The Altar of Thanksgiving

On Saturday, my daughter will be married to a one-of-a-kind guy who stole her heart the first time she saw him.  He has since stolen our hearts, too, and we anticipate such joy in having him for a son-in-law.My daughter will be married at the same altar where she was baptized, where I was confirmed, where I first heard the call to preach, where I first experienced a prophetic word in prayer, where Steve and I were married, where my mother’s life was honored at her passing.

Maybe more than any other place, that altar is home.

Just now, I can place myself at that altar in my mind and find a spirit of gratitude rising up to meet me.

I am thankful for my daughter.

I’m thankful for the spirit of her, the humor, the wisdom, the beauty.

I’m thankful I got to raise her and thankful that every year my joy has increased as her life has unfolded.

I am thankful for rows upon rows of good memories, of that fierce melody she hummed when her toddler mind was constructing new worlds, of the brilliant turns-of-phrases only a four-year-old could invent, of her strong loyalty to friends, of the common-sense responses that often unlocked the obvious.

I am thankful for her quiet and resolute spirit in times when that was just what was needed – when we walked down a mountain pelted by icy rain, when we moved to Augusta, when each grandparent crossed into the unhindered light of God.

I am thankful that somehow, even though her mama was driven to serve the Church, she clung to Jesus and sanity and made it into adulthood with strong character and a face pointed toward Christ.  I am thankful for her spirit, wide enough to hold mercy, to let the best we could do be good enough.

I am thankful to Jesus for holding on to her.  I’m thankful for good Christians who helped her feel safe in God’s house.  I am thankful for the tenderness of the Church in guarding her spirit and faith.

I’m thankful for her daddy, who taught her by his example what kind of man to look for.  And thankful she absorbed what is most important and settled for nothing less than God’s best.

I’m thankful for the ways she loves.  For her practical approach to life.  For her optimism.  For her happy willingness to let God tend to her details.

I am thankful that both her feet are planted firmly on good earth as she prepares to step out into adulthood.

I’m thankful I get to be the mother of this bride and honored to be the one who stands for her when she walks the aisle.

I am bursting with thanks, overflowing with it, because gifts like this are too big to hold, too valuable to hold onto.

Joy.  Grace.  Thanksgiving.  All laid on that altar where my daughter will stand on Saturday as she enters a grand new season of life.

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The Good News in Breaking Bad

I do not recommend the show, Breaking Bad, but there’s a powerful scene in season four.  A Christianity Today article talks about it and it strikes me as a word for the Church.

The plot of Breaking Bad revolves around two main characters. Walt is a high school chemistry teacher who, after getting a terminal diagnosis, decides to leave his middle-income job and begin manufacturing meth.  Jesse is Walt’s former student-turned- accomplice. 

At some point, Jesse becomes just miserable enough to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.  Looking for some relief.  These guys are in this deep and they’ve killed people and Jesse all but shares the worst of his sins.  And the group leader says to him, “We’re not here to sit in judgment.”  Jesse explodes.  “Why not? Why not? … If you just do stuff and nothing happens, what’s it all mean? What’s the point? … So no matter what I do, hooray for me because I’m a great guy? It’s all good? No matter how many dogs I kill, I just—what, do an inventory, and accept?”

What he can’t accept is a world where grace is cheap, where repentance is a Hallmark card, where the cross has lost its power to transform lives. 

Isn’t this what Paul preaches … over and over?  Paul tells us there is a battle being waged.  That the real enemies are not wearing flesh and blood.  That in fact, things with skin on are not the real enemies.  The real enemies are powers and principalities that would prefer us to keep secrets, lose moral compass, stay in the dark, play at this thing called church rather than actually being the church as Christ intended.

The Church has a powerful opportunity in this season when recovery is finding its voice in the mainstream.  If we who lead will find the courage to speak aloud the names of those demons that haunt us, if we will call ourselves back to the basics that make our faith both rich and compelling, we can begin to build a new society with holiness as the cornerstone.

Isn’t that what made Jesus’ own life so irresistible?  He had the audacity to actually live what he believed, consummately.  Jesus absolutely embraced a theology of humility and holiness.  He allowed holiness to sink deep into every nook and cranny of his life, to take root there, and bear fruit.

That is our calling, too.  Nothing will cause the demons of this world to lose their power more quickly than the earnest, honest prayers of the church.

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