Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What are you thankful for?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and, right now, the thing I seem most thankful for is the opportunity to sleep in. A purely selfish pleasure, I admit, and one that invariably leads me, this holiday season, to be thankful that I don't get to sleep in more often. That when my alarm goes off in the morning, I have to get up, because I have a job to get to.

In Deuteronomy 28, we are told that, if we obey the voice of the Lord, His blessings will "overtake" us. I can't think of a better blessing than being able to serve the Lord and to serve others. And while we open our doors to the lost and hopeless, the hungry and homeless, we are able to offer them food and shelter, physical and spiritual. Because of the generosity of so many people. The bounty of God and the compassion of our community never ceases to amaze me.

So this Thanksgiving, while we follow the pattern set by the pilgrims in 1621 and thank God for His "harvest" bounty, I'll also be thankful for His everyday blessings. For a job and my health. For a working vehicle and the ability to go to nearly any corner and buy gasoline for it. For our country and the men and women fighting to protect it. For the freedom to express our faith and to stand for our principles. For government, yes, even government, and that we live in a democratic republic, where we have a right to a voice without fearing imprisonment or worse should we choose to exercise that right. For our family and friends. And for our neighbors.

And my prayer is that I never again take these everyday blessings for granted.

Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Burdens are Lifted

I've been thinking a lot lately about burdens. John Bunyan, in his classic portrayal of the Christian walk, describes his "hero" carrying a heavy burden of sin until it is left at the feet of the crucified Christ. I have a copy of the illustration in my office, and it encourages me to think that the work we do every day at the Mission is bringing some person a step closer to the freedom of laying down his burden.

But when you become a Christian, you lay down your sin and selfishness and pick up a new weight. A cross. The weight of the world. If you ask to see the world through Christ's eyes, you begin to feel the heaviness of sin all around you. People you love make decisions, choose paths, that lead only to tragedy and heartbreak. And your heart breaks with theirs.

We read over and over again in the gospels of how Christ was moved to compassion when he saw the crowds, hundreds, thousands of people in need. Seeking and pleading for something more than physical healing. Looking desperately for hope. For rescue.

The need is so great. And sometimes the doubt may creep in that your tiny candle will never make much of a difference in a world so dark with despair. Then the doorbell rings. A woman stands there, hesitant even to give her name. With a broad smile, she hands over some folded twenties.

"The Mission helped me when I needed it, and now I want to give back."

Someone calls on the telephone, excited at the opportunity to participate in our holiday barrel drive. The volunteers arrive to serve the meal, as they do faithfully every day.

And the tiny candle flickers into a flame, as you realize that you are not alone. There are so many people around, holding their light high in the darkness. Doing what they can to make a difference. Each dancing light is a reminder that Christ promised our burden would be light if we shared it with Him. Because He knows the darkness of the world. And He has overcome it. We are not alone and together we can make a difference.

Thank you for helping us help others.