By Daniel Zamora
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.”
Everyday there is at least one news portraying people who live in darkness, depression, prison, chains, bitter labor, helpless, trouble and distress. Although these terrible conditions sound like far away, many may experience some in different degrees when lack of health, partial or full loss of income, loss of a loved, an accident, or an unexpected event thwarts the plans for our families, church and communities.
These are exactly the situations described in verses 10 through 13 in Psalm 107. However, if we pay close attention, these things are described as of the past, not of the future. The psalm writer invites us to give thanks to the Lord because God has delivered, saved and freed us from all of them.
Jesus himself was subject to all kind of sufferings while he ministered on Earth. During the weeks preceding his death, he lost a close friend and was blamed for it. A few days later, he was betrayed by one of his students, then arrested, judged unjustly, spit in face, struck with fists, slapped, mocked, and crucified. Because of all of that, “he brought them [us] out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their [our] chains. Let them [us] give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron” Psalm 107: 15-16
The Lord is our past, present and future help.
By Garrett Vickrey
Be convicted. We need this song of Mary. We need it before we give another gift. Before we shop for that last gift. Before we meet at the manger.
We need to be reminded by Mary of what this season is all about. We need to be reminded that the best start to the Advent season is not Black Friday but Thanksgiving. If we start with thanks rather than the entitlement mentality of the consumerist craze of the buy more, care less culture, then we put ourselves in the right posture to receive the hope, peace, joy, and love of the Advent Season is all about.
Chances are we’ve fallen off the advent bandwagon at some point and we need to remember Christmas through the eyes of Mary… or the shepherds. Christmas isn’t about your family. Christmas isn’t about your kids. It’s not about your church. It’s about the light of the world—the one true God coming to us in the flesh.
Mary’s song reminds us that Christmas is for the hungry. Those who don’t have enough to eat. Those who don’t have a roof over their head. The poor and oppressed. Christmas is for people hungry for meaning and purpose. People hungry for a place in this world. That’s all of us at some point. But, the Christmas story reminds us that it was only the hungry who showed up at the manger.
If you are going to Bethlehem this Christmas show up hungry. The only road into town goes by the lepers and day laborers watching the fields. They need your coat. They need a couple dollars for a sandwich. And we need their hunger… for justice and for a savior.
Our souls will magnify the Lord when we give like he does.
By Garrett Vickrey
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for moustaches. Or to be more precise. I am thankful that I am not growing a moustache at this time.
This past Sunday in worship we celebrated all the things that we are thankful for and thanked God for the many blessings in our lives. At the Thanksgiving Dinner last Wednesday everyone wrote down things that they are thankful for on orange and yellow die-cut leaves. Sunday morning our “thankful-leaves” were displayed on our Thanksgiving Tree in the sanctuary.
On one particular orange leaf someone had written that they were thankful for moustaches. And the leaf even had a moustache drawn on it. This reminded me that this Thanksgiving I am thankful to not have a moustache.
Unlike one of my mentors who, upon graduating from seminary and accepting his first pastorate, grew a moustache to look older and more sophisticated. I have not done so. I have committed to the clean shaven, baby faced look for better or worse. Probably worse since I’m a pastor, and most examples of leaders in the bible had significant beards! Facial hair seems to be biblical.
I tried a moustache for a few years. It was for a cause. For two consecutive Novembers I participated in “MOVEMBER” (see more here:http://us.movember.com). Movember is a movement sweeping the nation where men grow moustaches to raise money and awareness for men’s health. My Movember team, “The Holy Mo’s”, raised money for researching prostate cancer.
It was a good cause and a lot of fun. But, my moustache was itchy and it looked terrible. It was patchy (to say the least), and I spent most of the month looking like I was trying to grow a moustache as opposed to actually having a moustache. Did I mention it was itchy?
What in your life are you thankful to have “shaved off” or let go of? We have to start somewhere in giving thanks. Start small. Give thanks for moustaches or shaved moustaches. Give thanks for phases of life you’ve grown out of. Give thanks for reminders of how God has been with you in the past. Give thanks for a day when your knee doesn’t hurt. Find a way to start giving thanks.
Grateful living is healthy living. So even if you are stuffing yourself with turkey and (well…) stuffing this Thanksgiving remember to give thanks. It won’t offset excess calories but it could lead to an excess of gratefulness. And that just might lighten your heart, and open you to receive more of the good gifts God wants to give us.
Donate to the Holy Mo’s Today at http://us.movember.com/