I am thankful for so much on this Thanksgiving Day because I refuse to let COVID diminish my deep gratitude for a very long list of blessings.
One of the things I am especially thankful for is all of the United Methodist pastors in Arkansas. They have heard, and responded to, God’s call on their lives to serve in ministry. They go where they are appointed, often at personal sacrifice. They love their congregations and engage the mission field – all the time making disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world with the redeeming love of Jesus. And they are serving with distinction during this COVID crisis as they strive to keep their congregations safe, serve those who are hurting, and care for their own families.
I hope you are thankful for them as well. Not because you are supposed to be, but because you have experienced firsthand all they are doing during this pandemic. They learn new technological skills so you could still join in worship, Bible study and fellowship. They provide pastoral care for you even when they can’t be with you. They keep in touch with you in the midst of quarantines. They worry about church finances. They bring healing in the midst of great stress and anxiety, often working in isolation. They creatively find ways to engage in mission in your community. And, frankly, they far too often have to deal with unwarranted criticism; often being simultaneously criticized by half their congregation for reopening too quickly and the other half for not reopening quickly enough.
Please take time today to give thanks to God for your pastor. And, then, find a way in the next several days to make sure you let your pastor know how thankful you are for her or him. It won’t relieve all the stress and exhaustion she or he is experiencing – but it will make a bigger difference than you can ever imagine.
Your Thanksgiving provably will be different this year because of COVID-19. If not, Thanksgiving will turn into tragedy as hundreds of thousands become ill and thousands die in a surge during the first days of December. Of course it will be difficult to celebrate Thanksgiving without as many family and friends as usual. But this year’s COVID Thanksgiving can become a powerful reminder of the sacrifices love makes to keep those you love safe, give you an opportunity to reflect more deeply on all you have to be thankful for, and help you embrace a deeper understanding of how nothing that happens in life or death – nothing at all – will ever separate you from God’s love in Jesus Christ. And that’s something you can hold onto every single day – especially when life gets back to normal.
“Sometimes moments” are part of life. Like when life gets overwhelming because there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. Or when issues with which you have been struggling for a lifetime jump up and bite you without any warning. Or when it hits you that you’ve been going through the motions of living without any joy. But these “sometimes moments” are not the final word in your life. In fact, they’re never the final word. God’s love in Jesus Christ is. So the next time you are in the midst of a “sometimes moment” that’s beating you down, remember that God loves you so much God sent Jesus just for you!
It’s Thanksgiving week. Like nearly everything else in 2020, it will be different. For some, it’s a tragic week because COVID has taken your loved ones or disrupted lives of people you care about. For almost everyone, it’s a disappointing week because you won’t be able to enjoy all the traditions that are part of your Thanksgiving holiday. This is why it’s especially important to remember to give thanks this year for what you have that matters most: God’s blessings, the people in your life you cherish, and all those on the front lines working to keep you safe and healthy. After all, giving God thanks is always better than complaining about what you think you’re missing.
Let me admit to You what You already know about me. Sometimes I get frustrated with what happens in life. Sometimes righteously angry. Sometimes weary beyond words, especially right now. And sometimes so overwhelmed I fail to live with the courage and hope You plant in my soul.
But even when I am at my lowest, I discover thanks and praise welling up inside me that simply cannot stay quiet. So today I give You praise and thanks because You have created all that is, and love Your creation passionately. Today I give You praise and thanks because You have created me uniquely, and desire for me to become the best me I can become. Today I give You thanks and praise because Your love turns me toward my neighbors to love them as I love You. And today I give You thanks and praise because You do whatever it takes to pursue me until I experience the fullness of Your love and life in Jesus.
May I dwell in this praise and thanks and experience how it opens my heart to Your grace, lifts me out of the valley, fills me with hope, and enables me to experience how I can be more thankful than ever – regardless of what’s going on.
I pray this in the strong name and power of Jesus.
Do you let distress drive you to God – or do you let it drive you away from God? While you know how you want to answer the question, you also know that you let distress drive you away from God far too often. It’s yet another example of the human condition described so well by the Apostle Paul – you don’t do the things you want to do and you do the very things you never want to do. But you don’t need to be perfect before you go to God – you’ve just got to get there. Even if it is with all kinds of questions, in the midst of one of your worst moments or messy. That’s because God’s waiting to embrace and heal you from the inside-out. And once you experience this, you’ll find yourself saying, “That horrible time of distress got me to God. Who crafted me into a person I never would have been otherwise. And I’m more thankful than ever – even in the midst of distress.”