It’s easy to feel discouraged in the midst of all the negative stories that occupy the evening news.  I’m sure I am not the only one wondering if I’ve heard the worst story possible.  Think of the slaughter in Newtown, for example.  Then there are the horrific war stories and the mass sufferings of innocents as weapons of mass destruction are unleashed on them.  Job comes to mind and his cry to the heavens: How long, O God?

If the negative news happens to coincide with personal difficulties you are experiencing in your personal life, it would not be difficult to understand your experiencing doubts of faith and feelings of abandonment by God.  Even the strongest among us need positive signs to bolster us from time to time.

I was somewhere in that kind of quagmire when two such positive signs nearly blew me away – as they say.  First, in amazement I watched an interview with a young man from Australia who has become an evangelist and motivational speaker of some popularity.  He was born without arms or legs.  In his early years, having experienced bullying, he decided he wanted to die.  He asked his father to leave him alone as he bathed.  When his father left the bathroom, the boy let himself slide underwater.  He rolled over with the intention of drowning himself.  But grace intervened as he thought of the pain his suicide would cause his parents and sibling.  He banished thoughts of suicide from his mind from that point onward.  He began to see the positives, many of them rooted in his faith in God.

Now as an adult, married and an expectant parent, he is a motivational speaker and author.  He has accomplished many things that most would think impossible for someone as disabled as he is.  He golfs.  He surfboards. He swims.  He loves life.  And God.  He laughed as he said he keeps a pair of shoes in his closet just in case God has that kind of miracle in mind for him.  He speaks to large groups and tells them of God’s love for them and the wonderful things God has in mind for them.  His audiences weep with recognition and laugh at his humor and find reason to hope again.  If you are interested, look up Nick Vujicic.  You’ll be inspired, too, I’ll bet.

Watching Nick’s story was like a splash of cold water in the face.  I was flushed out of a stupor, so to speak, and decided that, as Nick does, I had to recognize the blessings in the present situation.  What I concluded is that whatever negative experiences we endure, it isn’t that God authored them, or sent them to afflict us.  Rather, in accepting them, they become transformative and grace-filled.  In the depths we may cry out, as in the midst of a dark night.  God is there to lift us up and embrace us in love.  Stripped of everything we thought we could not live without, we find life and meaning and the reason to hope again.  I can’t tell you the reasoning process I went through to come to that conclusion.  The insight came to me in a moment.  I laughed as I realized that I am free and able to let go and know that it is the Lord who lifts me up and sustains me.

There was one thing more I had to do as this grace enveloped me.  Two that I know of.  I had to let go of a lot of negative garbage that I had been towing for several years.  If you saw the great movie, The Mission, you will have an image of what I had to do as I severed the cord and let the garbage that weighed me down sink into the depths.  And once I had let go, I had to forgive because resentments were part of that garbage.  So were the resentments.  I let go of them and they, too, sank into oblivion.  In a moment I wondered if the next step were possible.  Grace intervened and I was able to admit that I loved them, and wanted them to know of God’s love for them.

Now I have a new understanding of freedom.  And peace.

I said I experienced two positive signs.  Here’s the second.  I wrote to a friend describing the transforming moment above.  He was kind enough to congratulate me on the grace moment before he challenged me to do something with the grace.  He reminded me that we are not to cling to grace but to share the fruits of grace with others.  Then he reminded me that there are a lot of people who are struggling in similar quagmires to the one that had threatened to drown me.  What do you think would happen if you made it a purpose of each day to let one person know that s/he mattered to you and that God loved her or him?  You could make quite a difference in 30 days.  And when I asked for clarification regarding the 30 days, he said, just try it for 30 days, one person a day, and see how you feel in a month’s time.

Today is day one.  I’m committed to keeping the challenge for a month.  I might not stop there.  We’ll see.  I’ll let you know.

This probably sounds like the stuff of a New Year’s resolution.  It’s not that far into 2013 to qualify for that.  Still, grace comes at different times if we are open to it.  The insights are always transformative if we are willing to go through whatever dark night necessary to experience the dawn.  With my resolves to let go of the garbage and to pass on the message of God’s love to others, I realize that I have to let go of negativity and live in the positive.  I have to count the blessings in my life and recognize the gifts that are mine.  I can’t envy other people’s gifts.  The Spirit gifts each one of us with different gifts.  Recognizing our own giftedness and then encouraging others in theirs, we come to see that whatever challenges are present in our communities; the communities have to gifts to meet and overcome them.  That is how Christ works in the Church that is the Body of Christ.  Together we can banish the darkness and welcome the dawn.

Here’s an idea.  If you agree with me and you feel a nudge of grace, pass the idea on to another, to at least one person a day.  We might make quite a difference in a month’s time.

Finally, to you, Reader, I say: Never forget that you are beloved of God.  Know that I thank God for you and pray for you each day.  No, that wasn’t the final thought.  This is.  Always remember that when we gather for Eucharist, wherever we are, the Eucharist transforms and unites us in Christ.  And united, we are sent to continue Christ’s presence wherever we go and through whatever we do.

With that, I’ll say Amen for now.  Until next time,



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