February 18, 2014

The Risk of Gratitude

By Rev. April Johnson Bristow


One of the first notes of gratitude I sent this year was to three women who are active with Kairos Prison Ministry.  Two of the women are members of our church and the other one is a clergy sister in the North Texas Conference. 

I had just received an email with the latest issue of FaithLink, a great UM resource for preparing and teaching faith-filled lessons on relevant contemporary topics.  The issue for the week was “Helping People to Rejoin Community after Prison.”  When I saw the title, I immediately thought of these ladies who have a great compassion for prison ministry.  I forwarded the FaithLink to the ladies with a few words of gratitude for their work in this very difficult but much needed area of ministry.

Well, I didn’t think of it again until yesterday, when I was going through my mail.  I noticed a thick envelope with multiple stamps on it.  Whenever you see multiple stamps an envelope, you know something important is inside.  I immediately looked at the return address to see who sent this chunky envelope.  I saw the name and the address and I knew who it was from!  It was from one of the ladies.  Every year at least two of these ladies verbally invite me to participate in a weekend long prison ministry experience.  The way things have worked out, the timing had not been right for me to participate.  Usually, they ask later in the year and my calendar would not allow me to take a whole weekend away. 

My heart stopped for a moment because I put two and two together and I kinda knew where this was heading.  If there was a camera in the room, you would have seen me begin to open the envelope in slow motion.  Yup, I was right!  It was an application (not just an invitation…an application!) to participate in a weekend long prison ministry experience in October.  Darn these faithful, persistent FUMCR women!

Of all the places that I have been and things that I have done in ministry, it is prison ministry that causes the most fear and hesitancy.  Not that I have avoided it, but it just hasn’t worked out for me to go and honestly, I have been alright with things not working out.  This time, the invitation came in January, when my calendar for October only showed the birthdays that were populated from Facebook friends.  No events, no conflicts, nothing to excuse my way out this time! 

I chuckled because the last paragraph of the letter asked me to “prayerfully consider serving as a team member.”  Well, as a matter of faith, I don’t have to pray long on this issue.  I don’t believe in tying God up with prayers that have already been answered in God’s word…remember the scripture about least of these in Matthew 25:34-45?

So, I just wanted to warn you brothers and sisters, because I don’t remember this being mentioned in a sermon. 

Writing a thank you can open you up to more blessings, more challenges and more opportunities to grow deeper in your faith! 

I offer you the same advice you would no doubt offer me:  Accept the challenge!  Express gratitude! Write the note! See what other blessings God has in store for you! 

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