Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Startled by Thanksgiving

Everyone will tell you that we need to be thankful.  Lists of reasons, admonitions and scolding for not being thankful will be commonplace in most churches over the next several weeks.  To some degree, I will probably participate in that litany of life.  I know I am supposed to be thankful.  I know that too often I take for granted the blessings of God and the blessings enjoyed as citizens of this nation and community.  It’s not that I don’t want to be thankful.  In our lives that grow increasingly hectic, it is easy to forget the good things. 
If you’re like me, I am guilty of not always being aware of the things in life for which I am thankful.  In true divine practice, God startles me from time to time.  It may be as small and brief as a moment to experience the colors of the season while walking from the Church to the Hospital.  Sometimes it happens when a friend calls me for no reason in the middle of the day.  Still other times it happens when I look into the eyes of our inconsolable infant son who has been crying for no discernible reason. 
I remember the walk to the hospital.  In making my calls that day I had gone by the hospital twice with no spots open in clergy parking and no other spots available for over four blocks.  The Church is only five blocks, so I decided to simply go back to the Church and walk to the hospital.  The walk started with a moment of irritation.  Over half of the cars in the clergy spots were not clergy.  A clergy spot is the only spot you can take and not risk a ticket or physical harm.  Suddenly as I was walking, God startled me with a wave of Thanksgiving.  The trees were ablaze with color.  The crisp air was clean and invigorating.  In that moment, God’s creation revived me and I was thankful that I had walked to the hospital that day.
I remember the day my friend called me.  He is a pastor in Corpus Christi, Texas.  We are really more like brothers then friends.  We attended both college and seminary together.  Since seminary, God has led us to pastorates that have been significant distances apart but we have always kept in touch by telephone and at Church conventions and assemblies.  I was particularly busy that day and when I saw his name on my cell phone’s caller id, I considered letting it go to voicemail resolute that I would call him back later.  However, instincts took over and I answered the call.  He was just calling to see how our newborn was doing.  We talked about family, friends and faith.  God had startled me with a moment of Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for my family and my friends.
I remember the shrieks of our infant son.  He was fed and had a clean diaper.  He was being held.   What was causing the screaming?  My wife and I took turns holding him, walking him around the house but with little affect.  After about 20 minutes of the crying, I looked down at my son’s face, his lower lip pushed out, his mouth opened ready to scream again and tears rolling down his face with no wrinkles or imperfections to direct them.  In a moment, his eyes met mine.  This is my son.  You see, my wife and I lost our first child, a daughter, Grace Sophia, who was stillborn.  It was the hardest day of our lives.  Getting pregnant is hard for us.  Our physician and midwife, Dr. Richard Ford and Tracy Hunter had walked with us through both pregnancies.  Our son was born on Dr. Ford’s anniversary and while he was having dinner with his wife, he got the call.  I remember the birth of our son; his five days in the NICU, the nurses, the physicians, the prayers of our Church and my pastor colleagues throughout this community.  Suddenly, God startled me with a moment of intense and profound Thanksgiving.

This Thanksgiving, I hope God startles you.

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