February 2021

“In All Things”

I recently read a newsletter article written by a friend and colleague of mine,  offering this bit of wisdom and permission: “It’s okay if you’re enjoying some of what’s going on right now.” To be clear, he isn’t advocating that we should be okay with the state of division in our nation and world, nor should we be content with the rate at which people are becoming sick with COVID-19. No one should be taking
pleasure in those things. Instead, what he’s referring to is this: it’s okay if you’ve been enjoying worship from your couch while resting with a cup of coffee. It’s okay if you’re enjoying more time at home with family. It’s even okay if you found some solitude around Christmas to be a bit of necessary rest. It’s okay if you’re not missing your commute to work. It’s even okay if you find yourself cooking more meals at home rather than eating out. To reiterate, it’s okay if you’re enjoying some of what’s going one right now.
 
As a frequent listener of podcasts, most of what I listen to are interview shows.  Some are faith-based, others political and news oriented, while the rest are often themed with pop-culture TV shows, music, or movies. During this past year, it seems as though just about every interview begins with the question, “How have you been doing during the pandemic?” Almost as if every interviewee read some sort of memo before the show, they all reply with the same basic formula. At first, they lament at how hard it’s been – something we can all relate to. Second, they share some of what they’ve been up to, often regaling the audience of their new sourdough bread hobby. Third, they start to reflect on the positive side of things –
the silver linings. And then, finally, they offer a clause that sounds something like this: “None of this is to say this whole thing isn’t awful, because it is!” It’s almost as if they feel the need to apologize for experiencing happiness and something good during a very challenging and scary time.
 
I’m wondering if we can trade one feeling for the other. With nearly a year of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, likely with months still to go, I suspect we can adopt a new posture, and this should come as no surprise to you: Gratitude.
 
“Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
        -1Thesselonians 5:18 CEB
 
To be clear, Paul isn’t suggesting that hard and scary circumstances are God’s will for us. Rather, Paul is saying that a posture of gratitude is required for us to really tap into the Joy of Christ. This also doesn’t mean that we should ignore all that is going on around us and focus only on happy things! Instead, gratitude provides a new lens – new glasses, if you will – to see the world through. Let’s take a look at
some practical examples:

• If you’ve been worshiping with us from home using Facebook or YouTube, or maybe even from the parking lot with your radio, take time to marvel at the fact that, as a church, we have the ability to record and share a whole worship service over the internet. While there is lots about the internet that is regrettable, we can give thanks for this small glimmer of light, can’t we?

• I was talking with a church member the other day who was planning to prepare a meal to take and deliver to one of our church’s shut-ins. I have to wonder if we’d think to do that regularly if we were more preoccupied with the busyness of life? Has slowing down caused us to think of others a
bit more?

• On New Years Eve, as much as we would have loved to gather with friends to celebrate the New Year and watch our similarly-aged children run around and have fun, Stephanie and I sat with our kids on the couch and did an early countdown with cups of sparkling grape juice for the kids. It
wasn’t what we’d hoped for, but it was beautiful in it’s own way.
 
Once again, this isn’t to suggest that the hardships people are facing are not real. It’s certainly not to suggest that we shouldn’t mourn the 400,000 plus deaths in the United States from COVID-19, and weep with families as loved ones pass away. What I’m suggesting is that it’s okay not to apologize when
you have an opportunity to give thanks in this season of life. Perhaps it’s those moments of gratitude that will help us to see how God is walking with us through the storms of life.
 
Peace, 
Pastor Brian
 
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