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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Mary C. Earle

Wednesday, May 13

How shall I repay the LORD
For all the good things he has done for me?
—Psalm 116:16

He had lost everything. His home, his car, his dog. The waters of Hurricane Rita had swept through his house in Beaumont, Texas, in the weeks following the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. While the nation focused on New Orleans and the Mississippi coast, another hurricane hit east Texas. Another region was devastated. He was among the many whose whole livelihood had been lost to the fierce waves.

And yet, all he could say to the television interviewer was, “My family is alive. God is good. My family is alive.”

The cynic might say, “He’s in shock. He just doesn’t register the loss.”

But it is a year later. He’s had plenty of time to register the loss, to take inventory, to miss the photos and the family heirlooms and the tender nuzzling of his favorite hound.

Still, he stands in this place of gratitude, offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving, saying, “Thank God my family is alive.”

Some years ago I heard the poet Maya Angelou speak at a conference. During the question and answer period, someone asked her if she was part of a faith tradition. She replied,

I try to be a Christian. I say try because I forget to be grateful. I know no one owes me anything. I know my life is a gift. I know my family is a gift.

Maya Angelou has written widely about her childhood, and it is remarkable that she can say that her life is a gift, given what she lived through. Nevertheless, she, and the man from Beaumont, remember to notice the good things God has given, even in the face of devastation, of family violence, of inexplicable destruction. They have the wit to name the loss, the malice, the tragedy—to tell the truth. And also to always tell it within the context of the larger truth of God’s goodness.

They repay the Lord with naming the gifts, and thanking the Giver. That first, and that last, with whatever else is necessary in the middle.

Thanks be to you O God, for the gifts You give. Grant us the wisdom to begin and end in your goodness, even when all seems lost and we are most afraid. Amen.

The Signposts for May originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.