On thanks despite circumstances

I appreciate these words today from Shauna Niequist: “…when life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

I find life is more a mix of the two, but yes, the response to God can always be thank you. For example, #disabledmamalife (my new, humanizing and humorous hashtag on Facebook): Physical healing? Thank you. No healing? I praise and thank you yet. For are the sick, broken, poor, weak any less beloved? Oh no! And the Sermon on the Mount calls out the mourning as blessed. There’s a thanks to be experienced and lived and uttered even there, in those hard places.

It got me reading and thinking about Scripture: Paul’s thorn in the flesh, the charge “to give thanks in *all* circumstances ” (from 1 Thessalonians 5:18), and remebering Jesus’ suffering.

(This popped out to me too, from 1 Thessalonains 4:9-10: “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. *Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.*”

There’s a call to more love and more thanks ringing in my ears and pounding in my heart tonight, and I’m listening. Do you feel the pounding rising in you?

And for those in the bitter-sweet more than the sweet-bitter, oh how Psalm 13 (BUT I trust in your unfailing love) and Psalm 18 can be our encouragement and reminder: “The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord…but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me…Exalted be God my Savior!” For there is spaciousness even in the suffering. I’ve experienced it to be true. It’s what Psalm 23 talks about – that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God has me lie down in green pastures, leads me beaside quiet waters and *restores my soul.*  And as my friend Shannon Evans said: “A life that bears suffering is not what we should most fear – our Lord modeled that for us Himself.”

More tidbits come to mind. Call this my suffering stream of consciousness…

A prayer from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals: “Lord, as the seasons turn, creation teaches us of grief, patience, and renewal. Make us good students of these rhythms that we might not hurry the work of grief but receive the gift of your presence in our time of need. Amen.”

And words from a sister in Christ, @wildrootsparable: “To be sure, holding the griefs of the world in one palm and the joys of God’s providence in the other is a heavy burden; do you feel it too? But there is grace yet, my friends. And laughter. And peace. And beauty. If anything, these sacred gifts from our Creator shine brightest when found where they hide, tucked into the icy corners of the world’s darkest corners.”

And Cynthia Bourgeault on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The haunting prayer woven into Teilhard’s (T) reflection of faith in The Divine Milieu makes clear that it is no cheap optimism that T is dispensing here, but a wrenchingly honest acknowledgment of our human predicament and an unfailing fidelity to seeing God in *every* aspect of the earth, even in our human suffering.” A final “prayer” by T himself:

“Ah, you know it yourself, Lord, through having borne the anguish of it as a man: on certain days the world seems a terrifying thing: huge, blind, and brutal…At any moment the vast and horrible thing may break in through the cracks – the thing which we try hard to forget is always there,  separated from us a by a partition: fire, pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral forces – these callously sweep away in one moment what we had laboriously built up and beautified with all our intelligence and all our love. Since my human dignity, O God, forbids me to close my eyes to this…*teach me to adore it by seeing you concealed within it.*” – Amen

I’ll let my stream continue on in my head as I drift off to sleep, suffering but held close by my intimate Abba Father. Or maybe I’ll focus in on the words to this song, one of honor and thanks, that just came to mind (my brain, friends, it never stops…!):

Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are filled with your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

If you aren’t feeling the sweetness now, in your life or when you look at the world around, grace and peace yet to you. May our mouths be full of thanks, wherever we find ourselves in 2018. We’ll get their by walking with Christ, our Suffering Servant, who is our “me too” gets it Saviour and friend. We’ll get there by looking for him in our bitter-sweet, with a spirit of thanksgiving, heart remebering his past faithfulness and his promises, and eyes wanting see.

“I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter His courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice for He has made me glad.”

Peace and love, friends.

(And clearly I’m into the oldies but goodies of songs). All stream of conciousness responses welcome on the comments. 😉