Who’s in Your “Thanksgiving” Network?


Thanksgiving by Norman Rockwell


Today I am thankful I am not alone to figure out all my stuff.  It’s a great lie we believe that no one understands our predicaments, so we’ll have to be our own superhero.  In God’s economy, community is the shared place for us to declare wise sayings and tell of the mysteries of old…and unravel new ones.

I will declare wise sayings; I will speak mysteries from the past–things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us.  We must not hide them from our children, but must tell a future generation the praises of the Lord…so that a future generation–children yet to be born–might know.  They were to rise and tell their children so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep His commands”  Psalm 78:2-4, 6-7

What a relief that God gives us permission to be a child in our faith!  Not childish, but child-like where we can dress up in the faith of our fathers and enter their thoughts about God.  Where we can humbly admit we need help with mysteries that feel like shoe-laces uncooperatively looping in the hands of a five-year old.  Where we can sit, clinging to the cadence of their stories and discoveries while our heart stores up courage to let God write us into His story.

Today I am thankful for the “storytellers” God has placed in my life this last week–some I know personally, others only through the ink of their pens.  Yet each, in some way, have spread out the horizon of my faith.

1. I am thankful for Ellen Charry.  Her book, By the Renewing of Your Minds (1997, Oxford), may possibly be the most important book I’ve read to date.  Her wisdom in a nutshell,

Reclaiming the beauty of life with God for the people of God will require attending to the practice of life with God.  What is called for is not only expanding our grasp of what doctrine does but also attending to how Christians can best utilize it.  Whatever the intellectual adjustments that must be made in order to do so, the reclamations of the pastoral functions of doctrine will fail unless theology is reconnected to devotional life.  For theology is not just an intellectual art; it cultivates the skill of living well.

2. I am thankful for Klyne Snodgrass (Stories With Intent, 2008, Eerdmans) and the insight he provided me on the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35).  I’m thinking differently about the grace I have received and the grace I am to give to others.

This text is a clear example of the tension between two or more truth that are always present in Christian theology.  The community cannot tolerate sin without confrontation and reproof, but must always love and forgive without limits.  Deciding what should be done is always a matter of wisdom.  Sin has disastrous and eternal consequences, confrontation and discipline are necessary, and excommunication from the community is a real possibility.  At the same time, God searches out those who stray and wills that none be lost, and the community can lay no bounds to its forgiveness or forget that its forgiveness is modeled on God’s forgiveness of its members’ own much larger debt.  The biblical and Jewish traditions do not feel the tension we feel between reproof and love.  Rebuke of the neighbor and love of the neighbor stand together in Lev. 19:17 and T.Gad 6.3-4.  By framing Jesus’ teaching as he has, Matthew has insisted that the community address seriously issues of disobedience and sin, if possible in discrete ways, even if that leads to starting all over with those it rebukes, treating them as outsiders.  At the same time Matthew has insisted that humility and forgiveness dominate the efforts.

The parable prevents any presuming on grace.  The church has often presented a grace that did not have to be taken seriously, but biblical grace is transforming grace.  When  you get the gift, you get the Giver, who will not let you get your way.”

3. I am thankful for Dennis Okholm.  He is my professor of theology at Fuller Theological.  (Which typing this reminds me I have homework to do.  Yikes!)  I am learning so much in his class.  Yes, I am learning a lot about doctrine, but more so, I am learning how to converse eloquently on the things of God in the context of a diverse community.  He always listens patiently and responds diplomatically.   His diplomacy never marginalizes the one whom he addresses, never short-changes truth, and always leaves the whole better for the exchange. His words are seasoned by grace and therefore, I’d like to say this is a practical theology class.  My favorite quote of his this week:

The Church is to be a visible testimony & expression of the invisible reality & ministry of the Trinity.”

4. I am thankful my husband is a hope-filled man.  I would have been sidelined so many times in my life if it weren’t for his persistency to keep putting one foot in front of the other...and requiring me to do the same.

I don’t see how this will get better, but I have to hold onto hope that God has a way of making it right.”

5.  I am thankful for my hairdresser, Stephanie.  We all need a person in our life who’s sole purpose is to make you look better. So today, Stephanie will do what she does, and I will be thankful she is in my network.  By chance, I might also find a manicurist to make me look even better!

My list could go on and on–I have parents, and siblings, and children, and friends, and co-workers, and church family who all contribute to my life in significant ways.  What a gift it is to have too many to list!

Who are you thankful for?  Tell them!