Praise

We have a praise service at our church before Thanksgiving–a blessed time of reflection. It is always a joy to hear grateful voices raised to God.

But it is the suffering ones whose praise rings loudest.

The grieving, the lonely, the ill. The disappointed and sorrowing. Those who have come through a severe storm or deep, dark waters.

That praise is a lovely song, a sweet aroma. That praise is a gift and a light.

A buoy for weary pilgrims to hold.

How can we doubt God’s work when we see His grace displayed so lavishly in failing humans? What a wonder is the Spirit’s real and individual dealing in the minds and hearts of those who suffer!

That kind of praise quenches our doubt with refreshing water. Renews our hope and strengthens our hands.

Ignites the flickering flame when our hearts are growing cold.

I remember the Thanksgiving of 2016. Marissa and I were living in Durham during her radiation treatment. We planned on leaving right after her appointment on Wednesday morning so we could make it home in time for the praise service at church that night. But her doctors planned another appointment, and we didn’t end up getting home until after 9.

We were exhausted–physically and mentally and spiritually. We had been invited to eat Thanksgiving dinner at my nephew’s house, but all we wanted was rest and home. I went to bed without one preparation for the next day. No turkey in the house. No pies. No side dishes chilling in the fridge. No plan but sleep.

But I slept well and woke early. I drove to the nearest grocery store to see if they had fresh turkeys. They did and that somehow spurred me on. I began to walk around the empty store and fill my cart with good things for my family to eat.

I remember that morning with such clarity. I don’t know that I have ever felt God’s presence so strongly as I did in the aisles of that store. As I filled the cart, He was filling my heart. He was renewing my song, reminding me of His faithfulness. He was strengthening me for the days ahead.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving that year. It was Marissa’s last one on this earth, but of course we didn’t know that then. The next few weeks would bring us into the last, terrifying battle.

But early on that Thanksgiving day and in all the days ahead, He provided everything I needed. He saw me in my weakness, and He answered my cry. He was with me in trouble.

He taught me to trust in Him.

He was teaching me to praise.

Bless the LORD, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul! Psalm 103:22

For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. Psalm 75:1

Change

Ann is with Jesus.

Like a flickering, fading light she slipped away.

A grace-filled dying.

Her funeral was a treasure of faces and words and songs. A beautiful house of mourning.

A hope-filled sorrowing.

She is buried not far from Marissa. Not far from Nikki and Jean and others we know. A gathering place. And a reminder that we all live out only our appointed days.

On our last day, all that matters is what we have done with Jesus.

It’s funny how a cemetery puts it all in perspective. All the drama of this life softened by just a glimpse of eternity.

The powerful glory of the cross shining steadily into the corners of grief and uncertainty for those who believe.

I am understanding more and more its merciful light.

It has been the gentlest fall, breezy and warm with color filling the trees so slowly. I’m always startled by the beauty of dying leaves.

A favorite tree in my neighborhood has delighted my heart with its vibrancy. But yesterday we had a hard rain and today its leaves are gone, its branches dark and drear.

My eyes will have to adjust, find pleasure in other sights. Adapt to the change, the season, the loss.

But my heart remembers the beauty.

My heart stays quiet, hopeful, resting.

Knowing.

Yes, the knowing settles deep.

God will make it beautiful again.

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the bones are formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11