Each year I take some personal time to meditate on thankfulness. There is so much to be grateful for but there’s also the deep sadness. Keeping them both in mind at the same time is a place where I’ve grown. I tend to get lost in the sadness or a bit giddy in the gratitude. Psalm 23 illustrates the balance. It begins with green pastures and still waters but goes on to the oppression of the shadow of death. In both, it’s the presence of the LORD that is the constancy. He restores my soul in the calm and prepares a table of goodness when fearsome enemies surround me. And when His presence is lost, I sing Psalm 13 and express the lostness in the context of trust in for His unfailing love. I’m so thankful for the depth and dimensions of relationship with the LORD.

Thanksgiving 08 007How can I express thankfulness for family? Nicole and Joy brightened my life a lot Tuesday morning (more pictures here), David and I had an excellent talk about life and ministry. Sam’s smiles and love for her family delight me. A little over a year ago, Elizabeth was barely alive in the NICU and we were wondering if she would survive meconium aspiration. She celebrated a totally healthy first birthday, toddling around the yard with contagious giggles. You can get infected here, Donn and Susan are wonderful parents. Cyndee spent two weeks of vacation in Portland, so we had some wonderful Poppa Daughter times remembering our Grand Canyon trip. Sam and the girls will help her with Christmas decorating at the Conference Center next week. All our family gets along well, a huge blessing.

I came home last night from a first post wedding session with Bruce and Annie to a wonderful surprise: Sherry’s aromatic Thanksgiving feast for us to share. As I’ve worked with couples wrestling with serious problems in their marriages, including two extremely painful divorces (my first to supervise), I continue to be astounded at Sherry’s constant love, the openness and deep trust we share.

Small things are good: Sherry asked me to get some cheddar cheese on my way home. I got to Fred Meyer to discover how MANY kinds and sizes there are. I found myself wishing I were in Taiwan where there’s no cheese! Cell phones are wonderful gifts for confused husbands! I’m thankful for Celtic Christian tunes on Live365, Facebook, saved Thanksgiving cards, my mug of coffee, memories of the children praying together, Interestingness on Flickr, squirrels eating the maple twirlees in my trees and not in my attic, crunchy cereal in the morning, quiet walks on Mt. Tabor.

There’s so much. I think it will take a few minutes more.

Crunches and Builds

I’m seeing the impact of the economic crunch is some very personal ways. One of my students works in a financial planning office. Well, he did. His job went along with the profits. I’m on the board of Pregnancy Resource Centers of Portland. They are far 25% their very tight budget at the same time the visits into their clinics are up markedly. They have already done a pay reduction but projections for spring look bleak.

Most difficult right now is seeing one of the churches I consult with that will not be able to make payroll and mortgage payments. The emergency meetings are bringing out many tensions among the leadership team. "Faith in God’s provision" led to commitments that can’t be met now. It’s really hard not to fall into blaming. It wakes me up in the middle of the night praying.

On the other side, the baby in the Emanuel NICU I blogged about last time went through the surgery well. It’s really weird that she’s much better when she’s laying in her wired bed with her chest wide open to allow her heart to do its swelling. Please keep praying.

One of the many emails from a student asked me to comment on a woman in her ministry who sees the LORD roaming the earth, selecting her to be His bride. I tried to figure out why that image bothered me when it’s a biblical metaphor. It certainly makes her feel very loved and special. But when you look in Bible, it’s Israel or the Church, not an individual, who is the bride. It’s not an individual, but the people of God that the Father prepares to be a beautiful bride for His precious Son. Individuals are children of God, not the bride. We are one of many children, all of whom are special. There is only one bride and that relationship excludes all others. Ironically, applying the bride or marriage metaphor to our relationship makes us too special!

As I reflected, I found my mind singing the wonderful Twila Paris song, "How Beautiful" with the second stanza that goes like this:

How Beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sins and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That choose to forgive and never despise
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

It’s a song that always brings a quiet smile because of the power of His love made real in and through the Body. There’s a genuine hope when that happens.

Sherry heads off on Sunday for her first cruise, a week long excursion with her Mom, sister and sister in law. It will be a very fun family time for them. They picked the time to coincide with my trip to Evangelical Theological Society, this year in Providence, Rhode Island.

And I have to include a couple of grandgirl pictures: