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“Make a joyful noise to the Lord; all the earth … Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100: 1,4a).
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love all of the traditions, family, friends, food, and fellowship. Thanksgiving is a gift from God, a reflection of His goodness and loving kindness. In every season of life, we can give thanks because we love and serve a good and faithful God.
But sometimes we find it difficult to give thanks. How do we give thanks when we are out of a job, struggling with the loss of a loved one, dealing with a child in the throes of addiction, or reeling from a devastating medical diagnosis? Many of us this year have experienced great loss, filling our hearts with grief and pain.
Even so, the Scriptures teach us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We are often called to give thanks to God through our tears and lack of understanding, trusting in His sovereignty in our lives. In our most difficult circumstances, we can praise God for His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Jesus likewise promised His disciples at His Ascension that He would be with us always, even to the end of the age.
These promises can give us great hope, a reason to give thanks at all times. Even in difficult times. The promises of Scripture apply no matter how difficult our circumstances. The Lord is with us.
The apostle Paul wrote about giving thanks more than any other New Testament writer. His epistles include 23 references to giving thanks. Knowing that relationships are gifts from God, he wrote many letters filled with encouragement, sound teaching, and abundant love to the people entrusted in His care. Expressing our heartfelt gratitude to the Lord, he taught us, should be one of our greatest joys.
I encourage you to give thanks in all circumstances, extending Thanksgiving to each and every day. We have reason to, for God has given us His greatest gift: faith in Jesus.
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“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the desperate cry of David in Psalm 22. These same words are the final words of Jesus recorded in Matthew’s gospel account as he cries out with a loud voice from the cross. Alone, betrayed, deserted, abandoned. The skies pitch black; an earthquake. What terror the disciples must have felt? Their own pleas to God are not recorded, but surely on their lips: “Where are you God?” “What on earth are you doing?” “Why have you abandoned us?” All words, all cries, all pleas, all prayers met with the same response. Utter, absolute silence. Have you ever been in this place? Crying out to God in desperation? “Where are you, God?” “Why are you silent?” “Why have you left me alone?” “God, do something; please help me!” Begging, groaning, grieving, pleading, sighing. “God, why have you forsaken me?” Most of us have had seasons of suffering and loss beyond what we thought we could bear. There have been moments of wailing in agony over a devastating event, the death of a loved one, the death of a relationship. And perhaps for us, too, our desperate cries were met with silence. Every year it is hard to hear Psalm 22 as it is read at the Maundy Thursday service. God, how could they do this to the one who is Love? How could we? For we, too, had a hand in the suffering and torture and excruciatingly painful death of the one we call Savior and Lord. But Good Friday reminds us that the one who is fully God stood for us and with us. We are not alone. We have not been abandoned. Today, on this day we call Good Friday, we stand before the Cross which stands at the center of all history. The cross, which was the instrument of suffering, torture, and death for Jesus, is for us the instrument of our rescue, our salvation. Today we wait at the foot of the cross. We wait hopefully, expectantly, as we remember the final words of Psalm 22: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.” It is finished.
It’s the home stretch. We are rushing across the finish line! I read an article published a couple of years ago by an author who acknowledges the differences between the beginning of the school year—fresh with energy, passions, and organization—and the last weeks of the school year where we as parents are DONE. With humor she pokes fun at the half-finished projects in her children’s backpacks, the unread newsletters that are piling up (gold stars for those of you reading this one), and the drastic difference in paying attention to details such as packing healthy lunches, etc. Remember last September when we wrote little notes and put them in their lunches? Remember how we helped them lay out their clothes each night, signed all their folders and reading logs? It has been a busy and very full year and we are ready for a change of pace. We are tired; our kids are tired; we are ready for a new rhythm. Return to Him and He will return to us (Zechariah 1:3). God promises a renewal of our relationship. Seek a relationship with Him in the midst of the swirling demands of our lives. Model this for your children. He will give you rest; He will give you peace. What an amazing gift for us as parents, and for our children. I know I need it, and so does my child.
In my recent missions-related travel to east Africa and Central America, one of the things that struck me was this: In the midst of cultures that are quite different from ours here in the US, certain human traits are universal, chief among these being the love and care mothers have for their children. Mothers everywhere, it seems, will take whatever measures they can to assure the well-being of their children, and often with great personal sacrifice.
Cinde and I had a chance to visit SAMS missionaries in Uganda and Ethiopia and, later, Compassion International mission projects hosted by Nicaraguan churches. These ministries work among those living in extreme poverty, where they express the love of God through holistic relief and development in the form of health and nutritional training. Mothers, I found, are deeply impacted by this training – they are “hungry” for any guidance that will help them raise their children with a hope for a better tomorrow.
These transformational outreach efforts are practical demonstrations of the love these Christian workers have for mothers and children, and ultimately create a bridge for the communication of God’s redeeming love in His Son. We heard of an impoverished mother, being served by a Christian ministry, who said, “I didn’t know that Jesus loved me until He fed my children.” Scripture makes it clear that when Jesus touches our lives with His love, the Holy Spirit will transform us and, indeed, love the world through us. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, Acts 1:8.) Ask Him to help you be the tangible love of Jesus in this world and to increase your experience of His grace and love so that you can, in turn, share it with others.
On this Mother’s Day, let us thank God for His gift of love, in particular the gift of a mother’s love. Jesus Himself found that image of maternal love to be a very powerful metaphor to describe His care for us: “ How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings… ” Matthew 23:37
I can barely believe it, but the school year is quickly drawing to a close. As the wave of summer is about to crest, we are excited to help your students stay engaged both relationally and spiritually over the hot summer season. In a season that can be busy and stressful, I am praying for peace and continued trust in God's faithfulness to us, myself included! For 8th and 12th grade students, we want to help you to be prepared for the next stage of life. Be sure to check out some special events to help with these transitions. Finally, I would covet your prayers for me. I am in my own season of major life transitions between ordination to the priesthood and an end of summer wedding. (Details to come soon; I want to invite you all!) I have been so blessed by our community of students and their families and am eager to walk alongside you. I may become both a priest and husband in the coming months, but my role as Student Minister will still be constant.
“I’ve known…that we weren’t liable to find him…Maybe I knew even before we left home, but somehow I just had to try! And if we don’t try, we don’t do. And if we don’t do, why are we here on this earth?” I recently watched the 1965 move, Shenandoah . It’s about a farmer who refuses to take sides in the Civil War and therefore doesn’t see a reason to allow his sons to fight. But when his sixteen year old son is mistaken for a confederate soldier and captured by the Yankees, he and his other sons set out on a daunting mission to find him and bring him home. He says this line after a failed rescue attempt. For some reason, even though I’ve seen Shenandoah several times, this was the first time I really heard that line. I began thinking of the many times I had not tried to do something because it looked too difficult or even impossible. When you look at the lives of the saints, you see story after story of everyday folks like you and me, who stepped out in faith and tried, even if it were for a seemingly hopeless cause, because they trusted that God would equip and guide them to do the task He had given them to do. They believed the words God spoke to the Israelites, “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down…I paid a huge price for you…That’s how much you mean to me… So don’t be afraid: I’m with you” (Isaiah 43:1-4, The Message). The father in Shenandoah tried to do something, even though it seemed doomed to fail, because he loved his son. He was right to wonder why we are here if we’re not doing, because we have been created and put here to “do.” But we do, not just out of love for each other, but out of love for the God who made us and redeemed us and loves us more than we can possibly imagine. In the words of Old Testament scholar Barry G. Webb, “People who are loved like that have absolutely nothing to fear.”
A staggering 230 people joined us at Christ Church on last Friday and Saturday for our weekend Anglican Essentials class. Taught by Fr. Paul Donison, Rector-elect of Christ Church, Anglican Essentials explored the great heritage we enjoy as Anglican Christians and sought to answer many questions related to our beliefs, our practices, our past, and our future.
Fr. Paul delivered two very energetic teaching sessions, making the topic of Anglicanism accessible for newcomers and cradle Episcopalians alike. In addition to defining terms, Fr. Paul presented helpful analogies and visualizations—along with a touch of humor—to make the firehose of information that much easier to digest.
34 attendees decided to be confirmed in the Anglican faith on May 14, alongside our 8th grade confirmation students, with Bishop Todd Hunter. If you attended the seminar and wish to be confirmed, but did not submit a form, please contact OOR@ChristChurchPlano.org to get started.
For those of you who missed the seminar, or for those who need a refresher on any topic Fr. Paul covered, please make use of the resources below:
Listen to Audio Recordings from Anglican Essentials »
Download Fr. Paul's PowerPoint Notes »
Christ Church 4th and 5th graders enjoyed a special time together during the GAP45 overnight retreat at Mt. Lebanon last weekend. The opening lesson and worship session at the hilltop campfire site was incredibly beautiful and moving. The next day, students started the day with morning prayer, followed by an adventure that challenged many of them: the zipline!
What a positive group of young people! It was powerful to see them cheer each other on as they suited up and climbed that imposing tower, with its winding stairs and open platform at the top. Some decided it was too much and walked back down, proud to have tried and even come so far. Others paused before deciding to let go and enjoy the ride. Everyone cheered for their friends, telling them they could do it.
One sweet boy became afraid and walked back down the stairs after getting to the top. Yet he asked if he could try it again. Not only did he make it to the top, but this time he leaned forward and zipped his way down the line! It was amazing to watch the transformation.
The GAP45 retreat is for many kids their first overnight retreat on location with their peers. We celebrate the leaps of faith these young people are making as they grow in the wisdom and stature of the Lord. Thank you for giving them your own support, encouragement, and prayer.
Rounding the corner of my first year at Christ Church, what a joy it has been to watch young people grow! One thing I’ve learned in the past year is that so much changes. There’s a lot I can organize, but not much I can really control. And this has been a beautiful thing. I see signs of God’s loving work in places where I can only ask for His help, go on with my business, and watch what happens next. This Sunday, we welcome two guest speakers for a seminar on anxiety in teens and how to help them welcome God’s healing and peace. This will be a practical and soulful look at the reality of control versus rest , and I hope many of you can join us. If unhappiness and stress among young people seems endemic to Collin County, come hear the gospel! Christians believe in a God whose love confronts our priorities, and who offers freely the peace of His own great heart. Will we accept this priceless invitation? I look forward to seeing what the Lord still has up His sleeves for this youth group, and for your sons and daughters. Thank you for helping them be here with us!
Can I just share that I love it when I get to have one-on-one time with your kiddos on Sunday mornings?—even if it's because we are addressing a problem together!
Here is why…and it happens every time: God shows up.
Yesterday one of our younger students was having a hard time in Sunday School class so his teacher brought him to me. I start digging into the issue, and I pray. This little guy is young enough to be boldly honest about his feelings. He didn’t want to be at church because he wanted to stay home and play Xbox. Hence the resistance and challenging attitude to his teachers in class, which brought him to me.
But here is the beautiful part: We had an amazing conversation about God. This boy opened up and shared some stories of healing in his family and I got to help him see how that was God’s hand. God let me remind him that He is always with him. That we come to church to worship Him and give Him thanks for these very instances. That we are his church family and we are all here to support him and help teach him, including his wonderful Sunday School teachers. That it is okay to ask questions because we are seeking Him. That it is okay to talk about his conflicting desires on a Sunday morning because God is big enough.
He let me pray over him before returning to class. As I walked away I hoped that he felt God’s love in this place. I am thankful for his family who brings him here so he can continue to grow in his faith.
And I learned about myself too. I was reminded of how much I sometimes desire what the world has to offer instead of turning to Him first. Approval, fulfillment, affirmation.
"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Deuteronomy 6:6-7