Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. ~ Martin Rinkart 1636
“What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were grateful for yesterday,” a Facebook Meme asks. Even though I have been contemplating this question, and even though this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving, and the fact that “Practice Gratitude” is one element in the Trinity Way of Life prompting Charlie Brown, I imagine, to ask, “What if today we were just grateful for everything?” that is not what has been on my mind most of this week, though there are so very many things for which I am grateful. (Diagram that sentence, St. Paul. Your turn.)
I have been meditating on the Gospel lesson from last Sunday found in Luke 21:5-19 (NRSV). Jesus and other worshipers are standing around after the service admiring the temple and Jesus tells them that it will eventually be torn down and that all types of cataclysmic events will take place. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. ***This will give you an opportunity to testify. *** So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.”
There is more to that passage than I have used, but I began to think about why bad things happen to us. There are all sorts of reasons, but I’ve not often considered that they give us an opportunity to testify. If we pay attention to our stories, we will, most often, have some “Good News” to share. God has given much to me as I have worked out, in fear and trembling, some seriously awful events in my life. I have, after a period of time and reflection, found new spiritual growth, new wisdom, and new understanding through these events and they have given me good news about God’s workings to share.
I’ve never been thrown into prison, but I spent many years working with the Kairos prison ministry. Talk about bad things happening to people – I’ve heard it all. Most of the stories, I believed because I am reasonably good about discerning a con job. I, by a turn of events, was the first non-ordained Spiritual Advisor for Kairos Colorado, so there were many opportunities to share Jesus’ story and the ways the “bad” things in my life had changed me with God’s help and healing. As Spiritual Advisor, I only had about 15 minutes with each person to listen to their story, share Jesus’ story and pray for them. My personal goal was to give each person who came to me a bit of Jesus to hold on to, a bit of His love to ponder, and some hope for their story. In. 15. Minutes. God worked some amazing miracles in that time constraint.
An aside (I’m not making light of these programs, just wanting to share a story) – One weekend my husband, Dave, was working with Kairos and I was taking an Al-anon family seminar at Harmony Ranch in Estes Park. Someone asked one of our daughters what her parents were doing that weekend. With a perfectly straight face, I am sure, she told them that her dad was in prison and her mother was in rehab. See what I had to live with. No wonder I’m the way I am.
You might want to refresh your memory by re-reading that scripture from Luke. Questions to be used for your meditation might be: What did Jesus do with the “bad” events and hard times that have happened in my life? What is the “Good News” story that I could tell about Jesus in my life? How has he healed me? How has he loved me? How have I been transformed by God’s working through this event? Maybe you have some questions of your own. God does not waste any part of our lives. He doesn’t ignore the bad and only use the good or the times we think we are good.
Remember – Jesus loves you and there is nothing at all that you can do about that.
This is something for which we can be grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Meditating,