It is easy to get bogged down by thoughts of the many trials and tribulations in the world. But those are far — very far — from all that there is.
told by Deborah
O Gracious Eternal, our sole source of soul comfort, our faithful redeemer, our Compassionate Friend, answer our prayer!
As astronauts await the countdown from Mission Control, as soldiers listen for a shout of command, so we, O Lord, await Your saving word.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, turn to us in kindness and pity, for we have had more than enough suffering. Our souls have had more than their fill of scorn from the comfortable and the contempt of the powerful.
Living in a politically divided nation in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, confined to our homes — isolated and alienated from one another, stressed and weary, we join with the psalmist in a heartfelt cry: “Have mercy upon us, O Lord!”
Where is God in this? Has the Eternal abandoned us? Will we never again be free? How can we sing songs of joy alongside this oppressive Babylonian river?
These were the sorts of thoughts that were going through my mind the other morning; nothing of cheer, no sense of peace or consolation. The outlook for the coming “Thanksgiving” holiday seemed damp and dank and dreary.
Sighing over this psalm, imagining how it might be told in contemporary language, my first impulse was to write: “Help! Help! Help!” Not the most articulate, but definitely the most accurate description of my feelings. And there I sat, gloomy and glum.
There can be something oddly comforting in a good old wallow in misery … just as long as we don’t get stuck there.
It reminds me of a story from my son’s childhood about a pig who searched out puddles so he could (as I recall the words) “sink down into the deep, deep, soft mud.” But then, one day, the pig came across some newly-poured, as-yet un-set concrete — with predictable results. It ended, as all good children’s stories ought, with a successful rescue of the now older and wiser pig.
As I was sinking deep down into my particular puddle, I glanced out the window.
There, posed as if for a portrait, sat a squirrel, gazing in at me. My reaction was immediate and spontaneous: I smiled. Then I waved — Lord only knows why: it is rather unlikely that squirrels understand human hand signals. But wave, I did, and my curious neighbor remained, watching and waiting as his photo was taken and then — after a quick scratch — raced down the tree and across the lawn, last seen in the vicinity of the herb garden.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.
~ Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9
It has been said that God is like someone playing hide-and-seek with us, and continually making noises and giving Godself away. We, on the other hand, often fail to make any effort to find Him.
I called, and God replied, “Here I am!” — via a fluffy-tailed sign from heaven.
There was no flash of lightning, no angels sang, water and not wine still ran from the kitchen taps, but a Voice spoke; a miracle occurred, just the same. I was drawn from out of the depths … by a squirrel.
Despite all our trials and tribulations, there are reasons — reasons without number — for us to be thankful. Each day the sun rises in radiant splendor, and sets in a brilliant celebration; the trees lift up their branches in praise and offer shelter and protection to the birds of the air (and the squirrels), who carol (and chirrup) joyfully. Within the dark night sky the stars glimmer and the moon casts its gentle glow.
In the midst of disturbances and disruptions, The Eternal remains, eternal. Eternally present: changing and yet the same, as the seasons follow in their order; as the constellations vanish beyond the horizon, yet reappear again in the sky; as birds depart on their migratory journeys — always returning at the right time.
God simply is, and remains: The Ever-Present holy Presence; always with us, throughout our transient troubles and torments. God is with us. The signs are there for us to see.
And, too, there is the fact of the Beloved’s sense of humor, and desire for our happiness; for we have been blessed with such co-habitants on the earth as ostriches, penguins, coypus, koalas, and kittens. And puppies. And squirrels. And…. Well, you can fill in from here!
There is much to be thankful for.
In the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-19) we are told that when Peter was imprisoned, miraculously, through an angelic intervention, his chains were broken, the barred gates were unlocked, and he made his way to freedom. That’s quite wonderful. And yet there is also a freedom that can be claimed despite walls that may confine us: the freedom of belief, sustained by the strength of the Christ’s word and the assurance of God’s grace. We have the power to live in faith, mindful of the Eternal’s compassion and everlasting care, inspired by the lovesong that repeats within us, in every breath we take.
We can claim the freedom and the power of the Gospel promise. And when we genuinely, intentionally, mindfully, make that claim; when we rely on that Truth and seek those divine signs … well, it’s a bit like “hitching your wagon to a star.” Nothing can keep us down, nothing can dim our vision, nothing can destroy our hope.
Keep your eyes open and you will see: there is much to be thankful for!
The Lord uplift and sustain you, and give you peace,
Rest and refresh yourself with this psalm:
Psalm 121~ A Song of Ascents
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
He will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.