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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

 Autumn wagon, Lancaster Country PA
Fall Harvest Wagon

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"Thankful For The Detours"

"In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).

At Thanksgiving season we tend to look back over the previous year and consider God's blessings (at least we should). There are some years that are more notable, and some more pleasurable than others in regard to our personal experiences. I can easily remember the year I graduated from college and the year I was married. But I can also remember the year(s) when my routine life was suddenly disrupted by a booming trial. A week before Thanksgiving in 2002 I became very ill and entered into a most challenging season that spread out over the next year, underscored by four major surgeries.

This past spring Brooksyne was visiting with Mike Stillman, a friend of ours. He shared about his father Pat, who had successfully undergone hip surgery months earlier but more recently was tested for another matter. This testing was to rule out possible cancer or to confirm its presence.

Even as they were talking he got word that his father indeed was diagnosed with cancer. Mike didn't have to say a word; it was evident in the troubled expression that appeared on his face. His family was charting new territory as they were entering into a testing period. Brooksyne could easily relate to Mike's response as her father received a very similar report in 1999. For five months he battled the aggressive cancer before the Lord called him home.

Pat StillmanFor the next several months Pat Stillman's life was routed on a detour that he hadn't planned nor desired, but it was in the providence of God. This kind of detour requires a great deal of faith that the outcome will be favorable since the investment of one's time, energy, emotions, finances, and dependence on others is tested to the max, with no absolute guarantees that the cancer will be eradicated. In days to come Pat would be diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Merkel Cell Carcinoma. He had to prepare for the possible roller coaster ride of his life.

Following a successful surgery and recovery period Pat's body did respond favorably to the treatment plan prescribed by his doctors. The outcome was favorable regarding his health, and the experience brought a fresh vigor in his walk with the Lord. He sums up his health detour with these words,
"What an amazing God, and He cares for me. God loves me and He demonstrates it all the time. This particular time He opened my eyes and let me see that He held me in the hollow of His hand."

Detour signRoad signs generally forewarn the driver if there is a detour just ahead. We, in our individual lives, are afforded no such notification. It might paralyze us with fear if we knew ahead of time dreaded future events before they unfold. What we can do is daily build on our Christian foundation so that we are prepared for that which we cannot foresee, as we place our confidence in Almighty God. He can give us the contentment and peace of enjoying the scenery while on a detour. 

Some, like Pat Stillman experience a health detour. Others are on a vocational detour. Several weeks ago one of the companies we serve had to terminate several very skilled, long-term employees due to business conditions. We have been following up on these employees.

Life's detours bring about a change of perspective that would be unknown if we always traveled the familiar route.

The daily texts are among the first Scriptures I memorized as a young Christian. I recall reading a book titled "Power in Praise" that developed a theme of praising God and expressing thankfulness in the midst of trials or "detours".

Being thankful during the detour does not mean that we don't pray for God's intervention and seek for a resolution to our problem. Certainly if I'm on a detour while traveling I still have a goal to arrive at the proper destination in a timely fashion. However while following the detour I can choose to be annoyed by the change of routine that requires extra time in my schedule or I can enjoy the new landscape, adjust my schedule, and reach my final destination with a good, or at the very least an overcoming attitude.

The key to "enjoying the scenery" and being thankful during life's trials is based on two foundational truths that should be the bedrock of our faith. We must be firmly persuaded that:

1) God is in absolute control.  "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand" (Proverbs 19:21).
2) He is ultimately fulfilling His purpose in our lives. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Notice the progression of purpose in our daily text:
1) The trial is a testing of faith.
2) This testing of faith develops perseverance.
3) Perseverance must finish its work.
4) This work makes us mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So today if you're on a winding, bumpy detour may you have the perspective of the apostle James and "consider it pure joy". May you experience this outlook, "Contentment is enjoying the scenery while on a detour."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, it is not by mistake but by Your design that we experience the detours of life that give us perspective in a way that nothing else does. Though we see others who travail in difficulty, it is particularly difficult when we ourselves experience tough terrain that we seek to understand Your purpose for the trial we are enduring. Help us to persevere in the midst of uncertainty and unfamiliar landscape. May we find joy in the simple pleasures we overlooked when life's journey was routine and uninterrupted by the surprise bends in the road or difficult detours that bring about delay or a change of plans. May the testing of our faith bring about maturity and give us a new perspective that makes us stronger in our faith and more effective in our witness to those around us. May they see a grateful spirit in us even as we undergo difficulty so that we glorify Your name rather magnify our problems. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Perfect Peace"
 Video  Laura Story

"Thank You Lord, For The Trials That Come My Way"  Video A wonderful song that thanks God for trials, highlighting the good that comes from difficulty.

Pat Stillman's testimony: "Cancer - An Opportunity For Joy" is a perspective written by Pat and shared with his family and friends.

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 Thanksgiving Day here in the US (November 22).

Here are several Thanksgiving classics that you may or may not have heard:

"Come Ye Thankful People Come"  Video  Traditional version
Contemporary version but thankfully maintaining same tune and lyrics Video

"Thanksgiving Medley" (We Gather Together, For The Beauty Of The Earth, Come Ye Thankful People Come)  Video  Studio Musicians

"Give Thanks"  Video  Don Moen

"Thank You Lord"  Video  Community Choir at a Lancaster Day of Prayer event in 2008.

"Thank You Lord For Saving My Soul"  Video  Holland Davis

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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