Jesus Must Not Like You Very Much!

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

As some of you know who follow this blog, I served most of my ministry as a lay pastor (as in didn’t get paid). But far from being a problem, the lay pastor situation gave me opportunity to serve as an associate at a small Brazilian church for 14 years, and a volunteer chaplain at a large nursing home. Some days, it was like the Clark Kent/Superman scenario, where I rushed home to shower and change clothes, then hurried out to hold the Wednesday afternoon services at Allied Skilled Nursing. I loved serving both at church and nursing home, but it was at my secular job, that God taught me the best lessons. So, let’s rewind 30 years to a day when I was mowing lawns. My home state Connecticut could be named after a Native American word meaning, “Land full of rocks!” Practically every lawn we mowed had at least one large granite boulder to mow around. One very nice property in particular, was blessed with an abundance of enough stones to build one of our famous New England stone walls. My friend Noel, who just started working with us, was not familiar with our properties and so he accidently grazed over one unseen stony protrusion after another. Finally, He stopped, said a few choice words and stated, “You guys have the worst lawns I have ever seen!”

“Come on Noel.” I said trying to keep a calm tone. “These are the ones Jesus gave us.”

“Well then, Jesus must not like you very much!” Noel retorted, then restarted his machine and began mowing the back half of the property.

Now, I know Noel’s opinion isn’t proper theologically, but I have often felt a lot like him! Some days it feels like other folks have nice easy lawns to mow. They don’t have rocks to mow around or hidden outcroppings lurking just beneath the tops of the long grass. Sure, I know that Jesus Loves Me Because the Bible Tells Me So, but there are some days I wonder how much He likes me! The answer I have discovered after whacking a number of rocks in my 71 years, is that God allows rocks to mow around because He does care. He loves us so much that He has given us the chance to go back time and again to difficult people, hard places and sticky situations until we remember where the rocks are. Then we can give Him thanks, in every situation as we learn to mow around them!

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A Thousand Thank You’s

 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers. Philemon 4

Thankfulness is a lesson I am still in the process of learning. Maybe, like Martha, I am overburdened with the pots and pans of life clanging in my ears, that I too easily pass by the quieter people who are nearest and dearest. It is far too easy to dash ahead to the next goal, the next project or chore, and to simply flick on the television and relax at day’s end without a moment to say thank you. So, this morning, before I rush out the door, let me say “Thank you!” and “God bless!” to the 1,000 people who for one reason or another have followed this blog. We are on a journey together, following the footsteps of the one who gave thanks and blessed the bread and the cup that He passed around the table to us. When we eat the bread and drink that cup together, we remember His death until He comes. Let’s begin this new day and new week to be thankful for those He has placed in our lives and treat one another with grace, respect for our differences and kindness.

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Giving Thanks Together

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. KJV

I heard a snap, then the handle gave way and the bucket of rocks and shells I was carrying zeroed in on my big toe. The sharp pain in my foot and the first signs of blood told me this was going to be a game changer. As I quickly limped into the house calling out to my wife for help, I was definitely not thanking God. After she drove as fast as she could to the hospital, the only humorous moment came while I sat bent over in the wheelchair holding my foot as the security guard searched me for weapons at the door!

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Thankfully, the x-rays revealed nothing was broken but one thing was certain; like it or not, my plans were going to change. As we road home that night, rather than complain, my wife began to slowly list all the things we should be thankful for. First, we had insurance to pay for the emergency room, second, we I had received wonderful care from the health aide who washed the wound, the nurse who joked with me while she gave a tetanus shot and the doctor who gently encouraged me that my injury should heal with no complications. Compared to our daughter-in-law’s cancer or our grandchild’s kidney failure my problem was infinitesimally small, but the lesson was huge. Thankfulness is not something we always do alone. Even Paul had Silas with him when they sang praises in jail. Few of us in the middle of pain, grief or loss have the ability to honestly say “Thank you Jesus! I’m so happy right now!”. There are times when the best thing we can do is to lean on one another as together we learn to give God praise.