we need him the most. Being a Christian guarantees no protection from heartache and sorry, but those things become unmanageable without his love and care for us.
My prayer for today and the days to come is that I remember to give thanksgiving to God first and foremost before I head down the path of just putting in my requests.  In my marriage, I have to show love and appreciation to my husband in at least equal measure to the amount of hurt and pain I can surely cause to the ones I love the most.  It’s like making deposits in the emotional bank account of our marriage.  Fortunately for us, God’s grace and mercy don’t require us to be thankful in equal measure to “earn” any of it all – it is a free gift that God gives us.  I say the least we can do is tell God “THANK YOU!”
Dear Lord, we aren’t worthy to receive the many blessings and gifts that you have bestowed upon us.  Your will for us is greater than our wildest dreams and we fall short of giving you the love and appreciation deserving of your greatness.  Thank you for standing firm in grace and mercy, showing us love and compassion at every success and challenge we reach.  We love you, we worship you and we praise your holy name.  AMEN.