I've always been a little wary of limiting something like thanksgiving to a specific weekend of the year. The Scriptures are clear again and again that we are to be thankful always.
In that light, let's keep it going with this thought from Henri Nouwen.
"Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude. It is a difficult discipline to constantly reclaim my whole past as the concrete way in which God has led me to this moment and is sending me into the future. It is hard precisely because it challenges me to face the painful moments – experiences of rejection and abandonment, feelings of loss and failure – and gradually to discover in them the pruning hands of God purifying my heart for deeper love, stronger hope, and broader faith."
God loves you!
At New Year's a number of us gathered for fellowship and as the New Year dawned we were enjoying people's reflections of the past year/decade and how God has led them, through both good times and real trials.
Today this quote from Henri Nouwen reminded me of those thoughts. As we think about our lives, if we keep the Cross at the center of our vision, the perspective Jesus offers is ALWAYS pointed to hope.
"Jesus calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived, and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain, and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life."
- Henri Nouwen.
Gratitude is something that can be elusive sometimes, so we need to simply make it a regular part of our prayer and daily mindset.
I found these words from Henri Nouwen to be encouraging:
"To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.…Let us not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God."
We often hear how hard it can be to respond with forgiveness when wronged. Yet we are called to it nonetheless. What we don't hear about as often is the power that lies within this act of forgiveness. The triumph of Jesus over evil is shared with us as we forgive others as we have been forgiven by God.
The following was found written on a wrapping paper at Ravensbruck concentration camp in WW2:
"Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness."
Jesus turns death into resurrection. We take up our cross to find new life. Today I came across the following quote from Henri Nouwen that ties in nicely with what we've learned from James 1.
"Jesus calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived, and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain, and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life." - Henri Nouwen
As we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, the season of joy, we praise God for his indescribable gift!
I hope these words from Mother Teresa are an encouragement to you:
"The password of the early Christians was joy, so let us still serve the Lord with joy. Joy is love, joy is prayer, joy is strength. God loves a person who gives joyfully, and if you give joyfully you always give more. A joyful heart is the result of a heart burning with love. Works of love are always works of joy. We don’t need to look for happiness: if we have love for others we’ll be given it. It is the gift of God."
Did you know one of the most important ways to demonstrate your faith to others is simple gratitude? Over and over in the Scriptures we are urged to be thankful. It is not a hard command, but we can often forget to give thanks to God.
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, the only long weekend that comes with specific instructions. How about going to our church's FB page and saying what you're thankful for. God is GOOD!
Pastor Ward Parkinson