Giving Thanks in All Things

As we gather together over the coming days our minds will naturally reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for.   And while it is important for us to reflect and remember that we are truly blessed, while we need to remind ourselves that we indeed have much, will we remember the challenges of this life?  Will we allow our thoughts to go back to the tough times?  Will we give thanks for those valleys?  For the struggles?  For the life lessons learned through failures, tears, wrong turns, and mistakes?  For us to truly say that we give thanks in all things, we must look at those times where the Lord was at work and call them good.

God’s intervening work in our lives is part of a master plan, a script crafted before our first breath was taken, a course plotted before time began.   Rarely are our stories uneventful.  They are often dotted with high mountain top experiences and low valley moments.  Our natural tendency is to give thanks to the Lord while we stand tall upon the mountain top.  We praise Him for victories; we call Him good when all in our life appears good.

But what about those valleys?  What about those not-so-lovely moments of life when we are stretched beyond our comfort zone, when we are struggling, when God’s refining work is indeed remaking us?  Honestly, calling God good in those times can be challenging.  Yet, again, if we believe that God is good, we must acknowledge that He is ALWAYS good.

As I reflect this morning on what I have to be thankful for, I am allowing my mind to go back to the unsavory moments of my life.  I am permitting myself the time to remember the low times, the scary times, the times full of tears, uncertainty and anguish.  For when I recollect those moments now, I can truly see the goodness of the Lord; I can see how His hand was at work in my life.  I can see that His glorious plan for my life was unfolding, and I give thanks.

So today I offer thanks.  I give thanks to the Lord for He is keenly aware of me and my state.  I give thanks because my life is not insignificant to Him.  I give thanks because He cares enough to intervene.  I give thanks because He changes paths and makes a new way.  I give thanks because I am never too far out of reach.  I give thanks because God is not finished with me yet.  I give thanks that I can come before Him just as I am so I no longer have to remain just as I am.  I am thankful for forgiveness, grace, and mercy.   I am thankful for my story…full of miry pits…with its moments of despair and hardships.  I give thanks for the gut wrenching moments and extended seasons that have allowed me to see the goodness of God, to see His hand at work in my life, to see hope and change.  I thank Him for sickness and loss and failings.  I am thankful that I can stand outside of the valley and truly say God is always good.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

If You Are Upset About the Election, I Understand

If the result of this week’s election has left you angry, scared, and concerned for the future of our country, I want you to know that I understand how you feel.  I have experienced those same feelings.  I know what it is to have a flood of anger rush over you.  You scratch your head, “What were these people thinking?”  I know what it is to feel a deep concern for the direction our nation is headed.  I know how it feels to experience fear over what kind of nation our children will grow up in, what kind of nation they will raise their own family in, what kind of a nation you will grow gray-haired and old in.  I know what it is to be gravely concerned about the security of this nation. I know what it is like to look at the television with tears in your eyes as the election results come in.  I know what it is to grieve for a land that you love and call home.

I know how you feel, because I felt the same rush of emotion eight years ago, then again four years ago.   I was not part of the exuberant mass of people applauding President Obama’s election.  I remember feeling a momentary sense of pride that our nation had broken the racial barrier, yet I was deeply saddened.   I was saddened because I did not align myself with his platform.  Our vision for this country was not the same.  The policies that he wished to implement were not in line with mine.  I felt so strongly that his leadership would take our country to places I was not willing to go.  That night I was sad; I had a heavy heart.

I was not alone on that evening.  There were tens of millions of Americans who had the same concerns as me.  Millions of Americans who cast a different vote from the populace.  Many of those people were instantaneously labeled as racist.  How could they be anything else, right?  People who had never met me, talked with me, seen my life in action, assumed that I had an anti-something agenda.  They were unable to understand why I would vote otherwise.

My opposition to President Obama had nothing to do with the messenger but everything to do with the message.  And you know what, that is fine.  In nearly every single election, tens of millions of American citizens disagree with the President-Elect.

Our nation is not populated by programmable robots.   We are individuals from different backgrounds; our life stories are different.  Our struggles and passions are not identical.  That is America.  You and I have the right to be different.  My beliefs do not have to be your beliefs.  Your passions do not have to be mine.  Anything less than that is frankly unamerican.

Eight years ago I had a choice.  I could become angry and bitter, or I could accept that President Obama was my president.  I chose the later.  President Obama was and is my president.  While I have disagreed with the majority (not all) of his actions, I have had to respect the fact that the majority of my fellow Americans wanted to give him a chance.  I had to accept the fact that they were unhappy with the path the previous administration had taken them down, and they wanted change.  That is the beauty that is America.  If you are not happy with the status quo you can cast your vote for change.  We are a privileged people who have this power and ability.

So this week the people spoke.  They sent a message that they were not happy with the path that our country is on.  They want change.  They used their power to send a message.  The majority of Americans spoke, and change will come.  And you know what, that is fine.  While I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, because again, I did not agree with her message, I have my concerns with Donald Trump as well.  Let it be known that the candidate of my choice never made it past the primaries.

So as I watch protests and the burning of my American flag by American citizens, I am grieved.  I am grieved for some who cannot accept loss.  I am grieved for some who cannot function in the face of disappointment.  I am grieved for those who label their opposition as racists, bigots, and homophobes.  I am grieved for some who fail to understand the very fabric of these United States of America.  I am grieved to see my nation evolving into an intolerant land where those who have opinions and beliefs that are different are deemed a hateful threat and won’t be tolerated.  I am grieved that we need safe spaces and days off from school to cope with loss.  I am grieved for some who call for changing the Constitution because they didn’t get their way.  I am grieved that America has lost sight of what America is and what it means to be American.

It is my prayer, that just as I had to do eight years ago, people will realize that their fellow Americans…good, hard-working, concerned, Americans, wanted change.   Please don’t label them as evil.  Please do not see them as the enemy.  Please remember that this is what America is all about.  Should the next four years not be to your liking, you have the power to petition for change through your vote.