All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above.  Can I get and Amen?

All good things come from God.  Whether we ask for them or not, whether we appreciate them or not.  All good things come from God.

Once I realized that, my spiritual journey took a turn for the better.

When I was younger, I remember searching for some sort of sign or light or feeling that God was with me.  I was looking for something to fill me an empty space that I thought existed in me.  After some time, I realized that I was looking for something that I already had; there was no empty space.  All I was really missing was a recognition that God is always with me and has always been with me.  I didn’t really understand that all good gifts do come from God.

Once I came to this realization, I was able to see that nothing was missing; I was already surrounded by God’s love.  I could stop using my energy searching for that light or that sign and I could turn my efforts instead to being thankful and to giving back.

Now, I admit that there are still times when I forget.  But when I remember and recognize the love that I’ve received from God, I want to do something about it.  Not because I have to, because I want to.  I want to find a way to say “thank you,” a way to share with others the love that I’ve received from God.

I don’t do it out of obligation and I don’t do it because I expect to get anything more –  but when I do live out God’s call to love others, I often find that I receive unexpected gifts in return.

This Wednesday will be my last day at the prison in Concord for the latest cycle of classes.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m teaching a course on emotional awareness and healing and I find that it keeps coming up on my meditations.  I talk about it often because it’s been so meaningful to me – more meaningful than I ever expected.

After this Wednesday, I’ll have participated in the course for the 4th time.  Originally, I really didn’t want to go to a prison.  Mary Bernier and others had been bringing the idea of prison ministry to me for quite some time and I resisted the idea.  It sounded scary.  I imagined it would be very difficult.  I didn’t know what to expect.  But Mary didn’t give up.  She kept asking and suggesting and eventually, I did it for her.

Once I gave in to Mary and we observed a class and attended a volunteer orientation, I started to warm up to the idea.  I heard Jesus’ call to visit the imprisoned and I knew that the work I was doing was going to be helpful for the inmates.  And it has been.

But it’s also been so much more than that.

I never intended to get anything in return by volunteering at the prison.  But through this process of spending time with inmates and teaching a course about anger and emotions and actions, I’ve received the gift of learning more about myself.  I’ve learned more about what triggers anger and how to recognize the physical signals that it’s happening.  I’ve been reminded of the importance of developing and practicing techniques such as meditation and prayer to increase awareness of my core self so that I can make smart choices about responding to anger in myself and others.  And I’ve learned how fortunate I have been to have had the life that I do.

I entered the prison only intending to give back the love that I’ve received from God.  And still, God keeps giving.  Unexpectedly, I received gifts for myself when I only meant to help others.

Once this class is over, I’m going to take a break from the prison as we prepare as a church for next summer’s sabbatical.  When Mary and I first tried out the prison, we had the opportunity to attend a Christmas Carol sing at the prison.  As I complete this part of my journey, I’m excited that I’ve been invited to preach at this year’s carol sing on December 5.  I hope you’ll join me.  It’s a great gift for the men to see that the community cares for them and sees them as fellow human beings – fellow children of God.

The carol sing is at the minimum security prison – known as “The Farm” – not the medium security prison where we’ve been teaching.  Round 200 community members and 100 inmates gather in the gym for a program led by musicians and speakers from inside and outside the prison walls.  When the program is over, all are invited to share conversation and refreshments provided by the men in the culinary program at the prison.

I hope you’ll join me.  It’s necessary to pre-register by November 28 so let me know if you’re interested and I’ll make sure you get the information.  It’s a great opportunity to dip your toe in the water of prison ministry and the men really appreciate it.  Some of the men have mentioned that their family no longer visits or speaks with them.  The fact that strangers would come and spend time with them is a powerful gift for them to receive.  Maybe you’ll get something unexpected out of it as well.

All good things come from God.  When we live our lives with that awareness, we are empowered to live as God’s community.

All good things around us are sent from heaven above.  So thank the Lord for all God’s love.

Thank the Lord by seeing and sensing God’s love all around you and inside of you.

Thank the Lord by following Christ’s call to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, heal the sick, clothe the naked, comfort the grieving, visit the imprisoned.

Thank the Lord by coming together as God’s community – as Christ’s church; serving each other, working together, and growing together.

Thank the Lord by accepting God’s invitation to participate in the process of making our world better.

All good things around us are sent from heaven above.  So thank the Lord, o thank the Lord, for all God’s love.

Can I get an amen?

All Good Gifts
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