February 4th, 2018


     I’m sure many of you have seen some of the commercials for Advil, where people are doing all sorts of extraordinary things like break dancing, sky diving, leaping across buildings, and stunt riding, and an elderly lady is doing fantastic yoga positions.  The punch line is “What pain?”  The commercials are an attempt to convince you that when you take Advil your pain will be gone.  I don’t think it means you will necessarily be able to do what the folks in the commercial are doing, but at least if you didhave the ability, pain won’t stop you from doing them.  And getting rid of pain is something we all want to do.  However, there is one kind of pain that Advil won’t get rid of, and that is pain in our hearts and spirits.  Pain because we feel we are missing out, and we somehow think God owes us more; like Sally in the Peanuts Christmas Special, who asks for tens and twenties, and when that upsets Charlie Brown, she says, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” Our ‘fair share’ is eternal punishment!  That is all we truly deserve, and what should have coming to us.  But God still sends us blessing after blessing; and yet how often do we think, even if we don’t actually say it, “What Blessings?”  There are a number of reasons we might (albeit wrongly) feel this way, and so let’s examine a few of them and see what the Lord has to say:

1.  We don’t ask, or we ask for the wrong things, or we ask for the wrong reasons.  In our third Scripture reading (James 4:1-3), the apostle James advises us against coveting what other people have, which only leads to quarrels, or worse.  Our selfish desires often lead us to think that God isn’t blessing us as much as He should (as if we actually deserve God’s blessings!).  But when there is something that we really need, we need to pray and ask God, completely confident that He hears our prayers, and will answer them in a way that is in our best interest and for His glory.  Sometimes God says “no” because what we are asking for is not good for us, and we need to accept that.  And sometimes God says “no” because we are asking out of selfishness and greed.  Remember how I spoke about ‘prosperity preachers’ a few weeks ago?  God won’t just drop a hundred grand in your lap because you want a fancy house in a well-to-do subdivision.  God is not a genie in a lamp.

2.  We are not thankful for the blessings we do have.  Our second Scripture reading (Luke 9:10-17) is a familiar one, the feeding of the five thousand.  The disciples were concerned about a lack of food for the crowd.  They wanted Jesus to send the people away to go into town and buy their own food.  The disciples had five loaves and two fish, but to them, it was barely enough for themselves – much less the huge crowd.  They didn’t trust God enough to meet their own needs, much less want to share what they had.  How often do we do that as individuals – and even as a church?  But what did Jesus do?  He looked up to heaven and gave thanks for the disciples considered meager portions.  And then suddenly they were not so meager.  Now I am not saying that if you give thanks for a dollar bill you will suddenly have five thousand dollars.  But if you are truly thankful for what you have, and you praise God for what you have – not just with words but in your heart, and reflected in your actions – then God will be eager to bless you even more.  Think about it this way – which inspires you to greater deeds, criticism or appreciation and praise? 

3.  We are looking for blessings in the wrong places, and missing them because of selfish preoccupation.  In our first Scripture reading (1 Kings 19:11-13), Elijah was told to watch for the Lord.  First He saw a great and powerful wind, but the Lord was not in that wind.  Then came an earthquake, but God was not in that either.  After that there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  Finally there was a gentle whisper, and that is when the Lord appeared.  So often we miss the many blessings God sends us because we are too busy to even notice them.  We are finally through January, and into the month of February.  As we get closer to March I eagerly anticipate the first crocus or snowdrop, watching for it to peek through the ground and reach for the Springtime sun.  It brings my heart great joy.  I put food for the birds on our back patio so I can enjoy their company, along with that of the squirrels and any other creatures that happen to visit.  As a photographer, I am constantly keeping my eyes peeled for moments that I can capture, in which I hear the voice of God.  I often see things many people overlook.  It doesn’t need to be something that will make the cover of Time magazine, like an earthquake or fire, but often is something other folks might say, “why is she taking a picture of that?”  Yesterday I even led a workshop at East Bay Camp where I shared more than 40 of my photos in a powerpoint presentation, and hopefully inspired others to see God in His creation, His creatures, and His people; and capture what He is saying through what they see.

     And now I would like to share a story from my past.  Back in 2001, Ed and I went on a trip together to New Orleans.  I didn’t know it when we left for the trip, but Ed had something big planned.  On the night of his birthday, he wanted to give ME a present, a very special present.  But when walked in to give it to me, I had fallen fast asleep.  Being the kind person that he is, he didn’t wake me up, but let me sleep through the night.  But unlike some people who might have just gotten disgusted and thought “forget it”, he did not.  The next night as we were out on the hotel balcony, he dropped down on one knee and presented me with an engagement ring.  Of course, the rest is history.  But the moral of that true story is that the Lord doesn’t give up when He wants to bless us, especially with the gift of salvation.  We may fall asleep spiritually and miss His blessings, but He will keep trying.  And when we gratefully receive them, we will truly be happy, just as I am truly happy in my marriage after I accepted Ed’s proposal. 

     So today I hope that you will stop and smell the roses, as they say.  I hope you will take time to hear the voice of the Lord, to enjoy the blessings he has for you with a thankful heart, and to share those blessings with others.  Amen. 


         Thank God for all His blessings,     

         The sunshine and blue sky,           

         For those who take care of you,

         And hug you when you cry.

         All good things come from God,

         He made them just for us.

         So count your many blessings,

         Instead of making a fuss.