My Dear Neglected Friends~

  If you read nothing else, read the song at the bottom.  It says everything that I’m going to say, only much more succinctly.  Pop some popcorn, sit down and take your time with it.  Come on, you can spare 20 minutes for the guy who never ever sends you the national hug week forwards.  Some of you I haven’t contacted in forever, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to share with you on this, my favorite holiday of the year.  That’s not really saying much because those of you who know me, know that I really don’t get into holidays.  I’m about the scroogiest person you’ll ever meet.  I humbug my way through Christmas, Easter, July 4th, Valentine’s Day, and even *GASP* Martin Luther King Day.  But Thanksgiving is different.  First of all, it hasn’t been as readily commercialized as the rest of them.  There aren’t too many myths or legends or imaginary sleigh riding pilgrims connected to it.  For another thing, it’s all about fall, my favorite season.  Cooler weather, hunting season, a blaze of color in the trees, as if every leaf on every plant was a flower, the start of school (yes some of us actually look forward to school).  But more than anything it’s just the name.  Every time I hear somebody say “thanksgiving”, it registers something awesome in my mind.  I don’t think about turkeys, or pilgrims, or a couple more days off work.  The whole meaning is in the name itself.  A time to give thanks.  While not a day passes that the Christian isn’t offered the privelege of returning thanks to the Creator, for me there’s still something special attached to the day of thanksgiving.  Especially this year.  

     This year has been so full of challenges for me as I face the looming Everest of what some tritely dismiss as “growing up”.  After 11 long months of disappointment, injury and sickness, financial struggles, growing distance from church, friends, and family, it just seemed like the whole year was such a waste.  Even as I sit here writing this, it’s staggering to reflect on my hopes and plans for 2005, and compare them to what has come to pass.  I’m not back in college.  8 weeks in a cast ruined my hopes of taking advanced guitar lessons this fall.  It also set me several weeks back in work and several hundred dollars behind in medical bills.  I’m not trying to sound dramatic at all.  No, I didn’t get cancer or lose my parents or live in sewers on the run from communists.  In fact, I know most of the world would readily trade a year of my life for a year of their own.  But I am not those people, and sometimes it’s the stupid little things day after day that wear you out more than anything.  Kinda like having a sniffle all year as opposed to breaking your legs or something.  One’s gonna be a huge pain for a few weeks, the other’s just going to aggravate you — every hour of every day and every night.  Learning to take responsibility in my work, in my relationships, and in my Christian walk has been the most exhausting, frustrating, and terrifying process I’ve ever faced.  Stepping outside the safety nets that I’ve held for so long and into the adventure of life in Christ. 

      I’ve set my imagination to work on thanks giving.  As with everything else, I seem unable to pick the normal things to be thankful for.  You know, the generic list you hear every thanksgiving.  Family, friends, freedom, peace, America, church, along with a host of material comforts.  I never seem to focus on those.  I don’t know why.  I guess I figure they already get all the attention, and we’re supposed to “in everything give thanks”.  I take that to mean the things we normally wouldn’t notice.  Maybe, just maybe, we could put a little thought in, turn over some rocks, open some closets, and find some things we never realized were blessings. 

Mulling over the year, I have have decided that if I can offer one overwhelming praise to God for something, I praise him for the bad things.  The things that hurt, the things I hated, the things I begged him to take away.  I spent the whole year complaining about what wasn’t going my way, and now I realize in losing my world, I found so much more.  Unexpected joys that filled in the holes my own plans left.  I didn’t get back to college, but I learned to run a business and overcome my discomfort in dealing with people.  In missing so many of my friends from other parts of the country, I’ve had to come out of myself and make new ones.  I was so disappointed with relationships that had to remain as “just friends”, until I discovered the amazing and undeserved blessing that those friendships are.  The financial pressure has taught me that I can be content with less, and has been an amazing caution against “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches”.  My physical weakness and injury has served to keep in my mind all year long the fragility of human existence — a perpetual reminder to redeem the time and work toward the ministry that Christ is calling me to.  The distance between myself and the familiar in my life has left me tenatiously clinging to God, the one who never changes.  As I look at the big picture in this chapter of Joel’s life, I begin to see that what will define this year in my memory is not what I’ve done or left undone, but who I’ve become in the months of 2005.  The hard things, the dark things, the ugly things, have revealed things in me I’m not proud of.  The things that forced me to be tough showed me that the things I thought were my strengths — will, words, and wit — were weaknesses.  God used the chisels of life to chip away my pride, my independence, and my rebellion, till I learned that I am not called to stand in my own strength, but in that of Christ, who renews me day by day.  This year’s final weeks find me lost and broken, but broken at the foot of the cross — the one place where a man can be remade.  Reflecting on who I am makes me so utterly grateful for God’s eternal faithfulness.  His mercies to me are new every morning, and I praise Him for the fact that I can wake up tomorrow and have another chance.  A chance to grow, a chance to love, a chance to change my ashes for His beauty. 

Go on.  Find something you didn’t know you were thankful for, the little gifts God slips in when we’re not looking.  If you have the time I’d love to hear them, but if not, just take a sec to tell God how awesome He is.  BLESSINGS TO YOU THIS THANKSGIVING!!!         


Isaiah 61:2-4

2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

 3To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

 4And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.

Relient K ~ When I Go Down

I’ll tell you flat out
it hurts so much to think of this
so from my thoughts I will exclude
this very thing that
I hate more than everything is
the way I’m powerless
to dictate my own moods

I’ve thrown away
so many things that could’ve been much more
and I just pray
my problems go away if they’re ignored
but that’s not the way it works
no that’s not the way it works

when I go down
I go down hard
and I take everything I’ve learned
and teach myself some disregard
when I go down
it hurts to hit the bottom
and of the things that got me there
I think, if only I had fought them

If and when I can
clear myself of this clouded mind
I’ll watch myself settle down
into a place where
peace can search me out and find
that I’m so ready to be found

I’ve thrown away
the hope I had in friendships
I’ve thrown away
so many things that could have been much more
I’ve thrown away
the secret to find an end to this
and I just pray
my problems go away if they’re ignored
but that’s not the way it works
no that’s not the way it works

Any control I thought I had just slips right through my hands
while my ever-present conscience shakes its head and reprimands me
reprimands me
then and there
I confess
I’ll blame all this on my selfishness
yet you love me
and that consumes me
and I’ll stand up again
and do so willingly

You give me hope, and hope it gives me life
you touch my heavy heart, and when you do you make it light
as I exhale I hear your voice
and I answer you, though I heardly make a noise
and from my lips the words I choose to say
seem pathetic, but it’s fallen man’s praise
because I love you
oh God, I love you
and life is now worth living
if only because of you
and when they say I’m dead and gone
it won’t be further from the truth

When I go down
I lift my eyes up to you
I won’t look very far
cause you’ll be there
with open arms
to lift me up again
to lift me up again