Thanksgiving Thorns

I didn’t write this … nor do I know who did, but I think it an absolutely fascinating look at thankfulness. Read and be challenged … then pass it on.

 

 

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind.

Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a “minor” automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son. She grieved over their loss. Troubles had multiplied. Her husband’s company “threatened” to transfer his job to a new location. Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. THEN! Sandra’s friend suggested that Sandra’s grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer.

“She has no idea what I’m feeling,” thought Sandra with a shudder.

“Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?” she wondered. “For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her child’s?”

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk.

“I….I need an arrangement,” stammered Sandra.

“For Thanksgiving? Do you want the beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the ‘Thanksgiving Special’? I’m convinced that flowers tell stories,” she continued. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this Thanksgiving?”

“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”

Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer, “Hi, Barbara…let me get your order.”

She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.

“Do you want these in a box?” asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers?

She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

“Yes, please,” Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again.” She said, as she gently tapped her chest.

Sandra stammered, “Ahh, that lady just left with, uh….she left with no flowers!”

“That’s right, said the clerk. “I cut off the flowers. That’s the ‘Special’. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”

“Oh, come on! You can’t tell me someone is willing to pay for that!” exclaimed Sandra.

“Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do, today,” explained the clerk. “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery.”

“That same year I had lost my husband,” continued the clerk. “For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel.”

“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.

“I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly. “I’ve always thanked God for the good things in my life and I NEVER questioned Him why those GOOD things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, “WHY? WHY Me?!” It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of my life but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about the thought that her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is, I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”

Just then someone else walked in the shop. “Hey, Phil!” the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man. “My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement…twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!” laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

“Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra incredulously.

“Do you mind telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?”

“No…I’m glad you asked,” Phil replied. “Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we trudged through problem after problem. The Lord rescued our marriage. Jenny, here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she had learned from “thorny” times. That was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific “problem” and give thanks for what that problem taught us.

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life.” Sandra said to the clerk. “It’s all too…fresh.”

“Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious.

rose-thorns2 (1)

We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment.

“I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out.

“I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first.”

It read:

My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant.”

Praise Him for the roses, thank Him for the thorns.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Rest- A Prescription that Fits the Bill.

stopsign4c

So what happens when you have to sit out for a while? What happens when you are working hard on a project and … for whatever reason, you are stopped in the middle of it and can go no further?

Rest is not an easy concept in this 21st century USA.

We have been taught to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps” and that “quitters never win and winners never quit.”

But the truth is that resting is not quitting … at least unless you fail to get back up after resting. In fact, resting is such a Godly concept that the Lord Himself illustrated the idea for us by creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh. Somehow, I don’t think God NEEDED to rest; I think He was showing us a concept that, at the least, would remind us of Him and Who He is.

Rest certainly is a Godly concept … and it’s also a command. In fact, it is listed as one of the Ten Commandments and comes with illumination

Valkyrie Rune Honda 1800cc

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
You have six days each week for your ordinary work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy (Exodus 20:8-11 NLT).

So that begs the question for us, “Is rest necessary?”

And the answer is obviously “Yes.”

And sometimes we forget to rest … or we don’t want to rest … or we don’t sense a need to rest … or we rebelliously want to simply push on and on and on and on.

And yet God says “Rest.”

And sometimes it seems that He says “… and if you don’t make an effort to rest, I can cause rest to come upon you.

stock-photo-stop-sign-at-railway-crossing-and-blue-sky-67496749

And this may come to where you are now: Are you in a place of standing still, not moving forward, and perhaps experiencing frustration and anxiety because you are not moving ahead?” Perhaps you are without a job, or laid up because of a medical or physical situation, or maybe you don’t even know why you’re not getting ahead.

Could it be that God has you in the “Pause” position? You are simply in a “resting” state because He is reminding you that He is God and that He has set the standard and example for you?

I suggest that many of us take a moment and quit cursing the darkness just long enough to ask the question whether God is “pausing” us or not. And if we discover that He is, perhaps take the time and relish the rest, experience His closeness, and sense His next direction and equipping.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Chick-Fil-A’s Stand for Biblical Marriage values

cfa-head4I don’t normally post other author’s views here but this one is so well written and stated that I had to.

And, by the way, we DO support Chick-Fil-A’s stance on Biblical marriage values. This DOES NOT mean that we hate homosexuals … in fact, we love them … and those who live in a homosexual lifestyle and who know us will attest to that fact. It is also NOT to be perceived as a condemnation toward anyone; it is simply a support for Biblical marriage values.

We also are thankful for the privilege of living in the USA and having the right to SPEAK forth our convictions and those that we understand to be Biblical convictions.

Anyway, here is the link to the post” http://www.perrynoble.com/2012/08/01/ben-jerrys-chic-fil-a-political-correctness/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

You Have to Tell Them

This post is a letter from one of my students at the Detroit ATS campus, Dr. Darrell Williams. He doesn’t have his own blog (yet) but I thought this was important enough to send out to those who will read it.

Enjoy!

Pastor Jim

 

The prophet Ezekiel saw visions of God. He saw the likeness of four living creatures that you can read about in Ezekiel chapter 1. I don’t quite understand that vision but if you do please share it with me. In chapter two of Ezekiel he can now be found giving instructions for what he is to be doing. In chapter two verse three it says “And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.”

Ezekiel has been sent to tell Israel about the wrong doings they have been involved in. He was given the visions of God, but then God gave him the instructions. Many of you can remember when you were first called that it may have happened the same way. Step one a vision is given, Step two instructions were given, now you were ready to go and do God’s Work right? WRONG (capital letters means I am screaming at you) WRONG!!! You are not ready yet for doing what God wants you to do.

Here is the burning question you should be asking God after his initial instruction to you. What specifically do YOU want me to say to your people and to whom do YOU have me say it too? Verse 7 of chapter two says it all “You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious.” (NKJV). Ezekiel saw a hand stretch out to him with a scroll of a book in it. The scroll had writings on both sides, which is significant since in ancient times scrolls had writings on only one side.

He has been given God’s word for Israel and now he was told to eat the scroll in 3:1-4. I found it interesting that God told him to fill his stomach, and when Ezekiel ate as instructed it tasted “like honey in sweetness”. Eating something sweet causes an immediate rise in the blood sugar where, in most cases you get a burst of energy. That burst of energy will last for a short time only for you to crave another taste of that sweetness. The sugar in the blood system has decreased and now your body wants more sugar.

As ministers and pastors of God you should be the same way in craving His Word. When you eat/meditate/savor God’s Word it should be “like honey in sweetness” and cause a burst of energy in your spiritual system. Now keep in mind that the burst of energy from the honey will not be permanent as it will most certainly wear off in time. Even more so as the cares, struggles and the troubles of life begin to whirl about us. But you have only to pick up your Bible and eat from His word again to acquire another energy boost to carry on.

Many of you are so busy that you don’t eat from His word regularly. I would dare to say that some of you have preached a sermon without significant preparation or by using something at the last minute that you had in your “go to” files from before. You had no choice but to do that because you did not MAKE TIME TO EAT HIS WORD. I took a class at Ashland call homiletics taught by Dr. Aaron Chapman (great class Dr.!) He said that his sermons start on Monday with research and continue on until Friday. Each day of the week he adds more to the sermon that fills in the pieces. By Saturday he only has to look over the sermon to fine tune it. This may not be exactly like he said but you get the point, there is preparation to preach. We make the time to physically eat to nourish our bodies each and every day, and for many of us more than we actually need to maintain our strength. How much more do we need God’s Word to maintain our spiritual health and well-being? Please my brothers and sisters do not become lazy and neglect nourishing your minds, bodies and souls with His Word.

Ezekiel is now prepared to do what he has to do. He has seen the vision of God, he has been given the instructions by God, and now he has the words from God to speak to the people of God. What else do you need to carry out God’s plan? You are now ready to carry out the plan and go forth and do whatever you have been called to do.

God then sends Ezekiel to the house of Israel because they spoke the same language 3:5-6. God says “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: (Ezekiel 3:17 NJKV). Ezekiel has been told to warn the house of Israel and notice that he has been told to warn the wicked and the righteous. In verse 18 he is told to warn them even though they are wicked they still need to be told they are doing wrong.

In verse 20 Ezekiel is told to tell the righteous that they are doing wrong and warn them. If they turn from their righteousness and commit iniquity they are to be warned. Now read carefully the passage in verse 20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die” (3:20 NJKV). God is talking to Ezekiel here and catch the wording “I lay a stumbling block”. Which means when we turn from Him it is not always satan who lays the stumbling block. God said and I lay a stumbling block before him.

Now Ezekiel’s job is to warn both the wicked and the righteous of what they are doing. What will happen to Ezekiel if he does not warn the people? There is a repetition of these words in verse 18 and 20 “but his blood I will require at your hand”. Ezekiel will be held responsible for those he did not warn both wicked and righteous. You as ministers and pastors will be held responsible for not warning those in your life.

You are ready to do the job, you have the vision, the instructions, the Word has been digested, and you have been told who you are to warn. Now go and warn them both wicked and righteous about what God wants or else their blood will be required at your hand. Now I have warned you so one thing is for sure your blood will not be required at MY hand.

Be Encouraged

Doc Williams

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Breakin’ Up Is Hard to Do-o!

Sometimes, you just gotta do what you just gotta do.

Today was a very difficult day for me; I finally gave up something my wife has been telling me I needed to get rid of for a long while now.

I sold my 1994 Toyota Corolla. It had 340,000+ miles on it and STILL got 35-40 MPG.

Toyota Corolla last day 06 20 2012 (1)

It was missing one hub-cap and the Power Steering hadn’t worked in a long, long time, but it faithfully got me from Toledo, OH to Bryan, OH for four years, got Crystal from Toledo to Bryan for another year, and got me to and from Chicago and Detroit for 20 weeks out of the year for another three years.

What a car!

A couple of weeks ago, however, just on the Detroit side of Marshall, MI on I-94, her alternator started chirping. Fortunately, I was alone and not in a hurry, so I tried to make it home … and I did … but the alternator finally froze up, LITERALLY, as I pulled into my driveway in Mokena, IL.

She died.

The alternator/water pump belt was trashed … and the alternator would move no more.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the shock absorbers were LONG GONE … and my front seat was ripped … and … well, you get the idea.

She was good … but she was beginning to cost too much to keep going. She was now an unnecessary burden instead of an asset.Toyota Corolla last day 06 20 2012 (2)

Now the problem is that many times, I am reluctant to let things go when they need to be over and done with.

And there are a lot of things that I … and perhaps, you too … do that kind of thing with.

But the Apostle Paul gives us a key reminder in Philippians 3. He says, “… forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus …”

I think that contextually, I can draw a parallel between my experience(s) and this passage: So many times we hang on to STUFF far longer than we need to … and when we do, it holds us back and many times, causes us to falter.

I loved my car … and it seemed reliable … but it became a hindrance and a money-pit. It was (past) time to let her go.

So it is with many situations in life: we have held on too long to that which was/is draining and of no use to us or the Kingdom … and it is time to let go … to say good-bye.

So have a funeral, a burning, a breaking, a sale, or whatever … but let it go … and press on toward God’s higher prize for and in you.

Be encouraged with that statement.

…and R.I.P. little 1994 Toyota Corolla, my little friend.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

He STILL Does Miracles So Great

Today is the day that we honor and thank God for His miracles.

It is the first birthday of our “miracle-baby,” Aaron Joseph Bunts.

In celebration of his miraculous birth and his marvelous first birthday, I encourage you to read this post by my wife, Cheri.

http://cherigarrett.wordpress.com/

Enjoy.

Pastor Jim

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pastors: Recharge Your Batteries!

There is often a discrepancy between the role of the pastor in his/her mind and the role of the pastor in the mind of his/her congregation. It should be noted that there is probably an accurate medium to be found between these two positions. It has been my understanding that the Biblical qualifications of a pastor are delineated in 1 Timothy 3:2- 7: 

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate,
prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or
pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one
who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with
all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how
will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will
not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And
he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not
fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
i

  From this passage, I have surmised that the role of the pastor must begin
within his/her own home where s/he is to exercise rulership and management over the entire family. Certainly, this pattern is an appropriate characterization of the role that is to be played within the church as well. Another aspect of this is found in a phrase often quoted by a pastor-friend of mine in Alabama. He says, “You can lose your church and still keep your family; but if you ever lose your family, your stand at risk of losing your church as well.”ii

I think there is great wisdom in those words. Because of this sentiment, I believe that the pastor must protect his/her family as well as him/herself by establishing within him/herself limitations and guidelines that s/he will allow of the church’s expectations upon him/herself and family.

The pastor must be careful to set aside time for vacation and time alone as
a family. Also, there must be time set aside for personal recreation, personal rest, family togetherness, and personal mental and emotional maintenance. Some have suggested that pastors should not factor those things into the equations but I suggest that if the leader is not adequately concerned for his/her own family and well-being, s/he will not last long enough in life to be able to last long in ministry.

The people’s perceived pastoral calling
The congregation is going to have its own expectation of the pastor. Some of
these may be from scripture but often these are derived from the particular church’s history of how pastors in the past have served there. For instance, there are churches that are built primarily upon the pastor’s use of visitation both within and without that congregation. In such a case, the pastor may make daily visits to all of his congregation with a goal of visiting every family once per month. S/he may also make home visits to church visitors and peripheral persons who are somehow related or known by members of the congregation. 

Also, churches may have the expectation of their pastors that they are to be at
every surgery including “out-patients” and stay with the family the entire time until the surgery is over and the patent is back in his/her room from recovery. It should be noted that these are very time-consuming endeavors for the pastor; yet to say that these are unreal expectations would be too simplistic. Instead, it is more proper to state that these expectations have had years of nurture and will probably take a period of time to change into more proper expectations. Also, these types of expectations can probably be addressed at the incoming pastor’s initial interview. Certainly, these types of questions should not be avoided at that time; conflicts in expectations are too critical for the spiritual and emotional health of the church and the pastor and his/her family.

_________________________________________________________                                               
i NASB.

ii  Pastor Ernie Brown, Arab, Alabama.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

His Remnant

One of the visions God has give us is that Equipping, Encouraging, and Restoring Pastors and Christian leaders.

This is the place where we can write about those things and communicate them all of the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized