Lori Larsen on Thanksgiving

Some of you may not know Lori. She has been a friend of Kimberly and me for six or seven years, dating back to the Sunday that her then-fiance, James, introduced her to our Sunday school class. James and I had gone to college together, both having been graduated in 1999, so we were already friends. When Heritage called me to serve as youth pastor in 2004, James and Lori, now married, were the first people I asked to join our team of sponsors.

Earlier this year–just days after I was diagnosed with cancer–James was playing basketball during a lunch break from work. He was the last to leave the locker room, but he never made it out. This thirty-one-year-old father of two died of cardiac arrest, the cause of death ultimately being a rare heart disease that no one knew he had.

Kimberly and I (and many, many folks at Heritage and elsewhere) have spent a lot of time with Lori these last five months, crying, listening, praying, reflecting. And those of us whose joy it is to be her friends have witnessed an overwhelming work of God’s grace. No, every day has not been easy, and yes, we all wish James were still with us. But in the midst of the tears, we have experienced the truth of his word: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5.3-5).

Late last night/early this morning, Lori posted a note on her Facebook entitled “What is there to be thankful for?” I asked and received her permission to copy it here for a few reasons. Most obviously, some of you either do not know Lori or do not use Facebook. Thus you might never know that this note exists. More importantly, however, Lori’s words reveal the genuine struggle with suffering that believers face–and the awesome grace that Christ gives in the midst of it. Some of you are suffering right now; you need these words. Others of you are not suffering right now; you may need them more. For it is now, while life is comparatively calm, that you need to meditate on the reality of the sovereignty, wisdom, and love of God. Such meditation is our Lord’s intended means to prepare you when (not if) suffering comes.

Thank you, Lori, for submitting to difficult providences. You are magnifying the worth of your Savior to all who love you.

What is there to be thankful for?

As I sit here tonight and ponder Thanksgiving, so many emotions wash over me. In some respects it is very hard to think about being “thankful” this year. In other respects, I know I have a lot to be thankful for. So….

What is there to be thankful for?
For a God that is good.
For knowing that He holds me by His righteous right hand. (Is 41:10)
For He knows the plans He has for me, plans for hope and for a future. (Jer. 29:11)

What is there to be thankful for?
For God sending James into my life:
For James – the kindest, most caring, gentle man I have ever known.
For eight wonderful years with the man I loved – James Larsen
For taking him quickly, without pain or suffering.
For our last vacation together as a family.
For James’ planning and care for his family.

What is there to be thankful for?
For blessing us with two beautiful children:
For Emma, my beautiful first born – bright, funny, loving.
For Megan, my baby – kind-hearted, affectionate, silly
For daughters that are the light of my life.
For being able to stay home with them.

What is there to be thankful for?
For my family:
For my Mom and Dad, always there, doing what needs to be done.
For Melissa, my sister, my best friend – supporting and loving both me and the girls. I will never forget that you were with me.
For being close (i.e., living in Greenville)
For being close (i.e., emotionally)

What is there to be thankful for?
For my friends:
For Melissa Pagliuca, God made us friends before we understood why. From day 1 we felt a special bond; He knew that bond before we did. I thank God for you and the way you have lived 2 Cor. 1:3-4.
For The Youth Group Sponsors – Hoskinson’s, McCarnan’s, Martin’s, Val Johnson, Sigmon’s, Mair’s (I am sorry if I am forgetting any of the original group). I continue to be overwhelmed by your immediate presence at the hospital that night James died and for your continual love and support.
For The Elwart’s – Your behind-the-scenes work and care is amazing. You are humble examples of Christ. I read the eulogy (on your blog) that you gave at the time. It continues to be a blessing to my heart.
For The Burke’s – The late night phone calls and voice mails just to check in. For sharing with me a book (“Heaven”) that has been a continual comfort to my heart.
For Karen and JR Leckey – I love you. For being my dearest friend – the one whom I can talk to about anything. For growing with me in Christ. And, for JR – for loving my girls and giving them special attention. They love you.
For the Berger’s – the best neighbors ever! For dropping everything and watching the girls the night James died, for babysitting, for cat-sitting…
And for many others….

What is there to be thankful for?
For my church family:
For Pastor Brooks, who gently and lovingly guided me through planning a funeral and burial service when I had no idea what to do. Who also ministers to my heart through his preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
For the Pastoral Staff, Elders, and Deacons – who continue to pray for my family.
For LinC – The most wonderful group of teens I have ever been around, who pray for us, love us, and play with Emma and Megan. The love of Christ is alive in these teens. I am specifically thankful for Daniel Perez and Daniel Ault, who have taken care of my lawn all summer.
For the Church body – These people are the hands and feet of Christ. His love is lived out daily in the many people of this family through their prayers and actions.
For my Bible Study Group – You ladies bless me through your encouragement, example, and love. I miss you!!!

What is there to be thankful for?
For James’ co-workers at Nuvox:
For Josh Holmes – who checks on me regularly and is always willing to help out however he can.
For Toby Grove (and his family) – who raked and bagged and carried off all the leaves in my yard.
For the many others there who have worked in the yard and helped out.
For not forgetting my husband and your friend – or his family.

What is there to be thankful for?
For a great God who is responsible for all of these people and things.
For a God who gave His son for our sins.
For a sinless Savior who died that I might be righteous through Him.
For having assurance that James is in Heaven with Christ.
For a God who is my refuge and my fortress.
For a God in whom I can trust.
For a God who loves me.

I thank you! I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Psalm 100 (NKJV)
A Psalm of Thanksgiving.
1 Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

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