Friday, November 27, 2009


I sit here typing on a nice computer, listening to music given to me, with my beloved wife near and my in-laws working hard on Thanksgiving dinner. (I'd help if I could, but there's simply not that much room in the kitchen!) We are free to travel as we wish; we can buy whatever books we want without censors restricting our access. Nothing hinders the free practice of our faith.

We have much to be grateful for.

On Tuesday, Jaimie and I went shopping for some Christmas decorations for our house. As we walked into Hobby Lobby, we were confronted by seemingly endless shelves filled with paper and wreathes and lights and trees: a monument to the insatiable commercial appetites of our culture. We live in an age driven entirely by consumption. Our world spins on selfishness. We take one day to reflect on the good things in our life, and offer gratitude to some abstract deity who we ignore the rest of the year. Then we glut ourselves again in cultic worship of our real sovereign: shopping.

Capitalism is not inherently evil—man is. We may have forsaken the Olympians, but in their place we have raised a more fearful colossus: greed, exalted to high heaven like a new tower of Babel. And we have called ourselves wise.

[A day later]

Along the way in this life we find ourselves in circumstances that leave us straining for understanding, wondering at the plan of this one who is nothing like a genie in a bottle. The night before Thanksgiving, a 17-year-old young woman of my acquaintance died of cancer. How is her family, including one of my very best friends, to have said, "Thank you" yesterday?

We can give as many pat answers as we like about the years they did have with her, that they were together, and so on. The pain remains. A family spent Thanksgiving grieving. What do we say to them? What do we say to everyone who prayed? That we should be grateful for God's not acting?

Yet here, as everywhere, we are to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). How does this work? Honestly, I don't know. What do you think?

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