For challenging thanksgiving mornings.

First published November 28, 2013

thanksgiving reservations

This is for the people who are struggling with Thanksgiving Day. The rest of you can move along. There is nothing here to see.

Jesus stood on the hillside with five barley loaves in his hand. It wasn’t an armload of bread. A kid was able to carry them easily on a long walk, five loaves in some kind of bag along with a couple fish.

Jesus takes the loaves and fishes and feeds 15,000 people. This story is pretty familiar. All four Gospel writers talk about it. I’m not going to retell it, but I want to focus on one thing. Jesus took the five loaves, John writes, “and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated.”

Jesus could see the crowd when he gave thanks, and he could see his hands. Being the wisest man who ever lived, he knew there was a disparity between those two. And so he gave thanks.

We want to say, “And yet.” But what if the only way to get through the insurmountable, miracle-requiring, heart-stopping gaps between what we have and what we need is to thank God. For whatever is in our hands.

I don’t know what you lack as you face the barrage of messages demanding that we be thankful. It could be that you don’t have nearly enough forgiveness for the faces around the table. You may not have enough courage for the eyes you know are watching you as you deal with your loss this year. You may not have enough answers for the questions about your future, enough family for the places in your heart, enough food, enough energy, enough.

I offer this suggestion with much timidity. I know that it will sound deceptively simple but may be heart-stoppingly hard. But try doing what Jesus did. Take the small loaves you do have in your hands and thank the Father.

See what he does with the little forgiveness, faith, family, or food you do have.


A thanksgiving argument.

First published November 6, 2013

I have a suggestion for those of you who like to create controversy. Next time someone asks you to read something thankful from the Bible, like before you eat at Thanksgiving, say, “I have the perfect poem. David wrote this.”

Then read Psalm 35.

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me.”

If you are a fourteen-year-old like Aiden or Caleb, reading those words would serve as a provocation to their siblings: “Dad, I did not fight against him. Make him stop.”

“Let destruction come upon him unawares, and let the net which he hid catch himself. Into that very destruction let him fall.”

If you are a parent of young children, those words would make seven-year-olds (or seventy-year-olds) ask “You mean like Wile E. Coyote?” And the table would wander into discussions of cartoons, not gratitude.

“They repay me evil for good, to the bereavement of my soul, but as for me, when they were sick … I went about as though it were my friend or my brother. I bowed down in mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.”

For the one struggling with betrayal and injustice, who tries to do good and gets mocked, these words are like vindication. Finally, someone else who understands the frustration of being nice to people who are not nice.

But you’re still not sure why this is a thanksgiving poem. It seems full of complaint and lament, calls for vengeance and vindication. It is. But seeded through the cries for deliverance are David’s promises of how he will respond.

“I will give you thanks in the great congregation,” David writes. “I will praise you among a mighty throng.”

It’s actually an honest thanksgiving prayer. For now, I’ll pray. When I get out, I’ll praise.


My conversation with Nehemiah is just 99 cents for Kindles and Kindle apps all week.

What to do the next morning.

First published May 24, 2011

You make a new commitment. You watch a friend die. You finally decide. You screw up. You get the award. You finish the book. You make the call. You answer the call. You finish. You start. You can’t figure it out. You didn’t get to sleep. You won. You lost.

Then it’s the next morning.

The success is dulled. The commitment, foggy. The future seems permanently distant, unaffected by whatever you might do today.

If this doesn’t sound familiar,  go refill your coffee and get on to your day. Don’t even waste time here.

If, however, you are reading this and you know exactly what I’m talking about (and you, at least do), do what Jesus did one morning.

The night before had been wonderful, powerful, exciting. People heard that Jesus was staying at Peter’s house. Everyone brought an illness or a demon for Jesus’ autograph. “Heal my mom,” they said. “Keep my brother from being thrown into the fire,” they said.

He did.

In a foreshadowing of the Best Buy parking lot on the Friday after Thanksgiving, people slept in a line outside the door, waiting to get the Magic Healing Touch, As Seen on TV.

Early the next morning Jesus left the house. He found “alone.” He prayed.

The disciples found him. They said he’d made the big time. Word of mouth worked. He said, “We’re going to another village. I gotta tell them the good news. That’s why I’m here.”

What happened out there?

His dad reminded him that his purpose wasn’t making people happy. His success wasn’t measured in crowds. He didn’t have to solve every problem.

He simply had to do what he had come to do.

The line is long outside our doors this morning. We can do what Jesus did. Talk to his dad.


My conversation with Nehemiah is just 99 cents for Kindles and Kindle apps all week.

In training.

Rob says that running in the rain makes you feel indomitable. I think it makes you wet. But that may be the same thing.

Here’s what I do know. If I ever need to, I can run 5K (3.1 miles) if the temperature is 24 degrees (F). I can even run 5K if the temperature is 18 degrees (F). And, if the weather is 50 degrees and raining, I can also run 5K.

<FW>I didn’t know any of those things until last week. I had seen people running, had heard about the delights of running, knew that some people chose to be outside in those conditions, but I wasn’t one of those people.

I have no need to feel indomitable. I have a growing need, however, to be growing.

Paul writes to his apprentice Timothy about training, saying  “train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

I’m understanding the value of bodily training right now. I’m more ready for challenges of temperature and exercise than I have ever been (which is scary when I consider all I can’t do).  I’m starting to train for a half-marathon in March, knowing it will take me that long. 

But I am working on understanding and clearly explaining what training for godliness looks like. Slowly at first. In easy situations. And then in colder moments, in darker times. Encouraging nice people as I learn how to encourage sad people. Forgiving small things, on the way to larger things. Being thankful for coffee to practice being thankful for criticism.

In case I ever need to.


My conversation with Nehemiah is just 99 cents for Kindles and Kindle apps all week.

a weekend permission list.

First published April 25, 2009.

Rest. You get to do that.

Pray. You get to do that.

Trust. You get to do that.

Sleep. You get to do that.

Laugh. You get to do that.

Weep. You get to do that.

Ask. You get to do that.

Love. You get to do that.

Repent. You get to do that.

Thank. You get to do that.

Sing. You get to do that.

Kiss. You get to do that.

Work. You get to do that.

Talk. You get to do that.

Lament. You get to do that.

Question. You get to do that.

Come. You get to do that.

Go. You get to do that.

Read. You get to do that.

Reflect. You get to do that.

Shout. You get to do that.

Study. You get to do that.

Leave. You get to do that.

Gather. You get to do that.

Depend. You get to do that.

Know. You get to do that.

Defer. You get to do that.

Follow. You get to do that.

Serve. You get to do that.

Hold. You get to do that.

grosbeakConsider. You get to do that.

Confess. You get to do that.

Stop. You get to do that.

Start. You get to do that.

Pursue. You get to do that.

Acknowledge. You get to do that.

Praise. You get to do that.

Heal. You get to do that.

Help. You get to do that.

Hunger. You get to do that.

Eat. You get to do that.

Belong. You get to do that.

Sometimes we think about what we don’t get to do when we choose to follow Jesus. As a result, we sometimes don’t think about the things that we can do. This list, taken from what we are told to do,  helps us think about what we can do.