Thanksgiving Blessings

I remember as a teenager listening to Arlo Guthrie talking about the comparisons we make with others when we are feeling bad.  For instance, when we say to someone who is having a bad day or a difficult time, “Well, don’t feel so bad, at least you aren’t like so and so who….(you pick the appropriate difficult circumstance).”  While I’m not suggesting this is a very helpful way to comfort a person feeling low.  Arlo took the concept a little further.  He wondered aloud, “But what about the last guy?  Nobody’s got it worse than that guy.  Nobody in the whole world.”  It was kind of a provocative thought for me to take in, (especially at 16!).  Who has it the worst?  Who is the last guy, the last person?

Well at 60, I still don’t know if I could identify Arlo’s “last person.”  I’m not sure who that person might be today.  But the sad reality is that there is no shortage of candidates.  There are millions of children who are hungry, there are millions affected by deadly diseases, and even more tragic, millions more affected by diseases that are treatable, but who find themselves in places or situations where the medicines to help them are simply not available. There are homeless, lonely people all around us.  There are lots of “last” people in need.

At our house this week we with gather with 20 or so family members from a variety of places in the world, to celebrate Thanksgiving.  A wonderful and appropriate thing to do.  We will feast and laugh and have, what I trust will be, a rich time together.  And again, that’s a good thing!  Jesus feasted and celebrated at times, and it is my sincere hope that you will have some opportunity to be together with some special people in your life, sharing some level of feast and thanks giving for the gifts and the blessings of your life.

But as we give thanks, may we do so remembering the needs around us. May we do so with an eye towards those who find themselves, for a variety of reasons, and from a variety of perspectives, in that category of “lasts.”  May we take the opportunity in the days ahead, to find ways, as individuals, as congregations, as people who follow Jesus, to make a difference in the lives of the folks in need around us.  May we choose to engage the needs of those in all our spheres of influence with practical resources and with the love of Jesus Christ.  May we do it all so that our giving thanks tomorrow will not simply be an exercise in celebrating our blessings, but rather a fresh reminder that we are always blessed so that we might be a blessing to others.

Thanksgiving blessings to you all,

God’s Reassuring Spirit is ALWAYS with us!

On Saturday I’m flying to Liberia to share in the Annual Conference of the Liberian United Methodist Church.  I am excited about the trip and I feel privileged to represent our Conference, but I am also just a bit apprehensive.  While I have done a lot of traveling in my life, I have never been to this part of the world.  I don’t have any context for my imagination.  Oh yes, I’ve seen pictures.  I’ve talked to Rev. Dr. Charles Boayue, Detroit Renaissance District Superintendent, who is from Liberia, and whose advice was to watch out for the infestation of lions!!  And yes, I have lived with my three foster sons who are from Liberia for the past seven years and have learned much about the culture, but I’ve never actually been to the place! And so I’m a little apprehensive about the journey.

As I thought about my upcoming trip, I was reminded of the text from Joshua 3:4.  It comes as the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land.  It instructs them with these words, “When you see it (the ark), you must move out from where you are and follow it. Then you will know which way to go. You have never gone this way before.”  What I have always taken away from this text over the years is that God is with us when we go into places and situations we have never encountered before.  It requires us to pay attention, to look for the Spirit’s leading and presence, but God is with us, God will guide us as we go into places and situations unknown to us.  And that is good news!

For while I’m dealing with the small challenge of traveling to a geographic location I have never visited, some of you are walking into much more difficult settings.  Some are engaging new diagnoses and the journey of chemotherapy or some other treatment.  Some are moving through the uncharted waters of divorce or unemployment.  Some of you are wandering the twists and turns of grief and the sorting of life without that significant one who has always been there.

The good news that I would invite us all to hear again today is that as we go into every new place, as we walk into every new unknown location, God’s Spirit goes with us and leads us.  May we do our best to pay attention to that Spirit gift and may we receive it with humility and hope.