Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
-I Thessalonians 5:18
"Oh no!" I moaned, clearly broken-hearted for this kid we were discussing. "Oh no, no, my friend," Pastor Rafael assured me, "It was good. I tell you."
We took this amazing trip up to Beech Mountain last weekend to ski and snowboard. Half the group was from JCPC and half from Casa Brasil, our nested Portuguese congregation we host weekly in the Youth Garage. Rafael, their pastor, and I were checking in about our first day on the slopes. Some of JCPC youth were taking lessons that day and most of his kids. There are limited instructors available and while one group got in before lunch, one was delayed till 2:30. In my mind, that was sad and the kid was missing half a day. I immediately empathized. But I empathized from a place of privilege, a place of expectation.
Pastor Rafael challenged me. He told the youth, no! We are so blessed to be here. Blessed to be on a mountain, to have snow, to have snow gear rented and borrowed, on a trip others helped to pay for so we would have this experience and fun. We were blessed even to be here. We should feel fortunate and happy. "Gratitude," he said to me. He reframed it so beautifully and naturally. He was right. When I'm at my worst, I stand in lift lines and bemoan that they move slow and the runs are much shorter compared to out West. I complain about people struggling to navigate the chairlifts or how many hours I spend tying and buckling boots for kids, keeping up with winter layers. However, at my best, I'm grateful for the time outdoors and away from screens and noise. I'm grateful to watch my kids try new things and stick with it and find joy in one another and in making new friends with newcomers and our Brazilian group.
As we celebrated communion together on Sunday morning, I was full of gratitude, re-oriented from my expectations of entitlement. Rafael's wife, also an ordained pastor from Venezuela delivered the prayer in Spanish. How blessed am I to have studied and been taught enough to understand her? Rafael broke the bread and blessed it in Portuguese. How blessed am I to still have more to learn and to live in a place where I do know the language so well? And then I poured the cup and blessed it in English. How blessed am I to have a job and a calling to serve young people of all backgrounds who come through my doors?
If you're searching for Lenten practices, things to incorporate in your life or give up, consider giving up entitlement and embracing thankfulness, a reframing of every disappointment into an exercise in gratitude. I'll be joining you. Thank you. Gracias. Obrigado.