Walking Our Faith: God has not forgotten you (column)
Walking Our Faith
On Tuesday evening while a gentle snow fell, 20 volunteers gathered in the small kitchen and community room of Saint John the Baptist Episcopal Church. They set out slow cookers containing soup, set up tables, covered them with red gingham, filled baskets with fresh bread, fruit, cookies and cakes.
By the end of the evening, 200 meals would be provided to appreciative young men and women, most of them employees of the ski resort, living on a budget.
In a corner of the dining area, Terese was finishing up the last of the Thanksgiving grocery bags which would provide 250 families throughout Summit County with a Thanksgiving meal this year.
Last year, Thanksgiving was provided by a local restaurant. This year, the Summit County Inter-Faith Council and local churches decided to ask our community to grab a bag and a shopping list. They wondered, would enough bags of food come in to meet the needs of families in our area who might not enjoy a Thanksgiving meal otherwise?
The answer was a resounding “yes.”
And like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Terese had a few bags left over, which she said she would save for any families who hadn’t signed up in time but still needed a meal.
Generosity is the beginning of hope.
On Tuesday night, volunteers served bowls of soup, cleared tables and made ready for the next group of young people who sat in pews in the church sanctuary, patiently waiting their turn at one of 50 seats at the table.
My place was at the kitchen sink next to MJ. She patiently dried while I clumsily tried to figure out the quickest system to wash silverware for the next round of kids.
We talked as we worked. I’d only met MJ that evening, but she knew me because of my columns. She asked about my mother, and nodded when I shared a bit of news, and I had the impression she already knew me well. I felt blessed to have met such a lovely new friend.
Three hours later, when tables and chairs and tablecloths were folded and put away, we were all tired but happy.
When Pat and Verne dropped me home at the base of my steep driveway, I kissed Pat on the cheek and said, “Thank you. I’ve been having my dark days again, but I feel better now.”
Serving others is the beginning of hope.
Because depression comes as easily as breath, my dark days are ruminations on past failures and future worries. This week it was knowing I have to move out of my rental home in six months, but if I don’t sell my land in Evergreen, I won’t be able to buy a house here, in this town I call home.
As I was driving to the post office the other morning, I was thinking about this and in my mind’s eye, I saw myself standing in the yard of a house, an elderly man handed me keys to the front door, hugged me and said, “God has not forgotten you.”
It was a passing moment, a waking fantasy except for the old man’s message. Because the truth is that I have felt forgotten by God. And so, I held onto that sentence like a prayer.
When that is all we have, that is what we must do and then we must surrender the prayer to God.
After we have given thanks, given of ourselves, given our talents and treasures, the final and most difficult thing we release to God is the burden of worry that we clutch to our hearts.
When we have given all of that to God, our hearts and hands are open to receive his goodness, his blessing, but most importantly the gift that can heal us and make us whole.
Surrender is the beginning of hope.
This weekend begins the first of four weeks of Advent culminating on the fifth week with the celebration of Christ’s birth.
The meaning of Advent is twofold: We celebrate the beginning of the hope we received when God joined us as a fragile babe, became man, and taught us the meaning of love so big it could not be contained by this world. And then, we celebrate the anticipation of his return.
The difference between my dark ruminations of past failures and future worries, and Advent’s celebration of the past and anticipation of the future is that God’s way is filled with hope.
God’s Love is the beginning of hope.
Please join me as we celebrate Advent and Christmas over the next four weeks.
Advent Gospel Week One of Four
Matthew 24:37-44 New International Version (NIV)
37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Books to Deepen Your Advent Joy
The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
Advent and Christmas Wisdom by Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper
Suzanne Anderson is the author of “God Loves You, Chester Blue” and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths
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