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A Thanksgiving Reflection

Dennis Bratcher

This year my pastor decided during November to do a series of four sermons on Thanksgiving as a pre-Advent reflection on the goodness and blessings of God.  On the first Sunday of November, I sat and listened with a growing sense of thankfulness. And then as I accepted Eucharist (which in Greek means, appropriately, “thanksgiving”), I was overwhelmed by how richly I have been blessed the past year, and how much I have for which I can truly give thanks.  Oh, not for the "stuff" that we all seem to accumulate all too easily, and too abundantly.  But the more intangible things. It was not just the "thank you" kind of politeness that comes from obligation, but the deeply felt sense of appreciation for life itself, and for God’s providential work in that life.

As I sat after receiving the bread and the cup, I thought back over the past year, and was overcome with the presence of God in a way that I have not experienced in a long time.  What an incredible year! After a series of life crises that included several of the deepest and most painful kinds of losses, it seemed that nothing worse could come.  Yet, the year began early in January with the news of a life-threatening brain tumor. And even as I came to terms with what that meant, facing such major surgery with no insurance raised another whole set of crises. The future, if there was to be one at all, was bleak at best.

And yet in the middle of all of that came a simple and quiet word from God one night as I lay tossing in bed:  "It will be OK."  Of course, I did not know what that meant, perhaps that I would die and solve the problems in that way.  But it was enough for faith to take hold.  A week or so later, as we were preparing to put the house in trust and declare bankruptcy to qualify for financial aid, I received word that an anonymous foundation had offered to pick up the entire doctor and hospital charges, as it turned out almost $200,000.  That still left "incidental" costs of $10-20,000. 

Then the money started coming in from all over the world.  Friends, former students, colleagues, internet acquaintances, people I had never met began giving, until there was enough to cover all the expenses, as well as several months of ongoing rehabilitation.  I do not use the word "miracle" lightly.  But this was.

Yet, there was still the surgery.  There were no guarantees.  It was risky, with all kinds of terrifying possible side-effects.  Still, the first thought I had when I woke up after surgery was, "It will be OK."  I knew that the world would be different from that moment on.  And it has been.  Yet, there were no unexpected side effects to the surgery.  As the neurosurgeon said, "God’s hand was on you in this."  And so I believe.

Since then, God has continued to bring healing, physical and emotional, in ways that I could not have imagined.  Among other things, He has brought a wonderful woman into my life who has brought such peace and the pure joy of living. We are planning to enter a covenant of marriage next summer and work in ministry together.  And there are other possibilities opening that I could not have envisioned a year ago.  The future looks anything but bleak!

So, this year, I am deeply and profoundly thankful for God’s providential care in my life and in the lives of those close to me.  This year, each day is a celebration of life itself, and the goodness of God.  This year, life begins anew.  Thanks be to God!

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2018, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved
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