October 2020

Dear Friends,

Some years ago the Environmental Stewardship Commission went over to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park to help plant some of the 50 trees donated by General Convention. (as an offset for the boxes and boxes of paper consumed during convention.) The fall colors were at their peak in that area just then. It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day.

I must have exchanged 20 emails and phone calls with the park supervisor last winter trying to find a date when all the key people could be at the park for the tree planting in the spring. It was unbelievable. Finally we had to go all the way to October to find a workable date. Who knew we were picking a perfect weekend? Sometimes God’s delays turn into blessings.

What blessings God gives us! The refrain of an old protest song says, “Give us bread and give us roses.” Some of God’s gifts are practical. But some have no other purpose than to brighten our days. Glory to God, who gives us joy and celebration to go with our food and shelter.

Sometimes the joy is tempered by pain and loss. Christ isn’t a talisman to keep away all hardship. But the love of God can sustain us and even bring us peace in the midst of great upheaval. As the apostle Paul says, “Nothing in all the world can separate us from the love of God.” In Fiddler on the Roof Tevya sings, “God would like us to be joyful, even when our hearts lie panting on the floor; how much more should we be joyful when there's really something to be joyful for.” In the upper room after his resurrection, Jesus promises the disciples their joy will be full. The way of Christ is a joyful way.

Where does this Joy come from? It comes from the beauty of Creation, the love among Christians, and the peaceful assurance of God's never failing presence. When God’s love lights up your heart, all the world glows with color.

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of God’s love much of the time. We get distracted by other things we think we need to be happy. And if we don’t have enough of one thing, we can get fixated on that one lack, and fail to see the blessings all around us.

I encourage you to take time each day to appreciate the many gifts of God. Invite God to fill you to overflowing with Love. Remembering the story of the persistent widow, don’t stop asking until peace and joy fill your heart.

God be with you,

The Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Harries