Exactly. Especially. Now.


It’s late fall over here on the West Coast. The angle of the light is changing, days are shorter, breezes are brisker. Soon we will begin making plans for Thanksgiving, hoping against hope that there will be more to be thankful for at that end of the month than there is right now.

It’s been a difficult year in the country we call home. Painful divisions have risen to the surface, racism and xenophobia have cut us to the quick, disasters have struck in multiple places, civility seems to have disappeared entirely. So many ugly words have been uttered, so much vitriol has shadowed our dialogue, both public and private.

It can begin to feel like a strange kind of scavenger hunt to look for the lovely, the gracious, the compassionate response. So much so that resting ourselves in a spirit of gratitude feels increasingly difficult. Remember gratitude? “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Surely, Paul didn’t mean now? Giving thanks in everything, now?

Yes, I think he did mean now. Exactly when life feels out of control. Especially when we feel overwhelmed by darkness. Exactly. Especially. Now.

Plowing through the mess, the mayhem, the fear-mongering, the anger, the injustice, the unrighteousness—yes, we are called to do that, to notice it, to call it out, to work to change it. All of that. But while we’ve got our hands on the harrower, we are also called to look for the good, the beautiful, the courageous, the selfless and compassionate, the just and the merciful things that are happening too. And we are called to say thank you for each and every one.

Exactly. Especially. Now.

My thank-you list this year will begin, as it so often does, with remembering that story, the one about the Leap, the one we tell every year just as the Thanksgiving leftovers are packed away or sent home with family. The story that defines us as followers of Jesus, the one that reminds us that we are never alone in the midst of the messes we create. The one that calls us to look for the lovely, right smack dab in the midst of the unspeakable.

I believe that the Laughter who came to us on that beam of light is still showing up in all kinds of unexpected places, and often in unexpected people.

So let me tell it to you one more time. It begins this way, with a sudden sparkling sound. Can you hear it? Laughter, cascading down the corridors of heaven, dancing on a beam of light, joyfully leaping, burrowing, nesting, finding home within her waiting womb.

Such a small event, commonplace, everyday, a dime a dozen. Yet this Leap, this Laughter, boggles the mind. It is the great mystery of our faith. That God came to dwell with us—falling down, down, down, right into our dusty, disturbing, distressed humanity, joining us in the daily-ness of life.

I choose to believe that the Laughter who came to us on that beam of light is still showing up in all kinds of unexpected places, and quite often in unexpected people. “Look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers once told us. And if we take the time to look, they are easily spotted. Look for the ones who carry the Laughter inside, who let it loose in the world with deeds of courage and kindness. The ones who take a stand for what is right and good and who offer help to those who are struggling. The ones who live in hope and who look for beauty wherever they go.

Look for them. And be one of them too. Exactly. Especially. Now.

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About the Author

Diana Trautwein is a retired Covenant pastor who offers spiritual direction from her small study or by Skype. She lives on the central coast of California with her husband, Richard, where they attend Montecito Covenant Church. They have three grown children and eight grandchildren. She enjoys taking her elderly mom, who suffers from dementia, out to lunch every week. She blogs at Just Wondering (dianatrautwein.com).

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  1. Thanks for the beautiful reminder. Suffering and trouble are part of this life, but my God walks with me through all of it. Hallelujah!

  2. Yes! and Yes! So well-stated and such an important reminder. I will miss your posts if they do not continue in the Companion. Thank you for being one of those living in hope and looking for beauty!

  3. Oh yes. I’ve always wondered why people say we should be grateful ‘even’ in the hard times. Shouldn’t it be ‘especially’ in the hard times? That’s when we most need the relief that thankfulness brings, and the reminder that even in the valley of the shadow of death there are still glimmers of light to be found.

    1. I agree, Donna. I think gratitude helps us move through those tough times with a bit more grace and a lot less anxiety. Relief is exactly the right work – thank you!

  4. I am so looking forward to Thanksgiving and Advent for these very reasons! I appreciate that Christians are involved in politics and invested in making our country and world better, but I’m concerned that we act like the One who is really in charge doesn’t have us all in his hand. Thank you for this timely reminder to lift our eyes and hearts and hands.

    1. You are welcome, Joan. I also look forward to an intentional time of giving thanks and remembering the beauty of the gospel. That doesn’t mean that I don’t also want to think critically and prayerfully about the systemic sin around us and do whatever is in my power to do to offer support and encouragement to people on the margins. I don’t think that trust in God’s sovereignty and committed action to change things are antithetical, I just think that while we’re doing all that hard work, we need to also take time to wonder at the beauty around us, to serve and help others in whatever way we can, and to make a whole lotta room for laughter!

  5. Diana, you’ve written such a lovely piece, so full of hope and wisdom. Early in my reading of your essay, I thought of Mr. Rogers’ quote, the one you later used. I love that. And it’s true. In fact, I was thinking about that message just yesterday. Despite all the chaos and hurt that seems to keep our attention nowadays, there ARE good people, the helpers, those dear ones who do the right thing, the kind thing, the good thing, the helpful thing, the hopeful thing. Thank you for reminding us and inspiring us. Thank you for being one of those people.

    1. Yes, yes, yes, Linda! There are good people – the helpers – and I love finding those stories and sharing them. Thanks for your kinds words — and thanks for reading!

  6. Oh, you are so exactly right, Diana! It’s more important now than ever to not only look for them but to be one of them. Sometimes I forget the latter part. Thank you for this!

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