May 23, 2021
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Gratitude is the memory of the heart. ~ French Proverb
On Friday morning, I woke up to the sound of rain outside my window. Rain! Not just a light shower to tamp down the dust, but a long deep rain that soaked the ground with “some” much-needed moisture. I was truly giddy and grateful for the rain. I put on my raincoat, walked to the church, and said a prayer, “Thank you God for this much needed rain.”
Meister Eckhart wrote, “If the only prayer we ever say in our entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” What are we thankful for? Do we give thanks in all circumstances? When we feel grateful, “we recognize a circumstance, event, or situation (even if it is a trial) as a gift, we have received some unexpected benefit, we respond with words and actions, and we become our best selves in the process,” says Diana Butler Bass.
In the past few months, I have felt a general lifting of heaviness and gloom and doom in our lives. Many of us have received Covid-19 vaccinations. The state has lifted most restrictions. We can eat in restaurants, hold worship in person, attend athletic events, host friends for dinner if we have all been vaccinated, and go into a store without a mask. For the first time in over a year, we can see each other’s faces. We are not completely out of the pandemic, but we feel safer and more hopeful. Life seems somewhat normal. Thank you, God.
On Monday I took a long walk with our son, Ro, in Canyonlands National Park. The red-walled canyons, the barrel cactus flowers in full bloom, the silence of the high desert, the wonder of slot canyons, the empty blue sky, and time alone with our thoughts, one another, and our Creator rejuvenated my soul. Thank you, God.
Just a moment ago, our daughter, Andie, called me. “Dad, I got a full-time job with benefits working for a food bank!” She is going to be the volunteer coordinator and help in the warehouse when needed. Her happiness for landing her first real job was contagious. Thank you, God.
Our church is meeting on zoom and on the east lawn of our church on Sunday mornings. We pray, hear sacred music, share wisdom, and breathe together. We renew old friendships and form new ones. Is the Spirit moving through us? Thank you, God.
Bass says, “Life is a gift. Air, light, soil, and water are gifts. Friendships, love, and family are gifts. We live on a gifted planet. Everything we need is here, with us. We can freely respond to these gifts by choosing a life of mutual care.” Is all of life a gift? We work hard but is it a gift to be able to work?
Jesus calls us to embrace with gratitude all of our life. In Thessalonians, Paul writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” This is fairly easy when things are going well: we are healthy, we get the job, we have time to walk in beauty, the kids are doing well, and we live in a healthy, supportive community. But what do we do when life turns south?
“Our lives are also full of losses. Losses of dreams, losses of friends, losses of family, and losses of hope. Over time there are more and more things we can be negative or resentful about,” reflects Henri Nouwen. “Resentment gives us a hardened heart and we become resentful people.” We are angry at him/her. We are angry with this situation. This is not what we expected.
How can we give thanks in all things?
Jesus invites us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate. The cross, the main symbol of our faith, invites us to find hope where we see pain and new life (resurrection) where we see death. Joy and sorrow belong together, says Nouwen. Have we seen blessings/gifts spring forth from difficult situations, hard times?
Gene, a former member of our church, invited me to visit his wife with him. She had Alzheimer’s and lived in a long-term care facility. Gene would ask her questions and meet her basic needs, but she remained unresponsive. Then Gene would play an old Frank Sinatra CD. “Would you like to dance, honey?” he would ask. Together they would dance gracefully like newlyweds around the small room. They shared a deep intimacy despite her circumstances. “Mourning and dancing are part of the same movement,” writes Nouwen.
“It is not easy to live with the mysteries of pain, injustice, illness, brokenness, and violence,” says Bass. “We should rightly rage against these indignities.” But we can also, usually gradually, let go of our resentments as we realize that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
“In the middle of suffering there is a blessing.” says Nouwen.
Let us mourn the losses in our lives while we give thanks for new life and new beginnings.
Blessings and peace,
Thank you for being such a vibrant supportive community for so many.