grieve and be grateful

That was the pastor's sermon title:  grieve and be grateful.

All I could think was, "Whatever you do, buddy, DO NOT minimize the pain in this room, or I'm outta here!"

I'm happy to report, he pulled it off.  

He talked about real pain, real grief, real unsolvable problems, and some of the ways he's found to be grateful, even when the real pain, the real grief, and the real unsolvable problems are his own.

Community, he said.  All the love that gathers around when life goes so badly awry.  That's when we learn to be One, like Jesus prayed we would be.

Shared meaning, he said.  A better understanding of others who suffer, an increased capacity to reach out because you've had that pain, you've been in that valley.  Comforting others with the comfort we've received, like the Apostle Paul talked about.

Redemption, I thought.  The inescapable fact that our Redeemer lives, and that He is at work, no matter what.  The reality that trouble can't separate us from God's love, or hold back the great healing that's coming On That Day.  We know the end of the story, even though we struggle on through the middle, the middle, the middle, the middle.

Sometimes the pain overwhelms and all we can do is breathe it through.  

Sometimes we catch a break and we can raise our heads a bit and see that yes, there is strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  And that's when I find it's true:  I can both grieve and be grateful.

A few weeks ago, Andy and I went to a concert, benefiting my favorite charity on earth, The Well Community.  

The Well provides services for folks with chronic mental illness:  a community center that's open daily, a weekly worship service, meals, social support, assistance in navigating the world of government disability, pool parties, trips to the State Fair, weddings and even funerals--you name it, The Well does it, every day, with love in their hearts.  

(Looking for a charity to support this holiday season?  Look no further.)

So we went to this concert, Robbie Seay Band (love them) at The Kessler Theater (love it).

The Well's own band, The Leaky Faucets, opened for Robbie Seay, and this was, for my money, the best moment of the night, when Robbie came onstage to play with The Leaky Faucets.  (He's on the right, in the white shirt.)

Robby Seay is the same band, at the same venue, that I wrote about back in February, when I told you that I was having a hard day, a hard week, kind of just a hard life at the time.

Not surprisingly, they played one of the songs we heard for the first time that night in February.  

And we cried and we sang it like a promise all over again:  

"Even in my darkest days, I'm gonna sing your praise . . .  It is well with my soul."

I know some of us are in that place this Thanksgiving week.  

We're in the darkest days.

And yet.

Between the waves of pain, we find:  It is well.

We have this hope as an anchor for our souls:

Love never lets us go.  

In our communities of love, the ones we're born with and the ones we choose.

In the sharing of our sorrows, a holy communion.

We hold the pain and hope together as we wait for redemption.

We grieve and we give thanks.

If everything I had was lost
If everything I had was gone
If everything I knew was suddenly a fraud
And all I had was you holding on

Would it all be the same
Could I find beauty in the pain?
Would I sing your praise
Would I seek your face

I raise my voice loud and sing
Tell them all what you’ve done for me
Even in my darkest days
I’m going sing your praise (2x)

Everywhere I look today
Every common tree is ablaze
With the fire of God the maker of the stars and 
The healer of my heart
Where would I be if you never gave me the eyes to see
I praise you, oh I praise you

I raise my voice loud and sing
Tell them all what you’ve done for me
Even in my darkest days
I’m going sing your praise (2x)

Your grace is like an ocean crashing like hope
Your peace is like a river flooding my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

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