"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. Psalm 138:7"
Listen: Mariah Carey, "Heavenly (No Ways Tired/Can't Give Up Now"
In the Chinese character for gratitude, we understand that gratefulness is rooted in the heart and from there is moved into speech. So today I speak of what I am grateful for.
Many of you know our son Andrew was in a very serious automobile accident on Tuesday. Miraculously he and the other driver were uninjured. Andrew's car was totaled. As I looked at what remained of his car, a multitude of thoughts and emotions flooded me. First praise to God that no one was physically hurt. Worries about the immediate future. Then the practical concerns of calling our insurance, junking the car...all the aftermath details of a car accident.
After a few hours deeper thoughts and emotions surfaced; spiritual whiplash that left me almost teary-eyed. There were thoughts about the interplay between the endurance and frailty of life. We can persevere through and rise above the most difficult circumstances yet life can be terminated in a second. The Psalms remind us: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well Psalm 139:14" Because of the everyday, mostly hidden miracles in us and around us and the blessings we have accrued, there is often an illusion of control over life. Accidents, mishaps, other struggles and injustices may sometimes lead us to question God's mercy, but they do remind us that life is a gift and we are an earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7). One day our life will return to its Creator's hands. Very rarely do we get to chose that day. Since we do not know the day or the hour of when our life will be required (cf. Luke 12:20), it is our choice how we are to live right now, the only time we have. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "live as if you were to die tomorrow." A somewhat macabre thought, but in it contains great wisdom. Forget about "bucket lists" of visiting exotic places, have we told our immediate family and friends what they mean to us? Aside from our "carbon footprint" what is the "love print" we have impressed on this earth? The most important things for us to do are in our hand's reach right now.
There was one other memory that surprisingly surfaced as I responded to Andrew's accident. My brother, Chris, died nearly 40 years ago in a jeep accident. The time evaporated and I remembered that terrible early morning call, the crying, the shock of losing someone so vibrant and young. But I also remembered a brother who took the time and wrote letters encouraging me. His kind words made a difference in me, imperceptibly guiding me into who I am today. I think of my brother because his beloved guitar is with us. Andrew often plays it and I remember Chris' love of music and his gift as a songwriter. I like to think of Chris' presence inspiring and encouraging Andrew as well -- especially as I am reminded Andrew is at the same age Chris was when he died.
So because of this car accident I remembered my brother, 40 years after his death, and reaffirmed his powerful gift of encouragement. No matter how much time goes by, the impact of our deeds and words, for better or worse, remain in the hearts we touch. That is a great gift. God has give us the ability to make a difference in the life of those around us and in the life of our good earth. In this is gratitude. Gratitude for what we have yes; but gratitude that we take part in the very transformation of life around us. Gratitude that we are alive today and today, we can make a difference.
Today where will you make a difference?
What are you grateful for? Today express your gratitude by caring for someone else. Make sure to say it in words as well as deeds. Let someone know the impact they made on you.
Pray: "Giver of Life, teach us grateful living, cherishing this day. Today may I reach out to someone I don't ordinarily see and talk to them, offering thanks for what they have done for me."