Howard: God’s greatest gift to us is life

Published 3:04 am Saturday, January 14, 2017

By The Rev. Cindy Howard

While I treasure every Christmas gift from my daughter, this year she gave me a particularly special gift – a beautiful painting by an artist from Mobile.

It was a wonderful and generous surprise.

She had chosen it especially for me, and I love it.

The painting was the perfect gift for me; I will always cherish it.

Unlike my gratitude for the painting, this week I have been made particularly aware of a gift that I all too often take for granted.

In the span of a few short days, I stood with a family who lost a loved one unexpectedly; I heard the news that a dear friend was to have surgery for cancer; I received the news that my sixth grade “crush” and classmate died suddenly during a routine surgery; and I read in my hometown newspaper that the father of a high school classmate had died.

This week I have realized that much of the time I fail to recognize the wonderful gift of life itself.

My friend and former priest John Claypool wrote, “…life is gift.
Birth is windfall. None of us earned our way into this world by what we did or did not do. It was given to us out of pure generosity and out of everlasting mercy. This truth in the depth of all being is the secret of all secrets in the Christian vision of reality.”

All too often I lose sight of this foundational reality for me as a Christian.

When did I last thank God simply for the gift of breath?

When did I last thank God for the gift of time to do and see and feel and learn?

When did I last ask God to help me see more clearly how I can honor the amazing gift of life with the wise, gracious, and generous use of it?

The beginning of a new year is a good time to ask these questions. I conclude with a benediction I use often at St. Mary’s Church. May its words remind us of the amazing gift of life we have been given.

My friends, life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make this earthly pilgrimage with us, so be swift to love and make haste to do kindness.

And the blessing of God who comes to us as Creative Presence, Saving Grace, and Lifegiving Spirit be upon you and all you love and pray for this day and always. Amen.


-The Rev. Cindy Howard is the rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.