Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I’m sending this month’s letter a week early because Thanksgiving is next week and I’ll be with family. And I’m so excited that we will have four of our six kids and their families coming to be with us! Only two weeks ago we thought we’d have none, so “hooray for me”! I’ll send photos in early December and you can watch for some on Instagram and Facebook.
My days have been exceptionally full since last month’s letter, with little signature touches of God’s presence sprinkled throughout, glimpses that are almost easy to miss. I’m reading again a devotion book I love called The Valley of Vision and a line I read last week illustrated this perfectly: “May I never confine my spiritual walk to extraordinary occasions, but acknowledge Thee in all my ways.”
It is easy for me to think God has gone silent on ordinary days full of laundry, errands, and other mundane work, but He is always working. And I’m learning if I pay attention I’ll see evidences of His orchestrating, providing, guiding, and revealing Himself to me. I’m working on paying attention.
Here’s a quick bullet list update of my life since last month:
- The three weeks since my brother went Home have been a flurry of decisions, texts, phone calls, and work, much of it good in many ways. Because of his declining health, upkeep on the farm was neglected and that has taken my focus since I live nearest. His memorial service was Sunday the 14th.
- The trial I mentioned back in June is still ongoing. We are more resolved to our position of being unable to fix it, and more at peace with waiting to see what God is doing. But it continues to pop up, reminding us that spiritual battle is real. Last week was one of those reminders. We are praying God will deliver and make clear His way forward.
- I finished our second eBook, titled Why We Need Gratitude Now More Than Ever. It was emailed to all of you but of course we had issues with the mailing and links. Are we surprised our enemy didn’t want a book on being thankful to our God to reach all of you and be shared widely? No, we are not. Here is a link to the free download if you missed it.
- We still need to hire someone to become the managing director for Ever Thine Home. A couple of you have inquired but I’ve been so busy with other things this process has slowed substantially. Again I’m learning to rest in God’s timing.
With all of this I’m still a seminary student—a descriptor I’m not yet used to! One of those glimpses of God’s providence is the pace of class work slowed during the weeks after my brother’s death. Now I’m beginning work on my end of class paper which is due Dec 16.
I want to give you a quick taste of what I’ve already learned from the assigned passage in Ephesians that is the focus of this paper. Chapter two and verse 19 begin with these words: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens …”
Last week those words “strangers and aliens” caught my attention as words that were repeated often throughout the entire Old Testament. I did a word search and looked up the meaning in my Blue-Letter Bible app and observed many interesting facts and details:
- Though the word “strangers” is not used in Genesis 3 in God’s pronouncement of discipline on Adam and Eve, their rebellion and despising of God’s way made them strangers to Him and resulted in their expulsion from the Garden. Adam and Eve were exiled from God’s holiness because of their sin. He had chosen them, created them for a relationship, but they rejected Him and became strangers to His ways.
- In Genesis God chose Abraham to begin a line of people who would be His own, through whom He intended to bless the nations of the earth. But they too were infected with Adam’s disease and God sent them to Egypt to be strangers in that land (Genesis 15:13).
- But God loves the strangers and aliens Many times in the Old Testament He says, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him,” or, “nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger,” and, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to yu as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:10, Leviticus 19:34, NASB).
- In the Psalms strangers are often those who are enemies of God and His people.
- In the books of the prophets they are the foreigners who will occupy the houses and cities of Israel when God sends them into exile.
- In the New Testament Jesus added a surprising twist to the concept which I imagine shocked the disciples when He said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35, NASB). God a stranger? Yes, in this world He was.
- Jesus also uses the term when teaching the parable we all know about the sheep who hear His voice, saying, “A stranger they simply will not follow, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:5, NASB).
Paul then writes his letter to the Ephesians, who were young believers in Jesus as Messiah, summarizing the historical understanding of this word and concept for both Gentiles and Jews. “Remember that you were … separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world,” (Ephesians 2:12, NASB).
Everyone who does not believe in Jesus–those who are still rebelling, dismissing, refusing His offer of salvation—are strangers and aliens. They are all outside the family of God.
“So then,” Paul concludes this chapter of the letter, “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household …” And I want to add lots of exclamation marks and emojis of praise hands and celebratory symbols.
What a wonder that I have been chosen to belong to God’s household, and even more to be called His daughter.
This story is the essence of all we celebrate when we give thanks on Thanksgiving Day.
This is the story wrapped up in the Babe in the manger.
This is the story we exult in at Easter.
One day we will fall on our faces before Him when we see Him face to face. And He will lift us up and smile and say, “Welcome Home, my child.”
May you and yours make the effort at your Thanksgiving celebration to focus on genuine heartfelt gratitude to God for choosing you and all who know Him.
Hugs to all of you,