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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Flower arrangement on Communion Table
The "lovely" arrangement on our Communion Table this past Sunday.

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"Thankful For the Thorns"

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Rose arrangement
For many years Brooksyne has enjoyed creating attractive flower arrangements for our home and friends, as well as the churches we have served for the past five years. Among the favorite flowers she grows are roses and presently we have three rose bushes, though they stopped blooming a few weeks ago. Each Sunday she generally makes arrangements for the church using seasonal flowers, such as the fall mums over the past couple months.

However this last Sunday she prepared a rather unusual arrangement for the Communion Table; clipped rose stems without the roses as seen in our top photo today. With gloves for protection she clipped them low at the base of our rose bushes and arranged them for display. It was not very pretty to say the least and probably made the congregation wonder if she was losing her senses!

How many of you plan to order a Thanksgiving bouquet from the Florist Shop this Thanksgiving? Roses are a perennial favorite. Why not have the florist cut off the roses and purchase only the long, thorny stems for your Thanksgiving centerpiece?

ThornsSound a little strange?  In the Thanksgiving Resources listed below our daily message we feature a story called "Thankful for the Thorns". Years ago Brooksyne played the florist when it was presented in skit form in our church.  But this last Sunday she read the story to our congregation and used the rather plain, somewhat disheveled roseless stems as seen in the Communion Table photo as an object lesson.

In the story the florist cuts off the roses and sells only the long, thorny stems. The thorny bouquet is a visual reminder to customers to be thankful for the thorns or painful times in their lives.  Whether experiencing the difficult moments personally or within our families, we have motivation to seek God more fervently, which allows Him to bring perspective, healing, cleansing and maturing in our faith.  The eventual outcome brings beauty and purpose into our lives, much like the beautiful, fragrant rose that is an outgrowth from the thorn covered green stems.

In past years we kept a small wrapped box in our dining room where we could drop in notes from time to time telling of the way in which God had provided a special blessing.  Perhaps we need to also include notes that record the "thorns" that appear in our lives to be reminded of the lessons God has taught us through the difficult times. We can also use it to comfort and encourage others who are being pricked by thorns in their lives.

The apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4, shares four experiences of spiritual and physical testing as he and his co-workers followed Christ.  In each example he showed how God proved His faithfulness in the midst of the severe thorns:

    * "We are hard pressed on every side -- but not crushed."
    * "Perplexed -- but not in despair."
    * "Persecuted -- but not abandoned."
    * "Struck down -- but not destroyed."

At times we've been a little "hard-pressed" in various challenges just as each of you have in varying degrees.  But we've also been challenged by God to trust Him when these "thorns" prick while developing fruit in our lives that can only be produced through these "prickly" experiences.  We find enormous consolation as we read and meditate upon the Scriptures.

Heart-rending emails arrive regularly from our readers concerning their thorns - some that prick and tear at the soul.  May you find the "God of all Comfort" to be your source of strength and hope.  "God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort we ourselves received from God" (2 Corinthians 1:4).

William Law, who lived in the early 1700's, observed "Whenever you find yourself disposed to uneasiness or murmuring at anything that is the effect of God's providence, look upon yourself as denying either the wisdom or goodness of God."

Today are you living with a healthy outlook, confident of God's love and providential care, even during a season of "difficulty"?  Or are you focusing on the difficulty? Some people complain because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: "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."

(Prayer taken from the story, "Thankful for the Thorns")

Brooksyne's Note: "The Thorn of a Broken Ankle" Over three months I could bear no weight on my left leg so I used crutches and a wheelchair during that time.  There were so many valuable lessons I learned over that period of time.  The one I think of most often is the ability I have to park a long way from the store and walk with no assistance.  It's something I took for granted and often whined when I couldn't get a closer parking space. I know there are readers who are permanently wheelchair bound and even those who are bedridden. Our hearts go out to you and we know God provides special grace to you in these circumstances.

I can still recall the intense pain I felt when I accidentally stepped on a stem of thorns over 3 years ago.  Only days earlier I had the cast removed from my left leg due to my broken ankle that was reset and operated on. I had to give up all gardening the summer of '08 and couldn't wait to do some trimming of hedges and bushes when the cast finally came off.  Due to my foot still being quite swollen I was walking barefooted. First thing, I trimmed the very much overgrown rose bushes and did so verociously. Without thinking I threw the thorn filled stems behind me in the yard. I'd forgotten about the rose stems when I backed away from the bush and accidentally stepped on them. It was so painful I remember screaming and falling face forward due to the orders that I was not to bend my leg.  It was an painful experience (behind and in front of me).

Thankful for our doctors:

Ester with Dr. Mark Cohen
Ester enjoys visiting with Dr. Mark Cohen, her pediatric cardiologist, who was the first American doctor to see her upon her arrival from Guatemala at 3 months of age. He specializes in pacemakers and has continued to care for her as an adult since her heart condition is congenital! Yesterday, during her 6 month check up, he told us of his planned departure from Hershey Children's Heart Group. The news was met with a warm embrace while Ester shed many tears. She is very fond of him and has been helped greatly by his expertise and his genuine compassion when she is experiencing heart problems.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Today we want to share music with a theme of Thankfulness which we will add to this list and leave up through Thursday.

"Thanks To God For My Redeemer"  Video  This video is in Chinese and, although you can't understand the words (unless you know Chinese!), it is is set to beautiful floral photos with an outstanding vocal and musical arrangement. It is also a reminder that we are part of a big worldwide family of fellow believers. Here's an English version.  "Thanks for roses by the wayside, thanks for thorns their stems contain!" This last Sunday we sang it to the tune of "Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus".  It was written in 1891 by August Storm, a Swedish believer. He was stricken with illness 8 years after writing this hymn and was an invalid until his death many years later.  He maintained a thankful spirit to the very end.

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

"In Everything Give Thanks"
 Video   Charlotte Ritchie, Jeff & Sheri Easter

 Video  Marshall Hall and the Homecoming Singers

"I Want To Thank You"
 Video  Karen Peck and New River  This is a song expressing thankfulness to the many people who impact our lives and also reminds us of the blessing of seemingly insignificant expressions of faith.  From the Gaither Homecoming series.

"Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me"  Video  Gordon Mote & Jason Crabb

"Thanksgiving Medley"  Video  Nice selection of grand old thanksgiving hymns.

"Now Thank We All Our God"  Video  Traditional version  Here's a bit more contemporary version with same lyrics.

"Come We Thankful People Come"  Video  
Traditional version  Here's a bit more contemporary version with same lyrics.

"I'm Forever Grateful"  Video  Willow Creek

"Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart"  Video  Don Moen

"When I Thank Him For What He Has Done"  Video  The Cathedrals

Yesterday we referred to our friend Tommy Carpenter, whose wife and grandson were killed in an auto accident last month. Tommy writes, "Our grief has been deep, but we have found GOD’S GRACE to be greater than grief."

A highy recommended read:

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing WellNearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
By Billy Graham / Thomas Nelson
Many people, even Christians, fear growing older. We don't like to think about losing independence and control in our lives, but perhaps learning to accept these changes is the first step in dealing with them. After 93 years of living and decades of Christian service, renowned evangelist Billy Graham writes to encourage people of all ages to live with purpose and grace in Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. Graham also discusses the importance of building strong foundations in relationships, facing life's transitions with trust, and understanding our glorious hope in Jesus. Join Billy as he shares the challenges of fading strength, but still standing strong in his commitment to finishing life well.

Special Thanksgiving Resources

We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will post these resources through this Thanksgiving Day here in the US (Thursday, November 24).

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns"
(printable webpage).

"A Thanksgiving family exercise" (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (printable webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading:
A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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