A message of blessing and gratitude from one thankful pilgrim to another.
A challenge looms large: I’m writing to incarcerated people and I’m supposed to mention the holidays. How do I do this? To tell the truth, being a single person, even though I do have family near me, I don’t look forward to the holiday season. There is so much expectation around it, so much over spending and the potential of sadness instead of joy—I just usually count the days until January and some sort of normalcy returns.
And now here I am with the “assignment” of writing to someone who has way more reason to feel sad than I might.
So what do I have to be thankful for—I mean, what do we both have to be thankful for? I started to make a list. In no particular order (except, of Course, Jesus Christ is number one), here are some things that I came up with. Let me know what you think.
To start with, I’m thankful for life. I mean, if my parents hadn’t become pen pals when he was in the army, he wouldn’t have come back to meet my Mom – and marry her – and I wouldn’t have been born 11 months later! I am thankful for life.
I’m thankful that I started to wonder about God at a very young age; I distinctly remember lying down on the grass at my Grandma’s farm, looking up at the sky with a question, “Who is God?”
Looking back 2,000 years, I am thankful that a zealous religious guy on his way to capture those new radical Nazarenes, got stopped in his tracks (or his horse’s tracks) with a Voice from heaven, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Saul got a new name – and a new assignment – and we are blessed that he never lost sight of that assignment, even when spending time in prison. Come to think of it, he did some of his best work from a prison cell.
I am thankful for brave women who have spent lonely months in jail in a foreign country – and some who are still there – because they insist they must be free – and they refuse to confess to that being a crime. I have never had to spend time in jail for that, but I have stood up to a man’s oppression more than once. I am thankful for God’s faithfulness during those times.
I am thankful for the witness and courage of a German fellow by the name of Bonhoeffer. He had escaped his home country when Hitler was growing more powerful but as a Christian, he felt a call to return and although he was a pacifist, find some way to hinder Hitler. He did work for the underground for a while until he was arrested.
He died in a German prison at the age of 36. While in prison (like Paul) he wrote letters to the folks back home (and a whole lot more of us it turned out): Cost of Discipleship and Life Together. Even in prison, Bonhoeffer made a difference in the world and his influence continues down the decades.
I am thankful for the Scriptures – that I am able to read and (despite my not reading in the original languages) understand. I don’t need to wait for someone to read them to me; the Word of God is alive to even me. But it does help when a scholar knows the Hebrew and the Greek; they can go even deeper into the beauty of the message.
I am thankful for at least one of these currently. I am most of all thankful that God kept calling to me until I heard that call — He loves me and He invited me to repent and to be forgiven. He gave me a new life and a genuine purpose. He gave me Jesus.