Ukuleles, Gratitude, and the Presence of God

There are certainly typical Thanksgiving week activities—traveling to visit family members, making pies ahead of time and putting them in the freezer, cleaning the house in preparation for company, and making gratitude trees, jars, leaves, banners, and so on—as a way to visibly express our thankfulness. And then there are the not-so-typical Thanksgiving-week activities. Like the ukulele concert I attended last night, for instance.

A friend of mine plays the ukulele and has taken group lessons the past couple of years. Each November the group has offered a concert. Several of us have gone to support our ukulele-playing friend, and to enjoy the concert of a group of 10–12 ukulele players. Not only do they play in concert, but they play fun, popular songs, including some oldies. Audience members are given lyrics sheets and invited to sing along. And to my surprise, the audience has enthusiastically participated in these concert experiences.

I confess this has become a favorite November activity. Unexpectedly, I was very moved this year, experiencing what felt very like sacred moments in the midst of this crowd of strangers singing along to ukuleles playing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” It wasn’t about the songs that were sung, or the instruments that accompanied our vocal efforts. It was the recognition that in that small, warm, concert hall a crowd of individuals created by God joined together to make music. Other than the friends who attended with me, I have no idea about the spiritual journeys of others in the room—Christians, non-Christians, etc.

I was reminded that even in the midst of stressful, trying times in our country and in the world, as different as people are, the bottom line is we are all people. And no matter what the others in the room believe or don’t believe, I know that we are all people created by God. And God’s created plan was that we live together in unity.

There was a feeling of love and joy in that room. And I was surprised by the reminder of God’s love I experienced throughout the concert. There was joy in the moment, being surrounded by friends and laughing and singing with one another. I experienced God in the unexpected at a ukulele concert. And I’m grateful.

We never know where we might experience a glimpse of God in the world. Sometimes it is in the most unexpected of places. Where have you seen God today? Be watchful and pay attention.

God is working and moving in ways beyond our expectation. Be thankful for the unexpected ways God’s presence surprises you and becomes real to you this week. And encourage those students with whom you work to not only look for God in the places where they might expect to find God at work, but also in the unexpected—even at a ukulele concert. Sometimes it is in those moments of surprise that we are reminded most vividly about Who God is, and Whose we are.

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