Thursday, November 17, 2011

Practicing My Thanksgiving Scales

It's time once again to pause and give thanks, to reflect on the abundance of blessing in our lives. As I think about it, it seems to me that our gratitude is usually expressed on kind of a sliding scale, depending on our present life situation, of course, but also based on our own maturing faith. What have we learned along the way and what have we come to appreciate about life that never used to show up on our radar? Even more, what have we learned to value that we used to whine about? Hopefully, we are still growing and learning to be grateful not just for the simple pleasures and basic needs which God provides, but also for the tough stuff, the struggles, the difficulties, even the painful life lessons almost always learned the hard way. It's a grown up gratitude that I think pleases God most.

So here's my Thanksgiving list on a sliding scale, from the simple and obvious blessings to the difficult and disguised ways in which God works for my good:

I am thankful for...
  • unexpected hugs.
  • cards that have more handwritten words than printed.
  • the wonderful smell and taste of Old Testament cooking - throw the meat on the fire.
  • my sister Judy's chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • the last bright red leaf on the sidewalk.
  • hearing the guitar actually making music in my own hands.
  • the grace of two-man scramble, not having to play all of my hooks and shanks and slices.
  • my wife, Suzanne, a one-man woman and a one-woman man on the long journey together, nearly 30 years and many more miles to go.
  • my favorite word, "Dad", and three wonderful children, pretty much adults now, who light up my life and fill me with pride and hope.
  • the big wet smile and bright eyes of each new believer I baptize. I know God smiles, too.
  • a chance each year to deliver Christmas and put presents under someone else's tree.
  • how it feels to light a candle on Christmas Eve.
And, I am learning to be thankful for...
  • insights gained.
  • lessons learned.
  • obstacles overcome.
  • pain endured.
  • more reasons to be humble.
  • help received in time of need.
  • strength to persevere.
  • opportunities to serve others.
  • prayer without words.
  • songs I cannot sing without tears.
  • God's stubborn and persistent love.
  • the amazing way that Christ puts His hands inside mine and lets me touch others with His love.
  • a lonely path, a skull-shaped hill, and an empty tomb.
And, gratefully, I am finally learning that what I already possess is a thousand times more precious than anything I may lack.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Being a Force of Nature

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." - George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

"There are vast tracts of undeveloped life in most of us. We have capacities for creativity, for love and for accomplishment that lie fallow. We are dormant in our personal relationships and get pushed around unconscionably. We are timid in our work and get passed over for promotions. We are intimidated in our marriages and get used. We feel futile in our communities, fated to shabby and shoddy service from government and business.

Then, from time to time, a person stands up among us and announces how marvelous it is to simply be human." - Eugene Peterson, Earth and Altar

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"It Ain't for Sissies"

Here's a little gift we all need today - encouragement. Whatever you face this day, whatever burden you must carry, whatever pain or loss you have absorbed, whatever taunting giant blocks your path, let me call out the courage that lies deep within you, in every child of God. 

Let me encourage you to stand up, keep going, and face the fight. Don't cry or complain, don't run and hide, don't give up and quit. Take heart and move forward, and if you go down swinging, get back up swinging. If you lose a battle, remember you and your fearless Leader will one day win the war. "Followin' Jesus? It ain't for sissies."

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I've bought a big bat.  I'm all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!

~Dr. Seuss

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One Step Forward

I came across this little excerpt from a Frederick Buechner novel yesterday, and it stayed on my mind all day. A godly woman is teaching the faith to a group of children.

"May the shadow of Christ fall on thee. May the garment of Christ cover thee. May the breath of Christ breathe in thee," she told them each morning at sun-up. Winters they'd sit there with blue noses and frozen fingers and the way their breath came out of them in white puffs you could almost believe it was Christ's indeed.

True faith. A simple life. A helping hand. She said those was the three things prized most in Heaven. On earth it was a fair wife, a stout ox, a swift hound.

Beg not, refuse not, she said. One step forward each day was the way to the Land of the Blessed. Don't eat till your stomach cries out. Don't sleep till you can't stay awake. Don't open your mouth till it's the truth opens it.