How do I write about giving thanks this week? It seems wrong to list what I am glad for when so many have had life itself snatched away. We thanked God for the miracle of September 4, when few were injured and no lives were lost. Now we are not so sure. We are only a small nation, surrounded by friends. It has been a very long time since we faced something like this in our land. It is a shock for the images on TV to be coming from just up the road, for the accent to be our own, the expressions and faces so familiar.
In the shock of not quite knowing how to react, the outpouring of assistance for Christchurch has been astonishing. Everyone wants to do something, and all those little somethings are being organized to make a real difference. There is stuff to be thankful for, but at the moment it is thankfulness through pain, the hard eucharisteo.
O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
you have been angry; oh, restore us.
You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
repair its breaches, for it totters.
(Psalm 60:1-2 ESV)
Let me quote from others who have better words than I do this week:
What will a life magnify? The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted? Or God? Never is God’s omnipotence and omniscience diminutive. God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse. It’s our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right.
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 59.
There is so much that is ‘wrong and terribly busted’, but at the very least this recent event has reminded me that even the foundations can be shaken, the only safe refuge is Christ.
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
(Psalm 69:30 ESV)
Everything can be snatched away. All my stuff, all my achievements, even those I love most. If that is what I cling to, I am in a perilous place because sooner or later it will be gone. All these joys which add fullness to my life must be used a levers to turn my gaze towards Him who gives so generously. It is He that I must cling to and treasure above life itself even. From Chris Tomlinson at Crave Something More blog:
And then these words came from the lips of my heart: God, I love your gifts. They are so good and precious. But even more, I love you apart from your gifts.
This is a truth I want to live out more fully. It means seeing God’s gifts as for my good, whether those be gifts of blessing or gifts of loss. It means rejoicing in those gifts, because God means for us to find great pleasure in them. And it means always treasuring the Giver above the gift, because He is our greatest pleasure.
Chris Tomlinson, When Narnia Awoke in My Back Yard.
It’s all about the Giver, seeing Him through the gifts, the gifts of blessing and the gifts of loss. This is the hard thanksgiving, the hard eucharisteo.
Gifts I have noticed this week (262 – 269):
262) A bowl of wild blackberries to eat, even if they are a weed!
263) A young person standing up to let me have a seat on the bus (but does this mean I am now viewed by the young people as an old codger?)
264) The fascinating strangeness of a stick insect I saw on the footpath.
265) So many expressing compassion by words and actions
266) Freedom to be a Christian openly
Still in prison is Shoib Assadullah, an Afghani Christian who has been in a holding jail in a district of Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, since October. A recent letter from him suggests that his life is in danger
Assadullah was arrested on Oct. 21 for giving a New Testament to a man who reportedly turned him in to authorities.
“Not only has my freedom been taken from me, but I [am] undergoing severe psychological pressure,” Assadullah wrote in a letter dated Feb. 17. “Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened to death by fellow prisoners, especially Taliban and anti-government prisoners who are in jail.”
Assadullah became a Christian about five years ago. During his imprisonment, last month his mother died due to the stress of her son being in prison, according to the Christian.
Assadullah, who has no legal representation, has also been pushed to recant his faith. Authorities have tried to build a case that he is insane in order to explain his change of faith and possibly to justify a more lenient sentence for him, sources have said.
“My case is supposed to be sent to the court shortly, because the prosecutor has the right to hold a case only for 30 days,” Assadullah wrote. “The court’s decision is most definitely going to be the death penalty for me, because the prosecutor has accused me under the Clause 139 of the criminal code which says, ‘If the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to the Islamic sharia law.’”
Sources said that there are diplomatic efforts underway for the secure release of Assadullah.
In his letter, Assadullah wrote that freedom is a gift from God.
Compass Direct News
267) My nine year old asking questions about the realities of faith that I didn’t get to until I was nineteen.
268) Being corrected.
269) Time, even though I use it so poorly.
- See my entire list