Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
It’s always a challenge to offer a devotional meditation and a prayer in public, especially when you’re in a city park serving dinner to hungry people. Many of the people I was talking to live on the streets, and they face desperate need on a daily basis.
The danger – and we’ve all witnessed this – is to offer platitudes, or to talk down, or to be all preachy and sanctimonious. It’s too easy to suggest – albeit unintentionally – that those of us who rolled into town in our SUVs have it all together, or that we’re extra special because we’re helping. If we’re not careful we breeze in, we breeze out, and nothing sticks.
So I started by reading the scripture: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
I explained how I often get the “grateful heart” equation wrong. I run into something beautiful, or happy, or good, and then I say “thank you” to God.
But God challenged me – I told the small crowd – and now I try to be grateful every moment, irrespective of how well things are going. I try to be grateful first, and live out of that gratitude, not wait until after things go my way.
That’s when – I said – I started noticing more and more how beautiful this life can be.
Listen – I told them (and the 25 or so volunteers too) – it’s not about waiting for the beautiful, and then being grateful. No. Instead, it’s more along the lines of, “I have a grateful heart, therefore everything is beautiful.”
I am grateful – I told the people we were serving – for you too, my friends. And because of that, I can see how beautiful you are.
Then I said the blessing before we served. “We really are grateful, God. Look at this amazing food. Look at these beautiful people. We are all full with your grace. Thank you so much. Amen.”
– Peace, and more peace – DEREK