Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thankful in All Circumstances

November 28, 2013, by Todd Neva

IMG_5469One thousand nine hundred fifty years ago, from a dank, dim Roman prison, chained to the wall, wrongly charged, awaiting trial, but as a Roman citizen likely facing a relatively humane execution of being beheaded, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And to the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote, “[G]ive thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

One hundred fifty years ago, a nation divided, after just two years of civil war, 366,000 men already dead, and the bloody carnage of 46,000 Americans in one epic battle alone near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July of the prior summer, millions of Americans still enslaved, President Abraham Lincoln invited his fellow citizens to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Today, three and half years since a terminal diagnosis, heading toward the point of total paralysis, continued loss of independence, I celebrate this day, set aside one hundred fifty years ago, to give thanks, mindful that the Apostle Paul and President Lincoln were each brought to his knees before the Almighty God, humbled by the pain and despair of this world, yet seeing God’s goodness and provision. God doesn’t promise a pain-free life. God doesn’t promise that we will never face circumstances more than we can bear—just that He will not let us be tempted beyond our ability. And here is a temptation: to be ungrateful.

God, give me the strength to be thankful in all circumstances in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

I Don’t Want To

November 12, 2013 by Kristin Neva

20100217 045-1Sara has been playing the violin for almost four years now. We started lessons just before her fourth birthday. Trying to coach a four-year-old to correctly hold the bow was painful… for both of us. But we got through those first lessons, and then on to the Twinkles and beyond. It was tough going at times, but Sara has always loved music and she enjoyed the violin, especially when putting on a concert.

Lately, we have seen a lack of enthusiasm for practicing. “I don’t want to practice. I don’t want to play violin.”

Sometimes I wonder, “Is it worth the effort?” But I think back to when I was a kid, and I wish I had made more progress on the piano and guitar. So we keep going with the violin.

The other Thursday, Sara came out of her reading orchestra class, her face lit up. “Mom,” she said, wonder in her voice, “playing first violin was extraordinary.”

We got home and she played the piece they had been working on for me. “I know that didn’t sound like much,” she said, “but when the other violins were playing, and Miss Maggie was playing, and the cellos were playing, it was amazing.” She had gotten a glimpse of the beauty.

In Hebrews 12 we are called to endure hardship as discipline. God disciplines those He loves. Sometimes we think of discipline as punishment: A time-out; A spanking. We view the difficult circumstances in our lives as consequences for the choices we have made.

Not necessarily. Discipline is training. Learning to play the violin requires discipline. Learning math facts requires discipline. Though Sara would rather be reading or drawing, as parents we require her to do things that she would not choose because we want her brain to expand and develop. The writer of Hebrews says that God’s discipline in our lives is for our good, that we may share in His holiness.

I can relate to how Sara feels because I often don’t like this journey we are on. It’s painful. I don’t want Todd to have ALS.

But there are times when I get glimpses of the beauty. On occasion, I grasp a truth that I never really knew in my heart before, though I may have read a verse dozens of times. At times, I empathize with someone’s pain in a way I never did before and I know that our suffering has expanded my heart. A few weeks ago, when Todd preached on suffering at church, I got a glimpse of the beauty of our situation, and that uplifted my spirits.

Of course, with Sara, the day after “playing the violin was extraordinary” she didn’t want to practice. I reminded her of the beauty she had experienced. “I was wrong,” she said.

I can relate to that because I, too, am up and down. It is easy to lose heart. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart,” the writer of Hebrews says. We can find comfort in Christ, in His suffering.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Do we submit? Do we surrender? “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live.”

The training is a process. Just as Sara doesn’t learn her math or her violin overnight, we don’t mature overnight either. But we press on.

Todd’s sermon on suffering: