e-letter 11/21/18

I woke up early this morning thinking about being thankful and the words from a poem by Russian poet, Marina Tsvetaeva popped into my head, “What shall I do with all this immensity in a measured world?” (That is what happens when you are a preacher who listens to other preachers who love poetry. Stuff gets in your head!) In a sense, that is the whole point of Thanksgiving. What shall we do in the face of blessing after blessing? What shall we do in response to the deep fullness of life and love, of friends and family? What shall we do in response to the beauty of the natural world all around us? We say thank you. Thank you, God, for all these gifts. Thank you, God, for the beauty of the earth and the goodness of life. Thank you, God, for the goodness of your love that carries us through and reminds of the goodness even when life is hard.  
There are plenty of bumps, hurdles, and tragedies in life. I’ve experienced more than a few of them personally this fall. And we have all seen them and felt them through the news of late. Week after week, we have been bombarded with yet another tragedy. As I write this my heart aches for those who have lost loved ones in the fires in California. I can’t help thinking about all the empty chairs around Thanksgiving tables, people who were taken by violence or storm, wind and water from their families. Life is not all sunshine and rainbows.
But still, we gather around our tables to say thanks because even in the pain and disappointments of life, there is such deep goodness, love and grace. These are the gifts of the God who created life and who chooses to walk with us in all of it. I was reminded of that so powerfully at the memorial service for my nephew Brian, who was killed during hurricane Michael. One of the preachers used the story of Jesus in the boat with the disciples during a storm. The disciples panicked as the boat was being swamped by wind and waves. But Jesus was taking a nap! They go to him and say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38) Jesus wakes, rebukes the wind and sea saying, “Peace! Be Still!” And calm was restored, to both the sea and to the disciple’s hearts.  
This Thanksgiving, I’m so grateful for the presence of Jesus in the boat with us. Whether we are experiencing sunny, cloudless days and blue skies or stormy wind and seas, God is with us, through Jesus Christ to speak deep peace into our lives. We are never left alone to deal with the bumps, the hurdles, the disappointments, the tragedies. And even in those hard days, we can trust that the goodness of life lies underneath it all, waiting to be enjoyed once again.  
And so, we pause this Thursday, amid whatever kind of day we are having, and we say thank you God. Thank you for all your tremendous gifts and blessings. Thank you for your presence in the storms and the peace that you bring. And thank you for the grace of family, friends, and thank you for the grace of your church. One of the things for which I am most grateful this year is the gift that this faith community is in my life and in the lives of so many. Suntree UMC is a gift of God in this community and I’m so thankful for each of you and all the ways you walk with one another through the stormy days.  
Have a blessed Thanksgiving! And I look forward to “decking the halls” with you in worship Sunday and reflecting on the ways we can keep Advent and Christmas well. It’s not Advent yet, but we can begin now to decide how we will live into Advent. We can decide now how we will focus on what is most important during the holidays, celebrating the wonderful life that God gives us in Jesus Christ.  
See you in worship!  
Grace and Peace,