Thankful in All Things (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 23, 2014)

Something really terrific happened the other day: I found out that my boss recommended me for a raise! Unfortunately, the same day that I learned of the pay increase, my transmission fried. Literally, the fluid smelled smoky and was not the usual pinkish tint. I had noticed that it seemed to be straining a bit, but since I live in the mountains now, I thought it might just be the drastic weather changes, altitude, or whatever. Long story short, the transmission has to be rebuilt.

 

So, I ask you this: For what should I give thanks?

 

I’m certainly grateful for the pay raise; that will be a huge help with everyday expenses. I’m thankful that my boss went to bat for me, and I appreciate feeling like a valuable part of the team.

 

But what about the car? Sure, it’s going to cost a lot of money for the repair, but there are still plenty of things to be thankful for. First and foremost, I’m thankful that I finished paying it off just a couple of months ago, so I don’t have a car note anymore. I’m thankful that on the morning it died, I was able to make it into the parking lot at work. I remember sitting at a red light on the edge of campus praying that it would make it to the lot – and it did!

 

I’m thankful that although we haven’t gotten to know a whole lot of people here very well yet, one of the new friends from church who I called to see if they had a referral for a mechanic turned out to actually be a mechanic! Who knew?!? (God did!) He took time out of his work day to meet me on campus and make sure my car made it to a reputable transmission repair shop that he trusted.

 

I think this type of finding-reasons-to-be-thankful is part of what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 9. The chapter is primarily about giving and financial supporting ministry, but it goes deeper than just writing a check to the church. It’s about having a spirit of thanksgiving for all of our blessings. When we’re thankful for what we have, we are more inclined to give back. What good would it do to kick the tires and shake my fist at the heavens? Instead, when we find ways to be thankful in the midst of our circumstances, it brings honor to God, who is the giver of all good things. (James 1:17)

A Time for Everything (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 9, 2014)

I have a confession to make: There have been a couple of years in the not-so-distant past when I didn’t feel like decorating for the holidays. I didn’t really want to do anything for Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t bring myself to start thinking about Christmas. In fact, if I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have even bothered to put up a Christmas tree. It’s not that I dislike Christmas (although, the older I get, the more frustrated I feel about how ridiculously we’ve commercialized it), but I just didn’t feel like celebrating anything. Christmas break 2008 was the last time I saw my brother alive, and the holiday season always makes me feel melancholy.

 

One reason I like the book of Ecclesiastes is because it was written by the wisest man alive (King Solomon), which might make you assume that he had it all together, but apparently he had days just like the rest of us when he was at his wits’ end. In Ch. 3, verses 1-8, Solomon lists several opposites as a way of explaining the balancing act of life. Verse 4 (NIV), for example, says that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

 

Solomon went on to explain in verse 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Those years when I didn’t feel like celebrating? There was a time and a reason for that. I still mourn, of course, but this year feels like a new beginning. Perhaps it’s the chill in the air and the prospect of snow on Christmas, but I’m eager to decorate this year. I’m actually looking forward to the holidays and the turning of the calendar.

 

God is at work, exchanging our ashes of mourning into lovely crowns (Isaiah 61) and making the darkest day beautiful again. We need only look around us to see his masterpiece.